We'll be honest: blogging isn't the easiest way to make money. But, the great thing is that anyone can do it, and it looks amazing on your CV.
All you need is something interesting to say and enough patience and dedication to build traffic and a following. But how do successful bloggers make their money? We've interviewed a couple of them to reveal their monetisation secrets.
Our guide gives you a concrete action plan to get your blog off the ground and grow it into a profitable little business from home.
What's in this guide?
- How to start a blog
- What to blog about
- How to increase your blog traffic
- How to make money from blogging
- Biggest monetisation challenges
How to start a blog
Getting started with blogging can seem like a bit of a minefield, particularly if you don't have much tech knowledge.
You have two main options when it comes to actually setting up a blog – you can use a free blogging platform, or you can create your own website. We'll take you through both, and outline their pros and cons, so you can make the right decision for you and your blog.
Free blogging platforms
Best for: Casual bloggers and those not interested in making money from their blog.
Pros: Super easy to set up and completely free.
Cons: Limits on customisation and video/image uploads, you often can't place adverts or use affiliate links, you can't create a custom URL and the platform retains the right to delete your blog.
A lot of platforms will allow you to set up a blog for free, and they're super easy to use. If you're just wanting to blog casually at first, this could suit you well.
But, free blogging platforms can be very limiting. You'll only be able to customise to a limited extent, and your blog will have a storage limit which could make it harder to upload large videos and images.
Another drawback is that your blog URL will be something like 'www.yourblog.wordpress.com' with the platform branding.
Most free blogging platforms also don't allow you to place banner adverts or affiliate links on your site, which are key revenue streams for most bloggers.
However, if these things don't bother you, here's a quick rundown of the best free online blogging platforms.
Best blogging sites
- WordPress.com – This is a free basic blog hosting service that's easy to use. You'll have to put up with WordPress ads and branding unless you pay a monthly fee, and you can't put ads on your site. There are also limited options for customisation and expansion.
- Blogger – Google's free blog hosting service, Blogger, is really simple to use. But, the customisation and design options are very limited, and there aren't a lot of options if you want to add new features.
- Medium – With Medium, the emphasis is on the writing rather than design, and it's used by lots of journalists, writers and experts. It's a great way to share your work with a particular community, but you can't run any ads and it's difficult to create your own personal branding.
Create your own website
Best for: Dedicated bloggers and those looking to make money from their blog
Pros: Complete control over design and customisation, your own custom URL and the ability to use adverts and affiliate links how you like
Cons: You'll have to pay – firstly for your domain name (URL) and then for hosting, but we've got tips on keeping costs low.
If you're not particularly tech-savvy, the thought of creating your own website might seem quite scary – but it's actually pretty easy to do, and you can create one in just 20 minutes.
Save the Student's founder, Owen, has written an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to show you how to start a website.
With your own website, you'll be able to create unique personal branding (with your own URL), and there's no risk of your blog being deleted by the platform – you'll own the site and be in complete control.
WordPress has an insane amount of templates or 'themes' for you to choose from – take your time to decide on one which suits both your personality and the topic of your blog.
Opt for something clear and simple, with space for large images and easy-to-read fonts (Comic Sans and Courier fonts are no-nos).
How to choose a blog topic
This can either be the easiest or the hardest part of starting your blog.
The most important thing at this stage is to choose a niche which you can call yourself an authority in – the biggest mistake new bloggers make in such a crowded blogosphere is starting a blog without trying to do something surprising or different.
For example, if fashion's your thing, instead of combining generic fashion content, you could combine your love for clothes with your big-hearted concern for the environment by blogging about environmentally-conscious designers instead?
These are the best ways to find a topic for your new blog:
- Look at other blogs – This should be your first port of call. What's already successful? And more importantly, what's missing? Find the gaps in the market.
- Use Google – What are people searching for? Use Google suggested searches and auto-complete to discover what people are looking for – if they're searching for it, that shows there's a demand.
- Search forums for common FAQs – When people can't find answers to their questions, they go to forums. What are they asking? What do they need advice on? This will show what people are interested in and what there's a lack of available information on.
- Track current trends – What topics are in the media right now? It's good to pick a topic with longevity, but if you can piggy-back on a trend early on, you can quickly establish yourself as an expert on it before anyone else. Searching #journorequest on Twitter shows what kind of themes journalists are currently reporting on.
- Think about different types of content – Could you do tutorials/how-to guides? Reviews? Interviews? Lists? It might not be what you write about, but how you write which sets you apart.
- Identify your own interests and passions – While all of the above are important, there's no point in blogging about something you have zero interest in. You'll quickly get bored and people will spot your lack of enthusiasm. Write about something you really, truly care about.