Make Money Blogging | A Guide for Beginners on How to Make Money Online

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make money blogging

Earn an income online

This is not the first, nor will it be the last, article on how to make money blogging. So why write it?

  1. Because people are always very interested when they hear that I make money online. Now I can just send them to this post :).
  2. Every story is unique, and so it contributes something new to the discussion. So brace yourself for around 7500 words on how I make money blogging. My three primary sources of income include selling eBooks, doing freelance writing, and advertising revenue from my blog. There are people who can teach you how to make a lot more money, but I’m going to tell you my story because I sometimes dismiss those BIG GUYS because I think they are exceptional. I’m about as normal as it gets (except I do have an extraordinary amount of drive and stubborn tenacity). Don’t worry, throughout this article I’ve also included a lot of tips from the BIG GUYS. This post shares how I make how I make money blogging, as well as a collection of some of the best articles I’ve read on the topic of blogging.

[pullquote]Over the next three weeks, I’m excited to share how you can make money online by using one or all three of the income streams I’ll introduce in this post.[/pullquote]

My dream and my goal is to earn a full salary from my online business. In this post, I’ll introduce you to the things I’ve done to make money blogging. You need to know from the start that I’m not the richest blogger out there. There are guys and gals who make a bazillion dollars more than me online. This post is about a guy who started with zero knowledge and a strong work ethic. But, I’ve build what I believe is a solid personal finance blog that is producing a reasonable income each month.  My goal is to keep growing this blog and online business to a point that I can support my family. This is my dream.

There is no shortcut or a get rich quick gimmick.

This is my story.

My Goal: In 20 months I will earn a full-time salary from blogging

At the start of this month, I sent out a letter to all our church supporters letting them know that our family will be moving away from PNG during the summer of 2012. There are essentially two reasons for the upcoming move.  First, my legal status with the US government will be changing (I’m a Canadian citizen), and I need to return to the US in order to obtain my US citizenship.  Second, I want to focus on developing my online work to a point where it will provide a full time income.

There you have it – in less than two years, I want to support my family by the money I make blogging and from other online projects.  I feel vulnerable telling you that because what if I fail?  But, at the same time, knowing that I’ve publicly shared my goals will help give me the motivation to continue to reach for my goals.

Three income streams to make money online and fulfill my goal

Over the next three weeks, I’m excited to share how you can make money online by using one or all three of the income streams I suggest.  The tips might not be the smartest thing you’ve ever heard, but they work – I’m proof of that.  I currently make money online from these three sources:

  1. Make money blogging
  2. Make money freelance writing
  3. Make money producing and selling books

Currently, I work 15 hours a week and these three sources of income earn anywhere between 30%-50% of my full-time salary.

In this post, I’ll tell you what I’ve done, what I’m doing, and what I plan to do to make a full time income blogging, writing, and selling eBooks.  Why?  So if you want you can follow this plan and do the same thing.

make money blogging

I’ll start this article by introducing the blogging income because that contributes the most to my salary.  Of course, August is when I released The Secret to a Successful Budget, so that month my eBook sales represented closer to 25% of my income.  Also, I’ve started doing some new freelance work for a new client (the site has not yet launched so everything is hush, hush – but trust me, you’ve heard of them), so my freelance income will be increasing to closer to 50% of my total online salary.

For easy reference (after all, this is the longest post I’ve ever written – 7500 words!), you can jump ahead to the section that interests you.

  1. My blogging story
  2. Best way to start blogging with $100
  3. What’s the best writing style for a blog?
  4. Different ways to make money blogging
  5. How much money can you make blogging?
  6. A guaranteed method for getting traffic to your blog
  7. How to build links
  8. How to increase your number of subscribers

My blogging story

Here’s the play by play, retold as best as my memory can dictate.

  • 2007 – My wife gets tired of hearing me talk about finances.  She suggests I write a book.
  • 2008 – My wife is still tired of hearing me talk about finances and suggests I write something – anything.
  • Early 2009 I listen to a man on the Crown radio program.  He talks about his website called Free Money Finance (FMF).  FMF is the first blog I ever visit.  While surfing around FMF, I discover a Christian finance blog called Christianpf.com.  By mid-2009, I read an article called, “How to make money blogging”.  I’m fascinated by the blogging format.  BUT, I don’t have internet at home.  I continue to offer excuses why I can’t start my own blog.
  • May 1st, 2009.  Our family has a medical emergency that requires us to immediately return to North America (turns out to be a false alarm).  This change in plans leaves us with an extra month of an already long visit to the USA and Canada (total of four months).  I decide to start a blog while we are on furlough.  The blog is first called Money Tips For Christians (initially at Blogger) and later becomes Money Help For Christians.

Preliminary Details: Blogging is about more than money – establish your purpose.

[pullquote]Blogging is about more than making money. [/pullquote]

Blogging is an opportunity and a venue to express your thoughts and your ideas.  The income is just one benefit.  Personally, I’ve grown a lot as I’ve learned and studied new financial topics. I’ve even developed some blogging friendships.  There are more benefits than money.

To blog just for money would not be satisfying (just like doing anything only for money).  Blog about something you feel passionate about before you blog for money.

Especially in my sub-niche, Christian finance, blogging must be about more than money.  I’m trying to walk a fine line keeping this blog a ministry and a source of income.  One thing I do to keep that tension is that I always write Bible and money posts on Wednesdays.  Those posts rarely generate any direct income, but MH4C wouldn’t interest me if I didn’t have the chance to express my faith while blogging.

Therefore, the first task is to determine your reason for blogging.  Why do you want to blog?

To help people, to entertain people, to make money, to challenge people …

Then you need to determine what you will contribute to the blogging world.  What do you have to offer that no one else is doing online.  Beginners who want to make money online must clearly establish why people should read their blog.  For MH4C I believe people read this blog because they expect to be challenged and get a fresh perspective on often discussed topics.

Once you’ve determined your reason and what you plan to contribute, go ahead and develop a blog mission or purpose statement.  This statement will guide you through the dark days of blogging.

Here’s my mission statement:

Money Help For Christians (MH4C) promotes a frugal, simple, debt-free, and generous lifestyle so Christians can faithfully maximize their resources by putting them at the disposal of God’s Kingdom. MH4C is committed to providing relevant resources in order to assist Christians in this effort.

What does it take to make money blogging?

1.  A stubborn willingness to continue working tirelessly with no results.

In my first six months of blogging, I earned about $2.00 per hour.  I stayed up late.  I woke up early.  All for $2 per hour!  But, I kept writing.  Adam Baker says you need to border on being obsessive, and I tend to think he is right.

These days (after a year and a half of blogging) every morning my alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m., and I spend a few hours working before I spend time with my family and go to work.  I spent at least a half day on Saturdays locked away in an office.  I rarely spend more than 15 hours each week.

2.  A supportive family and community.

My wife has stood by me – amazingly.  Without her support, I would have quit months ago.  I also had some bloggers who have forged the way who shared their stories and experiences.  Bob Lotich has been an especially positive mentor.  I also had some wonderful guidance from Peter Anderson and Ryan Guina.

3.  A willingness to learn.

I started blogging with zero knowledge, zero skill, and zero idea about what I was doing.  So I became a student.  I learned the basics of html, and css.  I learned about something called SEO (search engine optimization – how to rank in Google).  I learned about optimizing ads.

I think a lot of people think bloggers make money by getting on their computer for 3-5 hours a week.  This simply is not possible (in my experience).  I bet there is a gal or guy somewhere who does that – but don’t you dare count on being that guy or gal because 99.5% of you will be sorely disappointed.  However, if you take this hard working approach, you can do it.

4.  Patience – like Abraham waiting 25 years for a son kind of patience.

In the blogging world, nothing happens quickly.  Chris Guillebeau is an A-list blogger, and he writes about his 279 Days To Overnight Success (free downloadable eBook I recommend).  Well said, Chris.  Nothing happens quickly.

Warning: Blogging is becoming more competitive.

While I believe a hard worker can still make money blogging, I also believe that each day that passes, the industry gets more competitive.  I know, I know other bloggers are not your competition, but at some point, we do compete with each other.  Those holes that no one is writing about are getting smaller and smaller.

I won’t go so far as to say that blogging is dead, but when I compare where I am to others who started blogging sooner, I honestly believe it takes more work and more effort now than it would have even 2 or 3 years ago.  That’s not a knock on those who started sooner – good for them.  Here’s why I say that – the more people you have competing for top ranking key words, the harder it is to blog.

It’s still possible, but I think your road will be longer than my own.  Any other bloggers agree or disagree?  SEOmoz warns against Blogging in an Oversaturated Market.

How to Make Money Blogging

If you’re anything like me, your first thought is – seriously?  You can actually make money blogging?  I thought that was a scam.  No, my friends, it’s no scam.

Since there are already a lot of resources on how to make money blogging, what I plan to do is to personalize this section so you can see what I did.

Best Way to Start Blogging with $100-$200

If you really want to make money blogging, you should buy your own domain name and find your own host.  You’ll need a $100 budget to get started.  You could get a free account at blogspot.com.  Blogspot is really easy to set up, and it’s a great way to get a feel for blogging.  But Blogspot doesn’t allow you the flexibility and freedom you need to earn money blogging.  WordPress.com (hosted on WordPress) is another popular free option; but again, if you host with someone else, you’re eventually going to want to move anyway.  If you want to make money blogging and earn an income, you should use wordpress.org (self hosted), buy your own domain name (under $15 per year), and find your own host ( under $75 per year).

How to choose a domain name

Well, that completely depends on your goals.  Some blog to entertain (choose a witty domain). Some blog to make money online (choose an SEO [search engine optimized – basically something that will rank well in a Google search] domain). Some blog to promote their writing (choose a personalized domain).  Some blog to promote an offline business (choose a name that relates to your business).

[pullquote]In my case, I wanted something that has SEO potential and the two words I wanted to include were Christian and money. While I don’t know how I feel about the name, I’m glad those two words made the final cut.[/pullquote]

Where do you buy a domain name? I’ve bought all my domains through my host, Bluehost.  If you host with them, you can get your first domain free.  Just keep checking and exploring until you find a good domain that is available.  Others also suggest Go Daddy, but I’ve never used it.  If you’re willing to find an unused domain, they are not expensive – about $10 per year.

Where should you host your new site? I first signed up with DreamHost, but I had trouble figuring out how to get WordPress on my site.  I got discouraged and went with a blogspot website.  Bad choice.  After a few weeks, I knew I needed to figure out how to get my own hosted site.  This time I signed up with Bluehost and used the simple scripts, and within minutes, my website was up and running.  My experience with Bluehost has been fairly good.  I’ve had the occasional down time, but you can’t really expect more out of a shared server.

Dedicated server vs shared server

When you start to blog, just get a shared server plan until your traffic increases (to around 2,000 visits a day).  Getting a dedicated server before that would be like owning a Ferrari that you don’t drive over 50 miles per hour.  A dedicated server from the start is a waste of money.  Go with a shared server since you can always switch later.

Choose a theme

The theme is the style or look of your blog.  If you use WordPress, you’ll find a thousand options (just Google WordPress free theme).  I think I surfed through 3-5 free options before purchasing the Thesis Theme.  I would buy it again in a second.  In fact, I upgraded to a professional license, so I now have Thesis on three blogs.  In addition to being able to easily customize Thesis, another key advantage is that a lot of websites use it.  What that means is if you ever want to figure something out, you’ll find a bunch of helpful articles online.

If you get Thesis, all you need to do is install Thesis Open Hooks plugin (here’s a guide to Thesis open hooks), and spend an hour learning about hooks.  Then ask another blogger (I’d be happy to help) if they would pass along their custom functions php and css.  Don’t copy this information, but use it for seeing how to set up those two things.  It will save you hours of work.

Plug-ins

Here’s a list of the WordPress plugins I use.  A plugin is basically just an added feature to your website.

I’ve put an asterisk by the ones I think every start up blog should have.  All of the ones with the asterisk are also free:

Absolute Links Plugin*, Akismet*, Blog Copyright (by BTE) [after a few months of blogging], Blog Stats*, Broken Link Checker*, Comment Redirect, Contact Form 7*, Easy AdSense [by default, you give a % of your earnings, but you can change that], FeedBurner FeedSmith*, GoCodes, Google XML Sitemaps*, MaxBlogPress Ping Optimizers, Ozh’ Who Sees Ads, Related Websites (by BTE), RSSupplement, Scribe SEO, Search Meter, Simple Pull Quote, Sitemap Index*, Sociable*, Subscribe To Comments*, Subscribe Widget, Thesis Import/Export, Thesis OpenHook, W3 Total Cache*, WordPress.com Stats*, WordPress Automatic Upgrade*, WordPress Database Backup*, WordPress Download Monitor, WordPress Popular Posts, WP-Table Reloaded, WP Security Scan, and Yet Another Related Posts Plugin*.

Here’s a list of SEO plugins for WordPress.

There is quite a bit of technical information to learn when you start blogging.  To help simplify things, you might invest in Peter Anderson’s book – How to Make Money Blogging.  The book is extremely useful for first time bloggers who need help with all the technical aspects of blogging.

How to fund blog purchases

[pullquote]You can go CRAZY spending CRAZY amounts of money blogging. I’d suggest you start with a $100 – $200 budget, and then let the blog business fund itself.[/pullquote]

Here’s an order of what I would spend money on first (up to a $200 threshold – just stop when you budget stops):

  1. Domain – $10
  2. Shared host – $70.00
  3. How to Make Money Blogging eBook – a detailed and technical step by step eBook that helps you get everything all set up without hours of research, $20
  4. 31 Days to a Better Blog by Darren Rowse – $20.  You can also search Darren’s archives to read free articles about the 31 days to a better blog.
  5. Professional Theme (like Thesis) $87
  6. Customized Header $15.  I’ve recently started using Odesk to outsource some of my blog work.  I’ve had some good and bad experiences, but I’ve had some great experiences with logos and headers.  On Help Me Travel Cheap, you can see the header I bought for $6.00.  I actually also had someone make one for $15 so I could choose my favorite.  I ended up using the cheaper one.

Hmmm.  I guess that is all you could buy with a $200 start up budget.  Later I’ll share a list of products I would purchase after you’ve made enough money to cover the cost.

Free blogging resources you must read:

  1. Read: How I make money blogging post by Bob at Christianpf.com
  2. Subscribe to: Problogger, Daily Blog Tips, and CopyBlogger
  3. Read: SEO: The Free Beginner’s Guide From SEOmoz
  4. Join the free Blog Traffic Fisher program.

What’s the Best Writing Style for a Blog

Online blog writing is completely different than other kinds of writing.  If you want to learn how to make money online, you’ll need to write well.  There’s a lot to say about the topic, but I’ll give you my two cents.

  • Short crisp sentences.  Paragraphs that are no longer than 5 sentences.  I love this one, because any time I feel like hitting enter, I do.  There are no rules.  If you make up writing rules people like, they will read your blog.  If they don’t like how you write, bye-bye.
  • Use headers and sub headers
  • Lists and bullet points are your best friend
  • Add personality.  Use contractions. Be informal.
  • Use numbers whenever possible (this is a rule I like to break).  4 reasons why, 8 things you should …
  • Bold important phrases.

I just finished reading an eBook that teaches you about the basics of writing a good article for a blog.  It’s a great resource for people who are just starting to blog or folks like me who have notoriously poor linguistic skills.

Set a writing schedule.

I’m a detailed guy, so this was really important.  When will you write?  I need blocks of time.  My brain is like a tree full of monkeys (as Henri Nouwen says), and so I can’t think about a lot of things.  Saturday morning I write everything for the week.  I know that is my day to write.  I focus and I write.

Here are some free ideas for finding good topics to write about:

  • What are people around you talking about? The world is full of blog post ideas.
  • What are people searching for online?  Use tools like the Wordtracker or Google Keyword to find out what people are looking for online.
  • What is already popular?  Most bloggers share their popular posts.  This means people like searching for and learning about that topic.  Don’t copy posts, but tackle the topic from your own perspective with your own voice.
  • Visit the library.  In an hour at the library, you should be able to come up with at least 30 good post ideas.

Valuable Articles to Read:

  1. Lifehacker – 101 Steps to Becoming a Better Blogger
  2. David Risley – 50 Rapid Fire Tips For Power Blogging
  3. How to choose a domain name
  4. Chris Brogan – 50 Ways to Take Your Blog to the Next Level

Different Ways to Make Money Blogging

Basically, I believe you can make money blogging by building on two important foundations.

  1. Build Trust. If you want to blog professionally, people must trust you.  When you review or recommend a product, your audience must know that you legitimately like the product – not that you’re just trying to make a fast buck.  Within my first year of blogging, I think I only directly promoted 1-3 products.  Even now I’ve done less than a dozen product reviews.  I’ve been careful not to test the trust I’ve built with my readers.
  2. Build Traffic. If 3 people trust you, you won’t make much money.  If 3000 people do, then you’re moving in the right direction.  My primary strategy for building traffic is by writing search engine optimized posts and allowing Google to do the work of sending traffic.  Due to limitations in time and a big time difference (16 hours + EST) between my primary audience,  I don’t do much with either Twitter or Facebook, but those are great ways to get traffic.

Pay Per Click

Adsense is by far the largest pay per click company.  In fact, I’ve never tried anything else, so I’m not going to bother mentioning anything else.  Adsense is the largest source of income on my blog.  It typically represents about 75% of the money I make blogging (excluding selling my own products).

There are some down sides to Adsense.  Basically, you cannot directly control the ads.  You can set filters to block specific advertisers, and you can block certain types of ads, but you cannot select the ads you want to appear on your site.  Adsense will scan the content of your post and put relevant ads related to your content.  The more content I have on my site, the more I’m finding that Adsense is showing very relevant ads.

With Adsense, you get paid when someone clicks on the ad.  My lowest Adsense clicks have gone for $.05 and my highest click was for about $31.00.

Here’s how Adsense works.

  1. You signup for Adsense and follow the instructions to install it on your website.
  2. Place the Ads in a prominent place.  On MH4C, you’ll see ads right at the top of each post and at the top right sidebar (if you come from a search engine).
  3. Never, never click on your own ads or ask other people to.  Honesty is still the best policy.

Adsense Tips:

  • Use A/B testing to show readers different ad options so you can see which one gets the most clicks (email me for the code because it’s too long to put here).
  • Try to use blue links (for Adsense and other links) because everyone knows blue means link.
  • Make the bottom Adsense lines as light as possible.  Tweak your own site, but this is what works for me.
  • Use Google Keyword tools to get an idea of what you can get paid for keywords.
  • Initially, go for keywords that are searched about 800-1000 times a month.
  • Use section targeting.
  • Place ads where people look.  A large text box right under the title has always worked best for my site.
  • Be sure you have a privacy policy.  Here, you’re welcome to steal mine.
  • Link your Adsense account to your analytics account so you can know which articles are earning the most money.  Do whatever you can (ethically) to drive traffic to those articles.  Personally, I keep a list of 10-15 focus articles.  This easy-to-reference list reminds me of the best articles to link to when I’m writing something for another site.
  • Keep a blog change journal and an AdSense journal. Record any blog tweaks and any AdSense changes in a Word document. This way, if your income changes, you know the factors that caused the improvement or reduction
  • Use the “Ozh’ Who Sees Ads” plugin to help you customize your ads so you can show them to the right people without annoying everyone else. This plugin lets you show more ads to visitors and less to subscribers.
  • Consider changing your text color to a color lighter than black.  This way the ads become more prominent.

Affiliate Sales

If someone uses an affiliate link you have on your site to make a purchase, you, the blogger, can get paid for the referral.

I really struggle with how to promote affiliate products.  I don’t want to spend all my time promoting products, but I’d also like to make a full time income.  Personally, I’ve decided to minimize the products I promote to keep my offerings genuine.

However, it is amazing to be able to get paid to promote products you would promote anyways.  I’ve always helped people find the best prices for travel and suggested online travel websites.  Now, I get paid to do it.  Sweet!

The best way to make affiliate sales is by signing up with affiliates directly or through affiliate brokers like Commission Junction, Flex Offers, and LinkShare.

Also, you can sign up to promote other peoples’ products.  For example, I have an affiliate program for The Secret to a Successful Budget.  If someone sells that book from their own website, they get 33% of the sale price.

Text Links

At times, other people or companies will offer to pay you to put a link to their website.  This way they get to improve their Google rank and you make money blogging.  It’s a great way to make good money, BUT it has some serious down sides.  Google doesn’t like text links, and if you’re caught red handed, they’ll do as much damage to your rankings as possible. Proceed with caution.

Don’t worry.  You don’t really need to learn about how to get text link offers because they will flood your inbox once you start blogging (depending on your niche).

CPM Ad Networks

These are advertisers who pay you per time an ad shows on your website (unlike Adsense which is per click).  In general, you can expect to get paid between $1-$2 per 1000 times the ad shows, so you’ll need to build up some serious traffic before CPM ads will make you much money.  I’ve only been using CPM ad networks for a month, so I feel uncomfortable making any suggestions.  That’s OK, because as a new beginner trying to make money online, you won’t need this information for at least a year.

Direct Ad Sales

No one has offered to pay for ads on this site, nor have I searched them out.  So thus far, they’ve added $0 to my bottom line.  Again, this is not something you would likely encounter in the first year.

Other

The list above includes all the direct ways you can make money blogging.  However, in the future I’ll introduce you to how to make money writing online.  Blogging opens those doors.  People have been offered full-time jobs through their blogs.  Some have been offered book deals.  Sometimes what you’ll get out of blogging will surprise you.

Essential Readings on How to Make Money Blogging

  1. Sugarrae – Thesis Tutorial: Advanced Ad Targeting
  2. Doughblogger – 50 Ways to Make Money Blogging
  3. Problogger – How to Make $30,000 a Year Blogging
  4. Problogger – Adsense tips
  5. Smashing Magazine – Google AdSense: Facts, FAQs and Tools
  6. DoshDosh – How to Make Money Blogging: 7 Strategies to Help You Get Started Immediately

How Much Money Can You Make Blogging?

I guess this is where I should tell you that you can earn $10,000 a month by working 5 hours.  Nope!

For the first six months, my primary focus was on writing and building a website.  The next six months, I focused on developing a solid Adsense campaign.  The last few months, I’ve been focusing on affiliate sales and CPM ads.  Here’s why.

Your website is like a lemon. You can only squeeze so much out of it.  Every hour you spend when you have 100 daily readers might produce an increase of 2% a month.  Wow! Your hour just got you an extra $2.  However, when you have 1000 daily readers, your increase might gain $20.  Don’t worry about maximizing your income until you have enough traffic for it to make sense.

So here’s some of my income information:

  • In the first four months, I made $15 (I didn’t put any ads up until halfway through the 4th month)
  • I got my first check in the mail after about 5 months – $100.
  • My goal was to break even the first year.  I was able to buy several blogging related products and resources and pay for our expensive internet.  In the end, I ended up with $600 in my pocket.  But, I wasn’t trying to really make money.
  • In January, I decided that I would use the money I earned blogging to pay for our May family vacation.  Between January and May, I made enough money to buy my wife and three kids roundtrip tickets from our home in PNG to Sydney, Australia (I was already there for other reasons).  The blog also paid for all our activities and meals.  We had five free hotel nights.  So basically, after a year of blogging, I had $600 and a paid for vacation.
  • It took me a year and two months before I brought home more than four digits from my blog.
  • Currently from all my blogging, writing, and product sales, I earn about 40% of my full-time income.
  • For perspective, on my travel website, I’ve done nothing more than post 2 articles a week for just over a year, and I make about $45 per month on that site.

I know those numbers aren’t amazingly impressive, but I’m perfectly content because things keep growing.  I’m building something of value for the future, not for today.

Adsense Income Snowball

The best thing is that every month that passes, the blog continues to earn more and more income.

Here’s a chart that shows my Adsense earnings month to month (I start with month 5 because I didn’t put ads on until month 4).  It shows how much more I made (or lost) compared to the previous months.  Like compound interest, the longer you keep doing it, the more those percentage differences make.

make money blogging

Month % Increase
5 36%
6 47%
7 30%
8 149%
9 198%
10 26%
11 31%
12 8%
13 60%
14 -12%
15 28%
16 20%

Advanced Blog Tools

I mentioned earlier that one of my main goals was to cover the cost of some of the products I’ve purchased.  Here’s an advanced list of things I use and you might consider buying as your blog grows.

  1. Market Samurai.  This product costs $100 (discounted price when you start with a free trial), but it has some great features and saves you a bunch of research time.  There are free products that can be combined to get you all the same information, but I like everything in one place with one click.  At one point, I got some great information from The Keyword Academy.  This course has some great resources.  It is $30 a month, with a month free trial.  After a few months, you can glean a lot of great information on how to rank for keywords.  However, Market Samurai also has some introductory lessons that are as valuable as The Keyword Academy.
  2. Scribe SEO.  I think every blogger who is trying to rank in the search engines should check out Scribe.  It costs $27 per month, and after a few months, you can learn how to instinctively write search engine optimized posts.  I still pay for the membership because I like the extra SEO accountability, and I use it for my staff writers so we can be sure everyone is doing search engine optimized posts.  My wife helps write on our travel website, and she really likes the extra assurance that Scribe gives.
  3. Aweber (?).  $20 per month (or $200 annually).  This totally depends on your blog goals.  Since I write eBooks, I need to be able to personally send an email to my readers.  Feedburner does not allow me to do that.  When I sold my last eBook, I sent out an email in the final hours and sold an extra $50 worth of books within 15 minutes.  If you don’t plan to sell your own products, I’m not sure Aweber would be worth the cost.
  4. I sell all my eBooks using E-junkie.  But, I’ll talk more about that in the eBook post.  Basically, it is the most convenient way to sell products online, and it only costs me $5 per month.
  5. Odesk.  When you start making site tweaks and customizations, you might put a job posting up on Odesk.  Interview well or you might be disappointed with the results.  However, you can save hundreds of dollars by going the Odesk route.

A Guaranteed Method for Getting Traffic to Your Blog

Here’s the guaranteed method – write … a lot!

For your first few months, you’ll have a faithful group of a dozen who read your blog.  More if you have a larger family :).

Here’s the strategy I used to increase my traffic.

Guest Posting (even better yet – paid writing)

A guest post is when you write an article for someone else and they publish it on their website.  I’ve done a lot of guest posting because it is the best way to get traffic to your blog.  You could either write an article for your 12 readers or for 5,000 readers at XYZ blog.  Which do you think will produce more traffic?

Ironically, the more you post for others, the more your blog will grow.  The bigger the blog you guest post on, the better.

If I had to use one method to grow my blog, it would be guest posting. In fact, through the exposure I got guest posting, I was able to get some paid writing positions (I’ll talk more about that in another article).

Blog Carnivals

Hey, blog carnivals really won’t get you traffic, but you will get links back to your site.  Those links improve your ranking, and your Google traffic will eventually increase traffic.

Commenting

For the first 6 months, I did a lot of commenting, but then I stopped.  Not because other posts weren’t interesting to me; but because of my limited time and limited internet allowance (I pay per MB), I decided to focus on writing articles instead of commenting.  However, to get yourself on someone’s radar, there is no better way than commenting on other blogs.

Write SEO (Search Engine Optimized) Posts and Let Google Do the Work

SEO Because of my ultimate goal with this blog (earn income so I can do ministry), I’ve focused on SEO posts as a primary strategy.  Ultimately, I want a life outside of blogging, and I hope to use my blog income to help me do other forms of ministry.  Therefore, the passive nature (after hard work) of Google traffic appeals.  Google currently sends about 75% of my traffic.  Also, 90% of my Adsense income comes from Google traffic not my regular readers.

An SEO post is one where you write in a way that your readers like and Google likes.  I use Market Samurai and Scribe SEO to help in this effort.

Here are some quick SEO tips:

  1. Subscribe to SEO blogs: Here’s a helpful list of the Top 25 SEO Blogs.
  2. Read an introduction to SEO: SEO: The Free Beginner’s Guide From SEOmoz (free).
  3. The title is the most important thing.  Research the title well on Google Keywords.
  4. Pick topics that are not too competitive – 800-1000 monthly searches
  5. Be patient.  Like cheese, it only gets better with time.  Google likes to see some domain age before you really start ranking well.
  6. Links are very, very important.  Getting links to your blog post is one of the most effective ways to improve your rank.
  7. Minimize the number of links on your homepage.  That way when people link to you, you get more link juice going to the right pages.

Most of your Adsense income will come from some of your top ranked Google articles, so really focus on increasing the rankings of your best converting articles.  So, for example, my article on how to exchange foreign currency is one of my top Adsense earners because it has a high value per click and a high click ratio.  So I build links to that post so that it can generate more traffic.  More traffic means generating more income.  On the other hand, I have an article that asks if you should pay off your mortgage or invest gets a lot of traffic, but it doesn’t make a lot of money.  I’ve stopped trying to improve the rankings on that article.

Essential Readings for SEO and Google Ranking:

  1. Viper Chill – WordPress SEO
  2. SEO Moz – On Page Keyword Specific Ranking Factors
  3. Dough Roller – SEO Copywriting – How to get your article to the top of Google
  4. Remarkablogger – WordPress SEO – Understanding Keywords
  5. Yoast – WordPress SEO – The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For Your Blog
  6. Double Mule – Thesis Tutorial | SEO for Everyone
  7. Chris G – How to Grow Your Google Authority
  8. SEOmoz – 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic
  9. SEOmoz – The Beginner’s Checklist for Learning SEO
  10. Copyblogger – How to Create Content That Ranks Well in Search Engines

Join or Start a Blog Network

I joined the Yakezie personal finance group.  The forums provide some great information, and everyone is helping each other to improve their rankings.

I also created my own network called the Money Mavens Network.  Basically, each member site helps the others by providing important links to each others’ sites.  Honestly, I was nervous doing it because I wanted to ask blogs that were more popular than my own.  I just decided to give it a shot, and everyone I initially asked accepted.  Once again, the forums from that group have been amazing.

Being part of a network is crucial.

Methods Others Use That I Don’t

The following work.  But, just not for me.

Twitter/Facebook – Yes, I could do better with these, and a lot of people use it as a main promotion technique.

Stumble Upon / Digg – These are just rushes of traffic that do little for a blog.  I used to use them, but now I spend my time doing more profitable things.

For personal finance, there are things like Tip’d, PF Buzz, and Reddit.  Again, I rarely submit to these (except for Reedit).

Moral of the story.  You can’t do everything to drive traffic to your site!  Choose what provides the best results with the time you have available. You make a mistake when you try and do everything.  By the way, how you define best results must be based on your blogging goals.

Like everything related to blogging, patience is the key.  Here’s a visual summary of my traffic growth:

blog traffic

How to Build Your Subscriber List

Before building your subscriber list, you’ll want to be sure that it fits within your business model.  In my case, I sell my own eBooks online, so having a solid subscriber list is important.  That’s why I switched from Feedburner to Aweber.  However, if you primarily want to earn income through Adsense or something similar, you would prefer traffic on your site instead of on your mailing list.  However, when you promote affiliate products, you’ll want a larger subscriber list.  Just make sure you have a clear business plan.

Five Tips for Building Your Subscriber List

  1. Post quality content on a consistent basis. People subscribe when they think they are going to miss out on something good if they don’t. Find topics that interest people, and blog about those things regularly.
  2. Offer a bonus. Give people an extra incentive to subscribe. In my case, it is a free eBook. Remember, the bonus will only work if you have the content to keep people as subscribers.
  3. Guest post. Any time I guest post on a quality blog, I get 10-25 new subscribers.
  4. Carefully consider the placement of your subscribe form. In my case, I have used the top right (premium) spot.
  5. Customize your subscribe form, and consider trying a ‘light box’ option with Aweber.  I just started using a larger (almost full page) light box, and I’ve noticed some very good results.
  6. Create a subscribe page that answers common questions subscribers might ask.  Here is my subscribe page.

How to Get Links to Your Website

In order to make money blogging, it is essential that you get links to your site.  While there are a lot of good ways to build links, here are the strategies I primarily employ.

  1. Guest Post/Staff writing.  Everyone has different policies about how often you can link in a guest post or paid article.  However, if it is permitted, this is a great way to build traffic and links.
  2. Occasional submissions to book marking pages.  I use this strategy sparingly, but when you have an article you really want to promote, go ahead and submit it to sites that give a link back.
  3. Email a friend.  When you develop some blogging friendships, you can email a friend and ask if they want to exchange 1-3 links.  Warning: if it is not someone you know well, this strategy is likely to be ignored.
  4. Start your own link building network.  This is essentially what I did with the Money Mavens Network.
  5. Submit articles to Ezine Articles, Hubpages, or Squidoo.  I rarely do this, as they don’t tend to bring me much traffic, so I’d rather have the post on another blog.  But, when I’m looking for a good link back, I may occasionally do an article just for one of these places.
  6. Blog Carnival submissions.  To find carnivals in your niche, just visit this Blog Carnival page.  Blog carnivals are primarily about links, not traffic.
  7. Comment on ‘do follow’ blogs.  These are blogs that will give you a link back when you leave a comment.

Essential Readings for Link Building:

  1. Viper Chill – How to Really Build Backlinks and Dominate Google
  2. Search Engine Land – What Is A Link Worth? Part 1: Valuing PageRank
  3. SEO Moz – 21 Tips to Earn Links and Tweets to Your Blog Post
  4. Copyblogger – Five Link Building Strategies That Work
  5. SEO Book – How to Build Links Fast: 101 Tips & Strategies

Final Parting Words

Since this has been such a long article, let me boil it down into five things to remember:

Keep Going. Even when blogging was discouraging or I didn’t feel like it, I kept writing. From other bloggers I have talked with, this is very, very important because blogging snowballs. It only gets bigger.

Find A Blog Mentor(s). Early on when I was negotiating with people (for staff writing), I included mentoring as part of my compensation. Email dialogue and Skype conversations taught me more about blogging than anything else. It saved me a lot of headache, too.

Learn About SEO. Through those mentoring relationships, I learned about SEO from different people. In addition, much of what I learned came from Scribe SEO, the Keyword Academy, and Market Samurai.

Start Focusing on Keyword Research. For the first 6-8 months, I would just write whatever I wanted. Little did I know, but even slight variations of words can make a big difference for Google ranking and AdSense value. While ”kids allowance” (as an example) might pay $1.50 per click, “children’s allowance” might pay $2.50.

Guest Post. Posting articles on other websites is a great strategy. It is only a great strategy as long as it is a strategy. Who do you want to post with?  Why? What keywords do you want to rank for? What links are you going to have back to your own site?

More than anything else, blogging is a journey.  If you enjoy the process, you’ll be amazed by the outcome.

If you enjoyed this post would you please bookmark, Tweet, or share on Facebook?

Questions or comments?  Comment now …

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