If you’re interested in blogging, you’ve probably seen plenty of case studies with screenshots of crazy revenue numbers from blogs.
You see screenshots like this one:
… and this one:
Which makes you think starting a blog is a good idea … and it is!
But making money from blogging takes time, quite a bit of effort, and most importantly, an effective strategy.
Blogging for beginners
It only takes about 15 minutes to set up a blog, but it can take years to make money from it.
If you’ve ever seen blogs that appear to profit instantly, it’s usually because the person who started the blog already had a substantial following or personal brand. When that’s the case, they can direct their current audience to their new blog and quickly grow their readership.
For everyone else, this guide will show you how to avoid common blogging mistakes and set up a blog positioned to make money, as well as how to craft a strategy that leads to sustainable growth.
Find a niche for your blogging
The first step is to decide on your niche. There are two key items when selecting a niche:
- It should be something you’re passionate about.
- It’s proven to make money.
Let’s tackle the first point now.
If you start a food blog but don’t enjoy cooking or baking, blogging on that subject will be just like any other job you don’t enjoy.
The niche you select is an industry you will have to build relationships in, and without natural curiosity about the subject, you likely won’t have the insight and expertise of those who love the subject.
The second point is to …
Choose a niche that has already proven itself profitable
This is important because if you select an obscure niche, you likely won’t be able to grow a large enough audience to make your blog appealing to sponsors or drive revenue with Adsense.
Additionally, if you offer merchandise, you won’t be able to sell large quantities because your audience will be very specific and small.
Therefore, while you may be attracted to less competitive niches, entering a more competitive niche gives you the security that a wide audience enjoys the subject.
A more competitive niche can also can be useful for relationship-building that will help grow your blogging project more quickly.
In addition, you can glean inspiration from competitors by analyzing marketing campaigns they performed that worked and didn’t work, rather than experimenting on your own.
So, how do you decide if a niche has enough competition?
Simple. Just Google the niche you’re interested in and attach “blog” to the end of it:
Then take the top URL (in this case mybakingaddiction.com) and put it into a free tool like Ubersuggest.
This will give you an overview of the total traffic that the blog generates.
Ideally, you want to see that the top result has at least 100,000 visitors. The baking niche, therefore, passes the test.
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Set up your blog
The next step is to set up your blog. During this phase, you will:
- Select a hosting platform.
- Select a domain name.
- Establish your theme and design.
WordPress.org is a great option to create your website. (Note that there’s also WordPress.com, so be sure you’re using the .org version.)
While Wix or Squarespace may seem a little more user-friendly at first glance, they have limited SEO (search engine optimization) options, which means that you’ll likely have to migrate your website to WordPress.org eventually.
Not only is a site migration a hassle, but you could also lose traffic and Google rankings, so it’s best to start with WordPress.org.
Choose the right hosting plan
Therefore, once you’ve selected WordPress.org, you’ll have to select a hosting plan. A hosting plan is essentially what makes your blog accessible to people on the web.
The host you choose has a huge impact on the well-being of your website as it can influence:
- Whether or not your website gets hacked
- The speed of your site (which is essential to SEO)
- The downtime of your website (how many and how long outages on your website occur)
While there are a variety of different hosting options available, you can start browsing the following:
These hosts tend to have great uptime, security, and support, which makes them ideal for hosting your blog.
Choose your domain name
Once you have a host, you can choose a domain name and purchase it through your host. As you choose a domain name, be sure that it:
- Is easy to pronounce
- Is relatively short (under 20 characters)
- Uses a common top level domain (such as .com or .net)
- Contains only letters (no hyphens, underscores, etc.)
- It isn’t trademarked (If it’s too similar to another domain, you could land in legal trouble.)
If you get really stuck, you can always use a domain generator for inspiration.
Once you’ve decided on a domain name, you can purchase it through your hosting provider.
The next step is to get your website up and running. Making your website live usually varies based on the hosting provider you’ve selected.
For example, Bluehost allows you to set up the bare bones of your website within their platform.
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle, you can simply hire someone on Upwork to do it for you.
Just give them the domain name, tell them you want it built on WordPress.org, and let them know which of the four hosting providers above you want to use.
In total, this whole process should take about half an hour. Once your website is live, be sure to have an About page, home page, and blog page set up.
Once you have those, it’s time to start creating content.
Generate ideas for your blogging
Unfortunately, readers don’t magically appear. And without an audience, it will be virtually impossible to make money from your blog, as the value of a blog is the attention it receives.
So, how do you find readers?
The key is to reverse engineer that question. Instead of thinking about how to get people to your blog, think about what your target audience searches for on the internet.
For example, if you’re creating a travel blog, a lot of people are probably searching for things like:
- Day trip ideas in The Black Forest, Germany
- How to pack for a winter vacation in Sweden
- What is the best food to try in France
As you can see, simply blogging about your own adventures won’t generate any initial traffic because that wouldn’t answer burning questions your readers have.
Sure, you can include random things that occurred on your adventures, but if you don’t have any informational tips and tricks, your blog won’t generate many visitors.
So, how can you discover hot topics your audience wants to read about?
There are a few different methods:
- Forums (either industry-specific or Quora, Reddit, etc.)
- Competitor analysis
- Keyword research
If someone has a question and can’t find an answer to it on Google, they’ll probably ask it in a forum.
Here are a few ideas from Quora for the travel niche. For example, you could put together a blog post on ideal clothing for various parts of Germany.
Another great place to check that is more industry-specific might be Tripadvisor.
For example, you could turn this question into a wonderful post like “10 Things to Do in Colorado for Couples Who Don’t Want to Ski.”
Another thing you can try is competitive analysis. It’s a super simple way to discover what blog posts (or other content) currently bring the most traffic for your competitors.
The key is to first find other smaller blogs in your niche. This is because you won’t be able to compete with your largest competitors right off the bat, so if you copy the strategy that works for them, it probably won’t work for you.
Note that “smaller competitors” means competitors in your niche that generate less than 5,000 visits per month and have a domain authority of less than 20. (In a moment, you’ll see how you can find how many monthly visitors a website receives and the domain authority score.)
So, how do you actually find smaller competitors?
As larger competitors tend to dominate search results, the key to finding your smaller competitors is to niche down your search.
For example, if you plan to have a vegan food blog, search for something very specific like “mom vegan baking blog.”
You’ll notice that the top-ranking result for “vegan blog” has organic monthly traffic of more than 670,000 visitors and has a domain authority of 61:
… whereas the top-ranking result for “mom vegan baking blog” is:
From there, you can look up the topics of their most successful blog posts.
Ahrefs is relatively expensive ($99 per month), but it provides all the SEO/content marketing information you’ll need during your journey as a blogger and you’ll likely find yourself using it constantly.
Therefore, once you have Ahrefs, you can take the URL of the small competitor and put it in the dashboard.
From there, click on “Top pages” under “Organic search.”
Once you see their top pages, you’ll identify some terms that aren’t too competitive. (That’s why it’s important to analyze competitors with low domain authorities, as your content could be in direct competition with them.)
For example, you can see that “vegan raspberry muffins” is one of their top pages.
So if you create an even better page about vegan raspberry muffins, you should easily be able to start earning some relevant targeted traffic. (Below we’ll go over what a “better page” entails.)
Finally, if you’re really stuck and can’t think of any ideas, you can also use Ahrefs to do simple keyword research: Type in a generic keyword and then click on “Having same terms.”
Then, filter the KD (keyword difficulty) to be 0-15. This will ensure that the keywords you’re creating content around aren’t too difficult.
Narrow down your blogging topics
If you already used keyword research for the ideation step, you can skip this step.
However, if you used ideas from forums or competitor analysis, it’s important to now narrow down your topic to ensure your keywords have low difficulties.
Go back to your keyword research
Again, this is something that you can do in a tool like Ahrefs by entering the keywords of your chosen topic in the Keyword Explorer tab.
For example, if you found a blogging topic like “what to do in Vail besides ski,” you’ll see that it has a relatively low keyword difficulty. (Don’t worry that it only has 30 monthly searches. For now you’ll just target low difficulty keywords.)
Therefore, this is a great keyword to target.
However, you may notice that some keywords don’t have any search volume. For example, if you type “things to do in Colorado besides skiing,” you’ll notice that there is no search volume.
Instead, Google the keyword “things to do in Colorado besides skiing,” and then take the top URL, put it into Ahrefs, and then click “Organic keywords.”
From there, you’ll see a list of keywords relevant to the topic you want to write about:
Plan your content outline and write a blog post
Once you’ve brainstormed a few different blog post ideas, the next step is to write your content.
Success as a blogger heavily depends on your search engine rankings, so look at the topic’s competition before writing your post.
For example, if you decided to write a guide about hut-to-hut hiking in Switzerland, Google “hut-to-hut hiking in Switzerland” and analyze the top competing posts.
Specifically, look at the average word count and overall layout and design.
For example, if you see that the top-ranking posts are all list posts and have an average word count of around 2,000 words, your blogging will probably need to be somewhere in that ballpark.
However, if the top few results are mostly images and just a few hundred words (for example, a recipe post), writing a 2,000-word blog post may not be the best user experience and could actually harm your rankings.
Serve a specific audience
Google’s goal is to serve up the best results, so if your blog post lacks depth on a detailed topic or is too detailed on a topic that requires a quick response, your rankings will suffer.
Once you’ve done some research on what kind of experience the user is looking for (image-based post vs. list post vs. ultimate guide, etc.) think about what you can do to make your post even better than the competition’s post.
Here’s a quick blogging lesson from Copyblogger’s Editor-in-Chief Stefanie Flaxman.
Improve your load time
If your page loads too slowly, readers will leave the page (bounce), which tells Google your result was unsatisfactory.
Recipe posts are notorious for having poor load times. Therefore, you can check your load time with a tool like PageSpeed Insights (after the post is published). Then you can hire someone on Upwork to make any adjustments to improve your load time.
Be sure that a post loads quickly on both desktop and mobile devices. Google has a mobile-first indexing policy, meaning they judge your website on the mobile version rather than the desktop version.
Again, a lot of recipes provide a poor user experience because they force you to scroll to the end of the page to see the recipe.
This leads to a higher bounce rate, which negatively impacts your rankings. In addition, if you have a lot of text, break it up with subheadings, images, bullet points, and summaries/key findings at the end of each passage.
For example, notice how much easier the post with images and bolded points is to read versus the one that’s just text?
Provide more depth with your blogging (when appropriate)
One of the best ways to outrank the competition for informational keywords is to fill in any gaps that they may have missed in their content.
For example, let’s say you’re writing an ultimate guide to backpacking in Switzerland. If you notice that nobody else mentions special snacks to bring, be sure to include a section on it.
However, it’s important to add depth only if it provides more value to the reader. Otherwise, simply writing a longer post could actually deter someone from reading it.
For example, writing a long story about a recipe simply to make a post longer usually isn’t the right move. It may cause your post to rank lower because people only want the recipe.
Include expert quotes
Another great way to make your post even better than the competition is to include quotes from various experts.
For example, let’s say you have a post such as “10 Tips to Reduce Costs in Switzerland.” You can ask other travelers who’ve gone to Switzerland how they reduced costs and how much money they saved.
Once you have a topic and a strategy to make your post better than all of the other posts that currently exist for your search term, it’s time to write.
Check out: How to Write a Good Blog Post.
Promoting your blog posts
Once you’ve started blogging, it’s still unlikely that people will magically find you. This is because Google tends to rank posts from websites with high authority.
While the keyword-research phase should help you only target keywords with low difficulty, your posts likely won’t be popular immediately.
Therefore, after your blog launch, spend some time promoting your posts. There are a few different ways you can do this.
If you already asked some influencers (e.g., other bakers, chefs, travelers, etc.) for quotes, let them know when you publish the blog post that features their quote. They’ll likely share that content with their audience.
This could give you a nice boost in rankings because Google likes to see people spending time on your website.
For example, the Institute of Culinary Education once featured the blogger below. As a result, the blogger shared the final post on social media.
However, you don’t have to be the Culinary Institute of Education to feature another industry expert.
You can reach out to anyone with a following in your industry and ask them for a quote. Most are more than willing to offer advice.
If you’ve invested some time into creating your content, you might as well invest a few dollars into promoting your blogging with paid ads.
You can use either social media or Google AdWords to do this.
Here are various guides to running ad campaigns on:
Finally, one of the best ways to build your website’s authority is to build links pointing toward it.
A backlink (also referred to simply as a “link”) is essentially when one website sends a reader to another website for more information on a topic.
Below is an example where Content Marketing Institute links to AdRoll.
Links are important to Google because they represent trust. They signal that the website receiving the link is popular and/or authoritative.
However, not all links are created equal. In fact, if you have links from low-quality websites, it can actually harm your site.
Therefore, only build links from high-quality websites relevant to your industry.
If you want to dive into the specifics of quality link-building, check out this guide here.
Ready to start blogging today?
If you’ve considered building a blog, now is the time to do it.
Even if you only have 15 minutes per day to devote toward blogging, your content could be an easy way to build a second income stream.
While you won’t see results overnight, you’ll be surprised how profitable (and fun!) blogging can be in the long run.