You’ll find a lot of great content online about how to make money blogging. Everyone has their take on how to profit from blogging, and this perspective is based on their experience. You’re about to read mine.
This guide will share a step-by-step approach you can apply to earn an income from your blog. I’ll then show you how to turn your blog into a six, seven, or eight-figure business. The tips I’ll share are based on the business strategy that I use when I come in as a SaaS consultant to help sort out large companies’ content marketing strategies.
Ready to roll? Here’s a quick snapshot of what we’ll cover:
- Why Most Bloggers Fail
- How to Pick A Profitable Niche
- How to Monetize Your Blog
- Create Your Blog Business Plan
- How to Start Your Blog
- How to Scale Your Blog
- Summing Up
I’ve tried to make this guide to making money blogging actionable. If you want to refer to it in future, I suggest you bookmark the article. Let’s dive into this guide.
Why Most Bloggers Fail
I’m starting this guide on a downer, but I’ve got to be honest with you…
Making money blogging is hard. I know companies spending $50k – $100k a month on SEO. They have content teams of 10+ people working away, creating content, conducting outreach, optimizing their site, and landing guest posts five days a week.
You will be up against a lot of very smart, determined people. Many of these people will have more resources than you. All of those income reports you read, if you choose to enter their niche, those people are your competition. You might be going up against billion-dollar companies.
There’s a chance that you will fail.
There, I said it.
But you’re a badass. Shrug it off. You’re a hustler. And blogging, well blogging is a niche that rewards hustlers.
How to Pick A Profitable Niche
The most important decision you have to make when starting a blog is selecting your niche. There are three things to consider when picking your niche:
- What is the potential size and profitability of your niche?
- How competitive is the niche?
- Are you passionate about the topic?
The size and profitability of your niche will determine your earning potential. The answer to this question will define how much money you can make blogging.
If you’re reading this article, you probably have a niche in mind. Rather than telling you what niche to enter, I’d rather share a strategy you can apply to validate your idea.
Research the Niche Potential
The best way to investigate your earning potential is to find the most successful bloggers and business owners in your niche. For a lot of niches, this research is quite straightforward.
A lot of bloggers share income reports. Income reports are a chance for bloggers to brag about their success, generate trust and desire. These are all powerful drivers bloggers use to engage and then sell to their audience.
If you’re not operating in a niche where businesses share their income reports, head over to Flippa, or a marketplace where you can buy and sell websites. Try to find sites in the niche you want to enter.
Note down how much money they are making, how much the site is worth, and their primary monetization channels.
This part of your research will help you set income benchmarks. Through this competitor analysis, you’ll understand the income potential of a blog. You’ll also get a sense of how much traffic you need to hit income targets.
This isn’t an exact science. However, the research will give you a sense of how much money you could make blogging in that niche. It will also help you understand which monetization strategies work.
Competitor Keyword Analysis
The next step is to find out how many visitors these sites are getting. You should also review these sites and identify the most popular content.
You can use tools like Ahrefs to analyze a website. Ahrefs is a premium tool that starts at $99 a month. However, there are freemium options available you can use for basic research.
Competitor analysis will help you create a business plan. I recommend you do the following:
- Create a list of popular sites in your niche to review
- Identify the ten most popular pages on each site by search volume
- Note down the keywords that those pages rank for
- Use a tool like Ahrefs to check how many quality backlinks you’ll need to rank
Tools like Ahrefs make it easy to collect this data. I’ll continue with my example from Flippa.
You can then put all of this information together on a Google Sheet.
It took me 10 minutes to collect this information. You can complete this exercise in half a day. The insights you gain will help you create a content plan so you can make money blogging.
Make Your Decision
Now it’s time to decide if you want to enter the niche. You need to decide if the work you need to put into the project is worth the financial reward.
Finally, consider your passion for the niche. Can you spend months writing about this topic?
If the financial incentive is enough, and you have the passion, you have the potential to make money blogging. If the income potential is not there, then pick a different niche.
The strategy I outlined above won’t work for everyone. However, I think those three drivers – profit, difficulty, and passion – will play a big part in your blog’s success.
How to Monetize Your Blog
If you’re going to run a blog that makes money, you need a monetization strategy. There are numerous approaches you can take to make money from blogging. The main monetization methods for blog owners are selling products or services, offering consulting services, and affiliate marketing. Each of these options is effective at different stages of your blogging career.
I’ll do a quick overview of some of these approaches to making money blogging. It’s mostly common sense, but I just want to ensure we’re all on the same page.
Make Money As An Affiliate
Affiliate marketing is a great source of passive income. The theory is simple. You write a blog post where you reference different products or services, include your affiliate link, and if a person clicks on the link and makes a purchase, you earn a commission.
You can do affiliate marketing in most niches. Affiliate marketing can be a great source of income. However, the conversion rate from blog traffic to a sales page is low. Let me give you an example.
In 30 days, I got 661 views for my best email countdown timer article. I sent 362 clicks to the first product on the list. That resulted in 9 sales.
Let’s do the math.
362/9 = 0.02%
A 0.02% conversion rate isn’t sexy.
Moreover, the commission is small. On average, I make about $2 a sale when referring people to Mailtimers. You won’t get far on $20 a month.
Let me give you an example from my wife’s site in the travel niche.
You can see she gets around 1,000+ visitors a month who click through to Agoda. Yet her affiliate income from Agoda is around $100-$150 a month.
That’s a terrible rate of return, and certainly not enough to live on.
To make a decent commission from affiliate marketing, you need to find products with a high conversion rate and a high payout rate. In an ideal world, you’ll find products with both.
I just shared how to earn an income as an affiliate marketer passively through your blog.
You can improve your conversion rate by warming up the lead before making a recommendation. The most successful affiliate marketers I know use multiple marketing channels to make their recommendations. For example, they run promotions through an email list or on a webinar. Both of these channels have higher conversion rates than cold traffic from a blog. Then, they might run retargeting ads to people who didn’t purchase the offer.
Sell Products Or Courses
When you look at the income stream of pro bloggers, you’ll notice many of them earn a large portion of their income from selling courses. Not convinced. Here’s a couple of examples:
- Matt Diggity from Diggity Marketing
- Brian Dean from Backlinko
- Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income
- Glen Alsopp from Detailed
- Michelle Schroeder from Making Sense of Cents
All of those bloggers sell expensive courses. These courses typically cost from a couple of hundred dollars to $1,000+.
With a large audience, you can generate a lot of money selling courses. Even with a small audience, you don’t need to convert many leads to earn a nice income from a thousand dollar course.
It’s part of the reason I want to launch an SEO certification course.
Information products and courses provide you with a great way to make money fast from your blog. With the right marketing strategy in place, you can get a 20%+ conversion rate from online webinars. I discuss how to sell online courses on a webinar in an article on Hubspot.
You can also sell information products or physical products.
For example, my wife received 140 orders for tours on her travel website during over a 30-day period. She made $10,000+ in gross sales, generating a profit margin of $2,000+.
That’s a salary. It beats the $150 that she made over the same period through affiliate marketing from Agoda.
Naturally, how much you make from your blog is linked to the value of the products you are selling and the profit margins.
Provide Consulting Services
Consulting is a reliable way to earn a good income from blogging. You can charge a lot of money as a consultant if you target suitable businesses. Depending on your expertise, you could offer business development consulting, SEO services, guest posting services, SEO services, or something else entirely.
In my case, I’m earning a nice five-figure income providing guest posting services and SEO support for SaaS businesses. Each client I work with pays me a minimum of $1,250 a month. My largest client pays me almost double what I used to earn in my last job.
Working as a consultant is a faster method of earning an income than affiliate marketing. You don’t need much traffic to get started as a consultant. In fact, a landing page and a good outreach strategy are enough to get started.
When I first launched this site, I used email outreach to contact prospective clients. We generated $30k in sales from the site with almost no traffic.
There’s a case study about it here.
The benefit of consulting is that you can earn an income fast from your site. That income will provide you with financial stability and revenue that you can use to grow your site. However, you’ll need to put in a lot of time and effort supporting your customers and helping them achieve their goals. Focusing on your clients instead of your blog will likely slow your growth.
Create Your Business Plan
With your niche picked and a monetization strategy in place, it’s time to create a business plan for your blog. I didn’t do this for my first blog, and it was a mistake.
Here’s a simple fill in the blank exercises to complete that will help you start the right way:
- On my blog, I’m going to write about ____
- The content will help ___ to ____
- In the first 12 months, I expect to make most of my money from ____
The fill in the blank exercise will help you nail down your niche and value proposition. So, for example, if I were going to start a travel blog tomorrow, I’d probably do something like this.
You can see how my answer to those three questions provides me with a mission statement for my blog. You should have something similar.
- On my blog, I’m going to write about Switzerland
- The content will help people visiting Switzerland arrange their travel itineraries
- In the first 12 months, I expect to make most of my money selling ski trips
Complete this exercise before you start your blog.
Basic planning is helpful. It’s easy to lose focus on your long goals when working every day on a project. If you want to create a more comprehensive business plan, you’re welcome to do so. Here’s a guide on business development if you want a useful resource to create a business development strategy.
How to Start Your Blog
Ok, so with your business plan in place, you need a website. Don’t use a platform like Squarespace. Instead, I recommend you do the following two things:
- Buy your domain name – you want something quite catchy. A two-word domain generally sounds good.
- Sort out hosting using a cheap platform like Hostgator, and set up your site on WordPress.
At the start, you don’t need to think about your site structure. You want a couple of core pages and a blog. The main pages to include are:
- The homepage. You can use a landing page builder to create this
- An About Us page
- A Contact Page
Finally, you have your blog. Your blog is where you will host the content that will drive most of the traffic to your site.
How to Create Your First Blog Posts
There’s a common misconception with blogging that you need to produce content continually. You don’t. Google doesn’t give you credit for your target keyword because of the amount of content you produce. Rather, Google rewards you with rankings for individual pieces of content because of the amount of work you put into promoting that content.
While Google rewards sites that have created content that is either accidental hits, a piece of content randomly goes viral, or as a result of a sustained promotion, your audience might want you to produce lots of content. For example, in the “celebrity gossip” niche, I can imagine that people interested in that niche go to sites that have the most up to date information on current events.
Ultimately, the approach you take to creating content will be dependent upon your aims. Personally, I started with five pieces of cornerstone content.
If you take this approach, your first articles will need to be:
- Really good. Make them about 2,000 words long. They also need to be highly problem orientated. ‘How to’ style posts are particularly effective.
- Each article should be based around the pain points that your ideal customer will be facing. By and large, you can take an educated guess as to what that content should be.
That’s it. To come up with the idea for your content you will need to do some keyword research. The best free keyword research tool is Google’s Keyword Planner.
You want to find five different topics that have a high search volume. Each of the articles will cover a common business problem in your niche and how that problem can be solved. Or, more accurately how an expert like you can solve it, with a view of moving the readers along to your service page. This is how you make money blogging.
Essentially, you want to identify terms with a high search volume. There are no hard and fast rules here, but a good guideline for each might be about 5,000 monthly searches a month or more.
When you do this research you might want to filter by country, and only show closely related keywords. You can see how to edit these filters in the section above.
The next thing you want to check is how competitive those terms are to rank for. Check the Domain Authority of the top 10 search results and the keyword difficulty. You can use a tool like Ahrefs to do this.
Once you’ve done your research and picked your topics it’s time to get writing. You should use a grammar checker for this. I use Grammarly. Here are some Grammarly alternatives.
So that’s your website.
Now comes the difficult part of actually generating that organic traffic, which will help make you money. Let’s look into the nitty-gritty of how this works.
How to Scale Your Blog
In order to get traffic to your blog, you need to tell people you exist. An easy way to check if you’re doing that is reviewing your Domain Authority (DA) score. The higher your domain authority, the better your SEO and therefore the more traffic you can expect to receive. More influence means more clients.
You can see the results on Ahrefs for a site I’m involved in.
Your domain authority increases when other people link to your website. Essentially, the more this happens, the more the search algorithms think ‘these guys know what they’re talking about’.
So your goal should be creating quality links to your site.
Importantly these links should not just be going to your homepage. You want to spread the links to the core pieces of content that you want to rank.
This is where the conventional advice tells you to write as much informative content with as much passion as you can. Then people will naturally find this and start linking to it.
This is not an effective strategy if you want to make serious money from your blog. In reality, you have to be much more proactive about creating backlinks. The secret ingredient, which still works is guest posting.
The Secret to Guest Posting
If you want to get a lot of traffic to your website quickly you should guest post. But you don’t want to guest post for any site. You want to focus your guest post efforts on the largest sites in your niche. The best way to create those opportunities is by developing relationships with the people who own these big sites, or the editors who work as content guardians to the site.
I’ll share with you the strategy I’ve used to land guest posts with influential sites like GetResponse and Singlegrain. You can use this strategy for your own website. It’s based on a bit of psychology.
The thing is…
Regardless of the niche, influencers who run popular sites and the editors who often manage them are busy people. Every day they get new pitches from people they don’t know asking them for something. Every day they say no to the majority of these
The solution to this problem is rather obvious:
- Make a connection prior to sending your email
- Don’t be one of those people just asking for stuff
Connecting with people online is pretty easy. I wrote a guide on Sumo that discusses how to grow your professional network. I recommend you read the article.
The basic principles are as follows:
- Create a list of people to contact
- Send a connection request on LinkedIn
- Send your guest post request
Once you’ve made a connection request, either offer something of value, or make your guest post request.
By providing something of value first you are in a much stronger position to ask for something in return. By strategically implementing this strategy you’ll slowly build up the number of links to your site, and you’ll see a corresponding increase in traffic.
I’ve tried to provide you with an outline that you can use to start a blog that makes money. The strategy that I’ve outlined isn’t rocket science. It’s a scalable business model that’s built on the idea that your website should earn you an income that supports your passion. If you can get those results it’s easy to continue to develop and grow your site.
The fundamentals of this strategy won’t ever become outdated. By developing relationships with key influencers in your niche it’s easy to position yourself as an expert. You can leverage this opportunity to sell services to clients who could use your support. You don’t need much search traffic to do this. With an income secured from blogging you are in a great position to focus on growing your audience and traffic.
If you have any questions about the strategy that I outlined in this post let me know in the comments below.