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By Nathan Golden
June 27, 2020
Money

Blogs have been a popular medium for self-publishing for nearly two decades for anyone who wants to write about their passions (and have the knowledge and chops to do so). But how do you get started? Money put together this comprehensive guide to diving into the world of blogging, from what platforms are best to get started with to how you can actually make money doing so.

How To Create A Blog

Here are 7 steps to starting a blog:

First Things First: What Is a Blog? and Other Important Questions

Before we get started on the step-by-step guide, let’s cover some blog basics.

What Is a Blog, Anyway?

The term blog combines the words “web” and “log.” The earliest blogs emerged in the late 1990s, and compared to the static web sites at the turn of the century, blogs offered a better way to communicate online by allowing a dialog between any individual and the audience he or she wants to write for.

Users can leave comments and have conversations with each other and with the blogger. In a sense, blogs worked like today’s social media — anyone could have a platform and discuss whatever they wanted to the world at large.

Do You Have to Know About Computers to Blog?

If you can send an email you can probably set up a blog — it’s that simple. You’ll have to know how to wade through a new platform, but these days, it doesn’t take much technical expertise to get started.

Will I Have to Blog Every Day to Succeed?

Consistency matters, but you can come up with your own content strategy — your frequency is up to you, but most experts agree that doing something regular is the best way to go.

Can I Make Money Blogging?

Yes, you could earn money blogging. However, earning enough money to quit your day job will be unlikely though not impossible.

So let’s get started now with the seven steps.

Step 1: Pick a Topic (Not Just Any Topic)

You may already have a blog title and topic in mind. Even if you do, don’t skip ahead to Step 2 just yet.

First make sure your topic has long-term potential and that it could lead to your own online niche.

Blog Topic Checklist

Put your topic through this checklist to see how it holds up:

  • Do you have anything unique to say about your topic? You’ll need your own voice to be heard.
  • Will someone care to read your take on this topic? If what you have to say is already being said, what do you have to offer by starting a blog?
  • Are you an authority on this topic? You don’t have to hold a series of degrees on the subject, but some experience, or at least a keen interest, will give you authority.
  • Could you give a 20-minute speech right now on your blog topic? If not, you may run out of post ideas within a couple weeks.

Find-a-Topic Checklist

Not sure about your topic yet? These questions could help you find one:

  • How do you spend your free time? Are you an avid reader of 1930s noir? A weekend drag racer? A huge fan of the TV show “I Love Lucy?” Your quirky interests may show you the way to your topic.
  • Do you care a lot about something? Some people wonder what happens to recycled milk bottles. Others may want to write about Marvel movies or English grammar. Your “cause” could be your topic.

No matter what you decide, make your topic clear to your audience. If the ultimate goal of your blog is to promote your new novel, don’t try to hide your intention. The average reader has a knack for detecting your real purpose anyway.

Your blog could educate, inform, or entertain. It could increase awareness or sell a product. If you’re not sure about your purpose, that’s fine. You can find it along the way.

Blog Topic = Blog Name?

Your blog topic and your blog name work together but they may not be a precise match. Your blog’s name needs to be memorable, catchy, and short — yet it also should summarize your topic with enough depth to grab a reader’s attention.

“My Dog and Me” may not be the best name for your blog about the tragedy of animal abuse. The name doesn’t tap into the real tension your topic covers. Something like “Real Life with Rex and Rescue” may work better. A subtitle can also help: “My dog’s journey back from tragedy.”

Step 2: Hello, World! Making Your Blog Live

When you’re good to go with your topic and your blog name, it’s time to get your blog out there for the world to see.

You can do this in one of two ways:

  1. For Free (at least at first): Sign up for a free blog account on a service like WordPress.com or Wix.
  2. For Real: Get your own hosting account and domain name and your own WordPress blog installation.

For most of this post we’ll assume you want your own hosting account and domain name — mysite.com instead of freeblog.com/mysite123. But to make sure, let’s take a look at the free services first.

Pros of a Free Blog Service

  • The Speed: You could have your first post online within minutes.
  • The Simplicity: If you can navigate Facebook you could use these tools.
  • The Price: You can get up and running without getting out your credit card. These services do ask for money when you need more advanced features, though.
  • The Built-in Tools: The software you need to publish a post is ready and waiting. You can upload photos, edit themes, and even embed YouTube videos in some sites.

Cons of a Free Blog Service

  • The Ads: The free service will put ads, including annoying pop-ups, alongside your content and then collect the revenue itself. This eliminates many of your monetization routes which we’ll discuss in Step 6. Plus, you won’t have control over which ads appear.
  • The Amateurism: Nothing says professional like your own domain name and your own hosting service; free blogging won’t give you this.
  • Technical Limits: You’re not a paying customer so you can’t complain if the blogging platform goes down a few days or has super slow response times.
  • The Limited Tools: With a free service you’ll bump into the paywall when you push the limits. If you’re going to pay, you may as well be paying for your own blog.

So should you start out with a free service or take the plunge into blog ownership?

“My suggestion is to pay for hosting from the beginning,” says Sarah Cook, founder of the blog Sustainable Cooks. “If you are paying money for something, you’re investing in your blog. When you invest, you are more likely to treat your blog like a business instead of a hobby right away.”

“Free hosting services should be used only by beginners wanting to dip their toes in the world of blogging,” adds Kieran Smith, a British content marketing consultant focusing on fintech. “Low bandwidth, clunky domain names and limited technical capabilities mean blogs hosted on free platforms are unlikely to be taken seriously.”

Decision Time: Paid or Free?

A blogger who never plans to earn money from his or her content may be fine with a free blog. A business owner who wants a simple way to display contact information online could also accomplish this goal with a free blog.

Everyone else needs a domain name, a hosting provider, an SSL security certificate which protects your site visitors’ private data — and maybe even an email address connected to your new custom domain name. The rest of this guide will explore this professional route to blog ownership.

Hosting

Your hosting account provides the online home for your blog. WordPress blogs work especially well with these web hosting companies:

  • Bluehost: Custom made for WordPress, Bluehost also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for hosting and award-winning customer service. It’s the go-to hosting service for a lot of bloggers.
  • Hostgator: You could save money but customer service response times could be slower; good for people who already know what they’re doing.
  • Justhost: Fast and simple but without great customer service response times. Like Bluehost, Justhost offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • HostPapa: Also fast and affordable but without great customer support.
  • Dreamhost: You could save money without sacrificing performance if you choose Dreamhost. But this hosting provider will not include free email addresses with your custom domain.

How much does blog hosting cost?

Hosting services normally start with a low introductory price and then, after a year or two, increase the price to a standard rate. You could shop around for the lowest price, but eventually the price will increase.

For the best value go with a “shared hosting” plan — unless you need the extra security of a dedicated host or a virtual private server. A shared plan means your blog will live on the same server as other blogs that use the same web hosting company; dedicated server space or a virtual private server plan will cost significantly more.

After your introductory rate expires, expect to pay between $100 and $150 a year for hosting using a shared hosting plan.

Some of the hosts listed above will advertise WordPress hosting packages. These deals cost more but can include nice features such as a secured server certificate or free email addresses. If you’re not sure how long you’ll need the account, stick with a basic shared blog hosting plan.

To lock in the lowest rates you should pay for three years (36 months) of hosting up front. If you can’t afford to spend so much up front, choose a 12-month or a month-to-month plan. Just know you’ll be paying more for the convenience of monthly payments unless the host says otherwise. (Dreamhost and HostGator will be your best choices if you’re paying month to month. Bluehost will cost more if you pay month to month.)

Most web hosting companies give money-back guarantees for 30 days but these guarantees do not apply to your custom domain name.

What about features?

Any host you choose will offer two or three service packages. Usually these choices have names such as “Basic,” “Choice,” “Professional,” or “Premium.”

The plans have different price points, too. Most people can stick with a host’s “Basic” plan. If you need additional email addresses, more server space for videos, or some other extra feature, consider one of the more expensive plans.

You should consider buying features like SSL and online privacy protection. Sometimes, privacy protection will be included in the most expensive package. If this happens, you may be able to add privacy to the Basic plan later for an extra $1 a month.

If not, consider another host instead.

What to Look For in a Web Hosting Company

If you’re new to hosting, and you don’t want to use a company on the list above, make sure your web hosting company offers:

  • Constant Uptime: A host that claims 100% uptime all the time may not be telling the entire truth; however, you should find a host with 99.97 percent uptime month after month. Your site can’t succeed if it’s not up. (what is “uptime?”)
  • Proactive Security: Lots of hosts offer free back-ups, free SSL certificates, dedicated IP addresses, and spam filters. Your host should at least offer these services even if you pay extra or have to choose a higher-priced plan.
  • Free Site Migration: You shouldn’t have to pay a fee to move your site to a new host.
  • Free WordPress Services: If you’re new to blogging and WordPress, especially, find a host with one-clickWordpress installation or even preinstallation.

Domain Name

If web hosting creates an online home for your blog, your custom domain name is the street address. It’s the phrase beginning with www. ending in .com or .org (or a variety of other dot suffixes).

It’s getting more difficult to find a catchy domain name because so many names are taken. You can often reserve a free domain name while buying your web hosting plan — at least free for a year. Eventually, registering a domain will add about $15 a year to your site’s cost.

You can register more than one domain and point each domain to the same site. If you’re reserving mysite.com you may also want mysite.org or mysite.net. You’d need to pay for each domain name, but when your blog succeeds you’d be glad to have the names reserved.

Installing WordPress

The hosts listed above will install WordPress on your server for you automatically — often with one click. You could choose another host and install WordPress manually. It’s not impossible, even for someone with limited technical experience.

But why go to extra trouble when your hosting service has already preset your install?

If you do find yourself in need of a manual installation you can find a step-by-step guide here.

Once your installation is complete, you can log into the WordPress Dashboard which serves as a home base for the rest of your blogging journey. You should be able to log into your WordPress account by typing /wp-admin at the end of your new domain name.

Step 3: Make WordPress Your Own with Themes, Plug-Ins, Pages

A WordPress theme resembles a template. It creates the foundation for your blog’s appearance and behavior. When you install WordPress in your hosting account, your blog will come with WordPress’s default theme installed.

You can find hundreds of WordPress themes in various places online. Many themes are free; others may require payment before you download and install them for use on your blog. To keep things simple stick with a free WordPress theme. As you browse these free themes, remember you can change colors, background pictures, and, of course, the text you see on the theme previews.

Know, too, that you can change your theme later without having to re-do your blog’s content. At this stage, just pick a theme you think would provide a good structure for the content you envision.

Customize Your Theme

When you have a theme in place you’ll want to customize it for your content. You can do this on the WordPress Dashboard in the Appearance menu. You can change the text, change the background color, and change the images within the theme.

At this point you’re also getting to know the way WordPress works so be patient with yourself as you learn. You may make some mistakes, and that’s fine. You can return to the default settings if necessary.

Your blog is still a work in progress. As your content develops and more pages and posts emerge, you may need to change your theme or adjust its customizations. As your blog changes, your content could outgrow the theme you’ve chosen. You may need a new theme with more room for images or a more prominent blog menu.

How to Edit Photos

WordPress is pretty good about letting you resize and crop photos, but you may want more control over your images. Professionals rely on Adobe Photoshop and other Creative Suite programs.

You could download these by taking out a monthly subscription, but learning to use them could take some time. Consider a free and more basic alternative such as Gimp, Krita, or Seashore. These programs don’t have the power or professionalism of an Adobe product, but they may get the job done for you.

WordPress Plugins Give Your Blog Flexibility

When you have WordPress installed and your theme chosen and customized you should visit the Plug-ins section of your WordPress Dashboard.

Plug-ins give your blog adaptable features. Some are free but others you’ll need to buy. Still, others simply ask for a donation, and why not be generous since someone shared his or her technical chops to give your blog added functionality?

Your blog’s content and scope will help determine which WordPress plug-ins you need, but many blogs depend on these:

  • WPForms: If you’d like to set up a contact form or an order form in the near future, grab this plug-in.
  • WPRocket: This plug-in can speed up load times on your site. Faster load times help with your search engine results.
  • Yoast SEO: Speaking of search engine results, you can get search engine optimization (SEO) tips on your content and page design from the Yoast plug-in.
  • A back-up plug-in: You should always keep a recent backup of your WordPress installation saved either on your local computer or the server. You can find plug-ins to back up your site regularly. Just be careful about letting the backups pile up on your server.
  • An email subscription plug-in: We can’t recommend a good free plug-in for this, but if you plan to collect email addresses from site visitors you can find a plug-in to make this possible.
  • Akismet for spam: Spam is part of life online. Akismet does a great job carving out spam from your blog comments without targeting real comments.

Pages, Menus, and Posts

We’re trying to avoid getting too bogged down in technical details, but before sharing content on your blog, you should know a few more details about WordPress.

  • Pages vs. Posts: Blog posts tend to be timely and specific to one subject. Pages normally keep the same or similar content — your About Us page, your Contact page, etc. Access a list of both Pages and Posts on your Dashboard using the links along the left side of the screen.
  • Homepage: Inside your Theme settings you can choose whether site visitors should see a static home page or your most recent blog post when they visit your URL.
  • Menu: Under the Appearance section of your Dashboard look for the Menu link. Building menus is super easy in WordPress. But you’ll need to create some pages before you can put them in a menu. For now just play around with the settings to see how the menu tool works.

Permalinks and Your URL

Permalink is WordPress’s term for the URL of your blog posts and pages. Ideally your permalinks should be simple and identifiable so search engines can more easily crawl them.

Under the Settings section in the Dashboard find the Permalinks menu and choose “Post name” as the default format. Otherwise your URLs will include numbers or weird symbols.

While you’re working within the settings of your site, check on your site’s default URL in the “General” tab. Be sure your site address has “www” to avoid confusion or missed redirects later.

Step 4: Publish Your First Blog Post

So you’re ready to get started publishing your content. If you’ve gotten this far, posting content will not challenge your technical skills.

You’ll find the “Add New Post” button and be on your way. You’ll type in your post and hit “Publish.” Then you can click “View Post” and have a look at your handiwork, share the URL on social media, and send the blog to all your email contacts.

But what should you write? If you haven’t already created an introductory post, you may find writing to be more difficult than you’d expected. You have something to say, but it doesn’t always come out as you’d imagined.

This is a normal experience. Writing and thinking about writing are two very different things. To get started writing you just have to start.

Get Words Down

The most prolific bloggers know how to turn off their inner editors, at least for a half-hour or so during which they write a thousand words without worrying about the quality.

Just keep writing. Finish a sentence and go on to the next one. Write short paragraphs so mobile readers won’t see impenetrable blocks of text. Don’t worry much about spelling or sentence structure. Don’t worry what your English teacher from the 11th grade will think when he reads your post.

Do Some Editing

After you’ve written your first 500 to 800 words, take a breather and look over your work so far. Turn a more critical eye on your content, but don’t wade too deeply into line editing. You’ll have time to fix the spelling or grammar problems before publishing.

Instead, assess where your post is going. Is there something in the middle that should be in the beginning? Would your last paragraph provide a better starting point? Do you even need the first three or four paragraphs?

You may even find a sentence or two that encapsulates the entire point of your blog post. If so, expand on those. Go into more detail. Consider how someone who’s never read these words or considered your thoughts might react. What would that person want to know?

Revise or Start Over

The insight gained from your rough editing may inspire you to start over using your new knowledge as a foundation for the post. This is normal. It’s a good idea, actually. The most experienced writers know their first draft was just a way to get their writing muscles into gear.

Or, if you’re happy with the overall structure of your first attempt, use it as the backbone of your post. Every post will have a different recipe. Sometimes you get it right, or close to right, the first time.

Close Line Editing

Now it’s time to think like a line editor. If you’re writing in a word processor your software will flag obvious errors. But you’ll need to look for inconsistencies.

Did you use a percentage sign in one paragraph but spell out the word percent in another? Are your capitalizations consistent when the same word reappears later in the post?

No one’s judging you too harshly online, but you also don’t want to distract your readers with oddities and randomness. Ask a friend or your partner to read over your post.

What About Photos, Video, Links?

Would a picture enhance your post? How about a gallery of photos? Or a video? WordPress’s post editor lets you upload or embed content. The best art elements will enhance your written content and not distract readers from reading.

Find the little chain icon above the editing pane if you’d like to link from your content to another page on your blog or another page elsewhere on the web. Just select the text you want to turn into a hyperlink and then click on the link (chain icon) button. Enter the link’s address.

Name That Post

We saved this for last for a reason. Your post needs a title. Hopefully since you’ve spent some time with your topic by now, a headline will emerge from the cloud of your creativity.

If not, you could be in for a long few minutes trying to come up with something witty or engaging. Don’t over-analyze this step. Just identify the point of your post and go from there.

It’s nice when a blog’s title can make readers want to dive right into your content. But it’s also important for your title to reflect the content of your post.

Preview and Publish

Before hitting the publish button, try previewing your post. Previewing shows how your post will look within the context of your blog.

Read your post again, from start to finish, in this Preview mode. It’s amazing how a different environment can change your perspective on words and pictures. You’ll see something — probably a few things — you need to change.

So just tab back over to the Editing pane and make the changes. Once you’re ready, hit Publish. Your first blog post is now live.

If you see something five minutes later you want to change, just change it and click the Update button which replaced the Publish button after you published the post.

Congratulations! You’re now an official blogger.

Step 5: Plan Out Future Content

You’ve published a post. You’re a blogger now. So what’s next? Another post?

Your Static Pages

WordPress blogs have two kinds of pages: blog posts and static pages. Most themes come with a few static pages already in place: About Us, Contact Us, and a home page. You should spend some time building out these static pages.

There’s no need to work super hard on this content. Your About page could have a sentence or two about your site and a little bio of you, along with a picture or two. The Contact page could have a contact form and links to your social media accounts if they align with your blog’s goals.

Your home page content is optional at this point in the process because your new blog post could serve as your home page. To direct your URL to your newest blog post use the Appearance menu on the WordPress Dashboard. Choose ‘Theme’ from the menu and look for home page settings.

Your Next Blog Posts

Pretty soon you will want to write another blog post. You probably have a lot of knowledge about your topic, and you’re ready to start sharing.

This can help and hinder your writing. Knowledge is always a benefit until it prevents you from writing because you have so much to say all at once.

A good blog post will delve into the specifics of a particular issue. In the process, you can share your broader knowledge or make a universal point. But your post should be about something — something specific.

Rather than trying to write a post about the solar system, you could write one about a Van Allen Belt. Instead of a post about 18th-century choral music, write a post about the 24 days it took Handel to write Messiah.

What Do Readers Want?

Your blog gives you a venue for sharing your passion and your knowledge. But it’s not all about you. It’s also about potential readers. On some level you have to think about what readers want to read.

How can you find out — aside from asking random people?

“For The Write Life, our approach is simple,” said Alexis Grant. “We listen to what our readers ask for. We also use Ahrefs, an SEO tool, to see what writing-related content people are asking for via search engines.”

SEO keyword research could tell you:

  • How many people are searching for a particular term in a month in Google or another search engine?
  • What related terms people search for in Google.
  • Which existing posts are answering readers’ questions.

SEO tools like Ahrefs, which Grant mentioned, and Twinword Ideas can help you see questions many potential readers are asking — and this should lead directly to new blog post ideas. When you know what questions readers want you to answer, your blog posts can provide the answers.

If you want to make money on your blog at some point, get into the habit of delivering content readers are searching for. Keyword research is the key.

Making a Content Calendar

Posting consistently helps you and your blog. But you can develop your own version of consistent content. Your topic and your commitment level should drive your schedule. There’s no single right answer to the question, “How often should I post?”

Grant recommendations quality over quantity. She said her husband’s blog on Google Sheets has succeeded even with infrequent posts.

“I advised him against it at first, saying he needed to publish more often,” she said, “but he really wanted to offer high-quality, in-depth advice. He proved me wrong! Long, high-quality, and infrequent turned out to be a smart strategy.”

Whichever strategy you choose, try to stick to it. A calendar can help. You don’t need an elaborate calendar — just a way to keep track of a few post ideas and how they’re transforming into actual posts.

Your calendar can be as simple as a list you keep on your phone. Or you could enter post ideas on dates in your existing Google calendar or iCal. The idea is to make some kind of informal plan to keep you on track.

Responding to Comments

Blogging is a two-way conversation. At some point (and hopefully soon) someone else will join the conversation by commenting on your posts. The commenter may disagree with you or have something extra to add. He or she may just say “right on.”

A comment may inspire a new post idea for your upcoming calendar. Some bloggers respond to every comment. Others respond to none or even ignore the comments. An in-between option works best for most bloggers: Read the comments and respond when you feel compelled to do so.

Unless you take precautions, you will probably start getting spam comments on your posts. The plug-in Akismet can eliminate almost spam without you seeing it and without you having to hit the delete button a million times. You can also take your own precautions in the dashboard’s “conversation” settings:

  • You can block comments with URLs, for example, which will eliminate a lot of spam.
  • You can also keep comments unpublished until you’ve manually approved them.
  • You can shut down comments or keep them active for only a couple weeks on each post.

Step 6: Steps to Make Money

People spend money online. They spend money directly to buy products and services. They also spend indirectly in response to ads. They may even spend money in response to your new blog’s content.

Why not tap into this online economy? Bloggers call this the “monetization process,” and the good news is you’ve already started.

Everything covered in this post constitutes Step 1 of monetization. In summary:

  • Creating a site on its own hosting account and with its own domain name.
  • Posting interesting content with a unique point of view and in response to reader interest.
  • Developing a plan for content over the next couple of months with Google searches in mind.
  • Responding to readers and asking for their email addresses.

By completing these steps you’ve created content worth monetizing. You’re developing an audience that can become an indirect source of revenue — or in some cases, a direct source of income if you have products such as an online course to sell.

Demystifying Monetization

Even though you’re off to such a great start attracting an audience, monetizing your blog can still feel like a pipe dream.

Your monetization strategies will depend, in part, on your blog topic, but common approaches include:

  • Selling physical products: For some people this will be a no-brainer. For others it’s a non-starter. If your blog is about a product you sell — pottery, knitted hats, specialty mailbox numbers, or candleholders, for example — selling products on your blog will be a natural extension. For a blog about something more abstract, like the history of the old Yankee Stadium, selling products shouldn’t be your monetization strategy.
  • Selling a service: Maybe you’re really good at editing papers in APA style. Or maybe you’re a Certified Financial Planner. Your blog could become a conduit for new business.
  • Earning commissions: A blog about the environment may include a post about air purifiers. If you’ve tried out a few purifiers and can recommend some models, you could link directly to Amazon or another online retailer and earn commissions if a reader buys a product you recommend. Setting yourself up as an Amazon affiliate takes only a few minutes. You can find many other industry-specific affiliate programs.
  • Selling ads: Even if you aren’t selling or recommending products, your interesting content could generate some income through ads. Google Adsense is the place to start for most bloggers, but you can find other models, too. Or, if your blog has a regional or community focus, you could go sell your own ads and keep all the revenue. (Have some audience numbers from Google Analytics to show potential customers.)
  • Selling premium content: When you’re an expert in your field, or if you’re going above and beyond to create must-read content in your expertise, you could charge a subscription to read your content. This works best when you’re writing posts no one else can or will write.
  • Creating an Online Course: Guitar teachers, artists, appliance service providers, chefs — anyone with a valuable skill others want to emulate could create online courses and sell access to blog visitors. You’ll need to create courses about specific skills. “How to Play the Guitar Solo in ‘Hotel California’” would work better than “Learn to Play Cool Guitar Solos.” You’ll need to know something about video editing to optimize this skill.
  • Hosting webinars: A blog about life skills, personal growth, or mental health could provide a great venue for an online discussion. You could charge a fee for access to a Zoom session. Be sure you’re prepared with a good presentation to ensure repeat customers.
  • Selling eBooks: If you take blogging to the next level and keep it there for several years, you’ll accumulate a lot of content. You could repackage and rearrange your content into book form and sell the book. You don’t have to repeat blog content. You could write separate content for your eBook and sell it directly to your readers.

Start With Ads But Keep Pushing

Your monetization strategies will depend in part on your blog’s focus, but anyone with an audience can get started with ad sales.

“I strongly recommend beginning your monetization by using a display network from one of the major advertising platforms,” said Flynn Zaiger, CEO of Online Optimism, a digital marketing agency in New Orleans. “Most of these ads are essentially plug and play with standard banner sizes. They’re the easiest for a beginner to set up.”

Zaiger said you can move into more profitable income sources like affiliate links or sponsorships after you have developed a bigger audience and a consistent content strategy.

Nicholas Tippins of Beyond Ph.D. Coaching, which helps doctoral degree candidates write dissertations, agrees that ads are a starting point but not the ultimate goal.

“Ads are probably the most common but least effective way to monetize a blog,” he said. “When most new bloggers try to monetize their sites they install Google Adsense and wait for the money to roll in. When it doesn’t, many of them give up.

“I don’t use ads for two simple reasons: ads negatively impact user experience, and they don’t make much money,” he said.

Tippins said affiliate links generate more revenue for his site. To succeed with affiliate links, you’ll need a niche blog topic, some authority built by posting consistently over time, and blog posts that answer keyword search questions — all topics covered in Steps 1 through 5 of this post.

In these and other interviews with successful bloggers, we noticed this trend: A direct correlation between upfront hard work and long-term profit:

  • Less work: You could set up Google Adsense or another similar service within minutes, but you won’t be impressed with the revenue unless your blog attracts millions of readers. Pop-up ads may discourage readers from scrolling your site.
  • More work: You’d have to put some more thought and time into affiliate marketing, but you’ll likely see a more robust stream of income.
  • Most work: Or you could spend weeks or months creating online courses or an eBook or video how-tos. Then each time someone buys a book or one of your courses or pays the subscription to access your premium video content, you’d get all of the profit.

Like so many other things in life, working harder on your blog can set you up for a more lucrative reward. Your first year may seem like all hard work and no reward, but you could be setting yourself up for a more balanced second or third year during which you make money without so much hard work.

Step 7: Keep Improving Every Week

A blog is a living and breathing resource. You can finish some goals like launching the blog, redesigning the blog, or setting up income streams. Celebrate these milestones, but know you’ll never “finish” the blog itself. Your blog should always be a work in progress — both on the content and the business side.

Stay on the lookout for ways to tweak your content and use external tools to draw more eyes. Consider using:

Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and other social networks can corral readers. Each social media platform has its own flavor, and you’ll need to make sure your content fits in. But creating some buzz on a network can lead to clicks for your blog.

As you build a backlog of blog posts you’ll have more choices for timely content to share. Or you can plan ahead and write new content to share.

Be sure to set up social media pages for your blog instead of using your personal accounts. If you get serious about using social media, try a service like Buffer or Hootsuite which can help you plan and implement a social media strategy.

And if you’re really serious you could place an ad on a social media platform. You could reach thousands of people for a hundred dollars, for example. Or you could find Facebook groups based on your very topic and share your blog there.

An Email Newsletter

Above we discussed collecting email addresses from readers. Each week or month you could send a list of recent posts to your email subscribers. This could generate more clicks for your blog posts. Email recipients could forward your email to others who may respond by subscribing themselves.

You could also write new content for the email newsletter and reference your recent posts. It’s just another way to remind people you’re out there creating content.

Some plugins feature ways to send an email to all your subscribers. You could also import your list into Mailchimp or another email marketing tool to manage your subscribers and send out messages.

Reading Other Blogs

You have competitors and you can learn a lot from watching how they work. Look closely at what they’re posting. What do they have in common? Do you also create content that fits this mold? It’s not all about imitation. You have to be yourself and do what you do. But you can do both: detect trends and be yourself.

For example, if you’ve written 350 words and the highest-ranking posts have 1,500 words, maybe you should write some more content. If you have four affiliate links on your page and the top 10 posts average one or two, try cutting back some on your affiliate links. If all the posts on page 1 of Google have FAQs, you should think about adding an FAQ section to yours.

Successful blogs can tell you a lot about where to take your blog.

Additional Static Pages

As your content grows, you’ll need a better way to organize your blog. A simple list of blog posts can’t always handle the strain of hundreds of posts spread across several years.

You could organize your existing posts into categories and link them from static pages. You could have product reviews on one page, advice-based posts on their own page, and so on.

If you’re a financial advisor, you may want insurance reviews on one page, Investment advice on another page, and Testimonials on another page.

Your readers will appreciate this higher level of organization. It may be time to create a static home page instead of using your most recent blog post as the homepage.

Redesigning Your Blog

If you’ve followed the guidelines in this post you’re giving your blog space to grow. You’re letting it evolve into its own creation, guided by your knowledge and your interests but also adaptable enough to respond to external influences.

As your blog changes, your original theme may no longer have the power to display your content. Maybe you’ve added video testimonials. Or you may have started a podcast. Maybe a national magazine has interviewed you and you’d like to feature the story on your homepage.

It’s time for a new blog design. The WordPress blogging platform shines when it’s time for a change. All your blog content can stay in place and operational while you choose and apply a new theme. If you tried such an update on an HTML site you’d be updating pages for weeks.

It could be time to hire a professional developer to create a premium theme — one designed specifically to hold your content.

Don’t Forget the Technical

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about Bluehost and domain names, but as you focus on content, don’t forget about the technical side of maintaining your own blog. Keep your hosting account and domain name payments current.

WordPress updates frequently, and you should update your site to match. Plugins need updating, too. Expect to spend an hour a week maintaining your site’s health.

Before updating your version of WordPress, be sure you’ve backed up the site just in case.

More FAQs about Blogging

No single post can cover everything about blogging. These frequently asked questions may align with some of your questions:

What Other Blogging Platforms Could I Use?

WordPress has cemented itself as the number one content management system, but it’s not the only option. Wix and Squarespace have grown in market share over the past decade. Both are easy to use, but neither can rival WordPress blogs for search engine results. If you’re going to compete with other SEO-minded sites you’ll want every edge you can get.

Should I Use a Premium Theme?

You can’t always customize a free theme to meet the needs of your content. A premium theme coded by a professional can give you a lot more control. Again, if SEO is key to creating a successful blog, a premium theme can help you get and stay optimized. During your first year a free WordPress theme will usually do the job, especially if you’re starting your first blog.

Which Domain Name Suffix Should I Use?

.com? .org? .net? .info? .biz? Which domain extension should you use when you’re reserving a custom domain name? .com is still the most popular suffix, but with so many domain names registered, you may want to branch out to another suffix. Just keep your site’s long-term goals in mind.

Can I Claim an Already Existing Domain Name?

If the domain name you want already exists, you’ll need to come up with another domain name idea. Or, you could try to buy the domain name from its current owner. Search for domain name brokers or auction sites. If the domain name’s owner hasn’t activated privacy settings you could see his or her contact info here.

Could I Buy a Server and Host My Own Blog?

Unless you’re an IT pro, starting your own web host will take too much time, money, and expertise. It’s much more efficient to use Bluehost or another established web hosting company. But yes, you could become your own host.

How Do I Improve My Search Engine Results?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is its own profession for a reason. Success requires diligence and knowledge. You may want to hire an SEO consultant at some point. During your first year focus on creating interesting content and use SEO best practices.

What’s the Difference Between a Blog and a Website?

Original websites displayed information but allowed for little, if any, interaction between content creators and readers. Blogs took down the barriers between writer and reader. Now websites have blogs and blogs have static content.

How Long Should My Blog Posts Be?

A blog post should include a few paragraphs at least. But there’s no magic number of words you should reach. If you’re an authority on your subject, writing 1,000 words per post is a nice goal. Write 1,500 or 2,000 words if you’re serious about drawing traffic from search engines.

Where Do I Get Blog Post Ideas?

Your random thoughts could be the source of blog post ideas. Keep a list app on your phone or a notepad in your pocket to write down ideas as they come to you. You can also get ideas from competing blogs, from keyword research, or from reader comments.

Do I Need to Learn HTML?

Some knowledge of HTML, the original scripting language of the web, can help, but it’s not essential.

Who Is the Best Hosting Provider?

Bluehost leads the pack, especially for WordPress blogs, but you can find plenty of good web hosting companies. Look for a host with almost-constant uptime, security features, and WordPress preinstalled.

How Long Until I Make Money With a New Blog?

Making money through your blog is a long-term play. Keep adding content and looking for monetization opportunities. Keep SEO best practices in mind. Steady work over months and years can eventually bring results.

What’s the Best Advice for New Bloggers?

Start building. Be patient. Work steadily. Know your niche and work within it.

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