I’ve been blogging for fun and for my friends’ entertainment for a while now, but I’ve finally figured how to earn money blogging, drive traffic to my site, make a fortune, quit my other jobs and become internet fabulous (without being an international criminal mastermind who screws up like Kim here did on not just one, but two continents). And I’m going to share it with you, gentle reader. For free. That’s right. You can ignore all the blogs about the blogging because I am going to synthesize them into one handy, user-friendly ultimate post that tells you all the things you need to know about how to earn money blogging. All those years I spent in academia writing up research proposals and publications have come down to this: one epic post on what everyone in the world is going to tell you that you need to do to monetize your blog.
PICK A THEME THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT
Yes, I know you want to write about things about which you feel passionate or want to share or truly enjoy. I did, too. I write hilarious pieces about stuff I do and see, my kid, our pets, and our life. I write for clients and friends. I write about things that matter and things that don’t. Not anymore, though. That’s done. O-V-E-R. Because I want to earn money blogging, and if you want to earn money blogging, you must pick a theme that people are searching for on the internet. Sometimes, in the pursuit of our art, we must sacrifice and do things we’d rather not. We are all slaves to our corporate masters, right? Therefore, after extensive, exhaustive and comprehensive research, I’ve discovered that the blogs that make the most money are the blogs that tell people how to earn money blogging.
“People want to know how to earn money blogging!”
That’s it. That is all they want to read about. After you do that for a while, offering the same tips that everyone else offers but perhaps with cuter photos and more inspirational quotes in better boxes, then maybe you’ll have a following and lots of traffic and you can start to write about the stuff you want to write about once in a while. You’ll need to beta test your audience to see if they like that stuff, though. But first, blog about blogging, blog about finding your niche, blog about your blog tribe, the blog life, the blog doldrums, choosing blog topics, the SEO of blogging and how to earn money blogging. Daily. Endlessly even. Make memes about it. Tweet about it. Pin about it. Pine about it. Some bloggers also share how much money they earn blogging every month in complicated Blog Income Reports. This is so you can watch what they are doing and learn from it and probably feel really bad about your own traffic and earnings in comparison. Or it’s hopeful fiction or some kind of attempt at The Secret gone awry. One of those. Like the perfect family photos on Facebook when you know dad is never home, the kid just got out of jail and mom day drinks? We never really know. I think it’s kind of like posting your paycheck on social media if you tell the truth, but I’m going to do it in May because I am all-in with all the tips now.
BE SELF-HOSTED, USE WORDPRESS.ORG AND BUY YOUR DOMAIN NAME
This is super-duper important and also really difficult to understand if you are not a web-designer, so I’ll sum it up for you. You need to avoid things like Wix and Blogspot, which making blogging look so easy and can allow you to set up your site in 30 minutes or less, sort of like a Rachel Ray 30-minute meal in that it will take you 3 days and 16 calls to experts, and you’ll decide that a part-time job at Home Depot is better even though writing is your passion. Instead, you should comparison shop for places to buy your domain name (they’re cheap, buy 5, you don’t have to use them all). What you really want is one that will instantly install the most complicated blogging tool on earth instantly for you: WordPress.org. That .org is the ticket, guys. You don’t want WordPress.com. The .com is the sound of the soul being sucked out of your blog. Why? Because I have read all of the other blogs about blogging and they say so. The two best places to buy your domain name and thus be “self-hosted” aka independent, are Dreamhost and Bluehost. Yes, there are others, but they all do basically the same thing. They will install the dreaded WordPress.ORG on your site and allow you to pick a theme.
Once you have bought the domain and set up the hosting, you can choose a free theme through WordPress.org or you can use the google to find a theme that you like. You can also change your theme whenever you want, and as often as you change your underwear if you like until you find your vibe. Some themes are fancier than others and some are busier than others, but in the end, it’s all a matter of personal style and taste. If you don’t have any personal style or your taste is questionable, ask a friend or look at what everyone else is doing. Because remember, this is not about you. It’s about blogging about blogging until you make enough money to blog about something else. One of the best things about WordPress.org is that there about 200 kazillion thousand books, pamphlets, YouTube video tutorials and Facebook groups devoted to it, and you will always have support if you have questions. No one seems to be using much of anything else.
JOIN EVERY SINGLE AFFILIATE PROGRAM YOU CAN FIND RIGHT NOW
This could take about a week to set up if you work at it regularly, but according to the internet of things, it’s essential. Some of them approve you right away, but others take a few days or a week. You’ll want to join Amazon Affiliates, obviously, because it’s Amazon and you can buy everything on Amazon. Amazon is tricky, though. You have to follow all of their rules, and you have to make a sale in your first 90 days, or it’s “Bye Felicia” to you. So once you become an affiliate, join a FB group of people who buy each other’s stuff on their blogs so you make a few sales. Don’t ask your mom. This Amazon. They know everything and they will know it’s your family and shut your site down.
You also need to sign up for Awin, ShareASale, BrandCycle, Rakuten, eBay Enterprise Affiliate Network, and CJ Affiliate (not one of those links tracks back to me, and I don’t earn a dime if you click them or sign up, and you’re welcome). Once you’re approved you need to sign up to be an advertiser with all their partners, which is kind of a pain because you will wonder if you are ever really going to want to advertise tires or photo collage books or tax preparation software. Yes, you are if you want to earn money blogging. The whole “apply to the advertiser and wait to be accepted” like it’s some kind of college admissions decision and you have to light a candle and hang on with bated breath is true for most affiliate programs, except for BrandCycle. They make it easy because once they accept you, you’re partnered with all their partner advertisers, and their partners are places where you have actually shopped and probably like. Oh! Oh! And ShareASale has free webinars on how to be an effective affiliate and other good topics, and you can listen to them while you’re applying to be an affiliate with their advertisers and their competitors. Free training! But get busy. Because the more programs you find, the more you can clutter up your attractive, carefully organized pages with ads and figure out how to convince your loyal readers that they do want to click on that link to AirBnB or sign up for Ebates. And if you’re a really talented blogger, you can blog about how great it is to earn money blogging about their products. It’s kind of meta, I know. You need a minute. Take your time. Let it all sink in, there. I realize this is not the blogging experience you envisioned when you started. It’s not mine, either.
JOIN EVERY SINGLE FACEBOOK GROUP THERE IS ABOUT BLOGGING AND FOR BLOGGERS
This is important, so listen up! If you have not done it already, create a Facebook page just for your blog. Don’t use your own personal page because a lot of the groups have draconian rules about only posting your blog page, not your personal one, and internet wisdom says you need to be in these groups to be successful. Now, if you are going to drive traffic to your blog and get people to like it, you need to be posting your blog posts in groups where other people will post theirs and you all like each other’s posts and pages. Also, you will receive all the advice that I’m giving you right here from everyone in the groups. But mostly, you’ll get likes and maybe see an increase in traffic to page, and any increase will help move you up the ladder with search engines.
Beware: there are about forty thousand million of these blogging groups on Facebook. All of the bloggers in them will tell you it’s much better to attract people to your blog “organically” so that you’ll have engaged and interested readers, but they’ll do that in between posting their own blogs in the groups for your likes even though you really have no interest in raising goats in the wilderness of Maine or learning to cook Cambodian cuisine on a budget. This is where you will hear from people who have 100K followers that “like for like” is terrible, awful and the very root of all blogging evil. They’ll tell you this while they are posting on and sharing blogs in which they have no interest so that others will do the same for them, mind you. My anecdotal research on this, conducted in a completely unscientific manner even though I suspect it could be replicated with the same results, tells me that the blogs in the groups that people flock to are the blogs about how to earn money blogging. There, I have saved you weeks or months or years of your life wondering why when you like all their posts, no one likes yours. Also, this will take as much time as you can spare as often as you can spare it, so if you have a child aged 10+, I’d sit him or her down and show them how to like and share.
Another way to get Facebook likes is to have Facebook email everyone in your email address book to tell them about your blog page. It’s an actual function. Who knew, right? And how awesome and easy is it? This easy:
Granted, you might be inviting ex-boyfriends, your former football coach and that boss who hated your guts to like your blog, but you are getting your name out there, publicizing your site and increasing traffic, and a few people may actually like your page. It goes without saying that you need to invite all of your Facebook friends to like the page, too.
As far as paying Facebook or Facebook/Instagram to boost posts, the consensus of the internet seems to be that you should only do that if your post is already gaining popularity and exceeding the popularity of past posts. Just because you think you’ve written the be all, end all bestest post ever doesn’t mean the internet will agree. The internet is finicky and moody and can be a really ungrateful asshole. So wait to see what seems to be going well and gathering steam, and then pay to promote it to widen your audience. Also, if you post something you really believe is relevant and interesting, and it doesn’t get the traction you think it should, wait a bit then try reposting or re-advertising it. It may be the noise of the day that kept it from gaining steam the first time. Of course, if you stick to the proven formula of blogging about how to earn money blogging, you won’t need to worry about these kinds of things.
SEO THE LIVING HELL OUT OF WHATEVER YOU PUT ON YOUR BLOG
I’m not even sure that your content needs to make sense if you have great SEO (search engine optimization). I know, that’s crazy, right? But SEO is everything. Install Yoast or one of the other plug-ins, or use Jaaxy or Google Analytics, but you want to make sure that you are optimizing every post. I find Jaaxy the easiest to use, and they have a free trial so you can figure out if it works for you. Google is spendy and tech-heavy and probably useful when you have a huge following (so next month after you do all these things), and I prefer content to tech logistics but your mileage may vary. In fact, if you haven’t already, go back through your old posts and SEO them up, too. That will help drive traffic to you as people search the internet for things that have nothing to do with your topic, but it’s sort of like publicity. All traffic is good traffic if it’s steady traffic, and the best way to find steady traffic is to use words that people use in their searches in your titles, urls and content.
Basically, and to be completely blunt, you will want to use words that people use while searching for porn whenever possible even though you’ll be blogging about blogging to earn money. Because the internet porn industry is huge, and you just want the damned blog to pay for itself once in a while, right? And to pick up some followers? So try things like “Slowly Stripping the Mystery Away From Earning Money Blogging,” and “You Can Buy Chicken Breasts and Thighs if You Earn Money Blogging.” Like that. Keep it porny, guys. Also, watch the news (use trump – not the dude, the word, as an adjective or a verb even – in your headlines whenever you can) and pay attention to what’s going on with popular celebrities (people are shallow) and throw in whatever references and keywords will confuse people and make them click on your link. Master the double entendre with the right SEO vocabulary, and you will have mastered click bait. You will own SEO and traffic to your blog will increase like crazy.
USE ALL OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA OPTIONS YOU CAN FIND
I already explained why you need to have a Facebook page for the blog (aside from increasing visibility, you need it so you can join the groups that you need to promote the blog), but it also needs to have an Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn and StumbleUpon account, too. I know that no one uses Google+, and I don’t know why it’s still there, but bear with me here. I’m just the messenger, and I’m doing this so you don’t have to read all the other blogs about how to earn money blogging. Having all of these accounts is especially important because when you are in the Facebook groups, they will have threads where they will promote your blog on these platforms because you are promoting their blogs on them. STOP THINKING SO MUCH and just do it. All of this is supposed to increase your visibility, and even though it sounds exhausting to have to maintain it all, and it is overwhelming to populate it, it’s a requirement. The algorithms running behind the scenes like this kind of multi-platform performance, and that helps make you more interesting to their search tools and gets your rankings up and so you appear ahead of someone who is writing about the same thing but not doing as much. Maybe this is where the organic traffic comes in to play because honestly, how many people are blogging about making money blogging and using porn words and “trump” as click bait in their titles?
GO BIG OR GO HOME: YOU NEED PINTEREST
Pinterest is a huge help when it comes to getting followers. ZERO ideas why, but it is something bloggers rave about. Because you have SEO’d your blog, people will organically begin to pin your stuff but not fast enough. So, sign up for a free 30-day trial with Tailwind, and you can schedule your pins ahead. You get a little blue wing button, and when you’re searching the web for things to do other than shutting down your blog and abandoning all hope of ever having followers, you can click on it to schedule things to be pinned at “optimal times” and yeah, who knew there were optimal times to pin DIY projects and crafts you’re never going to do with your kids, but of course there are. Then people will re-pin your pins and pin your blog posts and everything else. Tailwind will also post to Instagram for you, so you can be done with that as well and it becomes maintenance-free. You’ll need a day to curate what you want to pin and post, so set one aside and get ‘er done. You will also want to join all of the Tailwind Tribes that you can (look for Facebook groups) so that you and they can all re-pin your stuff and their stuff. No one has mentioned any real themes or topics that work particularly well for this strategy, so I recommend kittens and yummy food even if you are highly allergic to cats and can’t boil water. Both are very internet, and Pinterest, popular. And here’s the key. In the description box, put random SEO words that you think people will be searching for regardless of whether they apply, and especially if they don’t (like “kitten” “DIY” “easy” “hack” “tips” “puppy” “Paris” “president”). That way when people search for whatever they search for…your pins will turn up in their search. Brilliant right? I don’t get it either, but almost all bloggers agree that having a solid Pinterest game is vital if you’re going to earn money blogging.
CREATE AN EMAIL SUBSCRIBER LIST
I know it seems weird and a little pushy, but it’s incredibly important, according to all the bloggers blogging about blogs. Do it from day one, which is today if you have not already done it. MailChimp does it for you, and there are some good WordPress plugins that do it, too. And don’t be respectful and make it easy for people to escape your list with a discreet “Sign Up Here” space on a sidebar. Force them to sign up if they want to leave a comment (which some of the Facebook groups will force them to do – see? see how this works?). Or better yet, make the signup box pop up before they can even see your blog and don’t give them an option to “x” it away or click “no thanks.” Pretend the site is doing that because it’s somehow broken and be so apologetic and say your web designer was working on it before that asshole went to Thailand for a month on vacation. Once you have an email list, you can (and apparently should) send emails to everyone on it about all the things in all the affiliate programs that will pay you the most money and hope that some people will click on them and maybe even buy something. Calling it “exclusive subscriber content” is smiled upon and much recommended. I think my friends will call it spam and yell at me, but I’m going to do it anyway because I am going to earn money blogging if it kills me, and them, too.
Also, if you, like me, have 22K contacts in your 12-year-old Gmail account, and you can’t remember how you even know 21,900 of them, you can just randomly email batches of them straight from Gmail and tell them about your blog and throw in a bunch of affiliate links in the hopes that someone will click (if you get paid per click) or buy (if it’s something people might use). Tag photos in your posts with your affiliate links, so if they click on the photo, they’re redirected to your product link on the advertiser site. In sum, make it impossible for them to escape your guerilla marketing subterfuge. If they get annoyed, blame the Google. Google went crazy. It’s emailing everyone, all the time! And your freaking web designer who took off for Thailand. It’s those Nigerian hackers, dammit. Or the Russians. You are so apologetic and so on it. You have been on hold with Google customer service for three days, and it will never happen again. Basically, give it a shot, make it so that they have to buy something just to get away from you, and think to yourself #sorrynotsorry but this writing gig is not going to pay for itself.
BECOME A GUEST BLOGGER AND HOST OTHER BLOGGERS ON YOUR SITE
In the groups, there will be opportunities for people to help one another out to drive cross-traffic among and across blogs. Brilliant! All you need to do is write a guest post for someone, and at the end, you will be able to write a short bio about yourself and link to your blog. If that blogger’s followers like you and your uniquely audacious blogging style, they will click to your page and hopefully follow it. And then you have others do the same on your blog, which will give you a break and also bring that blogger’s following over to see your stuff. It’s a nice way to collaborate and increase traffic to both sites. Plus, you might be able to throw in some of your affiliate links (come on now, you’re a good writer, you can figure out a way to do that) and generate more income from them because your own friends, family, and followers are probably getting sick of your hare-brained reviews of scented candles and commemorative tea cozies that don’t really make sense in the middle of your posts about how to earn money blogging and how to live the blogging lifestyle and how to earn blog swag and so on.
PLAN AHEAD. FAR AHEAD. LIKE YOU’LL BE POSTING A YEAR AFTER YOU’RE DEAD AHEAD.
Everyone who reports any success says that you have to have a plan so that you can keep pushing content out no matter what happens. Like, if you die. Or get sick or go on vacation or have a job that suddenly demands your attention because you’ve neglected it while you were learning how to earn money blogging. So. Plan and schedule your posts, pins, tweets, ‘grams and such at least three months out. Automate as much as possible with things like Tailwind. Facebook lets you plan ahead to post on your blog page. WordPress will do this for you. There is algorithmic logic to this, too. Apparently, Google and Facebook like it if you post new content every day at the same time of day and as you become more consistent, you rank higher in their searches and come up closer to the top where you want to be. This could be tricky if you have a job that pays an actual income on which you depend or any other responsibilities that make your life even a little bit unpredictable. If you’re really stuck, you can always arrange to re-post older posts that no one will remember or that are suddenly relevant again or that were wildly popular. But do make sure that you are posting on a regular, daily basis just like taking your vitamins and exercising. Well, not just like those because you probably don’t have time for it if you’re doing everything else, so maybe just like brushing your teeth. You’re still doing that right?
COMMIT FOR THE LONG HAUL BUT HAVE A PLAN FOR A VIRAL POST
Everyone agrees that becoming internet fabulous and famous and getting book deals and paid sponsors and swag doesn’t happen overnight unless you get lucky and something goes viral and then you have your fifteen minutes of fame and you’ll need to maximize it. Unfortunately, just like most other things in life, being a successful and reasonably profitable blogger apparently takes consistent hard work and commitment. Be prepared to grow slowly. But also be prepared to grow really quickly and have a plan for how you’re going to take full advantage of an opportunity to grow really quickly. It does happen sometimes. Something you write, probably on a napkin in a fast food restaurant when you’re in a huge hurry and not thinking straight, will take off like nobody’s business and get 5000 shares in an hour, and 2million in a day and your window will be opened. What will you do if that happens? I’ll write about what I did with that next, after I’ve exhausted my blogging about how to earn money blogging practice.
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