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You might feel that making money from blogging is a farfetched impossibility. That's because you either haven't tried it or failed miserably on previous attempts. In truth, you can earn money blogging. You just need to know the right strategies and have the right attitude.
Today, we're going to explore some of the widely recognized strategies for making money with blogging. We'll cover what seems to work, how to go about it. We'll also examine some tips from some industry leaders, and some examples of blogging done right.
With any luck, you'll be able to adapt the lessons learned today to your own blog. Do it right, and you'll be able to count yourself among the growing ranks of those making money by blogging.
What Is Blogging?
You can watch this video to get a quick overview:
There's no real barrier to entry to starting blogging. Just about anyone can do it if they have the drive and willingness to learn. People maintain blogs for many reasons, but our focus today will be how to turn the blog into a source of profit.
With any blog, no matter what the topic or monetization strategy, the site has to be quality and it needs a readership. Let me explain. If your blog is garbage, then no one will read it. If no one reads the blog, you have no audience with which to implement your monetization strategy.
Therefore, before you concentrate on which money-making scheme to use, you have to focus on making sure your blog is worthwhile. You have to start a blog that has real promise. Let's begin.
Starting A Blog That Doesn't Suck
We'll forego the technical stuff like registering a domain and designing a site. Today, we're going to focus on mindset and generating good ideas.
Popular belief may dictate that good ideas just fall from the sky. If only it were that easy. Coming up with a good blog takes some dedicated brainstorming.
You'll have to choose a topic that you will enjoy writing about, and readers will enjoy reading. Unfortunately, some blog topics simply do not resonate with the majority of people. No matter how hard you try, you won't be able to make them popular.
How, then, to focus on something that people will enjoy? There are a few approaches. Let's take a look at two popular paths that may help you find what to do.
One, Choosing A Blogging Niche, comes from Blogging Basics 101. They emphasize choosing something that you will enjoy writing about to reduce the chances that you'll quit halfway through. Sound advice, but how to narrow down what to write about out of the many things you love. They've got that covered as well. They recommend asking yourself some simple questions:
- What are your hobbies?
- How do you spend your free time?
- What is the one topic you could go on about for hours if your friends or family let you?
- What types of classes did you enjoy in high school or college?
- What do you enjoy reading and learning about?
- If you could do one thing the rest of your life regardless of salary, what would you do?
Once you have your focus, you have to start competing with the other blogs that occupy that niche. To succeed, you'll have to put a unique spin on the subject. This will come from injecting your personality into your posts.
That is, after all, what a blog is. A collection of your thoughts and feelings on a topic. Without the personal element, the chances of success diminish drastically.
Now, the second approach for finding your focus. The experts at ProBlogger suggest a 3-pronged approach: finding a niche, finding a demographic, and finding a fight.
We've already discussed narrowing down a niche. You've got to search your mind to find the topics that interest you. What about the demographic and the fight, though?
These are interesting concepts. In the demographic approach, ProBlogger recommends thinking about who the blog is for rather than the topic it should be about.
Choose a type of reader to concentrate on, then build the topics around things that will be relevant to them. The example ProBlogger gave was Gala Darling (she's awesome, by the way, you should check her out).
Thinking about who you'll resonate with is a great way to stay audience focused during the blog creation process. This will go a long way in helping you build up that readership as you'll be able to concentrate on the people you connect with the most.
When ProBlogger mentioned finding a fight to zero in on, what do you think they were referencing? The answer is a struggle that readers can identify with and rally around.
In the case of ProBlogger, Darren Rowse founded the site to talk frankly about his passion for blogging. Think about what your cause is, and how you can frame it in a way that will be interesting for people to read.
Once you have your blog topic, you'll have to go through all the rigamarole of designing a site, getting it hosted, etc. You'll then have to concentrate on making great content as well. All these steps present challenges of their own, but they are surmountable if you put in the effort.
You can get a quick breakdown on the technical steps you'll have to take to create a blog here:
How To Earn Money Blogging
The number of strategies is almost as vast as the different topics you can choose. There's no need to beat our heads against the wall trying to figure out what works. The experts have been there and done that. Let's analyze what methods the pros recommend to make money blogging.
Blogging Basics 101 comes right out the gate with one of the most straightforward money making models: selling ads. What they cover first are CPC and CPM ads. Let's break down what that means.
CPC stands for “cost-per-click.” You have the ads on your site, then every time someone clicks the ad, you get a small amount of money from the advertiser.
CPM ads are “cost for 1,000 impressions.” You get a set amount of money every time 1,000 people view the ad. Now you see why building up that audience was so crucial?
Blogging Basics recommends going with Google AdSense for these kinds of ads. It's not a bad suggestion either. Google AdSense takes much of the hassle out of finding the right ads and arranging them on your site.
They track down the relevant ads; then you get a cut based off of how many readers you can bring in. There are similar services that have the same basic setup that Blogging Basics also recommends: Chitika, Infolinks, and Media.net to be specific.
The problem with services like these is that they take some control away from you, the blogger. They also take a cut of the profits, which, if you're looking to maximize your money, is not ideal.
To circumvent that, they also recommend selling ads directly. It's more difficult and takes a greater investment of time. You get to keep more money for yourself, though so it might be worth it for you.
The ads don't have to take the form of the traditional banner on top or side of the page either. Blogging Basics notes that you can use more subtle methods. Sponsored posts, “brought to you by” content, and the good-old affiliate link is all fair game.
Affiliate marketing is especially popular as it gives you a commission whenever someone buys a product or service you're plugging. There are plenty of affiliate programs out there, with Amazon being one of the top dogs.
If you don't feel right hawking someone else's wares on your site, you can always use your blog to sell your own stuff to your audience. If you have a product, like a book or software, you can promote that directly.
You could also decide to plug your own business and use the blog to talk about what your business is about and how your services can benefit your audience.
The Smart Blogger approach also promotes building an audience and using that to generate income. Their specific income strategies are different than Blogging Basics and The Huffington Post, though.
First off, they eschew selling ads for cash. The reason that the amounts brought in from advertisers pale in comparison to the amounts that you can make from selling your own stuff. To put it bluntly:
“If you have an engaged audience that trusts you, selling ads is never a smart move. You’re better off either selling your own products or getting a commission from endorsing another company’s products, assuming you truly believe in them, of course.”
Next, they recommend a multi-part plan for building that sweet income stream. They recommend starting with affiliate marketing. We've covered the basics of affiliate programs already, no need to rehash that.
What Smart Blogger ads, though, are some reasons that affiliate marketing is a good move. In their opinion, it's fast, it's passive, and you can learn about what works from using your affiliate.
They make an interesting caveat, however. Services providers, graphic artists and the like should come out the gate promoting themselves. A smart move. I, for one, agree with their assessment.
The next part of the Smart Blogger plan comes in the form of a sales funnel. If you're not certain what that is, you can find a pretty good explanation here:
Where Smart Blogger flips the game on its head is by suggesting that you do the sales funnel tactic in reverse:
“You’re much better off creating and selling the expensive product first, and then gradually building cheaper and cheaper products.”
They fully admit that this may result in a reduced number of people buying your product. They counter that it's not a big deal:
“Often, you can make more money selling to the 2% than you can to the entire 98% combined.”
An interesting strategy, and one well worth exploring further. They note that there are two mistakes to avoid with this approach:
Charging high prices but making small promises (result: the product doesn’t sell well, and you waste a ton of time).
Charging low prices but making big promises (result: lots of customers, but you make no profit).
They also stress that you have to gain the trust of your audience, price your product correctly, and think carefully about what it is that you will offer your customer base.
Once you've got the funnel, they recommend adding some advanced techniques to your repertoire. Webinars, the automated sales funnel, and email lists are all big money makers. It takes time to get the grasp of, but implemented properly they can net your blog the profit you desire.
Then there's the ProBlogger approach. ProBlogger is a great resource with a ton of high-quality information about monetization. They stress that there are more than just the few advertising and affiliate sales methods for generating income. In fact, they provide a detailed infographic with many branches:
- Affiliate Marketing
- Recurring Revenue
- Offline Business
- Other Income Streams
These are further divided into specific strategies that you can implement to start making money through your blog audience. They cover each broad category briefly and note that combining multiple income streams is often part of the path to success.
They offer some high-value tips on maximizing your advertising potential. This comes in three parts. Improving your traffic, positioning your ads, and designing your ads.
By implementing all three concepts, you should be able to optimize how your ads are doing and thus get more money than you may have thought possible for running them.
ProBlogger makes a distinction between direct and indirect income streams. Direct methods, they explain, are the ones that allow you to make money from your blog. Indirect methods, they contend, earn you money because you have a blog.
Examples of the direct approach include advertising, sponsorship, affiliate programs, selling/flipping blogs, donations, merchandise, subscriptions, and blog networks.
We've already gone over advertising, having sponsors, selling merch, and using affiliates. What about these other strategies, though?
Flipping blogs sounds a lot like flipping real estate. That's because it is. You build up a blog with a mighty audience; then you sell that to some entrepreneur looking to use that audience to further their goals.
They might have their own product they're looking to market. Maybe they just really want to manage their own niche motorcycle blog. Either way, they're willing to pay you for the hard work you put into building the site first.
You could even become a serial flipper. Create, sell, repeat to your heart's content. If you have the knack and the design skill, it's not a bad way to go about it.
Donations and subscriptions are two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, you can provide your content for free, then gently advise users to support you by leaving money. The so-called “value for value” model. You could solicit donations directly on your site, or use third-party facilitators like Patreon to have your audience fund you.
Alternatively, you can build that audience, then lock some of your premium content behind a paywall. If they want to read that special article, watch that cool video, or have whatever secrets you hold revealed, your readers have to come up off the cash first.
As for the blog networks, ProBlogger says one way to go here is to start a network, contract bloggers to write for you, then reap the rewards. You could also try joining one of these networks as a writer, in which case you would earn money from whoever runs the network for your contributions.
They provide examples, like Gawker (RIP), along with legitimate reasons for joining a network or declining to join a network.
Become network affiliated, they note, can get you more partnerships, more traffic, and allow you to leverage the skills of people who may have more experience than you do.
Instead of beating your head against the wall trying to manage the technical and administrative back-end of running a blog, all you have to do is write and collect your money.
There's the added benefit of building off of an existing network's prestige as well that can bring you greater legitimacy.
You'll have to weigh those reasons against the fact that you'll lose a large amount of freedom. The network calls the shots. They also have ownership of the content you produce. To top it off, they take a cut of the revenue as well.
A network could be a good springboard for you to build an audience. It might also trap you into an arrangement where you don't have much control. Choose wisely.
The indirect methods for developing that income stream that ProBlogger lists are largely self-explanatory: consulting, employment opportunities, business blogging, book deals, offline writing gigs, selling e-resources, business partnerships and speaking opportunities.
As you can see, the methodology here is that you build the blog, you get noticed, then ancillary opportunities come your way because of that. You'll have to keep a keen eye out for establishing connections and recognizing when an opportunity is knocking. Any one of these methods could become lucrative, though.
Employment Opportunities/Business Blogging/Offline Writing Gigs: You build a following from your blog, then someone comes along and wants you to write for them since they saw your work.
Book Deals: The blog nets you such an audience that publishers come-a-knocking to offer you money.
Selling E-Resources: You can market your own e-books, webinars, and classes to your audience.
ProBlogger is even kind enough to lay out some criteria for judging how much money your blog should be generating. They claim that there are six factors that directly influence a blog's earning potential:
- Source Of Traffic
- Income Stream
- Age Of The Blog
- Time Invested
They note that balancing these is a tricky process. They also state that the best way to find out what works is trial-and-error. Jump right in, then experiment with what gets you the most money. They do call attention to some generalities that are important:
- Blogs with good content do well
- Blogs with a large amount of good content do better
- Blogs with an established reputation have more followers
- It takes time to build a reputation (and good SEO rankings)
- There is a learning curve
- Your topic choices will affect how well you do with advertising
- You have to build your audience with loyal readers
Now you should be set on how to create a blog for free and make money. No matter what you decide to do, you'll have to make sure that you are offering quality content and grow a substantial audience.
Once you have those bases covered, you can make use of any number of strategies that will help you make money blogging.