And How To Get Started
Blogging is no longer just for the home
The year is 1994. The Internet is a mysterious thing (though who am I kidding, it’s still mysterious…). A college student named Justin Hall, a Class A Nerd (hey it’s a good thing), started the very first blog ever, which he called his homepage, and its purpose was to create categories of links to pages he found useful while surfing.
Check it out here, it’s pretty hilarious.
Blogging has come a long way since then, becoming easier to make for the average person, and a much more diverse ecosystem than ever before. There are blogs about everything. Blogs about dogs. Blogs about scuba diving. Blogs about owls that look like they’re hungover. You name it.
One of the relatively recent changes to the bloggosphere has been the rise of the personal brand. Individual bloggers develop a following, become influencers, and create a brand around their identity. Many of these bloggers have managed to turn their writing into a profitable business, and many have transformed from a personal brand into a fully-fledged company. For example, Pete Cashmore started the Mashable blog as a teenager, which he sold for £37 million.
Similarly, companies that have blogs use them as an integral part of their marketing. Blogs become where these companies demonstrate their industry knowledge, gain consumer trust, and establish themselves among their competitors.
Turning your blog into a business
So what does it take to go from virtual rags to riches? How do you take your blog and make it a profitable business?
- Bonus Read: Blogging is your typical form of “Inbound Marketing”. Here’s what that means.
Choose a blogging platform
Depending on what you actually want your blog to do, you might want to think about what platform you’ll want to choose. There are loads of good ones out there, and perhaps the first question to ask is whether you need your blog to be on the same platform as others in your field.
For example, while Wordpress and Blogger are simply web platforms to host your blog with convenient features, Medium and Tumblr have communities of bloggers and readers that are interested in certain fields and subjects. The back-of-the-envelope way to find out if your industry has a following on any one platform is to go to that site host and search for your keywords to see how much comes up.
Take a look at this comparison of blog hosting platforms to see which one works best for you. Plus, if you’re a Shopify store, you get a blog platform built right in. Consider factors like functionality, design, ease of use, and how customisable each platform is.
Find your niche
With millions of blogs out there, it’s all about finding an interested audience (or adapting your content to an existing audience). At the core of it, you are more likely to be successful at blogging if you write about things that others are already interested in, but have some piece of added value that makes you stand out. Do you have a particular format that refreshes a tired one, like The Skimm which gives a snapshot of the day’s news in sassy, jargon-free-but-slang-filled text (worth $55 million)? Or College Humor which makes daily original comedy (worth over $15 million). These companies are taking a particular angle on something that already exists (news; comedy), and putting it in a predictable and branded format that helps them gain a following that likes their style.
Next up is developing a content strategy. That refers to all of the planning and operations around your blog brand. How often are you going to post, and what form of post will that be? How are you going to stand out to your readers? Who are your readers and how do they prefer to consume content? Is your bread-and-butter going to be long-form blog posts, informative videos, or a particular kind of webcomic? How will you put in feedback loops to find out if your readers continue to dig the stuff you blog about? Find out more about developing a content strategy in our guide.
Let your niche find you
You can be an excellent blog and an utter wallflower at the same time. Coming up with your content, branding and strategy is only half the battle - getting noticed on the internet can be a whole lot of work.
Read all about it.
One of the ways to get a big break is to be mentioned or featured on a news story or magazine publication. Journalists are always on the lookout for the latest, and getting your name in front of someone else’s readership is a great place to start. Read our guide to getting press coverage for free.
Is this thing on?
Next is making sure your search engine optimisation is at the level it needs to be. This means tagging all of your posts, continually updating your site, optimising all images, writing all of your meta details, and - perhaps most importantly - using keywords that work. Find out how right here.
I’ve seen you here before.
If you run multiple sites (your website, a Facebook page, an Instagram, etc) it’s crucial that you cross-refer people. This is called “driving traffic” and means that someone who comes across your Instagram is directed to your blog, and from your blog directed to your e-commerce store etc. Make sure there are clear links to your other sites from your blog, and vice versa. Post about new posts in your email newsletters, tweets, and Facebook posts. Learn more about driving traffic without a budget.
Same time, same place.
You’ve spent hours and hours writing up posts, designing your website, and telling everyone you know to tell their pet sitter and their pet sitter’s cousin about your blog. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting the Subscribe function. Pretty much all blogging platforms will have a built-in bar that allows people to enter their email address to get newsletters from you. You can up your game by adding lightboxes and pop-ups that do that too. Oh, and maybe consider sending an email once in a while to your mailing list.
Sponsorships, sales, ads, and affiliations
So you’ve made a blog, found your niche, and are picking up a fair bit of traffic. How do you start getting paid? There are a few ways to capture value from a blog.
Sponsorships are when companies pay you (the blogger) to feature their products. You’ll see this a lot these days, and it’s important to write when something is sponsored. Here’s how it works.
Sales are when you actually sell a product that you produce yourself (say, t-shirts or stickers or CDs etc). One of the easiest ways to do this if you are only selling a couple of things is with a Shopify Buy Button. It’s a few bucks a month, and you can put an item for sale literally anywhere on your website. Here are 9 ideas.
Ads are when you get paid by (probably) Google to allow sidebar advertisements on your site. They pay website owners some money for using their site to advertise on, and Google handles the rest. The more traction your blog has, the more money advertising companies are likely to be willing to pay. Get started here.
Ready to get blogging?
On most platforms, it really only takes a few minutes to start making content. If you want to learn more about using blogs in e-commerce, look no further. We’ve also got some blog ideas if you want some inspiration.
Elkfox is here to help. Get in touch with us to find out more.