If you’re just starting a blog or a similar website for the first time, you may be tempted to dive right in, posting content and pictures and covering whatever topic happens to interest you that day. While that’s certainly one way to develop a site, you’ll need to do a bit more planning if you hope to develop a regular readership, and more planning still if you plan to receive any income as a result of your efforts.
You’ve probably heard many stories of people making a living off of their blogs, but to think that these people simply “fell into success” without careful and measured planning would be naive.
In order to have a successful blog, you’ll need to concern yourself with three key aspects:
- Content – The words and pictures that you’ll develop and produce for your site
- Marketing – The strategies and techniques you’ll use to attract visitors to your site
- Monetization – Converting your blog or site into a paycheck
Sounds like basically any business, right? You sell a product (content) with the help of advertising (marketing) in exchange for cash (monetization). Of course, the vast majority of internet users won’t pay real money simply to read content, and this is where it becomes crucial to map out your niche site or blog.
In short, if you don’t have good ideas for content, then you have no business running a blog or website in the first place. When choosing your niche (the topic on which your site will focus), ask yourself the following:
- What am I passionate about? If you don’t really care about something, you probably won’t be motivated to develop a website surrounding it on an ongoing basis.
- Do I have an extensive level of knowledge and experience regarding that topic? If you’re relatively knew to the topic at hand, your inexperience will be clear to your readership.
- Do lots of other people care about that topic too, or is it extremely esoteric? Choosing a specialized niche is fine, even ideal, but it would be difficult to generate continuous, fresh content regarding something super-specific like “Verizon mobile broadband comparison”. In this case, you could go one level up and center your blog around mobile broadband in general, discussing and comparing products, services and user experiences.
Once you establish your niche, it’s time to think about how your content will be produced, organized and delivered to your readers. Again, a few questions will help decide:
- How big do I want my site to be? Will I be able to write all the content and purchase/produce all the other media myself? If not, you may want to start smaller or outsource some of the work, which has plenty of risks of its own.
- Does my niche call for more than just words and pictures? Hopefully the answer is yes, because video is an excellent way to engage with your users and set yourself apart from competitors. If you have skills in software development, making an app to complement your blog will certainly turn some heads as well.
It goes without saying that things like grammar, spelling and sentence structure will all need careful attention if you hope to impress your readers.
Simply placing your site online and hoping that people will notice may have worked 10 years ago, but the internet is far more saturated by both sites and users today. You’ll need to do some actual work in order to attract sustainable traffic in the form of repeat visitors. Although you can start by employing some basic SEO concepts in your content, such as careful keyword placement, crafting short, scannable articles and ensuring a constant flow of fresh material, one of your biggest marketing considerations should be the use of social media.
Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube allow you to create a page or profile for your site for free. You can then use this page as a platform to connect with your users. If your Facebook friends list is in the hundreds, then you already have the makings of a word-of-mouth advertising campaign. If you have the equipment necessary to make a video, then come up with something catchy related to your niche and post it on Youtube. When you attach backlinks to this type of content, you can quickly direct traffic to your site.
If you want your blogging and site development efforts to result in an actual income stream, then by definition, you have to sell something. This could take the form of many things:
- A premium membership, billed on a regular basis, which gives your users access to additional/more advanced content. Very few sites can get away with this, depending on their niche, content quality, established user base, etc.
- Advertising spots on the pages of your site. This is the most common way for blogs to make money. Essentially, you’ll place links to other sites on your page. When your users click those links, or when they click those links and purchase a product from the target location, you get paid.
- Your services. You may decide to produce a blog as a way of launching your freelance writing career, hoping that other site developers will notice your work and contract your services for their own sites. This scenario is also fairly common, though it’s a more indirect way to monetize your blog.
- An actual physical product. In this case, your site would essentially serve as an information/advertising vehicle for whatever you’re selling, whether you’re creating your own products, drop shipping or signed on as an affiliate marketer with another company.
Of course, it’s possible to choose just one of these monetization strategies, or all four. Your decision should be based upon the niche you choose and the way you approach it, not your desire to simply make more money.