Blogging can be a hobby, something you do for fun and when you have time. It can also be a way of earning a living. Even though both activities are called blogging, there is enormous difference between them in terms of approach and content.
This post will help you understand that difference and adjust your approach to blogging, so that you also can become a professional blogger.
Professional blogging is a business and is designed to generate income. You can either get hired by a company to manage their blog, or create a blog on your own and use it as a platform to earn money.
No matter which is the case, you have a clear business strategy, including elements as budgets, content strategy, marketing strategy, a strategy for generating income(affiliate marketing, advertising networks, offering services or products, or making people pay to access the site’s content), and – very important – an exit strategy.
This is also where hobby and professional blogging differ the most: hobby bloggers don’t have a strategy for how the blog should develop or attract followers, how its content should be promoted, and how income should be generated.
Most hobby bloggers believe that they have something unique to tell the world and followers will come on their own. They get disappointed. Simply because getting followers and getting noticed in general is very difficult. This is the reason why, according to New York Times, 95% of bloggers quit.
In addition, blogging professionally requires that you approach content creation strategically from the very beginning. While hobby bloggers tend to just start writing about what they are interested in – and do it in an unorganized manner, professionals use data.
It is normal that research precedes the creation of a blog to determine, which topic and angle has a chance of succeeding. Once the blog has been started, continuous research and performance analyses become a must. The data gathered is used to adjust the content strategy, so that it reflects the target group’s preferences and results in well performing blog posts.
Last but not least, blogging professionally means that you have to invest in marketing. Promoting your content is a must. It is not always necessary to pay for marketing but you still need to have a clear strategy: how is your content going to become viral? Are you going to choose topics that attract influencers’ attention? Are you going to guest-blog on sites as Mashable? Are you going to invest in advertising on social media? Or will you invest in email marketing?
Steps to Success with Professional Blog
If you want to start blogging professionally, you cannot continue blogging as you have done until now. You should stop posting about what you did today or how you made your hear look good. Instead, you should start thinking of content as your way to brand yourself and make your product or service sellable. You must understand that blogging professionally isn’t a goal in itself, it’s a tool helping to promote a business (even when the blog is made to look like the most prominent part of the business).
Even though the process can differ depending on your circumstances, here are the universal steps of turning blogging into a business:
- Figure out, what it is you can offer. Do you have a skill or know-how that is unique or valuable? If yes, build your business around it. If no, then you have to do some soul-searching – or educate yourself further. Alternatively, find a partner who has something to offer.
- When you have an idea about a product or a service you can sell, you should do some research: are there others offering similar services or products? Are they your direct competition (operating in your area)? How is their offer shaped? Does it seem that they have success with what they do? Whom are they selling to? Do they rank high in search? Is there something you can do better? Can you beat their offer?
- Once done with research, you must outline your complete strategy, including the following elements:
- Business model, meaning how your blog will generate income. There are many different options, including advertising for others, joining affiliate programs, or selling something. Which model you choose, depends on the rest of your strategy. It is important that your revenue model fits the proclaimed values and mission of your blog.
- Branding, meaning giving your business a good name and outlining, how you will make people perceive your brand as whatever it is supposed to stay for: reliability, fun, travel, trust, community, etc. A branding strategy includes your business’ name, logo, offers, CSR (corporate social responsibility), blog design, values, and mission.
- Budget, meaning that you can’t just start spending on whatever you think makes sense. You have to plan for each spending and define, how big a deficit you can tolerate. In the very beginning you’ll for sure be spending more than you earn, however, it’s important that you have a strategy for getting your investments back – and soon. Business gurus use to say that a profit somewhere in the future isn’t good enough. A business can’t be sustainable, as long as profit isn’t expected from the beginning – or at a defined point very short after. The reason is that one can end up spending a lot of money with the empty expectation that the profit will come at some point. It’s important to have realistic expectations in relation to returns of investment.
- Content strategy, meaning that you have done the necessary research to craft content that is demanded by your target group and the internet isn’t already flooded with it. When you’re working on the overall content strategy for your blog, it is important to think in terms of topical authority: one umbrella-topic, supported by multiple subtopics. Only this way you’ll be able to create content that delivers in terms of quality and in-depth insights. Additionally, when blogging professionally, you must plan your publishing schedule and follow it.
- Marketing strategy is just as important as your content strategy. Great content doesn’t help your business at all, as long as it isn’t promoted properly. Many successful bloggers point out that one of the most important things you must do, is reach out to influencers within your field or grab their attention by creating content for them, instead of for “regular” people, usually comprising your target group. The reason is that influencers can help you by driving a lot of traffic to your blog, as well as by linking to your content and giving you a SEO-boost. Additionally, your marketing strategy should include advertising, guest blogging, free samples, etc. Remember to set goals and milestones in order to be able to measure and evaluate results.
- Social media strategy is a part of your marketing strategy. Social media has now long been one of the best sources of traffic to blogs and it brings just as many leads as organic search. For that reason, content, created by blogging professionally, is what social media streams are flooded with. It is important to work on a social media strategy, where you craft your presence on the different platforms to fit their users’ expectations and offer more than competitors, while maintaining the holistic approach to branding and marketing.
- Exit strategy is necessary to prevent you from disasters. If things don’t go as well as expected, you must know when it is time to quit. If you don’t know how much loss is too much, you’ll end up in a very bad financial situation. Remember that, just as any other business, blogging professionally can go wrong, so you must plan for that too. Plan in which case you’ll quit – and quit right away, if things get as far.
- If you want to start blogging professionally, you must create a professional blog. This means that you have to stop writing on WordPress.com or similar blogging platforms, purchase domain and hosting, and start working on design and content fitting your business model and branding strategy. If you are not sure, what you need in order to start a professional blog or don’t know how to install and set up WordPress, the course WordPress for beginners might be right for you.
- Once you’ve set up your blog, you must start working on your content strategy’s implementation. Start by designing the pages of your blog. It’s a must to have a proper About page, as well as pages, facilitating the sale of your products and services. When ready, start working on blog posts, meant to promote you as an expert within your field. It is a general rule that you don’t withhold anything, you give all you have in your blog posts.
- Do not rush with the promotion of your blog. It might be tempting to try getting followers from the very first blog post. This can, though, be just as big mistake as not promoting your blog at all. Imagine that potential customers and followers arrive at your pages. What are they going to see? Half-empty site. You must wait, until you have something valuable and presentable to offer. Another promotion strategy suggests that you involve your target group from the beginning, that is, you share your idea to start a blog with them, ask for ideas, and receive feedback at every step. This strategy tends to be quite good, whenever possible.
- SEO should be incorporated in your strategy from the beginning. You should take care of optimization for speed, image optimization, keyword optimization, etc. The reason why you should start optimizing from the start, isn’t that these techniques will magically shoot you up to first position in Google. The reason is that not optimized content has no chance of ranking, neither in the short run, nor in the long run. Furthermore, it’s much easier to optimize your content page after page as they get published, instead of having to go back and optimize 200 pages at once.
- Build up your social media presence. Once your blog is presentable, you should make its content available via social media. Design social media profiles to fit your blog’s branding. If you have built an audience, while creating your blog, you can invite them to follow you. If not, you’ll have to depend on advertising to reach your target group. Work on a posting schedule and incorporate different types of content to share: blog posts, tips, specialist advice, funny stuff, etc. Posting different types of content, focused around the core of your business, is the best social media strategy.
- Introduce newsletter signup on your blog. Email marketing is the single best source of returning site visitors. You can always get people to sign up by incorporating the signup in a give-out or competition. Many professionals offer a freebies as an incentive. Be though aware that, while getting people to sign up isn’t that difficult, keeping them on your list is a much bigger task and requires that you offer them value with each email you send.
- Once you have invited people to your blog, you should begin analyzing your pages performance: what types of content or which topics generate the most engagement? Which topics aren’t that successful? Do site visitors convert or not? Use the analysis to improve your blog and content strategy.
- In order to increase your reach, you should aim at getting the attention of relevant influencers from within your field. You can do that by, for example, posting on very trendy, controversial or unresolved topics. Alternatively, you can post some of your stuff as a guest blogger on popular blogs. This is a good way to get noticed. Another good – but used only rarely – way to get followers is to post in relevant groups on Google+. You’ll be surprised how easily you can get people’s attention there.
- Consider to start advertising, not your blog posts but your products and services. Keep an eye on ROI. You should not lose money on advertising.
There you go – this is how you start blogging professionally. As you can see, it requires a lot of planning and cold business logic. It might be that it’s less fun than hobby blogging and this is something that you should be prepared for. When blogging professionally, you are not doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for your readers and – even more importantly – your goals.