People who want to make money blogging often receive some pretty terrible advice. If you google ‘how to make money blogging’, you’ll be met with any number of articles parroting the same worn-out cliches.
You could even play bingo with these. Write about your passions. Slow and steady audience growth. The list goes on. Basically, the idea is that you focus on writing the best content in your niche, and one day your audience will be big enough that you can start selling a product.
In theory, this could work, but there are a couple of problems.
Firstly, it takes too long. Growing your audience to the point where you can make any significant money selling a product will probably take you years. Most people give up before they’ve even recouped the cost of their domain name.
Secondly, it’s not 1998. Back in the day, if you got in on the ground floor of your niche, it was easier to sew up the market. These days, relying on selling ad space just isn’t a reliable enough way to monetize your blog.
So what’s the alternative?
Well, at this point we should clear the air about something. There are actually two types of bloggers out there. We can think about them as being hobbyists and professionals. Hobbyists don’t necessarily want to make any money from their blogs. Or, they are happy to cover the cost of their hosting and maybe pay for a night out.
Hobbyists write about their passions because that’s what they want to do. Whether that’s sharing information on model railways or a platform to publish their niche political opinions. They’re in the blogging game because they find it fulfilling. And that’s cool.
But if you’re here, that’s probably not what you want. So the rest of this article will be concerned with how to start a blog that makes money. That means making a serious, sustainable income. Then you can have the freedom to live life on your terms.
How to Find Your Blogging Niche
So if you shouldn’t just write about anything, what do you write about? This is the first crucial decision you have to make when you’re looking into how to start a blog. In fact, everything that comes next kind of depends on this.
Unsurprisingly, if you want to make money blogging you need to keep certain market factors in mind when you choose your niche.
One part of this is the potential audience size. That is the number of people who might be interested in your blog. You can find this out by doing some keyword research.
A good tool that allows you to do keyword research quickly is a Google Chrome extension called Keywords Everywhere.
Install the extension on your browser and do searches on Google. You want to type in terms you think people would search for. These are generally going to be solution focused. For example:
- how to …
A logical search term for blogging, for example, would be ‘How to Make Money Blogging.’
You can see that 27,100 people a month currently search for this term. Next to that is the amount that people are willing to pay to advertise for this term. This number will give you an idea of how much you can make in your chosen niche.
Any ads you see are a second validation of the niche. It means that not only are a lot of people interested in this niche, but businesses are willing to spend money to reach that audience. This is important if you plan to make money blogging straight away as it allows you to sell consultancy services.
The final way you can check on your niche is analyzing the marketing budget as a percentage of revenue by niche. This will give you an idea of how much businesses are willing to spend on consulting.
If you want to make serious money, the trick is to pick a niche that you can put a B2B angle on. We’ll look into the reasoning behind this in a little more detail later, but the crux is most businesses have more money than most people.
Why It’s Important to Choose a Niche that You Understand
While finding a niche with opportunities is great, I believe you’ll have the greatest success when you pick a topic you are an expert in and are passionate about.
Having a passion for your niche is really important when you’re just starting your blog. There are some rather obvious reasons for this:
- You’re going to spend a lot of time on your blog and networking within your niche
- To provide interesting content to your audience, or sell a service to businesses, you need to become an expert in your field
Essentially when you start a blog you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time working on your site. I strongly recommend you’re interested in the topic, because there will be times where you struggle and have self-doubts about what you’re doing. It’s difficult to push through this when you aren’t even interested in the topic.
Once you’ve chosen your niche you need to work on a business plan…
Defining Your Business Plan
If you want to make money blogging quickly you need a solid business plan. This is where most people go wrong with their site.
Which revenue streams you focus on are related to the amount of traffic that you are getting. You can see what I mean if you check out the image below.
This is not to say that you suddenly stop selling consultancy services when you get more visitors. It’s just that you will struggle to make money blogging if you start with running affiliate deals.
The reason this is the best approach to make money blogging comes down to finances. Simply put, when you start a website you won’t end up with thousands of monthly visitors. Instead, it starts as a trickle.
If you plan to make money from affiliate income you will need a lot of visitors to come to a page. Only a fraction of those visitors will ever click through to the affiliate website. On average only 1-5% of those people will actually make a purchase. You can see why you need a lot of visitors to make money from affiliate marketing!
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.
During this same time period, my wife received 140 orders for tours on her website. That’s a fraction of the number of clicks that went to Agoda. Yet she made $10,000+ in gross sales, generating a profit margin of $2,000+.
I used a similar strategy when I first launched this site. I set up a sales page and pitched my service to prospective customers. I then used email outreach to contact prospective clients. This is fundamentally the same approach you’d apply to monetizing your blog.
As a result of this strategy, we generated $30k in sales from a site with almost no traffic. There’s a case study about it here.
You can see how much more profitable selling a consultancy service is versus affiliate income. And you don’t need many visitors before you start selling a B2B service.
How to Start Your Blog
Ok, so with your business plan in place you obviously 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. Ideally a two-word domain with .com or .net (like You+Tube, Face+Book)
- Sort out hosting using a cheap platform like Hostgator, and set up your site on WordPress.
With the site live you need to think about your site structure. You won’t need much. You only need a couple of core pages. This is the kind of boilerplate stuff you see on every site:
- a landing page
- about us
- contact page
Finally, you have your blog. The content you produce here will drive traffic to your site. This is where most bloggers make their second mistake.
How to Create Your First Content
You don’t need a lot of content to get thousands of visitors to your site.
Instead of creating hundreds of articles, start with four or five pieces of cornerstone content. These are medium-to-long form pieces of content relating to common pain points for your potential clients.
Your initial 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 Get More Traffic
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
Making a connection with people is pretty easy. I use LinkedIn to identify people I want to connect with, normally a site owner or editor, in my niche. I then send them a connection request.
I follow this up by engaging with the person before asking for a guest post opportunity.
The second thing I do, and this is especially for people I don’t have a prior relationship with, is offer something, before asking for anything. This helps create a good first impression. Here’s what my standard introduction email looks like:
I’m writing an article for [WEBSITE NAME] about [TOPIC]. I was thinking about linking to the [PROPOSED ARTICLE HEADLINE + URL]. Are you ok with that, or do you have a better resource you’d like to suggest?
This is an easy opening. Once you’ve started a conversation you can then follow up about a guest post opportunity, or a different kind of favor. If you can’t offer a guest post, think about the kind of things you could do to help the person out. This might include:
- Creating marketing graphics of infographics for their existing content
- Offering to help them fix an SEO issue
- Providing some free web design services
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.
This brings us nicely back to how to make money from your blog. You’ll now need to land some of those business
How to Close Your First Client
The process of turning a lead into a sale is not too complicated. I covered the topic in depth in an article I wrote for Mailshake, which I recommend you read. Here’s a quick overview of the fundamentals:
- Arrange a video conferencing call or an in person meeting with the prospect to pitch your services
- Set the person a task prior to the call. This could be filling out a questionnaire outlining their budget and aims, so you can discuss the project, or similar
- Practice your pitch before the call so you know what you want to say
That’s all there is to it.
The truth is that landing a client is a learning process. You might not get it right the first time, but with practice you will get there in the end.
How to Scale Your Blog in 2020
You’ve read a hundred times that the best way to make money from blogging is to find your passion and put in the hours creating amazing content. The reality is that the best way to make money from blogging is to find a profitable B2B niche.
At least in the short term.
Once you’ve established yourself, and the five pieces of content that you created for your site are ranking you can add more content to the site. As the volume of traffic to your site increases you can look at other more passive forms of income. This includes affiliate revenue, or even selling your own product or course.
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.