Follow this blogging cheat sheet for the tips and tricks to make money blogging
Work from home websites and blogs about blogging are full of huge promises and secret tricks that will make you a blogging rockstar. The thought of making a five-figure income in your bathrobe drives the creation of millions new blogs every year.
Data from website Technocrati shows that 95% of those blogs don’t make it six months. Yep, 95 out of 100 blogs stop updating in just six months on the web. Those would-be blogger millionaires realize the truth about blogging quickly and give up before their real chance at a payday.
Before you stop reading and look for another get-rich-quick scheme, I can tell you that you can make A LOT of money blogging. I’ve run my own blogs for just over three years on a part-time basis and already make well over $5,000 a month. I know other bloggers that have run their sites for less than five years and make as much as $10,000 and more each month.
The great thing about blogging, besides loads of money if you stick with it, is that there is no ‘secret’. I know the people behind the huge success stories and can tell you, they haven’t got some secret recipe or inside strategy to making it big. They just work hard on their blog and they have a dogged determination not to quit.
There are two things I want you to get from this blogging cheat sheet, two things that I can guarantee will make you a successful (and profitable) blogger:
- While there’s no secret to blogging, it is a business. You need to learn how that blogging business works and the things you can do to be successful. This blogging cheat sheet will get you started on that.
- Successful blogging is a very long-game. The #1 key to success is just to keep blogging. I’ve read blogs that were…I’ll just say, less than special, but make lots of money because they’ve been around for a few years.
As I wrote that last point, something occurred to me. You wouldn’t start a new job and expect to double or triple your salary in the first year. You wouldn’t expect to take a company from startup to world domination in six months. Why do bloggers expect instant success with a new blog?
Use this Blogging Cheat Sheet to Beat the Odds and Make Money
I actually do have some good news in all of this so that you don’t think I’m a glass is half-empty kind of guy. If you can make it past six months blogging, you will start to see huge growth in your blog and your income will jump each month.
That’s my challenge to you. Give it at least six months, following this blogging cheat sheet, and you will be miles ahead of the vast majority of new bloggers. You’ll start making serious money and might even be able to start thinking about leaving the rat-race to manage your blog full-time.
Blogging Cheat Sheet Month 1: Setting the Stage for Success
Spend your first month of blogging laying everything out, what you want to write about and who your readers will be. Check out a few of your favorite blogs for ideas. You can make money off of just about any idea so don’t worry about turning a profit on your blog just yet.
The most important thing is that you’ve got a passion for your blog topic, something you really enjoy talking about…because you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the subject.
Blogs and websites don’t just float around the internet until someone clicks to the site. Each site is stored on computer hardware called a server which delivers the information when you get a visitor. Getting on a server is done through buying a hosting package from a provider. There are lots of webhosts though most provide pretty much the same discounts and offers.
Blue Host is probably the most popular webhost for new bloggers because of its low-price offer. Packages start at just $3.95 per month and you get a free website name along with $50 in advertising on Bing. I started my blogs on Blue Host but have also had websites on other hosts.
After you’ve registered for hosting, you’re ready to set up your blog. I’ve put together a 10-page guide on how to start a blog. It will guide you through everything from installing WordPress, the tool you use to manage your site, as well as plugins you need and getting the perfect theme. It also goes into detail on how to write your blog posts to get Google love for your site and taking the blog viral with social media.
I can’t fit ten pages of blog setup here in this blogging cheat sheet so you definitely should check out the blog post…or just sign up through the link above and email me so I can get you started.
Beyond the technical side of getting ready, you’ll want to start putting together ideas and posts for your blog. You’ll need a few pages like the home page, a blog page and maybe a page for your products. When you officially launch your blog, you’ll want at least five to ten articles ready to go so people have something to read when they find you.
One of the most common questions I get from new bloggers is, “What do I do if I don’t feel like I’m an expert?” First off, you probably know more than you give yourself credit. If you’ve been working in the topic or if it’s been a hobby for a while, you probably already know much more than the average person.
If you really feel like you need a refresher, I’ve used Udemy online courses and highly recommend it. Udemy is like a freelancer university where you can get video courses in just about any topic. Courses run from $20 to $50 but the site is always running promotions and you can get most for $20 or less.
By the time you’re done with your first month of preparation, you’re going to be jumping at the chance to get started. You’re ready to actually start blogging and well on your way to being successful.
Blogging Cheat Sheet Month 2: Interviews and Guest Posts
The biggest problem with new blogs is that nobody knows about them. Sure you’ve told all your friends and family but that’s not even a fraction of the visitors you’ll need to make money blogging. You’ll need tens of thousands of visitors to start making real money and hundreds of thousands a month to make blogging your full-time gig.
In fact, I’d say that low traffic is the biggest reason most bloggers quit so quickly. Even on a part-time basis, you’ll still be spending at least five hours a week on your blog. Spending that kind of time to reach just few hundred people and making almost no money is terribly disappointing.
The solution is interviews and guest posts.
Reach out to other bloggers or experts in your blog’s topic for an interview. It doesn’t have to be a Pulitzer-winning series of questions, just something that answers a few questions that readers want to know. The beauty of interviews is that the interviewee will help you get people to visit the blog through social sharing on Facebook and other sites.
Guest posts are articles you write to post on someone else’s blog. I know, it sucks that you spend hours writing an article just to give it away to another blog but it’s one of the most tried-and-true ways to get started. Guest posts work in two ways. First, the other blogger already has a huge audience so your article is actually getting seen by someone instead of just sitting on your blog.
Guest posts will include a link to your site so people can click through to read your blog. That link is also a power signal to Google to send search traffic to your blog, something we’ll cover in the Month four blogging cheat sheet section.
For guest posts:
- Reach out to bloggers in the same topic with an email
- Provide at least two or three topics on which you might write
- Make sure you acknowledge and follow any guest posting guidelines they have on their blog
- Guest posts should be at least 600 words and be good quality writing. Why is anyone going to click through to your blog if the guest post isn’t worth reading?
- Don’t promote any products in your post, just talk about a common problem or something that relates to the blog’s topic.
- Include a link back to your blog in a short biographical paragraph at the end
Don’t worry too much about posting lots of articles to your own blog in the first couple of months. Post once a week and try to write up at least one guest post a week. After a few months, you’ll start seeing a lot of visitors coming to your blog and can focus more on your own articles.
Besides getting traffic from interviews and guest posts, most of your first visitors are going to come from social media. You’re not getting any Google love just yet so you need to use Facebook, Twitter and all the rest for all their worth.
Social media posting schedule:
- Once a day to Facebook and LinkedIn
- Four times a day (or more) to Twitter
- With each new article to StumbleUpon and Tumblr
- With each new article to Pinterest plus a sharing schedule of other’s pins
Keeping up with the constant stream of social sharing to keep people coming to your blog would be impossible without a social media management tool.
These websites let you connect all your social media accounts together and schedule messages in advance. I use Hootsuite for its bulk scheduler and ability to link up to 50 social profiles on the Pro plan. For less than $10 a month, it saves me hours each week and keeps a constant stream of promotion going out on all my social networks.
Blogging Cheat Sheet Month 3: Understand How to Make Money
There are really four ways that bloggers make money; advertising, affiliates, sponsored posts and through their own products.
I’ll briefly talk about a couple of the fastest ways to make money blogging here but if you really want to make as much money as possible, check out Make Money Blogging. In this 192-page reference guide, I give you a step-by-step plan into all nine strategies bloggers use to make money.
Each chapter will show you exactly how to get started in the strategy and how much you can expect to make. It’s an Amazon best-seller in multiple categories and available on Kindle, paperback and audio.
Advertising: This is probably going to be your first source of income because it’s the fastest to start making money. You’ll sign up through Google Adsense and place a few ads on your site. When a reader clicks on one of the ads, you receive a slice of the fee Google charges the advertiser. You won’t make much, maybe $1.00 per click and it generally takes about 100 visitors to get a click.
You’re likely looking at less than $10 a month just starting out but it’s better than nothing. Click through to this post for more detail on how to setup Google Adsense on your blog as well as detail on making money through sponsored posts.
Affiliates: These are advertising but one step beyond Google Adsense. Whereas you get paid every time someone clicks on an Adsense ad, the reader has to make a purchase after clicking through an affiliate ad for you to get a commission. This means only a fraction, maybe 2% or so, of the people that click on an affiliate link will result in you getting paid.
The payouts are much larger though, ranging from $10 to $100 for each sale. Click through to this post for more detail on how to make money through affiliates and selling your own products.
Sponsored Posts: These are articles that a company pays you to write and post on your blog. It’s a pretty sweat deal considering you normally have to write stuff up for free. Of course, the company will want you to talk about their product. You’ll earn from $100 all the way up to $500 and more for each of these, depending on how many visitors your blog gets each month.
You won’t get many offers for sponsored posts until you have some serious traffic, usually more than 10,000 visitors a month, so you probably won’t earn anything here within your first six months of blogging. It’s a pretty serious source for some bloggers though, with one blogger I know making several thousand a month just from sponsored posts.
Own Products: This is where your real blogging payday can come in and includes consulting, freelance writing, self-publishing and selling just about anything. I make more than half of my blogging income through seven books that I’ve published on Amazon and advertise through the blogs. I know bloggers that sell quilting patterns, personal finance consulting & worksheets, and a few that sell exercise equipment through Amazon FBA. They all use their blog to promote their products.
Success with blogging means using as many of these income sources as possible. No one source is going to make you rich but you can build a good stream of income from each fairly quickly. Relying on just one source also means that you’ll be busted if something happens to shut down the source of income.
Blogging Cheat Sheet Month 4: Blogging Tips and Tricks
While there’s no ‘secret’ to blogging, there are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up that can really help you get visitors to your site. I’ll outline three of my favorites here but will detail each strategy in a linked post.
On-page SEO – One of the easiest ways you can boost your blog on Google is by following a few key points for on-page SEO. This is just tech jargon for the signals you send to Google from within each article. I shared my process for on-page SEO in the how to start a blog post.
- Start with a little keyword research, the phrase you want to show up for when people search on Google. I usually write up a post then go back through to find the keyword phrase that is most appropriate. I might then adjust it for an exact phrase that gets a lot of monthly searches but isn’t too competitive.
- You don’t need to stuff your keyword into the article but try having it show up at least 0.5% of the text. If you use the Yoast SEO plugin, it will tell you how many times your keyword phrase appears.
- You should have a headline sentence that sums up the article and a few heading lines that sum up a section. Change the format of these with your WordPress editor to H-tags, signals to Google for what the section is about, and use your keyword phrase or a related phrase in each.
- Include a few relevant images in the post to help break up the monotony of reading and to provide more information. The filename for images should include your keyword as well as the alt-tag and description for the image.
- Include the keyword in your article title, URL and the meta-description as well as in the first and last paragraph of your article.
- Refer and link back to the article from other articles on your blog, called internal linking.
Link-building: Google is ridiculously secretive about its search algorithm, the program it uses to rank websites and articles to show up in search. One of the few clues it has given us is that content and inbound links are the two biggest factors in getting your website to show higher up in search. We covered writing strong content in our post on starting a blog linked previously.
Here, I’ll give you an intro to link-building but click through to this article for details on how to get links to your blog.
You know what a link is right? A piece of text like the underlined above that you can click to go somewhere on the net. Those links are a sign to Google that the linked page must be relevant for some information or keywords, why else would it be referenced by another site or page? Get enough links to an article or to your blog in general and you’ll zoom to the first page of Google for a ton of traffic.
There used to be all kinds of scammy, spammy ways to get links to your blog but Google has done its best to shut them down. Try them now and you’ll do your site more harm than good and could get locked out of Google altogether.
The most effective link-building strategies you should try:
- Scholarships pages – Google loves links from .edu and .gov websites. These institutional sites aren’t going to link to just anybody so your site must be valuable if it’s being linked from a website with these domains. By setting up a scholarship of $500 or more, you can reach out to colleges and get your blog linked on their financial aid page. Make the scholarship an essay contest and you’ll also get free articles written by college students about any topic you choose. It’s going to cost you some money each year but can be well worth it through the quality links and the free content you get.
- Skyscraper – This method takes more work than the others but really works. Search Google for a keyword you want to rank and click through to the top ten websites. These posts have a lot of inbound links and are ranked highly for a reason. Look through to see what makes them so special in terms of depth and amount of information, graphics or maybe some kind of offer. Your next step is to create a post that is better than those top ten articles in every way. You’ll get inbound links to your post just by virtue of its quality but I’ll also share how to get even more links in the article linked above.
- Infographics – These used to be more effective but they still get more links than regular text content. People are visually driven so it’s nice when you can offer them more than just words on a page. Instead of making a whole new post for your infographic, consider putting the data from one of your posts that gets a lot of search traffic into a graphic. Add the infographic to the post and republish to make it a super-post and get a ton of links.
- Resource Pages – These can be resource posts, roundup articles where the blogger gets input from a whole group, or any type of page that links to many other blogs. Finding these pages is pretty easy but a long and tedious task so it’s perfect for hiring out to a cheap freelancer. You’ll first do a Google search using operators to find the resource pages, I detail this and more in the post linked above.
You’ll do 20 searches and copy down the address of 20 websites for each keyword you want to rank. You’ll have a list of thousands of sites that might want to link back to your article or blog, all you have to do is click through to each to see if it’s a good fit and to find the contact info for the blog. You then reach out through an email asking the admin to add your article to their resource page.
- Roundup Posts – This isn’t so much a one-time strategy but an ongoing way to get lots of links to your blog. Bloggers are always reaching out for quotes and input for their articles. Sometimes this means quoting one or two others and sometimes it means quoting a lot of other people. They get a lot of people helping to share their article while the other bloggers get links back to their sites.
Interact with other bloggers through Facebook and join a few blogging group pages relevant to your topic. When someone asks for a quote or opinion for their article, offer more than just a sentence or two. Being a resource with detailed info will make it more likely that your input (and link) will show up in their post.
Republishing: I’ve saved the best trick for last. Republishing is so easy, so effective at boosting visitors and almost nobody does it. When you republish a post, you change the date so that it publishes as a new post. It keeps all of its inbound links and Google love but looks like a new article.
Since part of Google’s search algorithm includes a recency factor, it can be a real boost in your search ranking and can really improve traffic. This is my favorite blogging trick and I highly recommend you check out the full article on republishing for super Google search. I’ve gotten an average traffic boost of 246% to articles I’ve republished.
- Through Google analytics, find one of your posts over six months old that is still getting good visitors. It’s likely because it has a good search ranking so boosting it a little could really send readers your way.
- Go through the post in your WordPress editor, fixing any grammar mistakes and updating information. Try improving your on-page SEO by adding keywords, images or some H-tags where appropriate. You can also add in any affiliates that are appropriate. The idea is to make it a better article, both for readers and for the article’s SEO power. It’s very important that you don’t change the articles URL address.
- Click edit to change the date on which it was published. Change the date for a few minutes into the future, i.e. if it’s 8:05am on 4/20/2016 then change the date to 8:08am 4/20/2016, and click publish. Scheduling it for a future date will publish the post as new instead of just updating it but keeping the original publication date.
- It’s important to schedule for only a few minutes into the future because all the inbound links to the post will be broken until it publishes. If these are broken for a while, the admin on the other site might see it and unlink your post which would decrease its search power. By only being broken for a few minutes, nobody is going to notice.
These three blogging tips are really where many bloggers fall short. Few know the power of republishing, most don’t want to take the time for link-building and many do not do on-page SEO correctly. Mastering just these three aspects of blogging is going to put you way ahead of the blogging masses and your effort will pay off in higher traffic and more money.
Blogging Cheat Sheet Month 5: Start Making Real Money
By your fifth month blogging, you should be seeing some good increases in traffic but probably still are not making much money. This is where bloggers lose interest and start abandoning their sites. After months of blogging and promotion, you want to start making a little money for your efforts otherwise it’s just not worth it.
There are two ways to really boost your blogging income and they both pay off much faster than the traditional ways to make money off your blog. Best yet, using these two sources below further diversifies your income so you aren’t dependent on advertising or affiliates.
Self Publishing – This is my favorite income strategy and a natural fit for bloggers. You’ve already got months of content on your blog, tens of thousands of words on a topic. Why not turn some of that content into a book? Besides making more than half my income from books, it’s money I earn each month without having to do anything after putting the book together. It’s truly passive income. I detail a winning process for self-publishing on the blog but will outline it below.
- Plan your posting schedule around a book idea. Brainstorm the chapters for a book and then write one chapter a week, posting it to the blog as an article. When you’ve written all the chapters, put them together in a Word document and add some extra content. You get content for the blog and it will start ranking in search for keywords related to your book which will help promote it through your site later.
- Don’t try to be an entire publishing company. Get help editing, formatting and with the cover design from freelancers. It will save you time and will look more professional.
- Reach out to family and friends for reviews at least a month ahead of the book launch. These reviews are important for social proof to convince others to buy the book. Consider writing a few guest posts on other blogs and link back to your Amazon page or to a landing page about the book on your blog.
- Check out the linked article above for the Amazon page details that will set you apart and drive sales. These include optimizing for keyword search, finding easy categories for your book and how much to charge for your book.
- Sell your book through Kindle, paperback and as an audio version on Audible to really boost your sales. Each format accounts for about a third of my self-publishing income so you really can’t afford to neglect any of them.
Freelancing – I started freelancing before blogging while others I know were blogging before they worked as a freelancer. Either way you do it, almost all bloggers freelance their skills at some point. Not only will you become an expert in your blog’s topic but you’ll also learn a ton about blogging in your first year. This information is valuable and can be instantly turned into a source of income.
I have something of a love-hate relationship with freelancing. I make a lot of money writing investment analysis for clients, way more than I do blogging, but I’m tired of working for other people and dealing with editors. I started blogging to transition away from freelancing but it’s difficult to give up something that pays you $50+ an hour.
I’ve detailed how to start freelancing and some websites that will get you started finding clients. You may not have a lot of time to spend freelancing beyond the time you’re already spending blogging but having the extra source of income can really help keep you motivated to continue.
Blogging Cheat Sheet Month 6: Getting Help When You Need It
You should be able to handle most of the work starting out but finding quality professionals to help out will be huge as your blog grows. Your value is in the content you write and your expertise. You could spend a few hours learning how to do a tech task or researching link targets…or you can hire the work out to someone with their own expertise and for a fraction of the cost of your time.
I use Fiverr and Upwork to find freelancers for the projects and tasks below. I like Fiverr because I can try out a few freelancers for just $5 each before committing a pile of money on any one person.
Projects and Tasks I Outsource:
- All technical tasks like changing the structure of my blog, trouble-shooting tech problems, improving load speed, programming language tasks and pretty much anything that involves the c-panel. I’ve learned a lot about blogging but the tech side is something I’d rather hire out and not have to worry about learning.
- Infographic design can be done inexpensively. It might take a little time to find a quality designer that works within your price range but it will save you loads of time if you’re not a designer yourself.
- Link-building research and a lot of other internet research tasks that are very simple processes but take hours. Use Google Drive to share a spreadsheet with freelancers to fill out the info you need.
- Virtual assistant is a term for an ongoing freelancer that helps you do smaller tasks and stay organized. VAs can help sort through email, keep track of posts and scheduling, as well as a huge list of other roles. About the only thing you probably shouldn’t ask a VA to do is writing up your blog posts and blog commenting.
At 14 pages, this guide is a lot more than a blogging cheat sheet but I hope the six points above have been helpful in understanding what goes into a successful blog. The idea isn’t so much to do each task only in the month assigned but to use the month to learn how to apply it to your blog every month afterwards. Focusing on your monthly project will also help take some pressure off worrying about visitor traffic to your blog. After six months, your blog will start to see visitor traffic grow and you can focus more on the numbers.
There will be tests beyond the six-month point, times when you question if blogging is worth it. Resist the urge to ‘take a break’ from blogging or to abandon your site. It’s a long game and bloggers that stick around for a couple of years are very well rewarded.