So you have finally decided to gift yourself a blog and are wondering about what are all the things you need to create a blog, right? Well, I was also at the same situation a few years back when I was new to blogging and I didn’t know where to begin from. Though many people begin blogging as a hobby, there are many others who strictly blog because they want to make some money out of it and I belong to the second category. According to a blogosphere study by Zig Marketing, though not many bloggers are motivated by money, 86% of them generate revenue of some sort from blogging. So what does that mean for you? Only 14% of the bloggers don’t blog for money, which is very less compared to the other half.
Don’t take me wrong though, there are a whole lot of people trying to succeed with blogging but only a few are able to make a decent amount from it. Not everyone can taste success like Neil Patel, Rand Fishkin, Darren Rowse or Pat Flynn. To become successful like them, you should really be passionate about blogging and work your ass or be smart. If you’re looking to start a blog just for the sake of getting rich quick, you are absolutely wrong my friend – I’m sorry that it DOES NOT work that way.
Though it is very easy to create a blog and I can easily guide to with that, it doesn’t stop right there. Creating a damn blog alone doesn’t bring you overnight success, rather it requires a lot of hard work, passion and some smart thinking along with a bit of marketing. As I have mentioned in some of my previous posts, ‘persistence’ is the key. Even though you may face a lot of hardships and difficulty, you should keep going on and post regularly on your blog. Only then will you be able to establish authority and grow a dedicated audience for your blog.
Even though you may establish grand success at one point of time with your blog, it doesn’t mean you can stop working on it for good and switch to some other activity or venture right away. Once you start devoting less time to your blog or take it completely off your thoughts, it will begin to die slowly – the incoming traffic, value of content and finally the revenue from it dry up too. Blogging is a constant process of creating valuable content and updating information as and when there is a change.
You are now ready to get started. So, what exactly does it take to create a successful blog and make money online? Though there’s a long way to go and lots of thorns and bullshit to walk upon, it is very much possible for anyone to create a successful blog that can generate quite a handsome amount of money that can be used for buying yourself a new villa, an SUV and any other accessories you wish to own. To be honest, blogging is the easiest way to generate a passive income online.
How to start a blog: a step-by-step guide
Congrats, you are one hard nut to crack. You have successfully passed the preliminary test and reached the next level. Seriously, it would be no wonder if you become the next Michael Arrington, Pete Cashmore or Timothy Sykes. Now, I will guide you through the steps for creating a highly successful blog. The more prepared you are with this guide, higher the chances for you to be successful.
Decide on the niche or topic
Pick a topic or niche about which you are going to blog about. Don’t choose a topic which to too general like technology, smartphones or the internet. Be very specific about what your blog is going to be about. If you target a wider audience, it will be very difficult for you to establish yourself, gain authority and grow your following. Also be sure to choose a topic which you will find interesting no matter what. It is always to safer to spend some time deciding what you are going to post about before choosing a domain name and creating your blog. Here are some example niches for you to choose from – personal finance, parenting, health and fitness, food, home decor, music, beauty and fashion, lifestyle, personal and career development, etc. If you have already decided what your blog is going to be about, jump on to the next section.
Pick a domain name
If you are serious about establishing authority and making money from your blog, you must register a custom domain name (such as google.com, facebook.com, antonyagnel.com) for your blog. Don’t choose a very long domain name as people should be able to remember your domain name effortlessly. Also, if you are targeting a specific topic or niche, you can register a domain name which is keyword rich. For example, if you are going to post about cooking & recipes you can register a domain name such as foodieblogger.com, sweetopia.com, yummyparadise.com, etc. By just having a look at these domain names we can understand what these blogs are going to be about.
Also, try to avoid numbers and hyphens in your domain name and go for popular top-level domains (TLD) such as .com, .net, .blog, or .org if available. This will help you rank your blog better in front of search engines and readers alike.
Buy a web hosting plan
Though there are a whole lot of web hosting providers out there, it is very important for you to choose a web hosting platform which is very reliable and not plagued by downtimes, spamming, and other malicious attacks. As you are just starting out, you can begin with a small-scale managed WordPress hosting providers like SiteGround or Bluehost.
SiteGround and Bluehost, both meet the minimum requirements for hosting WordPress and are highly reliable with 24×7 live chat support. Moreover, they are officially recommended by WordPress.org on their hosting recommendations page!
Choose a blogging platform
Though there are many free blog hosting solutions out there such as Blogger, Tumblr, Medium, etc., I prefer going with WordPress – either the self-hosted one (WordPress.org) or the hosted version (WordPress.com). Many people get confused with WordPress.org and WordPress.com (the two flavors of WordPress). The first one is a self-hosted version, wherein you will be hosting WordPress on your own server whereas the second option is to host it over at WordPress.com, a commercial enterprise owned by Automattic, a company started by Matt Mullenweg – the founding developer of WordPress and staffed by full-time developers, designers, and support engineers.
Though the self-hosting WordPress costs a little bit of money and requires some technical knowledge, it will give you much more control and flexibility over your site and content. Although I would recommend WordPress any day, it is hard for me to recommend one flavor over the other – it all depends on what amount you are willing to invest and how much technical knowledge you possess or wish to learn. Let us now move on with the self-hosted version for the sake of this post and sticking to the values.
Enable caching & set up a content delivery network
Enabling caching will help you speed up your WordPress powered site to a great extent without spending a dime on hiring a developer to do that for you. Caching is a really useful feature and must be enabled for your site no matter where it is hosted – be it a shared hosting server, a virtual private server or a dedicated server. Though it might not seem significant when you are just starting out, you will realize its benefits once you start getting more traffic. By the way, have a look at the related post which I have linked to just below this line for a better understanding on the different types of caching available and the recommended plugins for enabling it on your WordPress site.
Once you have enabled caching, you can move on and set up a content delivery network (CDN) for your blog. Basically, a CDN caches all the static content from your site, and replicates it to their data centers around the world & delivers it from their powerful servers to the visitor. It definitely helps speed things up because, when a user visits your website, only the dynamic content is loaded from your hosting server and the remaining static assets are loaded from the CDN’s nearest edge server. Cloudflare is a great free choice whereas KeyCDN is the best premium alternative.
Optimize your site for search engines (SEO)
According to Moz, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is very important for any website to make it easy for the website visitors and search engines to understand what your content is about. Even though search engines make use of sophisticated technology to crawl the web and have algorithms in place to rank content based on quality, authority, and trustworthiness on search result pages, it cannot see the page and understand what content there is on it like how we human beings can do. That is where SEO comes into play.
I would recommend you to install a free plugin like Yoast SEO or All in One SEO Pack to optimize your site for search engines.
Enable Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an open source initiative spearheaded by Google that aims to optimize content for mobiles that can load instantly everywhere. AMP is nothing but a way to build web pages for static content that can render fast. Moreover, all the AMP’d content is cached by Google in its AMP cache, a proxy-based content delivery network for delivering all valid AMP documents to mobile users.
Install Google Analytics
Using a plugin like MonsterInsights you can easily install Google Analytics on your blog so that you can track your visitors and measure which of your posts are performing better or worse. Using Google Analytics, you can also find which of your online marketing campaigns are bringing you the most visitors and the ROI associated with each campaign. Tracking visitors location and viewing your traffic reports in real-time is also a breeze with this free analytics solution from Google. For custom campaigns, you can use a tool like a Campaign URL Builder to easily add campaign parameters to the URLs.
Add site to Google Search Console
Google Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools) is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s appearance in Google Search results. To be honest, it is a very valuable resource for webmasters, digital marketers and people who are into search engine optimization. Once you add and verify your site with the Search Console, you can submit your sitemap file and scan your robots.txt file for errors.
Using this service, you can analyze your performance on Google Search, monitor incoming links to your site, view internal links, test for mobile usability, view index & crawl status, find and fix other errors with your site, etc.
Publish quality content regularly
Though publishing quality content often will help you rank better in SERP (Search Engines Result Pages), it will also be valuable for your readers. Through your content, you should engage with your visitors. By doing so, you can increase the conversion rates and reduce your bounce rate drastically. When you are creating content, keep in mind that you are writing for a human being and not search engines. So, don’t try to stuff as many keywords as possible into your content. This will reduce the quality of your content and make it look poor in front of search engines.
Make sure your content always provides some value to your readers no matter what. No one wants to read junk and crappy articles because they consider their time precious.
Setup an email marketing channel
Who said email marketing is dead? It’s 2017 and it is still growing strong. Marketers and bloggers have been making money from their email newsletters ever since they realized its true potential. It is easily one of the simplest ways to drive traffic to your blog and make money online. To get started you can sign up with an email marketing platform like AWeber or GetResponse, and create an email newsletter from your blog posts.
It is a well-known fact that nearly sixty percent of your online visitors will never return to your site unless they have subscribed to your posts. Here’s where plugins like OptinMonster, Icegram, and Holler Box come into play. These plugins will help you to generate leads like a pro and grow your list of email subscribers. Using these plugins you can easily convert your site’s visitors into potential leads and collect their email addresses in a breeze. It is also compatible with nearly all major email marketing providers in the market.
You can effortlessly increase your marketing profits by growing a well-targeted list. Through these lists, a whole lot of people can be reached at the click of a button. Moreover, it is a professional option to convert visitors into subscribers.
Embrace social media
Establish your blog as a brand on all major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Keep sharing your content regularly on these platforms and don’t feel shy to reshare your content when needed. Make sure you put in some efforts and spend a few bucks to grow your list of social media followers by advertising on these platforms. Advertising on Facebook and Twitter is the way to go for beginners. Another reason why you must embrace social media platforms is that search engines such as Google and Bing take the number of shares you’ve got on your posts in these sites as a factor for ranking your content on their search results page.
Market your content
Just by publishing valuable content now and then, your job doesn’t finish there yet. Another important step is to increase its visibility in front of search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo by doing some content marketing. Content marketing is nothing but the process of regularly creating high-quality and valuable content on your blog to attract, inform, and engage an audience, while also promoting your blog itself. People are already searching the web for reviews, suggestions, and answers while your blog contains solutions to all their problems – you should just deliver the desired content to the right people.
If done the right way, you can easily rank number one in Google Search for the keywords you are targeting. A simple way to market your content is by answering related questions on Quora & Reddit, uploading related videos (such as tutorials or how-to’s) on YouTube & Vimeo, syndicating content on Medium, participating in Q&A sessions and on forums or message boards, etc.
Monetize your content
Once your blog gains some traction and starts receiving traffic, you can start monetizing it. Starting a blog and maintaining it can easily cost you between $100 to $500 a year depending on the domain name you have bought, web hosting plan you have chosen, additional WordPress themes and plugins you have purchased, whether you hired a designer to do everything for you or not, etc. To make a decent income from your blog without messing up with its appearance, user experience, and site speed, go for the affiliate marketing route rather than displaying online advertisements on your site. You can also sell online services from your site. I have got a services page on my blog, where, I offer services such as designing a WordPress site, optimizing your site for SEO, etc. Likewise, you can offer additional services on your site in which you are skilled and experienced.
Another option is to sell digital goods on your site. Selling e-books, online courses, video tutorials, graphic art, and other downloadable materials is a great idea for making money online. If your blog posts are going viral and you are receiving thousands of page views per day, you can make good money by displaying ads on your site, especially if the traffic is from English speaking regions like the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia. You can also put your valuable content behind a paywall and ask people to pay for it to get access. You can do this if you know your content is really valuable and it’s worth paying for. Though there are a whole lot of methods to monetize your blog, here are the 4 easiest ways to monetize your blog content effortlessly. And to remain in the safe zone, do not add malicious codes or follow illegal ways to monetize your site content; like using ad codes from untrusted sources, mining cryptocurrency from the website visitors’ browsers, etc. Do not ever get lured by spamming or black hat SEO techniques – you’ll only regret later.
Thus I hope that you found this article very helpful in creating your first blog and making a few bucks from it online. If you liked this guide and found it useful, share it on Facebook, Twitter, or with any other person who might find it useful. Thanks!