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How to Build a Successful Blog in Just One Hour Per Day

I recently received this great question from Elizabeth:

“How much time is necessary to grow a blog (and not at a snail’s pace)? I work full time at a job I love, commute 2 hours per day, and have two young children. My husband often works on the opposite coast of the U.S., so I’m frequently left alone with the kids and don’t have family to help out in the new town we just moved to.

We have some medical debt we would like paid off ASAP so I’m looking to bring in extra money. I’m currently getting up at 4:30 a.m. which allows me an hour to work on my side projects and I’m really trying to stick to 7 hours of sleep each night. My youngest is an early riser (often 5:45 a.m.!) unlike her older sister who is the better sleeper. Is it realistic to expect anything to result in a reasonable timeframe (I know better than to expect anything overnight) in only an hour of work in the morning before my daughter wakes up?”

Continue Reading

How to Use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to Improve Your SEO


If you’re new to blogging, chances are the term SEO isn’t in your daily vernacular … yet. SEO stands for search engine optimization, and for bloggers who want their blogs to be found on search engines, it’s an important term to remember.

(And yes, you definitely want to be found on search engines!)

Search engine optimization basically means optimizing your post or page to be more easily found on search engines like Google.

If you’re a blogging veteran who wants to know more about the Google Adwords Keyword Planner, stick around. More on that later in the post. Right now, I’m speaking to those of you who are new to blogging.

If you’ve used a search engine before (and chances are you have), you know that to find what you’re looking for out there in the never-ending sea of blog posts and websites, all you need to do is type in a few words describing what you’re looking for.

What happens next is that the search engine searches millions of catalogued sites on the internet for those terms you entered, also known as keywords.

What you see on the search page is all of the sites that search engine deems as the most relevant and trusted sources for information related to your keywords.

Of course, Google also has over 200 different factors it takes into account when “ranking” the pages that show up in your search (which ones show up on top of your search and which ones don’t), but Google’s ranking algorithm is a topic that will require an entire post to thoroughly explain, so we’ll save that for another time. 🙂

So now that we know the basics of how a search engine works, how do we actually optimize our posts and pages so they’re more easily found by our target audience?

Choosing the Right Keywords

Knowing how a search engine works, it’s important then to write your posts with a specific topic and keyword(s) in mind. When writing a blog post, simply ask yourself, “What is my post about?” and “What would the target reader of this post be searching for in order to find my post on Google?”

For example, if I were a new blogger and I was looking for content on SEO, I’d probably search Google for the keywords “SEO” or “search engine optimization” in order to find articles and posts to help me.

So with your post in mind, what is your main topic? What is your post all about? Asking yourself these questions is the first step to finding the best keywords for your post.

When you decide on a particular keyword, next you’ll want to use Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner to find the most searched-for terms related to your topic.

Using Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner

The Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner is a tool mainly used for ad campaigns on Google. However, it’s also a great tool to help you boost your SEO on your site as well by finding the most searched for keywords on a specific topic.

To use this feature to boost your SEO, you’ll first need to sign up with Google Adwords.

To sign up, click the Start Now button or the Start Using Keyword Planner link on this page.

Once you have your Google Adwords account all set up, you’ll want to log in and access the Keyword Planner in your Adwords account. To do that, click the Tools icon in the upper right-hand corner, then click Keyword Planner in the dropdown menu.

Next, choose the Find Keywords option on the left to get keyword ideas.

Now you’ll enter the topic or description of your blog post. If you’re wanting to improve the SEO on a page you already have published, you can even put the URL of your page!

In the example below, I searched for “blogging” and “SEO” to see what keywords people have been using to search for content related to that topic.

In the upper right-hand corner, I make sure to search for keywords used in the last 12 months. You can shorten it to a more recent or a more broad time frame if you’d like.

Now in the left-hand column, you can see keywords that Google users have used to search for content related to blogging and SEO!

To find the most searched for keywords, look at the average monthly searches column to find which keywords have the highest average monthly searches. The keywords with the highest numbers are the ones that the most people are searching for.

From the example above, I can see that “SEO,” “blogger,” and “search engine” all have a high rate of searches over the last year (100K -1M), as compared with keywords like “blog” and “what is seo,” which only have 10K-100K monthly averages.

So what does this mean exactly? 

Well, it means that if I use the terms “SEO” or “blogger” throughout my post or page about search engine optimization, the chances of me being found organically on a Google search is a lot higher!

Of course, as I said before, there are a lot of other factors to take into consideration when it comes whether or not you show up on the first Google search page or the 400th page. For more information on how to really optimize your posts and pages so you can rank higher on Google and be found more easily by your target audience, check out WPBeginner.com’s post WordPress SEO Tips for Beginners!

TIP: We LOVE using the FREE Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress to help us optimize our post readability and SEO! Find out how you can use this FREE simple tool to optimize your blog post to be more easily found on Google!

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Accepting a Sponsored Post

sponsored posts

I received this great question from Charity on the Your Blogging Mentor Facebook page about sponsored posts:

“I re-launched my blog about 2 months ago, and was recently approached by a company about doing a sponsored post. Do you have any advice about how to set rates for these posts and how to set guidelines for what you will and will not do in sponsored posts? Do you feel like it is wise to accept a sponsored post so early upon re-launching my site?” -Charity

This is such a great question, because I truly believe that one of the most lucrative ways to make money as a blogger is by working with brands and doing sponsored content.

Some of you may be immediately turned off by this idea and you might be feeling like, “Wait! But isn’t that sleazy to accept money from a company to write about their product?”

Well, it can be. Trust me, there are plenty of companies that want to pay you to post cheesy, sleazy posts — all they care about is getting their link in a post on your blog because it will help their SEO.

That’s not the kind of brand or company I’m referring to. I’m talking about writing content for a brand that aligns with your core values and brings value to your audience.

You might be shaking your head saying, “Crystal, there isn’t any company out there that would pay me to write a post that would also align with my core values and bring value to my audience!”

I disagree. I think you might be surprised at all the possibilities out there and the willingness of companies to work with you in a way that will bring value to your readership.

You just have to set some guidelines ahead of time for yourself!

Here are 5 helpful questions to ask yourself before accepting a sponsored post…

1. Is It A Good Fit?

This is the first thing I always ask myself when I’m approached by a company about doing a sponsored post.

Think about what your blog is, what you do on your blog, and what your target market is. Is this sponsored post going to fit within the parameters of who you are and what you do on your blog?

It’s important to make sure the topic or product will naturally and organically fit into the types of post that you typically do.

For example, a lot of times a company approaches me and asks me to talk about their product. On MoneySavingMom.com, since we post a lot of deals, I usually immediately ask if they can offer a really amazing deal on their product.

If they can’t do that, I’ll next ask if they can offer a really great coupon code or giveaway.

If they say no to that as well, I’ll ask myself if there’s a way this naturally fits — maybe it’s a money-saving service, app, or product that will genuinely help my readers on their money-saving journey. If it doesn’t fit, then I’ll say no.

2. Will It Serve My Audience Well?

This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the first question, but you want to take it a step further with this question. Often times, a sponsored post will be a great opportunity for you, but there won’t be anything in it for your readers.

It may feel like a good fit for you — such as sending you on an all-expenses paid trip or giving you a really expensive product to try for free. These can be great opportunities, but I challenge you to really consider your audience with these types of offers.

For example, a couple years back, a company wanted to send our family to an indoor waterpark. And while that would have been super fun for my family and a great experience, I just couldn’t come up with a valid way it would serve my readers.

I decided to ask if they would send one of my readers to the waterpark for free or offer a coupon code on it for my audience. When they said no to both, I declined the offer. Maybe you write a travel blog, though! In that case, something like this might be a great fit for you and your readers!

3. What Are They Expecting Me To Do?

Next, make sure you know exactly what they’re expecting of you. Most companies will have very specific guidelines or parameters for their sponsored posts.

I always make sure to get all of these details in writing before signing off on everything so that there are no surprises. This will also help me know if the post is worth my time (more on that below!).

I like to at least know what kinds of social media posts they require, the length of post they’re looking for, what kinds of pictures I’ll have to take, and if it will require me to leave the house to run an errand (such as buying a product in-store).

Sponsored posts can range from a simple informational post to an in-depth personal review and everything in between. That’s why it’s so important to know all of the requirements and specifics ahead of time.

It’s also a good idea to know if they’ll be expecting all of the copy ahead of time in draft-form. Many companies like to see drafts ahead of time of the blog post and the social media shares.

When a company requires a draft, that usually means edits will be involved, which means more time involved — so it’s really important to know about this requirement ahead of time!

(We actually charge extra for pre-approved drafts on MoneySavingMom.com, because we know it’ll take extra time and energy for multiple people on our team.)

4. What Is My Time Worth?

If the opportunity passes both of the first two questions and the expectations seem reasonable, now it’s time to think about how much they’re going to pay you.

This is important, because you have to make sure they’re willing to pay a dollar amount that makes it worth your time!

I always step back and ask myself how much time it will take me to write the post, do the review, take the photos, make the recipe, go to the store, buy the deal, etc. Whatever the requirements are, I always reflect on how much time it will take me and if it’s worth it to me.

I know that if I’m investing my time in the business, that’s time that I’m not investing in my husband and kids. So my time is really important to me.

To help you know if a post is worth your time and effort, I encourage you to set an hourly rate for yourself. This will be different for every blogger, depending on your number of followers and how long you’ve been blogging.

Once you have an hourly rate in mind, estimate how many hours the post will take you to complete, multiply that times your hourly rate, and then see if the total matches what the company is willing to pay. (And don’t forget to add in a couple hours of buffer time! More often than not, sponsored posts will take you longer to finish than you think.)

Companies will pay you based off your number of followers, but you have to decide what your time is worth. You’re the boss, you know your value and your worth, and it’s always okay to just say no.

I walk away from all kinds of opportunities all the time, because I know I’ll be frustrated if it’s not worth my time. (I do make some exceptions if it’s a product I really love or a promotion for a friend of mine, but I stick to my flat fee based off my hourly rate for larger companies that approach me.)

Remember: even if you have a smaller following, you can still secure sponsored posts! There are many smaller companies that prefer smaller blogs, because they can’t afford to pay the higher rates for the bigger bloggers. And some companies simply prefer smaller blogs with a more loyal following. {If you’re a beginner blogger and have trouble finding sponsored opportunities, here’s a post that might help you get started!}

5. How Much Will I Charge?

Only you can know the dollar amount that your time is worth.

You’ll often hear people say to base your rates on a percentage of your followers, but I think it’s much more important to value your time and base your rates on what it’s worth to you to write that specific post. (For example, you probably don’t want to be making $3 per hour just because that’s the correct percentage of your followers!)

I don’t like to throw out exact dollar amount suggestions, because every blog and sponsored opportunity is different. For those of you who need some ballpark numbers, though, I recommend setting your hourly rate no lower than $8-$10 when you first start out.

If your site is just getting started, maybe charge $25 for your first few basic sponsored posts. This will help you get your feet wet and should put you at that $8-$10 hourly rate if the post takes you 2-3 hours to complete.

Over time — as your following increases and the demand grows — you can slowly raise your rates to $40 or $50. And eventually it’s ideal to get to the point that you’re earning at least $250 for a sponsored post, if not more.

Some of you might be thinking that number sounds high, especially if you are a new blogger. But think about this: By the time you negotiate back-and-forth with the company, write the post, and publish it across all social media channels, most in-depth sponsored posts will probably take you at least 5-6 hours to complete. Many will take more than that.

Then, you have to consider all of the time and money you have put into building your blog and the time and money you continue to put into maintaining and growing your blog. I think of that, too, when I’m calculating my rates. Because there are many, many hours that I put into blogging that I never make a penny from. But those are the hours of effort that have allowed my blog to get to the place where it is.

You will also want to calculate your expenses into that rate, so that you know what net income you’re actually earning when you invest your time. You may have to purchase some products in order to stage photos, pay a designer for a graphic, or pay your assistant to help you with some of the related emails or social shares.

We charge quite a bit for sponsored posts over at MoneySavingMom.com, but we also have a lot of moving parts and people on our team involved in negotiating, securing, and drafting sponsored posts. That means I have to factor in the expense of paying those specific people on my team, in addition to paying for my time involved in writing the post.

Just remember to value yourself as a blogger, know what your time is worth, and pursue sponsored opportunities with confidence!

What other questions do you have about sponsored posts? We’d love to hear in the comments, so that we can address those questions in the future!

How Google Analytics Can Help You Increase Your Affiliate Income

Google AnalyticsGuest post by Micah Klug from HomeFaithFamily.com

Tell me if this sounds familiar…

You start blogging because you have a message you want to share with the world, but you also want to help supplement your family’s income.

Once you start deep diving into the many ways you can monetize your blog you might begin to feel uncomfortable as a salesperson or worry about being too pushy in linking to products on Amazon through their affiliate program.

But it’s very possible to make money blogging without feeling like a sleazy salesperson!Continue Reading

How to Make Money as a Blogger on Amazon Prime Day

I recently received an email from one of my Your Blogging University™ students asking me how they could make the most of Amazon Prime Day as a blogger.

In case you didn’t already know, Amazon has an excellent affiliate program called Amazon Associates. And if you’ve followed me as a blogger over at my other site, MoneySavingMom.com, you know that I’m a big fan of Amazon deals.

In fact, Amazon has consistently been a big source of affiliate income for me for many years! And one of the best annual earning opportunities as an Amazon affiliate is on Amazon Prime Day.Continue Reading

How to Start Working with Brands as a Beginner Blogger

Guest post by Lisa Sharp from RetroHousewifeGoesGreen.com

I’ve been blogging for over ten years and for about eight of those years I’ve been working with brands.

In the early days when there weren’t blogging networks to help connect bloggers and brands, bloggers had to reach out to the brands on their own. This may seem scary but it actually can be a great way to get sponsored posts as a new blogger or to simply skip the middleman.Continue Reading

Want to grow your email list? I want to help you!

Bloggers and online entrepreneurs, there’s no denying it: You need an email list to if you want to run a successful business.

I’m sure you know that.

Actually, I’m pretty positive you are aware of this because so many of you keep writing in and asking me how to actually grow your email list.

I won’t pretend that you can flip a switch and add 50,000 people to your list tomorrow. But I do have some proven strategies that will produce real results — if you’re willing to put in the work and stick with it.

And that’s what my brand-new course is all about!Continue Reading

What To Do If You Can’t Afford a Virtual Assistant

Are you feeling overwhelmed with trying to run your business AND do everything else you need to do in life to survive? I know many people online will tell you that the cure for business overwhelm is to delegate.

This advice to delegate is true and good, but what if you can’t afford to delegate? What if your business is growing but it’s still so small and you know that you can barely afford to pay your expenses, let alone hire on a virtual assistant to help you out?Continue Reading