Hello, again! Glad to see you back for the 5th installment of our How to Run an Online Business series. Last week we talked about Launching Your WordPress Site and the week before, Picking Your Domain Name. Today, we will be covering Content.
So, you wanted to start a profitable blog. You’ve followed along with my podcasts and decided what you’re going to write about, you’ve picked a domain name and set up hosting, and you’ve even launched WordPress. But now, you’ve got a blank website. How do you actually dive in and begin creating the meat of the site: the content?
It’s going to depend a lot on what the topic of your site is about, of course, but there are a few general guidelines to think about when creating content. I’ve got nine for you that I feel are pretty important, and will help you create a fluid site that has a great chance at thriving.
1. Publish Articles
Perhaps the easiest and most common source of content comes from articles. These are the blog posts, the recipes, and the how-to instructions that you’ll find when you go to almost any website.
It is what makes up the vast majority of doughroller.net. In fact, there are a couple thousand articles on this site that I’ve published over the years. It’s what you’re reading right now. Articles are the standard.
2. It’s More Than Just Articles, Though
When you think of a blog, you think of the articles. But that’s not the only way you can, or should, add content to your site.
Content can be any number of things. You could also include podcasts, like the one I’m posting here. If you want, you can create how-to videos or even vlog (“video blog,” which is essentially a podcast with video). This can be just images, too, sharing photos of products or showing the steps to accompany instructions. You can create calculators and online tools, or share user-generated content (like reviews). There are a ton of options available.
It will be very difficult for you to launch a brand new website today and gain traction in the webosphere if don’t reach beyond the written word.
3. The Spoken Word Can Connect Your Readers
I just mentioned the types of content you could use, but I really want to stress the value of the spoken word. It has the ability to connect with your readers in a way that the written word just cannot.
Podcasts are very easy to do (I use Garageband), and very easy for people to listen to on their way to work or while cleaning the house. Vlogs (YouTube is popular for these) make great distractions when visitors are on the treadmill in the morning. In addition to connecting with readers differently, this multimedia-based content also has the benefit of sometimes being more convenient than reading a blog.
4. Ask Yourself This
Before you write an article or create a podcast, ask yourself this: “How is my content better than what’s already out there? How am I adding to the conversation in a new way?” Those are tough questions sometimes, even for me.
After 10 years, I occasionally feel like I don’t have anything else to add to the conversation. Or I go to write yet another credit card review and think,”Am I really adding value here?” Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes, I’m reporting on news and that’s important stuff. Other times, it’s just a matter of adding a different perspective.
Over time, you’ll find your own way of approaching your content, which will add a unique tone to whatever niche you choose. But never stop asking those questions and keeping yourself accountable.
5. Find Your Own Voice
On that note, you’ll want to work over time to develop your own voice. This is true in the written word as well as in podcasts.
This will happen naturally as you continue to create content, but you can also make a concerted effort to follow along with what feels natural. Don’t just force yourself to write in a way that you think people want your content to sound. Find your own groove and strive to put a unique spin on what you’re producing.
I think a lot of content, particularly in the finance space, almost has the feel of plastic. Many of the articles out there feel like they could have been written by anyone, on any site. I don’t want that for Dough Roller, and you shouldn’t want that for your site. In fact, I just recently told my writers that I want them to start writing in first person more often. I want the content to read like a discussion—a conversation between the author and the reader. It makes the content more relatable and helps build that unique perspective.
It won’t happen overnight, but it’s important to strive for it all the same.
6. Storytellers are Powerful
When a writer shares a story about themselves or their experiences, it seems to resonate a lot better with the reader than some technical piece. They speak to the heart of the matter, and good stories are remembered.
This is probably why Pete from Mr. Money Mustache is so popular. He came out of nowhere and shared his own, personal story. People found it compelling, and he has an incredible reader base now. (I also interviewed him for a past podcast, which you can listen to here.) Same thing with JD Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly (though, he has since sold the site).
Personally, I tend to use stories more often in my podcast than in my articles. I like to share things about my own life, investments, etc. when I sit here and talk into this microphone, it seems. And, based on reader emails and comments, this is pretty well received.
If you’re able to weave your own experiences and stories into your articles, it can help a lot.
7. Make Money With the 5% Rule
There’s nothing wrong with monetizing a website – if we weren’t able to make money, most of us wouldn’t be able to continue blogging, running sites, and (hopefully) providing useful information. However, I would recommend following the 5 percent rule.
The five percent rule says that “For posts you are hoping to make some money with, write one of them for every 20 posts you write.” Think of them like television commercials. Commercials are fine, but you don’t want 55 minutes of ads for every five minutes of TV.
It’s the same with monetization. Sure, you may hear me talk about companies like Vanguard all the time, but that’s because I really think they’re great. I have no affiliation with Vanguard, and I don’t make any money off of mentioning them. But say I were talking about a company like Bluehost every chance I got, simply because they’re an affiliate. You guys would A) probably recognize it as marketing versus a true recommendation and B) get bored of that pretty quickly.
There are generally two kinds of ads you can use on your site: display ads and affiliate marketing. The first includes your banners or sidebar ads – the things you readily recognize as advertisements.
Affiliates are text links included in articles that pay you when readers click and sign up at, purchase from, or simply visit specific sites. Both are fine, but use them in moderation. Keep a balance between how you monetize your site and how much helpful, useful content you’re providing to your readers.
8. Follow Your Competition
If you’re going to maintain a compelling website, draw in new traffic, and keep up with the times, you need to follow along with your niche. See what others are doing. Read the content they’re producing. Browse the news as it relates to your topic.
This may mean following other bloggers and forums, as I do. I keep up with Mr. Money Mustache, as I mentioned, among others. I also check out the personal finance forums within myFICO, for example (which is a fabulous resource).
You should also follow along with the “big dogs” in your niche. For me, this means reading the blogs of companies like Vanguard and Fidelity. I also keep up with Forbes, the Washington Journal, the business sections of the NYT, Kiplinger’s, and Money.com. it’s to my advantage to stay on top of what’s going on, and see what people are talking about in the finance world.
You can’t, and shouldn’t, cover everything you find, but pick the topics relevant to your site and get involved. Be a part of the conversation.
9. Share the Love
Unless you’re covering a personal story (and maybe even then), you should almost always have a reason to link out to another site. Chances are, there is useful information out there that your readers would benefit from reading. If so, link out to it, and do so liberally!
Not only is this helpful to your visitors, but people will often return the favor. Even if they don’t, though, it’s beneficial for your readers and that’s reason enough to do it.
Make it easy for people to find what you’re talking about, or to learn more about a topic. If you mention a product, link to it on Amazon so people can easily buy it. If you mention a press release or news article, link to the source. Talking about a specific company or website? Link the name so your readers can check it out, too. Don’t be stingy with your links.
Creating content is the fun part of your website. There is always something new to talk about or cover, and a number of ways to provide content. You can always change things up and, over time, you’ll build up an incredible collection of information, thoughts, and musings. It can be slow, but hopefully it’ll be a process that you really enjoy.
Be sure to come back next week when we talk about content strategy. See you then!