How To Start A Blog & Quit Your Job

100_trillion

This is a real bank note, caused by hyper inflation. It’s worth around $5 USD. In this guide the aim is to create a blog that generates $100 USD per day. This is a realistic starting point (which is important), and not a “Make $100k/month in 1 hour!” guide. But your blog will be making 2 QUADRILLION Zimbabwean dollars per day. So technically you’ll be a quadrillionaire.

I’m sick.

Sick of short, empty, misleading guides with people bragging about “Setting up a blog in 2 minutes!”.

Once you know what buttons to press, of course it’s easy to simply install or setup a blog.

But the problem isn’t what they’re saying. It’s what they leave out. Almost every guide you find online about setting up WordPress (or any type of blog) looks simple at first…

1. Find a niche, 2. Setup a blog, 3. Create content, 4. uU8d%^dfhnb. Simple, huh?

But you can tell A LOT is being left out. If it were that simple to start a SUCCESFUL blog that you can use to quit your job (or boost revenue if you’re already a business) – then everyone would be making a tidy sum.

But they’re not.

So let’s do things a bit differently today.

I’ll assume you’ve either not setup a blog before, or if you have – you’re not an programming expert. Also you’ve not got a huge community, following or email list behind you to kick start the blog.

We’re starting from scratch, and want to make a blog that becomes a true asset that will bring in money every day. I honestly believe this is the only guide you’ll need to create a profitable blog. Of course you should keep learning and keeping up to date – but there’s enough here to get you to the first milestone.

This guide will walk you through from idea to your first dollar, then guide you on ramping things up to the goal of $100 per day (that’s $36k/year). Here’s what $36k looks like:

Stack of $36k in $100 bills

This is what $36k USD looks like, shown as 360 $100 bills. It’s the revenue goal of your new blog.

It won’t be all cookies and rainbows though I’m afraid. You’ll get a good dose of reality from this guide. And I won’t be covering everything, despite the size of this page’s scroll bar.

You’ll want to grab a coffee before continuing. This guide is reasonably comprehensive, measuring in at 29,165 words. I promise you’ll learn some actionable takeaways from it – even if you already setup blogs in your sleep.

Ready? Let’s get started…

Note: When I say “blogger”, I don’t mean someone taking pics of their breakfast, or detailing their feelings. A “blogger” is someone who runs a blog – for whatever purpose

The Hard Truth

I’ll tell you right now, upfront, what you’re in for. Setting up a blog is the easy part. Turning that into a something enabling you to quit your job is going to take a lot of work. This guide is is meant to be the spark that helps you create a successful blog, then turn it into a business.

This is at least a 6 month project, if you mostly know what you’re doing and have some cash to spend on marketing. If you’re broke and new to blogging or Internet marketing – this is a 2 year learning curve you’re in for.

If that scares you – good. Because if you’re not serious about putting in the effort – this (or any other) guide isn’t worth reading. I understand that no-one wants to wait for anything. We’re all trained to want everything delivered in 30 minutes. But that’s not the way it works. (Unless you’re ordering pizza).

If you’re not prepared to entertain the idea of this being a 6-24 month project, then stop reading now. You’re in it for the short term, and this specific guide won’t help you. That also means if you’re hoping to build a few blogs and make quick money to pay bills – you’re not going to make this work. This is a long-term business building strategy. You’ve got to have the right mindset.

However if you’re not completely put off, the good news is you can do it in the evenings and weekends if you’ve already got a job. But you’ll have to give up your spare time in the short term – to get more of it in the future.

So the deal is roughly 2 years of your life (part time), for a pretty secure income into the future. You can work from anywhere in the world and do pretty much what you want.

Motivation is going to be a key factor in your sticking power during this time. Ideally you’ll have an area at home that’s only for work. Doesn’t matter too much if it’s a coffee shop with your laptop, a spare bedroom or a rented office. Carve out a space for work and do whatever motivates you.

To get deep into motivation is a different topic, but here’s something I’ve got on my office door that makes me smile:

Fire escape style metal door sign saying: The beatings will continue until morale improves!

This is on my office door πŸ™‚

You can also bring a laptop on the the train to work. But it’s not a good idea to do this while at work – because many companies will claim your blog as theirs. Some companies even have clauses stating that whatever work you do – even in your own time – belongs to them. So check your contract first.

So with that in mind, you might create a blog to:

  • Promote affiliate products
  • Get traffic for your business
  • Sell banner and text ads
  • Build up the domain then flip it
  • Become a drop shipper
  • Sell products with a ecommerce blog
  • Build links to help rank other websites

A lot of the advice in the guide will apply to any type of website (i.e. not just blogs). This guide will touch on many tactics, but they’re a focus on affiliate products and email list building. Because they’re the quickest things to get into with a high long-term revenue potential.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We need to look at things from a few thousand feet higher.

You Need Tiered Goals

You need to get focused about this. As Jay Abraham says in the video below – you need to know:

  1. What you want to do
  2. Why you want to do it
  3. How you’re going to get there

This guide will help you with #3. And you’ll be clearer on #1 by the end of this page as well. But #2 is all down to you. Where do you want to be in 5 years?

Then you just do another little bit towards that goal, each day. And once you’re on the way, you can optimize what you’re already doing to speed things up massively. Don’t be put off by thinking “I’ve done X in Y time, so it will take 100 years to get to the finish line”. It’s not a linear progression – things speed up as you grow.

This Is A Business

A final reminder about the real aim here.

You’re not just starting a blog. You’re starting a business.
So if you’re not a registered business now (and there’s no point if you’re just starting) then it should be your aim later on.

Free Or Paid Blog?

I’ll tackle this one early on, so we both know where we are going forward in this guide.

(There’s actually another type of blog apart from free or paid ones. I’ll get to that in a minute…)

You can setup a blog for free on a bunch of sites, and they each have pros and cons. I’m leaving out all but the best, but if you want a free blog you can setup right now, you basically need to choose one of these (they’re in order of my preference):

  1. WordPress.com
  2. Tumblr.com
  3. Weebly.com

Tumblr has exploded recently.
It’s a bit ridiculous when you see just how much it’s mentioned on the web, compared to WordPress (which is the de-facto standard most of the time):

So those are your 3, free blog options…

BUT

Here’s why you shouldn’t use any of them πŸ™‚

You Don’t Get Your Own Domain

You’ll get a URL something like JanesBlog.wordpress.com. So it doesn’t look as good a your own domain. Yes, with some of them they let you have a custom domain – but only on the paid plans, so that’s not a “free” blog anymore.

You’re Building Someone Else Brand

Not only does the blog site appear in the URL, but they’ll be a mandatory link from your blog’s footer to their main site. This means that the content you write is helping them to rank higher in Google, and sending them traffic.

Which is a fair trade seeing as it’s a free blog, but it’s certainly not ideal for you.

There’s Limited Customization

You get a few plugins and theme options to choose from, but not much else. So you’re feature limited. If you want something moved around, or things to work a bit differently – there’s not much you can do.

You’re Not Paying Them, So They Can’t Support You Properly

The above 3 generally reply to support emails, but it might take a while, depending on what they’re doing at the time.

But usually you have to work it out yourself, or ask in a community forum for other users help. That’s because the questions you’ve got are normally outside the scope of what they can help you with (so you’re waiting in vain), or they’re really simple things that the community could answer faster.

(Just don’t give your logins to a random guy offering to help, or it might end badly)

If They Change A Policy, Get Bought Or Close – You’re Screwed

If enough readers click the “Report As Spam” button that many free blog hosts have, your blog (along with all the content) will get taken off-line. Or if the company gets sold then closed down – you’re out of luck.

So basically you’re building your house on someone else’s land. And they can boot you out anytime they want.

The only time I would recommend setting up a free blog like this is if:

  • You’re starting up a link building campaign
  • You want to dip your toe into the water to see what blogging is all about, and don’t intended to get into it seriously
  • You’re creating a demographic funnel site (more on this later)
  • You haven’t got any time or money and are willing to accept all the drawbacks above
  • You’ve just built your own blogging platform, and you’re leading by example

So you can tell where I’m going with this.

The other type of blog you can setup – is a self hosted one.
That means that you install some software on a webhost and manage it yourself, on your own domain.

Now, if you’ve not done that before it might sound like torture.
It sounds like you’ll need a PHD, a couple of spare months and a few thousand dollars.

That was possibly true 15 years ago, but today, but that’s not the case at all (thankfully!)
Here’s why a self hosted blog wins hands-down:

  1. You get full control of the blog (design & features, doesn’t go down until you take it offline)
  2. You look more professional and people take you more seriously (own domain, no link to a free blog host)
  3. When you need help with the server, you can contact your host to get things sorted
  4. The largest self-hosted blog software has a HUGE community you can ask for help

Ok, so if you’re still with me, you’ll want to know what the best options are going forward.

There’s a few important issues you need to decide on first. We’ll come back to this shortly. Because there’s no point setting up a blog if you’ve got nothing to write about, right?

The Idea

4 light bulbs with one lit up

This is it. This is the single most important – and also neglected – part of setting up a blog.
If you mess this up, you’re another “me too” blog that will drown.

It’s so important that you shouldn’t buy any domains, hosting or anything else – until you’ve got this sorted. Too many people get excited by something (an idea, current trend, strategy) and rush into it. Then they’re confused when it’s not massively successful. You need to start at the beginning. You need a great idea.

I always hear people saying that ideas are worthless, and it’s execution that matters. Of course they go hand in hand. But if you execute a crappy idea perfectly – you’ve still got something crappy. But a fantastic idea, based on genuine market desires – means everything will be easier for you. People actually want to try, hear about, read and use good ideas.

OralB electric toothbrush with 7 heads.

Who wants to use a perfectly designed & executed, 7 headed toothbrush? But I thought you said execution was more important than ideas…

First of all – do yourself a favor and pick a topic you actually like. Or you’re not going to stick at it. There’s a few conditions it needs to fulfill, but I’m sure you like more than 1 thing, so everyone has enough ideas for multiple blogs.

gary vaynerchuk headshot“most people have a core strength, then everything else. 99% of people are trying to squeeze the shit out of everything else. If people focused at what they dominated at and not tried to be something else – they would win.”Gary Vaynerchuk

We’ll go deep into this when we talk about your blog’s “USP” (Unique Selling Proposition), but the point needs to be made upfront. You’ve got some things you’re good at, and lots you’re bad at. You can spend you time trying to improve things you’re bad at, and end up being average. Or you can supercharge the area where you’re already ahead – and become world class.

So pick a topic you’re passionate about. If you love the sound of rain on a tin roof – create a “sound clips for lazy afternoons” blog. Superstitious about black cats crossing your path? Make a “1000 unlucky things” blog.
(Both those ideas have awesome viral potential, by the way – let me know if you create one.)

A common response to questions like this is “I don’t have a unique skill”, or “I’m not good at anything”.

Well, if that’s really true – you’re stuffed… but luckily it’s complete B.S. Partly because you don’t have to be really smart, an expert or lucky to build a successful blog. And partly because there’s a secret backup strategy you can use.

And a great way to pick a blog topic, is based on your unique story. Good or bad – there’s a lifetime of blog posts locked up in your past. People you’ve spoken to, emotional events, successes, failures – all of it can be woven into a particular topic to create insightful, interesting posts.

But I’ve got a favorite response to people who say they’re not good at anything…

The Ultimate Backup Idea

Another really simple way to create a blog is to pick something you’re going to do. Meaning you don’t have to be good at it when you start.
Could be to…

  • Plant 100 trees in your neighborhood
  • Climb Everest
  • Find, collect and photograph bits of junk people leave around
  • Hand glide over the worlds biggest buildings (this one is probably illegal, but would be awesome)
  • Learn to get good at golf
  • Get to work on in different vehicle each day
  • Start experimenting with uncommon ingredients in the kitchen
  • Start speculating on the ethics involved with advanced AI
  • Takings pics of beer bottle labels
  • Start playing a video game and become an expert at it
  • Start obsessing over the design of keyboards
  • Wear a new toupee every day for 100 days
  • Aim to discover and catalog all the worlds sink holes
  • Review and compare different curtain fabrics

Literally anything. The more weird – the better. Weird blogs create cult followings, and get media attention. They create a blog where people follow you on your journey. The “Follow me as I ____” idea is a rock solid catch-all to guarantee you’ve got at least some ideas by now.

Which is good, because we’ve got to checkout what the other guys are doing in your new niche.

Checkout The Competition

Ok, so you’ve got a rough idea of where you’re heading.

Now prepare for disappointment.

I do this a lot – come up with what I think is a great idea. Then I take a look around Google to see what people have done before. And it’s almost always got 10 year old authority blogs that dominate the niche.

So after a quick cry and a few days to recover, I use the competition as a stepping stone.

Competitive research has to come during the idea formation stage. Because if you form a great idea – but it’s already being done by 30 other sites, it takes the wind out of your approach. You need to be unique to be remembered.

picasso headshot“Good artists copy; great artists steal”Picasso

Picasso originally said that, but a few years ago Steve Jobs is known for saying it in an interview.

They’re both right.

Because there are no new ideas. Only twists and incremental improvements on existing ones.
So to make sure you’re actually improving on what’s out there – you need to see what’s around in your niche.

Come up with your top 5 competitors. I’m not just talking about who ranks above you for a particular query in the SERPs. I mean which sites and blogs are very specifically in your exact niche, producing regular content. These guys are you competition. So to be perfectly clear – you’re NOT competing with Wikipedia, or a 3 year old Forbes article that happened to end up in the SERPs because of their domain authority.

Then when you’ve got your competitors, open them all in tabs. Bonus points for actually printing them out, as you get a different take on it.

Here are the things you’re looking for:

Aspects Of The Site Design You Like

Hit the homepage of each site. What does the most dominant headline say? That’s the hook, or Value Proposition they’re using.

If you just see the standard index-list of blog posts, then you can do quick victory dance. Because they’re very weak competition. They’re not differentiating themselves, and will blend in with the 100’s of similar blogs. Why should anyone subscribe to their blog, if people can’t tell – at a glance – what it’s about?

Also you should make a note of what colors, layouts, shapes and images styles you like. Imagine you’re picking between the elements of these sites, to create a new site just from their parts. Because that’s basically what you’re doing here.

Features & Plugins That Catch Your Eye

Have 5/10 of the competitors blogs got a widget in the site that recommends related posts? Might be something you want to add to your blog. Try and find the common features they’ve got that you can use…

  • Have they got social buttons?
  • A “Like To Unlock” feature for a bonus item?
  • What’s the hook for their email collection?
  • Where are their optin boxes positioned?

Category Names You Can Swipe

You might find that “oh yeah… ‘Lizard Farming’ is a nice category that fits into my Lizard blog”.

Put these in a separate list, as you’ll use it to help determine what your site structure should be later.

Niche Lingo

Also called “expert verbiage”, or sometimes “statistically improbably phrases”. Amazon coined the last one when it finds keywords in a book that don’t appear too much elsewhere. So make a list of words that people in the market use. You’ll find most of these from these competitor sites. They’ll be useful when coming up with a good angle later.

This is also a good measuring stick to see if you actually know the market or not. How much of the lingo do you already know?

What’s Unique About Them?

Make a list of each site, and what their approach is. What single point are they trying to differentiate themselves with.
It’s only after doing this – that you can start forming your own Value Proposition…

Unique Value Proposition

barney zick headshot“The problem with marketing is you can have the best ideas in the entire world. You can have the absolute best product. But if you’re hidden somewhere in the middle of the crowd… you’re not going to make a dime.”Barney Zick

This is the most overlooked aspect people miss when creating a blog for the first (or even 100th) time.

Sure, you can grab a few keywords, throw up a blog and start posting. But you’ll be just another of the hundreds of thousands of “me too” fluff blogs that fill up the web. You’ll see little results, motivation will slow – and you’ll drown.

Instead, let me suggest an alternative.

You need an angle. Something that’s special, and more importantly – different – than other blogs in your category.

Your blog’s UVP (Unique Value Proposition) is the 1 main reason why someone should visit your blog, over any and all competition. You’ve probably heard this concept before as the Unique Selling Proposition, but as you might not actually be selling products on your blog, UVP is a better fit here.

Ok, so you should have a list of the UVPs of the tops sites in your niche. This is step one. Step 2 is to discover what people actually want in your market. because up until now, from the competitor list, you only know what they THINK people want. And most of them are probably wrong.

The quickest and easiest way to do this online is with site like these:

General Q&A Sites

Search for your main keywords and see what questions people are asking. Start here:

Niche Forums

Google for phrases like “____ forum”, and fill in the blank with your keyword. Browse around a few of the bigger forums in your niche, and again – see what people are asking about. What are their concerns? What makes them annoyed? What do they struggle with?

Google Suggest

This is more of a refinement technique. Once you have some idea of what people are looking for, you can start typing those things into Google. You’ll often be surprised by what’s suggested. Some examples to get you started are below – again fill in the blank with your niche keyword.

  • How do ___
  • How can ___
  • Why will ___
  • Who are ___

To get your mind started with some UVP ideas, here’s a few I like. The generic examples you see of USPs online are all very overused, so there’s some here you won’t have heard of…

Guess which company they belong to – then click to see the answer.

  • “Fresh hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free” – Dominos Pizza
  • “We’re #2. We try harder” – Avis
  • “We eat all we can, then sell the rest” – Bluebell Dairies Ice Cream
  • “30lbs, 30 days, 30 dollars” – Herbal Life Weight Loss Product
  • 1-800-Flowers – 1-800-Flowers. A trick question πŸ™‚ Should be obvious, but this is the best type of UVP. The name is the unique point of value.
  • “Absolutely, positively, overnight” – Fedex
  • “Only 1 in 50 racks or ribs meet our specifications” – BBQ in Nashville
  • “The milk chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hand” – M&Ms
  • Nerd Fitness – Another one with the UVP in the name. Checkout Steve’s blog here.

The key that links these UVPs is that they all speak directly to what the target prospect wants. It speaks to their pain point by creating a rich mental image to demonstrate it. So you definitely need a rock solid understanding of what people want – before you try to explain it to them with your UVP. Seems so simple, but it’s rarely done.

So how can we use these ideas for a blog?

dr. flint mcglaughlin headshot“You may match a competitor on every dimension of value except one. In at least one element of value you need to excel. In this way you become the best choice for your optimum customer.”Dr Flint McGlaughlin

You want to express a clear, concise, self serving (for the reader) advantage.

You can have more than 1, that’s fine. But order them from best to worst, and lead with the winner.

Here are 2 simple exercises that you can use to help form your blogs UVP.

How to _____

If you pick the single main benefit a read will get from visiting your blog, and you express it as specifically as possible, what would it be? What would it help them to do or achieve? For example…

  • For a blog about hair loss this might be “How to stimulate hair re-growth in 14 days”
  • Chess: “How to use this 3-step-technique to win 92% of chess games”
  • Web Design: “How to design a website that your clients not only love, but can’t wait to tell friends about”
  • Lawn Care: “How to get a healthy, nourished, green lawn in 15 minutes a week”
  • Divorce: “How to get your Ex to settle out of court (in your favor) – within 2 weeks”

What everyone else in the market does is_____. But what I do is _____

  • Chess: What everyone else in the market does is recap old games, or give general strategy advice. But what I do is talk you through professional chess games as I’m actually playing them”
  • Web Design: What everyone else in the market does is explain basic design features and show examples of pre-done sites. But what I do is give you step-by-step tutorials that you can follow to learn pro secrets.
  • Divorce: What everyone else in the market does is give you extremely basic information and overcharge. But what I do is show you the exact steps, forms and approaches I’ve used to win case after case with minimal costs – so you know you’re dealing with a professional.

Your UVP should telegraph who you are, what you do, AND why you’re worth visiting, in just a few words. Being clear here is more important that being super short though, so if you need a paragraph, take it.

Faking Numbers

A quick note about using specific numbers in you UVP. For some of the examples here I made them up to illustrate the point. Which you shouldn’t do on your blog (unless you’re helping people with copywriting). But it’s usually a good idea to include specific numbers, dates, times, percents etc in your UVP. That’s because they’re more believable. They suggest proof and fact. Numbers are to be trusted. Words? Not nearly as much.

So don’t fake numbers – you’ll get called on it and look stupid. However, you don’t need to. If you haven’t got any hard stats of your own yet, you can borrow someone else’s.

Find someone reputable who’s already done research. Checkout a government statistics database. Read a printed Journal. Find some interesting data, then work that into your UVP. For example, in these made-up examples, it really doesn’t matter where the number came from – it will have the same effect:

Most blogs lose 87.5% of all their traffic to the back button. Let’s cut that in half, right now.

The percent stat could be from any reputable blog that’s done a recent survey. In this example it’s stressing a key pain point, with specificity.

How to get a “No Questions” bank loan for $623,394.12

A recent news article could have been the source of this. And you can use it as the hook for your blog, by creating content explaining in details, post by post, how it’s done. The very specific dollar value will make it believable and create curiosity. “Why that number?”, “How do I do it?” etc.

Just remember – link back to where ever the stats you got came from, on your blog’s “About” page. You get extra benefit from this because you’re linking out to a relevant site (which Google likes), and people can see you’ve done your research.

seth godin headshot“If you’re remarkable, then it’s likely that some people won’t like you. That’s part of the definition of remarkable. Nobody gets unanimous praise — ever. The best the timid can hope for is to be unnoticed”Seth Godin

Important: Your blog’ UVP should ONLY talk to your target reader. It should outright ignore all others. It doesn’t matter (and is sometimes an advantage) if it actually annoys people who aren’t your target group. Don’t waste time trying to be all things to everybody. Go super niche.

That’s actually quite a good way to come up with your perfect market. It’s to not pick a market at all. Pick a demographic, and work down from there.

Funny & Clever?

These can really help make you more memorable. But most of the time they’re empty husks. Not real UVPs. The reason why is because it’s very tricky to express genuine, strong value – and make people smile.

Here’s an example of something that might make you smile (and was weird enough for someone to snap a pic):

logo on sign on van saying with company name: stiff nipples air conditioning

But it tells you nothing about the company. It fails to do that 1 thing a UVP should do – it doesn’t clearly explain why I should buy from them – instead of any competitor. (There might be other stuff on the right of the van, but I can only judge it based on what I see, and Google search didn’t show up much).

If it’s all you’ve got, and there’s weak competition – then it might be enough to get you by. But that’s not what we’re after. We want to express value. They could pull it around to their favor with a strong guarantee to that also plays on the name… “If you don’t see results in 15 minutes after installation – you pay nothing.”

There was a similar one I’ve seen before but couldn’t find an image of. It was a plumbing service called “Stinkys” with a pic of a smiling skunk on the van. (Let me know in the comments if you know where this is).

Another reason for NOT trying to discover a humorous UVP is that it’s probably going to distract from your message. And you want to be focusing on 1 objective at a time.

An example of something that comes a bit closer, but still doesn’t quite hit the mark is a leaflet for a carpet cleaning service I got through the door a few months ago:

“We don’t cut corners – we clean them”

The reason it’s a bit off, is the competition. I checked and a couple hundred other companies also use this – which proves the main failing with this UVP. It’s not in any way exclusive. Any competitor can say this as well (and evidently they are – all over the web).

Keep The Idea Simple

gary halbert headshot“One elegant idea is worth more than 1000 semi-good ideas”Gary Halbert

You don’t want an idea that’s so complex that you won’t follow through. Keep it to something you like, know – and will stick at. I can’t over emphasize the importance of simplicity.

So, what do you actually call your blog?
We’ll get to the domain name in a second…

Want more ideas for your blog?

Enter your name and email below…
[bpminline]

Content Plan

First – watch this. I hope it drives home how important the content on (and later, off) your blog will be.

People are producing more content, better and faster. You’ve got competition snapping at your heels – and it’s not just who you’d think. As Gary said in the video above, brands, blogs, companies and people of all types are producing more stuff now. So you’re competing with them all, simply for time and attention.

So what should you do about it?

You’ll hear people all over forums spouting trite comments like “Content is king” and “Just create great content”. Even Matt Cutts (Google’s head of web spam) comes out with some very clichΓ© quotes…

gary halbert headshot“Have fantastic, interesting, useful content, great resources, great information”Matt Cutts

But without some details on the bone, all those comments aren’t helpful. (Sorry Matt)

First, what you should do, is get really clear on your content plan. So, here are some content strategy ideas for your blog to make sure you start by creating content people actually want to read. You might choose just one – or a combination of these – it will depend on your angle.

Do You Have To Write Everything?

Probably. I’m assuming you’re not starting with spare cash to invest in content. In which case you’re going to have to grind out new content regularly.

If you have cash to invest, then I’d still write the first few posts to set the tone and demonstrate what I expect. Then you can outsource all the other posts. See the section on scaling and hiring writers below for more on this.

Post Patterns & Frequency

So long as it’s good content – the more the better. Well technically, if you’ve got more than a million pages, only add about 50k a month to avoid tripping some spam filters. But I’ll assume you can’t write 3,300 words per minute.

If you’re writing everything yourself (at least to start with), the ideal sustainable rate is probably 1 per day. Some blogs only update once per week, but it will take them much longer to grow. You’re looking to get a solid base of about 100 posts on your blog. So if you do 1 post a day, you’ll be there in about 3 months.

If you’re outsourcing the content (and have the funds) you can step this up to whatever you can comfortably afford and manage while still keeping the content level good. You’ll probably find it tough to manage more than 10 new posts a day, as you should be checking them all yourself for now.

I like to alternate between these post types:

  • 1 focusing on a key demographic pain point
  • 1 focusing on a longtail keyword
  • 1 focusing on a trending news item
  • Repeat ad infinitum

There’s a full explanation of the long-tail strategy later on.

Sometimes these 3 types will overlap… e.g. a long-tail keyword might be a key demographic question that’s also in the news. Which is fine. By alternating like this, you’re ensuring that you’ve got…

  1. Content that will build your brand and give users what they want (with the pain-point content)
  2. Traffic for stuff people are proven to search for (with the long-tails), and get big exposure
  3. Posts with tying recent news items into your niche for occasional huge spikes in popularity

To determine what’s trending, here’s 3 sites you can use:

  1. Alexa’s What’s Hot list
  2. Google Trends
  3. Twitter Worldwide Trends

You can also get more niche specific hot trends by checking out the leading blogs in your area.

The Golden Rule

There’s one overriding rule here. We’re not going for lots of rubbish posts. We’re aiming to create the single best posts on a particular topic. Imagine creating something that you honestly thinks deserves to rank #1 in the world for it’s primary keyword. That means it’s more useful, informative or entertaining than anything else in the top 10. You’ll need to do a quick Google check for your posts keyword to see exactly what this quality level is.

Don’t be put off if you see a 10k word Wikipedia article on your keyword. You can add value in other ways than just raw encyclopedic content or length. For example, a case study is something that Wikipedia won’t have. Ditto for an infographic.

So let’s get into some in depth examples of content below…

Review Websites

This is a nice strategy because there’s always a tonne of things to write about. The key here is to be completely honest, and give true opinions about what the things you’re reviewing are like. People often want to hear what’s wrong with something – more than what works.

Keeping in mind that you want to make money from your blog – you’ll need to review something with money close by. Which means products and services that already have competition. Competition is the single best barometer for purchase intent. If there’s a bunch of people selling stuff in a market – then there’s people buying stuff.

The items you review should all be things you’ve actually used – don’t take the easy way out and just copy other peoples opinions from the web. You’re adding nothing, so why should anyone bother to visit your site?

Don’t get stuck in the mind set of thinking you have to simply write the pros and cons of something. There’s an unlimited number of unique twists you can take. For example on a part of ifixit’s site, they do Gadget Tear-downs – and have a cult following. And a core feature is that anyone can add new tear-downs – meaning they’re getting tons of great user generated content…

screenshot of gadget review site called ifixit

A few tips if you’ve not got the cash to buy (for example) every digital camera ever made to review on your blog…

  • Go into a shop and check it out. Take a few pics. Get your impression, then use that as the basis for the review.
  • For smaller merchants (and particularly digital products) email the merchants and say you’d love to review them on your blog. You’ll get a free copy about 40% of the time – more if the product is new. It depends mainly on how good your blog looks however.
  • You can give reviews a unique spin that enables you to review without having the item there. For example, if the name of your blog is “Office Furniture Reviews”, the angle could be “Find your perfect office design before you spend a cent”. Then you compile picture montages with write ups about cool designs you find around the Internet, with links to the merchants. By mixing up the review strategy with curation – you can get a long way (and never run out of post ideas).

Also don’t be afraid to annoy people in your reviews. If a product needs to be ripped to shreds – do just that.

Coupon Sites

This has been a favorite with affiliates for the last few years.

There’s a few different ways you can implement these sites. If you haven’t seen RetailMeNot before, click around a bit to get the general idea. They show the coupons for all to see, but when you try and click on them to copy the text, it redirects you to the merchant – where their affiliate cookie is dropped.

example coupon from RetailMeNot.com

This is what RetailMeNot’s coupons look like. When you try to copy them you get sent to the merchant.

There are variations on this where instead of showing you the coupon you get a “Click to show coupon” message. The problem with this is that some sites will bounce you on to the merchant – even if there isn’t actually a coupon to use (which still sets their aff cookie). Which is a bit shady.

However – most sites will just have a big list of coupons. Not much explanation, nothing unique added – and more than half the coupons are out of date. Which doesn’t give a good user experience.

The idea behind coupons sites is that you make a post about a specific product mentioning a coupon code.

There are some special WordPress themes that let visitors only see the coupon code when they click a link (which means that your affiliate cookie has to be dropped before the visitor can get the discount). You don’t have to start with that though.

What I like to do is contact a particular merchant and ask for a coupon specifically for me, that will auto add my affiliate cookie. Some affiliate dashboards let you do this automatically, which is nice. Then you can have your blog name as the coupon people use, for example.

Also a nice way to “hide” your coupon from people who might copy and paste it (without clicking your link), is to see what the final URL is. Sometimes you’ll have to ask the merchant if they’ve got this ability, but you sometimes enter URLs like merchant-site.com/offer?coupon=XmasDiscount. This means that you can just link there, and just explain the coupon details in the post – without actually typing the coupon code.

In terms of content, you’ll want to go a cut above the usually coupon content. Which means…

  • Making a post with the company/product/service in the title
  • Play off recent media events if you can.
  • Embed videos, images and other rich media in your post
  • Have several links or buttons int he post content enticing the reader to visit the product site. Text that implies that there’s no risk involved, and no decision has to be made are good. Like “Click here to see more pics”, “Read full info here”, “Watch the video here” etc.

Comparison Sites

Blogs like this can be traffic magnets. Because you can come up with lots of long-tail keyword content that shows up in Google almost by default, simply because there aren’t a ton of people competing for the phrase.

The idea is to make 20% of your posts like this:

  • “Sony vs Nikon Camera”
  • “Twitter vs App.net vs Tumblr”
  • “Netflix vs Lovefilm”

And 80% with longer tails like this:

  • “sony dsc-wx80 vs dsc-wx200”
  • “nikon coolpix l27 vs canon ixus 132”
  • “canon pixma mg6350 vs epson xp-750”

There’s also a nice trick to get unlimited ideas for this type of content…

Enter a very specific product name. For example, if your blog is comparing computer monitors, you could enter “Samsung S22C300HS”.

Then just enter “vs”, and hit space. Like this:

“Samsung S22C300HS vs ”
(Notice the trailing space).

Then Google will helpfully suggest a list of keywords you might mean. And the great thing is that you know other people are searching for these keywords, because that’s how Google got the data.

You can also do tri-comparisons, but you’ll have to use shorter names. For example:

“canon vs sony vs ”

Will get you keywords like

  • “canon vs sony vs nikon slr”
  • “canon vs sony vs nikon dslr”
  • “nikon vs canon vs sony vs olympus”

So in the content you’ll need plenty of good images, and a breakdown and comparison of the features.

Also don’t be afraid to embed Youtube videos of other people’s reviews for each item you’re comparing. So long as the in-video branding they’ve got isn’t over the top, it will add tons of value to your blog.

News Websites

Ever since Google introduced the “Caffiene” update to their indexing info-structure in 2010, they’ve been able to show relevant results almost instantly in the SERPs.

This happens depending on something Google called “Query Deserves Freshness” (QDF) – so it won’t happen for every niche.

With a news website, you want to pick a niche where this IS happening.

Search on Google for the names of new movies or recent news events and you’ll see the format. They’re usually marked with a date and time – and sometimes the number of comments on the post.

And the best bit here, is that your blog can compete with top news outlets during the rising wave of a breaking news event.

How To Compete With Top News Sites

So to get the early wave of Google traffic, you’ll need to post + ping content about a topic as soon as it happens. You can’t just watch other news sites (although you do that as well). You need to get closer to the ground. Subscribe to the RSS off a bunch of companies in your niche and also setup a few GoogleAlerts for your keywords. It’s gotten less effective recently (seems like Google doesn’t tell you everything), but it gives you something to get started with.

screenshot of Google SERPs with inline news section highlighted

Google also features news stories in their own area in the SERPs, which I’ve highlighted in yellow here.

So watch your RSS feeds, and when something interesting comes up create a post in one of the following formats:

  • Discussion
  • Opinion piece
  • Further research
  • Detailed analyses
  • Video review / collage
  • Original images that add value to the topic

Then ping your post (WP will do this by default, but you might want to add some more ping sites to the default list for added punch).
Then it’s post, rinse, repeat.

You’ll need a design that looks the part to be taken seriously here. I go into design in more depth later in this guide, but I can’t stress enough how important the visuals are with a news site.

Niche Content

Here you’d create articles for your niche, in an informational or how-to format.

For example, the niche of this page you’re reading now is “How To Start A Blog”. The format of this guide is to cover a single, expansive topic in reasonable detail, with rich media to supplement the text.

That’s one style, but here’s a few more you can use:

The currently popular list item style. Many blogs get decent traffic by creating lots of niche content with titles like “7 Quick Ways To Start A Blog” or “3 New Tricks To Create Profitable Blogs”. We’ll get deeper into headlines later on in the guide though.

How-to style blogs will always be a stable diet for info seekers, because they’re based around something people are searching for. They (hopefully) have the answer to the problem, and deliver ways to numb – or eliminate – the pain someone is feeling. I don’t just mean that from a medical perspective. By pain, I’m talking more generally here. If you want to install a plugin on you blog but keep getting an error – that’s painful. An example of a headline in this format would be: “How To Setup A New Blog In 4 Minutes”.

A nice take on niche content that some sites use (not enough in my opinion) is the “Ask me a question” style. You can see an example of this format from Dave Taylor.

He’s got a WordPress page setup with a contact form, where you can ask him any question (so with computer/tech stuff). All his posts are then in the Q&A format. Which means right out the gate – he’ll be getting traffic to his posts as he’s targeting long tail keywords (details later on about this).

Autoblogging

I’m covering this for completeness, but it’s not what this guide is about.

Autoblogging is where you have a plugin or external service post content to WordPress automatically.

Seems nice at first, but there are very specific tricks to making this work and get traffic.

And to be clear – this is not a long term strategy.

But I’ll cover this separately.

(If you set things up right, you can use Autoblogging with your Demographic Feeder Sites. More info on those below…)

Video Blogging

If you’re staring a vlog (video blog) – great you’ve got tons of promotional options later on. But ideally you’re creating your own videos.

If you’re embedding videos from other places to provide the bulk of your content, then it’s more of a curation strategy (details below).

To get noticed by Google – you’ll want to have some text on the page as well as the video(s) in each post. 500 words is about as low as you’d want to go. This text could be your take on the video, some extra information, background research etc.

With video blogging make sure you’re using a video SEO plugin, so you can get those video thumbnails next to your videos in the SERPs. You’ll see a nice bump in click through from this.

The simplest way to make videos is just get a flip cam (or any phone with a decent lens) and film yourself talking through something. You can usually do everything in one take, then upload to Youtube, embed in your post and be done.

Another way to approach this is using software like Camtasia to do a screen-walkthrough of something on your computer, and add a voice over of you talking it through. You can even use Powerpoint for the visuals, recorded again by Camtasia. A good free alternative (released by the same company – Techsmith) is Jing.

As video blogging is more of a media delivery method, you’ll still need to combine it with one or more of the other ideas here to form the content strategy on your blog.

Photo Blogging

A few months ago Google changed the way they lay out the image search results page. And the result? Google keeps most of the traffic – and they don’t now send it to your site.

Which is both good and bad…

Of course you lose some image traffic. But that was never the highest quality traffic to begin with.

However the way Google determined which images to show was a lot like normal search, but with a heavier focus on 2nd order factors. For example, with normal search it’s mostly about the anchor text backlink profile, and the authority/reputation of those sites linking to you. With image search it’s more about the unique context in which an image appears. Because even Google can’t magically tell what an image is about, so it takes hints from the text on the page, around the image, and the general anchor text reputation of the page an image is on.

So that point of all this, is that your images used to have to be unique. Because we has image search traffic in mind.

But now – so long as the site as a whole actually adds value – you can use images from anywhere. (Provided you’re not ripping off copyrighted stuff, of course).

So – how do we add value with a photo site?

Well, like the video blog above, you’ll need about 500 words of text on the page. A good way around this if you’re really struggling to come up with 500 words about a picture of a cat, is to combine multiple images into a post.

Then you can also use some catchy headlines like “7 Amazingly Cute Cats”. Now just write 70 words about each pic.

For content, you’ll want to keep an eye on others sites in your niche. But then when you’re making a post (or simply for ideas) – search for your keywords on the main photo sites. Pinterest and Flickr are good ones to start with.

And it almost goes without saying, that the best way to create a photo blog is to take the pics yourself. Pick a style that matches your UVP – and keep it consistent.

Content Curation

The traditional metaphor for this is an art gallery. If you curate a gallery, you’re selecting which pieces to show based on a chosen theme.

It’s the same with a blog and it’s posts.

The idea behind curation on the web, is that peoples time is limited – combined with the explosion of choice they’ve now got for almost any topic. So it’s really appreciated when you’re able to find, combine and enrich information that would otherwise take someone a while.

Those 4 words encapsulate this type of content curation:

4 steps of content suration... Discover, Blend, ENrich, Credit

Discover

You can either go with recent news, or evergreen info.

For news, keep your finger on the pulse of the niche to find anything interesting and important. Bookmark it somewhere, and start to organize these links into groups – which you can turn into posts later. You end up with a better, more unique curated post doing it this way, but you can do the searching at “post time”, with a little Googling around.

Evergreen topics might have titles like “The history of ____”, “How to ____”, “7 Simple Ways To ____”. They’re things that won’t date. The collection method is much the same as for news centered curation, but you simply look in different (non newsy) places for your inspiration.

Blend

Now you combine the different sources you’ve found. So you’re looking over your list of links of cool stuff from around the web. You’ll want to try and get a mix of media types to create a more interesting presentation. Unless your blog is all about specifically pictures, or another media type.

Open with the piece that’s got the biggest hook. Something that will make people stop and scroll down to see what it’s all about. This will be an extension of the headline you come up with for the post (and we’ll get to that soon).

In terms of technically making the post – WordPress helps out quite a bit.

If you just paste the URLs into WordPress, and make sure they’re on their own line – WP often will automatically display the relevant embed code so they look pretty on your blog. There’s a list of specific sites that work this way, so for others you’ll need to get the embed code that a site gives you. Usually clicking the “Share” button shows these options.

This feature of WP is called “Embeds“, and is worth getting to know (it saves me plenty of time).

There are a few ways you can create additional media types to go in your post as well…

  • Create unique covering images that summarize the content
  • Add the sources to Storify and/or Scoop.it, then embed that in your post
  • Create a short review video of the sources you mention. Your voice talking it over is best, but a weaker backup is to use subtitles.

Enrich

But now the most important part. You’ve got to add something to tie your different items together. To tell the story and engage people.

So you’re not going to just embed a Youtube video, a tweet and a picture. On most blogs that won’t add a thing – you need a unique angle, and you need to weave your own narration around everything.

So again – you’re looking for about 500 words of text in there, at least. Use your site’s consistent voice tone, and remember what your UVP is when writing.

Credit

And importantly – remember to credit all your sources. A few reasons I’ve heard for NOT wanting to do this are below, with my response to each of them…

  • “It will leak my pagerank”Firstly, linking out is a trust signal. If you’re a link-cul-de-sac then you look fishy. But apart from that, if this worries you simply put more links to other pages on your site in the content – IN ADDITION – to the external links.Because of the way Pagerank works, this will help to balance things out and keep more pagerank in your site, in comparison to that which flows through external links.
  • “Traffic will click the links and leave my site”Yes… that’s a big reason why you’re curating the post. Imagine the art gallery metaphor. If you’re curating a museum you don’t remove all the artists names try and claim all the painting for yourself. #1 people will see straight thorough it, and #2 readers will lose trust in your site. Remember why you’re curating stuff in the first place – you want to be the trusted authority that recommends new things to people. So let them leave if they find something cool.You are making links open in new windows, right?A normal link might look like this: <a href=”http://www.google.com”>Google</a>If you change it by adding a “target” attribute, the link will open in a new window (or tab, depending how the users browser is configured): <a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.google.com”>Google</a>

    The internal attributes can be in any order, so the “href” bit could be first if you like.

    I’ve got a small plugin that adds these to external WordPress links, but you can add the code in the WordPress “HTML” editor view when making the post.

    If there’s interest in the comments I can release this plugin for you (would just need to clean up the code a bit).

  • “I don’t trust the sites and don’t want people to see them”This one’s simple. If you don’t trust the sites – simply don’t include them in your post.

Interview Blog

More people should do this. It’s a great way to get content and promotion in one package.

Compile a list of top sites, authors, product creators etc in your market.

Then contact a few more each week and ask if you can review them for your blog. If you mention in the contact email/phone call that you’re interested in their latest post/product/thing, and that your readers would love to hear more about it – it will help to sweeten the deal for them. Because they’ll be getting some free promotion.

Remember to checkout Amazon for a list of authors – lots of them would love to be interviewed, as many won’t have been asked before.

Ideally you’ll do a video review. A picture-in-picture discussion via Skype, or something similar. Or you could do a Camtasia style walkthrough (if it’s relevant to your niche) with the interview audio going on over the top.

Next best is an audio interview, because then you can transcribe it and get the text you’ll want in the post content as well.

And the backup is just a text based interview, where you pre-write a bunch of questions and they answer them over email. Remember to make the content visually appealing if you go this route, with lots of embeded images, videos from the person you’re interviewing.

There are lots of enticing promotional options you’ve got with this type of content, which we’ll get into soon.

A classic example of a great interview blog for entrepreneurs is Mixergy. You get some videos for free – then they change you monthly for full access. So you could start by giving everything away and collecting emails, then when you’ve got an audience release a paid selection of interviews to monetize the site.

Meme / Viral

This isn’t for every market. But you can get huge spikes of traffic if you get a home run.

So a quick warning.

The default WP install isn’t going to stand up to be swamped with thousands of concurrent visitors. You’ll go down in under 60 seconds.
So you should consider getting a front end proxy for you site. This is a web-service that sites in front of your site to take off most of the traffic load.

To visitors things look just the same, but they’re actually seeing a cached version of the page delivered from another companies servers.

A good starting place if you’re interested in handling high levels of traffic, is Cloudflare.

Ok, so this type of content can take many forms. It’s essentially just making something that makes people laugh. And laugh enough that they share it with friends.

Here’s a quick example video, where someone only needed some very basic video editing software (even Camtasia could do this):

The snippet from that music video would be covered by fair use in the US, as it’s being used for parody. This is is specifically allowed, so long as you’re using a small piece. It’s worth remembering that anything created before 1922 is in the public domain, and you can do what you like with it.

Checkout Reddit and the CheezBurger Network for some ideas. Just try not to spend all day “researching”.

Again – add some text so that people can read more about it, and to let Google know what the page is about.

Adding all your content to a relevant social media site (Youtube for videos, Pinterest/Instagram/Tumblr for images etc) is important here, as you can use those sites to help build your following and traffic.

Opinion

2 ways you can do this.

  1. Have a unique take on things.
    If you’d consider yourself to have genuine insights, or be a thought leader in your niche – then this is the strategy you’ll want to shoot for.
  2. Opinion at scale.
    You can become a thought leader in your niche. You’ve just got to grind it out. So out work the other sites in your niche by creating more posts, with more opinions. Repeat this for 12 months making at least 3 posts per day.

The above list of content ideas isn’t a concrete, final selection that you have to squeeze into. If you’ve done some research and think a viral video interview review blog of different lawn mowers will work – then go for it (seriously, please do that – I’ll subscribe).

seth godin headshot“The easiest thing is to react. The second easiest is to respond. But the hardest thing is to initiate.”Seth Godin

Remember your UVP? Well, also remember that your content has got to scream it. Keep it in mind when you’re writing, whichever route you take.

Utility, Escapism & Entertainment

I thought this was a pretty insightful comment from Gary (video below).

I can think of a few refinements to that list however, so here they are. I’m thinking of this list from a web content point of view.

All web content falls into one of these three categories:

  1. Utility (Online tools, directories)
  2. Entertainment & Escapism (many videos, cartoons, online tv, much of reddit)
  3. Informational (news, how-to’s, opinion pieces)

It’s a useful way to visualize what content your blog will have.

How To’s

Here’s an idea for an approach that is both content – and promotion. David Ogilvy is a master of writing ads that are interesting, provide real value, fly straight under the B.S. radar, and deliver business results. Here’s an example of a few his company’s done, from the book Ogilvy On Advertising

Examples of old Daily Ogilivy ads in advertorial style

This “How To” based content is full of insightful tips. It lines the writer up as the de facto expert in the market by showcasing his knowledge and what it can do for the reader.

Then it’s a really natural progression at the end, to simply offer your product or service.

So for a blog – the simple way to apply this is by having an optin box at the end of your content. But do it better than other blogs. Don’t just have a “Join my newsletter” box slapped at the bottom. You’ll get results doing that, but there’s a simple way the results can be improved (a lot). We’ll get to this in the promotion section later on.

Copywriting

There’s just a couple of areas you need to know here. At least to get started.

Headlines

I love headlines. They capture in a few short words the whole appeal of an article. In fact, this one of only 2 parts of copywriting we’ll (briefly) touch on here, because they’re the most impactful your blog.

david ogilvy headshot“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy”David Ogilvy

The difference between a poor headline and a great one can be success or failure for a new post. Because for people to even have a chance to see how good your post is – they need to be sufficiently enticed by your headline to give you a click.

And remember that your post headline will often be competing with a big list of other headlines. Be it in an RSS mashup, in a category on your blog or in a Tweet.

post headlines will make or break your blog

What types of headline you use will depend on the content strategy you’re going for, but there’s a few general rules that you should learn (Then learn to break, when it makes sense)…

Make It Specific

This can mean including numbers, dates, times, percents and figures.

  • These 3 quirky things saved me $475.82 last month
  • Who else wants to start a blog in 27.4 seconds?
  • How a down-trodden banker cut his home insurance by 45.12%

(The sharp contradiction in expectations in that last example is a good tactic to use. You wouldn’t expect a banker to be “down-trodden”, so it creates curiosity.)

State Or Imply A Benefit

Don’t tell them what something is. Go a few layers deeper and talk to the core benefit. Most of the time this comes down to saving time, making more money, improving health. Write to the images people have in their mind when they talk, not the words.

  • 7 Blog Marketing Tricks Every Business Should Know
  • If this man can’t save you money on your taxes, he’ll pay YOU
  • Finally… an CRM that’s easy to use & makes your clients smile

Play Off News Events

Please don’t be insensitive or cheesy with this one, and make sure you’re adding value. i.e. don’t use dead people to boost CTRs and make sure the topics or people you’re playing off match your niche.

  • The secret golf swing Tiger Woods uses to hit straight every time
  • New pic of Matt Cutts reveals Google’s real plans…
  • These are Paris Hilton’s WORST shoes

Use Curiosity

  • Did you forget these 3 settings on your WordPress blog?
  • Guess who just ran naked through New York? Here’s a hint…
  • “When the blood ran down her face, I just couldn’t look anymore”

al ries headshot“Words are triggers. They trigger the meanings which are buried in the mind.”Al Ries

The psychology behind these types of headlines (and a load more) will be the topic of another in-depth guide later on. But the above templates will help get you started.

Also checkout top sites (not necessarily in your niche) that use the same content format as you’re planning. For example, with news sites see the headlines Fox News, Huffington Post or CNN use. They’ve got copywriters doing this stuff full time, and you can learn a lot. Make a swipe file of good headlines you find and use it as inspiration when you need it.

Optin Boxes

If you’re collecting emails on your site (and you should be) then you need them to actually enter their email address into a box on your site. And it comes down to words. You’ve got to communicate the value someone will get in exchange for them handing over an email.

Here’s a few takeaways from a series of example optin-box images you’ll see later in this guide, to help with the copy…

  • Use contrast colors to catch the eye
  • Use specific numbers
  • State the benefits someone will get – and balance that with the pains they’ll feel by not taking action
  • Use bullets to tell people what and why (but not how – they’ll get that after entering their email)

Here’s a quick example of some optin box copy, pulling in lots of the above ideas:

---START---

{Nice pic of guide} This 23 page PDF guide will show you 14 proven ways to lose consistent weight (that stays off for good) It takes 7.4 minutes to read and I promise it will change how you think about your body. You'll learn...
  • 3 new ways to eat chocolate cake - and lose weight (it's not what you think)
  • I'll share the simple "5 path blueprint" I use daily to guarantee I keep on track
  • Why your morning routine is THE most important aspect (so many people get this wrong)
Simply enter you name and best email below to get everything sent to you now, via email. {NAME} Β  Β  {EMAIL} {Get The Free Guide Now} I hate spam with a passion - and you can unsubscribe any time with 1 click.

---END---

Feel free to use it as a base if you like.

Monetization

david ogilvy headshot“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.”David Ogilvy

Ok, lets get down to it.

You’re probably not going to make a penny for the first few months. But this is when you’ll need to work the hardest.

Hard work for no return… Sounds like madness? Most people think so – which is why most people never make a penny blogging.

It’s because they’re looking at it wrong. You’re building an asset – that will be the seed of a business. And that business will bring in revenue for you, every day.

But you’ve got to have the sticking power FIRST. That’s what enables you to build up enough content and traffic to generate revenue.

You’ve made it this far through the guide though, so you’re certainly persistent πŸ™‚

Monetization is too big a topic to do justice in a few words, even in this guide. It deserves it’s own page. Which it will get shortly.

So, for now, here’s enough tips, tricks, methods and strategies to get you started on the road to revenue.

Adsense (& other contextual ads)

I’m putting this here as a warning. Let me be perfectly clear with this:

YOU SHOULD NOT BE USING ADSENSE.

This also goes for the similar services that show contextually related text ads, or turn words into links (Skimlinks, Viglink etc). I’m including most contextually related ads in this category – which includes image ads auto-chosen per page by a 3rd party service.

It’s a HUGE mistake so many bloggers make.

Why? Because they pay you next to nothing for your traffic. It’s pretty simple. There’s only 3 times you should use this:

  1. You’ve got many domains, covering many different markets (100s) and you’ve not got time to monetize them properly, so you slap Adsense on them to make something
  2. You failed to start with a solid blog and content plan, so you’re finding it hard to monetize with anything other than contextual ads.
  3. You already tried everything else, but the traffic is so low quality, Adsense seems like the final option

And as this is a high quality blog you’re building, none of those apply.

Yes, it’s quick and easy to get the code and slap it on your site. But if you’ve got no time (or are really lazy) then you’re probably not going to get along with writing blog content anyway. You’re putting real time into the blog – don’t skim on the single most important aspect of the whole project. Get the monetization right.

Note: There’s always counter examples people can give. “This guy makes X” etc. But if the site doesn’t fall into one of the above 2 categories – then they’re leaving so much money on the table.

What about using AdSense AS WELL AS something else? Won’t that increase revenue?

It might do, yes. But then you’re asking the visitor to choose between 2 different things. Click this link, or do X. And when you give people multiple choices, conversion goes down. Ideally every webpage would have only 1 single objective.

In any event, this isn’t the way to start monetizing.

Recommending Products

This is where you write a post, and include affiliate links to products and services you recommend. You can base 1 post around 1 product, or you can mention products as you go through a “how to” post.

The essential point here, is to only recommend things you actually like.

dr. flint mcglaughlin headshot“People don’t buy from websites. People buy from people.”Dr. Flint McGlaughlin

This means thing you’ve used before. Apart from the fact that it’s a bit sleazy to push stuff you’ve no idea about – people will actually see through it. Because you don’t talk about something the same way, with the same unique details and custom insights if you’ve not been there. It just makes it more human, and people respond to that.

But – there’s a way around that for digital products. Particularly in small markets.

After your blogs setup, with a few posts and a great design – simply email a product owner and say you’d like to review their product, and could they send you it (even if only temporarily if it’s a pay-monthly-service) so you can document your thoughts. I’ll stress again that what your blog first looks like will make or break this. They’ll click the link you provide in the email and make up their mind in 2 seconds.

This will often work for information products, membership sites, monthly tools etc.

But of course you won’t get Amazon sending you free physical products (unless you’re a long-time quality reviewer, and you get invited into their Vine program).

Am example of a great review site, in the business apps market is GetApp. They require product creators to register then and fill out a profile, but the design and structure of the site is worth checking out. Take a few minutes to click around there and get a handle on how they manage things – there’s a lot they’re doing well. And you can see that you don’t have to keep to a personal recommendation style blog.

This is a very professional, business review site. And business products are usually more expensive, which means you’ll get a higher commission for each referred sale. An important point to notice is that they’re not just reviewing things that make them money. They’ve got lots of free products (e.g. Google Analytics) on there as well.

If you’re recommending info products, then ClickBank is the place to start looking. They’ll almost certainly have something for your niche.

List Building

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. You should be doing this on every blog you own.

The reason is simple. It’s because 1 email will be worth a certain value to you every month. You don’t just get paid for 1 click. It’s like you’re getting people paying you for a monthly service.

You can add this onto any type of blog – in addition to other monetization strategies.

There’s 2 good optiions for email marketing to get started. One is Aweber:

aweber logo

Then MailChimp is the other. They’ve got a nicer UI than Aweber, and I like the chimp:

mailchimp logo

The idea is you setup a follow up sequence, with each email sent a certain number of days after the last. Here’s an example (0 is sent immediately after they signup)

  • #0 Thanks for signing up
  • #0 2 reasons why ____ (you might have missed this)
  • #0 Can I have your opinion on this?
  • #0 Friday ok to _____ ?

The pattern here is that the subject lines are short and personal, and you fill in the blanks with relevant stuff from your niche. The aim for the first chunk of emails is to remind your readers of key things on your site that they might have missed, provide value in the form of free reports – and engage them. Encourage them to hit reply and talk to you. Answer their questions. Get to know them.

Because if you’re building actual relationships with your list – then they’ll be super responsive when you send the next email. Which means they’ll actually listen when you recommend something, or ask them for a click.

The above examples could be send each spaced out 2-4 days. You don’t want to swamp them, but it does depend on what you frame the list as. For example, people might love a “Blog tip of the day” newsletter. Then of course, you’ll stack up 1 email per day for people.

A good way to build up a lengthy follow up sequence of separate emails, is to first send them as “Broadcasts”. Unlike follow up emails, broadcasts are sent immediately to your whole list. So you could send the tip out to everyone first of all, then add that tip to the follow up sequence, so new people who signup later will also see it.

Also – you can (and should) split test different subject lines. At it’s simplest, this mean you’d write 2 different subject lines. Each half of your list would get a different version. You can then see which gets the highest open rate. This is a nice tactic to use before adding something to your follow-up sequence, to ensure you’re getting an ROI (Return On Investment).

Getting Revenue From An Email List

You add value in the form of ideas, information, tools, guides, engagement etc. Then you integrate links that make you money.

If you’re promoting your own site, you could tie and email in with the topic of your latest post, and tell them they can check it out for the full story.

It depends on what job a specific email is aimed at. here’s some example target goals for specific emails:

  1. Relationship building You could be updating them about something their interested in or giving them a no-strings nugget of information.
  2. Get a click This will be the goal of many emails. The link(s) could be to an affiliate offer (i.e. recommended products), your blog (to get traffic and give more info to visitors), or something cool you’ve seen on the web (valuable video, funny pic, interesting article etc)
  3. Get a reply There could be an overlap with relationship building here. But not necessarily. You might be say something like “I’d love to hear what you think about this (am I wrong?) – please hit reply and let me know”. You can use this for ghetto style survey questions to your list as well.

If you’re using a decent autoresponder service (Aweber, MailChimp etc) then you can just use raw links wherever you like. They’ll auto-track them and provide stats. Meaning you can see how many people clicking which links, in which emails.

Optin Incentives

There’s 3 different parts to this. You need to decide on the format, the angle – then the content. I’ll give you some examples of each, so you can pick and choose what will work for your niche:

Format

Which ever format you go for (or even if it’s a combo of formats) – you want to dimensionalize exactly what it is that people get. And a great way to do this is with an ecover.

  • NewsletterThis is usually a cop-out, but it can be the exact right thing to do. For example, if your blog is focused around breaking news in a niche, then the best hook is probably the fact that they can get updates.
  • PDF GuideLots of people offer free reports, so in markets where it’s overused – you’ll need more powerful content. This format is usually a 1-50 page PDF guide, with some images. Unless the angle of your blog is taking a scrappy, underdog, bootstrapped approach – please take the time to layout and design the guide nicely. You can do it all in MS Word using the headers, fonts, page numbers etc – it makes a huge difference in what people think of it.
  • 14 Day Training SeriesLike a newsletter, but instead of just sending updates when you make a new post – you pre-write a series of 14 (or however many) emails as part of a tutorial series.
  • VideoEither a collection of short (1-3 minutes) videos, or one longer (10-60 min) video work well here. With the shorter videos, you’ve then got a “video series” that people can get for free. A few ideas: you can breakdown a commonly misunderstood element of your niche, interview an expert, or review someone’s site/product/idea.
  • BlueprintsThink Excel spreadsheets, flow charts and diagrams. These can have more perceived value than simply a guide, but it comes down to what psychological triggers you’re hitting in the niche.

Angle Ideas

  • 9 Common Mistakes Most ____’s Make
  • The Stupid Simple ____ Guide
  • This ____ Blueprint Has Got Me ___
  • Exclusive Interview with _____ Shows You How To ____
  • 7 Instant Tricks To Supercharge Your ____

Content

You can cut down the time it takes to compile a guide by aggregating great content from elsewhere – so long as it’s still a valuable item. But most of the time you’ll have to knuckle down and create something useful. Which means either hitting the keyboard – or talking into a mic/camera.

Thank-You Pages

Ok, great – someone just signed up to your email list.

Now what?

Well, all the autoresponder services let you choose where someone goes after they’re in. So you’ll send them to a special WordPress page you create on your site.

This is an important page.

Someone has just seen enough value in what you’re offering – and trusted you enough – to give you their email. They’re already receptive to what you’re talking about, and they’re keen to hear more.

There’s several things you should always do on this page, and a few things you can do. You should always:

  1. Thank them
  2. Tell them what they can expect from you in the future
  3. Tell them what happens next

Now here’s a few things you could add to your thank you page..

  • Pain QuestionnaireCheckout Woofu and SurveyMoney for good 3rd party options. Social Polls and YOP Poll are good options as WP plugins. Here you can give people a few choices and ask them what their current stumbling block is in your niche. You want to find out what they need, then when a bunch of people say the same thing – you create content (and later, products) to solve those problems.
  • Affiliate OfferThis works well if you give people step-by-steps. So step 1 is read your welcome message. Step 2 is to tweet your blog. Step 3 is to get setup with the list of tools/products you recommend, so they can get started faster. Give a mini write up about each thing you’re recommending, and tell them why you like it.
  • Social share buttonsIt’s a natural and simple ask. Someone is very likely to tweet, like or +1 your blog after signing up to your list. Put some big social buttons on the thank you page, and tell people what you want them to do. I’ve seen social buttons here before, but they’re just default plugins, showing in the normal place – and there’s no custom message. It blends into the background and people miss it. So use a bold font and tell people you’re super grateful for them signing up, and you’d really appreciate them tweeting about your blog so others can see the information as well.
  • Bonus freebiesEveryone loves unexpected surprises. When someone goes above and beyond you remember it. So if they signup to your list and are told they’ll get, for example, a guide called “Top 17 Lawn Mowing Mistakes”, you also give them a 10 minute video explaining the process – it will really impress them. Make sure you explain what’s going on, so they appreciate it. Tell them it’s a special bonus you thought they’d like. Also you don’t have to create whole new content for this bonus. A nice touch I’ve seen, is where someone offers a video to attract emails. Then they give you the choice of downloading the video, mp3 or PDF on the thank you page. People learn differently, so I always appreciate this.
  • Limited offer for a productAlso known as a One Time Offer (OTO). After your welcome message, let them know that they won’t see this page again (and make sure you don’t re-link to it anywhere), and make a special offer in a genuine, respectful way. For example, you could explain the benefits of a new product in the niche, then give a link that gives people a special 30% off that you negotiated earlier with the merchant. (Email smaller product owners and ask for custom coupons or discount links for your reads – most will be more than happy to oblige. Often you can ask for your affiliate cut to be lower – and get a higher discount for the end user. Explain this clearly on your thank you page – it’s a great, honest hook.)
  • Feedback FormThis is an easy, low-tech solution. Use something like Contact Form 7 to simply ask for peoples feedback. You could say “Ask me any question”, “What’s your biggest problem in the niche?”, “What 1 thing could this site do better?”, “Why did you signup to this email list?”. The answers to that last question will surprise you – it’s often not what you think. I once asked that on the thank you page (and also in the email follow up sequence). I was offering a PDF that was essential to using the site, so optins were pretty high. But I discovered that people weren’t signing up for the PDF – they thought they were getting a free tool of some sort. I was able to tweak the pictures and copy around the signup box to clarify things.

As people are much more responsive on the thank you page – you should add one of the above to test it out. I’d be wary of adding too much, as having just one focus will get a higher % of people to do it.

Bonus points for using a video. Mark Ling (from Affilorama) uses a video after you signup, which looks like this:

screenshot of Affiloramas welcome video after signing up

Videos on thank you pages are great – you can hear from the guy that’s talking to you, and it creates a personal, more human connection… (which results in higher conversions)

A nice twist on thank you pages after you signup to an email list – is having a thank you page after someone leaves a comment on your blog. Checkout the Comment Redirector plugin to create a more dedicated readership.

Actual Examples

Let’s do this visually. I’ll give you some examples that I’ve screen-shotted from my swipe file so you can see what wording and layout other people are using. Remember that I wrote an example template for you to use earlier in the guide as well.

screenshot of SocialTriggers.com email optin box

The Social Triggers homepage has this in pride of place. Everything is focused around the UVP of the site, and he’s talking directly to what his demographic wants. There’s a slightly unusual, interesting image and also a testimonial to add social proof.

screenshot of shoemoney.com email optin box

This lightbox popup on Shoemoney appears (I think) on a timer when you’ve been on the page for a while.

screenshot of Russell Brunson's old email optin box

I checked and this optin box isn’t live anymore. It used to show at the top of the site, on every page.

screenshot of nerdfitness.com email optin box

On Steve’s homepage (NerdFittness) he clearly demonstrates the UVP of the site. He telegraphs his mission, and sets his site apart from all the me-too’s.

screenshot of strategicprofits.com email optin box

This guide from Rich Schefren at Strategic Profits. It’s got a lot of good features here.

Selling Ads

Three things to get you started if you’re selling ads. Whilst I think this is far inferior to collecting your own emails and building your own products – on some blogs it does fit well. For example, your whole strategy might be to build out the blog to attract advertisers.

Ad Info Page

This is where people will decide if your site is the right one to advertise their product.

If you’re small without big numbers yet – focus this page on the quality of your content and the cult following you’re building. (And you’ll have to price your ads accordingly).

If you’re growing a bit and have numbers, mention these key numbers, and link out to more info where appropriate:

  1. Approximate traffic
  2. Alexa stats
  3. PageRank

Don’t forget that this is a sale page. So you should add social proof to this page, in the form of:
Any awards/Badges your blog’s got
Testimonials/Quotes from other people or big blogs saying good things about you

The bottom line with ads on your blog, if that people will only renew if they’re getting value from it. Which means clicktrhoughs. In enough volume – and quality – that they’re making more than what you charge for the ad slot.

It works both ways though, and if it’s working for an advertiser they’ll keep paying you month after month. If you sell out quickly and people stick around for a long time – definitely consider raising your prices.

Then you list each of the ad slots you’re offering. Say how large – where – and how much each is. There’s one plugin you should use to manage all this (mentioned below). It really helps to have a screen shot of your site, where you draw squares over the areas where people can advertise, with what zone each one is (A, B, C etc).

Manage, Sell & Display

There’s 2 schools of thought here. One is to use a 3rd party platform. they take a cut, provide the system to manage everything, and help get advertisers. BySellAds is an example.

But a better option is to sell the ads yourself, directly from your blog. You have more control, don’t have to give anyone a cut – and can charge more money. The best plugin to manage all this is OIO Publisher. It’s $47 one off, and is essential if you plan to make money selling banners on your blog.

And you can get your own advertisers with a few emails…

Promotion

Link to your “Avertise” page from the top of your site. You want people to see it.

Then Google around. Look at similar sites to yours. Find which ones are already showing ads (either banners, text ads – anything) for products/services that would be a match for your blog. Then shoot the merchant an email saying you saw they were advertising on example.com, and you’ve got a site which focuses on ____. Link to your ad info page, and let them know you’re happy to answer any questions they’ve got.

Don’t keep pestering them if they don’t respond, but a follow up a few weeks later if you’ve not heard if fine. People are busy – they might not get to it first time around.

Also if this is a key part of your strategy, then you really need a good supply of paying advertisers to sustain the blog. I’d suggest getting a subscription to AdBeat or a similar service, so you can find huge lists of potential advertisers. You can then just email a few more each time you need to fill up your inventory for the month.

Make sure you keep track of the # emails you send and the response, and eventual signup rate. You’ll then know exactly how many emails you have to send to fill up for the month.

Blog Flipping

This has been a buzzword for a while. People have dreams of starting a blog and flipping it a few months later, scaling it up and making a nice profit. But it only works if you’re ahead of the other guys doing it. Which means higher quality, custom designs. Unique logos. High quality content. etc.

And as you’re reading a guide about how to start a blog for the (possibly) first time, the tech setup to crank out blogs to this model probably aren’t a fit right now.

And to be honest – even if you are flipping blogs, you’ll get many multiples more as a final sale price when the blog’s got some history behind it. Which means you’re going to have to go through all the same steps to build the blog anyway.

My advice – keep this in mind as something you might consider in 3-5 years time. But don’t let it change what you do in the mean time.

Single Affiliate Offer

This is where you pick a particular product, then build a blog around it. It’s a double edged sword though…

Pros

  • Easier to rank for key terms by going micro niche
  • More focused content means higher quality visitors (i.e. anyone visiting is only there for one reason)
  • With a unique spin you can become the expert on a topic in a much shorter timespan

Cons

  • Picking the right product can be tricky. You want enough traffic potential to make it worth while, enough revenue from the merchants affiliate program – and enough scope to write plenty of content
  • If the product dies, closes the affiliate program, or loses favor in the market – you’re left out in the cold

This is a good route to dip your toe into blogging and affiliate marketing however. Because you’ll see results faster, and be motivated to keep going.

Here’s some general recommendations for things to shoot for when you try this:

Pick a main-stream product, not a niche one by a small merchant. It’ll be more stable, which you need if you’re going to build a long term site around. You can do pretty well with micro sites for smaller products (to take a slice of the people searching in Google when something new launches), but that’s a different dynamic, for another guide πŸ™‚

Don’t register a domain with the product’s name in the URL (there could be copyright issues). For example, if you’re blogging about Aweber (A popular email autoresponder service), don’t call your site aweber-expert.com. Call it email-expert.com. Then put “Aweber” in the title and h1 tags to get the messages across to Google.

It can be a good idea to pick a domain name like the one mentioned above. It lets you build out a bunch of content to get traffic for Aweber, and also leaves the brand open to future expansion if you decide you’ve hit a ceiling and need to add a category for a competitor, (e.g) MailChimp.

Checkout what other people are writing about in terms of reviews, comparisons etc for your chosen product. Write down a list of ideas you can use for post content. Some good ones usually come in forms like “X vs Y”, “Why does X do this?”, “How do I ___ with X?”. I mentioned how to mine Google Suggest for comparison site ideas – the same principal can be applied here. Also add in any questions you’ve have about the product, if you were considering using it. Another good place to look for inspiration is the companies own FAQ page.

The best way to start choosing a product to promote on a blog like this, is to hit Google. Search for a few keywords you think are relevant. Make notes of all the companies that come up. Then scroll to the bottom of the page, and Google will suggest some related search phrases. These are gold, as many times they use synonyms that wouldn’t be simple to think of. Then check which have affiliate programs. Pick the one you’re most comfortable with, and BUY IT. Yep, that’s right. You’ll need the insight, screen shots and videos you can only get by using the product.

Self Promotion / Branding

If you’ve already got a website selling something, this one’s for you.

You can put the blog on your existing domain if you like. Something like mysite.com/blog/ is sensible.

The idea is to blog around the area you’re selling things in. You’re aiming to pull in targeted traffic, then above each post, and in the blog sidebar, you’ll have a message. It will briefly state your site’s UVP, then link to your main site.

Simple. The hard part is (like everything else) adding content consistently to build to blog’s traffic.

There’s multiple ways to add the content, but for the post header and footer, the plugin Post Snippets is free from the WordPress plugin directory. For the sidebar, you can drag in a “Text Widget” on the Appearance>Widgets settings page and type in what you like.

It also makes sense to strategically link from the blog post content to key places on your blog (where it makes sense).

ζ”Ήε–„

japanese arch and japanese word for Kaizen

You probably know it as Kaizen. It’s a Japanese word that means “Continious Improvement”.

So the important takeaway here, is that you’re not going to put any old monetization strategy into place then “you’re done”. That’s not how it works. Everything resonates differently with different niches. So you’re going to have to test which methods work best on your blog.

But for now, yes – just pick one of the above to get started.

End Game

Ultimately, no affiliate offers are going to blow your mind in earning potential until you’ve got some respectable traffic figures. So what I suggest as a road map, is to use affiliate links on your site whilst building an email list.

Then when you’ve got one thousand people on the list, write your own information product and list it on Clickbank. This product can be a more in-depth version of what your blog is. Video training is an appealing angle to take with this.

You’ve got to build the product around a pain point that your market perceives. It’s really important to get this bit right. So who better to ask than your list?

Survey your list and get their opinion on what they’re having problems with right now. Give them 3 options (plus an “other” box in case you overlooked something big). Checkout these 2 companies for 3rd party survey tools:

Polls are another great option, as you can get continued feedback from your readers (instead of the one-off email shot). Here’s some good options for WP Poll plugins: (I mentioned a few of these earlier)

So the key is knowing what your readers actually want. Then you simply give it to them. We’ll get deep into this in another guide, where I can give it the space to breathe it deserves.

But ultimately having multiple products you’re selling is a key way to substantially increase your blogs revenue, and build a business from it.

Monetization Tips

Here’s a random selection of things that almost any blog can do to increase revenue…

  1. Link all your post images to a relevant affiliate offer, if possible. People click images. A lot.
  2. Give all your images captions. People read captions – it’s usually the first thing the eye does after absorbing the image.
  3. Prove your value before asking for an email. Either with a killer UVP, great piece of “How To” content etc.
  4. Keep testing different monetization strategies. It’s how you learn – and you never know if it will beat your current best methods.
  5. Use curiosity with your affiliate anchor text. For example… “This Sony DSLR camera has a great lens. (you <a>might not believe just how great…</a>)”
  6. A quick & dirty way to add a banner is in WordPress’s “Text Widget”. You can dump any HTML in there, so it’s perfect for affiliate banners.
  7. Use value added promos and freebies. Meaning only give guides (e.g. as optin incentives) that are tightly related to your audience.
  8. Try and give every page just one objective. By focusing on one thing, you’ll usually get higher conversions.

Try a few if you’ve not done them before. They work πŸ™‚

I’m planning a huge blog monetization guide…

I’ll let you know when it’s ready – just fill in your details below.
[bpminline]

Keyword Research

You need to plan this out before you start making your site.

Keywords are how people find you through Google. With social, useful directories, guest posts etc – it’s different. It’s more of a word of mouth, community style referral system. The social “channel” only gives you the reach of people and places you know and interact with. So they’re usually of a pretty good quality. But without Google – you’re limited in your reach.

So you need to get your keywords sorted. There’s two types of keywords on your blog. Structure keywords, and content keywords.

The Tools

There’s three things I use for keyword research.

First we’ve got the tried and true, Google keyword tool. You should have already used this by now (who hasn’t?).

I use this for the bulk of the research, and the good part is it’s free. They trimmed things back recently though, and made it rubbish. The Sktool used to be very nice for pulling keywords down in bulk, but those days are gone.

I use Google’s keyword tool for picking out candidate keywords for the site structure. But in combination, I like UberSuggest. Can be great to bulk collect some ideas for post content that we discussed earlier.

Then the other tool I like to check how these keywords might fare, is the Market Samurai keyword tool.

Honestly I don’t use most of the features there, but the SERP analyzer saves weeks (literally, trust me) of time if you were to do it manually. I’ll discuss more about how I use each of these tools as we get to the right bit below…

Plan The Site Structure

Another important aspect that tons of blogs get wrong.

Too many people just start a blog because:

  • They think they should
  • They think it’s the way to “Make some money”
  • Because it might be nice to try
  • example.com has one, so my company should too!

Then they make a few posts about wildly different topics, in an unstructured way, and let things die and stagnate after a few months or weeks.

So it’s important to have a plan up front. And by “plan”, I mean you should know what all the pages and categories will be on your blog – and when you’ll be adding what.

russell wright headshot“Put simply, a well structured, content rich website is more inclined to become an ‘authority site’ from the point of view of the search engines”Russell Wright

There are more advanced ways to get into this topic like website silos, PageRank sculpting and internal anchor reputation modifications. But here are the 2 basic ways to structure things. Blue items are PAGES, and red are POSTS in WordPress.

tree diagram draw on whiteboard, showing blog categories: big widgets, medium widgets, small widgets, new widgets.

The red categories here would be focused around keywords that get traffic. You’d find them with one of the above tools, making sure to pick things that have enough scope for you to grow. You won’t rank for these keywords for a while – which is fine. The posts you make in the categories will help get rankings for these category keywords.

tree diagram draw on whiteboard, showing blog categories: widget research, widget news, widget guides

This approach uses the same pages in blue as above. But the red categories are based around types of content, rather than specific keywords. Some of these may also be good keywords – but that’s not the basis on which they’re picked. You’re picking categories mainly based on what you think (from your competitive research) will be helpful for visitors. Start at the beginning, and think what someone might expect from your site – then name the categories based on their intent. When doing this, you might want to have subcategories which are your keywords, so you get the best of both worlds.

The core concept here is that if you control the topics on your site and where they live (and by extension – what page links to what through the navigation menus and in-content links), you rank better. That’s because Google works off words and links, and you’re helping them out by showing them what each page is about.

Google’s ranking core is still based on backlinks, but it’s recently become LESS important.

It’s important to remember that you won’t be ranking for these keywords initially. You’re simply directing the theme of the blog, and setting your Google traffic ceiling. The broader you go with The structure keywords, the more work it will be to build out the site – but the more payoff they’ll be later on.

If this is your first blog – keep it smallish so you’re motivated to keep going. Motivation is arguably the single most important aspect, so you need to make sure you can actually see the site filling out in meaningful ways, instead of dropping another post into.

Content Keywords

When you’re writing content it’s best to have a mix of evergreen and newsworthy posts. On this site for example, the content you’re reading now is the evergreen type. Then they’ll be other stuff on the blog.

The Long Tail Approach

This concept is usually put across as a long tail, with a graph like this:

classic long tail chart, showing how a few short keywords have a high search volume, and many more longer keywords, when combined - have more search volume

Hit Google’s keyword tool and search around. You’re looking for long tails that are monetizable, and not right at the top of the search tree.

For example, when someone starts searching they might enter “Apple”. They don’t get what they want, so they try “Apple ipod”. The search tree continues…

  1. Apple iPod Shuffle
  2. Apple iPod Shuffle Blue
  3. Buy Apple iPod Shuffle Blue
  4. Buy Apple iPod Shuffle Blue in Canada

You get less volume but a better quality intent when you get long phrases like the last one.

So you’re looking in Google for keywords that:

  • Are monetizable long tails
  • Have one or more exact searches per day

Compile the list and export it for reference.

The reason you’re looking for such pitiful, low volume keywords, is that they’re really easy to get traffic for. yes, you’ll get a trickle of visitors. but you’re sites still new. Unproved. Untrusted. Google is still wary of you.

Start with low traffic long tails, then progressively go after more competitive keywords AFETR you’re getting regular traffic to the long-tail pages you’ve already got. This is almost an ideal strategy, because it means you’re building a solid foundation that you can use to target beefier phrases.

A good rule of thumb is that you should only be targeting keywords that have an exact monthly search volume less than or equal to your current monthly Google traffic. So if you’re getting 50 daily uniques from Google – you can now start targeting individual keywords (for individual pages) that get 50 monthly searches.

So you’re using the total site traffic as an indicator of what strength keyword you can go after for the next page on your site.

Here’s a basic plan to grow your blog’s traffic…

  1. Target longtail keywords that get less than 50 exact match, monthly searches
  2. Keep posting content until you’re getting 50 daily visitors from Google. If you make 1 post a day, you’ll have this done in a month.
  3. Now target longtails with less than 100 exact match searches
  4. Keep posting until you 100 daily visitors
  5. Next, target 200 exact match searches…
  6. et cetera

Now, you can step up the increase if you’re pulling in traffic faster than this. But remember – it’s only Google traffic we’re counting here. Not referrals from Facebook, of clicks on any emails you send. That above is a rough guide, but it lays out the general approach that you should start by taking.

What’s a “Good” Keyword?

We need to go over just what makes a “good” keyword. A good keyword is one that:

  1. Is relevant to your niche
  2. Has enough traffic to be worth writing a post about it
  3. Has enough competition to validate the market
  4. Competitors that won’t crush you
  5. Intent to purchase

chris anderson headshot“When consumers are offered infinite choice, the true shape of demand is revealed. And it turns out to be less hit-centric than we thought. People gravitate towards niches because they satisfy narrow interests better, and in one aspect of our life or another we all have some narrow interest”Chris Anderson

Find A Domain

I hope you’ve got your UVP nailed down tight before you attempt this one. Because impulse purchasing domains is a nasty habit. I used to buy tons because “wow that’s available – I can create a great site around that”. But I’ve got a few rules for domain buys now…

  1. Am I planning to use it and build something in the next 60 days?

Those are all the rules. I’m not a domainer, so I don’t buy domains to squat, speculate or park. I buy them to build stuff. So if a domain doesn’t match the rule, I just save it to a list for reference later.

When starting a new project, I check over the saved lists for inspiration, and to see what’s still available.

And I almost always register domains fresh. I haven’t found too many problems with finding reasonable domains with the tactics below. You’re never going to find a keyword dot com domain, but that’s not what we’re after. Because you’ve not got $100k spare, I assume.

What Domain Name?

A huge mistake almost every single blog makes it misnaming.
They almost always fall into one of these 2 categories

  1. Irrelevant & Boring
  2. Keyword Focused

And both of those are plain wrong.

First, if you have a blog like “JaneSmithsBlog.com”, people don’t know what the hell they get from going there (Unless they already know your name – or you plan to create a personal brand blog). Because ideally you want to communicate your UVP in the domain name. For example…

  • 1-800flowers
  • MarketingExperiments
  • NerdFitness

Not only do you instantly know what each of these websites do – they all convey a unique value simply in the name. This is a powerful concept.

And the good news is, unique domains like this are almost always available, while the EMDs (Exact [keyword] Match Domains) aren’t.

But don’t pick a good name and check if it’s available. That’s backwards, just because millions are gone already, and it will take you all day.

Here’s my strategy:

Always go for .com – unless you’re a local business and only ever intended to be found in that country.

Yes, many nice .com’s have already been taken. That doesn’t matter to us (much). There are a bunch of new TLDs being dripped onto the market right now, but only 2% of them are any good. I’d let other companies spend the money to build public awareness about them before you grab one. For now, .com is still king.

If you can express the UVP in 1 word, great. But it will have to be a made up word, as dictionary words (anything worth having anyway) are gone. A reasonable example of a brandable, 1 word domain is Affilorama.com – an affiliate training site.

But it’s usually better to have clarity, than brevity. So look to 2 word domains next.

Don’t tolerate hyphens in the URL. You want something that’s easy to remember and say. For example, if someone heard it spoken, would they instantly know what to type in?

That means you’ve got to watch for ambiguities as well. Not just in the way things are spoken, but in how they could be formatted too. Ever heard of the site ExpertsExchange dot com? Well, change the capitalization and that site is now ExpertSexChange dot com. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. That’s a question and answer site, but after being ridiculed for years and held up as an example of a horrible domain, they’re now using the hyphenated version.

There’s also PenIsland dot com. Which again, when viewed differently – is a very different demographic.

Where To Register

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you where NOT to register. And that’s with your webhost. So you know when you get an offer for a free domain when you create a new hosting account? Spit in their face. It’s the devil.

Here’s why…

  1. Lock In. It’s a pain if/when you want to move hosts.
  2. Inflated renew costs. Free to start with, but how much for the 2nd year?
  3. Rubbish control panels.

Go with a separate registrar. Someone who makes it their whole business to provide domains. I’ve used a few stand-alone registrars, and the only one I use now is NameCheap:

namecheap logo

They’re by far the best I’ve come across. Having said that, their latest control panel re-design is a bit iffy – but they’re still on top.

How To Register

I’ve got a specific way of choosing domains. Because sometimes you’re awesome ideal name isn’t available as a .com. So you need to do some research…

I take each primary word of my initial idea. Let’s say I’m making a site about golf. A training site. My twist is that I’ve mounted a camera on a golf club, and will show you how to execute the perfect swing with this new approach (no idea if this is a sane idea or not, golf isn’t my thing). The name I wanted was GolfCam dot com, but it’s already taken. I then do this:

In this case I’ll certainly want to keep the word golf in there. And I might be missing some, but I can’t think of any good, relevant synonyms that would have the same market identification and appeal, when people see it in the URL. So this is the only word in the first group.

  • golf
  • golfer
  • golfers
  • golfing

The next list is full of manually written words, related to the concept of “camera”, like the original name I wanted. The bigger the list, the better – so long as they’re all reasonably short, and are actually things you’d want to use. The important thing here, is that these words will all go AFTER our main keyword. So “golf ____”. They’ve got to make sense.

  • cam
  • cams
  • camera
  • vid
  • vids
  • video
  • videos
  • 3d
  • eye
  • eyes
  • iris
  • vis
  • visual
  • visuals
  • eagle
  • 2020

The final list is the same as the first, but these words should make sense when put BEFORE the primary word. So “____ golf”. Its’ fine to have some of the same words in the list above duplicated here.

  • overtheshoulder
  • visual
  • cam
  • camera
  • eagle
  • clear
  • 2020

Now I just run these ideas through a domain checker tool. I’ve got my own I wrote as a WP plugin (that I might release free later). My concern was that I’ve used some online tools before, and before I could register the name, it was gone. It’s happened multiple times, with different sites – and these are names the wouldn’t get registered unless someone saw it. So I suspect fowl play.

To be safe – use a reputable registrars bulk domain checker tool. Like NameCheap’s one. The disadvantage there is you’ve got to compile the actual domain list yourself by copying and pasting, whereas my tool does it all from the lists.

So I just ran these through my tool, and got back this list of currently available domains. I’ve removed the .com’s and capitalized the words so you can see them more clearly.

  • 2020Golfer
  • 2020Golfers
  • 2020Golfing
  • CameraGolf
  • CameraGolfer
  • CameraGolfers
  • CameraGolfing
  • CamGolfers
  • CamGolfing
  • ClearGolfer
  • ClearGolfers
  • ClearGolfing
  • Golfer2020
  • Golfer3d
  • GolferCamera
  • GolferCams
  • Golfereagle
  • Golfereyes
  • Golferiris
  • Golfers2020
  • GolfersCam
  • GolfersCamera
  • GolfersCams
  • GolfersEagle
  • GolfersEyes
  • GolfersIris
  • GolfersVid
  • GolfersVideos
  • GolfersVids
  • GolfersVis
  • GolfersVisual
  • GolfersVisuals
  • GolferVid
  • GolferVideo
  • GolferVis
  • GolferVisual
  • GolferVisuals
  • Golfing2020
  • Golfing3d
  • GolfingCamera
  • GolfingCams
  • GolfingEye
  • GolfingEyes
  • GolfingIris
  • GolfingVid
  • GolfingVids
  • GolfingVis
  • GolfingVisual
  • GolfingVisuals
  • GolfIris
  • GolfVis
  • OverTheShoulderGolf
  • OverTheShoulderGolfer
  • OverTheShoulderGolfers
  • OverTheShoulderGolfing
  • VisualGolfing

Be careful with results like these though, and check for ambiguities. I see one straight away: GolfersCam could be GolferScam

My favorite 2 are these:

OverTheShoulderGolf

Longer than the others, but memorable and very brandable.

GolfIris

Nice and short, and gets across the USP (kind of). You could call the camera you stick to the club the “Iris”, then sell them later as a training aid if it works out.

As I’m writing this, all the above are available – but don’t count on them being by the time you read this. Writing about an example like this tends to encourage a few 100 people to start golf sites πŸ™‚

If I don’t get enough good results, I do a further brainstorming session. I hit thesaurus.com and Wikipedia to find related words, and build out each list to a few 100 items. Then you always get some great ones.

This is how I register all my domains – I’ve not found a tool that can sensibly suggest a high enough quality and quantity of related words to automate this step. But I’m not a hardcore domainer, so maybe one exists.

How Long Do You Register The Domain For?

For 5 years. Not the minimum of 1 year.

Because it’s a signal to Google that you’ll be around tomorrow. Common sense really.
Plus you won’t have to worry about it expiring or checking the auto renew for a while.

Hosting

richard branson headshot“I believe in benevolent dictatorship provided I am the dictator”Richard Branson

We were talking about self hosting some blogging software before. That’s the very next section, but before that you’ll need to get some hosting.

Things have come a long way in terms of usability, price and features in the last 5 years.
So this isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds – you just need some good pointers to get you started.

Web hosting essentially falls into 3 categories:

  • Shared – lots of websites running off the same server. You don’t get much control.
  • VPS – fewer websites running on a server. You can do what you want within your section.
  • Dedicated – you get the whole server to yourself. Do what you like.

You can get any of the 3 above options in a “managed” variety. Which means that the company you choose will update your blogging software, make sure the server’s up to date and handle all the tech stuff for you.

How much horse power a server has will vary (like any computer you might buy), but to get started there’s only 2 sane options.

Either shared hosting, or some form of managed hosting.

Shared Hosting

There’s something important you need to know about shared hosting. Many of the hosts will advertise “Unlimited Bandwidth” (and unlimited many other things). This isn’t so much a direct lie, but it’s leaving out something VERY important. And the answer is usually burred in the terms and conditions.

While they don’t limit you bandwidth – they DO limit your CPU (Central Processing Unit) usage. So you technically get as much traffic to your site as you like bandwidth-wise. But if you get enough traffic that your site is using more than it’s share of CPU (as outlined in the hosts fair-usage policy) – some hosts will immediately suspend your account.

Now, this isn’t ideal, but it’s the state of shared hosting. Think of it from their point of view. There’s sometimes 100’s or 1000’s of peoples sites on the same server. So if one site starts getting boat loads of traffic, it means every other site on the server will go slow – or the server might even crash.

Realistically you don’t have to worry about your site getting suspended to begin with. But keep an eye on your traffic levels (and CPU usage in the hosts control panel) – and be ready to upgrade when your popularity requires it.

There’s a lot of crap out there when it comes to shared hosting. There’s really only one place I prefer to use…

A Small Orange

I really like this host. For a small blog just starting – it’s $35 for the whole year. Support is great, control panels are clear and easy to use – I’ve never had any issues.

My 1st choice for shared hosting.

A Small Orange dot com hosting company logo

This is the best shared host I’ve come accross. Click the image above to check it out.

There’s no 2nd option. Just go with ASO – it saves you so much grief compared to other hosts.

Managed WordPress Hosting

The benefit of going with managed hosting is that you can just build your blog, and someone else takes care of updates, maintenance, speed and uptime. If you’re comfortable doing all this yourself – then you should do that. You’ll get more control and save money to start with.

But don’t underestimate how often WordPress sites get hacked. Because there’s so many plugins and themes – not all of them are coded properly. Some have vulnerability that the developer didn’t anticipate, so they later get exploited. A notable example of this was an image resizing feature that was used my a lot of plugins and themes. A ton of sites got hacked as a result and were delivering malware or unknowingly linking out to casino sites.

That’s one of the main reasons for going managed – you’re much less likely to get hacked.

Here’s the 3 most notable options if you’re going this route…

  1. Synthesis
  2. WP Engine
  3. Pagely

Getting Setup

So, the basic process for setting up a host is:

1. Get A Hosting Account

Filling out a web form and you usually get setup instantly, or within an hour. It’s around 5 minutes with A Small Orange.

2. Tell Your Registrar Where Your Host Is

This is called “Setting up the DNS”. DNS (Domain Name System) is what turns your domain name (JaneSmithsBlog.com) into an IP address (192.168.0.1).
This needs to happen because the IP address is like the street address to find you new hosting account. So when you type a website into your browser, your browser actually sends a request to a DNS server and gets back an IP address (which it remembers for 24 hours or so). Then the browser will contact this IP address directly to get the files that make up your blog.

Your chosen webhost will give you detailed instructions on how to do this, but they’ll give you a list of “Name Servers”. They’ll look something like this:

  • ns1.myhost.net
  • ns2.myhost.net
  • ns3.myhost.net

They’ll be between 2 and 5 of these. You then need to enter these into your domain registrar’s control panel, so when browsers request your domain they know where to go for the files. The section you enter these name servers into will vary for each registrar, but when you’re viewing the details page for your new domain at the registrar, look for menu items called something like “Transfer DNS to webhost”, “Setup DNS” etc.

Note: Some registrars have menu items called something like “Configure/Setup NameServer”. This isn’t what you want. That’s only if you want to have your own name servers for you blog, which is neither necessary or within the scope of this guide.

3. Installing WordPress

Lets get to the important bit…

Setting Up WordPress

matt mullenweg headshot“as of December 2013, 21% of websites are powered by WordPress. One-fifth of the web is built with a tool that anyone can use, change, or improve, whenever and however they want”Matt Mullenweg

WordPress is the king of blogging platforms. That 21% quoted above is increasing every day. There’s a few reasons why…

  • It can do almost anything (ecommerce, CMS, membership site, photoblog etc)
  • It’s open source, so anyone can use and edit it
  • It runs on any webhost (because it’s written in PHP)
  • There’s a huge community surrounding it
  • There are 30k free plugins and 3k free themes to choose from
  • Many hosts include 1 click installers

That last point is pretty useful…

Installing WordPress

There’s 2 ways to do this. The easy way, and the bit-harder way. There’s no really difficult option, but we like to make things easy.

Most shared hosting companies (A Small Orange and Hostgator included) give you either Fantastico or and/or Softaculous.

If you’ve got the choice (some give you both), I like Fantastico.

What they do is let you install WordPress with 1 click. Which is pretty interesting, especially when you’re setting up loads of blogs.

Here’s how it works…

Installing WordPress On A Small Orange

The “bit-harder” way involves downloading a zip file from WordPress.org, unzipping and uploading to your site via FTP, editing a config file creating a database then running through WP’s step-by-step install screen. I’m mentioning these steps briefly, but you don’t need to do them – the 1 click method’s got you covered.

General Settings

There’s only a couple of basic WordPress settings you need to enter before you can get cracking with writing some content.

Settings > General > Site Title & Tagline

Give your blog a name and description. Many themes will display these in the blog’s header, which appears on every page of your site. You should make sure this includes your blog’s USP.

This is also included in your HTML title and descriptions, which will have an effect on SERP click-through, which is worth keeping in mind.

Settings > Permalinks > Custom Structure

By default, the posts on your blog will have URLs that look like this: http://blogprofitmedia.com/?p=123

While that will work, it’s not ideal for 2 reasons…

  1. Humans can’t tell what it’s about before they visit
  2. Neither can Google

There’s one specific way you should set this up.

screenshot of WordPress permalink setup screen

Choose “Custom Structure” and enter what you see here. It’s below as text for you to copy and paste.

/%category%/%postname/

The reason for using this instead of any other format is simple. It lets people (and Google) know where they are in your site hierarchy – and it gets a few more keywords into the URL to give Google more to chew on.

Menus

WordPress has now got a pretty good menu editor. Assuming your theme is using the correct bits of code to make it work, you can choose what pages comprise your menu via “Apperance > Menus”.

Remember the planning we did earlier in the “Plan The Site Structure” section? Here you’re simply implementing what you’ve already planned, and you’ll be done in a few minutes.

No Follow, No Index

Here’s everything you need to know about nofollow and noindex attributes when blogging…

No Follow

A special tag applied to either a link or a whole page. It tells Google that it should not flow PageRank through either that one link (when used on a single link) or every link on the page (when used in the page’s HTML head). You should only use this on links you don’t trust. WP automatically applies a nofollow attribute to all comments on your blog.

Google claims that any nofollowed links are completely dropped from link graph calculations. But they’re also quite obviously used in other calculations. Most notably when checking how natural your backlink profile is. If you’ve haven’t got some nofollows making up your backlink profile, then it will weight into the algo. So don’t use them in your post content – let WP keep nofollows on blog comments. That’s about it.

No Index

Another mystical tag (this one only included in a page’s head) that tells Google not to include a particular page in it’s index. So it won’t show up in the search results. There are some guys that’ll tell you to noindex WordPress tag, category or archive pages.

Ignore them with contempt.

So long as you’re not showing the full post in the archive view (your theme should take care of this. If not, switch themes) – then you’re set. There’s no need to noindex archive, tag or category pages. You’re in fact hurting yourself. Here’s why…

  1. If you noindex a tag page, the content it links to isn’t going to magically rank higher
  2. You’re taking away another vector that someone can use to find your site through Google
  3. These tag/cat pages are HELPFUL to users. They show a selection of content that’s EXACTLY about what they’re searching for
  4. If you just show an excerpt (not the full post content) then there’s no on-site duplicate content issues to be concerned about

Noindex should be used for pages you don’t want showing up in the index. So they’re are probably a few valid reasons to use it. For example…

  • Contact Us page
  • Privacy Page
  • Disclaimers
  • Terms of Service

Each of these could be debated, so the usage of noindex on these will come down to a case by case basis. If/when you DO want to noindex things – this is the free plugin to do it: Ultimate Noindex Nofollow Tool.

You can also go one step higher and add these pages to your site’s robots.txt file so Googoglebot won’t be allowed to even crawl them.

Logo

Make sure you’ve got a logo that amplifies your UVP. To get it showing up on your site – many themes have point and click sections in the settings where you can upload images from your computer to show as the site’s logo. So that should take care of setting it up.

But a few words about the logo itself. Keep it simple. That means (in general) no cartoon creatures or dancing babies…

original meme animated dancing baby gif

…unless they really, truly are the core of your UVP.

A polished site and logo really do make your site stand apart from the competition. For speed when setting things up, you can just have a text logo (by changing the site name in the WordPress settings) and get rolling with that.

But for better logos, when funds permit, checkout 99designs.

Themes

Design is so important. You need a design that is DIFFERENT. Not one that 1,000’s of other people are using.

Which means you’ll need to do some customizing of your theme, and not just the default settings.

Color Palate

Google around for some basic color psychology so you can see what the competition’s going for. Here’s a crash course:

  • Blues = cold, calming, trusting, professional
  • Reds/Oranges = hot, impulse purchases, excitement
  • Greens/Browns = Earthy, Calming, Natural

For most things I prefer blue, just in case you couldn’t tell from this site’s color palate πŸ™‚
I find it just looks more professional. I don’t make too many sites like “The Handbag Review” though, so don’t have much need for pinks.

For later on when you’re customizing your blog design, remember to pick a contrast color. Van Gogh used this a lot in his paintings. I like these, which use blue and yellow (same combo as this site).

6 vogh paintings that use a lot of blue and yellow tones

See how the color usage compares to the color wheel:

classical color wheel to show which colors complement each other

The blue and yellow/orange combo has been (ab)used in tons of films as well. The lighting and post editing is all rigged to make sure they get the same combo:

3 modern film posters that use blue and yellow/orange as primary, contrasting colors

Premium Themes

The more unique you are, the better. A great way to get a foot up is to get a paid theme – simply because less people use them. You’ll still need to tweak it, but you usually get more options and better performance.

All of these places have GREAT themes. Check them out so you can see if anything will fit your blog:

Plugins

There’s 100’s of breakdowns I could do on WordPress plugins. I can hear more guides calling. So for now I’ll give you a quick start cheat sheet. Simply go down this list, and pick on plugin from each section. My favorite’s at the top of each section, but most are very comparable.

You can always install more later as you get into the flow, but get one in each section below to get started.

SEO

Social

Contact Form

Mobile

Anti Spam

Caching

Tracking

Management

Commment To Email List

List Building

Tracking

You need to be tracking how many visitors hit your blog. You can’t ignore this bit. Pick one of these 2. The important bit is that they’re both 3rd party, externally hosted services. You don’t want to use a WordPress plugin that tracks stats on your blog. None of them are very good, because it’s the wrong way to design that feature.

Clicky

Clicky dot com tracking logo I prefer Clicky. They’ve got a nice stats dashboard, live sky view, link tracking, Twitter tracking and loads more. Every time I’ve contacted support they’ve been awesome (Sean at Clicky has saved my life a few times – cheers mate).

Google Analaytics

Google Analytics logo Google Analaytics is free and has a powerful feature set. I’m just not keen on giving all my data to Google. I used to own a 12 year old domain, with many years of stats. Then one day – everything vanished. No one at Google answered my emails, and I was left in the cold with the site’s entire traffic history wiped clean. So use this with your eyes open – you’re not paying for it, so you can’t expect support.

A Golden Rule

It’s important to keep something in mind when setting up WP. You should be building a blog that will still be around in 10 years.

Which means something that you would gladly tell someone about, and be proud of. Not something that’s just a “dirty Internet project” that you keep hidden.

So as you’re tweaking themes, setting up permalinks and entering your site’s tag-line into WordPress – remember that you’re building something you’d be happy to talk to your family about.

Promotion

mark twain headshot“The spider looks for a merchant who doesn’t advertise so he can spin a web across his door and lead a life of undisturbed peace!”Mark Twain

You need to get into the habit of writing something – then spending at least that much time again promoting it. 50/50 is a good balance in terms of content production and content promotion…

Promotion Schedule

You’ve got to promote your blog. Or how will anyone find it?

So this section will be a crash course in blog branding and marketing.

But make no mistake – this is work. You’ve got to put your back into it and keep taking little bites of the elephant every day.

Write A List

Yes, actually write with a pen.

Create a new list somewhere. Ideally it’s written down, as (at least for me) written things take on a different meaning. I find that by taking it out of the computer and actually using a pen you think about it more than tapping a few keys. But the biggest plus, is – it’s always there on your desk/wall, and you can’t click an “” in the corner to get rid of it. It makes it more real.

picture of notebook with series of lists, divided into days

I’ve tried a lot of systems to manage tasks. But I always come back to the simplicity of a list for each day, in a notebook. There’s reference lists in the back for stuff like promotion that I’ll do regularly, then I just reference it in the daily list. For projects I use Trello.

This list is your daily promotion list. Every day you’re working, you’ll go through this list. It’s arguably the most important thing you’ll do all day. If your content is the cornerstone – this list is the rest of the building.

Here’s how your list should start:

  1. Content Production (i.e. writing stuff for your blog)

Then you’ll add some of the items from below to that list. The more you add the better, but some might not be applicable in all markets. Plus if you’re really good at one thing – do more of that. You’ve got to concentrate on your strengths because you’ll be happier when you’re getting stuff done, and make more progress.

Theory vs Practice

Consistency is the key to building a successful blog. Little actions, repeated every day for many months.

Doing promotion for your blog is really simple in theory. Just do a few things each day. But humans are resistant to change. The mind latches onto things it knows, and doesn’t want to move forward.

But you can change this. Because that frame of mind is simply a learned habit. A habit is just a pattern in the brain. When you do something often enough, the pathways in your brain that facilitate the action become stronger. That’s why you need to practice to get good at anything. You’re just building pathways in your head.

So to become more accepting of change, you simply start thinking that way. It doesn’t matter if it feels awkward, wrong, painful and fake to begin with. Each day you’re promoting your blog (or doing anything really) – you get better at it.

But it works the other way as well. If you skip a day, then you’ve just re-enforced another pathway. It’s the “do it tomorrow”, “just 1 more hour of video games/tv/beer” pathway. And that’s not going to get much traffic to your blog.

So add some of these to your list as we go…

A quick warning: There’s no point doing this type of promotion unless you’ve got a good blog. It will be an uphill battle, you’ll never get traction, and in 6 month’s you’ll burn out. The single most important part of ANY marketing is – first make sure you’ve got something that people actually want.

Google

Google’s great. It will be a fantastic source of traffic for your blog. But not right now. Right now, Google doesn’t care about you and certainly isn’t going to throw you up to #1 with a new domain, no content and no links.

And so long as you’re structuring your site correctly and have enough words on the page for the spiders to chew on – you don’t need to do anything else.

SHOCK HORROR! NO LINK BUILDING?!?!?

That’s right. Because we’ve got better ways to get your blog some much needed traffic.

The basic principle is: you want to cream off some traffic by injecting yourself into current, active communities. By aligning yourself with current groups of people, you can build your audience (and email list). Then you use THEM to rank you in Google.

“Injection Marketing” sounds a bit too painful and clinical, but you get the idea.

So don’t put this on your list right away.

Forums

There’s a forum on any niche. It’s your job to find them. There’s 3 basic ways you can get a good list of niche forums.

  • Ask people on Twitter
  • Search google for “[keywords] forum”
  • Checkout ZetaBoards

Don’t stick to 1 keyword either, because you might get tunnel vision. For example, if you’re in the dog training niche, don’t stick to searching for “dog forum”. you can go both higher and lower in the hierarchy by also checking “puppy forum” then things like “pitbull forum”, “alsatian forum” etc.

When you’ve got a list, eliminate all but the best and biggest ones. 2-5 is a good number to work with.

Create an account on each, and fill out your profile. This means a good avatar, bio – and yes — link to your website. If any of these forums allow signatures, fill those out as well. Don’t be spammy in the signature, and be sure to read the site’s rules before writing. Some won’t allow links, some have to be less then X characters etc. Don’t get off the wrong foot by having a moderator manually delete your signature.

Then make three posts per day, per forum.

Engage people by making these posts genuinely helpful, insightful, interesting, funny etc.

The strategy here is that each post you make will probably have a signature link back to your site. So if someone see your post and likes what you’ve said – they’ll click the link and visit your site. Even if a forum doesn’t have signatures – people will still click on your profile link (much less often, admittedly) to check you out.

Then from time to time you can make a new post essentially promoting your blog. That’s probably a bad choice of words though, because on forums, promotion = spam most of them time.

What you’ll be doing is making a new post and:

Asking for feedback on your blog design, latest piece of content, free guide you’ve created etc.
Saying you created this thing, and know it will help a bunch of people here with X.

You’ve got to post this in a very human and humble tone, and actually listen to what people say in reply. If they think it’s rubbish, then you should tweak it until they like it. This isn’t only free traffic – it’s free feedback on how to improve your blog.

Make sure every new thread you start when promoting your stuff is a 100% topic match to the forum. If you’d want to read it when browsing the forum, then that’s a good first indicator you’re going the right direction. Another indicator is “would a blog in this niche create a new post talking about this if he saw my message here?”.

3 post a day over 6 months is 540 posts. All of which will link back to your site. All of them are mini traffic-getters for your blog. And they’re all helping to brand you as an expert in the niche.

If there’s a forum in your niche – this should go on the promo list.

Social

michael gerber headshot“Experiments have found that caned merriment causes an audience to laugh longer and more often when humorous material is presented and to rate the material as funnier”Robert Cialdini

You’ve got to get involved in social media. It’s one of the best ways to get traffic to you site without using Google – or paying for it.

Claim Your Real Estate

If you’ve got some cash, use KnowEm. They’ll register (and fill in bios, pics etc) on all the socials sites you can think of. A huge time saver.

Otherwise create them yourself. On the bright side, you only have to do it once. There’s a few reasons for wanting an account everywhere…

  1. When someone searches for your blog – you’ll control the first few pages of Google
  2. It’s more vectors for people to stumble across your blog
  3. It stops someone else getting your name and squatting it
  4. A good chunk of the time you can put a backlink in your profile

Primary & Secondary Social Sites

Depending on exactly what you’re niche is, what the UVP is and who you’re targeting you’ll be able to divide all the available social sites into 2 lists.

The primary and secondary sites.

Imagine each of these social channels as different colored filters. They’re ways for people to see what you’re doing, but each represents a different side of you. That means that if you’ve got an image in a blog post that you now want to syndicate – don’t blast it out everywhere (at least not to the primary social sites below). Put items that match the theme and audience on the correct site.

  1. Follow leaders and prospects so you can see what they’re talking about
  2. Talk to people in your niche with @ replies
  3. Retweet/Reblog/Repin the best highly relevant bits that match your angle and niche
  4. Post about what you’re doing if people will find it interesting
  5. Every so often (not all the time) put a link to a specific post on your site, if the social site allows it

Backlinks

You don’t have to worry about backlinks for this guide. it’s a waste of your time. Time that would be much better spent creating content and building the brand of your blog. Let other guys worry about links, because you won’t have to.

Instead think about how you can get more traffic – without Google sticking it’s nose in at all. Look at the Alexa top 500 list. Google is one, single site in that list. Fair enough, it’s at #1. But the long-tail is where all he traffic is anyway. Take a few seconds to browse that list, and think what you’d do on each site if you were (for example) a PR guy at a Fortune 500 company. Then you’ll be closer to the long term approach.

Hitchhiking

One you’ve got some content on your blog so it’s not an empty shell, you can (and should) start doing this.

You’re interacting with experts in your niche, and by doing so, exposing yourself to their circle of followers. Which means you can borrow some traffic from them.

There’s an art to picking the right people. You don’t want Oprah Winfrey level popularity. You’re looking for people who routinely interact with their audience. You can see this pretty quickly. If someone’s replying to 90% of the comments people make on the their blog, and/or they use Twitter and most of the Tweets are @ replies – then they’re a good candidate.

Interviewing A Known Blogger/Expert In Your Niche

Connect on social media first and chat for a few weeks. Then contact them and say you’d love to interview them for your blog. Tell them you’ll be emailing the interview out to your email list, so they know they can get extra exposure as well (if you’re list is ready that is, but it should be).

Do either a video (skype), audio (skype) or text (email or IM) interview, in that order of preference.

Put it on your blog, then mention it on social media and email it out.

Now take all the useful quotes, snippets and insights you can from the content. Turn them into nice images, animated GIFs, short video clips etc. Lots of different media formats and designs.

Now use this content to help promote that post. Twitter, FaceBook and others let you include a custom image when you make a post. Use these image – it adds more appeal to the stream, and gets you higher click through rates.

There are 2 main benefits from this whole approach.

  1. You’re now associated with the expert in the minds of people who read the content
  2. The expert will almost certainly tweet about it or mention on their blog. Which means you get traffic.

Maybe add an “Monthly Interview” list to your content production schedule. Each time you add an interview like this, you’ll get a traffic spike – and a lower but significant boost is regular, daily visitors.

You won’t get a “yes” to every email however. You probably won’t even get replies to some. That’s not a problem – there’s plenty of people to interview in any niche. And it’s not only people in the SERPS you can interview. Hit up Amazon and search for your keywords. There’s TONNES of authors here who’ve written a book, but haven’t got a blog. Shoot them an email and ask for an interview.

Pingbacks

There’s another take on this approach that isn’t as powerful (but is more scalable). When you link to someone’s blog, most blogging platforms will do a “pingback” to the blog you linked to. This lets them know you linked to them.

Additionally, when you click a link from your site to theirs, your browsers will pass a referrer letting the other blog know where you’ve come from. Almost all stats packages will show these referrers in a list. And bloggers that are on the ball (hint hint) will keep an eye on this list, so they know where new traffic’s coming from.

So, create posts with a short writeup on 10 experts in your niche, each with a picture and link to their site. When it’s published, click on each link from your site to theirs.

Then shoot them all a tweet and just let them know they’ve been featured on your blog. A few will tweet you back, and usually 1 or 2 will retweet you. People love to be flattered like this, and it’s basically promoting them.

Now they know you – and this opens up the gate to further collaboration in the future, like guest posting.

Chunked Syndication Strategy

People learn in different ways. And those preferences change when consuming different types of information. Not only that – for every type of media, there’s tons of good sites that will facilitate distribution for you. So here’s a good rule of thumb to maximize your content’s exposure.

But have a common sense filter before just blasting stuff out. Don’t send your 3.5 hour in-depth audio guide to Facebook – people haven’t got the patience. Match the media to the platform. I keep this in mind when actually writing the content and picking/creating images. So at content creation time, I’m actually making a particular snippet match a social channel – to simplify the syndication process…

  1. Write a blog post
  2. Make select chunks of it into a PDF, and submit to DocStock, Scribed and SlideShare
  3. Take the images and submit to Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr
  4. Take any quotes (from you or other people) and schedule in Twitter, FaceBook and Tumblr
  5. Turn each quote into an image with a pic of the guy and/or a niche background, and schedule some more for Twitter, FaceBook and Pinterest
  6. Create an mp3 version of your blog post. Submit to podcast directories + SoundCloud. Get it done by a pro if you’re not doing it yourself
  7. Create a video either talking around the content in your post – or adding additional angles/viewpoints/explanations to something in the text. Submit to Vimeo, Youtube
  8. Break interesting bits of the video up. Submit 15 second clips to Instagram, and 6 second clips to Vine

For bonus points tie in any bite sized promo pieces to current media events, then mention those events (or hashtags) when posting to the social media sites.

So ideally there’d be a magic software that would do all this for me. Until someone decides to make it – here’s how I execute the plan.

When I’ve written some content, I’ll make a note of all the bite sized elements I can extract. Quotes, images, video clips etc. I’ll put them all in an excel file, with a column for the post URL – then all the elements underneath. There are notes like “video about fishing from post”, so that I can find it later – I’m not embedding tons of videos into excel. Even if that’s possible – it’s not a good idea.

Then each day I take a few rows at random and post them to the relevant channels. Some will go to Pinterest. Some will be emailed out to a list (or added to a follow up sequence). Some will get tweeted about, and so on.

The important thing to remember here is that you don’t have to do all this. Pick the bits that will gel with your niche and approach. But use the ideas above to formulate your own, unique strategy that you’ll be able to execute like clockwork for each piece of content on your site.

This is perfect stuff to get outsourced to a Virtual Assistant later on as well, so don’t worry about all your time being spend slicing and syndicating bits of every post into the future.

Blog Commenting

Each blog is it’s own separate little community. With it’s own readers. Reader that you can connect with, to increase your sites traffic.

Track Where People Mention You

Which basically means Google Alerts, which is free. As Google crawls the web, they’ll tell you when they find a specific keyword. Pretty useful, but they’ve cut waaay back on what they show you recently. But it’s still worth using.

Enter in all the various ways of arranging your blog’s name (spaces, no spaces etc), add the same for your top 3 competitors, and maybe a few relevant niche keywords.

Then watch your email, and jump on anything you get notified about. Comment on any blogs that mention you to thank them and get involved with the conversation.

Follow Key Blogs

Remember all the main blogs in your niche from earlier? I’d add them to Feedly so I can keep a closer eye on them, and be sure to comment on anything of interest. For the first few comments on a new blog – I don’t fill out the URL field when making a comment. That’s because many bloggers manually review the first comment someone makes. So you get approved quicker and easier – then I’ll start adding URLs to subsequent comments. (It’s not like we’re spamming comments here, they’ll all be top quality engagements with the content)

Then I also use BuzzSumo occasionally to hit a specific keyword and find new blogs to comment on. Some of which I’ll add to Feedly if they’re good enough.

How about some more promo ideas?

That’s another of the main guides being worked on. If you want to know when it’s out – let me know your name and email below.
[bpminline]

Scaling The System

michael gerber headshot“Pretend that the business you own – or want to own – is the prototype, or will be the prototype, for 5,000 more just like it. Not almost like it, but just like it. Perfect replicas. Clones.”Michael Gerber

Ok, say you’ve got a blog setup now. It’s bring in traffic for you, and you’re actually making some money.

Don’t scale yet – go deeper into the blog you’ve got. This means that you should NOT be putting all the cash from the site into your own pocket. That’s what idiots do. You need to reinvest this money into growing your site, so you can 10x the revenue.

  • Up the post rate
  • Make longer articles
  • Add some useful tools to your blog
  • Create a new “Images” category (call it something relevant to your niche) and post you take on current niche events with images
  • Etc

Essentially more content, more testing, more marketing.

You won’t have reached the ceiling for your blog by a long shot, so the easiest way for you to get more traffic is to make the one blog better.

However, if you’ve already built your blogs traffic and monthly revenue, then you might want to change things up a bit. It’s entirely optional, and one blog might be a perfect fit for you. But if you want to grow, you’ve got several options.

More Writers

You’ll probably see by now, that how much you make depends on the number of (quality) posts you make. So you want quality AND quantity to scale.

Which means that you’re the bottleneck. So you need more human horse power. So…

Pay Per Article

For low quality fluff content written in bad English you’ll pay around $5-10 per 500-1000 word post. But that’s not what you’re looking for.

We need quality, insightful writing. Which means you’re looking at about $30 per post, as each one will take more than an hour to research and write. And still you won’t get world class content, but we’re not looking for that right now.

To find these writers, here’s a few places to get you started…

If you are looking for world class content, either be the expert and write everything yourself, or find other experts and make friends. You probably can’t pay for top draw content. What you need is…

Guest Posting

This is where you ask someone to make a post on your blog. They get exposure, and you get content. It can work either way around, so you could be posting on other peoples blogs.

This time-tested technique got a bad rep recently. Matt Cutts of Google isn’t a fan. But his rant was directed at the guys doing it for links. So don’t spam 100 guest blog offers to other blogs and post low-quality content.

What I’m suggesting is that you use guest blogging, but you’ve got to do something else first.

Build relationships.

Find the top 3 blogs in your niche. Excel is a good place to keep all this data. Make a note of the blog URL, owners name and their main social profile URLs. Then take a look at their blogs, and find who their friends are. This could be other people who’ve guest posted on their blog before. It could be someone who they’re always talking to on Twitter. Make notes of these people too.

Your list might be 30 people now. These are your targets. You’ve got to engage them. Which means first following them on the social networks you’re a part of. Then reading the content they produce, and discussing, giving your opinion, suggesting improvements, commenting on their blogs, offering help etc.

Do this for at least 30 days.

Then the people who’ve responded, you can reach out to. Shoot them an email mentioning where you know them from, link to your blog, and ask if they’d consider a short guest post on your blog. Start with the friends of the top guys first. I can’t stress enough that if your blog and it’s content isn’t at least up to the same standard as the blogs you’re wanting to swap posts with – then it probably won’t work. You’ve got to bring the goods for them to take notice.

What you do next borders on promotional strategies, which we’ll dive into later on…

Hire People Part / Full Time

If you require plenty of content, and your blog can afford it – this is a good option. You’ll probably pay less than if you arranged it on a per-article basis, and you’ve got increased reliability from dealing with the same people.

You can checkout the same places mentioned above to find people (The Problogger Job Board, and Odesk). The difference is simply in what you ask people for.

Managing Writers

Give them each their own profile in WordPress. I touched on this (for a different reason) above, but you could just collect the content via email then post it yourself under one profile. That’s not the right approach though. Firstly, you want to give your writers a sense of ownership. Which means feature the writers name under the title, with a link to more posts by them. This is theme dependent, so keep an eye out for something that makes author profiles accessible when picking a theme.

Also you’ll probably want to setup Google Authorship for your multi author blog. You know those pics of authors next to search results in Google? That’s what this does. And the benefit here is a drastic increase in click through rates, and more traffic from Google personal search for people who are in your Google+ “circles”. The good news is – it’s a pretty simple, one-time thing to setup.

  1. There’s a WP plugin to set most of it up
  2. Each author will need a Google+ profile
  3. You should add each author as a contributor in Google Webmaster Tools

One option you might like the sound of, is to give each writer their own blog. So you’d setup the blog and make the first few posts as suggested above, then have only one writer posting content on that blog. This will make some things similar, and some things more complicated. For example, you’ll have a clearer idea of who’s content is doing better – as all the traffic for a particular site will come to one writers posts. But it means you’ll have to manage many more blogs.

Personally I don’t find managing WP blogs too tough, because there’s lots of tools to help with this. For example, ManageWP is something everyone running multiple blogs should be using from day 1. It’s such a life and time-saver. You can remotely manage updates, plugins, themes, security, backups, posting – pretty much any WP task – from one central dashboard. Oh – and it’s free for your first 5 websites.

To start with, either you write the titles, or get them to write 10 title ideas for different posts and run them past you. This is for 2 reasons. Firstly, to make sure that they’re up to the task. Secondly, to ensure that you’re both on the same page. Even if you’ve found an awesome writer that knows your niche – they might not be coming from the same place or using the same style/tone that you’d planned for the blog. This might be fine, but you need to be in control here – especially at the start.

Start Another Blog

You’ll need more writers before you tackle this. Because if you’ve got oodles of free time to do it yourself – you should be building your first blog.

For the first few blogs I’d suggest that you write the first few posts, and set things up. It will set the tone, and show what you expect. So make them really good posts that you want to use as a template for the rest of the site. Also get really clear on the site structure and the keywords you want the blog to target.

When you’ve got one or more writers (however you’re organizing paying for the content), you simply create them a new user account on your WordPress blog. If you give them the “Contributor” role, they’ll have to submit each post for review for you, before it goes live. This is a nice way for you to sign-off on the final posts, and manage multiple authors on your blog.

screenshots of what WordPress admin sees in the post editing area, compared with what an contributor sees. The difference is contributors can only submit as draft - not post live.

Apart from this, there’s some other things to keep in mind…

Demographic Funnel System

You’ve got one blog that’s working, at some level. Great.

By now you should know what else your audience is interested in. Pick a few things that:

  • You like/know
  • Your audience like
  • Is related in some way to your main blog’s theme

Then we’re going to scoop up a ton of free traffic from places your market is already visiting. We’re going to build something like this:

Link diagram showing series of demographic funnell sites sending traffic to the main blog.

This is the demographic funnel system. Your blog’s in the middle, with it’s main social sites below it. Each “DFS” oval is a demographic funnel site (details below). They’ve each got their own social sites, which are the red S’s pointing to them.

Notice how it looks a bit like link network diagrams? Well, it’s the business version of that link building tactic. This is casting a net to provide value in the form of news aggregation. Then funneling those eyeballs to your main site, where the monetization happens. This is a business system diagram, not a link network.

With this funnel theme, you can go up, down, across or stay where you are, so it’s relevent if your blog is about high performance cars or SEO Swansea. As a talking point, let’s say your blog is about “Puppy Training”. Here’s some examples to show you the direction your theme could move in…

  • Up: Dog training or animal training
  • Down: Bulldog puppy training or barking puppy training
  • Across: Pet treats for puppys or puppy health
  • Stay where you are: Another “Puppy Training” blog, or a slight spin, like “1000 ways not to train your puppy” funny pics.

You create this blog on a different platform. One with social sharing features built in, so you can bootstrap their user base. Here’s some examples you might want to pick from:

In the sidebar on each blog (if they allow it) you include a message about who the blog is written by, and link to your other (main) blog. For every 5 posts about the blog’s theme, make one about the theme of your main blog, with a link back to get traffic.

As a result, you’re getting free advertising and attracting traffic via a complimentary slice of the market, without spending any money.

You can create one blog on each of the above platforms. Aim for at least one post per week. And for content you want things that easy to produce. You’ve got to can manage the increased load, so focus on:

  1. List Articles: e.g. “7 strange ways to stop your puppy barking”
  2. News Commentary: Watch your niche RSS, and do a few hundred words write up with images and links
  3. Interviews: Shoot an email out each week asking a niche expert for an email interview. Write 10 good questions for the ones who are interested.
  4. Niche Media: Post any good images, GIFs or videos that bubble up in your niche.
  5. Q&A: The post title is a question. The content is the answer.

(Any of the above could be the exclusive angle for your blog by the way)

The aim is to create a place your target viewers would want to visit to get an update on that topic. It doesn’t mean you have to write huge blog posts – just the opposite in fact. You’re being a curator and aggregator of niche information.

Each site should have at least 3 of the following social profiles (they’re mentioned above as well in the social section):

Again, this is a guideline list of sites that I like. There’s other great ones as well, and if they fit your niche better – great – use that one instead (or as well).

Post your new blog posts to these social accounts, and while you’re there – talk to a few people so your feed isn’t just a big list of links. Comment on other peoples content, like/repin/reblog a few things related to the topic, and get involved a bit.

When Do You Quit?

So when do you quit your job?

Unless you’ve got a nest egg to live off while you’re building the blog, hang in there for now!

postit note saying 'I Quit' stuck to computer monitor

Don’t stick this to your monitor just yet… you’ll need a blog that can support you first.

After your blog’s bringing in enough for you to live off (for around 6 consecutive months) that’s a good time.

You personal circumstances will play a big role, but you’ll know when the timing is right.

Exit Strategy

Begin with the end in mind. Or at least have some idea of where this is all going.

By an exit strategy, I’m not necessarily talking about you selling the blog. By “exit” I mean when are done with the site (for whatever reason) – what will happen to it? What’s the endgame for the blog?

Here’s the 2 basic things you can do for exit strategies with your blog.

Sell

If you want to do this, it’s good to have it in mind from the start, but not necessarily do anything differently. Here’s the type of blog that will be appealing to a potential buyer:

  1. It takes you almost zero time to manage
  2. You’ve got several writers creating regular, quality content
  3. There’s 6+ months of monetization history, from multiple sources
  4. You’re getting healthy traffic levels, from multiple channels
  5. The site looks good – in terms of design, features – and UVP
  6. You’ve got a big email list

Keep those bullets in mind. Your goal should be to build a blog that fits as many of those as possible (even if you’re not planning on selling it).

In terms of selling the blog, it’s best to not worry about who will buy it up front. You can pre-identify a select group of companies that would buy the blog then essentially build it to compete with them, until they’re forced to acquire you. But it’s best to just target a healthy, profitable demographic – then you’ll always have potential buyers.

It’s interesting to browse sites like Flippa to see what’s being sold, but remember that public sites like that are close to the bottom of the barrel. You’ll want to look for a private buyer – because you’ll get a better deal.

I won’t even touch on how much your blog would sell for, because the answer depends on all the details. So it ranges from nothing to millions – because you’re not building a blog. you’re building a business. A business with a large email list – so there’s definite value there once you build it.

Expand

I don’t mean this in the usual way. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a script will do all the work.

It means that you should free yourself from the day-to-day of running the blog. Which means having a system that produces, promotes and monetizes content for you. So essentially the section of this guide that deals with bringing writers on board.

You build out a series of blogs (ideally in tangential niches so you can cross promote), and then you’re managing the network.

Passive Income

If you plan on keeping the blog as a passive income stream, and posting every so often – that’s fine. You’ve of course got the few years up front while you build the blog, but once you’ve got a strong base you’ll certainly have passive income.

The problem I always find is that once you’ve set a blog up – and it’s working – you want to spend more time on it. I want it to grow and improve.

FAQ

  • How long will it take to set everything up? Most places that explain how to start a blog say you can do it “in 4 minutes” or something close. If you simply mean installing WordPress, then sure – 4 minutes is overestimating.If you mean going through everything above, from idea, to WP install and config, to monetization – then you’re looking at a couple of days minimum.
  • How long until I see some results? It depends on so many variables. Whenever this question is asked it turns into a 3 hour dialog whilst I try and nail down exactly what they’re going to do, what niche, how they’re monetizing, what promo strategy they’ve got, what the competition is like etc.The range is between never (if you give up) and 10 years (if you keep doing something that doesn’t work).I know from direct experience though, when planning anything – *some* numbers are better than none. Simply to help set some initial goalposts, and as a reality check to see if something is doable.Most blogs are throw up, not branded, have bad content and promoted with spam links. These blogs die on their feet now that Google’s Panda update (targeting bad content) and Penguin update (targeting bas links) have hit.Before I go further, a disclaimer.

    The next statement is based on you giving this a good chunk of each day, and constantly trying new monetization methods, being active on social profiles, writing engaging content for the blog. And building it all on top of a solid UVP.

  • How much will it all cost? Around $10 for a domain name, around $3/month in hosting.
    Any other costs are optional, but they’ll help make things easier (like nicer themes, marketing plugins etc)
    That’s excluding your time, of course.
  • How much time will it take to maintain? After the initial setup (which will take a few days), the biggest block of your time will be spend creating content.
  • How the hell can I find time to do all this? I assume you’re asking because you’ve got a full/part time jobs already. Maybe you’ve got a partner, hobbies and other life commitments.
    Maybe even a couple of kids. A dog that needs walking. A Slow Loris to tickle.
    slow loris with arms in air being tickledOk, so here’s the bottom line. You haven’t got time for this. So if you’re so slammed you’re wondering how to fit this in – you’ll have to cut some things out. Which means:β€’ Get a friend to look after the Parakeet for a week while you get setup β€’ Take a hammer to your tv. Don’t watch any (unless you’re starting a tv review blog!) β€’ Don’t go out. Drink at home instead.If you commute any distance to work, either type on the train/bus – or at least listen to blogging, marketing and business podcasts to learn more and shortcut how long the whole process takes you.

    If you travel by car… well you can’t get much done during that time.

  • When starting a blog, how do you get past the cold start problem? See the promotion section for the “New blog kickstart”. You didn’t skip it, did you?!?
  • What’s the best niche to start a blog in, in 2014? The “best” niche is one you have experience with, are motivated to create lots of content around – and has lots of monetization options.
  • How can I guarantee my blog will be successful? You can’t. I can’t. No one can.For one reason – it depends how you spend your time.But I’ll tell you how to maximize the chances that your blog will be a success…
    (The answer’s at the end of the guide)
  • Should I create a blog for my small business? It won’t do you any harm.
    And might bring you more business if you write the right kind of content.
  • Should I form a company before starting my blog? No – it’s not necessary.
    It will be a few months to a year before you start earning reasonable commissions, so just declare what you do earn as extra income personally for now.
    When you’re making enough that you want to quit your job and do it full time – that’s a good time.
  • Do I have to write all the blog post myself? Probably. At least to start with.
    Be warned though – you’ve gone through the process a developing a UVP that’s based on your strengths.
    If you outsource the content production too soon you’ll likely lose that and water down the brand (and your readership with it).
  • Is guest blogging something I should do for promotion? Matt Cutts (Google’s head of web spam) would tell you otherwise.
    But essentially it’s fine, so long as you do it for traffic and branding – not for links.
  • Should I start a blog about 1 thing, or a general blog? 1 thing. Trust me – it’s far, far easier to get decent traffic to sustain your blog by focusing in.
    Even when you’ve picked 1 thing – you’re still probably not going niche enough.
    The way to do it, is pick a micro micro niche. Then when you’ve got a few thousands monthly visitors, slowly add more categories to you site over a few years to expand the focus.
    BUT – remember to keep it all under the same, original UVP, or you’ll start to repel the original audience.A tricky balance.A good alternative strategy is to start 1 super focused blog.
    Then start another in a tangentially related niche (i.e. something the same demographic would be interested in).
    Then use your original blog and email list to bootstrap the second.This doesn’t mean you can’t go after a huge market. You certainly can – but get a really unique twist to differentiate yourself. As when you’ve done that, you will have gone pretty micro with the niche anyway.
  • What’s the easiest blogging system to get started with? Do you really want the easiest, or do you want the best (assuming they’re both free?)
    Wordpress is the “best” in my opinion as it’s got the largest community and can do almost anything you want.
    For more info on this see the “Free or paid host” section near the top of this guide.
  • How can I have a completely automated blog that makes money? Yes. After you’ve put in the work over a couple of years to build the brand and content, you could stop everything and the money would continue for years.If you’re asking how to get an automated blog setup and earning in (say) a day, then that’s also possible. But that’s a very different guide. That approach is based on short term scale, not long term quality.So doable, but different.
  • What are my options if I’m not an expert in a specific field? You don’t need to be an expert. There’s a good section on this near the top of the guide, with a list of ideas.One of them guarantee’s you a good blog idea.
  • Should I start a blog with another person, or on my own? Many hands make light work?
    or
    Too many cooks spoil the broth?
    I’d say if you know and trust them, and you go through the idea planning stage together (so you both feel joint ownership of the idea) – the sure, go for it.Just make sure you remain the WordPress “Admin” – and make them an “Editor” (one grade lower) in case things go bad and you need to retain control. Remember what Mr.Branson said above.
  • What are some “must have” plugins for WordPress? It’s categories of plugin that are “must haves” – not really any one specifically. You’ll want at least one of the top 3 of each of these: β€’ SEO plugin β€’ Caching plugin β€’ Social plugin β€’ Contact Form β€’ Mobile Plugin β€’ Anti SpamFrom there, anything else will depend on your blog and what you’re doing.I’ll be doing a separate guide reviewing different combos of plugins later.
  • How can I make a good blog if English isn’t my first language? Simple – write in your language, and target your country.
  • Can I start a blog on a free platform, then move when I outgrow it? It’s possible, yes. Some of the free blog platforms have export options, and you can then pull these into WordPress.
    But you’ll lose you traffic when you move, and end up wasting a lot of time trying to recreate things on another domain.
    Do yourself a favor and start your own website from day 1.
  • How many posts should I make per week? More is better, but you’ll want at least 1 per week.
    As a goalpost aim for 5 a week.
    The main consideration is – have you actually got something to say?
    Don’t just write fluff for the sake of it.
  • How can I come up with enough ideas for things to write about? 1. Watch competitors 2. Take themes from mainstream news and put your niche’s spin on it 3. Speculate on future happenings on your topic 4. Write thoughts or insights about past eventsThe takeaway here is that because we’re on a time line, there are always new things coming, and tons of stuff behind us – and you can write about any of them.
  • What’s the best WordPress theme for me to use? Depends a lot on your UVP and content strategy, but you usually can’t go wrong with clean and simple.
  • Can WordPress handle thousands of articles? Yes, but you have to use a caching plugin like WP Super Cache from day 1. WP isn’t exactly speedy when it’s fresh out-the-box, so it needs a bit of help in that department.But with a caching plugin you’ll have no problems with lots of articles.

Fin

cartoon style 'thats all folks' image

Did you notice?

This guide is about how to “Start a blog”, then “Quit your job”. So you probably came here looking for the quick tricks, money making tactics and easy setup techniques. I hope I delivered a good dose of these above.

But I wrapped the whole thing in a coat of Value Proposition, copywriting and common sense. I did that because for every 1000 blogs that get created, 1 seems to actually be worth reading. You should make that one.

This is the single best time in all of history to start a blog. It’s so easy now with the tools available, but most people haven’t really grasped what’s possible if they put in the work. This window won’t last forever… you’ve got to catch the train before 100’s of strong, independent brands pop-up in your niche.

Now is the time to create a blog.

Create A Solid Plan BEFORE You Start

abraham lincoln headshot“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”Abraham Lincoln

You’re planning the structure, angle and path of your blog for the next 5 years, so it deserves a couple of days getting everything in line. Listen to Abe – don’t skim on the planning.

Yes, this means writing things down. Drawing diagrams. Setting goals. Creating time-lines. Don’t just rush in fueled by temporary adrenaline and enthusiasm, without knowing the full picture.

pic of signage over entrace to a collage. It says 'College of Architecture and planning', but the first letter C in College had to be stuck around the corner, as they failed to plan for the space

Create a plan before you start, or you’ll end up with something like this.

How To Guarantee Failure

woody allen headshot“Eighty percent of success is showing up”Woody Allen

There it is, in a nutshell. (And it’s more profound than you’ll realize at first).
You’ve just got to stick at it. The other 20% you need is above.

Pretty much the only reason you’ll fail to make money with your blog is if you stop trying. Or to put it another way – keep going and you’ll make it.

Here’s the magic formula:

  1. Know what you’re good at
  2. Tie that into a blogging strategy
  3. Keep trying new things
  4. Don’t give up

Here’s another take on exactly what it takes…

So stop reading, and start creating your blog.

andy baker signiture

P.S

This is the very first guide on the site, so I hope I’ve done it justice and it’s given you ideas and motivation to get your first blog up and running.

Got any follow up questions or criticism? Please hit a few keys and let me know in the comments. I’m open to any feedback, and I really appreciate you getting to the end (even if you did hit the END key on the keyboard!).

handwritten note: thanks for reading!