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Is Blogging the Path to Wealth?

I was thinking of doing a list type post of all the different ways you could make money, both online and offline, from one offs like selling your crap to part time jobs to side hustles that can be expanded into a full business. It was shaping up to be quite a long list and then I realized that there are plenty of lists out there and while they are fun they don’t give the reader any details about all those different money making opportunities.

So, rather than do one long list post I am going to do a series of posts, each one focused on just one way to make money as a side hustle or as a one off. Each post will be full of details and additional resources and I hope they will be helpful to someone.

Edit: After writing this one I kind of hope they aren’t all so long either, but that is a possibility…you’ve been warned 🙂

Since I have to start somewhere I am starting off with the often written about “How to Make Money Blogging“. It is a subject I am fairly familiar with and over the years it is one I have often considered writing about, but never actually have. So, I thought it was time to get this one out of my system. Perhaps that’s why it ended up being so long.

What is Required to Start Blogging?

Actually very little is required to start making money from blogging. I would boil it down to three things:

  1. A passion for the blogs topic
  2. A love of writing and communicating
  3. A place to host your blog
  4. (optional) A niche that has a demand for products and services

So as you can see the barrier for entry into the wonderful/frustrating/lucrative world of blogging is quite low. This is why you can find so many new blogs started and so many blogs that die. Many folks focus on just one or two of those three things and it just isn’t enough to keep them going.

What is Required to Start Blogging for Money?

This is a bit of a different question entirely. While it is quite easy to get started blogging, when you add a desire for income to the equation the bar gets raised considerably. In addition to the basics you will also need the following:

  1. The ability to market and promote your blog
  2. The ability to attract and retain advertisers (although Adsense does away with this to some extent, for most bloggers Adsense is not the best way to make money from a blog)
  3. The desire to connect with your readers
  4. The skill to effectively network with other bloggers
  5. Patience

These activities require a different skill set and mindset from the one that motivates us to write. The good thing is all of them can be learned, yep even patience (ask my wife). And these are just the basic requirements for earning from a blog. Advanced bloggers have other skills that they have honed as well (at least those earning good money do). Let’s take a closer look at how you can get from newbie blogger to cha-ching, bling-bling blogger.

Marketing and Promotion

There are different theories on marketing and promotion, from traditional SEO to article marketing to social media. You will need to determine your own best approach through trial and error, but chances are it will be some combination of many different promotion approaches.

Social media is fairly new and can drive tons of traffic to your site when used properly, but some people find it to be a huge time sink with minimal returns. If you are interested in learning more about using social media effectively I highly recommend starting at Social Media Examiner. They have a staff of over 90 writers all digging into what it takes to use social media to connect with customers, generate more brand awareness and increase sales. Recent updates to Google’s algorithm also make social media mentions helpful from an SEO perspective which means you should definitely be participating in at least the biggest of the social networks; Twitter, Facebook and the growing Google+ Circles.

Article Marketing was once an excellent way to promote a new site, but changes in the Google algorithm have decreased the authority and visibility of many article directories to the point where it isn’t much worth submitting to them. In fact, you will find many no better than spam farms. A few of the directories can still bring you some traffic and there is some SEO value to diversifying your link profile so I wouldn’t count these directories out totally. Ezine Articles is the granddaddy of article directories and is still useful. In addition, newer so called 2.0 sites like Squidoo and Hubpages can also send some traffic your way and increase your sites authority. If you are interested in pursuing links from the article directories there a massive list to be found here.

Guest posting on others blogs is a much better way to gain an audience in the current internet environment. Guest posting is when you write an article to be posted on another person’s blog. It is win-win for both as you get exposure in the form of an author’s bio box that links back to your website (good for both SEO and branding) and the website owner gets great content for their site. Of course it takes time to craft a great article that will draw people to click a link over to your own site, but the benefits can be well worth it. Here is a list of over 500 sites that accept guest posts, including 92 in the finance niche. That should keep you busy and deliver a flood of traffic over time as well.

Commenting on other bloggers posts is a good way to introduce yourself to the blogging community and get a small amount of traffic your way. It is also a good way for you to get to know the other bloggers writing styles and preferred topics for when you later wish to guest post on their sites. This tactic requires patience though as you can only leave a limited number of comments each day and they will only bring small amounts of traffic usually. One way to maximize this is to comment on sites that have a lot of their own traffic and to make sure you are one of the first people to comment. If you are using comments as an SEO tactic you will be best served by finding those blogs who still have dofollow enabled in comments. You can check this by using the NoDoFollow plugin for Firefox or for Chrome.

Those are just 4 of the marketing and promotion weapons in your arsenal. In addition you can search out forums in your niche and become an active and helpful user there to help direct people back to your site. If you don’t mind spending money there are a huge number of places where you can pay to advertise. You can get involved with blog carnivals or create your own newsletter for email marketing. As you can see, to create a really profitable blog you will be spending much more time marketing than you will writing for your own site.

Advertising for Your Blog

If you want to make money from your blog you are going to need advertisers. There are several ways you can go about this. Some are definitely better than others, but in the beginning you are likely to be constrained by the fact that your blog has little traffic and authority. Patience is a virtue here and as your blog ages it will become more attractive to advertisers and more profitable for you.

Adsense is often the first type of advertising bloggers add to their site. Depending on your content the Adsense program is easy to apply for and get accepted to and the ads are simple to add to your site. In most cases Adsense is not the most profitable use of your ad space though and as your blog becomes more popular you will want to branch out into ways that will bring in more revenue.

Affiliate Ads can be a very profitable way to monetize your blog, however some readers will find it offensive that you are getting paid when they sign up for services or buy products from links on your website. You will need to decide if this is concerning to you or if you can handle the potential criticism and backlash. You can find affiliate programs in nearly every niche, although some are certainly better than others. A good starting place is Commission Junction, though there are many other affiliate networks out there.

Direct advertising is often the most profitable, yet hardest to attract and manage. Once your blog gets big enough there is a good chance that advertisers will start to find you, but it is also likely they will try to get something for nothing assuming that you are new and uninformed about the current rates for advertising. If you are willing to give up some of your profits you can outsource your ad management to an outside person, such as Crystal at BITFS, The Financial Blogger or Justin at Money is the Root if your blog is in the finance niche. Or if you want to DIY be prepared to learn how to negotiate, keep detailed records of your advertisers rates and the duration of their ads and start a database of advertisers for when times are lean.

Just like marketing and promotion, advertising has a large variety of options. In addition to those listed above some bloggers recommend Infolinks and Chitika for contextual advertising, Clickbank and FlexOffers for affiliates as well as the Go Media Network and others.

Connect With Readers

If you want to be a professional level blogger you need to make a connection with your readers so they have a reason to keep coming back. This doesn’t only mean providing great content. It also means you need to engage in conversations with them. You can do that in the comments of your posts, on social networks like Facebook and Twitter or by email. Once you get large enough you will get emails asking for help or complimenting you on your site and it is critical that you respond to each of these emails. Someone took the time to reach out to you and by not responding you risk alienating them and perhaps losing them as a reader forever. We don’t write in a vacuum and your readers are ultimately much more important than you are as a writer, no matter how good you are. If you want to see a good example of this head over to Financial Samurai and see how Sam responds to a majority of the comments on his posts.

Network with Other Bloggers

Just as we don’t write in a vacuum neither do our blogs exist in a vacuum. In any niche there are dozens, if not hundreds of other bloggers. Each and every one of these has an interest or passion for the same subject matter as you, so why not talk to them? Besides simply having at least one interest in common it is quite likely that the two of you can help each other by cross promoting and linking to each others’ posts. And even better, you can share your knowledge with each other. Face it, you don’t know everything and your blog is probably not the best one in your niche. We all have room for improvement and one of the best ways to grow is through the advice and wisdom of others.

Patience

This is a virtue we’ve been led to believe and when you are blogging this is certainly true. There’s a very good chance that in the beginning you will be writing for yourself and the person who landed on your site when searching for 20120039872348 (yes that showed up in my Analytics). This can be quite disheartening, but cheer up. If you continue to produce great (even good) content, continue to promote your blog, network with other bloggers and connect with your readers your site will grow. It is a slow process and often goes two steps forward and one step back, but if you can persevere you will be rewarded. Just see what Dividend Ninja had to say recently about earnings and patience in blogging here

As you have probably figured out by this point (if you made it this far), blogging is not an easy way to make money. It is however very rewarding and a lot of fun for those who have patience and are willing to develop the necessary skills. Those of you who already blog know what I mean and for those of you who are considering starting your first blog I hope to read your stunning posts in the near future.

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