From serious health issues and being $500,000 in debt to earning 7-figures a year in ad revenue.
That’s the short story of this week’s guest on the show, Brandon Gaille of BrandonGaille.com.
Brandon has been around online business since the 90s. He’s made a ton of money, battled some really scary health issues, and today is one of the top bloggers in the world earning a collective 6 million visits a month across his three sites.
In this episode, Brandon goes into detail explaining how new bloggers can choose a niche to enter, how he finds low competition keywords, the best ways to monetize a blog, and much more.
Tune in to The Side Hustle Show interview to hear:
- Brandon’s best-proven processes for getting more traffic to your site
- how Brandon evaluates if a niche is worth entering
- how to use your blog to create a funnel and sell your own digital products
In the Age of YouTube and TikTok…Is Blogging Still a Thing?
“It seems like that question has been coming up for about 15 years,” Brandon said.
Even when Brandon was starting his blog back in 2013, people were telling him it was a bit late to be starting a blog.
However, Brandon said that bogging is still very much “a thing” in 2022.
In fact, Brandon said that blogging is more popular and profitable than ever.
To illustrate this, Brandon explained that Mediavine added 50 new employees last year expanding their headcount by around 15%.
Mediavine is the leading display advertising provider for bloggers, and the company Brandon works with on his sites.
Seeing Mediavine expand their operations is a clear sign that more bloggers are working with them.
Mediavine has a 50,000/mo session requirement to work with them. So, it’s also an indication that there are a lot of successful new bloggers.
What Makes a Good Niche for Blogging?
Picking a niche to blog about is often a sticking point for new bloggers.
If you’re niche agnostic, Brandon had some advice to help you get started:
“I think a good foundation is looking at keyword research,” Brandon told me. “When it comes to making money from a blog, it all comes down to keywords.”
By learning how to do keyword research, you’ll learn two key things that’ll help you get organic traffic from Google:
- You’ll be able to make a list and see how many potential keywords are in a niche
- You’ll be able to access the competition and determine if it’s worth you entering the niche
Brandon explained that ideally, you want to find a broad niche with plenty of topics to go after that isn’t too competitive.
Brandon also said that you don’t want to be the only player in a niche. You want to see that a niche has a proven business model and people are making money in it.
It’s a good idea to pick a popular niche, then carve out a piece of the pie by targeting a niche within a niche.
For example, Brandon said the food niche is one of the most popular niches with the most bloggers, and food bloggers who do well are among the highest earners.
He also added that there are so many keywords related to food that you could start a site in the food niche and simply target low competition keywords.
Are There Any Niches to Avoid?
Brandon said that one of the most common mistakes he sees new bloggers make is trying to create a blog about blogging.
“Stay away from blogging and marketing-related topics,” was Brandon’s advice.
Competition Metrics for Keywords
Brandon explained there are two ways to evaluate how competitive keywords are, “One is the hard way, and one is the easy way,” Brandon said.
Keyword Research “The Hard Way”
Brandon shared a step-by-step guide on how to evaluate competition the hard way is:
- Identify all the top blogs in a niche.
- Look at all the posts on those blogs and make a note of all the topics they’ve covered.
- Run those topics/keywords through a keyword tool to refine them into post titles. You’ll end up with a list anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of potential keywords to target.
- Google the keywords you’re interested in and take a look at the domain authority (DA) of the sites ranking on page one using tools like Moz or Ahrefs.
- To evaluate if you should be able to rank for a keyword; if you’re a new site, you’re looking for sites with a DA of 30 or less ranking on the first page of Google. If you have an established site, you’re looking for sites with a lower DA than your site.
The more sites ranking for a keyword matching those DA metrics, the higher your chance of ranking will be when you create an article.
Keyword Research “The Easy Way”
If that sounds like a lot of work, Brandon said the “easy way” to find low competition keywords is by using his tool called RankIQ.
Keyword research made up a large part of Brandon’s blogging course, but it’s still something his students struggled with.
So, Brandon and his team created RankIQ to speed up the process.
RankIQ is different from other keyword tools. It doesn’t scrape keywords and assign difficulty scores to indicate how competitive they are.
RankIQ provides keywords that have been found manually by Brandon and his team and verified as low competition, then loaded up into RankIQ’s database.
The tool currently has more than 500 niches and thousands of keywords already identified as low competition for each niche.
“All you have to do is pick a keyword and start writing,” Brandon explained.
Are AI Tools Good for Blogging?
AI content writing tools are the hot topic in blogging right now, but Brandon doesn’t think bloggers should be using them.
Brandon explained that there have been various tools aimed at shortcutting the content creation process over the years, and they’ve all fallen by the wayside.
He also added that a Google spokesperson recently came out and said that using AI tools is against Google’s guidelines.
This means that using AI tools to generate content could result in your blog receiving a manual penalty from Google’s webspam team.
Using AI to optimize content is a different matter.
Tools like RankIQ use AI to crunch data, optimize the results, and provide an outline for an article.
Brandon says this is perfectly fine and helps with SEO. But it’s important that you create the content yourself and don’t use an AI tool to do so.
Writing Content That Ranks Well
Brandon shared some of his top tips for writing optimized content for both Google and users:
Get to the Point and Avoid Fluff
Brandon said that writing long introductions and aiming for a higher word count than your competitors is a thing of the past.
To rank well with today’s SEO, Brandon said you should keep your intros short and get straight into the important information.
If you’re creating a listicle, for example, start with your most important points.
This is a much more effective way to hook a reader and optimize your post than trying to list more points than anyone else.
“Get to the point and give them [readers] what they want. Because if you don’t give them what they want fast enough, they’re going to go back to Google,” Brandon explained.
When someone visits a site and clicks back to the search results because they didn’t find what they want, it’s called “pogo-sticking” Brandon told me.
Pogo-sticking is sending signals to Google that the page isn’t helpful, and this has a negative impact on SEO.
Target Word Count
Brandon said he does look at the word count for articles ranking well, but he doesn’t try to write more than competing articles.
Instead, Brandon said he aims to write around the same number of words while including more information and less “fluff.”
Optimizing Titles with Numbers
Your goal when publishing content is to attract clicks, no matter where you rank in the search results.
Brandon said titles with numbers typically get more clicks.
He also added that the higher the number, the more clicks that title will get as the user will think they’ll get more value.
So, if you see an article targeting your keyword with something like, “10 top SEO tips…,” you should write an article titled, “21 top SEO tips.”
“You want to try and go at least 10 more,” Brandon said.
As well as trying to use an odd number as it’s been proven that odd numbers get more clicks than even numbers.
This can become a bit of a tactical warfare situation over time with bloggers constantly trying to 1-up each other, but it’s part of the game.
Using Symbols In Titles
Brandon said Google recently started deleting most of the bracketed text in article titles.
However, text in parentheses is not being deleted.
So, if you’re putting dates or any other information in brackets, like , start using parentheses instead like (2022).
Brandon also said you should not use hyphen symbols (-) in your titles. People associate hyphens with the end of a title, so they may not read what is after it.
If you want to break up your title, use a colon (:) instead.
Internal and External Links
Brandon usually only places links in the bottom half of his posts.
This is a strategic tactic to make sure none of his readers click off of his page before they’ve read at least half of an article.
Brandon also adds links to related posts at the end of his article to try and keep his readers on his site.
Keep Your Article Clean Until It Ranks
Brandon recommends keeping your content clean and free from email popups, affiliate links, and other distractions, at least until it’s ranking well.
Brandon said that Google tests new articles for the first 3-6 months after publishing.
During this time, Google is measuring how users are engaging with a post so the algorithm can determine where to rank it.
To give yourself the best chance to rank high, keep the content clean and straight to the point when first published.
You can always go back to posts and add an email capture once it’s ranking well if you are building a list.
Brandon said the best practice is to use a 2-click email capture as opposed to a popup.
There are various tools you can use but Brandon uses ConvertKit to manage his email list.
Monetizing a Blog
There are three main ways to monetize blog content; display ads, affiliate links, and creating products.
This is how Brandon approaches each of these types of monetization:
“When it comes to content, it’s best that you make money from ads than affiliates,” Brandon told me.
Brandon said the goal for bloggers should be to reach the 50,000 monthly sessions requirement to apply to Mediavine.
When you join Mediavine, Brandon said you’re going to make “between 10-30 times more than AdSense, Ezoic, and other smaller properties.”
Brandon said the amount you will make from display advertising will depend on your niche and some other factors.
However, most bloggers will make somewhere between $10-$30 per 1,000 pageviews.
“Save your affiliate links for an email sequence,” Brandon said.
Once you have built up some trust with your readers and added them to your email list, you should start testing out different affiliates, Brandon explained.
Brandon doesn’t add affiliate links into his articles. He said by adding affiliate links to articles you can potentially harm how high you’ll rank, and you may also lose visitors.
Brandon said he did an income study on a large sample size of bloggers looking at how much they were making, and how they were making their money.
Looking at the bloggers making at least $25,000/mo, 80%+ of their income was coming from making their own products or online courses.
If you want to make that kind of money, you should look at your blog as a funnel for your digital products.
There are three steps to creating a funnel that will result in product or course sales:
- Build up your traffic.
- Start building an email list.
- Create a product or online course to promote to your audience.
Content Creation Process
Brandon wrote all of this content himself for many years. Now he’s making 7-figures a year, and has the resources to outsource the writing.
Brandon’s content creation process looks like this:
- Brandon identifies the keywords using RankIQ.
- He passes the keywords to his wife who runs an SEO AI report using RankIQ to generate an outline for the article.
- The outline gets passed to a writer who writes up the article and sends the first draft back to his wife.
- Brandon’s wife makes suggestions and turns the article back to the writer if necessary.
- The final draft comes back to Brandon’s wife and she runs it through RankIQ again to get the content grade up to an A++.
- The article is then uploaded into WordPress where images and formatting are added and it’s published.
When you’re starting out, Brandon recommends writing all your content yourself. By writing the content yourself, you’ll become an expert.
This will also make you a better manager/editor when you do decide to start outsourcing.
When Brandon started blogging, he made a commitment to publish at least one post a day.
Brandon said it takes anywhere between 2-6 months for a post to reach its potential, so you want to write as much as possible and get momentum behind you.
It’s a numbers game. The more content you publish, the more visits you’re going to get. The more visits your blog gets, the more money you’re going to make.
Allocating Time When Starting Out
If you’re not sure where to allocate your time when starting a blog, Brandon recommends you spend:
- 40% of your time creating content
- 30% of your time on backlinks
- 30% of your time on keyword research
If you’re using a tool like RankIQ to speed up the keyword research process, you will be able to spend more time on content.
Brandon said it’s important not to skip on backlink building. If you don’t build backlinks, your content will never rank to its highest potential.
For backlinking tips, Brandon said there are two ways he approaches this:
Passive backlinking is when you create content that attracts links naturally.
Producing statistics posts and ranking for low competition keywords are two of the best ways to attract backlinks passively.
Active backlink building involves you reaching out and building backlinks with other site owners.
Two of the best methods for building backlinks Brandon shared are doing podcast interviews and using Help A Reporter Out (HARO).
How Brandon Spends His Days
“I wear a lot of hats, there’s no way around that,” Brandon said.
Brandon is currently putting a lot of effort into building and improving RankIQ. He’s working with a remote development team and meets with them a couple of times a week.
Brandon also puts a lot of time into his podcast, The Blogging Millionaire.
Since Brandon stopped selling his course, he’s been turning his course modules into episodes of his podcast.
Brandon’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation
“Keep an eye out for an unfulfilled need.”
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