Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank
Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid to write your own content? To wake up in the morning, crack out a post and then relax is a goal for many. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. In reality, blogging is often just as grueling as any other job. So, how do you build a blog that will pay the bills?
The Reality of Blogging for Money
My primary source of income is through blogging – as a ghostwriter. Clients pay me to create content for their websites. And yes, being a ghostwriter has paid out far more than any of my personal blogs.
How do so many people make a living from their websites? Truth is, I have yet to personally meet someone who doesn’t have a side job as a blogger. I’m sure they’re out there, I just haven’t met anyone who has “struck it rich” purely from a blog.
Don’t get me wrong, blogging has great potential. However, there is a great deal of effort that goes into the process when you build a blog. The first thing you need to do is keep your day job. Don’t quit until your blog meets your current income.
Build a Blog to Make Money
Let’s dive into this. How do you build a blog that makes enough money for you to quite your job and write full time? That’s a difficult question to answer. After all, there is a reason why I am still a ghostwriter.
However, these are the steps I’ve used to help a lot of people and businesses create strong websites on the Internet. I just don’t put the same amount of effort into my sites as I do for clients.
Step 1: Use WordPress
There is a reason why I am a fan of WordPress. It’s one of the most versatile and easy-to-use systems when you want to build a blog. It has nearly 60% of the market share for content management systems used on the Internet. It’s flexibility and customizable features are far easier to manage than many of the others I’ve used in the past.
Personally, I have my own web hosting service. This allows me to use the full WordPress application. While I am a fan of the free services offered at WordPress.com, I use my own servers for far more than just blogging.
Anyway, WordPress comes with the ability to add various tools and themes to help you create a wide range of websites. Whether you’re blogging about fitness or travel, tools are available to accentuate the site.
Step 2: Install Essential Plugins
Plugins are the additional tools you use to build a blog. While WordPress comes with an assortment of functions, there’s nothing wrong with expanding what you can do. In fact, many plugins are designed to enhance your success on the Internet.
Here are the top six essential plugins I and my clients often use:
1. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO helps you streamline the site for search engine optimization. It’s focus is your content, and it will advise you on methods to improve how you write. The developer updates this plugin regularly, so you can rest easy knowing the blog is following current SEO trends.
Although you can buy the premium version of Yoast SEO, its free edition is an exceptionally powerful tool. Once the dust settles after moving back to Colorado, I plan on buying the upgrade. But for now, its one of my most used tools.
2. TinyMCE Advanced
Another tool I use on a daily basis is TinyMCE Advanced. This plugin installs more functions for the WordPress text editor. While the editor is good for beginners, the TinyMCE Advanced plugin creates more of a word processor such as Microsoft Word or Libre Office.
One of the features I like most about TinyMCE Advanced is that it’s customizable. Using a drag-and-drop interface, you can arrange the content editor of WordPress according to your own preferences.
3. W3 Total Cache
Speed is a valuable asset to any website. This is especially true from the search engine standpoint. W3 Total Cache assists in keeping the site fast by managing a caching system. Essentially, it saves certain files in a cache so visitor devices spend less time loading from the blog’s server.
Think of your web browser when you visit a website. Certain files and images are stored in your cache so the site seems faster the next time you visit. These files are loaded using your computer system instead of a file download. W3 Total Cache optimizes the process.
4. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP is a great tool to connect Analytics to WordPress. It also displays your traffic data in the admin panel of your website. This means you don’t have to log directly into Google to see your blog’s statistics.
While the dashboard widget doesn’t show a lot of the more detailed stats of your blog, it does provide a lot of traffic data. This helps you see what content people find the most valuable on your site. It’s part of understanding your audience.
5. WordFence Security
There are a lot of safety and security plugins for WordPress. WordFence is perhaps one of the better ones to choose from. As a free plugin, this tool is quite effective at keeping the blog protected from attacks.
WordFence incorporates bot blocking, login security, file scanning and more. Don’t think that because your site is small means you’re safe from hacking. From malware to spam, any site is at potential risk.
Jetpack is an excellent plugin to install. It comes with a wide range of modules you can enable or disable to suit your needs. I primarily use it on this site for Publicize and Proofread. However, there is a lot more in can handle.
By exploring what Jetpack has to offer, you may find yourself needing fewer plugins. One of my favorite features is the tracking ability. While you need a free WordPress.com account to use it, the tracking elements are very enlightening and worth the effort in my opinion.
Finding Your Own Plugins
These are just five of my favorites. Depending on what kind of a site you want to build, there are more than 45,000 to choose from. For example, I have a nutrition window plugin installed on my health blog. This displays the nutritional information of food that I review just like you would see on packaging at the store.
Plugins can add features when you build a blog. Just make sure you don’t use too many of them. Adding a lot of plugins will take away from the speed of your site.
Step 3: Find the Right Theme
The appearance of your site will directly play into retaining visitors. First impressions are vital when you build a blog, and you want people to have a good experience. If the site is too confusing or otherwise lacking in appearance, there’s a chance visitors won’t come back.
Finding a theme is perhaps the most difficult part of setting up a WordPress website. While some will offer built-in tools like social sharing, others are more simplistic and bare. Depending on what you want to create, it could take a long time to find the perfect theme.
Find an appearance that fits the content of the website. If you want to build a blog centered around travel, perhaps an outdoorsy look is better. And keep in mind that you can customize most themes in the Customizer of WordPress. This lets you change colors, backgrounds and images to suit your needs. This is found in the “Appearance” section of the left admin column.
The good thing about themes is that you won’t lose your content should you decide to change it later. Pages and posts will always remain regardless what theme you install. The only thing you’ll lose when changing appearance are theme-specific modifications and customization.
Take this website, for example. I have changed its theme about five or six times. And I am still on the lookout for anything better.
You don’t have to settle for an appearance. Always consider there may be something better that suits your needs.
Step 4: Create Consistent, Quality Content
Content is the number one aspect of your site you need to focus on. It’s what you write that will drive a traffic to your site. And thanks to algorithm changes in search engines, the quality needs to be significant. Otherwise, other blogs will perform better in search results.
Focusing your content on a specific niche helps attract a certain visitor. For instance, my health and fitness blog focuses purely on those aspects. Which means someone looking for real estate is more than likely not going to see my site in search results.
Why is this important?
Focusing on a niche keeps the content from seeming random. For those looking for specific information, they may find your other articles worthwhile. Take my health blog for example, again. There is a greater chance a visitor will continue reading the other articles as they are more likely to be relevant to the person’s specific interest.
Keeping a niche site active also improves making money. This is because people visiting the blog are already interested in the content. Which means they are also more likely to click links to ads or affiliates based on the topic.
It’s also important to keep content relevant on a site from an SEO perspective. Search engines like Google don’t just crawl one page on a blog. Engines will analyze all of your content and score the domain on importance for specific topics you cover. For example, a painting article in a health blog will perform poorly unless it somehow relates to the health niche.
Grammar and Spelling
Grammar and spelling are vastly important aspects to consider. You want people to understand the point you’re trying to make. Otherwise, the topic and information can become misconstrued as meaning something else.
Readability isn’t the only reason to learn better grammar and spelling skills. It will also affect whether people see you as professional or not. While sharing knowledge will still elevate your reputation as an expert, poor grammar and spelling will take away from the content.
Value and Information
When you build a blog, you need to make sure you fill it with valuable information. Every sentence should have a point supporting the topic. Although you can still add a few sentences for comic reference or other reasons, you want to remain on topic as close as possible.
Readers should leave your site feeling they have been educated in some fashion. Why is this important for making money? Because a satisfied reader is more likely to return later. There is also greater potential for a satisfied reader to explore what your site offers…including affiliates and ads.
Step 5: Monetize the Site
Once you have a plan in motion for creating content, it’s time to monetize it. There are several ways you can do this, and all of them have great potential. However, you need to understand that nothing is a guarantee when you build a blog to make money.
Here are a few ways I’ve monetized my sites with varying degrees of success.
Google Adsense is one of the easiest ways to monetize a blog. In this platform, you show ads directly from Google to visitors. Now, these ads are derived by one of two different methods: contextual and search habits.
Contextual ads are based on your site’s content. This means if you write about health related topics, health related ads will show. These are not all that common, in my experience.
Ads based on search habits are established by Google. These are ads that are relevant to a visitor’s browsing activity. These will be different for each person and may not reflect the content of the blog. Search habit advertisements are usually the most common as they are often the most productive for both Google as well as the blog owner.
You have two major ways to make money using Google Adsense: showing ads and clicking ads. Some ads will earn a small fraction of a penny simply by showing them so many times. Most of the money you’ll make, though, will come when someone clicks the ad from your website.
It’s important to note that Google now requires a regular flow of content on a site before it is accepted. Don’t apply if you only have two or three posts. Create about 10 long-form posts, about 1000 words or so each, and then apply for Adsense.
A lot of people have experienced success by using affiliate marketing. This is when you show the banner for a business on your website and make a percentage of a sale if a visitor clicks the banner and buys something. You can also use text links and show them on the site or even through email.
The best way to use affiliates is by adding businesses that are relevant to your niche. For instance, an affiliate banner for Best Buy isn’t going to be that productive on a site about travel or fitness.
A good way to use affiliate marketing is by setting up Amazon Associates for your website. This will let you insert specific products to the blog posts you write, which is effective at getting the reader’s attention.
Some affiliate marketing sites require a great deal of content to exist on a blog before authorizing the use of banners. On the other hand, affiliate sites like ShareASale.com are far more lenient when it comes to content development.
Some online freelancers will build a blog to use as a resume. If you blog regularly regarding your industry, it denotes knowledge and competence. If you want to showcase your artwork, a blog can help with that as well.
Resumes nowadays need to have the URL of your professional website. Just make sure it appears well and is optimized for mobile devices. You might be surprised by how many employers and clients look at websites and social media when considering a candidate.
If you do set up an online resume for the purpose of getting a job or attracting clients, make sure you have a good contact form available. You may also want to consider setting up payment methods from your site.
Step 6: Promote Your Blog
Once the wheels are spinning on your blog, you’ll need to promote it. Yes, search engines are exceptionally beneficial when trying to engage an audience. However, Google and Bing are not the only methods to attract visitors.
Using Social Media
All of my blogs derive a bit of traffic from social media. When you share posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter, you’re capable of reaching a wide audience in a very short amount of time. This is especially true if you use hashtags, titles and images optimized for those social sites.
Consider that globally, 97% of adults online admit to using a social account in the last month. With how prevalent social media is in society, it would be a mistake to not have an account linked to your blog.
Create separate accounts for social media when you build a blog. You want to keep your personal opinions separated for professionalism, and you don’t want random strangers diving into your lifestyle habits. Think about it; does it really matter if your visitors see that you said “Happy Birthday” to Grandma on Facebook?
Using Blog Submission Sites
Blog submission sites are platforms where you can add your site to a list. This collection is then provided to avid readers. These kinds of lists have potential for driving traffic, but don’t rely on it.
For the most part, I’ve found blog submission sites to be quite lacking in performance. According to the several blog sites I submitted to, only two have actually driven traffic to any of my content. This may also be caused by the type of content I create. You may have a different experience.
Step 7: Be Patient
The final step to build a blog that makes money is to be patient. No one can guarantee you’ll make a certain amount within a specific time frame. In reality, too many things can alter how much you make.
I’ve seen some websites take off relatively well while others required several years to get to a certain monetary monthly goal. Don’t expect to make a great deal of money instantly.
Not as Easy as You Think
I’ve seen too many people jump into blogging because they think they can create a solid income with little effort. The truth of the matter is there are a lot of variables most of them do not consider. You can’t just start writing and expect the money to come flowing in. It takes time, effort and quality content to really impact an audience. Making money from a blog is possible, but it’s not something that will happen over night.
- Days from Breaking Annual Traffic Record, How Did I Do It? - December 1, 2023
- What is Reedsy Discovery and Will it Help Publish Your Book? - November 9, 2023
- Are You a Pantser or a Plotter (Planner)? Does it Really Matter? - October 27, 2023