How to Make Money Blogging: 5 Necessary Traits of Successful Bloggers

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I did a series on Blogging for Profit a few years ago, but as things have changed a lot since then (and I’ve also learned new tricks and tips!), I wanted to re-post the series with updated information. This series will run each Wednesday for the next two months. Enjoy!

One of the questions most often emailed in to me is, “How do you make money blogging?”

The short answer is: it’s easier and harder than you may think. It’s easy because it requires very little cash outlay upfront, you don’t need a degree or certification, the field is wide open and the profit margins are high. On the other hand, setting up a successful blog that makes a part-time or full-time income will only be the result of massive amounts of effort, determination, consistency and perseverance.

If you want to be a successful blogger, here are five qualities you must posses:

1. Successful Bloggers are Marathoners, Not Sprinters

Anyone can be a successful blogger, but unless you’re already a celebrity, there’s no such thing as overnight blogging success. It takes hard work, sweat and more hard work. It may be a few months before you ever see a penny from your hours of labor invested into your blog.

2. Successful Bloggers Have Incredible Passion

If you don’t think you could write three posts per week for the next two years on your chosen blog topic, you need to choose a different topic or a different work-at-home idea.

3. Successful Bloggers are Self-Starters

It’s great to learn from others, but if you want to be spoon-fed, you won’t succeed. Roll up your sleeves, start digging and researching: read books on blogging, read articles on blogging, read blogs on blogging, watch bloggers who are successfully blogging and do your own experimentation.

4. Successful Bloggers Are Creative

In a market that is already saturated, fresh and unique voices and approaches are those that will stand head and shoulders above the rest. How are you going to be different from all the other bloggers in your niche?

5. Successful Bloggers Are Consistent

Readers come back when they can count on you having regularly-updated content. It’s much better to post three times per week every week, than to post thirty times one week every few months.

Next week, I’ll share how to set up a blog and produce content that readers are going to want to flock to. In the mean time, do you have any specific burning questions you’d like for me to cover in this series? Drop me an email or leave them as a comment. I can’t promise to know the answer or have space to cover it, but I’ll definitely try to address as many of your questions as possible.

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How to Make Money Blogging: 5 Ways to Set Your Blog Up for Success

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If you missed part 1 of the How to Make Money Blogging series, read it here.

1. Pick a Great Name for Your Blog

Your blog name should encompass your blog’s mission and should clearly articulate your blog’s purpose. Don’t hurry through the process of picking a name: it’s your brand and you want to make sure you love it and it’s something you’re going to love for years to come.

Take a week or two to consider potential names. Ask a few trusted friends to give their input. Toss around ideas and, when you land upon ones you like, check to see if the domain name (the www website address) is available on GoDaddy.com before jumping ahead and settling on any one name.

Important note: Blog names can be federally trademarked. This means that an individual or company owns the federal rights to a particular name or phrase and it cannot be used by others or you will be subject to fines and required to discontinue using the name. To be safe, search thoroughly online to make sure no one is using the name you come up with or a very similar variation of it.

2. Purchase the Domain Name and All Variations

As soon as you land on the blog name you love and have double-checked that no one is using it, buy the domain name immediately. It usually costs around $10 to $20 per year for this and it’s worth every penny to have your own domain name for your blog.

I always purchase domain names from GoDaddy.com just because, well, that’s what I’ve always done. However, if you are planning to set up your blog through Blogger (see point 3), it’s much, much easier if you purchase the domain name directly through Blogger rather than through a separate domain name service as it will be automatically set up for the domain name to point to your Blogger blog rather than you having to go through some complicated process to manually input the code and do it.

I also suggest, if you want to think long-term and hope to turn your blog into a successful business, that you purchase all variations on your domain name. That way, you don’t have to worry about someone else setting up a site with a domain name very similar to yours.

3. Choose the Right Blog Platform From the Get-Go

Not too long ago, I was asked what is the one thing you wish you had done differently when setting up your blog. I instinctively replied, “I wish I had started with WordPress.”

I started with Blogger because that was pretty much the only blogging platform in existence. I moved to TypePad when the Blogger SPAM bots marked my blog as SPAM in 2008 and I was locked out of my Blogger blog for 10 days.

Near the end of 2009, my blog outgrew TypePad and I was forced to switch to WordPress. Making the leap from TypePad to WordPress was daunting and tedious. We had to move thousands of posts and hundreds of thousands of comments. There were all sorts of glitches and it was a big learning curve.

Truth be told, though it was a major headache, it was one of the best blogging moves I’ve ever made. WordPress has allowed me to have a much more organized blog and offer many features I couldn’t with TypePad and Blogger.

So, if I were to suggest a blog platform, I’d highly recommend WordPress. It’s more expensive, but it gives you many more options than other platforms offer. Plus, you don’t have to worry about your blog getting locked or outgrowing TypePad.

Another big perk of WordPress is that it has much more sophisticated SEO capabilities (i.e. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and basically refers to optimizing your site so it comes up high in search engines. People will find you a lot more easily if you come up on the first page or two of Google rather than page 133!). I don’t do a lot for SEO at this point, but I’m all about doing small things to help improve where MoneySavingMom.com shows up when you search for “money-saving blogs” or “grocery budget”. WordPress makes it extremely simple to accomplish this.

4. Hire a Designer

Back in the “olden” days when there weren’t many blogs, if you had great content and updated regularly, you’d have a good number of readers — even if you had a basic, free Blogger blog design. Today, because there are so many more blogs, great content is paramount, but a nice designer and ease-of-use is also very important. If people find your blog design dull or your layout disorganized, they are much more apt to just go find another blog.

Now, please don’t let this discourage you. You don’t need a fancy-schmancy blog with lots of bells and whistles. Just a clean design that is easy to navigate can make a world of difference. And paying someone to set this up for you may be every bit worth the money.

If you can’t afford a designer, at least consider paying to have someone design your header and then take the time to learn some basic HTML so you can tweak your sidebar.

5. Plan Your Posts Ahead of Time

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a new blog advertised and been all excited to check it out, only to find there were a whopping three posts on it! If you want people to stick around, you need to have depth and series and a variety of posts.

Before you “open your doors to the public”, go ahead and post 10 or 15 posts, plus plan out and write another 15 to have in queue to post after you start “advertising” your blog. Not only will this allow you to “get your feet wet” and get accustomed to blogging before you have a real live audience, it also provides some great content for people to check out when they visit your blog.

I love Google calendar for planning out post series long-term. I also have recently begun printing out a monthly calendar to pencil in specific posts for each day. This gives me accountability, inspiration and organization — well, at least it’s better than my former “blog-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” routine!

Next week, we’ll talk about five tips for producing creative content.

If you’re a blogger, I’d love to hear your top tip for setting up your blog for success. And, if you’re brave, I’d love to hear what you wish you had done from the get-go.

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How to Make Money Blogging: 5 Tips for Writing Top-Notch Content

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If you missed it, be sure to read: 5 Necessary Traits of Successful Bloggers (Part 1) and 5 Ways to Set Up Your Blog for Success (Part 2).

1. Be You

One of the greatest hindrances to successful blogging is trying to be someone else. You are not someone else. You will never be someone else. You are you!

You are unique and one-of-a-kind. You have amazing gifts and talents that many people don’t. You have a perspective on life that no one else in the whole wide world does, because no one else is you. Learn from other bloggers, but figure out who you are and be you.

2. Be Confident

It’s easy to become discouraged and to feel completely inadequate when you see other bloggers who seem to have more creativity, a cuter blog, a more-frequently-updated blog, more traffic, more comments, more Facebook followers and on and on it goes. You can spend so much time worrying about not measuring up that you completely lose sight of what you have to offer as a blogger.

As I used to tell a dear friend of mine who often felt incompetent as a blogger (and who has now gone on to create a wildly successful blog), “Don’t be mouse-y!” Any time spent sitting and sulking about your lack of ability or worrying about what people will think of you is time that is wasted.

3. Be Engaging

Interact with your readers and respond to their comments and emails as much as you can. Ask your readers for their advice and input and listen to what they have to say. Your readers want to know that you value them. And you should, because without them, you’d have no audience to write for!

Don’t be afraid to try new things — even if they fail. Don’t always post the same things in the same way. Throw in some off-topic posts, photos or videos every now and then. Occasional surprises and unexpected posts will help keep things exciting.

4. Be Real

Readers aren’t looking for perfectionism, they are looking for real-ness. We all make mistakes and we all have our areas we struggle with. Don’t try to pretend that you have all your ducks in an alphabetized row.

Be honest, be open and be vulnerable (when appropriate). People will connect with authenticity but they will run from hypocrisy.

5. Be a Perfectionist

This might seem to fly in the face of being real, but I’m not talking about being perfect as a person, but about being thorough and detailed as a blogger. Frequent typos and blatant grammar errors are irritating.

Sloppiness will never get you far. Always proof your posts at least twice before publishing them. Constantly seek to improve as a writer. Read books and blogs written by good writers. Critique your writing and ask others to do the same.

Please, please, please do not use massive paragraphs without paragraph breaks. This is one of the easiest ways to turn people off from reading your blog. Blog paragraphs should be no more than a few lines long so that people can read them easily on a computer screen.

Three more don’ts: Don’t center the text. Don’t use exclamation points, all caps or ellipses excessively. Don’t use multiple fonts.

Use paragraph headings or points in articles that are longer than a few paragraphs. Include graphics and/or photos on most posts. And did I mention how important it is to proof-read your posts before hitting publish? :)

Bonus Point: Be Careful

If you share something in a public forum like your blog, you can never completely take it back. Always assume everyone in the whole world may read what you write.

Don’t use names, photos or other identifying information without thinking carefully about the potential ramifications. It’s better to be safe, than sorry.

What about you? What are your best suggestions for creating top-notch content?

Next week we’ll talk about five ways to increase your blog’s readership.

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How To Make Money Blogging: 10 Ways to Build & Increase Your Readership (Part 1)

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1. Produce consistent, quality content.

People visit a blog more often if they know they can count on it being updated regularly. Consistently commit to post at least three times each week and you’ll be well on your way to building your readership.

2. Make it very simple for people to subscribe.

If someone subscribes to your blog’s feed or email newsletter, they are much more likely to remember about your blog on a regular basis. Plus, they are less likely to unsubscribe once they’ve taken the effort to sign up.

Make it very obvious where and how to subscribe on your blog’s sidebar and occasionally remind your readers of the ease and benefits of subscribing (giving a little something away as a reward for subscribing doesn’t hurt, either!)

3. Comment on other blogs.

A great way to encourage people to check out your own blog is to leave interesting comments on other blogs. If people like your comment, they are very likely to click on your name and wander over to your blog.

Please do make sure your comment adds value to the discussion, though. Don’t just say “great post!” and then leave your link. Comments that sound like an infomercial for your blog or that serve no purpose other than to try and get people to click over to your blog are not something bloggers or blog readers appreciate.

Amy has some great tips on how to effectively make use of your time when commenting on other blogs.

4. Write guest posts.

Many, many blogs (including this one!) readily accept well-written, relevant guest posts and it’s one of the most effective ways to introduce your blog and your writing style to a new audience. As an added benefit, if the blog you guest post for has a lot of traffic and ranks high in search engines, having a link or two to your blog on that blog will increase your search engine rankings, too.

When submitting a guest post, make sure that it follows that blog’s guest post guidelines and carefully proof-read it before you send it (you wouldn’t believe how many guest posts submissions we receive that are riddled with glaring typos!). If it gets rejected, don’t take it personally (I’ve rejected many fabulous guest posts over the years, usually because I felt they were better suited for a different audience than mine.), submit it to another blog for consideration instead.

5. Participate in weekly memes.

Blog memes are the weekly link-up opportunities many blogs host, such as Works-For-Me Wednesday. There are thousands of different memes out there and this provides a great opportunity to get new visitors to your blog.

I recommend that you try participating in one to two different memes each week when you’re first starting out. Track your traffic after you participate to see which ones are most successful and bring the most visitors.

And just my personal opinion here: don’t link up to 25 different memes in one post. It looks tacky and I believe it waters down your post’s effectiveness.

Next week I’ll share five more ways to build and increase your readership.

If you’re a blogger, what have been your most effective methods of building your readership? Tell us in the comments.

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How to Make Money Blogging: 10 Ways to Build & Increase Your Readership (Part 2)

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Read Part 1 if you missed it.

6. Host giveaways.

Readers love giveaways. It’s a way to generate buzz for your site, give something back to your readers and get additional traffic by linking up to giveaway link-ups (ours goes up every Monday afternoon).

If you are a new blogger and wondering how on earth you get started hosting giveaways, it’s really very simple. Read my other post for some tips and suggestions for getting started offering giveaways.

If there’s one thing I want to encourage with giveaways, it’s this: don’t overdo and don’t make people jump through a bunch of hoops to enter. Okay, that was two things, but I think they are both vital for giveaway success.

Giveaways are great — in moderation. Unless your blog is primarily a product review blog, any more than 10 to 20% of a ratio of giveaways to regular posts is probably too much. And make it simple for people to enter. I promise your readers will appreciate it.

As a side note: be honest in your reviews if you’re including them with a product. If you didn’t love something, there’s no need to gush up and down about it.

Your readers appreciate honesty and forthrightness. Show pros and cons. But, as I’ve learned the hard way, if you only have critical things to say about a product, it’s probably better to skip the giveaway altogether since most companies aren’t really excited about sponsoring a giveaway where the blogger just posts a very negative review of the product.

7. Interact on Facebook and Twitter.

A year and a half ago, my husband suggested I set up a Facebook Page. I wasn’t too sure if it was worth it, but I went ahead and did it. I was shocked at how much traffic it generated from the start and how many people signed up as fans!

The beautiful thing about a Facebook Page is that when someone interacts on your page, it shows up on their personal page. Many people have told me they originally found my blog through a friend on Facebook.

In addition, my Facebook Page is one of the highest generators of traffic to my blog each month. Needless to say, I’m listening more carefully when my husband suggests I add something to my blog. :)

A successful Facebook Page doesn’t sit dormant. It should be updated at least once a day, preferably a few times per day. Post links to all your blog posts, share posts from the archives and throw in the occasional picture or real-time funny story, quote or question. The more you interact with your fans, the better.

By the way, I recommend posting your links manually on Facebook, instead of using an auto-post set up. Not only does this cause you to see if people are commenting or leaving questions, but this also shows up more readily in people’s feeds (auto-post tends to bury posts so people never see them).

8. Link liberally to other bloggers.

Want to know one way to have people find your blog? Link to their blog!

Most bloggers track their stats and incoming links and will click over to see if someone has linked to them. They might just end up linking back to you if they like what they see.

Now, I’m not advocating a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” sort of mentality here, but I know that some bloggers are so scared they might lose traffic if they link to another blog. I’ve found the exact opposite to be true.

If you find a great blog or blog post that you think your readers would love, share it on your blog or Facebook Page! Don’t keep a good thing to yourself.

I got a little long-winded with these three, so I’ll save the final two ways to build and increase your readership for next week.

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How to Make Money Blogging: 10 Ways to Build & Increase Your Readership (Part 3)

Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed it.

9. Network with other bloggers.

Back when I first starting blogging, if you blogged semi-consistently and were even remotely interesting, you had no problem getting readers. Nowadays, there are so many more blogs and it’s a lot harder to build your readership. One of the key components — aside from so many of the other things we’ve discussed in this series — is to network with other bloggers.

I’ve learned everything I know about blogging from more experienced and wiser people. They’ve given me counsel, they’ve taught me things I would have never figured out on my own, they’ve encouraged me with I was feeling burnt out or discouraged and they’ve challenged me to better myself as a blogger and writer.

Find bloggers you can connect with (either online or in your local area) to bounce ideas off of, to keep each other accountable and to share new things you’re learning or experimenting. These friendships can be invaluable — and it’s also nice to spend time with people who “get” what this whole blogging thing is about!

Partner with other bloggers to create series (see Honoring the Man They Call Daddy for an example), team up with other bloggers to raise awareness about issues you care about and guest post on each other’s blogs. Always be looking for ways to join forces with other bloggers in a way that will benefit your readers — and theirs, as well.

10. Create a community.

Finally, if you want to build your readership, you need to be there for them. Don’t just write a post and then disappear and let readers talk amongst themselves in the comments. Respond to questions asked and interact with your readers on a regular basis. In fact, when you are first starting out, you might to try to respond to all comments left. It encourages people to stick around and it makes them feel a part of a community.

Even if you can’t respond to every comment, whatever you do, don’t just show up to respond to commentors. As Jon Acuff says, “If you only respond to jerks on your blog, eventually you’ll create a blog that only jerks read.” It’s totally okay to explain yourself to those who misunderstood your post or are offended, but it’s much more important to respond to the faithful, encouraging commentors. They care much more deeply about you than a fly-by-night nasty anonymous commentor ever does.

In addition, listen to your readers: ask for their advice, welcome their input and let them know how much you appreciate them.

A Word of Caution

People always ask me, “How do you do it all?” I think the important thing to remember is that I’ve slowly added new things — Facebook, Twitter, email newsletter, etc. If I had tried to set it all up all at once, I would have been completely overwhelmed.

Pace yourself when setting up a blog. Challenge yourself to try new things little by little, don’t go and implement all these ten things at once. Pick one or two to focus on for the next few months. Set goals for each month, break these goals down into weekly goals and then work on them for 10 or 15 minutes each day. Over time, it will likely start to become old hat and you can add new goals and experiment with new ideas.

However, remember to compare yourself with yourself only. There will always be another blogger doing a better job of this or that or the other. Don’t let it discourage you. Look at the progress you are making towards your goals — even if it seems very slow and miniscule — and be encouraged by that.

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