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Derek Semmler an interview

Derek Semmler

Q: Tell me about your Blog?

A: My primary blog, Derek Semmler dot com (http://dereksemmler.com), has been a variety of things over the lifespan of nearly three years.  When this blog started, one of the trends was that everyone was flexing their narcissistic muscle and setting up their blogs using their name as the domain name.  Up until recently, the blog was branded as the kitchen sink of the Interweb as I blogged about life, blogging, motorcycles and just about everything else.  Looking to focus myself a little bit more, I just completed a redesign of the blog using Thesis (my favorite WordPress theme so far) and would really like to use the blog as a vehicle to help more people understand the ins and outs of tweaking their blogs.
Q: What was your first blog?

A: The blog that got it all started for me is My New Choice (http://www.mynewchoice.com).  My New Choice is a blog about personal finance, eliminating debt, and money management.  Like many people that launch their first blog, I had visions of how I’d be raking in money hand over fist once I became a blogger and put up some ads.  As you know, and I quickly learned, it doesn’t quite work that way so I was fortunate in that I had selected a topic that I am quite passionate about and that kept me motivated when there was no money coming in.  It is also worth noting that when I started this blog, I was doing so with anonymity.  Due to the nature of the content, I was not prepared to have my name linked to the blog or have people that I knew be reading about my financial miscues, or I should say learnings.  However, after about 6 months of blogging and the launch of my 2nd blog, I decided that I would be more public about my ownership of My New Choice.
Q: What is the biggest tip you would give to a newbie blogger?

A: It is hard to narrow it down to just one thing but I’d say that the biggest tip is to just do it.  Yes, that slogan might be a bit cliche but too many people spend so much time worrying that everything about their blog must be perfect before they begin to promote themselves.  Your blog should be thought of as living creature that you build and nurture over time, so get started today and begin writing content and building a sense of community.

Now, with that said, I would also like to share a few additional tips to consider once the newbie blogger has moved past the “just do it” phase and is trying to figure out what to do next:

– Listen to your readers, there is a wealth of knowledge in their comments and it will help build a true sense of community when people know that you value their input.

– Don’t obsess about your blog stats; I’d venture that every blogger has fallen victim to the trap of checking their stats from every few hours to every few seconds, but you’ll find that you will do just fine if you check them less frequently.

– When you see that someone has visited your blog, take the time to check out their blog and share a few comments.

– Do not force a post, some bloggers feel that they must maintain a set schedule of posts per day or week and will force a lackluster post just to meet that quota – post when you have something to say.

– Be genuine, write from the heart, and always stand behind your word as nothing will ruin you as a blogger quicker than a reputation as a fake or cheat.

Q: What do advertisers do that you wish they wouldn’t?

A: To some degree it is the nature of the game but many advertisers are focused on doing whatever they can to make the sale yet spurn the consumer that is not looking to buy right now.  There is a great deal to be said for building a relationship and a level of trust with your consumers, and more often than not that will be rewarded when those consumers are in the market to buy.

Q: What do bloggers do that you wish they wouldn’t?

A: Write solely for what they stand to gain rather than writing with the intent to help someone else.

Q: Where do you see growth in the blogging field?

A: From my point of view, I see growth in the use of rich media as well as a move towards membership/premium services.  One doesn’t have to look very far to see how many “A-list” bloggers have launched membership-based services, some of which even do a great job of combining the use of rich media.  To me this really seems like the next step to the more traditional blog that we are accustomed to today.

Q: What do you do to improve the world?

A: Honestly, I don’t look at it from the perspective of improving the world but here are two things that I consider to be essential for me and in some way may have an impact on others: 1) Doing my best to raise my boys to be upstanding, respectful men.  The world can never have too many people that understand the importance of treating others properly.  2) Help others unconditionally.  Too often people will only extend the olive branch of help when they are certain to receive something back for their efforts.

Q: What do you do that is green?

A: The things that I do that are green are the more common lifestyle habits that many people have adopted: recycling as much as possible, changing to CFL bulbs wherever possible, reducing paper consumption, driving a fuel efficient vehicle.  We’ve also done things to improve our energy efficiency such as replacing our windows and appliances with more energy efficient models.

Q: What is one thing about you that not many people know?

A: A few years back I wrote a post about random facts about myself (http://dereksemmler.com/2007/07/07/8-oddities-about-derek-semmler/) and I’d say the one thing that very few people know is the fact that I once worked in a cemetery.  For some reason that seems creepy to a lot of people but it really wasn’t all that bad.  On a day to day basis it was simple lawn maintenance but there were a few occasions that we were asked to help with burials.

Q: What’s your favourite book?

A: With a preference for non-fiction books, I’d have to say my favorites are not overly exciting (for most people) but two that immediately come to mind are A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel and Under and Alone by William Queen.  These books are representative of my passion for finances and motorcycles.

Q: What is on your iPod?

A: After just recently completing two international trips to London and Barcelona, I have more movies than usual but here is a sampling of what is on there:

– Movies: Bruno, Green Street Hooligans, My Sassy Girl, Taken, and the Wrestler
– Music: Halestorm, Cavo, Static-X, Theory of a Deadman, M.I.A., Rush, Metallica, Evans Blue, The Georgia Satellites

Q: What are your contact details (email, company, blog, facebook, myspace,
forums, etc)?

A: Throughout the Interweb you will find me on most forums or social media sites as either “dsemmler” or “dereksemmler”, and I’ve included a handful of the more popular places to find me on my blog (http://dereksemmler.com/2008/03/28/wheres-waldo-connect-with-derek/) and on my company site at Red Staple Media (http://redstaplemedia.com).

For the quick hits, you can reach me at any of the following:
– Company and Email: Red Staple Media (http://redstaplemedia.com) and via email derek [@] redstaplemedia [.] com
– Blog: Derek Semmler dot com (http://dereksemmler.com)
– Twitter: @dereksemmler (http://twitter.com/dereksemmler)
– Facebook: dereksemmler (http://www.facebook.com/dereksemmler)

Q: What events do you go to?

A: I’ve not really had an opportunity to attend too many industry events, but thus far my favorite has been Blog World.  One that is on my radar to attend is Affiliate Summit as that is an area that I would like to improve my knowledge.  Doing all of this on the side to a non-Interweb day job makes it somewhat difficult to attend as many events as I would like.

Q: How do you prefer to communicate?

A: Being an introvert, I typically prefer IM or email.

Q: Who would you recommend, and why?

Some of these will be household names to those in the blogging industry but others will be a little less mainstream, yet just as valuable.  In no particular order:

– Darren Rowse: It really goes without saying, but Darren has to be recommended for the work he has done to help bloggers of all levels.  His name is one that comes up consistently when discussing people that have had a tremendous impact on the industry.

– Chris Garrett: Chris has built an authority on blogging and internet marketing, which was reinforced when he joined forces with Darren to author an outstanding book on blogging.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Chris at SOBCon and came away even more impressed.

– Wendy Piersall: While I no longer actively write for what is now the Sparkplugging network, I owe so much to Wendy for giving me the opportunity to be one of the first bloggers in her expanded eMoms network.  As a note to the new bloggers, that opportunity came about as a result of being active in the comments and taking a role where I was trying to help other readers wherever I could.

– Damien Riley: Teacher, father, husband, blogger, musician – Damien has so much to offer in each respect and is a guy that will always tell you what he thinks.  I’ve not yet had the chance to actually meet Damien but I am looking forward to sharing a cold pop and catching up with someone that feels like an old friend.

– Michael Kwan: Michael is a freelance writer that has a tremendous talent for dazzling the reader.  The thing that sets him apart is that he does it with such ease and leaves the reader yearning for more.  And when you consider that Michael is Canadian it is even more impressive. 😉

– Gail Gardner: I’ve had the opportunity to work with Gail on a handful of projects and she continues to amaze me with her level of knowledge.  Gail is certainly the type of person that helps others willingly and has a knack for making connections between people that can help one another.

– Brian Clark: Similar to how Darren is one of the first names people mention when they think of blogging, Brian has the same clout when it comes to copy-writing.  Pouring through his blog archives will make you a much better writer, and I recommend trying to see him speak in person as he delivers even more.

– Jeremy Schoemaker: There is no question that Jeremy rubs some people the wrong way, but I’ve found him to be extremely helpful and there is no question that he knows his stuff.  Jeremy was kind enough to give me an interview when I was writing for Wendy Piersall’s blog network and that gave me a new perspective on him – which was all shattered when I partied with him a little bit at Blog World. 🙂

– Aaron Wall: What Darren and Brian are to blogging and copy-writing, Aaron is to SEO.  I’ve learned so many things from Aaron that there is no way that he cannot be a part of this list.

– Zac Johnson: When it comes to affiliate marketing, or I should say blogging about affiliate marketing, you never really know who to trust as so many people build up a false authority.  Zac is one of the guys that I trust to be a straight shooter and he goes above and beyond to help people.

– Ian Fernando: What can I say about Ian “Bankin’ Big Dough” Fernando?  Let me just say that when you find yourself out at an industry event or conference with Ian, prepare yourself for some crazy times.

– Brad Shorr: Brad specializes in the mastery of words, or more commonly known as SEO copy-writing, content strategy, and blog consulting.  I first met Brad at a local tweetup and have found him to be quite helpful, and it doesn’t hurt that we both enjoy (or have a shared misery) in Chicago sports.

Q: What is one thing people can do for you?

A: Look for opportunities to help other people.  Think of the expression “pay it forward” – whenever I’ve had an opportunity to help someone with a problem or technical issue on their blog, I simply ask them to extend the same willingness to help someone else when the opportunity presents itself.

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