Monetize your Blog: The First Five Steps
Creating a blog with a robust readership to attract sponsors is a daunting task for a new blogger—it requires perseverance, a sharp eye for detail and understanding what sponsors want. Sponsors are looking to gain access to your audience, but are also seeking a return on their investment, which is why it’s important to treat these relationships professionally.
We’re laying out the first five steps every beginning blogger should take to create a blog that will grow in readership, stand out to sponsors and help build a blogging business.
I. Clean Content
You are a writer. You may not be an editor. That’s okay.
Writing is always a work in progress and even the best writers make grammatical mistakes. For those who don’t have the luxury of an editor to improve every post, there are programs to help you tighten your copy so it reads more clearly. Sponsors want to work with bloggers who take their blog seriously, and if your content is riddled with annoying grammar errors and hard-to-read fonts it’s going to be a turnoff for both readers and sponsors.
A new, free site named Hemmingway Editor—named after Ernest Hemmingway and his brief, no-frills writing style—will help you to write better sentences. Simply copy and paste your text in the app, and the Hemingway Editor points out sentences that are difficult to read, highlights the adverbs that are clogging up your writing, suggests simpler words or phrases, and points out passive voice.
If you really struggle with writing, Grammarly is a paid service that is well worth the investment. Grammarly will scan your text for grammar, punctuation, spelling, enhancements, style, sentence structure and even plagiarism.
Another note about content is to keep it positive. Sponsors want dependability, not loose canons, so if you take to social media or your blog to rant negatively about other brands they will take notice.
II. Know your Audience
Your content is one of your blog’s biggest driving forces, so when starting out it is important to determine your blog’s niche, which will ultimately drive your content. As Mack Collier points out on his blog, don’t write just to share your voice; figure out WHO you want to share your voice with. You must earn the reader’s attention. To earn that attention you have to give the reader something in return for their time, such as a belly laugh or a new skill, like a better way to chop onions.
But keep in mind that you don’t need to be an expert--you just need to be expert enough--but you do need to be honest. If you had a good experience with a recipe, technique or product, then chances are that someone else will to. As Katy Kay and Claire Shipman report in The Confidence Gap, women often get caught up in perfectionism, which not only leads to wasted time, but also erodes confidence in our abilities.
Take some time to write out a list that details what you can offer your readers. It’s important to find your voice and stay true to it, but this will take practice and requires writing or journaling—even just a few lines daily if possible (for yourself, not just your blog). Your goal should be to not only tell a story with your words, but also to make the reader see and feel beyond your words. Sharing makes us vulnerable, but it also is what makes us relatable.
And to further that point, each post you write should be focused, with a beginning, middle and an end. Don’t write aimlessly, save that for your journal. Your blog is the place where you are promoting yourself professionally as a writer who has her thoughts collected.
III. Brand Your Blog
To monetize your blog, you need to treat your blog as a business. This means you need a logo to brand your images and use across social media, and a color and font theme for your blog’s layout.
If you’ve never created a logo before, don’t stress. There are helpful and easy-to-use image editing sites that will help you create logos and brand your images, like Canva and Picmonkey. Your logo doesn’t need to be a symbol or something like the Nike swoosh, it can be simple, pretty typography.
Organize your site to make it user friendly, keep your color scheme simple and fonts readable. Cursive-style fonts are hard to read and clown colors are distracting. The focus should be on your writing and images; if you have to squint to read it, then it needs to be changed.
You should also carve out a space in your blog for sponsors, such as in the side bar that says “Advertise here!”
Try out a few different designs and then ask your audience which design they like best! You can poll your audience through social media or embed a survey on your website using SurveyMonkey.
Content may be king, but images are most shared and noticed on social networking sites. Tweets with images are 35% more likely to receive a retweet. Images also break up long chunks of text and visually enhance your writing.
To get your images to pop on your blog, make the image the width of your content, or as wide as you can make it without compromising the integrity of the image. When your image is only a fraction of the size of your content width or you have to scroll from side to side to view it, the feng shui of your blog gets lost.
If you have a Pinterest account for your blog, install a Pinterest widget to make it more search friendly. If you make each image Pinable, you can drive traffic between Pinterest and your blog, which gives search engines a better chance to pick up your content.
You don’t have to be a graphic designer or own a fancy camera to get great images. You can use stock images and apply simple filters to your photos to enhance your images. Just be sure to include a watermark or logo on your images.
TAKE ACTION: Learn to create better images for your blog and which design programs are best for beginners.
V. Media Kit
A media kit is a digital public relations tool that gives basic information about your blog, as well as a little information about yourself to establish your brand. Your media kit should tell sponsors, “Here I am and here’s what I can do for you!”
Acquiring sponsors requires being proactive in seeking them out instead of hoping they come to you. A media kit is similar to a resume as it is a professional way to pitch your blog as well as show its reach and niche to sponsors.
It’s never too early to start a media kit, and if you have passion and drive, your blog’s numbers won’t be the only thing that sponsors look at. To begin, your media kit can start out as your about page. Track how your readership and social sites grow from month to month and constantly tweak and update your bio. Your media kit is literally the storefront to your blog, and first impressions matter. The art of selling is also the art of persuasion!
Cultivating a blog is a lot like cultivating a garden. It doesn’t bear fruit overnight and it needs a lot of love and attention to grow. Getting your blog in shape for sponsors is a long process, and this list is far from comprehensive, but following these guidelines will help get you started in the right direction. Through it all, don’t forget to be true to yourself, blog from the heart and always proofread!