Successful bloggers have a competitive edge that helps them rise above the pack.
Very few bloggers have a business strategy. Learning how to start a successful blog is a step by step process.
For many, blogging is a hobby or a fun way to extend their online interaction. Don’t worry, there is nothing wrong with that at all because it is one of the main attractions of blogging.
However, there are more and more bloggers who would like to get serious about it as a business and make money blogging.
Like all small businesses, blogging can succeed, and be very profitable, if the core competencies are set in place.
Starting a blog without knowing what the target market or market segment is, means that there is no focus strategy.
Put simply; there is no plan in place to reach people who are interested in the blog’s product or service.
When the service you are offering on a blog is, say, manuscript editing, you will achieve greater value by targeting authors as opposed to writers.
Sure, writers can be authors, but writers can also be content writers, poets, journalists or bloggers.
Understanding this differentiation strategy will become a cost advantage. Wasting time and money targetting people who will never buy your product or service is money and time down the drain.
It can be summed up by a quote from Michael Porter. “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
Trying to sell high-quality handcrafted dog collars at a premium price to a generalised target market of pet owners is not as effective as specifically targeting fashion conscious dog owners.
How to blog with a sustainable competitive advantage
That sounds like a complicated Wall Street term. But it is not.
All it means is that you should look at a blog as a business. Try to do things better than your competitors over the long term by having a comparative advantage.
One popular blogging term for creating superior performance is called the Skyscraper Technique.
It works by taking ideas and concepts from the top five blog posts or articles on search engines on a particular subject and then producing something much better.
Succeeding with this approach can create credibility for a new product or service, which leads to sales. Then hopefully, sales lead to brand loyalty, which is really just a term for returning or repeat clients and customers.
Blogging can be very profitable because of the economies of scale. The costs involved in setting up and maintaining a blog are extremely low compared to the returns, or profit, that can be made.
Forget about using a free blog platform or a free domain. Installing WordPress is the only way to get your blog up and running.
It costs next to nothing to register a domain name, create a blog and pay for a hosting company. Bloggers making money all use WordPress.
When you are designing your blog from your WordPress dashboard, make sure you use a fast premium theme. Speed is crucial now for mobile traffic.
However, to succeed in WordPress blogging and monetize your blog, you have to attract the right customers. But how can you do that?
If you could find a way to access your blog competitors’ traffic, wouldn’t that be a good idea and a huge advantage?
Well, you can, and it is surprisingly easy.
All you need to do is identify the keywords your competitors are ranking for that are getting a lot of traffic. Then you can use these specific keywords as your target keywords in your articles or posts.
Of course, you have to write great content to compete, but that is the essence of digital marketing.
Remember though, that a lot of people can write great content, but not very many know how to target it using competitive keyword rankings.
If you are determined to make a living or even a part-time income from blogging, you have probably read a lot of articles like this one. I did exactly the same when I was in the process of trying to figure out how I could do it too.
So, here is my story … so far.
I stopped thinking about getting oodles of traffic
Almost every article about successful blogging talks about increasing Google traffic and has graphs skyrocketing over a very short period of time.
I tried this approach for a long time. Yes, I got more traffic by leveraging social media, writing more posts and using clever, almost clickbait titles. I was getting lots of blog comments and referral traffic too. But the money didn’t roll in.
It was frustrating because I thought I was doing everything right.
The penny dropped when I read an article nearly two years ago about aiming for targetted traffic. I apologise because I didn’t bookmark the article. I wish I had.
But the thrust of it was that not all traffic is desirable traffic.
A good case in point is Google Adsense. If you attract a defined target group to your blog, Google can better target their ads on your site, and you get a better click-through rate and higher earnings.
If you are offering a service, you will get more enquiries and more sales.
However, if you are using broadly targeted Facebook Ads to get traffic, for instance, you will get a huge amount of traffic that are just happy clickers. They have no real interest in your product or service and never read your blog posts in full.
Around a year ago, I started to change my approach to blogging and concentrated on getting higher quality traffic.
It started with a complete revamp of my site and removing a lot of weak content. Then I wrote a whole lot of new, longer and far more informative content. I also stopped using Facebook Ads and cut back my social media activity in general by around 75%.
I expected a substantial initial drop off in overall traffic by taking this approach.
But it didn’t occur. Instead, this happened.
The first few months saw a steady increase in traffic. Then, where you can see the green arrow, I bit the bullet.
Making the tough decision
I admit to being a miser. So spending what I thought was a lot of money per month on a keyword research tool was a big leap into the dark for me.
After doing a LOT of research, and procrastinating, and putting off a decision for as long as I could, I finally did it.
I decided on paying for Semrush because it was the best choice for competitive keyword analytics and keyword rankings. In other words, it looked like the best one to do some spying.
At first, I was lost. There was just so much information and data suddenly available at my fingertips; I didn’t know where to begin. There were so many tools on offer, but I realised I had to take the time to learn how to use them.
For the first month with my expensive new toolkit, I should have been wearing big blue learner plates.
Slowly though, I managed to grasp things little by little and began with a full technical site audit and analysing my keyword rankings. I had to re-learn how to build a blog.
Semrush provides so many ways to do organic research. It is an SEO tool that lets you look for common keywords you share with a competitor, then build a list of keywords they are using, but you are not.
You can then zero in on one or more and look for a related keyword or more long tail keywords.
Well, suffice to say it does so many things I couldn’t do before.
So what happened next?
Here is a blow by blow account of how my blog improved.
Overall traffic rose and continues rising every month. The last point in the graph is only a projection.
More importantly, my targeted keywords started ranking and increasing in number.
Month on month growth is very steady.
That’s all well and good, but what about the money?
As I have shown you, my site traffic has grown slowly and steadily. No big jumps. But the quality of the traffic has changed, and it is why the next few graphs are so different.
My blog has three income streams. Advertising and promotion, affiliate income and a book promotion service.
The biggest surprise for me has been Gooogle Adsense. Although it has always been a steady earner, recent months have seen a very big increase.
As for services and affiliate income, the result has been similarly positive and growing.
But to make money, you need to spend money, and I have. Apart from the monthly charge for Semrush, I have invested in some technical site improvements.
The adage that you need to spend money to make money is true.
My aim is to make blogging my full-time occupation because it is something I really enjoy. I love writing, learning and technology, so it’s a great fit for me.
That is not as easy as it sounds, because I live in Switzerland and the cost of living is extremely expensive. But, as of today, I am halfway there. This is after only around a year of starting to take blogging very seriously.
My blog’s domain authority has improved a lot, particularly over the last six months, and this is a very big factor in gaining more traffic from Google.
My next step is to understand backlink auditing and link building better because I know these are still weak areas for me.
As I said at the beginning of this article, having a competitive advantage makes all the difference.
I have it now, I’m using it, and it is working brilliantly for me.
Give me another year, and I hope to get to my aim of being able to make blogging my full-time occupation.
Pro blogging is not for everyone. But if you want to learn more, you can use many the features of Semrush with a free account.
Related reading: There’s More To Blog Writing Than You Think