Think blogging’s just a hobby? Think again – it can actually make you quite good money. Here’s how to get started, find your niche and turn your blog into a nice little money earner.
We’ll be honest: blogging isn’t the easiest way to make money. But, the great thing is that anyone can do it, and it looks amazing on your CV.
All you need is something interesting to say and enough patience and dedication to build traffic and a following. But how do successful bloggers make their money? We’ve interviewed a couple of them to reveal their monetisation secrets.
Our guide gives you a concrete action plan to get your blog off the ground and grow it into a profitable little business from home.
How to start a blog
You have two main options when it comes to actually setting up a blog – you can use a free blogging platform, or you can create your own website. We’ll take you through both, outlining their pros and cons.
1. Free blogging platforms
A lot of platforms will allow you to set up a blog for free, and they’re super easy to use. If you’re just wanting to blog casually at first, this could suit you well.
But, free blogging platforms can be very limiting. You’ll only be able to customise to a limited extent, and your blog will have a storage limit which could make it harder to upload large videos and images.
Another drawback is that your blog URL will be something like ‘www.yourblog.wordpress.com’ with the platform branding.
Most free blogging platforms also don’t allow you to place banner adverts or affiliate links on your site, which are key revenue streams for most bloggers.
However, if these things don’t bother you, here’s a quick rundown of the best free online blogging platforms.
Best blogging sites:
a. WordPress.com – This is a free basic blog hosting service that’s easy to use. You’ll have to put up with WordPress ads and branding unless you pay a monthly fee, and you can’t put ads on your site. There are also limited options for customisation and expansion.
b. Blogger – Google’s free blog hosting service, Blogger, is really simple to use. But, the customisation and design options are very limited, and there aren’t a lot of options if you want to add new features.
c. Medium – With Medium, the emphasis is on the writing rather than design. It’s used by lots of journalists, writers and experts and is a great way to share your work with a particular community. You can’t run any ads and it’s difficult to create your own personal branding.
2. How to choose a blog topic
This can either be the easiest or the hardest part of starting your blog.
The most important thing at this stage is to choose a niche which you can call yourself an authority in – the biggest mistake new bloggers make in such a crowded blogosphere is starting a blog without trying to do something surprising or different.
For example, if fashion’s your thing, instead of combining generic fashion content, you could combine your love for clothes with your big-hearted concern for the environment by blogging about environmentally-conscious designers instead?
These are the best ways to find a topic for your new blog:
a. Look at other blogs – This should be your first port of call. What’s already successful? And more importantly, what’s missing? Find the gaps in the market.
b. Use Google – What are people searching for? Use Google suggested searches and auto-complete to discover what people are looking for – if they’re searching for it, that shows there’s a demand.
c. Search forums for common FAQs – When people can’t find answers to their questions, they go to forums. What are they asking? What do they need advice on? This will show what people are interested in and what there’s a lack of available information on.
d. Track current trends – What topics are in the media right now? It’s good to pick a topic with longevity, but if you can piggy-back on a trend early on, you can quickly establish yourself as an expert on it before anyone else. Searching #journorequest on Twitter shows what kind of themes journalists are currently reporting on.
e. Think about different types of content – Could you do tutorials/how-to guides? Reviews? Interviews? Lists? It might not be what you write about, but how you write which sets you apart.
f. Identify your own interests and passions – While all of the above are important, there’s no point in blogging about something you have zero interest in. You’ll quickly get bored and people will spot your lack of enthusiasm. Write about something you really, truly care about.
3. How to increase your blog traffic
Once you’ve created your website, come up with a kick-ass blog topic and you’ve published your first posts, the big question is – where are all the readers?
You can’t just expect people to magically find your blog and start reading it. You have to promote it!
Here are the best and easiest ways to get more readers for your blog:
a. Promote your blog on social media
As with any business nowadays, you’re not likely to get noticed if you don’t have social media accounts.
We recommend setting up pages/accounts for your blog on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and even LinkedIn (you’re essentially your own business anyway, right?). Design these accounts in a similar colour scheme/theme to your blog so your brand is consistent and easily recognisable.
Use them to share new posts and tag fellow bloggers/influencers/companies who might share your content and help it to reach an even bigger audience.
You could also dabble in some paid advertising to help your blog reach a wider audience, or run a competition to generate more likes. Once you’ve got the followers, keep them interested by posting on a regular basis (not just for new blog posts).
b. Connect with other bloggers
Make yourself known to other people who blog about similar topics. Despite the fact you’re technically a competitor, you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by how supportive the blogger community can be.
Many bloggers even have a ‘links’ page on their site which they use to link to loads of their friends within the community in return for a link on your own blog. This will help massively with your SEO (that’s search engine optimisation – how likely your blog is to pop up in Google searches).
If you engage with other bloggers and share their content, they’ll likely return the favour – you could even work on some collaborations!
c. Create viral content
Creating viral content will help you reach a new market and, in turn, increase your readership.
This might be easier said than done, but the key to creating viral content is to tap into controversial or highly-discussed topics related to your niche blogging field – as you can imagine, this often involves newsjacking, as mentioned above.
As this is your niche, you’ll be passionate, opinionated and knowledgable about it, so you’ll be able to post an opinion that people want to read, share and talk about.