I didn’t set out to become a blogger. In fact, I didn’t believe blogging could possibly generate enough income to warrant the time spent on it.
I thought that blogging for a living was a fantasy; a one in a million shot. I believed that anyone boasting of their passive career as a blogger was merely trying to convince us to subscribe to an expensive service (that’ll open the door to our “dream lifestyle”), so that they’ll receive a commission in return.
But I was wrong to be so cynical.
I stumbled into blogging in 2016, and I’ve since learnt a lot about what makes a blog a success, and precisely what kinds of skills are required to do so. Here’s the story of how I ended up creating one of Europe’s most popular sports betting blogs — Punter2Pro.com — which generates a full time income and maintains a 1000% ROI.
Why A Sports Betting Blog?
It was 2014, central London, and I’d already spent the past four years building a software business with a close friend and business partner. We predominately specialised in collecting and delivering detailed horse racing data on a subscription basis. Professional gamblers found our service highly valuable.
Back then I was something of an all-rounder, untying the hands of anyone on our team that needed assistance. I’d spend a lot of my time on admin, customer service, bug fixing, seeking new customers — and exploring new avenues for our business. I kept the project moving while also planning for the future.
I’d use Google to search for other opportunities within the sports betting world, and to see what competitors were doing (which is important for this story). That’s how I started to gain some perspective on where I stood from a sports analytics standpoint.
A Void In The Market
Discovering what content creators had to say about sports betting was both fascinating and worrying at the same time.
It became increasingly clear to me that majority of betting influencers were obsessed with trying to guess the winners of sports events. They’d publish things like: “Tottenham are sure to win at the weekend. Great odds at Bet365. Bet now!”.
Even the most dominant sites provided inaccurate, poorly presented information, in a very sleazy tone. Essentially they mislead gamblers with false promises of vast riches.
I thought to myself: “are these really the top search results? Is this the best out there?”. I felt like I’d been operating in my own little bubble of stats & analytics. It was evident that I held knowledge that wasn’t prevalent in the public domain.
There was a desperate need for an honest, accurate insight into how sports betting really works. There was a clear opportunity for me to use my experiences to create a website that would fill the void.
The Name “Punter2Pro”
I was taking a shower, thinking of potential domain names for this sports betting website.
At the time I’d recently made a website for a small personal coaching business in London called “Coaching2Fitness”. To be honest, I never rated the name — it wasn’t very catchy. But it got me thinking about a process — “go from a mere punter to a professional bettor”.
That’s when “Punter to Pro” came to me.
I’d purchased the domain name before I’d finished drying myself from the shower. Yet, I still hadn’t figured out how I’d ever make the site profitable. I only knew that I could attract visitors if the execution was right.
I had the concept and the domain name, so I started to jot down exactly what topics I’d cover on Punter2Pro.com. This initial plan remains remarkably consistent with what’s published on the site today.
But I wasn’t ever concerned about writing the content itself. I don’t have difficulty getting my words out. I did however fear the web development side.
Getting the website right is, of course, a fundamental part of creating and managing a successful blog. And I’d experienced so many previous projects that’d gone round in circles during the coding phase, and I didn’t want history to repeat itself. I had to tread carefully.
Visual Web Editor
I wanted a solution that would cut down on development time, and reduce the likelihood of running into inevitable snags — such as browser compatibility issues. I found WYSIWYG Web Builder, an application that enables you to create sites without coding a single thing. It cost around $30 which seemed like a bargain. But I was was wrong.
It took me a lifetime to build Punter2Pro in WYSIWYG.
Sure it cut down on coding, but it didn’t offer a large library of existing templates or plugins to bolt onto the site. So I had to create a lot of page widgets and features from scratch anyway. I wouldn’t recommend building a detailed site in this type of application (but you live and learn).
To be honest, the site I produced using WYSIWYG was slow, clunky, extremely difficult to edit, time consuming to maintain, and it looked poor:
I couldn’t possibly release this site: it would’ve undermined everything I was trying to do. So I didn’t even put it online.
Shelved Until Further Notice
I shelved Punter2Pro and decided that I needed to approach the development stage very differently if I ever wanted to stand a chance of making the site a success.
At this point it didn’t seem as if I’d ever pursue becoming a blogger. After all, I still didn’t know how to set up a proper website, let alone make it profitable!
A year onwards in 2015 my business was starting to morph into something new.
I’d already launched a table tennis equipment brand using the Amazon FBA program, and my business partner was keen to explore new options outside of sports data. One of the ideas he proposed was to start a business blog, powered by WordPress, about all of the projects we’d tackled together. After all, there were a lot of them.
A Blog Isn’t A Viable Business, Is It?
The idea of a business blog was intriguing. But I had many reservations:
- I saw very little potential for it to earn. It was presented as a business, and I believed that the blog could only realistically reach as far as our combined network of Facebook friends. Put bluntly, I thought it had a one in a million shot of becoming a success.
- Competition is high. There’s tons of other business blog out there. I didn’t see anything unique in the concept for it to catch on.
- Conflicting vision. I think very differently to my business partner. Our perspectives give us diversity and strength in many ways. However I didn’t feel that trying to create a blog with a conflicting tone/voice/message would’ve worked very well. It needed just one writer to stand the best chance of success.
- Development. Based on my experiences, I predicted a long road ahead on the web development side. I had reservations about how powerful and flexible a CMS, such as WordPress that was proposed, would be.
- YouTube movement. It seemed as though there was a shift towards other mediums, such as YouTube. Was the traditional written blog format even still alive?
Plus, I didn’t feel this was a good time to exit the niche sports betting sector, that had served us so well, in favour of something so much broader and less specialised.
So my business partner proceeded with creating the business blog, and I turned my attention to new ideas of my own.
Blogs Certainly Can Earn!
Within a year the WordPress-hosted business blog went on to become a huge hit.
It became popular, went viral, and generated a full time income. So everything I’d previously presumed about blogging was (evidently) too pessimistic. This blog was proof of that.
Seeing such a simple idea quickly grow into a profitable business, with very little outlay, was inspiring. And it occurred so close to home that I absolutely had to start blogging myself.
I’d had an epiphany. My eyes had been opened up to the world of blogging, and it was an exciting time because Punter2Pro laid dormant, ready to roll out. It was time for “project restart”.
I’d discovered that successful blogging wasn’t a fantasy; the opportunity was there. It’s still is there now, despite what you may hear (people still read, you know).
However, I still wanted to develop new products involving sports data and analytics as well. So I decided to combine the two ideas together to create “a sports data & betting blog”. This would become the first public release of Punter2Pro.com.
Web Development Using A CMS
I’d seen the merits of using a CMS (such as WordPress). It worked perfectly for my business partner and his blog — simple and manageable.
I settled on Umbraco, an open-source CMS very similar to WordPress, but a little more suited to my technical requirements. I hired programmers to assist with the sports data collection tools, and I wrote content intensively (day and night) for over a month. The end result looked fantastic.
With Umbraco Punter2Pro was manageable, scaleable, and had a full library of plugins available for developing a range of additional features and “widgets”. This was a far cry from the original WYSIWYG attempt I’d made.
To polish the site off I needed a logo and a colour scheme. I decided on green and black as I felt that green represented money, the grass of a football pitch, and the tracks of British/Irish horse racing. So I made a quick mock-up logo in Photoshop and sent it to a freelancer on Fiverr to create a polished version. The end result was near enough the same logo I use today. Punter2Pro.com was reborn.
Lack Of Marketing Focus
The technical breakthrough wasn’t happily ever after for Punter2Pro, sadly. For all its features and slick design, the site did not become an immediate success.
At the time of Punter2Pro’s release, I was relatively inexperienced at online marketing and SEO. I hadn’t yet self-taught a lot of the things I know today.
With the huge amount of writing, project management — not to mention other online businesses — on my plate, I struggled to find a way to sufficiently promote Punter2Pro and all of its benefits to the sports betting community. As a result I couldn’t justify the programming costs. To put it simply: the project was too expensive and ambitious given my circumstances.
I’ve said it several times on this site:
Marketing was indeed the downfall of Punter2Pro. So I made the choice to scale it back, simplify it. I needed to focus more of my effort on marketing, and less on features.
This decision proved wise, and brought the site into its simplistic modern day format.
Third Time Lucky
Somewhere along the line, the simple concept of a Punter2Pro blog had been neglected. The site became jam-packed with all kinds of bells and whistles — but it wasn’t spreading the unique message I’d set out to tell. I hadn’t successfully filled that industry void I’d identified the previous year.
The problem was, I’d written a bunch of articles without any knowledge on how to promote — or monetise — them. So I had to educate myself on SEO and how to drive traffic to a website through other mediums, such as social media and PPC. This is the knowledge I share on this site, NicheCarve.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
The first big change I made was to migrate all of my written content over to a WordPress blog — which I hosted on BlueHost for it’s cheap, reliable service and free SSL certificates. This would enable me to manage the site as easily as I could using Umbraco, but with the added benefit of more plugins, themes, and online support.
I worked at adapting my writing style (my supposed strength) as it evidently wasn’t optimised for Google. My blog posts needed an overhaul in order to be found more frequently.
Once I was set up, I contacted competing blogs in pursuit of backlinks (where sites link to one another’s overlapping content). Most betting bloggers were highly supportive of my message and saw this as mutually beneficial; others evidently didn’t want to boost my site. But some resistance was to be expected.
To get faster results I invested in several SEO Services. I feel as though this was largely successful, but it’s very difficult to quantify their impact.
Social Media & Newsletters
I also took to social media to promote my articles, and to spread my message. This had mixed results.
The engagement on my content was generally pretty low on social media; perhaps a reflection of the industry, or simply my approach.
So rather than persisting in putting articles out into the wild and hoping it would spark interest, I set up a mailing list in order to encourage repeat readership from those interested in it. I also answered as many Quora questions as I could manage in order to quickly establish myself as one of the top sports betting writers.
- How To Set Up & Use A Website Mailing List
- How To Promote Your Blog Using Social Media
The combination of SEO (as well as SEO services), social media, newsletters and Quora started to produce results. My traffic grew to 250+ unique visitors per day in around six months, so I increasingly turned my attention towards monetisation.
The remaining question surrounding Punter2Pro was how it would make enough money to justify the time spent writing content.
I initially sought collaborations with services that might interest my target audience: professional betting products. This is the standard approach: sign up to an affiliate program and promote third party products on your blog in return for a cut of the profit. It’s known as affiliate marketing.
The problem is, my audience is so niche that there weren’t many relevant products with affiliate programs. So while Punter2Pro was generating a small monthly income, I feared that I’d backed myself into a corner and that its earning potential was too limited. But I formed several lines of attack to address that problem — and it worked.
Learning ways to monetise a website has opened the door to many other online opportunities. Here’s how I maximised the income from Punter2Pro:
- Content that lasts: to reduce the time spent writing fresh content, and to devote more time to SEO, I steered away from writing about current affairs (e.g. recent football results) and focused on topics that will remain relevant for many years to come (see evergreen content). This means that the project didn’t require constant input.
- Casting a wider net:
- Deeper content: I wrote more depth about the topics I’d covered, focusing on those that received the most traffic.
- Content for different abilities: some of my subjects didn’t appeal to the ‘average’ gambler. So I wrote a whole category of ‘beginner’ and ‘intermediate’ articles.
- Popular content: I used Google Trends to identify terms that people commonly searched. I targeted those terms in new and existing content.
- Spin-off sites: for content that didn’t quite fit my site, I created spin-off sites, such as TopGoalkeeping.com.
- Advertising: I tried out several PPC platforms, including Google Ads and Facebook, in a bid to increase traffic and income. Learn more on PPC Advertising.
- Radio appearance: my blog was contacted by BBC Radio 4, where I gladly spoke about both the merits and dangers of arbitrage betting.
- Guest posting: to increase exposure to my site, I wrote content for other blogs, and linked back to Punter2Pro.
- Forums: I signed up to sports betting forums and provided advice, linking to Punter2Pro for further reading.
- Freelance work: I used my blog as evidence that I could write about sports, and took on freelance work to boost my income.
- Website rejig: I focused on laying out my content as simply as possible, and linked to other relevant posts as often as possible. This helped to increase page views per visitor.
- Important links: All affiliate links were given more prominence on my site (e.g. “call to action” buttons).
- Regular newsletters: I ramped up the frequency of newsletters. The idea was to re-purpose, or simply link to, existing content on my site in order to maximise the exposure of all pages. For example, new subscribers would be made aware of older, more conspicuous content buried in the blog archives.
Over time the site continued to gain organic exposure. People shared my articles on social media, other bloggers referenced the site on their “Top Betting Blog” lists. It wasn’t long before advertising agencies began to clamour for their client’s (gaming) businesses to be featured on it.
It took sustained efforts, but Punter2Pro started to earn a comfortable yearly salary within two years. And nowadays it only takes a few days of input per month to maintain that income. Plus, there’s undoubtedly more ways to monetise it… or simply sell it.
So that makes 2/2 blogs that succeeded in generating a full time living.
Want To Turn Blogging Into A Career?
Having told my rather elaborate story in this post, I want to recap on all of its key points. This way you can replicate the process should you ever decide to become a blogger.
10 Steps For Blogging Success
Here’s 10 components needed to create a fulltime income from blogging.
- Idea: base your blog idea around a gap in the web. Do something different and/or better to what’s out there.
- Domain name: think up a short, catchy domain name.
- Hosting: I recommend using BlueHost to register your domain and host your site. It’s very cheap and easy to use.
- Website: I recommend using WordPress for your website content, as it offers a huge amount of features for free. BlueHost specialises in setting up WordPress sites. It takes just a few clicks.
- Logo: hand draw, or otherwise produce a rough mock-up of a logo. Send your design to a freelancer on Fiverr to create a polished version. This will cost less than $10.
- Blog posts: write your content in a format that’s designed to be found by search engines. Consider whether your content should stand the test of time, or cover only current affairs (see evergreen vs short-term content).
- General SEO: apply the most effective SEO practices to your site. In particular, reach out to other websites for backlinks.
- Mailing list: set up a mailing list on your site in order to ramp up readership. I recommend subscribing to Aweber for its ease of use.
- Social media: share all your content across multiple social media platforms. Consider using answer banks such as Quora to establish yourself as an authority on your niche.
- Monetisation: sign up to affiliate programs and reposition your content to sell the products you promote. This might involve delving deeper into subjects, as well as writing about topics that appeal to a broader audience. Always place your affiliate links prominently.
I hope my story will inspire you to give blogging a go. It’s not a “get rich quick” scheme, but I think the above steps will improve your chances of success. It certainly worked for me.