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MBP #37 – Reverse Interview – Jim Wang Answers Questions from Two Blogging Veterans

A few weeks ago, Rob Berger, whom I interviewed for podcast episode 35, and Greg Go, whom I interviewed for podcast episode 2, suggested a “reverse interview” where they ask me some questions.

Why not?

We jump around on topics but we talk about my background, how I got into blogging, how it’s changed over the years, and then into more general business ideas such as networking.

Personally, I had a great time doing it but I want these episodes to have value to you, the listener, so please let me know what you think of the episode.

Want more? Let me know, maybe we can do a series of “Ask Me Anything” type of episodes.

Don’t want more? Let me know too!

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

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Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

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Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a B-List Blogger

beginners-guide-b-list-bloggerThis is a guest post that covers an interesting and important subject, especially after coming back from FINCON, a personal finance bloggers conference with nearly 600 attendees. I think it’s an important subject because in any industry, you have the rock stars and the “regular folks.” Call it A List and B List and C List and whatever List.

There’s a sense that if you don’t one day get to A List, you’re a failure – but that’s not true.

Eric builds his case and I’d like to hear what you think about it in the comments.

Ramit Sethi. Darren Rowse. Pat Flynn. JD Roth. Chris Brogan. Eric Rosenberg. Which of these names doesn’t belong? Clearly Eric Rosenberg isn’t an A-List blogger.

Since you’ve likely not heard of me, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Eric Rosenberg, and I am a B-List blogger. You might have heard of me, or my site Narrow Bridge Finance, when perusing personal finance tips online over the last few years. But maybe not. And I’m okay with that.

Most Bloggers Don’t Last

There are lots of bloggers, and lots of blogs. Millions of new blogs join the internet each year thanks to free blogging platforms like Blogger and WordPress.com. It is easier than ever to start a blog and get your thoughts on the internet.

With the low cost and easy startup costs, there is no surprise so many people start blogs. However, most blogs fail. New bloggers are quick to learn that it is hard to get more people read your site than your Mom on a regular basis. It is hard to stand out from the crowd. Most people don’t really care what you have to say. It is a tough reality, but being a successful blogger is very hard work. Keeping up with a regular content schedule alone leads people to burn out in a few weeks. Most bloggers don’t make it past a few months. Very few make it past a year or two.

The core of my online business is Narrow Bridge Finance, a personal finance blog I started about six years ago. That blog is what propelled me to the elite inner circle of B-List bloggers.

What Makes a B-List Blogger?

So, what gives me the cockiness to declare myself above the rest? What makes me a B-List blogger? A lot of things. Here are the basics.

Blogging Pays My Rent – Yes, you read that right. My online business has made enough for the last few years to cover my mortgage payment each month. I was very excited as I climbed the online income rankings to cover my beer tab with my blog. Then one day I realized I was earning enough online to cover my car payment (which has since been paid off), then one day I knew I had done something special when my online income was more than my monthly mortgage payment. I have a goal of making over $2,500 online each month, and I have done that a few months in a row. Maybe I should increase my goal? If you are curious exactly how I did it, this is my last online earnings report.

Some People Have Heard of Me – All bloggers have to have some sort of an ego. It takes guts to put yourself out there and think that people are going to care what you have to say. Over time, I must have done something right. Some people actually do care what I have to say. While my traffic has grown and shrunk over the years thanks to Google’s bi-polar algorithm disorder (yes, that is a post I wrote for Problogger), I have built an audience that comes back again and again, engages in my site, and cares what I have to say. I have an email list well into the three figure range, and a lot of them open my emails when they show up in their inbox. And I get that special feeling each year at the Financial Blogger Conference when a first year attendee tells me they have heard of me and they are excited to meet me.

I am a Recognized Expert – I have been quoted in a handful of big new sources, but not quite the biggest. As my cool “as seen on logo” proudly tells visitors, I have been featured in local news sources like The Denver Post and 9News, and recognized online sites like The Consumerist, MoneyTalksNews, and ProBlogger. Sure, that isn’t the Wall Street Journal or The Today Show, but hundreds of thousands of people have been exposed to my writing, opinions, and thoughts on my topic.

Friendships with A-Listers – When I send an email to people like J Money from Budgets or Sexy or pitch an awesome post idea like “How to Become a B-List Blogger” to big names like Jim Wang, they respond to me. When I see Adam Baker from Man vs. Debt at FinCon, he knows who I am when I say hello. When it is time to bust a move at a conference after party, Pat Flynn is right next to me rocking out some sweet moves. It doesn’t make me a millionaire, but it helps to know bigger names when you do want to share a new project or bounce an idea off of a successful member of your niche.

How to Get Here

So, now that I’ve told you all of the benefits of becoming the equivalent of the James Rebhorn of blogging (you probably don’t know his name, but if you Google him you’ll be like, Oh! That Guy! I know him), here’s how to get there.

Consistency – Half of the challenge is just showing up. All the time. Again and again. If you can be consistent in your blogging and keep it going for years, you have a lot of what it takes to make something of yourself. If you are not a part of the crowd, you won’t be able to stand out from it someday.

Networking – The single biggest turning point for my online blogging was joining the Yakezie Challenge on March 8, 2010. Joining the Yakezie Network, a network of personal finance bloggers with the motto “selflessly helping others,” my blog would be something very different today, if still around at all. Joining that group helped me build relationships with other bloggers that helped my site gain recognition online.

Quality – If your site sucks, no one is going to read it. I always try to be professional, high quality, and helpful when I publish a new post or make a change to my site or any of my online businesses.

Something Special – No one wants to read something that is just like everyone else, so you have to do something to stand out. Whether it is your personality that comes through in your writing, your superb insights, or your outstanding value to readers, you need to have something that makes people want to visit your site and help it grow.

What Could I Have Done Differently To Join the A-List?

This is something I’ve thought about time and again over the years. What could take me up to the A-List where I am a pseudo celebrity like Chris Guillebeau or Tim Ferris? What would take me a to a point where I could sell my site for seven figures like Jim did with Bargaineering, or like JD Roth or Flexo did with Get Rich Slowly and Comsumerism Commentery?

If I knew the exact answer, this post wouldn’t be about joining the B-List, but I do have some ideas that I’ve put together on my own and feedback I’ve taken from people who have made it bigger.

  • Really Stand Out From The Crowd – J Money is a finance blogger with a Mohawk, and he stands out from the crowd for a reason
  • Do a Better Job Promoting Content – Derek Halpern is the king of content promotion, and his blog Social Triggers has very clear data as to why it works
  • Build Site Value – Ramit Sethi is able to sell $12,000 courses for a reason

The Big Benefits of the B-List

I wouldn’t mind joining the A-List of blogging, but I don’t hate where I am either. It lets me write cool posts on sites like Microblogger and name drop like a douchebag trying to pick up a hottie at an LA bar. And there are some actual, tangible benefits.

The Money – As I mentioned above, I cover my housing cost each month with my online money making activities. That is pretty cool. It isn’t a full time income, but it is a lot of money.

Business Opportunities – Writing my blog has helped me learn a hell of a lot about personal finance and running a website. I now have a successful freelance writing and web design business on top of my blog. I even have a fancy business name for it, Narrow Bridge Media.

A Fun Ride – I get to travel to cool places each year like Chicago and New Orleans for blogger conferences. The friends I’ve made have helped me learn and teach cool things like travelhacking and making money from something that started as a hobby. I’ve partied with startups, shared a drink with millionaires, and made awesome, close friends through my blogging adventure. That might be the best part of all.

If You Shoot For the Moon and Miss, You End Up Among the Stars

Because you are reading this today, you obviously want to make something of yourself online. Or you are my fiancé or mother that I told to read this really cool article I wrote on a popular blog. This advice is for the bloggers, not my Mom.

The cliché expression that “if you shoot for the moon and miss, you end up among the stars” is totally true in blogging. If you try hard and do everything right, you might not replicate the success of Apollo 11 and land on the moon. However, you still got to be an astronaut and do some amazing things online. If you work hard, follow great advice, replicate what works well for your site, and keep at it long enough, someday you will be able to join the club and introduce yourself as a “semi-pro blogger” too.

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How to Defend Against Brute Force WordPress Login Attacks

What is your administrative username for your blog?

If it’s admin, you need to change it.

If you don’t know, go to your site’s wp-admin, click on Users and then Your Profile. Your Username is under Name.

For about three weeks in August, Microblogger was getting pounded by brute force login attempts on the username ADMIN and I was being notified by a plugin every single time a login failed.

It was getting annoying.

If you don’t have a plugin installed that notifies you, you’re probably under attack too but you just don’t know it. Bots are trying to break into your site.

I recently installed the Sucuri Security WordPress plugin because I wanted to do a quick scan of the blog for vulnerabilityes. I usually turn off a plugin after it has done its primary job but I left this one on by accident and it’s been reporting these frequent brute force attempts.

One of the reporting functions of the Sucuri plugin is a failed login attempt. And I was getting a lot of these notifications.

I changed my username to something different long ago so the admin user doesn’t even exist. This is one of the suggestions WordPress gives to preventing a brute force attempt from succeeding. It won’t, however, stop brute force attacks from happening in the first place.

In this article, I’ll explain what you can do to reduce brute force attacks as well as limit their effectiveness.

How to Stop/Limit Brute Force Attacks

The best way is to use a service like Cloudflare as a firewall to prevent attacks from known IP addresses. Savvy attackers are cycling through IPs and likely using a botnet of some kind, so there isn’t anything you can do short of deflecting the attacks with a firewall.

CloudFlare is free so I recommend signing up for it. Once you have it set up, you’ll want to go to the CloudFlare settings and set your Security profile to High. If you are under attack, the High setting will cut the number of attempts by 95%. I had it on Medium and was getting bombarded. They offer Advanced DDoS protection but only for Business and Enterprise customers, which I am not. That might be a good option if you’re getting more than a few nefarious log ins.

How to Limit Attack Effectiveness

First, make sure you aren’t using “admin” as your username. If you need to change it, WordPress recommends using Admin renamer extended to change your username.

Next, slow down brute force attacks by installing Limit Login Attempts (don’t be scared by the warning that it hasn’t been updated in 2 years, it works great) and turn it on. This will prevent logins by IP for a period of time. Once a specified number of attempts (and failures) has been reached, the plugin will prevent further attempts for a cool-off period. It will slow down brute force attackers considerably and really the only thing you can do to slow them down.

Here are some of the defense recommendations by WordPress but most of them will not prevent the attacker from accessing your site in the first place, which might be leading to higher hosting bills.

Good luck!

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MBP #36 – New Business Pitfalls You MUST Avoid, with CorpNet’s Founder Nellie Akalp

Nellie Akalp, CorpNetNellie Akalp is the CEO and Founder of CorpNet, a document filing service company. CorpNet is Nellie’s second document filing service business, the first of which celebrated a liquidity event back in 2005. In this episode, we talk about why Nellie re-entered the same business area, which was now a more mature and competitive market, as well as what she did in the time between the sale and the founding of CorpNet (which led her to return to her passion, helping small businesses succeed).

We continue the conversation to discuss some common issues small business owners make in starting and operating their business, including some basic steps you can take to protect your business from liability (such as trademark disputes) and other pitfalls.

Connect with Nellie Akalp on Twitter and let her know what you think of the episode!

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

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What should I blog about?

Credit: Wroot Down

Credit: Wroot Down

I received an email over the weekend from reader Matt, who heard me on an awesome podcast Listen Money Matters (this episode), and it’s a question I get asked a lot:

I’m struggling with getting a topic together my interests are varied – DIY, Gardening, Running, Mountain Biking, Music, Beer, Design, Computers, etc. What are some tips to narrow down the list to something manageable in a blog. I had given some thought to a Renaissance man type blog touching on lots of subjects but I thought nobody can spell Renaissance and was it too broad a topic to get viewers.

My goal is to earn some extra cash and have an outlet to let out some creativity.

This is a common question and if you ask a hundred bloggers you’ll get a hundred answers… here’s mine. 🙂

First, you’re right about Renaissance – it is tough to spell (Bargaineering wasn’t easy either AND it was a portmanteau… so who am I to say). Next, having a blog with a million topics might be fun but in terms of effectiveness ($$$) it’s tough. It’s doable but you’re better off focuses on one thing.

Now, as for the one thing…

Order Your Topics

I would list out the topics in the order of your interest, from highest to lowest. If you had to pick one thing that you were going to do, and only one thing, for the next four or five years – which one would it be. Order the topics in that order.

Do Some Basic Research

Next, do a little research to see what kind of community exists for what you want to write. The bigger the community, the better.

Doesn’t bigger mean more competition? Yes, but it also represents more opportunity. It means a market exists, advertisers are participating, and if you can differentiate yourself and succeed then there is money to be made. If you pick a very niche subject with few advertisers, you run the risk of being successful but not being able to cash in at all.

I have a blog about scotch whisky. There is a decently sized, but not huge, spirits blogging industry but it’s not nearly as big as many many others. There aren’t a lot of advertisers playing in that space because of wine and liquor shipping laws, which are the high dollar items in the space. It’s by no means small but it’s not big where winning at it changes your life and career.

How Do You Stand out?

If you find a large community, start studying what they’re doing. Learn the history of that niche. Who was big 10 years ago, are they still big? What has happened to them? How has the community evolved? These are all questions you need to answer because that’s how you’ll figure out how to differentiate yourself.

For example, the personal finance blogging world was different ten years ago. Ten years ago the key to winning was search traffic, getting a ton of it, and converting it. Five years ago, with social media exploding, the key was building a community around your blog and leveraging that community through social media and email for monetization.

Ten years ago, you stood out if you shared your income and your budget (that’s how I got into the New York Times in 2005 and even again in 2008). Five years ago, that was boring and bland… to stand out you had to show that your lifestyle was different. Early retirement or extreme couponing or whatever made it unique – “exposing” your financial life was not enough.

Ten years ago, blog posts were enough. Today, you can gain a huge advantage if you have a podcast or start using video.

What is that like in the niche you want to enter? How can you stand out and garner attention?

Can You Write 100 Blog Posts?

Finally, before you start … write down the titles to at least 100 blog posts.

If you wrote a blog post each week, that’s two years worth of blog posts.

If you can come up with 100 topics right now, then you have fuel to keep on blogging. One of the biggest challenges people run into is writer’s blog, especially if you feel the pressure to continuously write when you didn’t have that pressure before. When you start writing, you won’t write those 100 topics in that order each and every week, but having them in your back pocket as ideas is a huge benefit.

Now start writing. 🙂