How to write great content that gets shared.

In this part I’ll give you many of the writing tips I learned the hard way (by writing terrible blog posts when I started).

Writing Killer Headlines

What causes you to read a blog post?
The title!
It’s the most important thing. Without a good blog title, your post won’t ever get read. A great headline will cause people to click and read your blog.
A bad headline does the opposite.
There is an art and science to writing great headlines. Let’s keep it simple, so you don’t get too bogged down.

Here is an exercise you should try:
1. For every blog post write ten headlines (yes, 10) in five minutes.
2. Use a headline analyzer

Headline Analyzers

To create better headlines use a headline analyzer to check your ideas. Both of these are free:
• CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer; checks how good your headline is.
• Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer.
You’ll get different results from each because they measure things differently. One might give you a high score and the other a low score for the same headline.
Try not to get bogged down creating the perfect headline. A good headline is better than not publishing your post.
What do you do with all those extra headlines you wrote? Try different versions when you’re sharing your posts on social media. When you share your content, you don’t have to use the same title as the one on your blog.
AVOID USING ALL CAPS IN YOUR BLOG TITLE!
It makes it seem like you are yelling at the reader. Capitalizing one or two words for emphasis is OK!

Writing Really Long Posts

If you want to rank higher in search engine results write longer posts. A blog post that is 1,000 words long is seen as having greater value than a blog post that is 300 words long on the same subject.
Studies have proven this.
At a minimum, your blog posts should be 500 words long. If you have to choose writing three blog posts that are 500 words each or writing one long 1,500-word article on the same topic – write one long article.
I know what you’re thinking –
But I’ll have three articles instead of one!
The more time a reader spends on a single page the better. Search engines record the time readers spend on a page. My best blog posts are the ones that take over 5 minutes to read, and Google ranks them very high in search results.

Proofread, proofread, proofread

The grammar police will arrest you.
• They send emails
• They write nasty comments
• They will never come back to your blog if you write poorly
If English is your second language and you’re writing for an English audience, it’s even more important to get it correct. But there is an easy fix. Here is the exact process I have used to become a better writer.
1. Write first; Forget about spelling, proofreading, and grammar as you go along. Just write the dang post and get it 95% of the way there.
2. Proofread; Copy/paste your post into Grammarly (Grammarly is a free online proofreading tool). It catches most grammar and spelling errors.
3. Read your blog post out loud to yourself; You’ll catch any remaining errors including things you’ve written that don’t make any sense if you read what you’ve written out loud. Trust me – it works.
Note: I do not write in WordPress. I lost a really long article once because auto-save wasn’t turned on. I’ve never written my posts in WordPress since. I write in Evernote (it’s free) because it helps me keep my content organized.
That’s my process for every blog post. It’s simple, fast, and free. I don’t hire professional proofreaders, and I rarely get the grammar police contacting me.

Create a schedule and stick to it

To make money blogging, you have to blog. It may sound silly, but you can’t make money working if you don’t show up to work.
At a minimum, you should blog at least once a week. If you blog less frequently the chances of you making extra money decrease dramatically. You need content on your blog to attract readers.
If you don’t blog regularly, your readers may not come back or move on to other blogs.

The secret to a better writing

The best way to get better at writing (in fact the only way) is to write more and more.
Here’s a tidbit every blogger will tell you – the stuff you write first is going to be terrible. I know because my first blog posts were too. When you look back 2–3 years from now at your earlier posts, you’ll say the same thing we all say:
I can’t believe how bad this is!
It’s normal. A baby doesn’t get up one day and start running 5k races. They fall on their face and butt over and over again. Then they start to wobble a little. Then they fall back down. In a few weeks, they start walking. And so on.

I encourage you just to write. Your writing will get better. My blog writing has improved since I started. It’s because I kept doing it and reading other blogs to see what made their content great.

Action Items

1. Create a Content Calendar – Keep it simple. Write down the topic of each blog post you will write over the next 30 days. One per week each week for the next four weeks.
2. Create Ten Headlines – Try creating ten headlines for your next blog post using the Headline tools.
3. Read How To Write Great Blog Posts – In my How To Start a Blog Guide. I go into great detail about the structure and content of good writing.

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How to make money with affiliate income

You’ve probably asked yourself the same question. Can I do it too?
Yes!
When I started blogging, I never planned on making money with my blog (making money blogging is called monetizing). I had other ideas I wanted to pursue that would financially support my business:

• writing books (did that)
• building online courses (haven’t had time to do this yet)
• advertising on my podcast (not pursuing this right now)
• public speaking (did that)
• building a membership site (undecided on this one because it’s a bit time consuming)
Then I started learning about affiliate marketing and how easy it was to monetize a blog. Eighteen months after starting my blog when I first focused on monetizing it, I made $11,400 in my first month.
I share that with you because there is plenty of opportunities for new bloggers to make money. The thing that gets me is if I had known then what I know now (and what I will share with you), I could have made money with my blog much sooner. Lesson learned!
Keep this in mind – I’m new to blogging too. While I’m not new to online business, I’ve never had a serious blog like I do now. And I’m just getting started. That’s proof new bloggers are still making money.
I’ve met bloggers at conferences that made $50,000 – $100,000 in their first year! It’s crazy, and it’s possible.
It doesn’t matter how crowded you think a particular topic is (there are thousands of personal finance bloggers like me) there is room for you to carve out a piece of the pie for yourself.

How can you make money blogging?

I’m going to walk you through each of these topics in the upcoming lessons. But let’s look at the many ways you can make money with:
• Affiliate marketing (which is free to do)
• Selling ebooks.
• Advertising on your blog.
• Freelancing and writing for other blogs and websites.
• Having sponsored posts on your blog.
What’s nice about some of these are they are passive income streams. Meaning your blog has the potential to make money 24 x 7.
• while you sleep
• while you’re on vacation
• while you are watching T.V.

How long does it take to make money blogging?

My first month of monetizing my blog I made several thousands of dollars. But that occurred after I had been blogging for months. But do the maths – I’m estimating my business will earn six-figures in ** the second year**. And I’ve never monetized a blog before!
Realistically, I could have made money much, much sooner, but I focused on other parts of my business.
Yes, you can make money blogging, but it isn’t a get-rich-quick business. It’s like building any business. It takes time, effort, and persistence. But the more you invest in yourself, the faster you’ll become successful.
I’ve read a story in Forbes magazine about a mother on welfare who built a 7-figure online business in a little over a year. There are some bloggers that earn six-figures after one year, and others that earn several thousand dollars on the side after a few months of blogging.
Anything is possible. If you’re a hard worker and a go getter, you can really shine.

Making Money Blogging With Affiliate Income

Let’s start making some passive income from your blog through affiliate income.
I love affiliate income. It’s simple – your blog acts as a salesperson selling products. But there is:
• no inventory
• no costs of any kind
• no shipping of products
• no investment
• no fees to sign up and get started
It sounds almost too good to be true – but it’s real and 100% legit.
Let me give you an example. Let’s start with the biggest affiliate program in the world – Amazon.
Here is a link to a cookbook on Amazon (go ahead and click it).
A new window will open up and take you right to Amazon where you can buy the book. If you bought that book, I would earn an affiliate commission from Amazon. Let’s call it $0.50.
If you’re over at Amazon, you might decide today is the day you’re going to spring for that new T.V. that costs $400. If you buy it, I get an affiliate commission on that too. We’ll call it $25 because I sent Amazon the referral.
All I had to do was put a link in my blog to the cookbook. That’s it. Someone visits your blog where you talk about the Joy of Cooking, and they click the link. The link takes them to Amazon. If they buy the Joy of Cooking (or anything else), you earn a commission.
It’s free to sign up and become an Amazon affiliate (it’s called the Amazon Associates affiliate program). You can earn up to 10% in commissions.
Affiliate income comes from links on your blog where you mention products you love. You might review a product or include a link as part of a personal story – I bought this awesome shirt on Amazon for my upcoming trip!
Here are some of the things on my blog I have Amazon affiliate links for:
• lightbulbs
• medical kits
• my favorite business books
• energy efficiency products for your home
• podcasting equipment
No matter what you blog about, there are going to be products for which you can have an affiliate link.
And the best part is the links on your blog may be around for years. You can end up earning money from an affiliate link for something you wrote about three years ago. That’s the great thing about passive income – it just keeps coming.

How to get started with Affiliate Income

Here are the step-by-step instructions to get started with affiliate income. Remember all of these programs are FREE to join.

1. Join affiliate programs

I mentioned Amazon in our example, but there are many other affiliate programs available.

• Amazon Affiliate Program
• AvantLink
• Commission Junction
• Flex Offers
• MaxBounty
• ShareASale

Some product websites have an affiliate program which may not be listed. If you have a product you love contact the company directly and see if they have an affiliate program.
You just have to click the link and go through the sign-up process. Amazon is the easiest and has been around the longest. You should at least sign up for Amazon to get started.

2. Promote the link on your blog

There are different ways to promote a product:
Product reviews
Consider doing a book review or writing an in-depth product review. In the first month of blogging, I did a few in-depth product reviews. These pages are some of the most highly visited on my website.
Product comparisons
Comparing two different products side-by-side helps your readers weigh the pros and cons of each. By helping them make a decision, you help build a loyal fan base.
You can see an example of where I compared two budgeting software products here.
There are many photography bloggers that talk about camera equipment. Camera equipment can be very expensive, and the affiliate commissions can be much larger.
Resources/recommendations page
Many people will be interested in what tools and resources you use to do stuff.
It doesn’t have to be fancy – just a picture, product name, and a description. To go the extra mile include a brief summary of why you like the product.
Mentioning the product in what you write about.
This one is easy. If you are writing an article on baking a cake, for example, you can include a link to the cake pan you like to use in the recipe.
Creating tutorials
You help your readers by saving them time with step-by-step tutorials. You can document anything that involves assembly or a process.
You can even document something that already has documentation if you think you can do it better! Just think about YouTube videos you’ve watched on how to do or fix something because the manufacturer’s documentation doesn’t make sense. I look up tutorials all the time on how to use the features of software I own.
There are several step-by-step tutorials on website for using different personal finance products. If I like the product, I’ll include an affiliate link.

Tips for good product promotion

Honesty
Be honest in your review. Giving a glowing review of a bad product just to try to earn affiliate income is a bad idea. When you are honest and help your blog readers, they will reward you with loyalty and become a life long fan. That’s worth much more because they will help share your blog to other people.

Promote the benefits

People buy things because it helps solve their problems or makes them feel better:
• Does it save them time? (This ceramic pan cleans up in a flash!)
• Does it save them money? (This book shows you how to save money on groceries)
• Will it help them make more money? (This course gives you a proven plan to getting your dream job)
• Will it help them relax? (This herbal tea will help you sleep better)
I promote Betterment as a fantastic way to get started investing because it’s easy and only takes ten minutes to start saving for an awesome retirement.
The better you become at sharing the benefits of a product, the more likely the person is to purchase the product.
Good product placement
The longer your blog post, the more you can talk about a product or service. But that doesn’t mean you should include a link in every paragraph.
If it’s a short article, 1–2 times may be enough.
For longer blog articles it’s OK to include a link at the beginning, middle, and at the very end.

Action items

1. Sign up for free to Amazon’s affiliate program.
2. Write a blog post about some product you like and include an affiliate link to it in your post.

How to create your own blog

In this part you’ll start a blog on WordPress.

It’s simple – if you want to be a successful blogger you need to run your blog on a successful platform.

Let me give you an analogy – if you wanted to open a successful restaurant, would you use ingredients you could find for free? Of course not because who knows what you kind of ingredients you would be getting at no cost. You would start with the best ingredients you could afford.

Lucky for you – it doesn’t cost much to get started blogging (in other words, it’s the cheapest business you’ll ever start). You can get a good quality restaurant up and be running without breaking the bank. Plus if you decide you don’t want to be a chef, you get a 100% money back guarantee. Not bad!

Where to get started

WordPress is the #1 blogging software in the world. If you want to start a WordPress blog for cheap, going with Bluehost to run your blog is the answer. You can start your blog with Bluehost for as low as $2.95 a month (a discounted rate I personally negotiated and that is available only through my link on. Plus they give you a free domain name if you go with the 12-month hosting plan (that’s a $15 value).

The best investment you can make is signing up for the 12-month hosting plan through Bluehost. You save money by signing up for at least 12 months.

If you change your mind later, you can get a refund at any time. In six months if you decide to get a refund (you won’t because you’ll enjoy blogging so much), you can get a partial refund for your unused time.

Why pay for hosting?

You can find free blogging services like Blogger where you could start a blog. I already mentioned how that would be like using free ingredients to cook with and start a restaurant.
Here’s what’s important – if you ever want to:
• make money off your blog
• make money off your freelancing
• build a successful business
• have a professional looking website that attracts visitors and customers
you have to pay for hosting.

The reason is simple – customization and flexibility. Free blogging services like Blogger don’t allow you to add all of the features available with paid hosting. Such as:
• shopping carts
• advertising
• speed enhancements to improve the user experience
• free add-ons to make your site look better
• access to thousands of free WordPress plugins (custom functions and features so that each blogger can tailor their site to their specific needs) I would never in my life start a new website with a “free” blogging or “free” website platform. If you do, within months your website is going to start growing, and you’re going to have to switch to a paid platform anyway. You will have thrown away all that time (and lost money in the process).

I’ll give you another analogy. With free hosting, it’s like renting an apartment that has steel walls. You can’t use a hammer and nails to hang pictures, install shelves, put up wallpaper or hang a TV mount.

With paid hosting, your apartment is like a modular office space you can customize however you want. You can move the walls around, put nails in to hang pictures everywhere you want, install shelves, mount five TVs around the place, etc. Heck, you can even cut a hole in the wall and stick in a new window if you want.

You need to be able to customize your site if you want to make money.

For example, if you want to make money from advertising, advertisers prefer professional looking websites. A professional looking website is much harder to get with the free blogging services, which is just one more reason to go with a hosting platform like Bluehost.

Why Use Bluehost?

Here is why I trust and recommend Bluehost to new bloggers:
• Amazing 24×7 support via phone, e-mail, or chat. If you have questions on getting started or setup, you can get help quickly and easily
• It’s easy to get started. My 15-minute tutorial walks you through step-by-step how to get started blogging. It really is that easy to start a WordPress blog.
• FREE blog domain – Bluehost will give you a domain name for free such as http://www.MyAwesomeBlog.com
• 100% Money Back Guarantee – Bluehost has a 30-day money back guarantee
• FREE WordPress setup. WordPress is the blogging software used by the majority of bloggers. Bluehost includes an easy setup for adding WordPress.
• Reliability – Bluehost websites are up 99.9% of the time. Reliability is important because if your blog is down, you don’t make any money.
• Self-hosting- If your goal is to make money from your blog you have to have a self-hosted blog. Self-hosting just means you are paying to host the blog yourself using a service, as opposed to using a free service that hosts it for you.
• You’ll look professional – Free blogs like Blogger, Tumblr, or WordPress.com limit you in various ways and appear less professional than self-hosted blogs.
• It’s cheap! Price matters. And when you have quality and price, it’s a win-win for you. Bluehost starts at just $2.95 per month (a discounted rate available through my link) which is less than a cup of coffee!
When you are ready to get started. There are a lot of blog hosting companies you might come across.

Naming your blog

What if you can’t think of a name for your blog?
One challenge of getting started blogging has nothing to do with writing or setting up the blog. It’s figuring out what to name your blog!
You might think all the good names are taken! It just takes time to find the right one for you.
Even if you can’t think of one yet, you can get your blog setup and finish up the name later. I’ve worked on a lot of websites where we had an idea (our adoption website) and started developing it, only to settle on a name weeks later.
If you’re stuck on picking a name check out the book
Action Items
1. Sign up for a blog host (Bluehost is the one I recommend) and get WordPress installed. You can follow my step-by-step instructions.
2. Start thinking about a name for your blog

What should I blog about?

I get this question a lot when people are thinking about starting a business too. What kind of business should I start?
Try this quick 10-minute exercise:
• Take a sheet of paper
• Draw a line down the middle, so there are two columns
• In the left column take 5-minutes and write down everything you are passionate about
• In the right column take 5-minutes and write down everything you are an expert on.
• Circle everything that overlaps in the two lists.
The overlap is called your ‘Zone of Genius‘. It’s where you take something you know about (you’re an expert in) and that you would be passionate about writing.
Here’s the thing – if you pick a topic you’re only mildly interested in, you won’t stick with it. It’s a waste of your time, and you won’t be successful.
I’m an expert cake baker, but I only bake 1–2 cakes a year. I’m not that passionate about baking. I used to be when I was single and had nothing better to do on the weekends. It wouldn’t make sense for me to start a cake blog because I’d likely flame out and quit.

What if I’m not an expert?

For some reason people don’t realize this:
No one starts out as an expert at anything. You become an expert.
Let me share with you all the things I’ve become an ‘expert‘ on since I’ve started blogging that I wasn’t an expert on before:
• Publishing a book
• Producing a podcast
• Creating well-written blog posts
• Public speaking
• Explaining complex financial topics in easy-to-understand terms
• Search engine optimization (SEO)
• And LOTS of other things
Someone once said if you read three books on a subject you’re an expert. Why? Because 99.99% of the population hasn’t read even one book on the subject.
The reason I’m an ‘expert‘ on everything in that list is that I learned how to do it. Plus – I kept practicing until I got better. You can do the same. If you have an interest or passion, wouldn’t you enjoy learning more about it? And the process of learning would be fun, right? It wouldn’t be a drag. If it is, you might consider a different topic to write on.
I thoroughly enjoy learning more about personal finance and sharing that knowledge with others so they can improve their lives. I also happen to enjoy the business side of things and learning how to reach more people so I can help them too.

Realize you don’t have to be an expert

That’s right – you don’t have to be an expert.
I didn’t drop into this industry as an expert. It was a process. Over time you will become known as an expert.
If you’re just starting out learning about how to make awesome cheap sandwiches, for example, you build your blog and community around your newfound expertise on making awesome cheap sandwiches.
You can then package that expertise into an ebook, digital course, printed book, or advertising opportunities.
If you teach someone how to make a great sandwich, you’re an expert sandwich maker to that person. You only need to know a little more than someone else to be an expert in their eyes.
Sometimes just documenting your journey from beginner, to intermediate skills, to expert, will make you an expert.
For example, I documented some of my beekeeping journey on my website. I’m two years in, which makes me an expert compared to anyone who hasn’t bought bees yet.
You can document anything you want to get good at, or that’s occurring in your life:
• motherhood
• baking cakes
• gardening
• getting a pilot’s license
• how to buy a classic car
• being more productive
Look at the movie Julia and Julia. It is based on someone preparing all 524 recipes in Julia Childs’ landmark cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And that journey got turned into a movie!
What I’m saying is – the sky is the limit. You can document your journey about anything.
I’ve met plenty of personal finance bloggers that are or were deep in debt. They blogged about getting out of debt.
Many of them now make over six-figures per year blogging.

Just write

When I say start, I got WordPress set up on Bluehost.
Then I went down the rabbit hole of trying to make my blog look pretty.
I spent the first six weeks trying to make my site look amazing. I didn’t write a single blog post for nearly two months. I spent the whole time making the graphics look nice, figuring out the structure, the menus. I revised my logo so many times to make it perfect.
What I didn’t do was write anything.
I wasted a lot of time. Finally, I said to myself – when are you ever going to write something and publish it!
Perfection is the Enemy of Good.
Just write. Write anything. People are curious, and they want to get to know you. If you have to write about what you did this weekend and file it under your My Life folder on your blog – that’s great!

Action items

Decide what you want to blog about! Figure out your Zone of Genius and pick from there, or decide on something where you’ll document the journey.
Then tell the world about it because your friends and family will hold you accountable. Post it to Facebook or tell a close friend. But don’t let the naysayers get you down. You can earn a living as a blogger, and you can do it.

Why should you blog

Why would anyone want to blog? There are plenty of reasons. And it’s still a great time to get started. Check out this list and see some of the reasons why.

1. It’s fun and rewarding

Blogging is fun. I get to write about things I enjoy and I meet people online who share similar interests.

I spent most of my career sitting behind a computer. At one of my jobs we worked in a room with no windows that we called the cave. Don’t get me wrong – I love being behind a computer. But there isn’t much social interaction.

When I decided I was going to flip my life on its head and do exactly the opposite of everything I’ve ever done:
• help people with their problems
• go to conferences and meet people

my entire outlook on life changed. I get to help people with their finances. I’m making a difference.

2. You’ll make new friends

I have made so many new friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s amazing! Relationships might start out as comments on a post, replying to a Tweet, or an email.
My virtual friends end up becoming people I hang out with who live close by, or people I see at conferences. I have a whole bunch of new people I’ve met that I consider friends.
Often you might feel alone –
Am I the only person out there that likes Tonkinese cats?
But if you start blogging about Tonkinese cats, suddenly other Tonkinese cat lovers find you. And because of your common interest, you quickly form a common bond.
Blogging is a great way to meet like-minded people that share your hobbies, beliefs, values, and goals.

3. You’ll learn new things

I am a life-long learner. I would visit the library once a week, check out the new releases, and pick up any book that looked interesting.

The reason I love writing about personal finance is that there is so much to learn. From extreme couponing to 403(b) annuities to tax deductions through conservation easements (haven’t heard of that one, have you?)
No matter what subject you pick to write about – even if it’s you – there are new things to discover. Writing is just putting your thoughts to paper. You can have an opinion, observation, or just ask questions.

There is no need to become a research specialist when it comes to learning. Everything you could want to know is available online.

4. You’ll challenge yourself

I am an introvert. What was surprising to me at the last conference I attended were how many people stood up in front of a room full of people and said:
• I am an introvert.
• I am shy.

Blogging is a way to break through the limiting beliefs that are holding you back from experiencing your best life.

If you want to remain behind the scenes and write for the pure joy of it – that’s ok too! Nothing says you have to do a road tour and meet all of your readers.
But everyone I’ve heard from and talk to say the same thing:
Getting out of my comfort zone and putting myself out there was the best decision I ever made.

5. You can grow a business

In just 18 months of blogging here is a list of the amazing opportunities I’ve had:
• Speaking at a big financial conference
• Being interviewed on the radio
• Being interviewed on dozens of podcasts with a reach of hundreds of thousands of listeners.
All of these help build my brand and grow my business.

6. You can save on taxes

You won’t find this reason mentioned except on a personal finance blog.
Blogging is a business. When you make money from it, you become a business owner.
There is a different tax code for business owners, and the benefits are HUGE.
Now I do not claim to be a tax expert (I am probably compared to you, but I’m not going to do your taxes). I’ve been a small business owner since 2000. The number of deductions you can take if you own a business compared to a non-business owner is incredible. I can write-off all my travel expenses (not for my kids, but my food, plane ticket, lodging, etc.).
Because I have a home office, I deduct 10% of all my utilities as a business expense (my office makes up 10% of the size of my house).
If you run your business expenses through a credit card, you can accumulate points for free benefits.
You can end up with thousands of dollars in deductions.
I do want to point out there are IRS rules for having a legitimate business. I won’t get into them here. Bottom line – if you start a blog, and your blog starts making money – you have a business.
Seek out a tax expert so you can take advantage of the tax benefits of being a small business owner.

7. You have something to say

That’s right – you have something to say! Everyone does.
Right now you might be wondering – what should I blog about?
Tomorrow I’ll give you a sure-fire way to find the one thing you’ll love to write about.

8. To have financial freedom

While this guide is about how to make money blogging, money is just a tool to achieve your goals in life.
People can tell in your writing if you are passionate about something. You could make a lot of money blogging about fashion for example. But if you aren’t fashionable or don’t care much for fashion, you’re much less likely to succeed. And you want to succeed, right?
There are dozens of things I could have blogged about and made a lot more money, but I like helping people with their money. One guy put it appropriately –
You’re going to start a business that helps broke people who don’t have any money to pay you?
Yes. Because for me, the opportunities to build a profitable business extend beyond helping those who may be broke.
Blogging is a path to financial freedom. Like any other job, it will take time and effort. However being a blogger, you’re in the driver’s seat. You’re the boss. You work as much or as little as you want.

Action items

Every part in this series includes one small, manageable step. So are you ready to get started?
All I want you to do is write down the reasons you want to blog. You can certainly pick more than one!
Writing for writing’s sake (journaling) is great to record your life and events. But if you want to be a successful blogger and achieve some of those things in the list I mentioned, you need to know your Big Why.
Knowing your Big Why is what’s going to motivate you to follow through and take each daily action.