The idea of success can be very different for different people, as well as for the same person in different contexts. In terms of blogging, some are intended to inform the public about some issue the author regards as important, others to entertain, still others to help people, while a few non-corporate blogs are explicitly designed to sell stuff. Any of these may be “successful” if they do what the owner wants them to: make money, get visitors, build a community – and there’s room for plenty of overlap between these different functions.
Look and Feel
Users expect e-commerce stores to look slick and professional, and are much more likely to buy from a well-designed website than one that seems sub-par in some way. However, this is only one way in which a blog can be monetized.
A number of blogs pay their bills and yield more or less of an income for their owner through advertising. Advertising (very generally speaking) pays either by view or by click, but both types of revenue are dependent on visitor numbers. Most visitors will visit a blog for the quality and relevance of its content, not to be amused by counting the widgets and what-nots. The same holds true for reviews and affiliate marketing: if visitors find what they’re looking for and aren’t expected to hand over their credit card details, a blog that looks “clean” and is easy to navigate is all that’s needed.
The situation is much the same for informative or hobby blogs: people will want to be able to find the content they’re looking for and enjoy it easily. A few programming tricks here and there may make this experience more enjoyable, but attempts to be cute usually end in failure. Using a basic template and sourcing sufficient graphics should be all that’s needed.
Some sites have appeal for only a very narrow range of people. For instance, there are people worldwide who make a hobby out of photographing commercial aircraft’s tail numbers (registrations) at various locations. This is clearly a very narrow niche.
Other websites have a wider reach: recipes, pet care, dating advice. In these cases, marketing, search engine optimization and so forth will be done a little differently, but the fundamental principles remain the same. The idea is not to draw in as many people as possible, but those who are interested enough to enjoy the blog and possibly click on an ad.
In terms of promotion, the main difference between blogging mainly for the love of some subject and to make money lies in the community networks a hobby blogger will want to build up – a sales-orientated website is unlikely to deliberately steer visitors to the competition. Also, they may pay for advertising themselves, although the return on investment for this may be too low to make it worthwhile for most blogs.
Whether the goal is a swelling Paypal account or masses of comments on each post, the first step is to attract and retain visitors, which means posting engaging, unique and relevant content. Unless a blog is obviously of the “buy something” variety, informing and entertaining visitors is something that has to happen for conversions to take place.
People with a special interest in the blog’s topic are more likely to subscribe to mailing lists or receive notifications, but even so it’s better to keep emails short, occasional and interesting. Otherwise, you’ll be unsubscribed at best or even reported as a spammer. Posts or product reviews should be clearly organized, supplied with graphics and possess a headline that is neither boring nor clickbait-ish.
Overall, blogs with a distinctive “brand” such as a quirky sense of humor or distinctive viewpoint will retain more visitors. Of course, this only applies when it is updated frequently, on a daily basis if possible.
The difference between money-making and hobbyist blogs? There’s no real difference. Few hobbies or interests can be pursued without spending at least a little money, so there’s no reason not to include a few affiliate links appropriate to the audience. This will help out with those intimidating $2.99 bills for hosting, too.
Companies are certainly aware of the power an opinion leader’s voice can have and are always hungry for internet traffic. This being the case, even a website containing zero ads or products can become monetized should it be sold, so those who blog exclusively for fun should keep the principles of quality blogging and web design in mind.