Blogging as a hobby is a great way to share your ideas with millions of potential audience members. However, when planned and executed properly, blogging can also help you generate a full-time income.
With the growing popularity of professional blogging the last few years, some employees are slowly gravitating away from working in a cubicle and trying their luck at entrepreneurship. And what better way to become an entrepreneur than the low-cost, low barrier-to-entry business of blogging.
This comprehensive guide will teach you how to start a blog and make money online by covering the basics to building a profitable blog.
Becoming a Professional Blogger
Blogging can be a part-time hobby to earn extra income in addition to your full-time salary, or it can be a means to financial independence. Many successful professional bloggers have noticed the potential of their blogs early and have quit their 9 to 5 jobs to scale an online business. With consistency and hard work, these bloggers have gone on to build million-dollar online assets.
Nevertheless, when you think of blogging or making money online, avoid remembering the overnight millionaires of the dot-com boom. These days, success as a professional blogger, or even freelancer, takes at least a year to achieve, and that’s if absolutely everything goes your way. Writing and publishing online content are the easy parts; promoting your blog, growing traffic and converting it into revenue are the challenges.
This is why most bloggers quit before they even have a chance at success. People today are conditioned to expect instant gratification, but when the results are delayed, they are confused, frustrated, and ultimately disenchanted with the idea of making money from the Internet. Therefore, if you want to make money blogging, you need to research the process in order to adjust your expectations.
1. Building your blog
There are many factors that you should consider before actually starting a blog. You might be aware that WordPress is the most popular and easy-to-use free blogging software available. All technology experts recommend WordPress for amateur bloggers, reserving Drupal or Joomla for advanced users.
Similarly, choosing a user-friendly, high-quality, yet cheap hosting company is also extremely important. Some of the best hosting services for amateur bloggers offer “one-click” WordPress installations, facilitating the process for users who have no technical background. A few of the top companies include Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy, and Web Hosting Hub.
2. Forming a content strategy
A content strategy will be your blueprint to growing your blog. From here, you must be able to define the following:
- Objectives – Why are you blogging?
- Goals – What do you want to achieve with your blog? (Set your goals by quarter or year so you can revamp your goals depending on the progress you’ve made within that period of time)
- Target audience – Who will be your target audience? What is their demographic (age, gender, education, interests, needs/wants, challenges, purchasing power, etc.)?
- Competitors – Which other blogs are covering the same topics as yours?
- Advantages – What do you feel you could do better than your competitors? What is your value-add?
- Disadvantages – How can you strengthen your weaknesses?
- Social media – What is the purpose of your social media accounts (engage with followers, drive more traffic to your blog, increase sales, brand awareness, etc.)?
3. Finding the perfect design and layout
Most new bloggers aren’t web designers, but I encourage you to avoid using the default theme available with WordPress; instead, buy a premium theme. You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of design, layout, and style, especially if you are trying to become an authority or expert within a niche. How your blog looks and functions is critical to your credibility.
My personal favorite framework is Genesis by StudioPress, but there are thousands of beautiful free themes as well as inexpensive ones from ThemeForest, Elegant Themes, and MyThemeShop. It’s best that you choose a free theme at first to build up your site’s traction; however, you will eventually want to invest in a paid theme or even a custom design.
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4. Creating an editorial calendar
The purpose of an editorial calendar is to plan and schedule post ideas. This will give you ample time to research, write, and schedule content in advance. While you may not need a formal editorial calendar as a solo blogger, you may want to create a regimented schedule to hold yourself accountable. For instance, plan on posting Monday through Thursday every week, and use the weekend to prepare.
5. Choosing the right ad platforms
Ad banners have become the go-to monetization strategy for amateur bloggers. There are many different ad networks and platforms, with the most popular and highest pay-per-click being Google AdSense.
These contextual ad programs feature ad units of different sizes that you can place on your blog. By simply copying and pasting code, these units will then show advertising based on the content of your page and your visitor’s browser history, thereby increasing the chances of visitors clicking the ads.
At the same time, there are dozens of other ways to make money blogging because ad networks aren’t always the optimal monetization strategy. Other options include becoming an affiliate for certain products/services, earning commissions from Amazon products, selling leads to businesses, getting paid to write sponsored reviews, creating an online course and charging a subscription, or even selling advertising to major brands.
6. Learning how to write great posts
Like any acquired skill, writing is something that you can be good at if you invest the time. This rings true even for bloggers who weren’t great writers before, but because of their passion for blogging, were able to develop a distinct style that caters to their audience. It is also important to note that how to write a blog depends on your target audience: a B2B audience requires a different writing style than a B2C blog.
Aside from the actual writing, you will need to optimize the look and feel of your blog post. Instead of just having a body of text, we recommend you include different types of content, including images, videos, podcasts, lists, etc.
7. Promoting to the right channels and building backlinks to your blog
Once you have written and published a post, you will need to promote it to your target demographic.
The best advice I’ve ever gotten was from a professional blogger who sold his site for a few million dollars. He said that the key to his success was spending 25 percent writing and editing, and 75 percent networking, promoting, and link building.
Backlinks are the product of an effective content marketing strategy, which is a vital search engine optimization (SEO) practice. Essentially, being able to generate backlinks from other sites pointing to your blog posts helps increase your rankings within search engines, thus driving organic, free traffic to your blog.
8. Connect with other bloggers and communities
Online marketing now favors genuine human connections rather than just links. Building relationships with other bloggers and industry experts can expand your reach and influence, allowing more readers to find your blog and become loyal readers.
I suggest you try to connect with influencers within your niche via Twitter, LinkedIn, the comments section of their blogs, and direct email messages. When contacting someone for the first time (or even the third time), don’t immediately ask for a favor. Show genuine interest in their work and share your thoughts and ideas. These individuals get enough spammy comments and emails that they’ve learned to ignore such requests.
Instead, offer to help them or solve a problem you’ve noticed they have. Always try to give before you get. The idea here is to make profound connections with like-minded people and bloggers with whom you can collaborate with in the future.
By planning and executing the eight steps outlined above, blogging can help you build a strong foundation for an online business. While success may not come overnight, passion, determination, and consistency can help you turn your new blog into a money-making machine.
About Gary Dek
Gary Dek is a professional blogger, SEO expert, and freelance writer. He is the founder of StartABlog123 and specializes in content marketing, link building strategies, and helping entrepreneurs grow their online businesses. Previously, Gary was an investment banking and private equity analyst.