How to Make Money FAST With Your Blog
– Interview Series
So, you want to learn how to make money blogging? Not sure where to start or what’s important?
I call this information soup.
What better way to learn than from bloggers making money from blogging. If you want to make money fast with your blog, keep reading.
This is the first in a series of blog posts where I interview successful bloggers about the step by step process of how to build a profitable blog, how to monetize your blog, growing your email list, and affiliate marketing.
In this series, you will find out how these incredible bloggers with steady growth are earning money and building an audience.
Earning money from a blog is not easy, but what I hope to accomplish from this series is to provide you with tips from the little known success stories in blogging. The real people, not that big famous celebrity bloggers.
**This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This is one way that bloggers make money from blogging.
Nicole Johnson of Or Whatever You Do
Nicole has an incredible food blog with some delicious looking recipes. What’s even more delightful than her food is her incredible growth. In the last year, Nicole has increased her traffic more than ten fold. That’s 10x the traffic!
Here is her screenshot from SEMrush.
Why You Should Listen to a Successful Blogger Like Nicole
Nicole is not only a successful blogger, but she also works for Mediavine. She has access to tons of experts in blogging and takes full advantage of it by learning everything she can.
It’s no secret that she’s figured out how to make the search engines like her. When looking into her Google positions on SEMrush, I noticed she is ranking #1 for so many keywords that I stopped looking for the end of the 1s in the list.
How long have you been blogging?
I’ve been blogging since 2005, but my early sites were more “Dear Diary” and family updates, so I don’t really count those. 😀 I didn’t start my food blog until 2010. I didn’t decide that I was going to get serious about it until 2013.
How many active blogs do you currently have?
Just one, active. Last year I started a new site for about 5 minutes and decided I had enough on my plate with just one and basically abandoned it. I envy the people who can churn out content on multiple, successful sites, but that isn’t me at this point in my life and career.
What is your favorite topic to write about?
Food, recipes, cooking is my niche. I love to be able to share what we are eating, and the feedback you get from people who are loving your recipes is really rewarding.
If you had to ramp up traffic on a blog quickly, what 3 things would you focus on first?
Oooohhh this is a great question.
First, I’d focus on good, common-sense SEO. No gimmicks or tricks, just heavy in-linking, writing with your readers in mind, and creating the best possible content you can.
Being mindful about your keywords is also super helpful, and doesn’t have to mean spending 40% of your time keyword researching. I still cook what I want to cook, but when I’m creating the post I use keyword research to decide what to name it, and what related keywords to weave into the text.
Second, I’d post – a lot. I didn’t really see significant growth with my own site, even after 7+ years, until I started posting 4x a week regularly. That was a big piece of advice I got early on and I never believed it, until I saw the results first hand.
It isn’t so much about a specific schedule, but the frequency and keeping fresh content flowing is DEFINITELY important. More than anyone probably wants to know.
Third, find your tribe! Backlinks are so important, so find a good group of bloggers or a good group that links to each other and you’ll have a much easier time of it.
Guest posting is also much easier if you approach people you have a relationship with. Ignore all of the crap that tells you to cold call people via email with crazy annoying follow-ups if they don’t respond. People HATE those, and either immediately delete them or worst, mark them as spam.
Did you take any blogging courses to learn what you know? Which ones?
Courses aren’t my thing. I don’t really learn well in classroom settings, whether in-person or virtual. I struggle to pay attention, even in a conference lecture setting.
The things I know I have mostly learned by doing, and by watching other people and what they do. Oh, and I have an amazing circle of colleagues around me that have answered all of my ridiculous questions. That also helps.
I did attend The Blog Village video workshop and that thing was ground-breaking for me. I LOVED creating videos and editing them, but don’t do it much anymore because of the time commitment.
There are a few really fabulous blogger educational groups I’m a part of that I love.
I wish they would’ve been around when I was learning the ropes, and I still learn a lot all the time from the people in those groups.
The ones I recommend are:
What has surprised you most about blogging?
Having blogging go from a fun hobby to a legit career, and seeing it scale so widely across the industry, has totally blown my mind. I love how this has provided an avenue for so many people to make a living doing what they love, from home. It is crazy and amazing.
The other thing that’s surprised me is the community that is present in the blogging world. I’ve met so many amazing, supportive, genuine people through this adventure.
There is an undercurrent of the other side of that coin as well, but I think it is pretty easy in most cases to just ignore it and move on. That’s my biggest tip for new bloggers. AVOID the drama at all costs.
Also how different the various niches are. Food bloggers are a much different thing than Travel bloggers or DIY bloggers or whoever.
What advice would you give a new motivated blogger to succeed quickly?
Find a tribe, but don’t abuse it. It is really common for brand new bloggers to totally inundate a group with questions that could easily be answered by the Google.
Bloggers are busy.
Be respectful of everyone’s time, Google that ish before you ask real live people, and at least try and figure it out your own self before asking a human.
There are so many resources and courses available for new bloggers nowadays, and it makes the onboarding process a lot faster, and I’ve seen people grow traffic the last few years faster than anyone thought was possible.
But also, it seems like EVERYONE has a course now. Make sure you know who you are taking advice from because I can speak from experience that it all isn’t good advice (see my URL structure that I read in a random blog post in 2010 was the “best” one. Hah.)
Also, start off how you plan on continuing. That means, don’t start on a cheap “starter” blog or platform. If you want to monetize your website, go with WordPress from the get-go.
If your blog focuses on photography, get a DSLR and learn to shoot manual, immediately. Jump in the deep end. It’ll be harder in the beginning, but you’ll grow in your skill level faster!
The same can be said for your host and your tech help. Stay away from budget hosts. You get what you pay for. Stay away from Fivrr or Upwork for tech help.
You do not want to be handing over the keys to your WordPress kingdom to a random person. I’ve heard a LOT of horror stories of these situations going way wrong, the random person disappearing, and then you are left trying to clean up the mess.
A great managed host with an in-house development department is one of the best choices you can make as a business owner. Get people in your corner who will get to know you and your site, and be able to help you or point you towards someone they trust to help if they cannot.
What social media platforms do you like best and why?
I kind of despise all social media right now. I don’t think it presents an accurate picture of life, and I don’t really think it is supposed to.
It is great for what I use it for, and does allow me to stay connected to people that aren’t near me, but it also lets me be a hermit and because my personality has always just kind of preferred digital communication, it lets me isolate myself in ways that I probably wouldn’t if it wasn’t available.
My favorite is the nerdiest online karaoke app there ever was, mostly because no one knows me there and I’m not using it for my business, so it is just for fun.
Oh, and snapchat. Because all of my friends live far away from me, and all of the good and funny stuff gets sent on snapchat. 😉
How did you build your blog’s email list?
I’m just starting to figure this out, and it has been HARD. I didn’t even run an email list opt-in for YEARS, then I got Convert Kit plus Opt-in Monster and was paying a bunch of money to never actually utilize it, for way too long.
I’ve finally cracked the code on the opt-in situation, and what worked for me was offering a free ebook, and having lead gen forms at the bottom of my posts as well as a dreaded pop-up in post as well.
I’m now getting about 70 – 250 new email subscribers a day, depending on my traffic. That’s up from less than 10 a day before I dialed in my forms.
Oh, and actually talking to my email list like they are real people and not just a group of strangers. Engage with your people, and they will engage with you!
If you had to give advice to your newbie blogging self, what would it be?
Believe in myself more. I was capable of way more than I gave myself credit for. If I would’ve buckled down and taken things more seriously sooner, I can only imagine how much farther along I’d be by now.
Are there any tools that you use that you deem essential for your blogging success?
COSCHEDULE. My entire blog life is run through that calendar. I also used to work for them, before I came to work at Mediavine a few years ago.
I use CoSchedule to manage my entire editorial calendar, my ghostwriters, my social media scheduling (besides Pinterest, I use Tailwind for that), my ideas for new content, tasks that need doing, and when I was doing a bunch of sponsored content I also used it to keep track of billing, invoicing, etc.
It connects directly to your WordPress blog, lets you drag and drop things around on your calendar, and gives you a bird’s eye view of your blog that you just can’t get with other methods that I’ve found.
Tailwind is also essential to me for Pinterest and has been for a while now. Their board lists, Tribes, and Loops make Pinterest take about 30 – 60 minutes a week for me, and I pin a LOT. Like 100-200 a day
Also…ghostwriters. I post a LOT, and also work a lot, and have a zillion kids. Saying I’m busy is like saying there’s a little water in that lake over there. It is nuts.
By the time I’m done with work for the day I’ve written like 6-10k words already. So there’s not much left for my blog.
My ghostwriters are amazing. They provide a lot of the body text of the post that’s written for SEO. This lets me focus on adding personal touches, developing the recipe, working out the graphics, and all of the other things that I still have time and energy and brain-power left for my the end of the day when it is my blog’s time to shine.
Follow up question: Where do you get your ghostwriters from? At what point did you start hiring ghostwriters?
Some of my ghostwriters are my family, and I trained myself. One I found in a VA group. The other one found me on Facebook somehow, isn’t really in the blogging industry at all, but is a great writer and has been going gangbusters cranking out content.
I read every word, re-write things so they sound like ME and like how I’d actually talk, and add in bits and pieces in each post to make sure they get the full scope of how my experiences in addition to the Q&A-type of dialog that the ghostwriters focus on.
We are dorks in my household, so I have to ask, what is your favorite nerdy movie or book?
Nerdy movie. Hmmmm. I kind of half-watch TV these days, so traditionally nerdy shows have too many details for me to follow along with when watching like that.
I like shows where I can miss half the dialog and still have a semblance of what’s going on from show-to-show. That being said, I’m super digging Handmaid’s Tale, Outlander, Stranger Things, and was a big Game of Thrones fan before the big finale this year.
I watch Dazed and Confused and Empire Records anytime they are on TV, and secretly really love my daughter’s favorite TV show, Dr. Pol, and don’t even complain when she wants to watch an episode before bed.
What I Learned From Nicole and Her Blogging Success Story
Nicole really knows her stuff, but she also is humble enough to realize she doesn’t know everything. Here is a summary of what I learned from her interview:
- She treats her blog like a business, not a hobby, and gets results like it’s a business
- She values authenticity. Although she outsources, she still makes sure most of her content sounds like her
- She invests in tools to success like Ahrefs and SEM Rush that help her with SEO
- She asks questions and keeps learning
- She posts a lot
- She has found her tribe and puts emphasis on backlinks
- She’s a super nice person!!
- She asked for help! This is so important. All of the people I have interviewed so far (stay tuned for these posts) have hired out help, whether it’s writing, or virtual assisting in some way. HIRE ME TODAY
Go check out some of Nicole’s recipes.
Thank you to Nicole for providing honest advice and agreeing to do this interview.
Nicole Johnson is the VP of Support for Mediavine, the industry’s leading Ad Management provider. She’s been with them for 3 years, and has been in the business of supporting bloggers and content creators for the last 5 years having previously worked for CoSchedule as well. She blogs at OrWhateverYouDo.com (launched in 2010), a recipe blog that focuses heavily on grilling. When she isn’t emailing bloggers or blogging herself, she chases after her 17 children (okay only 7, but still), sings in various local bands, and is always after the perfect bowl of Ramen and the best karaoke bar.
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