UEA student Henry Croft writes for the Norwich Business School blog about how he turned his fitness conversation blog into a successful online business, and gives you his top tips on what to do when turning your blog into a brand…
“In March 2013 I started a fitness blog called GymTalk.
At the time this was by no means a serious venture – just a space on the internet where I could discuss weightlifting and bodybuilding, review training protocols and supplements, and, most of all, have a bit of fun while sharing my passion with the world. However, over the last year I have managed to grow this humble blog into a fully-fledged, award-winning online business which is now my primary source of income.
In this post I will discuss the 3 key steps that I employed to grow GymTalk into a profitable and successful online brand, and how you can use similar tactics to grow your own online business.
Step 1: Create Something Amazing
I normally hate unspecific, un-actionable advice such as this, but creating something which offers amazing value is really the key to any successful venture, online or offline.
I originally started the website not out of a desire to make money online but because I was genuinely passionate about the subject matter. In fact, when I started the blog I didn’t even know it was possible to earn a living from blogging!And, in my opinion, this is the driving force that all successful blogs share: a desire to give something back to the community.
In my experience, most internet marketers fail because they try and shoehorn their way into a niche in order to make a quick buck, without any real passion for what they are blogging about or selling. Ultimately, you need to build something of such high quality that it deserves to make money – a magic bullet, if you will – and after that, everything else slots into place.
Step 2: Monetise The Website Effectively
Monetising a blog might seem like a daunting task that requires a great deal of work but it’s actually incredibly simple and easy to action. In the case of GymTalk, there are two simple tactics I have employed to monetise the website.
Affiliate Marketing is essentially promoting another company’s products in return for a commission.
Currently, this is GymTalk’s main source of income, and, typically, I include affiliate links in two types of content: reviews (such as this one on adjustable dumbbells) and promotional offers (like these Myprotein discount codes). So, if someone reads one of these articles or offers, finds them useful, and then clicks on an affiliate link to the advertiser’s website, I will earn a commission (usually around 5-15%) if they go on to buy something. Setting up affiliate links is a very easy process, you simply need to join the advertiser’s affiliate programme by signing up to websites such as Commission Junction or Affiliate Window.
Recently, I also launched the GymTalk Shop which sells a collection of men’s and women’s gym clothes.
The range is quite modest at the moment, but in the coming year and beyond I hope to expand the store into more clothing items as well as other products.
There are many other monetisation tactics which I plan to employ in 2014, including selling an information product (such as an ebook) and establishing long term advertising relationships with companies in the fitness niche.
Step 3: Build A Loyal Audience
Once you have monetised the blog, which is the straightforward part, the next step is to drive traffic to the site in order to profit.
Generating traffic and establishing a loyal readership is certainly a challenge and not something which can be achieved overnight. However, provided you have created something truly of value as per Step 1, this should definitely be achievable.
Here are the primary methods I use to drive traffic to GymTalk:
GymTalk has a presence on all the main social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. I use these platforms to promote blog posts, affiliate offers and products in addition to engaging with people that are active in the fitness niche and forming relationships. I post on each of these platforms several times a day in order to keep my followers constantly engaged with my content.
One of the first things I did when I set up GymTalk was to establish a mailing list.
I use Aweber for this, as it allows me to easily create opt-in forms on the website (to collect email addresses) and send out newsletters and other broadcasts. I email my list whenever a new blog post is published or if I have an affiliate offer to promote. In addition, I have also set up an auto-responder, which emails out a series of posts every week in order to keep new subscribers constantly engaged with the website.
Search Engine Marketing
The majority of GymTalk’s traffic currently comes from organic search results in Google.
My approach to generating search traffic via SEO is largely twofold:
1) On-page optimisation
For each post I write for the blog, I do some keyword research in Google’s Keyword Planner and then sprinkle my writing with some key search terms.
2) High quality link building
Using email outreach, I contact other websites in my niche and politely asked if they would like to link to my content or if they would be interested in me writing a post for their site, which will of course link back to GymTalk.
I regularly post on a variety of forums in the fitness and bodybuilding niche where I include a link back to GymTalk in my forum profile. By engaging with others and highlighting myself as an expert in my field, I am able to drive a large amount of targeted traffic to my website.
So, there we have it, three important steps to making money online through blogging: Creating great content, monetising it effectively, and generating high-quality targeted traffic. It’s certainly achievable, but don’t be fooled by the stereotypical depiction of the dot com lifestyle – that is, travelling the world and doing as little work as you can while you earn a sizable passive income. The reality is much different: it’s hard graft 7 days a week and it will often be months before you start making any income at all.
A key point to bear in mind with making money online is that you will be working towards medium to long term goals; in other words, put in the hard work now and reap the benefits 12 months later. But hard work notwithstanding, making money online through blogging is a lot of fun and the transferrable skills and experience you pick up along the way are invaluable.
Ultimately, I’m a firm believer in spending life doing what you love – and blogging as a career has allowed me to do this.
– Henry Croft, founder of GymTalk
If you have any thoughts or questions, Henry would love to hear from you, just leave me a comment below and he will get back to you.