Being a professional blogger is sexy.
You get to make money writing on the Internet in your pajamas. It’s the epitome of the American dream, all idyllic and hypnotizing. Well, it is until your bills come anyway. Then that fantasy land you created while drinking overpriced mochaccinos comes crashing down and you remember that being a professional blogger kind of sucks. Because you’re not actually getting paid for your lifestyle blog. Or at least not yet.
Anyone who has tried to make money through blogging feels your pain. It’s a hard road. But you can make it to the other side and make a career out of doing something that you love. You just need a game plan.
There are two different kinds of bloggers out there – Those that do it for love and those that do it for money. I don’t care what kind of blogger you are in your heart, because the truth is to be successful you’re going to have to adopt a little bit of both mindsets. Profitable bloggers make a living off the marriage of passion and commercialism.
So how do you find that balance and get that career that you love?
Step 1: Finding Your Subject
This is hard. For most it means creating a list of their many passions and then deciding which one they think could be the most profitable, has the best hope for advertisers and is the most long-lasting. For me, however, it only serves to remind me that I have no passions. No hobbies. No interests. But let’s go on the assumption that you’re far more well-rounded than I am (if not, let’s be Twitter friends!).
You want to find something niche that you’re interested in and then think a layer or two out. For example, if you’re addicted to a certain type of coffee bean that can only be found in the southern most corner of South America, then bump that out a bit and create a blog that’s focused on coffee around the world and everything coffee-related. This way you can get your kicks by writing about something you love, but still keep it general enough that you’d serve a larger audience and wouldn’t have too hard of a time finding content on a regular basis.
If you’re not an expert on your topic immediately, don’t worry. You don’t have to know everything there is to know about coffee right out of the gate, but you do need to be willing to become an expert. Even if you’re just in it for the money, the blogging world is competitive. The only way for you to be authentic and real and successful is for you know your topic inside and out, better than anyone else.
Step #2: Scope Out the Competition
With that new found topic in hand, you want to take a look at how competitive the market is. Hopefully you haven’t selected something that falls into the technology, gadgets, mommyblogging or entertainment sector. If you have…please go back to Step #1 and try again unless you’re very experienced (and talented) with marketing a blog. These niches have become so saturated that unless you can write like Dooce, you’re going to have a very difficult time turning a profit. You’d be much wiser to find a niche that hasn’t been totally developed yet and will be naturally less competitive. It’s a lot easier to be a big fish in a small pond than to try things the other way around.
If you’re not sure whether your topic has been tackled or not, try running some searches. Use tools like Wordtracker to see how much traffic those terms get or perform some Google searches to see how SEO’d the results look.
Stay away from fads. You want to find a topic that has longevity and that people will be still be interested three years from now, five years from now, etc. Picking something that’s only seen a huge traffic spike in the last few months, may not be profitable in the future. Use your gut.
Step #3: Research the Monetary Possibilities
As pure as your heart is and as passionate as you are about your topic, the goal here is to make money off your blog if you want to be able to be a full time blogger. And there’s no shame in admitting that. That said, part of creating yourself a career that you love means educating yourself on the different blogging revenue streams that will be available to you.
A good way to find out how commercially-viable your topic is would be to search for your terms using Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool. All you have to do is enter your keywords into this free tool and Google will populate a nice list of data for you, including the search volume and competition among advertisers. Obviously, the higher the competition, the more healthy that market will be and the more money you can make from it. You want to balance the competition between advertisers with the number of visible bloggers in that space.
Somewhere in there will be your sweet spot.
Not every topic is going to have the same commercial viability. Some will work well with an affiliate system while others may work really well with AdSense or CPM based advertising. You’ll need to do a bit of research to determine which topics will go best with which revenue stream.
Step #4: Commit and Start Writing
Once you’ve nailed down your blogging sweet spot, it’s time to become a real life, professional blogger. One that knows that a big part of making money through blogging means getting your posts to show up in the search engines when someone performs a search for your topic. And that means knowing just enough SEO to be dangerous.
I’m a reformed blogging purist so I, too, was once horrified of the thought of changing my words around for the sake of a search engine. But the truth is, writing in a way that makes your posts more searchable, actually improves your writing for the user. Why?
- Using keyword tools like Wordtracker encourages you to use the words searchers are actually looking for. You should be using the same terms as everyone else.
- Knowing to put keywords in your titles helps curb your fascination with pithy titles that describe nothing.
- Incorporating keywords into the body of your content, helps users to find them and tells them what you’re about.
You should also be using tools like Google Trends and Google Insights to spot ways to tie in real life events with your blogging to increase traffic. Take advantage of what’s happening in your little world and use it to help your readers find you. Basic SEO is really just about becoming a more aware writer, optimizing your WordPress installation and promoting your blog.
Hopefully the tips above will help you find a blogging subject that’s not only commercially viable, but one that you’re passionate about, as well. Because as sexy as it is to say you’re a blogger, it’s even sexier to have a career that you love.
Lisa Barone is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer for the team of SEO Consultants at Outspoken Media, Inc and has been writing about blog and search since early 2006. She’s passionate about building brands, saving them and blogging about them. She also kind of has a thing for knee socks.