There is a mindset shift when your blog becomes a business. Maybe it started as an outlet or something for fun and you’re now seeing the potential. Maybe you’re starting from scratch and aiming for business status. You could be blogging specifically to drive leads, traffic and visibility to your professional efforts or existing business. All of those are excellent, viable motivations for creating an intentional blog strategy and leveraging the right tools to execute it.
But first: there is no one magic tool that will build your blog & pull the money in. What the right tool will do is allow you to focus your time on things that you do best – content creation, relationship development and community growth.
I first started blogging on Xanga, where customization was limited to choosing from a color palette and the cleverly obnoxious glitter gif. Then, blogging became more commonplace and BlogSpot offered themes with custom header text and different layouts. My first attempt at coding was an image collage header.
Now? A customizable theme that can grow with your blog and flex to meet the needs of your readers is an absolute must. There are incredible theme choices out there that it can be bewildering to sort through! In general, I look for:
- Themes that are consistently updated
- Creators that offer ongoing support (I prefer that they also offer installation services even if I do it myself because it means I have a backup option)
- High quality installation and setup guides (I love video walkthroughs)
- Flexible, widget style home pages
- Extensive color customization built into the theme
My Theme recommendation:
For WordPress, I highly recommend the Genesis Framework with a child theme. I buy all of my child themes from Restored316Designs and Hello You Designs. I love the function, look and flexibility of what they offer + they have spectacular customer service!
For SquareSpace, which is another viable option, I highly recommend utilizing Cara Chace – who is one seriously amazing SquareSpace magician who understands building websites that convert into regular traffics, leads and sales!
Email System to earn money blogging
Ready for some real talk? You need to be building an email list. I know, I know – there are a thousand things on your to do list and email marketing can be confusing. But if you aren’t actively building and developing your email list, you are leaving money on the table.
Email is simply unmatched in its power to nurture the relationship between your brand and your audience. Signing up for your email list means that person has invited you to have their direct contact information – that’s HUGE. Which means you need to value and respect it by delivering consistent value. While email powers sales of original products and services and supercharges your affiliate earning potential, it’s key responsibility is sharing the value of your knowledge and experience with your readers.
First, you need a branded email for your blog/business. Although a small detail, that firstname.lastname@example.org is an important piece. Using a email@example.com type email significantly decreases your deliverability and is considered less professional when dealing with brands.
Next, choose an email system. There is a tremendous range currently available. MailChimp and MadMimi have been popular get-started choices. Active Campaign, Ontraport, Aweber and more also offer a suite of tools. I strongly recommend ConvertKit and I’ll get to exactly why in a second. I encourage to do your research of capabilities, what is required to get setup, deliverability and customer support. There’s nothing wrong with asking for input in a group, but take the feedback with a grain of salt.
Why I use ConvertKit
I started out in email marketing with MadMimi but didn’t find the template builder intuitive. Then, I moved to MailChimp. I loved some of the gamification ( monkey high fives and the rocket launching). It was simple and straightforward to use. The price was right (free for the first 2k subscribers, I think, and $10/month for some of the extra features). But, I had a lot of deliverability issues. My email kept getting greylisted, which meant that it was landing in spam boxes pretty frequently. Then, they made MLM links in emails against their terms of service (which took out quite a few of my clients and friends). This was about the time that ConvertKit was starting to experience a ground swell of support in the blogging community. It was still new but it had some really awesome features and people were raving about the easy start up.
I had used some of the truly loaded email management systems for clients – VerticalResponse, Ontraport, ConstantContact and more. I didn’t need that and it really wasn’t in my budget.
So, I went with ConvertKit. There have been some growing pains since I signed up very early in their existence. But, and this is important, they’ve always communicated about any issues and customer service is spectacularly responsive! Even better though? My list has grown by more than 5x, I have excellent open and click through rates, and it’s so easy to use that I get MORE done with it than I did with any other email system. Opt-Ins? It takes minutes. Sequences? Super easy and they have templates to get you started. Tags & Segments? Make your emails count by customizing for different segments of your audience (a move that has more than doubled my affiliate income).
I’m such a believer in ConvertKit that I offer everyone who signs up through my affiliate link a free one hour coaching call to get started. I know that if you’re willing to do the work to get it set up, it will change how you generate income and interact with your list.
Content Promotion Plan
You know that you need high quality content on your blog, but what happens after you hit publish? Creating useful, compelling content – whether it is video, graphic or written – takes time and energy so it makes sense to maximize the mileage you get out of each one!
A comprehensive editorial calendar includes your blog posts, the social content supporting them and any outreach you might do to broaden the reach of that content. Scheduling your content to share on your social channels multiple times might feel repetitive to you but remember that most of your audience is not seeing 100% of your posts. Develop a plan for your posts during the 4-6 weeks after you publish to maximize their visibility across your channels, then add them to the rotation of your older posts to keep sharing them. If your social channels are steadily growing, that old content is still fresh for your newest readers!
There are any number of social content schedulers available: Post Planner, Meet Edgar, Buffer, Hootsuite, and there are more popping up all the time. Each of these schedulers has their own pros and cons. The right one for you will depend on what kind of interface is more intuitive for you and what functionalities are more important. The basic level of Buffer is an excellent value and a good place to start if you are just dipping a toe into automation.
Because it’s time consuming to constantly go through my old content and remember the last time I shared it, I automate this function as much as possible. I utilize CoSchedule as an all-in-one content promotion dashboard. I have another, more detailed write up on how & why I use CoSchedule but the bottom line is that I have a high return on my investment (of time + energy) spending my time creating content and developing relationships that scheduling or posting directly on social media. Using a third party scheduler may have a small impact on the growth of my social reach, but when I tested it, the difference was minor but the time suck was considerable.
With CoSchedule, I’m able to schedule a promotion plan with regular shares across all of my channels for the 6 weeks after the post publishes. Then, I take the best performing post from that 6 weeks and add it to my ReQueue so that it is part of the regular rotation of content that is shared. I’m able to track any collaboration to dos for that topic or post right inside of my CoSchedule dashboard so it keeps everything in one place. And for me, simpler is key to managing 4 websites, 2 businesses and my family (while occasionally having a social life).
Sharing only your own content on your social channels is a quick way to Spammer-ville. And that’s no good for anyone.
Instead, curating and sharing content that is relevant and valuable to our audience deepens the sense of trust, helping them to identify you as someone who understands their needs and interests. For a long time, I’ve utilized Facebook “Friends Lists” to collect likely content in one place. With a carefully selected list of influencers, brands and content creators that are a good fit for my audience, my monthly social scheduling is a simple matter of opening that list and using the CoSchedule Chrome Extension to automatically add it to my social share calendar. I’ll also use the Evernote Chrome Extension to collect links, content, or information that I’m interested in referencing in a post. With Evernote’s tags, it’s super simple to go back and find what I’m looking for when I’m ready to write that content. It also makes a handy post inspiration list when I’m not sure what to write about!
Landing Pages That Convert
If your monetization strategy includes offering original products/services or affiliate programs beyond ShareaSale and Amazon, high converting landing pages are a key way to level up your marketing. I would recommend either Instapage or Thrive Landing Pages as viable options.
A good landing page moves the reader through a story and makes it easy to highlight the benefits over the features of whatever you are promoting. Also, let’s be honest, a beautiful page makes it more likely that someone will stick around to find out whether it’s a good fit for them or not. I implemented Instapage on my blog last month for my top 5 affiliate income streams. I’m still waiting on a couple of numbers for the month of June but I’m currently sitting at a 40% increase in affiliate income over June of last year, getting me much closer to my $5k a month goal.
Word Press PlugIns
I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with Word Press plugins. Every traumatic website crash I’ve had was related to a plug in. But the best ones streamline my process, increase my site’s capability and make it easier for me to focus on the important things. It’s worth mentioned the ones I can’t live without.
Social Warfare – After years of wrestling with Jetpack and SumoMe, I finally found Social Warfare. The plug in lets me upload custom images for the major social media sites and customize the text added on my back end. With the new restrictions that Facebook has put in place to reduce the spread of “fake news” by restricting the ability to edit link previews, it’s vital that you do this in your back end.
ConvertKit – ConvertKit’s plugin lets me easily customize which opt in form appears at the bottom of blog posts. Again, the more I can specifically appeal to the needs of the reader that is most likely to land on that page, the better connection I’m building!
A Business Village
Ya’ll, we can’t do this alone.
There is a special awesomeness about a business that lives in my computer. I can take it anywhere. Build it while I’m working a full time job. I can schedule my work around the demands of my life – kids, husband, and other priorities.
But it also gets lonely. And sometimes isolating. I have friends and family that don’t really understand what I do. I’ve been introduced as the friend who “works on Facebook” and received blank stares as I explain what a digital marketing strategist does.
We need a village. As Jen Hatmaker said, “We close ranks and literally have each others’ backs.” We need a group to turn to when the wheels are spinning, to rein us in when we get distracted by Shiny Object Syndrome, to prop us up when it all feels too hard. Building that village can be challenging, because it requires sharing your vulnerabilities and getting honest about the hard stuff. But it’s worth it.
Looking to build your village? Here’s where I’d start:
(Free) Digital Marketing Squad – Jessica Stansberry (of Hey Jessica and the All Up In Your Lady Business podcast) has an active, incredibly helpful group of creative entrepreneurs. With people from a range of industries, there is enough diversity of opinion to keep new ideas coming! Jessica herself is an incredible resource with a value packed Youtube channel.
($25/month) Blog Your Genius – I created the Blog Your Genius membership community because I have personally experienced the growth fueled by consistent learning and implementation. New ideas, concepts and tools only work if you start using them, and that is far more likely to happen if you have somewhere to go to cheer you on, hold you accountable and answer your questions. That’s what we do here at Blog Your Genius.
(Investment) Freshly Implemented – If you’re ready to deep dive into professional & business development with a cheering section, support crew and strategy intensive all rolled into one, Freshly Implemented is the place to be. Amber McCue opens Freshly Implemented twice a year (Spring and Fall) offering a wealth of information. There are thousands of coaches and entrepreneur masterminds available – and you should find the one that best fits your workstyle and needs. Fresh was the push I needed to move from steady income to growing, scalable business. Get a taste with the free, open all year Planathon Facebook group that gears up in November for an intensive week of experts to help you smash your goals for the next year.
None of these tools will grow your business by themselves. But they will streamline your systems, power your inspiration and free up your time to explore your genius. What works best for you? Is there a system, tool, software or plugin that has made a huge difference in how you blog or run your business?