Growth of online media has given opportunities to everyone who aspires to be an entrepreneur. With very little startup capital, entrepreneurs are able to make decent money running their own businesses. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to find your passion which you can use to sell a product or service and you should have a big enough addressable market who are willing to pay your for it. Blogging is an important component to monetize your business. Blogs help you establish credibility; establish yourself as a knowledgeable business and builds and instant connection with your readers. If you are a startup entrepreneur planning to start an online business, or you have already started your venture and wondering how you can generate more revenue, here is a list I have compiled of ways in which you can make money through blogging.
16 ways to Make Money Blogging
Offervault is a platform to search for great affiliate offers. You can find a niche and select relevant affiliate offers from various different affiliate networks. It is a vertical search engine for affiliate networks. You can sign up as an advertiser/affiliate, browse through various CPA offers and then you can use your own blog to promote the offers. As this is a search engine, you will need to follow the rules of the affiliate network to which the offer belongs to. Some affiliate networks will need you to sign up individually with them. You will get paid everytime you are able to generate a lead/make sale through the offer you are promoting through your blog. The payouts can be huge if you can select the right offer.
Clickbank is a privately held affiliate network in the United States. You can sign up as a digital marketer and can search for the best CPA offers of product creators. Before making a decision, you should carefully look at the offer, its demand in the market, and the level of competition. Also you should look at whether their own website is compelling enough for someone to signup/purchase their product.
3. CJ Affiliate
CJ Affiliate is another affiliate marketing platform. You can sign up as a publisher and choose your product which you want to promote through your website. CJ Affiliate is known for ease of use as well a good reporting dashboard which can help track your performance.
4. Amazon Associates
This is the most popular affiliate program out there. It is very easy to signup as an affiliate in Amazon. They will give you an affiliate ID, which you can subsequently use for any of your blogs to promote any product. Using Amazon Affiliate has its own pros and cons:
- Most Popular Affiliate programs and starters. It is very easy to get started
- Amazon has loads of products. Therefore even if user does not buy the product you are reviewing, if they still purchase any other product from Amazon after clicking on your link, you will still get your commission.
- People trust Amazon. When you promote a product from Amazon, people are confident with the delivery.
- Commission is very less as compared to other affiliate networks. You will only get paid when a sale is made and the commission starts at 4% and moves upto 8% (when you have sold a lot of products in a month).
- Commission % is fixed and does not change with products.
- Commission percentage moves back to 4% at the start of every month.
5. Individual Affiliate programs
Many companies have their own affiliate programs. For example, domain name resellers and hosting companies such as GoDaddy, BlueHost etc., have their own affiliate programs. If you are able to sell their products from your blog, you will earn a good commission. Similarly, in every niche, several companies offer their own affiliate offers. In the e-commerce space, coupons are very much in vogue. You need to tie up with a merchant and get their discount product coupons listed on your platform. Through your blog if you are able to sell those coupons, you will get a hefty commission from the merchant. You will need to research your niche to find the best ones.
6. Sell your own digital products
Selling digital products is one the best ways to launch yourself as an e-commerce entrepreneur. A digital product is anything that one can download on their desktop, tablet or mobile which is providing some unique value. For example, if you are in the dog training niche, if you can create a detailed step by step approach to training a Golden Retriever and sell it as an e-book or a video, it would be an immensely helpful digital product for a dog lover who has adopted a dog. If you price it right, you will surely get lot of users paying money to download your product. Some examples of digital products include e-books, whitepapers, a video course, and even podcasts. You will need to invest time to build a product that is of immense value to your target audience and they will be happy to pay for it.
7. Lead Generation
Do you know a niche in a city where there are a lot of searches on Google? Partner with few businesses in the niche, build a website, create tons of blog content and get your site to rank up in Google search for chosen keywords. When visitors come to your website, get them to fill in a form and you pass this lead to a business, who you have tied up with. Charge the business for getting this lead.
8. Google Adsense
Google Adsense is the easiest way to monitize your blog. If you are maintaining a blog which is generating healthy traffic, you can sign-up with Google Adsense program and get a code which you can paste anywhere in your blog. When your blog audience clicks on the ad, you will get paid. The downside of this is that the payment per click is very less. Other private ad networks and affiliates are better ways to generate bigger income. But the benefit is, this will keep getting you some money, which will be good to keep you motivated.
9. Ghost Blogging
Ghost blogging is an entire industry on its own. If you are great at writing and researching, and have a good command over a language, then you can make tons of money as a Ghost blogger. You can charge your client on per word and based on the amount of content you produce per month, you can make a decent income. Lots of companies are looking at outsourcing content creation and therefore the demand for ghost bloggers have grown.
10. Private Ad Networks
Private ad networks are great if you are getting a constant source of traffic to your website and you are confident about your blogging skills. This is the right time to move away from Google Adsense and instead signup with a private ad network. Private ad networks pay much better than Google Adsense.
Is your blog content benefitting some user segment? Can you find a synergy between your blog, the audience and a big company in the same niche? If yes, then work on building lot of traffic to your blog. Once you have built your traffic, approach the big company and ask them to become a sponsor in your blog. Show them how being a sponsor will benefit them; whether by helping them find potential customers, or potential acquisition targets or can help them in their CSR activity. Getting a sponsor on board for your blog will help you monitise your blog well.
This is an extension of selling digital products. Whereas selling digital products is a one-time sale, if you can create a subscription model, you are ensured of a constant stream of revenue from a single customer. What can a customer pay for subscription? This could be as simple as an elite digital membership club after they have attended your course or webinar or bought your e-book. Through this membership, you can offer mentorship, guide, peer-support as well as 1-1 coaching sessions.
13. Sell Training Programs
Are you a professional coach? Are you a marketing coach? If you have one skill set which you think you can use to train a lot of people and get paid for it, then blogging is the best medium to market yourself. Create value driven blogs targeting the right audience. Solve their problems, engage with them, give them snippets of your training and build rapport with them. You will soon start getting enquiries for your training programs.
14. Sell Books
Blogging can make you so famous that you can actually become a published author. Whenever we discuss this, the first person who comes to mind is James Altucher. He is an entrepreneur turned VC turned blogger turned author. James started blogging and over time his blogs became so famous that he has written books which have become best sellers. If you are blogging continuously and have built a loyal fan following, you can use this audience to launch your book. With the help of self-publishing you can launch your book in Amazon. And if your book becomes a success, then there is no dearth of money that will come to you from its sales and royalty.
15. Sell physical products
A lot of e-commerce companies are playing the content game. Gradually every business is adopting blogs and other forms of content to create an alternate media platform. As you build your blog and create content regularly, you will attract lots of visitors over time, through organic and social media channels. By creating value driven content, you will attract the right audience who will eventually buy from you.
16. Sell Services
Are you great at one skill which you can get paid for? Whether you are a designer, an accountant, a web developer, a tarot card reader or even a hair salon owner, if you have a sellable skill, you can use a blog to market yourself. Your blog should be unique, provide value to your users and your users should know you as a personality. This builds instant trust, credibility and an authority in your niche. No amount of push sales ads can replace a trustworthy blog with tons of valuable content.
Discovering a niche for your blog
Now that we have covered the various ways you can make money through blogging, the next important bit is to find your niche. Niche finding journey is very crucial as that will determine whether you will be successful in your online venture. Here are steps to find a suitable blog niche:
1. Know your strengths
If you are skilled in one area which you would like to sell, then that should be the niche of your choice. For example, you are a small business accountant that is the niche. Your blog should target small businesses and their accounting challenges. You should know what problems you are going to solve and for whom.
2. Brainstorm with people
Know anyone who is willing to brainstorm with you? Friends, family, peers anyone? By brainstorming you can come with several niche ideas. Collective power of several minds is better than one mind. When you talk to people you will get different perspectives and different problems that people face on a day to day basis. You will also get an idea of what they are doing to solve the problem they are facing. Your job is to make the solution easier.
3. Analyse Google trends
Google trends is a wonderful tool to find the search trends for a keyword in a location of your choice. It will give you relative search volume. For example, if you are in dog training business, find out the search trends for Dog Training in your country. It will also show which states and cities have maximum searches. By analyzing trends, you get to know whether there is enough demand for the niche you are researching. If the demand is high, this means you can sell more.
4. Keyword Planner
Google keyword planner is a tool to find out monthly average search volume for keywords in geography of your choice. It is primarily used by advertisers who use Google Adwords PPC campaigns. This tool gives you various keyword ideas which you might have missed out. By noting the keywords and the search volume, you can figure out which niche has got lot of demand.
Find the Hook
The content that you produce should have a strong hook. A hook is something that draws a strong reaction from your audience. You need to understand that humans are irrational lot. Although we think we base our decisions based on rational thought process, in the end our decisions are based on emotions. We do not buy the things we need. We buy things we want to buy. And this is what the marketers have been praying upon for ages; to create compelling stories that will make you want to buy their products. Humans already have an opinion or view of their world and they based their decisions based on their views. That is why different people make different buying decisions.
Your job as the content marketer is to find the hook of your target audience. You should focus on articles that trigger a strong emotional reaction from them. Stronger the emotion evoked, better the response they will give. Sometimes, trying to solve their biggest pain point is a strong hook.
According to a study by Johan Berger, professor of Marketing at Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, the following emotions help makes content go viral (or gets audience to spread content):
- Anticipation and Surprise
These emotions are high arousing emotions which trigger a strong emotional reaction from the audience. Also, positive emotions drive more engagement than negative emotions. Therefore, if you are creating content that trigger Awe or Joy, it can really get your audience hooked.
According to a Harvard Business Research Study, any emotion that evoked anticipation and surprise will like get more engagement than ones which do not. So even if your content is triggering negative emotion such as anger, fear or anxiety, if they also trigger anticipation and surprise, they can still do well.
One interesting method to find the hook for your audience is go to Clickbank.com. There navigate to products in your niche. Look at all the products which other product creators are offering. Study their pitch, content and landing page. Study their headlines, the body of text and call to action. As you observe few of these product creators, you will be able to find a pattern.
Coming up with Content Ideas and Topics
1. Keyword Planner
We discussed about Google Keyword Planner during your niche discovery phase. However, this tool is extremely useful when you are trying to find content ideas and topics for blog. As you key in a keyword, the tool will give you keyword ideas. It will give all possible keywords which it thinks are relevant to the keyword you put in. Along with keywords, it will also give monthly search volume. This is indicative of the demand for a keyword, or how many people are searching for it. More the demand for a keyword, more popular the topic it is.
Buzzsumo is a very interesting tool to find blogs which are highly shared on social media channels. For example, if you are in the niche of dog training, you can sign up with Buzzsumo, key in the term dog training. It will list the most shared blogs in this space. You can deep dive into the blogs and find out what they have written about which has made them share worthy. Your next job is to create articles which are more detailed, updated and better than the most popular blogs. Buzzsumo also gives the Twitter handles of the sharers. After you have created your blog post, you can tweet it out to those users you found out earlier. Chances are if they have shared a post in your niche, if you tweet out your post to them, they will share yours as well.
This tool is great to discover popular content topics and the headlines of posts.
Keyword.io is a free tool. When you sign up on this tool, you can put in your keyword. It will give you all possible long tail combinations of this keyword which it finds from Google auto suggest. Using this tool, you can find some great long tail detailed post ideas. For example when I keyed in “Dog Training”, it throws up suggestions like “Aggressive dog training”, “training a dog who is fearful” etc. These are gems when it comes to finding topics posts.
4. Follow FB Groups, Quora and other Niche relevant blogs
Listen to your customers actively and you will know what to solve. This is the holy grail of any business. Social Networks and discussion forums have given us, the online entrepreneurs a chance to listen to our prospects actively. Facebook groups, forums such as Quora as well as taking part in conversations on LinkedIn, Twitter as well as niche relevant blogs will help us understand some of the most pressing challenges of our audience. If you know a popular blog in your niche, study the comments sections carefully. Find out what most people are discussing about. This can fuel our next blog topics.
Content distribution is the most important aspect of content marketing. You have put in the hard work of identifying the niche, researching topics and creating great posts. Now what? Unless you put in the effort of marketing it, your efforts are wasted and you will not get traffic, which will defeat the very purpose why you started the website in the first place. Some ways to drive traffic to your website:
SEO is a wonderful method to get traffic from search engines months after you have stopped actively promoting your site. It ensures that your blog will be discovered by thousands of users who are actively seeking out the content which you are producing. And the best part is, the visitors are all targeted. So, a person who is visiting your site through search engine is already a warm prospect. Your chances of conversion are much higher. Steps to optimize your blog for SEO:
- Keyword Research – You have already researched the keywords earlier during topic selection. Ensure you target a keyword through a blog post. For example if your keyword is “Accounting Challenges for Startups”, then the blog can be – 20 Accounting Challenges of Startups.
- On-Page SEO – Ensure the keywords are present on; Title Tag, as Header tags in the content. Also ensure that your page has a substantial body of text with the keyword(s). Do not over optimize the text. Keep the keyword to about 1% of the total text. Ensure that your content reads natural. Also interlink your pages using anchor texts. This will ensure that your pages are properly crawled by search engines.
- Performance of the Blog – Lot of bloggers never attaches importance to the performance of the website. Google gives lot of importance to fast loading websites in its search ranking. Ensure that your blog is around 500Kb and it loads under 1.5 seconds. To do this, have cache enabled and minify Javasacript, CSS and images. If you cannot do it yourself, get a technical person to do it. It should not take him for than 3-4 days to optimize a website if you are just starting out.
- Backlinking – Reach out to influential bloggers in your niche. Build relationship with them. Ask them to tweet and share your content. As more people read your content, they will share more which will result in more backlinks to your blog.
2. Social Media
You should be where your audience is. If they are on Facebook, you should be on Facebook, if they are on Instagram, you should be on Instagram, if they are on Pinterest, you should be on Pinterest. Respect the platform for which it is meant for. Facebook is a platform to connect with friends. Your posts should be more friendly and conversational on Facebook. Facebook is more about engagement than sales. On the contrary, a user is on Pinterest to discover products to buy. Be more direct there with your product offers. Use paid promotions wherever possible. It is a great way to get discovered by your target audience.
3. Reach out to bloggers
Bloggers in your niche may be of great help if you want to reach out to a large audience, or when you do not have a large audience initially. You can get the blogger to interview you or review your product. Create a win-win scenario for the blogger. Get Offer him/her something in return.
4. Guest Blogging
This is one of the methods that I like a lot. It is a win-win. You can guest blog on a popular magazine. The magazine benefits because they are getting valuable content published on their platform. You benefit as you are now visible to the magazine’s audience who will definitely come to your blog.
5. Create an affiliate offer
Just like you can become an affiliate of product creator, you can also become a product creator and invite affiliates to promote your product. You can use Clickbank, CJ.com and other affiliate sites to list your product and invite affiliates to promote your products. Give a commission for lead/sale. They will do the hard work of getting traffic while you focus on converting them. Another way to sell affiliate offer is to tie-up with a popular blogger in your niche. When you reach out to bloggers, you can discuss about your offer. Given them a hefty commission for every sale/lead they give you. But please remember, that your product better be awesome. Because, if you want a popular blogger to promote your product, they are putting their reputation at stake.
Create an offer that converts
Now that you have published your blogs and marketed them across various channels, what next should you do? Remember that, blogs are a great way to bring your audience. But unless you want to do something with them, your efforts will not reap any ROI. What I mean is, after you have the traffic, you will need to get something from them. This could be getting them to download your e-book, subscribe to your blog posts or buy your product which you are offering. At the end of the day, your blog should act as a conversion funnel. Not simply a media channel which is focusing on news. But obviously, you cannot run the risk of putting off your users through push sales messages once they land on your site. Give them the value upfront through your blogs and subtly ask them to submit their email ids, if they want to subscribe to your blog. Give them a strong compelling reason why they should subscribe to your blog. In my blog, you can see that I have a Call to Action at the end of a post and on the right hand side. And I promise that I will give you free hacks to grow your business.
Once you have got email subscribers, you can post them with your blog updates. This way, you are assured that these people will come to your site often.
Giving away freebies is always a great way to capture leads. A user is not committing to you when he is downloading a free stuff that you are offering. He does not have to undergo stress which sets in, when he has to take out his card to buy something. Downloading a freebie is stress free. Hubspot does a great job of offering products for Free and in return they ask you for your details. As a user, you will not worry too much to fill in your details (Name, Email is, organization etc), if you think what you will get for Free is valuable. As they capture so many user details, later they can target them with their offers.
If you want them to buy your product, direct them to a product page which is relevant to the blog post which they have just read. Keep the product page direct and to the point. Focus on the benefits. Keep only one call to action. Design a landing page which is easy on the eye, has some images and testimonials. Don’t confuse the visitor with too much information or different call to actions. Keep it simple and your chances of success increases. The offer should focus on the hook which you have discovered earlier and should also tie closely with the blog which you have published.
Establish a Blogging Routine
One of the biggest challenges as a professional blogger or an online entrepreneur is to make a schedule and stick to it. It is very easy to start an online business once you have followed through the steps we have highlighted. But the challenge is to stick to it. The reasons for this are:
- You don’t have anyone to report to – The difference between a person in a job and a person who has just started a business is the accountability. Becoming an entrepreneur with a CEO title tag is a very romantic thing. But when you don’t have anyone to report to, you will start getting into your comfort zone. And when this happens, you will stop pushing yourself during trying times.
- You always have other important tasks – Blogging requires planning, execution and dedication. If you do not have the habit of writing, you will always find excuses not to write. As you start getting busy with your business, blogging will take a back seat and soon you will realise that you have lost a lot of time without making anything tangible.
- You do not make money fast – If you are in any business to make quick money, then be assured you are doing something fraudulent and illegal. And blogging is a legitimate way to grow your brand awareness and increase sales. Therefore blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. And as you realize this, your momentum takes a hit.
- Your blog does not get discovered overnight – Just likes there are a hundreds and thousands of blogs out there. How do you expect to be discovered overnight? You cannot expect to start a blog and within 1 month, you have tons of hits to your website. It never happens. And when you look at the data after a month your motivation goes down.
One of the most important aspects to understand while starting a blog is, it will not grow exponentially within the next 6-9 months, even though you may try very hard. Blog is not the medicine for growing money fast. Just like growing any other business, or mastering any marketing channel, blogs take time to grow and establish a loyal fan following. And this is where most entrepreneurs give up. They start a blog with the hope of getting sales fast enough. But unfortunately that does not happen and they give up quickly or their schedule goes for a toss. Therefore to be successful as a blogger, you need to:
- Make a time schedule – What time of the day suits you the most when you sit down to create content? Is it early in the morning, during the day or late at night? Find your sweet spot. Make a habit to write every day without fail. Stick to your comfortable time. Set yourself blogging goals, such as writing 200 words every day. Reward yourself at the end of the week when you are done writing 1400 words.
- Do not worry about perfection – As a content publisher, do not worry about perfection every time you start typing on your keyboard. That is not going to happen and if you obsess over it, you will soon lose your motivation. Instead write everything that you possibly can when you sit down to write. Let the creative juices flow. You can always go back and alter the writing later.
- Read a lot – To be a great writer, you need to read a lot. Because when you read good books/articles, your mind opens up to new ideas and insights. You get the collective wisdom of all the writers when you write your own content. This will naturally make your articles more creative, insightful and overall higher quality stuff.
- Make a blog topic schedule – One of the biggest challenges of an online entrepreneur is not have a plan with content creation. You should be ready for the blog topics for the next 3 months as well as their publishing deadlines. Once you know the roadmap, you will get extra motivation to follow through your blogging schedule.
- Outsource – If you have set yourself ambitious targets, do not fret. Find a way to achieve it. Not everything cannot be done by you. If you feel, you can get part of the content outsourced, do it. For example, you might be great at writing by suck at images. Get a designer to do the graphics for your blog posts. Outsourcing will save not only your time but also will help you focus on your core strengths.
We are living in very exciting times. The proliferation of e-commerce and increase of online purchases have opened up plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs to create sustainable businesses. Also, the era of push sales and PR stunts are over. Now it is about value creation, transparency and connecting with your audience even before they buy.
Go ahead, use the power of storytelling to produce wonderful blogs, distribute to the right audience, make a proper content schedule, stick to it and create a sustainable business.