Whether you started your blog as an extension of your company or your hope is turning your blog into a small business, you’ve come to the right place. As a professional food blogger myself, I’ve learned a thing or two over the years that I hope will help you on your journey to a more profitable blog.
Not only can blogging be financially lucrative, it can also be a major driver of traffic to your site. The problem is that most people aren’t even thinking of their blog as a money-making machine when they’re just starting out. Or maybe you did, but now you’re stuck on what to do as far as next steps. It also just so happens to be National Small Business Week, so there is no time like the present to educate yourself on how you can market your small business. Below, I share my four tips to help maximize your return on your blog.
1. Define your brand. This sounds like a no-brainer, but let’s unpack what I mean by this. Defining your brand should not just be about picking out the name of your blog or business and what the layout and theme of your site look like. Defining your brand is more than that.
You should first and foremost be asking yourself what is the purpose of your blog. What are the goals or outcomes your blog is trying to achieve? From there, you need to define how your brand will be different from others speaking on that same subject. For example, maybe fitness is your main topic, but just by doing a quick search on “fitness blog” in Google nets hundreds, if not thousands, of results. What’s going to put your content at the top of search results?
Think of keywords being used in your industry, but also unique words that would allow you to own the SEO for that content. Blogilates originally started out as a Fitness Blogger who has transformed her love of fitness and education into a multi-platform, money-making machine with an eCommerce store and live events, but she didn’t just stumble upon success. She had a clear brand that she was trying to define and build.
Additionally, you want to think of your audience and what action you want them to take. Is it to buy your product, to sign up for a newsletter, or to just be aware of your brand? Outlining those goals will help you further define the content you’re looking to create.
Pro Tip: Once you have your brand and business goals clearly defined, reevaluate your website. Is your blog properly designed to support your new strategy? You might want to consider a blogging website redesign. This method could be the trick you need to help you take your blog to the next level.
2. Write good content consistently. Notice that I said ‘good,’ not ‘great.’ Do not let ‘great’ be the enemy of ‘good.’ The real trick here is the consistency part.
After you identify your topic and desired outcome for people engaging with your content comes the hardest part, in my opinion. And creating content shouldn’t be taken lightly. Often times, I hear and see people throwing around the words content marketing without any sort of concrete plan. Having one is what’s going to set you apart from the rest of the pack.
Depending on your business or topic, you may be able to outsource content creation. For my food blog, I’ve made a decision to not outsource content because my topics are very specific to my geolocation as well as my personal taste (pun intended), which is a differentiating point for my blog. That decision does put the full ownership of creating content on me, which is fine. I just wanted to clarify that depending on the content, you could distribute the creation of it to other members of your marketing team and/or an outsourced individual or two who you work with.
Again, this is something super simple, but a content calendar can really give you a leg up. Nobody ever got in trouble for over-planning. Having a plan is a universal sign of having your act together; so lean into that idea. Create a plan for your blog’s content. What are your goals and milestones for content? Then work backward to achieve it. You’re more likely to stick to a schedule if you put the time in to make it in the first place.
The whole purpose of good consistent content is to give your readers and prospective clients a reason to engage with you—to build a deeper connection with you or the brand, and to ultimately become a loyal follower of what you’re publishing. Feed them with quality content consistently!
3. Have a promotion and distribution plan. You know the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it even happen?” The same rings true for your content distribution.
Think about it: if your target audience (because you already defined it in Step 1) is US Central-based, publishing a blog post at 4:00 a.m. is probably not going to net you the most readership. Instead of just publishing for the sake of publishing, use that content calendar to plan out not only when but how you will promote and distribute content.
Are you going to leverage social media? Did you feature another product or blogger in your post? How about letting them know? Step 3 is best executed with a simple checklist. Here’s how I make a checklist work for me. From the moment I hit publish on a blog post (which again, for me, I try to publish between 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m CDT or 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. CDT because that’s when most of my audience is online), I go through these steps:
Custom URL: I take advantage of services like Bit.ly to create unique links for every single post I publish. This helps me keep track of who is engaging with my post from where. For example, I use the same Bit.ly shortcode for any given blog post on all my social channels. That way when I analyze statistics, I can see which of my social traffic is getting more or less traction than other channels. You could take it a step further and create unique shortcodes for Facebook, one for Instagram, etc.
Social Media: Thankfully most platforms are integrated with each other; you just have to set it up once. Now, when I publish my blog on WordPress, my Facebook page automatically gets updated. It’s one less thing I have to think about. But for the other channels, I always make sure to do my social media rounds to further promote my blog post.
Online Groups: Find one to three (or more if you want!) groups to be a part of based on your blog/businesses topic. For me, I’m a part of a few food blogger groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. These differ from just posting directly to my Facebook wall in the sense that these are groups of people who are either in your niche or are interested in it. They will be more eager and targeted to engage with your content. You can discover them by simply going to the individual platforms and typing in keywords and then requesting to join those groups.
Opportunities to Promote Your Expertise: This is more of an after-the-fact tip. But as an example, I wrote a post on great weekend happy hour spots in Austin. Not only was this post successful, because it was answering a popular question for my audience, but any time anyone asks me for a happy hour recommendation, I direct them to my blog post. Another way to leverage this is to follow relevant conversations on Quora or similar sites and interject your content at appropriate times. This does not mean that you should blatantly spam forums and websites with your links. Remember, the key to growing profitable is to share your content in a way that helps people, not overloads them with information at the wrong time.
Paid Advertisements: I don’t actively use this a lot. I try to promote more organically based on the above tips, but if there is a post that makes sense to throw some spend behind it, then, of course, paying for your content to be seen by new eyeballs is definitely a valid form of promotion. Each platform operates a little differently, but I would encourage you to try it with a small spend and increase when you see things working. Again, there is no magic formula; you’ll just need to play with it and optimize it based on what results you’re seeing.
4. Monetize. The final tip is, of course, on how to actually make money from your blog. I think an important note to mention is that despite promoting your content on all those other channels I mentioned above, the ultimate goal is to get people back to your site where your content lives. And thankfully with WordPress, it’s one of the only blogging platforms where you truly own 100% of that content. My fear with social media platforms is that one day they will be obsolete, and all the content you’ve created on them will also go away. But if you have a blog on WordPress, that content is yours forever.
So, if you want to make money, there are a few things I encourage you to look into, such as affiliate marketing, display advertisements, and brand partnerships. There are sub-buckets for all of these, but I’ll briefly explain them and you can decide which ones benefit your business best.
Affiliate Marketing: This generally works best with products or services for which you can earn a kickback based off of directing someone to make a purchase. Sometimes you get paid on clicks; sometimes you get paid when they fully purchase. With my food blog, since I’m not a recipe blogger but more a restaurant reviewer, I can’t really post about a Kitchen Aid mixer with an affiliate link. You could, but think about the long play, not just the immediate fix. Depending on the topic and subject matter of your content, participating in affiliate programs could definitely be something you can take advantage of. One way I’ve seen this executed well is when a blogger has a “How I Started My Blog” page and links to all the services they leverage: hosting, plugins, tools, etc., who offer affiliate programs.
Display Advertisements: You know what I’m talking about. You’ve surely gone to someone’s blog and seen an advertisement for shoes that you may have been coveting the night before. Brands will pay to put their ads on your site, and the more traffic you have on your site, the more lucrative this could be for you. The caveat is that you definitely don’t want to overload your site with ads. Again, think of the user experience. I personally don’t use display ads because I don’t want to dilute the experience someone has on my site. However, I’ve seen plenty of big bloggers who take advantage of this and it’s working. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. I would look into Google Display ads as a starting point and again just test out what works for you and your site.
Brand Partnerships: This is my sweet spot. I personally love engaging in monetization this way because it seems the most natural. This often times is labeled as “sponsored,” “dedicated,” or “ad,” or might include specific product messaging per the brand’s guidelines. But the good thing with this is that you’re usually working with the brands directly, so you’re able to have a better idea of what the payout will look like. I will admit, this is a bit of a longer play, too. You don’t launch a blog and instantly get to work with brands. Maybe you do, but for me, it wasn’t that simple. I had to create good, consistent, quality content, and do a lot of it before brands started to take notice of me. Nowadays, I have the privilege of working with brands like Westin, Kimpton, Snap Kitchen, and Texas Monthly. I usually work with these brands either directly through a brand rep or most commonly through a publicist. Another great tip is to cold email brands whose product resonates with your content. Pitch them a partnership by showing them the value of your content and audience. Generally, if you can paint a picture of value for them, they’ll be more inclined to say yes.
Whew! That sounded like a lot, but don’t worry, this blog post is here for you to reference at any time. Remind yourself that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took time and consistency. So, the same rule applies to you. Focus on creating the best type of content and just keep that at the forefront of everything you do. Follow my tips, and you will start to see the fruits of your labor pay off.