I’ve gotten quite a few questions from the blogger community about my blog. How did you design it? How do you market it? How does this replace your full-time income?
Blogging as a whole is definitely not simple, nor is it easy, and anyone who tells you that it is is a liar. There’s a lot going on in the background behind the blog posts and pictures, and most bloggers don’t realize this until they get their feet wet. There is a terrible amount of multi-tasking to be done, and unless you figure out how to divide and conquer your to-do list, you can drown in it.
With that said, I’ve found a few tools that have made my blogging life much less hectic and much more streamlined. I am no web design expert nor am I a marketing extraordinaire, but these tools have helped me get my blog out there and into the laps of my audience.
Now, can you blog without investing into these things? Short answer: yes, you can. But you’ll probably be doing things incorrectly or inefficiently for months or even years on end. I was never a believer to invest extraneous amounts into creative fields because I thought that you should learn hands-on through experience. But with blogging, there are so many resources out there that will help you expedite the process instead of blindly walking in the dark and wasting both time and money.
There isn’t anything wrong with frugality (duh, who’s blog are you reading right now?). But if you’re trying to make blogging your full-time job, you should consider taking it seriously and invest in it the way you would a business. Your blog is your business. Blogging takes time, dedication, and resourcefulness to grow, so if you have all of the above, then great! Read below for the tools you’ll need to refine your blog and get your message out there.
Web Design and Monetization
People who claim not to be web designers will more than likely slap on a basic template provided by whatever blog website they first Google up and call it a day. This practice will not only waste your time but also deter people from wanting to visit your blog. Design, easy navigation and hosting are key components of creating a quality blog that people can trust, and without trust, there is no potential to earn money.
You don’t need to be a design extraordinaire nor the top salesperson of your company to create a beautiful blog that people want to buy from. Here are my top solutions.
Learn how to Monetize your Blog: Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents is well-known in the blogging world: She blogs about how to blog. And she actually makes six-figures. A month. Yes, a month.
I began following Michelle a few years ago and saw her income grow with each month that passed, and her success inspired me to start my own blog. I wanted to learn her very tips and tricks, so it was a wonderful gift for us to provide her readers with her very own e-course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. This online course has six modules that teach you how to monetize your blog as well as direct traffic to it. Michelle adds bonus content frequently, and the course comes with access to the exclusive Facebook group where you can connect with other students. This e-course taught me how to make money from day 1 of my blog (yes, on the first day I launched I made money!), and the community has become its own cesspool of knowledge from many bloggers, from popular ones to new ones.
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is only $197, which is an insanely low price compared to other blogging courses that charge $1,000 and up for the same content and exclude the monetization education.
Web Hosting: Siteground
With blogging, it’s extremely important to find a reliable host for your website. Cheaper websites usually mean tons of slow loading times or low-level security, leaving the host open to things like DDoS attacks and other unwanted problems. I’ve used plenty of hosts in the past, but Siteground has always given me great quality hosting as well as affordability. Their StartUp plan starts at $3.95 a month, and their most expensive plan is a mere $11.95. Move over, Squarespace!
Siteground customer support is amazing as well – something apparently rare in the hosting business. They helped me switch my website over from my previous host with absolutely no issues!
Web Design: WordPress.org
If you’re using Squarespace or WordPress.com, make the switch to WordPress.org. In fact, if you’re using anything else other than WordPress.org, make the switch.
WordPress.org is the best blogger platform out there – it makes it easier for you to rank higher in Google search results, there are thousands of plugins to fill your website up with tons of features (no plugins with .com), and the most important part – you’re self-hosted.
There have been nightmares with WordPress.com, from having templates deleted without warning to having their blog deleted altogether. Not only that, but WordPress.com doesn’t allow you to place ads on your website unless you meet certain statistics, which can be very limiting for monetizing brand-new blogs. If you connect your WordPress.org blog to Siteground, you have much more freedom and control over your website.
Sidenote: WordPress.com offers hosting directly through them, but they charge for a variety of features, making it more expensive in the long-run.
Building Your Subscriber List
Most bloggers will tell you that the money is in the list – and they’re right. Although many bloggers profit from social media platforms like Instagram, social media can be very limiting. The key to guaranteeing “return customers” is having your readers subscribe to your newsletter. By doing this, you have the ability to directly communicate with your readers and send them your latest blog posts, rather than hoping that they’ll log back onto your website and catch up on reading whenever they feel like it. It also assures that they don’t forget about you.
Here are a few of my favorite services and apps that help me build my subscriber list.
Converting Visitors into Subscribers: SumoMe
SumoMe is one of my favorite WordPress.org plugins. This app features several tools for you capture emails, from pop-ups to landing pages. SumoMe recently added a bunch of paid features to their impressive free tools, which is why they are #1 on my list.
Email Service: ConvertKit
ConvertKit is one of the many email services that top bloggers use. While not many may need ConvertKit in the beginning, I definitely recommend ConvertKit for those who are starting to see a daily income from their blog. CK has a lot of versatility that allows you to engage with new subscribers by creating email sequences, different types of sign-up forms and the ability to group your subscribers (this is very useful if your blog has different niches).
ConvertKit is $30/month and I admit that I was not using it until I started seeing a steady stream of income. However, if you have the budget for this, I recommend that you start with CK to keep your subscribers organized.
*Free email marketing alternatives I recommend are MailerLite or MailChimp. Their interface may be different, but if you’re looking to build your email list for free before converting to a paid service, MC or ML are both great services.*
Engaging Your Audience With Freebies: Interact
Another wonderful way to entice readers to subscribe to your newsletter is providing them with an engaging way to learn more about what it is that you write about. I’m currently creating a quiz using Interact in my beauty section for my beauty audience to learn more about their skin type, and because I am an esthetician I am able to provide valuable information from an educated perspective. This alone is valuable enough for readers to take a free quiz. At the end of the quiz, they must subscribe to my newsletter to get their results – there you go, a subscriber! After they subscribe, they are given a full analysis of their results as well as a recommended regimen chock-full of products for them to buy (and thus, another opportunity to earn affiliate commission).
Interact also gives you the opportunity to conduct giveaways on your blog in exchange for the visitor to subscribe to your newsletter. This is a great way to gain a committed audience rather than through an Instagram giveaway where a person can quickly unfollow you after the contest is over.
Interact starts at $29 a month, and I wouldn’t recommend prioritizing a quiz generator off the bat, but if you have the money to do it from the get-go, it’ll definitely help with capturing email leads.
Getting Exposure: How to Market
One of the most lucrative and genius platforms that generates revenue through blogging is Pinterest. With Pinterest, users can click pretty pins and pictures that direct straight to your blog post – or even better, directly to your affiliate link!
Unlike Instagram, once something is posted on Pinterest it can continuously be re-pinned and therefore have the potential to go viral. With Instagram, you only have one link in your bio section, and once a picture is posted, it gets buried in your feed. As time passes on Pinterest, you just need to re-pin an old pin to revive its life and gain momentum again. Hello, residual income!
Pinterest marketing can be easy, but if you aren’t getting the proper exposure it can definitely flop. Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing has a pretty sizeable bonus module on marketing with Pinterest, so if you need a crash course, you’ve got it right there.
One of the biggest strategies of Pinterest is to constantly pin and never stop – whether its content relevant to your blog or your own. Constant pins maximize your chances of your pins being seen by more users, so it’s important to pin as much as you can. At the minimum, I recommend one pin every hour – yes, that means 24 hours a day. And you shouldn’t pin 24 pins in a single hour and leave it at that. Your account must be active at all times!
But how do you pin nonstop all hours of the day? I have tried this and realized how inconvenient and time-consuming it is (literally, I was glued to Pinterest all day and had no time for anything else). Luckily, there are automation tools meant just for this! Below are my favorite ones.
Tailwind is my go-to when it comes to filling up my Pinterest queue with relevant pins that are not mine. Naturally, if you pin only your own content, you’ll wind up pinning the same pins over and over. Not having a variety of pins to pick from may deter people from following you as it will look like spam.
With Tailwind, you can add other people’s pins to your queue directly through Pinterest (no third-party apps here, yay for ease!) and schedule them to go off at the times you want. Set up a schedule first, and then fill up the queue. It’s that simple!
Tailwind is only $10 a month, and $10 well-spent. My blog continues to get visibility on the Pinterest platform and increases daily.
BoardBooster is another program that is used for Pinterest, but I use this primarily for the pins from my own blog. BoardBooster’s looping features allows for me to pin my own content towards designated boards, and after a few days it will go back and delete the underperforming copies of that pin so that your board isn’t spammed with the same pin over and over.
BoardBooster also features a similar looping tool for group boards called “campaigns,” where it re-pins your pins to group boards that you are a member of. One of the most important aspects of Pinterest marketing is being a member of group boards – the more, the better. In a group board, members can share their pins in exchange for sharing other people’s pins on the board. This is a community effort that helps to circulate pins and gain exposure from other member’s audiences. I am a member of over 40 group boards, from fashion to DIY and budget recipes. This allows for me to have tons of options and chances to get my pins seen by hundreds of different audiences.
Blogging is a lucrative business, and the money-making concept is simple. Sure, anyone can write, but the real trouble here is running a successful blog and marketing it. Are you going to work smarter and get to where you want to be quicker, or are you going to waste time and money by growing at a slower pace?
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