It’s one thing to have a blog and write blog posts. It’s a whole different kettle of fish fingers marketing your blog and making money from it. The two things are related but they are not the same.
Forget the altruism of the stereotypical creative writer. Sure, your blog might be creative, delightful, artistic, noble, deep, funny or downright genius. But how many readers know this?
Five hundred, a thousand, including Great Aunt Maud? You need more—much, much more. We’re going to assume you have the talent. Now, to the advice on how to market your blog so that you can start to see those dollars being driven to your bank account.
1. Serious Bloggers and Blogging Platforms
Bloggers who mean business choose the best blogging platform. While WordPress has 30% of today’s market, which platform you choose is down to personal style, and where like-minded folks hang out. WordPress is often considered the most accessible by those who are not too clued up on the technical stuff.
WordPress also gives you introductory free domain hosting for a year and has a range of plans to take care of the intended size and complexity of your blog. I have three different blogs on WordPress. Each one has a different purpose and is on a different plan, yet I can see all three in the same back-office space and can switch from one site to another easily.
If micro-blogging is your thing, Tumblr might be your preferred platform. Many bloggers like Medium for its uncomplicated layout and system of feeding readers articles on similar topics as your articles. Blogger (hosted by Google) and Wix do much the same as WordPress but don’t seem to offer the flexibility of the latter.
In any case, most platforms allow you to migrate your whole account from one platform to another. WordPress has done me proud by taking on one website from Wix and a blog from Blogger seamlessly.
2. Technical Scheduling Stuff
We get it. You like to blog, so why all this technical stuff? Because you need to save time so that you can focus on producing content.
Before getting on to the marketing and money-making aspect of blogging, you might just want to check out what social media scheduling tools can do for you.
Using a scheduling tool can help you organize yourself better. There are articles out there on the web that suggest timings of blog post publications can improve SEO. That falls into the realm of fairly advanced analytics, so we’ll leave you to research that aspect on your own.
3. Other Technical Stuff
Although platforms like WordPress offer a web hosting service, if your blog really takes off, you might like to consider a web hosting service like Bluehost to help you take care of all that traffic.
You’ll like this idea if you’re into cool new plugins and ways to get things done more quickly.
4. A Word or Two About Marketing
Marketing is not a once-off activity. You need to pay regular attention to it. The digital marketing objective is to get noticed by search engines and by people. Continued marketing aims to maintain your visibility and expand the coverage of your target audience.
If you use WordPress, by choosing categories and tags for each post you already have the advantage of WordPress’s excellent SEO. Better still, educate yourself on techniques you can apply to increase organic traffic to your blog.
Effective use of (trending) hashtags across social media is not an exact science. It does, however, improve the chances of your posts being seen, liked and shared. Include share icons in your posts and use “Tweet This” and Pinterest plugins to up engagement.
Remember to head on over to the platform concerned and like the shares to indicate your appreciation that someone has shared your material. Some good collaboration may come from that simple act of goodwill in the future.
5. Know Your Target Audience
This is Marketing 101, but you need to be systematic here. You do not need the entire world to read your blog. Seriously.
You do need to identify your niche (e.g., organic raised-bed vegetable gardening, little known but fabulous wines, excellent novels translated from Polish into English, LGBT theatre reviews, etc.). These examples likely attract very different audiences, and your blog content needs to reflect that.
What’s essential is that you love writing about your chosen topic. You would be amazed how that underlying passion adds a zing to your posts that gets readers wanting more.
Some questions you can ask to narrow down the definition of your target audience are:
- Who are you talking to? This will inform your style, your choice of topic, and how you communicate in the blog post itself and how you interact in comments. If you’re going to write about an academic subject, say, you can still be friendly, but you might want to avoid too many colloquial expressions. Conversely, if millennials are your target audience, it’s probably best if you’re a millennial yourself…
- Does your audience have a genuine desire for your point of view? Do your readers need to hear what you have to say?
- Will your audience benefit from the product or service you’re offering. Will they pay for it?
You can also utilize analytics to hone in on the demographics and interests of target audience.
6. Map Out a Strategy
It is helpful when you start out to write these things down—or better yet, create a blog strategy file or a mindmap. Mindmaps are great for showing where your plan has weak points that you can work on. They are also great for picking out patterns and making connections that are not so obvious otherwise.
7. Look At The Pros
Let’s face it, none of us are reinventing the wheel. And there is nothing truly original. What you need is for people to like the way you do it.
Identify blogs and brands that can serve as your role models. They may be your competitors, or they may share the same niche as you.
Follow the best in the field, and try to figure out what makes them successful. Emulation is not copying. Think of it as inspiration: something to drive you to be the best yourself.
8. Think of Yourself as a Brand
Branding is about telling a story. People like stories. That’s what Seth Godin says, and he’s right. Anyone who has consistently written a blog post every day for more than 6,000 days in a row has the kind of kudos we’re all wishing we had already.
Notice how he is consistent across platforms, by checking out his Instagram account, and Twitter feed. His designs, layout, style, and message are uniform. They are also dynamic.
As a follower of his, I can tell you that he recently underwent an online facelift. And get this: he listened to reader feedback. Some of his readers didn’t like some of his photos, so he changed them! What a great guy!
Consistency—and honesty—is key. Publicize what your message is by sharing your story. And build on it, so that your audience not only enjoys your content but your identity too. Another quality people love is authenticity: it brings them on board, and they stay on board.
What more could you wish for?
9. Show Yourself!
Make sure you have a nice clear photo of yourself on your blog. People need to make that visual connection. The worst thing you can do is have no photo.
Avoid weird pseudonyms. Readers might like your content, your great graphics, your exquisite prose. But if they cannot connect at the basic human level of being able to see your face and know your name, they won’t feel as comfortable on your site.
Readers will easily trade you for someone who is less talented, but has a photo and a friendly welcome message, with a few human interest details (“goes hiking in his spare time”, or “loves jam donuts”, or “compulsive coffee drinker”—whatever).
And those middle-aged bloggers out there? Make sure your photo is less than a year old. Authentic, remember!
10. Get Social Media Savvy
Another Marketing 101 principle. Set up your profiles on social media. Your authentic, profile pic and logo or avatar will need to be resized for the different platforms: Facebook and Instagram, for example, have different requirements.
Tip: Instagram likes square images, whereas Facebook is more flexible. This is good to bear in mind for posts and promotions too.
Prepare all your copy, taglines and slogans in advance. Keep a record of these on your hard disk. This is a kind of back-up in case you bomb out because you’re not familiar with some new platform you’re joining.
Work on your mini-bio and your About blurb.
If you have just created a new Facebook page, Twitter timeline, Pinterest boards, or Instagram account, take time to fill each of them with a bit of content initially. If by chance someone visits, you need to pique their interest right away.
Another tip: if you have thought properly about your domain name, brand, and blog name, you can replicate these across all social media platforms. Aim for the catchy, easy to remember things.
While CaPs in weird places works for some, it might not work if you’re an unknown entering the sea of madness (the internet) for the first time.
11. How to Market Your Blog by Following
Follow the pros, comment on other blogs, Tweets, Facebook posts, etc. Be social. That’s what social media is for.
This way, some people will start following you and they might end up sharing that one post that causes a huge boost in visitors to your feed.
12. Write Guest Posts
Consider writing guest posts. Especially consider writing guest posts if another (more successful) blogger within your niche invites you to do so. You gain the leverage of all their followers reading your posts too.
And then you give a shout-out to your own followers across social media about the guest post you wrote.
13. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is all about getting paid to write about and promote someone else’s product or service. We have written about what you need to consider when embarking on this particular train.
It sounds complicated, but it’s not. Basically, you’ll get paid for every sale that results from click-throughs from your blog post. It can be thought of as risky (what if no one clicks on the links to the products/services?), but it is worth the risk. Who knows, you might hit the jackpot.
It is worth researching the current trends in affiliate marketing.
You’re more likely to convince people of your worth as a writer of affiliate marketing content if your blog is already doing well.
Big online retailers run affiliate marketing programs, and these can be lucrative for creative people who have a way with words.
Affiliate commissions can grow suddenly, and if you keep at it, you could start earning some serious money.
14. Join Content Writing Groups
However long we have been at the wordface, we can always learn something from our colleagues. Copywriting and content-writing groups on Facebook and other social media platforms can often offer useful advice and tips.
You might even find opportunities for referrals there. It’s also nice to talk shop sometimes.
Reading about your craft does help to hone your writing skills. Believe it or not, this game is like any other: it’s competitive.
Focus That Energy!
You’ve got great ideas, writing talent, and a yearning to work freelance to fulfill your lifestyle needs. How to market your blog in a way that suits your needs will probably be a matter of trial and error. I am confident that you will soon find the way that works best for you.
Take all that energy, and focus on getting your blogging ducks in a row, your marketing ducks in a row, and your scheduling ducks in a row. Now hit Send—you’re good to go!
One last tip: Have a prominent Search bar on your blog. People love that. Try my Blogging Karma Search bar out when you’re looking for posts related to this one.