This guest post is by Alexander Heyne of Milk the pigeon.
When I first started my blog, I wrote a series of posts I was sure would resonate with thousands all over the world, create a movement, and bring massive traffic over to my site.
Except when I published the posts, they went to the black hole of the Internet.
No one heard them. No one saw them. Just a couple Facebook friends and maybe my mom.Suddenly my idea of writing about what I enjoy, and making a living (however small) off it was shattered. It was time to regroup and start over.
A model for making money
Just as you need to have a serious game plan to ensure your success blogging, including a master plan and many smaller plans, you need to have a model to work with for monetization.
You need a simple path that gives you a general idea of where to go and what to do, and in what order.
Following the next six points will ensure you’ll be six months ahead of where I was when I started, and you’ll no longer be writing for “someone”. You’ll be writing for your future massive, engaged audience willing to buy your products.
1. Create a list and engage your audience
This is blogging 101 to most bloggers now—especially those who are planning to release a product or course to their audience. But it wasn’t to me. I mean, I figured I would just write some good stuff, and maybe some advertisers would contact me, and then I’d somehow end up making $2,00 or $3,000 a month from advertisements.
Make an email list as soon as you start your blog, and start collecting subscribers. But unless you have an established reputation people most likely will have a hard time forking over their email address to you, so what do you do?
Give them a reason to subscribe, like a free ebook or a mini course. The sooner you start building your email list, the better. Because the sooner you have a list the sooner you can start building trust with your audience and establish yourself as having expertise in some area.
What I did: waited until month three to make an email sign up list, and offered no incentive to subscribe.
What I should’ve done: I should have signed up on day one with an email subscription service like Aweber, and offered an ebook or mini course for subscribers.
2. Fine-tune your content
Sometimes your niche is pretty clear—blogging, marketing, or running, for example. But sometimes it’s not and covers a wide range of things—lifestyle design, location-independent work, or self-help.
Assuming you fall into the latter categories, you are probably going to need to do some content fine-tuning. That means testing a variety of closely related topics and seeing which ones resonate best content-wise and message-wise with your audience. You can test those qualities based on re-tweets, views, shares, and comments, although these metrics alone should not be the be-all end-all.
Just remember that in the beginning it’s going to be harder to work out what your audience likes and doesn’t like, because you may not have an audience yet! Just have fun at the beginning and experiment a lot.
What I did: Wrote about a variety of topics, and kept no analytics on what was popular or why.
What I should have done: I should have deliberately tested various types of content with my audience and used those results (Google Analytics) to hone in on what I should’ve written more of in the future. It also gives you potential product niches.
3. Show some link love
One of the worst, most sinful mistakes I made was not reaching out and trying to connect with others in my niche, not trying to follow people who had already achieved the goals I wanted, and not establishing other relationships with people in the online world.
It goes pretty much without saying that you can’t make it alone in the blogosphere—and that nurturing genuine relationships will be the single most beneficial thing you can do to help your business take off.
The following three types of people you should make a list of and establish friendships with:
- people in a niche somewhat similar to your own (peers)
- people who are doing what you hope to be doing one day (mentors)
- people who you see will be up and coming and need to be heard (pupils)
What I did: Believed I could succeed alone, and made no effort to connect with others.
What I should have done: I should have networked until my eyeballs hurt, shared as much as possible with my peers, share posts by people whose mission I believed in, and established several people as mentors who have attained the goals I am striving for.
4. Consciously build your audience and list
There are three ways you can deliberately build your list and audience more rapidly than letting them organically grow:
- getting better exposure via guest posting
- holding a webinar where people need to subscribe to participate and get more information
- offer exclusive content or a free additional course that requires a sign up. For example, on your products page you can have a “free marketing 101 course.” You could then have a ten-part auto-responder course (or ebook) that gives great content, for free. And in return you get someone’s email address added to your list.
What I did: Thought that the “crawlers” would just find my content and it would go mainstream.
What I should have done: I should have guest posted as much as humanly possible, combined efforts with other bloggers to hold webinars, and given away tons of free, extremely valuable content (in various forms).
5. Do some spy work (probe your audience members’ brains)
At this point you should be asking yourself, “What am I doing with all these people? I have been giving them great content, building relationships with others around me, and now have a list of quite a few people. What’s next?”
Here’s one of the next steps to take: find out what specifics your audience wants and what problem of theirs you can solve.
I’m going to work with the assumption that you don’t have three to six months of free time to make a product that flops, so here is one way to test for demand. Offer free or paid consulting. At this point, your audience hopefully respects you and sees you as somewhat of an authority. So why consult for free?
- You will acquire some experience which you can later use to transfer into paid consulting.
- You’ll realize patterns of problems that your audience has, and you can begin to develop a product tailored directly to their needs.
What I did: Assumed I knew what my audience wanted.
What I should have done: I should have done a number of things: given out a questionnaire, consulted (free/paid), asked directly (via a blog post), or researched what other people are selling in the same niche.
6. Make a product or promote a product
As far as products go, the historic route that people have taken is to make an ebook. Ebooks work well and lend themselves to automation, but there is one other product recommendation that tends to work better for some others.
Launch a limited-time program or online course, for example, once every four months. The reason I suggest making an online course is that it helps you jump exponentially over time (both in terms of influence as well as financially).
Every time you launch your course, you build your email list, you get feedback, and you find out what updates your audience wants. And then you can launch the course again—and, assuming you have received feedback, you can update it. And, assuming you did a good job developing your product, you now have a bigger list, more exposure, and a larger audience. The benefits grow over time.
The other option is to promote someone else’s product. I know quite a few people who made their first dollar online by promoting a product they tried and thought their audience would like.
If you know of a product (ideally that you have tried) that genuinely provides a solution to a problem your audience has, write a post reviewing it. State clearly what your audience will get from the product, let them know that you’ve tried it, and keep your promise. Afterwards, you can keep a smaller banner advertisement or list it on your products or resources page.
What I did: Got half way through an ebook, realized it probably wasn’t going to sell as much as I wanted, and went back to the drawing board.
What I should have done: I should have #1 followed through, because even if your product only makes five sales, you are getting some feedback and now have experience making a product.
I should also have decided if I wanted to make this an ongoing product with support and feedback options. If you want a product that requires no updating and support, go with an ebook. If you want a product that has much more potential for growth but will require a larger time investment, go with an online course.
So why go through all these steps? Why bother with an elaborate checklist of things to go through?
The reason is because if you don’t have a model, you’ll be taking shots in the dark. Your work is going to be all guesswork, and guesswork is going to lead to disappointment. You’ll be running your blog with the same intentions I had: “Do a couple posts here, a couple posts there, maybe get some ads on there, write an ebook, and then I’ll be making $5,000 a month.”
Save yourself from the same silly assumption I made: otherwise you’ll end up like me—never making a dime from my blog.
Milk the pigeon is about killing that lost feeling, standing out in the crowd, and living a life of greatness. Download a free copy of Milk the Pigeon’s manifesto here: Killing Your Old life and Living the Dream