It happens to almost every blogger.
You start a blog, share it with your friends, and it gains momentum. It gets a couple thousand visits, a couple hundred subscribers, and yet you still haven’t made enough to cover the $100 hosting bill. This is when you start to think, “Ok, how can I monetize this?”
You email out affiliate offers, put up ads, and maybe even throw up a store. Nobody opens. Nobody clicks. Nobody buys. Your blog crumbles.
But you did everything right, right? Yep, once you got started. You just didn’t lay a foundation beforehand. Here are seven foundational business decisions to make before you write a single word for your blog.
Who is your audience?
The first step to creating anything – whether it’s a blog, a business, or a deck – is knowing your audience. Who’s going to use it, how are they going to use it, and why are they going to use it?
Too many people start blogs based on a topic rather than for an audience. If you have a clearly defined audience, every post you write and product you recommend will be relevant to them.
One way to nail down your audience is to create an avatar for your ideal reader. What is their gender? Age? Interests? Hobbies? Struggles? Dreams? Give your avatar a name.
Every decision here on out, from what you sell to the typography that you use, will be based on this avatar.
What is your objective?
Once you have your audience, you need to figure out what you want them to do.
What’s the point of your blog and how does it help you build a business? Maybe it’s to:
- Build a list of engaged, loyal subscribers so you can have an eager list of buyers once you have something to sell.
- Position yourself as the ideal creative professional for their next project so you can have a steady stream of freelance clients.
- Establish yourself as a trusted authority in your field so you can book speaking engagements and consulting gigs.
Everything from the placement of your opt-in boxes to the scope of your content needs to be based on the primary objective of your blog.
What are the top 10 sites in your niche?
Before you have direct access to your audience, the best way to learn about them is through other people who cater to them.
Find the top 10 blogs in your niche. Read their about pages. Subscribe to their newsletters. Interact in their comments. Learn as much as you can about their your audience and how they use the blog to cater to those people.
Use this list as inspiration for everything from the content you create to the color of your navigation menu.
What are the primary keywords for your niche?
Another reason to make a list of the top blogs in your niche is so you can see the keywords that they’re using to get traffic. Here are a couple ways to do that:
- Meta Keywords – “View Source” on Homepage > Find <meta name=“keywords” content=“…”>. The keywords that they believe are important to rank for will be listed in content=“…”.
- SEMRush.com – SEMRush is a keyword research tool that’ll show you the keywords that send the most amount of traffic to any site you search.
Once you have a solid list of keywords, integrate them into everything from your meta data to every piece of marketing material that you create. Then plan on writing a blog post for each.
What typography are you going to use?
Rafal Tomal, the Lead Designer for Copyblogger Media, makes a case that choosing the typography should be the first step in the visual design process.
In that post, Rafal explains:
The reason why I start with the typography first is that I don’t want the layout to influence how the typography should look. Sometimes you may start designing the layout and then you realize that you can’t use big headings or you need smaller font sizes in some particular places.
I think the typography should influence the entire website style.
It’s like building the engine first and then the body of the car. The content is the engine of most websites.
When making typography decisions here are some general rules:
- Use a max of 2-3 fonts for your entire blog. One for your logo, one for your headlines, and one for everything else
- Use high-contrast colors. Black text on a white background is best. Dark grey on a light grey background is hard to read, especially on mobile screens.
- Use a baseline grid to establish line-heights. Here’s a wonderful explanation of baseline grids and how to use one.
- Use web-safe fonts. Since Google released Google web fonts, we have access to over 500 new fonts that can be viewed in almost any browser.
Once again, design rules are set to be broken but only after you understand the reasons for these blog design rules.
What color scheme are you going to use?
There’s a reason why most social networks are blue and luxury brands are silver and gold. Colors add context to the message that you’re trying to communicate.
What are you going to sell?
You can’t make money from your blog without selling something.
To make money with ads, you need to sell ad space. (Even with AdSense you need to convince Google that you’ve created a resource that’s valuable to their advertisers.)
To make money with affiliate marketing, you need to sell people on the benefits to the product.
To make money with a product, you need to have a product to sell.
The blog needs to be a part of your business strategy, not the other way around.
The Final Word
But what if I already started?
If you want to start monetizing your blog, focus on the audience and how you can help them. Then gradually make changes to your strategy, your content, and your design.
Once you have a well-defined audience – keeping in mind that you’re going to lose some through this process – sell something to them. If you provide a problem-solving offer to a niche audience, they’re going to be happy to hear about it.
Is there anything else that you did from a strategic level before you wrote a single word on your blog? If so, where are you now as a result of that decision?
Photo by: Justin in SD