A Step by Step Guide to Building a Real Business With Your Blog

Despite what many people believe blogging in and of itself is not a real business. No matter how many articles you crank out every single day, a vast majority of aspiring ‘pro bloggers’ end up making less than a few pennies from their blogs. The reason for this is quite simple - there are more than 2 million blog posts published every single day. The chance of your blog being seen through this tsunami of new content that gets published every day is extremely slim. If you have been pinning your hopes of quitting your 9-to-5 job through blogging, it is high time you get a reality check.
However, this does mean that blogging is futile. On the contrary, blogging can help you set up a sustainable business that you may have found difficult to launch otherwise. This article is a step by step guide that will take you through the process of launching a real, sustainable business with the help of your blog.

Why Blogging Is Not a Real Business

Some of my readers here may still be hurting from what I said in the beginning of this article. There is nothing personal here. There are a number of celebrity bloggers out there who have made their fortune through blogs. Michael Arrington from TechCrunch is a pretty good example. The trouble with blogging as a business today is that you are competing not just against fellow bloggers like yourself, but against corporate businesses who invest thousands of dollars each month on their content marketing campaigns.

Blogging is also turning out to be extremely tricky from a monetization perspective. CPC rates have been steadily on the decline while more and more internet users are turning to adblock tools for a seamless internet experience. Government regulations today prevent bloggers from profiting from sponsored posts and advertisements without sufficient disclosure. As a result, bloggers today are caught between a rock and a hard place - there is very little breathing room to build a sustainable business just with your blog posts.

This is not to say that blogging as a standalone business cannot work. My point here is simply that this is becoming an increasingly hard thing to do. If you are just starting out, it is a good idea to find other ways to build a sustainable business with your blogs.

Step Zero: Assess

Before we start working towards building a real business from your blog, it is important to take a step back and assess where you stand currently. There are a few questions you must ask yourself.

Do you already have an established blog?

The strategy to building a sustainable business through blogging differs depending on where you stand with your blog at the moment. There are three possible scenarios. The first is that you may have a blog that you have been running for a bit of time now. In this case, you may already have a good number of posts published on the site. Also, if you are lucky, you already have a good number of visitors coming to your site each month through organic and social traffic.

The second scenario is if you have a dead blog. You may have put a lot of effort into your blog in the past, but may no longer be updating it. In this scenario, you may have a good number of articles published on your site but may not have too many visitors coming to them.

The third scenario is if you are just starting out. You may still be coming to terms with the kind of content you want to write about. In this case, you do not have a lot of content which also means you do not have too many visitors coming to your site.

Have you established a theme for your site?

If your blog belongs to one of the first two scenarios mentioned above, then it is possible that you already have established a theme for your blog. Perhaps you have been reviewing mobile phones. Or, you write political op-eds.

But if you are just starting out, it is a good thing to plan and research everything in advance, for example, picking a reputable content management system and web host is essential, (PRO TIP: Use a reliable web host like BlueHost. You'll be amazed how much a good web host is worth its weight in gold!), similarly figuring out the topics you want to cover will help you in the long run. A new blog that is generic in nature with no specific theme may not be too helpful when it comes to establishing a business. It is a good idea to either kill such a blog or at least focus on one specific theme for your future articles.

What kind of traffic do you get?

Finally, you should also be looking into the kind of traffic you are getting for your blog. If you have connected your site to the Google Search Console (formerly WebmasterTools), it is possible to get a general idea of the keywords that your site visitors are using to land on your website.

Step One: Identify Your Strengths

You now have a fair sense of where you stand with your current blog. Now it is time to identify your strengths. It is possible that although you do not have too many visitors to your website, you have a good variety of helpful content that has been crawled and indexed on Google. On the other hand, you may be getting a steady stream of visitors to a handful of pages. Since you already are aware of the search intent of these visitors, you could potentially use this information while creating a business strategy for your blog. Your blog may fall in one of these various buckets
  • Quality content with quality incoming traffic
  • Quality content but without significant traffic
  • Thin content with steady traffic
  • Thin content without significant traffic
If you have a blog that falls in the last category above, it is fair to assume that this does not stand a chance. You may either pivot and work towards quality content and traffic, or dump the blog and start a new one.

Step Two: Creating A Business Plan

At this point, you have identified the areas where you are doing well and those where you aren’t. Broadly speaking, you only need to be concerned with the following two areas:

Content: If you have quality content, then your business plan could draw on these strengths to build a sustainable business.

Traffic: If you have a steady stream of incoming visitors, you could make use of these visitors to build a business plan.

Let us first discuss your visitors. The Google Search Console gives you an insight into your visitors’ search intent. For instance, a major chunk of your visitors could be coming to your articles about fixing a heat issue on an Android phone battery. In this instance, your visitors are primarily Android users facing an issue with their phone. There are a number of ways you could build a business with this audience. You could perhaps connect these visitors to a phone repair shop in their neighborhood. Alternately, you could sell them software that they could run to fix the issue. In summary, your business idea should be something that caters directly to the reason your visitors are coming to your site.

That being said, it is not always possible to connect your visitors’ search intent with a business idea. For instance, your popular blog articles could be op-eds about the futility of software patents. Or, you could be getting a lot of hits about a piece about Donald Trump. The scenario here is much similar to what it would be if you had good quality content but with very few visitors.

So what do you do if you have visitors with no buying intent? Your business plan should focus on the broad demographic of your visitors. If you have installed Google Analytics for your website, you can navigate to Audience -> Demographics -> Overview to know the age and gender distribution of your audience. You may also learn more details about their interests in areas like technology, music, movies and news by navigating to Audience -> Interests -> Affinity Categories. This information should help you build a persona for your average visitor. For instance, if a significantly large chunk of your audience is categorized as ‘travel buffs,’ you could partner with an online travel portal to sell flight tickets. Alternately, if your audience is significantly female AND are categorized as ‘value shoppers’, you could partner with coupon companies that offer deals targeted at women.

You may hit a wall with this plan if you have good quality content without a lot of visitors. It is not really possible to sell a product if there is nobody to buy it. But while you cannot sell a product, you may however sell a service. Are you passionate about the content you write about? Or, do you like writing in general? All the quality content you have up on your website can serve as a portfolio for a writing career. Alternately, you may also want to partner with media agencies to syndicate your content to a wider audience in exchange for a fee.

Step 3: Executing Your Business Plan

The last piece of the puzzle is turning your blog into an actual business. There are a number of ways to do this.

Reseller: The easiest way to get started with selling physical or digital products from your website is to become a reseller. Some businesses charge a monthly fee to resellers for the right to sell their products from a white-labeled platform. There are also others that offer such reselling rights for free. You could pick a business that fits your needs and budget. The idea here is to get started by reselling the products or services offered by a third party and launch your own offering over time.

eCommerce: Another way to grow your blog into a real business is by pivoting to an eCommerce store. You could do this by launching an online store within your website and promoting your offering within the blog content. For instance, if you are running a blog that reviews mobile phone accessories, you may create a partnership with one of the distributors and sell these accessories from within your store. As your volume grows, you could start negotiating better prices with the distributor or, depending on the product, make and sell it yourself. Alternately, you may also look up marketplaces like Shopify’s Exchange to find online stores in your industry that are already making money and acquire them. This way, you may own two complementing properties that can benefit from each other.

As mentioned earlier in this article, there are a number of ways to turn your blogging into a service. One way to do this would be to use your blog as a portfolio for a writing career. To do this, you begin by establishing your credibility within your article. Include a prominent headshot and a short bio on the sidebar of all your articles. Also, create a ‘Hire me’ page where you may talk in detail about what you want to write about and how interested clients may reach out to you. You may also reach out to media outlets like Huffington Post or New York Times to propose a syndication partnership. Some of these outlets pay you a fee for the right to syndicate while others help you widen your audience base and take you one step further towards establishing a writing career.

Bonus infographic:
Source: Whatsupusana.

Building a blog that gets tens of thousands of pageviews each month may take months, or even years of perseverance. However, turning it into a real business may require much less resources and time than you initially thought. By identifying what your strengths are, and what kind of visitors you receive, it may be possible to turn your blog into a website that can be a sustainable business in the long term.

Disclosure: Some links in this post are referral links. I’ll earn a commission if you make a purchase and you’ll get a discounted price.
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