In this article, I’m sharing with you the exact steps that I took to build a blog that makes over $7000 a month in just one year. To be fully transparent, this isn’t exactly my first blog. It is my third blog that I’ve been working on for the last year and I’ve had multiple blogs before that as well. I started blogging about 4 years back but I didn’t get serious up until 2 years ago when I realized that there was so much more potential to blogging than I had originally thought of.
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I first started as a hobby then converted it into a side hustle and now I do this full-time and run my online business based out of Germany. What is amazing about running a completely online business is that I don’t necessarily need to be in Germany at any point to be able to run this business. The freedom that I’ve been able to build for myself is not just financial but also the fact that I’m able to, for example, right now stay at my parent’s home indefinitely and work out of here as well. So there’s a lot of flexibility that comes with owning an online business.
STEP #1 PICK A NICHE AND SUB-NICHE
A niche can be 2 things.
1) It can be the category that you want to operate in. For example, if your category is technology then you will be a technology blogger.
2) Your niche can also be about the audience that you want to reach out to. For example, you want to have a blog that connects with moms which means that your category will be as a mom blogger.
Not only do you want to pick a niche at the beginning but you also want to look at the sub-niche or the subcategory that you are interested in. For example, if you are a technology blogger then you want to focus on just talking about tablets and reviewing tablets, etc. If you are a mom blogger maybe you can just focus on millennial working moms to connect to a specific section of that audience.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see bloggers make especially at the beginning is that they pick a niche that is too broad. So if you pick a niche that is very broad, not only will you have a hard time establishing your authority or your expertise in that niche but you will also have a hard time differentiating yourself from all the hundreds, thousands, and millions of bloggers out there. Also when it comes to ranking on places like Google, YouTube, or even Pinterest, it gets really hard to rank when you have generic content and when you’re competing with a very large pool of audience.
It pays off to think about what your broader niche or category is going to be about and what is the sub-niche that you want to focus on. It helps you to start by building your expertise and authority in one particular place and attract visitors to that particular niche.
2 tips to picking a niche
- Pick a niche that grows with you.
I usually like to put my niches to the two-year test. Would it be possible for me to consistently provide value in this particular niche for the next 2 years? Am I interested in being in this niche for at least the next 2 years? If the answers to these questions are yes, then that is a good sign. If you cannot imagine yourself growing in that niche for the next 2-3 years and you’re just interested because you think it is trending at the moment but you’re gonna lose interest further down the line, then that’s a bad idea for you to start blogging with. Blogging isn’t a sprint but it is a marathon especially if you want to turn it into a profitable business.
- Pick a niche that has competition.
Even though it sounds counterintuitive to a lot of people and they think that they should start blogging in a niche that no one has ever ventured out in. The problem with that approach is that it becomes very hard for you to monetize in that niche especially if you are an absolute beginner. If you’ve had multiple blogs and already been successful with scaling those blogs, you can have very specific micro niche sites. However, as a beginner, you want to pick a site in a particular niche or category where there is at least some level of competition.
Generally, when there is a competition, that showcases that there is some kind of demand in the market for that niche or the content in that niche which means that there is money in that niche as well. When you are in a niche that no one has ever explored before that means when you sit down to monetize that niche, you’re gonna have a hard time being able to do that because of the fact that it is a very new niche.
STEP #2 BUY A DOMAIN AND HOST
A domain is simply your blog name or brand name that you want to be remembered as. For example, my current domain is digitalempires.co and my blog name is Digital Empires. Of course, you can get a domain with .com which is always the preferred option but in case you’re not able to get it, you can also get a domain like .co or a country-level domain depending on where it is that you start your blog.
There are multiple hosts in the market that you can start with. However, I recommend starting with a self-hosted option which means that you’re not sharing your hosting with anyone else. This goes along the same lines as not building a house on borrowed land which is exactly what you do when you go with a shared hosting option instead of a self-hosting option.
For beginners, I recommend HostGator which has very affordable plans and you can get a 60% off when you use the link here.
The problem with shared hosting sites like Wix or Squarespace is that you have limited customization available to you, especially in the long run when you want to develop your blog as a bigger brand and business. There are also issues that come up when it comes to monetizing your blog with certain ad networks as well as affiliate programs.
If you want to start a blog that is going to be a long-term business, I highly recommend taking the time to set up, understand and install a self-host with your domain so that you give yourself the best chance to succeed in the long run.
Picking a name:
The mistake that I see a lot of people making at this stage is that they spend way too much time thinking about the perfect blog name or brand name. What you start with might very well evolve so you have to give yourself that much grace when it comes to picking a blog or a brand name. It doesn’t make sense to spend years and months figuring out exactly what your name or brand should be because I feel like that’s just one way to procrastinate and never start a blog in the first place.
Make sure to pick a name that is specific but not so specific that it boxes you in. For example, if you start a blog which is called Feta recipes you’re only going to be limited to Feta recipes especially when it comes to ranking on Google. This means that when you’re starting a blog that is in one particular niche make sure to give yourself enough space and room to grow and expand in the long run because your interests and tastes might change over time.
When in doubt you can always start with your own personal name especially if you want to be a personal brand or an influencer and then you can modify that with one or two combinations based on the niche that you’re targeting. Also make sure not to add random numbers, hyphens, or special characters that make it hard for people to remember your blog because it should be really easy for the people to remember.
The bottom line is this. Pick a name that gives you at least a little bit of flexibility to pivot and change in the long run and make sure to get a self-host right from the beginning to be able to monetize your blog easily further down the line.
STEP #3 INSTALL WORDPRESS AND A THEME
WordPress is a content management system or CMS that is going to act as the backend of your blog where you create a blog post and do all of the different technical things that you need to do to make your blog run well.
Once you’ve installed WordPress on your site you have the backend ready to go. You also want to make sure to install a compatible WordPress theme that decides how your blog looks like for all the new visitors from the outside.
You can start with a free theme and I don’t think that you need to invest in a paid theme right away. Some of the best themes to start in the beginning includes Astra, Hestia, OceanWP and they have paid upgrades as well. If you’re ready to upgrade to a paid theme, I recommend looking into Studiopress themes which run on the Genesis framework. You can also look at Themeisle for different WordPress themes.
I want to mention one thing which I believe keeps a lot of bloggers stuck in the wrong place is spending way too much time obsessing over how your website looks. Even though branding is essential and it does matter in the long run, at the beginning this is not going to make or break your blog. How successful you are and how much money you make are not going to be heavily impacted by how beautiful your site looks.
3 properties to look at when you’re picking out a theme for your blog.
- Your theme should be fast and it should be quick to load on mobile, tablet & desktop.
- Your theme should be customizable which enables you to customize fonts and colors so that you can keep changing it as you build and develop your brand.
- Your theme should be attractive but it should also be functional.
At this stage, your focus should be setting the foundation in a correct manner so that you’re able to build a blog into a business in the long run. You can always invest more money into hiring a web designer or upgrading to paid themes when your blog starts to grow and you get more confident about your blogging skills.
STEP #4 CREATE IN-DEMAND BLOG POSTS
Here’s the harsh about starting out as a blogger:
‘No one really cares about what you’re doing but people do care about what you can do for them’.
When you have a value-first approach when it comes to being a blogger then you’re going to be able to monetize your blog and become an expert in your niche much faster. Any business in the world is in exchange for value which means that in exchange for the money you get a certain amount of goods or services. In this case, as a blogger, the information you provide through your blog. So whenever you’re thinking of creating content you always want to create which actually has a demand and serves a particular need or provides a value to a certain segment of your target audience.
One of the metrics to figure out the in-demand blog posts is to figure out what keywords are trending or popular in your niche. There are multiple tools out there. Some of my favorites include Keysearch, Google Keyword Planner & Pinterest Trends.
The biggest mistake that most bloggers make when creating content is that they create blog posts that no one wants to read and then they wonder why no one is showing up on their blog. Think about it this way. There are billions of blogs out there but why should someone specifically go to your blog and read your blog post. So you have to be clear about the differentiation that your blog provides but also want to make sure that you’re actually curating and writing articles that are high in demand specifically targeting your particular niche category or audience.
STEP #5 FIGURE OUT HOW TO DRIVE TRAFFIC
It is not just enough for you to set up a pretty website, write a bunch of blog posts and then wait for the magic and the money to roll in. You will have to actively go out and look for readers and visitors for your blog so that you can get that initial traction that is required to grow in the long run.
There are 3 main traffic sources to focus on especially at the beginning. Each of these traffic sources has a different approach and they require a certain time as strategic commitment to grow your traffic from them.
Google is obviously the hardest traffic source to rank on because everyone’s blog is by default on Google and you will be competing with billions of blogs out there. The upside of this is that once you figure out how to rank on Google and you have a lot of organic traffic coming in from Google then that’s something that usually tends to stick around for a while and you can also reach a very large audience.
It can take anywhere between 6 months to 1 year in the beginning for a new website to rank on Google. Unless you’re very patient and okay to wait for one year, you’re unlikely to see a lot of traffic from this source at the beginning.
Pinterest is my personal favorite traffic source especially for new bloggers or new online business owners because it is not only easier to rank on Pinterest but it is also something that you don’t need to wait a long time to get traffic from. For example, if you have the right strategy, what type of content to create, and how to generate traffic from Pinterest, you can start generating sustainable traffic up to thousands of page views every single month within 3-6 months of starting out on Pinterest.
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Also, you can check out my tons of Pinterest marketing resources to learn exactly how to drive traffic using Pinterest.
YouTube is somewhere in the middle between Google and Pinterest when it comes to ease of ranking and getting traffic. It is a little bit harder than Pinterest to start getting traffic from YouTube because there is a lot more effort that goes into creating videos and learning about SEO.
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However, when compared to Google you can definitely rank much faster and easier on YouTube because there is much less competition especially if you are in a niche that is not particularly large. If you’re in a very popular and large niche like beauty or fashion, you are going to have a lot of competition whether you’re getting traffic from Google or YouTube.
The best strategy is of course to use all of these traffic sources so that you’re able to create a piece of content one time and benefit from it over multiple different channels. But if you’re short on time I highly recommend focusing on Google and Pinterest. Pinterest can be the one that you focus on for the short term and Google can be something that you play for in the long run.
Social media platforms versus Search engines
The biggest mistakes that I see people make at this stage is focusing on all the wrong platforms. I know that as an outsider it can seem very tempting to spend a lot of time on social media platforms like Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, etc. However, you have to be clear about the fact that these platforms are designed to keep you within the platform and not necessarily to send people over to any other platforms. So by default, these platforms are not really optimized to send you traffic.
This is why it is very important for you to differentiate between social media platform and a search engine and what is the focus of both of these things. Social media platforms are platforms that you should be leveraging, in the long run, to build your community, nurture your audience and also build one on one relationships. This is something that you can do once you have already established enough traffic.
Search engines should absolutely be your priority for driving traffic. Pinterest, Google, and YouTube should be the ones that you focus on. Try to be at least on two of these platforms but if not figure out which is the best platform for your audience and focus on that.
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STEP #6 BUILD YOUR INCOME STREAMS
There are so many ways to monetize your blog and figure out how to make money from your blog as a resource. Some of the most common ways includes ads, affiliate programs, sponsorships or brand deals, products and services.
Passive & active income streams
When you’re creating a business model, it is really important to understand what type of business you want to create from your blog in the first place. Do you want to have a business which is more passive in nature so that you can put the effort in the beginning and you can continue to read the rewards in the future as well? Or do you want to have a more active blogging business?
There are 3 passive income streams that are more passive in nature. They are ads, affiliate programs, and selling your own products. Active income streams include sponsorships and brand deals or selling your own services.
Personally, for me, the passive income stream model resonates a lot more which means that I prefer to put a lot of effort upfront and then continue to make money over time instead of always actively changing my time for money. The nature of sponsorships and brand deals is pretty unreliable and you need to be dependent on someone else to make that money. The same thing goes for services as well.
One of the most common mistakes that I see bloggers make is that they rely too much on other people to make their money. When you’re relying too much on sponsorships or even on selling your services, you’re constantly chasing people to get the money in instead of building your audience and nurturing your community to attract the money to you.
Even though ads and affiliate programs there’s only some control you have in that space because the ad network that you work with might decide to change their commission rates or maybe even the affiliate platform that you work with might decide to close the affiliate program. This is why I’m a huge fan of building and selling your own products especially once you’ve understood your market and you’ve been blogging for 3-6 months.
The reason why I think selling your own products is the most profitable way to build a blog-based business is that you already have the authority you need in your particular space and a subset of the audience that really resonates with your ideas and strategies. If you can use your industry knowledge and convert that into a physical or a digital product, the margins that you will be able to earn are much higher than any affiliate product that you sell. Also, you have absolute control over how many copies you want to sell, how often you want to sell, what price do you want to sell and who do you want to sell it to.
Even though creating products can sound intimidating at the beginning the long-term payoff of having products is absolutely worth it. For example, I make over $7000 a month blogging on average currently out of which about eighty percent of my income comes directly from my digital products. So I created these products all of last year, experimented, and figured out exactly what I wanted to sell and how often I wanted to sell those products. At this point, I’m not actively doing anything to promote or sell those products. I’ve built systems and processes in place that actually sell those products on autopilot meaning I don’t have to spend any time actively looking for customers every single week or month.
Now, at the end of the day what works for me might not work for you. You need to figure out exactly what combination of a business model you want to have with your blog, what are the best income streams that you want to try, and what suits your lifestyle and income goals best.
Also, not to put all of your eggs in one basket which means don’t abnormally rely only on making money through ads or affiliates because if you have any changes in one of these income streams then all of your revenue can potentially disappear overnight. So it is always a good idea to at least have 2 income streams so that even if one income stream were to completely disappear overnight you would still have another income stream that you can leverage and pay your bills from.