When I tell people I blog for a living, the next question I always get is “how do you make money” doing that. It never fails. Making money is an incredibly interesting topic that everyone is always interested in.
In fact, one of my best blog posts I’ve ever written is this article on revenue generating hobby topics. This post received a lot of attention and continues to do so because I implemented many tips that I will be sharing with you today.
HOW TO MONETIZE YOUR BLOG AS A FIRST YEAR BLOGGER
Making money is likely one of the biggest motivators of why you got started blogging and why you continue to put in hard hours and the late nights!
The purpose of this guest post is to help new bloggers (especially those in their first year) get started with making money blogging. These are 10 really important tips I want you to think about as you blog along. They are essentially a list of things I wish I knew when I started blogging.
Here we go!
1. Think about what you want to “sell” before you do anything else
The very first step in starting a blog is to decide “what you want to blog about.” You need to be clear on what purpose your website serves and why it exists. If you aren’t, I highly recommend you re-visit this step because if you’re a bit lost or confused here, your blog (and its content) will reflect your confusion.
The second step is to figure out what you want to sell.
Most people do not start their websites with “how they will make money” in mind, which is a big reason why they struggle to make money. The content you create will be based on what you will sell and how you will sell it. So if you don’t know what product/service you’re going to promote, how will you know what types of content to create?
Here’s how it works:
If you know what products you want to promote, you will have clarity in what type of content you will create and how you will create it to sell the product.
I’ll give you an example:
Let’s say you are a South East Asia travel blog where you share your journey backpacking on a budget in this region. The smartest thing you can do is to find potential products/services you can promote before you write anything.
You browse affiliate networks and find the following products/services that could be a good fit:
- hotel booking sites (booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, etc.)
- tour booking sites (Contiki, Gadventures, etc)
- excursion/attractions booking sites (Viator, GetYourGuide, etc.)
- backpack gear (backcountry.com, amazon.com, etc.)
- travel insurance, car rentals, guidebooks, etc.)
With the array of things you could promote as a travel blogger, you’ll want to narrow it down into the products/services you identify with the most and that can make you the most money.
As you travel, you’ll keep these products in mind and your brain will come up with ideas on how you can weave them into your blog posts.
You will also magically come up with blog post ideas that will specifically tie in with the products you want to promote. For example, a blog post about your experience at a hostel or a blog post about how your backpack failed and what you wish you knew before buying a backpack.
It’s 1000% smarter to identify what you will sell/promote before you start blogging away. The strength of your writing will be much more powerful and it will “pre-sell” what you’re promoting much better…. which leads to my next tip.
To summarize this point in a sentence, “always keep the product in mind.”
2. Everything you write is a “pre-sell” to your ultimate goal of making money
One of the biggest tips I ever learned in online marketing is that “everything you write needs to be a pre-sell.” What does that mean?
It means you need to think very carefully about how you craft your content. Most of it needs to steer your reader into the direction of opening their wallets and whipping out that credit card.
That might seem like an awful thing and perhaps sleazy thing to say, and it would be if you are trying to fool people. But that’s not what you’re doing. You are providing real valuable content the reader is searching for, and if the reader feels spending money will help them, they will gladly do so.
Your job as the content creator is to show your reader that spending money on this product is money well spent! In other words, you want to “pre-sell” the product. You are warming them up to the idea of the product. They will ultimately make their own decision – but if you do a great job showing them the value, you will make more money with your blog.
I recommend focusing the majority of your content on topics that can make you money. You can definitely write on subjects that have zero monetization value, and they could be very useful posts to read too, however I wouldn’t spend too much time on these types of topics (if your goal is to make money).
3. Start with affiliate marketing as your primary way to make money
My most recommended way to make money as a first year blogger is through affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is when you promote another businesses product/service for a commission.
The benefit to you is:
- you don’t have to create the product or carry out the service
- you don’t have to “sell” anything as your job is to “recommend” which are two very different things
- you can make a lot of money with affiliate marketing alone
I recommend affiliate marketing as your primary money making tool as a new(ish) blogger because you won’t receive a lot of traffic in your first year blogging, and it is easier to make more money with affiliate products over high traffic monetization methods like advertisements.
I recommend joining 1-3 large affiliate networks. Once you’re in, apply to the affiliate company you want to promote products for. A few popular networks are Commission Junction, Amazon, Skimlinks, and ShareAsale, among others. These are great places to get started.
4. Use Ads when it makes sense
Ads are those blocks of pictures or text you see on many websites. They are fantastic because visitors click them, and every time they get clicked, you will make money as the blog owner.
To make a lot of money with ads, you need a lot of traffic – which is something first year bloggers almost never have.
But that doesn’t mean ads are out the window as a new blogger. I recommend using ads for blog posts that gets traffic but have no monetization value.
For example, a blog post about “why the sky is blue” is an interesting topic that a lot of people search Google for. But in terms of making money from a post like this, it’s nearly impossible. You’re best suited by putting ads on this post to generate income from the traffic it receives.
You can decide which blog posts serves ads and which one will not by using a plugin. You can check this blog post for ideas.
Generally speaking, you want your high value affiliate pages to not be displaying ads, and blog posts that are more “informational” with less monetization value to serve ads.
Ads will generate you a little bit of revenue and will likely cover your blog start up costs if you receive just a dozen or so clicks a day. A few extra dollars per day goes a long way.
5. Build your email list when it makes sense
I always enjoy reading “what I would do differently if I were to start all over again” questions posed by bloggers.
One of the most common thing I read again and again is “I wish I built my email list from day one.”
That’s 100% true…. with a caveat.
First, your email list is your MOST important asset bar none.
Your email list will contain people who love you the most and will be most tuned in to whatever it is you want to help them with.
You can look at your email list as all the people who are most likely to buy from you (or buy your affiliate recommendations) – again and again…. and again.
Your email list is a group of people you can reach out to anytime with news of a new blog post, a new product they may want to buy, or just to tell them you’re doing great today.
You need to build an email list no matter what niche you are in. You’ve probably already been told it’s important. Well let me tell you again. It’s VERY important. So make sure you build yours.
But … about that caveat….
I recommend building a list only when you know what you’re blogging about. To be honest, I feel a lot of bloggers aren’t focused and readers can’t identify what they are truly about and how the blogger can help. In other words – people don’t sign up for their email lists.
But what email services should you use? If you want to email market effectively, you shouldn’t be using free email services (in my opinion). You’ll want a more premium touch with better tools to help you reach your email list in smarter ways.
For example, paid email services have segmentation tools that help you put your email sign ups in different buckets based on things like their interest or gender. When you craft emails, you can send emails specifically to those who are interested in the topic you are emailing about.
For example, you can email all your female backpacking list subscribers rather than sending one email to everyone on your list (male and female) about how to wear a dress on a backpacking trip. The males definitely won’t be interested in this email and you’ll lose their attention quick (they will unsubscribe) if you continue to send them irrelevant emails.
Bottom line is this: You are better served using a paid email service. I recommend using them over free ones, but you need to make sure you understand what it is you blog about and how you can help – and ultimately why people want to hear from you before you start dishing out money each month for a paid tool.
You could start with a free tool and migrate to a paid tool later on. I personally prefer to be clear on what my blog is about and collect emails to fulfill specific problems people need solved. This way, the entire funnel of landing on my blog post, signing up for my mailing list, and receiving emails flows seamlessly and logically.
6. Keep your blog targeted specifically about a certain topic
I’ve touched on this topic in a few tips already but here I’m referring to your entire blog as a whole. You definitely want to keep your blog “niche” and targeted specifically towards a type of person or problem.
A lot of people want to be “Wall-Mart” with their blog. They want to talk about everything and help everyone. That’s great if you have tons of money and tons of staff – like Wall-Mart. But you don’t. You’re likely a solo blogger who’s hustling in the evenings and weekends – with a small budget (if you have one at all).
In this case, you must niche down into a specific topic and help only those people who are interested in this topic. When the right reader finds your blog, they will be more tuned into you and what you have to say because you will actually “speak to them.”
And guess what? That also means you will be more likely to make money from your readers and email list subscribers.
For example, don’t start a “photography blog.” That’s suicide because it’s way to general. I don’t want to say you’ll never make it, but you’re highly likely to fail. You want to be a “travel photography blog representing only Sony gear” or be a “photo editing specific blog.” These are much more niche, and people who have these specific problems will be super tuned into your blog.
If you’re currently blogging about a whole host of things, consider focusing in on one main subject while blending in other related topics if you need to, and if it makes sense.
For example, a mommy blog about raising special needs children should focus on this topic specifically. This blog can talk about many daily life things like cooking, balancing work/family life, and traveling – however you always want to relate it back to the life of raising special needs children (that’s what people read your blog for).
By doing this, you build an audience that sticks with you and will be more likely to listen to you when you recommend a product to them.
7. Write less often and spend more time promoting
New bloggers (and even bloggers who’s been in the game for a long time) struggle with how often they should write blog posts.
In my very strong opinion, I really really recommend you write maybe once a week if not less. Unless you have a specific reason to write more, you should be writing less.
That’s because you need to be spending most of your time promoting your blog posts. There’s the 80-20 rule that we’re all familiar with…. which means if it takes you 1 day to write a blog post then you should spend the next 5 days promoting your blog post.
Why is it important to focus your time promoting over writing?
Because “good content” alone will not make you any money. To make money, you need people to actually see your content. And that means letting as many people as possible know about your new blog post.
I made the big mistake of writing content after content early on. I ended up with hundreds of blog posts and very little traffic. As soon as I switched from writing to promoting, traffic went up significantly.
If you’re currently not getting enough visitors to your blog, it’s almost certainly because of a lack of awareness of your blog posts (lack of promotion) rather than bad content.
More traffic = more money. It’s likely you already have several pieces of great content on your blog. I would switch off writing for awhile and focus on learning ways to promote your content. Social media and SEO are the two top places to get traffic.
8. Focus on learning SEO from day one
SEO stand for search engine optimization. In a nutshell, it means getting traffic from search engine (with Google being the biggest search engine).
There is no better traffic than Google traffic. I’ve always found that people searching from Google (especially while on a desktop) spend more time on my site and are more likely to buy something.
You want to learn and work hard at getting as much search engine traffic as possible because search engines can give you consistent traffic for years and years down the road. On the flip side, social media traffic tends to spike and fall – if it spikes at all. Social media traffic will come in waves and isn’t as reliable as Google traffic.
Once you do all the hard work to rank highly for some of your blog posts, you tend to stay there. Sometimes there can be dramatic changes in rankings (and therefore your traffic) but that’s generally not the case.
Take the time to learn a little bit about SEO every day. Join a few SEO focused Facebook groups and find a few SEO expert blogs to learn from (there will be a gazillion to choose from!).
I would start with learning about on-page SEO (which is everything you do to optimize your website for Google traffic). After you’ve got a good grip on that, you can transition to learning more about off-page SEO (which is non-website specific optimization).
9. Pick one (and only one) social media channel to dominate
I often hear bloggers tell other bloggers to “get traffic from everywhere” by being active on all social media channels. I whole heartedly disagree with this advice. Here’s why….
It takes a lot of work to build one social media network to a level where you are a prominent voice and receive good amounts of traffic to your blog.
To grow several social media channels (to a high level) as a one person blogging show is completely unattainable. Remember, growing a presence on a social network is work on top of your already heavy blog workload.
The exception is if you have staff and money to invest in building out social networks.
The reality is this: It will likely take you a year or two (maybe longer) to grow a social media presence to a good to great level. All social networks are high competitive and will take copious amounts of work to build a following and traffic.
I recommend choosing one social network that fits your niche the best. Focus on that network and that network only. You should also sign up for all the other major networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and whatever else makes sense for your niche) to secure your accounts. However the most work I would do on these other networks is simply updating them with new blog posts – if I do any work at all.
Once you have a strong presence on a network, you can move on to another network if it makes sense. I recommend Pinterest for most people because it’s the network that you can get the most traffic from (sometimes very quickly) with the least amount of work. If you’re undecided about which network to go with, consider Pinterest as your choice.
The point is this: You want to get thousands of visitors to your blog a day from one social network rather than a few hundred visitors per day from several networks. Focusing on one network (for now) is the best way to get traffic the fastest – which leads to you making more money sooner.
10. Build strong relationships with other bloggers in your industry
My last monetization tip won’t seem like a money tip at all. But in so many ways it is. Your relationships with other bloggers in your niche is one of the most important factors to make money faster.
You need friends to win in the blogging game today. Friends help friends, and everyone gets ahead faster. This is really the bottom line behind making friends in your industry.
Your friends will share your articles (gets you traffic), link to your blog posts (gets you referral traffic and builds your SEO), give you advice on anything blogging which will cut your learning curve. ALL of this will help you get more traffic. Remember, more traffic = more money. And blogging is so much better when you do it with friends anyhow!
I recommend joining Facebook groups related to your niche and blog commenting as your two main ways to “get noticed” and stay in touch with people you want to build relationships with. You only need to spend 10-30 minutes a day engaging. You’ll be learning things and building relationships all at once – and it will all come full circle to helping you make more money down the road.
About the author:
Jason is a lifestyle blogger at Mint Habits. He focuses mainly on writing about personal finance and blogging as these two topics are his most passionate subjects to help others with.