Interview With Donna Merrill On Building An Amazing Website In 2019

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January 15, 2019

Welcome to Bloggers Passion blogger interview series. Yet again, we came up with another interesting interview with expert blogger Donna Merrill from Donna Merrill Tribe.

If you’re someone who’s looking for an in-depth blogger interview to learn more about building a money making blog, drive more traffic and start a professional blog in 2019, this interview is a treat for you.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive into the details of interview with Donna Merrill to find some incredible insights inside.

Interview With Donna Merrill from Donna Merrill Tribe

donna merrill interview

1. Can you please introduce yourself to Bloggers Passion readers. Please tell us about your blogging journey

I started blogging in 2010. At that time I was a practicing intuitive consultant with a physical office in New York. Many of my clients were facing financial difficulties and job downsizes. I knew nothing about doing business online at that time. I barely knew how to use my email account.

But I was determined to find an outlet for people to create some kind of independent financial security at a time when world economies were so soft. Blogging seemed perfect because it’s something you can start with virtually no overhead or experience.

You just need a computer, a passion, and the determination to share it with the world. Blogging is certainly not the only online business model available. However, it is an essential ingredient to just about any professional practice or business.

Even if you’re not using blogging as your primary business, it certainly opens the doors through which you can direct your primary business clients, prospects and buyers.

The key is learning to blog properly and effectively. And by that, I don’t just mean writing good blog posts. I mean setting up your blog to achieve the results you want.

Today, I still operate my intuitive consulting practice, but additionally, I coach many bloggers as well as professional service providers who operate blogs for branding and marketing.

2. What tips do you have for beginners who want to make money from their blogs?

There are two big things here. First don’t think that you need to make money ON your blog in order to make money FROM your blog.

I know many people who run highly successful blogs without ever making a penny on the blog itself. In other words, they don’t. For instance, run ads, or earn commissions from affiliate links, or publish sponsored posts.

Instead, they use their blog to establish their personal authority and expertise in their field or niche. They leverage this authority to attract a highly targeted clientele or buyer base.

In other words, their blog is a vehicle to building a profitable business, but it’s not the primary place where they actually make the money. Second, whether or not you are making money directly on your blog, you need to construct it as a sales funnel.

That means you need to set it up wisely whereby you are always directing people to do the things you want them to do. I call these “things” – conversion points.

Do you want them to hire you for your Professional Service? If so, make sure you have strong calls to action for them to pick up the phone and call you. In that way, they can be converted from a casual reader to a paying client. Do you want them to join your email list so you can market to them in the future?

If so, entice them to sign up for your email list to become more deeply involved in what you do. This converts them from you blog reader into your email subscriber. Do you want them to click a link that goes to a sales page where they can buy a product or service that you just reviewed in your blog posts?

And so on and so forth. You see, there are many conversion points you can construct to make money from your blog. You have to choose the ones that will best help you attain the specific results you are seeking.

Key takeaway: Use blog as a money making machine or as Donna said, use your blog as a vehicle to build a money making website. Don’t blog just as a hobby. Instead treat it as a real business and look for ways to make money from blogging.

Read: 24 Quick Tips To Increase Affiliate Sales From Your Affiliate Marketing Blog

3. What type of content you would prefer: videos, articles, podcasts or something else and why?

I like to use my blog primarily to publish articles. But that’s just the beginning of the content creation process.

Once I publish a blog post, I seek ways to repurpose it into other types of content. My favorite repurposed content is video. Better yet, is live video.

For instance, Facebook Live. I do a lot of work on that platform.

fb live

So I’ll take the subject of a blog post I just wrote, for instance, and I’ll do a Facebook Live presentation where develop those same ideas for my live audience. So it’s essentially the same content, but presented in a different format.

But it’s not really so much a question of what type of content I prefer. It’s more about what type of content my audience prefers. In my experience, most people resonate most strongly with video.

That’s because you can get away from theory and abstract ideas, and simply have a personal conversation with people.

They get to see who you are. They hear your voice. And, in the case of live video, they get to ask you a questions and get your answers right on the spot.

Read: [The Massive Guide] 28 Really Powerful Ways to Get 5x More Traffic To Your Website

I like any kind of content that helps mold active engagement instead of merely passive consumption of my content. And again, for me, that usually means video… and particularly, live video.

Key takeaway: Video marketing is going to expand. Instead of sticking to one type of content form, make sure to give a try to videos and podcasts as well to grow your blog’s exposure in 2019 and beyond.

4. Name 3 bloggers who you follow regularly?

I follow a great many bloggers. These are 3 of my favorites.

Ryan Biddulph: Ryan explores the emotional aspect of blogging and the creation of the kind of blogger mindset you need to be successful.

Lisa Sicard: Lisa keeps me up to date on what kind of social media strategies will help me most effectively promote my content to my target audience.

Gaurav Kumar: Gaurav gives me so many good ideas about running the more technical aspects of my blog, and also my digital information business.

5. How do you attract more visitors to read your website?

I guess the one thing I’ve always lived by since day one is “blog commenting.”

Just getting out there and talking to other bloggers and seeing what they’re doing and building connections with them.

When you comment on people’s blogs and share their posts on various social sites… they take notice and will usually reciprocate the “love”… PLUS (and this is when you start attracting a growing and steady traffic flow). Other People in their audience take notice.

Then they visit your blog. That’s always been a major source of attracting visitors to Donna Merrill Tribe.

Here’s an example how a great comment looks like;

long comment

And it’s just as effective today as it was on my first day of blogging. Besides that I do a lot of social sharing. I talk to people in forms and communities online and they get to know me. Many of them follow me back to my blog.

And one of the biggest things that I started doing more recently was live video. I’ve used Periscope (by Twitter), Google live video (via YouTube) and Facebook Live.

I’m getting on live video and having conversations with people. I particularly like Facebook live because I can talk to people take their questions and answer them and it’s just like being in the room with them. This attracts a lot of new followers and generates genuine engagement.

And finally, I have created many digital information training products. My customers join my email list and become regular and loyal visitors to my blog. And also, they become brand ambassadors of mine.

That simply means they like the value of what I do on my blog, so they tell lots of other people to check it out. And they do 🙂

Key takeaway: Donna Merill is absolutely right about blog commenting. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or seasoned blogger, if you want to get more traffic and network with other bloggers, blog commenting is the best thing to do.

6. What blogging hacks you wish every beginner blogger should be aware of?

I think one of my “secrets” for putting out so much quality content is two things.

First I always create content that I believe will improve the lives a people who consume it. So when I write a blog post to my target audience I am usually trying to help them solve a big problem that I know they struggle with.

I always asking myself how will this improve the lives of my audience, I am pretty sure that the content that I’m putting out there is relevant and will be highly valued.

The second thing I do is that when I’m actually creating a blog post I will develop a list of what I call “spinoffs.” Spinoffs are ideas for other things I could work on that are related to the project I’m working on at the moment.

You see, when you’re writing a blog post, you usually think of a million other things that you could talk about besides the main idea that you’re working on.

This is a big problem for many bloggers. They get sidetracked. They get distracted. They get so many ideas that they don’t know which one to work on first.

I actually use this distraction to my benefit. I quickly write down an idea that I’m having that is a spinoff of the main thing I’m working on at the moment.

Then I don’t think about it again. I stay focused on the work of finishing the blog post at hand.

But as I build that “spinoff list” bigger and bigger, it gives me an endless resource of ideas to develop in the future. Plus it helps me avoid getting sidetracked when I’m working on a project.

Key takeaway: Learn how to turn your weaknesses into strengths if you want to succeed in blogging. If you’re spending great amount of time online, don’t get distracted and try to figure out ways to take your content marketing strategy to the next level.

7. What is your preferred way of building a money making blog?

I never really think of “making money blogging.” Instead, I think of how blogging can help me make money in my business.

So for instance, instead of trying to attract paid advertising to my blog, I develop my own information products and services for people who are reading my blog.

So, having visited my blog and having read some of my articles, readers may realize that I could be helpful to them in their own business.

In other words, that I can help them solve the kinds of problems I write about on my blog. I continually promote my coaching services on my blog and within each blog post.

So people are always aware that they can hire me to help them in their blogging business. Or they can hire me to help them use a blog to develop their professional practice, or other offline, brick and mortar business.

So they hire me. Now that money does not come directly from advertising on my blog, like with Google Adsense or something similar.

But it obviously is income that is derived because people have come to know me as a blogger. And they have come to trust me as an authority, and someone who can help them solve their problems and have a better life because of it.

So what I’m saying is that I like to use my blog to showcase my talents and skills. Then I tell people that they can hire me to use those talents and skills. I think this kind of “showcasing” is the best use of blogging for the purpose of making money. At least it is for me.

Read: 10 Powerful New Year Resolutions Every Blogger Should Follow in 2019

Key takeaway: Focus on building a great community around your blog with “targeted content”. Then, making money from your blog gets so much easier. Show your expertise and you’ll find plenty of monetization methods to make money from your blog.

8. What’s the #1 tip you’ve for someone who wants to build a thriving network around their blogs?

I think you need to build some kind of a membership. That can be something as simple as a good email list. Or, it can be something as complicated as a membership site.

In either case you’re bringing a bunch of people together who were interested in what you do. They want to build a stronger relationship with you because they perceive that to be valuable.

They will learn from you and they will benefit directly from that relationship. Use your blog to develop and promote this community, even if it’s just your email list.

In fact, this is one of the biggest things that I help private coaching clients do. Figure out a way that they can get people to join them in something. Most typically, this means their email list.

And then deliver crazily impressive value to them. If you’re offering subscriptions to your membership site, then make sure that you’re always adding valuable content to that site.

But even if it’s just a simple thing like having an email list, find ways to really give people valuable emails. Don’t just write emails because you think you have to.

Just like I said when I write a blog post, you have to ask yourself the question before every email that you write… “how will this improve the lives of my email subscribers?”

If it won’t, then don’t write it. If it will, then do it. And do it better than anyone else. People will reward you well for it.

Key takeaway: The best way to build a profitable blog is to focus on building a community. Here’s where an email list comes into handy. So start building and growing your email list and add as much value as you can.

9. What are some of the challenges you faced while starting Donna Merrill Tribe?

I’ve worked with people as a coach and consultant for many years, way before I started blogging.

So helping people was pretty much second nature to me. My biggest challenge when I started blogging was getting the technology together to deliver those services.

My blog attracts people into my coaching programs and to my digital training products. But there’s a lot of technology in setting that all up. Your blog is essentially a sales funnel.

You need banner images, landing pages, email autoresponders, SEO structures and all kinds of other things to make it all work. Learning how to do these things was undoubtedly my biggest challenge.

However, it has also helped me become a better blogging coach. Because guess what. Other people face the same challenges.

So as I’ve learned to overcome these technical challenges, I have also acquired the skills and knowledge necessary to help other bloggers with the same problems to solve.

I guess this is what they call turning lemons into lemonade 🙂

Read: List of 170+ Quality Guest Blogging Sites Where Can Submit Guest Posts in 2019

10. What premium blogging tools do you use and why?

I really use very few blogging tools. I have a handful of plugins on my WordPress site.

The most helpful those is CommentLuv which handles my blog comments. As for social media sharing which is one of the big things that loggers used tools for, I really do everything manually for the most part.

I have used the tool called Post Planner to help me recycle some of my tweets. But I’ve used it very sparingly. I stay away from most automation tools to help me with social media posting and sharing.

Maybe I’m just old school, but I like to use social media to connect with people, not just to blast links. So when I come across a blog post that I find valuable to my community, I’ll share it.

I usually write my own unique sharing posts, and I find that my connections with people grow much stronger because of it.

Tools that I do use are these;

  • GetResponse for email
  • Screenflow for video
  • Convertri for sales funnels
  • Instabuilder for landing pages
  • Keynote for presentations, slides and making/editing images

I love GetResponse.

getresponse dash

I’ve used it forever and although I’ve tried other autoresponders, I find it to be the easiest to use, with the best delivery rate and fantastic customer support.

I do a lot of video, so Screenflow (for MAC) has been essential. Every video I do is edited via Screenflow to get it just the way I like it, in any format I need.

Convertri is an incredible page builder, even if you’re not building a lot of sales funnels like I do. It makes it so easy to create squeeze pages to build my email list, or sales pages to deliver my products and services.

Instabuilder is also a landing page creator, and I use it for quick projects, and I love it for that. But for anything more complicated or detailed, I really prefer Convertri.

Keynote is a presentation tool for MAC. It’s the MAC version of PowerPoint for PC. It really is an incredible tool for me because I do so many training courses, and slide presentations are great for that.

But in addition, I can drag and drop images onto a Keynote slide and edit it to suit my needs. Then I download it onto my desktop and use it anywhere I want.

Read: Interview With Janice Wald from Mostly Blogging On Building A Money Making Blog In 2019

11. What does the future of digital marketing look like?

Digital marketing via blogging has arrived, big time, on mobile devices. This is not going to change any time soon. But bloggers think they’re okay with it.

They figure, “hey, my blog is ‘mobile-friendly’ so I’m up to date.” Not so.

Having a mobile-friendly or “responsive” blog is just the beginning. Oh sure, way back when… maybe a year ago… that was fine.

But things are changing so fast on that front that within the next few years the vast majority of web views will be on mobile devices. So to say your site is mobile optimized or mobile friendly or whatever, only means that people can actually see your site on their phone or other device.

But it doesn’t mean that they are having as good an experience on their phone as they would if they were viewing it at a desktop or laptop.

You need to really start focusing on how your blog or site behaves and responds on mobile devices first and foremost.

Most bloggers and digital marketers think of the mobile look of their sites as just a footnote. They put all their attention on how it works and looks on a desktop.

Forget that. The future is mobile. That should be your first and foremost focus, with desktop renditions becoming the footnote.

So “the future?”

Well, the future is here. See exactly how your blog is looking and responding on mobile devices, and do what it takes to get it right. That’s where the business is. And that’s undoubtedly where your audience is… now, and very rapidly increasing as the future unravels.

Key takeaway: As Donna Merrill said, mobile is the future of digital marketing. If you really want to take your blog or online business to the next level in 2019, start focusing on things like mobile optimization, voice search and so on.

Read: Adam Connell Interview from Blogging Wizard On Taking Your Blog to The Next Level

Final thoughts on Donna Merrill Interview

Hopefully you enjoyed reading the interview with Donna Merrill and learned some key points about building a successful blog.

Building a profitable blog takes time and that’s the reason why you need to analyse the successful bloggers in your niche to find out what’s working well for them so you can apply the similar strategies.

If you still have any questions, do let us know in the comments and we’d be glad to respond.

Anil Agarwal

Anil Agarwal

Anil Agarwal who owns Bloggerspassion.com, is a full-time blogger and SEO expert who has been helping people build profitable websites for over a decade. Bloggers Passion has been featured on premium online sites like Forbes.com, Huffingtonpost, SEMrush, Problogger, Crazy Egg, The Next Web and so on.

13 Comments

  1. Hey Anil, thank you for this interview with Donna.

    I love reading the experiences of successful people because I think they’re shortcuts to knowledge and success. I agree with her that you don’t have to make money on the blog to make money from it.
    I know that firsthand because that’s exactly what happened to me.

    I have affiliate links on my site but since it’s new and I don’t have a tonne of content- it’s not getting a lot of traffic and I don’t make sales.

    But I’ve earned from my site because some of my traffic saw that I offer writing services and saw samples of my work and then hired me.
    So her model works though I’d argue that you can both earn on AND from a website.
    Cheers, Donna!
    And Anil, make sure you invite more successful people to your interview series, thanks:)
    Nikola Roza

    • Hi Nikola, whoa, that’s a pretty long comment. Yes, reading interviews of successful bloggers give us a ton of new ideas. We can easily find what’s working and what’s not. The great thing about Donna’s monetization model is that she rarely focuses on sales, she focuses more on building a great network around her blog.

      • It is so true Nikola,
        Following others that have had success in an area is a great teaching tool. It never happens overnight, but as we share our step by step process with others, it has an impact.
        -Donna

  2. niraj says:

    Hi Anil,
    First of all, thank you for this interview with Donna Merrill she is my inspiration, I am following her blog from the past 11 months and I learned a lot about blogging tips from her.
    Anil I am also waiting for voice search related SEO tips from #bloggerspassion.com

    • Hi Niraj, glad to know that you’ve been following her for a year now. Yes, I too learned a lot from her, definitely worth following.

      • Hi Niraj

        Wow, what a great compliment. Thanks so much. I am so happy to know that for the past year I’ve been a help to you.
        I do try to help others as much as I can by listening carefully to the needs of people when it comes to blogging. Then I whip up a blog post.

        -Donna

  3. Hello, Anil,

    Thanks for interviewing Donna on his blog. I am also a regular reader of his blog. She is a versatile blogger with have vast knowledge in Blogging. Her tips and tricks are very practical and to the point, that helps bloggers to succeed in their blogging journey.

    Have a Great Day 🙂
    Vishwajeet

    • Hi Vishawjeet, thanks for the comment. Yes, Donna is definitely one of the successful bloggers who often shares great content on her blog. She also has a thriving network around her blog and we can learn even from her blog’s comment section.

      • Hi Vish,
        Not only do you follow my blog, but my Facebook as well. I try to share as much as possible to help others have their own “tribe” aka network of followers. It all starts with following others, commenting, and sharing their work. Reciprocity will happen and therefore a network is formed.
        -Donna

  4. Hi Anil,
    Wow – what a great interview with Donna. I have had the privilage of meeting Donna in person a few times over the years on my trips to Maine. Her and her husband David have been a big inspiration to me.
    She is right on about blog commenting. I try to keep up with it and when I do it really does drive traffic but more importantly, builds relationships. It’s all about relationships in blogging today.
    I like Donna, blog to showcase my skills and grow my business from that. It’s amazing to see how far she has come in over 8 years I’ve known her.
    Thanks for sharing this interview with us and I’m so excited to see how Donna has been so successful in time 🙂
    Hi Donna! Thanks for all you have taught me over the years 🙂

    • Hi Lisa, glad you liked it and thanks for the appreciation, hopefully you learned something from Donna Merrill’s interview. You’re also one of the expert bloggers who know how to build a great community around a blog. Yes, blog commenting is definitely one of the best tactics to grow your blog presence which also helps you build relationships with other bloggers. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hi Anil,

    You did a great presentation here.

    Thanks so much for featuring me in your Bloggers Interview Series.

    I hope people learn a lot from the interview, and I’ll watch for comments to see if I can help anyone further along 🙂

    I love this feature on your blog introducing your readers to other bloggers, to learn how they operate their businesses.

    I think it’s a great teaching tool, and I’m sure your readers appreciate all the hard work you put into coordinating, editing and publishing the interviews.

    Thanks again.

    -Donna

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