This is an article I’ve been meaning to write for quite some time. So many people are interested in the idea of blogging as a way to make money while traveling, full-time RVing, or working from home, and as someone who has been earning a full-time living as the owner of this website since early 2018, I want to share what I believe are the essential ingredients for success in blogging as a business.
Note: Even though this article focuses on blogging/writing articles, the same principles also apply to becoming a successful YouTuber or Instagram Influencer, and many bloggers multiply their reach by creating video and social media content as well as blog content.
Step 1: Understand the difference between blogging and content marketing.
Even though I often refer to this website as a blog, a more accurate term for it would be a “niche content website”. Here’s what I mean by that:
- A personal blog consists mainly of articles about or based on the author’s own experiences and opinions.
- A content website publishes informational articles that may or may not have anything to do with the author. Larger content websites often pay freelance writers or have a team of staff writers to write the articles.
- A niche content website is a content website that targets an audience within a particular niche. RVinspiration.com is a niche content website because its audience is RV owners and people interested in RVing, and most of its articles provide general information about RVing rather than being about my personal RVing experience (and as of when I’m writing this, I don’t currently own an RV!).
Content websites are, in my opinion, easier to grow and monetize than personal blogs, because you can create whatever content your audience is Googling without being limited to that which you’ve personally experienced. For example, I have never personally replaced the countertops in an RV, but I published an article about replacing RV countertops by compiling my research on the topic.
If your blog is completely about you, finding people who are interested in reading about your experiences and opinions can be a challenge, especially if there are lots of other people like you writing similar content.
It’s definitely possible to make money with a personal blog, particularly if you’re doing something unique that a lot of people would like to do but not many people are blogging about. (Think Gone With the Wynns before anyone else under the age of 30 was blogging about living in an RV.) However, from my observation as someone who knows dozens of bloggers, getting a personal blog to the point where it’s making more than a sideline income is the exception rather than the rule.
Additionally, all personal blogs that are making substantial money are businesses first and foremost. Even though these bloggers may generate their content from their personal experience, they don’t just write whatever they feel like. They write content they know will be popular with their audience.
FollowYourDetour.com, HeathAndAlyssa.com, and CrazyFamilyAdventure.com are all examples of personal RV blogs that (after years of work) provide what could be considered a “full-time” income for their authors (who are all people I have met personally). But if you read the articles at these websites, you’ll notice that they are all written with the intent to inform and help their audience, and they all target the needs of a particular audience within the RV niche rather than simply telling a story about the author’s general RVing experiences.
Step 2: Plan to do a lot of work that isn’t writing.
A lot of people I talk to seem to have the idea that I write a blog post, hit publish, and then it’s immediately read by all of my “followers”. That may have been how blogging worked 20 years ago, but that’s not how it works now!
This is the process I follow for each article I write:
- Topic research: Talk to people, gather quotes, take photos or ask people for permission to use theirs, read tons of other articles on the topic.
- Keyword research: Use SEO tools to determine what words people are using to Google the topic so I can be sure to include them in my article.
- Write the article and add photos (or write the article around the photos).
- Add relevant links.
- Add on-page SEO such as photo alt-text (which are like captions that only search engines see) and a Google description.
- Create promotional graphics for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and embed them in the article.
- Hit publish.
- Schedule the post for ongoing promotions across all my social media.
- Email my subscribers to let them know I’ve published a new blog post.
- Email anyone I referred to in the article to let them know the article is live.
In addition to publishing articles, I also do things like:
- Compose emails to subscribers
- Respond to emails from subscribers
- Respond to emails from solicitors and partners
- Make technical updates and improvements to my website
- Update old articles, replacing broken links, adding fresh content, etc.
- Network with other bloggers
- Participate in mutually beneficial collaborations with other bloggers and business owners, including writing guest articles, doing video and podcast interviews, and promoting their content.
- Take online courses that help me grow my business
…and that’s all just for RVinspiration.com. Usually I’ve got at least one other major project in the works at the same time–currently it’s my newest website, RenovatedRVsForSale.com.
I probably spend less than 10% of my work time actually writing blog posts/articles. When I do publish a new article, it may get a few visits from my email subscribers, but then weeks will go by where no one is reading it. Eventually, fingers crossed, it will start showing up in Google and Pinterest search results and getting consistent daily traffic, but that only happens as a result of the non-writing work I’ve done over the years to build my Pinterest account and improve my search engine rankings…work I learned to do as a result of taking online courses in SEO and Pinterest strategy.
All the work that I’ve described above is actually called Content Marketing. Blogging as a business is really learning how to become a content marketer.
Step 3: Choose an audience instead of a niche.
So many “How to Make Money Blogging” courses tell you that the first step is to “Pick a niche”, meaning to choose a topic to blog about, and that it should be something you are already interested in.
I disagree with this approach.
If you start your blog planning to write about a specific topic you chose somewhat at random, maybe even create all your branding around that topic, you run the risk of one of these things happening:
- You’ll have trouble finding an audience for your content because there aren’t enough people searching for it.
- You’ll pick a topic that so many people are already blogging about that you’ll have trouble thinking of articles that haven’t already been written or making your content unique enough to outcompete blogs similar to yours.
It’s also quite possible that you could run out of ideas or lose interest in writing about the topic you chose and end up, like several bloggers I’ve known, having an identity crisis because the thing people know you for isn’t who you are anymore.
That’s why instead of “picking a niche”, as in choosing a topic to write/create videos about, I believe a better approach to choosing a niche is to choose an audience with a problem you know you can solve or a need you believe you can fill. Then, create content that solves that problem or fills that need.
Ideally, the audience you choose should be one you already have some kind of connection with and access to. That way you can more easily determine what type of content to create by listening to your audience, and you may end up finding a surprising variety of topics to write about for that same audience (for example, this is a website about RVing, but here I am writing about blogging because I know a lot of RVers are interested in blogging).
Step 4: Create content your target audience is searching for.
A lot of people talk about “providing value” to your audience, and I’ve actually emphasized that a lot myself, but I think exactly what that means can be somewhat ambiguous. After all, what’s valuable to one person may not be valuable to another, or maybe the person who would most value your content doesn’t know it exists and that they should be searching for it.
That’s why a much easier way to make sure the content you create actually gets in front of your audience is to create content you know your audience is searching for. How do you know what they’re searching for? Here are a few ways:
- Become active in communities where your audience congregates (both online and in person) and pay attention the questions they’re asking and the problems they’re seeking advice for.
- Survey members of your audience to find out what their biggest questions, needs, and pain points are.
- Start typing a phrase related to your niche into Google or Pinterest and see how Autocomplete finishes the phrase.
- Use keyword research tools such as Keywords Everywhere to see which keywords searches get the highest volume.
If you stumble upon a type of content a significant number of people are searching for and are unable to find, and you can create content that exactly matches what they’re looking for, then you’ve hit the jackpot!
That doesn’t mean every article you write should only be something you know will do well in Google. Some articles you write may never get any clicks on Pinterest, but may be of interest to your email subscribers who have been following you for a while. You may be able to introduce your email subscribers and social media followers to new topics they are interested in would never have thought of searching for. But first you have to build your audience by giving them what they are searching for.
Step 5: Monetize once you have consistent traffic.
A lot of newbie bloggers spend a lot of time searching for or creating products to sell on their blog when their time might be better spent focusing on creating quality content and building an audience. I was definitely guilty of that as a new blogger: I spent hours creating digital products, designing products for my Zazzle store, and putting affiliate banners on my website, all of which resulted in few or no sales.
Once you’ve created a variety of quality content that is consistently being read/viewed by new people every day, ways to monetize your traffic will become apparent, whether it’s by putting ads on your site, creating digital products for the audience you’ve built, creating sponsored content, or something else you haven’t thought of yet. You’ll also feel more confident approaching potential partners to pitch collaboration ideas knowing you have something of value to offer them (your audience) and are not just asking for a handout.
Note that “consistent traffic” doesn’t have to mean “a lot of traffic”. I know bloggers who make more money than me with far fewer monthly website visitors than I have. You just need some way to consistently grow your audience so that you always have a steady stream of new people discovering your content.
Alternatively: Figure out how to leverage your blog to make money from it indirectly.
Maybe you’ve done a lot of work to create a blog and have published lots of great content, but it’s not getting much traffic and you can’t figure out how to solve that problem. Maybe after reading this article you feel you’ve made lots of mistakes and don’t see a path to success for your blog.
Does that mean your blog is just a huge waste of time and you should just give up now? No!
I know lots of bloggers who don’t make much income from their blogs directly, but as an indirect result of their blogging efforts, they have been able to pivot into careers doing things like:
- Freelance writing for other companies and publications within their niche
- Presenting / speaking at events related to their niche
- WordPress and website design and development
- Offering education or coaching to a sub-niche within their niche
- Offering copywriting, social media management, graphic design, or virtual assistant services to other business owners
Useful Links & Resources
If you are interested in leveraging the skills and credibility you’ve gained through blogging to start a career doing something else like I’ve described above, check out my Earning Money While RVing page for some relevant resources, and if you don’t see anything directly related to what you are looking for, feel free to reach out to me and I may be able to point you in the right direction or connect you with someone I know who is doing what you want to do.
If you’ve read this far and would still like to start a blog or YouTube channel, or if you already have a blog and would like to learn how to grow it and make it more profitable, visit my Blogging Resources page, where you’ll find links to my free course about on how to start a blog, my “Troubleshoot Your Blog” course, some resources for becoming a successful vlogger, and more. Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about blogging as well; I’m always happy to talk shop. 🙂