The Final Information to Start Running a blog and Make Cash At the moment. This is my easy, step-by-step guide to learn how to start a weblog and earn money from it. For 5+ years, I’ve been running a blog & making a living online—this is the easiest way to start running a blog (and shortly earn money out of your weblog).
What’s a weblog?
A weblog is a regularly updated website where new content is frequently published, usually written in an informal or conversational fashion—typically with the goal of attracting readers and generating an online income. You’re reading on my weblog right now, and this easy-to-follow guide will walk you through how to create a weblog of your own.
Should I start a weblog?
Sure! Starting a weblog is likely one of the best, most accessible methods to launch your own business and earn an income online (from anywhere in the world). You don’t need to be a professional writer or web developer—and also you don’t need any credentials, years of experience in your area, or a degree in order to start blog and become successful with it. You can start running a blog no matter your age, location or experience level and still build a worthwhile online business.
Can I start a weblog without any technical experience?
Even when you have no technical experience with websites, starting a weblog has become so much easier this year. This guide was created with ease of use in mind, and I’ll walk you thru every step in the best way, so that you’re able to learn how to create a weblog (very simply) right this moment.
Is it still possible to generate profits from a weblog right now?
Sure, millions of people around the world are making money from home—somewhat than pursuing a traditional 9-to-5 job. Blogging can be one of the most profitable online businesses with very low startup costs. You don’t need to blog full-time either. Even part-time bloggers can earn well into the six-figures from their blogs each year, like I’ve done for many years here. Starting my weblog (on the side of my day job) helped me build a six-figure freelance writing business. Finally, I monetized more by taking advertisements and sponsorships, offering online courses, launching a podcast and more (which we’ll get to later).
How much does it cost to start a weblog?
Depending upon your goals and the type of weblog you want to start, it costs around $34.50 to $65.40 to start a weblog in this year and cover your first 12 months of essential bills (web hosting can be your main expense). As you learn about starting a weblog in this guide, we’ll walk through which blogging costs could be lowered or eradicated to help maintain a decent budget.
Follow these 6 steps to learn how to start a weblog and earn money:
When you’re able to take the leap and learn how to start a weblog that can grow into a source of real online income, then let’s dive in.
1- Pick your weblog’s name and niche
The name of your weblog is what readers will see first (like yourblog.com), so it should ideally represent either the general topics you’ll be writing about—or it might be your own name, or the one of your small business, a clever combination of words, or in any other case.
Your weblog’s niche is the general topic area that you just’ll be focusing your content around. Examples include topics like travel, food, fashion, lifestyle, technology, and otherwise. Incorporating a word or two that clearly signals what your content is about, within the name of your weblog (like workfromhomelegitjob.com or atdeb.com)—can be very helpful for your future blog readers.
Whenever you start your weblog with a hosting company like Bluehost, they’ll let you choose your domain name later. If the domain name you need isn’t available, don’t get hung up at this stage—just select their option to choose your name later after getting everything else set up and you can have more time to think (remember, execution is what you’re here for, not perfection).
You even can easily change the name of your weblog later, you’ll just need to purchase a brand new domain name (around $10). While the name you choose for your weblog is important, it’s something you can always change sooner or later—so don’t let this step hold you back.
2- Get your weblog online (website hosting)
The second step in starting a weblog, is actually getting your weblog online. That’s what a web hosting company will do for you. In this step, you’ll be selecting the blogging platform and web hosting plan you’ll use to get your weblog online.
To make your website accessible to other people on the Internet, you need a “host.” The host retains all of your website files safe, secure and makes sure that people can access your weblog when they click on a link or type in your URL. Consider web hosting as being like your private home. When someone comes over (types in your weblog’s URL), they’ll have the ability to see what’s inside.
Web hosting comes at a low cost (around $5/mo) with a top quality hosting provider like Bluehost. Having a proper hosting company to power your blog is among the most important investments you can make when getting started.
The combination of blogging platform & web hosting I personally use (and that almost all other bloggers use) is a WordPress weblog, hosted by Bluehost. WordPress is a free publishing platform that’s been around since 2003 and now powers more than 60% of all blogs on the Internet. Bluehost is among the most established, reliable companies in the weblog hosting industry. This combination is what we’ll be using to start your weblog. Now, let’s get your hosting set up.
👉 Click on right here to go over to Bluehost 👈 and hit the green “Get Started” button
Select your plan
First, you’ll select a hosting plan (inputting your weblog name comes next). Personally, I like to recommend selecting the Choice Plus plan because it comes with Domain Privacy, which will protect your personal information (your full name, e-mail address, cellphone number and residential address) from being published anywhere online.
Choosing your plan will look like this right here. Just click on the green “Select” button on your plan of choice:
As I said above, I like to recommend selecting the Choice Plus plan, so that you’re getting the Domain Privacy feature that’ll protect your personal information online, but any of these plans will do as you’re starting your weblog—and you’ll add the domain privacy later during the checkout process for around $1/mo.
Pick your weblog’s domain name
Next, you’ll get to the page where it’s time to choose your weblog’s domain name:
When you get to this step within the checkout process, just type in the name of the domain name that you’d like your weblog to have (mine is workfromhomelegitjob.com).
If you want to run a quick search to see if your domain name is available, you can do it quickly right here:
In case your domain name of choice isn’t available, you can either try another option that comes to mind—or (what I recommend) select the option to choose your domain name later after getting the rest of your account squared away and taking just a little more time to think the name through. Plus, later on down in this guide, I expand some more on how to choose the right name on your weblog if you’re not decided yet.
Right here’s where you can click on to choose your domain later (it’s a popup that will appear if you hover on this page for long enough or move your mouse up towards the top of the page):
After both choosing your domain name or opting to select it later, you’ll be taken to the final step in the sign up process—creating your account.
Create your Bluehost account
Start by filling in your account details like your name, e-mail address (it’s super important to use an up-to-date e-mail address because this is where your login details and account data will be sent) and deal with. If you don’t want to enter your data manually, you can connect your Bluehost account with your Google account. Either works!
Choose the best hosting package deal
That is where you’ll select an account plan based on the price you want to lock in and how far in advance you’ll pay.
Note that Bluehost only offers options for you to pay 1, 2, 3 or 5 years upfront. They don’t offer a monthly fee option (because most hosting companies that do provide monthly payments tend to charge a bit more). Even still, with whichever plan you choose, the price works out to be a great deal for starting your own weblog and getting it online at this time.
Which pricing plan is best to begin a weblog with?
Personally, I like to recommend choosing the “Prime 36 Month Price” if you want to lock in the lowest possible price for your hosting. That’s what I use. And it secures your weblog hosting at their lowest fee (and gets you domain privacy) for the next 3 years. And because this low pricing for new clients only applies to the first payment you make, if you had been to choose the 1-year plan, your pricing may go up after that first 12 months.
That’s why if you choose the 36-month plan, your pricing will be locked in at this fee for 3 years. For that reason, I like to recommend going with the longest duration plan that your budget can spring for.
Choosing the right package extras
I like to recommend keeping the Domain Privacy Protection extra, but you can get away with skipping the rest. Later on in this guide, I’ll show you the many free and cheap plugins & tools you can use for things like Search engine optimization optimization, additional security and website back-ups, rendering many of the other package extras not necessary.
As I mentioned earlier though, having the domain privacy additional keeps all of your personal contact data (your name, e-mail, cellphone number and address) private. Now, if you chose the Choice Plus Plan on the previous screen, then your Domain Privacy Protection will be listed as “Free” just like this screenshot above shows—it’s included in that plan.
If you selected a Basic or Plus Plan, then you’ll want to test the box to add Domain Privacy Protection to your order for around $1/mo.
The entire you’ll now see is the quantity you’re going to pay at the moment. Keep in mind although, you gained’t should pay once more for 1, 2, Three or 5 years relying on the package deal you selected. Plus, there’s a 30-day a reimbursement assure in case issues don’t go as deliberate along with your weblog.
Enter your billing data
Now you’ll enter your billing data, check the box that you agree to Bluehost’s Terms of Service and then hit the green “Submit” button.
Woo! It’s time for a mini celebration 🙂
You’ve officially completed the first main step in starting a weblog.
With the initial signup process complete, it’s time to move into the next stage of getting your weblog fully setup and optimized.
On the next page, you’ll be guided step-by-step through the process of getting WordPress installed on your weblog through Bluehost—and later on in this guide, I’ve got a ton of helpful tips for optimizing your blog, free and cheap plugins you can install to help get your weblog looking great, and more.
—> 👉 Click on right here to go over to Bluehost and register your domain 👈 if you haven’t already.
Now, if you haven’t yet set up your web hosting and want to check out another options—there are other web hosting providers price considering.
The 2 best alternative blogging web hosting platforms you can also try
- Dreamhost — I’ve hosted literally dozens of websites on Dreamhost over the years (and I still do). All similar features like 1-click WordPress install, free SSL certificate and site security aside, one of the biggest pros of going with Dreamhost compared to other hosting companies, is that they offer a true pay-per-month plan that allows you to pay for the cost of your blog hosting each month with no strings attached. Here are a few other web hosting companies that also offer monthly payment plans.
👉 Click on right here to go over to Dreamhost 👈 and hit the green “Get Started” button
- HostGator — The thing that sets HostGator apart from other hosting companies, is their fantastic level of customer support and the fact that they also offer a true monthly payment plan (which helps if you’re starting your blog on a budget). HostGator ranks amongst the largest hosting companies, now powering over 8 million+ websites around the world, making them a great partner to scale your blog with over time.
If you still want to evaluate more of the top blog hosting providers as you learn how to start a blog, then head on over to my breakdown of the best web hosting plans for bloggers to review this year.
Now we’re at the point in this guide where everything from here on out will be built upon the assumption that you’ve already registered your domain name and chosen the right hosting plan—so if you haven’t done so already, take just a few minutes to quickly get that set up.
3. Design your blog with a free WordPress theme
Now that we’ve gotten through the crucial setup phase of starting a blog, it’s time to have a little more fun.
Designing your WordPress blog is when you might start to feel a little friction with this process though (if you’ve never worked on a blog before), but I promise this won’t get too technical.
If you want to start a blog and make money from it, WordPress is your smartest option
Let’s cover some basic terminology, so you understand why WordPress is the right platform (also known as a Content Management System or CMS) to run your blog on.
What is a Content Management System (CMS)?
A Content Management System (or CMS) is where you’ll be writing, designing, and publishing your blog posts. A good CMS (like WordPress) is easy to use, let’s you organize your content, upload images and videos, and have control over how your entire blog looks using themes or custom design elements. The CMS you’ve most likely already heard of is WordPress.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, with millions of bloggers using it every day (including me). In fact, the latest blogging statistics show that over 60% of all blogs run on this CMS, including the websites for Forbes, New York Observer, TED, Thought Catalog, TechCrunch, NBC and others.
Should I start a blog on WordPress (and is WordPress free)?
Of course there are other CMS options you can look into (such as Wix, Squarespace, Tumblr, Blogger, Medium or Ghost), but I strongly recommend setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog as it’s the most sustainable, long-term CMS. It’s free to use (you’ll just need a web hosting plan) and really the only option worth considering if you’re starting a blog with the eventual goal of making money in some way, shape or form.
- Is free to use (with heavy restrictions)
- Doesn’t let you pick a custom domain name (i.e. 👉 yoursite.wordpress.com)
- Has very limited monetization options (you can’t sell your own ads)
- Doesn’t let you upload plugins (for email capture and other things)
- Has limited theme support so you’re stuck with very basic designs
- You have to pay to remove WordPress branding and get your own domain like yoursite.com
- Limited SEO and analytics
- Fully customizable design, unlimited plugin options, and no branding
- Total control over your own monetization efforts
- Powerful SEO features (so people can find your site easier)
- Let’s you start or add an eCommerce store or membership site
- Small monthly fee (from the cheap hosting plan you use to get your blog online)
While the choice is yours, if you want to take full advantage of your blog, be able to have it grow with you and eventually make money from it, WordPress.org is the way to go when learning how to start a blog (and the exact process we’ve followed throughout this guide). It’s the CMS of choice that’ll sit in the background and power your blog.
Choosing the best (free) WordPress theme to start a blog
When you’re still new to starting a blog, I don’t usually recommend buying a paid WordPress theme right away. Once you have some traffic and can justify the investment, then it’s smart to choose a premium theme with more features and options. For right now though, a complex theme will be a distraction from your most important priority of bringing readers to your new blog.
WordPress comes with a ton of free themes to choose from, so start with one of the options you like in Appearance > Themes > Add New Theme > Popular without spending much time on this for now. You can always come back and change it later.
I recommend choosing Kadence WP, Hello Elementor or Astra (all of which are 100% free, fast and have the ability to upgrade later).
I like these three fast WordPress themes most because they’re crisp, clean, simple and will get you set up without needing to invest in a paid theme as you’re just starting your blog. Later, you can evaluate more of the other WordPress themes out there or upgrade these ones to their premium versions for more features.
What if I want to change my WordPress theme in a future?
If you want to experiment with different WordPress themes to start a blog with, be sure to use this criteria to guide your decisions:
- Simple to use: A lot of fancy themes go over the top and compromise on usability.
- Responsive: Responsiveness refers to themes that make sure your blog looks good on a laptop, smartphone and tablet. More people use their phones to read blogs and Google also favors mobile-friendly websites. If you’re not sure whether a theme is mobile friendly or not, copy and paste the URL of the theme’s demo page into Google’s Mobile Friendly Test page.
- Supports plugins: The real power of your WordPress blog comes from plugins. Make sure your theme supports all popular plugins.
- SEO friendliness: SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to how well Google and other search engines can find your information when people search for it. Some themes use bulky code that makes it difficult for search engines to read.
- Support: Problems happen, and when they do, you want to be able to ask for help. Some free theme developers won’t offer support for their products, so keep that in mind.
- Ratings and reviews: Look for themes with a good track record and history of positive ratings.
7 essential WordPress plugins you should install on your blog today
WordPress plugins play a crucial role in how your blog will function, and getting the most essential plugins dialed in as quickly as possible is a major step in learning how to start a blog that’s designed to serve both your audience and perform well for search engines.
What is a WordPress plugin?
A WordPress plugin is a small piece of software that can be thought of as an “add-on” that gives extra features or functionality to your blog. Plugins let you add all sorts of features from collecting email subscribers, to nailing your blog SEO, tracking your website analytics, optimizing your images, increasing your page load speed and more.
The only problem with WordPress plugins, is that there are literally thousands of different plugins and blogging tools to choose from out there. To help you cut through all the noise when you’re learning how to start a blog though… these are the must-have WordPress plugins to install when you start blogging today:
- Yoast SEO: The more people that can find your content, the better your blog will do. The Yoast WordPress plugin helps you to optimize your blog post titles, descriptions, content length and other elements across your entire blog so that you can be found easier by search engines.
- WPForms: You’ll want your readers to be able to get in touch with you easily, which I highly recommend—as it’ll encourage other bloggers who want to collaborate with you an easy opportunity to reach out. WPForms is an easy-to-use plugin that allow you to drag & drop contact forms onto any page of your blog.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress: This is a 100% free Google Analytics plugin that allows you to see all of your relevant analytics data directly inside WordPress. Connect the plugin to your Google Analytics account (you can sign up for a free Google Analytics account right here) to find out who’s coming to your site, how long they’re sticking around, and what your most popular blog posts are.
- UpdraftPlus: Again, sometimes things will go wrong on your blog (and it won’t always be totally in your control). It’s always smart to have a backup plugin that’ll save all your hard work on a regular basis, and this free one stands high above the rest.
- WP Rocket: Faster websites rank better in Google and give your readers a better experience. WP Rocket is a plugin that caches your pages, reduces your file sizes, and does much more to ensure that your blog loads faster for everyone.
- MaxCDN: Speaking of speed, MaxCDN makes images and other static elements of your blog load faster as well, earning this plugin top marks to consider as a complement to also using WP Rocket.
- Insert Headers and Footers: Sometimes to edit your theme, you’ll have to add code snippets to your header or footer (it’s not as scary as it sounds). However, doing it in the code of your theme can cause issues. This plugin lets you add small snippets of code easily to select locations around your blog.
- Bonus — Lightweight Accordion: If you like the way I create the collapsible (accordion-style) content boxes here throughout this guide and in the FAQ section near the bottom of this post, then I recommend installing the free plugin I use to make those content sections come to life: Lightweight Accordion. In just a few clicks with this plugin, you can quickly add collapsible FAQ box functionality to your WordPress blog.
Basic WordPress blog settings to become familiar with now
There are many different reasons to start a blog and just as many unique goals you may have in mind. Regardless, it pays to have a basic understanding of the broader aspects of how WordPress functions, so that you can control the visual appearance of your blog.
Let’s dig into a few of the bigger picture settings that you can find in your WordPress dashboard.
How to optimize your WordPress permalink settings
We touched on this in my how to start a blog walkthrough video (above), when I customized the URL for the first blog post I published. And when you set up your WordPress blog using Bluehost, the permalink settings will already default optimized to publish new blog posts in the format of domain.com/post-name (like you see in the image).
If your permalink settings aren’t already set to this format, it’s important to change them right now. This’ll help you rank better in search engines like Google, because your title’s text will appear in each of your URLs.
In your WordPress dashboard, hover over “Settings” and navigate to Settings > Permalinks to make this adjustment. It should look like this here:
You’ll still be able to customize an article’s URL before publishing in WordPress, but now you’ve got a default URL structure that’s SEO-friendly. Check out my guide on how to make SEO-friendly permalinks for more.
Cleaning up your default site URL
How to clean up your default site URL
After your WordPress theme is installed, you’ll want to change the default URL of your website to include a “www” before your site URL.
That’ll bring you from a URL that looks like https://yourblogname.com over to a more visually appealing https://www.yourblogname.com.
You can change this quickly by going to Settings > General and following this action:
All of the pages on your blog will now be redirected automatically to the www version, which looks much cleaner and tends to feel more trustworthy to readers.
Setting your blog homepage
How to set your blog’s homepage
As I recommend in the tutorial video above, my advice is to just set your homepage to be where your blog posts display (for now) as you’re just starting your blog.
You have the option of setting your homepage to be a static, custom designed page that can serve to capture email sign ups, sell a product, or otherwise in the future. But for now, stick with just a list of your recent blog posts as you still navigate the process of learning how to blog.
If you’re setting your homepage to be the blog, then one thing you can consider is changing the settings to show the complete text of your blog posts right on the homepage, rather than a list that has short previews of each post.
Since you won’t have many posts on your new WordPress blog for the next few days or weeks, this’ll make it look like there’s more content in the short-term, and you can change the settings back to a list and preview format once you’ve gotten your first 5 or so posts published.
To change these settings, just go to Settings > Reading.
Setting up your blog’s menu
How to set up a menu on your WordPress blog
When you first start your blog, you won’t quite need a menu until you’ve published your key pages (About, Contact, Hire, Shop, etc), but when you’re ready to create a homepage or footer menu, just go to Appearance > Menus and you can create them in just a few clicks.
Alright, we’ve covered the basic foundations of getting your blog’s WordPress settings dialed in. Now, let’s dig into creating a few of the main pages on your blog.
Creating the main pages of your blog (about, contact, hire)
From the moment you start a blog, you’ll want to showcase some basic information about yourself. Who you are. Why people should listen to you. How they can get in touch with you if they have questions or want to work with you.
These pages are all pretty standard, but they’re also a great way to have some fun and let your readers get to know you. In fact, I use my own About page to not only introduce who I am and tell my story, but also to explain my value proposition (for potential clients looking to hire me as a freelance content marketer) and show recent achievements.
4. Write your first blog post
You don’t read a blog because it looks nice or because they publish frequently. (Although those both help).
You read a blog because you care about what it says. Creating strong content is what will bring you readers and help you to eventually make money blogging.
Before you get too far down the road of creating a blog business plan, laying out your content roadmap and writing your first blog post—you need to answer one simple question… Why?
- Why do you care for the topic you’re blogging about?
- Why should other people listen to what you’re saying?
- Why is this a topic that you can add value to?
What is a blog niche?
A blog niche is more than just a topic area. It’s the approach you’re going to take, the audience you want to go after, the way you’re going to talk to them and how you’ll position yourself. A niche doesn’t need to be your passion (although it’s easier to stay committed to your blog when you’re passionate about it), but it does have to be an interest of yours. The best niches are exciting enough that you’ll be motivated to continually write, and accessible enough that you can build an audience.
Does my blog need to have a niche right away?
The sooner you’re able to define a niche once you start your blog, the better. The reason your blog needs a niche, is that it gives it focus. Your niche is how you’ll plan your content calendar, decide on design and know how to market your blog. It also informs how your audience will find you and how you’ll make connections with other bloggers.
Now, if you’re unsure, or if no niche comes to mind right away, that’s OK. We can coax it out with a few questions.
Ask these questions to determine a smart niche to start a blog in:
- What’s an interest or dream from your childhood that you find exciting?
- What’s the absolute best part of your day?
- Do you have any hobbies or hobbies that you want to learn?
- What is a deeply held value of yours?
- What’s one achievement that you’re incredibly proud of?
Right away, you should have an idea or two for a clear niche you could start blogging about. It’s ok if your niche grows, evolves and changes over time.
Taking it a step further: How to know if there’s a business opportunity for your blog niche
If you want to make money from your blog, you’ll also want to do a bit of research to see if there is a market demand for your niche. What this means is: Are people actively searching for what you’re writing about? And can you add value and help them in a way that makes you money?
In order to create a business from your blog, you need to solve a real problem for people. To do this, I use a simple spreadsheet I call the Niche Market Demand Checker (you can get a free copy of it in my course right here), which will help make sure you create content that your target audience will find useful.
Take the blog niche that you’re thinking about and come up with 5–10 keyword phrases or topics within that niche that you would write about. So, if we wanted to learn how to start a blog about playing guitar you might choose keywords like “best guitar books,” “how to play guitar,” “beginner guitar chords,” “what guitar should I buy,” and so on.
Now, let’s do a little keyword research. Enter one of those keywords from above into your Google search. If there are tens of millions (or more) results, that’s a pretty strong indicator that people care about your topic. But to be extra sure, I like to use a free tool like Twinword Ideas to check the Monthly Search Volume (how many people are searching for this term each month).
Do this for each of your keywords and look at the results. If all of your top keywords have a Monthly Search Volume of 5,000 – 10,000, you’ve definitely got a potentially profitable niche. If you’re too much over that, into the high hundreds of thousands of Monthly Searches, you might want to get more specific with your niche rather than competing with much larger, established websites on more popular subjects.
Brainstorming smart blog post ideas (using keyword research)
Even once you’ve established the niche you’ll be blogging about, you have to do smart keyword research in order to generate the right blog post ideas that’ll actually bring you readers.
So, what about the actual posts you’re going to write? The good news is you can honestly write whatever you want! This is your blog after all, and one of the major benefits of learning how to start a blog for yourself—is that it’s your platform to speak and share. But, ideas don’t always come naturally.
This is where I believe a simple editorial calendar is so important. It’s just a basic document to fill out that’ll give you a roadmap to always knowing what you’re writing next. It frees you up to spend more time on the fun of actually putting posts together—not banging your head against the wall trying to come up with blog post ideas.
5 ways to come up with clever blog post ideas
Here’s a simple process I use for coming up with the specific blog posts I write for my own blog.
5 ways to come up with unique blog post ideas
- Brainstorm topics and write them all down: Start by writing down as many ideas or keywords that you can. Aim for things you know your target audience would find valuable. What questions are they asking? Where do you have expertise and can help fill in the blanks?
- Use a keyword research tool to gather even more ideas: Use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs (pictured above), Twinword Ideas (free), or Moz to get more ideas. These tools will show you terms and topics related to the ones you’ve already come up with, as well as how much traffic those terms are getting (to show that your audience cares about them).
- Lump similar ideas together: Take all of your terms and start to refine them. Are there duplicates that you can lump together?
- Put your ideas in a spreadsheet and prioritize: Now, turn to your editorial calendar spreadsheet and include your keyword, estimated search volume, difficulty and opportunity. Looking at all these, assign a priority to each one topic, on a scale of 1-5 (or a basic High-Medium-Low).
- Outline content that hits all three key needs: Take your top priorities and set deadlines for them. Look for topics that hit all three key needs: Fits your niche, are genuine needs of your readers, and have potential to drive traffic to your blog from search engines. Then write a blog post outline to solidify your main points and get started.
Now you’re ready to write your first blog post
Once you’ve decided on the first blog post you want to write, you’ll navigate to the “Add New Post” section from your WordPress Dashboard.
Go to Posts > Add New which will look like this right here:
Next, you’ll be taken to a brand new article page that’ll look like this (a totally blank canvas 🙂):
Writing a blog post headline that encourages readers to click through
One of the reasons you chose to start a blog was to attract readers, right? Well, it pays dividends to put some effort into learning how to write a headline that’ll entice readers and most importantly—deliver on the promise of what your article is actually helping readers to accomplish.
So let’s say you’ve determined that your hiking blog should start by breaking down some underrated hikes in Northern California. Next, click into the “Add title” bar on your new post page and type in a title like…
As a starting point to writing a strong title, learn by observing the headlines of other successful bloggers in your niche:
- Do they often lead with numbers?
- How many of their article headlines include parentheses?
- Does it seem like a best practice to capitalize the first letter of every word?
Check out a few of the most recent headlines from my blog so you can get some inspiration on how you might want to structure your headlines (and read my ultimate guide to writing blog headlines).
If you’re still unsure about how to title a new post, then do a Google search for the target keyword phrase you’re going after and gather inspiration for the ways other titles are written—be sure not to directly copy other bloggers, but that’ll point you in the right direction.
Choosing an SEO-friendly blog post URL
It’s extremely important that you customize the URL of your new post, if you hope for it to rank well in organic Google search results.
The easiest strategy for writing a compelling introduction is to answer the who, what, where, when and why as soon as possible. This may sound counterintuitive, but another trick is to start with your conclusion first. In the age of short attention spans, people have grown tired of wasting time on clickbait blog posts that go nowhere.
The quicker you can establish relevance to your reader, give them a strong reason to believe they’ll find what they’re looking for in your blog post, the more likely they’ll be to dig into your piece and share with others.
5. Promote your blog and get readers
Now that we’re closing out 2020, we can look back and see that my blog brought 1000s+ readers last year alone. We’re going to use my experience in going from starting a blog—to quickly driving thousands of readers to my content. What do you do once you’ve hit publish on your first blog posts? It’s time to learn how to promote your blog content.
This is the reason I’m hired as a consultant by companies like LinkedIn, Zendesk, Adobe, Close, Intuit and more—to write content for their blogs, teach them how to promote their content and bring in new readers.
Using social media to promote your blog
The obvious first place to turn after you start a blog and want to find readers, is social media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Reddit, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are some of the biggest networks today. Whichever platform best suits your niche and audience interests, is the right one for you. And that’s an important note. There’s no point in trying to promote your blog posts on every social media platform.
Guest blogging on other relevant blogs and sites like Medium, Quora & Linkedin
One of the best things about starting a blog is that you’re joining a community of other bloggers that love to help each other out. Guest blogging on other relevant sites is the #1 best way to connect with an already established audience.
Forums and message boards for bloggers
Often, just throwing your ideas out into the social media void isn’t very effective.
Instead, being a part of targeted forums and online communities can give you a way better return on your time—if you find the right ones. Browse through relevant groups on Facebook to see if there are any vibrant communities that’d be a good starting point.
Now, if your search doesn’t come up with any Facebook Groups with a decent number of members (5,000+), there are other options. Look for more general groups that relate to your niche on Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit or standalone forum websites
Using an email newsletter to grow your blog audience
One of the best forms of blog promotion isn’t to other audiences, but to your own (over time). An email newsletter is the most powerful way to keep existing readers engaged with the work you’re doing and one of the things you should set up as soon as you start a blog.
Building your email list can be relatively simple, too. Place a signup form within your posts and across key pages of your site. I use a tool I love, called ConvertKit, to manage the 150,000+ email subscribers I now have on my blog, but Mailchimp is the best free email marketing tool to get started with.
Not sure which email marketing tool to use when starting a blog?
Read through my detailed comparison of ConvertKit vs AWeber vs Mailchimp for my take on where you should start and when to upgrade to more robust email marketing tools.
I send my community an update whenever I post a new blog post, have a resource I want to share, or when new podcast episodes go live—and this now ensures my content will quickly be seen by thousands of people right off the bat. Email marketing has by far been the biggest driver of growth and revenue for my blog, and something I can’t suggest enough amongst all the blog marketing strategies you can invest in.
Other ways to promote your blog and get more traffic
Outside of promotion on social media, through guest posts, in forums and over email—here are a few other techniques I’ve personally used to grow my blog audience quickly.
Remember that the only thing standing in the way of growing your blog is you. It’ll take some ingenuity and the willingness to experiment, but it’s well worth the effort.
Almost every guide about how to start a blog stops long before this point. Now, I’m going to equip you with the tools (and strategies) to go from starting your new blog—to building a true business around it—based on my experience growing this blog to more than 500,000 monthly readers and $50,000/mo in revenue.
Let’s talk about how to (eventually) make money from your blog.
6. Make money from your blog
Last year alone, my blog generated $5000 in revenue (ignore the $0 in expenses here, you can see those details in my blog income reports).
I share this not to brag, but so that you’ll understand I know what I’m talking about when it comes to starting a blog and making serious income with it. Moreover, I’ll be the first to tell you that these kinds of income figures aren’t typical with blogging—and that it’s taken me 2+ years to reach this point in my blog business.
There’s a reason why making money from your blog is at the end of this guide to starting a blog. Unless you have a huge audience somewhere already, you can’t expect to learn how to start a blog today and make money from it right away—monetization should not be your #1 focus at the moment, but rather something to work towards.
Even still, it’s good to have an idea of which ways you’d like to make money blogging as you go into this new adventure. Some of these monetization strategies will be easier than others to implement while your readership is still growing.
1. Freelancing (Selling Your Services)
If you want to begin earning from your blog as quickly as possible, then selling your services (by landing blogging jobs, freelance writing gigs or otherwise selling your expertise as a service) is the easiest option by far. In fact, up until very recently, I was still freelancing as a blog monetization channel for my own business:
All you really need in order to land a freelance client, is a strong enough pitch, which is where choosing to start a blog (first) will help significantly. You’ll want to build out your key pages (About, Contact, Hire Me) and showcase at least a couple examples of the type of work you’ve done that you’ll soon be pitching freelance clients on.
If you don’t have those work samples yet… don’t let that hold you back. Create those sample articles, designs or other deliverables and host them on your own blog as if they were a project you got paid to produce.
If you have a skill that you can sell as a service, then you’re already prepared to go out and start pitching potential clients. That skill could be something like…
- Writing (one of the top blogging skills you’ll want to command)
- Developing (check out these WordPress developer job sites)
- Public relations
- Social media management
- Virtual assistance
- SEO or paid advertising campaigns
- Business strategy or project management
- The list goes on… because any skill can be monetized
Today, I still regularly book new freelance clients (like LinkedIn, Zendesk, Adobe) for $5,000/mo or more and I’m brought on to advise and execute on creating blog marketing campaigns for their organization.
If freelancing sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll want to grab my (free) collection of all my best resources, tools and templates for freelancers. That resource bundle is the culmination of more than 8 years of refining my freelance contract template, proposal template, cold email templates that convert new clients and more.
I also put together an in-depth guide to getting started with freelancing that you’ll want to read and another great foundational read about how to develop a pitching process that works for your type of business, is my freelancer’s guide to cold emailing. And if you want to try out some of the websites where freelance clients are already looking for talented help, here are my lists of both the best blogging job sites and the best freelance job sites.
2. Affiliate Programs
Since starting a blog here a little over 7 years ago, affiliate income has gradually grown to become the largest revenue source for my business—and I’ve structured my blog to generate affiliate income because of how passive it is once you’ve done the (hard) work to find a sustainable traffic source for your content.
Every month, a friend of mine earn a substantial amount of passive income from the affiliate programs that he is a member of (sometimes in excess of $50,000+). For example, here’s a screenshot of my blog income from just one affiliate program (Bluehost) for the first 5 months of last year.
Most of the biggest brands have affiliate programs. Think companies like Amazon, all the way down to key players in specific niches like online education where brands like CreativeLive and Udemy have lucrative programs. Here’s a snapshot of my recent earnings from just a couple of other programs:
3. Sponsored Blog Content
Unless you already have a decent sized audience on your blog (or social accounts), it’ll take some time to grow your readership to a point where sponsored content is a viable monetization option.
4. Online Courses
Once you have a skill (or experience) that others also want to learn, it’s relatively easy to package your best advice (like my blogging tips), strategies, tactics and tutorials into an online course where people can pay for access to accelerate their learning much quicker than they otherwise would going through the stumbling process of learning through trial and error.
Last year alone, a friend of mine generated over $60,000 from the launch of my premium blogging course, Built to Blog, which takes students far beyond just learning how to start a blog and into advanced strategies for getting readers & generating revenue from their blogs.
What’s great about an online course as a monetization path for your blog (or like I’ve done with selling blogging books too), is that you don’t need a huge audience in order to earn from online courses. The same goes if you choose to write an ebook and sell that digital product to your audience.
5. Traditional Blog Advertisements (Ad Networks)
I used to have several small blog advertisements displayed across my content (from one of these top blog advertising networks) that would earn me around $1,500 to $2,000 per month in incremental revenue, before I turned advertisements off in favor of optimizing for other sources of income.
I was a member of a small ad network called Carbon Ads for the first few years of my blogging journey, where they partner with bloggers and pair us up with ads from high-quality startups like Slack, Asana, Freshbooks, Monday, Upwork and other targeted brands that my audience is already familiar with.
All in all, traditional CPC or CPM advertising doesn’t become very profitable (at least as a viable source of substantial blog income) until you’re driving more like 1 million+ monthly readers, so it’s not a great monetization channel to focus on in the short-term. But, when you first start a blog, it can be one of the easiest ways to make money from your traffic without much extra effort.
6. Podcast Sponsorships
Another great way to start monetizing your blog is by launching a (simple) podcast for your readers. You can use your traffic and early listener numbers to book sponsorships from brands that want to reach your type of readers & listeners. Here’s the growth trajectory of my podcast over it’s first year:
You can even combine podcast ad placement offers with sponsored blog posts on your site to really sweeten the deal. And I understand that launching a podcast while you’re still mastering the process of learning to start a blog sounds like a diversion, but keep in mind that a podcast can be as simple as casual conversations with other bloggers in your industry.
How to make money with podcast sponsorships
When I launched my show, I already had about 100,000 monthly readers on my blog and 20,000 email subscribers to seed the early listenership numbers. That helped me sell an early sponsorship slot for 10 episodes to Freshbooks at $500/episode to help fund my new podcast.
That worked for me because of where my blog was already at—but when you’re starting out with less traction, I recommend getting a few episodes recorded and launching your show without trying to book a sponsorship in advance. Those that tune in and like your show will subscribe and stick around. One of the best ways to reach more listeners is to be a guest on other (more established) podcasts in your space, so try pitching yourself as a guest to go on other shows.
For many more on the mechanics behind launching a podcast and monetizing it alongside your blog (including choosing the right podcast hosting), check out this episode of my show with Michael Sacca of Rocketship.fm, whose grown his podcast into a $10,000/mo source of side income while he still holds onto his day job in sales and marketing. It’s a true masterclass in starting a podcast that you don’t want to miss.
7. Physical Products (eCommerce) and Software Tools
Similar in concept to launching an online course to your blog audience, another great way to monetize your audience is by selling a physical product or software tool to the people in your community—especially if you’ll be starting an eCommerce store (with the right eCommerce website builders) to sell products that are related to what your readers need.
At the end of the day, this one all comes back down to solving the problems your blog readers have.
What once used to be a much more labor intensive business, eCommerce has become a great way to monetize an audience of readers on your blog—especially with the proliferation of drop shipping and order fulfillment services.
On top of just selling to your own audience, you can leverage loyalty programs that incentivize customers to invite friends to purchase with offers like first-time customer discounts, free one-month trials, gifting programs and more. These channels create opportunities for amplifying your message and spreading your products through word-of-mouth marketing efforts that won’t cost you anywhere near that of similar advertising fees.
8. Business Partnerships
Of all the ways to monetize your blog, this is the most amorphous. Who knows who you’ll meet as a result of choosing to start a blog. What about future guests on your podcast? The possibilities here for stumbling into partnership opportunities are endless.
As a result of sticking with my blog for several years, I’ve been able to use it as a tool to meet some incredibly talented entrepreneurs. Here are a few examples of how my decision to learn how to start a blog have turned into profitable partnerships:
- I’ve collaborated with my friend Jory (a writer) that I met because of my blog, on growing a $10,000/mo content marketing agency together
- I’ve launched new websites (like SmartWP) with my friend Andy who has a similar audience as my own
- I’ve worked with a former podcast guest to help build a software tool I’ve envisioned for years
It’s true that there aren’t as many ways to authentically engineer the creation of these types of partnerships—aside from growing your brand and the reach of your blog—then being receptive to the creative people & ideas that come your way as they discover you.
On the flip side, if there’s someone in your space that you really want to collaborate and work with, strategize on a way you can add value to their business.
How to run a blog in 2021: Final ideas
Ultimately, growing a successful blog all boils down to being excited and engaged with your new blog. If you want people to read what you’re writing, you need to give them a reason to.
Write exciting content, connect with people in your niche and enthusiastically share what you’re working on.
The traffic, monetization and everything else will follow.
I wrote this guide because starting a blog has been one of the most empowering, life-changing decisions I’ve made in my life.
And I hope that by now you feel confident enough to go out there and start a blog of your own.
I’d love to have you in my free 7-day course that expands on the teachings of this guide. We also dive even further into topics like driving traffic, my personal writing process, monetizing your blog and more.
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