So you want to start a blog from scratch, or maybe you already have a blog and want to make sure that you’re not missing anything. Either way, I think I can help you out but before I do that I want to give you my credentials. You shouldn’t take my advice just to take it. If you feel that I’m someone worth listening to, I invite you to read this article. If not, I want you to feel comfortable leaving. Don’t waste your time reading things that don’t matter.
My Resume As A Blogger
After running more traditional websites for a few years, I started my first blog (CourtneyTuttle.com) in February, 2007 and my second (TheKeywordAcademy.com) with my business partner (Mark) in November, 2008. We worked really hard on those two blogs and helped a lot of people to learn about online business. Everything we’ve done with our blogs is a long story but here are the highlights:
- The majority of the time we have had those two blogs (after about a one year start-up period of course), we have been able to produce at least $30,000 per month.
- In our all-time best month, we produced more than $50,000 in net revenue.
- Many of our students have gone on to create online businesses that produce over $10,000 per month. Some of them have done this through blogging and some of them have started other types of online businesses that are very similar to blogging.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that we don’t blog often on those two sites anymore. We used them to get a lot of initial traction and were able to semi-retire from blogging on them and kind of coast off of their residual traffic, but that’s a different story altogether.
How To Start A Blog That Makes A Difference And Makes Money
‘Makes a difference’ and ‘make money’ are very much connected, especially if you want to make a lot of money for the long term.
I have tried and succeeded at making a lot of money with blogs that didn’t really make much of a difference in the world, but I was never able to get that success to last.
One blog I started (whalehookloans.com) got a lot of valuable traffic, but honestly didn’t provide that ‘matters’ factor. The site brought in a lot of revenue for a while and I was still able to make $60,673.41 lifetime via Adsense with the blog:
Inevitably, that blog failed. As you can see, it’s still sitting there collecting dust. No one uses it, shares it, or links to it and it no longer gets a significant amount of traffic. Reviving it isn’t worth my time and I would just delete it if it wasn’t an important teaching tool.
Over the years I have seen some of my blogs succeed and some of them ultimately fail. I can tell you with ultimate conviction that the blogs that continue to succeed continuously are the ones that matter. That’s an indisputable fact. I believe 100% that there’s only one way to really make money continuously with low risk through blogging and that’s by making a blog that makes a difference for people. Intimidating yet crucial.
I want to highlight a few blog posts from blogs that I believe achieve are ‘making a real difference’ and they may not be exactly what you would expect.
Example 1 from AllThingsThrifty.com
My sister Brooke, founder of AllThingsThrifty.com, is a phenomenally successful blogger who has long since passed me in traffic in fact in the last 30 days her site has had a whopping 215,677 unique visitors.
Take a look at this blog post of hers: How To Make Upholstered Headboards (I know, not the topic you would expect me to highlight right?). Here’s what I want to highlight: this post not only teaches people how to make upholstered headboards, it shows the actual making of an upholstered headboard. I picked this example but in all honesty, her site is full of useful posts like this one.
Example 2 from Whole9Life.com
This example comes from Dallas and Melissa Hartwig of Whole9Life.com, two people who I would very much like to meet. They have an exceptional business and hugely successful blog that undoubtedly leads to a lot of sales of their books and programs.
The post I want you to take a look at is found here: Clean Mass Gain: A Case Study. This blog post is awesome because it’s a real life case study, performed by Dallas himself. He decided to eat clean foods while lifting heavy weights in an attempt to gain lean muscle. The blog post links to a .pdf file where he records his results and offers advice. Pure awesomeness.
Most people blogging would just publish what they think needs to happen to gain clean body mass.
Example 3 from FourHourWorkWeek.com
This example comes to us from Tim Ferriss of FourHourWorkWeek.com. He consistently takes this concept to the extreme and honestly, people love him for it.
The post I want to highlight is called ‘How To Lose 20 Pounds Of Fat In 30 Days, Without Doing Any Exercise‘. In the post, Tim outlines the diet he personally used to lose 25 pounds of fat in six weeks. He lived it first and published it second. People LOVED it. They also loved the follow-up book full of Tim’s experiments with the human body: The Four Hour Body.
This post would have had minimal effect if Tim hadn’t gone through the process of losing 25 pounds of fat himself. It would have just been a theory and people don’t respond to theories.
None of these examples shares some mystical philosophy or uses an outer-worldly writing ability (although both can write extremely well). They just believe in helping people and are willing to go the extra mile to do it. And, they do it continually.
Learn how to do that, and you can develop a blog that matters and makes a difference, in any niche you choose, regardless of the competition.
How Much Do Good Bloggers Make?
At this point, it isn’t that difficult to provide proof that people make a lot of money blogging. I have plenty of people in my personal network who make either full-time incomes or a lot more than the average full-time income through blogging. There are also plenty of bloggers who provide income reports. Here are some blogs that I talked about in my last income report round-up, along with how much they’re making through their blogs. These figures are all for one month:
- Pat Flynn from SmartPassiveIncome.com: $47,848.18 in October, 2012
- Jeff and Mandy Rose from Dollars and Roses: $12,092.08 in September, 2012
- Matt Wolfe from Business and Blogs: $9,315.56 in September, 2012
- Steve Pavlina from StevePavlina.com: over $40,000 per month (he’s not on the report because he doesn’t report income anymore)
The list could go on. My sister makes a full time income. Her friend Beckie makes a full-time income. I make a full-time income.
If I had to start my online career over today, I would still start a blog. Period. In my opinion it’s by far the best way for a beginner to get started.
There are a lot of different platforms that you can use to start blogging. The most popular are Blogger, WordPress.com, and WordPress.org. There are definitely benefits to all but there’s really no comparison if you want to start a blog that really stands out. WordPress.org is the way to go. Feel free to research this on your own, you’ll come to the same conclusion.
Reasons to choose WordPress.org:
- You end up with your own domain name (mysite.com instead of mysite.blogspot.com or mysite.wordpress.com).
- You will have full control of every aspect of your site.
- You can add an ecommerce store, forum, membership site or any other bit of functionality you want to add to your site. I know a few blogs who could benefit in a huge way by adding a forum but can’t because they’re on Blogger.
- Many web hosting companies make it ridiculously easy to get started. The hosting company I recommend is Bluehost (aff). You can have your blog up and running in literally 3 minutes.
After you have it installed, it’s really easy to use for beginners and allows you to do pretty much whatever you want later on down the road.
Not convinced? Good because in all honesty, I’ve probably made it all sound too easy. Having your own business of any type requires a lot of work and I want to be completely up front about that. You have to put in time and energy. I’m guessing that some of you are willing to do the work and just need to learn the expertise. That, I can help you with.
The Process Of Creating Blog Posts That Actually Make A Difference
Nothing is more important than creating blog posts that are interesting and useful and there’s an art to creating them. I’ll be honest and admit that there was a time when I feared this aspect of blogging. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around what posts would be useful and what posts wouldn’t be.
The first step is in being willing to invest a massive amount of time into a single blog post. I asked Brooke from AllThingsThrifty.com how long it took her to create her ‘How To Make Upholstered Headboards‘ post. She told me that between making the headboards, taking the pictures, and creating the post, it took about seven hours. Pat Flynn has said that his incredible ‘How To Start A Podcast‘ post took over 30 hours of work to complete.
On the other end of the spectrum, people try to get by writing posts like this:
Go to Home Depot and buy some MDF. Cut the MDF into the shape of the headboard. Get some fabric that you want to use for the headboard. Buy those little circle things. Buy some foam. Cut the foam and the fabric to match the shape of the headboard but make it a little bigger. Put the foam on the MDF, cover with fabric, and staple the back. Use the circle things to give the upholstered look. Use Google if you don’t know how.
You would have to be out of your mind to not see which style of post is going to be more effective in the long run. You can’t be afraid to be fully committed, even if it takes hours or even 100 hours to write a blog post.
I’ve found that there are almost always multiple ways to execute any blog post idea that I come up with. In other words, there are completely different levels of quality I can execute with. I want to give you a few examples of how this can work because this is the most important skill you can learn as a blogger.
Let’s say for example purposes that you decide to be a fitness blogger and want to write a blog post about ‘How To Lose 10 Pounds’. There are many methods that you could use to execute this idea. The first is the most commonly used:
Go to Google, get some ideas, and write the blog post.
Hopefully you can see that this post won’t be interesting, at all. Want to know what is interesting? Actually going through the struggle of losing 10 pounds yourself and if you are really committed to creating an awesome post, that’s exactly what you’ll do. Or, if you don’t have 10 pounds to lose, you’ll find someone who’s willing to go through that experience for you.
By going through that experience, you will automatically add about a million layers to the story. You will live the difficulty of it. I personally am really into fitness and would read real stories of people losing weight all day. If I land on a page that’s just giving out generic advice and/or theories, I’m out.
Let’s say you’re a personal finance blogger and you want to write a blog post about ‘Saving Extra Money’. This time I’m going to skip the bad option because I think you get the idea.
The better option is to do it in your own life! Go a month trying to figure out every method you possibly can for saving extra money. Again, living it will add a million layers to the story. Obsess over it, study what other people say about it. Most importantly, make a difference in your own life. If you do that, it will make a difference for other people.
Post about the things that made the biggest difference. And, post about things that didn’t really matter. Saving $0.09 by buying a candy bar at Walmart instead of a gas station isn’t significant. But, you can also talk about how you tried to save money in X or Y area, and weren’t able to make a significant difference. That adds a ton to the post.
Let’s say you have a blog about dirt bikes and want to create a solid post about the Yamaha YZ450F. If you’re really committed, you’ll get your hands on one!
Generic details from Google aren’t interesting. A user’s experience is super interesting.
If I had a dirt bike blog I would be finding friends to go ride with and I would be trying out their bikes. Or, I would be renting bikes. One way or another, I would get my hands on a YZ450F so I could write a post based on my experience, complete with pictures and/or video of the bike. If I had a video, I would put it on YouTube so people could find it there and follow it back to my blog.
As an alternative, find someone who has the bike and ask them to create a post for you!
People respond like crazy to this kind of content. It resonates when they find it because you are actually living the experience and that’s what people want to see! If you are willing to live the experience, your blog will matter and it will make money. If you’re into generic details, things will be much harder.
Amazingly, very few people blog about things they are actually experiencing. Since that’s the case, they don’t resonate. In my opinion there is a huge opening in the market for people who are committed to blogging at this level.
Marketing Your Blog
Contrary to what a lot of gurus say, having an incredible blog that matters doesn’t really guarantee anything. No one can share or link to your posts if they don’t find them in the first place. A significant portion of your time should be spent marketing your blog. These are the big areas where I see a lot of opportunity for bringing visitors to your site:
Making Friends Who Have Blogs
I still haven’t seen a significant blog that was able to get established without making friends in the industry. When I started my first blog, this was super intimidating to me. I’m very shy by nature and was really hesitant to start reaching out. I also didn’t know where to start and to be honest, I started in all the wrong places.
The flaw in my initial approach was that I thought that I had to connect with the industry ‘big dogs’ to make a difference. That never happened. What did happen was that I made some friends who were also starting out. They needed me just as much as I needed them. We all helped each other to grow and that’s how you do it – you find people at your level and make friends with them.
Getting guest posts onto other blogs is a great way to bring traffic to your site and can have a solid effect on the number of search visitors you’re able to get from Google and Bing. When I started CourtneyTuttle.com, guest blogging made a huge difference in making the initial push towards getting my group of regular readers. I was able to guest post on some of the biggest sites out there including JohnChow.com and Problogger.net.
I’ve done a lot of guest posting the hard way – by contacting site owners and pitching guest post ideas. It works and at the same time, it’s a hassle. I would highly recommend learning how to do it.
There are also two pretty good sized communities of site owners that accept guest posts:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is way too big of a topic to take on within this lesson. But, it can be a very significant method for bringing in a lot of traffic if it’s done right. I’ve used SEO to create long term streams of traffic that are still going strong today. But, I’ve also used it to create traffic to web properties that couldn’t stand on their own and in those instances, that traffic eventually died out.
I highly recommend using SEO as an ongoing strategy as long as your site is liked by the individuals who visit it. If that’s the case, SEO work will be a huge asset that will continually generate traffic to your blog, probably forever.
YouTube is currently the #2 search engine in the world, after Google. Because of that, it has become a great marketing channel for blogs. Chances are high that if people are searching for something on Google, they are also searching for it on YouTube.
In many of your blog posts, there will be opportunities to create useful videos. These videos can be found on YouTube itself and can push traffic back to your blog.
In the last 30 days, my sister’s site has received 69,830 visits from Pinterest. I am completely blown away by how big of a marketing channel Pinterest can be. It’s a huge opportunity, especially if you blog about topics that appeal visually to women.
I’ve started to listen to podcasts a lot in the last year. Before that, I honestly had no idea that so many people were into it. Because of the podcasts I’ve found in iTunes, I’ve found an entirely new group of blogs that I didn’t know about before.
Pat Flynn (who makes $45,000+ every month) has reported that 20% of the people that follow his site found him through iTunes. Incredible.
These are all areas where you can expand your reach outside of your own blog. I’ve seen friends make a pretty significant push when starting a new blog via their Facebook and Twitter accounts. On top of that, social sharing is a huge opportunity if you have your content dialed in. You have to make it easy to share on your site and you have to have shareable content.
How Long Until I Start Getting Traffic?
This totally depends on you! If you start guest blogging on other blogs and sharing your work on Facebook, you will start getting traffic right then! The more you do, the more traffic you’ll see.
As far as traffic from search engines, it will take you at least a few months. As your site continues to grow, so will your traffic from search engines.
How Long Until I Make Money?
This is the most asked question I get by far! It will take at least a few months after your blog gets set up. Of course, the more direct marketing you do (Facebook, Twitter, word of mouth, commenting on other blogs, guest posting), the more accelerated this process will be.
Sometimes people are learning this business, and they ask if they should quit their jobs. No, you should NOT quit your job. You don’t quit your job while you’re learning a brand new business. Learn the business, establish profitability, and then quit your job!
Yes, you can make a very significant income doing this. However, not everyone is going to make money. To tell you the honest truth, you have to be pretty smart and wicked persistent.
A majority of you will want to quit at times. Many of the biggest bloggers out there have reported that there was a time when they wanted to quit. You do the work and often don’t see the results for months. Many people can’t handle that but there’s a lot of upside if you’re willing to pay the price.
The #1 secret to blogging success is keeping yourself in the ‘value providing’ mindset. The easiest way to make a dollar is by providing more than a dollar’s worth of value. Keep it up for a few years and you can deliver value to a LOT of people and that’s what good bloggers are able to do. Do that and the compensation will be there!
If you think you have what it takes, get started today. Don’t wait to take action!