10 Step Plan to a Profitable Blog

I was talking last night to a guy I haven’t seen in months. Around the same time I did he stopped focusing on SEO and affiliate sites and started developing a blog. When I was just about to say how cool that was he said he was giving up on blogs and was going to go back to creating mini sites to generate adsense and affiliate income. His decision was based on his conclusion that “blogs are not profitable” and he asserted that I should give up on this blogging lark and “make some real money”.

When I asked him what had made him think this way, he sent me a link to a forum thread containing two huge Adsense cheques. I have to say I have never received a cheque with that many digits before. For a split second I thought I might agree with him. Then I remembered why I left doing the sort of thing he was going back into, I never felt good about the sleazy snake oil part of the internet marketing business, I want to produce something of lasting value. I told him so but he was set on his path, had already bought the domains and his plans were in motion. Good luck to him. Did get me thinking though.

Masses of people get into blogging because they want to get rich, while we have said over and over that blogging is not a magic wand for generating instant riches there is no harm in wanting to earn an income providing your expectations are realistic. That is you might not become a millionaire but it’s very doable to earn a couple to few hundred dollars a month from a moderately popular blog. Enough to pay for your time and buy you some toys, help pay off loans or assist with the mortgage.

Before I get into the approach I suggest for creating a profitable blog let me just emphasise that even though it might reduce your chances of earning larger sums I maintain you should stick to producing good useful content. Spam and auto-generated or scraped content might seem like a short-cut but those types of sites are only short term performers as well as being junk for the rest of us.

Here are ten steps to producing your profitable blog, I will expand after the list.

  1. Select a list of profitable niches and choose a niche with the most potential
  2. Find all the products and services your blog can sell through affiliate channels
  3. Discover the high-paying adsense phrases and focus your content around them
  4. Build a template that emphasises your adsense and affiliate products
  5. Build loyal RSS and email subscriptions
  6. Build authority and trust through regular useful content. Post at least one new article every day, more if you can manage it
  7. Generate traffic through good post titles, email subject lines and linkbait
  8. Monitor your metrics, see which content brings in the most traffic and clicks and produce more of it
  9. When you hit on a good conversion rate, pay for advertising
  10. Diversify, start more blogs. Find an overlapping niche, rinse and repeat

The first item is to find a profitable niche, one that you will be able to write for and maintain for the long haul. You need to follow the money trail. Step 1 and 2 are closely related, topic areas with good high paying affiliate schemes show there is money to be made but on the other hand you don’t want to face too much competition. Read the linked posts for more information.

While many bloggers focus on the traffic element, which is indeed critical, lots of people forget that the content is as important. Not just the quality but what you write about and what you say. It is no good writing about non-commercial topics and wondering why nobody clicks your adsense. If your adsense ads are all about starting a free blog then you will have either chosen a non-profitable niche or fallen into this trap. Your posts have to have some link to a commercially viable market. To give you an example you could have a blog about a tourist destination but if you only show your holiday snaps there will be no money to be made, rather you should focus on hotels, resorts, days out … all the stuff people want to research before spending money. Good page titles will attract clicks but also tell adsense what ads to show. Try tweaking and experiment.

As well as tuning content for adsense if you want to push affiliate products then you need to do more than just show the links in your sidebar. Small ticket items can be sold just by putting enough traffic through landing pages, for some affiliate marketers that is all they do. More considered purchases with a higher value need a softer approach.  Review the products, tell your readers about the good points and bad points, what benefits you get and other products that compete. Reputation and trust are very important, you need to gain this trust by producing an authoritative blog and you do not want to lose your trust by pushing dodgy products. Who’s recommendation for a blogging ebook would you trust more, Darren Rowse or “Mad Mikes Man-Made Money Mountain Machine”? Most people would take the advice of someone they have got to know and trust, that is what you need to develop. To get long term readers you will need to get them to subscribe through prominent RSS and email subscription buttons and give them long term value. The more incentives you give for signing up the more subscribers you will get, give them a reason to sign up, preferably with their real email account.

You also have to balance how commercial it comes across with how much
you want to push the profitability, there is a sweet spot for each
niche for how much your audience will stand. Some audiences will accept more than others, some times it is based on your niche, others cultural, sometimes it is down to approach. You will need to tweak for your audience.

You will notice how much of this we have covered before and how much of it is common sense. It isn’t really rocket surgery, anyone can do it. The reason why many people don’t or won’t is more to do with the fact it is hard work and time consuming. For months you see nothing coming back for all your hard work, it might take a while to get your first links or comments. The key is to stick at it.

15 thoughts on “10 Step Plan to a Profitable Blog

  1. > if stand alone domain name is that much better at seo

    Simple but precise: NO

  2. It is tricky, you can only get indications and hints, the pricing is relative, depends on the current bids, smartpricing, yada yada. Other than using the adwords estimation tool or buying a list I can’t think of any reliable tools

  3. Thanks Chris I appreciate your article. ALthough I’m am tired on these articles saying HOW to make money with you blog but no describing how to Discover the high-paying adsense phrases. There’s not a way to look them up that I’ve found.

    Please help out if you could. I’m convinved that there’s NO money to be made with my diabetes blog.

  4. Well, I thought so … it’s only my attitude. Just wanted to throw in a different perspective when looking on a page regarding the ad context. It would have been too easy to comment on the favorite 🙂

    Re: niche by accident … You might think about creating a section/node/niche on your blog covering such militaria or historical events IF you have some writer who loves to visit such shows. Maybe your readers could add content through some contents, etc. …?

    Generally spoken a single article should always have a minimum of 200 to 300 words with a very focused keyword density to reach enough relevance for contextual niche ads. Sometimes this quantitive aim is difficult to reach if the whole website doesn’t support that niche – esp. with POD articles.

    Another point: Choose the right advertising market! People with nice blogging ideas can fail miserable regarding contextual advertising when writing in the wrong language. I believe that publishing in English on a server located in the USA still reaches the biggest and most valuable market. This is definitely a point which is ignored in every ‘make your blog profitable’ list because most of such lists come from egocentric American bloggers.

  5. Markus actually it would be nice if that page did attract those ads but it gets all “start your free blog” ads. The thing is the page title and content are all vague and generic. As you say it should either be pushed towards militaria or photography, right now it is not focused on anything. The other page is well targeted at a subject that is close to photographers hearts; shopping for lenses, and is a guide that helps people right at the start of their research. It’s one of my best performers for clicks.

  6. I know that there is a big interest in all that militaria stuff and it is a very focused niche. And the historical keyword context ‘soldier, gunner, history, mud, rain, film’ and the site context ‘photo, photography, etc.’ should bring SE traffic.

    And AdSense bids for digital cameras aren’t too high. I would guess that every single click on militaria ads brings more.

    A very good example of finding a niche by accident … and a nice reminder to visit the site 🙂

  7. I would guess that the first one with the title ‘Camera Lenses – Jargon Explained’ would make more!

  8. You just need to be aware of what subject attract high paying clicks and which don’t and try to stay in the ballpark. I’m actually pretty stubborn personally about NOT twisting my content to match adsense but then my main blog is Performancing (no advertising at all) and my other blogs are just for enjoyment now (in the last month I left about 10 domains to expire). To illustrate with an example though, take a look at this and this and work out which draws more income from adsense.

  9. How necessary is it to really find and write around high paying adsense terms? Does it make that much difference as long as you are writing about something that has some commercial relevance?

  10. Great post, Chris. I guarantee you can make a lot of money with even just one blog, if you put the work into it.

    The “work” word is what scares away the quick buck people.

    Many, many people have made 6 and 7 figures from simple email newsletters. Blogs and RSS are the next iteration of that concept, with the added benefit that you can naturally build traffic simply by producing great content.

    While that was possible with email newsletters due to forwarding, linking is a much more powerful concept for viral growth.

    So, don’t listen to the quick buck people. If you’re interested in creating something that has real value and makes real money for the long term, blogging is the way to do it.

  11. Call me naive, but I think it is totally possible. I hate sales pitches probably as much as you guys, and I think you can make serious money while staying away from the snake-oil approach.

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