Make Money Blogging – Top Tips For Bloggers
So, you want to cash in on blogger mania? You have something to say to the world about something? Someone told you that your life belongs online? Your truth is stranger than fiction? You think you’re an undiscovered writer? You heard that you can make bank blogging and never change out of your pajamas or have to people again? Join the ever-expanding ranks of online influencers, and learn now the things that we’ve learned the hard way, either by trying or failing, failing to plan, underestimating the amount of work, overestimating our skills or getting gobsmacked when something went horribly right or wrong.
Do not get me wrong. I mean, it can be awesome sauce with whipped cream, sprinkles and a cherry on top. I am writing this in Lularoe leggings under a Julia, with AKG headphones blaring Jimmy Buffett tunes, and a glass of wine while my kid enjoys his new Gear VR with my Samsung S8+, and the only thing I paid for was the wine, and that’s only because I have not yet figured out how to get wineries to send me products. Yet. Working on it, though.
For me, the prizes have come much faster than the cash, and the prizes keep getting bigger and better. You should see the piles of prizes. Microsoft? EA Games? Williams-Sonoma? Lularoe? LG? Nintendo? Crate and Barrel? My kid had a Switch two weeks before they were sold in stores. He’s 10. I don’t know why they sent it. But okay.
The cash takes some work, though. And really, the cash is where you probably want to be. The cash is where I want to be. It’s fun to greet FedEx guys carrying boxes of who knows what from who knows whom, but show me the damned dinero, ya know? That’s what the electric company wants. I can’t send Comcast a KitchenAid and hope they keep the cable on so I can make frozen adult beverages while I write about stuff I don’t’ care about in my pajamas. And neither can you.
Time and Expectations
Self-Host a WordPress.org site From the Start
If you’ve already gotten started with blogspot or Wix or one of the others, don’t worry too much. You can switch it out and roll it over without much trouble (there are plug-ins that do that for you). But you want to own your domain name; you do not want Faheem sending you things like this:
He wanted $75 for a domain name he wasn’t using that probably cost him $3.95. There are folks out there who troll sites looking for promising blog names and buy them with the intention of selling them back to you at a 1000% profit. They call themselves entrepreneurs, but we in the blogosphere call them assholes. Buy your domain now!
Even if you are starting on a shoestring, find the $10. I was absolutely on a shoestring and a fraying, old, smelly one at that. I own www.iamthekraken.com, which is my blog site, but I also own www.thekrakensays.com, which is my @name everywhere and a variety of other iterations of it. Don’t play around if you’re serious about it. This is your brand and your brand matters.
(Total disclaimer: My sister, Kate and my friend, Deirdre, both told me this last November and insisted I spend the $10 on each of the domains. It was not something I just knew to do, and I’m lucky I had them to advise me. I had a blogspot for years before I decided to go full Kraken and own my shit.)
Why? Good question. There are a bunch of reasons (other than vanity). First, WordPress.org is like the gold standard of blogging, which I did not know when I started but again, I had good advice that I’m now passing on to you. It’s also the one that allows you to advertise things most easily, import ads from brands and sell things and so on. It makes earning money easier. WordPress.com is going to give you grief about that. And it’s hard on Wix and Blogspot and so on. So just bite the freaking bullet, and jump in. If your goal is to make money with your blog, you’re going to have to do it at some point. Why not right now?
Pick a theme. They’re free on WordPress.org and on a bunch of other sites. Try them out, change them up, play with them. Find YOU. Just make sure they’re responsive and mobile-friendly. They should tell you that when you’re browsing through them. You will then be self-hosted which is the goal for all bloggers. You own your stuff, and there are seven hundred thousand million YouTube videos, Facebook groups, cheat sheets and other resources to support WordPress.org. Literally, every question you have will be answered in every language spoken plus Latin, Aramaic, and Aztec in a variety of formats including hieroglyphs carved in stone if that’s your preference. There is no lack of how-to for WordPress.
Establish your Name/Brand
Once you have your domain, or even while you are deciding upon your domain name, make sure that name is available and snap it up on Facebook (as a blog page), Pinterest (business), Instagram (business), Twitter, and StumbleUpon. Bloglovin’ is an up and coming site. You may as well go for it there, too. Set up an email on gmail with that name or one as close to it as you can get. Own that name. Make sure because if there is one thing you can be certain about, it’s that your readers are going to be super-lazy and possibly dumb. They don’t want to follow your blog that has a different name on Instagram that has another name on Twitter and yet another Facebook. Make it easy for them to remember and hard for them to forget. I may put that on a car magnet. That’s genius.
My blog is iamthekraken but it’s @thekrakensays everywhere else, and that’s what my logo says. My gmail is email@example.com. It’s easy to find. I’m out there with it. In all the places. That’s what you want. Consistency.
Search Engine Optimization is how you get noticed and ranked in the searches people do for things like your topic. Use a keyword tool like Jaaxy to find and use the most searched-for words around your topic. Install the plug-in called Yoast on your blog. As you choose your title, keywords, photos and content it will tell you if you’re on track to be SEO good. You want all of your content to be SEO perfect. If you want to understand more, you can google it, but I found that this quick read called SEO 2017 was awesome, and I got it from our library. You will hear a lot about SEO, and it really is important to understand it. Even the most obscure topics have search trends that you want to maximize, and even how you title something can matter a lot.
Once you enter the blogosphere, you’re going to hear a lot about affiliate marketing. What is it? It’s when you partner with companies who partner with specific brands, and you post about those brands on your blog or on other social media attached to your brand. It’s one of the major revenue streams for bloggers, and there is an endless list of groups with which you can become a content marketing affiliate. They aren’t that complicated when you sign up with them. To get ahead of the game, download Form W-9 from the IRS, fill it out and scan in .pdf format and keep it handy. Almost all will ask you for an uploaded copy of it for tax purposes. What? Yes, darlings, we have to pay taxes on income from our blogs. You are becoming the sole proprietor of a business. But that also means you can write off lots of expenses related to working from home like your new laptop and your cell phone bill and your internet and so (I’m not an accountant, so check on that, but they are legit business expenses to leverage against your income).
Content marketing is when you write about things (content) on your blog with the intent to sell them or to encourage your readers to buy them. There are lots of ways to do it. You can integrate into whatever you are writing about. Review products. Recommend things. Display photos. Make lists of “The 5 Best…” or the “10 Products that Are Awesome Camping Hacks.” Holidays are great. Do holiday posts. Amazon lets you do a cool thing where you can choose products to display that sort of go along with what you’re writing even if you’re not writing about them. If someone clicks and buys, you get a little bit of money. And little bits add up. Take a look at this post that I wrote HERE. I didn’t advertise anything in the content. But see the bar across the bottom? Those are things that I picked just because they go along with my topic. I’m not encouraging anyone to buy them necessarily in the writing, but if someone does click on that and then buys anything at all on Amazon (not just what I listed, and maybe stuff they already had sitting in their cart) while they are there? I get a bit of money. Easy and not annoying, right?
You can also, so long as it’s okay with the brand, use Instagram and Pinterest to market their brands. Create pins to go with your posts and embed the link to your blog. Same with Instagram. Use hashtags that will generate lots of views and let them click back to you. This is easy, passive income that can really add up. But it’s work. You are going to have to put in the time.
Finally, a word of caution. You have to disclose that you are an affiliate marketer. Some of the companies give you specific language to use (amazon does that). Some require you to disclose in your own words. And it’s got to be obvious and clear and understandable. The FTC is really cracking down on this. It probably won’t matter if you’re small and earning pocket change, but if you become and influencer, it can mean a whole lot of trouble if you are writing about anything for which you can get paid. This is not like Facebook jail, where you can’t post for 48 hours. This is like getting sued and never being able to work with those partners again. Which leads us to our next topic…
A sponsored post is something you write about a product or service because you have either pitched the company and made an agreement or they’ve reached out to you and you have come to terms. Sometimes, they will pay you cash for this service, and sometimes you get products in return for whatever content you provide on whatever medium. They do this because you are considered an influencer. You do not necessarily have to have tons of traffic to pitch a brand on a post you’d like to write. You simply reach out to their affiliate manager or advertising person (there are lots of Facebook groups filled with names of which person where is best to contact, and there are groups devoted to “pitching,” and there are groups devoted to how to do product reviews). You can get everything from travel accommodations to electronics to camping gear. But you need to write about it or vlog about it, and take photos and promote the posts that follow. Whatever your agreement is.
SUPER Passive Marketing
Another way to monetize your blog (I know, I know, yes, still more) is to do passive advertising like letting Google AdSense or Amazon post to your blog pages. You can pick where it appears, and you have some control over what appears, and they try to match it to your topic, but if you allow it, and your readers purchase from them, you get a commission. It’s easy to sign up for these, and you need to place them on your posts or pages. The other good thing is that if you’re running AdSense with Google, it will score you a little higher on the SEO scale with them and they’ll drive more traffic to your blog.
When you see blogs that have random things running across the middle or down the side? That’s usually AdSense at work.
Some people swear by it and have ads all over the place. Others find it annoying or “aesthetically displeasing” and don’t engage. I’ve signed up, but I haven’t placed any ads. Partly that’s because I can’t figure out how. Partly that’s because I don’t like how it looks, and I find it distracting on other pages, so I haven’t tried very hard to figure it out. I’m thinking maybe I’ll do it in the left column on my landing page. I don’t know. The good news is that you don’t have to use it for every post, and you can remove it if you don’t like it. It’s not like when you get married and figure out it’s a mistake and then you have to bury a body in another state so that it’s federal crime because if Orange is the New Black has taught us anything, it’s that federal prison is way better than state and divorce is so much more trouble and money than just ditching a body.
In terms of earning money for doing next to nothing, though, this is one way to do it. If you have decent blog traffic, someone is going to click on something that leads to a sale, and that’s money in your account.
Sell Self-Created Content
As you are establishing your brand and your niche, you can consider selling things that you created yourself. And I don’t mean hand puppets or refrigerator pickles or clam shell candles. Just go use Etsy for that. People are earning a lot of money creating downloadable books, brochures, cheat-sheets, webinars and other materials around a host of topics (most of which have to do with how to make money being a blogger), but some of them are doing other stuff, too. I saw someone doing pretty well with a dog-training blog and selling tip sheets. Job skills and resume consulting and career coaching folks often sell their own services and materials. This week, a friend told me about a dental hygienist writing a blog and selling herself as a “personal oral health coach”. And while that suggested that I am clearly not thinking broadly enough about my own career options, I also had some admiration. She found a market. I don’t know if I’d pay for that service, but some people will, and that’s all you need. Find your people, and their money will follow.
Think hard about where your expertise lies. Just because there are YouTube videos and other books out there about what you’d say doesn’t mean that there isn’t going to be a market for how you say it or what you say about it.
If you are an expert in an area, but you’re not the world’s best writer, layout designer or publisher (or if you don’t have the time or energy to become one), you can reasonably pay someone to ghostwrite and design the content that you want to sell on your site under your direction. From what I’ve read, the people publishing that kind of content do pretty well financially once they’ve established their creds.
I’m watching people who are doing this with some real interest now and thinking about it. And you should, too. But more on that in another post.
Facebook Groups and Instagram Pods
Join all of the FB groups about blogging in general and blogging about your niche that you can. There are tons. And then post to them and interact with them. You’re not going to get lots of shares at first. No one is going to care about your Mommy Blog with 14 followers. But as you persist, people will get to know you. Bloggers will remember that you shared their posts. People will start sharing yours. I’ve found it really helps a lot to post what a piece is about along with the link. That way, other bloggers will know where to pin it or tweet it or whatever. What you are looking for is exposure and friends in the blogging world.
Friends will lead to guest posts (which this is). But they really help both you and the friend because you’re generating cross-traffic and creating a community of support and help. You will share readers. You will both find followers. It’s not a competition. If someone likes your blog, that person can like 5 others and it takes nothing from you at all. There are enough followers to go around. Even my drunk neighbor has a computer. He probably reads porn blogs, but hey…he’s a follower somewhere, somehow. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there as someone willing to guest blog. I can write about anything. I’ve been writing forever. I can write the most formal, academic research papers that will pass muster on the first round for a peer-reviewed journal, and I can write the silliest things you ever want to read about Cheeseburger and Fries, our emotionally disturbed hermit crabs. So go for opportunities that force you to stretch and learn a bit. You are not confined to your niche.
You also want to look around for opportunities to joint Instagram pods. These are groups of Instagrammers that form a group and like and promote each other’s posts. They are formed quietly but they’re really effective at moving traffic across your posts and toward your blog. And if you’re doing affiliate marketing with Instagram posts, they’re a huge help to keep your posts high in the rankings. Most of the groups will form on Facebook, then someone will migrate them over to Instagram. Good news? This is not niche-driven at all, so everyone signs up and likes each other’s stuff and follows.
Okay, the blogging world revolves around Pinterest, and I didn’t figure that out until I was about two months into this. But Pinterest is where it’s at, and you can not only do affiliate marketing right on Pinterest, you can drive traffic to your blog like mad with it. You want to be pinning and re-pinning and pinning some more. Luckily, there are services that will do this for you. Like Tailwind. Tailwind will allow you to schedule pins (when pinning happens matters) and Instagram posts. The first 100 are free; common internet wisdom says that 80% of the pins should be others (re-pinning) and 20% should be yours. This is one that is worth it, and it doesn’t take a ton of time or energy to do it.
So where are you supposed to get all these pins and ‘grams and things? One of the best free and easy sites is Canva. You can create Instagram posts with your own photos and their text and graphics, or just their texts and graphics, and you can create Pinterest content there, too. You want to have a pin for every post that you do. And you want to re-pin it multiple times. But I digress.
I guess our biggest point here is that there is money to be made here in this space, but just like anything else, it’s going to take work and time. You can do most of it in your pajamas, or sitting on a beach or at your desk if your boss isn’t watching, but it is a longer-term investment strategy. I’m a great writer, but I did not have enough clues about the vital importance of social media presence and putting you out there at the start. I’ve pretty much invested a couple of months of serious time to learning this and doing this and it’s now paying some dividends, and I feel pretty secure about the path.
I have a presence in some of the blogging communities. I’m doing guest posts. I have some Tailwind Tribes. I’m in some Instagram pods. I’ve established a recognizable meme “look and feel”. I write about lots of things – I am niche-less by choice. But I’m always funny and approachable (and carefully not mean in that humor). That’s easier and harder than having a solid niche because while it gives me the freedom to write about whatever captures me, it also makes my SEO unpredictable, so Yoast yells at me. But I have a plan now, and that’s something I did not have at the start. The blog is growing steadily. I’m picking up about 50 or so Facebook followers a week. Traffic to the blog is increasing at a steady rate. People are engaging more. I’ve made a modest amount of money. But it’s been a ¾ time job for me to get there, and I’m just really lucky that I have had that time to invest or I wouldn’t be growing this fast.
The other thing to remember is that blogging is really unpredictable. You might devote a ton of time to something that you think is like the best, most well-researched, interesting, funny, visually pleasing post that the internet has ever seen and literally no one will care. Not even your best friend will press “like” and you will be ready to quit. Then you’ll write something off-the cuff, wonder if you should even post it, and you’ll have 500 likes in 4 hours. I’m currently watching traffic on a post I did a month ago about “Negotiating Financial Aid Packages” at college explode (literally, while I am writing this, I am watching the numbers climb and twitter go bananas). I mean, it’s well-done, and I have the background to write with a lot of authority about it, but what? Really? It’s the only thing that is not remotely funny. It’s got not very many photos and lots of screenshots with arrows. It’s basically a really technical piece. But you know what? Timing. Families are doing this now. This is filling a need that is very current at this very moment. And SEO. I picked the right tags so that it’s high in the rankings. You never know. I wish I had some damned advertising on it.