Nearly seven months ago I decided to start blogging in order to improve my writing, force myself to think more carefully about my money management activities and try to help others at the same time. It turns out that for some folks, blogging is big business. In fact, I have now begun to get questions from students and others asking how to get started. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still very much a ‘newbie’ in the world of blogging, but there are a few things that I have learned that might be helpful to pass along to others who are considering it as an income opportunity.
Produce a High-Quality Product
As a blogger, your hope is that after you pour your heart and soul into crafting your articles, people actually read them, comment on them and tell their friends so that they can do the same. Well, every good marketer knows a little something about the four P’s — product, price, place and promotion. Product is first for good reason. If you aren’t producing a quality product that consumers need and value, the best marketing campaign in the world is not going to get you customers — or readers in the case of the blogger. Figure out what it is that you want to say so that your blog has a focus. Once you are focused on the nature of your content, find a way to deliver that content in a way that is compelling and human. The great thing about blogging is that you get to tell a story. You can use humor, personal anecdotes or any other tools that help to humanize the message, but this step is key in creating a product that keeps readers coming back for more.
To Advertise or Not to Advertise?
Placing ads on your site (called monetizing) is a great way to generate revenue from your blog. However, because outfits like Google AdSense pay based on the traffic that you generate and the number of times your readers click on the ads, it tends to take a while before you actually see any money from those ads. Most of the bloggers that I have encountered who freely discuss their revenue histories say that it takes about one year before their blog generated any real income. Great! This is only a one year project, so I guess I can forget about making any money off of it. For that reason, I currently do not have any ads on my site. I tried it out for a short time and have earned about $47 to-date.
A Gracious Host
Next, the new blogger should consider where to host the blog. If this is a short-term project or you are uncertain about the seriousness or longevity of the venture, I would recommend a free service like Blogger. The downside is that you won’t have a unique domain like www.365DaysonaBudget.com, but on the upside, your blog can be ready for the world in just minutes with no out-of-pocket expense to you. If you are bound and determined to invest in your new blogging venture, it may make sense to purchase your own domain, find a host and use a more sophisticated blogging tool. It is certainly possible to migrate from one platform to another as you get more serious about your blogging. However, if you know up front that you are in for the long haul, I would take the extra steps. That saves you the extra headache of setting up shop in a new location later on and redirecting all of your traffic to your new web home. I started this whole thing on a whim and decided to use Blogger. However, as I wanted more control over the appearance of the blog and wanted to get listed with Money Crashers, WiseBread and some of the other top blog lists, I found that I had outgrown Blogger. Given that the cost of the domain and and the hosting are less than $100 for a year, it probably would have made more sense to start with the more sophisticated product from the beginning. Oh well, you live and you learn!
Once you are writing great articles on a regular basis, have made decisions on whether or not to monetize, and have gotten settled in your web home, it’s time to let the world know who you are. You can do this in a number of ways. Be forewarned! All of these things require a time commitment. If you are really serious about blogging and generating income from the venture, you should plan to dedicate at least five hours per week to marketing your blog and this does not include the time spent producing content. Here are three ‘biggies’ in the area of marketing your blog:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO). These are techniques that you can use to embed special codes (tags) in your site in order to help search engines find you and increase your page rank. That way, when someone searches on a topic that you cover in your blog, you will land at the top of their list of search results. You can program these things by hand, but fortunately for folks like me, there are lots of great plugin applications that work with your blogging platform (like WordPress) to make this fairly painless.
- Comments. Solicit comments from your readers and if they have their own blogs, visit them and leave your own comments. The blogging community (blogosphere) is pretty friendly, and this type of back and forth is welcomed. If you leave thoughtful comments on other blogs, the blog owner is likely to want to learn more about you and be willing to tell their readers about you or even include you in their ‘blogroll’. Don’t forget about microblogging via Twitter! This is a great way to connect with other bloggers who may follow you on Twitter as well as read your blog and recommend you to their own readers.
- Be a Guest. Many bloggers welcome guest bloggers provided the guest post fits their focus and is well-written. Make a list of the other top blogs in your area. You may even find such a list already compiled. Try Google Blog Search as one way to find out who is blogging on a particular topic.
If You Build It . . .
I liken the process to that great movie quote, “If you build it, they will come.” There really are just four main steps to the business of blogging and they aren’t all that different from any other business when you are talking about how to sell a product. You must first creat a high-quality product, determine a price (which relates to advertising for the blogger), find an appropriate platform and host and then promote the blog. That’s it — the four P’s as they relate to the business of blogging. Good luck!