These twelve steps will help set up your blog for financial success
By Melissa Uhles
Are you creating a blog or a business? Do you want to make money blogging?
Before creating Pen and Parent, Amber and I had personal hobby blogs for years. We’d also written a novel together. But we wanted to build a profitable business while using our writing skills. We’re also both parents. So we dreamed of helping people like us. That’s why our blog now provides helpful information and a community for parents and writers.
In the process of launching our own site, we’ve done extensive research on making money blogging and wanted to share with you what we’ve learned. Now you’ll be armed with the tools to join us on this exciting journey!
For more pro advice, Blogger, Elna Cain has helpful tips on her site. I also highly recommend Darren Rowse’s podcast on ProBlogger.
Pick a name that describes your niche. Make sure it is available. It may seem like all the good names are taken. That was our experience at first. We made lots of lists of ideas and typed our ideas into Godaddy to see if they were available.
By the way, don’t over-search one name several times or the price may go up. We learned this the hard way. We paid ten bucks but many domains are a dollar for a year.
We wanted a dot com but there are other choices, like dot net or dot org. Based on my research, a dot com is best for optimal SEO.
For cheap domain names go to Namecheap.
I’m not afraid to admit to having started with a Blogger site. It’s free, it’s easy, what have you got to lose? Money, apparently. It’s very hard to monetize with a Blogger site and now if you have one people think of you the same way people think of hotmail. That said, I’ve still kept one as a place where I keep my writing services and some of my clips but it’s mostly a static page now.
Amber started with Word Press which was wise. But again, the free version can limit the potential to monetize. However, if you just want a place to write for fun and share pictures, the free Word Press is just fine. There are free themes that make it look nice too.
For Pen and Parent, we decided to invest some money to make our site easier to monetize and set it up as a business right from the start. First, Amber transferred what was already on her free Word Press.com blog to Word Press.org. Then she chose Blue Host as our host because it was recommended by Word Press and ProBlogger.
Recommended reading: How to Move from a Free Website to Self-hosted
In order to make your site look nice and have tools that make posting and monetizing easier, we also purchased a theme. We chose Thrive themes because the selling point was setting up your site for monetization right away.
Plug-ins can help with this. But you should research the basics of SEO before writing a bunch of content. Search Engine Optimization is a way of writing using key-words, ideal article lengths and proper headlines so that your content will come up in an organic Google search.
There’s a great plugin called Yoast SEO that teaches you how to use key-words as you go. For other plugins that will make your SEO sing, check out Carol Tice's post 48 Best Apps and Tools to Improve Your Freelance Writing Life.
Once you’ve created a post, be sure to edit it. If you don’t fancy yourself as an editor, try Grammarly. It’s an amazing tool. Once it’s installed, it will alert you to grammar problems and will suggest the fixes for them. You may also want to read through the content out loud, it helps catch anything that doesn’t flow well.
As a way to help you create awesome content, get your FREE PRINTABLE Craft & Promote a Perfect Blog Post Checklist
You’ll also need a logo for your homepage. PicMonkey and Canva have free and paid options that can help even a novice manipulate images and create logos, teasers and other marketing materials.
Pictures are essential to make post sharing more palatable. Pixabay is a place to find free images that don’t require attribution. There are lots of similar sites, some charge a fee though. You can also take your own photos. We have used both stock and original photos on Pen and Parent.
There are many ways to set up your blog for monetization. The top ways are selling your product, service, using affiliate marketing or sponsored posts to sell other people’s stuff.
You can sign up for a variety of different affiliates. Many start with Amazon because there is a low barrier for acceptance and it’s easy to use. Google Adsense is another popular choice. Once you have links for products, you put them into your articles, where appropriate.
Getting a sponsored post from a company will require more traffic so that’s something to pursue once you have enough eyeballs on your site.
Or perhaps, you're interested in podcasting or YouTube, as a way to monetize.
As your traffic grows, you may want to consider selling e-books, courses, coaching or services. For example, on Pen and Parent, we offer freelance writing services. We also have a link to our novels which are available for purchase on Amazon. In the near future, we plan to have a nonfiction ebook and courses available for purchase.
Do some research based on what you can spend and choose a mailing list provider. We chose Mailer Lite and so far it has been a better experience than using Mailchimp.
The reason Mailer Lite is a good option to start with is because they offer all the premium features for free that you would get with other services like Mailchimp or Convertkit. Once you reach 1,000 subscribers you will have to choose a monthly plan. The customer services is also excellent.
Next, come up with a freebie or “opt-in” that can be offered to entice people to sign up for your mailing list. We have a few different freebies on our website. For example, Pen and Parent offers free writing prompts, 50 Parenting Publications that Pay Freelance Writers, and The Quick Guide to 25 Facebook Groups to Promote Your Website as some of our opt-ins.
You can create a “landing page” that forces a reader to put in their email or x out of the page and you can share that landing page link on Facebook and other social media channels.
What we discovered was that we wanted our opt-ins to be enticing and useful. We wanted to give the people who chose to trust us with their email, a freebie that helped and made their life easier and better.
How do you spread the word? First, do some research and figure out what social media channels your audience prefers. I’ve heard younger people are on Instagram and the 35-50 set are found on Facebook, for example. Pinterest is also a hopping place. Amber took a helpful Pinterest Legacy course that increased our traffic by using strategic pins.
Social Warfare is a fantastic plugin that will help you control what people share from your website. Instead of sharing any photo on your blog post, the person pinning or sharing your post is only able to choose what you set-up in the plugin.
Speaking of connecting virtually...We have a Facebook Group and we’d love for you to join us. We also have a Pen and Parent Facebook page so that we can buy boosted posts to promote new posts. Amber has been working hard on our Pinterest page too! In addition, we have personal Twitter pages but don’t use them a lot at this point. Twitter also hosts #pitmad, a popular pitch party, that you can participate in to find agents and publishers.
We recommend only focusing on one or two social media platforms at once to save you time and energy. Where does your ideal user hang out?
Everyday we learn something new, try new strategies, and remain focused. We also try to have fun. And we try to celebrate when we accomplish something. As Amber's two-year-old says, "I did it!"
We’d love to hear about your blog and how you’ve optimized it to make you money, feel free to share your story in the comments.
Melissa Uhles is Co-founder of Pen and Parent, the author of three novels and a freelance writer-for-hire.
We use affiliate links to keep ourselves in coffee, wine and chocolate.