I started my first blog in July 2006, but it took over two years until I really started to look at my online endeavors as a business. I founded my main website, Personal Profitability, in October 2008. In the years since it has led to opportunities to earn more and leave my full-time day job thanks to success in online self-employment. If you want to turn your hobby blog into a business, get started with these general guidelines.
Write great content consistently
What is the single most important part of a blog? The content! Consistent, high quality content again and again over time is what helps people discover your blog, brings readers back, and ensures you get plenty of backlinks and land on the first page of Google.
There’s a saying in the blogging community: content is king. In the decade I’ve been blogging I have seen many trends come and go. Google has introduced penguins and pandas. Yahoo has fallen from a top source of online search to an online property worth less than $5 billion. Facebook has grown from less than 100 million users to nearly 2 billion. But the online demand for high quality online content has never ceased.
In fact, while blogs used to succeed online with punchy 500 words articles, online preferences have moved toward longer, more in-depth guides well over 1,000 words. If you want to succeed, high quality, consistent content is paramount.
Promote your content to grow your following
Have you ever hit the publish button on the greatest blog post of all time, expecting it to go viral and spread like wildfire across the web, just to see a small traffic spike from your Facebook friends sizzle after just a few minutes?
Odds are this was a predictable event if all you did is hit publish and send to Facebook. The internet may have billions of users, but only a very small percentage of them are your Facebook friends and Twitter followers. To ensure your content succeeds and reaches the largest audience, you must promote it.
Online content promotion is an ever-changing game that requires a combination of social media, email marketing, SEO, and outreach. Some bloggers say you should spend a heck of a lot more time on promotion than content creation. If you are giving your content the time it deserves, that means you should be spending quite a few hours on promotion and outreach.
Build an email list of dedicated subscribers
In the click of a button, Facebook could hypothetically turn off your page or stop showing your content to subscribers. You could wake up one morning to find that your Pinterest and Twitter traffic have died off and the only way to get it back is paid advertising. This has been the experience of countless bloggers, but you have one powerful hedge against the traffic whims of search engines and social networks.
Your email list is one of the most powerful tools you have to reach your audience. While Facebook and Google algorithms change, email doesn’t look to be going anywhere soon. In conversations with successful bloggers Darren Rowse of Problogger and Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income, they shared that one of the most common mistakes site owners make is not starting an email list on day one.
If you don’t have an email list already, it’s time to get started. I personally use ConvertKit as my email service.
Now that you have great content, are promoting it, and building your list to grow your traffic and following, it’s time to actually make money. You can’t make a living online without any income coming in the door!
There are many combinations and strategies to earn online. They boil down to three basic income methods. Here is a quick rundown to get you started:
Display and click ads – The most basic form of online advertising is display and click ads. Networks like Google AdSense, Media.net, and others have brought this type advertising to millions of websites. The basic premise is that you, as a site owner, earn money for every impression and click from an ad on your site. Just sign up, add a few lines of code, and the ads are live.
On the down side, however, ads are ugly, many users ignore them or block them, and they take away from the overall site experience. However, many businesses and bloggers have built a great income on this type of ad, and it is a popular starting point for newer blogs.
Affiliate ads – The next step forward in advertising is affiliate advertising. In affiliate advertising, bloggers write about specific sites and products and earn a portion of the revenue if one of their readers clicks through and signs up. This is often a better way to earn than click ads, but requires a dedicated audience that trusts you and is willing to buy the products and services you recommend.
I have earned thousands from affiliates, but I pale in comparison to friends like Pat and Michelle who earn six figures every month from affiliate programs. If you have a growing and loyal audience in the right niche, this is a lucrative income method.
Your own products and services – Last but certainly not least, you can create your own products and services to sell on your site. Because you no longer rely on others to earn with this method, it is often looked at as the holy grail of online income.
Of course, success in this market means you need good traffic, trusted followers who are willing to become customers, and a compelling product that people want to buy.
Test, optimize, don’t give up
One of the attributes of successful bloggers is persistence. Sticking with it over time, testing to learn what works, and optimizing your site to earn income while providing an awesome user experience is a great formula for success. As I recently shared in a presentation at travel blogging conference TBEX, lazy people don’t earn six figures online.
I’ve been earning six figures online since last year, and it is a wonderful, life changing experience. But it all started with a blog post on a fateful summer day in July 2006. As they say, the rest is history.