Is guest blogging a good ROI?

How To Make More Money Blogging: Niche Ideas & Strategies

"Hey Jerry, how can I make money like you?"

Every now and then I get the questions "make money online" from friends and family.

Some would like to blog and make some extra income online. Others to escape routine traffic jams or expand their business online or quit their 9-to-5 job, etc.

I really want to help those who I know can do this. But I can only share so much during face-to-face meetings or WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

Hence, I am writing this long article to share experiences I have learned over the past 15 years as a pro blogger.


Table of contents / quick links

Topics in this guide:

Notes: You can download this guide in .PDF format. Or, check out the presentation slides I created based on the points covered in this article.


Bloggers make tons of money online

When you search for 'make money blogging' on google, one of the relevant search results suggested by google is "can you really make money?".

This shows that there are many dubious searchers out there who have no idea how much a blog can make from a blog - since Google's suggestions are based on how often the keywords are searched.

How Much Can You Make From Blogging? Let's look around to answer the question on the Internet.

Lindsay and Bjork of Pinch of Yum made more than $ 85,000 in sales in November 2016 (they stopped sharing exact numbers).

Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income earned over $ 160,000 in December 2017.

Matthew Woodward made more than $ 25,000 in December 2017.

The main lessons I got from this income report are:

  1. It can be done! Bloggers make good money online, and
  2. With the right ideas and strategies, there is literally no limit to how much you can do online.

This leads to the next question ...

How do bloggers make money?

There are endless ways to make money from your blog.

Banner advertising. Affiliate Sales Create and sell your own products. Sponsored reviews.

What's the best option?

Depending on what industry you're in and where your blog is located, there is a better way to monetize your blog.

Authority Hacker's Gael Breton analyzed how 23 bloggers make money blogging and concluded that selling your own products is the most profitable overall (see table below).

Business modelTotal incomeTotal expenditureProfitProfit margin
Services$ 21,508$ 2,805$ 18,703666%
Advertising sales$ 235,977$ 135, 041$ 100, 93674%
Affiliate marketing$ 214,232$ 47,664$ 166,568349%
Own product sales$ 434,004$ 113,767$ 320,237281%

Services are generally difficult to sell and therefore generate less revenue, but the profit margin is excellent. Many top bloggers make a living blogging and selling services.

A lot of revenue is generated from selling ads (2nd best). However, because the ad sellers have to produce a lot of content and sometimes drive traffic, profit margins drop quickly.

Affiliate marketing is actually the most profitable monetization tactic, which makes it great for new bloggers who need to generate an income quickly. This website is mostly funded by affiliate income - and we've managed to grow from a one-man blog to a team of one editor, six active bloggers, and two social media marketers.

The sale of own products achieves the greatest turnover with high profit margins. Margins are a little lower than affiliate marketing because of the cost of customer service, payment processing, etc. However, the higher conversion rates make up for it and make this the # 1 source of income for bloggers.

First steps

If you've been reading this far and don't have a blog, this is just a pounding puzzle.

Why didn't you start earlier?

Well, it's not too late to step in.

Here's mine. A step-by-step guide on how to create a blog here. Read this first and come back later.

I'll wait! :)


Okay! Now that your blog is done and we're all set for the gold ...

How can you make money blogging?

Some say the content is king.

“Build good content; Money and traffic will follow, ”says the expert.

That's not entirely true - at least not from my experience.

Content is only 50% of the game, if not less.

Yes, as bloggers, it is our duty to create engaging content to keep our readers entertained.

But in order to make money in the long run, you need to have two more key elements - a profitable niche and targeted web traffic.

Profitable Niche + Targeted Traffic = Money

Without one of these elements, you won't be making a lot of money off of your blog.

We will now look at each of these two key elements.

Profitable niche

Here is a story I told one of my guest posts on ProBlogger.net earlier -

When I started my career as an internet marketer, I started an affiliate site selling inflatables. Can you imagine how many people would buy an inflatable boat online?

What's worse, this product is a seasonal product and is only sold during the summer. The website averaged no more than two sales a year. It wasn't worth building this site.

The lesson from this: No matter how well your content is written or how beautiful your blog design is, if you don't choose a profitable niche, you can't turn your efforts into money.

How do you find a profitable niche?

There are tons of ways to find a profitable niche on the internet. I'll cover three methods that work best for me.

Method # 1: Follow the Money

Why do most of the robberies happen in banks? Because that's where the money is.

The same goes for finding a profitable niche. We're just looking for industries where advertisers are spending shiploads of money. It's a basic business sense. Advertisers wouldn't invest that much money unless the ads brought back a positive ROI.

The following tools can help you find out if advertisers are spending money (and more importantly, how much they are spending).

Search engines

Do a search relevant to your niche through Google or Bing. Are there advertisers on your search results pages?

Generally speaking - if there are more than three advertisers competing for a key phrase - there is money to be made in that area.

You can then use Google Keyword Planner to estimate the average price of a click for that search term and predict how much you can earn per Google Adsense click *; and how much you can make from selling advertising space.

Note that no clear rules have been written, but a rough estimate. Google pays Adsense Publishers 30 to 50% of the cost per click.

SpyFu

Another way to determine how much (and most importantly, where) advertisers are spending on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is through SpyFu.

SpyFu, originally GoogSpy, is a search analytics tool that shows the keywords advertisers are buying on Google Adwords. I use it every time I explore a niche in depth.

The following images are some examples that I found using Spyfu Free Search. Each of these searches takes less than 5 minutes - and I can use these statistics to determine the profitability of a niche. There is more valuable information when we go about the free search, but we will stick to the free version for now. To do your own research, simply key into your competitors (or the big players in your shortlisted niche) domain in the search bar.

Right example # 1 - $ 64,000 / mo on Adwords

Niche # 2 - $ 100,000 / mo on Adwords

Niche # 3 - $ 60,000 / mo on Adwords

Niche # 4 - $ 9,500 / mo on Adwords

Niche # 5 - $ 71,500 / mo on Adwords

Niche 6 - $ 24,200 / month for AdWords

Commission Junction

Another method I often use to gauge the profitability of a niche is the number of commission junction (CJ).

Sign up to CJ.com and look for dealers in the niche you are studying.

  • Are there relevant dealers?
  • Do these dealers offer good commissions?
  • Do these merchants pay their affiliates?

You can use Network Earnings (the green bar) as a potential earnings indicator.

See the picture below to understand how I interpret the numbers at CJ.

Method # 2: Facebook

You can do a lot more than share travel photos and post status updates on Facebook.

The world's largest social media networks are a great tool for understanding the new niche you are falling into. Learn about your target audience, track your competitors, find an angle to tackle your niche, and so on.

I will demonstrate these functions using examples.

Use Facebook Page and Facebook Group to understand your own fan base

If you already have a Facebook Page (you can create one before blogging, it's free), the first place to go is your fan base. Immerse yourself in the profile of these fans and pay attention to their demographics (male / female, locations, married / single / divorced, age, etc.) and their interests.

Join the Public on Facebook Group - Read users' conversation to understand their problems and needs.

Find competitors with Facebook Suggestions

For those who have a Facebook Page, go to Insights> Overview> Pages to Watch. Here you can find and compare similar pages suggested by Facebook. You can click any link to find popular posts that have been published on these pages.

How to use Facebook Intel

There is a lot you can do with the list of competitors and the details of fans that you have on hand.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Stalk big player activity on Facebook and learn their marketing strategies.
  • Find Out Trending Topics In Your Niche - What's The Latest Hype In Town? Can you find a new angle for your blog by looking at these trends?
  • Expand a new niche by looking at other players' activities - This is how I discovered the typography niche while studying web design blogs (CSS / jQuery / HTML5).
  • Understand your target audience - where do they spend time online? What are your problems? Can you provide a solution?
  • See Why People Buy From Your Competitors - Can You Do Something Like This And Make Money?
  • See Why People Don't Shop From Your Competitors - Are Their Products Too Boring? Maybe they're not marketing it right. Can you do something better and win over your visitors?
  • Write Better Headlines and Content - Find out which Facebook posts are getting the most engagement and write similar headlines.

Method # 3: Old School Keyword Research

I'm sure you've heard of keyword research by now.

Or wait ... didn't you? Well, I'm Not Going To Hit A Dead Horse Again Here's good read for the beginner.

Why Keyword Research?

Keyword research is usually done at the beginning of an SEO campaign. In most cases, the goal is to identify frequently searched keywords (be it short or long) and provide directions for the campaign.

What's more in Keyword Data?

As most seasoned marketers know, there is even more value you can get from this keyword data. With the right keywords, we can also better understand (and spot new business opportunities):

Level of competition

More searches = higher demand; Further results are returned on a search results page = higher stock.

Relevant brands and names

Examples: For cameras - Nikon, Canon, Sony; for honeymoon - Bali, Maldives, Hawaii; for web hosting - iPage, BlueHost, Hostgator; for celebrities - Taylor Swift, Linkin Park, Bruno Mars.

Intentions of seekers

Generally, intention to buy is higher when there is a lot of search query on 'Widget Rating', 'Widget Model Number and Name', '10 Best Widget Brands, 'Buy Widget Online'. In contrast, searches 'widget history', 'complained widget' or 'making widget' are less likely to be converted into deals.

Commercial value

The more advertisers bid on a particular search term, the higher the commercial value for that search term.

Exploring a Niche Using Keyword Research: Quick Demonstration

When I started out, many webmasters (note - 'blogger' was not a popular term back then) relied on a tool called "overture" - where you can just type in a search term and the system will give you a rough number. How often does that term get free searched? We will then compare these numbers to the amount of results returned and assess the competitiveness (and profitability) of a niche.

Now that there is no more overture, we can hardly get reliable keyword data for free.

Google Keyword Planner is one of the few keyword tools I still use today (if you can afford paid tools, I recommend it. AHREFS and SEM Rush).

In the images below I will show how I use these tools to study a niche and interpret the data obtained. This process can take a very short time (less than 30 minutes) or a few days. It depends on how big your keyword list is and how deep you want to dive in to understand the business landscape.

Movie posters have always been one of my favorite collectibles. I don't really collect them, but I do appreciate the art and sentimental value in them. Let's see if we can turn my interest into a profitable blogging idea. Note that I have not done any research prior to writing this guide. So I'm just as curious as you are.

Google Trends

First, let's take a look at Google Trends.

Google Keyword Planner

Next, let's go to the Google Keyword Planner for more ideas.

The first page of results (see image below) shows that there are numerous searches for movie posters (41,900 + monthly searches), horror movie posters (5,600 + monthly searches), Star Wars movie posters, classic movie posters (3,400 + monthly searches), Hollywood movie posters (1,600 + monthly search) and so on. There is also a relatively high need for information on how to create your own movie posters (~ 22,000 monthly searches).

To go a step further, we can click on the keyword for more information. Here we can better understand the intent of the seeker. Pay attention to what information the searcher was looking for.

Can we identify buying intentions from these searches (if our plan is to sell movie posters directly)? These keywords can also be our blogging topics.

Ubersuggest

For an even broader view of our topic, let's go to Ubersuggest for more keyword ideas.

Back to Google search

What if we don't want to sell physical products? You know it's no fun dealing with inventory and logistics. Can we only blog and sell advertising space? To answer this question, let's try some relevant searches on Google and see if we can spot advertisers or affiliate programs.

You can also take a closer look at the advertisers' approach to marketing - do they advertise on blogs through search ads? If so, what kind of blog? Can you sell ads directly to these dealers? To estimate the profitability of this topic, we can apply this keyword data to Spyfu to determine how much advertisers are spending.

To go deeper, we might want to dig into organic search results (website backlinks, onpage optimizations, social media shares, etc.) to see how difficult / easy it is to compete in terms of SEO.

Make a decision: Small versus Big Pond?

Now that we have all of the market insights we need, it is time to decide. Shall we jump in? Is that a good niche? What would be a good angle to approach this niche? I leave it up to you to draw the conclusion.

Before we end this section, however, I want to be clear about how to choose a niche.

Quite a number of experts advise newbies to avoid stiff SEO competition and choose a smaller playing field when choosing a niche.

"Be a big fish in a small pond," they say.

I believe the exact opposite. You should try the big pond (target high-demand keywords and lots of big competitors) because that's where the audience and the money are.


Targeted traffic

Still with me

We'll now move on to Key Factor # 2: Targeted Traffic

To make decent money from your blog, you need to draw enough targeted traffic.

Reaching a targeted audience (and delivering the information they want) has always been the key to online success.

The more targeted your blog traffic gets, the more money you can make.

It's a simple math - let's say you run a DIY blog and sell handmade art. The average conversion rate of your blog is 3% and the average conversion value is $ 25. On average, you make 3 sales for every 100 visitors and earn $ 75. If the number of target visitors increases to 200, there are theoretically six sales and a profit of $ 150.

The Most Effective Ways To Promote Your Blog

Before we dive into specific traffic tactics and strategies, let's go through the big overall strategy.

The most effective way to promote your blog is to focus on things that are already working for your blog.

To do this you need to:

  1. Always collect the right data from your blog
  2. Invest more money and effort in the tactic

The right data

We know data is critical to growing your blog.

But which one?

If you're not using the right web metrics to track progress and optimize your website, you can take two steps back instead of one step forward.

Depending on the nature of your niche and your level of understanding, you can look at different types of statistical data.

At first glance, Google Analytics reports can be overwhelming. So many numbers! And you may not be familiar with some of the metrics or concepts.

But luckily the truth is:

  • The numbers / concepts are not that complicated, and
  • In all honesty, I don't think bloggers should spend too much time editing Google Analytic reports.

Just go. Your goal is to create a better blog for your users, rather than spend hours studying the technical basics of Google Analytics numbers.

Here are the four Google Analytics numbers to collect:

  1. Sessions / users acquired
  2. Traffic channels / referrals
  3. Bounce rate
  4. Average time on the page

I've discussed these metrics in detail in my blog improvement guide let's skip this for now.

Assuming you now have the data ... what do you do?

Well, you are putting more effort and money into tactics that work.

Real life example

(To see this number, log in to Google Analytics Dashboard> Behavior> Site Content> All Pages.)

As you can see - users on some of these pages spend more time (underlined numbers) comparing my website averages.

Longer time on the page means:

Based on this data, I now have a number of sites with the best engagement rates.

Questions I asked myself in this scenario:

  • Which topics seem to be the most popular with my users?
  • Can I add more information to the post?
  • Can I get someone to be my interview guest and add value to the post?
  • Is there any new data I can add to the item?
  • Should I make a video out of this content?

The key is to focus on the winners and make the most of them.

If you do this, you may not be able to increase your blog traffic right away. But like those snowballs - the size would be bigger than many tactics.

Now that we're done with the overall strategy, it's time to examine some specific tactics for blog traffic.

1. Guest post

Regardless of how Google turns up guest posting practices, this strategy works. Writing high quality guest posts on others' blogs is simply the most efficient way to reach a target audience and build a blog readership.

If you're new to guest posting, Lori wrote a detailed how-to guest book in the past check out.

In my opinion, the key to success is finding the right blogs - those with real readers and social media followers. You can use Topsy or Buzz Sumo to discover popular blogs and influencers in your industry. You can also take a closer look at the comments section to see if the readers are interacting with the bloggers. Always remember that you are blogging for real readers (so the quality of your content is crucial). Forget about posting on blogs with high Google PR but no readers - this practice just stopped working in 2015.

Real life examples

Here are some of my guest posts in the past.

2. Crowdsourcing contribution

Crowdsourcing posts are a great way to network with other bloggers in your niche and to share the attention of others' followers.

I have gotten (and gotten many others) some good results using this strategy. This crowdsourcing post on Triberr Marketing that I recently pulled in over 1,000 tweets in a very short time.

Real life examples

Crowdsourcing post with good results.

3. Facebook ad

Facebook is an inexpensive way to attract new audiences (as low as $ 0.06 per web click in certain industries). The challenging part of Facebook advertising is that you have to test a lot (different ad versions, different countries, different interests, etc.) to be successful.

Real life examples

Also Read - 20 Based Non-Interest Based Targeting Ideas For Your Next FB Campaign.

4. Syndicate blog posts to other popular websites

Promote your blog on sites that syndicate content from third parties; self-promote, beg, bribe, or blackmail (okay, I'm just kidding) the editor to accept your blog feed into their syndication.

Make sure your new posts are linked to your old content to capture traffic. WHSR Blog is syndicated to a number of popular sites including Social Media Today and Business-2 Community.

In an example on Entice HQ's Blog Promotion Guide, the author's article traffic steadily increased after he republished (syndicated) his post on SteamFeed.

5. Attend conferences

Make new blogger friends and promote others' blogs online. I don't particularly like talking to strangers (honestly, I'm very bad at it).

However, my previous visit to WebSummit 2014 in Dublin brought me some new experiences and I must agree that it is an effective way to promote a blog.

6. Blog Comments

Leave constructive comments on other people's blogs (don't spam!). Write in a way that will get people to find out more about you.

Here's a great example of someone who got it right.

7. Forum contribution

Find relevant forums in your niche (google search "keyword" + inurl: forum), post helpful content / answers, advertise your website on signature links or delete links in your forum posts, but only if it is appropriate .

8. Google+ Community

The Google+ community works almost exactly like the forum. The key to success is providing community members with plenty of valuable information in exchange for social media followers and blog traffic.

9. Spend free tools and freebies

Everyone loves freebies. Who doesn't like getting something for free?

Note, however, that not all freebies are good. You have to ask something in order for you to give the public a reason to talk on social media and share your blog. Remember, the whole point is to get traffic.

My core business at Web Hosting Secret Revealed (WHSR) is promoting hosting services. Instead of squeezing into the crowded Google SERP, I've found better odds for web designers who are likely to take advantage of my hosting advice. In order to find a place with this audience, I created a lot of freebies.

the many free icons? Yep - freebies for my primary audience.

The free icons attracted considerable attention in the blogosphere and attracted new visitors and social followers. If you're interested, these are just a few of the blogs that featured our freebies.

10. Twitter

Social followers correlate directly with sales.