If you’re looking for an easy, step-by-step guide to learn how to start a blog and make money from it, then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been blogging for 10+ years and I’m here to show you the most simple way to get started.
You’ll learn how to start a blog today in 8 easy steps that’ll take about 10 to 15 minutes. Click right here to jump straight down to step #1 and begin now.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase hosting using my Bluehost affiliate link, they compensate me, which helps make this guide free of charge to you. Know that I only recommend products and services I’ve personally used and stand behind.
How To Start A Blog (And Make Money) In 8 Easy Steps
A blog is a regularly updated website where new content is frequently published, typically written in an informal or conversational style—often with the goal of attracting readers and generating an online income. You’re reading on my blog here right now.
Yes! Starting a blog is one of the easiest, most accessible ways 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 you don’t need any credentials, years of experience in your field, or a degree in order to blog and become successful with it. You can start blogging regardless of your age, location or experience level and still build a profitable online business.
Even if you have no technical experience with websites, starting a blog has become so much easier in 2020. This guide was created with ease of use in mind, and I’ll walk you through every step of the way here today.
If you’re ready to take the leap and learn how to start a blog that can grow into a source of real online income, then let’s dive in.
1. Pick your blog’s name and niche
First, it’s time to pick a name and niche for your new blog.
The name of your blog 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 could be your own name, that of your business, a clever combination of words, or otherwise.
Your blog’s niche is the general topic area that you’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 blog (like fashionbyjane.com or watchryanhike.com)—will be very helpful for your future blog readers.
If you’re coming up short on ideas for how to name your blog, or which topics you should blog about in the first place (aka your “blog niche“), just get started anyway! If you’re like the majority of us, you’ll find clarity by taking action and getting started today—rather than spending time trying to come up with the perfect idea. You’ll find your groove as you make progress.
When you start your blog with a hosting company like Bluehost, they’ll let you choose your domain name later. If the domain name you want 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).
Yes, you can easily change the name of your blog later, you’ll just need to buy a new domain name (around $10). While the name you choose for your blog is important, it’s something you can always change in the future—so don’t let this step hold you back.
2. Get your blog online (web hosting)
The second step in starting a blog, is actually getting your blog 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 blog online.
To make your website accessible to other people on the Internet, you need a “host.” The host keeps all your website files safe, secure and makes sure that people can access your blog when they click on a link or type in your URL. Think of web hosting as being like your home. When someone comes over (types in your blog’s URL), they’ll be able to see what’s inside.
Web hosting comes at a low cost (around $5/mo) with a high quality hosting provider like Bluehost. Having a proper hosting company to power your blog is one of the most important investments you can make when getting started.
There are several great web hosting providers you can use to host your blog (on a budget). The company I’ve found that best checks all of the key boxes (and more) for new bloggers is Bluehost. Regardless of who you choose, you should be looking for a web hosting company that prioritizes speed, features, security, support and a reliable track record.
The combination of blogging platform & web hosting I personally use (and that most other bloggers use) is a WordPress blog, 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 one of the most established, reliable companies in the blog hosting industry. This combination is what we’ll be using to start your blog. Now, let’s get your hosting set up.
—> Click here to head over to Bluehost and hit the green “Get Started Now” button
Choose your plan
First, you’ll select a hosting plan (inputting your blog name comes next). Personally, I recommend choosing the Choice Plus plan because it comes with Domain Privacy, which will protect your personal information (your full name, email address, phone number and home address) from being published anywhere online.
Choosing your plan will look like this right here. Just click the green “Select” button on your plan of choice:
As I said above, I recommend choosing 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 blog—and you can add the domain privacy in later during the checkout process for around $1/mo.
Pick your blog’s domain name
Next, you’ll get to the page where it’s time to choose your blog’s domain name:
Once you get to this step in the checkout process, just type in the name of the domain name that you’d like your blog to have (mine is bkayina.com).
If 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 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 for your blog if you’re not decided yet.
Here’s where you can click 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 toward the top of the page):
After either 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, email address (it’s super important to use an up-to-date email address because this is where your login details and account information will be sent) and address. If you don’t want to enter your information manually, you can connect your Bluehost account with your Google account. Either works!
Select The Right Hosting Package
This is where you’ll choose 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 payment option (because most hosting companies that do offer 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 blog and getting it online today.
Which Pricing Plan Is Best To Start A Blog With?
Personally, I 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 blog hosting at their lowest rate (and gets you domain privacy) for the next 3 years. And because this low pricing for new customers only applies to the first payment you make, if you were to choose the 1-year plan, your pricing may go up after that first year.
That’s why if you choose the 36-month plan, your pricing will be locked in at this rate for 3 years. For that reason, I recommend going with the longest duration plan that your budget can spring for.
Choosing The Right Package Extras (Skip All But One)
I 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 SEO optimization, additional security and site back-ups, rendering most of the other package extras not necessary.
As I mentioned earlier though, having the domain privacy extra keeps all of your personal contact information (your name, email, phone 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 chose a Basic or Plus Plan, then you’ll want to check the box to add Domain Privacy Protection to your order for around $1/mo.
The total you’ll now see is the amount you’re going to pay today. Remember though, you won’t have to pay again for 1, 2, 3 or 5 years depending on the package you chose. Plus, there’s a 30-day money back guarantee in case things don’t go as planned with your blog.
Enter Your Billing Information
—> Click Here To Head 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 some other options—there are other web hosting providers worth considering.
The 2 Best Alternative Blog Hosting Platforms Worth Considering
- 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.
- 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.
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 Only Smart 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.
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.
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.
Of course there are other CMS options you can look into (such as Squarespace, Ghost or Wix), 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.
Since I first started blogging over a decade ago, I’ve been running my blog on WordPress and I couldn’t be happier with the amount of flexibility, control and long-term growth potential that decision has afforded me.
Now, one thing you need to be careful of, is that WordPress comes in two very different platforms. There’s WordPress.com and WordPress.org. They have almost the same name, but there are very big differences between the two:
- 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.
How To Install WordPress (And Configure Your Blog Settings)
Here’s a step-by-step video walkthrough of how to install WordPress on your new blog and configure the right settings:
Table of Contents
Naturally in this one video, we don’t cover everything about WordPress, but remember that these are the basics you need to accomplish first.
Spend time familiarizing yourself with the admin area of your WordPress blog. Explore and test things out. You’ll develop a much deeper understanding of how WordPress works and which things you can quickly change about your site’s visual appearance and functionality. This is when the fun really begins!
Choosing The Best (Free) WordPress Theme For Your Blog
When you’re just getting started, 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, paid theme with more features and options. For right now though, a complex theme will be a distraction from your most important priority of actually 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 either the Hello Theme or Astra (both of which are 100% free and have the ability to upgrade more later).
I like these two WordPress themes because they’re both crisp, clean, simple and will get you to a great starting point without needing to invest in a paid theme as you’re starting out
If you want to experiment with different WordPress themes, 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.
Why Design Is So Important When Learning How To Start A Blog
Even if you don’t really care about design yourself, your readers will shift their behavior quite dramatically based on the features of your blog layout. In fact, during a 2012 study from Google and the University of Basel, researchers found that users judge a website’s aesthetic beauty and perceived functionality in 1/20th — 1/50th of a second. Plus, thanks to a little psychological bias called the Halo Effect, people will extend that judgement to all aspects of your blog.
What this means, is that in less time than it takes to snap their fingers, a reader has decided whether or not to trust your blog.
Good design builds trust. It tells people that you care enough about your blog to make it look nice. This doesn’t mean you need crazy animations or tons of fonts and colors. In fact, the best designs are simple, clear and easy to read.
Once you’ve settled on the right theme for your WordPress blog, it’s time to dive into the world of WordPress plugins, to help unlock even more customizations and must-do prep work in order to give your blog a strong chance of developing into a full on business.
7 Essential WordPress Plugins You Should Install Right Away
WordPress plugins play an absolutely crucial role in how your blog will function.
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 is that, there are literally thousands of different plugins and blogging tools to choose from. To help you cut through all the noise… these are the 7 must-have WordPress plugins to install when you start a blog 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 highly 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 You Want 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.
We touched on this in the 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 saw in the video).
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
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
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).
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.
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 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
For right now, you won’t 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 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)
Every blog needs to showcase some basic, foundational information. 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 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 off some of my recent achievements.
How To Write An About Page For Your Blog
You might not think much about it, but your About page can quickly become one of the most popular pages on your blog.
Writing about yourself isn’t easy. So let’s start with a few basic questions that every great blog About page should answer:
1. What value are you creating for your readers?
It might be called an About page, but you don’t want to make the mistake of only talking about yourself. Yes, you’ll get to talk about who you are, but your About page should be just as much about your readers and the value you’re creating for them. Be ultra clear on who your audience is and the value you create for them.
For example, my blog is all about helping people grow their blogs, find the best business ideas and launch profitable side projects. So, that’s exactly what I say at the top of my About page. This helps readers get grounded and know that they’re in the right place.
2. Who is your blog for?
Your value statement will touch on who your ideal reader is, but you want to make sure when the right person gets to your blog they know they’re in the right place. This is like a secret handshake for your blog. Nail it, and you’ll make every single person feel like they’re where they belong.
So how do you do this? There are a couple approaches you can take:
- Tell them who your blog is for: There’s nothing more basic than just saying what you are. So, for example, if you’re making a community for cooking tips for working moms, just write: “Started in 2020 as a cooking resource for working moms.”
- Show proof that you’re part of their community: You can show your readers that you’re part of their community in a number of ways. Do you write for other blogs or sites that are in your niche or actively contribute to popular communities and forums? What about adding a testimonial or social post from someone in the industry who read and liked your blog.
If you have the ability to show your contributions to the broader community you’re blogging in, this is your chance to highlight it! Not only does this tell readers who you are, but you can also show social proof (that other people have recognized you as a thought leader). Of course, you might not have this right away, so it’s perfectly fine to just go with the first option.
Now, what if someone reads your About page and says “Well, this isn’t for me?” That’s perfectly fine. The more you know your ideal reader, the better your blog will serve that person. Just like when you were picking your blog niche, if you try to write for everyone, you’ll end up writing for no one.
3. Why should they listen to you?
If you’ve done a good job in the first few sections, your reader should have a pretty good idea of who you are and be able to decide whether or not they want to keep reading you. However, at this point, it doesn’t hurt to talk a bit more about yourself and sell them on why you’re the blog they should follow.
That means answering a few more questions and setting their expectations. Here’s what you might want to include:
- What types of blog posts you write: “If you love X, Y, and Z, you’ll feel totally at home here.”
- What they will get out of reading your posts: “I share everything I’ve learned building a 6-figure consulting business from nothing.”
- Where should they start: “If this is your first time here, check out my Ultimate Guide to X.”
- Why do you and your blog have credibility: “I’m a regular contributor to Fast Company, Business Insider, and Inc. Magazine…”
- How did you get started: “Back is 2003, during an especially bad Colorado Winter, I fell in love with snowshoeing…”
Don’t be afraid to get personal here. People connect with stories and vulnerability more than they do with carefully crafted prose. So be who you are! The whole reason readers will come back is to hear your voice.
For my niche, I know my readers are here to get personal, actionable advice on starting a side business. And so I show them that I not only talk the talk, but walk the walk as well.
4. Where should your readers go next?
The last (and probably most important) part of your About page is also the one that most people forget about. Telling your readers what to do next! Do you want them to read your latest blog post? Sign up for your newsletter? Follow you on Twitter? If someone has made it all the way to the bottom of your page, why leave them alone now?
I know that if someone’s made it to my blog’s About page, they probably just met me. Which means I don’t want to ask anything too taxing like signing up for a newsletter or following me on social media. Instead, I want them to get to know me better, so they can do that on their own. That’s why my Call-to-Action (CTA) is simply to read more of my best content.
Use your about page to show the value you’re creating for your readers—and work hard to earn that attention. No matter how you craft your about page, don’t forget to think about the context of the person you’ll be talking to there.
How To Write A Contact Page For Your Blog
Another often overlooked page that you’ll want to include on your blog is a simple way for people to contact you.
While mine goes into more depth, your Contact page can be as simple as having your email and social media accounts listed on a page. Or, if you’d rather not have your personal email out there for anyone to find, you can include a contact form.
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?
To answer these questions, I like to think of a blog like any other business and re-emphasize the importance of picking a clear 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. So, whether that means Medieval history, traditional Mexican cooking, sharing lessons learned as a startup founder, or knitting tips, your niche is up to you.
The sooner you’re able to define a niche for 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 problem for people. To do this, I use a simple spreadsheet I call the Niche Market Demand Checker
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 up 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’re going to 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, I can say from experience that the 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 smart 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.
- 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 ideal 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: We want a lot of blog post topics to work with at this stage, so let’s use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs (pictured above), Twinword Ideas (free), or Moz to help us fill it out. These tools basically just 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: Your list should be growing by this point. So take all those terms and start to refine them. Are there duplicates that you can lump together? Do some just not look right now? Refine and edit it down.
- Put your ideas in a spreadsheet and prioritize: Ok, let’s get this list a little more organized now. Start a spreadsheet and include your keyword, estimated search volume, difficulty, and opportunity (You should be able to get all this info from the keyword tool you use). Looking at all these, assign a priority to each one either on a scale of 1-5 or a basic High-Medium-Low. Join my free course to grab a copy of my editorial calendar template.
- 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 some potential to drive traffic to your blog from search engines in the long run. Then write a blog post outline to solidify your main points and begin the writing process.
If I’m still left needing more ideas, I’ll turn to a few more creative tactics…
- Seeing what other bloggers in my niche covered (and what did well).
- Taking a look at my most successful posts to see what readers like most.
- Doing more quote roundup posts (like my posts about business advice and online business tools) that don’t require a ton of original thought and effort from my end.
- Chatting with bloggers in my space and brainstorming fresh ideas.
- Talking about specific lessons I’ve recently learned (and my advice).
- Reflecting on the blogging mistakes I’ve made and the tactics that work today.
By this point, I’ve usually got a fully restocked content calendar.
Still Need Some More Content Inspiration? Here Are 201+ Winning Blog Post Ideas
What’s important to keep top of mind when deciding how to prioritize which posts you should write first vs last, is how much potential traffic you could stand to drive from eventually ranking well in organic search for that topic—hence the importance of doing your keyword research first.
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 time and concerted effort into writing headlines that’ll be interesting, engaging and most importantly—deliver on the promise of what your blog posts are actually helping the reader to accomplish.
So let’s say after doing some keyword research, you’ve determined that your hiking blog should start by breaking down some underrated hikes in Northern California.
You’d click into the “Add Title” bar on your new post page and type in a title like…
As a starting point to writing strong blog post titles, 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.
When I first learned how to write a blog post, I had no idea how to craft compelling headlines. Today, I’ve developed a formula that includes several key traits that work very well for attracting readers in my niche of blogging tutorials. My essential elements of writing a successful blog post headline are:
- Lead with a number (like 10, 32, 55 or 101) to capture a reader’s attention
- Use a blend of emotional, common, uncommon and powerful words to make the headline flow nicely
- Place a part of the headline within parentheses to make it stand out more
- And most importantly… make sure your headline matches the intent of what your reader is hoping to achieve
If you’re unsure whether or not you’ve written a strong headline, take it for a test drive by using the free headline analyzer tool from CoSchedule. It’s super cool—you just paste in the headline you’re thinking about using, and it gives you a score on a scale of 0 to 100 (with 100 being a truly perfect headline), based on their analysis of millions of headlines.
You’ll get better at writing headlines as time goes on and you do more of it.
But if you’re really unsure of 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 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.
Continuing with our example from above, I’m trying to rank the article “15 Scenic Hikes You’ve Never Heard of in the San Francisco Bay Area” for keyword phrases like “hikes near San Francisco,” so that’s exactly what I’ve chosen as my post URL… /hikes-near-san-francisco
Here are a few more URL writing pointers:
- Remember to separate each word in a new post URL with a dash (for easier readability)
- Keep it short at no more than 3 – 5 words in length (less is better)
- Avoid the use of numbers unless there’s a very compelling reason otherwise
- Always, always, always include your target keyword phrase
Crafting A Compelling Introduction To Your New Blog Post
You have one or two sentences to convince readers your new post is worth their time. Here’s a sample blog post introduction I just wrote in less than two minutes for our hiking example:
As you’re learning to write a blog post that keeps readers engaged, here are a few do’s and don’ts for crafting a strong introduction.
- Use colorful language
- Open with a startling statistic
- Start with a quote
- Use drama or humor
- Leverage eye-catching formatting (like bold and italics)
- Use a cliche that’ll leave readers rolling their eyes
- Bury the lede (failing to tease the most interesting point in your article)
- State the obvious
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.
Optimizing The Design And Layout Of Your Blog Post
Ultimately, what looks “good” is subjective and up to you—based on what you think your (future) readers will resonate most with.
1. Make Your Blog Posts Readable
Design isn’t about crazy colors, multiple fonts, and tons of images and videos. It’s about making the experience of your reader as enjoyable as possible. That’s why the first thing you should think about when it comes to transitioning from the basics, isn’t what you can add—but what you can take away.
White space or negative space is so important to the legibility and readability of your blog. So don’t start by cramming a bunch of design elements everywhere. Look for ways to make things flow easily (a good WordPress theme should do this for you).
Next, make sure your font size is big enough. 12pt is fine in a Word doc, but for your blog you’ll want to go 16pt or higher. You’ll also want to be careful with line length. Most designers say the ideal length of a sentence on your blog is 50–85 characters as it helps keep readers moving through the post. If all this sounds complicated, don’t worry. We have a very emotional response to good design. Try some fonts and spacing options out and see what feels good to you.
Check out my guides on how to change font size and change font color on your blog for a more in-depth tutorial on tweaking your visual typography settings.
2. Always Include A Relevant Featured Image At The Top Of Your Blog Post
The human brain has two ways it remembers things: verbally and visually. If you can combine the two at the top of your post, you have a better shot at people remembering you and becoming a fan of your blog. What I mean is that you should always have an image at the top of your post that relates to it.
Pro Tip: Don’t Worry About Custom Designed Images While You’re Still Just Learning How To Start A Blog
Take for example, the featured image from this guide about how to start a blog (at the top of this post). By including a relevant image at the top of the post (and superimposing the title on it), I’m making a stronger connection with my reader.
3. Use Frequent Sub Headers To Break Up Your Text
Readers get tired quickly. Looking at a giant wall of text is intimidating and can make people leave your blog. That’s why I suggest including a heading or sub-header every 300-500 words. Some people say it should be even less than that, but I think it depends on your niche and how long your posts are. As always, do what feels natural to you.
I also try to include images around each heading in my post to break up the flow of text—like I’ve done throughout this guide.
4. Use Styling To Emphasize Key Parts Of Your Post
Good blog design guides your reader through your article. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to emphasize key parts with bold or italics like I do frequently within this guide. Notice how I use bold text to highlight the key phrases I want you to pick up on? And italics to indicate specific words I want you to process?
It’s a great tactic, but also one that can be overdone quickly. You can’t say everything in your article is extremely important, so use it sparingly.
5. Make Sure People Know Where They Are
I get a lot of my blog traffic from organic search. Which means people might not necessarily know who I am when they get to the page. To build a lasting connection and make readers feel comfortable, it’s good to have a short blurb about who you are in the sidebar of your blog, for this reason.
These five time-tested design principles will be immensely helpful in constructing an appealing blog post layout (that’s easy for your readers to digest).
Hitting Publish On Your First Blog Post
Once you’ve written your first blog post (and ideally get it to the 1,000+ word range) you’re almost ready to publish!
Take a few minutes to double check on the Yoast SEO suggestions and ensure your blog post is SEO-friendly, which will give you the best chance of ranking well in organic search.
After your SEO settings are dialed in, choose which “Category” this new post will fall under and tick that box.
Then, you’re ready to hit publish!
And boom! It’s that easy if you allow it to be ??
We’ve come a long way in this guide. You’ve just gone from the technicalities of how to start a blog all the way through to publishing your first post.
Now, it’s time to talk about what happens after you’ve published your first blog post… promoting your content, driving traffic and eventually making money from your blog.
5. Promote Your Blog And Make Money
If you’ve made it this far, you should already be in fantastic shape on your journey to fine-tuning your blog and picking up the basics of writing compelling content.
But there’s one last piece of the puzzle that hardly any other bloggers openly talk about: Promotion.
What do you do once you’ve hit publish on your first blog posts? It’s time to promote your blog content. But where do you start? Here are a few of the best ways to start sharing your posts and getting them in front of new readers
Using Social Media To Promote Your Blog
Look For The Social Channels That Give You The Best Return
Each social network naturally appeals to a certain niche and type of reader. This is a pretty broad statement, but generally speaking, here’s what works best on each social platform:
- Facebook: Videos and curated content
- Instagram: High-res photos, quotes, and Stories
- Twitter: News, blog posts, and GIFs
- LinkedIn: Professional content and career news
- Pinterest: Infographics, step-by-step photo guides, visual content
- Reddit: Comments about topics in your niche
Luckily, there are lots of tools that can help you manage your social media posts. With the right tool, you should be able to promote all your posts in just an hour or two a week. Here are my favorites:
- Buffer: One of the easiest ways to schedule social shares in advance for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Their browser plug-in is also great for quickly adding interesting posts you find to your social promotion queue.
- Hootsuite: If you want something a bit more in-depth, Hootsuite is a powerful social sharing, scheduling, and monitoring platform. It’s probably a bit too much for a beginner blogger, but is a worthwhile option to check out once you start to grow.
- Gain App: If you work with multiple people on your blog, Gain is a great tool for collaborating and controlling who posts what from your account. It’s a bit more expensive, but their workflows can save you a ton of time.
The key insight here, is that you’ll need to experiment and see which networks perform best for you.
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
For my own blog, one of my biggest early breaks came from my very first guest post going up on the blog of the social media scheduling app Buffer. Not only did I tap into their audience of 1 million+ readers, but it also associated me with a brand that people in my niche look up to.
However, getting a guest post on a blog like Buffer’s isn’t easy and I was only able to make that happen because I cultivated a relationship with their blog editor over the course of weeks with intelligent blogger outreach—by first featuring them prominently on my blog (providing value first).
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for other places with established audiences you can write for… in fact, that’s one of your quickest paths to building up a regular readership and getting your blog to credibility faster.
If a large guest blogging campaign isn’t in the cards right now, try reposting your content on Medium—a site that’s free to use for readers and writers. You can even look for a Medium Publication that’s popular in your niche and submit your post to them.
There’s also Quora—a question and answer site that lets anyone respond to user’s queries. One tactic I’ve used is to search for relevant topics in my niche and then answer questions I’ve already written about on my blog (like this Quora answer about how to get blog traffic that’s received hundreds of upvotes and thousands of views). This way I know I’m giving them good value and can even link back to the full post on my blog.
Lastly, if you’re more business-oriented in your blog posts, you might want to post them on LinkedIn where that audience spend a lot of their time.
The key point to all of this, is that you want to look for places where your audience is—and be present there. Whether that’s other blogs, communities, or social platforms.
Forums And Message Boards For Bloggers
Look for a topically relevant group to join on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn where your audience already exists. Alternatively, you should explore some Google searches for terms like “your niche + forum” and “your niche + online groups” to see what kinds of community-run sites already exist.
For example, if you’re starting a blog about photography, you could consider joining Facebook groups like Nikon Digital Camera & Photo Enthusiasts (26,000+ members), Nikon D750 Users (27,000+ members) and Nikon UK Photography (13,000+ members).
(I found these groups by searching for “Nikon” and clicking the ‘Groups’ sort tab at the top of the menu.)
If your blog is relevant to anyone with a DSLR camera, you’re sure to find enough people who’d be interested in reading your posts within those groups.
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 or Reddit.
If you’re starting a business or entrepreneurial blog, you might want to try engaging in these groups:
Facebook Groups (Entrepreneurial):
- Freedom Hackers Mastermind (39,000+ members)
- The Smart Passive Income Community (28,000+ members)
- The Joyful Entrepreneur (37,000+ members)
- Heart-centered, soul driven entrepreneurs (16,000+ members)
- Coaches, Authors, Entrepreneurs (13,000+ members)
- Women’s Entrepreneur Network (32,000+ members, women only)
- Super Hero Entrepreneurs (10,000+ members)
LinkedIn Groups (Entrepreneurial):
Remember, forums and message boards aren’t just places to dump links to your blog posts. You need to provide value before you ask for anything in return. So start by building relationships and engaging with people there.
You never know, you might come up with some great topic ideas (and ways to help your audience) in the process.
Using An Email Newsletter To Grow Your Blog Audience
One of the best forms of promotion for your blog isn’t to other audiences, but to your own.
An email newsletter is probably the most powerful way to keep readers engaged and excited about the work you’re doing and one of the things you should set up as soon as you start a blog.
Personally, I use a tool I love called ConvertKit to manage the 30,000+ email subscribers 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.
Other Ways To Promote Your Blog And Get More Traffic
Outside of promotion on social media, groups, email and guest posts—here are a few other techniques I’ve personally used to grow my blog audience quickly.
- Interview people in your niche: There’s nothing better than learning from famous people in your niche. Not only does interviewing them help you build a relationship, but other people reading your blog want to hear from them. You can use these interviews for blog posts or even start a podcast like I did with The Side Hustle Project.
- Network with other bloggers or mention their blogs: Early on, you want to get on other people’s radars. And one of the best ways to do that is to mention other relevant bloggers and blog posts on yours. For Austin Belcak, founder of Cultivated Culture, that meant linking out to relevant blog posts and then emailing the blogger and saying “Hey! I mentioned you in my most recent article. If you think it’s worthy of a share, I’d really appreciate it. But if not, I’m happy to keep sharing yours.” This drove the initial 50,000 to 60,000 readers to his blog.
- Talk to people about what you’re doing: It might seem too simple, but tell the people around you what you’re doing. Get excited about your blog and share the things you’re working on. As Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking told me: “Maybe it’s just your friends reading you to start, but you should be responding to every comment and going out and commenting on other blogs. This is essentially your industry and these are your coworkers.”
- Learn from other top bloggers: If you don’t feel ready to connect with other bloggers in your space, at least try to learn from what they’re doing—like what can be found in my epic compilation of the best blogging advice. For Silas Moser, one half of Chasing Foxes told me, you should study people who are good at what you’re doing: “Look at what works for them and see how you can use it. So many people told us ‘you could never make money from a blog.’ But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are tons of successful bloggers out there that you can learn from and see what they’ve done and apply that to your niche.”
Remember that the only thing standing in the way of growing your blog is you. It’s easy to say that you don’t have time or you’re tired from work or that it’s too much effort.
But that effort you put in today, tomorrow and next week—is ultimately what makes building a profitable blog so worth it in the long run.
Now, let’s talk about how to (eventually) make money from your blog.
8 Best Ways To Make Money Blogging (Monetize Your Blog)
There’s a reason why monetizing your blog is toward the end of this guide. While you’re still just getting started, monetization should not be your #1 focus.
You need to find your readers, start building relationships with them, forming a community around your blog and keep delivering value (in the form of content) before immediately trying to sell them on an online course, hiring your freelance services, or otherwise.
Blogging Is A Long-Term Investment That Can Pay Massive Dividends
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. Now, keep in mind that when you’re just getting started, some of these monetization strategies will be easier than others while your readership is still growing.
Let’s dive in!
1. Freelancing (Selling Your Services)
If you want to start earning from your blog right away, then selling your services is going to be the easiest option by far
All you really need in order to land your first freelancing client, is a strong enough pitch, which is where a blog 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.
And if you don’t have those work samples yet… don’t let that hold you back. Spend a few days right now to 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…
- 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
2. Affiliate Programs
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways for bloggers to start making money.
If done right, it can be a really great source of passive income that pays off for months or years to come if you set it up correctly!
Here’s how affiliate programs work: You get a special tracking link from the company you’re an affiliate for. Then, you’ll place that link within posts on your blog, emails to your blog subscribers and weave it in elsewhere that you reach your readers. When someone clicks on that tracking link and completes a purchase, sign up (or occasionally another metric), then you earn either a set fee or percentage of that sale. You’re getting compensated for referring new customers to your affiliate partners.
Some of the biggest brands have affiliate programs. Think global companies like Amazon, all the way down to key players in specific niches like online education where brands like CreativeLive, Skillshare and Udemy all have lucrative programs.
Start by evaluating the affiliate opportunities you find on the major networks like ShareASale, Rakuten, Flex Offers, Commission Junction, Amazon and others that have products relevant to your blog audience.
Once you’ve built even a small readership for yourself… if they’re engaged and tuned in to what you have to say, that’s ammo to go out and broker a more advantageous affiliate deal with individual business owners, startups and brands that want to surface their products to your kind of audience.
For a LOT more on the subject of monetizing your blog with affiliate income, check out these guides right here on my blog:
Now, let’s talk about generating income from sponsored content.
3. Sponsored Content
Unless you already have a decent sized audience on your blog (or social accounts), it’ll take you some time to grow your readership to a point where sponsored content is a viable monetization option.
Generally, it’s when a brand, company or individual pays you a fee in order to get their content (or offer) in front of your audience in the form of a blog sponsorship. That means you’ll likely need some semblance of a readership base before you’re able to broker a sponsored content deal—because the sponsor’s going to want to see your readers click through and at least evaluate the special offer you’re writing about.
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.
What’s great about online courses as a monetization path for your blog, is that you don’t need a huge audience in order to start earning from course or book sales.
Once you have even just a handful of readers on your blog, encourage them to interact with you—ask questions, offer free downloads, share advice and get them to either join your email list or to personally reach out and connect with you.
Learn about their biggest challenges (as related to the broader topics covered on your blog). Pinpoint the ways you can uniquely help them by leaning on your own skills, knowledge, experience. After you’ve determined the right way to help a handful of your readers solve a real problem they’re encountering, pitch them (individually in a very personalized manner either over email or ideally on the phone) on pre-ordering your course and getting direct coaching from you in the meantime while you work on building out the actual course material.
This’ll do 2 key things for you:
- First, asking people to actually give you their hard-earned money will validate that you’re solving a real problem
- Second, you’ll get live test subjects to help build and curate your course content in real-time over the coming weeks—and your course can emerge as the result of lessons learned and tactics proven from your direct coaching time
I highly recommend reading and following my idea validation framework where your focus remains on pre-selling your course to a small community of early adopters (or beta testers) and you interact with them one-on-one while building out, testing and refining your course material to make sure it does a good job of solving your reader’s challenges.
This is the exact process I’ve followed to launch each of my online courses (some to very small audiences of just a few hundred people) and earn five-figures from every course launch over the years.
5. Traditional Blog Advertisements (Joining Ad Networks)
On a handful of the most trafficked posts on my blog, I place small advertisement widgets throughout the content that earns me around $1,000/mo.
I’m a member of a small ad network called Carbon Ads, that partners with bloggers and pairs them up with ads from high-quality startups like Slack, Asana, Freshbooks, Monday, Upwork and other targeted brands that my audience is already familiar with.
With around 300,000 to 500,000 monthly readers on my blog, I only earn about $1,000/mo from being a member of this ad network. Plenty of other ad networks offer marginally higher CPC (cost per click) and CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) rates, but aren’t as restricted in the types of brands & products that are allowed to advertise on my site—so I’ve chosen to take less in earnings in order to stick with the types of brands I want to promote on my site.
Some of the best major blog ad networks to consider applying to would be MediaVine, Google AdSense, BuySellAds and Propeller Ads. Depending upon the niche you’re blogging about, there may also be a handful of dedicated ad networks serving that space and providing higher payouts than the competition.
All in all, traditional CPC or CPM advertising doesn’t become very profitable (at least as a viable source of meaningful blog income) until you’re driving close to a million monthly readers, so it’s not a great monetization channel to focus on in the short-term. But if you figure out the right levers to start generating massive amounts of traffic, this is a very quick way to flip a switch and start monetizing your readership in a pinch.
6. Podcast Sponsorships
Another great way to start monetizing your blog is by launching a (simple) podcast for your readers… and use both your traffic & early listener statistics to go out and book sponsorships from brands that want to reach your type of readers & listeners.
You can even combine podcast ad placement offers with sponsored blog posts on your site to sweeten the deal.
What I like most about podcasting, is that it gives me an excuse to interview some of most interesting people in my industry, and depending on the niche you’re blogging about, it may be relatively easy to start booking interviews with some of the figures you look up to in your space.
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 also helped me sell an early sponsorship slot for 10 episodes to Freshbooks at $500/episode to help fund getting the show off the ground.
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.
Release a handful of episodes and ask any guests you’ve interviewed or mentioned to share with their communities. Those that tune in and like your show will subscribe and stick around. One of the best ways to reach more listeners and grow your download numbers is to be a guest on other (more established) podcasts in your space.
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 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.
And 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.
If you can build a relationship with 10 early readers and work with them to pinpoint a challenge you’re interested in building a physical or digital product for, focus next on repeatedly solving that problem yourself, then develop a plan of action for how you can personally help those 10 people solve that problem in their own unique situations as well. This’ll be very manually at first, but that’s necessary.
Next, ask these 10 readers to “pre-order” the product from you and work with them through a personal coaching regimen that you’ll use to make sure your eventual product has all the necessary features in order to successfully solve their challenge.
At the end of this validation process, you’ll emerge with a solution that’s built on the foundation of genuinely helping your readers.
6. Develop a successful long-term content strategy
Creating a blog content strategy might sound like a complex, time-consuming, buzzword-laden process requiring an MBA and a keg filled with coffee. But it’s really not.
A blog content strategy is really just an actionable plan for implementing everything you’ve already figured out up to this point.
- If you know your niche and understand your why…
- If you know your ideal reader and what they’re looking for…
- If you know the value you want to give them and your unique angle…
Then creating a blog content strategy is as easy as solving your readers most pressing challenges.
Once you’ve published a few articles on your blog, you’ll start to get the hang of things. It’s at this point that you should start working on a greater content strategy that’ll help inform on the overall direction your blog will be moving in. It’ll also help immensely when you’re feeling unmotivated, when you don’t know what to write about, or when you’re thinking about giving up on your blog.
Here’s how to put a basic blog content strategy together:
1. Define Your Goals
What do you want to achieve with your blog content?
- Is it to drive traffic and get readers?
- To get people to sign up for your email newsletter?
- To get them to download a book you wrote or join a paid course?
This goal might change as you grow your blog, but it’s still important to know it early on. As prolific blogger and marketing guru Seth Godin explains:
“You have the freedom to make these choices at the beginning when they’re free, fast and easy. Not later on when you’ve made commitments.”
Once you understand your bigger goal (i.e. why you chose to start a blog in the first place) you can start to define the mini-wins that’ll help you get there.
2. Get To Know Your Readers (And Where They Hang Out)
Your readers determine whether or not your blog is successful. And to write for them, you need to really understand them—which is why it helps if you’re also writing for yourself. This guarantees at least an audience of one.
I’m a firm believer that who you write your blog posts for, is equally as important as what you write about.
In a lot of cases, you’re going to be your ideal reader, which makes this process easier. But in almost every case, it’s useful to do a bit of research around the audience you’re writing for (heck, you might even learn something about yourself!).
To start, you want to think about the demographics and psychographics of your ideal audience:
- Demographics: The quantitative traits of your readers. Think, age, gender, location, job title, etc…
- Psychographics: The more “unmeasurable” traits like values, interests, attitude, and belief systems.
Once you’ve written down these qualities, you can start to come up with an audience persona—a fictionalized version of your ideal reader. So, you might say that you’re starting a cooking blog for Chad, a 30–40-year-old stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon who values organic ingredients and isn’t too worried about food costs.
Now, the next question is: Where does Chad hang out online?
- Is he searching for recipes on Google or Pinterest?
- Is he a heavy Facebook user or does he prefer niche community sites and forums?
- Does he comment on other cooking sites or is he consuming content just to read?
The goal of your blog is to create value for your Chad.
BUT… you can’t do that until you know who your ideal reader is and where they spend their time. If you’re not totally sure, it’s fine if you have more than one ideal reader. It’s important to make sure that your personas aren’t too broad (as your readers might not know that you’re writing for them right away).
3. Decide On Your Content Pillars
When it comes to actually deciding what you’re going to write about, it’s good to have a few guiding topics that you refer back to. I like to call these content pillars as they’re the foundation that holds up the rest of your blog.
Having a few set pillars like this helps keep your blog focused. It also gives you a lens and a voice that you can write from. For example, if you’re starting a personal finance blog, your pillars might be:
- Personal finance tips and tricks
- Interviews and stories from people who’ve found financial independence
- Your take on important financial industry news
- The basics of personal finance
- How to pay off your debt quickly
Each of these pillars can have 10s if not 100s of blog posts to be written under them. But they also all work together to show that you’re a thought leader in your niche.
4. Map Out The Content You’re Going To Create Before You Start
Shortly after launching your blog, it’s worth taking a little time to plan out your content pipeline for the coming weeks (possibly months).
This is especially relevant if you have a decent sized audience on a social network that you plan on alerting once your blog launches—because you never know if your first post might blow up and go viral. In that case, you’ll want to have at least a game plan to quickly engage the new readers you get.
Now, you don’t have to go all-out like Grace did and write 40 pieces of content before you launch.
Even just a post or two under each of your major content pillars is enough, but if writing comes easily to you, it’s ok to do a little more. Remember though, it’s always better to start small and grow consistently.
You’ll learn more about your audience, your process, and what works well as you write and publish more. Lastly, remember to have fun and be interesting with your content. If you picked a niche that you care about, remember why you care about it. People want to hear your voice and get your take on things.
That’s how your blog and your content will stand out in the end.
The Best Content Strategy And Management Tools To Use On Your Blog
Putting together a blog content strategy (and sticking to it) can be a bit daunting at first.
Luckily, there are tons of fantastic tools to help you stay organized, motivated, and on track. Here are a few of my favorites:
Personally, I prefer using a combination of Trello and Google Docs to manage my content pipeline. Trello because it’s so visually appealing and easy to wrap my head around—but a Google Sheet is where I track much of the ongoing promotion work I do to make sure my articles rise in organic rankings.
Here’s what my Trello board for managing my blog content looks like:
You can see there’s various different columns, indicating the stage a post (or even page/post updates) is currently in. From ideas to chosen, in-progress, scheduled and published, I like Trello so much because I get a quick visual snapshot of my content pipeline without having to wade deep into a Google Sheet.
7. Commit To A Regular Publishing Schedule On Your Blog
If you want readers to consistently come back to your blog, you need to give them a reason to.
Consistency is one of the least celebrated, yet most important aspects of starting a successful blog. Even more, research supports this claim.
There are a couple of reasons why consistency is key. Writing consistently:
- Sets expectations with your readers: People know when to come back and check out your blog and will check in regularly for new content.
- Sets expectations with yourself: It can be easy to get out of the habit of publishing regularly if you miss a couple days. However, if you decide on and commit to a schedule, you know when you have to publish. We all do better with a few deadlines in our lives.
Not only this, but publishing consistently helps you test and understand what types of content work with your readers.
Now, there’s a fine line to walk when you first start a blog and want to set a rigorous publishing schedule.
You might have a ton of ideas and enthusiasm, but over-committing is the easiest way to kill both of those. Instead, you should commit to the minimum amount you want to publish—say once or twice a week—and try to stick to that religiously.
Perfectionism is a deadly killer when it comes to projects like maintaining a blog. So remember, done is better than perfect.
This is where having a clear content calendar becomes so important. If you can spend a couple hours each month mapping out all the posts you want to write, you’ll always know what you should be working on and when it’s due. This can be in a simple Google Doc like the one in my free blogging course, or by using a tool like Trello that lets you track posts through the whole process from idea to writing to published and promoting.
Just like when you’re working out at the gym or investing money in the stock market—the more consistent you are with investing time into your blog, the bigger returns you’ll get.
8. Use Free Photos And Designs To Make Your Blog Posts Stand Out
Before you hit publish on your brand new blog posts, there’s one last step you should take.
Studies show that blog posts with images get 94% more views than those without. And when it comes to posts getting shared on social media, tweets with photos get 150% more retweets that those without one, while Facebook posts with images get 2.3X more engagement.
Simply adding a few visual elements can almost double the amount of views and significantly expand the shares a post gets.
In fact, including high-quality images was one of the main things that former celebrity chef and founder of What’s Gaby Cooking? Gaby Dalkin says made her blog explode in popularity:
“It wasn’t until I hired two of my best friends—who happened to be a food photographer and food stylist—that my blog really took off. Because people eat with their eyes. And it allowed me to focus on what I love to do, which is developing recipes and engage with my readers.”
Now, it’s pretty unrealistic to think that you’re going to hire a professional photographer to work on your new blog. That’s not the goal today.
And that’s totally fine (hint: I don’t either)! There are some incredible free blog photo and design resources you can use to enhance your posts, even if you’re not very design-minded at all.
Free Blog Photo Resources
One of the easiest ways to add some design elements to your blog posts, is with images.
While the words “stock photography” might make you think of cheesy photos of awkward people in a fake office with their thumbs up… in recent years, there have been a number of much higher quality sites pop up that offer incredible photography that’s completely free to use for your blog. Here are my favorites:
Unsplash is probably the best online resource of completely free-to-use, user-uploaded photos for your blog. Every photo that makes it onto Unsplash is curated by their team to make sure it’s high quality, meaning you’re not sifting through terrible photos to find the one you’re after.
Under the Unsplash license, you don’t even have to attribute the photographer (however, they recommend you do!) Making it the easiest option for free blog photography.
2. Death To Stock
If you’re looking for something a bit more exclusive and are willing to spend a bit of money, Death To Stock sends you a curated collection of free images you can use on your blog each week. Or, for $12/month you can get access to the 2,000+ professional photos on their Premium site.
If you’re after quantity over quality, Pixabay has a collection of 1.4 million photos, videos, illustrations and vector graphics you can use for free. Many of these are from other free stock photo sites and the quality isn’t as curated as the other two I mentioned, but it’s still a good option if you want to spend some time scrolling.
Other Great Free Blog Photo Resources Worth Mentioning
- Wikimedia Commons: 21+ million photos and images from throughout history that are now in the public domain and free to use.
- New Old Stock: Vintage photos from public archives. Lots of cool options depending on your niche and design style.
- Life of Pix: Awesome free-to-use photos donated by an advertising agency in Montreal, Canada.
Free Blog Design Resources
Along with stock photos, there are a ton of great design resources out there that can elevate the design of your posts.
And you don’t need a deep understanding of Adobe Photoshop, or even a creative bone in your body to use them. Here’s a few of my favorites:
1. Canva For Social Media Images And Quotes
Canva is an incredible free design tool that’s been around since 2012. It’s got drag and drop templates for pretty much any design element you’d need for your blog, from social media posts for Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook to custom quotes.
Basic usage is free and you get access to a ton of design resources, logos, and photos.
2. Visme For Infographics And Presentations
Like Canva, Visme is a free online tool that lets you make custom designs for your blog. After quickly signing up, you’ll be able to choose from hundreds of templates for blog graphics, infographics, social posts, and more.
3. Noun Project For Design Icons
If you’ve got design chops and want to do a bit of work yourself, there’s no better place for icons that Noun Project. With over 1 million+ royalty-free icons, it’s a fantastic resource for blog icons.
Other Great Design Resources For New Bloggers To Use:
- Subtle Patterns: Basic blog backgrounds and patterns made by the freelance marketplace TopTal
- PicMonkey: An online photo editor with a fun smartphone app for editing personal photos
- Pixlr: More advanced online photo editing (for people who are comfortable with tools like Photoshop)
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.