I recently read this 2014 post from Lifehacker which gave some interesting stats on blogging at the time it was written. Among the stats in the article there is a quote from Blogging.com which states that, of their audience surveyed (~1000 bloggers), 81% have never made a dime off of their blogs. I find this a little sad and surprising as I happened into niche website blogging by accident and have had success bringing in a steady stream of side income from it. However, that is a story for another day.
How can you start a blog and make money in 2017? Today I want to give you the 30,000 foot view.
Identify a Niche
The first and most obvious step to starting a blog that makes money is to identify a niche. A “niche” is a Biological term that is used quite often in relation to Marketing. When a marketer tells you to “find a niche” they are really just telling you to “find an angle” or “find a space for your product/content”.
This step is hard to do in reverse.
If you already have a product and content it can be difficult to reverse engineer a “space” for yourself. It is much easier to start with a niche and THEN develop content and products to bring value to the niche.
The best place to start looking for a niche are the hobbies and activities you are already interested in. You can take a look at trends and decide to pursue something you think people are going to flock to, but this can be a dangerous approach if you are planning on producing content yourself. Managing a project for the long term that you have very little vested interest in probably won’t result in the highest returns.
So how is a successful niche identified? No matter what any blogger wants to tell you, it’s not an exact science.
Finding a successful and profitable niche is kind of like a family game of chutes and ladders. You can spin the needle just right; memorize all the ladder squares on the board; understand every probability and still end up a loser. You could also sit down to play and realize the game has already ended. Winning in a niche is largely a matter of research, but also a game of algorithms and luck.
Research and Identify Keywords to Target
Without a doubt the most tedious and, potentially, most important part of this whole process is the keyword research. Keyword research refers to the process of identifying the combination and arrangement of words and phrases that real life people will be typing into a search engine (like Google or Bing) in order to find your website.
Good keyword research is the most popular way to filter your niche ideas. In order to make money off of a blog you have to know what people are actually searching for and interested in.
So how do you do it?
1. Choose a tool
2. Pick some keywords
3. Analyze the results
Once you have decided on a niche to research there are many ways to develop possible keywords, but the easiest is just to look at autosuggestions in a Google search bar or to look at the suggestions at the bottom of a search results page.
For example, if I wanted to research a niche on Golden Doodles I would start by going to Google and typing in “golden doodles” (Most people probably aren’t taking the time to capitalize when they search). Immediately I see some autosuggestions that would be great for keyword research: “golden doodles for sale”, “golden doodles near me”, “golden doodles mini”, etc. If I hit enter and scroll to the bottom of the page I can also see more suggestions: “golden doodle shedding”, “golden doodle prices”, “golden doodle temperament”.
Once you have a good list of ideas you can use a “Keyword Research Tool” to analyze your list. I currently use Google Keyword Planner (which is free with a Google Adwords account) and the keyword research tool at thehoth.com (which is also free with an account).
Plug in your keywords and check out the results. What you are looking for are high-trafficked keywords (~2500 searches a month or more) with low competition scores. If you want to take it a step further you can actually Google the keywords yourself and check out the top 10 results (this is your hardest competition). Are they big sites like Wikipedia and WebMD or are they small fish like mygoldendoodlesophie.com?
Create Optimized Content
The next step to this process is to create content that is focused on the keywords you identified were as worthy pursuits. If you are a natural writer, this could mean that you start writing. If you prefer video or audio content, then you can go that route as well. I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that you should probably be considering all 3 approaches in your total content strategy, but we are only going to focus on writing for now.
Develop content that is engaging and Googlified.
First and foremost, your content needs to be valuable and engaging or at least worth a click and a quick read-through. If it’s not, then your visitors will bounce before you get a chance to present them with any advertising or monetization strategy.
Sadly, being engaging usually isn’t enough. If you want your content to be found you need to pay special attention to a few important aspects to each piece of writing you prepare.
1. Your titles should include the keyword you are optimizing for.
2. Your content should include the keyword you are optimizing for but not too many times. : )
3. Your images should include an “alt” tag that contains the keywords you are optimizing for.
4. The url for the page that you are going to display said content in should reference your exact keywords.
5. Write at least 300 words or more per post.
Launch a Website
There is so much to say about this topic that it is probably worth a separate series of posts. Let’s summarize it all briefly by saying “Use Flywheel and choose a WordPress blogging theme.
If you are not a web developer and don’t have any funds to hire one to start your niche project, then managed WordPress hosting and a WordPress blog can get you really far without much headache.
You will need a domain name that is relevant to your niche (bonus points if it actually contains some of your keywords). Point your domain to Flywheel. Use their one-click installer to get going and in less than 10 minutes you can have a functioning blog!
Launch a Newsletter
The value of a newsletter from the start of your project cannot be overstated. Every visitor is a potential newsletter subscriber and a potential customer once your monetization strategy is in place.
This is essentially the only avenue other than promoted social media posts that you will have for reconnecting with visitors to your website so do not overlook it.
Most websites will offer a free resource in exchange for an email address. If you can create one of these, great, if not then at least give them an opportunity to stay in touch before they leave.
MailChimp is a ready-to-go solution for email newsletters and it is free up to 2500 subscriptions. You probably won’t need a paid plan for the first year so it’s a no brainer.
Develop a Monetization Strategy
Once you have a website and optimized and engaging content you will need to figure out how to monetize your traffic when it starts rolling in. There is no sure-fire strategy to monetizing your traffic and it largely depends on your niche. I would start with an Amazon Affiliates account and possibly a Google Adsense account.
Once you are more established you can start searching for more appropriate and better paying affiliates. You can also look at creating physical or information products that can be sold to your audience.
The key here is to provide value with your products. You want to maintain the respect of your audience so be conscientious of the delicate balance between value and sales. Provide your audience value and you should never have a problem making cash off of your site.
I’m sure this post brings up more questions than it answers, but hopefully it will suffice as a brief introduction to a concept that definitely needs more elaboration. If you have immediate questions or want to dig deeper please feel free to email me.
Now go make some money blogging!