The Smart Girl's Guide to Starting a Blog: Part Four

02 August 2014

photo via: The Everygirl

Hi lovelies! Ever since Sparkle & Mine really started taking off, I've had a lot of readers and friends reaching out asking me how to go about starting a blog. I'm often asked what my "secret" is to making my blog successful. And the truth is, there is no magical way to become an overnight hit. The advice I always give is to work hard, be patient, and learn everything you can about the world of blogging.

Of course, that's easier said than done. When I first started out, I was completely in over my head. I had no experience in blogging, and no contacts or resources to help me. So I did what I do best, I Googled. Every question that popped into my head as I went along, I painstakingly combed through page after page on the internet to find the answer. How do you get your blog seen? Where can you find design tools to customize your blog? How can you earn money with a blog? I was definitely giving my search bar a workout.

Since I love you all so very much, I don't want you to have to take the long way like I did. So I've started a new post series where I answer all of those questions and a whole lot more. I hope that by the end of this series, I will have created a thorough guide to starting a blog that makes the process easy and fun! I absolutely love the world of blogging, and I am so excited to share my experiences and insight with all of you!

If you haven't read part three yet, you can find it here!

Now without further adieu, the final chapter in The Smart Girl's Guide!

The Payoff
If you've made it this far in my guide to blogging, you're probably starting to realize that running a blog is hard work. And like any other job, you deserve compensation for the time and effort you're putting in. One of the best ways to make money with your blog is to run ads. In order to do that, you'll need to find an advertising network to get signed up with. Some of the most well-known of these networks include Google Adsense, Chitika, Media.net, and the service I currently use, Infolinks.

All of the advertising networks above (and pretty much any network out there) pay per click or per impression. That means that once you start working with an ad network, increasing your visitor count is more important than ever. Some networks actually have a minimum number of page views per day/week/month they require in order to join. This is why I highly recommend doing your research on all the major advertising networks out there in order to see which one is the best fit for you and your blog. How do they pay you? How often do they pay you? Do you need to hit a certain threshold before you get paid? Are you earning per click or per impression? It's better to look into these types of things before you go through the trouble of signing up and installing the ads.

I cannot really speak on any of the networks besides Infolinks, although I have heard great things about all of the ones I mentioned for traditional sidebar or banner ads.  I decided to go with Infolinks because I liked their innovative concept of in-text advertising to eliminate "banner blindness". I don't know about all of you, but I know that I completely ignore the typical website ads. Infolinks also has a really easy-to-use and customizable interface. You click a few buttons to tell them what you want, and they do all the heavy lifting for you. In just a few seconds you have a custom html code for placing your ads all ready to go. And in case you need even more help than that, they provide simple instructions on how and where to place the code.

 Affiliate Yourself
Another great way to earn money through blogging is to join an affiliate program. These programs have a working relationship with tons of big-name brands that will pay you to link to their products in your posts. Like in-text or banner ads, affiliate links typically pay per click. What I really like about affiliate links over ads, however, is that they feel more natural and conversational. I use affiliate links just like I would any regular links. If I love a product and want to recommend it to my readers, I'll link to it. It just so happens that with an affiliate link I'll earn a bit of money each time someone clicks. ShopSense and rewardStyle are the two biggest affiliate programs out there for bloggers, but there are plenty of others associated with specific products or brands that you can look into.

Sponsor Savvy
As your blog grows and attracts more interest, you'll more than likely start getting offers from businesses to write a sponsored post. This means that in exchange for a blog post talking up their product, they'll either send you free merchandise or compensate you. When I first started out, I struggled to figure out what I was worth, and what offers were worth taking. This is another area I would recommend doing some research in. Look into what other bloggers with a similar view count are charging in their "Sponsor" section. If you're still struggling, Being Reese has a super helpful post about valuing your blog. While I definitely don't encourage settling for less than you think you're worth, I would recommend keeping an open mind as you're first starting out. Even if you don't make a killing the first time around, saying yes to a brand can open doors for future opportunities.

If and when you do decide to take on a sponsored post, you need need need to disclose that you are being compensated. Not only can you get into a lot of trouble for not disclosing it to your readers, but you can also potentially lose their trust. This is why I also strongly recommend working exclusively with brands you really like and would use without compensation. Your readers are smart. If you run a high-fashion blog then suddenly start hawking dish soap, they are going to see right through it. Choose partnerships that make sense and feel organic to you and your readership.

I hope you all enjoyed this series! I know I loved writing it and seeing all of your wonderful feedback! If you have any requests for other blogging topics you'd like to see me cover, leave them in the comments below. I'll do my best to expand on the series every now and then with your suggestions!

P.S.- If you're looking for a website to host your blog, Bluehost is a fantastic option! They provide you with a free domain, 24/7 support, blog design tools, and WordPress integration- all for about $4!


  1. Love your blog, great post! Could do with some tips!
    -Lauren xoxo


  2. Can you do a post on what a new bloggers first post should be? Thanks.

    1. Hi Kiera! I actually touch on that a little in the first part of this series! It's different for every blogger, depending on your subject matter. For instance, I just jumped right into a beauty how-to for my first post.

  3. Sarah, thank you so very much for your series on creating and maintaining a blog. Yours is the first tutorial which made sense to me & all the links, examples and reasoning made perfect sense...you are a gifted teacher! If I may ask, how or where should I let readers know I am being compensated should I become able to do so? Thank you again and you have a delicious blog to read. Sincerely, Hope Vaughn Ward

  4. Hi, new blogger here and I have read all 4 of these and am very grateful for the help.

  5. These tips are awesome! my question is SEO (search engine optimization) should i have more labels or should I put more in the search box???


  6. You are saving my life girlfriend! So much wisdom!

  7. AMAZING advice! Thank you. I just started my blog thanks to your tips!
    Kate Hurd

  8. I loved reading through your entire series! It has definitely helped me as I am in the very early stages with my blog! Thanks for tips :)



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