So you want to be a blogger?
Great! But if you want to be successful this is not something you should take lightly. Blogging is a very competitive space and there is a lot to learn ranging from setting up blogging software, content writing, monetization and complying with the ever changing whims of search engines. Fortunately for you we have things covered, read on for the ultimate guide on how to make money as a blogger in 2020!
In this article:
- How much can I earn from blogging?
- How can I start a blog?
- How to pick a profitable niche for your blog
- Get great at creating content
- How to increase your blog traffic
- Ways to make money from blogging
- Can I really make money from blogging?
The short answer is that much like any entrepreneurial venture you can earn anything from zero to millions of dollars, and overwhelmingly what separates those that enjoy some level of success vs those that bottom out at zero earnings is that the former have the patience, persistence and consistency to see things through. It is easy and requires little to no money to start blogging, but those who enjoy a solid yearly income from doing so put in the work, often for a year or more, before that was the case.
Finding solid figures to go by when looking for average earnings is difficult as official sources tend to categorise bloggers in the same sector as ‘authors and writers’, and those bloggers that do publicly advertise their earnings tend to be at the extreme end of the scale. Nonetheless blogging can, and regularly does for thousands of people, bring in a life changing amount of money or just supplements an existing income.
A quick note before you fire up a new tab and go hunting for examples of bloggers sharing their income, be sure to pay close attention to whether they are talking about their gross or net income. Many bloggers want to lure visitors with clickbait headlines expressing huge income figures, but its not until you dig into the article that you discover the figure was their gross income (before deductions) and they actually spent half this figure just on Facebook ads.
Fortunately it is relatively easy to start a blog, with perfectly viable options that cost nothing through to those that will require some sort of financial outlay. Below we have summarised the main free and paid ways you can start a blog.
Create a blog for free
Below are the top 3 ways you can start a blog for free, but take note of the cons – there are caveats and restrictions when going down this route that you will almost certainly find hold you back as you get more traffic. The most obvious example is that your blog’s address will be something like yourblogname.wordpress.com (as opposed to just yourblogname.com). But if you want to test the water then these are the best ways to do so:
Creating a free blog with wordpress.com
WordPress is the most popular blogging software on the web and they offer 2 versions, a ‘self hosted’ version and one that they manage for you. Both are free to use but the self-hosted one would require money to get up and running – so here we will discuss the one WordPress will manage for you, found at www.wordpress.com.
Visit wordpress.com and you can register and set up your blog in a matter of minutes, however you will be restricted by the number of themes/visual styles you can use, ways that you can extend the functionality of the blog and will be unable to place your own advertisements on your site. You will also have to pay a monthly fee if you want to remove adverts place by WordPress on your pages.
One upside of going down this route is that if later on you decide to upgrade to a self-hosted version (see the ‘paid options’ below), it is relatively trivial to migrate all your articles over.
Free blogging with Medium
Medium is really better used as part of a campaign to support an existing blog, there is no real option to customise the layout and advertising is limited to that which you can shoehorn into the content itself through affiliate and sponsored links. However it is a very popular platform with writers, journalists and experts covering every sector you can imagine and if you are just looking to get your feet wet can be a solid way to garner feedback.
Using Blogger as a free blogging platform
Blogger is the blogging platform from Google and really suffers from the same issue as wordpress.com, limitations on design and opportunities to extend will hold you back. Also like wordpress.com, it is pretty easy to migrate content from Blogger to a self-hosted version of WordPress.
Paid options for starting a blog
Whether you start of with one of the free solutions above or not, you’re likely to end up needing the functionality only a paid solution can offer before you’re able to really make any revenue from your efforts.
WordPress really have the paid blogging sector cornered with their self-hosted option found at wordpress.org, in fact their software powers around 35% of all websites on the web right now. So your decision will ultimately come down to whether you set things up yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.
The good news is that its really not that difficult to do yourself if you have even a modicum of technical ability.
A self-hosted WordPress solution will open up a world of extra options for you:
- Thousands of themes both paid and free can be installed in a couple of clicks of your mouse
- Thousand of plugins and extensions will become available, some free and some paid but in the vast majority of cases very affordable. These can provide functionality allowing you to sell products, take payments, manage advertising, have paid member areas and much more.
WordPress is actually fully capable of driving websites of any style, not just blogs, so you can appreciate the scope of possibilities these themes and extensions will offer you.
Setting up a self-hosted WordPress blogging site yourself
We wont go into great depth here about how to do this, that’ll be covered in a later article, however to set up a WordPress driven site yourself you’ll likely have 2 options.
- Buy a domain and ‘point’ it at your hosting, download the software from wordpress.org, upload the files to your hosting provider and follow the tutorials to complete basic configuration.
- Choose a hosting provide that has ‘1 click install’ options for WordPress. These are very common, companies such as bluehost.com and siteground.com are both great options here. Their installers will handle the whole installation process for you from start to finish and they’ll also offer domain registration services making the process that much easier.
Hire a web designer
If doing it yourself sounds like too much of a chore you can hire a web designer to do it for you. Cost will range dramatically, but the process of setting up the basic blog with with a standard theme is very linear, so we suggest you go for the cheapest (reputable) option. If you want to have a completely custom theme built for you then its a different matter – costs can spiral into the thousands, but with so many high quality free and paid themes available that is really unnecessary.
Unless you get lucky, selecting the niche for your blog is likely to be one of the areas you spend quite a lot of energy on. Even if you already have a topic in mind that you’re interested in it may not be viable due to over-saturation. Most importantly you need to be able to consider yourself an authority in the niche you select – this will put you in a good position to write content that is in some way different and helps you stand out.
On the flip-side, even if you the leading expert in sock design there is little point in selecting this as your niche if your research indicates that you’re one of about 12 people who actually care about the design of socks. You might attract 100% of sock-design aficionados but you wont make any money.
Your niche / chosen topic should meet the following criteria:
- Be an area you are more knowledgeable in than the average person interested in the topic.
- Be a topic that has a solid following, use the methods and tools listed below to gauge whether or not people actually want to read what you’re writing about.
- Be a topic that you are actually interested in. If you’re not interested in what you’re going to be writing about you will soon become bored and are far more likely to give up before you’ve given blogging the time and effort it needs.
- Ideally pick a topic that is not already saturated with bloggers and influencers trying to grab a piece of the pie. This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker but the best niches are ones that meet the above three points whilst being relatively undiscovered in the blogosphere.
Analyse and review other blogs
If you have a topic in mind, try searching Google to see what is currently out there. If you find a lot of existing blogs covering the same topic then you can be pretty sure you’re looking at a niche with a good amount of public interest. Often you’ll be able to use this method to identify gaps in the market.
Browse forums and Quora to see what people are asking about
If you have a rough idea of the niche you want to write about, search for forums built around communities of like-minded users. This can hep you gauge interest and might also help to highlight any relatively unexplored side-topics within the niche.
For much the same reason, Quora can be a goldmine of information and useful feedback. You’re able to see what the most popular, recent questions are across the whole platform – if you’re still trying to think of your niche this can be an invaluable tool.
Track trends with tools like Google Trends
Google offer a wide range of ways to find out what niches and topics are trending. Use Google Trends to track the level of interest in your niche over time, if its on a steady decline it may not be the best niche to dig into. But if you can see it up-trending then it could end up being very lucrative.
Also look at the auto-suggest and “People also searched for” results in the main Google search result pages (SERPs) and see what similar topics people are searching for. This last method can be a good way to narrow in on a specific niche.
Ask yourself what you are interested in
Unsurprisingly, turning your attention inwards can be fruitful, you’ll need to find a topic you are interested in in order to maintain the level of interest required to be successful at blogging. Starting here and then exploring the other avenues outlined above can be the best track to follow when identifying your blogging niche.
Even being the best writer in the world doesn’t mean you’ll be the best blogger in the world. Many bloggers simply write articles about what they want to see, but all to often that is not what most people want to be reading.
Write great content for your blog articles
- Identify topics within your niche that people actually want to read about. The same methods you used to identify your niche can be good here; Google trends, suggested searches, community forums and Quora should be sufficient.
- Write content in a way that makes people want to read it. No one wants to read a big wall of text, learn to space out articles with photographs and info-graphics, use suitable font sizing and line spacing – make reading your articles a pleasure rather than a chore.
- Write content that contains new information, dont just regurgitate what you have read in other articles
Create infographics worth sharing
If you’re a bit handy with graphic design (or even just dabble), consider creating some info-graphics to illustrate the main points in you articles. You can include share links which link back to your article which will not only promote your blog anywhere it’s shared, but can also be a great boost for search engine optimisation (SEO).
So you have identified your niche and you’ve become a class A content writer? Great, now you just need to get people to actually see your work! The following steps outline the best ways to achieve this.
Optimise your website for search engines (SEO)
SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation) is a big topic, but in essence it encompasses the various processes involved with getting your blog and each article to rank as highly as possible when people search for keywords relating to your niche / article topic. There is too much for us to cover here, but there is a wealth of information and guides covering this already out there on the web.
If you’re using a WordPress blog then much of the onsite-SEO can be automated, and when combined with good content writing, being aware of the keywords you’re targeting, getting users to share your content and networking with other bloggers you’ll be on the right track.
Offer blog readers a newsletter subscription
Make sure you have a clear newsletter / mailing list subscription registration form on your site. WordPress offers dozens of ways to achieve this via plugins that connect with any of the major mailing list services (Mailchimp.com is a great place to start). In no time at all you should be building up a list of interested readers and they’ll automatically be alerted by email with any new articles you write. They might also share these emails with their friends and family helping to promote your blog to people not yet aware.
Develop a strong social media presence
If you are blogging and do not also maintain a presence on at least 2 of the main social networking platforms you are missing a trick. Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are great platforms for bloggers to utilise and open up a whole new branch of your brand from which you can not only cross promote your work but also advertise products and services for brands you may be working with. Be sure to check out our guide on how to make money as an Instagram Influencer!
Connect and network with other bloggers
Bloggers are a friendly bunch in general and most are happy to connect, work with and cross promote each others work when it’s appropriate to their niche. Identify fellow bloggers and connect with them on the main social platforms. They don’t have to be in the same niche as you, but if there is some logical connection between your brands then a collaboration may be possible.
There are also regular blogger meet ups all over the world, consider attending these as face-to-face networking with other bloggers often creates the longest lasting of relationships (and could result in some new, life-long friends!)
Respond to reader comments
Interacting with your readers is probably in the top 3 most important things you must keep on top of, in fact we covered this in our article on how to be a micro influencer where we referred to a number of statistics identifying a strong, personable connection between the influencer and the influencers audience as the reason why advertisers are so fond of micro influencers. Its also one of the main things audiences say makes them trust and believe recommendations made by the influencer.
Create viral content
Often easier said than done, creating viral content can have an explosive impact on your reader numbers. What makes something become viral is the holy grail of content creation, if you can isolate that then you’re going to be printing money – so if you’re going to try and create viral content your best bet is just to make sure you cover all bases:
- Create infographics
- Write really good content with a unique style and touching on topics unexplored by others
- Create YouTube videos to embed on your articles
- Create memes and gifs and place them in your article
Be careful to not take this too far, you don’t want to alienate your readers. Its a fine balancing act but the payoff can be huge.
Now we’re getting down to brass tacks. Ultimately you’re doing this whole thing to make money; you’ve got the blog, the content and now the audience. How can you monetise your blog without driving away your users? Read on!
Making money from blogging with affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is probably one of the most common ways bloggers (and influencers in general) make their money. Fortunately there are a number of ways this whole process can be automated – we’ll cover them below.
Affiliate Window is probably the biggest hub for affiliates out there today, thousands of brands offer some sort of affiliate plan through Affiliate Window, allowing you to sign up, track referrals and embed links in seconds.
If you’re promoting products from Amazon, be sure to register with Amazon Associates. Amazon have one of the best referral offerings due to the fact they offer an affiliate link with a 90 day cookie. This means that even if someone follows your link and does buy right away, if they return in the next 90 days and buy you still get your commission.
Displaying Google AdSense on your blog
Google AdSense is a staple of the influencer, blogger and content creator. Just sign up, select from a number of preferences regarding the types of adverts you want to show on your site and pop some code into your pages (WordPress will have a range of plugins supporting this). You’ll then be able to show links via Google PPC adverts on your site. The pay off is generally on the lower side compared with other monetization methods but can be more consistent.
Make money with sponsored blog posts
As you grow in popularity you are likely to start receiving emails and DMs from brands asking you to promote their products either for a fee, or in exchange for the product. You can also register with a number of services that bring influencers, bloggers and brands together (like none other than us here at SuperSocialClub!). Do not compromise your audience for the sake of promoting products, be honest – tell them when you are being paid to promote an item and give a true opinion of it (or simply don’t work with brands and products you don’t like).
Sell digital products on your blog
Digital products can be a great way to make money off the back of blogging – in fact it is not uncommon for the highest earning bloggers to make the majority of their income from digital goods.
People love online courses, they love them. If you can figure out a way to impart your knowledge in course-form then try and do so. There are a number of web services that will allow you to create courses online, using simple drag/drop interfaces and will even help to promote them within their own platform (for commission and/or a fee of course). Courses can be a really lucrative way to earn money, and once made you rarely need to update them so become a passive income.
Second to courses, people love learning from Ebooks. Consider putting your course material in Ebook form and selling it via your site, or if you’re feeling generous offering a free Ebook download after registering for your newsletter can be an excellent way to grow your userbase.
You need to be making a lot of content for this to be an option as you really need to offer a free area of your site before you can section off some content behind a paid membership login. But if that sounds like you then consider charging a small monthly fee for access to exclusive content. This could be in the form of videos, courses, articles, Ebook or consultations. You will need to provide consistent content of a high standard but it could easily become the main income revenue for your blog if pulled off well.
Make money selling banner advertising space
You can work with brands without promoting their content in article form, just make some space for banner advertising and through either direct agreements with brands or via affiliate portals like Affiliate Window you can get paid “per click” or “per impression” of adverts you place on your site. Don’t be that guy or gal that plasters their site in adverts or you’ll lose more users than you are probably comfortable with, but a few well place yet unobtrusive adverts can work wonders.
Make money selling newsletter advertising space
If you have built up a good number of registered newsletter users then promoting products and services from within your newsletters is a great way to add to your income stream. The process is much the same as placing advertising banners on your site, and the same considerations need to be made, but if you can – do!
Yes! Don’t be fooled into thinking its easy, it takes hard work, graft, persistence and patience – but everything worthwhile does. If you follow the tips and tricks outlined above then we think anyone can make a good, often substantial income from blogging. And if you’re blogging about something you love then it doesn’t even have to feel like work, what could be better than that!