Turning a passion into thriving business through a profitable blog is no easy feat. Kate McKibbin of Drop Dead Gorgeous Daily shows us how she did it.
The five-year milestone is a significant one in the life of a business. It’s the juncture at which a business either packs up or powers ahead. So for Kate McKibbin’s online fashion and beauty portal to sail into its seventh year is a rather big deal. And for her to now be raking in a six-figure revenue and a readership of 150,000 is enough to qualify her into the League of Extraordinary Women.
McKibbin, the founder of Drop Dead Gorgeous Daily (DDGDaily), was the guest speaker at the League’s April breakfast meeting at Red Spice Road last week where she dished out tried and true strategies for hosting a blog that attracts not only readership but also revenue.
Her start-up tale is a familiar one involving a love for fashion and a background in business and publishing. McKibbin, whose dream of helming a fashion magazine stretches back to high school, has moved through a long list of leading women’s glossies including New Woman, Grazia and Cosmopolitan UK.
She was serving as the digital editor for Shop Til You Drop when online shopping began taking off. News of brick and mortar stores beginning to launch an online presence and of online stores abroad shipping their products to Australia both thrilled and intrigued her. Then she realised that there was no such portal in Melbourne that served its trendsetting community. In 2007, DDGDaily was the new kid on the digital block and set out to be the Australian woman’s biggest and best guide to a stylish and fun life.
Blogs first emerged in the early 1990s and have withstood the test of time in the fast moving and fickle digital world. McKibbin told her audience that the blog industry is continuously evolving and although the readerships tend to fluctuate it is unlikely to die out completely.
“If you’re a blog follower you’ll probably keep on being one for a foreseeable future,” she said. “I still prefer to get my information from niche blogs instead of magazines.”
DDGDaily has clearly sealed its place as one of the choice sources of information for many Australians. It’s too easy to chalk its success down to McKibbin’s luck in spotting and occupying a gap in the digital market space but that would only justify its survival. What earned DDGDaily the right to thrive was McKibbin’s understanding of the social media space and more importantly, how to use it.
Pick your platforms
WordPress is McKibbin’s favourite blog platform due to its flexibility and access to plug-ins – a necessity for a blog that heavily relies on visuals. This also means that she selects social media platforms that jive with DDGDaily’s look and feel.
“We don’t use Twitter but more of Instagram and Pinterest,” she said. “Those are our main sources of traffic. You have to figure out which platforms make the most sense, work best for you and then focus on them.”
“Figure out where your readers are and where content is best communicated. I also pick one social media platform to focus on each year. Last year it was Pinterest, and this year it’s Instagram.”
Resonate with your readers
Understanding your readers involves more than just taking note of their demographics. McKibbin pointed out that merely knowing your readers are middle-aged women who live in a particular suburb doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about their issues or what they’re looking for on your blog.
“It’s really about delving into their issues and creating content that is actually useful them, she said. “Make them feel like you’ve read their minds. They will then share that content.”
“Every blog post should be written with the intention of helping your readers. If you’re a brand that connects, helps or encourages people you will find a strong following. When your readers identify with you, it makes your content more valuable.”
Reach out and respond
Most new bloggers start out by reading a wide range of blogs before deciding on the few that truly interest them. And then they start leaving comments, at first sporadically and then regularly.
“This creates a relationship with the blogger and the other people there who will then come over to your blog and it becomes this lovely organic growth of relationships,” McKibbin said. “But you have do this consistently across all your social media platforms.”
“It’s almost like making friends and networking online. It can be frustrating at the start and takes a while but once it gains momentum, it takes off.”
DDGDaily has made it a practice to ask for comments on each blog post and this has boosted its online interactions. This also means that McKibbin takes the time to respond to each and every comment, an unspoken rule that she cannot stress strongly enough.
“You must respond because people are talking to you and it’s rude to ignore them,” she stated. “Your readers are your friends and if you treat them that way, they’ll go out of their way to support you.”
Last year McKibbin and her team decided that relying on advertising as a sole source of income wasn’t the ideal way forward so she put on her thinking cap and launched DDG’s Secret Bloggers’ Business eCourse early this year.
Her eyes lit up when she talked about how the online e-course aims to teach bloggers to turn a project of passion into a profitable business.
The six-week e-course covers six main topics that McKibbin felt wasn’t being fully addressed – branding strategies, giving your blog a dollar value, designing a sales plan, boosting traffic, creating an e-product and putting together a passive income plan.
“It’s so exciting for me because I feel like I’m helping people quit their jobs to do what they love,” she enthused. “What I learnt from creating a blog is that the aim is not perfection but to just do it. And to avoid being taken advantage of by knowing how to place a value on your work.”
DDGDaily can be found at dropdeadgorgeousdaily.com and Secret Bloggers’ Business at www.secretbloggersbusiness.com