Business Idea: Blogging

Business Idea: Blogging

You can run a blog from anywhere in the world. You could be writing your latest blog post in a cafe, lazing on a beach, or in your comfiest pyjamas on the couch at home.

Blogging as a home business offers a fantastic lifestyle, with ultimate flexibility on when you work and where you work from.

It’s also super easy to get started. With some shared hosting (I recommend local provider VentraIP), a good domain name (or a great one) and WordPress – you can be up and running in no time at very little cost.

Our more sceptical readers may be thinking “this sounds too good to be true” – and in many ways you’re right – because the truth is that most blogs make very little or no money at all.

You’ll find lots of websites talking about the wonderful opportunities offered by blogging, as ‘blogs about blogging’ are ironically hugely popular, but many of these just highlight the good stuff and gloss over the pitfalls.

I’m not going to do that.

The reality is that many bloggers are unsuccessful in making their blog a business, rather than a hobby.

Building a successful blog takes time and hard work. If you’re looking to blogging as a means to ‘get-rich-quick’ – you’re likely to be disappointed.

That’s the bad news.

Now here’s the good news: this article will help you grow a profitable blog.

Platform

There’s only one platform that I recommend for starting a blog – WordPress.

WordPress was originally designed for blogging, with a powerful content management system (CMS) at its core, but its ease of use and extensibility has seen it become a platform of choice for a huge variety of applications – from ecommerce stores to community forums.

The terrific thing about WordPress, beyond its hugely capable CMS, is that it can be greatly enhanced using plugins and themes. Themes can be used to transform the look of a website, while plugins can be used to add functionality (new capabilities).

Blog topics: picking your niche

Selecting the right topic or niche is one of the first decisions you’ll make. It’s also the most critical to get right.

Choosing a niche with the capacity to generate revenue should be your foremost consideration when blogging for profit. That’s right – you need to focus on the money first (we’ll get to ‘passion for what you’re doing‘ later!).

Selecting a profitable niche means doing some research. Below are some techniques that will help you select the right niche.

How big is the potential target market?

If your niche is too narrow, then your potential customer base will be too small. This limits the revenue potential of your blog and puts a ceiling on growth into the future.

Are you aiming for a global or local audience? If your focus is local rather than global, then you really need to make sure your topic is broad enough for a large potential audience.

Google research

One method for gauging the level of interest in a niche is to make use of Google.

Basic test

The basic test is just running a Google search using what you think would be the most popular term for the niche. Then it’s simply a matter of examining the search results to determine the level of interest in that niche.

  1. If there are lots of search results, the topic is popular.
  2. If there are lot of advertisements on the page of search results, this suggests that the area has strong commercial interest (a good thing!).

Once you’ve run a search, you can also check out the related searches at the bottom of the page for ideas on other key search terms.

Basic Google test example

You can see in this screenshot that the number of search results for the term ‘home business’ is very high (once it passes a billion results you’re in terrific shape!).

There’s also plenty of ads, indicating that there’s commercial interest in this topic. That means there’s money to be made in this area (more details on monetisation approaches later in the article).

The second screenshot above shows more ads at the bottom of the page, along with the related search terms I mentioned earlier.

Detailed test

The basic Google test outlined above is just a very rough guide – an initial look to see if the niche attracts much interest.

For a more in-depth look at how popular various niches are, you can make use of Google again, but this time digging into search data for various terms.

To get started, head to Google’s Keyword Planner and sign in with your Google account. If you don’t already have a Google account, you’ll need to sign up first (it’s free).

New users may need to setup an AdWords campaign before they can access the Keyword Planner. This may not suit you, in which case check out some of the other tools on offer, such as SEMrush.

SEMrush offers a free trial that you could use to check a few terms. You can also run some checks without logging in or signing up, by using this link.

Detailed Google test example

This example shows how you can use Google’s Keyword Planner to find out search volume for key terms and also discover related terms.

I’ve picked a somewhat silly set of keywords (‘food’, ‘cheese’ and ‘washed-rind cheese’); but the idea is to show that broader terms have more search volume (bigger audience), then as you narrow down your niche the search volume reduces.

The potential audience for the broader ‘food’ niche is significantly larger than the audience for ‘washed-rind cheese’. This should be reflected in the search volume shown in the results of this test.

In the screenshot above, ‘Australia’ has been selected for location targeting. If your blog has a global focus, simply select the ‘All locations’ option instead (which is the default selection).

Here’s the results from our test:

In the screenshot above you can see that the search volume for the term ‘washed-rind cheese’ is minimal (210 searches per month); plus there’s no ‘suggested bid’ for advertisers, which implies that there’s limited commercial interest in this area. Arguably not a good niche for a blog then.

The size of the niches is certainly reflected in the monthly search volume, with the term ‘food’ leading the pack by a long way.

At the bottom of the screenshot you can see the top part of a section which shows related keywords (terms). In this screenshot just the first of the related keyword suggestions is shown: ‘recipes’.

Will your audience buy anything?

You need to determine if readers in the niche are likely to take actions that will generate revenue for your blog. For example, would they buy your ebook or click on an affiliate link and purchase a WordPress theme?

Some niches are not commercially focussed enough to earn you any money, making better hobbies than home businesses.

Will it hold your interest?

In addition to the niche for your blog being one that should turn a profit, it also needs to be a topic that can hold your interest. Otherwise you’ll soon run out of steam and your blog becomes a chore instead of a venture that you’re passionate about.

Pick a niche that you’re excited about, one that you can write about for years to come.

Choosing a niche that covers multiple topics can also help, because as they say ‘variety is the spice of life’.

Monetisation – generating revenue

If your blog is taking up huge amounts of your time for no financial return – it’s a hobby.

A successful home business is one that provides a return on your investment – and for blogs this starts with monetisation.

‘Monetisation’ is simply the conversion of website activity into revenue. For example, selling an ebook on your blog monetises the site through converting some visitors into paying customers.

There are many approaches to monetisation and I recommend that you try several on your blog. Some approaches will work great on some blogs and yet perform terribly on others.

It’s also sensible to avoid relying too heavily on just one source of revenue, as this can pose a big risk if something goes wrong. Darren Rowse (founder and editor of ProBlogger) published a great article a few years ago, sharing his experience with being too reliant on one source (Google) for monetisation and visitor traffic.

Below are some examples of monetisation approaches. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it should provide a good starting point. Remember diversification is sensible, as is testing out different forms of monetisation – so be creative and experiment to see what works best for your blog.

Affiliate programs

Affiliate programs allow you to earn commissions on sales that you generate for other businesses.

Publishers (affiliates) promote the offerings of other businesses online to receive a commission for completed transactions. It typically works by using unique links and cookies to track any sales that result from affiliates promoting these products or services.

For example, I previously ran some whisky blogs that included affiliate links to an online whisky retailer. Whenever a visitor clicked on one of these affiliate links and purchased whisky from the retailer, I would get a percentage of the total sale price. As single malt whiskies are rather expensive, the commission on each sale was a lot more than I could have earned through Pay Per Click advertising (the ‘PPC’ monetisation approach is explained shortly).

Below are some of the best aggregators of affiliate programs. Signing up with one of these companies will give you access to lots of different retailers across a broad range of industries.

Local (Australian) market

Our top pick for the Australian market is definitely Commission Factory.

International markets

Check out our detailed guide to affiliate marketing for lots of tips and tricks.

Paid reviews or advertorials

Paid reviews are not something that I would personally recommend. Your blog may not be viewed as a credible source of information if it looks like your opinion can be bought.

If you intend to go down this path, then ‘advertorials’ or sponsored posts are a better approach. This way you’re being transparent with your readers and leaving the spruiking to the sponsor.

Another more effective option is reviewing a number of different products (e.g. ‘Top 10 Digital Cameras’) and then monetising your article through affiliate links. Reviewing multiple products in a category is likely to result in a more objective article.

Digital products

You could promote and sell digital products through your blog. This could include single transactions (e.g. selling an ebook) or ongoing subscriptions (e.g. to access premium content). Some examples of digital products include:

Consulting and teaching

If you develop a big enough following and a solid reputation for expertise in your chosen fields, then your blog could generate consultancy work or even opportunities to run paid courses.

Glen Allsopp of ViperChill is a great example of this, with the blog providing a valuable source of customers.

Promoting related businesses or expanding into new areas

If you own a related business, then your blog could be used as a platform for promoting the products or services of your other business.

As your blog grows, opportunities to expand your business may also present themselves. For example, let’s say that your blog provides small business advice, and you find that many of your readers want an easier way to setup a simple ecommerce website – you could offer them a ‘one stop shop’ for setting up no-fuss ecommerce sites.

This indirect monetisation approach has been used very successfully by a number of bloggers, such as Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.

Pay Per Click advertising

Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, also called Cost Per Click (CPC) advertising, is one of the most popular approaches to monetisation – largely because it’s very easy to implement.

The most well known provider is Google, with their Google AdSense offering. It’s simply a matter of signing up and then adding some code to your website. If a visitor clicks on one of the ads, you’ll receive a small commission for sending visitor traffic to that advertiser. Once you hit the payout threshold, Google will pay you for the commissions you’ve earned to date.

PPC advertising is typically a volume game. As the ‘click-through rate’ for ads is often very low, the aim is to have lots of visitor traffic in order to generate enough clicks for a decent amount of revenue. Some topics will also attract higher payouts per click, for example insurance, and so some blogs will target these higher-paying areas.

Direct advertising

Direct advertising involves selling ad space on your blog directly to other businesses. For example, if you run a blog about cooking, you could contact a producer of high-end kitchenware offering them advertising space on your blog.

This approach involves a lot more effort than CPC advertising, but it’s usually far more lucrative. You’ll need to have a fairly popular blog (or exceptional sales skills!) to get advertisers signed up.

Build and sell

You can also make money by building and selling blogs.

Flippa is a great marketplace for buying and selling existing websites. Check out Ramsay Taplin’s article for some tips on selling blogs through Flippa.

Given the amount of work that can go into growing a successful blog, you may find that building and selling them is not sustainable over the long term. Plus you may get attached to one of them.

Providing quality content

Great content attracts readers. It’s a pretty simple concept, obvious even, but let’s unpack what that means.

Producing great content requires effective writing skills. As blogs are principally about sharing information, there’s just no getting around this.

But don’t despair if you’re not a great writer (yet), because everyone can improve. For a start, there’s lots of successful bloggers that you can learn from. Here’s a few Aussie bloggers to take inspiration from:

  • Blog Tyrant  – Blog Tyrant is a brilliant ‘blog on blogging‘ by Ramsay Taplin from Adelaide.
  • ProBlogger – Melbourne-based Darren Rowse operates ProBlogger, another terrific ‘blog on blogging‘.
  • Not Quite Nigella – Lorraine Elliott in Sydney blogs about all things gourmet food and drink.

Another way to improve your writing is with practice. Yep, it’s the old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’. The more you write, the better you’ll get.

Posts that are engaging and easy to read will bring people back to your blog and encourage them to share your awesome content.

Here’s a few tips for creating better blog posts.

Focus on quality over quantity

You’re far better off publishing high quality articles less frequently; rather than pumping out short, low quality posts on a daily basis.

Start your blog on a strong foundation by focussing on quality content, because your readers (and search engines) will love you for it.

Break your content up into digestible pieces

Use headings, subheadings, dot points and shorter paragraphs for readability.

Breaking your content up into easily digestible chunks will make your posts much easier to read.

Reading through long paragraphs is tiring for the reader. Many visitors will see the ‘wall of text’ and leave your blog immediately.

Keep it simple

Your blog posts should be written in simple language.

Avoid using too many words. When you’ve finished drafting a blog post, it’s worth scanning for any unnecessary words that can be removed.

Avoid any urges to show-off what a wordsmith you are. If there’s any chance that your readers will need a thesaurus, you’re over-complicating it.

Spellchck

See what I did there?

Spelling mistakes break the flow of reading. Some people find them particularly jarring (I’m one of those people!) – so it’s well worth checking for any spelling mistakes before you click ‘publish’.

Less isn’t always best

We’ve all heard that ‘less is more‘ when it comes to writing. Ignore that.

You should be publishing content that offers value to your readers. If it takes 3,500 words to provide value on a topic, so be it.

Don’t be afraid of long blog posts. If your content is valuable and engaging, then the length of your post is largely irrelevant.

Of course the topics covered on your blog and the preferences of your reader base can influence the length of your blog posts. Your blog should be tailored to your target audience, after all they’re effectively your customers. If your readers are frequently telling you that your posts are too long or too short – listen to them!

Update your content

Don’t be afraid to go back and update old posts. In fact, it can yield great benefits for your site.

By updating those old posts that you’ve spent countless hours on, you’re able to extract further value from them.

Make sure your post prominently features ‘Updated on {Day Month Year}’ at the top of the post. You could also update the post title, for example adding ‘updated for 2016’.

These signals make it clear to readers and search engines, that your post has been updated with new material.

Create a spider web

You want your visitors to stick around.

One way to do this, is by including links to your related posts in the content of posts and pages. This creates a ‘web’ that keeps visitors on your site and reading your content.

Don’t over do it of course, the links should make sense in the context of the post.

Readable fonts

As much as you may love the Papyrus font …it’s horrible to read as paragraph text.

Your fonts should be clear and sufficiently sized so they’re easy to read.

Roboto is the font that we use for our main paragraph text on HomeBusiness.com.au.

Also make sure that your text appropriately contrasts with your page background. Avoid using really light colours (such as grey) on a white background, because it makes it rather difficult to read.

User engagement

It’s not enough to simply post content day after day, you also need to actively engage with your readers; by replying to their comments, asking them questions and seeking their feedback.

Engaging with your audience can turn visitors into loyal fans. They’ll return to your blog time and time again, they’ll help promote your site through ‘word of mouse’; and of course they’ll buy your products.

Design

Visitors will make a judgement on your site almost instantly, based on how it looks and how fast it loads.

Appearance

Appearance matters. You can have terrific content, but still turn visitors away with a poorly designed blog.

You don’t even need to be a design-wizard to make your site look terrific – you can use a theme like we did for HomeBusiness.com.au (we’re using the Bridge theme).

Getting a great looking logo is also a breeze. See my previous article for some handy tips: Get a great logo for less.

Speed

Speed is increasingly important and is now a ranking factor for search engines. With our increasingly mobile and fast-paced lives, most people have little patience for slow websites. Studies have shown that if your site is taking more than a few seconds to load – you’ve already lost a lot of visitors.

There are steps that you can take to improve your site’s loading speed. For example, you could use a caching plugin for WordPress. I recommend WP Rocket, which we use on HomeBusiness.com.au.

Reducing the file size of images on your blog can also make a big difference. The main thing is to reduce the file size without compromising (too much) on visual quality.

Mobile friendly

Your blog should use a ‘responsive’ design. This simply means that the website will automatically adapt its design and dimensions according to the visitors device (screen size). This means that the website looks good and works well on various screen sizes, from desktop computers to mobile phones.

With the explosive growth in mobile phones and other portable devices accessing the internet, it’s super important that your blog works well for mobile device users.

What’s your story?

I’d love to hear about your blog! Maybe you’ve got some great tips for better blogging? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

6 Comments
  • Andrew Lockman
    Posted at 23:09h, 09 July Reply

    Well done for presenting a heap of great information in a single blog post. I recently posted on my blog a similar amount of information on a ‘how-to’ subject’ as a series of articles to make it more consumable and create a bit of a buzz. I got a few comments but nothing too exciting. I think having a blog to support a niche business is essential but only if you are prepared to be consistent. Hopefully for me there’ll be a payoff over time.

    • Luke
      Luke
      Posted at 23:47h, 09 July Reply

      Thanks Andrew. Great logo by the way.

      All the best for your ‘how to’ series of articles. You could test a couple of longer articles and see how they perform versus breaking the topics up into a series of posts. If you do, let me know how it goes.

      You’re absolutely right, consistency is important.

      I think it’s helpful to establish a realistic benchmark from the outset. If you’re a small business owner and operator you may not have time for daily blog posts, but once or twice a week could work. Weekly blog posts is absolutely fine, it doesn’t have to be daily. Some bloggers post monthly and still have a huge following.

  • Ramsay
    Posted at 12:06h, 11 July Reply

    This is a really great write up! You’ve hit a difficult balance between complex information and keeping it easy enough for beginners. That’s really hard to do! Thanks so much for mentioning Blog Tyrant – I appreciate it and hope it helps anyone who is looking to start a blog.

    Ramsay

    • Luke
      Luke
      Posted at 12:36h, 11 July Reply

      Thanks Ramsay!

      I’ve picked up some great tips from Blog Tyrant, it’s a fantastic resource for anyone looking to start or grow a blog.

      Keep up the great work and thanks for stopping by!

      Luke

  • Diana
    Posted at 00:44h, 12 July Reply

    I have enjoyed reading this information, great tips. From this I have identified areas I need to work on, on my blog-

    http://www.dianakagotho.com.

    • Luke
      Luke
      Posted at 06:50h, 12 July Reply

      Thanks Diana.

      I’m glad to hear that the article has been helpful for you.

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