In this introduction to blogging, we’ll explain how does blogging work, how to build your own blog, and how you can start your own successful blog.
We all have thoughts, ideas, and expertise that we would love to share. For most of us though, figuring out the outlet to get our voices, and ideas, heard is a difficult problem to tackle. Luckily, blogging presents the opportunity of building a platform that we own and is a gateway to sharing those ideas with the world. But, you may ask, how does blogging work any ways? From the blog itself, to blogging successful. What does the blog, and the process entail?
I’ve built several blogs, for profit as well as passion outlets and ways to establish and share my expertise. In this introduction to blogging I’ll break down the craft and science of how blogging works to get you started building your own.
WHAT IS A BLOG? HOW DOES BLOGGING WORK?
In this day and age, a blog can function as many things – a catalog for products in a store, an online magazine, a series of articles for a course, and more. At its core though, a blog is a series of “posts” stored in a section of a website, with snippets displayed on a single page (the “blog page”), and organized by category.
These “blog posts” that cumulatively create the blog are short pieces of content, also referred to as posts or articles, that function similarly to how magazine articles create a magazine or newspaper articles join to form a newspaper. This collection of digital articles, or “blog posts” form what we refer to as a “blog”.
Bloggers, or the writers on the blog, create individual posts and fill them with written and visual content (e.g., images and video) before publishing. Once published, the post becomes publicly available on the internet as part of the blog.
WHERE DOES THE WORD “BLOG” COME FROM?
Once upon a time “web logs” were websites that consisted of short “posts” containing mostly unstructured thoughts that were more akin to journaling than structured writing. The name “weblogs” was subsequently shortened to blogs, just as these unstructured websites have evolved into the popular “content platforms” they are today.
AN INTRODUCTION TO BLOGGING: WHAT IS BLOGGING?
The art and practice of blogging is somewhat more complex than simply writing and creating a post, when approached from a business perspective.
Of course blogging includes creating written and visual content, but blogging starts with building a website (and blog), continues with researching via SEO and other tactics to write content that the target audience needs, creating a content plan and publishing routinely according to that content plan, marketing each post to draw in readers, and finally monetizing the content via products, services, and ads delivered by various means.
Blogging has the potential for an array of benefits, from monetary, to passion related, to developmental making the prospect of blogging very enticing.
How Blogging Works When Blogging for Profit
Blogging for income, whether a side income or full time income, is very much a possibility. In my own experience, I’ve created blogs that bring in ~$500 per month side income in as little as two months, but 1-2 years is the average amount of time blogs need to generate a full time income. Income potential varies very much based on niche and the location/demographics of your readers, but average incomes of $4,000 to $9,000 per month are common for “mature” blogs with outlier blogs (the top 1%) making $25,000+ per month.
Any niche or topic can be monetized via the primary income streams: affiliate marketing, programmatic ads, sales of products (digital and physical), sales of services, and sponsored posts.
Blogging for an existing Business or Startup
How does blogging work for businesses? For business, large of small, a blog presents an opportunity to attract readers, build a relationship with them while expressing your brand, and eventually convert loyal readers into customers. This approach to marketing (identifying, connecting with, and selling to customers) is referred to as “inbound marketing” or “content marketing” and a well-structured, well research, and well presented blog is the cornerstone of this strategy.
Blogging for Passion and Pleasure
More akin to the “weblogs” that blogs originated from, blogging for passion and pleasure is an excellent use of a content platform.
Blogging for passion allows you to share knowledge and ideas on your passion area with the world, and even make it a conversation – through comments and by including social media in your strategy. In the end, whether your passion is fishing, volunteering, arts, business, or otherwise, you can enrich the internet by putting out great content in your passion area.
Blogging for Personal and Professional Development (reputation, skills)
The sharing of knowledge and ideas is an excellent way to establish your reputation or establish yourself as an authority in a field. Just as a resume communicates experiences, blogging on a specific topic or about a specific skill can be a testament to your skills/knowledge that others can read, assess, and recognize. If you’re breaking into a field and bear more knowledge than you can communicate on a resume or in an interview, a blog for future employers, clients, and coworkers to see is an excellent place to showcase that knowledge.
BLOGS VS. WEBSITES: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
The relation between blogs and websites is that blogs essentially live in websites, as a part of that website.
For most organizations, a website consists of a static set of pages (Home, About Us, Contact, etc.) that are prominent and remain unchanged. Pages are rarely added or edited and are meant to communicate the core information you would find on the website.
But how does blogging work in relation to a website? How does it fit in?
Blogs are essentially a corner of the website where posts – articles that tend to be more verbose – are stored in a single place. Posts are added very frequently to the blog and the blog is constantly growing as part of the website.
HOW TO GET STARTED BLOGGING
During your introduction to blogging, follow these steps to get started:
- Create a self hosted website with Wordpres
- Define your blog’s niche and brand
- Research the topics you’ll write about by using SEO research and market research
- Create a content plan with topics, SEO keywords, and individual post benchmarks
- Write each piece of content
- Optimize for a pre-researched SEO keyword
- Embed affiliate links for monetization
- Edit the article with Grammarly or another editor
- Publish the article
- Market each post published to relevant audiences
- Return to refresh each piece of content every 3-6 months
- Reassess authority areas for your site every 6 months
HOW BLOGS DRAW TRAFFIC
For most mature blogs, the primary source of traffic is search engines like Google provide the bulk of traffic – usually 60% to 80% of the sites total traffic. Keep in mind, it usually takes 6 to 9 months for new websites to be fully recognized by search engines, and new posts take an additional 6 to 9 months to reach their full search engine traffic.
Social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms can provide traffic, but this is heavily dependent on how big your audience (followers, group members, page followers, etc.) is. Many social media platforms are designed to keep users on that specific platform, vice clicking off to go to external sites like your blog. Additionally, social media platform algorithms are designed such that posts peak and die (in terms of traffic) within 24 hours and as short as 2 hours on Twitter. 10,000 followers is usually the milestone mark at which marketing blog posts on social media makes a significant difference. Until the 10,000 followers point, it is a much better investment for bloggers to focus on SEO and forums.
Forums, such as Reddit, and Q&A sites, such as Quora and Yahoo answers present good opportunities for marketing if done right. These sites provide access to information driven demographics, posts are less subject to fickle algorithms, and the links on these sites can have much more SEO potential than those on other social media platforms.
HOW BLOGS MAKE MONEY
At its simplest, blogs make money by connecting readers with products, servicesand brands, with the blog owner receiving compensation for that connection or sale (depending on the contract terms). The most common means of monetizing a blog, or facilitating this “brand to reader connection” are affiliate marketing, programmatic ads, directly selling products and services, or sponsored posts.
In affiliate marketing, a blog owner joins a brand’s affiliate marketing program and shares that brand’s products on her site using trackable links and ultimately receiving a commission for any sales that happen, with commissions commonly ranging from ~3% (as with Amazon Associates) to up to 50% for some digital products. Some of the popular affiliate networks include Avantlink (my favorite), CJ, and Impact radius.
Affiliate marketing is one of the most affective methods of monetizing a blog at any state of maturity.
Programmatic ad networks, such as Mediavine, Ezoic, and AdThrive and their services are embedded into a blog and overall site to dynamically present ads to readers. This ad space is constantly bid upon by potential advertisers and is filled with the winning ad by the programmatic ad network.
Programmatic ads are a great way to generate passive income, but generally pay lower than a well executed affiliate marketing strategy. RPMs can range from ~$7 to $45+ per thousand readers (RPM) varying depending on the network, your niche, your content formatting, and the demographic and location of your readers.
Programmatic ads can be executed while still embedding affiliate marketing links.
DIRECTLY SELLING PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
Digital and physical products delivered directly by the blog owner are an excellent way of monetizing a blog, with digital products being the optimal route as sales and fulfillment tend to be extremely passive
Advertising the product, via a landing page with internal links to it, and delivery and fulfillment delivered via a service such as Gumroad make for an excellent, nearly passive strategy for selling digital and information products – software, ebooks, self-guided courses, etc.
Last come sponsored posts, the opportunity to be paid for posting content created by you or a third party to fulfill the needs of a third party. I advise against frequent Sponsored Posts as the model for making money is less passive, is not scalable, and can erode at the trust of your readers.
The process of creating a successful blog is a very straightforward process, if done right. Though there are an infinite number of approaches, the method to follow consists of a handful of best practices which use a minimum of resources and, with diligence and consistency, will create a successful blog.
This minimalist, one size fits all approach works because it incorporates plenty of options for “pivoting” your blog as you complete each task, adapting to repeat what works, better fill your audience’s needs, and use the knowledge we gain along the way about the quickest, most sustainable path to success for your blog.
Though it is possible to create a blog while omitting some of these “essential” tasks, success will absolutely come later, and possibly not at all. Save yourself time, effort, and heartache by designing taking this proven process and adapting it to the creation of your blog.
In this chapter, we will briefly review the steps that should be involved in the process of building any blog. In the sections that follow, we will go in depth into each task, what you need to do, and how you need to it.
The Startup phase consists of all tasks necessary to build your platform (your site, blog, and essential pages), define your niche and the direction you will go with your content, and define the objectives and goals you aim to achieve by writing your content. Investing sufficient energy in the beginning of the process to understand your options and decide on a clear direction for your blog will ensure quicker success with less effort.
Blog Startup Steps
- Choose Niche and Subniches
- Create Your Brand and Define the objectives and goal of the blog
- Build your Website – Download and install WordPress, install a theme, and create the primary pages (home, about, contact us/work with us)
- Perform initial SEO keyword research to inform initial content strategy and plan
- Perform audience research to inform initial content strategy and plan
- Perform competitor research to inform initial content strategy and plan
- Create your content strategy and content plan
- Decide the initial monetization strategy
INITIAL PHASE OF BLOGGING: WRITE AND PUBLISH THE FIRST 25 PIECES OF CONTENT
After your site and blog have been built, goals and objectives have been decided, and a plan has been developed for what content you will write initially and when, it’s time to start “blogging”, writing your content according to your content plan and marketing it accordingly
Write and publish your first 25 Pieces content from your content plan informed by good SEO keyword research, monetized according to monetization strategy. Follow the blog post checklist included in this book for every post. Be sure to do good SEO keyword research before writing.
Follow up each of the initial 25 by marketing the post (sharing) in the two most successful marketing channels for your content
A NOTE ON MONETIZATION DURING THE INITIAL PHASES OF BLOGGING
As you write and publish your first 25, the content should be written with your chosen monetization strategy in mind. In the beginning, your monetization strategy of choice will likely be affiliate marketing, but as your audience grows and your content and knowledge deepen, your monetization strategy should change accordingly.
- The Primary Approaches to Monetization and the ones you should aim for
- Affiliate marketing (include affiliate links on day 1)
- Programmatic Ads (at 10,000 monthly sessions, begin with Ezoic)
- Sponsored Content (Only if needed to generate income for reinvesting in blog)
- Secondary monetization approaches that should be incorporated as your blog grows
- Your own products (self-published books, lightroom presets, video series)
- Virtual Conferences
THE GROWTH PHASE OF A BLOG: GROWING SUSTAINABLE TRAFFIC BY CREATING CONTENT, PIVOTING, AND USING ANALYTICS DATA
As your blog ages, and along the way Google recognizes authority for certain areas and your “tribes” appreciate your content, you will need to 1) Continue writing according to your content plan while incorporating new insights on how best to serve your audience and 2) begin updating your older content for to maintain/improve performance of your blog and the preferences of Google/your audience
- (After 6 Months) Refresh Content for SEO and user experience
- (After 6 Months) Consider Guest Posting to improve site authority
- Incorporate email marketing to strengthen relationships with readers by incorporating lead magnets and email subscription opt-ins into to site and following up with an email series
- Consider sustainable link building to increase authority and network: Guest posting, HARO, statistics posts, and in-depth infographics
- Routine Tasks
- Weekly: Analyze performance of top 20 posts in Google Analytics and refresh accordingly
- Monthly: Analyze content for “low hanging fruit” opportunities for posts with low Google CTR (less than 3% CTR in Google search) or improvement opportunity in Google (average SERP position of 10 to 20)
- Quarterly or at end of content plan: Perform in depth SEO keyword research to add new SEO keywords to content plan, reprioritize content in content plan, and expand in your blog’s authority areas (based on analytics), analyze site structure and flow for readers, analyze internal linking, analyze opportunities for monetization optimization
STEADY STATE / MATURITY PHASE OF BLOG: REINFORCE RELATIONSHIP WITH READER AND IDENTIFY MORE NEEDS TO FILL
As your blog and site matures in the eyes of Google and your audience, gaining rapport and authority, you will need to assess how you can better monetize your content, structure your content and fill gaps, build authority, and adjust plans for growth based on your recognized authority and identified strengths.
A mature blog is likely 1 to 2 years old, has 25,000, and is firmly monetized via affiliate marketing and a premium ad network.
At the beginning of the “mature phase” of a blog, bloggers should consider and incorporate all of the following into their plans:
- Consider products that can be created and sold
- Analyze your monetization performance and assess how to adapt it to your authority and audience, focusing on specific affiliate networks and affiliate products based on analytics
- Optimize your blog’s user experience (formatting, structure, internal linking, etc.) to improve engagement and increase ad revenue, SEO rankings
- Perform deep analysis of your site’s content and performance to see what is working, what is not, and adapt monetization and content strategies accordingly. Look at top posts, worst posts, user flow (through content), posts with highest and lowest SERP CTR
- Aim to create a “target content catalog” of evergreen content that is updated as “one stop shop” for your niche an enduring resource that consistently performs with Google and your audience
- Continue updating your content plan (and writing accordingly) to deliver useful, valuable, and shareable content
ACTION ITEMS FOR THIS SECTION
- Internalize “the process” and understand that you will have to trust this process, and routine completion of the listed tasks, for success in the long term.
- Understand that this “process” will evolve as your blog grows, you discover what tactics work best for you, and as the world of blogging evolves. By performing the routine review and analysis tasks, you’ll see changes coming (usually) and will be able to adapt, avoiding major losses