So, you want to know how to start a blog and make money? You have come to the right place! Blogging can be quite a rewarding experience; however, the learning curve can be steep and oftentimes overwhelming.
It can be difficult and time-consuming to figure out all the steps to take to start a successful blog. I totally get it. I’ve been there, done that, and wore the “I feel like quitting” t-shirt. Therefore, if you are seeking the best way to learn how to start a blog and make money blogging, this ultimate guide beginner’s resource will be a great place to set you off on your blogging journey. Let’s get you ready to launch your blog today, right?
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The Fundamental Principle of Successful Blogging
The foundational principle to remember as you learn how to start a blog is this:
It is not about you! The most important thing is the value you can provide by answering questions, and offering solutions to problems that people have.
Once upon a time, before the dawn of social media, blogs were primarily used as a creative outlet. There were tons of personal blogs, that mirrored journals. Bloggers would share their personal experiences on their blogs and would build communities with readers who were interested in their stories. Well, those early blogging days are long gone!
Nowadays, people do not care to read about your personal experiences shared on a blog, unless you can turn them around to solve a specific problem that they have. For instance, readers may not find a blog about “My College Experience” useful. However, if you spin it and change the direction to “Helpful Tips for College Students” you will find that you will draw interest to your content. This is because you would be solving a specific problem.
Think about how you use online search engines like Google. You type in a search term, perhaps a question, following which you are shown information relevant to your query. Now, you as a blogger, want to be on the side of providing said relevant information. You want your content pulled by search engines, in response to specific search terms. Your goal may be to be a successful blogger and to make money blogging; however, avoid using that as your sole driving force. Strive to provide value.
Remember, determine what value you will be providing your ideal audience, and come from a place of service, not from a self-serving space.
How to Start a Blog: Research
Determine Your Blog Niche
You know that you want to make money blogging, now you have to determine what you want your blog to be about. The first thing to consider is your area of expertise. Narrow this down further and identify a specific niche you want to focus on. Travel? Lifestyle? Fashion? Food? Pets? DIY? Fitness? These are just a few areas you can consider writing about.
Note that it is perfectly fine to have more than one specific niche. For example, in addition to travel, you may want to write about lifestyle as well. Or instead of just food, you may want to write about food, fitness, and skincare. Whatever you decide, just be sure to stick to your chosen categories so as not to cause confusion about what your blog is about.
Identify Your Blog Audience
The next step is to determine who your target audience for your blog will be. Start thinking of how you can serve them in the best possible way. It is easier to think about your target audience when you have established a niche for your blog.
Let’s say your niche is travel, you can choose to narrow your audience down to a specific travel sub-category, e.g solo female travelers. So, when you are determining what content to share on your blog, you already know who you are writing it for, and what value you will provide to them.
Name Your Blog
After you determine your blog’s niche, figure out what you want to name your blog. Given that your goal is to make money blogging, I would suggest not niching down too much when it comes to the name, as it may hinder your ability to evolve in the future. E.g a blog name like “The Texas Thrift Shopper” will tell people that your blog is about thrift shopping in Texas (or as a Texan.) In the future, if you want to expand your focus into other niches, you may have to rename your blog.
Choose a blog name that is easy to remember and difficult to misspell. Avoid the use of numbers or special characters in your blog name.
If you already have a name in mind, do a search online to ensure it is not already in use by someone else. If you do not have a name in mind, you can use blog name generators like Zyro Business Name Generator, Wordroid, and Panabee.
Alternatively, you can choose to use your own name as your blog name. Be sure to still search online to ensure that nobody else is using it, especially if you have a common name.
After you have settled on a name for your blog, claim it on ALL social media platforms, even if you do not intend to use them all. The last thing you want is for someone to claim your brand name on a social media platform, and share posts that people will assume are by you.
How To Start a Blog: Foundation
Get a Web Hosting Plan and Domain
Think of hosting as the house where your blog will live, and the domain as your blog’s specific address. Ideally, a good domain name should be the same as your blog name. For instance, if you have chosen to name your blog “The Debonair Explorer”, ideally your domain should be something like www.debonairexplorer.com. It can be confusing to have a domain name that differs from your blog name.
You can choose a hosting plan that includes free domain name registration. If you purchase your new domain name as a standalone, you can do so via Name Cheap for just $5.98.
I started off with BlueHost and later as my traffic grew, I moved to Big Scoots.
An additional hosting provider that comes highly recommended is Lyrical Host. Use the code SAVEMONEY and get 10% off your hosting plan. Pay six months of your hosting plan upfront and get the equivalent of one month free! Pay a year of your hosting plan upfront and get the equivalent of two months free! Lyrical Host provides a free SSL certificate with your hosting plan.
An SSL certificate indicates to your blog visitors that your blog is a secure and trustworthy site.
Tip: For an additional cost, domain providers can provide domain privacy, thus keeping the personal information you used to register your domain hidden from the public.
Choose a Blogging Platform
To make money blogging, avoid platforms such as Wix and Squarespace, or free platforms like Blogger and Tumblr. This is because there will be limits as to how you can scale your blog. WordPress.org is the free blog platform of choice for successful bloggers.
Ensure that you choose Wordpress.org NOT Wordpress.com.
Wordpress.org is the preferred option for the following reasons:
|Always FREE||Some plans are paid|
|Customizable: you can add plugins, customize the theme, and overall modify your blog layout as you please||Not customizable|
|Monetizable via affiliate links, ad networks, etc||Not monetizable|
|Self-hosted; therefore, you own your blog in its entirety.||Not self-hosted. A wordpress.com can be deleted at any time if you are deemed to have violated their terms of service.|
Note that for the rest of this article when WordPress is mentioned, I am referring to Wordpress.org.
How To Start a Blog: Layout and Aesthetics
Buy a theme
Think of a blog theme as the structural foundation of your blog. Your theme will determine how pages on your blog will look and work, the menus, footers, headers, etc.
Personally, I chose a Generate Press Wordpress theme because it is lightweight, easily customizable, and loads fast.
Setting Up Your WordPress
Watch this tutorial to learn how to set up your WordPress Blog
Some themes come set up with many tools, negating the need for additional plugins. However, if you need to add plugins to help with certain functionalities of your blog, try not to upload too many. Some plugins are resource-heavy and may slow down your site. Consider hiring a web developer to write custom code for your Wordpress site. This will ensure that your blog is not slowed down by extra plugins. Additionally, you can use Fiverr or Upwork to hire freelancers.
If you choose to use plugins, note that some have an option of a free version, while some require purchase.
For detailed instructions about setting up, you can learn how to customize your WordPress blog here.
As you are setting up, take note of some important pages your blog needs. These include your About Me, Contact Form, Legal (such as Disclaimer, Disclosures, Terms of Service), and Categories. You can set these up in your WordPress dashboard
How To Start a Blog: Branding
Some aspects of branding for your blog include a logo, blog tagline, blog header, the colors and fonts you will use on your blog pages, and also the favicon. If you have graphic design skills, this may be a simple task for you. You can use resources like Canva if you are not a graphic designer and need some assistance. If you need total assistance with branding, you can use Fiverr or Upwork to find freelancers like graphic designers, copywriters, etc.
Branding is also your unique voice — it is the tone that comes across when people read your blog content. Are you casual? Upbeat? Serious? Your personality can be communicated by the tone of your blog.
Your ‘About Me” page is also a place where your brand voice can be identified. It is most likely one of the first places that a potential subscriber will click on to learn more about you and what your blog is about. This is why it is important to make a great first impression. If you need assistance with your “About Me” page, you can find a copywriting resource on Fiverr or Upwork.
Legal Aspects of Your Blog
Protecting yourself, your blog and your brand is extremely important. Some legal pages that you may need for your blog include (but are not limited to) a disclaimer, terms of service/use, and affiliate disclosure. It is also a good idea to consider obtaining a trademark for your blog name. A good reason for this is to protect your brand name from being used by other parties without your authorization.
You can seek the services of an attorney in many ways. Some may provide detailed one-on-one consultations and draft documents specifically tailored to your blog. Some may provide templates that you can customize for your blog. The Contract Shop can provide templates you need for the legal protection of your blog.
Business Structure for Your Blog
If your goal is to make money from your blog, start to think of it as a business from the onset. To start off with, you can register a Doing Business As (DBA) at the state/county that your business is located in. A DBA will allow you to do business under a name other than yours, in this case, as your blog’s name.
If you decide you want to move forward with a formal business structure e.g an LLC, seek legal counsel to determine the best option. They will help decide what business structure works well for you, as well as any associated implications such as taxation, etc.
Be sure to protect your blog from attacks by hackers, malware, etc. Sucuri is a WordPress plugin that can help you secure your blog in a few easy steps.
Don’t let others track what you do on the internet, and your personal information. Use a VPN to change your IP address, and obscure your virtual location instead. NordVPN secures your online traffic with leading-edge encryption. This way, your sensitive data is safe when you browse on public Wi-Fi, or any other network.
Lastly, it is also important to protect your laptop/computer with antivirus and anti-malware software. Viruses and malware could give a hacker access to your WordPress login and thereby compromise your personal blog. I use and recommend Norton for this.
The first step to take before you start writing is to do keyword research. It is a very important step if your goal is to make money blogging. In simple terms, keyword research just means finding out what people are actually searching for online. Find out what questions people are asking, what information they are seeking, and what problems they are looking for solutions to. Then, create your blog posts based on this information. This will ensure that your blog posts show up in search results, thereby increasing your page views.
Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about what value you can provide. Write for people, not for yourself.
Organize the results of your keyword research into a content calendar. Also, determine what blog topics you will write about, and the anticipated posting dates. A content calendar will help you stay organized with a solid plan to publish new content.
Lastly, plan to have at least 5 blog posts ready and fully optimized for SEO before you launch your blog.
Blog Post Formating
Let’s talk about writing your first blog post. Once you have decided on a specific topic, come up with an attention-grabbing title. Headliner Analyzer is a helpful tool for this. Fresh Title and Title Analyzer is another great resource that can help you come up with great titles and headlines for your blog posts.
Provide as much value as you can in your blog post, write clearly and also get straight to the point. Pay attention to grammar, sentence structure, and spelling. Grammarly is a useful tool that can help you with this.
Images are especially important for creating a great reader experience. They break up the monotony of text and can add to the impact of your content. When it comes to photography, you have a number of options.
You can choose to take photos yourself, or you can hire a photographer in your area from a resource like Thumbtack. If neither option is available, consider using stock photos. Stock photo sites such as Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay offer free stock images. However, be sure to read any fine print to prevent copyright infringement strikes.
Plan to start learning search engine optimization (SEO) from the get-go. I used resources on Skillshare and videos on YouTube to learn SEO. Furthermore, additional resources you can use to learn SEO include Backlinko, YOAST SEO, and Rank Math SEO
Understanding SEO can be a steep learning curve; however, investing time in learning it will play an important role in the success of your blog. This is because when your blog posts are optimized for SEO, they will rank well in search engines, which in turn will bring you blog traffic.
Pinterest can also be a great source of traffic for your blog. I found Ell Duclos’ Pinterest With Ell course to be a game-changer. The course helped me learn the easiest way to set up Pinterest as a solid source of blog traffic.
It is equally important to do Pinterest Keyword search to find out what people are searching for. This will help you with choosing the right keywords for your Pin titles and descriptions, to ensure that your pins directing traffic to your blog posts are seen by your target audience. Keywordsearch.co, Pin Inspector, and free tools like Pinterest Search, Pinterest Trends, and also Pinterest Ad Words can help with your keyword research.
For on-page Pinterest optimization, I recommend the WordPress plugin Tasty Pins which allows you to optimize your blog’s images for Pinterest, SEO, and also screen readers.
For scheduling pins that direct traffic to your blog, I recommend Tailwind
Tip: Note that it takes several months for a new SEO-optimized blog to start ranking in Google. Pinterest on the other hand does not have a long waiting period. As a matter of fact, you can start to rank almost immediately. Just be sure to do Keyword research for Pinterest as well.
The Two C’s
Building a community is an important aspect of blogging. Getting traffic to your blog posts is great; however, what’s even better is converting those visitors into members of your blog community. Building an email list is a great way to establish your blog community. I recommend FloDesk to help you start building your community. (You will get 50% off with this Flodesk link).
Lastly, community-building also includes joining communities of other bloggers. You can find them in spaces like Facebook groups and Reddit. One advantage of being a part of a blogging community is the ease by which you can exchange knowledge and collaborate with other bloggers. You would be amazed by how much you can learn from each other!
You can also build your blog community on social networks via your social media accounts. Plan to encourage your social media following to go to visit your blog by alerting them of new blog posts.
It is important to have a way by which people can reach out to you. The best place to connect with your audience is directly in their inboxes. Email is definitely a convenient form of communication. An email address can be the golden ticket to engaging with your audience on a personal level.
Most (if not all) blog hosting providers have an email service as part of a hosting plan. However, you may choose to go with standalone email services like Google Workspace or Microsoft Outlook.
Blogging is an ever-evolving space; therefore, it is important to have a plan in place to keep learning best practices. You can find free resources on platforms such as YouTube, or Google Search. Alternatively, you can purchase courses or sign up for platforms like Skillshare. Amazon is also a great resource to purchase books and ebooks
As you continue to write blog posts, schedule time to review old posts and optimize them with updated information as needed too.
Furthermore, blog maintenance also includes: checking site speed, checking for broken links, tracking and analyzing Google analytics, checking Google Console, etc.
Monetize Your Blog
As you improve your blog content, grow your traffic, and also provide value to your audience, you can start thinking about how you want to monetize your blog. There are different ways to monetize your blog. These include affiliate marketing (affiliate links on your blog), an online store, sponsored posts, ad networks, and much more.
Read How to Make Money Blogging to learn more.
When you start to make money blogging, it is important to keep track of your business income, expenses, and taxes owed. Seek professional assistance for this as needed.
To start off, you can use Quicken to help you separate and categorize your business and personal finance. You can also email custom invoices from Quicken with payment links, and also simplify and track your business tax deductions and your profit & loss. It is a great option for small businesses. Remember: Think of your blog as a business from the onset and this mindset will be beneficial in the long run.
Additionally, you can use H&R Block to file your taxes. Their self-employed tax filing service has all the bells and whistles that self-employed people and small business owners need to complete their taxes easily and correctly.
As a blogger, you will find that you will accumulate several files, images, videos, documents, and more. It is best practice to store these on an external drive, or better yet cloud storage, as opposed to on your computer. You may also find that you need equipment such as a camera, tripod, etc. Amazon is a great one-stop-shop to purchase supplies and equipment that you will need to run your blog.
Have You Learned How to Start a Blog?
Do you think you have learned how to start a blog that will make you money? I hope that this step-by-step guide will help you as you start your own blog.
As you set forth on your first year as a blogger, don’t spend too much time overthinking your progress. Remember that success can take a long time. Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. It is hard work, but the great thing is that it is possible to make a full-time income from blogging.
Certainly, there is tons of information to learn, and it can become overwhelming if you try to do too much at once. The good news is that it is alright to take it step-by-step, one post at a time, and over time you will find that it becomes much easier.
Dear new bloggers: welcome to the world of sharing great content and making money blogging!