How To Earn A Second Income Blogging Without Spending Any Money

Second Income Blogging Header image

A second income blogging … without spending money? Yes, let me explain. You found this page which means you are interested in at least two things: You want to generate some extra money each month, and you don’t want to spend any money doing it.

Well, you’re in luck because we were in exactly the same position 3 years ago. We want to share our experience with you so you can do the same thing.

I decided to write this article because when discussing the blog with friends, they would show mild amusement. Then when I showed them the monthly earnings, their eyes went a bit wider, and the questions starting falling out of their mouth. To earn a second income blogging is not out of reach at all. If we can do it, so can you. Just always remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But you will do it if you remain consistent. I mean, who couldn’t use a few thousand extra a month?

This article can apply to any type of blog, whether it’s a blog about woodworking, game reviews, vacation destinations, etc. These are very basic but highly important topics. With that said, it will very much apply to food blogs as I will be providing our own personal experiences along the way.

A note, first, when I say ‘any money’ that is not actually true. You will need to spend money on hosting your website and registering your domain name. This charge is pretty small and shouldn’t cost you more than $10 a month. Later I can provide you a link, if you decide to jump in, that can get you a year’s hosting and a domain for less than $20. But let’s first talk about what you need to do first to start making your second income blogging.

Show Me The Money!

Hold on! One of the pitfalls that many people fall into when starting a blog is that they jump in too early and get overwhelmed with what needs to be done. So, one of the best things you can do before you start anything is to lay out your plan, consider all the decisions you will need to make beforehand. If you’re working with a significant other, include them in the process as well. What am I talking about? Well, let me tell you. Here are some of the things you need to think about before you start. In no particular order:

Content What are you going to write about?
Domain Name What are you going to call yourself?
Hosting Provider Where is your site going to be?
Platform .Net or PHP, WordPress, Drupal?
Look and Feel Masculine, frilly, dark, fresh, etc.?
Social Media What about your tribe?
Ad Platforms and Affiliates Where do I get my money?
Analytics How do I monitor my traffic?

As you can see, there are things to think about. Most of these should be explored and hashed out before you start. Having a plan of action can save you so much trouble down the line, believe me. So let’s get started. Let’s look at some issues and discuss why they can be so important to the success of your blog.

Second Income Blogging – What to consider before starting

Content

The driving force behind each successful blog is good content. So what makes good content? Let’s explore that.

Evergreen Content

What does ‘evergreen content’ mean? It means that it will stand the test of time. It means that what you have blogged about is relevant now, and will be relevant 10 years from now. This may or may not fit into what you are wanting to blog about but I can rest assured that our Pumpkin Muffin recipe will be just as good 10 years from now as it was when we first made it. They are not going to invent a whole new way of preparing that dish. They probably won’t invent a new way to create a dovetail joint in woodworking, nor will facts that have happened in the past (well …), personal research and reviews, etc.

Evergreen content is timeless and over time, depending on your social media strategies and good rankings in Google can bring in tons of pageviews over very long periods of time. Not sure what evergreen content would work for you – check out this article at http://copyblogger.com. It has great ideas on all sorts of evergreen content. You can even use some of these in conjunction with the content you’re planning on writing. Whatever you decide to write on, plan on at least some of your content being evergreen.

Some of the more successful blogs have reported that posts they have written years ago still bring in millions of pageviews a year. With a decent RPM that one page could be worth many thousands of dollars.

For us – we went with a food blog. Recipes don’t change. They can be improved on, sure … but a recipe is a recipe. And as we add more and more recipes our pageviews continue to go up. As of this writing, we have approximately 230 recipes, 10 of which generate 60% of our traffic. We have steadily increased our pageviews each and every month because of the recipes we add. While this small bulk brings in over half of our traffic, traffic from the other pages continues to grow with each additional post we add.

Original Content

Google loves and rewards new content but punishes those who copy content, keep this in mind. With this said, even though it seems like everything has been written about, this does not mean you can’t have your own voice on any particular subject.

Creating your original content makes you the expert on your subject. You know the subject matter or product you are dealing with and your original content illustrates that. The more engaging your content and gives the reader what they want and need, the more people are going to come back and give you the pageviews you want. As time goes on, your audience will grow with you. And then, hello second income blogging!

Whatever your subject matter is, over time people will learn to recognize your brand as a trusted and solid resource. It also would behoove you to see what your successful competitors are doing. Take a look at the sites with whom you will be competing to see what they’re doing, and what they’re not doing. It’s important to know what works, and what doesn’t within your niche.

Does long, wordy posts work well, or is your audience quickly bored so you need to keep it short? Do visuals play an important role, or does it get in the way?

Creating your unique and engaging content on a steady basis will ensure that your brand stays ahead of the pack.

Powerful Headlines

I am sure we all have seen them: “Tiny Device To Be In 50 Billion Products By 2020“, “Bill Gates’ Prediction Will Give You Goosebumps“, “The Absolute Best Sheets You Will Ever Find. Period.

What tiny device!? <click>. Bill Gates is an expert, what’s going on? <click>. The absolute best? Finally! <click>.

You see, these headlines are purposefully using trigger keywords that almost force you to click on them. It’s as if you actually have to resist. I mean, who wouldn’t want to know the absolute best sheets ever? Or what does Bill Gates know that I don’t? They use expert names, rock solid adjectives, and large numbers to give credence to their content. And it works.

Let’s look at just one example pertaining to a food recipe.

“Pan Seared Scallops”

“You Haven’t Seen These Pan Seared Scallops Prepared This Way”

This was just a quicky, but already I want to click on the second one. Why? Because I don’t like not knowing something and this headline suggests that.

People want to know things and when we hear “You haven’t …” it grabs our attention. There are several trigger mechanisms that can create a strong headline. Just keep the ‘who, what, where, why, and when’ in your head. When you use one of these words in your headline it will make the reader pause and think about it.

Give Them What They Want

Know your audience. As I mentioned before, if you’re going to have a food blog that focuses on Italian food, don’t do a recipe of a middle eastern dish. If you’re doing reviews on technology, don’t publish a post on what dog breed gets along best with kids. A visitor will only stick around for a few seconds. If they don’t see what they’re looking for they will leave. Burn them enough, and they won’t even click through.

Accurate Information

One of the worst things that could possibly happen is that you build a loyal audience and then they find out your content is inaccurate, or even false. This is something that is hard to come back from. The higher you get, the farther you fall. Over the last handful of years, can you recall where somebody has been brought low due to some sort of scandal? There have been several. None of them have enjoyed the successes they did before.

Make sure, whatever your blog is about, that the information you provide is accurate. Cite your sources, if applicable. If you’re linking to other people’s information, make sure that it can withstand the litmus test of accuracy.

Add Visual Media

“A picture is worth 1000 words”. It’s pretty true. As our society gets faster and faster, and content is consumed at greater speeds, it’s important to grab your audiences with good visual media. Depending on your content, this could be images, infographics, video, etc.
As food bloggers, our pictures are KEY to grabbing the attention of possible visitors. The bulk of our traffic comes from Pinterest so we are competing with all the others over those precious clicks. Our pictures have to be as good as they can get. Once they get to the page, we want to keep them there. Our posts have several pictures going along with the content. We also provide video for some of our posts which reinforce the content even more. Also, more and more people are using Google’s Image Search to look for content. Keep this in mind when creating your content.

 

Keep Your Content To The Point

Have you ever been on Facebook and a headline grabs you? You then follow the link and there is no mention of ANYTHING related to that headline? Irritating, isn’t it. Don’t do that! I remember those providers and do not follow their links anymore. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Make sure that your content is the content that people are expecting. If you are advertising a recipe on the best-grilled hamburger, make sure that is what you are delivering. Over time, your audience will learn to trust that what you are teasing them with is INDEED what you deliver.

For Us – Second income blogging

As earlier stated, we decided to do a general food blog, not lending ourselves to one particular area. This gave us the freedom to cook whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Our number one post for the last several months has been a carb-free dish which tells me right away that carb diets are still going strong. We also do extremely well with a couple of our wings recipes during football season. Our best day ever was the Superbowl, where we saw a 300% increase that day over the previous Sunday.

Your Domain Name

1. The easier to type the better Try to come up with a domain name that is easy to type. You should also avoid using shorthand or slang as these will be harder to figure out and can be typed in wrong. An example of this is ‘xtreme.com’ vs ‘extreme.com’ or ‘topix.com’ vs ‘topics.com’.

2. The shorter the better If your domain name is long and/or complex, you may see customers mistyping or misspelling it. Make it as short and simple as you can while getting your message out.

3. Use keywords If you can, try to add keywords that describe your brand and/or services you offer. If you were doing a vegan food blog, try to add vegan to your domain name. An example of this would ‘vegandishes.com’. Note: This will help improve your rank on search engines.

4. Don’t use numbers and hyphens Numbers and hyphens can often be misunderstood.  When your website address is heard, people won’t know if you’re using a number or if it’s spelled. They may also misplace or forget the dash. If you need these in your domain, register the different variations to be safe.

5. Make it memorable There are millions of registered domain names. Having a domain that’s catchy and memorable is essential. Once you’ve come up with a name, share it with friends. Ask them if it sounds appropriate and makes sense to others. Do it quick: Got a great idea for a domain? Register your name today before someone else beats you to it.

6. Research it Your idea for a domain name may be trademarked, copyrighted or in use already. This could lead to legal issues that could cost you financially, as well as your domain name.

7. Use an appropriate domain name extension Extensions are suffixes, such as .com or .net, at the end of web addresses. These can have specific uses, so make sure to choose one that works for your business. The .com domain extension is most popular. It can be difficult to get a short and memorable .com domain name because it’s been around for so long. There are now new generic top-level domains like .photography, .nyc and .guru.  These offer a great opportunity to register short and relevant names. And here are some other top extensions and how they’re often used:

  • .co : an abbreviation for company, commerce, and community.
  • .info : informational sites.
  • .net : technical, Internet infrastructure sites.
  • .org : non-commercial organizations and nonprofits.
  • .biz : business or commercial use, like e-commerce sites.
  • .me : blogs, resumes or personal sites.

8. Protect and build your identity To protect your brand, you may want to purchase various domain extensions. This prevents competitors from registering other versions. It also ensures your customers are directed to your website. You can also consider registering misspelled version of your domain name.

9. Better act quickly Over 100,000 domain names sell daily. Thankfully, they’re inexpensive, so register your favorite domain names as soon as possible.

Hosting Provider / Platform

This is part of the article where I am going to assume that you came here for advice and direction. Hosting and platform go together. Your platform is what software you’re using to display your content and your hosting provider needs to be able to support it.

We use WordPress and you will find most blogs use WordPress. It’s free to use, and the platform works amazingly well for posting new content as often as you can. There are others but for the sake of this article, I am suggesting that you use WordPress. Most hosting providers have a ‘one-click’ install of WordPress which means you can be posting your content within minutes of signing up. Furthermore, there are more WordPress training videos out there on Youtube than you can watch. It is said that 25% of all websites run on WordPress.

Now as far as hosting providers, you will find that there are many out there. Since we’re going on the premise of starting a blog without investing a ton of money, I highly recommend GoDaddy. They are inexpensive, have a decent helpline you can call if you are having trouble, and they are easy to use. They do provide the ‘one-click’ install of WordPress so you can be up and running pretty quick.

Listed below you can get your hosting up and running for $1/mo. If you pay for the year ($12), you will also get a free domain name. This puts you online for a year for less than $20.

$1/mo WordPress Hosting from GoDaddy!

 

Look and Feel

Another thing to consider is what you want your site to look like. You also need to consider your audience as well. Depending on that, go with the look that best matches your style plus your audience.

For example, since our audience here is 80% female, our look leans more towards the feminine. If you were doing reviews on guns and ammo, you might want to pick a more masculine look.

WordPress uses ‘themes’. Themes are your best friend. Changing the entire look of your site can be as easy as pressing a button. Once you have WordPress installed, you can choose from a handful of installed themes OR you can choose from hundreds of free themes.

When deciding on a theme, also keep in mind your mobile users. Our mobile traffic is around 80% so it was important for us to choose a theme that is mobile friendly (responsive). Make sure the one you pick looks good on mobile as well as desktop. When you have decided on a theme, it IS safe to remove any other themes you may have installed.

One final note. There are several companies out there that offer themes for a cost. These usually offer more features than the standard free ones. If you have it in your budget, you may find that this is a good fit for you.

Social Media

As I am sitting here, I am thinking that books are dedicated to this subject … how do I pare this down??

First – Before you even start blogging, you can do some things in Social Media to get a leg up. One of the most helpful things you can do at the start … and the entire time you are up and running … is to have a rich and varied set of boards on Pinterest.

Pinterest is going to be your biggest friend, at least at the start. This is something you can start right now. Set up boards pertaining to your content and start pinning. Pin .. pin .. pin! And make sure they’re quality pins. Pins that actually go to the content indicated. Join other group boards that pertain to your niche. After a while, you will start to garner followers. As with anything else, if your content is good and you remain active, the followers will come. First in a trickle, then more and more. Once you start blogging, you can start putting pins in your posts and then you can add that pin to your own boards.

Pinterest represents over 60% of our daily traffic, and we have pins that bring us 1,000’s of pageviews each month.

You also want to consider setting up a page on Facebook. Whenever you create a new post, you can share that on your personal Facebook wall as well as your Facebook page. And Facebook uses hashtags as well as Twitter, FYI. Get your friends and family to share your content on Facebook to slowly build your audience there.

While Twitter brings us minimal traffic, we still maintain a presence. The reason we actively work Twitter is for followers. There may come a time where you will want to reach out to advertisers with your own media kit showing your various followers on various platforms.

And of course, Instagram. With Instagram you want all your pictures on your wall to have a similar look. Some people use a particular filter, some people only post BW pics, some apply a color overlay. The idea behind this is that your image wall has a clean symmetrical look. It catches the eye. Do keep in mind that links do not work on Instagram. You only have one link, and it’s in your Instagram bio. But if you manage to build your audience on Instagram, you will have advertisers reaching out to you. For Instagram, it’s all about a pretty wall and followers.

For us, our revenue comes solely from pageviews. We do not sell a product and we do not do much with affiliate sales either. So, for us, Pinterest is our go-to for social media. This might not be the case for you. If you have a product to sell, you want to maintain an active presence on all forms of social media.

 

Ad Platforms and Affiliate Sales

When we started blogging three years ago, we had half a plan, and it worked. But we discovered a few pitfalls and we also discovered some nuggets of knowledge as well. This article is for you to benefit from our mistakes and revelations.

As a recipe blog, we knew we needed recipes, and more than five. Who wants to go to a food blog with five recipes? So, we decided that the first year we would focus on content. We would cook our butts off. After a few months, we had enough recipes (content) to go to Google to get set up on their ad platform, Adsense.

Google Adsense is a good start into the foray of setting up ads on your site. It’s free and it’s easy. You can click the link below to get started with them when you’re ready.

Google Adsense

Because Adsense is free and easy, it also means that the money you can make with them is pretty low. So, as soon as your pageviews start increasing you can look at other ad platforms. If you’re doing anything with food, I recommend Gourmet Ads. You can also look at Adthrive if your niche is food and home. Once your pageviews hit 100,000 a month, if you’re doing a food/home blog, you will want to check out Adthrive, it’s who we use.

How It Works

Most ad platforms pay by RPM or ‘revenue per mille’. Basically, it means a certain dollar amount for every 1000 pageviews. So, if you’re doing 500 pageviews a day at a $5 RPM ((500 *30)*5)/1000 you can plan on making $75 that month. If you’re doing 3,000 pageviews a day at $10 RPM ((3000 *30)*10)/1000 you can plan on making around $900 that month.

So, it’s all about pageviews and RPM. You want to find that ad platform that gives you the best RPM. Now advertisers set this … not the ad platform you are using. Certain markets get a better RPM than others. Food and Home is a good market, a bit on the higher end. I am sure there are better but this works best for us.

For us, the standard food blog using AdThrive: Last year our average RPM was $14.10. It ranged from around $8 RPM to $25 RPM depending on the day and time of the year. Needless to say, the 4th quarter was great!

Here is a good article listing some other ad platform options.

https://www.adpushup.com/blog/the-best-ad-networks-for-publishers/

Affiliate programs are a bit different. As an affiliate, you are advertising one company’s product or products for usually a percentage of the sale. These can work very well for you depending on your market and the available affiliates that fit within your niche. Amazon also has a very nice affiliate program that allows you to link to any product.

Here is a great article explaining in greater detail with a list of affiliate programs you can join.

http://pureresiduals.com/top-10-affiliate-programs/

 

Analytics

Google analytics is how you can monitor your traffic. You can see how many sessions were made in any given period, how many pageviews, where your traffic is coming from, social media, etc. It is an amazing free tool that gives you great insight into your traffic and visitors.

To get Google Analytics set up on your site requires just a few steps. Just google ‘Google Analytics’ and follow the links to create an account. If you already have a gmail account, you can use that to sign in. Once you have your information put in you will have a tracking code that looks a bit like this:

<!-- Global site tag (gtag.js) - Google Analytics -->
<script async src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtag/js?id=UA-123456789-1"></script>
<script>
window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag('js', new Date());

gtag('config', 'UA-123456789-1');
</script>

All you have to do is take this code and place it right above the closing </head> tag in the header.php file of your site.

In your left-hand navigation bar, click Appearance | Editor. Then on the right side, click the file that says header.php. This will load your header file (which loads on every single page) and find the closing head tag, which looks like this ->   </head>

A picture of the header.php codebase
See line 64

Paste your tracking code right above that and save the file. That’s it, your Google Analytics will now track every single page and post when it’s accessed. It may take a couple of hours to start working, so be patient.

To Sum Up

I realize that this is a lot of information to process so let’s sum up.

  1. Decide what you’re going to blog about
  2. Once decided, start working on filling your Pinterest boards while you’re thinking up a domain name and planning your strategies on content creation.
  3. When ready, register your domain name and use a hosting provider that has a one-click install of WordPress (see my link above to get domain name and one year hosting for under $20)
  4. Select your theme and install it
  5. Place your analytics code
  6. Start writing your content
  7. Share your content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and StumbleUpon

Our success story, in a nutshell, is this:

Our first year of building content we made a couple of hundred dollars. Our second year we made a little over $600. Our third year Leigh was able to quit her job to work on the blog full time. We can’t wait to see what year 4 brings us!

A screenshot of three years of website traffic
Our first three years

As you can plainly see, the first year was about content building and then we really started working social media by sharing our content. Our first month we had 125 pageviews. Our last month we had over 250,000 pageviews.

If we can do it, anybody can do it. Time is going to go by anyway, why not make some money along the way. Blog … and build your original content. Over time your traffic will increase giving you the ability to earn an actual second income blogging. With moderate, conservative pageview gains each year, we are estimating that this blog will be earning over $100,000 a year within the next 5 years. You can do it too! Build a retirement, pay for your child’s college education, travel … it’s all do-able.

If you have questions, drop me a line. I would love EVERYBODY to do this. Just remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Brad Harris
DSTR
How To Earn A Second Income Blogging Without Spending Any Money

 

How To Earn A Second Income Blogging Without Spending Any Money - If we can do it, you can do. A second income blogging is a reality, and you can do it.