Blogging. Mommy blogs. Parenting blogs. Tech blogs. Gardening blogs. Lifestyle blogs. Food blogs. There is a niche for everyone, and once upon a time, it was even a great side business. Back in the earlier days of blogging, in the 2005-2007 era, the internet was less saturated with content and blogging was a rather lucrative endeavor if you had something interesting to say. These days, pulling a profit with blogging is much more difficult, but it is not impossible. With the right techniques, you could turn your hobby blog into a nice side hustle, or at least make enough to cover the costs of running your blog. Like with everything, you get out of it what you put into it. *Disclosure: Some links below, but not all, are affiliate links.
How to Make Money Blogging
Let’s look at the basics for a run of the mill lifestyle blog.
Set up your blog
-Choose a platform you like working with and that will grow with you. Some people like choosing a free platform, but if you have any intention of keeping up with blogging, it is better to start right off with a self hosted platform. Many free platforms do not allow customization or advertising. Most writers stick with self-hosted WordPress.
-Choose a clean design. It is really easy to fall into a trap of spending an insane amount of time making graphics and adding a million fun colors and fonts. However, it is best to keep it clean and professional looking. People want to be able to navigate easily and not be distracted by too much visual clutter. You 10 year old might love that blinding hot pink and lime green theme you created, but your readers don’t want the migraine. Stick to a white or soft neutral background with black or gray type.
-Make it easy to navigate. Along with neutral colors and an uncluttered space, make it easy to find content. Keep your archives and categories easily accessible. Place a search bar in the side bar. Limit your categories and tags. label you categories with names that are clear and make sense. Quirky categories are fun and all, but they won’t help your readers find the content they want once you have a lot of posts.
-Decide what your niche will be. This is not as easy as it sounds. Most people have more than one thing they want to write about. If you have two themes you wish to stick with, you might be able to get away with a quirky blog that combines two completely unrelated things, like donuts and designer shoes. However, those blogs almost always need to veer off topic eventually. It is always better to pick a specific, but broad niche like budget cooking, or natural parenting, or a general lifestyle blog.
-Go with evergreen content. Evergreen content is content that is forever relevant. It can be an article about 10 ways to make your kitchen more environmentally friendly, a list of parenting tips, or even a product review of a product that is unlikely to be discontinued any time soon. Evergreen content is the content that will continue to bring in search traffic long after your other posts are dust in the wind. Ex. Effective Ways to Reduce Your Paper Waste
-Don’t forget some fun content. The opposite of evergreen content, is the personal writing that really draws people in. This will depend entirely on your niche of course. You might admit to some personal failings or vulnerabilities in a parenting or lifestyle blog, but never on a business or tech blog. It is up to the individual blogger how personal they want ot make their website. While readers love the personal details and when blogs have a big personality, there are plenty of pitfalls to divulging details. Big concerns include loss of privacy and culpability. The internet never forgets.
Build A Following
-Build a social media following. If you build it, they will come. You must build your art, but you must also build the following. No one will ever find your amazing writing on the big wide webiverse unless you advertise it. These days, you advertise with social media. Pick an online handle that is either your name or your blog name and use it universally. Set of a Facebook page, twitter account, Instagram account, pinterest, and any other you think you can keep up on. There are a ton of other social media ‘up&comings’ you can focus on, but I will never suggest anyone try to do them all. There is not enough time in the day. Large companies often need to hire multiple social media managers to maintain a presence on all of the media accounts that are in vogue. You are not a major corporation. Just pick the ones you like enough, that you will likely maintain them or can automate them. Keep in mind that some social media options are irrelevant for your niche as well. Building a following can be challenging. Some people fall into the trap of trying to buy followers, which makes their follower stats look good, but it doesn’t drive traffic to their site. It is best to build a following the old fashioned way. Share your content, ask your friends to share it, comment on related blogs, and ask to guest post. You would rather have a small, organic following that actually reads and shares your posts, than a huge following that ignores you.
-Create a relationship with that following. Once you begin building a small group of readers, your community, don’t ignore them. Respond in the comments. Respond on Facebook. Respond to tags on Instagram. Respond when you get a pingback. This is less possible once you have a larger following, but when first starting out, it can be a big and pleasant help. Your readership will like it. It tightens your online community. it makes your readers care about you, and you care about your readers.
-Be generous w/sharing other’s content. Share the content written by others in your niche. Comment. If a reader has a linked profile in their comment, check it out. Share their content. Be reciprocal. This goes a long way in certain genres. Plus, it is nice. Being nice is not always popular, but it is always a win.
-Share YOUR content. Amid all the sharing of your readers’ content, don’t forget your own! Don’t get so wrapped up in chattering on social media that you neglect sharing your creations. If you only created your content for yourself, you could have a private journal. You don’t. You decided to publish it. so share it via email and social networks. Be careful not to spam though. There is a fine line between neglecting your PR and full out spamming. That line is a little different for everyone.
-Automate some shares to lessen burden. Services like twitterfeed, hootsuite, buffer, and a zillion others always on the horizon are very useful. You can use RSS feeds to automatically share blog posts to Facebook and twitter. This cuts down on the list you need to remember each day. Some apps allow you to interact through the app as well. You can also set up an auto email for daily subscribers to receive posts via services like Mailchimp, Mad Mimi, and others.
Up to now, this is more of a general how-to on the set up of a blog, which is important if you want to monetize. If you have an unattractive blog with no content and no traffic, then there is no point in ever monetizing. No one is looking to buy. Once you have done the homework above and have established a regular following, you can look into ways to efficiently monetize your website.
Join programs made for business connections
-Sites like Bussiness2Blogger and Tomoson are good places to start. Neither of these resources have many requirements and they offer plenty of small job and review opportunities for beginner bloggers. Business2Blogger is more picky about the jobs they will list, so those jobs tend to be more prestigious. Tomoson is more generic. They accept a lot of businesses looking for product reviews of anything and everything. Much of what is available is through fly-by-night companies selling through Amazon.com, but some of the brands are also larger and more reputable. I have used Tomoson for a few years and I have not had any issues with any clients. Tomoson can be overwhelming, but it is an easy way to get a few sponsored reviews under your belt, if that is what you are aiming for.
- Once you have more traffic and reputation built up, places like SITS girls and Linqia can be great sources for paid campaigns. These types of platforms offer campaigns that pay more,and are therefore more exclusive, so you will need a significant following and traffic record. With these services you often can create a post with Evergreen content and then are paid based on how many click-throughs you can generate.
Add affiliate links to content
Affiliates links are links that can generate income through a pay-per-click method or a payout pending a purchase through the link. Many brands and companies offer affiliate programs. If you already have certain products you write about and recommend, you can add affiliate links to those products and possibly generate a small income.
There are multiple ways to use affiliate links
-sidebar affiliate banners as ads.
-adding affiliate links to products in popular posts.
-writing reviews of affiliate programs.
-adding pay-per-click links to recipes, style posts, decorating posts, etc.
Some affiliate programs are small and only pertain to one brand, but there are some large conglomerates of affiliates that offer programs with multiple options available. some useful affiliate programs with many brands include: shareasale.com, shopesense, rstyle, Amazon, etc.
Try selling adverts in form of sidebar ads, guest posts, infographics, or reviews
This one is pretty straight forward. Sell your space. You have lots of negative space in your footer and side bar. You can sell ads yourself and invoice via Paypal. Or, you can use a service like PassionFruit Ads to manage the ad space. We use PassionFruit since the marketplace thy have can lead to some extra ad sales. They take a small cut of your ad sales and also charge an annual fee. We have found it to pay for itself though.
You can try an ad network like GoogleAds or Federated Media. There are many ad networks available, but most of them require a certain amount of traffic before they will accept your website and the payout is low.
You can also charge businesses and other site for services such as publishing their guest posts, infographics, or writing reviews for them.
Work for free
-Start small to get a few reviews or guest posts under your belt, but as soon as you begin building a good reputation, don’t undervalue yourself. It can be valuable to work for free or very little while you try to build traffic and street cred for your blog. You are building your brand and everyone must start at the bottom.
Never work for free
-Wait, what? As soon as you are semi established, keep your self respect. Don’t work for free. More often than not, a company will try to take advantage of you and ask you to work for free. This is fine if you are just starting out, but if your have a steady audience and other revenue streams, don’t be a sucker. There are a sad number of PR reps who will say you are not worth the money and are turning down an amazing opportunity. Well, they are the ones turning down the opportunity. One rep will say no to $20 and another will say yes to $200. Remember, if they came to you asking for your services, you are allowed to negotiate a reasonable price! Especially, if you are in a small niche they wish to target.
-Don’t lapse in posting for weeks/months at a time. I need to sometimes take my own advice on this one. On occasion, life gets in the way and you lapse a week or two. This is OK if you only post once per week anyway. However, if you are a daily poster, your readers come to expect this. It is why they stuck around. This is why it is better to pick a sustainable posting schedule. If you can post five days per week, it might be best to scale it to three times per week and pre-schedule some articles. Same goes for the other way around. If your post one detailed post per week and switch to posting daily and of a lesser depth, you may lose readers. Be consistent.
-When readers begin trusting your word, don’t ruin everything by fibbing. Don’t recommend products or services just because you’re being paid. Mean it. This can be difficult when you really want to please a sponsor. Sometimes my previously glowing review becomes a less stellar review a few months down the road when I have more experience with the product and add some additional thoughts to the review. Sponsors sometimes do not like this. Which is why it is important to have a policy of honestly written into your review terms.
It is also good to be consistent in your story telling. Remember, people can go back in your archives and find inconsistencies. Popular bloggers sometimes live under a microscope not unlike celebrities. (Which is why it is sometimes nice to be an unknown flying under the radar.) If you become an internet sensation with millions of pageviews, you will invite scrutiny into your life.
-As per FTC guidelines, which are really rules, you must disclose any sponsorship relationship. If you are reviewing a product a brand sent to you, adding affiliate links to content, posting a paid guest post, or any other content for which you received compensation, you must disclose it in some way. It is best to have a small statement of disclosure at the top of the post, i.e. “This post is sponsored by Blah-blah”, “This post contained affiliate links”. Then add a more thorough disclosure at the bottoms of the post as well. Some sites just have a disclosure page and do not add the disclosure to each post that needs it. This is not recommended and can get you in trouble.
-You also cannot sell do-follow links. I will not get into the algorithm behind do-follow versus no-follow and Google page Rank since it seems to be defunct now anyway. However, it is best to keep all links to sponsors as no-follow links. WordPress has plugins that make changing these tags easy. If a potential sponsor tries to get you to specifically post do-follow links, they are asking you to break the law for them and then take the fall. This type of sponsor has shown their colors and it is best to end the business relationship.
Don’t Put all your eggs in one basket
-Branch out. Most bloggers don’t make all their money from ad sales and affiliate marketing. You need an obscene amount of traffic to make much off of these revenues. You basically need to try ALL THE THINGS to find which ones work well for you. Passive income, active income, and everything in between.
-Sell something. You have to sell more than content these days. Publish an ebook, manual, or guide relevant to your topics. Open an online store. Design an app. Begin coaching others just starting out. Today’s entrepreneurial world is about the multi-hussle. Branch out and integrate.
There is no free lunch
-Work. Work hard. There is no easy money online these days. The old forms of passive income are not that passive anymore. Write, and write well. If you are not an amazing writer, then you need to be interesting. If you can’t string together a nice story and you’re boring as all get out, then you need something of beauty. Beautiful photography, beautiful clothing for sale, a beautiful face, SOMETHING. Something that makes people willing to click over to your site and keep coming back. There is no free lunch because everyone needs a hook. Find your’s.
-News travels quicker than ever in the digital age. You can be shrewd without being a shrew. Don’t burn bridges or talk badly about others. Success online is about networking. No website can succeed as an island. So pay for your lunch in kindness. Reciprocate on social media mentions and links. Be sweet without being insincere. Give every time you take. Of course, it goes the other way too. Don’t continue giving to a network relationship that gives you nothing in return. Being nice does not mean being a doormat.
A blog is all about your brand. Your brand as a person or business. Re-branding is tough work, so it is best to start out branding yourself in a way that is sustainable for your personality and niche. Monetizing that brand can be fun and a way to bring in some income, but it can also be a hassle. A hassle that is not often worth it. When you decide to monetize a personal blog, you are turning your personal life into a business. It is not unlike staring in a reality TV show and carries similar ramifications.
How you go about monetizing your blog depends on how much work you are willing to do and why you are blogging in the first place. If your blog is a complementary space to your Etsy shop or book publications, then it is essentially already monetized. If you are looking to bring your hobby blog to the next level, making some side money might at least offset the cost of materials. Making big money from blogs is not really realistic anymore. Plus, to make it big you must take a big risk. The big money makers are controversial, each in their own way.
blogging is like any business venture in that you lose a lot if it all flops. With blogging you may not lose a lot of money,but you will lose thousands of hours of your time, words, and effort. Sweat equity. This is why it is best to never start a blog with the intention of doing it for the money. That almost never works out. Do it because you enjoy it, and if it leads to an income, great.
Join Linqia and earn!
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