Let’s begin with a disclaimer: This page (actually, this entire website) is intended for bloggers who are deadly serious about reaping a full-time, sustainable income. The rules for us (online entrepreneurs) are different than the rules for people who just want to write about what they love, or they just want a $350/month side hustle that pays off the annual 2-week vacation. If that’s you, you’re welcome to stick around, but realize these rules may not apply to you.
Rule # 1: Don't Write, Blog
Blogging is not writing.
Writing, you see, is a romantic exercise involving a vintage typewriter, rain dripping down window panes, characters on adventurous quests, plot arcs, that sort of thing.
Blogging is getting people to read your stuff so you make money.
Blogging is backlinking, image compressing, Seach Console browsing, keyword analysis, plugin research – and yes, writing also.
Too many people try and fail “blogging” because they thought simply writing down their wisdom and offering it to the world on a digital plate was enough. That’s not. That’s called keeping an online diary.
Rule # 2: Blog, Don't Influence
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pintereset, Reddit, Tiktok, SnapChat, YouTube, Tumblr, LinkedIn …
Fast-forward 30 days, and I’m sure that list will change (or at least change in order of importance).
There is a difference between being a blogger and an influencer. You don’t need to be both.
The simple difference is blogging is about education; influencing is about enticing.
Becoming a social media influencer demands a constant online presence with a the-follower-is-always-right mentality. It’s driven by the short lifecycles of social media platforms.
Blogging is about building top-notch content, publicly available, that will find a good home no matter what search engine or social media platform finds it first.
You can use social media platforms as megaphones to broadcast attention to your site, but it’s not obligated. Too many times, bloggers exhaust themselves on the social media hamster wheel rather than focusing their energies on actual site readers.
Rule # 3: (Quality) Content Is King!
“Content” alone isn’t key.
I came of age in the Internet during the era of the content mills like Associated Content and Yahoo. These websites churned out written content like grains of sand from a Sahara sandstorm. The theory was simple: The internet is empty // let’s fill it up // make money on ads.
Associated Content no longer exists, which should tell you something about this strategy.
It is estimated roughly 10,000 new websites are created every hour. To become a shark above the fish, average quality isn’t enough.
- Clarifies. It cuts through the confusion and offers a clear mental path forward.
- Educates. It answers a search question or relieves a reader’s pain point.
- Entices. What’s meat and potatoes without a little salt? Sprinkle your content with multimedia aids or clever writing to season the reading experience.
Rule # 4: Money, not Views
You know what page views are good for?
You can’t put butter on a page view. You can’t hold it, hug it or sell it. It’s not an asset; it’s not convertible. You can’t deposit a page view in a bank.
Yet too many bloggers focus on growth to the detriment of profit.
Don’t misunderstand me – growth is a necessary avenue to income! But growth leads to profit, not the other way around. One is not gainful for its own sake.
As a business blogger, your #1 goal should be developing a sustainable income. If you’re obsessively checking your AdSense clicks or Jetpack page views daily, then what are you really focused on? Are you doing anything with that information, or are you just indulging your vanity while the real, grimy work goes undone?
Rule # 5: Monetize Now
I’m not suggesting you slap an AdSense anchor ad on every page on your website from day one.
(Actually, that’s an awful idea).
But monetization doesn’t start when the money comes in; it starts NOW. You’re planting seeds. You’ll reap later. But what farmer doesn’t sow the field without a plan for the harvest?
What’s your long-term strategy for monetization?
- Targeted display advertisements?
- Online courses?
- Product affiliate marketing?
- SAAS affiliate marketing?
- Impression-based ad revenue? (which, by the way, is the ambulance-chasing of the blogosphere).
How are you going to get people to part with their money? What can you offer them that’s so darn good they’ll pay you for it? Should you be investing your time creating long-form written content for repeat visitors or building an online storefront? Pick a plan and stick to it.
Rule # 6: Blog, Don't SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a strategy for amplification, not for creating quality.
Relying on your position in the SERPs to justify your content quality is like hawking your wares on a street corner by screaming at the top of your lungs and assuming because everyone can hear you that you have higher quality.
You know what Google recommends over and over and over again? WRITE FOR YOUR READER. If you want proof, just read Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines.
Some of the best software engineers, data analysts, and statisticians in the world are communing in Silicon Valley, figuring out how to appraise the relevancy and value of written content.
And you think some clever keyword stuffing in your H3 headings is going to fool them?
SEO follows the Pareto Principle: 20% of SEO does 80% of the work. Learn the basics of search engine optimization, and let Google and Bing and the other search engines do the rest. You can’t hack your way to success – the days of churn n’ burn black hat SEO have come to an end.
Rule # 7: Climb the Ladder of Originality
The Holy Grail of content is often called “relevancy.”
I disagree. I think relevancy is #2. As the web gets bigger and better, I think the #1 rule for blog content is exclusivity. You need content that can withstand the crashing waves of time and brutal competition. You must craft content that cannot be easily stolen, scraped or bought and passed off as someone else’s.
So I devised the Ladder of Originality. Where do you fall on this ladder, and do you have plans to reach the top?
Bottom Rung 7: Keyword Spamming
Rarely seen since the 00’s, keyword spamming is the black hat practice of squeezing a plethora of thematically-related keywords into a page in order to trick a search engine algorithm. It doesn’t work anymore.
Rung 6: Copy and Paste
More euphemistically known as autoblogging, copy and pasting someone else’s content is just about useless. Even backlink attribution just barely elevates this content above the level of outright theft. Copy-and-pasting in any form adds no value and has no profitable future, because you are only stealing someone else’s audience.
Rung 5: Spun Content
Spun content is rewritten from an original source in order to dodge a search engine penalty to pass off the content as your own. This is a form of theft, of course, and adds no short- or long-term value. It is also a popular strategy, making it easy to overcome.
Rung 4: Rewritten Content
Next is rewritten content, again based on an original source, but may include additional information. The tone, style and sentence structure of the original content has been rephrased, even overhauled. The author may use a different voice or fresh perspective. This content is ethically allowable, but because the barrier to entry is so low, it is not a reliable foundation for an online business.
Rung 3: Amalgamated Content
Amalgamated content is essentially a roundup of related information to a common topic. For instance, if you “write” a list-style article by picking three or four competitor articles, choosing the best list entries from among them (and maybe adding one or two f your own), then you’ve essentially amalgamated the content. You haven’t brought anything out of the dust, but you have added value (hopefully) as an anthology.
Rung 2: Original Content
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere! Original content is written from scratch, with research only used to obtain the underlying facts. Original content is extremely valuable, as only the author can write with a particular voice or perspective. If the quality of research is high or the author is an expert in the topic, this content will be extremely difficult to beat.
Rung 1: Original Research
At the top of the ladder is original research. Like original content, all writing is creative and inspired, but unlike original content, the underlying research itself is exclusive. This could be a face-to-face interview, an expert roundup post, unique data or unique data analysis. Obtaining this research can demand a LOT of time, because it doesn’t exist yet!
When combined with good writing, original research is almost impossible to beat, and it’s responsible for most of the organic backlinks on the web.
Rule # 8: Build an Assembly Line
Most of my websites have a Plain Jane backend: WordPress CMS, Elementor Hello Theme, Elementor Pro page builder, hosted on Bluehost. You can’t get any more vanilla than that.
- One of the benefits of vanilla web development is that I can sell a website to just about anyone on the planet and they’ll be able to work with it.
- Or I can hire a Virtual Assistant with experience in this software combination.
- Plus, WordPress and Elementor are so popular that dozens of websites and YouTube channels provide free tutorials.
- If Elementor ever goes under, it’s so big that other companies will pop up to fill the gap. I won’t be left with outdated software and no support.
As a business blogger, you want to build an assembly line: a repeatable process that gets you the end results you want. So don’t reinvent the wheel.