Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Our Interview with Asha of Parent Hacks

Today's BlogCoach blogger interview is with Asha of Parent Hacks:

ParentHacks is the standard by which so many of us measure our success. How did you go about building such a large readership? Were there specific events that happened along the way that gave you a traffic boost?

What a kind thing to say. I hope my answer doesn't come off as obnoxious, "aw shucks, I just got lucky," but...in many ways, I got lucky. I didn't initially set out to "build my readership." My intent was to create the resource and community I wish I had had when I was a new parent without a network of parent friends.

Even though my goal was to create a community site, I set Parent Hacks up as a blog simply because the dated post/comment structure was ideal for my purposes. Plus, I could build the site myself with a minimum of design help. I paid a professional to create the logo (the very talented Bryan Bell), and my husband helped with some CSS, but otherwise, the Parent Hacks design is based on a basic TypePad
template.

Believe it or not, I think having a professional logo gave my site a level of authority it would have lacked had it just been a generic blog. The site comes off as legitimate, but not so slick that it feels impersonal.

The big traffic-building "event" happened in January 2006, when Parent Hacks was "discovered" by Boing Boing and Blogging Baby (now ParentDish). Over 15K people visited that day, and from then on, traffic and subscriber numbers just kept on climbing. The timing was such that Parent Hacks hit a vertical slice of the "life hacks" craze-- people love finding out smart little tricks that simplify life.
Parent Hacks happens to focus on the parenting tricks.

But beyond that, what kept people coming back to Parent Hacks was the nature of the conversation that happened (and continues to happen) there. Moms and Dads contribute equally, the focus is practical, but the community is positive, intelligent, and generous. No snark or mudslinging here. (If someone tries it I come down on them right
away.)
One of the things I admire about ParentHacks is that you've remained true to your blog's theme. With the occasional exception, you post parenting tips,and that's it. Has it been difficult to stay so focused? Do you think it's important for bloggers to stick with the original visions they have for their blogs?
Not difficult at all, as most of my content comes from my readership. I don't necessarily think it's important to stick with one's original vision, as it can change once it has been "let loose in the wild."

I'm aware that I could build on the Parent Hacks "brand," branching into other tangentially-related topics, but I keep coming back to the community and the conversation. That's what means the most (and is most interesting) to me.
You recently hooked up with Luvs and are posting articles in "The Momspeak"
Luvs brought you a lot of hits?
The Luvs site is an example of the "conversational media" my advertising partner, Federated Media, helped create. I've been involved with a number of these types of campaigns, and I really enjoy them, because they give me an opportunity to step outside of my own blog and write with a slightly different voice.
I'm sure people ask you for blogging advice all the time. What's the number one thing new bloggers should do to succeed?
The same thing one would do when entering any new social situation: be friendly, get to know people, and, most of all, be yourself.
Name three blogs that you visit every day. What keeps you coming back?
Sweet Juniper: marvelous writing and a unique spin on the world. We should all be as smart as those two.

Get Rich Slowly: J. D. Roth's blog is packed with practical "use this now" information, but never loses its humanity or humility.

urbanMamas: A group/community blog by Portland, OR mamas. It demonstrates the community-building power of a blog attached to a specific geographic area -- it turns "Internet friends" into "real-life friends" every day.
Are there any other new and exciting projects or ventures on the horizon that you want to tell us about?
The most exciting and consuming project in my life continues to be parenting, and being in the "business" of blogging has allowed me to focus on that. At times, I've had to step away from Parent Hacks to give more time to my kids, and my readership has always cheered me on and welcomed me back. I can't ask for anything more than that, atleast for now.
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