Blogging has become a very popular term. With much of this talk about blogging have come success stories of bloggers earning large sums. There are Zimbabwean stories of success too. This article will be in two parts; how to create & run a blog and how to monetize it.
Blog is short for weblog, a website that is a log of content usually run by an individual or small group. There are multiple formats such as video (vlogs), audio (podcasts) while word and still image forms are generally referred to as blogs. It is common to have multimedia blogs which mix two or more of the formats.
The question of focusing on a specific subject (niche blogging) versus being a general blogger is divisive. In the Zimbabwean context bloggers find success with both approaches and it comes down to the intention of the blogger. Now that we know what a blog is, let’s talk about starting and running one.
As I mentioned earlier we will take this discussion in two parts. This section is going to focus on the elements of a blog. We will look at some examples of good blogging and how to approach these issues whether you are starting a blog or have already started.
Content is king
The most important thing in blogging is the content. The internet has brought the world so much closer. Information itself is no longer the key to value. Thanks to technology I watch football matches at the same time as the people in the stadium do. I still subscribe to football blogs because of the in depth analysis they offer. The best advice is to provide quality content that introduces people to perspectives not readily available in the information. Telling me we will have a 48 team world cup in 2026 is not new information. Explaining what that means for African nations in the qualifying process is the sort of content that makes me subscribe.
Choose a blog format that appeals to your subject and people. If you want to blog about cooking, pictures and words are good but video is best. And while video is a great idea, you have to consider your community and how accessible the content is to them. Also consider the consumption method. While writing at length is great some ideas are better communicated in audio. That said many successful blogs use more than one format, combining video and a written blog or written and a podcast like Three men on a boat.
Schedule & frequency
Blogs deliver content. And once you’ve set your blog up as a source of content it is commonplace for people to want more of the same content. By setting up a consistent and frequent schedule for your content you create a habit in your audience. By becoming a reliable source for information and a place where your audience can get their questions answered you can grow your blog’s following and influence.
URL and its importance
Blog names and URLs are important. There are two main rules here. First, have a name that’s easy to remember and type out. Granted a lot of interaction with your blog is online and through hyperlinks but word of mouth is still a real source of interaction. It would be unfortunate for you to miss out on engagement because someone couldn’t recall your blog name or spell it properly. Second, it does help to have a name that relates to your chosen subject.
If you started a blog on the latest smartphone news, having a section where people can ask questions or have problems addressed will go a long way to engaging your community. There is a huge trend with businesses having blog sections for this very reason. Technology has allowed people greater opportunities for connecting with products, brands, celebrities. The blog is a personal website of sorts and engagement is a key metric of success.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plays a big part in how easy it is to find your blog and its content. Search engines use complicated algorithms to choose which content shows up where in search results. It is very important to consider this in the naming of your blog and the content articles or updates. While the openness of the internet has provided many positives it also has the capacity to drown out voices and one needs to stand out. Having clear and catchy titles, content that clearly addresses real concerns and keeping content unique are all part of this.
Monetising your blog
Now let’s talk about ways to monetise your blog.
Affiliate marketing programs offer you the opportunity to sell/recommend other people’s products through your website or blog. This involves providing links to products in your content and receiving commission per purchase. Affiliate marketing programs are easy to qualify for and provide good income opportunities. There are no local affliate marketing programs in Zimbabwe, thus you will have to join international ones like Amazon Associates and Clickbank. If your blogging is targeting Zimbabweans, this in a way limits your earning potential, because few Zimbabweans have means of paying for goods online ie international Mastercards and Paypal.
Advertising programs (such as Google AdSense, revContent & Pop Ads). In these programs you offer space on your blog for advertising eg a banner below your blog header, within your post etc. In the case of video blogs, they will show ads before and during your video. This has the drawback of lacking control as to what is advertised alongside your content. Blogs are qualified based on the audience size for such programs.
Blogs are also open to direct advertising. This can be done in a variety of ways such as outright mentioning the product being advertised in your podcast or as part of your video. You can also create banner ads or images to place within a written blog. There really are many ways of approaching this. While it does require a lot of self-promotion and negotiation with the advertisers it gives you the advantage of the choice of relevant advertisers. You can approach local companies and offer them advertising space on your blog. However you need to have a lot of traffic to earn money via advertising.
Product placement is a form of marketing that involves product marketing by showing the products in use. Getting a camera company to provide the video camera you use for your adventure vlog or having a dry goods manufacturer supply your baking supplies are good examples. This is largely simple to execute but requires direct negotiation with the products or brands. The key is to be able to demonstrate a sufficient nexus between your audience and the product.
Influencer marketing is growing very much in popularity and we’ve seen a few examples of such campaigns in Zimbabwe. By becoming a source of content and having a large following you can be in a position of influence. Brands are eager to convince people to use their products by showing that other people they know are using their products; influence. Influencer marketing is based on personal branding and focuses more on the personality behind the blog rather than the blog by itself.
As I highlighted before content is king. This rule applies to the entire internet. Businesses and online outlets need content and you can monetize through generating content for others. A person with a gardening blog can provide articles to magazines which have a gardening section.
As a source of information one can become an authority. Writing books related to the content you blog about (or sometimes not) is a great way to monetize your blog. This website sells prewritten business plans for Zimbabwe. It’s not limited to technical or business reports, non-fiction author of Atomic Habits James Clear started with a blog about habits and in October 2018 published a book on the subject.
A blog that is created around a skill such as baking, dancing, woodwork or crafts can offer classes to the general public or specific groups. People who appreciate a skill-set may be willing to learn said skills and ready to pay for them. A beauty vlogger can offer make up classes for people in their area. This can become a very lucrative channel depending on the subject matter.
Selling your products
Earlier I mentioned that businesses both big and small have taken to blogging to grow their engagement. The reverse can also be applied and bloggers can sell their own products. Fashion & style bloggers and designers are examples of this. A blog with a following that is interested in a specific type of item can easily be turned into a market for such products.
Selling others products
Cosmetics and beauty bloggers tend to sell the products they use. This can be done directly or through a coupon program. The principle is that a blogger with many people interested in skin care can easily sell other people’s skin care products. Products can be sold for commissions or blogs can be turned into a marketplace for products.
Using your knowledge of your own hometown or country and the opportunities tourists may enjoy when they visit, is great way to monetise a blog. This model can be applied to products and services. Money can be derived from the end users of the reviews or from the businesses with the products being reviewed. The latter may compromise the objectivity of reviews. Accommodation, leisure activities, restaurants and household products are some of the things that this method has been applied to.
These monetising methods are not mutually exclusive and the best method is to employ multiple channels simultaneously. As a food blogger one can use an advertising program, have product placement, provide recipes for magazines and produce a cook book. A designer can sell their own products, be an influencer, teach classes and provide content for other publications.
Blogging has taken off in Zimbabwe and many are waking up to its potential. There are communities and organisations established with the goal of assisting bloggers. This is a good place to start as you can short cut your learning process or improve on elements you’ve been missing out on. If you’re interested you can always get in touch in the comments section.