How to Make Money Blogging & Create a Real Asset
Once upon a time on the internet, anyone who wanted to throw their thoughts and opinions onto a website and add a monetization method or two could make some serious cash.
Many of the big name internet personalities and online businesses you see today started with blogging.
In fact, here at Empire Flippers, we originally were AdSense Flippers, a blog and podcast for people who were interested in learning how to create sites that made money from AdSense revenue. Needless to say, we’ve gone through a few changes since then.
If you’re reading this article, we’re guessing that you are interested in this idea of blogging to make money but probably aren’t sure exactly the best way to do it.
Which is why we are going to go through this easy to follow 7 step process to making money online with your blog.
Now, you should already have your site set up. But if you haven’t, you can read up on how to setup your site here.
Step 1 – Pick a Niche
There are some people out there who have managed to find success by writing about every little thought that passes through their grey brain cells and then putting that writing out onto the internet.
We guarantee they are an exception to the rules of blogging success; not the norm.
Unless you have a huge platform (we’re talking 50K monthly views, minimum) in another niche or you are a public personality of some sort, convincing people to listen to you talk about anything isn’t going to be an easy task.
Instead, you are going to want to pick a niche (a very strategic topic focus) in which you can be considered an expert and for which you can create intelligent content. Keep in mind, this topic is something you are going to be writing about… a lot! So you should choose a subject that you are passionate about, as well as one that has room for you to build an asset that can dominate.
Choosing a Subject You Are Passionate About
This is the fun part — where you get to think about everything you love and enjoy.
Seriously, go make a list of every little thing you geek out on, from what you talk about constantly to that weird obscure sub-genre of Netflix documentaries you just can’t get enough of. Every. Little. Thing.
Now you will need to work out if anyone on the internet actually cares about these potential topics — after all, if nobody is searching for them, your blog will be dead before it starts. The easiest way to see if there is any interest in your chosen topic is to do some quick keyword research. You can use many different tools for keyword research, though the most commonly used is Google’s Keyword Planner (you will need a Google account) or a third-party tool like Hoth (uses SEMrush for searches).
Once you’ve selected a tool, conduct a keyword search for the basic niche topics you are interested in by looking up the broadest wording for the niche topic so that you can see all the potential opportunities.
For now, you just want to find something you’d be interested in creating content for on a regular basis that also gets at least a few thousand searches a month.
I know what you are thinking — can you make money blogging about something as mundane as your fixation with basket-weaving?
We can’t guarantee that it is going to be a million dollar empire, but honestly, you never know. There isn’t a ton of traffic coming in for basket-weaving searches, but there is a bit. If you are the only person writing about it, and you’re good at writing about it, you might have just found a niche topic that you can dominate.
Step 2 – Figure out Who Your Ideal Reader/Customer Is
Once you’ve figured out your niche, you now need to figure out what your readers are looking for. You can start by thinking about the type of reader you want frequenting your blog by creating a reader/customer avatar. An avatar (also called a profile or persona) will help you better understand your target market and the kind of reader you are trying to get to your site.
Once you have worked out who it is you want reading your blog, you need to start figuring out where they hang out online.
Does your ideal reader:
- Read certain blogs?
- Listen to podcasts?
- Participate in online forums?
- Engage regularly on social networks?
- What accounts (if any) are they following on these networks?
Make a list of the top 3-5 of each of these. Have a look at the kinds of questions your readers ask and the problems they are trying to solve, then build out a persona of what your ideal reader looks like. Imagine they are a real person; this picture in your head helps you keep focused on producing content on your blog that is targeted towards the right customer. Knowing where your readers hang out and the type of content they consume will make it easier for you to make sure you are giving them something they want, rather than making a wild guess.
We’ve worked out who our readers are and where they hang out. How in the world do we come up with ideas for content?
Step 3 – Decide What Content You Want to Create Regularly
Without regular content, your blog is just another boring website that gets lost in the sea of Google’s 1.2 trillion search results every year. So how do you stand out from the crowd?
Create Real Value – Not Fluff
You need to make sure you are focused on creating content that adds value to your reader in one way or another. Writing about your last vacation or how you got a pen stuck up your nose probably won’t cut it (unless you a travel blogger or a comedian). Make your content as useful as possible — try to create content that genuinely impacts, or even changes, your readers’ lives.
When you create value that impacts another person’s life, people start talking to their friends and colleagues about what you have done for them. Your readers get to know and like you and begin to trust you — which means when it’s time to make money from your blog, they are more likely to buy what you are selling.
Use Your Audience to Generate Ideas for Content
Another major benefit to hanging out where your readers do is that these places give you direct access to your ideal customer. Forums, groups, and social media will give you the opportunity to dive deep into what your readers need and want, and are a great way for you to generate more ideas for content on your blog.
For example, Reddit is a great resource to figure out what kind of language your readers are using (for example, how they phrase their questions, which helps you with marketing and keyword research) and what topics they feel passionately about. Crawling Facebook groups can help you work out what kind of questions people are asking regularly, their pain points, and their key challenges. Spending time with your readers will give you an endless supply of content ideas. So next time you feel stuck for a blog post idea, go spend some time on Facebook; you’ll be glad you did.
Commit to a Medium
While a blog is a typically text-based medium, it doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time generating written content. Your blog content can be made up of various forms of media, such as video, podcasts, illustrations, photos, or a combination. For example, the Entrepreneur On Fire Blog is made up mostly of podcast audio and transcripts, with a few reports intermingled. Zenpencils is a blog featuring famous inspirational quotes drawn in comic book form.
It’s important here to make sure you choose something you are comfortable with. So don’t go creating videos if you hate making and editing videos. Don’t write 3000-word blog posts if you hate writing. Don’t create a podcast if you hate the sound of your own voice.
The type of medium you use will also depend on your niche. Take a look at what your top competitors are doing and model what they do. A cooking blog without photos may not do as well as one that does. A blog teaching you how to play guitar may be more effective utilizing YouTube videos to demonstrate technique and sound. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel.
Step 4 – Content Strategy
If you want to have a profitable blog, you don’t just need new people coming to your site; you also want existing readers to keep coming back. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy around your content.
Post Regularly and Consistently
While Google takes into account the regularity of new content on your site, so do your readers. If you stop posting content, eventually you will not only slip in rankings, but your readers will lose interest. Having a steady stream of value-driven content will keep you king of the hill and make it easy for potential readers to find you and keep coming back for more.
To make sure you post regularly, you should use a content planner. A content planner can be an app, a spreadsheet, or even a physical planner. This helps you map out and schedule in when your posts need to go live so you can make sure your content is pumped out regularly. You can create a simple content planner using an Excel spreadsheet or Google sheets; there are some ideas and templates available here. Or if pen and paper is more your style, you can use a hardcopy version, like this one by The Content Planner.
You should also try and use a mix of media and content as well. YouTube videos can increase the time on page for your post, and photos and images can help break up large chunks of text (making it easier to read and keeping readers around longer). Basically, sit down and read your own posts. If it’s not engaging or if it’s hard to read, it’s going to be like that for your readers, too.
Increase Your Blog’s Visibility
Hang out where your readers do. Any of the places where your reader is already spending time is an opportunity for you to build a presence and awareness for your blog.
You can be helpful and participate in forums or Facebook groups by answering questions. You can give away some free advice or tell stories that add value. You can offer to be a guest on podcasts and YouTube channels or even write guest posts for other blogs. These are all great ways to get exposure for your brand and (in most cases) cost you nothing.
While links are an important ranking factor (the more links back to your page there are, the higher your page ranks in Google), links also help you generate more authority in your niche. When people link their content to yours, they are showing their readers that your content is valuable and that they also read and trust your content.
It’s like a doctor referring a surgeon to a patient; the doctor would only refer the surgeon if they know and trust them, and the patient is likely to trust the doctor’s recommendation because they know and trust the doctor. You see — instant trust and authority.
Here are some great ways to increase the number of links to your pages and boost your authority:
- Guest post on other blogs – usually the blog you are guest posting for will allow you a link back to your site in your writer bio.
- Post in groups and have it shared – posting a link to your post in Facebook groups or in forums can lead to other people reading and sharing your page. Just make sure you have permission to post the link and that it’s not treated as spam.
- Social media – You can share your posts via your Twitter account, Facebook page or wall, Instagram direct messages, or Pinterest.
If you want to really delve further into link building strategies, there is a massive guide at CrazyEgg that goes really deep.
Step 5 – Learn Keyword Research and SEO
Learning the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help you get more traffic to your blog, which is what you need to do if you’re going to make any money from it. SEO is basically the practice of optimizing your site to make sure it’s visible to Google so that it shows up on the first page of search results. This process becomes extremely important down the line when you start monetizing, as the more traffic to your site, the higher your potential revenue.
There is a great guide by Jeff Goins specifically on SEO for bloggers that doesn’t get too technical. I’ll cover the basics here:
Get Specific With Your Keywords – Long Tail vs. Short Tail
We talked about keywords a little during the niche research stage. For SEO, we have to go more in depth. In order to keep your blog ranking on Google, the keywords you want to rank for (target keywords) have to appear in the content you create.
When it comes to ranking your blog and your individual posts, you want to get specific, niche-driven keywords. A common mistake first time bloggers make is being too general with their target keywords (referred to as short tail keywords). For example, if you have a blog teaching people how to make baskets out of recycled materials, don’t just search for basket weaving or recycled materials. The competition on these terms is too high, and your chances of ranking for them alone is very low.
However, if you combine the keywords you want into a phrase, you end up with what’s called a long tail keyword. For example, “how to make baskets out of recycled materials” or “how do I use plastic bottles to make baskets.” These long tail keywords have much lower traffic, but the traffic you receive would be much more targeted and easier to rank for.
Now that you’ve identified your keywords, have a look at how you can incorporate them into your content. Try to think about how people phrase questions or use Google search.
If people are searching a lot for “best recyclable materials to make a basket,” then you could title your content “5 best recyclable materials to make a basket”. But make sure you don’t go overboard, trying to stuff all the keywords you can muster into a title to the point it doesn’t make any sense. Google is smart enough to tell when someone is stuffing keywords into their headlines, and it will hurt your rankings.
The same goes for content. Do not stuff keywords. SEO optimizations need to look natural and improve the reader’s experience, not drive them to click off from your page after the first three lines of content.
The amount of keywords in your content is referred to as keyword density, and while it can vary from niche to niche, a good rule of thumb is to keep your keyword density lower than three percent of your total on-page word count, which works out to about 13-15 keywords per 500 words maximum.
Write your content first, and then go through and optimize the content for SEO. It’s important that your target keywords show up in the content you produce, but you don’t want it to sound like you paid a content spinner to generate your content. Focusing on the quality of your writing makes your readers stay on the page longer and engage with your content. You should always look at SEO as a way to optimize your content, which makes both your readers and Google happy. If you want to make sure your content contains your target keywords, you can use plugins like Yoast SEO if you are using WordPress.
If SEO sounds a little over your head right now, don’t stress too much about it just yet. Focus on writing and creating good quality content first. You can always go back and optimize your content later. Don’t let SEO become an excuse not to execute. All the SEO in the world isn’t going to help you if you don’t publish anything in the first place.
Step 6 – But Really, How Do You Make Money on a Blog?
There are a ton of different ways to make money online using a blog as your platform. However, to avoid distracting you with shiny objects, we’ll cover the four most common methods of generating money from a blog.
Let’s begin with getting you paid for the least amount of personal effort – selling other people’s products.
Affiliate marketing is where you recommend a service or product to your readers, and if they buy the product, you earn a commission on the sale. It works by using special tracking links or cookies to make sure you get the referral for the sale.
An example of affiliate marketing in the real world would be when you refer a friend or family member to your credit card company, who then credits you either in cash back or gift cards for your referral. There are many products and services available online that take advantage of affiliate programs and that you can register for.
Think about what products you use right now that your audience could also get a benefit from or be interested in. If you search for that company’s website, look for any affiliate or referral links on their homepage. If the product is sold on Amazon, you can create an Amazon Associates account and refer people to Amazon. If you want to sell more niche products, you can go to an Affiliate provider such as Commission Junction or ShareASale.
Also, don’t discount private affiliate programs: do a quick google search for “company name + affiliate” and see if a business you want to promote has an affiliate program. If you can’t find anything on their website, you can reach out directly and ask them. For example, Bluehost, ExpressVPN, and Transferwise all have affiliate programs you can promote on your blog.
The key here is to make sure that the products you are promoting are relevant to your audience. Don’t sell a photography course to someone interested in basket weaving.
You get paid depending on the type of ads you are running on your site. If you are running Cost Per Click (CPC) ads, each time a user clicks an ad you get paid a flat rate for the click. If you are running CPM ads (CPM means cost per thousand impressions), then you get paid a fee for every 1000 views of the ad.
Google Adsense is a great way to get started, but it depends heavily on having enough traffic going to your site. To make roughly $100 a day (or $3,000 a month) you would need roughly 60,000 visitors a month to your site, assuming five percent of those visitors click on the ads. That’s a lot of traffic, and it can take some people years to get to that level. So don’t expect to make $100k in your first year this way.
Digital and Physical Products
While affiliate marketing is where you sell other people’s products (physical or digital) and earn a commission on each sale, selling your own products means you get to keep all the profit. There are several types of products you can sell on your blog.
Digital products are by far the lowest overhead cost (none once it’s created) and the easiest to fulfill (no delivery or stocking issues) — and after you’ve paid off the initial creation cost of the product, it can generate profits potentially forever. Some of the most common digital products sold are:
Ebooks are a great way to create a product for a very low initial outlay. Think about it; you are writing a blog, right? So writing a 3,000 to 10,000-word ebook isn’t that much of a stretch.
You could even repurpose and collate existing blog content for your book. You can then go ahead and use something like Canva to create a book cover yourself, or jump on Fiverr and get a professional cover made for very little. If you want to take it even further, you could go ahead and publish the book on Kindle to get even more reach.
Paid webinar, I hear you ask? Webinars typically are used to share some knowledge or skills in order to warm people up for a pitch for a higher priced product at the end. But what if you could make money from the webinar itself?
Much like an online course, a webinar is a way to impart your expertise and knowledge. However, the difference is it’s much more condensed, it is typically live (although you can do pre-recorded ones too), and it gives the viewers the ability to ask questions at the end of the presentation. There is also the ability to sell the replay after the webinar is over or bundle it as an added bonus to another product you sell.
An online course is a great way to share your knowledge and expertise in a detailed and structured fashion.
Courses typically sell for a lot more than books and webinars, but they take a lot more work to create and a bit more technical know how. You will have to create an outline or lesson plan, then build out all the necessary content, such as slides, checklists, supporting materials, templates, downloads, videos, and more.
You can also adjust your course pricing based on your level of service. For example, you can have the basic, no support version of your course for $300, but then you can offer a premium version, which includes premium support and a call once a month, for $997.
The next thing you will need is some sort of learning management system. Much like your blog itself, you can go with a hosted solution, such as Teachable or Zippy Courses. If you are running a WordPress blog, you can choose a self-hosted solution using a membership site plugin, like Optimize Member from OptimizePress or MemberPress.
You could also choose to sell your own physical products. You could dropship products that are relevant to your niche, or you could create your own products and sell them using an outsourced printing and fulfillment service like Printful. Great if you have generated a big fan base and want to sell branded merchandise, like mugs, coasters, bags, and t-shirts.
Providing services is one of the quickest ways to generate revenue, and people will pay for expertise. If you have a large following and proven knowledge in your niche, then you are well placed to be an expert in your field.
The negative here is that you are trading time for dollars, but if you need to make some money fast, providing services is a viable option. Many bloggers provide their services as writers for clients or as subject matter experts in their relevant niches.
If you run a review site, you could run sponsored posts where companies pay you to write about their products. Services like SponsoredReviews and PayPerPost can help you connect with businesses that are interested in this type of service.
Some examples of services you could offer on your blog:
- Development – WordPress sites, install themes, install plugins, integrations with apps
- Design – web, logos, print
- Writing – Blogs, Marketing materials, social media, reviews
- Subject Matter Expert – Provide advice as an expert in your niche
- Coaching – For example, if you blog about productivity, you could offer coaching to help people improve their productivity by tackling procrastination
Some people think donations are the least effective method of generating money; however, some creatives are generating some serious income from donations. This method is great if you are the brand of your blog, as people feel connected to you on a personal level.
Accepting donations on your blog is pretty straightforward. You can get a code snippet from Paypal or Stripe to collect donations and plug it straight into your website — or if you want it to look more professional, you can pay for a premium plugin like Gravity Forms which gives you additional functionality, such as integration with email marketing.
Another option is to use a site like Patreon, which is popular among many creatives and has become the standard for collecting donations.
These are the main ways to monetize your blog; others are more involved and harder to do. Whichever way you choose to monetize, be realistic with your expectations. The top 80 percent of blog revenue is generated by the top 20 percent of bloggers. These are people with established sites who have been in the business for a number of years. So don’t expect to make an income to replace your salary overnight.
Step 7 – Make Sure You Create an Asset You Can Sell
You want to build your blog into a sellable asset. If you are the person doing everything (SEO, writing, product development, etc.), then it will be pretty hard for a new owner to take over and do those tasks. So here are some things to keep in mind when you’re developing your blog as a business.
Don’t Make It a Personality-Based Business
Try not to make the blog about you. If you are the brand and people are accessing your site and absorbing your content because they want access to you, then it is very difficult to sell your business without you attached. If you are running a blog under your own personal name, that’s one thing, but if your intention is to build up your basket weaving blog as a business for sale, it’s best if the subject matter is the focus of your content, not you yourself.
Have a Team
We’ve talked about automating and outsourcing before. The same applies when running a profitable and saleable blog. It’s easy to spend all your time working on your business, but if you are doing all the writing and editing (among other things), then it will be difficult to scale the business without help.
Find an editor on Upwork or enlist the help of a professional editing agency to manage your content calendar for you. Hire some help to write or create videos. Create systems and standard operating procedures so you can quickly and easily train new team members. There is no reason you should do all the work, and the less work you are doing and more actions you automate, the easier it will be to sell your business.
Track Your Analytics
Make sure you are using some form of analytics tracking. Not only will it give you valuable insights into who your readers are and the performance of the content you create, but analytics create real data and proof that a buyer of an online business will want to see before buying.
Installing Google analytics tracking code or even Clicky (if you don’t want Google seeing your data) into your site is super easy in WordPress using plugins. There is no reason not to be using analytics from day one.
Get Your Numbers Straight
It’s easy to forget that this blog of yours has grown from a little side hobby to a full-blown business, but you need to make sure you treat it like one. If you are running the business expenses from and banking the income into a personal account, stop now. Set up a proper business account, or at least separate the money to go into a completely different account from your daily transaction account.
Use some sort of accounting software like Freshbooks to track income and expenses, which will also help you track balances and create profit and loss statements — critical parts of figuring out the right price at which to sell your business.
Are You Ready to Start Making Money Blogging?
With solid research, preparation, and commitment to providing value for your readers, you could be well on your way to creating a successfully monetized blog.
Making money from blogging is not a “get rich quick” scheme. It takes time to build up an audience, rank in Google, and get good at creating content.
The key takeaway is don’t let one aspect of creating a blog stop you from getting started. If you don’t know SEO, remember to focus on creating valuable content. If you don’t know how WordPress works, jump on YouTube and watch a couple of free tutorials. But first and foremost, focus on creating content consistently; otherwise, you’re not running a business — you’re just indulging in a hobby.
What kind of content-driven empire will you build?
Photo credit: AlexBrylov