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Earning Money Online — 5 Steps to a Successful Blog

When entering into the world of online income, there are many outlets to choose. As stated in my hub, 5 Steps to Earning Money Online, unless you have some exceptional talent or a product to sell, the best chance of success in this area is to diversify and do a bit of everything. Still, whether you’re doing one thing or five things, you need to know how to go about it. In this hub we’re going to focus on five important aspects of a successful blog.

1. Have Something to Blog About

Having a clear subject matter is important, hence why Hubpages break their content down into niche sites.
Having a clear subject matter is important, hence why Hubpages break their content down into niche sites.

This is number one because it is by far the most important aspect of running a successful blog. You need to have something to write about, by which I mean you need to have a subject matter that you are passionate enough over that you will enjoy writing about it on a regular basis. If you don’t, in all likelihood it will show through in your writing and you’ll fail to get an audience—if you don’t enjoy writing it, why would they enjoy reading it? There’s also the fatigue factor to consider. If you’re forcing yourself to write something you’re not interested in for the sake of making money, you’ll almost certainly fall off of the wagon before you ever get to see a decent return on your labour.

Fortunately, the Internet is a big place and it’s full of a multitude of weird and wonderful people with every taste you can imagine. If there’s anything you’re passionate about, you can be certain there will be people online who'll share that interest, no matter how obscure… just make sure it’s legal.

2. Make Shareable Content

Shareable content can give your blog a lot of exposure, like these pictures of under water dogs did for photographer, Seth Casteel.
Shareable content can give your blog a lot of exposure, like these pictures of under water dogs did for photographer, Seth Casteel. | Source

Tweeting about your latest post will expose it to your followers, and some of your readers may share it on Facebook or mention it in a related comment thread, but by far the best way to get noticed on a larger scale without spending money yourself is by creating content that has the potential to go viral.

Now, obviously, if making something viral was a simple affair everyone would be doing it. But the basic premise of viral content is that it is created and then shared. It then gets shared by more and more people who are increasingly disconnected from the original source, thus spreading awareness of you and your content far beyond your original scope.

This kind of content can come in the form of a humorous web comic, a detail rich infographic, a video of real events, a podcast, and much more. Unlike your blog, which should be laser focused on whatever niche you are writing about, these little bites of content should have mass appeal that have a greater chance of spreading beyond your regular audience. Remember, you’re not competing with Grumpy Cat for sheer numbers, you’re just getting a bit of exposure in the hope that some of those eyeballs might see your blog and be interested enough to read it.

3. Quality Not Quantity

You’re probably assuming I’m referring to your content here, and while it’s true that you should always prioritise the quality of your content over the amount, I’m actually talking about your audience.

A common mistake new bloggers (and, indeed, content makers in general) make is in thinking that the more eyeballs on their content, the more money they’ll make. While this is true to a certain extent—and we’ll get into that more in the next point—it is far more effective to work towards an engaged audience that is invested in you.

Large media sites that produce light content such as gossip news get millions and millions of hits a month, but the degree of loyalty among that audience is low, and most of the hits are the result of pure visibility and traffic, rather than invested people who are interested in that site and its content. That would be great for your blog if you could get that kind of traffic, but the chances are you won't. An invested audience, however, will subscribe to your feeds, read your latest posts, comment in your discussion threads, and crucially, spread the word.

4. Maximise Earning Potential

Google's AdSense service is popular for good reason, but it's not the only effective way to monetise your blog.
Google's AdSense service is popular for good reason, but it's not the only effective way to monetise your blog.

It can be very tempting to sign up for a Google AdSense account, throw an ad in your blog’s sidebar, and sit back waiting for the pennies to roll in. And if your site is getting millions of hits like the aforementioned gossip sites, that would more than enough. The chances are your site won’t be getting that kind of traffic but don’t lose heart, you don’t need millions of views to make money.

The beauty of an invested audience is that the earning potential from each member is far greater than passing hit. A site getting millions of hits can rely on CPM (essentially the amount they make per thousand views) to make a great deal of money, but clicks are worth more. As long as your ads are related to your content, and your audience is heavily invested in that content, your chance of getting ad clicks is far greater.

This can be expanded on with other avenues, such as merchandise or products. There are many online outlets that allow you to sell t-shirts and mugs and various other products with your designs at no cost to you. Offering them to your audience may result in paltry sales, but if you sell two t-shirts for a profit of $5 each, that’s ten additional dollars that you wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Once you’ve got a decent body of content on your blog, consider selling it in book format for the more die hard of your readers, or consider writing a book separately and marketing it to your fans (as long as it’s related to your blog subject matter, see the next point). Even giving the your readers the ability to easily donate should they choose to (such as with a PayPal Donate button, or a Patreon page) might only yield a few dollars here and there, but they’re dollars you wouldn’t have otherwise, and an engaged audience is far more likely to donate than a passing one.

You may only get a hundredth of the traffic that a bigger commercial site gets, but with a quality audience that is invested in you and your content, the average worth of your individual readers could easily be ten or a hundred times greater than the readers of that site.

5. Don't Take Advantage of Your Audience

Trust is a hard thing to gain, especially in today’s cynical world. Once you’ve succeeded in building an audience that is invested in you, be sure not to take them for granted. One such example of this might be plastering your blog with ads to the point where it’s almost unreadable in an effort to squeeze more money out of them. Another example is pushing your other projects too hard when they have nothing to do with your blog’s subject matter. An invested audience will be forgiving to a point, but if they feel you’re taking advantage, they’ll be gone in a flash.

Try to remain consistent, especially if you accept subscriptions or regular donations. If you have established a routine of posting three times a week, your audience will likely forgive you for missing a week, maybe even two if you give an explanation beforehand. After that they will start to suspect you’ve abandoned them, and likely react in kind.

In Conclusion

Making money through blogging is not a quick affair, and making a decent amount of money is an exceedingly difficult prospect, which is why I am strong advocate of the “Wear Many Hats” approach to earning money online, whereby many methods are used. But, done right, blogging can be as lucrative as it is enjoyable.

© 2016 John Bullock

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