Starting a blog, getting traffic, and making money start to finish
So after going through many of the posts on here I can tell this post is going to flood many brains with new knowledge. At this point I've been blogging for a few years now and have more than a few tricks up my sleeve to get traffic to my sites, 2 of which bring in decent monthly income. I am not a millionaire but just do okay by any decent bloggers standard. Happy to contribute to all the new bloggers running around like chickens with no heads.
first a little history…
From the beginning I've always blogged for money. I'm not what you would call a "passion" blogger by any stretch. Because I blog for money, I must get traffic or I am not successful, and I do not pay the bills. Therefore, I must learn to attract the types of people I want from Google and other sources. If you want to become successful you must learn the same skills, even if you're a "passionate writer."
It's crucial to adopt the following mindset – Just because you blog something doesn't mean anybody will find it, or care for that matter. Your blog is precious to you but nobody else gives a shit (yet.) And before they care, you must get them to your content. So how do we do this?
You first select a blogging niche with a sizable market of people who will actually read your stuff. Think underwater basket weaving vs street fashion. One will net you zero traffic and interest while the other has serious potential and money to be made (and also serious competition.)
Gauge the size of your market. How do you do this? Well, are there subreddits dedicated to your niche? Are there Facebook groups? How active are they? Are there millions of returned search results in Google? Are people spending money on products in this niche? These are all positive signals that you're on the right track. If not, you'll spend your whole life blogging to nobody except your mom who receives your weekly Mailchimp newsletter, and also not making too much dough.
After niche selection comes setting up your hosting and getting a domain. This is the most boring and trivial part of the process yet I see a lot of you getting hung up here. If you're a new blogger get yourself a Bluehost or Hostgator account for 8 bucks a month and go through the one-click WordPress install. (Yes, forget Wix, WordPress.com, blogspot, and all the other crappy providers.) Install any theme you want and forget about it. It's a common trap to get hung up on a fancy design before you even have a content strategy. (cart before the horse)
I actually do this before I even have a domain or host but I'm assuming many of you already have something going. It's a good idea to see that there is actually content you can write about before you dive into a niche. Moving on…
You might have had somebody tell you to "do Search Engine Optimization (SEO)" but you probably had no idea what they meant, and neither did they if that was there short winded response. SEO is drop dead simple for bloggers but there are people out there who benefit financially by shrouding the term in complicated jargon. It's all bullshit.
SEO is a simple 2 step process:
Keyword research and On Page optimization.
In a nutshell this means discovering what keywords people are searching for in Google and then writing content around those searches. Google discovers your page is relevant to the query and then ranks you accordingly. Unfortunately getting to the front page will take more than just writing optimized content and hitting publish but that doesn't matter right now. What matters at this point is digging up a treasure trove of keywords you can write content around.
How do you discover keywords? It use to be a trivial matter of using the Google Keyword Planner but that tool has since gone down the crapper. A good keyword research tool allows you to plugin a search query and discover the number of people searching for that term in Google.
Here is an example snapshot of a tool I use:
Anyways, I actually pay for that tool but I don't recommend you pay for anything until you learn the basics. Another great way to discover keywords is the keyword shitter
Simply plug in your root keyword (your niche) and then let the tool run until you have a very large sample of keywords. From there plug those into Google and scroll all the way down to the bottom to the suggested searches. These are Long Tail keywords. Long Tail Keywords are long search queries. They usually have less competition and are easier to rank for.
Google "keyword research" and learn everything you can about the process. It's simply too much for me to cover here. Google will tell you everything you need to know. I will however give you one more little sneaky trick you usually don't see people talking about. Here we do a little competition research to see what your competition is writing about.
Go up to your browser search bar and type in the web address of your biggest competitor. ex; competitor. com/sitemap_index.xml
This will return a complete listing of everything your competitor has ever written about in a nice list format (if they have a sitemap.) This saves you from going to post after post to discover keywords. Don't rip the keywords word for word but allow them to give you ideas for content.
on page SEO
On page SEO is the easiest thing in the world right next to tying your shoes. In WordPress you'll have the option to make changes to the URL of your post. (be sure to change your permalinks to display post names, Google this if you don't know what I'm talking about.)
What you want to do is sprinkle your keyword into the URL structure. I've found it best not to use the exact string, but to pepper it in to a long tail chain. For example, if your keyword was "easy vegan recipes" you could do something like "drop dead easy vegan recipes" Otherwise, you could get flagged for over optimization and keyword stuffing.
From there it's all about your title. Make sure your title is something unique, it could even be the same as your URL. Just make sure you have more than just your keyword in there, and make it something catchy.
Next, use the keyword VERY sparingly throughout your content. Once in the top fold of the content, and at the end. Any images on the page should have ALT tags with the keyword in there as well, once again making sure to use more than just the keyword itself. Be sure to include other images with ALT tags that do NOT have the keyword in there to diversify. You can use Synonyms of the word which Google also considers to be relevant to the search. Search for "Google Natural Language Processing (NLP)" to learn more about this.
Once your content is written you can create a meta description with the Yoast SEO plugin. I personally think this plugin is mostly garbage in the way it analyzes your content, and actually encourages you to over optimize your content WAY too far. It is good for creating meta descriptions though. Your meta description will show up in Google to anybody searching for your keyword. Write something nice and punchy to attract attention keeping in mind the length limit and to include your keyword.
Can you believe that's all you'll ever need to know about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Give your blog some time, write every single day and eventually you'll start to see organic Google traffic roll in like a mountain mist. Be sure your content is over the top good. Most of my stuff is between the 1000 – 2000 word range. See what your competition is doing and then TRUMP their stuff with something even better. Google will take notice and rank you accordingly. You'll also gain natural backlinks overtime from other webmasters.
Okay, the fun part. So now you have a bit of traffic and you're looking to monetize. Well, unless you have a shit ton of traffic stay away from Google adsense whatever you do. In fact, stay away from all display ads until you begin to hit MONSTER traffic levels… 50k – 100k monthly. Even then there are much better ways to earn. So funny to see blogs with adsense when there is no traffic at all!
My preferred choice of making money is affiliate marketing. This is a monetization method where you get a commission for making a sale. With little traffic you can make big bucks. For example, you can join the Amazon Associates program and start recommending relevant products to your niches. Amazon gives you a special product link you use for blog when it gets approved. When someone clicks that link and buys a product, you get a commission. The cool thing about Amazon is you also get a commission for whatever ELSE they buy within a 24 hour time period. The kind of crappy thing about Amazon is the commissions are low, generally 4 – 10% depending on your category of product.
If you are in a niche with a lot of products the best thing you can do to make money is write product reviews. The format is simple…
You fire up WordPress post and simply title it [product name] + [Review]
Write up a good review of the product. Good copywriting and format is out of the scope of this but suffice to say you will pick it up quickly. Look at how the big dogs in your space write their reviews and take notes. Once your review is written, simply sprinkle in your affiliate link in the places it makes sense, usually in the beginning and once at the end. This is highly targeted traffic. People looking for reviews are on the tail end of their search, meaning they know what they want they just need YOU to give them a little push forward.
Amazon is not the only affiliate network with products to promote. You can also promote digital products from sites like clickbank.com. Digital products are nice because you can make up to 80% commissions. Other networks I use are cj.com, shareasale.com, and a few others I can't remember right now. These networks are aggregators for vendors. Through these networks you can basically find any relevant product imaginable.
And the thing is, you'll find most small vendors have their own in house affiliate program you can join too. A classic trick is scrolling down to the bottom of their website and looking for the affiliates link. Once you join you'll get a special tracking link that tracks your clicks and sales.
The trick to making affiliate sales is getting targeted traffic to your website and then recommending relevant products that make sense to the user. If someone lands on your site for the search term "vegan recipes" and you start recommending slim jims, well don't expect to get too many conversions. But, if at the end if the recipes you say "and if you like that recipe here's an ebook with 1001 more of them!" Now you're starting to think like a blogger making money.
*Add your site to Google Webmasters. This will show you what search terms you're ranking for and alert you to any potential problems with Google crawling your content.
*Add your site to Google Analytics. This will show you search traffic and where your traffic is coming from along with a few other metrics.
*Setup social media profiles
*Google backlinking (advanced but necessary)
*Don't make this complicated. Do your keyword research and then commit yourself to writing like an absolute madman. I aim for 2000 words a day minimum.
Let me know if you have any questions.
How do yoy drive trafic yo your blog? I found that SEO alone and search results don't bring much, unless you're in the first few results in google.
It really comes down to the keyword research and making sure the majority of your posts are optimized around what people are searching for. From there it's a game of numbers, pumping out as many high quality posts as you can. I supplement some of my sites with YouTube videos and that really seems to help drive traffic too. Not all of your posts will make it to the front page but some of them will.
A ton of great information here!!
That keywordshitter site is hilarious and so simple, I'm totally going to use it.
I use Yoast SEO and really like how I can alter the meta description so easily with it. It gives great little tips on paragraph length, passive voice (which I have learned I have a HUGE problem with), and all kinds of things. I never get my posts to all green dots, though, because I like the way my post flows. I'm writing it for money, sure, but it also has to have my own flair to it and I think it's okay that that paragraph has 200 words or whatever it's saying is my problem. I use it as a guide but don't follow it to a T. All the articles in the world will look exactly the same if they follow those rules perfectly, and where's the fun in that?! :)
I have an amazon associates account set up and quite a few links on my blog, but no bites yet. I just jumped into amazon because I'm comfortable with them and use them to self-publish ebooks. I'm definitely going to look into other affiliate programs when my traffic builds up, though. I'd like that to be a good chunk of change for me – ads are gross and I'd like to avoid them for as long as I can.
Reviews seem like they would be a great type of post for my blog. **Do I just do a review or should I contact the company of that product first? How do review posts and sponsored posts relate, if at all? ** I have heard sponsored posts are great, but would have no idea where to start. They're very popular in my niche from what I can see!
A sponsored post would be a company paying you to write a review for one of their products. You usually only get these deals if you have a large following with lots of traffic. It doesn't hurt to approach companies for these kinds of deals but it's not sustainable long term.
As far as reviews go, most of us simply research the product and then write a review of all the benefits and features. It's sad to say but most of the reviews you see online are written by people who have never used the product at all. It's the shadow side of making money online. Feel free to purchase the product if you want, or even ask the vendor for a sample in return for an honest review on your blog.
Thank you so much for clearing that up! That makes much more sense.
My top priority right now is to just get traffic and followers, but I'm always thinking about and trying to understand how sponsorships, affiliate, and monetizing my blog will work. I want to set myself up for success!
Monetisation is the main thing for me, I was getting $100-$150 from 60k-100k pageviews on my last site.
My new site is going well but I'm worried I won't make the most of my traffic.
I'm dabbling in eBay Partner Network and Amazon affiliate right now. Would you recommend anything else?
How expensive are the products you recommend? Amazon is great for products in the $50 dollar plus range but because of the low commissions I stay away from Amazon for anything less. I like to Google the names of popular products and find vendors with their own in house affiliate programs, commissions are usually much more generous. The key is to try to promote a product or link to one of your reviews in every single post without coming across pushy.
Thank you for the post! I've been struggling loads on how to understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Also how important is it to have a niche? Could I get away with being a lifestyle blogger who focussed on beauty and travel? Or do I have to pick one?
I would say beauty and lifestyle are closely related enough to be contained within the same blog. You would have a problem if you tried blogging about beauty and politics on the same platform. If the topics you discuss are very different you end up splitting your audience in half and alienating them from each other.
Thanks so much for your help! Saved me so much time sifting through mommy bloggers on Pinterest
Why do you like the keyword shitter over Google keyword planner? I try to use the planner to find longtail keywords with a niche search market (less than 100,000/month but usually 1,000-10,000) On first glance I don't like that theres no info except the keyword on the shitter.
Primarily I like the shitter because you get so many keyword results and ideas. I used to use the keyword planner back in the day when it gave you an actual search volume for a keyword instead of a range. After it stopped doing that it lost its usefulness in my opinion as it's always been a terrible method of finding keywords.
I'm not sure I fully agree with not putting adsense on your blog until you get 50k – 100k monthly users.
I have a blog
https://bonkersabouttech.com/ with around 12K monthly users and make around £30/month which I know is not a lot, but at least it covers my hosting costs :)
Yeah, certain niches have a higher Cost Per Click (CPC) than others and you can make more with less traffic. Sites with lower traffic tend to do better with affiliate marketing rather than adsense. If you're in a smaller niche with limited traffic then putting ads on your site is only going to distract and deter users away from your higher paying affiliate offers.