Blogging is easy, said no one ever. Yes, anyone can set up a domain name, anyone can publish a post, anyone can take a photo, but producing a high-quality blog, that is aesthetically pleasing, interesting to read AND makes you money in the process – now that’s a whole different ball game! Luckily, there are some among us who do manage to balance all of this – and more! – and are willing to share their hard-earned wisdom with us (lucky us!). This is the Who, Why, What, When and Where of making money with your blog.
Everybody’s blogging these days. You can’t go for a coffee or out to dinner without seeing a food blogger – hint: they’re the one standing on a chair, smartphone in one hand, re-decorating the table with the other, while their hungry friends look longingly at their food waiting for the nod that indicates it’s ok to start eating.
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Due to the popularity of blogging, it is not only difficult to reach potential followers, but it is also increasingly difficult to make your blog profitable. The goal posts for getting accepted onto affiliate-marketing programs and for winning sponsored posts are getting higher and higher and higher.
These days you almost need to be a complete web geek, a professional photographer and the best darned writer since J.K. Rowling all rolled into one. Good is no longer good enough and you absolutely need to have a GREAT blog to make money from it.
There are five essential components for a blog to be successful and therefore to start bringing in those pounds and dollars. I call these components the Five Golden W’s of Blogging and they are: Who, Why, What, When & Where:
#1 Who are you?
We all want squillions of followers subscribing to our blogs – what better way to massage our blogging egos, right? – but quality is better than quantity and it is way more important to build a small following of engaged readers than a stadium full of followers who “like” but never read your posts. In order to achieve this, you really need to connect with your readers and the only way to do this is to be yourself. They need to know who YOU are, so expose yourself – not literally, of course! – and write in your own voice and use your own creative style. Let your personality shine, because they’re going to love you just the way you are, and if they don’t then they aren’t the right followers for your blog anyway.
Also, don’t be afraid to share the bad stuff, tell people how terrible your recipe was, or how much that new product sucked. Don’t feel that you have to love everything, or regurgitate what you think your readers, and more importantly your sponsors, want to hear. Be genuine and be honest – keep it real!
#2 Why should readers invest their time (and money) in you?
When I left the UK to start my new married life in the USA, I couldn’t work until my VISA was approved. There is only so much housework, shopping and coffee drinking a girl can do with that amount of free time, so I knew I had to do something more to keep me from going stir crazy.
I decided to combine my passion in food and my experience in Marketing to start my own food blog, but in a highly-competitive arena did the world really need another food blog? Of course not! That’s why I had to find my niche, something that would make the blog stand out from the crowd and would make people want to read it.
Related: Why You Should Choose a Niche for Your Food Blog
It didn’t take me long to realise what my niche was, after all I was a Brit in America who was experiencing new foods and (some rather surprising) food combinations every day. I chose to share American-inspired recipes, food news and restaurant reviews, and the name ‘Arugula & Rocket’ to reflect my Anglo-American theme –rocket leaves are called ‘arugula’ in America, btw!
Finding your niche will not only help you to segment the market and more easily target your customer, but will also help your target customers to find you. By targeting the right people, you are more likely to capture and keep them for the long haul, avoiding those dirty “one-night stands” of people who will follow you one day, only to drop you the very next – and no-one likes that feeling, do they?
These relationships, the ones that develop over time, are built to last – hey, one day they might even become engaged! And it’s those trust-based long-term relationships, that’ll convert engaged readers into customers. When a reader can trust you, they are more likely to click on that suggested link or buy that product that you just raved about. The golden egg in any relationship is trust, so why would blogging be any different?
Related: How to Get Your Readers to Trust You
#3 What should you monetise?
Having worked in the cookware and housewares industry for over a decade, I had built connections with some of the very best people, products and resources in the industry. I knew my area of expertise and I wanted to do something with it. Lots of bloggers make a great living out of affiliate marketing, sponsored posts and online books or courses, but none of these would really make the best use of my skills and experience.
I already knew a little about Amazon’s FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) program and decided to investigate further. Amazon FBA is a program that allows third-party sellers to sell their products on Amazon, as well as utilise their warehousing, distribution and customer-service network – perfect!
I love finding new products, testing them, and subsequently promoting them to customers, but I didn’t have the time, resources or inclination to process customer orders. The FBA program presented me with the perfect opportunity to draw upon my skills in product sourcing, importing and marketing, without the need to deal with physical products.
It took many long hard hours and many stressful moments, but eventually I gained the distribution of some great American brands, finalised a fantastic range of product listings, secured my import channel and created my very own storefront on Amazon.co.uk. I was now ready to start making a blog income!
#4 When should you start to monetise?
Timing is everything. After almost a year of blogging and having established a healthy number of engaged followers, now was the perfect time to expand my horizons.
In the first year of blogging you’ll learn a hell of a lot and make a lot of mistakes. To promote others’ products and brands before you are ready, will not only put your own credibility at risk but also their credibility – and upsetting a major brand at the start of your blog career will mean certain death for your future income potential.
As with everything, you need to learn how to walk before you can run. To blog well, you need to invest a significant amount of time and energy into building your readership, as well as your own expertise. The learning curve is steep and even today I am still learning and constantly finding ways to improve. I definitely wouldn’t have had the time, energy – or enough wine – to be able to develop my online store at the same time as building my blog!
Time, sanity and competence aside, it is impossible to make money from a blog if no one is reading it! You need an engaged audience of readers who will open your posts, click on that link and purchase that product – and that is something that can only happen over time. So be patient – all good things come to those who wait!
Related: How to Find Your Audience
#5 Where to place your blog
There are so many vehicles for bloggers to create and share their blogs, it can be pretty overwhelming. I personally use WordPress to create my blog, but there are many other varieties out there, including Squarespace and Google-owned Blogger, which are also highly regarded.
Which system you choose really boils down to personal preference. You need to find the system that most closely matches your style/branding requirements, functional addons and plugins, and technical/coding ability (all extremely user-friendly and require no coding experience, but techie coders might prefer a system that allows for more customisation). Some blog-creation tools, like Squarespace, are great for adding an online store and most offer the ability to opt-in to Ad Serving – which means they’ll serve ads on your blog, for which you’ll receive income on a pay-per-click basis.
You’ll also need to decide which social-media channels to promote your blog with. It is normal for newbies to create accounts on ALL social media, repeating the same posts on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, blah, blah, blah… but this is both time-consuming and largely ineffective.
Get to know your target customer and determine which route is best to reach them. Normally fashion, lifestyle and trend-focussed blogs are more suited to visual photo-based media, like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Instagram is usually better for reaching a younger audience, while some of us oldies prefer to browse through to Facebook to get our social satisfaction. So take some time to decide which media is best for reaching your target market and tailor your posts for each media.
Just remember: it never gets easier, you just get better!
It certainly takes a thick skin and a lot of persistence to not only create a great blog, but to gain an income through blogging. It certainly isn’t something that just happens overnight, so keep on blogging and you’ll soon be reaching that audience and making money!