How to Make Money Blogging. Hint: It’s not Easy
You’ve probably heard of someone who knows someone who made it big in the blogging world. They struck it rich with a fabulous idea, were in the right place at the right time and made a ton of money. I’m here to tell you that that’s not the reality of most (almost all?) bloggers. If you want to make money blogging not only do you need an interesting idea with a unique perspective but you’ll also need a lot of time, perseverance and know-how.
Here are a few tips to get you started making some money through blogging.
Self-Hosted Sites vs. Not Self-Hosted Sites
The Not Self Hosted Options
There are a ton of sites and platforms out there that you can use to build your site on. The free ones like Blogger, HubPages or wordpress.com are places where you can post your content and also have a lot of control over the design of the site, but you don’t own it.
Should Google decide to shut down Blogger, you’ll be totally out of luck and there’s nothing you can do about it. If WordPress places ads on your site and doesn’t give you a cut of the profits, well, there’s nothing you can do about it. Should Hubpages decide that your site is spammy and make it unavailable to search engines, there’s no recourse for you.
Self-Hosted Reigns Supreme!
The much better way is to do it the right way from the start by hosting your own website. You’ll have to pay for a domain as well as hosting plan but they’re both quite reasonably priced-domains are around $10/year and hosting is about $5/month. When you set up a website this way, you have 100% control and as long as you keep paying for hosting and the domain, nobody can ever shut down your site. Plus, you’re free to do whatever you want with it including Google Adsense, affiliate marketing links, etc. This will be important later when you monetize it.
Pro tip #1: You can host multiple domains on a single hosting account! Check the fine print for each company though-this is sometimes available only for the not-basic packages.
Pro Tip #2: To get started, I recommend Bluehost. I’ve been using them for a few months now and my sites are rock-solid, never crashing and always loading reasonably quickly. The couple times I’ve needed help, they were mostly helpful and you can contact them by phone, email or live chat.
Pro Tip #3: Avoid GoDaddy hosting! Trust me, their hosting services are terrible. I know this from personal experience and consider it a lesson learned. PLEASE don’t make the same mistake I did.
Smart Content is King
The days of gaming the system to drive traffic to your site are indeed over. These days, it’s all about content so use something like Google Adwords (free, but complicated) or LongTrailPro (not free, but extremely user-friendly) to do some keyword research. You’re looking for keywords that have a high search volume but which at least some of the websites from the first 10 results are crap (no links, low page rank, etc.).
Avoid Certain Keywords, Love Others
It’s pretty hard to compete for something like “money” or “personal finance” but it’s usually possible for long-tail keywords like “personal finance for expats” or “paying off debt using the snowball method.” I did not do keyword research using these terms-they’re only examples off the top of my head to illustrate the point. I call this kind of content “smart content” because it’s based on research instead of whatever you have on your mind that day.
Write Yourself Some Content
Once your keyword research helps you find some openings, you have to start writing content anchored around those keywords to get yourself up on the first page of Google. You should put the keywords in the title, URL, the picture attached to the article and at least at the beginning and end of the article. Of course you should also be writing content that is compelling, helps your audience solve a problem and gets shared on social media.
Connect with your Audience
Find the people who really “get” you. I’d way, way rather have 100 true fans who love my stuff than 1000 luke-warm ones who think the stuff I put out into the world is just okay. It’s these people who love you who are going to share your content with the world, who will tell their friends and who will ultimately strongly consider buying whatever you are selling because they know it’s solid stuff.
There will always be haters but don’t worry about that (even Pat Flynn-the nicest, most helpful guy ever has haters) or focus any of your attention or energy on them. Instead, focus on these super-fans and cultivate more of them! Here are a few more of my thoughts about that: Haters Gonna Hate-How I Deal With It.
You can connect with your audience in a few ways-social media, email, Skype calls, conferences, etc. But, the best advice I can give is to just be yourself and let your personality shine through. Be authentic. Then, be generous with your time. Answer all your emails and messages personally until you get too popular and then hire someone!
Build your Email List
Despite the abundance of social media platforms, email marketing still reigns supreme. You have to use your blog to grow your list because email is the best way to build long-lasting relationships with people that are going to stay with you for the long-haul. Here’s an article I wrote about how I built my email list to over 1000 people in just a few months: 3 Ideas for How to Build your Email List.
One of the best companies out there to help you manage your email list is MailChimp. It’s free to start with and then reasonably priced once you get more subscribers.
Monetize It: But, Don’t be Sketchy
Once you’ve got your website up and running, it has lots of content, you’ve built some solid relationships with your audience, and your email list is growing, it’s time to monetize it. It’s best not to do this too early on in the process or you might run the risk of repelling some people who will eventually become your fans.
For example, who actually spends more than about 1 second on a site with no content but Google ads plastered all over it? Or, a site selling an expensive course but with no obvious useful content for free. Not me.
Here are a few ideas for how to make money blogging.
Monetize It: Google Adsense
You place some ads on your site and get paid per click. If you get a lot of traffic to your site, this can be a great source of income. However, be sure not to plaster ads all over your site because people will take one look and go running for the back arrow. There are a few other companies out there but Google is the only major player.
Monetize It: Affiliate Marketing
This is where you recommend products and get some commission for every sale made through your link. I do a few different affiliates, including a couple in this post (Bluehost and MailChimp). But be careful with affiliate marketing to only recommend products that you personally use. Recommending junk to people is the surest way to lose trust and people might actually go out of their way to tell people not to trust you. I actually really, really love both Bluehost and MailChimp and think they’re great so would love it if my friends and family started using their services which is why I recommend them to my audience.
Monetize It: Write some Books
I got my start making some real money after I wrote a book which I self-published on Amazon. I had this blog for years, My Life! Teaching in a Korean University (which has now moved to a self-hosted WordPress site) and I kept getting the same questions basically every week related to how to get a university job in South Korea. I got really weary of answering them so I thought to myself, “Why don’t I just write a book?” It sold a decent number of copies and then I knew that I’d latched onto a great idea. You can see it here: How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of your Dreams.
Blogs = Funnel for Books
In the past year or so I’ve written 7 more and my blogs serve as kind of a funnel for books sales. For example, I’ll do a post like this: Picture Prompt ESL Warm-Up or: Financial Management for Teachers Abroad. I basically offer some free content from the book and then suggest if people like what they see, they get the whole thing. I see it as kind of the non-sketchy way to sell books because people know exactly what they’re getting when they give me their money.
Monetize It: Create a Course or Webinar
Similar to writing books, if you have some information that people want, you can create one of these things and people either have to pay you to access it, or it can be a way to collect email addresses, if you have an additional way to monetize your site.
Monetize It: Sponsored Posts
This is probably my least favorite method for making money blogging because it’s usually so obvious what you’re doing. That said, I have done it a few times and made a good amount of money for basically no work of my own. I’m just careful to accept offers for things that at least some people in my audience might find useful and that won’t repel or offend those who don’t.
Monetize It: Paid Links or Ads
Companies sometimes want to get links on other sites in order to improve their rankings in Google. It’s quite an easy way to make some money, but it’s also a little bit dangerous because if Google finds out you’re doing this, you’ll get penalized.
Another option is to allow something like a banner ad from a company on your site. These often pay extremely well, but you’ll need a lot of traffic to your site to get the best offers.
To Sum It Up
It really is possible to make money blogging. Plenty of people do it. But, it’s something that’s going to take a lot of hard work, perseverance and strategic thinking. People ask me all the time how to make money blogging. I usually ask them if they really want to know the answer, or not. As you can see, it’s not as simple as it might appear.