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:
And you think starting a blog is a good idea. And it is!
Though the reality is that making money from a blog takes time, quite a bit of effort, and most importantly, an effective strategy.
It only takes about 15 minutes to set up a blog, but it can take years to make money from it.
For those who appear to make money from blogs instantly, it’s usually because they already had some industry influence or a personal brand and could redirect their current audience or wield their influence to grow the blog’s audience quickly.
Therefore, this guide will show you not only how to set up a blog that will make money, but also how to grow it and build a strategy that leads to sustainable growth.
Finding a niche
The first step is to decide on your niche. There are two key items to 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, running a blog 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 as 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.
It also can be useful as you’ll be able to build more industry relationships that will help you grow 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, though ideally more. The baking niche, therefore, passes the test.
Setting 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.
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)
- Many more
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.
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. Getting 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.
Generating blog post (content) ideas
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 generate more 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 writing 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
The first way we’ll discuss is using forums.
If people have 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 post on ideal clothing for various parts of Germany.
Another great place to check that is more industry-specific might be Trip Advisor.
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 food blog” is over 670,000 and has a domain authority of 61:
… whereas the top-ranking result for “mom vegan baking blog” is:
From there, you can look up what their most successful blog posts are.
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 of 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.
Narrowing down your 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 keyword has a low difficulty.
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 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 as right 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:
Planning your content outline and writing the post
Once you’ve settled on a few different blog post ideas, the next step is to write your content.
As ranking on Google is key to your success as a blogger, look at the topic’s competition before writing the 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, you’ll 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.
Ultimately, Google’s goal is to serve the reader the ideal result, 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 little checklist to run through:
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) and hire someone on Upwork to make any adjustments to improve your load time.
Note: Be sure that it loads quickly on both desktop and mobile devices as Google has a mobile-first indexing policy, meaning they judge your website on the mobile version rather than the desktop version.
Again, most recipes provide a poor user experience as 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 headings, images, bullet points, and summaries/key findings at the end of each passage.
For example, notice how much easier one with images and bolded points is to read versus the one that is just text?
Provide more depth (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, if you’re writing an ultimate guide to backpacking in Switzerland and notice that nobody else mentions special snacks to bring, be sure to include a section on it.
However, note that it’s important to add depth only if it would provide more value to the reader. Simply writing a longer post will actually deter the reader from reading your post if the additional content doesn’t provide insightful value.
For example, writing a long story about a recipe simply to make the post longer 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, if you have a post such as “10 Tips to Reduce Costs in Switzerland,” you can ask other travelers that have gone to Switzerland what they did to reduce costs and how much money they saved.
Once you have a topic and a strategy to make the post better than all of the other posts that currently exist for the result, all you have to do is write it.
While I won’t tell you how to write your post (you can read a guide here on what quality content writing entails), be sure to provide plenty of actionable information and avoid being long-winded.
Promoting your blog posts
Once you’ve actually created some content, 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 as you’ll only be targeting keywords with low difficulty, it’s still quite likely that your posts won’t immediately be a success.
Therefore, spend some time promoting your posts. There are a few different ways you can do this.
If you already asked some influencers (for example, other bakers, chefs, travelers, etc.) for quotes, let them know when it’s published, and it’s quite likely that they’ll share the content for you.
This will give you a nice boost, and as Google sees people coming to your website and spending time on the post, they are likely to reward you with higher rankings.
For example, the Insititute of Culinary Education featured this blogger, and 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 do so.
If you’ve invested some time into creating your content, you might as well invest a few dollars into promoting it 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 towards 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 as they signal that the website receiving the link is popular/authoritative enough that other websites trust it to send their traffic to.
However, not all links are created equally. 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.
Here are just a few of the most popular link building tactics:
- Broken link building
- Guest posting
- Manual Outreach
- and many more …
While I won’t dive into each tactic’s specifics, you can read this guide here about each one.
Ready to start your blog 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 it, creating a blog is an easy way to build a second income stream with minimal time and effort.
While you won’t see results overnight, you’ll be surprised how profitable (and fun!) a blog can be in the long run.