Starting a Blog

People start blogs for a wide variety of different reasons. For some, it is simply a matter of supplementing their income from the comfort of their homes. Others depend solely for their income on their blogs. Making money from blogging has certain advantages: the barriers to entry are low, there are low overheads and it is low risk. But it is very hard work all the same.

For others, blogging is a means to the end of becoming published authors. Publishers are significantly more likely to work with authors who have an online presence, as it’s easier to sell books when people are already familiar with an author. Blogs are great starting points for such people.

Yet others start blogging to advertise their businesses, allowing their companies to reach large numbers of people with very low costs.

For some people, blogging is just about writing, sharing their stories, building a community around their blogs.


Blog Topic

The first and most important aspect when it comes to starting a blog is knowing what it is that you’re going to blog about, what topic you are going to address. Make sure that you choose an area in which you are an expert for your blog, where you can show off your knowledge about a niche subject.

If you’re going to start a blog as an extension of your business, you should be blogging about your services, products or cause. For individual bloggers, there is greater flexibility in choosing a topic.

Blog about something that you find enjoyable. If you yourself won’t be excited about your topic, it is doubtful that others will be, and writing will become an exercise in drudgery, an appalling situation for a writer to be in, something that nobody wants. If, on the other hand, you are excited by your chosen topic, it is likely that others will find your content engaging. You will likely keep them coming back for more. 

Make sure that your topic of choice invites discussion, allowing readers to chime in with questions, comments and counter viewpoints. You need a blog topic that can generate plentiful content if you are to keep a stream of blogposts flowing in. Plus, blogging it usually a long-term activity, so choose a topic that produces a variety of things to talk about.

The ultimate goal of blogging is to create a space where you can become an established authority on your chosen field of knowledge, your topic or your niche. In all likelihood, you won’t be the first person to think up the idea of blogging on your chosen subject. Don’t be discouraged by this. Think of a unique angle you can approach the subject with. Perhaps you can offer insights that other bloggers don’t, or you can approach the subject in greater depth than has been done before you.


Other Key Steps to Starting Your Blog

Once you have chosen your ideal blog topic, you have taken the first step to starting a blog. Next, you need to choose a platform from which to start a blog. There are a wide variety of platforms available, such was Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, Blogger and WordPress. After this, you need to find your host, using one of the hosting companies out there to get server space. Next, pick your domain name, a catchy title, one that conveys what your blog is about in a pithy and, ideally speaking, witty way. Lastly, you will design your blog and use it.


Making Money From Your Blog

The majority of people who start blogs do so with the intention to make money off of them. There’s nothing wrong with that; after all, we need to eat to live. In this section we will look at how you can use affiliate marketing to monetize your blog. Whether your blog is a hobby or part of your business, it is possible to make good money off of it. But be warned in advance: there is no get rich quick scheme when it comes to blogging; making good money from it requires discipline and patience. But you can easily make enough money from your blog to support yourself and your family, even indulge in some luxuries.


Affiliate Marketing

One great way of earning money from your blog is by including affiliate links within your blog’s content.

But before the people who visit your blog will make purchases off of links that you provide them with, you must earn their trust. Once you have their trust, you must retain it by offering for sale only those items that you know are of good quality and will genuinely make a positive difference in their lives. Affiliate marketing offers you a way to offer such services and products quickly, without having to create them yourself.

Practically speaking, affiliate marketing is simply a modern rendition of an age-old idea, namely, receiving a commission on every sale that you make. Your job as a blogger is to offer your readers an introduction to certain services and products, produced by individuals or companies that you trust, and receive a commission for each time your readers purchase one of these services or products using the link that you provide them with.

Make sure that you promote only those services and products that you personally approve of. This will help you in retaining your audience’s trust, and you can make a good living off of affiliate marketing.


Affiliate Links Are Not Ads

Affiliate links can often resemble ads in appearance, but that’s not what they really are. The average reader may not know the difference, but the professional blogger must.

When you put up ads on your blog, you receive payment for each time a visitor clicks on one of them, regardless of whether they end up making a purchase or not. In the case of ads, advertisers can be seen as renting space within your blog, much like a billboard on a highway is rented.

However, the earnings from clicks on ads are fractions of pennies, almost negligible, requiring inordinately high traffic on your blog to come anywhere near making you a good living. Chances are, you won’t get much of an income from such ads.

Affiliates, on the other hand, are paid only when visitors not only click on the provided link, but actually makes a purchase. This obviously doesn’t happen as often as users simply clicking on a link. But the commissions you receive on the sales are normally significantly higher. The difference between ads and affiliate links is relatively slight, but the difference it can make upon your income is quite large.

Banners and graphical links can serve the purpose of serving as affiliate links, but they can also be included within the text of a blogpost, provided that you clearly state that they are affiliate links.


Advantages of Affiliate Marketing on Your Blog

The case for using affiliate marketing to monetize your blog is a compelling one. First of all, it allows you to start making money off of your blog much sooner compared to creating your own service or product from scratch. It gives you time to develop an understanding of what kinds of products are in demand within your audience, helping any future launches of your own products. Provided that you choose the right services and products to sell, you can accustom your readers to purchasing from you, increasing their trust in you. These are all considerable advantages to the budding blogger.

However, that’s not the end of it; there are other additional advantages for bloggers when it comes to affiliate marketing as well. Implementing it is easy, requiring as little as sharing a link with your readership. You have nothing else to worry about, whether it be setting payments up, providing customer support, tracking sales, etc. The merchant takes care of all these things.

Affiliate marketing additionally doesn’t require that you have in place a support team. It is a one-person operation, perfectly doable by a single human being sitting behind his/her computer.

You don’t need to be an expert on the services and products that you sell. All you need is enough familiarity with your chosen topic to be able to recommend good products to your audience.

Lastly, affiliate marketing is low-risk and low-effort. It isn’t passive income exactly, demanding a certain level of commitment on your part. But these demands on your time and money aren’t significant.  


How Affiliate Marketing Works

Affiliate marketing involves an advertiser wanting to sell a product. The advertiser agrees to pay you commissions for the sales of the product that come from your blog. The advertiser provides you with a unique link, one that tracks your particular affiliate code. In this way, the advertiser can ascertain when a buyer has used your link in order to make their purchase. If and when visitors to your blog click on this unique link, and purchase the product being advertised by you, you earn a commission, a percentage of that which has been purchased.


FTC Regulations and Your Blog

As a blogger, you should know the importance of being transparent with your readers without needing a reminder. Transparency builds trust. However, given the FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines when it comes to online advertising, now it is more important than ever to have transparency when dealing with your readers.

The FTC aims to make sure that “products and services are described truthfully online.” Consumers are protected by the FTC, which enforces disclosure of business endorsements and online transactions. Being a blogger, this means you have to disclose the affiliate links and blog posts that you write for compensation. It also includes those items that you receive from businesses without having to pay for them, and which you write about, albeit without being paid by the brands.

The FTC guidelines were updated in 2013, reflecting the changes that had occurred in technology, including the increasing use of mobile devices to surf the web. These guidelines have become stricter about transparency when it comes to bloggers letting readers know about the services and products that they write about.


Transparency Must Be Loud and Clear

The posts on your blog that are sponsored must be disclosed clearly and conspicuously, not meaning an asterisk leading readers 5 pages on from your original post, or a tiny hyperlink stuffed at the post’s end. The FTC has defined what disclosure that is ‘clear and conspicuous’ means in their guidelines:

The media form used for the post must be used for the disclosure. If, for example, the post takes the form of a video, so must the disclosure.

All media, including social media, must have disclosure. If, for instance you’re tweeting your followers about a sponsored post on your blog, the tweet must also mention that you’re being compensated. Additionally, you must inform your followers that you are being paid for sharing your opinions. You can use hashtag like #ad and #sponsored to communicate this.

Graphics, advertisements and supplemental links should not distract from your main disclosures. What this means is that where your site or post contains other ads or links, these ads and links must not distract readers from understanding that your post has been sponsored.

You are allowed to use hyperlinks to make your disclosure. However, they can be used only when and if it is not possible to fully represent the disclosure on the page that is appropriate. At the same time, readers should be given some indication pertaining to why the hyperlink is important to follow.

Graphics, colors and font size matter. You must ensure that the disclosure visibly stands out, using graphics, fonts and colors to accomplish this.

You should not assume that each word on your blog will be read; the greater the amount of scrolling required, the less likely that it will be read.

The placement of the disclosure is of prime importance. It must be as close to the claim as possible.


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