It’s all well and good to read income reports from people making five- or even six-figures a month from their sites. But when you’re “only” an amateur blogger, whether you’re just starting out or even if you have a bit of money trickling in, it can be hard to know which direction to turn so you can reach the same levels yourself.
After all, your one major question is probably: what are the best things I can do to grow my site as quickly as possible?
Fortunately, there are some absolute must-dos for anyone in the amateur blogging world to take their site to the next level.
And I speak from experience here. That is, I have a full time job and, despite that, I’m still making five figures from my websites on the side. So trust me when I say I’ve made all the mistakes (so you don’t have to!) but have also seen the strategies that do actually work.
Keep reading to see just what they are!
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What is amateur blogging?
Amateur blogging refers to anyone who manages a blog but not as their full time job or which has earnings that are not equivalent to a full time source of income. This may be done as a side hustle or part time in some form and may actually not generate any income at all yet.
Phew. Well, that sounds a bit too official.
So let’s be clear: this is far from an exact definition. In fact, it may be better stated as “anyone who owns a blog and doesn’t consider it their main job or main source of income”.
This basically means that if:
- You’re thinking of launching a blog
- You’ve already done so and it’s not making much (or any) money yet
- You’re making a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars a month from your site but are looking to take it to the next level
…then welcome to the world of amateur blogging!
How do amateur bloggers make money?
Amateur bloggers make money in a variety of ways, including the following:
- Display ads
- Affiliate marketing
- Selling ebooks
- Launching courses
- Offering consulting or coaching services
- Sponsored posts
- Establishing virtual conferences
- Directing blog traffic to their podcast or YouTube videos
In fact, based on this list above, the way for amateur bloggers to make money is basically identical to more established site owners. Those who’ve been in the game for longer may do this on a larger scale but, ultimately, the foundations are exactly the same – which is why it’s important to get things right even early on in your amateur blogging career!
How to make money as an amateur blogger
1. Choose a defined niche
The days where people would blog about their random thoughts are long gone. Instead, the way to have a successful blog that actually makes money these days is by niching down.
What that involves is ensuring that your blog only has content on a set, defined topic. It’s been found that this is one of the best ways for Google to understand what your site is about and treat you as an authority in that field, making it more likely that your posts will appear higher on page 1. And the higher they are, the more likely it is you’ll get good traffic and the more money you’ll likely be able to make.
This doesn’t mean you can’t write about something that interests you, of course. In fact, as an amateur blogger, this is actually a good way to stick with it. After all, if you’re actually interested in what you’re writing about, you’re more likely to use the little spare time you have to make your blog a success! But, as Jon Dykstra puts it (who makes over $100,000 a month from his own websites), the riches are definitely in the niches.
Jon is one of the true gurus when it comes to building successful websites – $100,000+ a month makes that pretty clear!
And I’m a big fan of his FREE course, Six Figure Blogging, where he shows the steps he follows to build his own sites to the six-figure mark!
2. Pick the right domain name
While your domain name isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to the success of your amateur blogging career (and if you’re reading this article after having already launched your site, it’s fine to skip to point 4), it is important. In particular, a lot of new amateur bloggers tend to use their own name as their blog domain name.
The problem with this is that your site is then forever tied to you. This can be an issue if you plan to sell your blog down the track or if you would eventually rather your site be its own brand, not linked to your identity. It also means that your name is suddenly very searchable on Google, which you may not necessarily want later on.
It’s for that reason that I always recommend, when launching a blog, to pick a domain name that’s not linked to you personally.
This doesn’t mean you need a name that only relates to the topic you plan to write about. The word “google”, for example, has nothing to do with searching. But make sure you give your domain name some thought because it is a bit tricky to change this down the road.
I buy my domain names through NameCheap. They’re – unsurprisingly from the name! – super cheap and completely secure. Most importantly, they’ve been excellent to work with when I’ve had any questions. Definitely recommended.
3. Launch your site on WordPress
Like most amateur bloggers, I had absolutely no experience in developing websites when I launched this site. This means that I very much understand that starting a site with WordPress can sound pretty daunting, especially when you find platforms like Wix or Blogger which appear to be a lot easier for beginners.
But I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for you to launch your site on WordPress if you plan to make money. Having your site there (like this one is!) means that you own your content. It also makes it easier for ad networks to work with you when you reach that level of traffic, not to mention that it allows for some better integrations later on if you intend to sell your own digital products.
It’s definitely true that there’s a learning curve. But I promise with some trial and error (um, a lot of error in some cases…), you’ll get there in the end even if you’re not a tech wiz now.
To find out how to launch your site on WordPress, check out my simple step-by-step guide on how to start a blog.
It literally takes only 20 minutes by following the exact steps I took to start on the path to earning thousands of dollars every month – on the side of my full-time job!
4. Do keyword research from the start
If I had to pick any tip on this list as the absolute number one must-do for amateur bloggers, it’s this one. I’m not exaggerating when I say that keyword research has been the key (no pun intended!) to my site being successful and making the money it has.
In summary, this basically means doing research into which articles you should be writing, finding topics (aka keywords) that you think you can rank for and then creating content based on that research. If you do this properly, you’re giving your site the best chance possible to rank in Google and be found by new people, allowing your traffic to build over time.
However, plenty of amateur bloggers don’t work on search engine optimization (SEO) from the start – and it’s a huge mistake. They write whatever they feel like writing about or what they think will do well on social media. However, learning about SEO and implementing it from day one of your site can make all the difference between whether your site is a success in 12 months from now.
If you’re not convinced about the power of keyword research, there’s definitely proof out there of just how critical it is to your site’s success. Just check out Jon Dykstra’s income reports, for instance.
As a blogger, he makes over $100,000 every month from his sites, all from doing effective keyword research (and his Fat Stacks course is amazing at showing you his strategy for this so you can do the same.)
5. Content content content
One of the biggest mistakes I see amateur bloggers making – and something I definitely did myself at the start – is feeling like you have to be everywhere at once. This might sound familiar: you create an Instagram page and start doing Reels. You also start tweeting and then you open a Facebook page for your new site and post things there. And there’s always Pinterest, which is a beast that needs to be continually fed with new pins.
Before you know it, all your time is being spent on things off your site. However, when you really drill down, where is your audience going in the end? That’s right, they’re going to your site – at least that’s the intention.
And the only way that they’ll go to your site is if there are (quality) posts for them to go to. From this, it’s pretty clear that the more posts you have, the greater the likelihood that someone will find your site and visit it – which is why spending the majority of your time on publishing good, keyworded content is critical.
So while you may be tempted to be on every social media platform ever invented, always keep in mind that, as amateur bloggers, you need to focus on having as much quality content on your site as possible. Not every post will be a winner – that’s definitely even the case for me now – but the more posts you have, the more likely it is that Google will start to rank these posts and the more likely it is that people will visit your site.
And at the end of the day, that’s the key to ensure you’re making money from your blog!
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6. Decide how to attach your name to your blog (or not!)
As mentioned above, my recommendation is to always avoid having your name in your domain name, if possible. But you also have to think about whether you want your real name attached to your site.
For some amateur bloggers, this is actually a benefit, especially if you’re in a niche that’s health-related or otherwise relies on your professional expertise. That way, you can use your real life experience to boost your site’s authority.
But for others, you may want to keep this private for now – or even forever. To help you decide, take a look at our article on the pros and cons of blogging anonymously.
FYI: Our article on 9 Simple Strategies to Blog Anonymously and Make Money can put you on the path to earning some serious cash, even if you decide not to use your real name on your site!
7. Develop your monetization strategy
While you don’t need to have your entire five-year business plan set out when you first start your website, it is good to have at least a broad idea of how you plan to make money in future.
Perhaps you plan to generate enough traffic to make a killing from ads. Maybe you’re keen on embracing affiliate marketing. Or you could even have some brilliant ideas and products of your own that you can sell. Most likely, it’s going to be a combination of a few of them.
But the reason why amateur bloggers should start at least thinking about your monetization strategy early on is to know just which direction your site is going. A good trick is to look at other sites in your niche and see how they make money, because if it works for them, there’s a good chance it will work for you too.
Similarly, if you pick a niche where there doesn’t seem to be any other sites making money in that area, that could be a red flag. While, sure, you could have tapped into some amazing undiscovered niche, there’s also a good chance that the money making opportunities are low and you may want to change directions to a topic that has a bit more of a track record for generating income for publishers in that space.
8. Keep your site layout simple
This is a huge mistake that I see a lot of amateur bloggers making. That is, people spend weeks, if not months (not to mention stacks of cash) on their site layout. They seem to think that until they’ve picked the perfect font or until the homepage immaculately fades in and out at the right spot, their blog will never be a success.
But let’s be real here: in my case, and for many other sites these days, more than 70% of my traffic is on mobile. That means that the vast majority of my audience don’t even see what my site looks like on the computer and they’re more commonly faced with a simpler, more mobile-friendly layout. In addition, I can almost guarantee that people couldn’t care less what colors I use or even what my homepage looks like. Instead, it’s the information which is why they’re here.
So I can’t recommend enough that you should keep your site layout as simple as possible to make sure you’re spending your time focusing on things that will actually make you money. In addition, while I’m a big supporter of spending money on your blog where it makes sense, there are several site themes that are more than enough for most amateur bloggers – and, fortunately, are free!
For me, I use and highly recommend Kadence (it’s actually the theme you’re looking at right now on this page) as it’s free, fast and you can make clean, good looking layouts with zero tech experience.
9. Add images legally
Just a quick one here that something you really need to keep in mind even at the amateur blogging level: only use images on your site that you’re allowed to use.
A lot of amateur bloggers grab images from anywhere on the Internet and think that just because they include a source, they’re covered. Some even embed Instagram images on the basis that because the embed function exists, surely that means you’re allowed to actually embed those pictures? Or, and this is a mistake I made myself, there are a number of free stock image sites which say that you’re legally allowed to use the images that they have on there – so go ahead and add as many as you want to your articles!
However, in each case, it’s not actually true. In the case of those free stock image sites, while some may be legitimately available for your use, there’s no guarantee that they all are. There have even been stories of image owners finding out their images are uploaded to these sites and then legally pursuing site owners (yes, bloggers like you, not just the stock image site itself) who have displayed those pictures. And breaching image copyright in any of the above mentioned ways – yes, including embedding Instagram pictures – has led to some amateur bloggers being sued for thousands of dollars.
To avoid this, from day one, only use images from sites where you’re legally allowed to use them.
For me, I get all my images from DepositPhotos. Sure, they’re not free, but you’re legally allowed to use all of them. And when you think about the stress you’ll avoid from not having to worry about being sued – not to mention the money you’ll save – it’s more than worth it in my books.
10. Backup your site
Most hosts provide a backup service but this isn’t foolproof and I’ve personally read stories of people who relied on these back ups and lost literally months of work. This is why, even as an amateur blogger, you should make sure you’re backing up your site yourself.
This is very easy to do with UpDraftPlus, which is a free WordPress plug-in that backs your site up as frequently as you want – and is exactly what I use to do this. It saves the backup to the location of your choosing – in my case, I save them to my Google Drive.
Honestly, knowing that the backup is there is so reassuring just in case the host backup fails, and the fact it’s free is just icing on the cake!
11. Get the legal stuff right
Unfortunately, there are more legal considerations than just using the right images. It’s also important for your site to have the right terms and conditions and other policies displayed so that you meet all the relevant legal requirements.
You might be tempted to think that, oh, you just have a little site, no one would actually pursue an amateur blogger like you for any sort of legal breach.
There are various ways to get these and I’ve seen people recommend the WP AutoTerms plugin. Full disclosure: I haven’t used this myself and I can’t say whether it will put you fully in compliance with everything you need to consider, so I’d suggest doing your own research to see exactly what you need.
12. Schedule your blogging time (and stick to it)
For most of us, the reason we consider ourselves amateur bloggers is because you’re probably doing this on the side of something else. In my case, I have a full-time job and so any spare time that I can work on this site is extremely valuable to me.
I’ve found the best strategy to make sure I’m working on my site consistently is to schedule my blogging time – and actually stick to it. For me, that’s usually a few hours before my day job starts, giving me a quiet house early in the morning in which to crank out an article.
If you’re not an early morning person, late at night could be more appropriate for you. Either way, consistency is key in the amateur blogging game, so make sure you give yourself the best chance possible to work on this for the long term.
13. Optimize images from the start
I mentioned earlier the importance of using images legally on your site, but this isn’t simply a case of downloading them from DepositPhotos, slapping them in an article and calling it a day.
Because of the high quality of many of these images, the file sizes are massive. And if you have a few of these images in each article on your site, it’s really going to start slowing down your page speed which will, in time, affect your ranking with Google – not to mention really annoying visitors to your page who don’t wanna wait to see your contact.
It’s for that reason that even amateur bloggers need to ensure that they’re optimizing their images. This generally involves both resizing the picture and compressing it. The result of that is that while there may be a slight reduction in quality (although who’s going to notice on a small screen…), the file size will also shrink significantly.
For compressing your images, check out ShortPixel. It’s a WordPress plug-in that will automatically compress any image you upload to your site, meaning it will work hard in the background to make sure your site is loading lightning fast.
I’d still recommend also shrinking the size of the image before you upload it, with the exact size you should use depending on your specific site. But when it comes to file size, ShortPixel is a good way to go for most amateur bloggers.
14. Start internal linking
Internal linking simply refers to you adding links in articles to other posts of yours that are relevant to what someone is currently reading.
It’s great for user experience as if anyone wants more information on something and you can provide that information, perfect!
But it’s also really good for growing your site. Basically, when you interlink related posts, it’s showing Google that you have authority in that subject which can really help in boosting your rankings.
Unfortunately, a lot of amateur bloggers (and even those who aren’t so amateur!) don’t pay enough attention to this. Either they don’t link anything or just link random articles to one another, which isn’t as valuable. They then find, down the road, they have to go through dozens if not hundreds of articles to clean up the linking.
So save yourself the trouble and start internal linking from early on in your blogging career. It’s perfectly fine to do this manually if you have the patience to figure out which articles are related and link them to one another like that. Alternatively, you could use a plugin like LinkWhisper which does it all for you automatically. As you’ll see, purely based on how much time it saves you, this plugin is seriously invaluable.
15. Don’t add every plugin you find
I’ve mentioned a couple of times now how important page speed is. This is partly because Google has indicated that it’s a ranking factor, but also because we’re all impatient and you don’t want to annoy your site visitors by taking too long to show them what they came for.
There are several ways to speed up your site that I won’t go into here, but an easy one to keep an eye on that’s often a mistake made in the amateur blogging sphere is not adding too many plug-ins. It’s true that there are some really cool, exciting plug-ins out there that do all sorts of things and make your site look super slick. The problem is, in some cases, they can really slow down your site. This is because each time someone loads a page, all of the plug-ins have to load in the background as well.
Don’t forget as well what I mentioned earlier about how most people don’t see the majority of the fancy, slick features you’ve added to your site. They’re there for the content so if you give it to them as quickly as possible, even if it’s without all the bells and whistles, you’re on the right track.
For anyone that’s got a goal in mind, including for you as an amateur blogger, making sure you remain focused on this objective is critical to be successful. That’s especially the case in the online world, where it’s easy to be distracted by other things that either look interesting or that you think will work. This is until, before you know it, you’re spending your time on things that just don’t have the return on investment you need.
That’s why it’s important to always keep your eye on the prize. Ultimately, probably, your goal is to make a good amount of money from your blog. The best way to do that is to get the right traffic going to your site and so it’s critical that the work you do on your site is done with that in mind.
I’ll get to the need to be both patient and consistent shortly. But it’s safe to say that remaining focused definitely belongs in that trifecta as, without any of them, it makes it much harder for any amateur blogger to scale to the point they’re striving to get to.
17. Avoid shiny objects when it comes to blogging resources
There are some seriously great blogging related resources out there, whether it’s courses from experts in this field or online conferences with some amazing people sharing what’s worked for them.
But, to be very frank, there’s also a lot of crap. And if you spend any time in any Facebook blogging group, you’re going to see people complaining about the number of courses they bought that they simply haven’t gotten through or that provided no value.
This is why, for any amateur blogger, I’d recommend trying to find the balance between learning from the experts and actually implementing what you’re learning. The trick for me is to find people who are where I want to be and who I trust. I’m much more comfortable buying a course from someone who is making six figures from multiple sites compared to someone who seems to just be making their money from teaching people how to blog – without any evidence that they’re actually doing that themselves on any other site.
And, of course, it’s important to actually complete the courses and other resources you buy. It’s tempting to keep buying things thinking that the next one is going to be your ticket to blogging success, but the real ticket to success is you actually doing the hard work and implementing what you learn. So avoid shiny object syndrome, even if, for amateur bloggers, they are everywhere you look, as it’s the hard work that’s going to see you through the end of the day.
18. Be patient
While becoming an amateur blogger is a seriously fun thing to do with some real opportunities to make serious money, the downside is that this won’t happen overnight. In fact, I think this is the biggest downside about blogging given that this is often the reason that people quit before they say the hard work pays off.
This is why it’s important to keep in mind that your hard work now will pay off eventually – just likely not tomorrow and so patience is key. Most amateur bloggers don’t start to make any real money until at least a year, if not more, after launching their sites. And I know it’s all well and good to say that, but I also fully acknowledge that it can be really hard to spend hours tapping away at your computer and not seeing any real traffic or any money flowing into your account.
I find that joining Facebook groups for other amateur bloggers really helps, personally. You see people at all stages of the journey, including those just starting out, those who’ve been at it for a little while and are struggling through to push their site to the next level and even those who have made it. For me, I find it really motivating to see people at all stages of their journeys, because it shows what’s possible for anyone in this field.
After all, even the success stories started out as amateur bloggers once, so it’s really important to keep in mind that if they could do it, you can too. So, yes, the saying is true that patience is a virtue – as seriously frustrating as it can be sometimes.
19. Be consistent
I touched upon this earlier but it’s worth repeating: being consistent is the name of the game here. And where this is most true, at least in my opinion, is when it comes to publishing articles.
You absolutely don’t need to publish one article per day and you’ll probably be burned out pretty quickly if you try that. However, having a target number of articles is a good way to make sure you stick with it and that you’re actively working to grow your site.
For me, when I was just starting out on the side of my full-time job, I aimed for two posts a week. Sometimes I exceeded this and sometimes I didn’t make it but, overall, having a target amount at least helped me to keep going with it.
In many ways, this ties into the last point of that being patient as well. I really agree that it can be hard to be consistent when you’re not seeing the results. It’s all well and good to say you plan to get up at 5am every day to work on your site, but it’s also true that having some money coming in or some traffic is a really good motivator to drag yourself out of bed.
But I can’t emphasize enough the importance of consistency. It helps keep you going, it helps Google know that your site is alive and deserves to be ranked and it’s one of the best strategies for leading to results later on.
20. Get ready to make mistakes
The very definition of amateur blogging, besides the fact that it’s probably not your full-time gig yet, is that you probably don’t entirely know what you’re doing at all times. And that’s OK! None of us do!
In fact, when just starting out, it really can feel a bit overwhelming at how much you don’t know about this game. And that’s exactly why you should get ready to make mistakes.
Remember those back ups you made earlier? Those are your insurance policy for if you do something like accidentally deleting an entire weekend‘s worth of work (trust me, I speak from experience here…) or press a button and seemingly break your entire site.
But breathe. Everything can be wound back and, chances are, there are 100 other amateur bloggers who made the exact same mistake. Just laugh it off, make a note of what seemed to cause it so you can try to avoid doing it again and push on.
Also, remember those Facebook groups I mentioned earlier for amateur bloggers? Those things are a goldmine for all the questions you probably have that you’re afraid to ask. Absolutely no one will judge you for asking a question about a mistake you made because there’s probably 15 other people who made the same mistake. Take advantage of these groups as a resource, because they’re seriously invaluable.
21. Think of it as a business
The fact it’s so easy to launch a site with very little costs involved compared to more traditional brick and mortar businesses may give the impression that what you’re doing is just a bit of fun on the side. It doesn’t help that a lot of people in the real world don’t really get what this amateur blogging thing is and either brush it off or, in many cases, ridicule it.
But it’s important to keep in mind what you’re doing here is a legit business. It doesn’t matter that you don’t own any actual products or that you don’t physically open a store every day. You’re putting in the work to make money and, so, congratulations: you’re an entrepreneur!
I mention this because I find this to be a real motivating factor for many amateur bloggers. Sure, it may be “just” a side hustle now, but there are plenty of people who’ve proven that this can be built into a major venture. And by having the right mindset early on in your business, you’re going to start making business-like decisions.
For example, a mistake I see many amateur bloggers make is being reluctant to invest back into your business. When you start making a little bit of money, it’s totally understandable that you want to keep that cash – but, trust me, by plowing it back into your website effectively, it can pay off 100 fold in future.
Just think of all the more “traditional” businesses out there investing in themselves in order to grow – so why should your business be any different?
So with all that said…happy (amateur) blogging!
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About the author
Anna is the founder of LogicalDollar and a personal finance expert, having been seen in Forbes, HuffPost, Reader’s Digest, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, CreditCards.com and many more. She’s committed to helping others get on the path to financial freedom using the experience gained from turning $60,000 in debt into a thriving investment portfolio. Find out more.