Like most of you probably I like stories about people who get rich through blogging. It’s incredibly motivating, and it’s great to see people who are able to make a living by providing valuable content that meets their audience’s needs.
What I don’t love are all the people who get into blogging because they see others making money (especially those who fail to disclose just how tough this business can be). The result – as you’ve likely seen online – is beginning blogs sprouting up every day on how to make money online or lose weight fast. It doesn’t matter that the authors themselves have no prior experience in these areas – like “monkey see, monkey do,” they see other people experiencing success with these topics and decide to try it themselves!
The truth is that there are tons of different ways to make money online. And, in general, it’s far more sustainable to find a blog topic you’re passionate about that will let you connect deeply with your target audience than to dive into a generic blogging avenue, simply because someone else has succeeded there in the past.
So let’s take a look at some case studies to see how real people are making a living blogging about the topics that matter most to their lives. After that, I’ll give you a step-by-step process you can follow to launch your own non-traditional blog on a subject you’re actually passionate about (not just one that you think will make you money).
Ready to get started? Let’s do it…
Case Study #1 – Nathalie Lussier of RawFoodsWitch.com
According to owner Nathalie Lussier, Raw Foods Witch is:
“[A]ll about taking a holistic approach to healing yourself and your relationship to food. I believe raw foods can heal you on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level because I’ve personally experienced it myself”.
Lussier founded the site to help others experience the benefits of raw foods, and she’s done an exceptionally good job connecting with this audience and offering a range of products that serve her overall goal. Currently, the site offers downloadable ebooks, affiliate product recommendations and a paid membership option – all of which enable Lussier to make a comfortable living, entirely online!
Case Study #2 – Keith Snow of HarvestEating.com
Keith Snow is an online chef who helps people to make better use of local and seasonal ingredients through a low-key, approachable method of instruction. In addition to offering paid access to his collection of innovative recipes, Snow’s line of healthy, locally-sourced physical products provide an extra stream of revenue for his business.
In an interview with Pat Flynn, Snow asserted that he’d already signed up more than 1,000 to his website’s membership programs – a number that helps him to live comfortably off the revenue produced by his website alone.
When asked about the advice he’d give to other bloggers operating in non-traditional industries, Snow had this to say:
“You’ve got to focus on something that’s small and you’re going to ?nd a community around whatever you do. I mean you could be interested in making pickles. There’s going to be a rabid bunch of people interested in making pickles and you can build a subscription site around that.”
Case Study #3 – Steve Kamb of NerdFitness.com
Blogger Steve Kamb is one of my favorite examples of website publishers operating in non-traditional industries. Although “fitness” isn’t exactly an underdeveloped industry, there certainly weren’t any sites on health and wellness explicitly created for nerds before Kamb came along! In the blogger’s own words:
“I’m a nerd, I like fitness…so why not combine the two and turn life into one giant video game?”
Kamb’s unique approach of adapting nerd terminology to popular fitness programs has proven incredibly popular, with his site now so successful that he’s taken on staff members to help run the site while he continues to travel – and exercise – around the world. Pretty cool, right?!
So, now that you know it’s possible to succeed with blogging in industries outside of internet business, how can you take the lessons found in these case studies and apply them to your own non-traditional blog ideas? Take a look at the following step-by-step process…
Step #1 – Brainstorm Ideas
The key to succeeding with any type of blog is to start with a topic you’re passionate about. I see a lot of people online talking about how passion doesn’t matter if your topic is profitable, but I disagree.
The reality is that it takes hours upon hours of blood, sweat and tears to run a successful blog. Apart from the time needed to launch regular posts, you’ve got to commit to responding to comments, promoting your blog and carrying out all of the other activities needed to build momentum for your growing site.
Now, how motivated do you think you’ll be to really give blogging your all if you aren’t invested in your topic? Hundreds of thousands of blogs are abandoned every year, and a major reason for this is a simple lack of interest in keeping them going.
So, now that you know why you need a topic you’re passionate about, it’s time to come up with a few possible ideas. Take a second to brainstorm a list of possible blog ideas, based on the following prompts:
- What special skills do you have?
- What can you teach others?
- What activities do you participate in?
- What do you struggle with?
- Do you have a mission in life that you could share with others?
- What aspect of yourself are you trying to improve?
- Is there anything else you’re truly passionate about?
At this point, don’t try to censor your ideas based on what you think will work or won’t work. Remember that there are plenty of different bloggers out there making money in non-traditional niches – so you really never know what’s going to stick with an as-of-yet unidentified target audience.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t need to be an expert to launch a blog in any given area. While having credentials or past experience might be useful from a branding standpoint, watching a person go through the process of learning a new subject often makes for fascinating blog reading. As long as you’re one step ahead of the people reading your site, you’ll bring something new to the conversation within your industry.
Step #2 – Confirm Interest
Now, with your list of potential blog topics in front of you, your next step must be to confirm interest in your chosen subjects. Unfortunately, just because you’re passionate about underwater basket weaving doesn’t mean that others are – and you’ll need these future readers if you ever want to turn a profit with your blog.
If you’re familiar with traditional keyword research, you probably already get where I’m going with this. Take each of your concepts, brainstorm a list of possible keywords that your future visitors might enter into the search engines to find your site and use a keyword research tool to determine whether or not enough people are looking for your target phrases to justify investing in the idea.
If you aren’t yet experienced with keyword research, here’s what you’ll want to do:
- For each of your brainstormed blog topics, think about what types of phrases you’d like your blog to appear for when readers use Google or the other search engines. If you’re planning to write a blog about the vegan diet, for example, this might include phrases like “how to go vegan,” “vegan living” or “easy vegan recipes.”
- Now, take your list of words to the Google Adwords External Keyword Research Tool. Enter them into the “Word or phrase” field, select the “Exact” match type and then look at the “Local monthly searches” results. These estimates show how many people are searching Google for your exact phrase every month.
- Make a note of the estimated search volume for both your keywords and any related phrases that Google comes up with. Once you’ve completed this task for all of your blog ideas, compare your topics to see how their relative interest levels compare.
At this point in your research, it’s not important to find a specific number of potential viewers – just to confirm that people are actively looking for information on your possible blog subjects. If any of your topics come up with <100 searches per month or a limited number of related terms, this could indicate that there won’t be enough traffic to sustain your eventual blog.
Step #3 – Match Ideas to Monetization Models
As you research interest in potential blog concepts, it’s also important to keep in mind that blogging itself isn’t a business – it’s an activity. It’s only when this activity is paired with a legit monetization model that blogging becomes a profitable type of business.
The following are the most common monetization models associated with blogging, although they’re certainly not the only way bloggers make money. For your non-traditional blog to be successful, you’ll need to match your chosen topic up with at least one of these money-making ideas:
- Banner advertisements – If your blog is successful, other companies may pay you to run their banner advertisements on your site. Be aware, though, that you’ll need a substantial amount of website traffic to close these deals, making it a less profitable alternative for all but the most successful of bloggers.
- Affiliate product promotions – As an affiliate, you earn money by referring customers that purchase other peoples’ products. This can be a great option for new bloggers in non-traditional niches, as it allows them to leverage the authority of other websites to earn some revenue while still growing.
- Info product sales – This model involves selling information, whether in ebook, emailed training course, video files or any other format. If you have established authority or significant personal experiences in your chosen niche, this can be a great way to earn money quickly.
- Membership programs – Membership programs are great for bloggers, as the recurring nature of their payments guarantees regular income for bloggers. Be aware, though, that running a membership can be a lot of work, as your participants will expect you to deliver good content month after month.
- Adsense – Although Adsense is a popular monetization option for many bloggers, it rarely works well in non-traditional niches, as click fees can be quite low given that corresponding Adwords clicks don’t go for much money. In addition, some bloggers feel it cheapens the look of their sites, making it best to avoid for non-traditional bloggers.
To determine what type of monetization model might work best for your site, take a look at what others in your general industry are doing and what they’re charging. While you certainly can use marketing to differentiate your offerings from similar sites and to demonstrate outstanding value, you may find that it’s difficult to charge significantly more than established going rates in your industry.
As an example, suppose you’re building a site around belly dancing – your passion in life. If you see that other sites are offering paid download products in the $10-$20 range, it might be tough to convince your target audience that your product is good enough to warrant charging the $50 or more you’d need for your business to be profitable.
Step #4 – Launch Your Concept
Yes, it’s important to do your industry research and yes, it’s vitally important that you put some effort into determining which monetization model you’ll pursue on your future site.
But the problem with launching a non-traditional blog is that you might not be entering an established field – you might be the one doing the establishing yourself! And if that’s the case, you won’t have the necessary search volume numbers to back up interest, simply because something like your site hasn’t existed before.
For this reason, it often makes sense to just “go for it” when it comes to blogging in unconventional industries. Put your blog up, get your content going and start reaching out to others as quickly as possible and see where your efforts take you. Because you’re pursuing a passion of yours, this extra work should be exciting – not exhausting – so give your blog 110% of your efforts from the get-go.
Step #5 – Set Your Ejector Seat Point
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that – although you might be pumped up on passion for your new endeavor – plenty of niches go unmet online simply because there’s no actual demand for them.
So, while it’s important to give it your all in the initial stages of your non-traditional blog’s growth, it’s also important to have an “ejector seat” point (aka – the point at which you’ll exit your business if you aren’t seeing the results you expect) in mind. For example, if you go a year without seeing a profit, despite your best efforts to build traffic and monetize your site effectively, give yourself permission to call it quits in order to pursue new ideas.
What do you think?