For today's Professional Blogger Spotlight, we chatted with the founder of the online designer handbag mecca that is PurseBlog. Meaghan Mahoney Dusil started the site in 2005, out of her love for bags, and grew a passion project into a full time job and network of bag-lovers that's over 350,000 members strong.
Can you tell us a little about how PurseBlog got started, and what it's all about?
I have been a handbag lover since I was a little girl. Not only did I grow up going to a school that required us to wear an unflattering uniform, but I was also a competitive swimmer. This meant I went from morning practice straight to school, so my hair was always a mess and smelled like chlorine and my clothing was not helping. We were allowed to carry a handbag along with our backpack, and I found such joy in being able to have one piece that showed more of my personal style. My love of bags grew from there.
In my junior year of college, I was forced to stop swimming because an injury and felt a bit lost. My then-boyfriend (now husband) Vlad had a background in computer science and engineering and came to me with the idea of starting a blog. Since he knew I loved handbags, he registered PurseBlog.com and we got started from there. It has been a major learning experience; I had no background in the tech world but loved bags, and Vlad had no interest in fashion but loved tech. Now we both share a love for the fashion and tech aspects of the world we now call home.
How did you grow into the network you are now? What spurred this transition?
Slowly and organically! We started PurseBlog as a way for me to channel my obsession for designer handbags. A few months in we realized there were other like-minded handbag lovers and Vlad brought up the idea of starting a forum. I was very new to the idea of an online discussion forum but noticed it was an untapped market. We started PurseForum and in the first few months we had a couple hundred people registered. I remember how excited I was to be part of a growing community, and today we have over 350,000 members.
What kind of strategy do you use for your content to keep the talk about handbags feeling fresh?
I think without a true passion for the topic at hand, you can end up getting bored quickly. People still ask me to this day how I have been able to talk about purses for over seven years, and the simple answer is because it comes naturally to me.
To keep the content fresh, we are constantly working on new ideas to expand from simple editorial review to features that engage our readers. Some of their favorites (and ours) include our What's in Her Bag series, Real Housewives recaps, and Vlad's Fashion Week photography.
What role does social media play in PurseBlog's development and promotion, community, etc?
We feel that our PurseForum is our main source of social media – it's a busy social community in and of itself. Outside of that, we use all forms of social media, but right now our favorite is Instagram. I have my iPhone out taking pictures at all times and I think it provides a great peek into our day-to-day lives (the same can be said for Twitter). We certainly leverage our content from both our blog and forum on the major social media platforms, but most focus and energy goes into our own content creation and forum maintenance.
How do you monetize PurseBlog?
We started by only using Google AdSense. After a couple years, we branched out to join an ad network that helped place ads on our site. Affiliate marketing was another method of generating revenue, which is now more significant than ever. For the past six months we've focused more on direct ad sales and campaigns. As our sites have grown, we have changed the ways we monetize, but we like to keep it simple… but diversified.
What advice would you give to other bloggers who want to zero in on a niche? How can they develop great content?
Be true to yourself. So many people are out there trying to force themselves into a niche or into being someone they are not. If you concentrate on being you, it will show in your content and to your readers, which will help build a great brand. As far as content development goes, spend time making goals and focus on meeting those goals. Again, figure out where you are going with your site and stick to the plan. You can always tweak it, but it is important to remain on track and provide your readers with what they want to see.
Do you think you can pinpoint what has made PurseBlog so successful and your community so large?
I think a lot of it is about the authenticity of each person on our team. When we started PurseBlog, I only owned 2 designer bags: a Coach bag and a Prada bag. I have such enthusiasm for bags and I believe that it shows in my writing. I have always focused on being myself and it has worked really well for us.
PurseForum was started at a really great time – 2005 is ancient in blogging terms. We got in early, found an area that was not yet developed and funneled our blog traffic to build our PurseForum community. Our forum differs from other fashion sites because its focus is on shopping and sharing the joy of the hunt and acquisition of designer goods. It's a lighthearted and fun escape from the stress of day to day life!
What do you hope to see happen with the blogging community in the next few years?
I hope to see more bloggers reach their goals and dreams. There is a large market and plenty of space to have great people and sites have an impact. I'm a dreamer, but I really do love seeing people succeed. And I'm just excited to watch this little slice of the Internet grow, I think there is so much more potential for everyone involved!