This ultimate guide covers the tactics you can use to start a blog like a business and in-depth strategies to make money blogging in 2021 and beyond.
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Blogging started as a simple hobby, but has transformed into a powerful way to capture search traffic and monetize an audience.
While many successful bloggers started years ago, it’s still possible to start a successful blog today. You just need to update your tactics.
My name is Adam Enfroy and I launched my new blog in 2019 to prove that it’s possible. With startup growth tactics, I scaled my blog to 500k monthly readers and over $80,000 per month in revenue.
This ultimate guide covers the tactics you can use to start a blog like a business and in-depth strategies to make money blogging in 2021 and beyond.
Let’s get started.
The Riches are in the Niches (So Choose Wisely)
Ultimately, launching a blog starts with planning. And that includes choosing a niche, or your unique target audience to focus on.
So how do you choose a blogging niche that you can easily monetize?
You need to find a niche that is highly monetizable and has affiliate revenue potential.
One of the most common pieces of advice that pro bloggers provide is to write about your passions.
While this advice may work for a few whose passions lie in a profitable niche, it won’t work for most bloggers. They’ll start with a passion in mind, write content for years without a monetization strategy, get burned out when the money isn’t rolling in, and quit.
That’s why you must choose your niche based on market factors, not passione.
First, your blog needs affiliate revenue potential. This is a term I coined that basically means that the keywords that you target need to be monetizable with an affiliate program.
So how do you do this? First, use an SEO tool and find keywords that include the word “best” in them.
“Best” keywords are searches that people do when they’re looking for product reviews. For example, “best credit cards” (like this one from QuickSprout), “best laptops of 2021”, and “best travel insurance” are all highly-monetizable searches.
Even AppSumo uses blog posts like this to promotes their own deals:
Remember, to make money from a blog, you must treat it like the real business that it is.
And for that business to succeed, it must offer something that your target audience is willing to pay for.
To take it a step further, choose a niche that has audience revenue potential.
For example, while college students include a large subset of people, they may not be the most lucrative to target. But working professionals might be.
You need both affiliate marketing revenue potential with high-value products AND an audience willing to put up the money.
Think about it this way.
Instead of writing about interior design for stay-at-home moms, write about commercial design for hotel and resort managers.
1. Leverage Your Professional Experience
Once you’ve identified some great niche opportunities, narrow it down to ones where you can use leverage.
Your professional leverage will help you tremendously when starting a blogging business.
This is what gives you a unique advantage over other bloggers in your niche.
How do you discover relevant experience to leverage?
- What valuable experience do I have academically and professionally?
- How can I leverage the connections I have in my industry?
- How can I leverage this experience into a profitable blog?
The answers to these questions will help you zero in on a niche that will fasttrack your path to success. For example, when you’re first starting your blog, you need to build influence (and Domain Authority) with backlinks and guest posts. If you have no leverage, it’s hard to get noticed.
But if you already have leverage in an industry, it makes it much easier to build blogging relationships and get more guest posts published.
They’ll also help you blog about topics you’re already familiar with, thereby saving you time on content creation.
It can also help you avoid burnout, which is another common problem that bloggers face.
The number one ingredient to running a successful blog is influence. And leveraging your professional experience and connections is a great way to build it faster.
Before You Start Making Money with Your Blog…
One of the biggest mistakes aspiring bloggers make is to think that blogging is the lazy person’s path to financial freedom.
It is a path to financial independence, but it requires a lot of hard work – especially in the initial stages.
Here are a few things you must get right if you’re to make money from your blog…
2. Get the Right Web Hosting, Domain Name, and CMS
While this may seem obvious, many aspiring bloggers make a business sinking mistake here. They go for the cheapest web hosting.
Web hosting is an essential element of your blogging business as it determines the reliability of your blog.
It also impacts the speed of your website. Poor web hosting can result in your blog occasionally going offline and loading slowly. Both factors can cause you to lose valuable readers.
To get the right web hosting, focus on:
- Customer service
And if you’re going to rely on a lot of media like images and video, you should also consider storage space.
Aside from choosing a web hosting provider, you also need to get a domain name. This is your blog’s name, as well as it’s address (URL).
Most web hosting platforms offer a free domain for a year, but after that, this should cost you roughly $10/year.
If you can’t get a domain name with your main keyword (as is the case with most keywords these days), you can always consider using your name as the domain name. This is great for coaching businesses and allows you to pivot your content if a sub-niche doesn’t work perfectly.
Third, get a reliable content management system (CMS) to publish your blog on. WordPress comes highly recommended here as it’s very flexible and 100% free. With WordPress, there are many themes, templates, and plugins you can use to customize your site and make it yours.
3. Create a Content Strategy
Content is the lifeblood of your blog. Get it right, and you’ll be in the right direction to make money from your blog.
But how do you ensure that your content achieves its goals of attracting visitors and converting them into subscribers and customers?
It all starts with a rock-solid content strategy, which involves (among other things):
- Conduct keyword research. Research keywords your target audience use in their Google search queries.
- Understand searcher intent. Understand what your audience is really looking for when they perform a search query. It’s an indicator of their pain points and, thus the problems you can help them solve. Google is looking for answers that end a user’s search journey, meaning they visit your blog and then stop going to others.
- Semantic keywords. Make sure to use a tool like LSIGraph or MarketMuse to make sure that your blog posts have the best possible keywords and different variations that Google is looking for.
- Create a content calendar. Create a schedule of blog posts to be published (based on your keyword research and user intent). For this, you can use a project management tool like Asana or its alternatives.
- Update posts regularly. Keep updating and adding new content to your old posts to keep them fresh and relevant.
With a solid content strategy, you’re bound to create compelling content that your audience will love.
And according to SEO and link building agency, uSERP, this is one of the best ways to drive organic growth to your blog (and business).
The goal should be to create content that helps foster meaningful relationships with your audience.
Treat Your Blog Like a Startup, and Scale It Like One
Since most of us work full-time, to make money with a blog you need to use your time in the most meaningful ways possible.
You need to treat your blog like a startup, rather than a passion project.
The reason many blogs fail is not from a lack of creativity or passion, but because they struggle to transition from blogger to business owner.
To do that, you need a strategic, outsourced approach and a growth marketing mindset.
And here are a few areas you have to focus on as you treat your blog as a startup and scale it:
4. Have a Blog Business Plan
Like any business, start with a business plan.
This is a blueprint that will guide your decision-making, tell you what to invest your time in, and steer you on the path to monetizing your blog.
It doesn’t have to be overcomplicated — a simple Google Doc will do. Elements to include in your blog business plan can include:
- Goal setting
- Market research
- Competitor analysis
- Blog monetization strategy
- Your unique value propositions, heading, and taglines
- Tasks to complete
Set SMART goals and make sure to keep track of everything in one place.
5. Scale Your Blog by Boosting Your Blog’s Ranking
To scale your blog’s traffic, you need to both create high-quality content and get links pointing to that content. It’s really that simple.
To do this, you must work on your search engine optimization (SEO). So how can you boost your blog’s ranking through SEO?
Build Quality Backlinks
Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors search engines consider. They are like the currency of the Internet.
Not only do they improve your Domain Authority (DA), but they also help drive traffic to your blog. You must invest time and resources to build quality backlinks to your blog.
And here’s the key many bloggers have missed — build relationships, not just backlinks.
In blogging, it’s impossible to scale your blog single-handedly. You must build relationships with other bloggers and webmasters if you’re to scale fast.
Once you understand this, you’ll base everything you do to scale your blog on the value you offer, not just what you can get from others.
This will increase the chances of you getting the valuable backlinks others struggle to get.
To scale, consider hiring a VA or outreach assistant to make more connections and build more backlinks.
One of the most effective strategies I’ve used to grow my blog, both in traffic and Domain Authority, is guest posting on sites in my niche.
This simply means creating high-quality content that you publish on other blogs (like this very blog post you’re reading).
The reasons this is very effective are it:
- Drives relevant traffic to your blog
- Is an easy way to get backlinks
- Helps you build brand authority
In 2019, I conducted an experiment to try and prove the efficacy of guest posting. The results spoke for themselves.
After eight guest posts on websites with DAs from 60-94, here are the results I got in 15 days:
- 32 new referring domains
- 247 new backlinks
- 268 new organic keywords ranked in the top 100
- 372% increase in organic traffic
- +12 to Ahrefs Domain Authority
- Alexa Rank improved by 600,000
To succeed with your guest post pitches, make sure your content is relevant to your host’s audience, doesn’t exist yet on their site, and focused on a specific keyword.
To sum it up, a guest posting strategy is a surefire way to scale your blog’s traffic and quicken your path to monetization
Create SEO-Optimized Content
Of course, we can’t talk about SEO without talking about your on-page content.
After all, content is what attracts visitors, helps you build relationships with them, and converts them into your customers.
For your content to achieve all this, you must optimize it for SEO.
This is where your keyword research comes in. Each blog post should focus on one keyword and be included in:
- Your headline (preferably as close to the beginning as possible)
- The first few paragraphs of your blog post
- In your subheadings (H2s and H3s)
- Naturally within your content
Apart from this, your content must also be easy to read and have high readability scores. To do this, use short sentences and paragraphs and format it properly with subheadings and bullet points.
Above everything else, your content must be of great value to your audience for it to help you make money from your blog.
Watch Your Technical SEO
Technical SEO refers to optimizing your website’s technical aspects that impact how search engines rank your website.
It mainly boils down to ensuring that your blog offers visitors a positive experience. This is critical as Google announced that page experience will be a major ranking factor starting from 2021.
Some technical aspects of your website to work on include:
- Page load speed. Make sure your website loads fast by optimizing it for speed. Thankfully, there are speed optimization tools that make this easier for you.
- URLs. Use descriptive URLs that contain your keyword. To do this, change your blog’s permalink settings.
- Internal links. Building internal links helps search engines understand and navigate your website better, making it easier for them to crawl your site.
No matter how great or shareable your content is, your blog won’t rank well if your technical SEO is lacking. This will lead to you losing valuable traffic and, ultimately, revenue.
Nailing your SEO will result in your blog’s DA increasing, resulting in it being more visible to your target audience.
Remember, to make money with a blog, you must drive traffic to it. And that’s the main purpose of search engine optimization.
Build Relationships with Your Audience (and Monetize Your Blog)
With a regular business, email marketing plays a vital role in driving sales and increasing customer retention.
The same applies to your blog.
If you want to make money with a blog, you must grow your email list.
Your email list forms the core audience that you’ll market to. But to successfully sell to them, you have to build a trusting relationship with them first.
Let’s go back to basics and see how you can build a list of engaged subscribers.
6. Grow a Profitable Email List
To build a list of engaged subscribers, you need two main things:
- A reliable email marketing tool. Email marketing tools will help you create and manage your database of email subscribers. It will also help you strategically automate your email messages.
- A good offer. To get your target audience’s contact details, offer them a valuable resource they’d be willing to something of value. This has to be a resource only people interested in your topic will sign up for. For example, a high-quality lead magnet.
- A well-designed signup form. This is where your readers input their details to gain access to your offer.
Make sure to promote your offer on your blog and social media to encourage as many people as possible to sign up.
First, you can promote your blog posts to your subscribers, helping drive traffic to them.
Secondly, you can promote your products/services to your email list. You can also add affiliate links to your emails and recommend products.
In addition to email marketing, here are the most common ways to make money with your blog.
7. Pick Your Monetization Strategy
Here are the top seven ways to monetize your blog after you gain sufficient traffic.
This is a traffic dependent monetization strategy in which you promote services or products on your blog via affiliate links. If a visitor purchases through your link, you get paid a commission for that sale.
First, you need to join different affiliate programs and get your affiliate links. Then you add them to your content and track reporting to see how many clicks and conversions you get.
Affiliate programs will automatically have contracts in place outlining the terms with each merchant or affiliate network you choose to work with.
Another way to make money from a blog is by joining an ad network and displaying ads. Granted, this isn’t as easy as it used to be.
The main problem with this blog monetization strategy is that you need a good amount of traffic to make real money from ads.
However, if you’ve already got a decent following and your blog receives a good number of visitors, you can consider signing up for Google Adsense or other alternative ad networks like MediaVine and AdThrive.
Sponsored content refers to content brands pay you to create and publish on your blog.
Of course, the content is usually about them or a topic related to their business.
Again, brands will only partner with you if:
- Your blog receives a lot of traffic
- Your audience is mostly made up of people in their target audience.
The advantage with sponsored content is that you can charge a flat fee – it doesn’t depend on the number of impressions or clicks, as is the case with ads.
Online courses are one of the best high-ticket ways to make money with a blog.
The reason for that is that you don’t need a ton of traffic to monetize your blog this way.
You can start by creating a short course on a niche topic to gauge if demand for the course warrants you to invest time, effort, and resources into creating a full-fledged course.
By pricing a course at either $199, $499, or $999, you can generate significant revenue from a limited number of sales.
Create and Sell eBooks
Ebooks are another great way of generating revenue from your blog.
Thankfully, creating an eBook is as simple as compiling your best content and repurposing it into a book format.
The good part is that selling your eBooks (or photos if you run a photography blog) directly from your blog means you get to keep most of the revenue the eBooks generate.
Another great way to make money with a blog is to sell digital products. This could be anything from a handy spreadsheet to a simple tool. I have a few simple digital products on my blog that help users scale their backlinks and affiliate revenue:
You can also sell white-label products that are relevant to your niche.
Sell Physical Products
There’s no reason that bloggers can’t become ecommerce merchants too.
By using a simple WordPress plugin like WooCommerce or BigCommerce for WordPress, bloggers can add a fully-functional ecommerce store to their website.
Bonus: How to Plan Your Blog’s First 180 Days
Here’s my blog monetization formula, broken down into fours stages based on your blog’s age and traffic:
- 1-90 days: High-end consulting (0-1,000 monthly site visitors)
- 90-180 days: Affiliate marketing (1,000-2,500 monthly site visitors)
- 180-365 days: Create and sell an online course (5,000+ monthly site visitors)
- 365 days and beyond: Course memberships (10,000+ monthly site visitors)
One of the biggest mistakes most new bloggers make is to launch a blog and start adding affiliate links and ads right away. It simply doesn’t make sense to do that when you don’t have much traffic.
This is a numbers game.
When you’re first starting and have little traffic, if you can monetize with consulting and land one or two high-end clients, you’ll make money from your blog much faster than if you’re trying to earn commissions from affiliate sales.
How to Land Your First High-End Client… Fast
Remember, your blog is a business. To make money from it, you have to do what conventional businesses do — create a sales funnel.
For a brand new blog, all you need are your first five blog posts, a one-page opt-in “freebie,” an email platform and list, and a consulting page.
Once you have these in place, you can use them to strategically lead prospects down your funnel – in five simple steps.
- A visitor reads your high-quality blog content.
- They opt-in for your email list (thanks to your brilliant offer).
- Optional: You can add a lower-priced offer around $50-200 to build trust.
- Send an automated welcome email series that tells a story and leads your prospect to set a meeting with you.
- Lastly, your ideal B2B client sets an appointment with you, leading to them paying for your high-end consulting offer.
Of course, for this to work, your blog must offer a highly-sought-after service. The key is to master your high-end offer and sell yourself exceptionally well.
Does this mean you should do away with the other ways of making money from your blog?
And as your traffic increases, you can then start implementing the other monetization strategies outlined above.
How to Make Money Blogging — The Sky’s the Limit
One of the best things about making money from your blog is that only your hustle and work ethic determine how much you can make.
But to succeed, you can’t follow old advice written by someone who succeeded in 2010. You need to update your strategies for 2021 and beyond.
Choose your niche based on affiliate revenue and potential and market demand.
Conduct keyword research to rank for keywords that you can make money from.
Focus less on writing and more on scaling your backlink acquisition.
And monetize your blog with the right tactics at the right stage of your blog’s growth.
With the right strategy, a methodical approach, and a lot of grit, you can turn your blog into a money-making machine.
What strategies have you used to make money blogging? Let us know in the comments below.