Every content marketer has their own, unique story as to how they became successful entrepreneurs. “Success” itself is a word that means different things to different people.
When I started my blog on the side, my hope was to make perhaps $5k/month by the fifth year. So, when I made that within two, to me that was a huge success.
In this post, allow me to share the steps I took to get there.
1. I picked a profitable niche
The content marketing niche isn’t an easy one to get traction with because of how competitive it is.
Sure, I could have picked an easy-to-rank niche instead, and hated my life in the process. But I didn’t want to be miserable. So, difficulty notwithstanding, I chose a niche that I was actually interested in.
The real benefit to this niche was that it was easy to monetize with affiliate marketing. Most SaaS companies in this field pay their affiliates handsomely compared to retail products. So, even if you have fewer visitors to your website, you can still make a decent income. (In fact, I made my first $1k in a single month within one year of blogging thanks to affiliate marketing!)
2. I set up a website that people liked
The word out there is that you shouldn’t worry too much about websites as a content marketer, and there’s some truth to that.
But even so, I’ve found that having a good-looking and well-performing website does make a difference. If nothing else, it leaves a strong first impression on first-time readers and stumblers on the site.
I set up my website with WordPress, designed it myself (having a web-design background helped) with Elementor, and made sure it met all the necessary requirements for performance (speed, caching, CDN, SSL, etc.)
In fact, in 2020, Elementor Blog even featured my blog on their site! That was a nice surprise.
In case you’re interested, this is my website setup:
- WordPress hosting: SiteGround (I recommend the GrowBig plan for beginners)
- WordPress theme: Astra (Free)
- Page-builder plugin: Elementor (Pro)
- Website caching + performance: WP Rocket (Note: SiteGround has a native plugin for caching and performance enhancing which is pretty good too, and it’s FREE!)
And here’s a list of some of the WordPress plugins I use and recommend.
3. I learned all I could about SEO
On-page SEO techniques were pretty new to me back then, but I spent hours learning all I could from people like Neil Patel and Brian Dean (of Backlinko) and even took an SEO course from LinkedIn.
I was already treading a pretty competitive niche, so I had to make sure I was working extra hard on SEO so as not to fall behind.
And all that hard work actually paid off! Within a few months, a couple of my blog posts started to rank on Google’s first SERP (Search Engine Result Page.)
I knew from my research that when a page starts getting traction, you should leverage it to build an audience with an email list. And that’s exactly what I did.
4. I started building my email list from the start
All the big-time bloggers were saying that to make money with a blog, you need to build an email list. I took that advice to heart and set up a couple of sign-up forms on my site.
But it was only after I noticed a couple of my posts on Google’s first SERP that I put some real list-building strategies into action: I updated those blog posts with more value (more than those who were ranking higher than me; it’s a common SEO tactic) and leveraged free content upgrades as opt-in freebies for email list signups.
As soon as I did those things, my email list shot up, from 200-ish subscribers to over 1,200 in just four months!
And later on, this email list was how I made the big bucks. But more on that later.
In case you’re curious, I use the ConvertKit email marketing platform to manage my newsletters and subscribers.
Also, check out this guide to building an email list from scratch.
5. I used Pinterest to drive traffic
Yes, a few of my blog posts were starting to rank, but my organic traffic still wasn’t all that great back in the days.
But that wasn’t much of an issue for me because I started to drive a decent amount of traffic with Pinterest.
I hate social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram (and don’t even get me started on TikTok!) But Pinterest was easy. As long as I adhered to some simple rules (no spamming, using good Pin images, writing good Pin descriptions, pinning regularly, etc.) the rest happened naturally. Within a couple of months, I was starting to get a steady stream of traffic to my website.
6. I signed up for high-commission affiliate products
I touched on it earlier that the digital marketing niche creates profitable opportunities.
My first income stream was through affiliate marketing. I didn’t (and don’t to this day) run traditional ads on my website. But I have no qualms about recommending products that I myself love and use.
So that’s what I did.
Many of the affiliate products I signed up for paid anywhere from 50 to 150 per successful sale, which meant that even with a smaller audience, I was able to make a decent amount of money.
7. I created a second income stream
About six months into blogging, I had an epiphany.
One of my freebies was a digital product template (a free media kit template for bloggers made with Canva), which people seemed to love. That freebie alone brought over 50% of my email list subscribers.
Seeing this, I had an idea. What if I sold Canva templates?
Believe it or not, it ended up being a huge hit! It started slow, but within the next year, I was making over a thousand bucks per month from this income stream.
Selling those templates was what pushed my monthly income to well over $2k.
8. I kept a close eye on my traffic sources
I always tell my blog writing workshop students that they should not only install Google Analytics but also submit their sitemaps to Google Search Console (GSC).
GSC can give you in-depth data about which blog posts are trending, how much time people are spending on each page, and much, much more!
Thanks to GSC, I realized that one of my blog posts was suddenly trending. Not only was that post on the first page of Google’s SERP, but at the top spot (within just a few weeks of writing it too!) And that post alone was bringing in the bulk of the organic traffic to my website.
After seeing these data, I had my second epiphany ↓↓↓ This was around the 20th month of blogging.
9. I created my third income stream
Since that aforementioned blog post was doing oh so well, I started to wonder if I could monetize it somehow.
Enter: The online course — Side Income with Canva Templates — that finally pushed my income over $5k per month 😃
By this point, I had close to 4k email list subscribers. I had been diligently building and growing this list, but it was only after I created my online course that I realized the true power of email lists.
I leveraged this list to sell my Canva templates before, but those were cheaper products. The course, on the other hand, was the most expensive product I had created (at that time.) But thanks to my email list, I had a super successful course launch without spending a single dime on ads!
And that’s how, my friends, I took my content marketing blog income from zero to over $5k+ per month in just two years.
- I picked a profitable niche.
- I set up a good-looking and well-performing website.
- I wrote value-packed blog posts and optimized them for SEO.
- I used Pinterest and search engines (thanks to SEO) to drive traffic.
- I built an email list using freebies to incentivize sign-ups.
- I observed my audience’s behavior (which freebies they were signing up for more than others, which blog posts drove the most traffic, which pages had the highest reading time, etc.) and took cues from those data to introduce new income streams.
- I then leveraged my email list to sell my products.
So, where are you in your blogging journey? Can you relate to any of the things I’ve mentioned here? Or, better yet, if you have something new to add to this list for me and the other readers, please, do share in the comments below 🙂
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