Jayson DeMers Founder and CEO, AudienceBloom
We’ve all heard of the many entrepreneurs who made it big thanks to a popular blog; they either used their blog as an extension of an existing business, or started blogging as a side project that ended up earning significant revenue.
Knowing about the free website-building tools out there and the (perceived) ease of starting a blog, you’ve likely given this strategy some thought.
Would a blog actually help you make money, though? Ultimately, the answer revolves around three factors:
1. Monetization. What’s your plan to make money from the blog? You have many options, depending on your audience, intent and other ventures.
2. Traffic. No matter what monetization angle you choose, you’ll need ample traffic to support it. Your blog’s ability to generate that traffic is a significant indicator.
3. Upkeep and longevity. Though your blog will be free for you to create in most cases, it will cost time (and sometimes money) to keep your blog running. Your profitability will depend on what you invest in maintenance and improvement.
Want to know more? Here are the details.
Let’s start with the different ways you can monetize your site:
Lead generation. If you already have a consulting or B2B business, you’ll need leads to close sales. A blog with enough calls to action should direct your readership to your contact page and earn you more appointments, which you can potentially close as sales. With lead generation, your blog will serve as an extension of your business rather than an independent revenue-generating opportunity.
Direct sales. If you have something to sell, a blog can support those sales. For example, you might open a store to sell apparel, crafts or even an ebook. You could then use your blog to provide value to your potential customers, eventually forwarding them to product pages to consider making a purchase.
Advertising. If you have sufficient traffic, you won’t have to sell anything to your readers to make money; instead, you can generate revenue by attracting advertisers, who will pay you based on the volume of traffic you receive, or (more likely) based on the number of people who click on the ads you place. In some cases, ads can annoy readers, so be careful when you place those early ones; and keep a fair balance of ad content versus free, valuable content.
Affiliate linking. You can also make money through affiliate links, meaning links to other people’s products and services that you include in your blog content. You’ll get a percentage of any sales that your links generate, and again, with sufficient traffic, that could represent a substantial stream of revenue.
No matter which approach you choose, you’ll need adequate traffic to earn enough value from it:
Targeting. You’ll need to start with the right target audience. Ideally, you’ll choose a specific target niche that’s wide enough to have a large readership but narrow enough to avoid significant competition. That way, you can earn the most relevant followers while dealing with the least amount of competition. Make sure to research your target audience and existing competition before proceeding; try to find something unique that people really need.
Value. You then need to find a way to provide those users with value. Usually, that means providing them with the best content you can produce and that is timely, unique, helpful, thoroughly researched and well written. The more value you offer your readers, the more they’ll naturally be attracted to you, and the more they’ll spread the word of your existence.
Promotion and support. Even if you have a strong content base, and a hypothetically valuable niche, you won’t get far unless you spend time promoting and syndicating your material. You need to build up an initial audience base and encourage them to spread the word about you, building your brand reputation and circle of influence simultaneously. There are many ways to do this, including search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and paid advertising, but you’ll need to use at least one of these strategies to start building audience momentum.
Upkeep and longevity
If you want your revenue stream to last, you’ll need to make investments to keep your blog running and relevant for the foreseeable future (and ensure those costs don’t eat into your profitability):
Relevance longevity. You’ll have to keep your design and content updated to appeal to your target audience, whose interests may change -- especially if you have significant competitors encroaching on your territory. You need to be prepared to do near-constant tweaking.
Ongoing costs. You’ll probably have to pay for things like hosting, marketing and advertising, so make sure you build those expenses into your long-term profitability plan.
Ongoing time investment. Creating new content, engaging with your followers and building your reputation is going to take several hours of work every week. Without that investment, your blog will be unable to sustain itself.
So, can your blog make money? If you address all of the above points confidently, and walk away feeling that you’ve conquered all three areas of profitability, there’s nothing stopping your blog from being profitable. It’s still a long-term strategy, and one that might not pay off right away, but with a strong foundation, you’ll be ahead of the vast majority of new online entrepreneurs.