In today’s competitive business environment, employees are constantly vying for ways to climb the corporate ladder. Looking to make steady gains over time, they work hard, diligently putting in the effort to ensure that they get noticed. Over time, they climb the proverbial ladder, increasing their pay while also increasing their level of responsibilities.
As much a the world is gripped in this rat race, there are those that dream to exit this constant and never-ending battle of wits. The creative lot — those that are looking to express themselves in a medium that doesn’t involve three-piece suits and the doldrum of boardroom meetings — are opting to live an untethered life.
The internet has afforded us that freedom. We have the freedom to become digital nomads and earn an income from anywhere in the world. The majority of those that succeed in this endeavor opt for starting a blog. They escape to some exotic destination such as the tropical jungles of Costa Rica or the sugary-white-sanded beaches of Mexico where they can live on the cheap while building their digital empires.
For those that are looking to start a blog and earn a real income, this is the ultimate freedom. However, this digital nomad lifestyle isn’t that new. People have been making money online for decades now. And as the internet saturates more and more of the global populous, earning that income becomes both easier and harder at the same time.
Most people that start a blog might not understand what they’re in for. They might not fathom the amount of work that’s waiting for them. Sure, gone are those 9-to-5 hours where they need to sit in a cubicle with their heads down or in some office on the 12th floor in a corporate building in some business park, but so is the guarantee of any semblance of pay.
No. If you’re looking to start a blog, be prepared to earn no money. That’s correct. You won’t earn money as a blogger. Not in the beginning at least. Not unless you’re a social media star with millions of followers or a semi-celebrity that already has an audience or a platform. If you’re a so-called newbie, be prepared to experience some pain.
I don’t say this to dissuade you from blogging. Not one bit. In fact, if you’re looking to start a blog and earn a respectable income as a blogger, there are certain steps that you can take to succeed and actually exit the rat race. But it won’t be quick. And it certainly won’t be easy whatsoever.
The unfortunate truth is that there are no shortage of internet marketers (IMs), who will jump up and down to sell you the latest system that will make you rich by catapulting you to the top of Google’s search results. Well, it doesn’t quite work that way. There is no shortcut. There is no hack. You have to put in the time and do the work.
As someone who teaches about SEO, I can tell you that you’ll be facing a long road when you first start a blog. There is a tremendous amount of information that you need to grasp on the technical side of blogging, and you need to seamlessly integrate that with your creative approach. In short, there’s a steep learning curve.
However, to the victors go the spoils. Those that start a blog and don’t actually quit, continuing to push forward, make tremendous amounts of income over time. Not overnight. Nothing good comes quickly. You’ll have to put in the work. But this is by far one of the best ways that you can make money online as long as you understand what you’re doing.
How To Start A Blog
Okay, so if that doesn’t dissuade you one bit, or you’ve already made the decision to start a blog, here’s what you need to do in a step-by-step format. First, I need to premise this by saying that this post is largely based off of the WordPress blogging platform. It is not a step-by-step configuration guide to WordPress, but it does reference the system often.
Why? While there are other platforms for blogging, WordPress is the most mainstream, with nearly 100 million installations to date. Yes, that’s a lot of blogs out there. The fact is that there are approximately 1000 websites being created every minute of every day, with a large majority of those being blogs. So if you’re starting a blog, you’re likely starting a WordPress blog.
Step #1 — Decide On A Niche
Your first step in starting a blog is deciding on a niche. Maybe you’ve already selected a niche. Maybe you haven’t. Your niche will essentially be your content angle. What will you write about? What information will you convey? Will it be about a specific industry? Maybe it will be about a certain area of skills or personal development? Whatever it is, decide on it now.
Some people will argue that you shouldn’t start a blog in a niche that isn’t too popular. For example, if you want to write about something like crocheting or playing a specialized instrument, understand that the appeal of the blog can only be as large as the total global audience in your prospective language. Some things simply don’t have a large audience.
Mass appeal to a large audience is the goal of any blogger that starts a blog. While saturation into the marketplace is difficult any way that you slice it, starting with a smaller audience won’t help you. If you want to write about resume writing skills, for example, you might want to take a broader approach of larger business or employment skills and information.
Step #2 — Find A Good Domain Name
The next step in starting a blog and eventually earning a healthy income, is to find a good domain name. Domain names are in high demand these days, and there are all sorts of new extensions available. However, I would recommend that you stick with the dot-com domain extension. If you can’t find it through a regular search, try GoDaddy Auctions or another domain auctioneer.
If you absolutely cannot find a dot-com domain, then you could opt for a different extension, but be careful not to make that extension country specific. For example, don’t use .US or .CA or even top-level domains such as .info or .cc or .name because you simply won’t get the same global awareness and appeal that you would with a dot-com domain name.
You also want to ensure the domain name is short. Don’t go beyond three words. Two words is ideal, but three words is your absolute maximum. In short, you should avoid any domain name that is greater than 15 characters. Simply put, Google doesn’t like domain names over 15 characters.
You should also avoid hyphens in your domain name as these are usually indicators of spam. Search for a domain name with two words that does not use hyphens and try to opt for a dot-com domain. You should also try to use a keyword in your niche within the domain name if you can. It’s not mandatory, but it’s a bonus for SEO down the road.
Step #3 — Select A Hosting Account Provider
Your next step in setting up your blog is to select a hosting provider. There are loads of great hosting companies out there and the choice is entirely up to you. Use Google to conduct a few searches on “best hosting providers” or “best wordpress hosting accounts” and so on.
What you’ll come to find are lots of articles filled with affiliate links so be careful of the hosting account you eventually sign up to because it might not actually be the best. This is an important step to do your due diligence because your hosting provider will essentially be your partner in your blogging venture, so choose wisely.
One of the important aspects that you should look for is the uptime of the provider. Search around and see if there have been any major problems associated with that hosting provider. Search for reviews and decide on the price point you’re willing to spend. You should also ensure that the hosting provider has a WordPress plugin if you’re not all too familiar with setting up software such as WordPress on a hosting account.
Most hosting providers will provide you with a WordPress plugin and make it relatively easy to install WordPress on your hosting account. But it’s your duty to locate the right provider and get the right hosting account. In the beginning, you won’t need a high capacity account. But as you grow, you’ll need to ensure you have the right amount of space and bandwidth to support your traffic. Those are good problems to have, but you won’t have them in the beginning.
Step #4 — Install WordPress
Okay, you’ve located the hosting account. Now, you need to install WordPress. There are some best-use practices when setting things up here. For example, you need to select a good blog title for your blog. Ensure that it’s not too long and it’s relevant to your niche or intended topics.
You also need to do things like select a theme. What will your design look like? Will you use a standard theme that’s free or will you splurge on a premium theme? There are literally hundreds of thousands of WordPress themes that can be chosen to hep you with the design and layout of your blog. Two of my favorite options for sourcing premium WordPress themes are Envato’s Theme Forest and Template Monster.
A few things that you need to pay attention to these days is to ensure that whatever theme you install, that it’s responsive. That means it needs to be optimized for mobile and tablet layouts and whatever might come next. Mobile searches have now far surpassed desktop searches, and desktop is slowly fading away.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing all of this, then find some hired help on a site like Upwork or Fiverr, where you’ll find no shortage of individuals willing to assist you for a very nominal fee when not only starting your blog, but also setting it up, installing a theme or even customizing it as well.
Step #5 — Configure Accelerated Mobile Projects (AMP) Pages
The AMP specification is important due to globally slow internet speeds in most countries. While this especially applies to developing countries, most places, including North America, don’t offer lightning fast internet speeds on mobile devices. To add to that, many website and blog owners don’t understand the mechanics in site speed and how to ensure the framework of a site loads quickly so as not to frustrate visitors.
Google knows that most people will abandon a site that’s slow-loading. To combat that, it’s created the AMP specification to help ensure that pages load very quickly. AMP is successful at doing this by thinning down the page and removing extraneous bloated elements that take up a lot of front-loading resources. Specifically, you can learn more about the AMP specifications here. In short, here’s a summary of what AMP does:
- Replaces every image referenced with its respective sizes according to the viewport of the viewer.
- Ensures that inline images are visible above the webpage’s fold (i.e. where it gets cutoff before scrolling).
- It converts CSS variables to inline code that don’t require it to parse out to a separate document.
- Takes extended components and preloads them into memory.
- Conducts an exhaustive minification of all CSS and HTML code to ensure ultra-fast loading speeds.
In order to setup your WordPress blog to support AMP, all you need to do is install the proper plugin, which you can find here. This plugin will assist you with ensuring that your pages are AMP-specification ready.
Step #6 — Setup Google Analytics
The next step in starting your blog is to ensure you install an analytics system. Google Analytics is a great choice and very simple to setup on your WordPress blog. Once you’ve created an Analytics account, install an Analytics plugin or use Google’s Tag Manager plugin to configure and link everything together.
Once that’s completely, you should also install an AMP analytics plugin to ensure that you can track AMP pages, which will not be trackable with a standard Analytics install since it’s a minified page and it will require a different file to its current iteration in order to track AMP page visits.
You can’t analyze and track your work and the effectiveness of your blogging without good analytics. Ensure that you set this up properly at the outset so that you can gauge how well your marketing efforts are panning out.
Step #7 — Write Keyword-Focused Content
Starting a blog that actually makes money involves a great deal of writing. But not just any writing. You need to write keyword-focused content and do it repeatedly. When it comes to writing your content, there are a ton of rules that you should follow if you want it to be effective when it comes to SEO (in fact over 200+ which you can learn about here), but try not to allow that to overwhelm you.
In the first year, you won’t get much traction from your efforts. Even if you write a tremendous amount of great content, unless you get incredibly important domain names to link to you through other great content, it will be slow-going at best. But you should stay the course.
The goal? Create a schedule and stick to it. In the beginning, write as much content as you can and share it everywhere. However, don’t sacrifice quantity over quality. Ensure that all the posts are great, high quality posts that are both relevant to your audience and niche while also being keyword-centric. Don’t veer off topic or go on one tangent after another.
If you can keep your readers engaged and actively reading your content and digesting it thoroughly, Google will take notice. Engagement, calculated through things like the average time spent reading your content, average session time, exit rate, bounce rate, and so on, is one of the primary components when ranking on Google’s competitive Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Step #8 — Decide On An Income Stream
Your blog won’t make money right away. It just won’t. No matter what anyone promises you, without the right audience and saturation on search engines, you simply won’t have the traffic. However, you should still decide on how you’re going to make your money. Pick an income stream.
Will you sell ebooks? Will you become an affiliate? Will you run ads (I don’t suggest this unless you have millions of visitors per month) or will you sell some other products maybe? Sometimes, people start blogs to help bolster their websites and sell some particular professional service. Whatever it is, you have to decide on what it will be.
The truth? Making money from blogging won’t be easy. People will sell you a dream, but those hopes will be dashed 6 months or a year into your endeavor. However, the biggest difference between the blogs that make outlandish income and those that fail are the simple fact that the people who don’t stop ultimately reach their goals.
That’s the point. But before you get there, decide on a revenue stream. Most people opt for affiliate sales. You won’t make any money with Google ads or any other types of ads unless you sell private ads on your blog for a fixed monthly cost. You might make a few dollars then. But affiliate sales are going to be your best hope at the outset.
Once you’ve decided on a revenue stream, integrate that into your content and your posts. Ensure that it’s highlighted on your blog. Don’t inundate people with ads everywhere or tons of links that lead to sales pages. People won’t like that. You have to have some tact and decorum as you do this otherwise you’re going to upset a lot of people.
Step #9 — Build A Value Ladder And Sales Funnel
Okay? A what? Sorry if I lost you. However, if you’re serious about ensuring the blog that you started will make some serious coin over time, you need what’s called a value ladder and a sales funnel. If you’ve never heard of these two concepts, let me explain. First of all, you need a system for email marketing. There are plenty of great plugins and programs to send out emails.
If you scour the web, you’ll find companies like Aweber, Get Response, Mail Chimp, Constant Contact and loads of others when it comes to email marketing. The first thing you need to do is to pick one of those companies and integrate it into your blog. Second, you need to develop a free offer. What will you give away in exchange for that lucrative email address?
Keep in mind that email marketing is where the gold is. But it doesn’t happen without a large volume of subscribers. You need tens of thousands of active subscribers to make a very significant income through email marketing efforts. And that doesn’t happen quickly no matter what anyone tries to tell you.
Once you’ve built your free offer, you need to create a value ladder. What will you sell on the next step up? Create your own digital products if you’re serious about earning a real income from your blog. Decide on the next sale or dollar amount such as $99 on the next step, $499 on the second, $1,999 on the third, $9,999 on the fourth, and $24,999 on the fifth.
Yes. People will pay $25,000 to join some mastermind program if you have enough authority and your sales funnel is convincing enough. Your sales funnel is going to actively market all of this for you on autopilot, giving you passive income and the freedom to travel the world or do whatever you want while earning serious income from your blog.
Step #10 — Rinse. Repeat. Keep Going
Give it time. Everything good comes in time. If you’re starting a blog to earn an income today, you can prepare to be disappointed. However, as long as you ultimately realize that your income will come eventually, and you’re blogging because you love it, then you’ll succeed over time.
All you have to do is keep going. Rinse. Repeat. Again and again. Keep churning out great content and people will eventually take notice. Get social on social media and share your content everywhere that you possibly can. It’s going to feel frustrating at first. I still remember the early days and just how painful it was to see a small trickle of traffic. But that changes over time.
Constantly keep learning and doing your best to understand more and more about blogging and convey important lessons to your audience and you’ll succeed. Some of the most successful blogs in the world are earning millions of dollars per month. Don’t expect that to happen right away. But that does show you the potential of what you can accomplish in this industry if you stick to it.