When it comes to starting your own side hustle, few opportunities are more enticing (and low-cost) than launching your own blog.
After all, there are countless stories of bloggers who went from zero to making tens of thousands of dollars each month, eventually turning their part-time blogs into a full-time career. I know because I’ve done this myself. Today, my blog generates over $50,000 per month on the side of my day job.
While I’ve been able to successfully grow my blogging income to a sizable figure, it took a lot of experimentation, work and winning habits over the course of years during my nights and weekends.
To build a meaningful level of income from your blog, it requires more than just quality content. There’s a lot that goes into attracting readers, building an engaged audience and then finding the best ways to monetize your blog in a win-win fashion with those readers.
The good news is that it can still be done today—and you don’t even need to resort to strategies like running boring ads on your blog in order to accomplish it. As I’ve talked about in a recent interview with Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko, and a recent conversation with Chad MacKay, CEO of LinkTrust, today’s bloggers have more opportunities than ever before to monetize their content. Here’s how to do it.
1. Hone In On Your Positioning
Though commanding a knowledge of the nitty-gritty tactics are important for eventually monetizing your blog, Dean notes during our conversation that taking the “10,000-foot view” is vital for setting the right foundations for your blog in the first place.
“The first thing I’d focus on is positioning,” he explains. “If you jump into the tactics without nailing this part first, it’s going to be a huge struggle moving forward. The first thing you want to do is look at your blog like a product or brand, and ask yourself what’s going to make your blog different than what’s already out there.”
Dean elaborates using an example, “If you’re launching a fitness blog, why would someone choose to read your fitness blog over all the others out there? Maybe you teach moms. Maybe you teach SaaS founders. Maybe you teach people that are already built, how to get that much more built. Or maybe you teach people that used to be fit, how to get back in shape. The point is, you want to have a positioning that’s really unique and helps you stand out from the crowd. Then you can create content that’s amazing and backs it up.”
Finding a unique niche within your industry will be vital for attracting the audience that’ll help you build revenue in the first place.
2. Invest In High Quality Designs
What you write is important, but it’s far from the only attribute that gets people interested in your blog. In fact, Dean says that investing in a visually appealing layout design has been his greatest investment in creating a successful, well-monetized blog.
“Very early on, I started hiring people to help me with the design of my blog,” he explains. “As time went on, I realized it helped the blog stand out, it helped my content be unique, and it helped more people share—it was a huge differentiator. Most people aren’t willing to spend a lot on design because it’s expensive for great designers. Looking back on all the money that I’ve put into my blog, that’s the one I’ve gotten the most out of.”
The Internet can be a very superficial place. High-quality graphics, beautiful images and a thoughtful visual layout are all absolute musts for building a loyal audience that wants to return and continue reading from your blog.
3. Monetize Early With Affiliate Marketing
With the right foundation for attracting a loyal readership in place, you’re ready to dive into specific monetization channels.
One of the most popular methods of doing this today, is affiliate marketing. By partnering with a brand’s affiliate program to surface their relevant product (or service) to your readers, you can earn a commission when someone from your audience clicks through and buys that product or service.
“Bloggers are frequently some of the most successful affiliate marketers out there,” MacKay notes. “Their niche knowledge and expertise make them trusted sources of information. When they share a link as part of a product review or list it as a resource they’ve utilized, their readers pay attention. It’s also a great opportunity for bloggers to see which items resonate with their audience if they are planning on eventually selling their own products or services.”
The right affiliate programs can prove extremely valuable, as evidenced by the fact that they’re the main driver of my blogging income, but remember that you’re required to be transparent about the use of affiliate links, as not to deceive or confuse your audience.
4. Create Your Own Product (Or Service)
What starts as a simple blog can quickly grow into a full-time business venture when you offer your own relevant products or services to excited readers.
This is how many of the most successful bloggers earn the bulk of their income—through sales of online courses, books, training programs, coaching packages, software tools or otherwise. Still, it’s crucial to develop a proper understanding of what your audience is looking to solve, in order to make money this way.
“You should evaluate your past successes and failures with affiliate marketing and basic content before trying to promote your own product or service,” MacKay recommends. “This will give you a better idea of which digital or physical products will be the best fit for your audience. An online course may be ideal for one blogger, but a disaster for another. Make sure your offerings match your blog’s unique positioning and your audience’s needs.”
There are countless options at your disposal today, so it’s important to do your research and determine which products or services you can provide, that’ll also appeal to your current readership.
5. Optimize Your Blog For User Intent
During our interview, Dean noted that Google is increasingly optimizing for user intent when determining which articles they feature in search results.
He explains, “There’s a post on my blog that’s optimized around the keyword ‘SEO campaign.’ The old post was a long-form case study of how I helped someone execute an SEO campaign. It covered every step, every email they sent, every keyword phrase, but it didn’t do well because people searching for ‘SEO campaign’ didn’t want to just read through a long case study.”
So, Dean decided to research what his readers were actually looking for.
“They wanted a step-by-step plan that they could follow that wasn’t one person’s experience that they don’t necessarily know how to apply to their own projects. So, I changed the post to talk about how to set up and execute a step-by-step campaign. Before, this post wasn’t even on the first page; now it’s number one on Google for that keyword with no extra promotion work.”
By better understanding what type of information your readers want and tailoring your content and products to them, you’ll achieve higher SEO rankings—and thus a greater number of loyal readers over time. This will lead to more lucrative affiliate marketing opportunities and more meaningful ideas for your own products or services to sell.
There’s no doubt that earning money from a blog will require a lot of time and effort.
Focus on striving to learn what will best appeal to your readers, so that your monetization efforts don’t just drive your audience away.
As you leverage these techniques and experiment with your offers over time, the reality of becoming a successful blogger will be within reach.