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THE TOP 10 TOOLS I USE AND RECOMMEND FOR BLOG & BUSINESS
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I remember back when I first started researching how to start a blog. Post after post were tech tutorials on how to get started with hosting and Wordpress. If you look it up right now, the top 3 results on Google have screenshots of how to setup Bluehost.
Maybe I needed to adjust my search but I wanted more than that! I could figure out the tech stuff. I wanted to know things like: What do bloggers do? How do they make money? Yes I want to work from home following my passion but how can blogging grow into a business?
I created this post to help beginners gain a deeper understanding of what bloggers do, and how blogging can springboard your creative online business.
- Bloggers Create Content
- Bloggers Design their brand, website, and visuals
- Bloggers Promote and market their content, products/services
- Bloggers Make Money selling their own products/services or recommending other's products/services
- Bloggers Analyze their blog's performance to develop strategies for meeting their business goals
Professional blogging has evolved over the years. Rather than thinking of blogging as the online business, I consider blogging the platform for the online business. That mental shift has brought me so much clarity.
It's not that professional bloggers are getting paid to blog, per se. Rather, bloggers who are running an online business are able to connect with their target audience through their blog. That connection can open the door to a variety of online business models and that is how they make money.
There are 5 main pillars of running a blogging business. Content, Design, Promotion, Monetization, and Analytics.
Professional Blogging isn't for the faint of heart. Find a blogger running a successful online business and you'll have found a hardcore entrepreneur. - Alyssa.ink
You'll hear it a lot in the blogosphere - content is king queen😏. A big part of professional blogging is certainly writing blog posts. This is the obvious standout when we think of content on a blog. But there are so many other types of content bloggers can create:
- Digital Downloads
- Online Courses
Great bloggers diversify their content creation. This keeps things interesting and fresh and can provide added value to their readers.
Depending on how you decide to make money blogging, part of your content creation may be creating paid content. Some bloggers make money blogging by selling their own digital products. If you decide to sell your own info products, for example - an online course, then you'll create free content and paid content.
A blog serves as your content marketing channel - a way to connect with your audience and provide value, while promoting your products and services.
Design is a broad category for professional bloggers. I'd break it into 3 sub-categories:
- Brand Design
- Website Design
- Visual Content Design
Let me start out saying this - you do not have to be a professional graphic or web designer to run a successful blogging business. There are so many tools out there that make design work easy for us amateurs.
Like any successful business, a professional blogger needs to have a well designed brand. This is how you communicate who you are to your target audience. It also makes you more recognizable on Social Media and Pinterest. Here's a great post on how to design a brand for your blog.
I'm not a professional web designer, nor are most of the bloggers I follow. I don't know HTML or CSS. I use Squarespace to easily create a well designed blog with little technical expertise in this area. The important thing here is that you design a blog that looks good and is organized in a way that serves your reader and your business goals.
Visual Content Design
Visual content is a major part of Content Marketing. Images drive more clicks and engagement on social media. Visual Content Design efforts may include; designing shareable social media graphics, pinnable images for Pinterest, blog post graphics, infographics, videos, and other digital products or resources for your readers. I use Canva for nearly all of my visual content design.
Creating and designing valuable content is critical. Promoting that content is equally as critical. "Build it and they will come" does not apply to the online business world. Professional Bloggers have to focus on promoting their content and driving traffic to their blog.
There are 5 main traffic sources for your blog:
- Search Engines
- Social Media
It's a great big pool out there in the blogosphere. What do bloggers do? Promote their blogs! Professional bloggers are always focused on strategies and techniques to; improve their search engine rankings, drive social media reach and engagement, build their email subscriber lists, gain referrals, and make their brand known.
One of the most powerful marketing tools you can use to drive traffic to your blog is Pinterest! Download my free Pinterest Strategies Checklist to start growing your impressions, saves, and clicks to your website using Pinterest!
Monetization is a fancy word for "make money". We talked earlier about blogging being the platform for your online business, but the blog is not the actual business. You create content, you design a great site, you promote that content and drive traffic to your blog, and...then what? How do you make money blogging?
Here are some examples of how bloggers make money:
- Displaying Ads: Let me start by saying - I'm listing ads because it's one of the ways you can make money blogging. However, proceed with caution. People have grown more frustrated with ads and you don't want your readers to turn away. It also takes a lot of blog traffic to generate much income from ads. If you go this route, don't make it your sole source of income and be sure to keep the ads from being obstructive to your reader.
- Affiliate Marketing: Many companies have Affiliate programs and will pay you a percentage of the sale when your readers purchase the products you recommend. I like this method because as I'm writing blog posts, I often think of a related product I know will benefit my readers. If I link to these products as an affiliate I'll get paid. This benefits my readers and my business.
- Creating and Selling your own Products: "Infopreneurs" are bloggers who create digital informational products and sell them. A few examples of info-products are online courses, webinars, e-books, worksheets, workbooks, and planners. I like this method because selling your own products is always going to have a higher profit margin than selling other people's products. And personally, I just love to create things so this model works for me.
- Gaining Clients for your Service Business: A blog can provide visibility to your skills and open doors for freelance work or generate clients for your business. Examples of this could be a Freelance Writer, Web Designer, Graphic Designer, Virtual Assistant, Social Media Manager, Coach or Consultant. This method works if you're able to work directly with clients on a regular basis. The reason I don't use this model is because I personally don't have the availability to work directly with clients to reach my income goals. In this model you are trading time for dollars so you have to evaluate your time and availability. It's less passive than some of the other methods.
- Sponsorship: There are some companies that are willing to pay bloggers to publish content about their products or services. I'm sure this applies to many niches but I've seen it most commonly with food bloggers. A popular food blogger may be asked to create a recipe using ingredients from their sponsor. Keep in mind, you'll need to have high traffic for this to be a worthwhile investment for the company.
It is unlikely that you will use all of these approaches. You'll want to choose a business model that will help you achieve your business and personal goals.
Like any business, bloggers spend time setting goals and measuring the success of their business. There are a variety of reports and data sources you can analyze to determine what's working and what's not working for your business.
Google Analytics is the most comprehensive tool I've used. You can measure your blog traffic stats, see where your blog traffic is coming from, what keywords people are searching for to land on your site, which Social Media channels are yielding the highest returns, what pages are most popular on your blog and so much more!
The various social media platforms also offer reporting so you can analyze your social media efforts. For example, Pinterest Analytics is available when you setup a Pinterest Business Account (It's free). I use this to measure my reach and engagement on Pinterest.
Using the data and information from various sources can help you to improve the other 4 pillars of your blog - the content, design, promotion, and monetization.
>>Have questions or thoughts about what bloggers do? Comment below!