If you already have your own blog, or are thinking of setting one up, you've undoubtedly read one or more of the beginner's guides to blogging that frequent the Internet. Blog often and provide unique, fresh, entertaining, accurate, and relevant information. That's the content of virtually all of those articles, but this information is only going to get you so far.
The information they provide will help you drive traffic to your blog, as long as you stick at it, and some of the more in depth articles may even give you a basic shove in the right gold paved direction. However, there will come a time when you're ready to take your blog to the next level.
Wordpress And Why We Believe It's Essential For A Successful Blog
First off, I feel this has to be said - if you're not using Wordpress then it's highly likely that you're missing out. Wordpress has the biggest collection of plugins, themes, and other features of any blogging platform and, of course, it's free. Rather than spend money on using another blogging platform, save your dollars to pay for a custom design or get help with marketing.
What Plugins Do For You
Plugins represent the greatest time saving addition to your blog, as well as the greatest opportunity to add increased features and functions that will help you take your blog to the next level. To really succeed in blogging for money, you need to start treating your blog like any website owner treats their website. This means you have to look at it like a business.
A Small Selection Of Top Notch Plugins
Wordpress plugins offer a huge range of different functions and features that you couldn't otherwise obtain. We've listed a few of what we believe to be the more important here but there are many others:
Google Sitemaps - The Google Sitemaps plugin automatically creates an XML sitemap, which can be submitted to many of the major search engines. It will also automatically inform them (ping) when you add any new posts or pages to your blog.
Firestats - There are several in-depth stat packages available as plugins but our personal favorite is the Firestats package. It is crucial that you track and act on the stats for your website. Knowing how your readers found your site can help you with promotion and improve your profit levels by giving you a clearer picture of exactly what your visitors are looking for. It's also good to know the topics that are working out and those that aren't.
Social Bookmarking - The social bookmarking plugin adds the links to the bottom of your posts that lets readers quickly and conveniently bookmark a post with their preferred social bookmarking site. Some of these sites can help you generate traffic and even improve your search ranking.
All In One SEO - The All In One SEO plugin enables you to add a title, description, and keywords to each of your posts. These can help improve search engine results and make your posts appear cleaner in the search results. It can also be used to ensure that visitors are highly targeted.
Related Entries - It's important to get traffic flowing around your posts because the more of your site a person views, the more likely they will be to click affiliate links or Adsense links. If your blog is entirely related to your business, they will be more likely to buy your products or pay for your services.
Adsense Deluxe - Don't let the name fool you. Adsense Deluxe provides a fast and efficient method of adding Adsense code to any post or page, with just a single tag, but it also does the same for Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN) ads.
Comment Subscription - The big benefit of a blog is that you can often persuade interested visitors to keep returning to your corner of the net. The comment subscription plug in further enables them to sign up and be notified of any responses to comments they have added.
Monetizing Your Blog
If you want to make money from your blog and you have a reasonable amount of traffic then the methods of advertising you use will quickly become an important topic to you. There are a lot of different ways to monetize a blog, and it would be damaging of me to try and tell you exactly what method will work without knowing at least a little about your blog. However, there are some things we will willingly share.
Don't Sell Out - There's a temptation for those with more mature blogs to write a post and review an item, website, or service and get paid for doing so. Our opinion on this can be summed up in pretty much one word or two; "don't" or "do not". You might think that you can write a genuinely informative piece and be completely open and honest without your readers ever realizing what you are doing but it is highly unlikely that this is the case.
Sponsorship - Sponsored advertising is a great way to monetize some blogs. Generally speaking (and there are exceptions), the more specific the topic of a blog, the more likely this will prove to be a viable advertising solution and it may be easier to bag sponsored ads than you think. And, because this is Wordpress, there are plugins that help you do it too (AdServe is a good one).
Affiliate Data Feeds - Most affiliate networks have some form of data feed or affiliate feed. If you intend to promote affiliate programs then make the most of these, but ensure that the feed fits with your site. Don't just slap up a bit of code and expect it to miraculously turn your hobby blog into a multi-million dollar, award winning blog because it takes careful planning, ad placement optimization, and some trial and error to get the best results. Guess what? There are numerous plugins to use with the Amazon affiliate program and other programs so make the most of them.
The final point we're going to cover in this, now extensive, article is whether or not you should join a blog network. A blog network is, unsurprisingly, a network of blogs. The overall aim and the method that connects the blogs differs with each network. Some may be connected by having different subdomains on the same main domain. Others may simply use the same banner. Similarly, some networks are established to bring profit to bloggers and (understandably) to the network owner. Other networks want nothing more than to promote a near state of hippie euphoria over one particular topic.
To Join Or Not To Join
It seems to have become a habit but we can't honestly tell you whether you should definitely join, or definitely not join, a blogging network. They work out for some by providing traffic, improving search rankings, and even helping out with the general blogging process. However, other blogs would fare better on their own, especially the more popular ones. Similarly, some networks are so powerful that they can generate thousands of hits to a blog instantly before you even submit a post, while your blog may carry a smaller network if you have good traffic levels.
The reason that a lot of bloggers do join a network is so that they can network with other bloggers. It provides a sense of belonging and can help develop blogging relationships. If you get invited or accepted into a particularly large network then you should consider trying it because it really can pay dividends but be warned that the large networks have pretty stringent guidelines that you must adhere to in order to be accepted.
What's Next For Your Blog?
This article covers some of the blogging factors that you need to look at when you consider taking your blog to the next level. Simply posting good content will often help you build traffic, but that's really all it will do. You need to monetize that traffic, and where possible, keep it returning over and over again. You should also employ some methods of further building your traffic, other than posting good posts.