I first met Justin Germino, or at least I was aware of him when I joined Social Spark, a place where bloggers can find paid opportunities from blogging to tweeting, and even cost per click text linking. If I recall, Justin friended me first there. Of course, me seeing the name of his site, Dragon Blogger, I was intrigued. I like anime and dragons, and Japanese folklore, so I naturally without reading thought it was that.
It was not. Justin blogs about tech, blogging, some social media, and much more. Justin constantly gets comments and engages with his visitors. It is apparent by just skimming his site, not many posts lack a comment. He is a friendly guy and seems to be in a lot of blogging communities.
So, it was understandable that I would want to interview him as obviously he does influence his readers and social network followers. So, without further ado, here is my interview with Justin Germino:
Nile: Before I go into the questions, please tell myself and the readers a little about yourself.
Justin: My name is Justin Germino, I have been in the IT field for about 11 years and am currently a Technology Manager whose group specializes in Identity and Access Management technologies. My primary hobby includes blogging which I started back in August 2008 as a way to express both my love of writing, sharing information and technology reviews and interacting with an audience. I now run DragonBlogger.com, WandererThoughts.com, JustinGermino.com and help run about 4 other WordPress blogs with my Wife as well as guest posting on over a dozen other blogs online.
Nile: What inspired you to start blogging, or why did you start blogging?
Justin: Originally back in Summer of 2008 money was a little tight and I was looking for a way to try and bring in a 2nd income without having to leave the house and work a second job. I needed something I can do at night while the kids where sleeping.
I started my first blog DragonBlogger.com back on August 23rd 2008 and quickly realized that I loved blogging, I started my personal blog and my poetry blog a month later. I had been writing poetry for twenty years with no audience or readers, kept it all in a book that was never published so the idea of posting all my poems online in a blog was engaging and it brought my poems to an audience. I enjoy doing product reviews, particularly on gadgets, software because I take a very analytical and thorough approach to all things I test and I have a love of writing.
Nile: You have done paid to blog opportunities. How has that worked for you? Are your visitors accepting of it, and if so, what advice do you have for those who want to pursue paid to blog opportunities?
Justin: I always knew I wanted to bring income from my blogs, so Paid Blogging opps is what attracted me right off the bat. Without going into plugs, I was quick to join IZEA SocialSpark, PayPerPost, SponsoredReviews, ReviewMe and BlogsVertise. Within less than 3 months my blogs were netting over $100 per month from paid reviews and opps on the variety of services and this continued to grow.
Because I am selective in what I review and my nature of reviewing, some of my most popular posts on DragonBlogger.com have actually been paid opps. One of my paid opps actually holds my highest # of comments for a post at over 150 comments for a single article. Another paid opp has almost 800 unique visits per month for nine months to that one paid article from Google Search results.
To this day, I have never had a single complaint about doing a paid opp on any one of my blogs, I approach them all in a fair manner and am not pitchy at all. For those who want to pursue paid opps I really suggest you visit my Make Money Online page on my site, which has twenty programs I have tried and tested, I also point out which ones work and make money. There are many programs that started in 2007/2008 and are now “dead” you can sign up but there is no activity in the systems, I know which ones are still active and which aren’t.
Nile: Have you ever had some difficulty in the beginning when trying to reach a target audience? If so, how did you overcome that issue?
Justin: When I first started blogging I didn’t know what my niche was going to be, I treated DragonBlogger.com as a personal blog which was a mistake, here I was being a Technology, Entertainment and Blogging blog and I was posting poetry, political insights and more. I had more than a few RSS subscribers and readers complain and say they were there for 1 topic or another. I soon refined my focus to only Technology, Entertainment and Blogging/Make Money Online. Since then I have not gotten a complaint in the past year about any of my posts as far as what I write about, I do get comments if someone doesn’t like a product/service of website I am reviewing of course, people are very candid with their opinions.
My blog reached 3 plateaus over 2 years, the first was when my blog got stuck at about 200 visits per day, it could never increase and was flat for months, I decided to write some How To articles and some articles off topic and gradually saw Google search traffic increase. My 2nd plateau was about 500 visits per day and I decided to focus on backlink building, guest posting and more ramped up on StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook…etc. My latest plateau is about 1,000 visits per day where I seem to hover around the past 3 months without much fluctuation (except for August/September where I had a big traffic drop from switching SEO plugins).
I find that reaching new audiences comes from spreading your articles and influence out to other sites, expanding your social media presence and writing new content that may be about something different than the norm, this tends to capture the rogue search traffic for specific items.
Nile: In your opinion, what is it that you believe a person must do in order to become influential amongst their niche?
Justin: I think they need to network with their peers, guest blog and show some respect to other bloggers in their respective markets. Learn how they do things, read their writing styles, what they write about and how they write. Then instead of trying to copy them, try to do something completely different and unique that allows you to stand out. Don’t write about the same five articles on the same days, don’t promote the same products… reach out and be yourself. Be opinionated and take stands, challenge your audience to leave comments and opinions and engage them openly.
Being influential means writing in a way that draws attention and once you have attention you have to have the authority, integrity and personality to keep their attention and turn them into loyal readers and fans.
Nile: What advice to you have for new bloggers who want to become successful and influential?
Start your blog on a self hosted WordPress platform, spend the $4 – 6 per month hosting fee. Once you have about 20 posts on your blog, sign up for every Social Media platform that exists, don’t heavily promote but start networking with other bloggers, and start finding other blogs in your area by using social networks, offer to guest post and make sure you leave relevant comments on as many blogs in your niche as possible.
Decide if you want to monetize off the bat and if you are make sure you have disclosures on your site. Sign up for paid blogging programs 30 days after you start your blog, and only take paid opps where you are comfortable promoting the product, never promote something you wont stand 100% behind because if you promote crap your reputation will suffer and credibility will be lost.
Don’t start a new blog spewing out tips like you know everything in the field, I can’t stand brand new bloggers who spout blogging and SEO tips when their sites have a 2 million Alexa rating and have only 10 articles. If you are spewing how to be a great blogger when your site barely gets 10 visits a day it isn’t believed. Instead focus on sharing what you have learned rather than spouting what you know as fact and what works, this is how I did DragonBlogger.com I never claimed to be an SEO expert, or know how to become a big blogger, all I did was share what I learned or read on others sites and what I tried and happened to work sometimes with my readers. Now my blog has a 35K Alexa rating and I have college kids asking me for interviews for their term papers on Social Media and Blogging.
Though some people reach huge success by being cocky and brass, I believe being humble is a far better trait to display to your readers. I do believe you should exude confidence and integrity in everything you write and every comment you respond to.
Play nice with others, make sure you retweet, comment on and share other bloggers articles, you will find that many bloggers reciprocate shares and many are willing to help you out if you first promote their stuff and expect nothing in return.
Nile: Anything else you might like to say in closing?
Justin: Thank you for the interview, I am a very opinionated blogger and I make a rule to spend no more than 20 hours per week blogging lest my hobby turn into an obsession. I have a completely different approach to my poetry blog than my technology blog where I just write poems and don’t really do any of it for money. I engage my readers by writing a poetry game they can interact with and I do it for fun.