How To Start A Book Blog That Makes Money
If you are thinking about starting a book blog, I’m going to give you some practical advice and show you what the big sites are doing to succeed and make big money.
(For credibility’s sake: my portfolio of websites is making over $65,000 a month.)
A lot of the content out there demonstrating how to start a book blog run you through the remedial stuff like installing WordPress and choosing a hosting plan.
That stuff’s obvious- there are a million YouTube videos you can watch if that’s what you’re looking for.
I’m going to skip all that and dive into the nitty-gritty of how successful book blogs like Good Reads and Publisher’s Weekly get traffic and monetize that traffic for passive income profit.
Just check out some of these insane traffic and ranking stats for Good Reads:
Check out my video overview of the book blog niche:
To give you an idea of what a successful book blog looks like I examined Good Reads’ keywords (what they rank for in the search engines):
You can see that they rank for a variety of different types of keywords.
- They rank for book titles like “Ready Player One”;
- Author names like “Stephen King”;
- Literary genres like “erotica”;
- Quote queries like “godfather quotes”;
- and book recommendation queries like “best fantasy books”.
These are some of the primary themes.
Digging deeper, I filtered this keyword research by the query “Memoirs of a Geisha“. You can see that there are a variety of subtopics you can optimize your content for. These include searches related to quotes, PDFs, reviews, and ‘setting’:
Getting Started With Niche SitesUse the strategies on this page in conjunction with my niche site process. Here it is in a nutshell:
- AuthorityHacker's Authority Site System (my review): a complete, step-by-step system to start growing your own highly profitable affiliate & authority niche site.
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- A reliable and fast hosting solution like SiteGround (my review)
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- A premium theme- I use GeneratePress but there are some cool niche themes on ThemeForest
- SEO Friendly Article Writing ($8-$12 / 1,000 words) from HireWriters (read: my HireWriters review)
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- An automated social media drip campaign from MissingLettr
- An auto-responder to build your email list– ConvertKit is what I'm using (read: my ConvertKit review)
- Finally- you can always refer to my free step-by-step niche selection guide and all of my free niche reports for inspiration
Getting The Traffic
I used SimilarWeb to get a sense of where Good Reads traffic comes from. As you can see in the screenshot below, they get over half of their traffic from search, a third of their traffic from users who come directly to the website and the rest of the traffic is pretty marginal by comparison- but doubtless is pretty significant on its own.
A big brand like Good Reads will get a lot of direct traffic because it’s pretty famous and produces great content. If you’re starting your own book blog, getting this type of brand awareness takes an incredibly long amount of time and effort if it ever happens.
But if you get .001 of the traffic they get you’d be making several thousand dollars a month, just doing some back of the napkin math.
How They Make Money
Below, you can see a screenshot of Publishers Weekly’s review of Memoirs of a Geisha.
They have a modest write up reviewing the book surrounded by several ad units (2, 3, 4, 5) And affiliate call to action “Buy this book” and at the bottom of the post and Audible preview that is likely an affiliate link (6).
When it comes to running ads, generally the best-performing ads are those that are placed inside of the content.
So this is not even ideally optimized for advertising revenue. But, it’s a good example of a cleanly formatted website with quality content that is monetized by display advertising and affiliate links.
You don’t need to format your site to look exactly like this, you can get by with a simpler design to start as you get your druthers running a WordPress blog
What I Would Do
If I were trying to create a profitable book blog, I would focus on six things. I would concentrate on keyword research, content quality, the site’s user experience, social, a publishing process, and monetization.
1. Keyword Research
Keyword research is vitally important. Most websites get the bulk of their traffic from organic search.
This means that You’ll want to optimize your content to be discovered by the search engines. If you take a look at the keyword research table, you can see a variety of keywords that Good Reads ranks for- Ahrefs also lists the keyword difficulty of each keyword.
The main idea is that you should target lower competition keywords with decent search volumes when you are starting your book blog.
I generally recommend writing 1,500+ words for each post. Google clearly prioritizes long-form content in the search engine results page.
2. Content Quality
If you’re trying to start a book blog, obviously you’ll want to produce high-quality content for your readership. Maybe you are doing the writing to start, but over time you’ll probably want to outsource some of the writing responsibilities.
Your readership is likely to have high-quality literary standards- though I should say that if you target really low competition keywords, you don’t always need to have an amazing quality writing to rank in Google search.
However, the quality of your content is an important variable that feeds into the next criteria I would focus on.
3. User Experience
Nowadays, search engines examine user experience to determine where you rank.
For example, if Google sees that people aren’t staying on your site for very long or they are pressing the back button and visiting an alternative website to get better information than what you provide, your site will not rank well.
You’ll want to give readers a reason to stay, which means the content should be good, it should be attractively formatted, the site should load reasonably fast. Make it a site that you yourself would want to read.
To get an idea of what a quality literary blog looks like, visit some of your favorites and see how they format their content. Try emulating some of their style early on- particularly if you are a novice internet marketer.
I would focus on producing long-form, high-quality, keyword-targeted content. Maybe I specialize in a genre of books like Mystery, Science Fiction, True Crime and profile authors and produce lengthy book reviews.
One of the smartest things you can do is create a mind map that will help you structure your site and plan the content creation process. Below, is a mind map that I created for the tennis niche. You can see how I brainstormed different content concepts.
Try doing this for your prospective book blog:
While organic traffic typically comprises the primary traffic source for most websites, it’s also a good idea to experiment with social media.
If you’re trying to start a book blog, you might even be predominantly focused on social media traffic. One thing I would recommend, whenever you publish a new post on your website, consider converting it into social media content for all the major platforms.
You can use a tool like Stencil to quickly create graphics and publish them to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest. You can also authentically engage on social media platforms. I wrote a Twitter case study where I did 10 real Twitter comments a day for 30 days.
You can definitely drive traffic and build up an audience for a new site more quickly with social media than through organic search.
What I mean, it can take a long time for Google to feed your site traffic from its platform. That’s why if you focus on a social media channel you can definitely experience some quicker wins than waiting for the search engines to drip feed you some traffic.
5. Discover A Process
It might feel overwhelming when you first start your book blog.
However, the best thing I can advise is to create a process that you stick to. Maybe you write one book review a week and share it with customized graphics to all of the different social media platforms. On top of that, maybe you engage in conversations about the book on social media.
For example, if you do a review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you can search that keyword on Twitter and discuss the book there.
Fans of the late Hunter S. Thompson's cult classic, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," might not know that the book's memorable "Dr. Gonzo" was not a 300-pound Samoan attorney, but a wildly iconoclastic Mexican-American lawyer and activist. https://t.co/2lUHp7gHqJ via @NBCLatino pic.twitter.com/F96s1dY1mF
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 24, 2018
Twitter is so rife with spam and bot traffic that when somebody actually engages authentically it’s pretty rare.
I know that whenever my content is retweeted or someone says something in reply to my Tweet, I get a notification on my phone and I always open up the app and check out who the user is.
You’re not confined to Twitter, either- you can go on Quora and Reddit as well. Whatever process you decide to use, give yourself a timeline and stick to it.
Maybe you set a goal for yourself of getting 50 visits a day for a week in a row by the end of 90 days.
Affiliate marketing will get you quicker wins than display advertising because you’ll need a lot more traffic to see significant revenue from a display ad network like AdSense.
Since ad revenue is generally calculated on a CPM or cost per thousand impression basis, imagine your book blog gets you $10 CPM on the ads you’re running, you would need a thousand visitors a day to be making roughly $300 a month.
On the other hand, with affiliate marketing, you don’t need nearly as much traffic to generate that revenue.
For example, Amazon is currently providing a 4.5% commission rate on physical books and a range of different bounty payments for people purchasing an Audible book or sign up for a free or paid Audible plan.
If you’re able to get 100 people to buy one $10 book apiece, that would be $45 in commission.
I would recommend beginning with affiliate marketing and inserting Amazon or other bookseller affiliate links into your book reviews.
You can also begin collecting emails and marketing your book reviews to your subscriber list. Once you have some decent traffic- maybe around 250 visitors a day, I would consider running ads on the website.
AdSense even has an Auto Ads feature which will automatically integrate their ad units into your website.
I like this niche for several reasons. A book blog can be a fun passion project that generates you a decent income if you are committed to executing on it.
There are probably easier ways to make money online reviewing higher ticket items, but the advantage to a book blog is that presumably you are passionate about the topic. A lot of people who want to make money blogging don’t have the stamina or willpower to start sites they aren’t passionate about.
That’s why I generally advocate novice internet marketers begin blogging on content that interests and excites them while maintaining a practical approach to traffic acquisition.
Oftentimes people start blogs without understanding the basics of traffic acquisition. If you want to succeed online, it’s essential that you have a coherent strategy and process to both acquire traffic and monetize it.