So this is the 1 millionth post on making money from blogging. What could I possibly add to the conversation that would be of any value to you? Well I'm not a "guru" or "marketing expert". Hell, I don't even blog for money anymore (directly). But I do know one thing - its possible and achievable to blog for money.
I'm sick of hearing post after post telling you that its not possible any more to earn a full-time income from blogging. Just because these bloggers have no idea, it doesn't mean you should give up.
Maybe these guys are partly right. Its not possible to start just another blog on gadgets or startups and expect to make money. You need to think outside the box. Think podcasts, video, and Blogazines (look it up). What is possible is publishing content and making income from it.
Is problogging easy? Of course not, any you already know that. But what you might not realise is just how much work it requires.
You need to be up late every night, you need to be commenting on every blog in your niche, you need to be writing multiple guest posts every week and be able to generate unique and original content and ideas, daily. If you really want to succeed, then you really, really want to succeed.
The only people who make a full time living from their passions are those who are prepared to take the risk and put everything into their passion.
Picking a Niche
This should be the easiest task of the lot to complete. Why? You should already know what you are passionate about.
A word of warning,- stay away from the "majority". Find your unique topic or voice. You need to find a niche that is interesting enough to have readers yet not so popular that there are already 20,000 other blogs on the same topic.
One of my most successful blogs to date involved interviewing startups and was around when web 2.0 was just starting out 5 years ago. At the time there was a lot of interest in startups but not that many people doing interviews (which has now changed). I was and still am uber passionate about startups. I live, eat and breath startup. And you should be doing the same with your passions.
Installing a Blog
Really there is only one choice for bloggers - Wordpress. I know a number of people who use Squarespace (a good second choice), but Wordpress gives you a lot more options and has a huge developer community. This will make setting up a blog with lots of custom features nice and cheap.
In regards to hosting there are so many great options out there that this really needs its own blog post.
Mediatemple grid hosting is a good starting choice (this blog is hosted on Mediatemple). There are cheaper options, but because Mediatemple is grid based it can survive an onslaught from Digg. And I have a bias against cPanel for some reason.
If you grow out of Mediatemple and want your own server. I recommend getting a VPS (virtual private server) from Linode. I run a higher traffic blog on Linode with great success. If you're blog grows up, you will most likely need a VPS. It gives you complete control and you can optimise it just for Wordpress.
Whatever host you choose, avoid going for the really cheap and nasty shared hosting from a lesser known company. Do the research and find a host that has awesome support (telephone or live chat, Twitter, Email) and a good uptime record. You'll regret your shared hosting account as soon as your blog gets on the frontpage of Digg. There is nothing worse than your site going down and knowing you could of had all those extra readers.
After installing your blog you will need a nice theme. Nothing shouts out "spam" more than the default Wordpress theme. A custom theme will cost you $1000+. You don't need a custom theme but you do need something that looks good and professional. Theme marketplace, ThemeForest has a lot of amazing designs and they are really cheap. Thesis is a good choice if you know a bit of CSS and html and want to tweak things. This blog uses Thesis and I change the design regularly with ease (I suffer from obsessive redesign syndrome).
I won't list the actual plugins I use in this post, as they are constantly being changed, updated and new ones get developed all the time. So instead, I'll just talk about the type of plugins you need to extend wordpress.
Wordpress does SEO pretty well, but it can be slightly tweaked. Install one of the many SEO plugins that let you modify meta information as well as Titles and URLs. Also install a Google Sitemap generator.
You'll might also want to give your readers an easy way to share your posts. Install one of the many plugins that put "social bookmarking" buttons on your site.
One plugin I will recommend is LinkWithin. This is by far the best related posts plugin. I'm a bit of a stats freak, and did a lot of testing of different "related post" plugins and their clickthrough rates. LinkWithin performed the best.
The hardest part of your new problogging lifestyle will be finding readers for your blog. I know people who have been blogging for 3 years and are still unable to generate any decent traffic or readership.
There are plenty of bloggers who make growing a readership look like child's play, but trust me, when I say its a difficult task attracting someone interested in actually reading what you have to say.
I love StumbleUpon and the service seems to love me to. I was an early user of StumbleUpon (before it was sold, and then bought back again). The effort I put into the service seems to be paying for itself now with huge amounts of traffic being sent to some of my sites. Most of this is done through the new Su.pr tool the released.
I try and find and thumb up other peoples content rather than mine as I believe this works better in the long run. And besides, SU will start ignoring you if you just spam your own stuff.
Like StumbleUpon, I was introduced to Twitter in the early days. I never really got all that involved in Twitter and still don't use it as much as I should, and could. My personal profile is here. As you can see I post a mix of stuff i'm reading, my content and random thoughts/notes. I don't care about followers and you shouldn't either. I do care however that people like Scoble put me on the Founders list.
Although I don't have a lot of success "traffic wise" with Twitter, my startup Task.fm does. It does a much better job of Tweeting and we get a lot of signups from Twitter.
Be everywhere. If I read a post and enjoy it, I retweet it. If I have something to add to the conversation I comment. If I love the post, I'll tell the author. This attitude towards your community is essential for any problogger. 90% of what you say online should be about someone else and 10% should be about your products.
Honestly, I should do more. I often hold back, or don't bother giving enough thanks when I come across good content. This is something I'm trying harder at.
Monetizing a Blog
Surprisingly this is much, much easier than actually getting traffic and readers. As you can see, I don't really make any money of this blog. However, notice that big banner down below and that Facebook widget to the right, those two elements help promote my biggest passion, Task.fm. I don't need to sell ads (although I have no issues with selling ads) to make money from this blog.
Btw, I do track every click from this blog to Task.fm and know the conversion rates for each post. This is essential if you use a blog like I do.
This is my favorite ad network. They are doing some really cool stuff at the moment and will be launching more cool ad formats soon. If you're in the design niche chances are you already use BSA simply because thats what all the design advertisers are using.
Direct advertising is very appealing as it puts cash directly in your pocket. If you don't want to use BSA, who will take a cut of your profits, you can sell ads yourself. Lots of bloggers do this very successfully but it does mean more work and skill in attracting advertisers.. Of course you will also need lots of traffic.
Crap these are hot right now! People seem to have gotten over their fears of digital content at the same time a number of bloggers are putting out really good quality information. This combination has resulted in a hot market!
Write an ebook, guide, do a video series etc. Explaining how to create a good info product would take a whole other post, and im no expert in this field but this guy is.
One of my favorite Affiliate programs is Clicky (yes thats an Affiliate link). Why? I use Clicky web analytics on my blog and all my sites. I'm a paying customer, long time user and absolutely love it. So its extremely easy and feels natural for me to recommend it to other people when I write a post like this.
When making money with Affiliate programs, choosing something you actually use and are passionate about will make a big difference to people actually trusting you and clicking through.
A good way to start out making money from your blog is with donations. I've never tried this myself, but Shoemoney recommends it for people just starting out and I've seen it used across many blogs with decent results. Its very easy to implement (Amazon Wishlist, PayPal etc.) and will push you to crank out quality content.
Of course, you could just use your blog as a powerful branding tool. Freelancers can use a blog as a portfolio, marketers can use a blog to attract consulting gigs and Tim Ferriss uses his blog to sell his book.
Take the First Step
Take the first step to monetizing your passion now. Jot down a plan of where you want to be in 1 months time. Sure thats not a long time away, but if you do set goals to far into the future, you won't meet them.
Oh, and forget everything I just told you.
The most important piece of advice I ever got was to test, test and test. Don't let people tell you what time you should post to your blog, or how many posts you should make in a week. Experiment and find what works for you. There are too many wife-tails going around the internet for you to really know whats best unless you actually test everything yourself.
How many readers would you like? How much income do you need to live off?
P.S - if you've got a blog related to lifestyle design or productivity let me know in the comments. I'm building a Twitter list and need your help.
Photo by - andyp uk