Dina is a chatty copywriter with experience in marketing and social media. She blabs about it on Twitter.
You started a blog a few weeks ago to make some extra money.
It’s Monday, and you’ve sat to analyse your traffic. You’re bursting with excitement! You can’t wait to find out how many newcomers your ah-mazing last blog post brought in.
Then… a shock.
You’re staring at a plummeting red line. Your heart drops. The screen whispers failure in your ears.
This can’t be. You scour for comments, likes, shares. Anything, for God’s sake!
Nothing. You’re met with frightening silence. You smash your laptop against the wall, and…
Ok, maybe that's enough to set the scene. Did it give you chills? Or remind you of a horror movie scene? Well, many bloggers relive it every single day.
Let me show you how you can avoid it—and actually make money blogging.
Pro Tip: In my vocabulary, there’s no such thing as “too late”. That said, do these 5 things before you start blogging if possible. You’ll put your best foot forward from the get-go.
1. Research Your Target Audience
First things first—decide who you’re writing for.
This helps you shape your content marketing strategy and choose your main social media platform (more on that in the following sections).
Without a clear understanding of your audience, you won’t know what topics they’re interested in. And your blog will be as irrelevant as a Windows Phone.
Create customer personas and make them as detailed as possible. Think of customer personas as stand-ins for your real-life audience. Find out everything you can about your target audience. Here’s what to dig up:
- preferred social media
Age, gender, and location are self-explanatory. Let’s see what other things mean.
- Challenges. What are some problems your target audience has? How can you help them solve them?
- Fears. What are your target audience’s fears? How can you crush those fears? Pro Tip: If you’re selling something, address the fears your audience might have related to purchasing from you.
- Dreams. What does your target audience want to achieve? How would they describe their ideal life? How can you help them get closer to it?
- Preferred Social Media. Where does your audience hang out? Where can you best reach them?
- Language. What language does your audience use? How can you best communicate your ideas to them? Pro Tip: Jot down the exact words and phrases they’re using and weave them into your content.
- Habits. What does a day in my audience’s life look like? Pro Tip: When do they get on social media?
Find out more if you can—that’s a useful bonus. What I’ve discussed above are the absolute essentials.
2. Develop a Content Marketing Strategy
If you understand who you’re writing for, you can develop a successful content marketing strategy.
Your content should be helpful and relevant to your audience. Base it on their challenges, fears, and dreams.
Decide on three to five topic categories you want to cover. Write brief descriptions for each. When you’re done, come up with specific topics to write about.
Pro Tip: Setting specific business goals helps in choosing topics and formatting. To increase brand awareness, create content that’s shareable on social media. To drive sales, create content that explains how your product or service can help your readers.
Here’s a quick example. Imagine you’re targeting business owners. Your topic categories might include:
- Business Skills
- Business Leaders
More specific topics in these categories might be:
- Business Skills—marketing, finance, sales, operation, strategy, fundraising
- Business Leaders—industry news, case studies, interviews
- Motivation—quotes, inspirational stories
It’s O.K. to wander away at times, like when important social issues arise. Try to tie it back to the topics you usually cover or get back on track quickly.
Here's what Backlinko's Brian Dean has to say about crafting a winning content marketing strategy:
3. Build a Presence on Social Media
You’ve got your content marketing strategy down, and your fingers can't wait to hit publish. Whoa there cowboy, you still have some work to do!
Before you publish anything, ensure your content will get visibility and exposure.
A cheap (or even free) way to do that is to share your content on social media. If done right, social media can skyrocket your audience and engagement. (Keep in mind that this doesn't apply if you don’t have any following.)
Here’s how to build your social media presence.
Share bits of content you’ll cover extensively on your blog. Present yourself as an authority and connect with people in your targeted niche.
Don’t spread yourself too thin, though. Start building your following on one or two social media platforms. Choose the right platforms—not the ones you like or the ones that are popular at the moment. Let your target audience research guide you. If your audience hangs out on Twitter, that’s where you should be.
If you want to diversify, here’s a list of 8 most popular social media platforms right now:
Each platform has its advantages and drawbacks. For example, engagement is high on Instagram, but conversions are pitifully low (BurkhartMarketing). Take all that into consideration and, what’s more, keep in mind the results you want.
4. Create an Editorial Calendar
You’ve got everything set and ready to publish content. But… when will you publish it? And where will you distribute it?
Specify this in your editorial calendar. Think of it as a schedule that keeps you organized and helps your audience understand when to expect new content.
Set a few regular tasks you’ll tackle each day. Here’s what your editorial calendar might look like:
Write a blog post
Proofread and edit
Create a Pin
Pinterest and Twitter announcement
To get the results you want, set a specific time for publishing content. Knowing your audience’s habits and where they live plays a huge role in this. If they use Twitter around 11 a. m., publish your tweets around this time in their time zone.
5. Make Friends with Google
You announced new content on social media, but see low click-through-rates? Maybe your audience is not too interested in the topic you covered.
One bulletproof (and free) way to attract an audience that is interested is to rank higher on Google pages. Because if you’re on page 7, you might as well not exist!
Getting traffic from Google can drive insane conversions and engagement. Think about it; people who end up on your blog searched for the exact content you covered!
Now that you understand the awesomeness of organic traffic, let’s see how you can score a higher ranking.
Do everything you can to rank higher on Google.
If you're on page 7, you might as well not exist!
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It refers to website optimization for Google searches (or searches on Bing, or other lesser-known search engines).
SEO can help you rank higher on Google when someone searches for content you have on your blog.
This is a very broad topic and is covered extensively here. But, if you’re a beginner and just getting the hang of it, I’ve got your back. You can quickly improve your SEO by including your targeted keyword in:
- alt text
A keyword is a word people use when searching for a topic on Google. It’s also a word you want your content to rank for. There are many paid tools that allow you to check the search volume for different keywords, but a brilliant place to start is AnswerThePublic.com.
Enter your keyword in the search bar and you’ll see questions people have about it.
For example, I wanted to title this article “5 Key Things to Do Before You Start Blogging”. A quick search on AnswerThePublic.com showed me that no one searches for “what to do before you start blogging” or related keywords (duh, the whole point of this article is that many bloggers don’t do these things before they dive in).
However, I found many people search for “how can I make money blogging” and related (long-tail) keywords. I took the hint and altered my title.
Track Google’s Core Updates
Another thing affecting your Google ranking is… well, Google.
Google depends on an algorithm to deliver relevant results. Still, it’s not perfect. If Google ever delivered results that made you say what the f..., you know what I’m talking about.
But Google wants to serve you, which is why it releases algorithm updates each day.
These can help people get more relevant results, but they can also mess up your blog’s ranking. You really want to monitor these updates, especially the big ones, called core updates.
Core updates are kind of notorious for mucking things up for website owners. With each update, Google makes new demands that determine rankings. It’s such an enormous deal that Google even announces them months in advance!
The only fail-proof way to combat its negative effects is to start the preparations, now.
Yes, Blogging Is Hard Work
Whatever you do, drop the blogging-is-not-a-real-job mentality. Running a successful blog entails a monumental amount of planning, researching, and executing.
What I discussed here are just the prerequisites. At its core, blogging means churning out content. A lot of it. While there are many books and courses that teach you how to write better content, the one I particularly found useful was Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes.
Ann takes you by the hand and walks you through different types of content. Baby steps. She also includes a few lists of digital tools that improve your writing, help you get more work done, or generate graphics.
I don’t want you to run off scared. You definitely can win and earn money, and even turn your blog into something more than just a side hustle.
But what you can’t do is expect instant growth or audience magically knocking at your door. That requires a lot of effort that mostly goes unseen.
What’s sure, though, is that blogging will pay off in the long run—as most hard work does. Stay patient, keep learning, do these five things, and money will eventually start rolling in.
I Bet Curiosity Also Saved a Few Cats
© 2020 Dina Sostarec