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5 Beginner Steps to Creating a Blog that You Can Monetize

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Last week, I wrote Follow 50+ MBA-level Case Studies in Content and Inbound Marketing about a 48-hour class that is happening at a university in Silicon Valley.

In the first week, my students wrote a combined 750-ish posts of varying length and purpose – daily posts, guest posts, link bait posts. At Top 10 Content Marketing Sites in the Social Media MBA course I listed up the best performers. You’re welcome to take a look to see just how many unique visitors, total visitors and page views that much effort can produce in sites that are starting from zero.

In this post I want to articulate the 5 first steps my students and I had to take BEFORE they could think about making money with content marketing and the challenges I faced to get them there and how I, ahem, overcame those challenges just to get the students online and writing.

Step One: Get a Domain Name and Hosting

More than 2 weeks out my trusty TA (teacher’s assistant) and I started sending emails to the whole class via the school’s learning management system. No response. What do you do when you can’t get a response and the only way to contact the students is email? You spam them until they figure out they had better do something.

About half of the 60+ students showed up with a domain name and hosting.

Another one fourth showed up thinking, “What’s the difference between having a domain and hosting? Aren’t they the same?

And still others said, “You emailed us? When? You want us to do what?”

There was no easy answer. My trusty assistant, Kevin, came to class and they drove him ragged getting everyone a domain and hosting. It wasn’t pretty. But over the course of the first 2 days and 16 hours of in-class time and a ton of emails, we got everyone in the class online with a domain, hosting and WordPress installed.

If any reader here has a better solution to this problem…by all means let me know.

Step Two: Get the Right Plugins and Set Up the Back End

With a group of students who don’t even know what WordPress is, much less a plugin, there was no easy answer to this either. Throwing something up on the giant screen and having everyone follow along just wouldn’t work. Besides I had to spend a LOT of time on Steps 3-5 and couldn’t afford the time.

I nearly killed my local and overseas staff. They were spending about 1-2 hours per site setting the permalink structure I like, getting the right plugins in place – SEO, sitemap, etc. Creating webmaster accounts for each and installing Google Analytics so we can track the results. 60+ websites at various stages of coming online x 2 hours each = a LOT of time.

Again, I knew of no simple way to do this other than throw food under the door to keep my staff happy, or at least well fed, while they brought all the sites to an equal footing. Suggestions?

Step Three: Decide What to Write About

Unlike the first two steps,  at this point I finally had everyone on the same page, in the same room, doing the same thing. I could get all 60+ students to look up and follow along.

I had all students create a tagline. My specific instructions were for them to tell me what they were going to write about in 10 words (not a magic number, but definitely less than 12) or less what they planned to write about. They were NOT to use adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions or articles. They were to come up with 3 different iterations and show them to five other classmates for feedback and pick the best one. Focus for a site from the get go is critical

Other instructions:

  • Write about something you are interested in
  • Write about something you can create an interest in
  • Write about something you have a lot to say about.

In my world, if a blogger doesn’t have a 1,000 things to say about their topic they will have a hard time making money with their site.

Step Four: Use SEO to Ensure Posts are Found

What is SEO anyway? Search Engine Optimization. But what is that?

I define Search Engine Optimization as content that appeals to real people (first) and to search engines (second). But it must appeal to both.

If a blogger only considers readers they might get read but only by the people the blogger tells to go their directly. They will not be found as well by search engines. If the blogger considers only the search engines they are likely to come up with stuff that is just unreadable. There is an ideal balance for the content. Ideal balance = optimization.

I have learned that there are some 220+ parameters that can go into an ideal post/page. I have also learned that pages can be overly optimized. But what I find of particular value is that I have also learned that there are about 20 ‘things’ you can do to a blog post that will get you 90-95% of the results you want. I will write about them in a future post.

If you can’t wait, you can buy the book – Marketing with Social Media. It’s the text book, first draft, that I wrote for this course.

Step Five: – Make a Plan and Work the Plan

For every hour of classroom work, I can require 2 hours of work outside of the class.  I am requiring my students to write 600-750 words DAILY. How hard can that be? They are permitted to adapt to their own style.

Some like to write multiple short posts.

Some like to write one long post each day.

Some like to do a combination.

It doesn’t matter to me.

Additionally, the students are required to guest post weekly at my home site about their progress (you can read their posts at Bill Belew Guest Writer AND guest post at one classmate’s web site that is relevant. Lots of link love happening that will only get better and of more value as the sites mature = get more content. Lastly, they are required to write one relatively higher quality post – link bait style.

Ongoing:

All 5 of these steps were done in the first 2 days of class, each a full 9-hour day, counting lunch. The students are off and writing at this point. Some get it, some don’t. Every educator knows that just because you tell somebody something, it doesn’t mean they learned it.

In the meantime, in about 10 weeks, this class will wrap up with some 15-20,000 posts being written over a large variety of niches and at various paces and different lengths and with different intensity and interlinking. How cool is that?

What do you think I can learn from this?
What would you like to learn?

What you can do:

Step 1 – Subscribe to the Bill Belew.com/blog to get more immediate updates from me at my home site. You will also be able to read the inbound and content marketing student experiences first hand

Step 2 -Subscribe to this NMX blog to get updates when they come out here.

Thanks for reading.

Bill Belew is a professional blogger and pays his Silicon Valley mortgage through revenue from traffic to his network of sites. Bill has taken 10 different and unrelated niche topics to more than 1,000,000 unique visitors each and more than 87 million views overall. He is a published author, speaker, and teaches blogging, SEO, and web traffic building to his network of nearly 4,000 Meetup members in San Francisco.


Feedback

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  • Andraz Vene

    Wow Bill, that’s one interesting project! The results you have gotten so far are quite impressive. It shows that “you don’t need experience” to get traffic. Amazing that just writing unique content regularly can net such results.

    I think your next task should be evaluating these results over the next few weeks and determine what kind of posts, linking etc. is bringing the best results. Is it better to write several short posts or one big one? How much does over-optimizing actually hurt SEO?

    This project makes me wish I was a teacher and “used” my class like that 😉

    Keep us updated on what comes out of this!

    Kind regards

  • Bill Belew

    Thanks for weighing in, Andraz.

    In my next post I will shine some light on what I am asking the students specifically to do… number of posts, length of posts, linking strategy and what not.

    After that comes the analyzing.

    Please help me get the word out on what I am doing here.

    The more ideas like yours that I can get the better the end result.

    Bill Belew

    • Andraz Vene

      It will surely be interesting to see what students did and especially when you manage to put it all together.

      Tweeted & liked, hope it brings a few curious faces to check on this neat idea!

  • Nazia Shah

    i make a blog and i want to get traffic on my blog, how i can do that any short cut to bring traffic?

    • Bill Belew

      Nazia,

      The simplest way to get more traffic to your site is to publish more often.

      It my next article I will explain the pace that I have my students working at and some of their results – after just 3 weeks some are seeing 2000-4000 page views total already.

      Bill Belew

  • Hemu

    Hi Bill, i am not questioning over your expertize but i think focusing on content should be the foremost thing for any new blogger not the seo or blogging platform thing. i think seo and wordpress are just hype stuff. i think you can also do good with blogging platforms like blogger or tumblr. And all you just need and where i am agree with you, the domain name.

    • Bill Belew

      Hemu,

      Content is key. But there are very important SEO considerations that must be applied to each post. They are not big or hard but they are definitely important.

      If a blogger is taking their blog serious they will certainly want their own domain and hosting. Tumblr and Blogger have limitations. WordPress does not.

      Bill

  • Pat Drummond

    Great Post. I would probably add ‘rinse and repeat’ as one of the things to make a blog last for the long term. Blogging takes a lot of setup time and effort however, if you follow the steps correctly, you will certainly reap the rewards. I probably spend most of my time working on unique content. By doing so, it has helped me to connect to my readers.

    • Bill Belew

      Pat,

      You are spot on.

      When people ask me what is the one piece of advice I give for getting more traffic, I tell them “Hit the publish button more often.”

      Thanks for weighing in.

      Bill

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