How to start a blog business as a freelance writer
As a freelance writer, a blog is a fantastic way to show off your skills, take on new topics, and get your name out there. And if you really know what you’re doing, you can even turn it into a business. The problem is that newbie bloggers, full of excitement, will try starting a blog in the wrong way and ultimately fail.
This guide covers everything you need to know about starting a blog business as a freelance writer.
What is a blog?
In its most basic form, a blog is just content published online. It’s just like the digital version of a newspaper, magazine, or serial book. It's a perfect opportunity for newbie writers to get their voice out there and potentially build a freelance writing business as an expert in their field.
Blogging business models
The business model of a blog depends on how you monetize it (see more in the monetization section of this post), but the fundamental business model formula is the same:
Page views = revenue opportunities
The more page views you have, the more opportunity you have to make money with your blog. That’s because your blog operates almost like a digital storefront (or in some cases, it is an actual digital storefront). Your content either is a product that you sell to readers or you use content to attract people to your blog, which is then monetized in other ways.
From a non-monetary perspective, blogs are also digital homes for ideas. Depending on which topic you choose (more on that in the topics section of this guide), you have the opportunity to showcase your style, opinions, knowledge, and more.
Foundational elements of a blog
Regardless of the topic, monetization strategy, and overall goals you may have, every blog has the same foundational elements:
Domain name: This is the URL you type in to access the blog. It’s not only how the blog is directly accessed, it’s also the way that Google’s search bots crawl your website for SEO purposes.
Primary topic or focus: Whether a specific topic, type of writing, or focus area, every blog needs its “primary.” Without this, readers will have no idea what to go to the website for, which is a confusing experience that can drive away potential visitors.
Categorization: The vast majority of blogs will have some categorization. This allows you to produce a wider range of content under the umbrella of your primary topic or focus, creating not only more freedom for you as a writer but also making it easier for readers and SEO bots to understand the topics your site discusses.
Content: Of course, no blog is complete without blog posts! This can be any kind of content, from written posts to quizzes and more, but it’s the lifeblood of your blogging business.
Backend business model or goal: Blogs take a lot of effort to sustain, so you’ll need some sort of business model (or passion) that makes the effort worth it. This doesn’t necessarily mean money, but you will have to take into consideration the costs of running a blog that happen regardless of if you monetize or not.
Why would a freelance writer want to start a blog?
A freelance writer might want to start a blog for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of the biggest ones:
To share their voice and perspectives: Freelance writers don’t often get a say in what they write for clients. You take direction and do the job. In contrast, a blog could be a home for intellectual or academic freedom, where you can write about the topics you care about.
To build community: Content—sharing experiences or knowledge—can be a fantastic way to build a community of like-minded people if you’re feeling isolated, lonely, or don’t have anyone to engage with on topics you care about. Starting a blog is also a great way to build a social media following, since it gives you content to share with your followers.
To build a business: Blogging is a great way to showcase your skills, which can be used as work samples to win more freelance clients. Or you could write expert content targeted at your ideal customer, using the blog as lead generation for consulting or freelance clients. Then there’s the concept that the blog itself can be a profitable business, making its own money for you as a freelancer.
As a hobby or passion: A blog is a great way to write without pressure, deadlines, or editors disrupting your writing process.
To learn a new skill: If you've ever wanted to learn how to install Wordpress, build some developer or coding skills, or figure out how to make money online, starting a blog is a great way to learn. When you start a blog, you're launching a whole new business venture. That structure means that a new blog gives you the chance to build foundational skills you might not otherwise learn as a freelancer.
Professional development as a writer: You can publish nearly any kind of content you want on a blog, meaning you can use it to try new or novel forms of writing before trying to sell those services to clients.
Reasons why you shouldn’t start a blog
Starting a blog can be a fantastic business or personal endeavour, but it’s not for everyone. Here are some immediate red flags that, if they apply to you, indicate you maybe should not start a blog:
If you don’t like writing consistently: Once you start a blog, you need to continue producing content. You need to be willing to write consistently (or manage contributors, which is a job unto itself).
If you don’t like doing sales or audience building: The early days of starting a blog is hard work—you have to constantly sell and promote your blog to build your reader base and early revenues.
If you don’t like community management: Once you have loyal readers, you have to engage with them. While you can still be a blogger purely out of your own passion, it will be difficult to scale your blog if you never pay attention to your readers.
If you don't like blog admin: You have to do a bunch of things with a new blog like manage a domain name, install Wordpress, create a blog from a Wordpress theme, deal with web hosting, and think of the business side of writing. If you don't like that, you probably won't like blogging.
If you don’t want to do SEO research: SEO is a simple reality for anyone starting a blog. You don’t have to build solely based on SEO, but if you refuse to do any SEO keyword research then blogging is likely not the path for you. Even highly successful bloggers like Neil Patel still have to do SEO keyword research for their posts.
Starting a blog has fixed costs
Before you create a blog, you will have to face the very real financial and opportunity costs of running a blog.
As you build out your blog, you might incur any—or all—of these costs:
Web hosting: While there are some free hosting services, most blogs are run on Wordpress where you have to pay for your own web hosting as the owner of the blog. This is usually relatively inexpensive, ranging anywhere from $5 to $25 per month to start. You could also manage your own web host, but even a self-hosted blog carries a hosting cost.
Design: If you don’t have any design skills but want a custom site, you will likely have to either pay a designer or buy a premium website theme that gives you what you want.
Content production: Don’t want to write all your own content? You’ll most likely need to pay someone to do it for you.
Paid promotion: If you choose to run any paid ads, which many bloggers do at some point, that will cost money.
Social media: Spending time on social media—either yourself or paying someone else to do it—has a real cost to it. Then if you choose to try social media ads, you will have that to add to your business expenses.
Wordpress themes: If you build a Wordpress blog, you will likely need to buy a premium Wordpress theme to match your site.
Domain name: You will need to buy a domain name—whether a generic or custom domain name—in order to give people a link they can use to access your blog.
Technology costs: If you want technology to help you in the writing process (like Grammarly Pro or Surfer SEO) or added site functionality (like premium plugins or email marketing), that costs money.
Time: Your time to manage the blog (and write content) is time you’re not spending making money or with family and friends.
Return on time from expertise: If you’re not good at certain tasks, you will have to spend an outsized amount of time completing it—again, time which you could be spending doing other things.
Turning down other revenue opportunities: If you’re working on your blog, you may have to turn down potential freelance writing clients.
How can blogs be monetized?
You can make money from your blog in a variety of ways, and the best blogs often mix multiple different revenue streams in order to make ends meet and generate a profit. If you want to monetize your blog, here are the seven main ways most bloggers do it:
1. Ad revenue
This is the most simple and straightforward way to monetize your blog. You are paid by advertisers or ad networks to place ads on your website. When readers view your content, they are also shown ads, either static or animated. In return, you make a bit of money for offering your website up as a digital billboard.
A single ad usually pays between $1 to $3 per thousand impressions (called “CPM”). Bloggers using this strategy try to maximize how many ads a user sees on their site, either by placing multiple ads on a page, trying to encourage people to visit multiple pages, or both.
Affiliate is when you use your content to sell someone else’s product after you start your blog. You mention their product and use a trackable affiliate link. If someone clicks the link and buys the product, you get a payout. Many companies around the world use affiliate links to generate sales, so it’s a relatively easy way to make money for a blogger.
Affiliate fees usually depend on how the affiliate defines “conversion” and the value of the good they are selling, so you can make anywhere from $0.25 for selling a single book all the way up to $1,000 or more for selling a high-value item like a mortgage.
3. Sponsored content
If you have a loyal reader base that another brand wants to access, you can charge a sponsored content fee to write an article about that brand. This is another form of advertisement, and it would need to be disclosed as sponsored on your website, but it can make significantly more than placing a single ad on your site. Depending on your reader numbers and brand credibility, sponsored content can generally make you anywhere from $50 to $2,000+ per post.
4. Lead generation for services
If you’re a freelance writer accepting new clients, you can use your blog to generate leads. The key to success with this strategy is writing content that’s applicable to your ideal audience. For example, if you write marketing content and your ideal customer is a VP of Marketing, then you need to produce content that a VP of Marketing might want to read (like articles about marketing strategy).
This strategy doesn’t monetize the blog itself, but instead uses blog content to sell high-value consulting and freelance services, which makes your effort on the blog financially worth it.
5. Selling your own products
With affiliate and ads, you are selling someone else’s product. But, you can also use a blog to sell your own products via an online store. With a store, you can produce digital products like courses and how-to guides, either targeted towards people who might hire you as a freelance writer or to help other freelance writers build their businesses. Depending on your niche and readership, you could also branch out into physical products like notepads or branded pens.
Revenues here depend on the price of your goods and individual profit margins, but the revenue is usually much higher selling your own products than selling someone else’s.
You can set up your store with platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce, both of which have extensions that work in Wordpress blogs.
6. Memberships and subscriptions
If your content delivers a lot of value for readers with each new blog post, you might be able to charge them for it via a subscription or ongoing membership store. In this model, you directly monetize your readers, making them your official customers. This model can be incredibly lucrative because it scales: you write the same blog post whether one person or 10,000 people see it.
Typically, subscriptions and memberships to content sites range from $5 to $25 per month, depending on what kind of value you offer and your target audience.
Similar to subscriptions or memberships, patronage is when your audience gives you money on a regular basis (or one-off) to support you as a creator. It's like a store, but this is usually linked to people enjoying your content but wanting to support you as an individual. They may also get significant value from your content, but the mentality is slightly different than if they are purely subscribing to a content site.
What do successful blog businesses look like?
The most successful blogs have an entire operation going on behind the scenes. The front end website might look similar to other blogs, but don’t let that fool you.
This is the part of the website that the reader sees. The most successful bloggers have a few key differentiators:
Clear focus: From the first moment you’re on the page, you can tell what the site is all about. A good blog theme makes this easier ad well.
Good reader experience: The site loads quickly, it’s easy to see some initial content, and categorization or search makes it easy for readers to find the content they want. This is important whether you're building a personal blog, news blog, or another kind of blog.
Content is easy to read: Spacing, font, size, and article structure are all taken into consideration so you can easily open an article and start reading.
Content quality: Good blog content is informative and delivers on its promises.
It’s easy to take the next step: The most successful bloggers make it easy to sign up for their newsletter, get a free digital download, or otherwise stay in touch.
This is the part the reader never sees, but the blogger is managing under the surface.
Reader engagement is systematic: The best bloggers don’t just hope a reader sticks around. They make it easy to engage with free lead magnets. From there, newsletters are automated so readers get more information and the blog stays top of mind.
They have a posting calendar or plan: Posting can’t be ad hoc if you want to be successful, so it’s critical to have a regular plan for your content.
They have a sales plan: The best bloggers know how they want to monetize and they think about it like a businessperson: working to get in touch with ideal customers and set up the best deal.
They make it easy for customers to pay them: Whether selling ads, courses, or services, the best bloggers make it easy for customers to pay (and then get value) from their site.
Popular topics to start a blog with
The best part about a blog is that you can write about literally anything you want to. If you’re stuck or not sure about which topic you’d like to cover, here are a some popular categories and subtopics to start with:
The travel industry is massive—both financially and in intrigue. Bloggers regularly cover topics such as:
- Digital nomadism: Working and travelling the world.
- Beach vacations: All about fun in the sun.
- Luxury travel: Either going all-out or luxury experiences on the cheap.
- Staycations and staying local: Adventure in your own backyard.
- Country-specific travel: Everything you ever wanted to know about visiting a country.
Fashion bloggers cover everything about how people look, what they wear, and more:
- Makeup: From basic looks to something worthy of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
- Fabric-specific: How to make it work.
- Eco-friendly: Using fashion to protect the environment.
- Love-longer: Second hand gems.
- Haute couture: Versace, anyone?
- Haircare: What’s on top of your head?
- Personal care: Creams, scrubs, moisturizers, and more.
Let’s talk about money, shall we?
- FIRE: Financial Independence, Retire Early.
- Debt: How to get out of it (or use it profitably).
- Retirement: Saving, living, and enjoying.
- Earnings: Maximizing how much you take home.
- Career management: Promotions, stress, and pay raises.
- Expenses: Education and budgeting.
- Investing: All about the financial markets.
- Minimalism: Wanting less to enjoy more.
Educational content about business is everywhere:
- Side hustles: Make money on top of your job.
- Freelancing: Building an independent business.
- Starting a business: How to, pitfalls, and more.
- Running a business: Any kind of challenge you can imagine.
- Marketing: Build your brand.
- Sales: Make revenue.
From baking to foodies and everything in between:
- Weird food: Ever eaten a bug?
- Country-specific cuisine: The joy of [insert country here] cooking.
- Food and travel: Travelling the world, one dinner at a time.
- Baking: Cakes and pies.
- Cooking: Ovens and grilling.
- Vegan and vegetarian: All the yum, none of the animal.
- Healthy eating: Using food to nourish, not just feed.
- Budget food: Good eats on the cheap.
Fitness and lifestyle
There’s so much out there in the fitness and lifestyle world:
- Yoga: Every kind you can imaging:
- Crossfit and bootcamps: Fitness and community.
- Lifting weights: Pick up, put down.
- Body-weight workouts: Either at home or in the gym.
- Injury recovery: Getting back to your old self or adjusting to your new life.
- Meditation and mindfulness: Mind-body connection.
- Biohacking: Become a superhuman.
The wonderful world of real estate blogging:
- House buying: The process, ins, and outs.
- Renovation: Make it pretty (or not).
- Restoration: Bring it back to its former glory.
- Mansions: So big, so opulent.
Where there’s a fandom, there’s a blog:
- Magic the Gathering.
Tech reviews and niche news sites
Review and niche news are popular in a lot of technology categories:
- Hardware: Everything from laptops to speakers.
- Software: Microsoft Office or Google Drive?
- Crypto: HODLing and going to the moon.
Specific communities and identities that have a lot of common ground:
- Immigrants from (or in) a specific country.
- Country-specific culture.
- Black community.
- Women’s community.
Bloggers are at the ready to explain everything there is to know about family moments:
- Marriage and weddings.
- Death and dying.
And these are just a small handful of topics covered by the estimated 500 million blogs around the world. So if you want to start blogging, you'll be in good company.
Types of content you can publish when you start a blog
Short-form knowledge posts
Short-form blogging posts range anywhere from 400-900 words, and typically cover a single idea or topic.
Great for: Sharing a high-level explanation of a single topic.
Effort level required to produce: Relatively low (the short length and single focus makes it easier to write these posts).
Long-form knowledge posts
Long-form blogging typically either goes in-depth on a single topic or provides a much more thorough high-level review of a variety of topics. From a word-count perspective, these can be anything over 1,000 words (and often hit 3,000-10,000 words or more).
Great for: Explaining a complicated concept or providing tangible advice. When you’re instructing people on how to do things, you care less about the word count and more about explaining it properly.
Effort level required to produce: High. These are not only more in-depth (which means you have to be more accurate and comprehensive), but they are also long (so you need to invest more effort anyway).
Quizzes and interactive content
Creating a quiz or other form of interactive content is a great way to entertain your readers while learning more about them.
Great for: Learning about your readers or providing entertainment that also contains some value to them.
Effort level required to produce: Medium (depending on how in-depth the quiz is and whether you have the skills to build it yourself or use a platform to build it for you).
Meme and GIF articles
Memes and GIFs are great visual ways to communicate using pop culture moments. You can include them throughout an article (long or short) or make a whole article using just memes and GIFs to explain your point.
Great for: Humorous takes on things.
Effort level required to produce: Medium. The content itself may not be hard to create, but finding the perfect meme or GIF can take some research time.
Regardless of length, op-ed (short for “opinion editorial”) articles are a great way to share your true feelings or explain how you came to a conclusion.
Great for: Sharing a reaction to something that’s going on in the world.
Effort level required to produce: High. Not only do you have to produce an article, but you have to document and weave your opinions and logical pathways into the article. You can’t just shout conclusions from the rooftop—you must explain how you drew that conclusion so your readers can understand where you’re coming from.
Guides and how-to articles
Either presented as downloads or long form articles, guides and how-to articles very specifically help someone accomplish a specific task (for example: How to set up a blog from scratch using Wordpress).
Great for: Answering a specific question and giving your audience the action steps they need to solve a problem for themselves.
Effort level required to produce: Medium to high. You need to know how to solve the problem yourself, then be good enough at solving that problem to explain it to other people.
News coverage (or reactions to news)
As a blogger, responding to the news (or writing about it yourself) is a powerful way to connect your blog to what’s going on in the world at any moment.
Great for: When world events directly relate to your blog topic.
Effort level required to produce: Medium to high. You likely will not be the first outlet to report on the news. That’s ok, but it means you have to come up with a novel take or report on an interesting angle that hasn't been considered yet if you want your content to get noticed.
Video is a great way to engage with your readers. You can use a video (either of you or your voice over slides) explaining a concept, then have written elements in the article as well for your readers.
Great for: Highly complex topics that are easier to explain by talking through it. Or, topics that are more fun when talked through instead of just written about.
Effort level required to produce: High. You have to produce not only the article but also the audio and visuals of the video.
You can publish your podcast—or interviews—on your blog in audio form, then offer the transcript (either edited or raw) for readers to skim if they don’t want to listen to the whole interview. You can also provide written key takeaways on your blog post.
Great for: Empowering you as a writer to try different forms of content and helping you reach a new potential audience of people who prefer audio to writing.
Effort level required to produce: High. Like video, you have to produce both the audio components and the written components of the article.
Visual content can be anything from your own art to an infographic explaining the key facts of your article.
Great for: Helping people capture knowledge easily and helping increase shareability (as infographics tend to get shared more frequently than whole articles).
Effort level required to produce: Medium to hard. high tools like Canva, you can produce infographics relatively quickly. But if you want branded or custom visual content, you might need to use more complex tools.
Step-by-step guide to starting a blog
Starting a blog is a mix of administrative and strategic work. Here are the 12 steps every freelance writer should follow to start blogging:
1. Pick a topic of focus
The goal of this step is simple: pick what you are going to write about.
Your topic focus should be at the intersection of:
Your interests and knowledge: Pick a topic you enjoy writing about, because you’ll be doing a lot of writing. Pro tip: The more you already know about your topic focus, the less research you’ll have to do for early blog posts.
The interests of your audience: Think of who you want to read your blog, ideally. From there, think of what they might care about or want to know about.
Your monetization plan: A topic that will help drive your revenue up, depending on how you plan to make revenue. For instance, if you’re aiming for ads, then you should pick a topic with significant search volumes or a dedicated niche audience. If it’s about driving leads for your services business, then you’ll need to pick a topic that resonates with your ideal freelance customer.
Your goal with the blog should be topical authority, so don’t be afraid to start very specific. You can always expand from there if your audience starts demanding it.
2. Identify your voice
This step is all about identifying who “you” are on the blog.
You have three primary options of how you present yourself as the author and main blogger on the website.
1. Sharing personal stories and experiences: This makes the blog all about you and your views on the world (for example: op-ed or foodie blogs).
2. Sharing expertise: This makes the blog about the knowledge you’re able to put out into the world (for example: marketing strategy blogs).
3. Sharing third-party objectivity: This is a hybrid case, where you apply your personal experiences and knowledge to offer objective knowledge on a topic (for example: reviews sites).
Part of your voice will be informed by your topic focus and monetization plan, but you can also apply your own voice to any topic. For instance: a marketing strategy blog might be seen as sharing expertise, but you can also share your personal stories using different marketing tactics or your opinions on a new tactic everyone is trying.
3. Think of 3-5 subtopics
Once you have your core topic focus and voice, you need to identify the 3-5 subcategories that you will cover. Think of subcategories like the pillars that hold up the main topic.
For example: Let’s say your core blog focus is marketing. Common subtopics might be things like: Social media, paid ads, email marketing, and the people side of marketing. Or, you could also take a more theoretical approach to marketing and choose subtopics like: marketing theory, how sales connects to marketing, and why marketing is necessary.
4. Write 1-2 launch posts per subtopic before building the website
You need to produce some content before building the website, starting with your first blog post and building out a few more in advance. This gives you articles to launch with and gets you in the habit of writing. Writing before building the site also removes pressure - you’re just putting knowledge on paper with no concern about web formatting yet.
If you only launch with your first blog post and nothing else, you risk losing momentum. So you should write 1-2 blog posts per subtopic, optimized for:
- Overall topic relevance: Make sure you’re still talking about your key topic focus.
- Subtopic relevance: Make sure it fits the category you’ve placed it in.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) and keywords: You can do research with free tools like Ubersuggest or paid tools like Ahrefs.
5. Map out your next 15 blog posts
Once you have your first blog post written, it’s time to map out your next 15 posts (3-5 per subtopic). And yes, you do this before you build your website. This is because blogging is a hard job, and you will need to know what content is coming next so you don’t get caught up in the whirlwind of launch and forget to write.
You can find blog ideas from:
- Going deeper into your subtopics
- Insights that came up during research for your launch posts
- Personal problems
- Personal experiences
- The news and world around you
- Competitor blogs
- Keyword research
For each blog, map out:
- Ideal reader
- Their problem
- Your solution: What you want to explain to or teach them
- A working, descriptive title
6. Pick and buy a domain name
Now is the time to pick your blog name and buy the domain name. Some domain name and blog name best practices inlcude:
- Topic relevance: You want your blog URL to give people a hint about what the blog is about (or, if you're writing a personal blog, make the URL your own domain name—yourname.com).
- Easy to remember: Choose something easy to say and phonetic to spell (meaning readers who hear someone say the word can probably guess how to spell the URL).
- Not a homophone: If there’s another world spelled differently that sounds the same, it could confuse your audience.
- Search engine compatibility: Try to connect your URL to highly searched terms in your topic.
You'll need to register a domain name through a domain registrar like Google Domains or Bluehost, but this is often fairly cheap ($10 to $25 per year for most domain names). These platforms also have a support forum where you can ask questions about buying a domain name if you're concerned about anything.
7. Set up your website, hosting, and Google Analytics
Now’s the time to build your blog website, hosting, and Google Analytics.
Build your website: The most common way to start a blog is to build a Wordpress blog. The benefit of a Wordpress blog is that you have a ton of plugins available to you after you install Wordpress. Further, you can use a Wordpress theme to make your website custom and beautiful for users.
You can also use blogging sites like Blogger or build your own blogging platform from scratch with a builder like Webflow. This is also where you can set up your store if you plan to sell your own products and services from day one.
Set up your web host: Most blog builders have a monthly fee attached, either for the blog itself or for hosting. If you built a Wordpress blog, you can use platforms like Bluehost to set up your blog hosting. Bluehost is one of the most popular web hosting platforms out there for Wordpress because it's intuitive and easy to use. Other options include SiteGround or hosting through Wordpress.com.
If you really want to, you can also set up a self hosted Wordpress blog, using Wordpress.org instead of Wordpress.com. In order to do this, you'll need to use a different blog hosting provider, like Digital Ocean, and you may need to hire a developer to handle the more technical parts of the installation.
Google Analytics: Your Google Analytics account (it's free to set up!) will tell you everything you need to know about traffic on your blog.
8. Create your base pages
On your blog, you’ll need a few standard pages (note: these are not blog posts).
Make sure to build the following blog pages:
- Home page: You will generally make this where your new posts get published.
- Subtopic pages: Mini ‘home pages’ for each subtopic of content.
- About page: An introduction to you as a blogger.
- Advertising page (optional): If you plan to monetize with ads, you can build a page with a contact form for potential advertisers.
9. Publish all your launch posts
After the site is built, publish your launch posts.
Ideally, you’ll be able to go live with 3-5 blog posts already on the site. If you have more than that written, keep a few back to publish in your first two weeks of the site being live.
Also make sure to optimize for SEO:
- Meta title
- Description meta
If you’re in Wordpress and use a tool like Yoast SEO, you’ll be prompted to complete this information. If you use another builder, make sure to check out its SEO settings.
10. Focus on community building
Now that your blog is live, your job is two-fold:
- Continue publishing great content
- Community building
Engage with your readers on social media or in the comment section of your blog. Encourage people to reach out to you with questions or content suggestions. Focus on this as much as you focus on content production (if not more).
11. Keep posting
Figure out your cadence and stick to it. Consistency is the hardest part of blogging, but it is critical to success. Most bloggers will publish at least weekly, but experts recommend publishing 3-4x per week if your goal is traffic, and 1-2x per week if your goal is brand awareness.
12. Optional: apply for monetization
Once you’ve grown your blog a bit, you can apply for monetization depending on your strategy. This step really only applies to ads and affiliates, since the other forms of monetization you can set up by yourself.
For ads, the most common is Adsense by Google. But once you grow your traffic, you might prefer more advanced platforms like Mediavine or Sortable.
For affiliates, Amazon is the most common. But you can also try additional networks like Clickbank and ShareASale.
How do you promote your blog?
Producing great content is only half the battle of building a successful blog. You also have to promote it ruthlessly: here are eleven strategies you can try.
1. Social media
Billions of people use social media every day, particularly the big networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Twitter: Join Twitter chats, use relevant hashtags, and share your blogging journey with your followers (also called “building in public”).
LinkedIn: Share organic thoughts and link to your blog posts in your newsfeed updates.
Instagram: You can start an Instagram account for your blog and use visuals to attract followers and direct them to your website.
Facebook: Join groups and engage genuinely—often there will be opportunities to share your blog posts or learn from other bloggers.
Pinterest: If you can create visually appealing infographics, Pinterest can be a huge source of traffic for your blog.
Leveraging existing communities is a great way to build readership, but do it carefully because you don’t want to appear like you’re taking advantage of the community for your own gain.
Forums: There are online forums (like Reddit and Quora) for almost every niche. Join a few and get in on the conversation.
Slack Channels: Private Slack-based communities can be great resources to build an audience and share your articles.
Start your own group: If you want to, start your own private group for your niche. Facebook is a great free way to do this, though you can also use community-building platforms.
3. Paid ads
Paid ads are a great way to get direct, highly-targeted traffic to your blog. Just be careful: ads can get expensive, so people usually only do ads in conjunction with a monetization strategy.
Facebook’s ad platform offers incredibly specific targeting across the platform’s 2 billion users. Google and Bing let you place paid ads in their search engines.
Other social platforms like Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest have advertising platforms as well. You can also try advertising through online newspapers, newsletters, and influencers.
A common strategy for promoting your blog is giving readers access to a free newsletter. You can set up an email capture form on your site so readers who like your content can sign up for regular updates from you via their email address.
The key to a newsletter is to provide real value in the newsletter itself, not just use it to send out links.
Someone giving you their email address is like giving them direct access to their personal mailbox. Treat it carefully! You should also be careful about spam legislation in your jurisdiction, which will tell you what you can and cannot do with someone's email address.
You can invite your most loyal readers to contribute to your blog in exchange for promotion or a link back to their website. This gives them a publishing platform for their ideas and gives you more content. Plus, people are more likely to share content they wrote. Contributors can be a helpful way to grow your blog after you start blogging, but be careful: contributors have their own voices and agendas. You should always start your blog with a goal in mind, and don't let contributors pull you away from that goal.
6. Commenting on other bloggers’ articles
The more you engage with other bloggers, the more you become visible to their readers. The key to this is being genuine: if you only ever post links to your articles on other blogs, you might get banned.
7. Collaborating with other bloggers
Instead of just commenting on another blogger’s post, see if you can collaborate with them. This could take the form of mutual guest blogging (where you post on their site and they post on yours), backlinking, or some other form of mutual co-promotion.
8. Guest blogging
If you have an abundance of content ideas, see if you can guest post on other people’s websites. This could be other bloggers, corporate and startup websites, or in the mainstream media. These sites are just as hungry for content as you blog, but the benefit is you get a link back (usually) and build credibility by being featured on another website.
9. Lead magnets
You can give away free content—quiz results, ebooks, downloads, etc.—in exchange for email addresses. That way you develop a close relationship with your readers via their email (which you often put into your newsletter). The other benefit of these free goodies is they are often more shareable than a blog post, meaning more people might be willing to check out your site just because you gave them something for free.
10. Interview people
If you regularly write about your own opinions or expertise, consider interviewing someone or asking for quotes to insert into your content. This increases the shareability of the content because people are much more likely to share content they are featured in.
11. Become a media source
Sign up for platforms like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) or Help a B2B Writer so you can pitch your expertise in exchange for a media mention. This not only helps you build your brand, but you often get a link back. Even better: major media outlets like Forbes and the New Yorker use these tools on occasion.
Optimizing your blog experience
One of the most important aspects of your blog is the actual blog itself and the experience readers have on it. You can have great lead magnets and a huge newsletter, but if your site experience sucks, your readers won’t stick around.
Here are some things to consider as you optimize your blog experience:
Don’t bombard people with ads: Displaying ads is fine. But if the whole page is covered in ads, that’s a bad user experience. You might make half a cent more in revenue from that person, but they are less likely to come back or sign up for your newsletter, so it’s much more in lost revenue.
Make sure the site loads quickly: Every second someone has to wait, the more likely they are to bounce off your site. This is also something Google pays attention to, so a slow-loading site could harm your SEO.
Make navigation easy: If someone is looking for something, it should be simple. If it’s not, they will just go back to Google and try again.
Show content immediately: Don’t make readers scroll half way down the page to get to the content.
Make it easy to view the next piece of content: If you’re delivering great value, readers will want to stick around. Just make it easy with clear buttons or images that take them to the next article or let them join a newsletter community.
Blogging pitfalls to avoid
So you’ve got the site live and are ready to grow. Now what? You not only have to get ready for growth, but you have to avoid the things that will hinder your growth.
Here are the four major pitfalls to avoid:
Not publishing consistently: If blogging is your job, it should be treated as such. You need to pick a cadence you can manage, then show up for your readers. While not every post will be amazing, consistency is the most important thing over time.
Clickbait titles: Clickbait has two levels to it. The first is a very dramatic title that’s mostly true. The second is a lie. While you can flirt with the first kind, never do the second. Once readers think you’re a liar, there’s no coming back.
Not delivering on your promise: The promise is what you tell the reader you’re going to do, such as explain something, define something, or teach something. If you don’t deliver on that, your readers will stop coming back.
No topical consistency: Occasionally deviating from your main topic for something important is fine, but your readers (and search engines) need to know what kind of content to expect from your site.
Being a successful blogger is a job
Like any business, blogging is a job. Whether you try to make money from the blog itself, use it to sell other people’s products, or use it to sell your own, it’s real work that needs to be taken seriously. On top of that, it’s not just about writing content: you have to manage admin, sales, and more.
Make sure you’re ready for that kind of commitment before diving in. But if you are ready, then blogging can be a flexible and scalable way to earn a fantastic living, whether on top of your freelance writing business or replacing it entirely. The key is to know what you want from blogging, be open to learning along the way, and otherwise sticking it out through the rough times.