You’ve heard of the biggest names in blogging. Arianna Huffington. Tim Ferriss. Brian Clark.
You’re also probably intrigued by other success stories of people behind mom blogs like Scary Mommy, Rookie Moms, and ModernMom, to name a few.
You may have even found yourself deep in the archives of hilarious satire blogs like Seriously So Blessed! Rumor has it, the mysterious person behind this blog started it as a joke and ended up paying off some hefty student loans with the earnings.
I can’t tell you the number of people I know that started a blog as a creative outlet and then realized it was a great side hustle.
I’m even one of these people. Back 100 years ago, I started a travel blog to share adventures with my family. I also blog consistently on my freelance writing website to capture more clients and sell digital products.
While I’m no Arianna Huffington or even a smart mommy or satire blogger, I do have some tips and tricks that will help you turn your personal blog into a thriving business. Let’s take a deeper look.
How do you turn your blog into a business?
I’ve been blogging for over ten years. I’ve run into pitfalls, had successes, and done a ton of research along the way. Here are the things you absolutely must do to start a blog and monetize it.
1. Set your blog up right the first time
Running a successful blog requires a lot more than being an engaging writer. The first part of the success equation is making sure you have the right tools to support your new site.
Several platforms are available to start a blog, but not all offer the same benefits if you want complete control of your site.
For example, you could use a free platform like Tumblr or Blogger, but you’re subject to their terms and conditions. If you accidentally violate one of these terms or conditions, Tumblr or Blogger is within their rights to terminate your site. And they will.
Not to mention, these free platforms are somewhat limited in terms of design, functionality, and integrations. Once you’re ready to monetize your blog, you’ll likely have to transfer your blog to WordPress anyway.
A better option is to get a domain name and host your website with a reliable web hosting company like HostGator.
When you set up your blog with a web hosting company, you pay a small monthly fee in return for server space and total control of your website. You decide what software you use, your blog’s design, and how your blog will function. You have control of everything.
Don’t limit yourself by using a free blogging platform; pay for a reliable web hosting service from the get-go.
2. Grow your blog traffic
Before you think of developing digital assets and seeking out advertising opportunities, you’ll want to focus on growing your readership.
There are a few ways to do this, including the following:
It doesn’t matter how often you blog, but you do need to develop a content schedule and stick to it. Your target audience wants to know when you will publish content, so they know when to return to your site. Sticking to a plan also helps motivate you to push out content regularly.
Learn how to write for the web
Like every writing genre requires a varying stylistic approach (e.g., think of how an essayist writes vs. a poet), every platform requires a different writing format. The way you write an article for a news media site will differ significantly from how you write a blog post.
There are two main reasons for this:
- Research shows that people read website content differently. Website readers don’t devour every word. They quickly scan the material, pay more attention to content that appears at the beginning of an article, and read more of the copy that stands out visually.
- You’re not just writing for people; you’re also writing for Google’s algorithm. In other words, you have to optimize your posts so Google’s search engine can understand your content and rank it appropriately in its search engine.
The good news is it’s possible to write content that appeals to both your readers and Google. Here’s how:
- Focus on your audience and learn what topics interest them
- Pick one topic that appeals to your readers and research relevant keywords
- Write an appealing headline and include your primary keyword
- Put the most important information first
- Break up your content into scannable chunks
- Include headings and subheadings
- Optimize headings and subheadings with H1 & H2 tags
- Use bullet points
- Write numbered lists
- Post pictures
- Highlight important points with bold typeface
- Include an FAQ section at the end when appropriate
Learning how to write content for the web takes time and research. Here are some additional resources that are worth checking out:
- Yoast. This tool is one of the best SEO plugins for WordPress.
- How to improve SEO. This guide is short and sweet and will show you all the basics of SEO.
- Backlinko. This blog offers comprehensive and current SEO tips for bloggers, and every blogger should subscribe to it for tips.
When you learn how to write for the web, you’ll quickly capture more traffic.
3. Monetize your blog
You’ve set up your blog properly, learned how to write for the web, and are starting to see surges in traffic.
Congratulations! You’re ready to monetize your blog.
Here are some of the ways bloggers make money from blogging:
If you’ve built a big niche following for your blog, you can bet that brands will pay big bucks to list an ad on your site. The reason advertisers are so keen to pay you to advertise their products on your blog is because you’re attracting loads of active consumers that fit the advertiser’s ideal customer profile (ICP).
Let’s look at the ads on the ScaryMommy blog.
Advertisers know the thousands of people visiting ScaryMommy every day are parents who want advice on creating a good life for their kids. ScaryMommy is the perfect advertising fit for brands that sell children’s toys, educational materials, and books.
When you start advertising on your blog, you can seek out relevant brands and set up a deal, join Google AdSense, or apply for one of the many online advertising programs that match up advertisers and bloggers.
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to make money on a blog. As a quick review, affiliate marketing is when you sell another brand’s product or service on your website in return for a commission.
For example, if you signed up for HostGator’s affiliate program, you would promote our web hosting services to other people looking to start a blog. Whenever someone signs up for web hosting through your unique affiliate link, HostGator would pay you a commission.
You can find affiliate merchants within your niche by reaching out to brands with affiliate programs. You can also join one of the many affiliate networks like ShareASale, CJ Affiliate, or PartnerStack, to name a few.
If you already have a large blog following, adding an e-commerce store to your blog is an excellent way to make money. Let’s talk about some of the most popular types of products bloggers sell.
1. Sell physical products
You can sell physical products through your online store and ship them to your customers. Ree Drummond of the Pioneer Woman is the perfect example of a blogger turned successful business owner.
Drummond started her blog in 2006 to share with her audience what life was like living on a ranch in Oklahoma. She grew a loyal fanbase quickly and began selling products on her blog. Now, you know her as a celebrity chef with her products available at a little store we all know as Wal-Mart. The rest is history.
2. Sell digital products
I’ve spent the past ten years growing my freelance writing business, and I sell freelance writing guides that come with proven templates to help other freelance writers launch a successful business.
If you blog about a particular niche or have a unique skill set that your audience wants to learn, consider developing a digital product that you can sell online.
3. Sell a software or app
Another notable way bloggers make money is by developing software or an app. Take Moz, for example.
Rand Fishkin started the Moz blog to teach other professionals everything there is to know about SEO.
Fishkin used his blog and expertise to become the #1 online source for SEO advice. Since the content on the Moz blog was so stellar, purchasing Moz’s SEO software was a no brainer for followers.
If you already have a large blog following, now is the time to add an e-commerce store, especially considering e-commerce is an $861 billion industry and there are no signs of slow down.
4. Invest in digital marketing
Blogging consistently, optimizing your posts for search, and monetizing your blog will only get you so far when it comes to making money from your blog.
If you want to make blogging your full-time business, you have to invest in digital marketing. Here are some of the best digital marketing channels for bloggers.
Email marketing is a great investment for any marketer. Why? Email marketing has the highest ROI of any digital marketing strategy. In fact, the average email marketing ROI is $41 for every $1 spent.
Not to mention, email marketing is the perfect way to build an ongoing and engaging relationship with your audience.
As you fine-tune your blog and get ready to sell products, collect email addresses on your blog and send follow-up messages to your subscribers.
You’ll be happy to know that HostGator integrates with one of the best email marketing platforms on the market, Constant Contact.
Paid search ads
We talked about how the purpose of SEO is to optimize your content so Google can effectively rank it on its search engine. The ultimate goal of SEO is to secure a top-page Google listing for keywords relevant to your content.
But, here’s the thing. SEO takes time, strategy, and is highly competitive.
If you want to promote your blog instantly as you continue to work on your SEO strategy, paid search ads are the way to go.
When you pay for a paid search ad on Google, you bid on a keyword in return for a top spot in the paid ads section on Google. Every time a searcher clicks on your ad, Google will charge you your bid price.
Here’s what paid search ads look like in Google. If I type in “bedsheets,” Google will show me all the paid ads before organic listings. Additionally, Google will display the ad with the highest bid first.
If we break down the first ads for the keyword “bedsheets,” we can see Grainger.com is paying the highest price for the keyword. Amara is paying the second-highest price and Wal-Mart is paying the third-highest price. The last result, from BestReviews, is a blog.
Bidding on paid search ads pays off, considering 27% of website traffic comes from paid search, and the Google Display Network reaches over 90% of internet users.
If you want to make sales fast, look into paid advertising. Check out our guide to setting up your first Google ad campaign.
When was the last time you opened up Instagram and saw your favorite Instagram celebrity displaying or unboxing a nifty product? Five seconds ago? Cool. Me too.
Typically, when you see a celebrity, social media star, or brand influencer promoting a product on their social media account, you’re witnessing influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing is a good way to promote your blog and the products on your blog. Why? Influencers have a niche target audience that is likely the same as yours and a whole lot of persuasive power.
In fact, 90% of respondents in a recent report said influencer marketing is an effective form of marketing. And the ROI for every $1 spent on influencer marketing is $5.20.
If you’re seeing surges in blog traffic, it means people like what you are doing. Expand your reach by investing in online marketing.
Start your blogging business with HostGator today!
If you’re on the fence about turning your blog into a business, hop off. The time is now to get started. Blogging is growing faster than ever as a way to make money online, and there is room for you in the industry.
Check out HostGator’s web hosting packages today. You can get started for a few bucks a month and you get a free domain name.
Ashley R. Cummings is a professional freelance writer specializing in SaaS, tech, and advertising/marketing. In a previous life, she was a Russian teacher at Brigham Young University, a corporate trainer, and a grad student—all at the same time. When she’s not writing, you can find her traveling the world with her 2 kids and husband, reading poetry or taking a deep dive into the fabulous world of comedy. Connect with her on Twitter at @ashleyrcummings.