Businesses of all kinds begins blogging as a way to build up a long-term audience. But the reverse is also happening where more and more bloggers start businesses as an extension of their publishing.One of the biggest challenges new businesses face is for their products. Bloggers, on the other hand, often work backwards, building an audience first by consistently putting out good content, and then exploring ways to monetize their traffic.
Starting a blog is easy if you just want to have fun or sort of like learning. But if you’re thinking about making money as a blogger down the road, you’ll need to be strategic about how you set it up for success.
But first let’s answer an important question.
What is a Blog?
You’re reading one right now.
A blog is a web page for content that you regularly add to and update. Unlike other publications and articles, blogs tend to take on a more personal tone that helps them connect more deeply with their audiences.
People start blogs for all kinds of reasons, including:
- Selling products or services.
- Sharing their opinions, passions, or glimpses into their lives.
- Developing their personal brand as an expert.
- Building an email list.
- Teaching others what they know.
- Combination of any all of the above and more.
For these reasons, blogging can be incredibly fulfilling—especially when complete strangers start consuming your content—but it’s also a commitment.
Whether you publish daily, weekly, or monthly, it’s important to be as consistent as possible, not just in how often you publish but in the kind of content you publish as well. Because a content rich blog is what bigger players are looking for to promote their services online.
It’s very rare for bloggers to see results right away, so keep in mind why you’re doing it to stay motivated in the early stages.
How to Start a Blog
The hardest part about blogging is finding the time and the ideas you need to do it consistently. Getting started, however, is fairly straight forward. More on How to start a block read ⇒ here
Starting a blog with the potential to be a business basically comes down to the following steps,
- Consider the different opportunities to monetize.
- Pick an audience to serve.
- Choose a blogging platform, a domain name from the hosting service providers such as Godaddy, Hostgator or Blue Host etc, and build your blog.
- Lay the groundwork for distribution.
- Planning out your publishing strategy.
If you’re wondering why we’re talking about monetization first, it’s because we need to think more like an entrepreneur than just a blogger in order to make this a profitable venture.
Many Ways to Make Money Blogging
I have talked many at times in most my of my blog posts.There are a bunch of ways you can monetize your blog, depending on the kind of blog you decide to start. But people usually think of ads first for some reason.
The truth is, there are better and faster ways to make money with your blog that don’t require a massive volume of page views every day. It’s twice as true if you can build a loyal audience, not just a large one.
You can make money blogging by:
- Publishing a book and selling it as a physical or digital product.
- Selling services like writing, consulting, and design.
- Selling digital products like resumes, photos, or designs that you create once and sell again and again and again.
- Selling physical products that align with your audience, whether it’s t-shirts or hot sauce.
- Doing paid reviews/promotions for brands.
- Becoming an affiliate for another brand and make a commission every time you sell their product.
- Subscriptions powered by platforms like Patreon.
There are ample opportunities to monetize your blog, but you have to enjoy what you blog about in order to succeed.Your most important consideration—more than making money—will be who your audience is and how you’re going to serve them.
Picking a Niche: What’s Your “Product” Going to Be?
There’s no shortage of content on the internet. It may seem hard to stand out (it is), but there are two ways you can compete: By choosing a specific audience to focus on and by creating content that has something about it that readers can’t easily find elsewhere.
You can do this in a number of ways:
- Focus on a specific location (e.g. Sydney NSW)
- Deliver your content in a different style or voice (e.g. humor).
- Compete with quality (e.g. in-depth posts on a topic that no one else is willing to do).
The niche you choose is important as it not only has to be an audience that you can sustainably serve with a steady flow of content ideas, but will ultimately determine how you explore monetization later. Consider what kind of products or services you could potentially sell to this audience, and whether you know enough or care enough about that topic to cover it many, many times over.
Once you have some ideas for niches, use Google to look up your competitors on the topic and use tools like Buzzsumo to get a sense of how well content on this topic performs and what channels it performs best on.
Choosing a Platform and Building Your Blog
This is where many would-be bloggers get stuck. They’re not exactly sure which platform they should invest their time and money on.
The choice usually boils down to a self-hosted or hosted platform:
- Self-hosted: These platform generally offer more customization options, but you will still have to pay a monthly fee to host the site yourself and it requires some initial setup. WordPress.org is the go-to platform if you’re considering the self-hosted route. This guide from Smashing Magazine will walk you through it. My tutorial will walk you through.
- Hosted: These platforms let you get started right away and some of them have built-in audiences. Some are free like Blogger and WordPress.com (the hosted alternative to WordPress.org) and some are paid.
When choosing a platform, think about the future and how you want to monetize your blog eventually. Not all platforms will give you everything you need, while some will give you more than you will ever need.
Some bloggers opt for free hosted platforms like Medium and Tumblr because they give you access to an engaged community of other bloggers and readers on the platform. But you can republish on these platforms to take advantage of their audiences—you don’t need to build your main blog on these free platforms to use them.
Picking a Name and Theme For Your Blog
Once you’ve picked your platform, you should considering buying a domain name
(yourblog.com) and a theme especially on WordPress or similar (the look and layout of your blog).
Shopping for a domain is a good time to think about what you’re going to call your website. Choose something that’s catchy, memorable, easy to type, and isn’t already taken by another brand.Once that’s settled, you’ll need to pick a theme.
A “theme” is just a template for the layout, look, and features of your website. There are plenty of free themes available, whatever platform you choose. But if you’re not happy with those options, consider paying the one-time fee for a paid theme as it will have a big impact on the overall experience users have on your website.
Laying The Groundwork for Growth
We usually talk about growing an audience after we start publishing. But if you want to build up momentum quickly, you need to start thinking about it even before you launch.
Many bloggers struggle with distribution, and I think there’s two parts to the reason which I myself have learned alone this process:
- They don’t have a concrete, repeatable distribution strategy within their publishing process.
- Publishing is already a nerve-wracking experience, and amplifying your reach makes it that much scarier.
The latter is something you eventually get over, but the former requires some initial thought and investment of time before you launch.
So let’s walk through some of the ways we can plan for growth and get the most out of every post we create.
Start Collecting Emails as Soon as Possible
It doesn’t matter what platform you’re blogging on, you should be focusing on getting email subscribers. Every new subscriber is a sign that you’re doing something right and is a potential repeat reader that you can easily reach.
Even if you switch platforms down the road, or decide to start something new, your email list remains with you.
MailChimp is an easy email marketing tool to recommend because it’s free up to 2000 subscribers. But it’s not enough to just have a subscriber list. You need to capture these emails at every turn and you do that with sign-up forms.
A good habit to get into is to embed sign-up forms directly into your content with a call to action to subscribe, like the one you’ve seen in my blog.
Many email marketing solutions lets you create and use these forms easily. You can even generate a link that directs to a separate sign-up page that you can link out to in your blog posts, social media, and email signature.
Remember that people aren’t going to subscribe to your blog if you don’t ask and if you don’t make it easy for them.
Every time you publish a post, you should email it to your list—a process you can automate down the road once you get into the swing of things.
Look For Opportunities to Go After Search Engine Traffic
Using keyword research, you can get an idea of how much search volume there is for particular search queries in your niche. The higher the number, the more demand there is for a topic, and the more traffic you can potentially generate long-term.
The easiest way to do this is to simply install the Keywords Everywhere Chrome Extension and start googling from your audience’s perspective to try to unearth interesting content ideas. Queries that start with “how to…” or “best…” are a good place to start.
Even if you don’t land a spot on the first page of the search engine results for these searches, you’ll have a content idea with proven demand. But if you want to aim high, you can learn more about SEO.
Set Up Your Social Media Strategy
At first, it might seem like a smart move to be on every single social media platform, but that gets hard to manage fast and isn’t always effective.
Instead, focus on the channels where your audience spends the most time. Depending on your niche and your resources, your choice of channels will vary.
For example, a Facebook Page is a good all-around asset for any blogger who’s willing to pay to promote their content. On the other hand, a cost-conscious food blogger will probably stand to get a lot more free engagement on Pinterest and Instagram than Twitter.
Don’t neglect your personal networks either—your friends and family make a great early audience.
Reduce, Reuse, and Resurface Your Content
You can’t put out large posts every day. A good blogger knows how to reuse and repurpose their content to get the most mileage out of it.
So, here are some ideas to keep in mind as you go forward:
- Recreate blog posts as other types of content, such as infographics or quizzes.
- Occasionally update and republish old content after a good amount of time has passed to expose it to readers who missed it the first time. This works great with seasonal content if you are following your social media calendar.
- Add links to related content within and at the end of your posts.
- Create “micro-content” for social media from existing posts with tools like Canva.
- Post a roundup of past blog posts with a common theme (e.g. “Our Best Posts of 2016”).
- Regularly republish your content on new platforms with built-in audiences like Medium, LinkedIn, or Tumblr to get more early exposure, adding a link to the original post to the top (“Originally published on youblog.com”) to increase your chances of getting clicks back to your site.
- Consider accepting guest posts once you’ve started to amass a following. Guest authors will likely share this content with their own audiences too.
When time is money and you’re in the business of blogging, you need to constantly squeeze more value out of your efforts.
Understand Analytics to Understand Your Audience
The best opportunities are hidden in your data.
Depending on the platform you choose you’ll have different metrics to look at, but you’ll at least get the number of views and where your visitors are coming from, which can tell you a lot about your performance.
But if you take the time to set up Google Analytics on your site (it’s free), you can get deeper insights, like the average amount of time people spent reading your post, the quality of the readers coming from different sources, and even the number of readers in real-time.
Data can also be used as leverage for bloggers. The ability to prove how much traffic you bring in is a huge asset that makes others more likely to want to work with you or gain access to your audience.
Planning out your publishing strategy ⇒ read here
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