How to make money blogging: A detailed guide from scratch
In this article, I share it all – everything I have done to grow my blog and you can use them to grow your blog traffic too, and generate income as well.
I started blogging in 2004. Since then, I have seen many bloggers struggle to grow their blog’s traffic and generate sustainable income. I have seen blogs come and go, while I have grown my blog from a hobby to an ongoing business concern. If you want to grow your blog and make money blogging, this tutorial is what you need. I have lived blogging and I still am, so the contents of this blog post are not some speculative theory.
New bloggers struggle after setting up their blog. They start out with excitement, churning out blog posts and looking forward to a jump in traffic so they can begin to earn an income from their blog. And that is great. But the initial excitement soon gives way to frustration, and eventually despair.
If you are reading this, chances are that you have experienced this. You have heard one resource person or the other tell you that all you need to do is start and so you started. I see individuals who have great content on their blog struggle to grow it. This is because blogging is both an art and a science. Or let me put it this way: blogging is both an art and a business.
And in business, certain principles make things work to produce certain results. The interesting thing is that much of what you need to do to make money blogging is simple. But if you don’t know, you don’t. There are some more complicated parts, like learning to use one or two tools.
Welcome to this course, where I share practical, useful information that will help you grow your blog traffic and start generating income from it.
Overview of how to make money blogging
A profitable blog business has two major traits:
- Targeted traffic: every business has its target audience. Some audiences are wider than others, depending on the business. For example, the market audience of the telecom industry is wide, because communications is essential to everyone. The target audience for a web design agency is much narrower because not every individual needs a website. How wide your audience is is a function of what market you want to serve and what services you want to deliver to them. The trick is to generate enough traffic to make your blog viable enough for business.
- Income source/s: one of the tricky things about blogging is that your product (content) may not be your source of income. If you publish content for free (like most blogs do), your content is not your direct source of income. You can choose to sell your content from the word Go, though, if it is highly technical/valuable information that is scarce to come by. One thing is certain: your blog must have an income source or else it is dead on arrival.
The above are the two main thrust of growing a profitable blog. To achieve those two things requires more than two steps though. I have broken them down into 7 steps. This is a long read. Get your pen and paper, if you can and let’s go.
1. Select a niche for your blog
Whatever niche you select for your blog will determine to a large extent how wide its target audience is. All niches are viable; some are just more viable than others. In other words, some niches have more traffic than others. It is up to you.
You can start a generic news blog that covers everything under the sun. That has its own challenges, as it is difficult to cover everything with much detail. You are likely to lose the interest of people more easily.
So, picking a niche is a great idea. I picked mobile phones years ago because I am passionate about them, use a lot of them (I have owned approximately 200 till date), and so have hands-on knowledge. It was easy to become an authority. I have since expanded to include digital media. Why? Because digital media is predominantly mobile-based. It was easy to extend my expertise to cover that area and also become an authority in that.
What is your preferred niche? It is up to you. You do not even have to be an authority; if you can afford it, hire writers and content creators who know about the field and will create your blog’s content.
Actionable Steps for picking a niche
- Write out fields that you already are an authority in or can easily become an authority in. You can go with these fields.
- Write out fields that are huge attention grabbers, whether you are interested in them or not. You can go with these outrightly too.
- The third option is to find a field in 1 above that overlaps with one in 2 above and build on that. In other words, a field you are an authority in that overlaps with a field that lots of people are interested in.
Whatever niche you settle for eventually for your blog, there is money to be made there.
2. Determine your blog’s income channels
If you are running a blogging business, then income generation is key. Every business thrives by making money. You can be the greatest writer in the land and yet go hungry if you do not know how to generate income from your writing.
Here are some key ways you can generate income from your blog.
- Sell a product/service: Set up a page on your blog that lists out the services you offer, or that allows people to subscribe/buy your services/products. What can you sell? Anything, including: writing services, content marketing, clothes, gadgets, cars, anything.
- Affiliate schemes: There are many available affiliate schemes out there that lets you earn a commission on each sale.
- Ad networks: Signing up for a service like Adsense, WordAds, and others lets you earn income when your readers click on adverts from those networks.
- Banner ads: You can accept banner ads directly from brands looking to advertise on your blog. Setup a rate card for different banner sizes and locations on your blog. When brands and agencies reach out to you, send them your rate card.
- Sponsored Content: Brands looking to promote a new product or service are regularly looking for thriving blogs to publish their promotional content on. They pay you a fee to publish it on your blog. Add this to your rate card as well.
Which is the best way to go? There is no best way. I advice that you adopt multiple income streams though. So you can sell a product, join an ad network, as well as offer banner ads and sponsored content. A a matter of fact, you can run all of the above.
Whatever you do, take income generation serious. A business has to make money to survive and make lots more money to thrive.
3. Start creating [great] content for your blog
Blogging is just a matter of writing; right? Wrong. Everyone is a writer; right? Wrong.
I have seen horrible writing in the name of blogging, and it is no surprise that those blogs have died or become dormant not long after they took off. Writing is a skill. Great writing is both a skill and an art.There is a world of a difference between good writing and great writing. Good writing meets all the rules of grammar and communicates what it is intended to communicate. What we are interested in is great writing. Great writing not only communicates. It captivates the reader. It takes a hold of them and leaves an exciting mark. It is often the difference between an article you read and forget, and another that you read and want to share. Good writing connects with the head. Great writing connects with both the head and the heart. You must create content tjhat your traget audience wants to read, and you must make it connect not just with their head, but also with their hearts. That is how to make sure that your blog stands a chance in the crowded marketplace.
4. Promote Your Blog
Let’s talk about generating traffic for your blog. You have probably heard the popular statement that says, “Build it and your readers will come”. I hope you don’t believe it, because that is not how it works. If you do not promote your blog, you will get just a handful of readers – not enough for you to generate a dollar on.
So, let us look at the key ways you can promote your blog.
Promote by sharing your articles on Social Media
Sharing your blog posts on social media is not a bad way to gain basic visibility, so you should do that. But – and you need to listen to this – most blogs get less than 5% of their traffic from social media, and it is not repeated traffic. Let me explain.
All that sharing and scheduling of posts for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others will not produce for you huge, repeat traffic. Why?
For one, social media users have a platform inertia: They are very resistant to clicking a link that takes them away from where they are. Social is their comfort zone, where they hang out. You don’t want anyone yanking you out when you are hanging out with your friends; do you? Exactly. That is how social media works. Most people who follow you will not click a link you post.
Does this mean you should not share on social media? Oh, no! You should. It lets you stay visible even if they aren’t clicking through to visit. They see you. They know that your blog is active. Your blog has mind awareness. And mind awareness is good. Visibility is good. If/when they have a need in your area and want some info, those users who have been seeing your published articles on their timelines will remember you.
Actionable Steps for Social Media Sharing
- Share each blog post when it is published. You can use a WordPress plugin like JetPack to automate this.
- Re-share same post at intervals during the same day. This is especially useful for Twitter.
- Re-share same blog post at least two more times during the week.
Promote with Social Media ads
While sharing your posts on social media helps you stay visible to people who already know your blog, social media ads are great for introducing your blog to people who were not aware of it before. It extends your reach.
Facebook and Instagram ads are generally the most effective. You are likely on a budget and they are the most cost-effective. Twitter and LinkedIn ads cost more, as a rule. But again, take note of your target audience. If you are running a jobs/career-related blog, LinkedIn ads might not be a bad idea. Experiment a bit. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
But for most blog types, Facebook and Instagram ads will get your blog in the face of more people and generate good traffic for you.
Note: My observation is that while social media ads (and indeed all kinds of ads) will get you traffic, much of that traffic will fritter out once the ad campaign is over. What I have seen is that social media ads are most effective when they promote a product. So, if one of your income sources is a service you offer or a physical product you sell, use ads to push those, not the blog itself.
If you are selling a product or service, by all means, invest in advertising. Selling without advertising is like winking in the dark. Unless the person you are winking at is a vampire, that is a waste of time. Don’t forget it: products and services are the best scenario for spending on ads. This includes social media ads, influencer marketing, Google ads, etc.
But let us look beyond digital ads. You might need to promote your blog via newspaper, radio or even TV ads. What? Why would you need to do that? Here’s why: what kind of ads you run determine on where your target audience is.
If you sit down and have a look at your target audience and find out that many of the people you need to read your blog read newspapers, or certain types of magazines, a lot, you will be doing yourself a disservice if you do not advertise to reach them.
If you are resident in Nigeria, you must have you seen ads by Google and Facebook on TV in recent years. Why do you think that two of the world’s biggest Internet businesses are advertising offline? Because in Nigeria, a lot of people who are not active online watch TV, listen to radio, and read newspapers. Google wants to reach them. Facebook wants them signed up and posting every day. So, they advertise to reach them.
Do not forget: how and where you advertise should be dependent on your target audience. Don’t chase your own tail. Chase your audience.
5. Make friends with Search Engines
If you want tons of traffic that returns to your site every day without any extra action on your part after your blog post is published, you have to pay attention to search engines.
You may need to read that again. Tons of repeat traffic without daily action on your part is achievable but only if you crack this topic. And I will break it down for you.
Many bloggers have put up social ads and Google ads to try to drive traffic to their blogs, and like I mentioned above, it got them some results but frittered away eventually. Same thing with social media sharing. The blogs got huge hype at the onset but gradually lost it as people moved on to the next exciting thing (that is the summary of social media).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the name for the process of making your blog search engine friendly so Google, Bing and other search engines can send you targeted traffic every day whether you are asleep or awake. This is essential for running a profitable blogging operation.
Here is a quick summary of what you need to do to make your blog posts optimized for search engines:
- Setup your site to be SEO-compliant.
- Write blog posts that are both human and search engine friendly.
- Write blog posts that attract other websites to link to you i.e. write authority posts.
Let’s talk about these three items. I recommend that you setup your blog on WordPress, as it offers the widest customisation possibilities available for blogs.
Pay for a solid theme.
As tempting as it may be to use a free theme or pay a friend to knock up a quick theme for you, I do not recommend it. Spend a little to get a well developed theme. It isn’t just about the looks. It is also about structures and capabilities. Cost: from $39 to 59 will get you a good theme.
In my experience, you install and activate some themes and your traffic drops. Activate another one and your traffic goes back up. Themes are powerful. As a matter of fact, some themes will result in higher or lower AdSense earnings (if you use AdSense).
Pay for JetPack Premium Subscription.
Install the JetPack plugin in your WordPress admin, then sign up for a Premium subscription. It has a number of features that add extra value to your blog. One of them is the SEO feature. It is simple to use. As a beginner, you set it up once and go your way. Cost: $9 monthly.
If you want to dive deeper into SEO, you need to also get a good premium SEO plugin. This gives you greater control over how you craft your content.
Write with SEO in mind.
Now that your blog has been set up for SEO, you can start publishing; right? Nope. Get a good SEO person or learn SEO yourself.
If you are starting alone, you will have to learn SEO. If you are starting with a team, make sure you have an SEO person on board who goes through articles before they are published. Before. So, it is a good idea for your editor to have a good grasp of SEO.
Make sure your writers produce quality content, content that others are likely to reference. What you want is for your blog to become a reference point.
Actionable Steps for SEO
- Pay for a good WordPress theme.
- Pay for JetPack subscription.
- Make sure someone on your blogging team understands SEO and works on your posts before publishing.
6. Monitor Everything
Ask any successful business: everything is monitored – staff performance, income, expenditure, et al. Everything. And every thing is broken down. The more you are able to see and analyse what is going on behind the scenes, the better decisions you can make.
In the digital age, data is a gold mine. Digital technology has a great advantage in that it is constantly providing you with feedback – useful information that can help you determine how your blog is performing. With the right tools, you can monitor your site traffic, your expenditure, as well as your income.
That way, you can tell when there is impending trouble. For example, by monitoring your blog posts’traffic, you may observe that an article that has been doing well suddenly records a serious drop in traffic. All other things being equal, something has gone wrong somewhere, and you need to find it and fix it quick.
Here are three key things you must monitor on your blog:
- Traffic: this includes pageviews, users, and bounce rate. These are the 3 most important traffic metrics.
- Income: how much are you making monthly, and what income channels are bringing it in?
- Expenditure: how much are you spending monthly, and what are your heaviest costs? You need to know. How will you know whether or not you are making a profit?
Set up a Google Analytics account. All you require is a Gmail account to access it. Google Analytics is the most comprehensive traffic monitoring service out there. Check it daily to see your blog posts are doing.
Look at the patterns of your articles that are doing well for insights into what works for your blog. Keep an eye on sudden drops in traffic so you can nip trouble in the bud.
Monitoring Income and Expenditure
At the most basic, you can set-up a notebook for income and expenditure. If you are good with Microsoft Ecel, you can use that. There are also mobile apps and online accounting services that you can use for this.
Note that you are only making a profit if your income is bigger than your expenditure. You want to make sure that your blog starts making more than you spend on it as soon as possible so it becomes self-sustaining. That is the goal, and this blogging tutorial would have achieved its goal when that happens.
Actionable Steps for Monitoring
- Setup monitoring systems for both traffic and cash.
- Analyse your data to learn from them.
- Act on the insights you glean from your data.
7. You must experiment
I have to say this to you in closing: you must dare to experiment. This is connected to the previous section that deals with monitoring. You must experiemtn with blog layout and design. Experiement with ad positions and locations. Make a tweak here and there, then observe for two weeks or a month.
In my experience, a simple theme switch can result in much better traffic – or it can lead to a drop in your traffic. Moving an ad banner from the top of your page to a position below the title can change your ad revenue.
Often, it is the little tweaks that produce the biggest changes. If possible, keep a logbook where you write down any changes you have made to your blog, as well as the time and date you made them. That way, when you look at your blog traffic statistics or income statistics, you can draw correlations between a new trend and actions you took.
In closing, many years ago, a client told me that he wanted a successful blog like mine. I replied that I could re-create the exact design and layout for him, but that it would take much more than that to make it as successful.
Setting up a blog is the easy part. Building it into an authority site and growing its traffic and income is a daily grind that you must be committed to 100%. Blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It can be rewarding if you put in the work.