"I told myself that I didn’t care if I never made more than $8/hr – having freedom and not being stuck in the rat race was soooo worth it." Bob Lotich

Blogging is a dream career in many ways. If you enjoy writing, you can make money doing something that comes naturally. You can also work from home on your own terms.

But earning money from blogging, at least enough to sustain you, is more difficult than is often portrayed. Professional bloggers are quite rare and have business talents that may not be obvious at first glance.

I’m going to explain in no-nonsense terms how to start a successful blog with money-making potential. I’m doing this because I believe in the value of blogging, whether or not it launches a career.

Blogging offers many personal and career benefits. And you can start with almost no investment. To make it a potential money-making activity, you should arm yourself with the following insider knowledge and tips.

Be Open Minded About What Blogging Is

When you think of “blogging”, you might imagine writing about your life or presenting your thoughts on topics of personal interest. There are many blogs like that. But not many that make money.

"Blogs are whatever we make them. Defining ‘Blog’ is a fool’s errand." Michael Conniff

Blogging is essentially just producing articles or posts for an online audience. To make money from it, you need to provide something of value to readers. And there probably is not a ready-made market for your personal musings.

Be open-minded about what you are going to create. You need to find a commercial or semi-commercial niche. Considerable time and numerous changes of direction may be required before your blog becomes successful.

WordPress Blogging

The most popular way to blog is with WordPress software. You need to learn some technical skills as you go but anyone with some technical aptitude should be able to start a WordPress blog. The quality of software is excellent and WordPress powers many large commercial sites. Help articles on any given aspect can always be found through internet search.

New WordPress blog

Note that you don’t need a country-specific domain name, such as a .com.au address in the case of Australia, for your blog. General domains, such as a .com website, can be used to target Australia or another individual country.

Generally the process to start a WordPress blog is this: (1) purchase a domain name, such as example.com, from somewhere like Namecheap.com (2) purchase cPanel website hosting from an internet service provider (3) go to your cPanel dashboard and install the WordPress software on to your site and (4) log into your WordPress account on your site, choose a theme and start adding content.

Be Your Own Leader on Your Blog Adventure

If your blog is ever going to amount to anything, you’ll probably need some good leadership. Given you are the blogger, the leadership has to come from you.

"The first thing you need to decide when you build your blog is what you want to accomplish with it, and what it can do if successful." Ron Dawson

A leader has a vision of what they are going to achieve or, at least, a clear sense of the direction they are going. What vision do you have for your website?

Ideally, the vision or direction you choose should be a bit different. Copying what others have already done doesn’t usually work. New blogs typically struggle to gain a foothold. You need to offer something unique to give yourself a crucial advantage.

Imagine after you have created your successful, high-traffic blog. Why are so many visitors digesting your content? What are you offering to consistently attract all these people? Try to figure this out, even in slightly vague terms, before you spend time going down a particular path.

Choose a Field Where You Can Be an Expert

A professional blogger is flexible in what they are able to write about. But there are limits to this. Ideally, the blog topic should be aligned closely with your career or personal interests.

"Blogging is good for your career. A well-executed blog sets you apart as an expert in your field." Penelope Trunk

You gain expertise in the topic you are blogging about over time, meaning you have considerable freedom in what to choose to write about. You don’t have to start as an expert, but must at least have the ability and desire to become one.

Certain subjects may be off limits in practical terms without qualifications or experience however. For example, readers interested in learning about psychology or military service would be interested in the opinions of psychologists and military veterans respectively. Without a suitable background, it may be difficult for you to blog successfully in such fields.

How to Blog in Australia or Other Smaller Market

To make money as a blogger in Australia, you need to realise that you are operating in a mid-sized market. Going into a very niche segment is likely to prevent you from building a sufficient audience to make a living. You need to think big.

Blogging in Australia

Competition for audiences in Australia is patchy. If you’ve found a commercial segment you would like to blog about, check out your competitors.

To gain a foothold, you need to offer a better or different product than what is available already in Australia. If you believe you can beat the competition, you may have a viable path to becoming a professional blogger.

Offer Something Useful to People

If a blog is ever going to be successful, people have to get genuine value from it. Often this means solving a problem, but it could also be value in terms of entertainment or personal development.

"Let’s agree that all content must be created with the customer’s needs in mind. Otherwise we are wasting time and resources as marketers." Michael King

According to R.L. Adams, some of the most profitable blogs in the world include:

  • Engadget — advice and reviews on technology and consumer electronics — advertising revenue
  • Moz — tools for people who want to improve website rankings — subscription fees
  • CopyBlogger — advice and education for people doing online marketing — advertising revenue
  • PerezHilton — celebrity news and gossip website — advertising from sponsors.

The commercial value of a blog depends on a combination of traffic and how valuable that traffic is. Ideally, you want to attract large volumes of visitors who are potentially willing to pay for something.

PerezHilton, for example, attracts huge amounts of low-value traffic. Moz offers a service many people are willing to pay for. Engadget is hugely profitable because the website is visited by large numbers of people who are interested in purchasing electronics.

Blog for Traffic

Getting traffic to your blog is the first priority if you want to make money from it. You should, therefore, be aiming to boost visitor numbers with each and every post.

"Successful bloggers know a secret. They only write certain types of posts. They don’t waste their time writing a post that won’t bring them traffic." Sue Anne Dunlevie

Too many bloggers use a scattergun approach, pumping out posts without much thought on how to attract an audience. For example, businesses often hire people to write for their blogs without giving them a strategy to bring in new visitors. As a result, the posts achieve little presence in search or social media and the blog ultimately fails.

Before producing an article, post, landing page or video, it pays to do some research on what things people are interested in. For example, if you are going to write about “Brazil holidays”, search that term in Google. At the bottom of the page, the related searches include things like “Brazil holidays and traditions” and “Brazil holidays and festivals”. These provide some ideas for specific topics that are popular.

As you produce more content and discover what brings in the most visitors, you get a feel for what works. Your traffic-attracting skills and instincts improve and the value of your blog grows. It pays to keep aligning blog content with what the target audience demands.

Create the Best Content

When it comes to creating content, the message these days is “go big or go home”. To keep winning traffic against other possible destinations, you should be offering better content than is available elsewhere.

"Today, I’d say the big mistake is underestimating how awesome your content has to be to rank #1." Brian Dean

Search engines like Google are getting smarter all the time at figuring out which are the best pages. They consider factors such as how much time users spend on pages and how well the text matches what people are looking for.

Excellent quality also leads to more sharing of your content, such as on social media and in web articles. You can also earn links from other websites, which is an important quality signal in search engine rankings.

Market, Market, Market Your Content

I never said professional, full-time blogging was easy, did I? After creating outstanding content, better or different from what readers can find elsewhere, the next job is marketing. Believe it or not, you probably should use more resources on this than you do producing the fantastic content.

"What you do after you create your content is what truly counts." Gary Vaynerchuk

Digital marketing is how you ensure the content you work so hard to create succeeds in reaching a mass audience. To learn about it, a good place to start is with Hubspot’s guide. Some of the ways to get eyeballs on your content are search engine optimisation, content marketing, social media marketing and pay per click.

For a new blog, you have to work extremely hard to start generating traffic. Without paid advertising, it can take considerable time. Thankfully, though, as it matures, expands and gains more links, your blog will naturally do better at attracting readers.

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