Can I make money online? Like any other layman, I was never confident that one can make money online. Though I am into IT (Information Technology) sector, I had no idea why some websites were full of advertisements. I had heard about personal blogs but never knew they can generate money.
Moreover, personally I had not known anyone who was making money online by blogging. It was the latter half of 2009 – peak of recession & I discovered that blogs can earn money. I started wondering how exciting will it be if one day I can earn my living without depending on anyone else’s company! that too from the comfort of my home. I started as a part time blogger, hobby, sort of, and still a part time blogger as I am heavily involved and engaged into my day job.
Before I start my story let me tell you the end result:
- I reached Google AdSense payment threshold of $100 in 6 months (Excluding 1 month when my account was on PIN hold due to non verification of address).
- With just 40 articles: daily visits of 160 to 200+ on week-days. (Total number of articles 47 out of which 7 or 8 are on general introduction viz. Disclaimer, About me, Contact page etc. Blogger/Blogspot had no feature to add static pages when I started)
How much did I invest?
- Only $10 for a custom domain & considerable amount of time (approx 7 months – part time). For everything else viz. hosting, blog theme etc I used free resources available on the Internet.
- I don’t think any investment can give you almost 900% returns (ROI) in 6 months.
Tip: No matter which platform you start with; do invest in a domain name. It’ll empower you with immense freedom and prevent platform lock-in. With your own domain name you won’t lose your reputation and credibility; in case you feel you are successful and ready to self host your blog.
Selection of Blog Platform
As usual it started with Google search – common-man’s best consultant for anything new! For the 1st time I used it to search about making money online. My searches lead me to links with blogging, blogging platform, AdSense, Affiliate Marketing etc.
Surprisingly for every MMO and blogging related keywords, I use to consistently land at ProBlogger, DailyBlogTips, StevePavlina and of course QOT. I skimmed through 20 posts on a daily basis for 2 weeks or so. Now it was time to choose the best blogging platform.
After many days of reading pros and cons, and self brainstorming, I decided to go for the Blogger/Blogspot. In mid September 2009, I created my blog. I took one of the best decisions of my blogging business – to go for a custom domain on the Blogger. Hosting was absolutely free and offering almost similar functionality as any other platform.
The obvious reasons for the selection:
- Since I was not sure of the returns I decided to have something decent with minimum or no investment at all.
- Who says the Blogger is not SEO friendly? How come 40 articles are fetching approx. 4500+ unique visits per month and it’s increasing by almost 30% per day?
- Every month you’ll find the Blogger platform adding cool features to make it more user/SEO friendly. Which other platform offers you detailed inbuilt blog stats?
- I am a Google fan. I trust Google and now I am of the views that Google is providing one of the best hosting solutions. Till now I’ve no complaints. If the online tools to be believed, my blog has a better uptime and load time than most of the self hosted blogs!
- You can always migrate to a better service, say on a self hosted WordPress blog, whenever you are confident about your earnings.
First Article: Copyright issue
On 21st September I registered my domain name through the Blogger (Google Apps). I was spinning my first article for weeks. I drafted it to my satisfaction but to make it more interesting and authentic I wanted to quote a few lines from Massachusetts Institute of Technology website.
I was so anxious about copyright that to quote a 4 lines paragraph, I explicitly send a mail to MIT News Office. Fortunately they responded with a positive note. Even the images used were photographed or drawn by my wife. Gradually, I learnt that all this extra efforts were not required. A link with a credit to the respective website would’ve been enough to take care of the copyright issue.
Lesson 1: Be honest. Offer credit to the source wherever it is due.
Article Length and Quality
The first post was a long post and was indexed on the same day by Google, though at that point in time I was not at all aware of SERP and Google Page Rank etc. For a few keywords it ranked well at #4 or 5th position on the 1st page. Well, a good beginning!
Lesson 2: Write descriptive posts with your in-depth analysis. Search engines love content rich pages.
After writing any article I did research to add value to every paragraph I wrote. As I’ve a full time day job, I can write only 1 article in a week, sometimes even this becomes very difficult. A few bloggers may opine that it’s not a good frequency. But I never compromise the quality of posts and most of my articles are longer than 750 words.
Lesson 3: Quality of the post is more important than number of posts.
After approx. 2.5 months, I had the following stats:
- No. of posts: 14
- Total no. of visits: 2200 (Total during October to mid December, Google Analytics)
- Google PageRank: 0
I was reading about monetizing. Like any newbie blogger I was thinking about Google AdSense. Somewhere in mid December 2009, Blogger announced seamless Amazon affiliate integration. Without wasting any time I jumped on to the opportunity. My request was approved.
Unfortunately, till today I haven’t made a single penny from Amazon affiliate!
Lessons 4: Affiliate marketing is not every one’s cup of tea.
But the Amazon affiliate approval gave me the confidence to apply for AdSense. There was only one hurdle though. I had read somewhere in Google’s official website that bloggers/website owners from India and China must wait for 6 months before they can apply for an AdSense account! I had completed nearly 2 and a half months.
Take a chance, I thought. On December 23rd my AdSense account was approved within 3 working days. I’ve shared this AdSense approval experience about When is the Right Time to Apply for Google AdSense.
Lesson 5: Don’t lose opportunities. Every blog is unique; guidelines are in place only to filter out junk.
Association with Good Brands
End of December 2009, there was a Group Writing Project at DailyBlogTips. I wrote an article after a week of research. I published the article at my blog and sent the entry for the said project. DailyBlogTips published the link of my article (along with approx 90 other links, who participated in the project). Fortunately the article was received well and it generated 5 or 6 backlinks along with some traffic.
The Google PageRank was updated on New Year eve and after approx 3 months my blog’s Home page PR was 2 and the above mentioned article was at PR 4! That article is still one of the best performing articles in terms of traffic! I’ve also written Guest Posts for QOT and eZineArticles.
Lesson 6: Look out for an opportunity to associate yourself with good brands on the web. Google will trust you more if you’ve references from those good old established brand.
Blog Promotion and Stats
I was getting smart now as I was gradually learning about blogging viz. SEO, SERP, Digg, Comments, Directory Submission, Backlinks etc. Quite literally, I lost my mind! Now I almost forgot about my posts and was concentrating more on Promotion, SEO and blog stats etc. It was a mistake though.
Lesson 7: It’s quite natural to get obsessed with Promotion and Stats during initial days of blogging.
A new blogger has to work really hard for the first 6 months. It’s important to have unique content and your blog link spread over the Internet. Once you’ve build credibility you should concentrate more towards delivering quality content. The time you lose in Commenting and Promoting in social media can be best utilized to have better productivity. Moreover, any traffic other than organic traffic from Search Engines is not so Ad friendly.
So, subscribe to 5 or 6 of the top bloggers of your niche along with 2 MMO blogs, to keep yourself updated. Write your opinion (comment) only if it adds some value to the post. Adding a comment for the sake of a backlink doesn’t serve any purpose. But do communicate with the established bloggers; most of them are humble enough to help you.
Finding a Niche and Reaching Out to the World
Till 5 months I was writing broadly about web technology. I was already using Google Analytics to analyze the traffic. I realized that articles on a specific topic were attracting more number of hits than any other topic.
Lesson 8: Find your niche as soon as possible. With a little experience and patience you’ll definitely find your niche calling you. Fortunately my domain name was descriptive enough to accommodate my niche.
The traffic was increasing and it was reflected in the AdSense earning. After 6 months I was confident that I have a decent content. Now it was time to seriously think about reaching out to the world and announce – look I’ve something to offer are you interested.
I contacted to a few CEOs / CTOs of small start-up companies in my niche (Cloud Computing) for an e-Mail interview. Fortunately most of them replied in positive. This exercise helped me to build a good relationship with some known personalities in my niche. Also, as a bonus – a few strong and relevant backlinks for my blog (one from Wikipedia as well)
Lesson 9: Reach out to the world. Take advantage of the web as it has made the world virtually small. Also, unlike 5 years back, everyone is instantly reachable through social media.
Shock and Awe!
Suddenly, one day in the month of May I noticed my blog was displaying PSAs (Public Service Ads). Ohhhh… what happened? The very first thought in my mind was that how come my AdSense got suspended? I had already crossed $70. I logged into my AdSense account. Thank God! It was NOT suspended, was on hold due to non submission of PIN (address verification).
After drilling down a bit in my AdSense account I discovered that Google had sent a postal mail through standard mail service (a simple mail without any registration etc for tracking) in the month of January. Like many Indian publishers in the past I too had not received it.
I made a second request for PIN. I didn’t receive it. I submitted scanned copies of my document to Google AdSense support team. Finally, the hold was removed. My account was on hold for 30 days. I lost approx. $25. You can read the whole story here at QOT in following articles:
Lesson 10: Check out for PIN notification once you reach $10. In case you’ve not received the mail, request again at Google AdSense account. You can request twice. If you don’t receive even after 2 requests, Google will activate – Update your document link. Scan your Address and Identity proof; upload them. Also, don’t lose your patience as in blogging there are more surprises than any other career, keep on moving.
English is not my 1st Language
Bonus Lesson: As per Google Analytics stats most of my blog readers are from US, UK and Australia. I guess they’ve accepted the way I write. Perhaps people across the globe are getting used to different styles of writing. They certainly don’t mind if you’ve at least your basics right. After 1 month of removal of my PIN hold, I achieved the payment threshold. I’ve received my 1st AdSense Check as well. With these lessons in mind, you may earn your 1st Google Check sooner than me. Follow your heart, act now.