Looking for proven strategies for making money online? Today I have niche blogger and content marketer, Casey Botticello, on the podcast to share the ways he generates income.
Casey and I do a deep dive into his niche blogging strategy. Niche blogging means creating blogs focused on specific topics that you can monetize through advertising, affiliate marketing, and digital products. As you’ll hear, Casey monetizes his niche blogs in all of these ways.
We also talk about Casey’s digital product strategy where he sells Canva templates and ebooks. The beauty of selling digital products is that you can make 100% passive income.
Another point Casey makes is that blogging is a long game. You will not get rich quick because it takes time to establish an audience and create valuable content. But once you do put in the work, the potential upside is significant.
If you are looking for new ways to make money online in 2023, this is the episode for you!
Table of Contents
- $10 MiloTreeCart Workshop – Write and Ebook with AI
- Personality Quiz: What Digital Product Should I Create?
- MiloTree Pop-Up App
- Catch My Party
- Casey Botticello
- Blogging Guide
- Become a Blogger Genius Facebook Group
- MiloTreeCart Affiliate Program
- All Blogger Genius Podcast Episodes
- Niche Investor
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Welcome to the Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.
Jillian Leslie 0:11
Hello my friends. Welcome back to the Blogger Genius Podcast. I am your host, Jillian Leslie and I am so happy you are here with me. I am a blogger and a serial entrepreneur. I have been building businesses online with my husband, David since 2009. When we launched Catch My Party, our first site.
Jillian Leslie 0:32
Since then, we’ve built a pop-up app called MiloTree that many of you use and recently, we have launched MiloTreeCart, the easiest tool to use to sell digital products.
Jillian Leslie 0:45
This week has been incredibly busy for me, because so many of you have reached out to say I want to start selling digital products and you have been buying MiloTreeCart like crazy. And I’ve been interacting and emailing with all of you. I want to say thank you.
Jillian Leslie 1:02
And if you are thinking about selling digital products like eBooks and workshops, and coaching and memberships and all of that, definitely go check out MiloTreeCart.
Write an Ebook Using AI Tools Workshop Friday, January 20th
Jillian Leslie 1:14
Before I get into today’s episode, I want to invite you to the workshop I am hosting on Friday, January 20th at noon, Central Time, it’s all about how to write your first eBook. I don’t know if you know this. But there has been this incredible technological shift that is going on in AI. And the tool that I want to talk about at the workshop is called ChatGPT.
Jillian Leslie 1:40
If you do not have a free account, definitely get one after you listen to this episode, because this AI writing tool is so incredibly powerful. At the workshop I’m hosting on Friday, I’m going to show you how to use ChatGPT to create an eBook effortlessly.
Jillian Leslie 2:01
If you want to come to the workshop, it’s $10. Remember, I charge because I want you to have skin in the game. Please go to workshop.milotreecart.com. It’s going to be on Zoom. Again, that is workshop.milotreecart.com. It’s for people who have played around with ChatGPT and people who don’t know the first thing about it. Just wait, I am going to blow your mind.
Jillian Leslie 2:28
For today’s episode. I have Casey Botticello on the show. He is the founder of Blogging Guide, which is this great resource to help writers monetize their content. I know a lot of you want to monetize yours so, I think you’re going to find this episode interesting.
Jillian Leslie 2:47
Casey is a niche blogger. He has many different sites. He has a team of writers working for him, we talk about all the ways that he has experimented with making money on the internet. He talks about how he manages his business, how he thinks about it, how he thinks about optimizing for SEO, and really the future of the business of blogging.
Jillian Leslie 3:12
I think you’re going to want to have your notes app open while you listen to this. Without further delay, here is my interview with Casey Botticello.
Proven Strategies for Making Money Online
Jillian Leslie 3:25
Casey, welcome to the Blogger Genius Podcast.
Casey Botticello 3:28
Thank you so much for having me.
Jillian Leslie 3:30
We’ve been on a call for an hour. And now I’m like, “We got to record.” And a lot of this stuff you’re sharing is so good. I’m so glad that you are here.
Casey Botticello 3:41
Like I said, obviously, as we’ve been talking about blogging, but more broadly, the creator economy and different ways people can make money online and thrive in the passion economy is really my area of expertise and something I love to talk about.
Jillian Leslie 4:00
I will talk to you about it forever. Casey, I know about you, because I have seen you online. I’ve been on your blog, and you are a great resource. However, I know really nothing about your background. Would you share how you got to be this blogging expert and where you are today?
What is a Digital Marketer?
Casey Botticello 4:23
Sure. So weirdly, the blogging title is one of the more recent descriptors. I would say that generally I started more on the digital marketing side.
Jillian Leslie 4:39
What is digital marketing? What does that mean when people say digital marketing?
Casey Botticello 4:44
Basically, it could include things like SEO, it could include things like visual graphic design, basically, anything that moves the needle in terms of sales, usually digital products.
Jillian Leslie 4:58
Could it be ads? Would you put that into digital marketing?
Casey Botticello 5:02
I would also include ads, a lot of the research that goes into product development, and then targeting, trying to figure out what an audience actually needs. I previously worked in management consulting at a few tech startups and at a lobbying and strategic communications firm. That’s sort of my formal background, basically doing digital PR type work.
Casey Botticello 5:34
And then helping build some content for the tech startups. But in my spare time, I’ve always been an entrepreneur probably a good 15 years maybe even before college. If there’s a way to make money online or a passive income stream that’s out there chances are I’ve tried it.
Jillian Leslie 6:00
You’ve got your fingers in there.
Casey Botticello 6:02
I really do. I think I have everything from niche websites monetized in every way through display ads, affiliate marketing, selling courses, eBooks, all that. To the sale of physical products. I’ve worked on WordPress plugins. I self-published a lot of books on Amazon KDP.
Jillian Leslie 6:26
Casey Botticello 6:28
Kindle Direct Publishing. They’re basically just as eBooks. So yeah, if there’s a way to make money online, chances are I’ve tried it. And that kind of weirdly, in a roundabout way, led me to focusing on Blogging Guide.
Best Opportunities for Making Money Online as a Content Creator
Jillian Leslie 6:48
Of all of those things that you have tried, which have been (a) the most successful and (b) the easiest to do?
Casey Botticello 7:01
I think definitely factoring in how long it’s run and generated truly passive income. The eBooks I did through Amazon I did them maybe seven years ago. I had a team of writers and myself and I basically wrote a series of test prep books and easy guides, basically things that could be like a free lead gen, kind of freebie material.
Casey Botticello 7:33
Something that you might have behind a soft paywall, but easy things like that. I just knew Amazon was going to be a booming platform and figured an increasing amount of searches would originate there. So why not try selling things for under $10?
Jillian Leslie 7:53
What is your biggest seller? Give me the title.
Casey Botticello 7:56
I don’t think I disclosed any.
Jillian Leslie 8:00
Casey Botticello 8:02
But I can say weirdly I know one that has consistently been, is a series of Driver’s Education exam books, which I cowrote. When I was moving to California at the time, I had to get a new driver’s license. And that literally inspired me to put together a study guide, and I ended up selling that.
Casey Botticello 8:31
And that California one has for seven or eight years consistently produce passive income. When I say passive income, I do mean passive. I think every year pretty much I forget my password, and I have to literally reset it to log into my account, come tax season, because the money gets direct deposited into my account, and I haven’t touched it since.
Casey Botticello 8:59
So, there’s no marketing, no additional promotion. Sales have decreased over time, because I haven’t paid nearly any attention to it. To answer your question, I think that has probably been one of the most surprising things. If you had asked me, could I make six figures doing that? I would have thought no, it was more of a random idea.
Casey Botticello 9:26
So, that’s probably the most surprising or interesting of them.
Jillian Leslie 9:31
Could you make six figures doing this?
Casey Botticello 9:33
You definitely could. Just like blogging, there’s a whole subculture of people who own portfolios of either ghostwritten or maybe multiple books that they themselves have written. And that can be in different niches so you can have like your fantasy cookbooks.
Casey Botticello 9:46
The reason I mentioned all this is because if you’re listening to this podcast, and you are like a writer or a creator of any kind, but especially if you have a writing interest or background, it’s always another way to consider monetizing your content.
Jillian Leslie 10:15
I love that. Back to what I had asked you. You did all these things. One that has been successful for you has been to write these books, and where else have you found success and relatively easy success?
Having Success Selling Canva Templates as Digital Products
Casey Botticello 10:29
Definitely, the digital products were probably the fastest, selling just like one off Canva templates, just trying to address very specific pain points. Something we’ve talked about before, but just when someone is going through the process of launching their own business, a lot of times people feel overwhelmed, trying to come up with all the marketing materials.
Casey Botticello 11:03
And usually, you can create a very simple product that acts as a universal template that many people would have interest in and would be of high value to them. The Canva templates are definitely a big thing. Along with that, I would say the niche websites will be this year, probably 60% of the income.
Jillian Leslie 11:37
I just had somebody on my podcast to talk about niche blogging, niche sites. And it’s fascinating. And I follow it on Twitter. I don’t know if you do as well.
Casey Botticello 11:45
Jillian Leslie 11:45
They’re a bunch of people on Twitter and I’m fascinated, especially because it’s an OG blogger myself, like the thought party with my blog, it’s like part of my family. So, this idea of these are assets just gives me a whole different perspective. How many niche sites do you own?
Niche Blogging as a Way to Make Money Online
Casey Botticello 12:10
I know I have about 20, because that’s what can stood the tier I’m at, my hosting cuts me off at and I was running up against that. So I have, let’s say 20 that are somewhat important to me. There are other sites that I have that are things that I created as an experiment, or I’m just allowing the age, but those are on cheaper hosting platforms.
Casey Botticello 12:38
So, I would say basically 5 to 10 that I’m very actively building, and then maybe another 10 that I rotate through, or I’m just experimenting with.
Jillian Leslie 12:50
How many of those websites are actually making money for you?
Casey Botticello 12:57
That 5 to 10 are generating some amount of money with the top three or four of those generating the bulk of that.
Jillian Leslie 13:05
That is so impressive. And this is like your project for 2023.
Casey Botticello 13:09
It is. It’s weird, because having done more difficult sales. I’ve done memberships and apps, in a lot of ways, blogging seems like a relatively simple way. Ten years ago, I also had a blog, and I never really made any significant money from it.
Casey Botticello 13:37
Now, I think largely because of the rise of these premium ad networks, Mediavine, AdThrive stuff like that. There’s this weird second gold rush where people are chasing these ad dollars, which is very real. And that’s definitely propping up a lot of the niche sites that you see people building and then like, huge multiples they sell it.
Jillian Leslie 14:08
So, here’s a question. Are these sites you’re building from scratch? Are these URLs you’re purchasing? What are you doing? And are they in a cluster of niches that all fit together so you could be linking them to build domain authority or are these just like random interests?
How to Pick Your Niches as a Niche Blogger
Casey Botticello 14:27
Mainly out of curiosity, I have a range of different niches and just because I like to experiment, but the ones that are earning money are in three to four similar but distinct niches.
Jillian Leslie 14:43
Can you share what niches they’re in?
Casey Botticello 14:45
One of them is in graphic design. And one of them is like a writing related niche. And then there’s one that’s more like my creative, just random. It’s like the design one, but just for fun, but surprisingly if you can group something as a personal brand, which is definitely important to get accepted into Mediavine and AdThrive, you can access much higher RPM’s.
Jillian Leslie 15:22
What do you mean by that?
Casey Botticello 15:23
Some people build these sites, they do a little due diligence, but they probably don’t think about the end goal, or the midterm goal of trying to get into these ad networks. So, they might pick a niche, let’s say gardening or something like that. And that’s a good one, because there’s no issues with advertisers. They are never going to have an issue with that.
Casey Botticello 15:52
It can be both your semi-personal brand like you gardening as an extension of your lifestyle. But also, it can be very product-focused, you see it these see these plants. Some topics, let’s say it’s software, which is one of the niches I’m in which is competitive, but has very high RPMs.
Casey Botticello 16:21
In order to get accepted into these sites with very high RPMs, unless you already have a very strong relationship with the ad network it needs to be somewhat tied to a personal brand. So, just posting reviews like endless product reviews won’t typically get you respected.
Jillian Leslie 16:43
Because you start to feel spammy, there’s this kind of fine line. And in fact, this was my next question. I interviewed somebody, and I’ll put her in the show notes Chelsea Clarke is her name because she has a bunch of female brands like beauty and things like that.
Casey Botticello 17:02
She has blogsforsale.com?
Jillian Leslie 17:06
Yes. Did you listen to her episode, it was great.
Casey Botticello 17:10
I listen to her episode and I’m just familiar with her site. It’s nice, because it provides pretty transparent multiples for anybody who’s interested in investing in niche sites.
Jillian Leslie 17:23
But here’s the thing, her feeling is she doesn’t put herself in the front of her blogs. It’s a beauty blog, let’s say, and she’s talking about beauty products and all this stuff. But it’s not spammy. It’s not like a review, just trying to get sales. But she’s not saying, “Hi, I’m Chelsea. And I’m interested.” It’s more like a magazine format.
Casey Botticello 17:46
And that is you’re asking whether you should put yourself.
Jillian Leslie 17:53
You should go that way or should you be like, “Hi, I’m Jillian, and this is my blog.”
Should Your Niche Blogs Have a Personal Brand?
Casey Botticello 17:57
So, there’s no question if you’re purely going after ad display ad revenue, that having the personal brand helps, at least in the beginning, just in terms of getting in to the ad networks. It’s also really just great for traffic and authority. Google tends to like things that are__.
Jillian Leslie 18:21
Tied to people.
Casey Botticello 18:22
Tied to people. You can use an avatar, you can do it more anonymously, where you’re acknowledging that you’re a person behind the blog, but maybe you just use a first name. And don’t provide a ton of biographical information, because you’re more private.
Casey Botticello 18:43
I’m not saying that’s not possible; you definitely can do that. But if you’re going after adverse revenue, it’s useful to have a personal brand. In her case, if you’re building a number of websites, you might have to get away from that, especially if you’re planning on selling and flipping the websites at six-month intervals or something, because the new owner___.
Jillian Leslie 19:15
Doesn’t want Jillian.
Casey Botticello 19:17
If they wanted your brand, you may not want your image or likeness being used to maybe promote whatever the new owner wants to promote.
Jillian Leslie 19:29
So, you’ve got these sites. And I’ve two questions. One, how do you manage them? Do you have a staff of people who help you? And two, you’re talking a lot about ad revenue.
Jillian Leslie 19:42
When I was talking to Chelsea, she’s like, oh, and then I’m adding affiliates and my own products and things like that. So, how do you think about scaling these, and what does your team look like?
Building a Team of Writers
Casey Botticello 19:56
My team is mostly me. In terms of the consistent full-time staff, overtime I’d built up, I probably have at any time 5 to 10 writers that are pretty much full-time producing content, usually under a freelancing or independent contractor relationship, but they’re spending pretty much, the equivalent of a full-time job producing content.
Casey Botticello 20:29
And that’s one of the ways I have kept the quality high as I tried to find really good writers. And once I managed to find them, I try to find work for them at all times to keep them on the payroll and to make sure that as much as possible we have a good relationship.
Casey Botticello 20:52
And that’s important, that’s something that gets lost a bit. Sometimes the creator gig economy, you definitely want to work with people but maybe you don’t have a formal relationship where you’re a W2 employee, but I actually give, for instance, all my writers an annual bonus.
Casey Botticello 21:17
I have last year, and if they’re listening, I’m planning on doing it again, this year. I don’t advertise that, but I truly am thankful that I can find great people to work with.
Jillian Leslie 21:34
Are you discovering them on places like Upwork, Fiverr, that kind of thing?
Casey Botticello 21:38
Weirdly, everybody hates Fiverr. You would think based on reviews online, that’s the worst place to find writers. And I’m sure that there are plenty of problems. But I’ve gotten pretty good at sifting through writers on Fiverr. And I’ve actually found some of my best writers, either through their or through referrals from a Fiverr writer, so I can’t knock the platform too much.
Jillian Leslie 22:05
No. In fact I’ve found terrific people on Fiverr. I’ve found designers, I’ve found people to make videos for me. So no, I love it.
Casey Botticello 22:14
And a lot of times people forget that it’s very narrow the way Fiverr makes you offer and segment your skills. You might find somebody who is a good writer, but can also do graphic design. Like me, there’s someone who happens to like that as a hobby.
Casey Botticello 22:38
So, they don’t mind including images, graphics, photos, along with an article, something that otherwise might cost you a whole other salary. That’s why I mentioned looking for the right people that have similar interests, that goes a long way.
Casey Botticello 23:03
I’ve had to experiment with a lot of writers. I’ve given out the same poor writing assignments hundreds of times and only hired a few of those. So, I spent a lot of money in the process of trying to find these great writers.
Jillian Leslie 23:20
Like diamonds in the rough or like a needle in a haystack.
Casey Botticello 23:23
And the funny thing is, I’ve tried expensive writers. The best writers end up being on the cheaper end, which is the weird thing I’d found. After all this effort, and in one case, I increased the writer’s salary after we went off Fiverr just because I thought they were being underpaid. I felt bad for giving them a lot of work.
Casey Botticello 23:57
So, you can definitely find great help through platforms like Fiverr. And outsourcing and scaling your team that way, it is a big relief as a small business owner, because there’s just no way I can produce the amount of content or have the amount of support that I have without having this elaborate virtual team.
Jillian Leslie 24:25
Wow. So, you’ve got 5 to 10 people you said?
Casey Botticello 24:28
Yes. There are six writers I think right now that are just doing writing. And then there are two people that do a mixture of writing and graphic design.
Casey Botticello 24:41
What systems do you use to manage this?
Casey Botticello 24:44
I have everything right now in Notion which is nice because that is a free tool. I only even upgraded to the premium version, which is only $50 a year recently. I use that for everything. And I highly recommend Notion just as a blogging productivity tool, both on the individual level, but also for managing workflow it works so well.
Jillian Leslie 25:14
We tried and then we ended up with ClickUp, which I’m still not 100% sure of, but I’d like it. So, that’s been our management tool.
Casey Botticello 25:16
ClickUps definitely, I want to say the premium industry favorite right now. A lot of people who are managing writers and content creators use ClickUp. And a lot of them are happy with it.
Jillian Leslie 25:40
Finish what you’re saying because I want to get to the second part of the question that I’d asked.
Casey Botticello 25:44
I was just saying that ClickUp is great. I do think that probably based on my limited experience, if you familiarized yourself with Notion, you can accomplish a lot of the same stuff, maybe ClickUp is more targeted toward this use case.
Jillian Leslie 26:04
I’ve found those learning curve Notion just a little too steep.
Casey Botticello 26:10
It’s tough, because it’s like yes, you can do complex things, but at the same time, they make something so weirdly easy and intuitive that, for me, it was worth sticking it out and spending a week getting used to it. Compared to like, a complicated Excel spreadsheet or something.
Casey Botticello 26:31
Notion blows that out of the water. And you can import data from pretty much anything. So, I find it very useful, but I know ClickUps definitely a popular choice too.
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Jillian Leslie 27:27
So, now you’ve got this team of writers and they’re creating content for you, you’ve got other people to help you with graphic design and images. And then you look at these bugs and I know you’re monetizing via let’s say if you can get them into Mediavine or AdThrive because of the premium RPMs.
Jillian Leslie 27:46
However, what else are you doing than to monetize these blocks? Where are the opportunities?
Casey Botticello 27:52
To echo, probably a lot of your former guests they’re definitely correct that it’s not just ad revenue that I’m after. Almost all of these have significant affiliate revenue too. In terms of the different streams of revenue, I still display ad revenue.
Casey Botticello 28:16
Even though it’s really high on these premium network’s it’s still not the biggest earner or doesn’t have the highest earnings for me net of fees.
Creating Digital Products to Sell
Casey Botticello 28:26
So, creating your own courses, and offering memberships and the subscription like services with recurring revenue, those are definitely higher earners. And that’s the stuff some of which I offer through blogging guide as the central repository of all that.
Casey Botticello 28:49
Those are really the products that earn the most, not all the niches lend themselves to creating products or services. And frankly, that is harder to scale because I tend to take a really strong personal interest in those and I am more of the face of those.
Casey Botticello 29:09
So, I haven’t scaled those to the other blogs yet but at some point, I’d like them all to have their own digital products and maybe have the revenue roughly split between that perfect trifecta ads affiliate and memberships or courses or your own digital products
Jillian Leslie 29:32
When you’re thinking about a niche how do you go through that? Are you looking at a niche and going oh, I could sell this and this like as affiliates like no brainer or I could make these products. How do you back into this is a niche because when you are in a niche you got to get deep into it.
Jillian Leslie 29:52
If you don’t like it this is one thing Chelsea said you should like the niches you’re in because you are going to learn a lot about whatever this topic is, if you are not a gardener, but you go, “No, no I’m going to start a gardening blog.” That might not be a good fit for you.
Casey Botticello 30:09
That’s very true. And I have to agree, you do need to be passionate about it. You don’t have to be an expert. That’s, definitely a bit of a misconception. By learning and documenting what you’ve learned, as long as you’re not in a YMYL niche that Google views as having a bit more impact on your health.
Jillian Leslie 30:40
What do you mean? What is YMYL?
Casey Botticello 30:42
Your money your life? The subset of niches like personal finance. Think that your information starts to cross into that gray area. Maybe we do want some real credentials here. The first thing I would do is rule out most of those niches if I’m backing into this.
Casey Botticello 31:08
Personal finance is a great example. I have a lot to say about it, I have wanted to do a personal finance blog many times, and I think I can offer useful content. But it’s just very tough to establish that without the right credentials.
Casey Botticello 31:30
If you happen to have credentials, even if it’s just topic adjacent, like if you happen to be a lawyer, and you can talk, I would take advantage of that. So, if you happen to have any credentials, that should be an obvious place to start. Because people like me aren’t going to go after that car.
Jillian Leslie 31:51
It’s kind of like people who get into wellness. If you’re a nutritionist, you’ve got something behind you where you go, “I’ve studied this,” versus, “Hey, I just grow herbs, and learn and discover on my own the healing properties of these herbs.”
Casey Botticello 32:09
And that’s a good example of a site over these last few algorithm updates has typically been hit. Lots of sites that are mid domain authority like I said, there’s anything that affects your health or anything in any way Google is increasingly as they should be, tough and strict on trying to find the appropriate sources.
Jillian Leslie 32:36
So, you’re going to say nix those, unless you have some expertise, then lean and hard, but you have to be reasonable and not be selling snake oil.
Casey Botticello 32:48
Yes, basically, that’s a good way to start. After that, though, then comes the hard part, I think that usually, if this is your first blog, you need to lean into something that’s like an overwhelming passion or interest. Just because blogging is hard and takes a tremendous amount of time.
Blogging Is a way to Build a Sustainable Business
Casey Botticello 33:11
I always try to preface everything I’m saying with blogging is in no way a get rich, quick scheme. It’s actually one of the worst in terms of acquiring wealth quickly, it’s not a great strategy at all. The interesting thing, though, is that you can build these sustainable businesses long term from it.
Casey Botticello 33:11
And so, if you think about it, from that perspective, come into a niche that you’re interested in, is probably one of your two three main hobbies, let’s say, or just something you would spend hours researching for fun going down internet rabbit holes, because for whatever reason, there’s something there that compels you.
Jillian Leslie 34:01
One thing that bloggers struggle with, is this idea of like, “Hey, I want to grow a business. And I know I’m supposed to niche down, but I have so many interests, and I get bored so easily. So, I’m going to just do a variety of things and call myself a lifestyle blogger.”
Jillian Leslie 34:19
And I always say, okay, here’s the thing, and I feel like Casey you are a perfect example of this. If you’re serious about building businesses, then yes, you do want your blogs to be in certain niches.
Jillian Leslie 34:31
Now you could have multiple blogs if you have multiple interests, and you love parenting and food and travel. You might need three blogs but don’t put them all under one blog.
Casey Botticello 34:43
I completely agree with that. And one of the most commonly asked questions comes from people considering multiple blogs and I actually was just working on a post with some updated advice, but the short answer is yeah, if it’s your first blog, there really is no reason to be considering doing multiple blogs.
Blog Advice: Make Your First Blog Work Before Building Another One
Casey Botticello 35:08
You need to be focused on just making the first blog work. You can keep that in mind should you like blogging and your first blog goes well, of course, you can always build subsequent blogs, but even for people that have all the people and processes in place.
Casey Botticello 35:30
Even for me, I know, my time is best spent focusing on the one or two main blogs that I have that earn money. And the other stuff is mainly just, yes, I have lots of interests. And I like running digital marketing experiments. So, I can justify tinkering around on other blogs a bit, because I do share those findings with all my subscribers.
Casey Botticello 35:58
But if I didn’t have that, I would say no, I’ve rarely seen a case where working on more than one blog, right off the bat is a good idea. There are too many things you need to learn; I think with the first blog before you can do that.
Jillian Leslie 36:18
I agree. So, we talk about SEO, because we were talking about it offline. And you had some interesting thoughts about it. SEO is a very popular topic among my audience members, because I think they find that if they can get SEO right, it is recurring traffic, it’s not like a Facebook post that goes viral.
Jillian Leslie 36:40
And then as soon as that post dies down, there goes your traffic. Let’s say you’ve got your top three blogs that you really lean into. And you now need to come up with content for your writers. Will you walk through the process of how you figure out what kind of gardening content or design content or whatever it is, how do you do this?
Casey Botticello 37:08
This is where while also being having an interest in the topic is important. And I do have a legitimately strong interest in those high earning topics. So usually, the process is still more or less the same. You don’t need expensive tools.
How to Do Keyword Research for a New Blog
Jillian Leslie 37:29
You don’t need SEMrush.
Casey Botticello 37:31
Jillian Leslie 37:49
Casey Botticello 37:34
You don’t need SEMrush. I do use Ahrefs. And I love it. I’m not complaining about it. I mainly use it once I’ve exhausted the first 100 obvious posts, and I’m trying to understand where my content might start to fit in in terms of topical relevance or authority based on the competing sites.
Casey Botticello 38:00
So probably for those first 60 to 100 posts that I’m going to do, most likely they’re going to be the low hanging fruit, they’re going to be a lot of informational posts, I don’t do a lot of product posts. I wouldn’t just do like this software review.
Casey Botticello 38:22
I would try to address the question of how does this software help you accomplish X, Y, Z, something like that, mainly because those posts have a chance to rank for more keywords.
Jillian Leslie 38:23
Especially because you’re solving a problem first and then using a software for a solution. But you’re not just shilling for that product.
Casey Botticello 38:45
Exactly. And just in general, if you want to not worry about being penalized by Google, it’s probably best to stick to a pretty high ratio of informational content. At various times, you can win with product-oriented content, but where you get both the affiliate revenue and you’re getting this nice display ad revenue.
Casey Botticello 39:14
That never really lasts for an extended period of time in my experience, if you want to build something that’s more sustainable and something that you can set it and forget it then you need to focus on informational content. That should be probably 90% I would say of your content.
Jillian Leslie 39:30
If we were to use gardening. Are you a gardener by the way I am not a gardener.
Casey Botticello 39:35
Jillian Leslie 39:36
I know nothing about gardening.
Casey Botticello 39:37
I actually considered it though for a niche for one of the other sites recently just because my parents have a really nice rooftop garden. And I was thinking this might be an interesting new thing as I’m learning from my dad about all these new plants. And this is in New York City. So, it’s somewhat unique. And I liked the visual element I’m in.
Jillian Leslie 39:37
Okay. Yeah, that’s right.
Casey Botticello 39:37
But I thought there was an angle and I still might do it.
Casey Botticello 39:41
Let’s use that as a hypothetical. Let’s say you got rooftopgardensnewyork.com. And you go all right. So I’m going to go, how would you start to think about this?
Casey Botticello 39:41
Obviously, a lot of this is going to start off very simple, I’m going to spend hours and hours going through Google, like I said, the premium tools can save you a bit of time here. But I’m going to look for what are some of the top auto completed searches.
Casey Botticello 39:59
The people also asked different Featured Snippets, you can tell a lot about a search and about the volume just by the type of information panels that Google provides. If you see for instance, a featured snippet at all, that probably indicates there’s a pretty significant search volume.
Jillian Leslie 41:12
Explain what a featured snippet is. I’d like to just reiterate.
Casey Botticello 41:17
That’s a good point. The Featured Snippet is what people call position zero, or that first position on the page, where it’s a standalone box that Google selects, maybe two to three sentences, and they highlight that as the quick answer. And that is always great to win those snippets. And that’s definitely something you should focus on.
Casey Botticello 41:46
When you’re starting a blog that’s why when people say niche down, I don’t think it’s just the topic that they’re referring to, they probably also mean you need to focus, the types of answers to questions you’re providing. Because there are a lot of longtail keywords, meaning how to build your first garden on a rooftop in an urban setting.
Casey Botticello 42:16
There might only be couple 100 searches for that a month. But even with a new blog, you can probably rank for that.
Jillian Leslie 42:25
And get that real estate.
Casey Botticello 42:28
Get that real estate, especially if you’re a new blogger, get out of the Google Sandbox first.
Jillian Leslie 42:35
What do you mean by the Google Sandbox? How long do you think it lasts? And what is it?
Casey Botticello 42:42
I guess, it’s an unconfirmed, but allege period of time that Google unofficially keeps your website, when it’s brand new, from indexing, mainly to prevent spam.
Jillian Leslie 42:57
To make sure you’re the real deal.
Casey Botticello 43:00
Make sure you’re the real deal. And this is unfortunately, the period where a lot of bloggers give up. It’s very sad when I see that because when you come into blogging new, you should probably expect that first three to six months.
Casey Botticello 43:19
If you’re buying a brand new domain that’s never been used before, that you haven’t posted content on, I would say you should expect that first three months, for your content. It might periodically pop up as Google tests it to see how it does against other existing results. But ultimately, you’re going to have to wait out that period.
Casey Botticello 43:46
So, that’s why you need to power through that first few months and have the faith that on the other side of that, and ultimately those posts will start to rank and that is what every blogger has to go through. Some don’t realize it because for instance, on my higher earning blog, I just gradually posted over time, because it was truly a hobby blog at first.
Casey Botticello 44:18
So, I posted once a week for the first year. And I didn’t think about it in terms of whether I was getting out of the Google Sandbox. I remember there being a long period where I wasn’t ranking, and then all of a sudden, I saw a bunch of them.
Jillian Leslie 44:36
It started working. This is interesting. So, we’re doing rooftop gardens in New York. And you’re starting to put those just different kinds of permutations, rooftop gardens in cities, urban gardening, best plants that can live in the winter on a rooftop garden, those kinds of things and you’re just creating like an Excel spreadsheet or a Notion document.
Casey Botticello 44:59
Yes, so I’m first going to go after maybe at most five, probably three topic clusters. And by that, I mean groups of queries that are related to each other. So, like you said, under the rooftop gardening, you might have a whole topic cluster on weather resistant plants. I’m not sure what the terminology exactly would be.
Casey Botticello 45:25
Like you said, most people don’t live in areas that are conducive to perfect year-round gardening. That probably is a whole subset of your readers who are going to need help with that. And so, I would say that might be one topic cluster.
Casey Botticello 45:47
Another might be even more specific, something like the irrigation for the plants. Just focus on a series of posts about the challenges of watering plants. And this is where the intuitive SEO part that I was talking about comes in.
Casey Botticello 46:09
Google Search is good for auto completing and recommending related results. A lot of times you can figure out what people might be looking for using a bit of common sense, and other platforms.
Using YouTube for Keyword Research
Casey Botticello 46:26
For instance, if you’re seeing a ton of YouTube videos, YouTube is a great source, which is also owned by Google. If you run a search on there, and you actually go through listening to people’s blogs talking about this is how I did this, chances are people are searching for that same information.
Casey Botticello 46:48
It just might not have made it into the queries for that exact question word. At first, your goal should be to find these very specific clusters that you can just rank for, and ideally, rank highly for. It doesn’t matter if it only gets 50 views a month, honestly, those are strong signals.
Casey Botticello 47:17
I would much rather start a website in month five is getting, only like 500 pageviews a month, even verse like 5,000, if the former has all kinds of top results. It sends a different signal to Google.
Casey Botticello 47:45
So, it definitely helps building your domain authority and most importantly, it establishes topical relevance, because remember, Google is not just trying to rank your content in a vacuum, they’re trying to figure out where you belong, while also simultaneously analyzing millions of other search results.
Casey Botticello 48:09
So, they’re constantly comparing and trying to categorize things.
Using AI Writing Tools as a Blogger
Jillian Leslie 48:15
What is your vibe on AI writing tools?
Casey Botticello 48:22
This is a hot topic right now. I don’t want to blanket say they’re not a great idea, because I’m sure there will be a time and a place and maybe someday Google will even change their stance officially. But currently, the AI tools can be great for writers who are basically really experienced editors, very few can just on autopilot produce content.
Casey Botticello 48:53
I’ve tried, maybe the top 30 platforms, and none of them with just a one sentence topic can churn out an article anywhere near the quality of a pretty good writer, but with some heavy editing, or using it for copy on a landing page or something like that. It definitely can be a time saver.
Casey Botticello 49:21
I think it’s a bit naive people think that Google won’t figure out what’s algorithmic and AI driven and what’s not. Google in the long run, they might crush some sites that are innocent in the process, but they’ll definitely try to stop endless generation of AI content.
Jillian Leslie 49:51
My husband and I are debating this a lot right now because he has a dolly account. It’s an image AI and I’m just feeling like this is barreling down the tracks. And it’s funny, I have interviewed an SEO who said, oh, my God, get away, don’t do this because Google is going to punish you.
Jillian Leslie 50:13
And then I talked to another SEO who is like, well, it’s kind of here. And you can use it as a way to brainstorm or to get, let’s say you facing the blank page. And that can be intimidating. So, you can use it for ideas, but make sure you are editing this. And so, I was curious what your take is.
Casey Botticello 50:31
I guess closer to the latter, I do think that there’s a place as long as you view it as a tool that you’re using somewhere in the ideation stage of things, as opposed to churning out the finish product.
Jillian Leslie 50:45
Copy and pasting. Here’s my new blog post or a new blog post.
Casey Botticello 50:50
And even then, I would be very cautious using it. There’s a whole number of reasons. But I think it’s generally not something, someone who hasn’t written their first blog post, let’s say, should even remotely consider.
Casey Botticello 51:09
Maybe if you’re a veteran, blogger, and like I said, can use it to help brainstorm new ideas, or maybe start a separate site entirely, to separate some of that content and de-risk.
Jillian Leslie 51:21
Casey Botticello 51:22
That would be my suggestion. But for somebody who’s going to be starting, what’s such a long journey of building this, it would be a shame to build it, knowing that at any time, if you fail to do quality control on a single paragraph, maybe there’s some sort of issue that Google flags.
Jillian Leslie 51:49
I think it’s going to change everything. I really do. I’m both intrigued and scared, as I see how fast the world is changing so that’s just my constant conversation with David, my husband, just in the last couple months, since this whole thing happened.
Casey Botticello 52:11
It’s a very real problem a lot of people say, “Casey, I’m being outranked by what’s clearly an AI site, in this search query,” and I’m battling a few of those, too. There are few niches where new blogs have sprung up and are churning out hundreds of posts a day.
Casey Botticello 52:35
And they’re slowly out ranking me in a few places, honestly, it’s unfortunate, but for the most part they might get away with it for some period of time. But ultimately, you have to count on Google policing matter and ultimately reining that in.
Jillian Leslie 52:57
Casey, as I said at the beginning, when we got on the call, you are a font of knowledge when it comes to blogging when it comes to, I think, being at the cutting edge of blogging, which I do think is kind of niche sites and really thinking about this as a business.
Casey Botticello 53:18
Jillian Leslie 53:20
If people want to reach out to you to learn more to see what resources you offer, where should they go?
Casey Botticello 53:28
I guess there are few places. I think that the best place people can follow me and get more blogging advice, in general, on my website, bloggingguide.com. If they want to reach out to me personally, or to discuss something entrepreneurial, there’s also my personal site, caseybotticello.com.
Casey Botticello 53:55
And I do have, although not completely related, Canva templates site, just canvatemplates.com, which I’m going to be adding a bunch of interesting Canva templates that are all geared towards, hopefully making the journey of being a creator much easier.
Jillian Leslie 54:17
I love that I’m going to go check that out after we get off this call. I have to say, Casey, I am so happy we connected. And thank you so much for coming on the show.
Casey Botticello 54:28
Thank you, Jillian. It was a pleasure.
Jillian Leslie 54:30
I hope you guys liked this episode. For me, I would say I like the way Casey’s brain works. I like that he’s trying lots of things, that he’s making money via ads and selling lots of digital products. He’s starting new blogs. He’s being very intentional.
Jillian Leslie 54:46
And he’s also willing to test and try and iterate and I admire that. If I had to bet on somebody having lots of success in this online space of blogging, I put my money on Casey.
Jillian Leslie 54:59
Now one last reminder about my eBook workshop happening on January 20th. Please go sign up. It’s $10 Learn how to use ChatGPT learn how easy it is today to write an eBook and you can use the same strategy to create any sort of digital product.
Jillian Leslie 55:17
So, to sign up $10 go to workshop.milotreecart.com. Again, workshop.milotreecart.com If you can’t be there live, don’t worry. You will get the recording and a bunch of goodies. I hope to see you on Friday. And if not, I will see you here again next week.
Most Popular FAQs about Making Money Online
There are many ways to make money online from home, such as:
Blogging: Write blog posts and monetize with ads, affiliate marketing, and selling products
Selling products online: Use platforms like Amazon, Etsy, or your own website to sell products.
Affiliate marketing: Promote other people’s products and earn a commission for each sale.
Online tutoring or teaching: Share your knowledge and expertise through online tutoring or teaching.
Online freelancing: Offer your skills and services on platforms like Upwork or Fiverr.
Online content creation: Create and monetize content on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok.
Online trading: Buy and sell stocks, cryptocurrency, or other assets through online trading platforms.
There are lots of different ways you can monetize blogging, including:
Advertising: Place ads on your site and earn money for each click or impression.
Affiliate marketing: Promote other people’s or company’s products or services and earn a commission.
Sponsored posts: Work with brands to create content on your blog or on social media.
E-commerce: Sell products or services from your blog, both physical or digital.
Consulting or coaching: Use your blog as a platform to to attract consulting or coaching clients.
A niche blogger is a blogger who focuses on a specific, niche topic. This way the blogger is considered an expert in an area.
Examples of niche blogging include:
Health and wellness
Cooking and food
Fashion and beauty
Business and Entrepreneurship
It’s easier to attract an audience and sponsors as a niche blogger.
Other related Blogger Genius Podcast episodes you’ll enjoy:
- How to Transform Your New Blog into an SEO Powerhouse with Kristi Dosh
- How to Make Six Figures from Niche Blogging with Chelsea Clarke
- 9 Secrets to Write Successful Blog Posts with Jessica Holmes
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