How to Turn Your Blog Into a Business

How to Turn Your Blog Into a Business

In a recent post, we explored a few facts: Blog readers aren’t buyers, more readers won’t make you rich, and fame is nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

So now what? You might be looking at your blog feeling disheartened and discouraged. Your whole business model revolved around blogging for business, and your home page is full of posts.

Fret not, fair reader. All is not lost. If you’re sitting there wondering what to do with your front-page blog and few sales, the answer is simple:

Change.

That’s the nice thing about blogs and sites built on WordPress. They’re very forgiving and extremely flexible. Even the cheapest, most limiting versions of blogs can get your business back in the spotlight and gently shoo your free stuff back to supporting cast.

Here’s what to do:

Business before Pleasure

You may want to blog for SEO purposes or to show off your smarts, but if the first thing a new visitors sees when he or she lands on your blog is a post, you’ve just created confusion.

A reader might find you through a Twitter link and be happy to come and read your post. But a typical buyer doesn’t come to your blog because of a link he noticed on Twitter.

The typical buyer comes to your site because he was looking for a solution.

When he lands on your site, hoping to find a professional ready to go to work, he’s confused. Is he in the right place? There’s no nice text outlining what you sell and how you can make his life better. No, he finds a post on 7 weird things about you or a rant about a nasty client.

Likely to land the sale? I think not.

So put your business before pleasure. There are many website-blog combo themes that don’t cost much – and some are free. Switch your theme out, make sure your home page clearly and quickly conveys exactly what you do, what you sell and how you’ll rock someone’s world.

The visitor gets exactly what he wants. And if he’s not interested in buying just yet? Then he’ll explore and discover your blog. A customer or a new reader – you win either way.

Who Are You Talking To?

One incredibly common problem is having the wrong audience reading your blog posts. You’re blogging hard and heavy on what you know best to convey credibility to potential clients…

But you end up attracting readers who want to be just like you. They want your tips, your knowledge, your tricks and your brain. Not your services.

These readers won’t hire you. They want to soak up what you know, learn what you do, and then go out and do it better. They want to become the next you, kick your ass and hand it to you on a platter while they scoop up all your clients.

So change your topic focus. Start blogging about related topics that don’t end up putting your brains on the road for the prey birds to pick at. You’ll still get plenty of readers, and you’ll still convey credibility. You’ll also attract more buyers willing to hire you for what you do .

Because they don’t want to learn what you know.

I Can’t SEE You

If you could watch a first-time visitor navigate your site, you’d be amazed. That big ad promoting your book in the sidebar? The person doesn’t even see it. In fact, he doesn’t even see your sidebar. He’s too busy squinting at your banner – the one in bright orange, the one he can’t figure out.

What does that title say? Dunno. Huh.

He’ll move on to your navigation – maybe. Maybe he doesn’t even see the main navigation – the one that has the important stuff, like About, Contact and more importantly, Services.

Maybe your blog post down below is screaming for attention. The title font sure is big enough. So the visitor reads and wonders what this is all about. What site is he on again? He looks up for answers – but there’s that orange banner.

Yuck.

Uncertainty. Confusion. Help? Oh yes, there it is – some links… With puzzling titles. And there are a whole bunch of links. Too many. It’s overwhelming and that just adds to the confusion. To hell with this – CLICK!

Your visitor is gone.

So clean up your site. Make it painfully obvious to anyone what you do and what you sell. Remove the clutter. Get rid of the gadgets. Cut down the long list of links and keep it all succinct. Retitle your posts.

Too many ads? Ditch some. They’re probably not earning you any money anyways. Focus on what does make you money, and get it right in front of a buyer’s eyes.

Move the Furniture Around

While you’re doing some housecleaning on your site, why not consider moving the furniture around for a better flow of traffic?

Consider taking the not-so-necessary out of your navigation. Do you really need all those pages? Got a free download or a cheap seller? Pull it down. Replace it with a page that promotes your services – clearly.

Use your sidebar space and promote yourself. Have some ads for affiliate products that just aren’t working? Put an ad for your own products or services in their place instead. (Yes, that’s where you can put that free download or selling ebook.)

You may want to consider doubling up your navigation, too. It’s nice to have a navigation bar underneath the banner where people expect it to be. But they may not see it just the same, so try listing links to those pages in your sidebar as well – instead of listing blog posts.

Try overhauling your services and copywriting, too. Package things up. Eliminate the fluff. Streamline your process. Clarify what you do, and create a message with more impact.

And once that’s all done… Well, write some great blog posts and start telling people about the cool stuff you do.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. Gah.

    I just finished tweaking my layout and you have me thinking about it again. :)

    Currently my posts are centre stage but may have to change that around in future if move to a business model.
    .-= Patrick Vuleta´s last blog ..Using the law to protect your own land =-.

  2. This is a really good post with practical advice. I’m currently working to do this on my blog, but it isn’t easy. However, as your blog and personal brand evolves, it is crucial to change your storefront as well.
    .-= Nathan Hangen´s last blog ..Do You Have a Release Mechanism? =-.

  3. Hmmmmm, at the moment my blog is reader oriented so maybe some time later i’ll do this stuff… Btw why dont you guys put Adsense here at your blog, within posts…that sure spikes up extra revenue.
    .-= write a writing´s last blog ..WHY DO PEOPLE WRITE =-.

  4. Great post and great advices spread all over, actually it’s not easy and I would also add that you have to LOVE writing your articles otherwise readers will understand that you are just writing for money, you have also to love and take care of details.

    Your readers will see the difference, do not worry give them time.
    .-= TheLanceLife´s last blog ..HOWTO : input form default =-.

  5. Oh no, I’m a constant re-tweaker. Now I going to have go take another look and make another tweak!

    Good article!
    .-= Roy Jones´s last blog ..Content for Successful Travel Blogs =-.

  6. The thing about blogs that I don’t think most new bloggers understand is that blogs suck at selling. They are great for driving traffic to your site, but once the traffic is there, you must must must funnel them to exactly where you want them to go for all the reasons you mentioned in this post.

    There’s a WordPress plugin out there called Custom Post Template which will allow you to take a single post in your archives and give it its own single.php file (i.e. you can make that one post look different, remove the sidebar, change the menu, the header, etc.). Great for posts which get high levels of traffic and you’re not making a dime off of.

    And I think the biggest thing you can do to turn your blog into a money machine (and business) is to start thinking like a business person and marketer.

    The word marketer for some reason has gotten a bad rap lately. People for some reason think it’s all shady things they do, like spamming. But then everyone loves Seth Godin (ok I know you guys don’t care for him, but it is a good point).

    So to make money on a blog, you really need to start thinking like a marketer, plain and simple.

  7. James,

    Yes yes yes! All oh, so true. Clutter, in particular, is very hard to conquer, but making decisions simple for a visitor is critical.

    The funny thing about it is that posts that are exploring how you do what you do, instead of how folks benefit from what you do, or how they lose out if they aren’t using what you do (like my post today)—those posts are clutter, too. Things that get in the way of a potential buyer’s relationship with you.

    That’s very hard for a lot of bloggers to focus on. It scares people to hear it—and goes with what John’s saying—if you’re in business, every blog post is (or isn’t, if you’re not doing it right) a sales piece. Write accordingly.

    (John—I think it’s all in the writing’s focus. I don’t think they have to suck at selling, but sure, they do suck at selling instantly. These days, so does most everything.)

    Regards,

    Kelly

    P.S. At “… a post on 7 weird things about you…” I fell off my chair laughing.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..The Tale of the 3 Mad Hatters =-.

  8. Tim Smith says:

    Great Post and some awesome tips. I’ve definitely seen this before. Thanks!
    .-= Tim Smith´s last blog ..How to Start a Blog =-.

  9. I’ve found one of the most valuable pages on my blog is my About page. I use it as a soft sell page. That said, I appreciate the advice to get your message out there front and center — instead of all the fluff.

    Do you ever recommend using a “sticky” post and putting at the top of your blog? I’ve not tried it personally, but have considered it.

    Ryan
    .-= Ryan Healy´s last blog ..What in the Galaxy Is Moonfruit? =-.

  10. Kelly
    Agreed…I think. What I meant was that blogs by literal design suck when it comes to being a good landing page to sell a product. Like James said, too many links, too many faces, too many everything.

    If you’re selling a product or service, an actual landing page with great content will convert much better than a post with great content.
    .-= John Hoff – WpBlogHost´s last blog ..New Regulations For USA Bloggers May Be Around The Corner =-.

  11. This was a good day to read this post. I am 80% of the way through a redesign of Poewar and moving on to build a portfolio site. I am suddenly in need of a job and I have badly neglected my business portfolio. I wasn’t tempted to feature posts (I’ll actually use PDFs for most docs) but I appreciate the clarity about what the site is there for.
    .-= John Hewitt´s last blog ..Technical Writer (Framemaker) — Farmington Hills, MI =-.

  12. It’s funny; within the past 10 days, I’ve altered my site to have more of a site feel and less of a blog feel, just like you suggested. So good to know I’m on the right track!

    Now, to quit giving away the store with my blog articles…
    .-= Catherine Cantieri, Sorted´s last blog ..Land of the free, home of the Sorted =-.

  13. For those who have a business/blog site: Widget Logic is another great plugin. It allows you to show widgets on some pages/posts but not on others. I have it set up so when someone is on my sales pages, they see testimonials in the sidebar rather than the stuff that’s in the regular sidebar.
    .-= E. Foley | Geek’s Dream Girl´s last blog ..Dear Anon-O-Box: I Just Don’t Care About Dating Anymore =-.

  14. @ E – Ahh, a plugin. I love plugins :)

    @ Catherine – Let us know in a month or two if your sales went up! Oh, and don’t forget some SEO…

    @ John – I’ll look forward to seeing that. Here’s to new business!

    @ Tim – Seen it before? Well, must’ve been in my dreams because I only wrote it last week… *squint* Unless you mean something else. You mean something else, right? :)

    @ John – Plus, blogs are designed for… bloggers. Not buyers :)

    @ Ryan – I’ve never tried a “sticky” myself. Hm. How about an exerpt in a sidebar with a link to more?

    @ Kelly – You liked that, eh? ;) I couldn’t resist.

    @ John – Marketer is a good word. I like it just fine :) And only some marketers do shady stuff, so we can’t paint all of them with the same brush.

    SEO moment: Did you know one of our top five keywords is Frank Kern?

    @ Roy – Ah, but tweaking is the lifeblood of good business – embrace it!

    @ Lance – Your readers will see you love writing, but blog readers aren’t typically buyers. I think a better angle is to love your BUSINESS.

    Ahhh… I love my business *hugs*

    @ Nathan – Yup. Change, evolve, tweak, test, change more, evolve… sales. WOOT!

    @ Write – Adsense? Um… Well, we might get $10 a month off it, sure… but that’s about it. Doesn’t feed a family. And it’s ugly. And it’s cheap. And… (wrinkles nose) You really don’t want Adsense on our site, do you? (Please say no…)

    @ Patrick – Yes, but you have a beautiful site. Stop tweaking. Kiss it. Love it. Hug it. :)

  15. Adsense? $10 a month? I get ten a day, but it still isn’t enough. (Yes I went back, no job to rely on for income anymore).
    .-= John Hewitt´s last blog ..Technical Writer (Framemaker) — Farmington Hills, MI =-.

  16. James,

    SEO moment: one of my top SEO keywords, month after month, is “handsome Canadians.”

    I think I’ll start writing about Frank Kern. ;)

    Until later,

    Kelly
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..The Tale of the 3 Mad Hatters =-.

  17. On the topic of Adsense, it really all comes down to the business model and it does highlight what this post was about.

    Usually blogs that rely on Adsense have a business model similar to a printed newspaper. They write lots of constant – usually short articles and just plug as many ads in as possible.

    However, that’s a business model that is unsuitable for a lot of businesses. If you’re not a newspaper, then it may not work for you.

    The main thing is to work out a business plan that is most suitable for your blog and implement it. So much of the advice from high profile bloggers has been based on the newspaper model because that’s their business model – they get tons of page views and can make it work. However, it doesn’t mean it can be applied to every blog.

    @James: No more tweaking for at least 6 months, I promise. :) At the moment this is working for me according to my own unique business plan.
    .-= Patrick Vuleta´s last blog ..Using the law to protect your own land =-.

  18. My best keyword last week was “what tools do I need to break in a house”! No idea how that picked up my site!

    What can I say? People who land on my site currently see a blog. That needs to change. Along with quite a few other things. Working on that.

    Thanks for pointing this out James, your last few posts have really been extremely useful and direct.
    .-= Melinda | WAHM Biz Builder´s last blog ..How Big Do You Want To Be? =-.

  19. @ John – I’m with Patrick. Typical blogs don’t make that kind of money on Adsense at all, from what I know and have heard, and business blog/sites make far less. You have specific types of traffic and numbers that make your Adsense a viable source of revenue, but that most likely wouldn’t work on another site.

    Heheh… You’re special, John.

    @ Mel – ;)

    @ Kelly – I’d say your keywords are just right! Excellent!

  20. It’s a great reminder – who are you users and what do you want them to do.

    It’s also a great reminder to walk your business model, if you’re blog is part of your business.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Lessons Learned from Bruce Lee =-.

  21. Your post talks about two of the most common mistakes freelancers make with their professional websites.

    The first is not being explicit about selling/promoting their services and the second is having too many outgoing links, whether to affiliate products, sponsors or even Adsense.

    Regarding the first mistake, you’re right. A professional website should have a home page which engages a prospective client and is focused on the benefits that prospect would experience when working with that particular freelancer.

    This is easy to accomplish in WordPress, even without any new plugin or theme. Simply create a page to be your home page (with the appropriate text/copy). Then go to Settings > Reading. For “Front page display” select “A static page” then click on the title of your home page in the drop down menu.

    Displaying affiliate ads and other irrelevant outward links on every page of the professional website is another very common mistake. Everytime I see a freelancer do this, it breaks my heart.

    They don’t realize they are leading their prospects away from their site and what – for a few bucks of affiliate commissions or, in the case of Adsense, a few pennies.

    Keep your affiliate links in a separate “recommendations” page for heaven’s sake! As for Adsense – just don’t do it on your professional site. Please.
    .-= Lexi Rodrigo´s last blog ..Protected: Freelancing Minute: Exclusive Videos =-.

  22. Excellent advice…too many times I find writing sites that omit crucial information…I surfed one guy’s site with the express purpose of hiring him to write a few articles on his area of expertise, but he didn’t have links to his online resume or any decent samples of his work. I moved on…tsk tsk. That money went to someone else.

  23. Very interesting – and thanks. I just redid the company blog header to show our website URL and the main idea of what we do. Oops. Should have had that there to start with. But the main website has a link to the blog on the home page along with what we do. I love your company name. I used it in today’s blog post: http://www.blog.saidndone.com – Happy Birthday USA: Thanks to Men and Women With Pens Who Knew How to Use Them.

  24. I edit a travel site run off wordpress and, although I don’t have products or services to sell, I’ve also found it difficult to make what we’re about immediately apparent.

    The site is focussed on travel within Asia, and is sort-of intended for expats in China who want to go on holiday in the region. I say sort-of because I don’t really want to say that up front, as I’m worried it’ll turn many of our visitors from other places away. So I’ve tried to make our focus apparent visually, by using a map and a graphic.

    If anybody out there visits the site and has some feedback, please feel free to send it my way.

  25. Decluttering – what a grand concept!!

    I take a look back at what my sidebars USED to be – wow. Lots and lots of stuff. But separating them into distinct helpful blocks has helped the navigation big time.
    .-= Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog ..Business Marketing: Don’t try selling to everyone (The Times of Northwest Indiana) =-.

  26. Great post! Thank you for the advice. I will get started on reorganizing my wordpress site today.

  27. I just created a blog for one of my agents that has a more traditional looking landing page, we are still fine tuning it but I’m intersted in seeing what her capture and conversion rates are in comparision to my “bloggier” looking blog. I have a feeling she is going to blow me out of the water and then I am going to have to revamp mine.

  28. I’ve recently done all that and when I sent out my latest newsletter got about five times the response rate on my call for action. Part of it had to do with the text, but I’m certain the majority of it had to do with what people see when they visit the website – they see a business that sells services and offers solutions.

    It’s made a HUGE difference – and a shout-out has to go to Kelly at http://www.visionpoints.net for a customer experience audit that pushed me to make the changes.
    .-= Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog ..Not Getting Started: Introducing (the rest of) the New Lab Rats =-.

  29. *huge grin*

    Thanks, Alex. It was a pleasure. Your motivation made all the difference!
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Inspiration Points: Show, Don’t Tell. =-.

  30. It is really hard to make enough money from a blog to live, it is however a good channel to communicate about other things that can be ammortized IMO.

  31. You mentioned not giving people info to pick your brains and do what you do better. How would you incorporate that on a blog specifically towards marketing your writing services? Mine currently has not only samples but posts geared towards SEO and article marketing. What sort of topics should be used instead? Any thoughts?

  32. @ Ken – I’m grinning. For a blog considered the 2nd position in the Top Ten Blogs for Writers, you don’t find a lot of writing posts around here that let people pick our secrets of the trade.

    How about case studies? Before and afters? Pick something from the news and critique it? Show off that you know your stuff by applying it to something other than training readers. Make sense?

  33. I like your down-to-earth approach as to what visitors may be thinking when they stumble across your blog, rather than the meat of the website. It’s true that blogs are good for SEO, but it’s not what your clients want to see, especially that rant about your last crappy client.

    Also, I think de-affiliating your website is a good move…It looks spammy to clients. Why post other people’s services. Focus on keeping people interested in your services instead.

    Cheers!

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