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Going Beyond the Blog – How to Extend Your Blog

This post was written by Aditya Mahesh of BlogOnExpo, a free digital conference for bloggers that will feature sessions about blogging and interviews with Darren Rowse from ProBlogger, RandFishkin of SEOmoz, and others. The conference kicks off on December 1st, 2007.

You have a successful blog. You post on a frequent basis, have a strong reader base, get a decent amount of comments, and earn some revenue from the blog you run? So what do you do now? Many bloggers simply continue to post and reply to comments. Hoping that their blog continues to grow and eventually earn more revenue.

There is nothing wrong with is, but the question I most often have for successful blogs (and by successful I don’t mean 1 million page views a month and 200,000 RSS subscribers with $50,000 in ad revenue, I mean a consistent steady reader base (5000+ monthly) and some ad revenue), is why they don’t go beyond just a simple blog?

Blogs aren’t the only way to make money online and there are tons of features bloggers can add to their website to improve the user experience and generate more revenue. Here are a few of the best features you can add to your blog.

1. Forums

ForumBlogs are all about discussion and what better way to generate discussion than by launching a forum (eg Darren’s Digital Photography Schools Forum). Forums keep users on your site longer and get them involved in your blog’s community. There are a number of free forum programs available like PHPBB; however, your best bet for a highly scalable, reliable, and feature-rich forum would be VBulletin, the software that runs thousands of the most popular forums on the Internet. Single licenses start at $160.

2. Job Boards

Job-BoardJob Boards are a great way to provide quality content to your users and increase revenue. Like the job board here at ProBlogger.net, companies will pay a certain amount to have their opening listed on your blog’s job board and your visitors looking for a job will have a place to find a job in an industry they are interested in. Job boards work especially well in blogs that attract students and freelancers. You can code your own job board, or use services like JobCoin.com, or SimplyHired’s Job-a-Matic.

3. PodCasts / VideoCasts

VideoMany bloggers run their own daily/weekly/monthly online radio or video shows and there is no reason why you shouldn’t either. While podcasts work well, I prefer to create videocasts like the one Darren has on the homepage. All you need is a webcam. Just sit in front of your computer and record a video post about anything that relates to your blog’s content. Videocasting has a number of advantages. It puts a face to the blog and is a great change from just a plain text post. Video ads from sponsors can monetize these video posts and submitting videos to YouTube and other video sharing websites can be a great way to reach new readers. Also, you can encourage readers to respond with “video comments” of their own, though this would require a video sharing script. vShare.in has a decent script for just $10.

4. Social Networks

Social-NetworkThis can get expensive and thus should not be attempted until you have a decent number of monthly readers (20,000+). To further engage your readers, you can create a social networking website like MySpace or Facebook specifically for your readers. Why would you want to do this? Well, it’s a great way for people with similar interests to meet or connect. A social network would be ideal for any type of blog that relates to business/entrepreneurship as communication is a major part of professional success and a blog’s social network will be a great place for people to connect with others in the same industry. Creating a social network from scratch can be very time consuming if you are familiar with programming/designing and can cost tens of thousands of dollars to get a custom script made. As a result, most blogger will have to go with a common script, but even these can be quite expensive. Your best bets would be PHPFox.com ($300) or SocialEngine.net ($250-$419) – (eg – check out Mashable’s Social Network for a great example of this type of thing extending a great blog).

Do You Have other ideas on how to extend your blog? Let us know with a comment.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Once my blog(s) get bigger I plan on extending them with forums and possibly job boards. I already am doing a podcast and find thats quite fun.
    Great post.

  2. I’ve also seen some bloggers doing Life casting (with justin.tv) and live chat boxes on their blogs.

  3. How about allowing guest bloggers or interviewing others with social connections.

    Some blogs have had success with these strategies.

    They bring in fairly well known guest bloggers who then add a viral impact by introducing their friends and colleagues to the blog.

    Another strategy is to interview news makers and allow their readers to suggest questions in advance to add more substance to the interview. It appears that many of these interviews are picked up by blogs and news outlets, thus bringing in more prospects.

    The act of allowing questions from the readers to be considered will sometimes offer new perspectives to the interview.

  4. I’m getting really ambitious now but I think I’m going to go for the videocasting! I enjoy watching Darrens videocasts. It does make a change from reading a post.

  5. Great ideas! My “Paddling with a Camera: blog just reaches about 6000 monthly visitors and a clear plateau in a subscriber level. I haven’t had courage to put videocast yet in my blog, but, perhaps, it’s time to do it. I am producing paddling video clips anyway, but without adding my voice there.

  6. Nice post. I hope I can eventually reach a sustained readership with these numbers someday, but as of right now, that seems a bit out of reach.

    One question about the post though dealing with a term I’ve never heard of and that Google couldn’t find for me.

    “You post on a frequent basis, have a h3 reader base,”

    What is an “h3 reader base”? Is this some tiering format for reader bases?

  7. Does anyone know of good forums more geared towards blogging, web developers, and webmasters, where they show off their sites, discuss what could be changed, etc.?

  8. how about reader’s find.. shopping blog such as coolhunting (using thisnext bookmark service)

    NOtcot with Notcot.org and JoshSpear with Reader’s contribution

  9. Great info which I plan to use in future. Right now I’m just trying to get my site off the ground. baby steps…

  10. I think the most important things for a blogger is to have more readers, that’s why we need to extend our blog, for me, I am using joomla, I can find more expendable plugin or component for extending the function of my blog such as project management and so on.

    In this case, the system of your blog is very important.

  11. You didn’t mention Teaching Sells, but that’s one of the best expansion paths: a learning platform.

  12. i was thinking about getting a forum, too, once i have enough readers

    you misspelled THIS in “There is nothing wrong with is” :)

  13. Already knew about your podcast, jobs section , will check out the forums now :)

  14. Does anyone have any experience using those job board sites? Do they pay well? … What about the job board here at problogger, does anyone know if it’s a custom script or something open to the public?

  15. Just so you know this post looks extremely “weird” in Bloglines.

    Creating a forum would definitely increase discussion (if done right). Make sure with the increase in other things though that you don’t decrease what your readers came to your blog to do: read content.

  16. Hey, my name is Aditya Mahesh and I am the author of this artilce.

    @Kirk – I dont know how H3 got in there, that word was supposed to be “strong”.

    @Zac – The best forums imo would be DigitalPoint, Sitepoint, Namepros, EarnersForum and Wickedfire

  17. A social network would fit in well for Problogger IMHO – Darren has the leverage to pull it off. Of course, forums are granted to be a success!

    But if at all you do launch a forum Darren, please don’t close the comments and force us to go to the forum to make a comment!

  18. Thanks for the tips Aditya. Great article, keep it up.

  19. all great idea’s but its hard when you don’t have 100 hours in a day. All in good time though right.

  20. Maryj says: 10/21/2007 at 4:35 am

    Thanks for great post, Aditya. I’m a new blogger, my website is going up in November. Doesn’t hurt to have big dreams, though. And your post really maps out the big dreams. That’s great!
    I’m finding that there’s a lot of info and support for experienced bloggers on the net. But not much for non-techie novices.

  21. What software is mashable.com using? I don’t think it is either of the 2 posted.

  22. I’m wondering why Darren doesn’t use his weekly video as a source of revenue (or philanthropy). The first 5 seconds of his videos could display the website of a sponsor, or, that of a less known blogger that Darren feels should get more exposure.

    Just two cents from a fan,
    Shane

  23. 1 Forums – Good idea and I’ve recently started to integrate a forum on one of my blogs. I think there is a forum plugin out there also

    2 Job Boards – This depends on what kind of site one has and I cant have a job board on my site

    3 PodCasts / VideoCasts – Im shy to show a video of me online and I dont like talking much…good idea but not for me.

    4 Social Networks – i prefer a small list of people I know. maybe I should create another one for my site visitors?

  24. Collin, may I suggest you read “4-Hour Workweek”, by Tim Ferriss. Tim’s book will solve your problem of not having enough time. You do have the time, if you practice what Tim preaches.

    Pierre Cutler
    http://www.our4hourworkweek.com

  25. PHPBB isn’t necessarily the “best bet” for a forum. I’ve found SMF (http://simplemachines.org/) to be a much better option.

  26. I extended my blog onto the ning.com platform. It’s free, and works as both a forum and social network. You can monetize it for $20 US a month, or even have it published to your own domain name.

  27. Darren, this may be totally off topic but before I get to additional interactive options on my blog, I would prefer to create extendable posts where brief posts show up on the page. That is an area where I am having lots of trouble.

  28. Thanks, great list ! As i have already known most theese points it helps alot to have them in one post !

  29. Thank you for an informative article Aditya… I’m far from
    the numbers you mention, even the lower ones, but it’s nice
    to have a peek into the possibilities!

    Cheers,

    Fran

  30. I think the core driving force of future web projects will be discovering latent demand. There is a growing trend already towards ad-hoc spontaneous group formation around a core group of blogs and wiki sites dedicated to niche content. New authority models have already formed (i.e. problogger, copyblogger) it’s just a matter of finding out what people want next. Dammit, that would require a tardis.

  31. These are definitely some great ideas for building up from a blog. It is very possible to take an idea here and change it to something a bit different that will work with any site. I have recently also gotten some other ideas for monetizing sites and building content.
    Luke, use The Force and you won’t need that Tardis.

  32. Great post, on the jobs topic you also might want to check out the publisher tools from Indeed.com.

    https://ads.indeed.com/jobroll/

    All the best,

    Jason

  33. Hi Darren,

    Thanks so much for the mention on our job board product, but just wanted to let your readers know it is called Job-a-Matic instead of Job-o-Matic. Thanks again for the mention and we hope your readers will check it out and start monetizing their blogs! Great site! Thanks! Julie

  34. fixed that up for you Julie.

  35. I made a forum for my site from the start and had it up even as I was getting 5,000 views a month, but never got any posts (or members or even many clicks)…

    Point is, it’s hard to run successful forums. From what I hear, you need to pay people to post early on. No one posts volentarily until there is a lot to talk about.

  36. Interesting Post.. I will think to do the same when My blog become bigger :)

  37. I don’t have anywhere near the readership to take this advice.

    But I do feel like regular visitors to my blog want to talk about sort of the stuff I’m talking about, but not really.

    I’m gonna ask around and see, but I thought I’d ask here: if I can get a few people to say they’d be interested in having a blog-related forum, should I go ahead and create one? It seems like something you do once you have an audience, but the causality might work in reverse in a case or two, no?

  38. I like the videocasts as a way of taking things to the next level …. adds a nice personal touch.

  39. Another extension, but offline : parties, meet-up, etc. :)

  40. Forums are so 1999, social networks are the way to go, and mad props to ,NING! Seriously the features of ning are out of this world! Build ur network in mere minutes, check it out http://www.ning.com

  41. Extension are good, but only in case it won’t effect on you writing quality.

    And I believe contest are great extension, too.

  42. I started out with a Website, Forum and Blog. I use websitetoolbox.com for my Forum at $19.99 per every 3 months because it’s easy for people like me (tech challenged) to use and no long commitment.

    I use statcounter.com which provides free statistics for all the pages.

    My problem is 98% of my comments are on my Forum only. Does this mean my blogs are terrible? They both get close to the same page views.

    Is this unique because my site is consumer related and the Forum is mostly for complaints about businesses?

    Thanks for the informative post to get my brain started up again. The Video post seems like my next addition.

  43. I hope my blog will grow to 5000+ but I don’t know if that ever happens. Then I would integrade a Forum.

  44. Do you have any thoughts on using ning.com to add a social network to a blog? Anyone have any experience with it?

  45. I have a site on home crafts and found a great way to add more of a community feel (Besides a forum) was to start a flickr group this also helped by bring users of flickr interested in crafts across to my site.

  46. I’d like to try having a social network like myspace. For $300 I guess it’s affordable. I have to tight my belt to purchase that script.

    Let me know if Social Network site will really do good in Adsense.

    thanks.

  47. ranjid says: 10/22/2007 at 6:24 pm

    Try making a video of you and what your blog is all about and post it on http://www.vator.tv. Maybe you could even report about Web 2.0 startups. Collaborate with fellow bloggers.

    best
    ranjid

  48. It is also worth noting that the makers of WordPress also have created forum solutions called bbPress which is pretty easy to install and cofigure. Give it a shot.

  49. Don’t forget bbPress from the makers of WordPress. It’s lightweight and can be easily integrated into the WordPress user database for a seemless experience.

    The forums at Kineda or 9rule’s Notes are a great example of this mighty combo.

  50. An asp.net 2.0 / ajax 1.0 forum software that is worth considering is Discussion Board

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