The ultimate guide to blogging: Build your brand, earn money

Table of Contents

Blogging has existed in one form or another since the internet began.

It initially started, like all things then, as a way to explore the newly minted World Wide Web—a foray into the digital world that cracked open endless possibilities. Everyone from tweens to near-retirees took a shot at airing their thoughts and feelings on just about everything on their very own page: unfiltered, untouched, unaware.

Things like your blog theme, the content you wrote about, your digital presence, and most especially, your following didn’t matter. It was all about an organic exploration of a whole new world.

And then at the turn of the century, those same people realized the monetary advantages that came with blogging.

Well, that, and the perils of living an unfiltered life online, where data privacy became a very real concern in light of the billions of faceless, anonymous strangers who read about your rants on Herbert the Annoying Colleague or the hideous orange sweater your tita got you on markdown.

Levity aside, blogging is a legitimate way of earning your keep. We could count on our hands the number of people we don’t know that know someone who has a blog.

In fact, First Site Guide reports that as of 2021, there are over 32 million bloggers in the United States alone (imagine the numbers worldwide!). Out of those, 24.2% started their blogs as a means of self-employment, proving that there is a steady flow of cash to be found in the blogging biz.

Maybe you’ve been following a blog or two in your time, and wondered how much those bloggers have earnt by now. We know we have.

Maybe you’ve even considered starting one on your own, just to see if you could make it into a side hustle. That’s cool, too. We’ll warn you from the get go, though: blogging is not for everyone.

Starting a blog is easy. All you need is your own page or website, a winsome way with words, and a device to hammer your thoughts away on and upload from. The kicker, though, is in sustaining it and gathering a worthy following, both of which are cornerstones to a successful blogging career.

That said, wherever you are on your blogging journey—just starting out, somewhere in between, or years in—any time’s a great time to start earning money by blogging. You’re already in it, you might as well cash in, too, right?

So here: go get started with our guide on how to do just that.

 

Gathering whys: reasons to blog

Back in the day (wow, just how old are we?), when someone asked you why you had a blog, the straightforward—and often the only—answer was because it was a fun outlet for speaking your mind and sharing your experiences and interests with others.

These days, when you ask a blogger the same question, they could give you a whole host of answers.

Most would lead with how it’s their passion or their life’s calling, or some other variation of that, but here are other reasons you could get into blogging, especially if you’re looking to earn some cash.

 

You can help other people

If you’re an authority on your own right on a certain trade or expertise, your blog can be a resource of its own.

You can use it as a channel to give honest and useful advice for folks on the mend or at their wits’ end. You’d be doing God’s work while amassing your own five thousand.

 

You can promote your business

If you’re a small business owner, blogging is a great way to bring exposure to your product or service.

Just like how you would on your social media platforms, your blog can be your business’s more extensive marketing portfolio. You can post as much about your business as you want to, and no one can tell you otherwise; and you can even give candid, behind-the-scenes tidbits to bring it to a more relatable level.

 

You can promote yourself

If you’re into blogging for the sake of blogging, then building a name for yourself is very important.

In many ways, blogging is about having your own brand, and your content is a way of putting yourself out there to establish that in a credible manner. That means being truthful in and responsible for all that you churn out—no hokey pokey!

 

You can improve yourself

If you’re a natural wordsmith and think blogging can be an extension of your craft, then you would be absolutely correct.

Blogging can be a great avenue for you to develop the tools of your trade on. Your articulation and creative juices will be put to work, and your overall writing and communication skills will be honed.

 

Building blocks: how to set up a blog

Whatever the reason that gets you into blogging, build on that momentum and go ahead and set up your blog.

This can be a bit tedious, especially while you’re still trying to get a hang of things. But if you won’t do it, who will? You can always get someone to do the work for you, it’s true, but half the fun is in putting everything together yourself.

So if you can, don’t miss out on setting up your blog with your own sweat and tears—it’s not terribly difficult anyway.

 

Choose your poison

Oh, sorry. We meant platform.

As you might have already picked up, blogging is all about personal branding, and there are a handful of platforms you can build your brand on. Blogger, Medium, Weebly, Wix, and WordPress are among the more popular ones in the mix, with WordPress being the preferred choice for most bloggers.

This is because WordPress is free, so you don’t have to shell out money to get started. It’s also user-friendly, so it’s easy to set up. It’s customizable, so you can put your own spin to it. And lastly, it’s secure, making it the choice for 40% of all websites on the net, including The New York Times, BBC America, and even Spotify.

Before you get buckled down with your choice of platform, let’s circle back to the topic of free blog sites for a moment.

While it’s cost-effective and certainly plain wonderful to build your blog for free, there are certain limitations and downsides as well. For one, there are certain advanced features that can only be unlocked when you work with a self-hosted blog, which is a blog that’s on your own server.

One of the most glaring limitations to a free blog is your domain name or URL.

Domain names of free blog sites include the platform’s own domain, making it longer and a bit harder to remember.

For example, your platform of choice is WordPress and the domain name you would like to use is “helloworld”. The resulting domain name for your blog would be www.helloworld.wordpress.com.

Self-hosted blogs, on the other hand, have no platform domain extensions, making the URL all your own. Going with the same example, your self-hosted blog’s domain name will simply be www.helloworld.com. Sounds much more impressive and professional, right?

Other features that a self-hosted blog provides are content control and advertising opportunities.

When you opt to run a free blog site, you get the most basic blog features. You’re allowed to choose your own theme and tinker about with some plug-ins, but that’s about where the customization ends. If you want to include more features and perhaps even code your own site for maximum customization, you’ll need to go with a self-hosted site.

As for advertising opportunities, this is one of the easiest ways to earn money from blogging. Yet, you miss out on this when you use free blog sites. Yup, you read that right. Free means no dough.

Well not exactly none, just…severely limited. The platform usually limits the ads that you can include, and often, it’s to their discretion about what goes where. That means less cash than you could be earning. Bummer.

Look, ultimately, you can’t go wrong with a free blog site. It’s the perfect material to start with and build upon, especially if you’re a first-time blogger. But once you’re ready to move to the big leagues and really build your brand, it’s time to consider going for a self-hosted site. It’ll give you much more freedom and control over your blog in its entirety, and that will be crucial if you’re looking to blog for a long time to come.

 

Choose your domain

Let’s assume, for the rest of this article, that you have opted to go with a self-hosted site.

The next thing that you need to have covered is your domain name, which is the URL address of your blog. It’s what people type in their search bars to find you.

As such, your domain name is crucial to your blog. It’s like your business card: first impressions matter. How memorable you will be to people all boils down to that tiny detail they first interact with. So how do you make sure you come up with a good domain name and not some lousy one?

 

It should encapsulate your blog

Before you go about creating your blog and domain name, it would be ideal to know what type of blog you’re planning it to be. This will make planning everything else, from domain name to your blog theme, easier to plan out.

A good domain name encapsulates what your blog is about, but at the same time, takes a unique spin to it to make it memorable.

For example, you are a college student who plans to blog about your experiences in the “real world” fresh out of high school (Spoiler Alert: the real world doesn’t come until after college. Adulting who?). You might consider your years in college as some sort of rite of passage.

As such, a simple play with words could easily have you coming up with the domain name www.writesofpassage.com instead (we checked—no one’s used that domain name so it’s up for grabs).

 

It should be easy to remember

While it’s good to put your own spin into your domain name, don’t make it too unique, either.

Not everyone has the mental bandwidth to remember quirky domain names. Unless you have a photographic memory, you probably won’t remember it if someone told you their domain name was www.j0hnm4yerfan043021.com.

Yes, you want a domain name that’s unique, but you want one that can be easily recalled, too.

 

It should use generic top-level domains

Generic top-level domains are a category of domain extensions that can be found at the end of your domain name. There’s a whole list of them, but the most common and well-known ones are “.com”, “.net”, and “.org”.

We suggest going with “.com” as it’s come to be the standard extension, with more than 50% of all websites using it. As such, it’s the extension that most people automatically assume blogs, or any website in general, carry.

A lot of people also assume that real and credible sites use this extension, so there’s that benefit going for you as well.

To briefly touch on the SEO side of things in light of this, having a “.com” extension will help your blog’s ranking more than any other extension. As Nate Babbel of SEO.com writes, people are “more likely to click on abcd.com than abcd.anythingelse”.

A domain name, on average, costs anywhere between USD 9-15. Unfortunately, this is one of those times where having it pay off means literally paying for it. But hey, chasing the dream always comes with a price, right? (Pun intended.)

 

Choose your web host

To put it very simply, web hosting is a service that holds your site’s content on the net. Web hosts are the businesses that provide the servers and technology needed to keep this going.

Hostinger gives a good analogy for this: imagine your website as a house. This house has an address of course, and that’s your domain name. Both the house and its address wouldn’t exist if not for the piece of land that the house sits on. That land is your web host, and it’s what holds all the data and files needed to make your site viewable, accessible, and functional.

There are many types of web hosting services, but the most common ones are shared, VPS, cloud, dedicated, and WordPress hosting. Each category has its own list of web hosts, so do your research and choose a web host that works with your budget and personal limitations.

You might want to consider the following when viewing the many web hosts available:

 

Cost

Of the types of web hosting services previously mentioned, shared and WordPress hostings are the most cost-friendly, while dedicated hosting takes the cake for premium services.

 

Performance

Out of the five, cloud hosting has the best performance, while shared and WordPress hostings once again fall on the basic, but good nonetheless, range.

 

Technical knowledge

For those not too technologically savvy, your best bet at a user-friendly experience would be the shared, cloud, and WordPress options.

 

Server control

If server control is important to you, only VPS and dedicated hosting will give you full control. The rest give little to none.

 

In the Philippines, the top five web hosting services are SiteGround, Bluehost, WPEngine, Hostinger PH, and HostGator. Take a look at the plans each of these web hosts offer and choose wisely.

Pro tip: start small and learn the ropes first while you build your brand. Once foot traffic starts picking up, switch to a more advanced plan—or go for an entirely different type of web host if that’s what you prefer.

 

Choose your design

This will probably be the most fun part of the setting-up-your-blog stage, as you get to customize your blog site in whatever creative ways you wish, starting with a whole catalogue of themes to choose from.

Each platform has its own theme catalogue and its own procedure for setting it up. Often, it’s as easy as selecting your choice of theme and hitting the “Install” button. You can also always choose to upload your own theme code.

Evidently, there’s no one “right” way to design your blog. Go with whatever you feel visually describes you and the brand you hope to build with your blog best. It’s your blog after all, so whatever you say goes.

But just to give you an idea of the terms that you’ll encounter regularly as you manage your blog, here’s the functions you’ll find on WordPress, for example:

 

Dashboard

Think of this as your social media feed. Your recent activity and all other features can be seen here.

 

Posts

This is where all your posts are congregated, usually in reverse-chronological order. You can create a new post from here or edit an existing one.

 

Library

This is your blog’s own archive of uploaded images, video, and audio files.

 

Pages

This is where you manage the pages that appear on your blog. You can reorganize and edit existing pages or add new ones here.

 

Comments

All comments that have ever been posted on any of your posts appear here. You can moderate them as well: reply, delete, or report.

 

Appearance

This is the creative hub of your blog. You can modify your design, layout, and overall theme from here.

 

Plug-ins

These are additional features to your blog. You can add or upgrade those features here.

 

Settings

As the title suggests, this is where you control and customize the major features of your blog, from your personal account details down to the domain name.

 

Each platform has its own set of terms, so make sure to take the time to get to know your chosen platform before you begin posting. This will definitely take a huge burden off your shoulders later on.

 

Extra tools: what to keep in mind

Before we get to the hows of earning money from blogging, here are some tips to keep in mind for blogging in general.

 

Avoid unfamiliar topics

As tempting as it is to write about everything and anything, you are accountable for what you post online.

Keep from writing about a topic you’re not familiar with or not an expert in, lest you unintentionally work with false information. This can easily be misconstrued as misleading, and some people who don’t know better might even take your word for it.

 

Write responsibly

It’s good practice to instead write about things you’re knowledgeable in or passionate about. This makes for more effective and engaging writing, especially since you’ll be confident you know what you’re talking about.

You won’t just talk in circles—it’s tried and tested on your end since you speak from experience. This encourages readers to interact with your post and with you more.

 

Post frequently

The more frequent you post meaningful and relevant content, the more successful your blog will be.

Keep in mind, however, that your frequency shouldn’t be out of obligation or chore—it should be because you enjoy it. Your enthusiasm for a topic shows in the way your write.

This is something you can’t force or fake, so make sure that even if you post frequently, it’s because you write purposefully.

 

Setting shop: how to earn money by blogging

Now that we’ve laid down the foundation, it’s time to hammer it down and get to the bit you’ve been waiting for.

 

Write what people want to read

…occasionally.

As we’ve previously discussed, there are a lot of reasons why people get into blogging. Some get into it thinking it’s an easy in to get fixed for life outside the corporate 9-5. Others do it for the sake of writing. Others just want to share their thoughts to the world.

Whatever got you into the blogosphere, you’re probably thinking that you’ll get to write whatever you want whenever you want. We’ve also already established that that’s both true and false.

For the most part, that truly is the case (although maybe not write about the laundry mishap you had the other day that caused all your whites to turn a hideous shade of pink). But if you want to get as many people reading your blog as you can—more readers = more money—you’ll eventually have to bend that rule a little by writing about what they want to read.

This honestly depends on what kind of blog you have, but a general rule of thumb applicable to any type of blog is to write with the goal of helping your readers solve their problems.

One quick way to get topic ideas for this is to scope out the competition. Head over to blogs that are similar to yours and check the posts that have garnered the most number of reads or shares.

Blogs these days have their most popular posts front and center on their home page, so the work is definitely easier. Of course there are tools to help you out with this, but if you’re on a budget, stalking—er, researching—the old-fashioned way works perfectly well, too. Take a page out of your competitors’ popular posts and get to work on putting your own spin on that topic.

This method works because you’ll know it’s worked for others. Throw in some SEO tinkering, and watch the foot traffic rise.

 

Make use of ads

Aside from the content itself, a direct and stable source of income for bloggers comes from advertisements.

It is the easiest way to make money out of blogging, so if you’ve ever visited a blog that has ads popping up everywhere on the page, now you know.

There are many different ways to go about this, but the most common are the following:

 

Display ads

These are graphic ads placed by ad networks on the sidebar, header, footer, or even on the content body of your blog post. Ad networks do the job of finding advertisers for you, so you don’t have to sweat it.

 

Private ads

If you want to be more selective of what ads appear on your blog, this is the way to go. Private ads are a direct arrangement between you and an advertiser. You will have to contact them yourself and pitch to them to land a deal.

 

Sponsored posts

This often comes much later on in your blogging career once you’ve established a name for yourself. A company will tap you to write about a product or service they have, and it’s to your discretion how to go about featuring the said product or service.

 

Underwritten posts

Unlike sponsored posts, the topic of the blog post is completely up to you here. All you have to do is mention the company a couple of times within the post and you’ll have fulfilled your end of the bargain.

 

Review or giveaways

Similar to sponsored posts, a company will tap you to either review or give away samples of their product. In exchange, you are compensated in cash or in kind.

 

Affiliate marketing

This is another easy way to get the dough.

All you have to do is promote products or services on your blog by hyperlinking them.

Every time a reader clicks on those links and purchases or avails of the promoted product or service, you get a commission.

 

Utilize Pinterest

You may think that Pinterest is just a cute, artsy space to pin up pegs and dream boards for your future or alternate life, but it’s actually an effective way to drive traffic to your site or posts.

Think of Pinterest as a visual Google, where instead of being provided with words that fit your keyword search, you’re presented with appealing images.

If you haven’t dusted off your photography skills yet, now’s the time to do so. The more eye-catching the picture you upload to your Pinterest, the better.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s backtrack a little bit to explain things.

If you have a Pinterest account already, you might want to consider converting to a business account so you can get access to Pinterest Analytics. This is a great feature to see just how effective your pins are in channeling foot traffic to your blog. You can also always just create a new, separate business account to keep it separate from your personal one.

Now, set up at least 15-20 boards relevant to your target market. Each of these will correspond to a topic you write about on your blog, so make sure to use the corresponding keywords in your board titles and descriptions.

Before you get overwhelmed with that number, here’s a handy trick: assign 4-5 boards as your main boards. These will be the categories you write about. Assign the remaining 15-16 boards as sections within those main boards. These will be the particular topics you write about under each category.

If that got a bit confusing, consider this example: if you run a food blog, your main boards will probably be “Breakfast”, “Lunch”, “Snacks”, and “Dinner”. The sections that go under those would include the particular cuisine or dishes for each meal.

After you’ve created your boards, it’s time to make some pins. Make sure to use photos that are appealing and relevant to both your blog and post, link the pins to said blog or post, then bam, wham, thank you ma’am! An easy (and sort of addictive) way to drive traffic to your blog.

 

Monetize your blog

Once you’ve grown a following, you can start selling products that are up your blog’s alley.

For example, you run a crochet blog. You can start selling your own finished works, or outsource materials and sell them in packages.

You can also offer your services, provided that you’ve become or already are an authority all on your own regarding a particular topic. 

For example, you run a yoga blog. You can offer e-books, e-courses, consultation services, or even speaking engagements for a price.

 

Reaping harvest: parting thoughts

At the end of the day, the amount of money you earn from blogging will depend on the following you have. The more readers and followers, the higher the cash flow.

This takes time, patience, and a lot of effort and self-motivation to build. If you think blogging will be your easy ticket to rolling in it, take this as our letting-you-down-gently card. Yes, there’s money in blogging, but like in all things, you need to put in the work if you want to see the results.

Becoming a well-known, respected blogger doesn’t just happen overnight. It can take months and even years, and sometimes you won’t even have readers at all. While this may be discouraging, throwing in the towel won’t get you on the right track either. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all!

You’ll spend lots of time brainstorming for ideas and curating content, and even more time writing (and rewriting) a blog post that is engaging, enriching, and maybe even enlightening or entertaining. (Okay, enough with the Es.)

You’ll need to give yourself the time to figure out what works and what doesn’t, especially when you’re just building the groundwork and finding your footing as a blogger.

You’ll have to constantly find new ways to get yourself out there, too, and that means being resourceful and coming up with creative ways to attract new followers while keeping your existing following on deck.

You don’t have to go to extremes to achieve this—nothing crazy or outrageous if that’s not your drift—but you will have to be consistent with your posting, interactive with your following, and relatable as heck. Ultimately, it’s really all about the content that gets a smile or an empathetic nod from your readers, yeah?

And while we can’t guarantee that just sticking with it will get you a following in millions someday, you’ll still be able to carve a niche and nickel for yourself in time. It can be big or it can be small, but it will be all yours.

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