How to Start a Blog For Free (or Cheap) & Make Money in 2019

Looking to start a blog and earn money? Blogging is one of the best ways today to earn passive income from home. In this ultimate guide, we'll share how to start a blog for free and make money in 2019.

You know something? Starting a blog and making money online has never been so simple as it is today.

Sure, it’s still work. And there’s a ton of competition now.

However, the technology has developed so much, and there are so many awesome free and affordable resources, that anyone can start a blog, even with zero experience and a teeny budget.

When I started my first blog back in 2010, I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing. But luckily for me, the blog turned out to be a huge success, and I started making some decent money relatively quickly.

I was hooked!

So hooked, in fact, that I went on to become a content marketing manager and helped grow two blogs to 7+ figures. I also launched another blog for my own business, and applied the same strategies that I learned as a content marketer to grow it waaaaaaaay faster than the first.

But– I made big mistakes in the beginning that I want you to avoid.

Actually, I missed some huge opportunities–some game-changing shortcuts–that you don’t want to miss.

Most people completely miss these steps.

Then they wonder why they aren’t getting followers, and why they’re still struggling to earn money.

This isn’t going to be your typical guide on how to start a blog and make money.

Sure, I’ll teach you the technical stuff of how to start your blog, step-by-step.

However, what’s more important–and what I really want you to pay attention to–is the strategy.

What I am about to share with you is an exact blueprint that you can follow to start a 7-figure blog.

I can’t promise you that you’ll make that much money… what you do with this information is completely up to you.

But what I can promise you is to take you behind the scenes of how a 7-figure blog operates. I’ll share how to run a blog that actually earns money to pay your bills, as opposed to a “hobby blog”. And, I’ll share how to start one from complete scratch, for free or really cheap, on a bootstrap budget.

Note: some of the links below are affiliate links, which means–at no extra cost to you–I may earn a small percentage if you decide to purchase a tool through my link. Any money I earn from affiliate links goes back into creating more awesome content like this for you.

So, are you ready to get started?

Good!

In order to start a free (or cheap) blog and make money, you’ll need just a few free or very affordable tools. We are going to use these tools throughout this guide to build your blog and make money from the ground up...

The Only 2 Tools You Need

You don't need a whole slew of different tools to start a profitable blog. All you need to get started are these two essentials.

WordPress Hosting

Bluehost

Bluehost is the best WordPress host with a $2.95 hosting plan (65% off for Persuasion Nation fans). The plan includes a free domain, site builder, and a one-click WordPress installation.

(FYI– WordPress is the platform we will be using to create your blog... I'll explain more about that later.)

Get Bluehost for $2.95

Email Marketing Software

ConvertKit

Every professional blogger has an email list. To build an email list, you'll need email marketing software. ConvertKit is the best email provider for bloggers who want to make money, and they've allowed me to offer you guys a free trial.

Try ConvertKit for FREE

So with the Persuasion Nation Bluehost discount and the ConvertKit free trial, you can actually start a blog for the price of a cup of coffee!

Of course there are many other awesome tools out there, and I will recommend a few of them below if you really want to take your blog to the next level. But all you really need to get started is 1) a WordPress hosting provider and 2) an email marketing software.

Less is more!

OK, now let’s get into the nitty gritty of making money with your blog (in 7 steps)...

7 Steps to a Profitable Blog

This is going to be a really in-depth guide, so I’ve divided the steps up into sections below. Feel free to navigate between sections by clicking on the steps. Oh- and don't forget to bookmark this page for later!

The first thing you need to do is follow this checklist to get all the stuff you need for a successful, profitable blog. Most of these items are free, or extremely cheap.

1. Domain Name

First off, get your own custom domain name for free from Bluehost with a super cheap hosting plan.

The reason for this is simple: trust.

If your domain has the word “wordpress” or “tumblr” in it, it just doesn’t sound like a credible source of information. It just sounds like a hobby blog that someone put up in their spare time, and didn’t even bother to customize.

Listen: no one is going to trust your website if you don’t have your own domain name. And trust is key if you want to make money.

Also, in order to have full control of your blog (so you can make more money), you are going to need to own your website completely.

So while you could start a blog for free with WordPress.com without ever purchasing a web host or a custom domain name, I don’t recommend doing that because you won’t have nearly as much control. Just spend a few bucks per month on Bluehost so you have complete ownership and control over your blog– it will be well worth it in the long run.

2. WordPress

Next, you’ll need to install the WordPress.org software on your domain.

This is NOT to be confused with WordPress.com– that’s the service where WordPress hosts your blog for you. What you want is the platform itself, which you can install on your domain that you own and host yourself.

Don’t worry, if you got your hosting plan from Bluehost, this part is super easy because your plan comes with a free one-click WordPress installation. Just click, and WordPress will be installed for you.

Easy peasy.

If you have a different hosting provider other than Bluehost, that's OK too. Just follow the instructions here to install WordPress on your site.

3. Drag-and-Drop WordPress Theme

Now you’ll need to set up your blog design with a WordPress theme.

WordPress comes with a variety of free themes to choose from, but if you really want to make money with your blog then, quite frankly, these aren’t going to cut it. You need something more professional (both in the way that it looks, and in the functionality).

The fastest way to get up and running with a professional theme is to choose one that is drag-and-drop: this means that you don’t need any coding or design experience in order to build it.

I’ve personally tested out dozens of WordPress themes, but there are two themes that really stand out to me as the best value:

  • Make from Theme Foundry (FREE)
  • Divi from Elegant Themes ($89)

Both are drag-and-drop themes that are easy to customize and make your blog look professional and beautiful. The main difference between the two is that Make is clean and simple, whereas Divi has tons of bells and whistles.

You really can’t go wrong with either one, but be aware that switching themes can be a huge pain.

4. Essential WordPress Plugins

Next you’ll need to boost the functionality of your blog so that it does the job of making money as best as it possibly can.

There are a few essential plugins that I recommend for anyone starting a blog to make money:

  • Yoast SEO (FREE) – this is what I use to optimize my blog posts for search engines, so they get as much Google traffic as they possibly can.
  • Easy Social Share Buttons ($20) – this is what I use to put social sharing buttons on my blog posts so they are easy for people to share on social media. It also gives me the control to fine-tune exactly what images and text are shared on specific social media platforms.
  • Akismet (FREE) – this is an anti-spam plugin so that you don’t get a bunch of spammy comments on your site.

That’s it! As you can see, I don’t recommend a whole lot of plugins.

Sure, you may decide that you personally want an extra feature here or there, but that’s not necessary. If you have these three essential WordPress plugins above then you will be in excellent shape.

OK, if you have been following this checklist, then you now have your blog all set up and ready to go. Next, you’ll need to choose a niche for your blog that will actually make you money.

Starting a profitable blog takes considerable thought. If you are going to be successful, you’ll need to spend some time defining what your blog will be about, your unique spin on that topic, and whether there is a real market for it.

A well thought-out niche will enable you to attract an avid readership, and turn those readers into customers. But without it, you won’t have a strong voice, and your blog will fall flat.

So, let’s start with the basics. What is a blog niche anyway?

What is a blog niche?

blog niche is a clearly defined topic (or topics) covered by a particular blog, and written with a specific audience in mind.

Finding the right niche size is critical.

If your focus is too broad, you won’t appeal to anyone in particular, your visitors will be confused about what is the point of your blog, and they will probably never come back.

On the other hand, if your niche is too small, there will be no one to sell to, and you will be frustrated by your lack of traffic, followers and income.

By the end of this step, you will have a clearly defined niche for your blog that sets you apart from the competition, and attracts your target market. Your visitors will feel a strong connection to your content and to you, and they’ll be excited to learn more by signing up for your email list– a huge step towards becoming your paying customers!

Ready to find the right niche for your blog?

Great! Here are some tips for finding your unique niche, and ways to research ahead of time to see if there is a strong market for it.

Brainstorm a Blog Niche Ideas List

Choosing your best niche is a culmination of understanding what your background and interests bring to a potential marketplace. Your first order of business is to determine where you can craft a credible voice.

Follow these steps to brainstorm a blog niche ideas list…

Step 1. List Your Areas of Expertise

Which topics are you an expert on, or far enough ahead of others that you can draw people to you with content?

What have you studied? What are you studying in school and outside of school, including in workshops, mini courses and enrichment courses?

What are you so familiar with that if someone woke you up in the middle of the night you could spring into action with this topic? (That is sheer knowledge that is stored on your “hard drive” so to speak.)

If you don’t think of yourself as an “expert” per se, is there anything that you want to study further? You don’t have to be an expert to share what you are learning with your audience!

List all areas on a sheet of paper, and see if you can come up with 8-10 topics. Take your time with this and think about it over a few days.

Note: If you are an expert or very knowledgable on several topics, then you will want to conduct market research to decide which topic(s) are going to be the most profitable. (This sounds scarier than it really is… I will show you a few ways how!) In addition, you can combine a few topics into a coherent blog. (I’ll show you how to do that too.)

Step 2. List Your Passions

What things do you love doing? What do you love to do every day? Are there any new things you have been studying that you are fascinated by?

If a friend asks you about this topic at a party, do your other friends smile and say, “Oh no, not that, she’ll talk for the next hour about that!”? (That is passion talking.)

Again, continue writing down all of your passions. How many can you come up with?

Step 3. Brainstorm Your Target Audience

Your blog niche is not only the topics you write about, but who you write them for.

Who is your potential audience? Are they male or female? How old are they? Where do they live? What is their income range? What professions are they in? What problem(s) can you solve for them?

Take a look at your lists of potential niche topics, and make a note of the ideal audience for each of those topics. Who would be your ideal subscriber for each topic?

You may feel more strongly about one audience over another. Make a note of who you really love to help, versus those you would rather not.

Step 4. Find Your Unique Angle

Now that you have a list of areas of expertise and a list of passions, and you know who you’d ideally like to talk to, you can start to “mix and match” them to create a unique angle on a topic.

Can you combine several interests or passions into one niche? For example, Persuasion Nation is a combination of persuasion psychology and digital marketing for entrepreneurs. This combination makes it completely unique, even though there are tons of other marketing blogs out there.

Or, can you combine your expertise with a specific audience? For example, if you are really good at cooking and you love teaching young adults, could you start a blog with cooking tips and recipes for young adults?

At this point, you may have no idea whether there is actually a market for these topics. Don’t worry– I will show you how to figure that out in the next section.

For now, this exercise is about discovering potential topics that you are not only good at, but also passionate about. The intersection between your passions, your strengths, and what the market wants is your sweet spot.

Remember: being passionate about a topic doesn’t necessarily mean there is a market for it. However, if your passion is evident in every aspect of your blog, people will be drawn to it because of that. You will know the “jargon”–the language of your audience–and your copy will be more persuasive as a result.

In addition, being truly passionate about a topic means you are always wanting to learn more and share that with your audience– this will give you staying power, and you’ll be less likely to experience “burn out”.

Ok, now that you have a list of potential blog niche ideas, let’s see if there is actually a market for any of them… 

Research the Market for Your Blog Niche Ideas

Before you spend a lot of time developing a new blog, you want to be sure the market is broad enough to find enough of an audience, but small enough to be able to speak to them directly— a cornerstone of persuading people to become your followers and customers.

Here are some ways to get started researching your topic.

Step 1. Find Hot Topics

First, you can search on Google for a topic you are interested in. We’ll search for “hot new fitness trends in 2017”.

You can look for the newest information on a topic by using the search bar date feature. Simply click on “Tools”, and then click “Recent”. Choose a timeframe for your search from the dropdown menu (e.g. “Past month”) to see only the most recent posts.

I’m seeing a lot of results related to “HIIT” (“high intensity interval training”), so that looks like it might be a hot topic.

Having found an interesting topic that we might want to create a niche in, let’s keep studying how much interest there is in it…

Step 2. Check Monthly Search Volume and Competition

To see how much interest there is in a particular topic, you can conduct keyword research in the Google AdWords Keyword Planner.

(Reminder: a “keyword” is what people type into Google when they are searching for information. Lots of people searching for a particular keyword means there is a lot of interest in that topic.)

To navigate to the Keyword Planner, you’ll first need to create a Google AdWords account (free).

Here’s what the Keyword Planner looks like once you are logged in:

From here, click on “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category”. Then type in your keyword.

Here’s what came up for “HIIT”:

As you can see, the average monthly searches related to this keyword are 10M – 100M. That’s pretty good! Also, the competition for “HIIT” and related keywords is low, so that’s great news.

Step 3. Check Google Trends

My next stop is to check Google Trends. This will show me the interest in this keyword over time.

First go to Google Trends…

Then, type in your keyword…

This will show you a graph of the popularity of this keyword over the past few years.

As I suspected, HIIT this is a hot topic, as shown by the increasing interest.

From here, I decided to view the past 12 months.

Then, I further refined the graph to show only growth in the United States.

Next, I added in related keywords, such as “high-intensity interval training” all spelled out. By doing this, I learned that if I were to spell it out, I’d get massively more traffic than if I only used the abbreviated version. (The red line is the spelled out keyword, and the blue line is the abbreviated keyword.)

You can also further refine the location by cities to see where a topic is most popular, related keywords, and the breaking trends for this industry.

Compare 4 or 5 keywords/topics/industries side by side to see which getting more traffic, and what the trends are. It will even tell you which topics are rising and “breakout” topics.

Step 4. Read Amazon Book Reviews

Amazon is a wonderful place to research as it is such a vast and complete marketplace. Researching your topic in best-selling books is a great place to start. Type your niche idea into the search bar and see what comes up.

Let’s see if there are any books on HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I have a hunch there are some books that are popular… Let’s see what people are saying about them!

When I typed in HIIT, I found this recently published book.

When you do this it will be worthwhile to research 5 to 6 books to determine what is lacking in the books that the readers will want to learn more about, and see if that could be a new “hole” to fill.

So taking notes as you look at books in your area of interest will be helpful, to see what people are saying about the available information on this topic. If you are knowledgable about it, maybe you can start your niche in this industry and add your own spin on it.

Here are the reviews for this book on HIIT:

As you can see, the book reviews are very uneven, and you will learn a ton if you read about 10 or more comments (both positive and negative).

If you can preview the book, check out the table of contents. This will give you some great ideas for blog post categories.

Ok, now you know how to brainstorm blog niche ideas, and you know how to conduct market research to determine the popularity of those topics. However, you may still be looking for validation that your chosen topic isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

Some topics may be trending now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to be popular over the long-term, or that they have the potential for making money. Thankfully, there are several blog niches that are solid choices because they tend to attract large blog followings.

21 Popular Blog Niche Ideas

Here is a list of 21 blog niches that make money, and/or tend to be the most popular. If your blog falls under one of these topics, then there is likely to be a good sized audience for it. (Niches with a 🌶️ symbol are particularly hot topics for blogs.)

  1. Art
  2. Blogging
  3. Business & Startup 🌶️
  4. Career
  5. Creative, Decorating & DIY
  6. Faith
  7. Finance 🌶️
  8. Food
  9. Health & Fitness
  10. Lifestyle & Travel
  11. Love & Relationships
  12. Marketing & Social Media 🌶️
  13. Music
  14. News 🌶️
  15. Parenting
  16. Productivity
  17. Self-Improvement 🌶️
  18. Sports
  19. Technology 🌶️
  20. Web Design & Development
  21. Writing

Final Thoughts on Finding a Blog Niche

Finding the right blog niche comes down to these three things:

  1. It’s something you’re good at, or able to learn
  2. It’s something you’re passionate about
  3. There’s a market for it

To find your own unique spin on a popular niche, see if you can come up with a specific topic that serves a lot of people. You can always expand into related topics later. This is a great way to stand out, while also having the potential for a lot of traffic.

For example, Jon Morrow decided to focus his blog (BoostBlogTraffic) on the topic of blog traffic. That’s a very specific niche, but with a huge potential audience. Later, he rebranded as SmartBlogger, and now covers a variety of topics surrounding blog traffic and growing your blog.

If you decide to take this approach, just make sure that your niche is deep enough that you can come up with at least 4-5 categories to write about. That way, you’ll never run out of ideas to fill your content calendar.

OK, now that you’ve chosen your niche, it’s time to move on to Step 3: choosing the perfect name for your blog…

Fun fact: Jennifer Aniston’s birth name is actually Jennifer Anastassakis.

Say, whaaat? Well, it turns out that her parents (aspiring actors) changed the family name to “Aniston” to attract more work. In fact, Hollywood is full of stars who changed their names.

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but the harsh reality is this: people do judge a person by their name. And the same goes for blogs.

Your blog name has a profound effect on how your blog is perceived, and public perception can make or break your business.

Choose the wrong name, and your blog could tank before it even gets off the ground.

(And we all know how that turned out for Romeo and Juliet, don’t we?)

That’s why actors change their birth names, and companies pay naming strategists top dollar ($2,500+) to create catchy and memorable names and slogans.

But don’t worry– you don’t need to hire anyone to come up with a blog name for you. You can actually come up with a completely one-of-a-kind, memorable blog name that your audience will love, just by following these 9 simple and clever blog-naming strategies.

Plus, we’ve included plenty of examples, so you’ll have lots of inspiration to draw from.

So, are you ready to find your perfect blog name?

Good! Let’s get started…

1. The Mash-Up Blog Name

Did you know the name, “Nabisco,” is actually a mash-up of three words?

“Nabisco” comes from National Biscuit Company. They make Oreos, Nilla wafers, and all the other cookies that probably remind you of your childhood.

Name mash-ups do so well because they’re unique.

Chances are, people wouldn’t have combined the same two or three words in the same way you did.

Cassey Ho of Blogilates, for example, combined the words “blog” and “pop” with “pilates” for her online pilates empire:

This makes it clear to her target audience she’s running her pilates largely online, doesn’t it?

Remember: uniqueness is the advantage here.

Action Step:

Think of some words related to your blog niche topic. You can use an online tool like Name Combiner to play around with name mash-ups for your blog. Just take a look at some of the names that came up with the words “blogging” and “pro.”

Pretty cool, right?

2. The Practical-SEO Blog Name

Did you know Google accounted for 79 percent of all desktop traffic in 2017 compared to other search engines? That means most of your organic search traffic is coming from Google. Which means it’s probably a good idea to optimize your site as best you can for searchable keywords.

And what better way to do that than to incorporate a keyword into your creative blog name?

Mary’s site, Persuasion Nation, is a perfect example of this:

Just take a look at what came up when I Googled, “persuasion tips for entrepreneurs.”

Persuasion Nation comes up on the 8th spot of the first page of Google search results, alongside large online publications like Forbes, Fortune, and Inc.

That’s a pretty big feat to accomplish.

Of course, it’ll take some time to get your page ranking higher in the page results, but this is just a small glimpse into the power of using keywords in your blog name.

Action Step:

I recommend using a keyword research tool like KWFinder. Find a word or combination of words for your niche that you can rank for with little difficulty.

BONUS TIP: Did you notice the other device used in the “Persuasion Nation” name? That’s right, it’s a rhyme! What rhymes can you think of using your keywords?

3. The One-Powerful-Verb Blog Name

Is there some kind of verb that would explain exactly what you do in one word?

Brevity is the main advantage of these creative blog names.

If you choose the right verb, you’ll immediately elicit emotion, too (notice name mash-ups or other “made-up” names won’t do this as well, since it’s an imaginary word people are unfamiliar with).

Take Sarah Paulson of Unsettle, whose blog name has high-impact because of the negative association behind the word, “settling.”

Her blog’s name even aligns with her blog’s mission, creating a cohesive brand personality throughout.

Action Step:

Write out your blog’s mission statement. Don’t worry if it sounds grandiose or “too big” (like “helping women conquer their weight loss struggles once and for all”). Your mission statement should leave room for you to grow.

After brainstorming your mission statement, think of 10-20 verbs that closely align with your blog’s values and mission. Choose the verb that’s uncommon, but evokes a powerful (positive) emotion.

4. The Juxtaposition Blog Name

These creative blog names usually take two or three words you’re familiar with, but don’t really go together, and combines them.

The effect?

An unexpected, yet memorable, brand name.

A blogger who did this well is Adam Connell of Blogging Wizard:

“Blogging” and “wizard” aren’t two words you’ll normally see together.

But unlike some other blog naming strategies I include in this list, using a juxtaposition name has two main perks:

  • Taking familiar words people already know…
  • …and combining them in a unique way

That unique way = your blogging brand.

“Blogging Wizard,” for example, immediately makes you think of expertise, but a creative and innovative one, at that (“blogging expert” doesn’t have the same ring to it, right?).

Action Step:

Take a common word from your industry. It can be as general as “blogging,” for example.

Now, think of another word that would convey a sense of expertise, but one you wouldn’t normally see in your field. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Ninja
  • Stylist
  • Chef
  • Whiz
  • Maven
  • Scientist
  • Magician

5. The Made-Up Blog Name

If you’re looking for a really creative blog name, then look no further than an entirely made-up name.

You’ll see made-up names less often compared to the other ones on this list for a few reasons:

  • Most people feel a bit foolish using them
  • They’re intimidating to create and think through
  • They don’t have the initial “word recognition” feeling that comes along with real words

Know who didn’t feel foolish when he named his soon-to-be multibillion-dollar ice cream empire?

The founder of Häagen-Dazs.

I hate to burst your bubble, but Häagen-Dazs is a completely made-up word (not Scandinavian as people think).

That’s why you won’t find any romantic name origin story if you visit Häagen-Dazs’s about page.

But guess what? Häagen-Dazs is now synonymous with “fine ingredients” and “super-premium” ice cream. Because they planned it that way.

The beauty of made-up names is that you can infuse them with whichever brand qualities your blog embodies, while having the name grow on your audience over time.

Action Step:

Your toddler isn’t the only one who can make up words! Check out this tool called Wordoid that’ll pull out made-up words for you. Plus, it’ll tell you whether the domain name is available, too.

(P.S. I totally won’t judge if you look to your kids for made-up-word inspiration.)

6. The Play-on-Prefixes Blog Name

Prefixes are fun. Like suffixes, they have their own meanings and you can use those meanings to your advantage when you’re naming your blog.

Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, for example, did a good job with the name.

The “pro” becomes a prefix because it comes before “blogger.”

Cleverly, it also has two meanings:

  1. Being a “pro” at blogging
  2. Being “ahead of” other bloggers (“pro,” a Latin prefix meaning “forward,”or “in front of”)

Action Step:

Below is a list of some common prefixes with their meanings. Can you add them to a common word in your blog niche? Does this new meaning fit with the purpose of your blog?

  • Ad (“to” or “towards”)
  • E (“from”)
  • Extra (“beyond”)
  • Inter (“between”)
  • Pro (“before”)
  • Super (“above”)

Click here for a larger list of prefixes for even more inspiration.

7. The Super-Suffix Blog Name

The poor suffix. Since the rise of Silicon Valley and startups, suffixes got a bad rap.

In fact, there’s a running joke lately that adding “-ly” to the end of a word means you’ve got yourself an idea for a startup. TIME magazine even ran a piece on silly Silicon Valley naming trends, and “Cute Suffixes” was #4 on their list.

Yes, these names are a bit cringey.

They’re also kind of funny.

But still, if you add the right suffixes, you can come up with a unique name in your blogging niche. (Just avoid all -y and -ly endings, please!)

Action Step:

Check out this list of Latin suffixes from Wiktionary.org. Think of a few names common to your blogging niche. Can you add any of those suffixes to come up with a unique and creative blog name?

8. The “Name” Blog Name

You can also simply take your name (or nickname) and use it to name your blog.

This blog naming strategy works especially well if you want to grow your personal brand. Maybe you’re a coach or consultant, or maybe you’re looking to become a “household name” in your industry.

This also gives you an SEO boost, too, in case someone finds you online and Googles your name — your blog will automatically come up.

Gemma Bonham-Carter, for example, chose to use her name for her new online business after she learned how to monetize her first DIY decorating blog:

Action Step:

The one disclaimer I have to naming your blog after yourself is that the connection will stick. That means if you, say, want to move away from the weight loss industry at any point, but you’re known as a women’s fitness coach, then it could be harder to disassociate yourself from your prior brand image if you used your name from the start.

That being said, using your own name can give you more flexibility to pivot in the future because you haven’t pigeonholed yourself into one specific niche. And, it can never hurt to stake a claim to your own domain name and build your personal brand. So whether or not you decide to go with your own name as your blog name, be sure to snatch up your dot com if it’s still available!

9. The Foreign-Language Blog Name

Did you know that brand names in foreign languages evoke different brand perceptions, according to one study from the Journal of Marketing Management?

For example, just think of how different these two names sound even though they mean the same thing:

The Small Cafe vs. Le Petit Café

What imagery comes to mind when you think of the first English-language name? What about the second one?

I don’t know about you, but the second one makes me think of jam-slathered, freshly-baked croissants, strong coffee, and the movie Midnight in Paris.

Those two names translate to the same thing, but they evoke entirely different reactions.

The feelings you’ll evoke in your readers are in large part because of the perceptions your readers will have of the language’s culture (when people think of France, for example, they’ll think of good food, luxury, and romance).

You may be going exactly for this effect, especially if you’re a lifestyle or food blogger.

Action Step:

Think back to the list of verbs you created in #3 of this list. Then, translate some of those verbs into a foreign language of your choice. Do any of these translated words resonate with you and your blog — and your target audience?

Final Thoughts on Choosing the Perfect Blog Name

Naming your new blog isn’t rocket science, but it does require some thought. Hopefully this list of blog-naming strategies and tips has given you some inspiration to come up with a creative blog name of your own.

And remember, if it doesn’t feel right, keep brainstorming. After all, you want to choose a name you can grow into, not one you’ll grow out of.

OK, now that you’ve chosen a name for your blog, it’s time for Step 4: setting up your email list. I’m warning you right now: you will be tempted to skip or postpone this step, but you must NOT give in to that temptation!! Unless, of course, you don’t care about making money with your blog…

If you really want your blog to earn money, you absolutely, positively need to have an email list. 

This is so important that I recommend doing this before you write a single blog post.

Sure, you could place ads on your website and get a few quick cents that way.

But that’s all you’ll get… nickels and dimes. Not serious pay-the-bills-and-quit-your-day-job kind of money.

To really make money with your blog, you’ll need to sell products, NOT place ads on your site. We’ll get into that more in a later step.

You don’t need to worry about that right now.

All you need to know right now is this:

The vast majority of online business owners make their money through marketing emails.

Yep, it’s true. Social media and advertising PALE in comparison to email when it comes to actual sales. (Check out this post I wrote if you want to see the exact statistics.)

So if you want to sell anything online–by that, I mean either your own products OR affiliate products–then you are going to need to have an email list.

How to Start an Email List

The first thing you are going to need to build your email list is an email service provider. The one I recommend for bloggers is ConvertKit.

Once you set up your ConvertKit account, you’ll need to build a persuasive optin form.

The way you do this is really critical, so I’m going to share the whole strategy for you right now…

What Does Email Opt-in Mean?

If you’re new to building an email list, you may be wondering what is an email opt-in form. Well, here’s the email opt-in definition:

An email opt-in is a web form that businesses use to capture the email addresses of prospective customers, and get their permission to send them offers.

In marketing speak, email subscribers are referred to as “leads”. That’s because each email subscriber is potentially only an email (or a few emails) away from becoming a paying customer.

Does that sound exciting to you?

Great! Let’s keep going…

7 Email Opt-in Best Practices

If you want your email opt-in forms to be persuasive, you first need to understand what makes people “tick”. How do you get people to actually want to give you their email address?

Well, here are some best practices to keep in mind when creating your email opt-in forms…

1. Do NOT ask people to “subscribe to your newsletter”

Frankly, this is the lazy way to create an email opt-in form. And it simply doesn’t convert.

You need to remember that email is the most intimate form of online communication. In order to persuade people to give you their email address, you’ll need to give them a good incentive.

2. Instead, create a valuable resource and give it away for FREE in exchange for their email address

You may have heard the terms “freebie”, “lead magnet” or “opt-in bribe” tossed around. Well, that’s what we are talking about here: this is the persuasive way to create an email opt-in form.

Why? Well, it leverages a psychological phenomenon known as the Principle of Reciprocity. The reciprocity principle states that people are more likely to do something for you if you do something for them. In other words, people will feel indebted to you when you offer them something for free… and will be far more likely to give you their email address.

3. Your lead magnet needs to be highly relevant to your ideal customers

Many people make the mistake of thinking that the more email subscribers they have, the better. But that’s only partially true.

Yes, more email subscribers is better, but only if they are your ideal customers. Otherwise, I’ve got an email list full of people who will likely never buy from me, and who will be annoyed that I am sending them offers that they don’t want or need. That’s not only bad for my reputation as a business owner, but it’s also bad for email deliverability (because I’ll likely get a high percentage of unsubscribes, and possibly even get flagged as spam).

So attracting the right kind of email subscribers for your particular business is crucial. How do you do that? With a highly relevant lead magnet.

For example, what would happen if I were to offer free iPads to everyone who opted in to my email list? Well, even if I could afford to do so, that would be a terrible idea, because I would simply be attracting everyone. I mean really, who doesn’t want an iPad?

Instead, you want to offer something that only your ideal customer would want. For example, one of my lead magnets is entitled, “6 Jedi Mind Tricks for the Digital Entrepreneur”.

Do you see what I did there? I specified WHO this freebie is for. The more specific your lead magnet is about who it is for, the better.

4. Your lead magnet needs to be easily consumed

People have very short attention spans, and they are hesitant to download something if they think that it is going to take a long time to consume. So you’ll want to avoid creating something like an e-book–unless it’s a really short one–because it will just be too overwhelming for someone to easily consume.

5. Your lead magnet should promise a super specific, quick win

The purpose of your lead magnet should be to help someone take a very specific action step. It doesn’t need to be a huge step: just a small baby step in the direction that they want to take.

For example, you could provide a set of tools, or a skillset, or some useful information that your audience can apply.

6. Your lead magnet should create a noticeable improvement

The purpose of your lead magnet is not only to get someone to opt in to your email list: it actually goes even deeper than that…

You want to actually create a noticeable improvement in someone’s life.

That is what will build trust, nurture your relationship, and ultimately help to convince someone to buy your products or services– which is what you want, right?

7. Your lead magnet should be instant

People love instant gratification, so to be persuasive, your lead magnet needs to be something that can be delivered to them instantly.

For example, a PDF, a video, an audio MP3, or anything digital that can be delivered via email.

51 Email Opt-in Incentive Ideas

OK, so now that you know the components of a persuasive email opt-in incentive, here are some ideas to get you thinking about what you might create…

  1. Checklist
  2. Cheat Sheet
  3. Template
  4. Swipe File or Inspiration File
  5. Samples
  6. Scripts
  7. Toolkit
  8. Web App
  9. Resource List
  10. Calendar or Planner
  11. Worksheets
  12. Printable
  13. Journal Prompts
  14. Online Calculator
  15. Spreadsheet
  16. Recipes
  17. Tutorial
  18. eBook
  19. Guide or Report
  20. Infographic
  21. Video
  22. Audio
  23. Webinar
  24. Event Tickets
  25. Email Course
  26. Sample Chapter from Book
  27. Free Coaching Call
  28. PDF Version of a Blog Post
  29. Transcript
  30. Audio Book
  31. Mind Map
  32. Recording or Replay of a Live Event
  33. Slide Presentation
  34. Vault or Library of Digital Resources
  35. Quiz Results
  36. Survey
  37. Manifesto
  38. Giveaway
  39. Inspirational Quotes
  40. Desktop Wallpaper
  41. Mobile App or Game
  42. Challenge
  43. Membership Site
  44. Facebook Group
  45. Slack Group
  46. Free Trial
  47. Coupon Code or Early Bird Discount
  48. Case Studies
  49. Waiting List
  50. Free Shipping
  51. Free Quote or Consultation

…the possibilities are endless!

Wording for Your Email Opt-in

Alright, so you’ve created your email opt-in incentive. Next, you need to write the copy for your email opt-in form.

The first part of your email opt-in verbiage is the title of your lead magnet itself. This is important: you need to think of your incentive title as a headline. You don’t want to come up with some “cutesy” name that makes no sense to anyone except you… you want to be very straightforward about what they are going to get, and what your lead magnet is going to help them to do.

Here are some great examples of lead magnet titles:

  • 52 Headline Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Writing Blog Posts that Go Viral
  • The Ultimate Facebook Ad Template Library
  • Toolkit for Growing Your Online Business
  • 5 Free Meal Plans to Ditch Processed Food
  • Life is Messy Planners: Make Room for Genius Work
  • Logo Inspiration eBook
  • 60 Journal Prompts (for Self-Love, Self-Discovery + a Spot of Self-Coaching)
  • Free Workout: Shrink Your Thighs, Expand Your Mind

The second part of your email opt-in copy is the description: you’ll need to briefly describe what’s so special about your incentive so it will be irresistible for someone to opt in.

To do that, I’ve come up with a simple, 3-sentence formula:

“Want to [desired outcome]? Then you’ll need to [action they need to take]. In this FREE [PDF/video/MP3/etc.], you’ll get [repeat or paraphrase the title of your lead magnet].”

Here’s an example of the 3-step formula in action for my 6 Jedi Mind Tricks lead magnet:

“Want to stay at home and pay the bills? Then build a profitable website, you must! In this FREE, 8-page PDF, you’ll get the exact persuasion tricks I use to help entrepreneurs build 7-figure websites.”

The final part of your email opt-in language is the call to action copy, or the verbiage that goes inside your subscribe button. What you do NOT want to do is say something generic and boring like, “Subscribe” or “Submit”. That’s not very compelling.

Instead, you’ll want to use language that is specific to your particular lead magnet. So for example, “Download the Checklist” or “Grab the Printable PDF”. This call to action copy is much more persuasive because it reminds someone of exactly WHY they should click on the button.

Final Thoughts on Setting Up Your Email List

In this step, you learned the best tool for growing your email list (ConvertKit), how to create an irresistible lead magnet, and the 3-sentence formula for your email opt-in form copy.

Following these exact strategies, I’ve been able to grow a huge email list of thousands of subscribers in a very short amount of time.

Next, it’s time for Step 5: getting followers onto your email list. You’ll really want to pay attention now, because this strategy I am about to share with you is so simple, so quick, and it doesn’t cost you a CENT, yet most people miss it entirely…

PSST! I’ll let you in on a little secret… 

To drive unlimited traffic to your blog and get followers onto your email list, you don’t need to buy ads, or pay $5-$10K to retain a P.R. agent.

All you need to do to get in front of tens of thousands of potential blog readers and email subscribers is to write guest posts.

You don’t need any formal qualifications, a Ph.D, or fancy schmansy credentials either.

You see, Ahmed up there? He built a freelancing business while studying to be a dentist. And he knows that the secret to driving unlimited, free traffic to his blog is getting featured in the media.

Media outlets like Entrepreneur need to keep pumping out content. Like, every. Single. Day.

And to do that, they need your help.

They are actually willing to feature you and give you a link back to your blog–or even pitch your product or service–in exchange for your content.

Cool, right?

“So, exactly what kind of content do they want,” you ask?

Popular blogs need you to write guest posts for them (which will take a few hours of your time, if you do all the writing yourself).
Podcasts need you to sit down for a recorded interview (approx. 30-60 minutes of your time).
Pitching and writing can be outsourced for cheap if you don’t want to do it yourself. Or, you can do it all yourself and drive unlimited traffic to your website completely FREE. It’s up to you.

But– here’s the catch…

These internet giants get HUNDREDS of pitches per day, and they each have their own very specific requirements. Many of them don’t even publish their contact info.

So you have to know exactly WHO to pitch and HOW to pitch them.

Well, I’ve been doing this for 3 years now, and I started compiling a huge list of top internet media outlets (including Entrepreneur, Inc., Forbes, Fast Company, Business Insider, and 400+ more top online magazines and podcasts) with their backdoor contact information, plus exact instructions for how to pitch them.

Because it takes me so much work in order to put this list together and keep it up to date (I have had to hire people to help me with this), I keep this list pretty close to my chest. I’m sure you can understand.

However, you can purchase the list here if you are interested in getting access to it.

Whether you get the list or not, here’s the main point that I want you to take away from this step:

Write guest posts for other blogs before you start writing for your own blog.

This is really the fastest way to grow your audience because it allows you to literally explode your email list overnight. I tend to average 100 new email subscribers for every guest post I write.

Once you have an email list, THEN you can start writing posts for your own blog because you will have an audience who is waiting for you to email them about your next post.

Then, they will share those blog posts with their friends and followers on social media, giving you more traffic, inbound links, and new email subscribers… which leads to even MORE traffic and subscribers… etc.

That’s what I like to call the snowball effect.

You see, in the beginning, your email list is like a seed audience. Without that email list, you are writing for NO ONE. This is why most blogs struggle to get off the ground.

But when you can tell your email list that you have a new blog post, those people create this snowball effect that drives more and more traffic to your blog.

Got it? Good, because next in Step 6 we are going to talk about how to monetize your blog, and for this to work it is absolutely critical that you are focused on building that email list…

There are several different ways to monetize your blog, but I’m going to come right out and say my absolute favorite: 

Online courses.

Sure, you could become an affiliate marketer, or place ads on your site and make some extra change. But that’s not really going to make you the most money.

If you want to make some serious pay-the-bills and quit-your-day-job money, you are going to need to have your OWN product. And what better product to create than an online course?

After all, you are already teaching stuff on your blog! An online course is the next natural step for your readers to take because they are already learning from you, and are eager to learn more.

And yes, they are willing to PAY you to learn more. As a matter of fact, the eLearning industry is expected to hit $240 billion by 2023.

Mmmhmm. Let’s just let that sink in for a minute.

The other reason I love online courses so much is that they don’t have a lot of up-front costs. And if you follow the steps below, you can get a sales process up and running very quickly so that the cost of hosting your online course is 100% covered.

Now, if you have another product or service besides a course that you want to sell, that’s OK because the rest of this step is going to cover setting up a sales funnel, which applies no matter WHAT you are selling on your blog.

By the end of this step, you will know:

  • What exactly is a sales funnel
  • Why sales funnels are so critical for selling your online course
  • How having a sales funnel can save you time and money
  • How to create a sales funnel for your online course

Ready? Great, let’s get started building out your sales funnel for your online course (or whatever product you wish to sell)…

What is a Sales Funnel?

So, before I start to blow your mind about how incredibly useful a sales funnel is for your online course business, we need to start at the very beginning.

Sales Funnel Definition:

A sales funnel is a series of steps that companies use to persuade prospects to become customers.

A sales funnel is first and foremost a journey.

Quite literally, businesses map out comprehensive sales funnels (or paths) for their potential customers to travel through to encourage them to buy a particular product or service.

There are sales funnels everywhere; you probably just haven’t realized it yet. In fact, it’s safe to say that at any given moment in time, you’re traveling through dozens of different sales funnels without even noticing.

How a Sales Funnel Works

To give an example, let’s pretend for a minute that you recently saw an ad on your Facebook news feed: a local dentist in your area is offering free cleanings.

You don’t have dental insurance, so the free cleaning sounds superb to you. You click on that advertisement and schedule an appointment through their website for your free cleaning and evaluation.

The next thing you know, you’re laying on your back at the dentist while she examines your teeth. Eventually, the dentist lets you know that you’re all good. You don’t have any cavities… yet.

But, the dentist explains that you might want to consider sealants to help prevent against cavities on some of your susceptible teeth.

Suddenly, you find yourself standing at the reception desk booking your appointment to get sealants on your teeth.

That’s a sales funnel.

The dentist offered a free service to you, provided you with superb value (the cleaning and consult), and eventually pitched you a paid service at the end.

What Does a Sales Funnel Look Like?

Many people label sales funnels in different ways, but at its core, the sales funnel looks something like the picture below:

As you can see, there are various phases, or stages to a sales funnel. Most online course sales funnels include the following basic stages:

1. The Awareness Stage – This is the stage where your prospects are just happening upon your brand. At this stage, they are looking for an answer to a question that they have, and are discovering you through Google, social media posts and advertisements.

2. The Education Stage – This is the stage where you give information to help answer their questions and to educate them, via your blog posts, YouTube videos, etc.


Image via Theme Fusion

3. The Conversion Stage – This is where a casual prospect turns into a warm lead. Specifically, they sign up for a free resource that you are offering and opt in to your email list.

4. The Engagement Stage – At this stage, your lead is consuming the free resource that they just opted in for. They are taking action and getting results from the tips you’ve taught them, which builds their trust in you.

5. The Selling Stage – This is the stage where you pitch your online course to them and the lead becomes a customer.

6. The Wooing Stage – At this stage, you’ve already converted your lead into a customer. Now they are consuming your online course, and getting value and results from it. This will make them compelled to come back for more or for higher-end courses, and to recommend your courses to others.


Image via SamCart

You still with me?

Great… let’s move onto what you came here for: how to create a funnel for your online course!

By the way, I’ve developed a sales funnel worksheet that you can use to follow along with this process, if you’d like!

Step 1: Start with the End in Mind

The first step of creating a sales funnel is to identify what your end goal is. Where do you want your customers to end up at the end of the funnel?

It may seem counterintuitive to start creating a sales funnel right at the finish line, but it’s not. Trust me.

You have to know where you’re headed before you can figure out the steps to get there, right?

Right.

So first, write your “offer” down.

Let’s say, for example, that you are an ex-math teacher, and created a math curriculum targeted for homeschoolers. You want to sell this for $497. Your offer is a $497 math course for homeschooled children.

Next, identify the main benefits of your offer.

  • What problem does your online course solve? (Our program teaches math to your children so you, the parent, don’t have to rely on your terrible math skills.)
  • What results will your customers get from your online course? (You’ll feel confident that your homeschooled child is learning all the standardized mathematical concepts taught in public school.)
  • What are the unique features of your course? Why should they buy from you? (Unlike other math curriculums which are based on boring textbooks, our course comes with videos, interactive online exercises, group coaching calls and manipulatives that help your child to really visualize and comprehend the material.)

Finally, brainstorm all of the reasons why someone might object to buying your offer.

For example:

  • Money – it’s more expensive than a textbook-based math curriculum.
  • Does it really work? I don’t want to pay for something that isn’t proven successful.
  • Time – can it be used independently, or will my child need me to be by them every step of the way? How long does it take to get through the course?
  • My child has a short attention span. Is the material actually engaging, or will it be too boring for my child to keep him/her engaged?

This is the most important part of your sales funnel to research and map out because it’s the backbone and foundation for everything else. You’re going to use the information that you outlined here to inspire the rest of the funnel.

Step 2: Work Backwards to Write Your Email Sequence

Especially if you have a high-end online course, chances are you’re not going to sell it just by linking to it a few times in your blog posts.

In order to get people to consider buying from you, you need to build up trust and brand loyalty. One of the best ways to accomplish that is through nurturing subscribers on your email list.

Here’s the kicker though: you can’t just write emails for the sake of writing emails. If you’re going to try and convince someone to buy your online course, you need to make sure you tackle major objections.

It’s a good thing we already highlighted their major objections in step one, right?

In your “pitch” emails, you will need to address their objections and conquer them.

For example, if a major objection to buying your product is price, one of your emails can introduce the payment plan structure, so those who are strapped for cash may feel better investing in your course.

Another example: if a major objection is the question about whether or not your course actually works, plan to create an email (or several) featuring success stories or case studies and positive testimonials.

For example, your emails might look something like this:

SALES FUNNEL EXAMPLE:

 

DAY 1: Welcome email (introduce yourself and tell your story)

DAY 2: Value email (teach something valuable)

DAY 3: Value email

DAY 4: Value email + hint at your offer

DAY 5: Pitch your course (include a success story)

DAY 6: FAQ email (address common objections)

DAY 7: Reminder – cart closing soon!

DAY 8: Last chance to enroll

Remember, the emails in your email sequences should not be created in a vacuum. Plan your emails out strategically to address every potential concern so that by the end of the sequence, your leads are 100% convinced they need your course.

How many emails should you include in your sales funnel? Well, that depends on your particular course. Use as many emails as you need in order to fully explain the benefits of your program and overcome those objections we outlined earlier.

Step 3: Brainstorm Your Lead Magnet

Lead magnets (also known as freebies) are something that you offer for free in exchange for an email address. Online course creators use lead magnets to “capture targeted leads” – the people who are the best candidates for your course.

If you’re selling a math homeschool curriculum, your lead magnet could be a simple PDF like, “12 Fun Homeschool Exercises for the Child Who Hates Math”. Or it could be another simple resource like, “10 Free Homeschool Math Printables”. You could even conduct a webinar, such as: “12 Steps to Homeschool Your Child in Math When You Hate Math”.

The point of your lead magnet is to attract the same sort of people who would want to buy your course.

If someone downloads your ebook on how to teach math when you hate math (for homeschoolers), chances are they are qualified leads: they are homeschooling parents struggling to teach math. They are the perfect candidates for your end product.

Just brainstorm some ideas for now. We’ll talk about how to actually get your website visitors to download your lead magnet in the next step…

Step 4: Identify Potential Entry Points

Now that you’ve identified your end product (your online course), outlined your email sequence(s), and pinpointed your lead magnet, you need to do the most basic step of all: plan out the different entry points for your lead magnet.

That is, you need to highlight where and how people can actually sign up for your lead magnet.

Here are some examples (you could use some or all of these)…

Opt-in form after your blog posts:


Image via OptinMonster

Sidebar opt-in form:


Image via Backlinko

Opt-in landing page:

Floating bar:

Guest blog posts:

Facebook ads:

…etc.

This is where most course creators trip up– you can’t simply “build it and they will come.” However, if you set up different avenues for people to sign up, then you’ll have people going through your funnel, guaranteed.

So do yourself a favor and make sure that you identify the different entry points for your lead magnet and set those up.

Step 5: Visually Map Out Your Sales Funnel

Writing things down and mapping them out visually can be an incredibly powerful tool for you as a course creator and online business owner. Here’s why:

Mapping out your sales funnel helps you to see the big picture

It’s easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty of your business. You can spend countless hours working on small, minute details, that you easily forget the big picture of the customer journey.

Mapping out your sales funnel on a whiteboard, a piece of paper, or a sales funnel template on your computer forces you to zoom out and look at the big picture, before you dive into the specifics and details of it all. Trust me, it’s far less overwhelming that way.

Mapping out your sales funnel keeps you focused

As a business owner, it’s only natural to get pulled in a million and one different directions, especially if you’re working in a small business or a one-person shop. Mapping out your sales funnel visually can help keep you grounded, and focused on one project at a time.

It’s simple: don’t take on any additional projects until you’re done working on your sales funnel in its entirety. Turn mapping out your sales funnel into a to-do list, and work on it everyday until it’s done.

A well thought out sales funnel map can increase your conversion rates

If you’ve spent the time processing your sales funnel at a high level, you’ll end up potentially increasing your funnel’s conversion rates. The reason for this phenomenal bonus is because you created each layer of the sales funnel with intention…

  1. You started with the end (your online course) in mind, and highlighted the benefits and objections.
  2. From there, you drafted your email sequence to highlight the benefits and to address the potential objections.
  3. You identified a lead magnet idea and created it in order to target qualified leads for your end product.
  4. And you ensured that you created various technical entry points for your lead magnet throughout your website and the web.

Since every aspect of your sales funnel was created with intention, you’ll be able to see where something is broken or in need of improvement and know exactly how to fix it.

What’s Next?

Congratulations! You’ve successfully mapped out your first sales funnel for your online course. Doesn’t that feel great to get that done and out of the way?

Don’t you feel like you have a better handle on the journey that your audience will take as you nurture them, build a relationship with them, and get them excited about your products and services?

Now that you’re all done with your sales funnel, it’s time to discuss what happens next…

When your map is complete, you need to take action and turn it into reality.

Except there’s something important to note before you get started. When you mapped out your sales funnel, you started from the end and worked your way backwards from there. But when you turn your sales funnel map into a to-do list, you need to work from the beginning.

Start with the lead magnet and the entry points. Then move onto the emails.

The idea here is that even if you don’t have your online course fully created yet, at least you’ll have a lead magnet and email sequence to capture leads and nurture them while you’re developing your program.

So, go on and get started! You have your work cut out for you, but it will be well worth it when you start generating online course sales on autopilot!

This is how most bloggers try to drive traffic:

  1. Promote your latest blog post on Facebook.
  2. Share it on Twitter.
  3. Sleep.
  4. Wake up and complain about the 5 visitors you had in the last 24 hours.
  5. Abandon the post and Google “how to drive blog traffic”.
  6. Read the same advice you’ve heard a billion times.
  7. Write a new blog post.
  8. Repeat steps 1-6.
  9. Bang your head against a wall and proclaim that you just aren’t cut out for this whole “blogging thing”.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry– you are not alone.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken with many successful bloggers and got them to share their case studies with me. They revealed their blog traffic strategies, and exactly how they grew their blog traffic to 10,000 monthly visitors and beyond.

They also shared what didn’t work to grow their traffic. In fact, they all experienced failures before they met with success!

In this step, I am going to share the top 4 case studies with you, and the important lessons to take away from them, so you can finally see a big breakthrough in your blog traffic.

Are you ready?

Let’s dive in to the 4 blog traffic case studies…

Case Study #1: How Ashley Faulkes got his first 10K monthly visitors

Getting over 10,000 monthly visitors in the marketing/blogging niche is a real struggle.

All the keywords are super competitive and people are hard to impress. In my first year blogging, I had no idea how to go about this in a smart and strategic way.

In fact, I had zero experience in blogging, marketing, or running my own website (I used to be a programmer).

However, by trying out a lot of different ideas and watching what the pros did, I was able to learn fast.

Unlike a lot of online “big guns” these days, who are focusing on social media and email list building, I decided to put my time into studying SEO (search engine optimization).

To me, SEO looked like it could bring the biggest return on investment for my time.

And after a few small wins in my first year, it seemed I was right.

So, how do I use SEO these days to bring in more traffic (which is not that much different to when I started in 2013)?

For me, it boils down to two solid ideas:

  1. Pick keywords that bring traffic and that you can rank for.
  2. Build backlinks over time with either guest posting or earning them with amazing content.

I focus on finding blog niche ideas and topics that no one else is focusing on, instead of trying to beat the big boys at their game.

Although to be honest, sometimes I do the wrong thing and waste my time in a mega-article that brings almost no results.

Last year I wrote a huge 6,000 word article that got tons of links, but is still on page 3 of Google.

Sure, it brings in traffic, but it did not reach page 1, or bring in the traffic I worked so hard to get.

I even got 50+ experts involved, and certainly did see a flood of traffic (for a week). But that was not my goal. Long term sustainable traffic is.

And should be yours too! I have written other posts in the last few months that got on page 1 in weeks and brought in fresh traffic almost instantly.

That is what picking the right keywords is all about (and the reason I teach a course on it called Killer Keywords!).

These days I get most of my traffic from SEO (about 70% per month) and the other big portion comes from Pinterest SEO.

As of today, I have about 15K+ visitors a month on Mad Lemmings.

I don’t currently focus that much on building traffic now as I care more about increasing my income and serving my clients.

However, I started a side blog (over Christmas) which I have also built up super-rapidly to over 1K visitors a day (over 90% from SEO).

I did this to prove my SEO methods work, but also to start building a side/passive income from affiliate marketing.

My aim with this site is to get to 10K visitors a month by the end of the year.

And looking at the chart below, you can see I am well on the way.

Can you do it too?

Sure.

Pick an area no one is focusing on.

Pick your traffic source.

Pick your battles.

And you should be good to go. It just takes time. So be patient. Create something long lasting and don’t cut corners!

Ashley Faulkes
Founder of MadLemmings

Key Takeaways:

  1. Pick keywords you can rank for easily.
  2. Guest post on different blogs to earn quality backlinks.
  3. Pick a traffic generation technique and master it before expanding.

Case Study #2: How Marcus Krieg got his first 10K monthly visitors

Want to grow your blog traffic?

Then learn from my mistake: always bring your gun to a knife fight…

For the first 4 years in business, our singular focus was serving clients, creating processes, and earning referrals.

During that span, our business grew 10x. Not too shabby, but by the end of 2015, it was clear our old school strategy wasn’t sustainable.

We needed to invest in our own marketing to keep growing.

As a video agency, we decided YouTube was the logical place to start… We could easily create and promote our own videos.

Besides, it would have felt weird NOT using YouTube. But, of course, that was a huge mistake…

As you can see, our traffic barely budged in 2016, despite producing 100+ videos, 50+ podcast episodes, and a short blog post for each.

Now, keep in mind, we’d launched multiple channels to over 1 million viewers in the first year.

It wasn’t our first rodeo. So what happened? In hindsight, it’s embarrassingly obvious…

We went head-to-head with thousands of competitors trying to rank for the exact same keywords.

And many are actually good at it! Even if our videos were better, they could only be a little better.

Not enough to overtake them in the rankings without a massive promotional effort.

With such a low return on time invested, it was time to move on.

As Q4 approached, I began digging into our analytics to see what WAS working.

And that’s when I discovered our “unfair advantage”… Nearly 100% of our growth came from a handful of 2000-word blog posts I’d written.

Why did that work?

Our competitors were great at video, but they weren’t even decent at written content.

Even the biggest blogs in our space were writing short, fluffy articles.

So we did the opposite and committed to writing in-depth articles, leveraging our scriptwriters’ copywriters as an unfair advantage.

You can see in the chart that our traffic shot through the roof starting with our first post in 2017, a 2,600-word guide on the latest video marketing trends.

That post currently ranks #1 for “video marketing trends,” pops on and off the first page of Google for “video marketing,” and has been shared over 400 times!

Long story short: don’t play to your competitors’ strengths.

When it comes to growing your traffic, find or create your own unfair advantage. Always bring your gun to a knife fight.

Marcus Krieg
Founder of Authority Unleashed

Key Takeaways:

  1. Look for what your competition is not doing so well and create something better.
  2. Always bring your gun to a knife fight. (Leverage your unfair advantage.)

Case Study #3: How Meera Kothand got her first 10K monthly visitors

There are lots of things that I tried to reach 10K page views but here are my top four tips.

Firstly, promote your work. Many bloggers forget about promotion and just keep putting out pieces of content.

I would suggest focusing on Pinterest and one other social media platform where your audience hangs out.

Pinterest boosted my traffic and although I started a good 6-7 months after I launched my blog, it quickly became my number 1 traffic source.

Create 2-3 pin images per post. You need to increase your volume of pins especially when you’re brand new. This also lets you see which type of pin gives you the most click-throughs.

Have a clearly identifiable headline on the pin image. Headlines that promise a benefit or solve a problem will attract more click-throughs to your site.

Secondly, make sharing your posts ridiculously easy.

The more you get your posts in front of people, the easier it will be for new readers to find you.

Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Add share buttons and make sure they are easily visible.
  • Add linkable assets.
  • If you have a pin image or infographic, display it clearly on the post.
  • Add click to tweets. (Click to tweets are quotes or punchy sentences within each post.)

Thirdly, guest post on authority sites.

Guest posting positions you as an authority and expert even when you don’t have the years to show for it.

It allows you to borrow someone’s else’s platform providing value. But to make full use of that opportunity and translate that to traffic, you need to optimize your author bio.

The author bio is your tiny piece of real estate that you get in exchange for adding value to the host’s site.

Be strategic with it. Don’t stuff your author bio with 4-5 links of all your social media profiles. Give people too many choices and they take none. Have 2 at maximum.

My last tip is to write exceptional content.

Set out to make every piece of content exceptional because when you do, people will start to notice and share your work in Facebook groups without you even asking. The more people share, the more traffic you get.

Meera Kothand
Founder of MeeraKothand.com

Key Takeaways:

  1. Write exceptional content.
  2. Promote your posts on Pinterest (create 2-3 compelling pin images for each blog post).
  3. Make your content extremely shareable by adding share buttons and click to tweets.
  4. Leverage your author bio when guest posting to maximize your traffic.

Case Study #4: How Marc Guberti got his first 10K monthly visitors

When I started my first blog about the Boston Red Sox, I had no idea about the impact I would create.

10,000+ monthly visitors seemed impossible to me, but I continued to learn and implement every day.

I soon found myself blogging about digital marketing and productivity and set the goal for 10,000+ monthly visitors.

During this time, I went all-in with all of the social networks but got nothing out of it.

Just because you apply an input doesn’t mean you get the output you’re expecting.

If you’re not getting the output you’re looking for, you need to modify the input.

With this thinking, I decided to focus all of my social media related time, attention, and energy towards mastering Twitter.

This lopsided focus is the reason my Twitter audience dwarfs my other social media audiences in comparison. 

As I continued to master Twitter and publish more content on my blog (during the early days, I published two blog posts each day, although they were much shorter), my blog started to gain traction.

More people engaged with my content on Twitter and shared it with their audiences. I continued growing my Twitter audience, so that created a positive feedback loop.

My mastery of Twitter is the sole reason I first reached 10,000+ monthly visitors.

As I saw more traffic from Twitter, I upped my game and tweeted once every 10-15 minutes.

Almost all of the tweets promote my own content because I believe people don’t care which blog post they land on as long as that blog post provides the value they’re looking for.

My success on Twitter led to many podcast interviews and guest blogging opportunities.

These opportunities allowed me to considerably increase my reach. Now I turn more of my followers into email subscribers so I own the traffic.

If you don’t own your traffic with your email list, it doesn’t matter how much you grow on social media.

You might get a few months of 10K+ visitors, but the moment the social media rules change, you could see a big cut in traffic.

Getting your audience on your email list allows you to control the traffic much more effectively over the short-term and long-term. 

That’s how I got my first 10,000+ monthly visitors.

I chose to master one thing instead of get iffy results in a bunch of different areas.

Since then, I’ve expanded to Pinterest, Facebook, and the other social networks, but Twitter is what got me started.

Marc Guberti
Teenager Entrepreneur, Author, and Blogger at MarcGuberti.com

Key Takeaways:

  1. Master just one social media platform before expanding to others.
  2. Share your posts on social media consistently and frequently.
  3. Get your blog visitors on your email list.

Final Thoughts on Growing Your Blog Traffic

Now that you’ve heard the 4 blog traffic case studies, getting 10,000 monthly visitors or more doesn’t sound all that crazy does it?

The strategies we just talked about aren’t rocket science. In fact, the successful bloggers above were just as frustrated as you when they first started out and were banging their heads against a wall.

The hardest part is realizing that what you are doing now isn’t working, and that it’s time to alter your strategy.

But you’ve already done that! And with the takeaways we shared above, you now have the right strategies.

That’s all you need.

WHEW, that was a whole lot that I threw at you there.

If you read the whole guide, thank you for sticking with me– the world needs your unique voice, because you have something special to offer that no one else has.

Blogging is, in my opinion, one of the absolute best ways to get your message out there, and make a good income in the process. It’s also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, next to having my kids… I really couldn’t imagine my life without a blog/online business in it, even if I didn’t need any money.

Still, despite the epic-ness of this guide, I feel like I barely scratched the surface… There is just so much to this blogging and online business thing that I want to talk about and share with you, but I really can’t convey it all in writing. That would be way too exhausting, and frankly impractical because I would need to just show you.

If you want to learn my entire strategy for starting a blog and making money, I have a whole course about that. It’s called Persuasion Education, and you can learn more about it here.

About the Author

Hey! I'm Mary Fernandez. I'm a busy homeschooling mom of four, and I've been blogging professionally since 2010. Now, I help moms and dads earn passive income from home so they can do meaningful work that pays the bills– without missing out on their kids' lives. Thanks for reading!

Also, special thanks to Sonia Hale, Alex of Unicorn Copy, Eden Fried, and Iyiola Owabumowa for helping me to put together this ultimate guide.

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