Genealogy Blogging – For Fun or Profit?

by JL Beeken on 7-11-2012

This is my take on Genealogy Blogging – For Fun or Profit?, the first in Thomas MacEntee’s series on Genea-Opportunities for 2012. This is an update of last year’s version of the same topic. Some things don’t change.

Fun, yes. Profitable, not so much.

For me the fun part is learning new things and then writing about them. The other fun part is being surrounded by a community of friends.

Profit ($) is incidental. And not very. Possibly by the end of the year this site will have paid for its hosting fees. Writing time will be gratis.

Because I didn’t have a long-range plan when I started or any kind of a plan really, the site became my ‘baby’ and it’s not likely to ever grow up to be a business.

In my opinion and experience, if you’re going to make a living out of a website, you need a plan. And that plan involves the construction of your website, an understanding of how to promote yourself and pull traffic, and a focus around particular products or services. Throwing spaghetti at the wall is not the way it works.

That’s not to say that you can’t learn and incorporate new and better methods as you go along, but it might also turn out in retrospect you’ve dug yourself into a deep trench and it’s not that easy to dig yourself out.

It might be things as simple as a poor choice of name for your blog, poor choice of post titles, lack of understanding of how keywords drive traffic. It depends on the mission statement for your blog and checking in once in awhile to see if it’s working.

Your intent can, obviously, be anything; a diary for a few family members, cousin bait, a compilation of stories for a book you’re going to publish later, making money …

Mine started as cousin bait and I just kind of fell into the rest of it.

In my other blog, Webstream, I’m trying to compile what I’ve learned about online marketing over the past five years. At least, the parts that are still relevant. And what I’m learning going forward … There’s so much that can be done to optimize the efforts you’re already making, not necessarily with an eye toward making money specifically. Just ‘getting more bang for your buck’ in whatever way that means something to you.

The people who come to my website, 90% of whom are not genealogists at all, are looking for information. Once they’ve found it they leave. They’re not coming here to shop.

Because I write a lot about software here on JLog, people do click on links and go try what I recommend. In most cases, it’s free software.

Where it’s paid software, it generally involves a free trial. If it’s an affiliate link, that means I lose the sale because people knowingly or unknowingly delete their cookies and, hence, any commission I might earn.

Or very rare occasions there’s a direct sale and that’s what pays for the hosting fees.

I have often considered cancelling all advertising affiliations so I stop getting their email. I think six years is plenty long enough to see how this works.

When I began studying online marketing, the ‘voice’ of this site was already set and I was not going to change it to ‘make a buck’. There may be a happy medium but I’m missing that gene.

If this site was to become more of a commercial enterprise I would have to do something besides ‘just write’. Or I’d have to tear it apart and start over. The former is a possibility. The latter is unlikely.

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