You sure learn a thing or two (or ten) after blogging for two years. These are my best blog tips and observations:
1. Many bloggers have an ‘ulterior motive,’ so to speak. While there are definitely lots of bloggers who blog as a pure hobby or to simply journal their thoughts, many others are hoping to make money from their blog – enough money to quit their day job. Some are hoping to become famous, to land a book deal, or to become experts in their field and land speaking engagements or their dream job.
I loved Brabara Swafford’s honesty in her post Our Blogs, Our Babies – Criticism Hurts, “I know many bloggers (including myself) would like to make a passive income from their blogs.”
2. Making money blogging – real money that would enable you to quit your job – is nearly impossible. It can happen, and it does happen, but in terms of how likely it is to happen to YOU, the odds are overwhelmingly against it.
3. Making money blogging is slightly more likely if you can start a large number of highly optimized niche blogs. This requires a lot of hard work and results are not guaranteed. You need to find niches that have a lot of Google searches, yet are not too competitive. They should also be about things that people would want to buy – otherwise monetizing would be hard.
Next step: start niche blogs covering those topics, fill them with unique, high-quality content that would be useful to readers, highly optimize your blogs for search engines, obtain legitimate backlinks to those blogs (this is the hardest part – easier if you create high quality content that people actually WANT to link to), and – once they’re indexed and appear high enough on the SERPs (search engine results pages) to send you decent traffic – monetize them with ads.
It’s a painfully slow process but if you do it right, and are willing to work hard for many months without seeing immediate results, it can work. You probably won’t make millions, but you can make decent passive income from niche blogs.
4. Starting a non-niche, unoptimized blog, where you share your thoughts with the world and allow your personality to shine through, CAN eventually get you to blogging super-stardom, in which case you will get millions of monthly page views and make good money from ads, from affiliate links or from speaking engagements. But you need to have an extremely unique voice sprinkled with a dash of luck and perfect timing, in order for that to happen.
We are all very special, each of us in her own unique way, but the vast majority of us will never become celebrity bloggers. That’s OK: there are other ways to make money blogging. But to avoid wasting time, it’s important to be realistic right from the start.
5. Your non-niche blog can be very successful and have a large following and you still won’t make enough money from it to quit your day job. You need serious traffic for that – at least 250,000 monthly page views. For the vast majority of bloggers, this is an unattainable number.
6. Correct linking is important. When I started out blogging, I used to link to other bloggers using their first names. It took me a while to learn that these links have little value. When you read something you like by another blogger, and decide to link to them, try to see if you can figure out what keyword they are trying to rank for in search engines, and link using that keyword as your link’s anchor text.
For example, if I link to my friend Davina using her first name, search engines will know to rank her high in the SERPs for “Davina” which is not very helpful. But if I link to her as a “life coach”, this tells search engines to rank her higher for that phrase. Since Davina is an excellent, down-to-earth, affordable life coach, I am happy to help her rank better in search engines for this term, because people who search for a life coach SHOULD be able to find her.
If you’re not sure about a blogger’s keyword, you can often find it in their blog’s Title Tag. It’s usually OK to link to a post’s title, by the way. Seasoned bloggers always optimize their titles.
7. The companies that want you to review their product or want to place their ad on your sidebar? If you have less than a quarter million monthly page views, they’re buying page rank from you, not ad space. Try telling them that you want to include a “no-follow” tag when you link to them, and you’ll see how quickly they evaporate. Google seriously frowns upon selling page rank, so you should think long and hard if what they offer to pay you is worth the Google wrath.
8. If you’re fairly good at writing, and can optimize posts for search engines and shamelessly promote yourself, a relatively easy way to make money blogging is to blog for others. I’ve been doing it since November 2008, and in 2009 I was able to earn a decent income from my freelance work despite the recession – still not enough to fully support my family, but enough to make a difference in our family’s finances.
9. Unimportant numbers: the number of comments you get on your posts; your number of subscribers. Important numbers: How much money you make each year from your blogging activities; how many hours you put into your blog. And of course there’s your level of enjoyment and satisfaction – blogging does provide a wonderful creative outlet and many bloggers enjoy it regardless of income.
10. Possibly the most important lesson I’ve learned over the past two years: when you publish a blog, criticism WILL follow. Unless you write the most mundane, boring, politically correct blog (but then why write it and why would anyone want to read it?) a blog is about voicing your opinions and providing commentary. Not everyone is going to like what you have to say and that’s OK. You do need to prepare yourself for the fact that criticism on the Internet is often extremely harsh – people allow themselves to attack others in ways they would never do in person. That’s because they are hypocrites and cowards, so you can just ignore them – especially if they attack you anonymously. When faced with such criticism, keep your cool, stay polite, and remember that the more vicious the attack, the more miserable the person behind it likely is. Personally, I’ve learned to just feel sorry for them.
Also, when you receive hate email, DON’T OPEN IT. Delete it permanently right away, and mark it as spam, so that future correspondence from that person will not even reach your inbox. You can usually tell that an email is hateful from the title – definitely from the first line. It’s tempting to keep reading, for sure, but it’s a waste of time and it’s toxic. So just delete it. This is my only criticism of Heather Armstrong’s “monetizing the hate” web page which is otherwise brilliant – it means she’s reading those blog posts and comments and emails, and I think she shouldn’t.
Before I wrap this up, I wanted to say something about the apparent disdain that some bloggers have towards bloggers who “blog for money.”
I blog for money. I love blogging for money. I love the challenge of getting my clients’ websites to rank better in the SERPs. I love the challenge of getting my own posts to rank high for my chosen keywords. I love building and strengthening my clients’ brands with high quality blogs and with vibrant social media accounts. I love the fact that I made enough money from the ads on this blog and from freelance blogging last year to make a real difference in my family’s finances. But I also love writing, and I love my readers, and I enjoy interacting with them (with you!)
I may not be a “pure” blogger, but I am a damn good blogger and I am very proud of my career changes, which I’ve accomplished all by myself, from a miserable lawyer, to a happy-yet-somewhat-bored stay at home mom, to an extremely busy and fulfilled professional blogger.
Can you offer any more blog tips?
Photo by John Loo