Michael Gray made a post recently titled, “Can You Make a Living Blogging” and I thought I would share some of my personal thoughts on making money online via blogging.

Landscaping ideas pictureWhen attempting to blog for profit, it would make sense that you find a profitable niche, right? However, for some people, the niche is an afterthought.

I have a friend who loves playing video games. That’s great, but there are about a million good blogs that cover video games and have 10 full time writers on staff. You, being one person, will fail 99.99% of the time against competition like that. They’re big, established and can blow you out of the water with their marketing budget. Don’t read that number and think you are the 0.01%. You’re not, you will fail if you tackle the wrong niche.

So what does it take to make a profit running a blog? The right niche and the right personality.

The right niche is easy to find, but matching a great niche with your personality might be a little more difficult.

If you’re like me, I can write a post per day about literally any topic in the world, even if there aren’t any current events on the subject. So for me, finding a profitable niche is easy, and I can find a profitable niche in literally less than 5 minutes. I could have a good domain purchased and blog up in 15 minutes. Once the DNS transfers I could be posting in less than 24 hours. If you are like me in this area, check out my free niche ideas category or shoot me an email and we’ll talk about niches.

If you have trouble thinking of posts or find yourself sitting in front of a blank screen that says, “Create New Post”, then finding your perfect niche might be a little more difficult. That is where this post comes in.

Here are a few ways that YOU can find the perfect niche, that is something you’re interested in (at least a little) and can be profitable as well.

What do you like?

Do you like eating? Running? Shoveling snow? Backpacking? Doing crazy stunts? Blowing up dining room tables that you found in a dumpster? Testing new technology? Making new things from old items?

What exactly do you like to do? Write down 5 things that you like to do on a piece of paper. Or in Photoshop like I did since I don’t have a scanner handy. Step one should look like this:

Find your Niche - step 1

Now that you have 5 things you enjoy or like written down, write 3-5 ideas that are in the same niche as the first step. Should look like this:

Find your Niche - step 2

Now you should have 15-30 ideas written down that are becoming a little more focused. Hopefully your list isn’t a technology focused as mine is. Technology is a tough niche to compete in because everyone that knows about technology knows about the internet and knows how to create a website which creates competition. Too much competition is a bad thing. Then again, zero competition is a bad thing as well.

Now that you have your second set of words and ideas, look through them and pick the one that most excites you. Don’t worry if you don’t think it can make money. As long as you can get traffic to a website, monetization is easy. Traffic will come through the niche and long tail keywords.

For me, I might pick landscaping. I really enjoy working in my back yard. It’s fun for me to be out there mowing the lawn, edging, pulling a few weeds, fertilizing, etc. By the way, I do have the best looking grass on my block!

So now that I have a general niche, we need to see if it is too broad and if there is money to be made in “landscaping”. First go to google and type the word ‘landscaping’.

Search Results Matter

1. Advertisers (amount, quality of ad, keyword focus)

2. Domains in top 10 (are they corporations or individual sites? Is the .com of your keyword listed? .Gov sites? Wikipedia?)

3. Other possible keywords (for landscaping, those words were “DIY, Ideas, Planning, pictures, estimates)

Those three bits of information tell us the following:

1. Advertisers. If there are 3 advertisers, drop the niche and move on. Nobody is bidding on ppc keywords, there might be a reason. If the niche is really broad then try to narrow it down. If you still can’t find advertisers, find a new niche. This will also give us an indication as to who the competition will be. It is good to see products listed in this section.

Here are the top advertisers for ‘landscaping’ and my thoughts on those ads:

Find your Niche - step 3

Even though there are only 8 advertisers listed, these seem promising. Now, see how many advertisers there are with the related terms. If you search for “landscaping ideas” you find a goldmine. Plenty of advertisers, tied to a bigger niche (landscaping), it isn’t a dying niche, and you should be able to find advertisers other than Adsense as well.

If I were looking for a niche, I would buy a ‘landscaping ideas’ website and get a blog set up.

2. Domains in the top 10.

For the top 10 results for my selected keywords (landscaping ideas) I found the following:

1. landscaping.about.com

2. www.the-landscape-design-site.com

3. www.homeandfamilynetwork.com/gardening/landscaping.html

4. landscapingideas.the-landscape-design-site.com/front-yard/

5. www.hgtv.com/hgtv/pac_ctnt_988/text/0,,HGTV_22056_60415,00.html

6. www.gardenandhearth.com/Landscaping-Ideas.htm

7. www.bhg.com/bhg/category.jsp…

The competition I would be worried about is HGTV.com and BHG.com (they’re huge and get a lot of link love). The rest of the competition isn’t great. Static sites that would probably even link to you with the right persuasion. The right persuasion in this case is probably not money, but a good resource for their existing visitors.

These results are great because their aren’t a lot of really big corporations, no .gov sites, just some old established sites.

3. Other Possible Keywords.

Funny thing. Google gives you a list of keywords at the bottom of this search page that GOOGLE thinks are related. Whether they are or not, Google thinks they are, and that’s good enough.

Here are those words:

desert landscaping ideas
backyard landscaping ideas
landscaping photos
landscaping plans
patio ideas
flower bed ideas

A page on the site for each of those words is where I would start. I would turn the landscaping photos site into a gallery. That will garner some linkage. The rest of the pages should fit well within the existing framework of your site.

Looking for more keywords? Here is a list of 200 keywords that you can download for landscaping ideas:

Landscaping Ideas keyword list

Will it work?

“Landscaping Ideas” satisfied all of the criteria. It is something I’m interested in, has advertisers, is active, and the competition isn’t too tough.

If you check Adwords you’ll see an average click cost of $1.00 for “landscaping ideas” but only 10-50 searches per day. If you search for “landscaping” you’ll see $1.28-1.50 cost per click and 1872-2292 clicks per day. That is perfect. You’ll be able to use PPC to promote this website. However, Adsense won’t be a huge earner. I would look for affiliate programs and after about 6 months you might be able to sell some text link ads.

Normally the first idea doesn’t work, but the rabbit hole will lead you to a niche that does work. If landscaping ideas didn’t work out, I could have continued that line of thinking and done lawnmower reviews, fertilizer comparisons, etc. The purpose of this exercise is to see how easy it is to find a niche.

What’s Next?

Now it’s time to write, write, and more writing. I would write for two months straight before I worked on promotion. You’ll want to ping the major blog sites (Technorati especially) and maybe email a few people with similar sites and tell them you’re linking to them. Outgoing links won’t matter now because you’re not making any money. In fact, I would leave out ALL advertising for those 60 days.

Advertising always cheapens the user experience, and right now you need dedicated followers and subscribers. Later you can cash in. Once you start writing and think you’ve covered most of the major keywords, start writing for fun. Write articles like, “3 Reasons You’re Lawn is Dead”, “How To Mow Once a Month – AND Have the Best Lawn on the Block!”, “Ultimate Seed Spreading Comparison”.

Those will draw in more visitors and will capture a lot of clicks just with the title. Those post should probably be pictorial with a lot of content to make them major linkbait.

That’s It!

To answer Michael Gray’s original question, “Can You Make a Living Blogging?” Absolutely! Find your perfect niche, exploit it, write it, live it, breathe it, and make a living from it!

Hopefully that helps you find a niche and make some money online! Let me know if you have any questions, comments or need clarification!