However, if you’re starting a blog for the purposes of making money, and you’re not actually passionate about writing in the first place, then you’re largely wasting your time. The art of blogging isn’t simply scientific or formulaic. Without a deep-seated passion for your craft, you’ll face a tide of frustration and upset.
Why? While it’s relatively straightforward to begin a blog, it’s a monumental undertaking to generate any semblance of traffic and profit from your arduous efforts. You need laser-focus and persistence to build an audience or reach mass saturation with your prose. It takes time and it takes long and drawn out evenings burning the proverbial midnight oil.
Take it from me. As a blogger who’s built a substantial platform with hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors, I can bask in the warm glow of success. However, I can’t sit around for too long enjoying the freedom and passive income that my blog has created. Without constantly adding insatiable content, any blog can die off.
So, what does it take to start a successful blog and actually make money online? I suppose that depends on what you consider successful and what you consider making money. If, like millions of other potential bloggers out there, you’re looking to rake it in, you’ll have a long road ahead.
How to Start a Blog: Step-by-Step
Okay, if I haven’t dissuaded you just yet, and you’re serious about launching the next Mashable or TechCrunch or whatever other blog you might think is wildly successful in your eyes, then here’s what you need to do in a step-by-step fashion. The more you prepare and plan, the more likely you’ll be to succeed in the long term.
1. Pick a Topic
Get clear on what you’ll write about. Define a topic or niche, and design all your content around those things. This will help you to not only laser-focus your writing, but also to build digital products and services that compliment your content.
This allows you to attract customers in, enticing them with your highly-informative posts, then tempting them with a lead magnet before dropping them into your sales funnel (more on that shortly).
2. Select a Platform
While WordPress is the most popular platform for blogging by far, there are others out there that can be leveraged such as a micro-blogging platform like Tumblr, Blogger.com and even Medium. However, if you’re serious about your blogging efforts, you’ll likely want to go with a self-hosted WordPress installation on a custom domain.
While you could setup a blog at WordPress.com with a subdomain such as myblog.wordpress.com, you’ll get more traction with a self-hosted solution, and then be able to use subdomains on popular platforms for your content-marketing efforts.
3. Pick a Domain Name
Custom domain names are important if you’re serious about making money from the blog you start. Rather than relying on a third-party-hosted subdomain, find a short but relevant keyword-rich (if possible) domain name that’s descriptive of your intended topic, industry or niche. Use BlueHost, HostGator, 1&1 Hosting or any other number of domain name providers to source your domain.
If you’re at all concerned about things like SEO, when selecting your domain name, you should adhere to the following suggestions:
- Use a known top-level domain (TLD) such as .com or .net
- Keep the domain short, no more than 15 characters or so
- Try not to purchase a domain name with hyphens, since they’re more often associated with spammers
- Avoid using self-hosted subdomains to rank or categorize posts
4. Find a Good Web Hosting Company
There are loads of good hosting companies out there. If you’re starting a WordPress, self-hosted blog, there are a near-endless amount of options. The important thing is to do your due diligence and pick the right one that’s suitable to your budget and to ensure that the service-level and up-time guarantee is there.
5. Caching and Content-Delivery Networks (CDNs)
Use a system like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache and turn on browser caching to ensure that you speed up the delivery of your webpages. In the beginning, this might not seem as important. But as you grow and your traffic increases to thousands of visitors per day, this will be critical. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights to test things before and after the installation.
It’s also important that you setup a CDN, which will speed up the global delivery of your content. For example, your page might load relatively quickly in the United States, but what happens when someone in Australia tries to load your content? CDNs replicate data across multiple repositories around the world, and make content delivery ultra-fast.
This is important for the user’s experience because most people who are foced to wait even a few seconds for a page to load, often abandon the website and go to the next one in the search results. W3 Total Cache integrates with Amazon’s AWS and MaxCDN, two very good options when it comes to CDNs.
6. Enable Permalinks
In WordPress, you should enable permalinks before getting things off the ground, which will give you nice canonical URLs that are SEO-friendly. Permalinks are located within the settings > permalinks section of your WordPress admin and select the post name option.
7. Install the AMP plugin
The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an initiative by Google to speed up mobile accessibility to a large degree of their content. The AMP specification, which you can read more about here, helps to thin down a webpage to its basic structural components with scaled-back JS and minified CSS code, makes for lightning-fast page speeds.
8. Install Google Analytics
Install Google Analytics so that you can keep track of your efforts while building out your blog. This is a great way to keep track of your results while using the URL campaign builderwhen dropping links in social media and other places so that you can effectively determine where your traffic is coming from.
9. Setup Google’s Webmaster Tools
Anyone who’s serious about building a blog and making money, needs to leverage Google’s webmaster tools to see what keywords they’re ranking for and any messages that would impact their ability to rank. This will also allow you to submit an XML sitemap and track keyword impressions along with click-through rates. This is one of the most useful tools for growing your site or blog through constant analysis of your efforts.
10. Learn SEO the Right Way
Although you shouldn’t start a blog with the intention of optimizing it to oblivion, you most certainly should understand the fundamental principles of search engine optimization so that you pay attention to the key aspects that will impact your ability to rank on search engines like Google. Begin with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and digest and implement that information. Learning SEO is a long and drawn out journey. You should always be increasing your knowledge and expanding your skill set.
11. Regulary Build Useful Content
If you’re serious about succeeding with your blog, you need to build useful anchor content. It needs to be engaging, keyword centric, insightful, unique and well written. Don’t write your content for search engines. Rather, write your content for humans while also paying homage to search engines and what they want. Simply put, it’s a skill that develops over time with practice. It’s also important to regularly publish your content on a weekly basis.
12. Sign Up to an Email Marketing Platform
The best avenue for making money from your blog is through email marketing, plain and simple. Hands down, this offers one of the quickest and surest strategies for earning an income through your blog. But before you get there, you need to sign up to an email marketing platform like Aweber, ConvertKit, MailChimp, Constant Contact, InfusionSoft or any other number of platforms that exist out there.
13. Build a Lead Magnet
If you’re serious about marketing anything online, rather than opting for running ads on your blog (which won’t make you real money unless you have at least hundreds of thousands of visitors per day) or engaging in affiliate marketing, you should build a topical lead magnet that will sell a digital product or offer that you create in the back-end. The lead magnet will entice people to sign up to your list and provide you with their email address.
14. Build a Digital Product and Position Your Offers
Email marketing and lead magnets are all designed to help you build out an automated sales machine. However, you need a digital product, service or other kind of offer in the back-end to do that. You can create multiple offers or products, that can lead people up a value chain towards your high-ticket sales.
15. Create a Sales Funnel
Take the time to build your automated sales funnel. There is so much involved with sales funnels, but the basic premise is that your visitors will show up to your site by discovering your content, drop into your sales funnel through an offer via your lead magnet or some other tripwire, and they’ll then be led through a journey with drip-fed messages at some periodic schedule that will allow you to sell your products and services on autopilot.
16. Get Social
Building a blog isn’t easy by any measure. To help you along the road towards success, you have to get social. Not only by linking up with other like-minded bloggers interested in online marketing, but also by sharing and engaging with others on social networks like Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms.
17. Market Your Content
The single most important strategy you’ll find for building up a blog and boosting your visibility on search engines like Google, and my all-time go-to strategy for rocketing up the search rankings on Google’s SERPs, is content marketing. Marketing your content is an intricate process that involves long, seemingly-never-ending hours of building more useful off-site content that links to your primary anchor content, but it’s well worth it.
You can use this single strategy to rank number one on Google’s searches for nearly any keyword if it’s done the right way. There’s most certainly an art to this as well as a technical outline and to doing it the right way. Don’t try to spam or overstuff keywords in an effort to market your content by any means.
Content marketing can be done with articles on sites like Medium.com or Scribd.com, it can be done by answering questions on Reddit or Quora, and it can be done with videos on YouTube or Vimeo, along with a variety of other means. The point is that all of the content has to be useful, period. Don’t try to do the least amount of work for the greatest return. You need to do the exact opposite if you want to succeed.
18. Monetize Your Content
Let’s face it, starting and running a blog can get costly. Don’t expect to get rich overnight. However, you can take certain measures to monetize some of your content along the way. Be sure that you remain topical with your content and that your lead magnets help to drop people into a sales funnel that will eventually sell your high-ticket items.
However, aside from that, you can always opt to generate small amounts of cash flow by doing other things such as creating articles that will lead people to courses or audiobooks that you’ve developed, or building out video tutorials that will ultimately sell some big package or system that will help to teach people whatever it is that you’re really good it.