Around this time last year, Ben and I finally got around to starting our Facebook group. A group specifically designed around one simple concept: helping bloggers learn how to make money blogging.
So far it’s been amazing. We’ve had the opportunity to “meet” thousands of other bloggers, and we’ve been able to share some pretty helpful tips and tricks along the way.
A little while back I posed a question in the group that really opened my eyes:
Needless to say, some of the ensuing answers we got really surprised me. I came away learning two important things:
- We have really ambitious people in this group, and I love everything about that.
- Most members either,
- Haven’t yet started their blogs but are excited about the possibility of doing so, or
- Have started, but are struggling to generate their first $1,000 blogging.
I then realized that when I write income reports like this, it doesn’t do much for people at $0 besides maybe inspire them. And while it feels great to motivate people and show them what’s possible, I want to truly help our readers.
Which is why I’m writing this monster of an article today.
Consider it your one-stop shop on how to set up your blog, and how to make money blogging.
In this guide, we’re going to cover everything. From how to monetize your blog, to the technical aspects of getting your website up and running, we’re going to show you exactly how to make your first $1000 blogging.
Our Blogging Story
First off, we didn’t get into blogging intentionally. Rather, we sort of fell into blogging on accident.
My business partner, Ben, and I started our business in 2014. Originally, it began as an investment membership site: people would pay us for detailed stock market analysis and specific insight as to where they should invest their money.
Needless to say (since you’re reading this article) that idea failed miserably. In fact, in our first 18 months of existence we made $0.29.
Obviously, our original idea wasn’t working, so we needed a plan B.
That’s when we stumbled onto blogging. We quickly realized that other people were making thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars per month from their blogs. Our first idea failed, and I wasn’t about to go crawling back to the full-time job I had just quit a year earlier, so we gave it a go.
Blogging was slow moving for us at first, but we kept reading, learning from others, and testing strategy after strategy until, finally, we figured it out:
That first little hint of success was all the motivation we needed to keep going. From there, we were able to grow our income each month (well, most months).
Now, we have two websites (this one and a personal finance site), and another in the works. Together, they bring in over $25k per month and growing.
If we’d had a guide like this when we first started our business, we probably could have skipped the first year and a half of pure stress, confusion, and turmoil and gotten where we are now in a fraction of the time.
Which brings me to another question we see a lot.
How Much Money Can You Make Blogging?
That, and how long does it take to make money blogging. These are some of the first two questions we hear from every new blogger.
The truth is, it depends on 1) how hard you’re willing to work, and 2) the monetization methods you choose.
Our websites bring in over $25k per month, but it took us a lot of work to get to that point. Granted, it would have taken a lot less work and time if we had been willing to learn from others a bit earlier on (like what you’re doing) rather than trying to figure everything out ourselves.
There are bloggers who make less than us and plenty of bloggers who make a great deal more.
The thing about blogging is that there are no limitations — there are a thousand ways to make money blogging. That’s both incredibly liberating and extremely terrifying at the same time.
If you just want to make a thousand dollars extra per month on top of your full-time job, that’s totally doable.
Want to build a seven-figure digital media empire all while traveling the world? Also doable.
That’s why so many people are drawn to the world of blogging and online business.
Blogging provides freedom.
The freedom to travel, work from anywhere, be your own boss, and not have to stress about money. But that doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and puppy cuddles. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of a blog.
The Truth About Blogging as a Career
I’m not trying to get your hopes up, but I also don’t want you to get discouraged before you even begin. I want you to go into this with a level head and the mindset for success.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to blogging and how bloggers make money, so allow me to drop some real truth bombs about what blogging is actually like as a career.
Truth Bomb #1: You don’t have to be a great writer.
It doesn’t matter whether you went to college or if you majored in journalism or underwater basket weaving. No one cares.
Your blog readers (depending on your topic and who you’re writing for) are most likely going to be average, everyday people who also aren’t professional writers. So they’re not going to know that you should have used a semicolon there or that your blog post is chock full of comma splices.
Writing for the web is far different from academic writing. I have seen some terrible grammar in the blogging world from very successful bloggers. That’s because no one cares about your grammar, they care about your ideas and how you’re able to communicate those.
So you don’t have to be a great writer. However, you do need to be a good conversationalist.
Write like you’re having a conversation with your reader or, in other words, write using your natural voice. Readers will see you as more authentic, you’ll attract the right kind of people, and those people are more likely to turn into paying customers.
Truth Bomb #2: You don’t have to be an “expert” on your topic.
“I can’t write about that topic because I don’t know everything in the world there is to know about it.”
Yes, you can. Just because you’re a CPA by day doesn’t mean you need to start an accounting blog. No one wants to be lectured at by a so-called “expert” anyway.
Some of the most successful bloggers out there didn’t start out as experts in their niche. They started documenting their journey or writing about something they were interested in learning.
People love stories. If you’re going through a change in your life, or you’re interested in learning more about a topic (interior design, minimalism, paying off debt, traveling, etc.), that’s the perfect place to start.
Truth Bomb #3: It (usually) takes some time to make money blogging.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule — there are definitely exceptions. However, most people who are able to take their blog from 0 to $5,000+ (per month) in only a few months’ time have some sort of advantage. Either they have more time on their hands, money to invest, have done a significant amount of research beforehand, or have past experience.
Like I said, that’s not always the case. But for most people, building a successful blog takes time.
The fastest way to expedite your success: learn from people who have already done what you want to do. Join blogging Facebook groups, take online courses, and network with other bloggers.
Truth Bomb #4: Blogging is not easy — it takes a lot of work.
You’ve probably seen those Facebook ads or blog posts on Pinterest about “how I make $10k per month working 5 hours a week on my blog.”
Don’t let those bloggers fool you. In most cases, they’re lying. Either they actually work more than 5 hours per week, or they do only work 5 hours a week, but they’re leaving out the part about how much time, energy, and sacrifice it took to get to that point.
I’m here to tell you right now, blogging takes a lot of work (as you’ll see below). Ben and I each work 60+ hours per week on our sites. Now, we don’t plan to keep that up forever, but there’s a time to hustle and a time to coast.
In the beginning, it’s all about the hustle.
That’s because learning how to make money blogging isn’t just about writing great content. You also have to figure out how to monetize that content, get people to your site, and turn them into paying customers.
If you go into this whole blogging thing thinking, “I love to write; this will be a cake walk!” then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Truth Bomb #5: It’s not about you, it’s about the reader.
When most people start blogging, they make the mistake of thinking it’s about them: their story, the topics they want to write about, the products they sell, etc.
Here’s one thing you need to understand now: your blog is not about you. Your blog is about your reader and what they want.
Now, let me clarify that point just a little. You can make money blogging purely blogging about yourself or what you’re interested in. It’s just a lot harder.
This was something we had to learn the hard way. When we first started our company, all I wanted to write was detailed market analyses. But guess what? Most people on the Internet don’t want to read about that stuff. They don’t care! That’s what they have a financial planner or advisor for.
So no matter how much I wrote and how awesome the content was (or how awesome I thought it was), no one read it.
It wasn’t until we started writing about what our audience wanted to read that we began gaining traction in our business.
People are only interested in reading two types of content: content that entertains them and/or benefits them in some way.
Therefore, your goal should always be to provide as much value as possible to your readers.
Truth Bomb #6: You need a plan if you want to succeed.
Most people take a very laissez-faire approach to blogging. As in, they start a blog with no idea how they’re going to make money from it and hope that eventually they figure it out or everything falls into place or something.
But what most often happens with these types of bloggers is they get frustrated, overwhelmed, and quit before making any significant amount of money.
Here’s how to avoid this: begin your blog with the end goal in mind.
Things can change over time, and they probably will. Our monetization strategy has shifted from when we began, and we’ll continue adding more revenue streams as we grow.
But having a goal in mind for what you want to accomplish, who you want to serve, and how you’re going to make money from it will give you direction, inspire your content strategy, and set you up for success in the long term.
The Top 4 Ways to Make Money Blogging
Some ways to make money blogging are simply easier and faster, while other revenue streams take more time and effort to build.
As a blogger, you have many monetization options to choose from, and you don’t have to choose just one. In fact, it’s wise to have multiple revenue streams. That way if something happens and one revenue stream drops, you still have other monetization methods in place.
However, we recommend choosing no more than two or three in the beginning. Focus on building those up before moving on to the next thing.
There’s no one “right” way to make money blogging. The revenue streams you choose will depend on your audience and blog topic. Now let’s take a look at some of the best/most common ways to make money blogging.
When most people think of starting a blog, this is the first revenue stream that comes to mind. Oftentimes it’s not the most lucrative, but it is one of the easiest ways to get started. There are multiple ways to make money with advertising on your blog.
You know when you visit a site and see ads for cars or clothes or something you were just looking at on Amazon?
Those are display ads. Each time you click one of those ads, the company earns a little bit of money, which is why they call it pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
The easiest PPC method to get started with is Google AdSense. However, in order to make any kind of decent money with display ads, you’ll need quite a bit of traffic. And by the time you get that much traffic, you’ll make more money going with an ad management company like Mediavine (minimum of 25,000 monthly impressions) or AdThrive (minimum of 100,000 monthly pageviews).
We currently use display advertising on our sites but plan to move away from it in the near future. Why?
- It makes for a poorer user experience. How many times have you been to a site and thought, “Good god, get these ads out of my FACE!”
- It is totally dependent on your traffic. Not everyone who comes to your site is going to click on an ad, so the more traffic you have, the more money you’re likely to make, and vice versa.
- It takes users away from your site. Yay, you got $0.80 for someone clicking on your ad! But now they’re on someone else’s site buying their things and making them money.
All in all, display ads aren’t the best way to make money with a blog. There are much better ways to make money blogging than sending people away from your site.
However, it’s also not the only form of advertising.
Once you start building an audience, you’ll be able to land opportunities for sponsored content on your site and social media.
This is when companies pay you for tweeting, writing a Facebook post, or publishing an article about their products or services. Putting that content out to your audience helps them build brand awareness and maybe even increase sales.
We’ve done this with a few companies on our personal finance website, but it’s also not our favorite way to make money with our blogs. Writing that content takes time, and unless you already have an audience, you can’t expect to make much money with this one.
The larger audience you have, the more valuable you are to these companies, and the more they’re willing to pay you for media mentions. Therefore, this is not the best monetization method for new bloggers.
Reviews and Giveaways
Another form of advertising on your blog is to do product or service reviews or run a giveaway.
Oftentimes, companies will ask bloggers to write a review on their website about one of their products. In exchange, the blogger gets to keep the product for free. Or for a giveaway, maybe you get a product and you get another to give to the winning reader.
This can be nice if all you’re looking for is free stuff. But if you’re looking for cash, there are better ways to make money blogging.
2. Affiliate Marketing
Okay, truth bomb #7: This is our favorite way we make money with our websites.
Affiliate networks have many products and services for you to promote all in one place. Alternatively, you may be able to earn higher commissions by working directly with the company you want to promote if they have a system for that.
Affiliate marketing can be done in a really spammy, deceitful sort of way, or it can be done in a very legitimate, thoughtful way that actually provides value to the reader.
The former is sleazy and won’t get you very far. We prefer the latter.
Many of the articles on both of our sites contain text links that lead to another website where our reader can buy or just sign up for something. In return, we get a commission of the sale or lead (if it’s a free sign-up).
The size of the commission varies depending on the cost of the product. For example, a sign-up for a free credit app might net us a few dollars, but a purchase of $100 could result in a $30-$40 commission.
The goal with affiliate marketing, and with blogging in general, is to always provide value to the reader. In this case, that means including links to products or services that you 1) have personally vetted and/or can attest to, and 2) believe would genuinely benefit the reader.
In this article, you’ll see affiliate links for things like blog hosting and our awesome email service provider. That’s because those products are relevant to the content and beneficial to other bloggers.
We have no problem promoting these affiliates because we’ve used them ourselves and can attest to their value.
3. Digital Products
Digital products are another awesome way to make money with your blog. Rather than selling someone else’s product or service, you’re creating something of your own and selling it directly to your tribe. There are many options to choose from when it comes to digital products, but we’re going to look at what we’ve seen and consider to be the top three.
Ebooks and Workbooks
The first product we ever created was an ebook. At the time, we were still trying to sell investment advice online (before we figured out the whole blogging thing), so needless to say that was a failed venture.
However, there are many bloggers out there who make great money from their workbooks and ebooks.
One who comes to mind is Rosemarie Groner of The Busy Budgeter. She sells her Budget Boot Camp Workbook for $27, along with various other workbooks and worksheets.
The difference between a workbook and ebook is the amount of involvement or activity on the reader’s end. An ebook is mostly text, with maybe an exercise or two thrown in. A workbook helps your reader do or accomplish something by leading them through the process.
In Rosemarie’s budgeting workbook, for example, she leads her reader through the process of organizing their finances and creating a budget. Workbooks and ebooks are a great place to start with digital products since they’re decently quick to make, unlike our next digital product.
This monetization method has become incredibly popular over the last few years. As a result, there are many bloggers out there making a ton of money sharing their knowledge online.
The Perfect Pin was our introduction to the world of online course creation. And we can say from experience that creating courses isn’t a walk in the park — it takes a lot of time to create and, depending on your topic, maintain your course content.
However, they can also be a very lucrative way to make money blogging. Teachable is our favorite platform for creating online courses, and the one we use for our own courses.
A membership site is basically a paid online community. Subscribers pay you a monthly fee for access to premium content, which could include weekly classes, workbooks and printables, video lessons, tutorials, or whatever else you have to offer.
Think of it as a mix between teaching and community.
Offering services is by far the fastest way to start making money with your blog. Your blog doubles as your portfolio when pitching clients, so you can make money working for others while building your other income streams. Let’s look at some of the best services to offer as a new blogger.
In case you haven’t realized it yet, blogging is about so much more than just writing and publishing articles. Along the way to building your blog, you learn about social media strategies, design, SEO, content marketing, and about a million other things.
Many of those things fall under the umbrella of digital marketing, and they’re incredibly valuable to other businesses.
Our friend Bobby realized that soon after he started his blog. His site wasn’t making any money at the time, so he needed to find another way to bring in some cash. That’s when he started reaching out to other businesses offering his services doing the things he’d learned from blogging (Facebook ads, writing online content, social media strategy, etc.).
That bright idea turned into a nice little side hustle and allowed him to continue building his blog and growing his online business. Spoiler alert: he’s now a full-time blogger.
Virtual assistants are in high demand for online entrepreneurs. A virtual assistant helps business owners with everything from administrative tasks to design to email marketing.
Your services will depend on your specific skills and experiences. For example, if you have impeccable spelling and grammar, then one of your services could be to proofread articles for other websites.
When it comes to being a virtual assistant, your options are pretty much limitless. Here’s a list of 150+ services you can offer as a virtual assistant. Yes, there are really that many.
This is one of the easiest and most common services to offer as a new blogger. You’re already writing content for your own website, so why not get paid to write for someone else?
Freelance writing is a great way to practice your writing skills and get your name out there. It’s also perfect for building authority if you write for sites in your niche.
And don’t think for a second that “freelancing” is synonymous with “working for pennies.” Some freelance writers make upwards of six figures per year.
How to Make Money Blogging: A Guide to Your First $1,000
All right, now that you’re up to speed on what blogging is, what it isn’t, and the different ways to monetize a blog, let’s talk strategy.
If you commit to following every single step in this article, you absolutely should be making money with your blog within a matter of months.
That being said, the first $1,000 you make blogging is probably going to be the most difficult money you’ve ever earned in your life.
There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s easier to make $1,000 flipping burgers (I’ve done both).
But, once you hit that $1,000 mark, the sky is the limit.
You’ll be surprised how quickly your blog can grow and your life can change once you get past the initial hurdle of profitability. You just have to stick with it to get to that point.
If you want to escape your 9 to 5 and make a full-time income from home (and eventually more than a full-time income), blogging is one way to accomplish that.
So here we go, the exact steps you need to take to make $1,000 blogging, even if you’re a total beginner.
Step 1: Choose a Blog Niche
The biggest mental roadblock I see out there: people thinking they need to come up with something 100% unique that has not been written about yet.
Or worse, thinking that you can only write about something you have a raging passion for.
Here’s something for you: I’m not “passionate” about the subject areas of our two blogs (personal finance and blogging/business). Sure, I really enjoy both topics, but it’s not like I have a primal calling to write about them. I just enjoy both things, and that’s enough to keep me going.
And yes, there are a million other blogs out there that already cover what Ben and I write about. The internet is a really big place, but I can promise you there is room for all of us.
So what should you write about?
If you want to make money from your blog, you need to treat every decision you make like a business decision. When it comes to choosing your blog niche, that means using some common sense:
Here are some things to consider:
- Write about something that interests you. Otherwise, it won’t be enjoyable and you’ll fizzle out after a while.
- Find something that other people are interested in, too. If you choose to write about Himalayan basket weaving for men, you probably won’t have many readers, and you’ll have a hard time earning any income. Try to find something that combines your interests with things other people also care about. For my main blog, I write about money advice. I’m a personal finance nerd but, fortunately, there are people online looking for that type of information, too.
- You DON’T have to be a world-class expert on your topic. You just need to know a little more about your topic than your readers. I know I said this already, but it’s true, and I want you to take it to heart.
Have a question about whether a particular niche has a good income potential? Post your question in our Facebook group and you’ll get tons of helpful feedback.
Step 2: Start a Blog, If You Haven’t Already
You’ve probably heard of WordPress before, but may be wondering what the heck it even is.
Think of WordPress as the backbone of your blog. It’s the easiest to use (and most powerful) content management system (or CMS) in the world. WordPress is what makes it possible for regular people like you and me to actually build and run a website without being a computer coder.
In fact, you don’t need any coding knowledge whatsoever to get started with WordPress. That’s part of why they are the best.
Ok, so you have two main options for starting your blog: “Self-Hosted” on WordPress or “Free WordPress”
Why is self-hosting with WordPress the best way to go?
Even though you have to pay for your own web hosting out of pocket, going this route allows you much more flexibility in terms of site design and usability. And don’t worry, hosting is really inexpensive, especially if you take advantage of our 42% off coupon code with Hostgator (BTOP42). Depending on your hosting plan, it shouldn’t end up costing you more than a few dollars a month.
With the free version of WordPress, you don’t really have that much freedom to make changes to your site. Plus, WordPress actually owns your site if you use the free version (meaning, your site is technically not even yours). With the free version of WordPress, your website link even looks unprofessional; instead of a .com ending, your site will look like “yourwebsite.wordpress.com”.
I can’t think of even one successful blogger (in terms of income) that is using the free version of WordPress.
If you take your blog even remotely seriously (and want others to the same) self-hosting is what you need to do.
All right, are you ready to get started pursuing something awesome? Open HostGator in another tab and follow along with me.
Step 1: Choose Your Hosting Plan
When you click on the link above, you should land on a page that has three hosting options to choose from (Starter, Standard, and Business).
There’s no need to go with anything other than the Starter Plan when you’re first starting out. It’s the cheapest plan and has more than enough resources for a brand new website.
This is a Managed WordPress hosting package; meaning it was built and optimized specifically with WordPress in mind. It makes your website faster, more secure, and more reliable.
The price is slightly more than a traditional web hosting package, but the extra cost (we’re talking $1/month here) will save you a headache down the road. More on that later.
Step 2: Choose Your Domain Name
Once you hit the “Buy Now!” button, you’ll be directed to the order form. The first item on the list is the most important one: your domain name!
This is the one and only name for your website, so give it some thought.
It can be tricky coming up with a name that isn’t already taken.
Here are a few tips for choosing your domain name:
- Stick to just .com endings. Don’t bother using .biz, .info, .org, or any other endings.
- Make your domain name simple and easy to remember.
- Leave out numbers, dashes and anything else other than letters.
Step 3: Enter Your Hosting Plan Information
This step determines the actual cost to start your blog. It’s worth noting that HostGator offers a 45-day money-back guarantee.
So no matter how much you spend, if you end up deciding that blogging isn’t for you within the first 45 days, you can get your money back, no questions asked. (Hence why blogging is an amazing opportunity to start your own business at a relatively low cost, with zero risk involved).
In order to lock in the biggest discount, I recommend taking advantage of one of HostGator’s 36-month hosting plans.
It greatly reduces the overall cost of your blog, and you can typically get prices lower than $5.00/month (even lower when they’re running special promotions).
I mean what other business can you honestly start for less than that? None that I can think of.
You’ll also need to set up your HostGator Security PIN which you’ll use to access the back end of your site. Write this down somewhere safe.
Step 4: Enter Your Billing Information
For now, you can use a personal card. But don’t forget to keep track of your expenses! That way once your blog/business starts making money, you can get a tax-free reimbursement for these charges.
Step 5: Choose Add-ons That You Want
Fortunately, most of the add-ons that HostGator offers are already included in the price of the package. The only question is whether or not you need to tack on a SSL certificate when you start a blog (click the link if you want to learn more about SSL certificates).
I highly recommend adding an SSL certificate when setting up your blog.
Browsers are now displaying a small warning to users, when they first visit a site if it is not secured with an SSL certificate.
There’s no better way to scare someone away from your site than a browser telling them they’ve landed somewhere unsafe.
If money’s tight, you can forego this option until a later time, but I do recommend adding it now (there are also technical headaches that can be avoided down the road by getting one now).
Step 6: Enter Your Coupon Code
Having been around the blogging circle for some time now, we’re privy to insider information about when blogging platforms will be offering sales, discounts, or new coupon codes.
As such, we’ve negotiated a special discount for our readers that will never expire. By using BTOP42 at checkout you’ll save 42% off any hosting package, no matter the length.
That being said, we want you to save the most money. If we see (or you know of a HostGator coupon code) that could potentially beat our deal, we’ll add it to the list below.
Some confirmed HostGator coupon codes to try are:
rsosaveaw2new – up to 53% off.
SNAPPYW579 – up to 56% off.
Step 7: Review Order Details and Submit
Once you’ve completed all the steps above, go through and make sure everything is the way you want it.
I won’t include a screenshot since everyone’s checkout page will look slightly different based on their choices.
You’ll also notice that there are a few other free perks: 24/7/365 Phone, LiveChat, Email Support and, again, the 45-day money back guarantee if you decide blogging isn’t for you.
Once you’re all set, go ahead and hit “Checkout Now!” to create your blog and let’s get rolling.
Step 8: Install WordPress
Oh wait, you don’t actually have to. That’s one of the perks of purchasing a Managed WordPress plan.
As far as blogging platforms go, WordPress is in rare company. In fact, WordPress sites now comprise more than 30% of the entire Internet. You could learn how to create a blog with a smaller platform like Tumblr or Blogger, or you can go with the content management system (CMS) chosen by:
- New York Post
- USA Today
If those sites use WordPress, I think its safe to say you’re choosing the right blogging platform.
In the meantime, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the HostGator Customer Portal.
Click around from tab to tab and learn where everything is.
Although you won’t need to check in here frequently, it does contain important information about when products may expire, allows you to set up email accounts, and is the go-to spot if you need to upgrade your hosting as your blog grows!
It’s also a good spot to get technical support if necessary.
Step 9: Log Into Your WordPress Admin Dashboard
Once your WordPress site goes live, you’ll get an email confirmation message from HostGator giving you the info for where to access your WordPress login, your username, and a randomly generated password to sign in.
Your WordPress Admin Dashboard can be found at http://yourwebsitename.com/wp-admin/ (Hint: You’ll need to place your domain in the URL).
And that’s it! You’re all set up and ready to go with your new site.
Make yourself at home
You are probably going to want to spruce up your blog a bit with a fresh theme. StudioPress, makers of the Genesis Framework, is a popular provider of professional, low-cost themes for bloggers.
WordPress also has several free themes you can choose from. Go to “Appearance” on the left side of the WordPress dashboard and click on “Themes,” then pick whichever one you think looks best!
Step 3: Write Your First Blog Posts
At this point, you should have honed in a niche you feel comfortable writing about, and you should have your blog set up.
If you skipped to this section and haven’t done the first two steps, take the time to go back and do them!
After you’ve got your blog set up, it’s time to write some epic blog posts.
If you have the end goal of earning income from your blog, you need to be strategic in the type of content you write and how you write it.
Here is a basic framework you can and should use for planning out your content, at least to start. The main goal here is to get you in the habit of writing articles that you know people will want to read. You don’t want to waste time writing to an audience of 0.
Simple as that.
Why is this strategy so effective?
Because the leaders in whatever niche you are blogging about are already making money. And probably a lot of it.
They have cracked the code, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to emulate their success.
That said, be cool. Don’t outright copy them.
How to structure your blog posts so people read them
Repeat after me:
I will NOT use walls of text.
Using massive walls of text is the quickest way to kill a blog post.
The way we were taught in school to write is NOT how you want to write for your blog. Big paragraphs, pages and pages of SOLID TEXT, etc. are not going to make readers want to stick around.
See what I mean:
So, no long paragraphs. But what about structure? Do you write blog posts like an essay?
Yes and no.
The key here, again, is to break up your articles into bite-size chunks. Here’s a template you can steal:
Write enough posts to fill up your theme’s homepage (so it doesn’t look empty). Then, it’s onto the next step.
When Ben and I first started blogging, we tried to be everywhere, all the time.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Quora, Quibb… we were all over the place.
And you know what?
For the longest time, our traffic sucked. I mean, it REALLY sucked. We weren’t getting anywhere. And we weren’t making any money.
That’s when we decided to try our hand at Pinterest — a platform neither Ben or I had ever used in our lives up until that point.
And let me tell you, Pinterest changed everything for us.
For new websites, ranking high on Google is just not going to happen overnight, but Pinterest can be your secret weapon. It is, bar none, the best way to get your name out there if you are a new blogger.
How to dominate Pinterest and grow your traffic
For most new bloggers, I recommend focusing exclusively, 100% on Pinterest to get your first significant stream of consistent traffic. It really is the best use of your time at this stage of your blog.
Get a business account and set up “Rich Pins”
You want to make sure you aren’t using a personal account to build up your Pinterest profile for your website.
With a business account, you’ll have access to Pinterest Analytics, as well as the ability to create “Rich Pins.” You can also pay Pinterest to promote your pins with a business account, but that’s definitely not necessary. We experimented with about $50 worth of promoted pins before figuring out we could make our pins go viral on our own, without the help of ads.
Rich pins make your pins stand out just a bit more by adding a bold link title in your pin description. Getting rich pins is really easy (and free, don’t worry). You just need to confirm your website with Pinterest.
Create a “Best Of” Board
Once you have a business account, the next step is to create your “Best Of” board.
The purpose of this board is to house only pins that link to content on your own website. This is not the place to pin other peoples’ stuff. You can (and should) make a bunch of other boards for that.
When other users are looking at your account and deciding whether or not they want to follow you, they are going to be looking for this board to give them a sense for what type of content you yourself are contributing to Pinterest. In your board description, be sure to include lots of keywords that users might be searching for.
Ideally, you’d like to have at least 50 or so pins on this board. If you don’t have that many pieces of content, don’t worry. See the next step.
Make multiple pins for each blog post
This is important for a few different reasons.
First, it’s always smart to A/B test your pins.
“You could write the best blog post in the world, but if I don’t feel like clicking on your pin, you’ve just lost the game.”
Experiment with different image backgrounds, different calls to action (CTA), even different keywords in your description.
The other benefit of making multiple pins is that it makes it a little easier to run up your total pin count on your Best Of board. This helps when it comes time to apply for group boards, as you want to have a decent portfolio of pins that you can share.
I generally try to make 2 or 3 pins for each article. But sometimes I make as many as 10 pins if I feel it’s an article that deserves to get some real attention.
Brand your pins to stand out
I’ll be the first to admit, I could have done a much better job of this when I was first making the pins for our first personal finance blog. I just didn’t know any better.
Then one day as I was scrolling through my Pinterest feed and this pin caught my eye:
Before I looked down to see who the creator of the pin was, I knew it was going to be from Pauline Cabrera over at twelveskip.com. Without even realizing it, I had subconsciously begun to recognize her purple-themed pins with the crisp block font. And I knew that those pins led to really good content, so I clicked on the pin and ended up reading her article.
That’s when it dawned on me how important branding is when it comes to creating your pins, as long as you have great content. The ONLY reason I clicked on that pin and went to her website was because it stood out to me in the sea of pins on my feed.
So since launching BTOP, I’ve been keeping Pauline’s focus on awesome branding in the back of my head. Here’s a look at how our pins appear now:
There are a few key points I’d like you to note with these pins:
- They all have some amount of our main brand color: orange.
- Pins that have both scripts and block font perform well.
- The background images are all very light/white themed. This makes the text stand out more.
- I don’t have a rigid format for each pin. I switch it up constantly, while still keeping the same theme.
- Each one has both a logo and our .com address. Brand recognition, guys.
Having rock-solid brand recognition is SO important if you want to be recognized on the platform.
After creating your initial batch of on-brand pins, you can also experiment with making “off-brand” pins. I go over a lot of the strategy behind that in my Pinterest Design Course, but that’s a little beyond the scope of this article.
A lot of people use Canva or Photoshop to make their pins, but I’m old-fashioned and just use Powerpoint. Whatever works best for you is fine. PowerPoint is what I used in school for projects, so it’s also what I use to make pins. Our course goes into way more detail in terms of actually making your pins.
Join Group Boards
This is where the real magic is with Pinterest. If you don’t know yet, the number of followers you have on Pinterest doesn’t mean much…it’s all about how many (engaged) followers you have.
Group boards can help with this.
And while they’re not as effective as they used to be, they can still be a powerful tool to help increase your reach and drive more traffic to your website.
So how do you get on these group boards? You have to hustle.
The first step is to compile a list of boards that you would like to join. The best way to do this is to look at what group boards some of the top accounts in your niche are contributors to. You can also use PinGroupie.com and search for group boards centering around different topics.
Each group board admin is going to have a different way that they want you to apply to their board. Some want you to email them, some prefer a DM, some want comments, and some don’t give you any directions at all (that’s when you go full on stalker-mode and go to their website and search for their contact info).
Mass group board application means a lot to keep track of, so I recommend using a spreadsheet similar to mine below (we applied to well over 100 but this screenshot only shows the first 56 boards).
Once you have your spreadsheet started, it’s time to get to work and start contacting all of these people.
It’s going to take you a long time, and most of the time you will never hear back and you’ll never get added to their boards. That’s just the way it goes, and it’s okay. You have to cast your net wide and understand that rejection is just part of the game.
Here’s a basic outreach template you can use. However, keep in mind that board owners get a lot of these requests. The more personalized and unique you can make your email (and if you can offer them something in return, bonus points to you), the better your odds of being added.
I was hoping to catch you and see if you would be open to adding me as a contributor to your ___________ (actually link to the board, they may have several and this makes it easier for them) group board.
I regularly write about __________, ___________, and __________ on my website, and think my content would be both interesting and valuable to your readers. I also like to regularly promote and highlight other members of the community so that everyone benefits from collaborating.
My Pinterest profile: ____________
My Pinterest email: __________
Thanks a bunch,
Put Your Pinning on Autopilot
This is where automation comes in.
Instead of manually pinning each of your pins to your group boards all the time (along with finding other peoples’ stuff to pin), there is software out there that takes care of all that for you. And it’s awesome.
Ben and I have used a few different programs, but our favorite by far is Tailwind.
One of the coolest things about Tailwind is how it can tell you which group boards you are on are performing the best for you. With that info, you can really double down on what’s working (and eliminate what’s not working).
And you don’t have to get the paid version if you are not ready for that yet. You can get by for now with just the free trial, but eventually, you will need to make the investment. It is easily the best money we spent early on for our blog.
Reapply to Group Boards That You Never Heard Back From
Just because you were rejected the first time doesn’t mean you should give up. There are a bunch of reasons why you should revisit your spreadsheet every few months:
- The board owner might have missed your DM, email, etc.
- Your profile might not have been good enough back then, but it’s much better now.
- They could have just forgotten to add you.
No matter what might have happened the first time, go ahead and get back in touch with them. You have nothing to lose!
Don’t use the exact same script, and be sure to remain polite and courteous.
Step 5: Begin Monetizing Your Blog
You were probably wondering when I would circle back around to actually making money from your blog, weren’t you?
Well, the truth is, most bloggers never actually make any money from their blogs. And you know why?
Because they skip straight to the “making money” steps without putting in all the necessary foundational work. And then, when they do the blog monetization stuff and don’t see any income, they give up (or worse, make an excuse for why it didn’t work out).
This stuff takes time! Like I said, the first $1,000 you make on the internet is the hardest money you will likely ever make. But after that hurdle, there are no limits to your income. A $1K month leads to $2K, then $5K, then $10K, then $25K, then $80k+. I’ve seen it happen many times.
Before you do anything in this section, you should have done the following:
- Joined our free Facebook group
- Chosen a topic you enjoy and that appeals to many people
- Set up your blog
- Written your first 5-10 high-quality posts written
- Established a presence on one social media site
- Have at least 5,000 monthly visitors to your site. If you aren’t there yet, revisit Pinterest. Figure it out.
Without traffic, your blog will never make any money. That’s just the truth.
The rest of this section assumes you have the above items done. A solid foundation is imperative for your success!
The best way for most new bloggers to begin making money
As I said earlier, most of our income today is from affiliate marketing, which is a commission-based form of advertising on your blog. This is our favorite ways to make money blogging and one that we suggest you start implementing early on.
Essentially, for every sale/lead/signup your blog generates, you get a small fee. Most commissions are between $1 and $100.
This model works best if you are promoting things that directly relate to your content. For example, on our personal finance blog, we promote affiliates that help our readers make and save money.
Why do I advocate for affiliate marketing for new bloggers over creating your own product or some other method of monetizing?
Because it’s the best way for you to learn how to sell. Creating your own products take a ton of time, and then promoting them takes even more time and effort. It’s just too big of a risk. When you are just starting out, you are much better off promoting an already successful product and taking a commission on your sales.
Affiliate marketing is just the most practical way to make money for a new blogger. Not to mention you can make really good money doing it.
How to find affiliate products to promote on your blog
Hopefully, you already have a few products in mind that you personally use and like.
If not, go back again to the leaders in your niche. They most likely do some form of affiliate marketing on their blog (probably in addition to selling their own products).
Go back to their most popular posts. What do you see them promoting within these posts?
Chances are, if an affiliate product is appearing in a successful blogger’s most popular articles, that product is making the blogger a lot of money.
It might make a lot of sense for you to promote the same product (assuming you are familiar with it and believe in it). Being authentic definitely helps in converting affiliate sales.
Start promoting your favorite products
You should have a list of 5-10 affiliate products related to your niche that you have seen other influencers promoting that you want to have on your blog. Now it’s time to become an affiliate.
“Affiliate networks” are websites that connect bloggers with hundreds of companies that advertise via affiliate marketing. By joining a network, you will instantly have access to apply to as many affiliate programs as you’d like.
Here are the main networks we recommend joining:
There are many other networks, but these are big players and should cover most of your needs.
If you come across a company you want to promote and you don’t see them on any of these networks, send the company an email and ask if they have an affiliate program!
Find out which posts of yours are getting the most traffic
This will be your starting point for placing affiliate links on your blog.
Yes, you are going to go back and edit your old posts.
Read those articles again and try to spot areas where there are opportunities for you to drop an affiliate link. Again, authenticity is important — don’t force it.
An example of how this works:
Pro tip: Because of the nature of affiliate marketing (where you are essentially recommending a product to your readers), text links tend to be far more effective than pre-made banner images. Text links feel more natural and “real” in an article, which means a higher level of trust.
Go back through all of your articles and find opportunities to include affiliates. This isn’t a quick fix; it will take you some time, but always be on the lookout for ways to improve your old content.
Your content strategy going forward
Most articles that you write on your blog should be done with the dual purpose of helping your readers and converting an affiliate sale/signup.
Note: I said “most,” not “all.”
If you want to make money from your blog, very rarely should you write just for the sake of writing.
Your blog is a business.
With that said, don’t forget that your readers come first. Your content should always provide value to your readers, even if they don’t click on an affiliate link.
If your blog devolves into an affiliate spam fest, you will lose readers.
For example, right now I’m going to plug an amazing affiliate marketing course that I took from Michelle Schroeder-Gardner that I am now an affiliate for (she makes over $50K a month from affiliate marketing). I’m talking about affiliate marketing, she has a course on affiliate marketing. It feels “right.”
And I dropped the link after giving you a ton of value in the article. It shouldn’t feel sales-y.
Choose one other monetization method
Earlier in this article, we covered other ways to make money blogging aside from affiliate marketing (ads, digital products, services, etc.).
Choose one other monetization method in addition to affiliate marketing and grow them side by side. We recommend offering a service since that’s oftentimes the fastest way to make money with a blog.
Another, more passive option is to go with display ads. Remember, though, that until you start getting a significant amount of traffic, you won’t see much money with this one. However, it is a more passive alternative to offering services.
Once your affiliate marketing revenue takes off, you can slow down on the services and pick up other revenue streams (e.g. sponsored content or digital products), if you so choose.
How to Make Money Blogging in a Nutshell
Did I cover everything there is to know about blogging in this post?
No. Not even close. That would be a gazillion-word article that no one would read.
What I did do is tell you everything you need to know to start taking action now. Today.
If you follow every single step in this article (and don’t skip anything), you will have a real foundation for your blog to begin earning consistent, meaningful income.
Here’s the thing, though.
Most people aren’t actually willing to do all of this. In fact, the vast majority won’t even try.
There. I said it.
This guide is right here for the taking.
I’ve shown you 90% of what is needed to run a multi-thousand dollar per month blog (and no, the last 10% isn’t a “secret,” it’s just higher level tactics that aren’t important at this stage).
I’ve given all the info, for free, and now you just need to make a decision on if you are going to use it.
Seth Godin sums up the concept of blogging perfectly:
Here’s a keyboard, connected to the entire world. Here’s a publishing platform you can use to interact with just about anyone, just about any time, for free. You wanted a level playing field, one where you have just as good a shot as anyone else? Here it is. Do the work.
That’s what we’re all counting on.
For you to do the work.
Here’s What to do Next
→ Bookmark this post. This is your guide.
→ Join our free Facebook group for bloggers. Say hi.
→ Set up your blog using the tutorial above. Don’t forget the coupon code, BTOP42 for 42% off.
→ Start (strategically) writing 5-10 high-quality posts based on past successes in your niche.
→ Find a social media platform to dominate. I recommend Pinterest. There’s information in this post.
→ When you are ready, consider enrolling in our Pinterest Design Course. Making appealing pins is a skill you need to have and there is no way around it.
→ Find affiliate products you want to promote and join networks to get access to those programs.
→ Revisit your original articles and insert affiliate links. This may require you to heavily alter some posts — that is okay.
→ Consider enrolling in Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing to further hone your affiliate marketing skills. I’ve taken the course and can tell you that it is worth the investment.
→ Write more conversion-oriented articles, make more pins, and keep putting yourself out there.
A Short Pep Talk Before You Go
Listen: I know this stuff can be intimidating when you have no clue what you are doing. It’s easy to put it off and not really commit. It’s easy to wait for “inspiration” to hit you.
But here’s the bottom line. If you take the time to learn the game, blogging can truly change your life.
I know it’s changed mine.
I have complete freedom to live life on my own terms — not an employer’s.
We started at $0 just like everyone else.
We are not special, we just put in the work. So can you.
YOU CAN DO THIS.