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How to start a blog is the big question. Or more like, how to blog for money, or how to profit from a blog.

The difference between “just” blogging, and blogging for profit, is monetization. A blog needs to be monetized to generate revenue. It should be a successful blog with a growing base of subscribers to keep generating more revenue. Only then would you have a profitable blog. Any blog can be monetized but there may be no revenue. And any blog can have some revenue but only consistent and sustainable revenue over a period of time will ensure profit.

The fact that anyone can start a blog with little or no capital, the availability of a plethora of free tools, the ease with which one can get started and equal access to the audience ensures only the best would win. Competition has never been this stiff. But laying the right foundation will make it more likely that you’ll get revenue from your blog. Starting a blog is as simple, cheap, easy and fast as setting up a social media profile. There are blogging platforms that allow you to have your segregated section, complete with your profile and exclusive posts.

Go from diary to online blogging

There are free content management systems that allow you to host a blog on their parent domain. You could also purchase a domain, register it, host it and create a website essentially designed to be a blog. Assess the costs of the different options, consider your technical skills such as website design and choose a platform that suits you.

If you’re looking for domain & hosting, I strongly recommend Bluehost.

You can design a website from scratch, which should be easy if you are a programmer. If you have no expertise in coding or website design, then you should consider a content management system like WordPress. WordPress is free and it is the most popular blogging platform today. The open source software which is used by more than a hundred million people can be hosted for free using the WordPress platform or you can host it on your own. You can opt for shared hosting or dedicated hosting.

If you lack the technical skills to set up a blog on wordpress, I have a free course showing you exactly how you can get your blog up and running in a few minutes with either Bluehost or Siteground as hosting providers.

Choosing a Niche

There are bloggers who want to write about everything. There are bloggers who focus on a niche. Both can work and both can fail. It depends on the expertise of the blogger. Not the writing expertise but knowledge. Each and every blogger can’t develop a sound understanding of every subject that can be written about.

If you are alone or have a very small team, then it is best to focus on a niche. Trying to write about too many things will not only be bafflingly challenging but it will also confuse your potential audience. Readers like specificity. You too would be perplexed as to whom you wish to target. If you check out the popular blogs or even the video bloggers who have amassed millions with their channels on YouTube, all of them are focusing on a niche that is well sorted.

You could write on anything, from fashion to technology, building a business, home business ideas, how to blog(like this post), SEO, geology to politics, economics to history, consumer electronics to real estate, family or kids to relationships, dating or health, sports or current affairs to news, events, photography and anything that interests you.

Bloggers who have an astute understanding of what they are writing, or the larger domain, will always do well. Blogging is not just writing. It’s a fine combination of writing acumen, knowledge, specialization, awareness of latest updates and an understanding of what people or readers are looking for.

Choose a niche that you are comfortable with and equally important is the readership. Do not pick a niche that no one is interested in. You can write a blog on such a niche to satiate your own desire but such a blog will be hard to monetize. You can only monetize a blog for profit that will have substantial traffic.

Microbiology or nuclear science, applied mechanics or even the history of textiles would not be appealing niches, even though some interesting posts can potential get thousands or hundreds of thousands of hits. A niche must be perennially popular for the blog to be monetized for profit. You need sustainable revenue and not a onetime windfall gain, although the latter too is welcome with the sustainable profits.

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Path to Monetization

There are many ways to monetize a blog. One of the most unpopular and ineffective methods is subscription. We live in an era when information is free. While you can have your content and intellectual property protected with copyrights, you cannot really prevent the information from being available in some other form. Reproduction of information in non-plagiarized forms will always happen. Since there is no death of information, subscription has not really been the most successful way to monetize a blog.

Even the most popular newspapers and magazines are losing paid subscribers. However, if your niche is very refined and your target audience is looking for rare exclusive information then you can charge a fee. This will not work for most types of blogs but then there are always exceptions. You need to assess if your audience will be willing to pay a subscription fee per month or yearly to access your blog. This can be a captive source of revenue and hence profit.

1. Advertisements

The most widely used method of monetization of blogs is advertising. There are many types of advertisements you can resort to. First there are Google AdWords which would put relevant advertisements on every webpage or post on your blog. Your website will effectively be populated with ads as per the modus operandi of Google and the likes of Bing. You sign up for the Google Ads and they will sprinkle different kinds of ads in allotted spaces on every webpage.

Such advertisements pay revenue in different ways. Pay per click advertisements will get you paid only when the readers on your blog actually click on the links put up in the ads. Pay per view or impression ads will generate revenue based on how many people are on the given webpage coming across the advertisement. Some ads require visitors on a blog to hover over the advertised link or content for the impression. Usually, pay per view ads has fixed revenue for a certain count of thousand or several thousand.

Then there are sponsored ads, banner ads, footer ads and larger sponsorships. You could have sponsored ads on top or bottom of your webpage, ala banner or footer ads, ads within the content you are posting, on the sides or you can have a specific webpage dedicated to only one advertiser or just one brand that will have its offers dominating the layout of the webpage.

These can be facilitated by Google or you can have your direct association with advertising networks. You may also get brands to directly advertise on your blog but for that you would need a substantial readership to entice them.

Advertising is a steady and rewarding source of revenue for blogs provided there is a large readership. Blogs that are not read by too many people will generate almost no or insignificant revenue with ads. This is why other methods of monetization become not just important but essential.

2. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is an effective way to monetize a blog. It has a simple modus operandi and can be used by any blogger. You need to sign up with an affiliate marketing network, also referred to as affiliate network, and start promoting the products or services directly or indirectly. Affiliate marketing is quite simple.

You come up with a blog post wherein a product or service, in most cases multiple products and services, will be advertised or showcased. These products or services could be just mentioned in fleeting reference within a post or the blog post can be about those products and services. If the reader clicks on the link of the product or service and purchases or signs up then the blogger gets a commission.

Affiliate marketing has become a rewarding source of revenue for bloggers, principally because one doesn’t need a very large readership to earn revenue. Even if one of your blog posts get fifty views and two people end up buying a product or signing up for a service, you can get a handsome commission. Such commissions could be exponentially greater than what you would earn with pay per view or pay per click advertisements.

However, people have to buy or sign up for the products or services respectively for you to earn anything.

Affiliate marketing is upfront wherein the blogger makes it fully clear that the posts are about products and services. These posts are mostly reviews or accounts of personal experiences. They are informative but do have some degree of promotional intent in the manner the content is created. The purpose is to offer information and to influence the buyers to purchase the product or sign up for the service being promoted.

3. Paid Content

You could use your blog for paid blogging. There are companies and individuals that want their products, services or entities to be promoted. These would normally pay a price for every blog post. They could be informative, reviews, assessments of specific products and services, comparison posts, analyses of companies or brands, endorsement articles or just outright informational posts to help increase the outreach of a company. Paid content is very common and even some of the most read blogs have various posts that companies sponsor directly.

However, a blog cannot survive entirely on paid content. Then it becomes a glorified billboard. Paid content would inevitably be promotional, subtly or overtly. There should be more organic content than paid content. No reader wants to read a blog that is only self serving and paid content is more in the interest of the company and the blogger than the reader. There are exceptions in cases of products or services that can truly help people in their day-to-day lives. Other scenarios are outright consumerism.

4. Direct Sales

This may not sound like a very plausible strategy to monetize a blog for profit but it is absolutely plausible. Affiliate marketing, paid content and ads are essentially promotions. They are all about commerce. Facilitating direct sales is more straightforward and honorable than the indirect measures. There are blogs that host direct sales. Incorporating ecommerce features in a blog is no big deal these days.

People who explore information and trust the bloggers they follow ardently don’t mind shopping for products they need directly from the blog. This has become very popular in fashion, beauty and healthcare sectors. And it’s becoming a trend in electronics, accessories and peripherals. Depending on the niche you are targeting, you can easily set up an online store and sell select products or services. Don’t vie for a marketplace as you would have to cater to your niche. Be selective and have only the best products or services. Have an ecommerce strategy to go along with your everyday blogging.

5. Blast Marketing

Any readership can be used as a database. Your blog should have a privacy policy and you should make it lucid how the data obtained from the readers and followers would be used. As long as you are not compromising the privacy or security of your readership, you can use their data in a myriad of ways. You could use the database for blast emails or text messages. You could use the database for social media marketing.

You must be aware though, that given your subscribers need to confirm they want to be sent emails from each company, given the GDPR regulation, you can not sell your database to anyone unless given written permission from your subscribers.

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Multipronged Monetization

You have to start somewhere and with something. You need to pick one path to monetization and perfect it. If it works, then you should improve it and then consider another option. If it doesn’t work, then have it in place and then expand your scope of monetization. You can never be sure which monetization attempt will work wonders for you. It is also true that each of these methods has its strengths and weaknesses so they all must coexist.

It could be affiliate marketing one month earning you revenues that you need to stay profitable for six months. It could be sponsored or pay per click ads in another month that will earn a mini fortune for you.

The simple reality is that a blog must have a multipronged monetization strategy. You should be open and prepared to generate revenue from any and every possible source. An assured revenue or multiple sources of revenue is the only way to survive, to ensure a blog is profitable and to remain focused on what matters more than everything else, the readers.

The readers want helpful information, content that will positively change their lives or assist in their decisions. To achieve this, you ought to stay committed to research and ever expanding  knowledge base, you must be dedicated to creating quality blog posts and you must continue working on expanding your readership. These will be daunting challenges if you cannot come up with a multipronged monetization strategy that works and will work in the future.

How to become a blog people want to visit

If you have no readers, you have no blog, you have a diary at the best. And if you have no blog with readers, you will not earn a revenue, because people wont find you. If you find a niche people want to read about, you need to have a system in place, to keep the readers coming back for more, like:

• You should have social media plug-ins to facilitate immediate following, liking and sharing. There should be opt in sections where readers can provide their email address and sign up for the blog updates, newsletters or emails and other types of communications. Aside from the RSS feed and other obvious plug-ins you should have a simple popup asking if the reader or visitor will want to get notifications from the blog. This may happen on a traditional browser, mobile browser or via social network, media and apps. Notification has become an alternative to the conventional following.

• Don’t ask for more details than what you need. Social media plug-ins immediately connect visitors to the blog using their existing credentials. Use email authentication or social media authentication instead of asking for email address, first name and last name, city and other unnecessary details. Your blog is not building a database of readers. You simply need a following to get a substantial readership.

• Always have a call to action on every webpage. Many bloggers opt for standard calls to action, suggesting they share the post or like, comment or check out more posts. While these are acceptable, you should think of unique calls to action. Host polls, get people to agree or disagree, encourage readers to write counterpoints so you can take the discussion further. Every blog post can become an asset provided it has enough stuff to trigger a conversation and subsequent engagement with a larger audience. A blog post that doesn’t generate any traction is a waste of space and effort.

Incentivize your followers to entice more. Offer something to your new readers so they would be inclined to follow you or become subscribers. Give something precious, which could be rare tips or some insider knowledge, to your existing readers so they continue to follow you and read what you post. Today, not many people are interested in following for the sake of following unless they get rewarded in some way.

You will use your social media profiles and presence on multiple social networks to get more readers or subscribers. That would still limit your outreach unless you take a few quintessential steps. These are to be factored in at the time of starting a blog because otherwise you would need to rethink everything, right from your blog layout to the kind of content you are penning down.

Here are some of the most important factors that will affect your readership:

• Your blog must stand out. You need an impressive design. You will need to have all the imperative features, from social media integration to relevant plug-ins. At the crux of the design should be a theme, one that impresses your target audience. Be unique in as many ways as possible but not quaintly that would be off-putting for some. Check out blogs like the one you are trying to create and find out what’s working for them and what’s not.

Nothing is more important than content. If you have the most compelling content in your niche then it wouldn’t matter how popular you are or how exquisite your blog layout is. People will read the piece. But you cannot have such priceless and unmatched content all the time. This is why you need to focus on the quality of content throughout the year. Remember the reason why you are blogging and why someone should read your blog. This alone should lead you to the type of content you should be working on.

Do not just replicate what is already out there. If thousands of people have already read a blog that has discussed what you are about to write then chances are you wouldn’t get even one from that readership checking out your blog. Focus on originality. Use your own voice. The personality of a blogger is the best weapon to make any content unique.

After content and design comes marketing. No blogger can survive today by solely being a writer, photographer, videographer or cinematographer, painter, graphic designer, chef or cook, fashion enthusiast, gadget lover or even as a satirist. One must market the blog and oneself. The blog and the blogger are inseparable. They are a single entity unless there are other bloggers on the same site. Use search engine optimization, target keywords and have a specific target audience. The target audience could be people of a certain age, gender, socioeconomic background and of a certain kind of intellect or a myriad of interests. The target audience could be confined to a city, district, suburb or neighborhood.

You need multichannel and cross platform marketing strategies. Use other and more popular blogs to publish guest posts. Make your blog’s presence felt on all popular social networks and social media to intertwine the activities to generate interest on all platforms simultaneously. Get listed on every relevant directory of blogs. Use email marketing if relevant, host live events, podcast is applicable for the kind of blog you are planning and produce videos to highlight inspiring content.

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Become an Influencer Blogger

No matter what you do, your traffic will fluctuate. No matter how hard you work and how much you ransack your mind, you will come up with content that will not reach a hundred thousand readers. Only some of your blog posts will go viral, perhaps just a few in a year. That alone would be enough to get you exposure but the outreach will waver from time to time. The only way you can ensure sustained profit is when you ensure a bottom line. Say a thousand hits on a particular blog post will trigger the commission of a pay per view ad that is placed at the top of the post. You need the thousand hits for every blog post having that ad for the page to be financially viable. Else, your effort is futile.

The only way you can always get the minimum traffic, which could be a thousand or fifty thousand depending on the nature of your blog, is to become an influencer. This is the era of influencers. You may have seen them on social media. You are perhaps following some of them. These influencers are experts in their niche, ranging from politics to food, sports to music, architecture to history, pop culture to spirituality, business and investment to education among others. These influencers are opinion makers. They have a few million followers in some cases and in most cases hundreds of thousands fans. One tweet or post by them and it reaches everyone following these personalities. You need to become an influencer blogger.

Here is what you should be doing to become an influencer blogger

Be a great writer if you are not a photographer, videographer or designer. Anyone who can use images or videos and have a blog that is all about the visual experience would not rely on words. All other bloggers will only have words, from those writing about current affairs to those reviewing restaurants in a city. The quality of writing has dwindled in recent years. Grammar has jumped ship, literary skills have succumbed and substance is a rare commodity. Blogging is not ranting. It is not just writing whatever you want in whichever way you want. If you wish to be a famous blogger, then you must be an expert writer.

Writing is as much a skill as it is an art. You need to be a master or at least highly proficient in the language you are writing in. You don’t need to have a degree in literature or journalism to become a great blogger. You just have to be a great writer, regardless of your academic qualification.

• Write on issues that would get you some attention. You may pick popular topics which you can source from current affairs or pop culture. You can write on politics, movies, music, technology or whatever that will entice readers. Do not write on a topic that is unlikely to get you any views. You may be interested in medieval art but not many would share that interest. You may write a stunning piece on the Italian Renaissance and yet get very few views. You can pursue any niche you want but make sure you manage to entice your audience. You should have a target audience for your blog but that should not be a small section of people. That will not make you famous. You need to reach out to the masses if you truly want to get famous or become an influencer. More importantly, you need a large target audience if you wish to monetize your blog and generate consistent profit.

• Write on issues that would get you some attention. You may pick popular topics which you can source from current affairs or pop culture. You can write on politics, movies, music, technology or whatever that will entice readers. Do not write on a topic that is unlikely to get you any views. You may be interested in medieval art but not many would share that interest. You may write a stunning piece on the Italian Renaissance and yet get very few views. You can pursue any niche you want but make sure you manage to entice your audience. You should have a target audience for your blog but that should not be a small section of people. That will not make you famous. You need to reach out to the masses if you truly want to get famous or become an influencer. More importantly, you need a large target audience if you wish to monetize your blog and generate consistent profit.

• Be originally argumentative. Have a view that may not comply with the norms and present your opinion without being overly offensive to anyone. The objective is to get people talking, to make the audience sit up and notice, to get them clicking and reading. Engaging the audience, inciting a discussion, interacting to fuel further conversation and generating activity is the best way to become an influencer.

• Develop a personality as a blogger. This may be the natural extension of who you are in real life or you may create a certain style and portrayal as a blogger. It is this personality that people will follow, like and talk about.

 

 


Sharing is karma in the works