Jaldert is a Capability Development blogger at Smörgåsjobb and works as Head of Capability Development for Fujitsu. His views are his own.
What Is a Blogger?
In the early days of the internet, it was relatively rare to have a personal website where you would write down your thoughts, experiences and advice for others to read. Called a weblog (or blog for short), the concept quickly grew from being a combination of personal diary and professional resume into a way of expressing your ideas, expertise and the weals and woes of daily life.
Someone who runs and writes such a blog is called a blogger.
Bloggers combine the writing skill of a journalist or book author with some of a web administrator's technical knowledge required to maintain a site. In addition, bloggers need to be creative enough to do their blog's design, name and marketing.
The technical (blog platform), administrative (user management, marketing and emailing) and creative aspects (theme) of a blog can be handled by third parties, but the core idea and content, at least initially, have to be of high quality and provided by you.
When your blog grows to the size of an e-Zine or Forbes, you'll have the luxury and available resources to hire writers and editors, but for now, the assumption is that when you start up, you are on your own.
What Makes a Blogger a Professional?
In the broadest sense, a professional is someone who is paid for their efforts as opposed to doing something for your own satisfaction. The latter does not expect to make a profit, although it can happen as a side benefit. The former, a professional, will actually look into ways to monetize their blogs directly and indirectly.
There are also a number of unspoken rules when it comes to being a professional, especially about being polite and honest in communication, adhering to business and ethical standards, and a certain dedication to quality. These are often referred to as "professionalism", and basically grew out of the traits that would show that a person was "in business" or "a dedicated professional" rather than just doing their jobs for a boss.
Another consideration is expertise; a blogger, by definition, is writing about what they know or are thinking, and as such, they are at least "experts of experience". But to become a professional also requires a certain level of reputation and credibility. If people don't think you know what you are talking about, they are not going to take your advice or follow along with any of your monetizations.
Creating a Business Plan
What sets a professional blog apart from a personal project is that you create a plan beforehand on what you want to achieve and how you plan to do that. This plan is the first thing you work on once you have your first ideas before building the actual blog.
The business plan is essentially a series of questions that are answered:
- What is going to be the main topic of your blog?
- Who is going to read this blog (your audience)?
- What are the problems they have that you will solve?
- How does your audience find your blog?
- What makes your blog different from other similar blogs?
- How will you make money from this blog?
- What investments do you need to make to get started?
- What business goals do you set for year 1? Year 5?
- What can you do to turn visitors into returning readers?
- What can you do to acknowledge readers and make them feel rewarded?
Once you have all of this, it will give you a sense of whether or not your blog is going to be unique and widely read enough to even survive. You need to attract people with eye-catching titles, the first paragraph you write should hook them, and the first article they read should make them want to read more.
To do this, you need to give your audience authentic stories, content written from experience and real life, and the sense that you're providing answers to their problems. This can be entertainment against boredom, mind you, or the sense that they are not alone in experiencing certain feelings or problems.
Once you have a base of stable readers and a lot of casual visitors, your monetization options will become more varied as well. Advertisements always work but have a low click rate and reward rate and are often countered by ad blockers. Selling eBooks or subscriptions requires a big readership, and being sponsored works only if you have a very niche blog or are considered an international treasure.
10-Step Plan for a Professional Blog
- Market Research
- Decide on Audience and Content
- Register Domain Name
- Set up Hosting and Blog Package
- Create Primary Content Nova and Engage Monetization
- Create a Social Media Calendar
- Create a Social Media Presence
- Promote posts on Social Media
- Create and Promote Posts
- Continue Engagement*
*When engaging, you can respond to comments on your own blog, comment/reply on another's blog (which also will link back to your blog) or create attention through social media for each blog post you create.
Real Name or Pseudonym?
A blogger can choose to write under their own name or adopt a pseudonym, which is a "registered fake name" to write under.
Pseudonyms are often used in the writing industry when writers who are normally known for one genre of material want to enter another genre and first write under a pseudonym in order to test out the reception of their work before taking the plunge and associating their name with it.
It's also done by people whose normal name is very high-profile, such as politicians and celebrities, to distantiate their creative work from their professional lives.
If you are planning to work under a pseudonym, you also need to have social media profiles under that name, as you don't want to confuse people by using many different names to promote yourself.
Creating a Social Media Plan
You know who to reach and what platforms you are going to use to spread the word. But you also need to decide how often you will be posting, what content you want to create, and what time of the day or week you are going to release it.
Marketing bureaus make a lot of money analyzing the content streams online, figuring out who watches what, and when in the day or week. This information is complicated and changes over time, but a few things you can set for yourself with some logic:
- Blogs are either short and fast or long and slow. Currently, the "once per week long-form post" seems to be the most successful.
- Promotion on social media also follows this pattern. Facebook and Twitter are fast, so they need to be addressed a few times a day, while Linkedin is slower.
- You need to spread your posts, likes and comments throughout days and weeks so that you have a continuous stream of engagement.
- Personal topics and everyday life subjects do well during break times, mornings and evenings - and especially weekends. Business topics do well in the morning and evening but less during the weekend. Friday evenings are often "nights out", so posts will see less readership unless you target clubbers and bar-hoppers.
- Check your audience's culture as well. In the Middle East, Friday is a free day, while Sunday is the first workday of the week - so adapt your calendar to that.
- Set a day in the week for "round-ups" or "content curation"; this means that you make a post where you summarize the best posts from other bloggers you found that you feel are good enough to share with your audience.
- You can repeat linking to your posts now and then if you change up the message, especially on fast-moving platforms like Twitter and Facebook, where people are likely to miss your message the first time.
Analyzing Your Audience
Using Google Analytics you can get a good overview of your visitors, and if you use a plugin for your blog platform you can display these in a simple way onto your dashboard. Once you've run your blog for a month or so you can run the numbers and analyze what kind of traffic you received.
Another way of gaining information is by using an URL shortening service to create easy-to-share links to your content, and use those on Social Media. It will allow you to separate the "organic" visitors that come in through google or your social media profiles from those who actively clicked on links you shared yourself.
You can tell for example what pages received the most traffic, to show you the most popular posts. You can use those to add more internal links to other, related, articles to increase people's time on your site. Knowing if people are new visitors or returning readers can tell you if your content is of high enough quality and engagement to draw people in regularly, rather than being abandoned after a first exploratory visit.
The search terms used to enter a blog might be a good indicator of new topics to work on or straight-up post titles. That's basically free search engine optimization!
The country that people visit your blog indicates if there is a benefit of creating any localized content. Not just in language, but also in the topics used on your blog. If you make a blog about making furniture, and you find out a lot of your visitors come from countries with large lumber sectors, you could create posts on sourcing local wood or selecting and preparing wood for use in furniture.
Another interesting piece of data is whether visitors used a laptop/pc or a mobile phone, and what browser they used. This data allows you to optimize your blog for that particular readership.
The Email List
A great way to get a loyal readership is by allowing people to sign up for a mailing list. Using a mail provider (most of which are a paid service) you can create good-looking email templates which can serve to inform your readers of your new blog posts as well as special services like eBooks, promotions and affiliate offers.
Through a plugin, the service can work through a subscription button or a popup, which allows people to sign up for the email newsletter. It also automatically handles the listing and people's unsubscribing, as well as the necessary data protection and privacy issue, so a solution like this covers all your needs in one go.
Best results will be had if you send a newsletter about once per week, with a combo platter of news, promotions and interesting posts. If you send it more often than this, you might be seen as spammy, while if you send it less often your content might lose its relevance before it reaches your audience.
Vlogs: Above and Beyond
Vlogging, or video-blogging, involves creating video content on a distribution network such as Youtube, Vimeo or Veoh. In some cases, these platforms include monetization options already. If that is the case then you can earn money whether they are on your blog or not (such as with Youtube), else you might need to embed them in your posts so that your views coincide with your on-blog monetization through ads or affiliate links.
Vlogging is different from blogging in that you provide much more dynamic content, whether through moving pictures, animations, or putting yourself up as a speaker. As such it will draw a lot more attention.
When you start vlogging, you will need to make an investment, as you will need an area where you can record in silence and undisturbed, and you will need a good camera and microphone. Alternatively, if you intend to make only moving infographics with voiceovers, you may need only a microphone. In either case, you will need software that can convert your raw (and very large) footage or still pictures into an animated whole.
Don't underestimate the work that goes into vlogging, as you will need to add an animated logo and music to your videos. Those not only take time to find, build, and add, but you also need to be much more aware of digital rights management. You can't just use any music you find, you need to be allowed to use it. This can mean you need to pay the artist for the privilege.
Compared to a blog, the additional exposure and reduced competition can offer great opportunities to get noticed and increase revenue. Since you need to invest money to do this properly, however, you need to be certain of your business plan and have some disposable income on top of the investments for your blog.
Adapting Your Blog Concept
After some time you might realize that the focus of your blog has changed from its original root idea. You may have started out as a blog about your adventures in college, but you kept on posting after graduation. You may have begun a blog to document nature around your town, but found out you slowly changed into a travel or survival blog.
This is completely natural and nothing to be worried about. It simply means that you need to revisit your blog business plan (which should be done once or twice a year) to check your relevance and update it to match with what you want it to be right now, and how you want to grow in the coming year.
The most important thing for a professional blog is to ensure that your audience remains your primary focus, with your monetization matching your focus. As long as you ensure open communication with your readers, changing things up might be as simple as an announcement post where you inform everyone of the changes in content and direction you are planning to make. Loyal readers might even welcome this change as a way of getting even more fresh and relevant content!
10 Income Sources for Your Blog
Affiliate Marketing, Program
Affiliate Marketing, Direct
Sponsorship / Donations
Seminars and Courses
Advertisements are one of the major sources of income from bloggers. It is always available at no investment through advertisement programs like Google AdSense.
You have usually little control if the ads are appropriate to your content (and you should stay away from any service that might add "adult" ads to your "all ages" blog).
Pro: Always-on passive income from any post. Easy to set up, and the system handles the administration and payments in the background.
Con: People hate advertisements and click-throughs are rare. Usually ads have small incomes attached unless products are very in-demand and relevant to your audience.
Another thing to take into consideration is your blog's credibility. No one will bat an eye at a blog with an advertisement or two, but if your blog page looks like a Formula 1 race car, you are showing that you are desperate for income. And nothing makes you and your content look more disingenuous than being greedy.
Sponsoring and Affiliate Marketing
Sponsoring and Affiliates are two ways to gain a much greater revenue from your blog. Essentially you are permanently liaised with a particular brand or service, who you endorse in return for income. This can be a portion of the Sales revenue generated by your side, or a monthly fixed fee for endorsements and applying clickable logos to the blog.
Pro: Very legitimate and big-league way of monetization. A large amount of control over the monetizing content, and usually a good connection with the source. Revenue is usually much higher than pure advertisements, depending on the success of the marketing scheme.
Con: Permanently aligning with an organization or company also means you are tied to its reputation and vice versa. They will be very particular about what you do on your blog, and if their reputation takes a nosedive then you need to cut ties with them or you will be endorsing an unpopular business! You can see that this requires a lot of organization and control.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Jaldert Maat