I’ve been blogging in some form since 2005 so by internet standards I’m a veteran of the blogging genre.
Blogs were the original social media and even now, years later, continue to be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to online publishing.
Personally, blogging has been very good to me from both a career and monetary standpoint.
It’s helped me land jobs, win clients and speak at countless events in 15 countries across three continents.
Even today, blogging is supporting me financially while I travel the world.
Despite not hitting the headlines like Facebook or Instagram, blogs are still one of the best ways to make a living from both directly and indirectly.
What’s more, a blog is yours.
You are the owner of it.
It’s yours to keep, sell or do what you like with.
When you build a following on, say, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, you’re on rented land.
If they want to kick you off, they can.
You’re at the whims of an algorithm change whenever one is made.
That said, even I’m not foolish enough to suggest you shouldn’t use other social platforms given their size and reach.
The point I’m making is that depending on them comes with risk.
Of course, even with your own blog you still have to play nicely with Google’s search algorithm by creating quality content people want to read.
And you still have to work with the social media algorithms to ensure your content is being shared across the social networks.
But assuming you play by the rules, high-quality blog articles can provide traffic for years.
As you develop a loyal audience they’ll know your URL off by heart or have it bookmarked to visit you directly.
Here I’m going to show you how to build a blog to make money, raise your profile and grow your influence.
I’m not going to tell you what you should write about because that’s down to you to decide.
My only guidance on this is, you don’t have to be an expert to begin with (blogging is a journey) but you should have an interest in your subject and a desire to learn more about it.
If earning money is your goal then you need to research your area to discover if it’s a lucrative subject area.
If lots of blogs are already making money from that subject (health, wealth and love are the three big ones) then take it as a good sign.
This is more of a practical guide which includes the nuts and bolts of what you need to do to build a robust blog in 2018.
Making money from a blog
Without a doubt, blogs are still one of the best social platforms to make money from.
Some independent bloggers are making six to seven figures each year directly from their blogs.
While not everyone can make that kind of money, a lot of bloggers do make a very comfortable living from them.
This will only carry on as consumers continue to move online and as influencer marketing continues to take off.
In fact, there are already numerous influencer marketing platforms available that help bloggers partner with brands.
When I started in 2005, making money form a blog was relatively unheard of.
Today there are a lot of ways to monetise a blog either directly or indirectly, including;
- Display advertising
Placing ads on your blog from ad providers like Google Adsense and media.net or even working directly with companies that wants rent some ad space from you.
For this to be lucrative you usually need a site that gets a lot of traffic relative to the industry you’re in.
Some bloggers prefer not to carry ads as they can cheapen the look of a blog which is not appealing to certain industries like fashion where an element of luxury is required.
- Affiliate marketing
Here a blogger might write about a product or service she is using and from her blog post link to where it can be bought.
The link is an affiliate link which means if someone makes a purchase from it the blogger gets a commission from the sale.
You can join affiliate marketing programs in a number of ways.
Affiliate marketplaces like Commision Junction are one way or using Amazon Associates which is the largest affiliate network in the world.
Some choose to partner directly with a brand that has a product or service they use which usually means they can get a better commission deal.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to make money from your blog because there is no risk on your part as it’s other brand’s products you’re recommending.
It’s not the most lucrative, however – selling your own products is.
- Own products
Many bloggers have launched their own products directly from their blogs because they have a captive audience to sell directly to.
A product can be anything from a book to a course or something specific to the industry the blogger is in.
For example, if you’re a foodie blogger that cooks then selling your own kitchen utensil is very relevant to your audience.
Or if you’re a fitness blogger you might sell your own diet program.
Bloggers are getting into the commerce game because they have their own brands to launch products based on feedback they’ve already received.
- Sponsored posts/brand partnerships
Here the blogger partners with a brand to create a sponsored blog post (or series of blog posts) where the brand is part of the content.
Having credibility in social media is important to develop a following so, usually, when it comes to sponsored posts an influential blogger will collaborate with a brand if it’s relevant to his or her audience.
- Consulting and speaking
While not making money directly from the blog, a lot of bloggers position themselves as thought leaders around a particular industry or topic.
This leads them to earn a handsome fee for consultancy projects or speaking engagements.
If you’re in the right subject area and you’re good enough, this can be as equally lucrative as any of the above.
Creating influence from a blog
Blogs are still one of the best platforms to influence and persuade, no question.
If you’re looking to become a social media influencer around a particular subject or industry, blogs are one of the best platforms to do so.
If you write consistently good content about a topic – or topics – over time you’ll begin to build authority in that sphere.
And rightly so, since writing thought-provoking articles week-in-week-out requires intelligence, experience, research and valuable time.
If writing is more your thing than, say, video then blogs are an obvious choice over something like YouTube.
It also depends on where the people you want to influence are online.
People who spend a lot of time on YouTube tend not to read blogs as much and vice versa.
So now that’s out the way, how do you go about building a blog to make money, raise your profile and become an influencer?
Here I’m going to outline a blog strategy and the tools you need to build a blog today.
Compared to when I started blogging, blogs are much more functional and feature-rich today.
I’m going to assume you already have your own domain name and intend on using blogging platform, WordPress, since it is the most popular and literally powers 20 percent of all websites online!
WordPress is both free and open source meaning you can create a blog to how you want it.
Start with WordPress and ignore any other recommendations for any “easier to use” blogging platforms because despite the learning curve you’ll use it for decades to come.
Here are my recommendations on how to build a blog to make money, raise your profile and become an influencer.
Development – building your blog
SiteGround – Expert hosting
I’ve used around eight different hosts over the years and the best one so far and the one I continue to use to this day is SiteGround.
SiteGround is a complete WordPress host which offers a premium service at an excellent cost.
SiteGround has 99% uptime and it comes with a free CDN (see below) and SSL security certificate.
I’ve found the service second to none and on the ‘GoGeek’ package, as I am, you can get through to a customer help representative who is also a WordPress expert within minutes (seconds even).
I need this for peace of mind and having access to customer support so quickly has been a godsend on the numerous occasions I’d broke my site.
SiteGround hosts over 800,000 WordPress blogs and is officially recommended by WordPress which speaks volumes in terms of its quality as a host.
Cloudflare – Super fast website speed
If you’re running a blog you need a content delivery network or ‘CDN’ for short.
CDNs allow you to serve your web pages and images fast so your site loads fast to visitors.
CDNs help increase your website’s speed by delivering the web pages from the closest data centre to the user.
A website with slow loading pages receives less visitors than a fast one because people don’t like hanging around to wait for a page to load.
It has a bunch of tools that help you optimise your site for speed and while the basic level is free you can use the Pro version for a fee (as I do) which has extra features to enhance speed and security.
ThemeForest – Professional themes and plugins
ThemeForest is the only premium WordPress theme marketplace you need to go to.
It has thousands of WordPress themes around any subject or industry you can imagine.
This blog uses the Bimber viral theme which I bought from ThemeForest and it is designed to be optimised for social media, speed, monetisation, mobile, community and more.
When choosing a theme don’t just consider what it looks like but also consider the features it comes with, how often the team behind it update it and how well it’s been rated by users.
ThemeForest also includes a directory of premium plugins you can buy to enhance your blog’s usability, design and so on.
It’s the only place I go to when I’m looking to build a professional blog or require a premium plugin.
MalCare Security – Additional security layer
I prioritise site security (and online security in general) as there have been too many instances of websites, social media accounts and bank details compromised by hackers.
While my host SiteGround already has good security, I prefer to use an extra service for peace of mind.
To do this I use the MalCare Security which performs daily malware scans to ensure my site isn’t being attacked or hacked.
It also has a firewall option and monitors for rogue bots trying to guess your login details.
It runs on its own server so doesn’t hog yours, unlike other security plugins which often overload your server.
SEO – optimising for search
Yoast SEO – Optimise every article for SEO
Yoast SEO is the best SEO plugin for WordPress around.
What’s more, it’s free. Though there is a paid version.
It analyses each article you write and helps you optimise them for search engines.
It will show you where you need add links, improve your writing, add alt tags to images and so on.
If you’re running a WordPress blog, using the Yoast plugin is non-negotiable and should be one of the first you install.
Keyword Finder – Discover keywords relevant for SEO
Keyword Finder is a great tool to identify specific keywords and their ranking difficulty.
It’s simple to use and comes at an affordable price.
It’s perfect for people who want to do keyword research but don’t want to pay for an expensive service.
What I like best about Keyword Finder is its ease of use and how the data is presented. It’s easy to understand and doesn’t overcomplicate the keyword information you’re looking for.
Whenever I’m researching keywords for an article I’m writing, Keyword Finder is the first place I go to.
Serpstat – All in one SEO package
I’ve been a customer of Serpstat for a few months now and have been impressed with its capabilities as an all-in-one SEO tool.
Serpstat has a number of tools that allow you to improve your website’s search rankings.
These include keyword research, backlink analysis, ranking tracker and even a tool to help your content marketing efforts.
As well as this, Serpstat will analyse any website to identify ways to improve it from an SEO standpoint.
There are similar services to Serpstat available but you won’t find a better deal for the price.
Checkbot – Site SEO, speed and security analysis
The recently launched Checkbot is a powerful service that will help you improve your site’s SEO speed and security.
It provides a comprehensive report showing where there are errors and where your site can improve.
The first time I used Checkbot I was surprised at how many errors it flagged on my site.
It showed me where my site had broken links, security issues, HTML and CSS errors, redirections and so on, which allowed me to fix them and increase my search rankings.
Whenever I update my site I run it through Checkbot to find issues I won’t know about.
Content creation tools
Grammarly – A virtual grammar and spell check assistant
I generally write alone so don’t have anyone to proofread my words other than myself.
Tip. If you’re like me, proofread your work five times the day after finishing your first draft while reading out loud.
The Grammarly Chrome extension is a useful tool for people like me and you as it identifies both spelling and grammar mistakes and provides alternative suggestions.
When I’m in the proofreading stage of writing a blog post I turn this extension on to correct any errors.
It also works when writing posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter as it’ll point out your mistakes there also.
There’s both a free and paid version, the latter of which is for more serious writing types.
Hemingway– It’s like having Ernest Hemingway by your side
Another great spelling and grammar app is Hemingway.
Named after Ernest Hemingway, the app helps improve your writing by giving you guidance on words and grammar.
It will tell you if you’re using too many adjectives, using a passive voice too many times and if a sentence is considered difficult to read.
I don’t tend to follow every critique of either the Hemingway app or the Grammarly extension for that matter.
I understand my audience and know that certain words and phrases will resonate despite the apps suggesting to change them.
Canva – Create graphics and imagery
When you’re creating content you’re going to need imagery.
Canva is the best service out there to help you create stunning graphics and social media content.
You can integrate your logo and colour scheme in with it to create a cohesive look.
Use it to create images for blog posts, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and so on.
Canva has a free and paid version depending on your needs and I use it at least once per article.
Unsplash – Free professional photographs
I generally try to use my own photographs for blog articles (the featured image to this article is from an Instagram story) but whenever it’s not possible I use Unsplash.
Finding good images for blog posts used to be both difficult and expensive.
That’s until sites like Unsplash made it easy to not only source excellent images but get them for free too.
Images previously used on this site come from Unsplash and they help to make blog posts more visually appealing.
There are other free photography websites available but in my experience, Unsplash is the best.
TinyPNG – Reduce image file sizes
Site speed is important and one of the greatest hogs of load time is imagery.
A slow blog site will dampen the user experience and Google will penalise you in the rankings.
TinyPNG is a free service that allows you to compress your images (PNG and JPG) to make them smaller in size without losing any of their quality.
Each time I create a post with images I upload them to TinyPNG first and it reduces their sizes dramatically.
Trust me, use TinyPNG to decrease site load times and create a better user experience.
Monetising your blog
ThirstyAffiliates – Affiliate link management
ThirstyAffiliates is both a free and premium WordPress plugin that allows you to manage your affiliate links.
As you promote more affiliate products your list of links becomes more difficult to manage.
With ThirstyAffiliates you can categorise each of your links and update them from one central location as opposed to editing every blog post that a particular link you want to change is included in.
ThirstyAffiliates follows the rules set by Google when it comes to affiliate links such as including ‘nofollows’ and 301 redirects.
The plugin has analytics that tell you which of your affiliate links are getting the most clicks.
Amazon Affiliate for WordPress – Amazon link management
Using Amazon affiliate links in your content is a minefield.
There are certain dos and don’ts when using Amazon Associates which are difficult to interpret.
If you happen to break the rules, even when you don’t mean to, your account can be banned.
Thankfully, the Amazon Affiliates for WordPress plugin ensures that you meet all of the Amazon Associates requirements and specifications.
It uses the Amazon API to help you feature Amazon products perfectly on the blog.
It also provides neat display links, boxes, tables and sidebar content into blog posts and on your blog’s sidebar.
It’s a premium plugin so it costs money but you’ll soon make that back in Amazon sales.
Genius Link – Geo direct affiliate links
Imagine if you include an Amazon affiliate link in your post and out of the 1,000 people that clicked it, 60 percent were from the US and 40 percent were from the UK.
If you have a US Amazon Associate account it means you’re losing out on 40 percent of UK revenue.
Genius Link helps to earn more money by matching the location of the person who clicks on your links to their country Amazon store.
You can sign up to as many country-level Amazon Associate accounts as you like, add your unique IDs to Genius Link and it will match them, helping you make more money from your Amazon links.
Content management & distribution
SocialBee – Social media management
Managing social media is becoming more difficult and the amount of content created each day is staggering.
SocialBee allows you to schedule your own content across all your social media platforms at the days and times you allocate to it.
You can also recycle evergreen content to continue posting at different times.
If you write an ‘evergreen’ article that stays relevant you can republish it on more than one occasion.
You can also add RSS feeds for incoming content from any publication you like.
You can also plug in your Bitly API to have custom short URLs too.
Tailwind – Pinterest growth, management and scheduling
Pinterest is often an undervalued platform to generate traffic to your site or sales of your products.
Most social networks have stopped sending traffic to external sites yet Pinterest continues to be a valuable source to users.
If Pinterest is a key social platform for you or your business, Tailwind is a must.
You can schedule your own and other people’s pins to automate the process and save you a ton of time.
Not only that but you can join Tailwind Tribes to amplify your content further with other Pinterest users.
Tailwind is guaranteed to save hours of time and improve your credibility in the Pinterest algorithm too.
RocketLink – Link management, retargeting and calls to action
RocketLink is a short URL provider with a massive twist.
It allows you to add retargeting pixels to every URL you share across social media.
Even if the content of the links you’re sharing does not belong to you, you can still benefit from them by creating a custom audience from the people who click on them.
You can add pixels from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twtter, Google Adwords, Pinterest and more.
You can also add call to actions (CTAs) to each of the links you share like I have with this one.
If you need custom links branded you can use the branded links feature as I do with links.stedavies.com.
RocketLink is a next-generation kind of short link service and one that comes in usual to me.
Easy Social Share – Social media integration
The Easy Social Share plugin for WordPress is the most complete social sharing plugin available.
It integrates with every social network and has a lot of features to help you share your content across social.
Using the Open Graph protocol, the plugin makes your blog posts look good when they’re shared on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or anywhere else.
The Easy Social Share plugin also provides data in terms of how your content is being shared and on which platforms.
All-in-all a very useful plugin and one that I’ve been using for years.
Pixel Caffeine – Facebook custom audiences and retargeting
If you use Facebook Pixel for site analytics or advertising, Pixel Caffeine is great for granular targeting.
Using this easy-to-use plugin you can create custom audiences around any parameter on your blog you set.
Want to target visitors to a specific category of your blog? No problem. You can even target visitors who have visited a specific tag.
Site data analytics
Google Analytics – Rich site traffic data
Google Analytics is the best ways to track your website’s traffic.
It includes every kind of web traffic data you’ll ever need and more.
Even better, it’s free to use.
Before setting up any kind of data capture on your site, Google Analytics should be your first port-of-call.
The traffic data and insights from Google Analytics is unbeatable and it can really shape your blog strategy.
Google Search Console – How Google sees your site
Google Search Console is a required tool to understand how Google is seeing your site.
It provides the keywords people use to land on your site and how your blog posts feature in search.
It also flags relevant information about the health of your site from broken URLs to the site’s structure.
Whenever something’s wrong with your site, it alerts you to fix it before it impacts your search rankings.
Having Google Search Console set up on your blog is as important as having Google Analytics.
In fact, they both work very well together.
Google Tag Manager – Tag management tool
With so many website tags and pixels these days they can often slow your site down.
Google Tag Manager helps combat this by placing all of them in a ‘bucket’ and serving from Google’s servers.
You can add tags from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and anywhere else to your account to help speed up your website.
More experienced users can add complex tags and functions to track any kind of visitor data they need.
Google Tag Manager allows you to put all your tags and scripts in one place
Facebook Analytics – What Facebook users are doing on your site
Like Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics provides your website’s traffic and visitor data based on Facebook’s 2 billion+ users.
It gives you an understanding of your blog’s visitor demographics and behaviour so you can create content relevant to them.
While Facebook Analytics is not as robust as Google Analytics (in my view) for tracking website visitors it’s good to see what Facebook users are doing on your site and page.
LinkedIn Website Demographics – What professionals on LinkedIn are doing on your site
If you work in the B2B space then LinkedIn Website Demographics can provide you with rich information in terms of the type of people that visit your site.
Using its data, LinkedIn tells you the geography, company and job function of the people visiting your site.
You can also set it up to see who from LinkedIn has been visiting specific pages on your site.
Leadworx – Discover the companies that visit your site
This is a new tool I’ve started using as I got a deal on it on AppSumo.
Leadworx is an analytics platform that allows you to see which companies have visited your site, how many times they visited and the pages they visited.
It’s more of a B2B tool allowing you to track warm leads but I’m always happy to have more data.
Social Metrics By ESSBD – Discover where your content has been shared in social
The Easy Social Share WordPress plugin (mentioned above) includes a social analytics feature which allows you to understand where each post has been shared across various social media platforms.
It will tell you how many times a post has been shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and any other social network where the data is provided (LinkedIn no longer provides share data).
Social Meter – Discover where your content has been shared in social
Like the Easy Social Share plugin, this handy Chrome extension shows you shares of a blog post across social.
Not just your own blog posts but any URL you feed it. Social Meter uses social sharing data from the APIs of all the popular social networks including Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit and more.
As you can see, building a blog today requires (what the techies call) a platform stack.
Readers today have high expectations.
Not just on the content but on the user experience of reading your blog.
If your blog is slow, bloated and full of annoying popups, they’ll sooner rather than later.
That’s why you need to have a blog which serves both them and you.
It serves them by providing them with great content and a great user experience.
It serves you by growing your influence and generating revenue.
But like anything worthwhile, consider it more of a marathon than a sprint.