How to Create a Profitable Blog in 2020
Whether you've started a blog yet or not there's one thing I can be sure of: you'd like to make money. We all do. We need it in order to survive. What's so cool about “this day and age” is that we can do it from virtually anywhere with the internet. My personal preference is to make money from my blog. In this post I'm going to break down step-by-step how to create a profitable blog in 2020. How you can magnify your presence, make blogging fun, and of course how you can make money from your blog.
Earning money from your blog seems like a far fetched idea sometimes. There are billions of blogs out there. There are so many things to write about and set up. But in reality it doesn't need to feel so overwhelming. I remember when I first started my blog back in 2012. I first created a niche blog that focused on the topic of “deals of the day” in Dallas. It did just fine, but it was soul sucking. It had nothing to do with me and it wasn't making me happy.
Then I created Helene in Between (my current blog). The blog didn't have a clear direction but I loved working on it. Fast forward to now. I still don't believe in blog niches, but I do believe in having a focused blog. I write about blogging and social media as well as my travels and life abroad. It's not so narrow that I'm bored but it's not so broad that I want to throw in the towel with so much to do.
Today I can say that I am meeting not only my blogging goals and making money from my passion, but living my dream. I moved abroad, I work from wherever in the world, and I have fun doing it. I am an average person. I am not famous or a genius. We all have our strengths. We can all find our passions, fine tune them, and create a blog and life we want. Do not underestimate your potential. We are all unique and we all have resources we can and should share. No matter what you want to focus on.
This guide intends to give you everything you need to create a profitable blog this year. Whether you're starting from scratch and not even sure where to find a logo, or you've been at it for a while and are ready to make money and see more traffic. It is simple to create a blog that you love and a blog that you can profit from. Here's how.
How to Create a Profitable Blog in 2020
Since this post is super in depth I made a handy, dandy jump to section so you can refer to exactly where you need to go.
Step 1. What Do You Want To Be Known For?
Step 2. How to Decide What To Blog About
Step 3. Start a Blog
Step 4. Hit Publish
Step 5. Drive Traffic to Your Blog
Step 6. Create an Opt In
Step 7. Make Money Blogging
Step 8. Learn a Skill
No matter what stage blogger you're in, I recommend reading this guide all the way though. I broke down the best ways to ensure your blog is on a steady path and one that helps you make money. Yes, even from the beginning!
Step One: What Do You Want To Be Known For?
I think in order to make money blogging you need to figure out what you want to be known for. Now, that doesn't mean you need to pick a niche. Of course, if you're super passionate about one particular subject, then by all means, go for it. But if you're like me, and you have varied interests and topics you want to write about, then you can still profit from your blog, regardless.
So often we're told we need to pick a niche and when we do so, that's how we can profit and grow our blogs. I'm here to tell you that is not the case. I believe focusing on interesting, relevant, and valuable content is the key to a successful blog.
Instead of figuring out a niche think about what your focus will be. Answer this question: what do you want to be known for? Maybe you like talking about delicious recipes with a Southern flare. Perhaps you help bloggers create beautiful graphics. Or you are a traveler exploring the off-the-beaten path destinations. Don't worry if you're a combination. The key here is to focus on your passions. There is no way to have a profitable, money-making blog when you only focus on just trying to make a buck. People will see right through that.
Basically, we want to write the type of content that people crave. That means it: reminds us that we matter, gives us hope or faith in the bigger picture, explains or tells a story, shows your authenticity, pulls at our emotions, surprises us (in a good or bad way), confirms our assumptions, takes us on a journey, challenges our way of thinking, entertains us, shows us successes and/or failures, and/or gives us a unique point of view. Despite all of this realize that your message will resonate with someone. It's important to put it out there.
Step Two: How to Decide What to Blog About
Did you know exactly what you wanted to be when you grew up? What about in school? For me, I had no clue. I was always envious of those that knew they wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, mom, etc. I was not so sure. The same goes for blogging. Most people don't know what subject to pick.
Deciding what to blog about can be one of the toughest parts. But if you KNOW you want to start a blog my advice is: JUST DO IT. Just start. If you don't start now then why wait later? You hitting publish on a post now won't rock the world, yet, but it also won't (most likely) offend or hurt anyone. So many people tell me: “I'm just so scared!”
It can be scary to hit publish but there's no time like now.
When it comes to creating a blog I suggest doing a bit of brainstorming. Write out some things that you love and then start putting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard.
Do you have to have a niche blog? My answer is of course no. But let's take a look at someone else: Chasing Foxes. This is just a wonderful, writes-about-everything blog and follows their passion. They make 5 figures a month. How? They write well and they focus on a Pinterest strategy (more on that later, keep reading!).
Profitable blog topics:
How to save money when…. i.e. shopping, buying a home, renting/buying a car, saving for college, at Sephora
Tips to cure… hiccups, blog design, writer's block, ugly photos, burned dinner
How to find… the perfect prom dress, the best makeup for your face shape, the best recipe for Friendsgiving
20 Websites To Visit If You Want To Be a Better … Chef, Blogger, Web Designer, Photographer, Tennis player
How to make money on… ebay, garage sales, etsy
How to stop… procrastinating, overeating, anxiety
How to start… working out, eating healthy, working for a magazine
What does this all mean? Pick a few things you're passionate about and write with focus. Remember, it's okay if this changes! The beauty of blogging is that it doesn't have to be perfect. There's this myth that in order to have stellar SEO (search engine optimization is how search engines, like Google, find your blog) you need to blog about one tiny thing. Like how to clean your toothbrush properly. Can you imagine writing daily about cleaning a tooth brush? No. And it's just not true. I write about a multitude of things and I still come up FIRST in many search engines for certain terms.
I have posts on this blog that talk about me breaking my ankle, what I did over the weekend, building a successful blog, and traveling to Copenhagen. Did I mention I have a high Domain Authority? That means I rank high for the “keywords” I use on Google. I've changed what I write about, my direction, and so much over the years. But I (try) to write high quality posts that will benefit my readers.
So bottom line: chill out and let's start that blog! If you already have a blog skip on down to number five.
Step Three: Start a Blog
Let's get one thing straight: you CAN start a blog on a budget. But please, please set it up right the first time so you don't have to be stressed later. There is a (tiny) bit of grunt work to start a blog. But I'm going to walk you through this. I guarantee if I can do this, so can you.
Set up Hosting and Domain Name
I've been on all the big platforms: Blogger, Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress. I wish that I would just always stick with WordPress. This is coming from someone who was a full-time, professional blogger who once was on Blogger. WordPress does it all and then some. If you'd like a detailed pro/con list of why to go with WordPress or any other platform, check out this post.
Next, you need hosting. Hosting is the service that allows your website to viewed and ensures that it can handle traffic. Before I made a decision I did tons of research (if you know me, you know that I always go over the top on my research). And I found the best hosting provider out there with Siteground. The main reasons? Reliability, support, and ease of use. Siteground works and they are there for you when you need them. Which can be really important if you run into any issues with your blog. They also offer an easy to use installer and free transfer. So it makes it seamless to transition your blog.
After clicking to go on to Siteground, follow these steps:
- Click “Web Hosting”, the first option you'll see on the left. Click “Learn More”.
- Choose a plan. I suggest starting with “StartUp” (first option on the left). Click “Get Started”.
- Next, register your domain OR choose that you already have a domain. This is where you'll put in your “www.yourblgonamehere.com”. The thing that I LOVE about Siteground is you can create a new domain RIGHT from the program. Click “Proceed”.
- Enter in your contact and payment information. I suggest getting the privacy and site monitoring services. This is to ensure your privacy. But of course, they are optional.
- Install WordPress. You can also have Siteground set it up for you! Or check out my detailed description here.
Choose a Theme
The theme of you blog gives it the look and feel that you want and allows you to structure your blog how you see fit. Unless you're a coder I suggest having a theme. There are two parts to a theme: the framework (think of this as the frame of a house) and the child theme (think of this as the paint and landscaping). The framework makes up the bones or foundation of your blog. I use and suggest Genesis. This is what I use for myself and the reason being is it's the best choice and works with many of my favorite child themes.
As for your child theme this is what you can think of as the blog design. There are many options out there. I recommend Restored 316 and the options on Creative Market. A brand I'm really loving lately for well priced (think under $50) designs is Code + Coconut. Simple and pretty themes that also work with Genesis. It will take some time to choose this but know you can always change it. If you feel particularly stumped with any of the above you can always ask for help. I use a company to help manage my blog and install my designs called WP Help.
You might notice that some blogs have things like opt in boxes, social share buttons, and more. These are plugins they install on their blog (many are free) to customize the look and feel of the blog even more. If you're interested to see what I use, check out this post on my favorite tools and plugins. I detail out everything I use and how I use it.
Choosing a Logo
If you're looking for a logo you can design it yourself with tools like Canva or Photohop. If, like me, you're not great at designing there are a few tools that you can use to really help you out. I love the designs inside of Creative Market. You simply search for a logo you like and can even find designers who can customize it.
I wanted a bit more detail to my logo but when I looked to hire a designer I felt it was crazy expensive. Then I discovered 99 Designs. Y'all, this is a game changer! If you need anything designed (even a website) I highly recommend this. Here's how it works: specify what you're looking for. Then, you'll hear back from dozens of professional designers and be able to narrow down your favorites and what you like on your website. Then you'll pick your top 3 designers and they battle it out to create the best graphic for you. You pay one price. It's much cheaper than hiring someone and you get literally dozens of options. I am obsessed!
Step Four: Hit Publish
One of the most common questions I'm asked: When should I start publishing on my blog? My answer? Yesterday. There is no right time. The sea will not part, you will not receive some magical sign. Many people are afraid to share. It can be scary to reveal more of yourself online. That's what a blog is, isn't it? But in order to succeed you just need to go for it.
Yes, I do suggest to have an “about me” page, a “contact” page and maybe a page dedicated to what you are interested in or intend to write about, but it's not necessary when you first hit publish. Just putting yourself out there is enough. As you start writing you will learn what works for you and this will help you structure your other pages and your blog itself.
Remember, your blog can change. My blog has had a number of major changes over the years: name change, about a dozen different blog designs, writing, direction, etc. I find that as you grow and as you write your blog will grow with you. The important step as you go is finding your ideal reader. Who do you want to read your blog. You MUST map this out. And it's important to think about this every step of the way. You cannot improve your blog, make money blogging, or drive traffic without having a solid understanding of your ideal follower.
For me, my blog is a mix of things but my reader is clear: she is a 20-40 something woman who wants to live a meaningful life through experiences and goals. Tailoring your work to a specific audience is one of the best things you can do for your blog. When you try to write to everyone you wind up writing to no one. So sit down and figure out who your ideal reader really is and that's when you will find your community.
Writing great content is not only how you're found online, it's establishing trust from readers. When you create confidence in your audience they are more likely to stick around, share your blog, and also buy from you.
Step Five: Drive Traffic to Your Blog
How do you drive traffic to your blog? There are only two things you need to really drive traffic and create a money making blog: killer content and a community. I'm going to dive deep on what that means for each. I consistently get 250,000 page views each month to my blog. Here's how.
First and foremost, write great content. It sounds simple but it isn't. In order to build a raving audience that continues to come back again and again you need to write wonderful content. You need to write something of value. This can mean vastly different things to different people. Maybe you'll discuss your struggles with infertility. Many women out there can connect with the same feelings of hopelessness. Or you'll write something funny about going to the grocery store in a foreign country. People will connect with this or it will make them laugh. If you're a social media expert you'll tell how to grow your Facebook page in a simple way. All of these provide value and offer inspiration. I like to call this “foundational content.”
You want to write content that makes people say: wow, I want to read that blog again.
And then they do. They subscribe to your newsletter or they follow you on social media. Now, you've started forming a community. This community is the one that will keep coming back again and again. But more than that they will share your content and will most likely BUY from you! Think about a blog you love. Why do you follow it? Now apply that to yourself. You need to create and foster a community and build it up with consistent, great content. That doesn't mean you need to post daily. I post about 2 times a week and feel happy with that (and receive about 250,000 views a month on my blog). You need to do what works for you.
Truthfully, you can't have one without the other. If you have a community you won't want to piss them off with less than sub-par content. If you have great content that will encourage your community to spread the word and keep coming back for more. Creating both is how you get on the path to continually driving traffic and making money.
Now of course, social media plays a vital role in this community and driving traffic. For this I suggest being on all platforms but concentrating efforts on one or two where you see the most potential. For example, I see the most traffic (personally) from Pinterest and Instagram. Therefore, I focus most of my effort on those two social media platforms. I regularly share to Instagram and Pinterest and I am constantly learning how to improve my skills on both.
Here are some of my best posts on social media:
Step Six: Create An Opt in
Okay, you're writing great stuff and building your community. You're starting to gain traffic. But wait, how can you keep them around?! Better yet, how can you make money? You need to create an opt-in. This free opt in will ensure that they stick around and hopefully buy from you in the future. When you create a newsletter or email list for your blog it gives you a chance to select the exact type of people that you want to keep coming back again and again.
For example, let's say you write a post on your delicious healthy recipes. You create an opt in for a free meal calendar. Eventually, you will sell your recipe eBook. Since you created the freebie, you already have people on your email list who are your target market and would be very interested in purchasing from you.
Take it from me, when I first started my email list I was at 0. Within 5 months I hit 5,000 newsletter subscribers and was making about $1,500 a month – just from my email list! Your newsletter is your direct connection to your audience. Creating an email list is how you turn casual readers into buyers and lifelong fans of your blog.
Many people are worried about how often they should send out a newsletter (aka, they don't have time) or that they aren't sure what to send out to people. There is no rule book when it comes to creating an opt in. You don't have to send something out every time you post, every week, or even every month. I personally only send out my newsletter when I want to share something important (like a big life change), something valuable (like a deal or a sale on a product I'm using I think they might like to use), or when I'm promoting my own products or hosting a webinar. Honestly, I might share to my newsletter every three months or so.
Here's a detailed guide on how to create a newsletter for your blog. I recommend using Convertkit because it's a straightforward, easy-to-set-up platform, created by bloggers for bloggers. I have used MailChimp in the past (it's free for up to 2,000 subscribers) but Convertkit is just so much more intuitive and helps me to make more money because I can easily segment my list. I also think it's easier to create the freebie and link it up to my blog through Convertkit.
Here's the process:
1. Write a post on a topic you're passionate about.
2. Create a “freebie” that people can opt in to that's related to the post. Example: an ebook, checklist, or pdf guide. You can create this straight from your computer.
3. When they “subscribe” automatically send them an email with their freebie. I do this seamlessly in Convertkit by creating a form that automatically sends them the download.
4. That's it's!! Only email your list when you feel like it.
When you create an email list don't worry about having multiple welcome emails or opt ins. Start simple and you'll learn as you go. The important step is just to start it and you'll see over time which posts work when creating an opt in.
Step Seven: Make Money Blogging
Let's get something clear, in case you just skipped on down to this step, you can't make money blogging without the above. You need to know who you're blogging to, why, create great content, and a community. That needs to be present before you can make money. They are all related to each other and reflect back on whether or not you start to monetize your blog.
To me, there are many ways to make money blogging. But in reality, there are 4 key ways to create income for a blogger. Those are: advertising, affiliate marketing, sponsored opportunities, products (digital and physical), and online education. I want to take a brief look at each and how you can use them for your blog.
The ads on the sidebar, top, middle, and bottom of a blog are advertising. These can be from places like a network such as Google Adsense. Here's how ad networks work: you get paid per view and per click on the ads. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not anything like $1 per click and 20 cents per view. It's much lower than that. But it still adds up. The key here: the more views, the more money you'll make. Back in the day, in the advent of blogs, bloggers could make a full time income just from ads. Not the case anymore. Unless you're getting millions of hits a month, you'll need other strategies to make a full time income.
How to succeed with advertising on your blog: the more page views, the more likely you'll grow your advertising income.
One of my favorite ways to monetize a blog is with affiliate marketing. Here's how it works: you share about products, services, anything you love already on your blog. With affiliate links you link to the product and make a small commission on it when your readers click and buy. I love to share the products that help me grow my blog. And I make sure to only share about products that work for me. For example, I'm a huge fan of Hootsuite, a scheduling tool for social media. When I blog about it (for example, this post on How to Schedule Blog Posts Like a Boss) I know if others click and buy, I make a small commission. It's already something I'm using and loving and my readers can trust that I will only share about products I recommend.
I also suggest creating posts that relate to the product or how you use it. When you show your audience why it matters or how to use it they are more likely to buy it. Again, this echos back to creating a community and sharing valuable content.
How to succeed with affiliate marketing on your blog: only share products and services you love. Write posts that directly relate to the product and take it a step further by sending out an email to your list to encourage them to buy the product.
Sponsored posts are ones where payment comes from either a company or third party that pays you a flat fee to include their product, service, event, location, you name it in your post. For example, I worked with Visit Britain earlier this year to write about my experiences in Manchester and Liverpool. I was paid a fee to write about my honest opinion. I've also worked with companies like Pollinate Media and Collective Bias that help you connect with companies looking to work with influencers.
If you're wanting to see how to work with companies check out how to make money with sponsored posts. OR, if you're a travel blogger, check out the full guide on landing sponsored travel. No matter what stage you're in you can get sponsored blog posts or social media shares.
How to succeed with sponsored opportunities on your blog: only take things that your readers would love. Write the post in your normal blogging voice and deliver on time. Don't be afraid to negotiate and reach out to others.
Products or Services
As far as products go, you can sell anything! From an eBook, course, coffee mug, t shirt, one-on-one coaching, you name it. Most of the time these products do take some leg work meaning, you have to set them up, create the payment system, deliver the product or online education, and promote them. But along with this, there are more opportunities for you to monetize. Instead of getting a portion of the profit you get all the profit.
If you can provide value, whether a service or product, you can sell something from your blog. The key is to understand what your audience needs and how you're uniquely qualified to deliver it to them. For example, let's say you're a graphic designer. You often write about how to design simple graphics. You start a course on how to design your blog from scratch. You can sell the course through Teachable (or really any platform that lets you sell courses or books) and promote the course on your blog, newsletter, and social media.
A place I recommend to sell your Digital Products or courses is SamCart. This is what I use to take payments for my eBook, Lightroom Presets, and my online course. It’s easy to use and makes selling your stuff simple. You can check out my shop here.
How to succeed with products or services on your blog: have a clear understanding of who you're selling to and WHY they need this. Make a plan of action and stick to it!
No matter what area you choose to focus on, it's a good idea to have more than one iron in the fire. I personally bring in income from all of the above ways and it ensures that no matter what, I have one income stream coming in. Even if you're a beginning blogger you can still make an income, especially when you have a solid understanding of your reader, a newsletter in place, and some social media. Don't forget to analyze your results along the way. That goes for your whole blog. Keep track of your stats so you can see where to improve and what topics people gravitate towards.
Step Eight: Learn a Skill
I wholeheartedly believe the best way to grow is to keep learning. I am always taking an online course, reading a book or blog, or listening to a podcast to learn what will work for me online. Enhancing your skill set not only helps you improve it also helps you make money.
Remember what I said above about concentrating some efforts on social media? Learning a new skill and improving your social media, SEO, writing development, keyword research, etc. is a great way to continue to grow. I have taken classes on webinars, email marketing, SEO, business, Facebook ads, and so much more. Do your research to make sure the offer or course or book is legitimate. Then go for it. Make sure to hold yourself accountable along the way.
If you got down to the bottom of this post… congrats! I know this was a doozy. But I wanted to completely cover the best way to monetize your blog, no matter where you are in the process. The best way to create a profitable blog is when you are passionate about what you do and share valuable content with your readers.
Now that I've given you all these strategies let's take it a step further! I've got my most downloaded eBook: 14 Days to a Better Blog. You'll learn simple strategies that will change the game for your blog.
Here are some posts you might find helpful:
FREE EBOOK! 14 Days to A Better Blog
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