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Blogging isn’t that hard. You start a website and write, right? Not quite. If you want to be a professional blogger you need to have a plan and follow certain steps to help take your blog to the next level and start making a real income.
As a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of 6, my time is limited but it is important to me to help bring income into our home to support our family and lifestyle. That is where blogging comes in. Blogging is something that I can do in the mornings before the kids are up, during nap or quiet time, or after the kids are in bed, and it allows me to contribute financially to our family on my own terms.
So, if you are a new blogger, these tips will help you start off on the right foot. If you are not quite a beginner, but want to take your blog up a notch and help it grow in traffic and income and reach its full potential, then this is for you too.
7 Ways to Take Your Blog to the Next Level
First things first: If you are still on Blogger, WordPress.com or any other free platform, move to a self-hosted site. NOW.
You can make a full time income on Blogger. but I really believe it’s better to own everything about your website and that includes the webspate it is hosted on. The most common, self-hosted platform is WordPress (.org). It’s simple to learn and use. It has a ton of plugins to help you along the way. You can set up all sorts of areas- from storefronts to forums to members only areas if you need to. WordPress it self is free but you will need to pay to host your site.
To do this you will need to register a domain name (if you haven’t already) and you will need to purchase a hosting package. I used Bluehost when I first I started and had no problems with them. The price is right for a new blogger, with packages from 12-36 months. I recommend the 36 month option since it gives a reduced rate, and then you have 3 years to get your site up and making enough money to support itself.
I outgrew Bluehost at about 75K pageviews a month and have switched to Siteground, and I highly recommend them too. Amazing customer support and the price isn’t overwhelming either.
Get a Pinterest Scheduler. Stat.
Pinterest is by far the biggest traffic driver to most blogs. But it’s not always enough to have killer content with awesome images. You need those posts to get discovered.
I am going to assume everyone is already on Pinterest and has a good idea of what it is and how it works. We all know that you need to pin often, pin a variety of content, and share visually beautiful things. But, you need to use your time wisely, and that is where a scheduler comes in.
There are a few different options to choose from, but my favorite by far are Tailwind and Board Booster.
I love Board Booster for it’s scheduling features- looping, campaigns, and source boards. And I use it to share my own content so that all my posts are sent out daily to my top group boards.
I love Tailwind for it’s easy pinning, shuffling feature, and their Tribes. I use Tailwind for posting others’ content. And I can batch pin an entire weeks worth of pins in about 30 minutes.
That said, don’t fall into the trap of automating your Pinterest pinning completely. Don’t set it and forget it.
Read more: Why Too Much Pinterest Automation is a Bad Thing
Grow Your List. And Use it!
Email is your direct route to your readers. You can’t count on social media to get your words in front of your readers, so make sure you have a email list optin somewhere on your site. Make sure that optin form is on every. single. page. Whether it’s on the sidebar, a pop-up, at the bottom of every page. Put it where your readers will find it, along with a call to action to sign up.
When I was first starting out it was common advice to tell new bloggers to start a list, even if they weren’t planning on using it just yet. From experience, let me tell you please don’t do that. Use your list from the very beginning!
The goal of an email list is to have active, engaged readers. You want to form a relationship with them. It’s okay if you’re list is 5 people, including your mom. Send a quick email at least once a month even if it’s just to say Hey, I wrote a new post you might like!
If you wait until you have thousands of subscribers to send your first newsletter, you will be talking to a dead list. Your open rates will probably be low. Your unsubscribe rates will be high. They won’t remember who you are and why you are all of a sudden filling their inbox.
If you are just starting out, MailChimp is free for up to $2000 subscribers, and it is pretty affordable after that as well. Once you have grown a bigger list and need more options, I use and love ActiveCampaign.
Create and Launch Your Own Product.
This can be a hard step for a lot of bloggers. This is where you pour your heart and soul into a product and launch it to the public. And that is scary!
As with email lists, bloggers tend to wait until they have a large traffic following before they tackle this, but they shouldn’t!
Your own product is one of the few things you are going to have complete control over. You set the price. You do the marketing. You don’t have to depend on traffic numbers like you do with Ad networks.
The internet is ever changing. Income dependent on ad networks and affiliate sales may not last, so get out there an build your own income stream.
Here’s a tip from experience- Don’t over think your product! It doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t have to be a long course with a TON of content. It just has to have value and give your readers something they need a crave. And it can be a small item that solves a specific problem and only costs a couple of bucks. Just start somewhere and grow from the feedback you receive!
Pick One Metric to Focus On
Running a profitable website can be overwhelming. There are so many avenues to pay attention to. Grow your social media following, Grow your list. Watch your page views. SEO. And if you try to do all of that at once you will probably fail at all of them.
Pick one avenue that you want to learn more about and then let everything else grow organically while you push that one thing.
Ideally, you should pick the metric with the biggest return of investment. Is Pinterest your biggest traffic source without trying? Imagine what it would do with a strategy in place. Have a product in mind? Put everything else on autopilot and focus on that. Want a bigger list? Focus on content upgrades for subscribers and other list building incentives. SEO is a long game but can bring reliable traffic for a long time after.
Once you are satisfied with that once metric, switch it up and work on something else.
Join Ad Networks and Stack Your Ads.
Ad networks are one of the best options for passive income. You place ads and forget them. You get money for every page view. But not every network is created equal. In order to get the best return you want to stack your ads.
And while Adsense is okay, you will get pennies compared to larger ad networks.
Some of the companies I worked with while I was growing are: Sovrn, Amazon CPM, and Gourmet Ads.
Once you hit at least 25K sessions per month you can join Mediavine- and they are amazing. I went from $200 per month to almost $1000 just by joining them! Some people will tell you to join AdThrive when you hit 100K pageviews, and you can if you want, but I love Mediavine so much I decided to stay put- so I can’t advise you on AdThrive.
Another thing you can do as you grow is stack your ads. This is where you stack a couple ads so that you get a 100% fill rate. You don’t need to do this with larger, premium networks, but when I was growing I stacked Amazon, Sovrn, and Adsense. That way my high paying Amazong ads got first choice, if they didn’t fill the spot was sent to Sovrn, and if they didn’t fill it was sent to Adsense- which will fill just about any ad for cheap.
You can read more about how to set up an ad stack here.
Invest in Your Blog.
That old saying that it takes money to make money? That is true here too. I encourage all new bloggers to use free tools (theme, email marketing provider, plugins, etc) until their blog can pay for premium ones.
When you are just starting out a free theme is just fine. But if you want to take it to the next level you want a professional looking site, that is fully customizable so that you can make it your own. The Genesis Framework is a popular choice for a lot of bloggers. I use Divi Theme from Elegant Themes, which is so easy to use, and great for someone who is not too tech savvy.
Education for you is important too. There is a lot of free information if you want to invest your time in trying to find and test strategies yourself. You can take e-courses, purchase e-books and other products written by professional bloggers especially for you. Do your research and purchase carefully- and remember it’s not money well spent if you don’t follow through and actually learn from these products!
If you need some help with Pinterest check out my Powerful Pin Design Bundle for tips, tricks and templates for creating amazing pins.
Here are some blogging resources that I have used or read that are especially good for new bloggers:
Make Money at Any Level by Victoria Pruett (really you can make money without having 100K Pageviews!)
Zero to 10K Pageviews in Less Than 30 Days by Anna Merhalski (that first 10K pageviews can be tough- here’s how to get there in 30 days!)
Blog by Number by Suzy Whitford (great for a new blogger that has NO clue where to start- but helpful for bloggers at any stage)
Ultimate Bundles also puts out the Genius Bloggers Toolkit a couple of times a year and that is an AMAZING resource. I buy it every year! If you sign up for my newsletter, I’ll be sure to let you know the next time it is available.
Once you have all this set, focus on growing your content, applying what you’ve learned, and maintaining all of the above tips! You will see your blog grow and reach a whole new level!