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How to make money blogging:  Creating a profitable blog from scratch

I made enough money to renovate my family home by blogging.  Here are my tips.

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My mates shoot me text messages after-hours. The extended family tends to strike at weekend gatherings over the sizzling BBQ. And my colleagues tend to ask after the second shout at Friday drinks.

"I'm after some extra cash. Is it actually possible to make a decent income from blogging?"

The answer is the same every time.

"My oath it is. The cashola of tomorrow belongs to the people who plan for it today. So the real question is… are you willing to start planning?"

If you answered yes, read on.

Who's this guide for?

In our uber-cool world of fintech start-ups, #travel influencers and mummy-preneurs, it's hard to know who's in it for the status credits versus the financial ones. But if you are one of those tech-savvy people with a genuine interest in investing in your future, this is for you.

My guide to blogging is for level-headed, entrepreneurially minded people looking to start a new venture, side-hustle or avenue to escape the daily grind. It's particularly well suited to those who like to share opinions and those who like the idea of taking control of their destiny.

Is the side hustle hype, or a way to make some cash fast?

Finder Pocket Money Podcast

Who am I?

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I'm Jake, hailing from Palm Beach on the Gold Coast and self-proclaimed luckiest guy on the planet.

I have an amazing wife, two beautiful children, an overly energetic dog, great mates and an awesome lifestyle. Living the dream!

I started my first blog in 2001, back when blogs were basically perceived as nerdy online diaries. My focus was designer T-shirts and the blog grew in popularity, receiving international coverage in books, magazines and popular websites… not to mention providing us with the funds to renovate our family home.

I get a real kick out of helping people. I recently launched my comprehensive guide It Pays To Blog to help budding Australian bloggers start the journey towards creating their very own income-generating blogs from scratch.

What's the secret? How to start a blog and make money

As I touched on earlier, the secret doesn't involve any wizardry or black magic. Starting a profitable blog simply requires planning. You know that old adage "give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe". Well, making an income from blogging is no different.

Here are six simple steps I recommend in my book It Pays To Blog, the ultimate guide to making an income from blogging.

ideasStep 1: Choosing a topic for your blog

When it comes to Internet marketing, there is a phrase I learnt many years ago that has proven itself time and time again.

"The riches are in the niches".

It's so much easier to focus on a single, niche topic than try and be everything to everyone. The challenge here is choosing the right niche, one that will be profitable and sustainable for you. Getting this step right requires extensive keyword and competitor research into topics that you are passionate about (there are some great online tools available to help, including Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush) to discover the right niche for your blog.

An example of this concept in action is Laguna Beach Stays, a blog I launched in the era prior to Airbnb, Expedia and Booking.com. By focusing on the niche topic of "holidaying in Laguna Beach", a topic that was frequently searched for and had limited significant competition at that time, I was able to create a valuable digital asset that generated ongoing income from Google Adwords and affiliate networks for accommodation. I eventually flipped this blog for a handsome profit.

Step 2: Deciding on your revenue model

Just like the physical world, there are plenty of different ways of making a buck in any given industry. In blogging these options include:

  • Image and text ads (there are manual and automated options for this)
  • Sponsored content (blog posts, emails)
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Selling your own digital or physical products
  • Training courses, memberships and more

The style content you publish on your blog will dictate your success with any of these revenue models, so it's important to make this decision early in your journey.

My first blog, Tshirt Alert, made the majority of its income through manual advertising placements including paid reviews, display (banner) ads and text link ads. Manual advertising is still one of the most lucrative forms of advertising, as you can literally name your price! The challenge is creating an environment that is unique enough that advertisers can warrant the investment.

bloggingStep 3: Coming up with an awesome name

Having a memorable name for your blog is super important. I know this sounds logical to most people, but what I see being overlooked all too often is having the .com domain to match.

If you're talking to someone at your local and they say "You should check out this awesome blog I'm into, it's called The Freedom Chaser"... you're not going to search for TheFreedomChaser.xyz when you get back home are you. No siree. You need the .com domain or you'll be losing valuable traffic to someone else's website.

Of course, there are occasional exceptions to this rule. For example, if you are focused only on an Australian audience then it can add to your credibility to choose a .com.au as your primary domain, but even then I'd be looking to secure the .com too, to allow for future expansion opportunities.

In short, it's important to ensure a high-quality domain name is available to match your blog name. TIP: There are a handful of free brainstorming tools available online to assist you in finding the perfect name and domain for your blog.

Check out some web hosting tools that also give you the option of buying a domain name.

Step 4. Choosing the best tech for the job

When it comes to the technology that will power your blog, there's a stack of tech companies out there vying for your attention. But please take heed: not all blogging platforms are created equally.

In my 20 years of experience, I've found that the most robust blogging platform is the self-hosted version of WordPress (there are more details about why, and how to set it up in my book). You'll also want a reliable web host that doesn't charge the earth for its services to give your blog a home, and to tweak some of the WordPress settings for optimal performance and exposure in search engines. With humans now sharing the attention span of a goldfish, site speed is critical and I've found that the Genesis framework combined with a StudioPress theme is your key to achieving this. It's one of the oldest themes on the market and is still lightning fast. Search engine rankings also rely on speed and performance; your goal is to appease the Google PageSpeed gods.

By doing all of this, you'll be setting your foundations for the best chance of success.

blogStep 5. Publishing awesome content

Now comes the fun part: creating content that is so engaging it will get the whole neighbourhood talking! I say this in jest, but there is actually a deeper truth to this statement, as the more your content is shared by others, the faster your authority will grow.

So, do you need an IQ equivalent of Einstein and the creative genius of Andy Warhol to create highly shareable content? Thankfully, no. You just need to know how to use the right planning, research techniques to uncover topical gems, and then adapt the right post structure for your topic and audiences. A few examples of popular post types include listicles, tutorials, reviews, infographics, case studies, quizzes and product comparisons.

I also encourage budding bloggers to begin with the end in mind. When it comes to creating content, what I mean by this is determine who you are writing for and how you are going to reach them with your content, before you even start it. By doing this, you'll find it easier to write content with real purpose.

These are essentially all of the key components in my WISPR (Who, Ideate, Syndicate, Publish, Repeat) content planning framework.

Step 6. Learning from your victories… and your mistakes!

Being a blogger isn't all about the free merch and launch party invitations. An income-generating blog is a business, and behind every business lies a treasure trove of data. If used effectively, this is data that can take your business to new heights.

For starters, you'll need the tools in place to find out what works and do more of it, plus the ability to track mentions of your blog across the web. Free tools like Google Analytics and Google Alerts are a good starting point for this. It also pays to monitor the activity of your competitors by creating alerts and subscribing to their newsletters too.

Final word

Becoming a successful blogger can be hugely fulfilling. You can see why; in essence, you are creating a media outlet from scratch, crafting content that will eventually be consumed and discussed by thousands of people across the globe. There are also other benefits, like the supplementary income and the flexibility to work whenever and wherever you want to.

But it isn't luck that will get you to this point, it's about careful planning and dedication to the cause.

Blogging for profit is not for everyone… but if it sounds like your idea of a good time, I encourage you to take the plunge.

Read Jake's e-book

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