There are lots of blogs out there about how people built their successful blog and I’m jumping on the bandwagon and tell you how I built a blog for less than $100 that now makes over $1000 a month.
And I know that isn’t very impressive in todays ‘look at me’ world where people are showing how they go to their 5 or 6 figure monthly blog revenue but I’m still proud of my achievement, especially as I had little to no experience of blogging before I got started.
But I’m not only going to tell you exactly what I did but also where I would change things if I was starting over today as I could of saved myself a lot of time and stress but you only learn from your mistakes, so let’s get started…
To give you a bit of background, I started and ran a reasonably successful ecommerce business for 7 years and in that time I learned a little bit about SEO, mainly focused on how to rank product pages (some of which I did but I think it may have been more luck than judgment!) and I wrote a handful of pretty poor blogs.
And when I started closing down my ecommerce business and started my first blog, the only real skill I brought across was that I knew how to build a site with WordPress as I had used it for one of my stores, meaning that I built the website for the blog pretty quickly.
1. Choosing A Niche
This was incredibly easy for me as the niche I chose was based around my ecommerce business and the reason why I opted for it was:
- I could create content on the subject very easily based on my experience
- There were plenty of monetization opportunities
But if I was to start from scratch I most definitely wouldn’t choose this niche again because:
- It is incredibly competitive and the majority of lucrative search terms are dominated by high-authority sites
- It has low search volume, even the most popular searches in the niche are less the 5k a month
So the chances of succeeding a very low and had I known how to do niche research before starting this site, I wouldn’t have gone after it but the silver lining of starting this blog, it forced me to level up my game quickly!
2. Getting a Domain Name
This was the first expense of the site, as it is for most but I overpaid for the domain name, not massively as I paid about $15 for it but after learning more about the different domain name registrars out there, I could have got it for less than $10.
That might not seem a lot but a saving is a saving!
I also made a big mistake as I didn’t think big enough and actually started as a .co.uk (I’m a born and bred Englishman) but the market in the UK was too small and I ended up moving to a .com about 8 months after launching as I realized the huge potential global audience that I was missing out on as the niche has global appeal.
3. Hosting My Blog
Some could call this cheating but I was able to host my new blog on the same hosting account as my old ecommerce site (which was being turned into a blog) and I know this isn’t best practice but why would I pay for two separate hosting accounts when just getting started?
Even if I had of bought separate hosting, it would have only cost me a few $ a month with someone like Siteground.
Creating The Content
The simple fact is that content is the most important part of a blog because without it:
- You have nothing to rank
- Nothing to build backlinks to
- You won’t make any money
So how did I go about creating content?
1. Keyword Research
When I was just getting started, I used the most basic 3 step process there is…
Step 1: Google Autosuggest
I went to Google and started typing to see what it suggested because as we all know, if there is an autosuggest then someone has been searching for it recently.
The advantage of already understanding the niche to a degree is that I had an idea of what people were likely searching for as these were things I had searched for myself or people had asked me about.
This got me a very basic list of keywords that I knew people were searching for but I needed a bit more info than this.
Step 2: Competitor Analysis
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what I was doing with this one but what I would do was search for the keyword that Google had suggested and look who appeared on page 1 and I was looking for two things:
- What sites appeared – if I saw what I thought were big established sites on page 1 then I would put that keyword as a lower priority
- Was the search query answered – this was a big one because even if big sites rank on page 1 but they didn’t answer the query, then I knew there was a chance to rank
This helped me organize my list of keywords a bit better as I’d identified ones that with my rudimentary technique that I had the potential to rank for.
If I was doing this again, I would use an extension like Keywords Everywhere to get a better understanding of the competition in terms of authority, rather than just guessing.
Step 3: Search Volume
The third step was to use Google’s keyword planner to see what the search volume was for my list of keywords.
I know that keyword planner is vague in terms of search volume but it still gave me an idea of how many people were searching for that term every single month and this helped me prioritize my list even further.
I still use this method today as I haven’t treated myself to one of the professional SEO tools yet that can make this process a whole lot easier mainly because I’m incredibly tight when it comes to spending money!
2. Writing Blog Posts
One thing I never did before I started writing my content was look at what the competition was doing and I don’t know whether this was a good thing or a bad thing.
I simply created the content to be what I would have wanted to read and cover all of the things that I felt were important and over the long run, I actually think this benefitted the site as my content was different from the competition (some even started copying what I was doing!).
I also got really good feedback from readers who were glad that I wasn’t the same as every other post out there and I think individuality is something that is definitely being lost in the world of SEO as people in all niches seem to follow the same formula that makes all the posts look the same just because the top ones on Google use that formula.
Over time, I have made a conscious effort to always be improving my content as things I focused on were:
- Readability – using small paragraphs, bullet points etc to make it easy to scan read
- Images – an image can be worth a thousand words so I always tried to use original images to show what I was trying to explain
- Putting my own opinion forward – especially for money posts as this not only shows that I’ve actually tried the product but also know what I’m talking about
- Being honest – I’ve never put money before honesty or integrity, it has cost me money but I sleep easy
Another note on this is that this site is now a couple of years old but it has never been majorly affected by an algorithm update, except for one where Google stopped showing star ratings.
Growing the Site
Building a site and creating content is one thing but actually growing it so that it not only gets traffic but also makes money is another and I’ve tried a few things over the years, with varying levels of success.
1. Adding a YouTube Channel
If I didn’t add a YouTube channel, I probably would have given up on this site a long time ago as for a good while it was:
- The main income generator
- The main source of traffic
The YouTube channel grew significantly faster than the blog and for a period was my main focus, with me creating posts to accompany the videos rather than the other way around.
I’ve now focused more on the blog, with the channel being a secondary revenue and traffic source but having videos to accompany money posts has definitely been beneficial as there are things that can easily be shown in a video that are difficult to explain/show with text and images.
2. Adding Informational Content
To start with, over 90% of the content was money posts, either reviews, comparisons or best of lists and while I managed to get the low-hanging fruit on to page 1, the more competitive posts never really got past page 2.
It’s only been the last few months that I decided to add some informational content and tools to the site and it has been very beneficial, as you can see in the chart below as it has resulted in:
- More impressions
- More clicks
- Money posts moving up in search
The funny thing is that most of the informational content doesn’t rank very highly or get that many (or any) clicks, the only posts that rank highly and get clicks are ones with original research and calculators.
3. Building Backlinks
This is something that I suck at and I happen to suck at it in a niche that is quite difficult to build backlinks but I have done some things to build a respectable backlink profile and these include:
- Creating linkable content – my original research and on-site tools have generated organic links
- Done testimonials – I’ve reached out to companies whose products I use and got a couple of decent links to the homepage
- HARO – this is something I only started doing a few months ago but I’ve managed to get a couple of decent backlinks from high-authority sites
I have tried guest posting but only got two posts and being honest, I found the process to be:
- Mind-numbingly boring
- Rather fruitless
I also tried broken link-building but got the only responses I got were from someone saying they would change the link for $250 and someone who replaced the link with one to another site, so yea, a complete waste of time on that one!
So how does my blog make money…
Currently, affiliate marketing is the only way the blog is monetized as the traffic volumes aren’t really there to have ads on the site.
And while the commissions in my niche are good and some are recurring (the holy grail of commissions!), the problem is that I don’t get commissions every day and they are hit and miss, which isn’t great from a business perspective but I am kind of used to this from being in ecommerce.
But this is supplemented by the YouTube ad revenue, which is pretty good for the size of the channel and that also makes money from affiliate marketing.
So there you go, a brief description of how I built a blog for less than $100 and turned it into a 4 figure a month blog.
If was to start a blog from scratch (which I am planning on doing), I would definitely find a niche that has higher traffic volumes so that I could have ads running alongside affiliate marketing.
But I hope you have found this interesting, I know it isn’t one of those how I make 6 figures a month posts but it is an honest reflection of what it has been like starting and building my blog.