7 tips for starting a monetized blog

A friend of mine wants to start blogging — specifically to become an affiliate marketer — and he asked for some tips to successful (monetized) blogging. I started writing an email to him and then realized that I answer this question for people quite frequently so I’m posting the answer here and I’ll link to it whenever I’m asked. (#lazy)

Here’s a list of my top tips for becoming a successful monetized blogger (in no particular order):

  1. Pick a niche. If you want to monetize your blog, choose a target market and write for them. It’s okay to weave in other topics (I primarily write about sales funnels and related topics, but I’m also an amateur economist and write occasionally about the economy, which is probably interesting only to me). And it’s okay to share some of your own personal life (I’m sure your kid’s first words are fascinating to every imaginable niche) but try to keep the majority of your posts relevant to your niche. And it *almost* goes without saying that your affiliate offerings should be related to your niche.
  2. Add value. If you want people to come to your site, give them a reason. If they can get the same information anywhere else there’s not much reason to read your blog. Add value and have a point of difference compared to your competition. (Oh, which reminds me, you’ll probably want to do some competitive research at some point — get a feel for what other people are doing in the same space and figure out why you’re unique).
  3. Add value first. I get that you want to monetize your blog. But add value first. Don’t stuff your blog so full of “monetizationness” that the good content is hard to find because there are too many shimmery, flashy ads. It’s like the seedy side of downtown: There might be a cool little bar, but it’s hard to find because there are so many skanky bars and hotel signs offering rooms for rent by the quarter-hour. Post good content. Make it central. Then integrate your ads and affiliates. Once you’ve build up some credibility as a quality blogger, you can integrate blogs that are specifically about an affiliate product. But it shouldn’t be your first blog post and it shouldn’t be the only thing you blog about. (“That hilarious story about my puppy driving my car reminds me of this fabulous network marketing opportunity that you’ll want to get in on the ground floor right now!”)
  4. Be business-minded. Treat your blog like a business. Take it seriously. Be customer-service oriented. Be fair. Offer value. Think strategically. Most importantly, keep focused on why you’re doing this and remember that your up-front time writing good content is an investment into a payoff that will happen later. I say that because you’ll grow tired of blogging in a few months. You might even give it up for a while. And then you’ll write a post that says “I haven’t updated in a while”. Check out this blog post (from waaaay back in the day) about some ideas for a variety of different kinds of blog posts to write. So it’s important that you always keep reminding yourself why you’re doing it. Oh, and this might be helpful: Here are some ideas to monetize your content if you ever want to move beyond affiliates.
  5. Write for the long-haul. Monetizing a blog is a long-term effort so don’t start rubbing sun tan lotion on yourself just yet. You can eventually enjoy a drunken week on the beach while your bank account rings like a cash register, but it won’t happen tomorrow.
  6. Plan the hell out of your subject matter. I’ve seen want-to-be bloggers with dollar signs in their eyes burn out in a week. They write a bunch of stuff — maybe material for a week or two — then stare blankly at their monitor. It feels like writer’s block but it’s not. It’s horrible planning. Whenever I work with a client to help them develop a sales funnel that includes blogging, I typically create at least 3 months of blog post topics. For myself, I usually have a year’s worth of blog topics on paper, I prefer to have 1-3 months of blog posts scheduled (i.e., I know what I’m going to post 1-3 months in advance) and I try to have 1-4 weeks of blog posts pre-written. Of course, if I need to move them around, I can, but I want a rolling batch of pre-written work. You’ll be amazed at how fast you go through them if you don’t! (How do I know that? I’m writing this the night before I want to publish it… #failtofollowmyownadvice).
  7. It’s a sales funnel. It shouldn’t surprise you that I’m mentioning this. Your awesome blog that is stuffed with high-value content and insanely compelling affiliate links will earn you a big fat $0.00 if you don’t get people to visit your site. There isn’t a magical genie that tells people to go to your site. (Well, there is, and his name is Guy Kawasaki but you have to leave more than a measely quarter under your pillow for him to send people to your site). So market your site like crazy: Twitter, articles, press releases, guest blogs. At some point, you might even want to experiment with advertising (like Google AdWords).

There are other things you can do, too: Build a list and send out emails. That’s big, but I think that’s “step 2”. Step 1 should be: Just get your blog up and running and follow these tips to get started.

Oh, and while I’m dishing out free advice like a late-night buffet, here’s another blog post that you might find useful: “The Entrepreneur’s Silver Bullet“.

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