On today’s internet, there are a lot of people that think blogging is dead and that no one reads blogs anymore. However, that can’t be further from the truth. Top blogs today get over 200,000 visitors a month! This article will show you how to start a profitable blog in 2021.
Blogs Have A New Role
Blogging isn’t dead, but its role on the internet has changed. Back in the early 2000s and even up until the early 2010s, people viewed blogs more as personal diaries rather than information sources. The original blogs were the 21st-century version of personal diaries or journals. Someone wrote out their thoughts, summarized their day, and generally just told their story. People used blogs as a way to document their journey and readers were reading for the story.
Social Media Killed The Blog As We Knew It
As social media took off, particularly Facebook, it became easier to document your journey as you went. No longer did you have to sit down and write out 20 paragraphs about your day, you could just whip out your phone, take a picture, write a few sentences, and post in seconds. Your friends would get the message almost instantly and be able to comment too.
Even Facebook had to reposition itself when vlogging on YouTube came out. People were simply talking in front of a camera and posting their thoughts that way. Yes, these two advancements did kill the story-based, journal-style blog. These blogs still do exist today, but they are a very niche product.
SEO Gives New Life For The Blog
However, the blog found a new life with the rise of SEO. All of a sudden, blog posts became informational articles meant to answer search questions rather than just pieces of a larger story. Think of a blog now as reference material instead of entertainment. A modern blog is like a 21st-century textbook and the posts inside of it are the individual lessons.
Do blogs still have regular readers? Yes, but they’re reading to gather actionable information and get results rather than just reading to be entertained.
What This Means To Marketers
As a marketer (yes, most profitable blogs market some sort of product) trying to start a profitable blog, this is very good news. Search traffic is some of the hottest and highest converting traffic on the internet. If you were able to pop up directly in front of someone at the exact moment they are looking to buy a product would you? Of course! That’s what having a blog in 2020 allows you to do!
Now that we understand why you need a blog, let’s talk about how to start a profitable blog for your business…
Pick A Niche
If you haven’t done so already, you need to pick a niche to write about so all of your content is closely related. If you start a general blog without a niche and write about a bunch of random things, the search engines will not know how to categorize you and they will not recommend your content very much. When you are not recommended by the search engines, you will not have very many readers. What do you think happens when you don’t have very many readers? Yeah, you won’t sell anything.
Find The Right Niche
Picking a niche that you can go deep in and write literal books about is more important than trying to pick the niche where you’ll make the most money. Too many people starting out just try to pick a niche where they can make a lot of money (HOT TIP: You can make a lot of money in just about any niche with the right strategies) and what happens is they get bored with the subject and stop writing. When you stop writing, the content gets stale and people stop reading. When people stop reading, they stop buying too.
Pick a niche that you are comfortable writing about and don’t pay attention to people when they say “that niche is too crowded, you’ll never get found!” I picked the “make money online” niche and it’s probably the most crowded niche on the internet. However, I can write for days on it and I love this stuff. Not just because it has the potential to make me money, but because I enjoy learning the nuances of how it all works and the psychology behind why something works the way it does.
Don’t Pick The Wrong Niche
One word of caution when picking a niche. Pick a niche that one, there are more than 6 people on the planet Earth interested in, and two, has affiliate products you can promote. I don’t care how much you know about or love “1980s Kung Fu movies starring Hoi Sang Lee,” there probably isn’t anything related you can sell (other than old VHS tapes) on it and I think everyone in the world who is interested in that topic can fit in a single hotel lobby. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.
Pick a Monetization Strategy
Obviously, to be a profitable blog, you have to be bringing in money. There are two main ways that blogs make money. They are:
Selling Affiliate Products
This is my favorite way of making money. I drop links to products I like and use into my articles and I get paid when people buy them. When my reader is searching for the answer to a question, I pop up and give them the answer. As part of my answer, I tell the (true) story of how a product helped me and how it can help them and I drop an affiliate link. If the reader decides to buy based on my recommendation, the company selling the product gives me a commission as a thank you. The reader solves their problem, I get a commission, and the company makes a sale. Win-Win-Win.
When you use Google Adsense, you’re selling the space on your blog to advertisers. You first sign up with Google and tell Google where you want the ads placed on your blog. Google then goes to its ad network and finds relevant ads to place there. Google takes the majority of what the advertiser pays for the spot and gives you the rest as a thank you for allowing the ad to be placed there.
A good example of Adsense at work is those clickbait articles you see at the bottom of web pages. The headlines say something like “She just thought she was on vacation, you’ll never believe what happens next!” Then you click on it to find a slideshow of 75 images with 12 ads on each page. The owner of that website is making money off of every ad that you see.
To make good money with Adsense, you need a HUGE reader base. It’s generally not worth it simply starting out and that’s why you generally only see this on clickbait articles and well-established sites.
Grab A Domain Name
Once you’re clear on what you want to write about and how you’ll make money, it’s time to pick a domain name. This will be the brand name for your blog. Pick something that is easy to remember, easy to spell, and connects with your target audience.
Easy To Remember
A lot of people searching for answers on the internet don’t look at the domain name they click on unless they are searching for a brand name. They generally just click on one of the top three results and start reading. At some point, they may glance at the domain name or name of the site where they found it, but it’s not a priority of theirs. If the content answers their question, they close the box and continue on with their day. If they really like it, they’ll make a mental note of the website name and hopefully, they like it so much that they actually bookmark the article.
Problem With Mental Notes
The problem with bookmarks and mental notes is that they generally disappear or get forgotten easily. It could be months before someone has another question that you can answer for them. If they remember bookmarking the page, (generally they don’t) they can search through their bookmarks. If they’re like me (I have 1200 bookmarks and counting) they have to use the search bar to search their bookmarks. If they haven’t bookmarked you, they have to use the Google search bar again to find you.
If you have a domain that is easy to remember, it shortens the amount of time someone is thinking “what was the name of that website I liked?” and they are more likely to type your name into Google versus getting frustrated and just Googling their next question. If you have something that isn’t memorable, you’re lowering your chances of repeat readers simply because they can’t remember your name and go Google searching instead of back to your website.
Easy To Spell
It might look cool to have a domain name that’s exotic and fancy, but the fact of the matter is that no one is going to spell “marketerz4lyfe.com” correctly if they remember your name. They will most likely put in “marketersforlife.com” and end up on another website instead. Use traditional spelling in your domain name even if it means using a “.net” extension rather than a “.com”
However, always try to use a “.com” because it ties into the first point of being easy to remember. Almost no one will remember that you’re at “.info” or “.biz” even if you have a super memorable domain name. They will probably type it in with a “.com” extension out of habit and end up somewhere else.
Connects With Your Target Audience
In today’s day and age, people judge a book by its cover. I know I said most people don’t look at the domain when searching, but at some point, they will. Pick something that instantly connects with your audience and if you do, not only will it give off the right vibe, but it will make your site that much easier to remember.
For example, let’s say I was writing a blog about sales training. Which domain name do you think is better, “howtocrushyourcustomers.com” or “mutuallybeneficialsalestips.com”? Both talk about sales, both talk about learning something new, but one gives off a sheisty vibe and the other seems genuine and reputable. Yes, it is possible to make a lot of money on your customers in sales and have your customers benefit from it.
Quick story, I was in car sales for almost a decade, and the customers where I made the biggest commissions were the ones who loved me the most and I got along with the most. They were also the most satisfied with the deal they got. The people who “got the best deal” so to speak were always miserable thinking they got robbed. However, that’s another story for another post. Pick something that gives off the right vibe and connects with your reader.
Think of your blog like a house. The domain name is the street address, the hosting is the dirt, and the blog is the house. Just like you need a good address so that people can find you easily, you need good dirt so that your house doesn’t fall down after you build it. There are a number of good hosting platforms out there, but I personally use HostGator for a few reasons:
Branded Email Addresses
If you’re running a blog to make money, you need to treat it like a business because it is. Every legitimate business (outside of the odd local brick-and-mortar business) has a branded email address. Your goal as a blog owner should be to build an email list so you can direct your readers to new content as it comes out. This will increase your readership and ultimately your sales and money made. If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing below:
Would you remember who I was if I emailed you from my Gmail account? No. But if you got an email from “email@example.com” you could place it in your head immediately and know who it’s from. HostGator allows for unlimited email addresses on your domain with their basic hatchling plan. This way as you grow and add contributors, they can get their own email addresses too. In the beginning though, you can just set up your personal email for reader interaction and a support email for questions and issues. I discuss this in-depth in my Affiliate Niche Site Masterclass.
In the beginning, you don’t want to invest a bunch of money, but you also don’t want to be migrating a site with a bunch of content later either. Starting a profitable blog requires you to balance cost and quality. HostGator’s hatchling plan is cheap (10.95/mo) and it gives me everything I need to run this site efficiently.
Surprising as it may be, I do not know a lot about running a website from a tech standpoint. I can adjust settings and get things to run the right way, but if something fails, I’m lost. HostGator has instant chat support and they have helped me a ton of times when I got stuck with an issue.
This could be another post in itself. Do you use WordPress or blogger or medium? I use WordPress because of the one-click install and the fact that WordPress powers most of the world’s websites. I can also navigate the plugins easily, and I can find a free one for just about anything I need. Don’t overthink this, get WordPress installed and move on.
Get a Theme
Once you have WordPress installed, it is time to install a WordPress theme. In case you don’t know, a theme is a basic framework that dictates your site’s layout and feels. Rather than building every single page drag-and-drop style, you select a theme and all the pages follow the same format. It’s on you to determine the colors and the “widgets” contained in each slot though. It’s not 100% plug-and-play.
There are so many variations on themes so I can’t make a universal guide on how to set one up. However, this site is made with Thrive Themes and I highly recommend their stuff. I recommend their stuff because a good theme should have a few main things and their themes have them all:
Fast Load Times
It might seem awesome that your webpage has 1400 different elements on it that are all animated, but it seems like it’s on dial-up because it’s so slow, no one will see it. That’s because they have clicked out of the page because it was taking too long to load. The Genesis framework loads quickly and I haven’t had a page where I felt it was taking too long to load.
Having a clean look ties both into being fast as well as being easy to read. Having a clean, minimalist look minimizes the on-page elements that need to load and lowers loading times. Not having 1000 distracting elements also keeps the focus on the actual content. Your reader is more likely to read the content (what a concept) and won’t be distracted by all the things in the sidebar. This will lead to a better experience and increased readership. This means you guessed it, more money.
Comfortable To Work With
Again, I’m not a coder. The themes from Thrive aren’t terribly complex and there are only a few settings to tweak before you have an amazing-looking site. I like this because it allows me to actually spend time creating content. Every second you spend making tweaks to the appearance of your site is time that could be spent creating what actually matters. Well-written content.
Set Up Plugins
Stock WordPress doesn’t do much, unfortunately. Thankfully, there are literally millions of plugins available to increase the functionality of your site. This could be a whole other post (and maybe at some point in the future) so in the interest of not writing 20,000 words, here is a quick list of the plugins I’m currently running (no particular order) and what they do:
Blog 2 Social
Blog 2 Social is a free plugin that allows me to write a post on my blog and then blast it out to every social channel with a single click. Currently, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Medium. Ain’t nobody got time for 6 social channels (especially a full time SAHD) so Blog 2 social allows me to be everywhere online while only writing in one place.
JetPack is what connects my WordPress install on HostGator to WordPress.com. This allows my posts to appear in the recommended section on WordPress.com as well as allow use of the WordPress app on my phone.
Rank Math SEO
This is how I know an article is optimized for Google or not. I simply type in a keyword I want to get found for into it. Then this plugin will read my article and tell me if I’m likely to show up for that keyword. If it’s not likely, it will suggest edits I can make to increase my chances.
Really Simple SSL
This plugin ensures that all of my website data flows through secure channels. This builds trust with my readers.
WP Word Count
If I’m ever curious as to how many words I’ve written, I just open this plugin and I get an accurate count in seconds. Word count is a common metric for measuring blog size.
Write Your Story
Hopefully, you’re still with me. Now we actually get to start writing! By this point, you should be all set up and past the technical stuff. Now you can actually start doing what you set out to do. Write articles so people can find you and buy your stuff.
Write your origin story first. People love knowing who they are doing business with and an origin story is a great way of putting yourself out there so people can connect with you on a personal level. Yes, you have to put yourself out there to make money with a blog. Scary I know, but you’ll get over it.
Russell Brunson of ClickFunnels has something called the epiphany bridge script. He talks about it in his book Expert Secrets and it’s a great way to tell your story in such a way that the audience relates and connects with you instantly. Basically, you give a back story, explain the conflict that sent you on this journey, and talk about how you’ve changed on your journey and the results of taking the journey. At the end of the story, the audience should have bonded with you and they are far more likely to stick around and read what you have to write for a long time. It’s worth checking out.
Again, your origin story should be the first thing you write. Take the time and tell your story well. It’ll pay dividends later.
Write Your “Cornerstone” Content
As the name implies, cornerstone content is laid first. Pick 3 topics in your niche that you want to be known for. Make sure they are “evergreen” topics because these will become the backbone of your blog and you will reference them often. Also, make sure that you can go deep on these concepts because these posts are usually in the neighborhood of 5,000 words long. According to my software, you are 3,000 words into this post. This is an example of a cornerstone post.
Don’t just write to put words on a page though. Give value with each paragraph and break down concepts the simplest level for your reader. Outline the post first. I have a post on how to crank out quality content quickly here. Again, make sure this is quality content. use pictures, link out to stuff, include a video if it helps get your point across. These are your signature works. Treat them like such.
Write 7 Supporting Posts
After you’re done writing your cornerstone posts, you’ll feel as if you’ve literally laid a cornerstone. You will be tired, you will be exhausted, your fingers will hurt. However, the hardest work is done now and the rest gets easy. Your supporting articles are on less important, but still relevant topics that you don’t have to go as deep on. These are in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,500 words long.
A good example of a supporting post on a profitable blog is a product review. Pick something that you’re familiar with (that has an affiliate program or can be found on Amazon) and give your honest opinion of it. Give enough info to cause desire for the product, but leave enough out that the reader feels they have to purchase it to get the rest of the story. This by itself is an art form that you will get better at over time.
I say write 7 supporting articles because your first 10 posts will be the hardest. If you can write three 5,000 word posts and seven 1,200 word posts, you have what it takes to be a blogger long-term. When you’re done, you will have written 23,400 words or so. That’s the equivalent of half a novel.
SEO is all about links so be sure to link your supporting posts to your pillar content. Internal linking as it’s called is an excellent habit to get into. This will keep people flowing through your blog and increase their on-page reading time.
Work On Getting Backlinks
This is the hardest thing to do when building a profitable blog. Backlinks are when a site other than your own links to an article on your site. For example, if you’re in the personal finance niche and The Motley Fool links back to your article, you just earned a backlink. Do you see what I did there? By linking to The Motley Fool just now I gave them a backlink in the process. Seems simple right?
Backlinks are the internet’s version of vouching for someone. If you link to a site, you’re telling Google and the rest of the internet, “This is a good site.” The more people that you have vouching for you, the higher you’re going to rank in Google. This is why having quality content is so important. People aren’t going to vouch for crummy content and no one wants to vouch for the new guy. That’s why getting backlinks are so hard.
Ways To Get Backlinks
There are dozens of ways to get backlinks. However, there are a few ways that I know of that are free but require a lot of work. Here they are:
Get on HARO (Help A Reporter Out)
HARO is a place where news reporters post questions and request quotes for their news stories. If you have a blog that is relevant to the question being asked, write a quick quote and send it to the reporter. If they like the quote and use it for the story, you’ll earn a link.
But don’t think that it’s just small publications using HARO and it’s not worth it. Companies like Forbes and Inc. use HARO and a mention from them will significantly boost your authority in no time. Ahrefs has a great article here on how to get the most from HARO. Just gave Ahrefs a backlink too.
Guest Post on Other Blogs
I had you write articles before looking for links because you have to be worthy of a link. No one is going to link to a brand new blog unless it’s a celebrity starting one. Once you have something worth vouching for written though, reach out to other bloggers in your niche and see if you can write a post for them. If they agree, they will link back to your site and you will gain some traffic from their readers.
Comment on Other Blogs
Most blog platforms have a centralized comment system and WordPress has one. When you’re on this system, you are allowed to write a bio. When you comment on other blogs, your bio appears as a link next to your name. This allows another chance for someone to click through to your site. This doesn’t carry much weight in Google’s eyes, but it could start funneling some new readers through anyway.
Share to Social Media
Posting to social media is another way to get people to enter your blog. Think of each link to your blog as a door. The more doors you install, the more ways people have to enter. However, don’t just go spamming links all over Facebook. That will turn people off quickly. Write a quick, relevant post using Blog2Social and it will place a link to your blog beneath it. Over time, people will start finding you organically.
Target The Right Keywords
In the beginning, you want to write the articles that you will be known for and that will earn you a commission so you have a chance of making money right away. However, no one will read them. . . yet. Remember, if you don’t have anyone vouching for you, Google won’t show you to anybody. If you’re targeting keywords that everyone else is targeting, (you probably will be) Google will show the content that has people vouching for it first, then the older content, and then your stuff. You’ll start on the 10th page of Google results and no one scrolls back that far.
But all is not lost, there’s a loophole in the system. If you target low volume, low competition keywords (obscure, but still relevant stuff that no one else is writing about ) you have a good chance of ranking pretty quickly and getting some traffic to your site. Because no one is writing content for these types of keywords, Google has no choice but to show your stuff in front. Once you get people to read these articles, you then link to your more competitive stuff.
By doing this, you’re getting readers into the “side door” so to speak. This process enables you to get people on your pages that make you money without having a ton of backlinks. Just make sure those money pages exist first. This is why I had you write the high competition stuff first. Over time, Google will see traffic flowing into your site and sticking around (if the content is good). When Google sees this, your rankings will start to rise and the backlinks will come.
Accept Your Fate In The Sandbox
If you haven’t figured this out already, blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to build up a readership. This is because of what’s known as “The Sandbox Effect.” Google will intentionally punish your site in the rankings for the first 6 months or so no matter how good the content is. Even if your content is phenomenal and you catch a few backlinks early, you will still be buried in search rankings.
Think back to the vouching example. You’re the new kid on the block. As far as Google is concerned, you’re a suspicious character and they’re not sure if you’ll stick around or not. The reality is that most new blogs fold after a short while. If Google started referring traffic to sites that folded quickly, their reputation would be ruined. Just accept your fate in the beginning and try to drive traffic via social media and obscure topics for now. There’s no point in stressing out about it. Google will let you into the club after you’ve proved you’re here to stay and the search traffic will start flowing in time.
So There you have it. A comprehensive guide on how to start a profitable blog. Notice how I said start and not build. A profitable blog never stops producing content and is never done being built. That’s how they remain relevant and on the top of their readers’ minds. The hard part is done now though. Your site is created, you have set up your link-building campaigns, and you’ve written a fair amount of content. Have fun with it now and keep producing. Try to get in the habit of posting twice a week and the effects of your content will compound over time and your blog will pick up a lot of steam before you know it.
Hope this helps, now get out there and implement!