From the series Make Money Blogging – Free and Complete Starting Guide!
Once you’ve followed these steps, you will have the main framework done. That means you can start publishing content. For now, I suggest you don’t spend too much time trying to fine-tune your design (trust me – you’ll have plenty of time for that later and you will be doing it multiple times along the way…).
The good news is that the theme provides the bulk of the look and feel, so if you keep going, the law of diminishing returns will start to apply. Instead, spend your time engaging in more value-adding activity, like writing and publishing articles, promoting your blog, and monetising it so you can start generating passive income!
The golden rule of blogging is: Don’t drive traffic to your site unless you have stuff for people to read. There is no sense in starting a marketing campaign if you have nothing to offer people. That means you will need at least a handful of good articles before jumping into the next stage.
For now, concentrate on developing your writing style, identifying topics that people have a genuine interest in, and pumping out unique and relevant content at regular intervals. If you don’t do that, you will alienate your audience. And no one wants that.
Monetising your Blog
Once you have some content published, you can start thinking about signing up for online advertisement programs. Some of them will check your website to see that you fit their terms and conditions.
For instance, many advertisers want to ensure your website is not just a collection of advertisements. They also want to make sure that you don’t host inappropriate content. Advertisers and their robots thus tend to review your blog to make sure you do publish some unique and interesting content. If you have nothing to offer, it is very likely that your subscription will get rejected.
1. Google Adsense
When you start out blogging, you will have a relatively small readership. This means that you will only be able to sign up with few advertising companies.
For instance, getting approved by a company like BuySellAds usually requires a minimum of 100,000 page views per month. Thus, while your blog is gaining popularity, your best bet is to sign up with Google Adsense, which displays targeted advertisements based on the keywords and content of your posts.
The service is easy to manage and can provide good revenue. Indeed, depending on your topic, you may trigger keywords that are worth several dollars per click. I was actually quite surprised to see just how much income one click generates! However, don’t get excited just yet, getting readers to actually click on an ad is not that easy unfortunately… but we will discuss that later.
For your information, it will take a few days to go through the Google 2-steps verification process. But good things come to those who wait! Also make sure that you read the Google terms and conditions carefully. There are many intricacies that you need to be familiar with, e.g. Google Adsense only allows you to have a maximum of 3 ad units per page. And out of those 3, only one 300×600 ad unit is allowed.
2. Affiliate Programs
Affiliate programs are a good alternative to Google Adsense but they can be a complement too. Affiliate programs are a little more complicated, as they don’t just require the reader to click on the link but rather require the visitor to buy the advertised products.
The upside is that you usually get more money through an affiliate sale than you would with regular pay-per-click ads. In terms of revenue, affiliate programs can therefore offer an important complement to Adsense earnings. Some affiliate programs I highly recommend are:
- Amazon: Amazon is the biggest online store in the world. If your blog makes reviews or recommendations that people follow, you may be able to get a percentage of the sale, should they decide to buy from Amazon through one of your referral links. When a visitor goes to Amazon from your website, they install a cookie with your tracking ID that ensures you will get a percentage (4% to 10% depending on the product and the volume of referrals) of any amount they spend in the next 24 hours.
- Bluehost: Bluehost pays $65 for any subscription made through a referral.
- HostGator: HostGator has a modular payment scheme, which ranges from $50 to $125 per new account. This depends on the number of referrals you make per month.
- DreamHost: DreamHost pays $97 for any new subscription made through direct referral and $5 for any sub-referral.
These programs are a good start! The important thing to remember is that most programs will only start paying after your earnings reach a certain threshold. That means it is better for you to concentrate on a few programs and get paid rather than collecting credit from numerous organizations and never being able to cash out.
Interestingly, affiliate ads are excluded from the Google Adsense three-ads-per-page rule! Obviously you still want to be selective about what you advertise, as your page will be too cluttered otherwise and this will repel readers.
Always remember that people come to your website to read articles, not to review all your ads. It is important to find a good balance to keep readers interested while generating some passive income on the side.
Getting Referenced by Search Engines
1. Submit your website
When you create your blog, no one knows you exist. So how do you get noticed? You have to make sure search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! are aware that your website is online. The best way to achieve that is to feed your URL to them.
These three search engines account for more than 95% of searches on the web (in fact, Google accounts for around 65% of searches alone), so I suggest you focus on these three. An easy way to get your URL to these search engines is by manually submitting your website using the following links. The process is completely free.
2. Register to Webmaster Tools
Each of those search engines has a webmaster program. Google has its own while Bing and Yahoo! have merged their tools. These tools allow you to monitor the health of your website and help you index your blog with their search engines as well.
Those webmaster programs will crawl over your blog to check for errors and retain up-to-date results of your site. It is thus important to work with the search engines so they have the most recent information about your website.
A critical feature in this process is to submit your sitemap so that search engines reference all of your articles. That will allow readers to come directly to an article that interests them, rather than coming to the main website, which may be less relevant. That will generate more traffic and (hopefully) more clicks or referrals!
3. Submit your sitemap
Your sitemap is the full list of your articles and their web addresses. Conveniently, it is automatically generated if you are using the WordPress SEO plugin. All you need to do is specify in your webmaster tools where your sitemap file is located.
Once the plugin is installed, you will see a new SEO > XML Sitemap menu in your left toolbar. Make sure the functionality is enabled, then click on the “XML Sitemap” button to get the sitemap web address to submit to search engines.
People generally say that the real work starts after you have published a post. You may have the best content online but if no one is aware it exists, no one will read it. It is therefore important to promote your articles. I have experimented with different techniques and some work better than others. These are my top 5 methods:
1. Search Engine Optimisation
Writing a good article is not enough for you to be highly ranked in search engines. You are very likely not the first or the most authoritative writer on your chosen topic. Thus, once you have finished putting down the main message of your post, you need to review it and optimise its content.
Keywords are one part of what search engines algorithms are looking for. Make sure your article has enough keyword density for the topic you are covering. You should design engaging titles and draw interest with your article meta description. Even the URL of the article should feature the keywords of the topic you are covering. All of this is supported by the WordPress SEO plugin. If you use it effectively, you will be the top Google search result without spending a single cent on advertisement.
Rich snippets are detailed results that appear in search engines. To entice people to read your posts, you should try to attract their attention and curiosity. That means your link should stand out from the other search hits.
Google Webmaster Tools provide great guidance on this matter. Google also provides the Structured Data Testing Tool to preview how your page would be displayed in Google results. Use this preview to enrich the results as much as possible through Google+ authorship functionality and add the option to rate the post. For the latter, the plugin Post Ratings is a simple but fantastic one. It will add the rating stars automatically to Google results and hopefully draw more interests from potential readers.
2. Social Networks
In a web 2.0 environmnent, the use of social network is a must. You can share your articles with your friends through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn or StumbleUpon. These are the most popular sites and thus the ones you should focus on. Your friends can then promote your blog posts to their own friends and so on. Having a good social network presence can give you a boost in creating a regular reader base.
Forums give you access to like-minded people who are not within your circle. By genuinely engaging with others, you will drive interest for them to come read more about your opinion. Most forums will allow you to post links and even have a signature directly linking to your website.
If you are interesting and engaging, people will eventually come read what you have to say. But the key to drawing authentic interest in your blog is to be subtle – If you start spamming forums with your URL, you are just going to get banned and your comments removed.
4. Blog Commenting
Similar to the forum approach, the idea here is to find blogs or websites dealing with similar topics as yours. You can then share your point of view and whenever relevant, insert some links to your blog for a more exhaustive opinion. Again, you need to provide some original comment for it to be accepted. Most blog owners will delete comments that are not well argued and are just plain advertisement.
5. Blog Directories
I’ve seen many articles about registering to the “top blog directories” as a way to increase traffic. Most of them require a payment to let you subscribe. The few free ones that I have tried, have never brought any traffic, with the exception of Technorati. Their registration process is a bit long but I’ve had few visits from users on Technorati. I’d give them a chance. But, if anyone has another good free blog directories to share, I’m all ears!
Generating traffic for your blog is extremely time-consuming. That is why I haven’t spent time looking into other common techniques, e.g. guest posting or article submissions. Just engaging with others via social networks, forums and blogs will suck up a lot of time. That is time you could be spending posting high quality content on your blog.
Maximise your input-output ratio and concentrate your effort on techniques that generate most traffic for least time invested. Different techniques may work better for you; much depends on the topic of your blog.
Converting traffic into income is not an easy task. You will have to find the right balance between featuring interesting articles and relevant advertisements.
1. Ad Style
There is a debate about whether you should make your advertisements stand out so you can attract visitors’ attention or whether you need to blend ads into your visual theme. My personal approach is to make them as little of an annoyance as possible.
When I read an article, I don’t mind seeing ads, but I absolutely hate when they appear as full screen pop-ups. So when I place my ads, I try to consider my readers’ point of view. Golden rule-of-thumb: Do not implement something you would hate to experience yourself!
2. Ad Size
Google Adsense gives great advice on the most efficient ad sizes and where to place them on your blog. You should choose from their recommended ad sizes because they are favoured by publishers and Google has more ads of these sizes to display. It will ensure you never get blank boxes.
You should also activate the “Text & Images/Rich Media ads” option to increase the probability of showing relevant ads to your audience. The exact size to choose from will depend on your blog structure (sidebar size, text organisation, etc…).
3. Ad Placement
With respect to ad placement, the most effective ads will be the ones displayed in areas where readers eyes spend most of their time. This generally means embedding them into the text of your articles rather than showing them in less visible places like a footer.
Google published the following heatmap of the most efficient areas to display ads. The darker the area, the higher click-through rate they have found. You should keep this heatmap in mind when placing ads on your blog. But you should also experiment with your specific blog structure and theme and find the most efficient areas for your website.
However, as I said earlier, you need to be very careful to ensure that you are complying with the Adsense placement policies; otherwise your account may be deactivated. For instance, you are not allowed to design your website in a way that leads visitors to accidentally click on the ads. Make sure you know the policy well because once your account is revoked by Google, it is almost impossible to get it back.
4. Honest reviews and recommendations
Just as you rely on others’ experience before booking a hotel room or buying a new electronic gadget, people may rely on your reviews of products or services. If you want to generate affiliate marketing income, you should try to write compelling and useful recommendations.
If you convince your readers that the product you are reviewing fits their needs, they may buy it through your referral link. For this to work, however, you really need to be honest and genuine. People can tell when you are just trying to sell them items or services that you have actually never used yourself.
While it is definitely possible to make money blogging, you need to have realistic expectations. Generating passive income is a slow process and it is extremely unlikely to ever replace your full-time job. Why? Because behavioural studies show that less than 2% of website visitors click on ads.
That means you will need thousands of readers before you start making any noteworthy income. Playing with ad sizes and ad placements will help to some extent, but the only thing that can really make a difference is having a successful blog that people want to read. Otherwise passive income generation from advertisements is extremely unlikely or low.
Let me use this blog as an example! Over the past 4 months, I have had over 4,000 page views, but my Adsense income only amounts to around $40. That’s not a lot. However, it does cover my web hosting costs.
A good tool to estimate the potential advertisement income, based on the number of website visitors, can be found on HypeStat. You can get a free report on any domain name (not just yours – so make sure you also scoop out the competition). That will allow you to monitor your progress as well.
If you think about your blog as a business, you can make a good amount of money. By investing time and money in marketing your website, you can reach the target audience you are looking for. Many bloggers find niches where people are ready to spend money (e.g. babies, weight loss, education, etc…) and write compelling posts that inspire readers to subscribe to affiliate programs or buy other services.
The important point to remember is what successful blogs have in common: They never compromise on quality. You need to prioritize high quality unique content before thinking about monetising your blog. People come to your blog to read useful information, not to scroll through ads.
If you put all your effort into building an appealing and rich website and promote it, traffic will come naturally. And then you will benefit from advertisements revenue at some point. But being too obsessed with generating revenue at the expense of good content may alienate your reader base forever. It is all about finding the right balance through experimentation. This guide will set you on the right path but the success of your blog can only be driven by you!