Almost every time I do an interview about blogging I’m asked some variation of this question:
What tips would you give a beginner wanting to make money blogging?
It’s always an interesting question to answer – particularly when you’re asked to limit your tips to just a few sentences so the person can use it as a sound bite. The problem in condensing the advice into just a few quick tips is that for every tip there are plenty of successful blogs out there who didn’t do what you’re advising and still have had success.
Image by Wessex Archaeology
Having said that – here are a few of the foundational tips that I would give to those starting out. They’re not ‘rules’ and not every successful blog has followed them – however I think they are solid advice and should apply for most bloggers. They’re presented in no particular sequence.
1. Choose a topic you know about and have an interest in writing about
It is much easier to sustain a blog over the long haul if you have a genuine interest in the topic. It’s also easier to gain the trust of others and be seen as an authority if you know what you’re talking about.
2. Choose a topic that is in demand and has potential for profit
IF your goal is to make money from your blog (and it isn’t for everyone) you’ll probably want to do some thinking about the topic you’re going to write about. Most profitable blogs have a niche that they focus upon (here are some reasons why). Beyond your own interest in the topic there are other factors that you might want to consider when it comes to profitable niches including its popularity and whether people are searching for that information, how many competitors there are in that niche (and how strong they are), what income streams might be available on the topic, whether the topic is a long term one or a fleeting trend etc. For more reading on choosing a topic check out How to Choose a Blog Niche.
3. Produce content that meets peoples needs or solves problems
The content on your blog needs to mean something to people, it needs to solve a problem that they have (whether it be ‘I need to how to….’ or ‘I’m bored and need a laugh’ or ‘I want someone to tell me how xxxxx applies to my life’). Do this and people will keep coming back and they’ll tell others about you too. Read more on this in a post I wrote about ‘Usefulness’ as a principle of successful blogging.
4. Build traffic by participating on other sites and building a network
Building great content on your site is just half the battle but especially in the early days you can’t just rely upon a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. Later on you might find that you can focus less upon promoting your blog but in the early days you need to get off your own blog and be willing to interact on other parts of the web (other blogs, social media, forums etc). Build a presence on sites where the type of reader that you want are already gathering, build relationships with other blog/site owners and be as useful to others as you can where ever you go. Read more on this topic at The Myth of ‘Great Content’ Marketing Itself.
5. Produce Content that People Want to Pass on
The bulk of your content will want to be solid content that focuses upon meeting the needs of your readers – however it can be well worth your time also throwing into the mix content that is designed to be more about attracting new readers through word of mouth. It is hard to define this content and many times it just happens but be aware of what content in your niche is being passed around on social media sites and you’ll begin to see opportunities to write some of your own. Often this content is funny/playful, controversial, statistics/research based or ‘list posts’ that are mega resources (50 ways to….’ or ’50 ….. to watch’ type posts. Ultimately it is the type of content that someone reads and where their first reaction is to make them think – ‘I need to send this to….’ or ‘I need to tweet this’ or ‘I’m going to bookmark this on Delicious’.
6. Develop a ‘hook’ or ‘hooks’ that will keep those visiting your blog for the first time coming back again
Some people will naturally keep coming back to your site after their first visit, but a very large percentage of them will never return unless you ‘hook’ them in some way. Many bloggers rely upon people subscribing to their RSS feed to ‘hook’ readers and while this can help only some visitors will know how to do this. Other options for this include creating an email newsletter or getting readers to sign up to join/become members. Once people sign up for these you have their permission to remind them about your site and continue to draw them in. Further reading on this topic: How I use Email Newsletters to Drive Traffic and Make Money.
7. Build Community
People no longer just come online to download information or read the expert opinion of others. The web is not a passive place, people want to interact, create, discuss and belong. A blog is a great way to broadcast information but it is also a fantastic tool for building a sense of belonging and interaction, so make the most of that. You might want to add other areas to your blog for this type of interaction (a membership area or forum) but much of it can happen right in your blog posts as well. Ask questions, feature what your readers are doing, run interactive projects, do polls, host debates, give your readers a place to show off what they’re working on. The more you get your readers to ‘do’ the more they’ll feel like a member rather than just a ‘reader’. Get more tips on building community on your blog here.
8. Experiment with Different Direct Monetization Streams
One of the wonderful things about the blogging space today is that bloggers now have a myriad of ways to monetize their sites. Back when I started in this business things were much more limited and most bloggers just used AdSense and Amazon affiliate program because there were not many other options. Those can be great starting points to begin to learn about running ads and affiliate programs on your blog but don’t limit yourself to them. The key is to experiment with different ‘direct income streams‘. Try some different ad networks (whether they be contextual ads, impression based ads etc), try selling your own ads and play with different affiliate marketing campaigns. Play with using different ads and affiliate programs in a variety of ways and positions on your blog (for example in your RSS feed, in posts, in your sidebar, in your header etc).
9. Plan for Indirect Income Streams Early
One of the biggest trends in blogging over the last couple of years is bloggers also experimenting with making money ‘because’ of their blog through more indirect income streams. It’s not just about running ads on your blog – there can often be other things you can do including selling your services as a consultant, running training programs, developing eBooks or other resources, starting a paid members area/forum, selling premium content services etc. Not all of these will apply to every niche but more and more bloggers are now discovering the power of developing their own products and services to sell to blog readers.
10. Don’t Give Up Your Day Job…. Yet
Making money through blogs can be very profitable and a lot of fun, however it is not a fast process and there are no guarantees. It almost always takes years to build up and there are many many bloggers who’ve been at it for that long who make very little money (if any) despite their best efforts. I think there is something to be said about investing a lot of time into a blog if you want it to grow, however I’d advise very very careful consideration if you’re thinking about opening up time by giving up other employment. I personally took 2-3 years to move my blogging from a hobby, to a part time job to a full time thing (and even when I went full time there were times where I took on other work) and most full time bloggers I chat with today have similar stories. Further Reading: A Reality Check about Blogging for Money.