Almost everyone is familiar with the concept of blogs nowadays – they’re little pieces of digital land that allow anyone with an Internet connection and a keyboard to share thoughts and feelings on any topic imaginable with a huge potential audience. But to most people, the idea of blogging seems like nothing more than a fun hobby or a convenient way to share their life and personal interests with their close friends and family. However, blogs have a hidden secret that goes far beyond what most people use them for: they can be extremely lucrative. While the vast majority of bloggers only make a tiny profit (if they make one at all), there are some who earn a decent living – sometimes enough to quit their jobs and blog full time. In fact, many of the most successful bloggers earn high six-figure salaries doing nothing but maintaining their blog on a daily basis. Some even make millions of dollars every year. It seems mind boggling, but it’s true. So, how do they do it?
Show Me the Money!
The answer is that almost all of them use the exact same money making methods as everyone else – they just use them more effectively and have a wider audience. Here’s just a few of the ways the top bloggers make money:
- Pay-per-click advertising
- CPM (page-view) advertising
- Banner advertisements
- Affiliate marketing
- Premium content
- Private, paid forums
- Selling products or services
As you can see, there are lots of proven ways to make money from a blog. The only problem with this is that you’ll never see a single penny from these revenue sources unless you have one important element: visitors. If you don’t have any readers beyond your mother, your best friend, and your next door neighbor, there simply won’t be anyone to click on the ads or to buy your affiliate’s products, which means no money for you.
Driving traffic to your blog
Unfortunately, just getting readers isn’t enough. You need LOTS of readers – the more the better. But as you’ll quickly find out, obtaining a sizeable, regular audience is by the far the most difficult aspect of blogging, especially when you’re just starting out. To complicate matters, there are millions of blogs you’re competing against (156 million as of Feb 2011), and nearly every niche imaginable already has several blogs devoted it – some of which are already quite profitable and high profile. Breaking into that niche and turning a profit for yourself may seem hopeless, but there are some guidelines you can follow to drive more traffic to your blog.
- Be original. This is by far the most important tip for would-be bloggers. You can’t expect to make any money, let alone have any readers, if the content you are posting is ripped off from other sites. Readers are savvy and will be able to instantly detect half-hearted writing or content that is not from your own imagination, and once they’ve clicked away from your blog, there’s a good chance that they’re gone for good. If you frequently create content that is original, thoughtful, and thoroughly researched, you’ll have a much better chance at landing a repeat audience than all of the other “copy-cat” blogs. In other words: Don’t write junk. Be credible. Get readers.
- Write about your passion. Don’t expect to gain any readers by writing about things you’re uninterested in. This might sound like obvious advice, but if you’re only writing for traffic, it will be plainly obvious to everyone who visits your blog. Think about what inspires you and what you find interesting. Then devise a way to turn that into something that will draw readers. You have to think of your blog as a potential full-time job – except you get the freedom to pick exactly what you want to do on a daily basis. Writing about things you like will motivate you to write more often, and regular updates are a great way to pull more and more visitors to your site.
- Self-Promote. In the beginning, promoting your blog requires the same legwork as promoting a new business. You have to get your name out there in a compelling way so that people will have a reason to click on your blog, and ideally, your affiliate links and banner ads. One way to do this is to get active in an online community that is centered on a topic relevant to your blog. If you blog about digital photography, for example, you might consider joining several message boards and forums related to the topic. Many message boards are read by thousands of people on a daily basis, and having a link to your blog in your “signature” will provide great exposure for it – especially if you become a trusted and valued member of the community.
- Be controversial. If you’re simply looking for an easy, short-term traffic boost, one of the quickest ways to get it is to write something controversial. You should be extremely careful with this approach (see tip #2) as it can quickly earn you scorn (depending on the subject matter) and you may end up losing the readers you already have. There are countless topics that are considered “hot” at any given time (social issues, politics, war, etc), and delivering a well researched and thoughtful opinion piece about one of these can drive serious traffic to your blog. This works best if it is already tied in with the theme of your blog – in other words, if you’re writing about vegan food and suddenly deliver a manifesto decrying the status of immigration, you may raise a few eyebrows and turn off some of your readers. Tread carefully with this one.
- Make effective use of SEO techniques. SEO stands for search engine optimization. The more highly optimized your site is for keywords, the higher it shows up on Google, Bing, and other search engines when people search for a relevant topic. Getting a high search result ranking for multiple keywords should be the number one goal of all bloggers. It is the best way to drive traffic to your site. There is a wealth of information on the Internet about SEO techniques, but they all boil down to one thing: proper keyword usage throughout your website, your headlines, and your content. If you can get your blog to the top page of Google, your monthly readership will explode – and so will your income.
Even if you perfectly utilize all of the previous tips and have your blog primed to make money and attract a huge amount of readers, you still have to play the waiting game. Very few blogs become successful overnight. Remember, most of the successful bloggers didn’t turn a healthy profit until after their blog had been up for at least one year.
In this case, patience is the key. Give yourself achievable, short term goals to reach. Try to improve your SEO skills every day and use things like Google analytics to see how your blog is ranking and who is visiting it. See if you can increase the amount of money it makes in a month by 25% — even if it’s just increasing a couple of dollars. And most importantly, keep posting quality content no matter what. Your blog could be one post away from going viral.