You want to learn how to start a blog.
Maybe it is for fun or to ditch your office job and make a living wage.
It’s worth noting that US bloggers are projected to have a readership of 31.7 million by 2020, according to a survey from Statistia
I can tell you that a blog is like owning digital real estate in which you can build and grow a successful business.
I started my first blog back in 2015, made a ton of mistakes and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
Similar to a healthy diet, results can take time to show up. My mistakes were always putting in the early effort and losing my motivation to be consistent.
If you follow these 12-steps to starting a successful blog, you can find that financial freedom or build that passionate following you dream about.
Research and Setup Phase ↓
- Find a topic or niche for your blog ↓
- Choose a brand and domain name ↓
- Choose a host for your blog ↓
- Install WordPress ↓
Creation Phase ↓
- Choosing a theme and structure for your blog ↓
- Establish a content strategy ↓
- Writing your first post and templates ↓
Growth Phase ↓
- Email marketing ↓
- Promoting and growing your blog ↓
- Automating re-promotion ↓
- How to monetize your blog ↓
#1 – Find a topic or niche for your blog
When new bloggers are researching how to start a blog, this step is often times a first hurdle.
When determining how to start a blog, your topic or idea is the first step.
You may want to follow a passion of yours, share your thoughts on politics, sports, etc.
If you want to use your blog as a creative outlet, keep in mind that it will be difficult to find and market to a specific audience.
Think of a blog like a business or a piece of digital real estate. You want to build a virtual business on that soil and sell a product, ideas, tips, guides, etc.
When approached with long-term growth and business in mind, you may see that a blog that has a profitable audience is key.
Don’t get me wrong, choosing a topic that you are interested in is still very important.
Imagine having to write 50 articles about something you don’t care about?
Google also tends to reward blogs that are focused on one topic. The reason this is important is because Google is where your blog will appear when users are searching for answers.
You can probably imagine that many topics are heavily saturated. That can sometimes be a good thing as that means there is an audience to read your content or buy your product.
Here are a few topics that can be successful if you find a small community within them:
- Dieting (keto, carnivore, vegan, etc.)
- Early retirement
- Stock trading and investing
- Real estate
- Passive income or financial freedom
If one of these topics interests you, think of ways you may be able to stand out.
Maybe you love stock trading but see that there are a lot of big reputable sites already writing about stock trading.
This is when you find a micro-niche to start with and build a following.
Research smaller communities within stock trading and maybe come up with something like: “Stock trading for college students.”
A pro-tip of mine is to find something you may have had a bit of professional or personal success. A great success story provides credibility and lets the readers know you’re legit.
Another tip is to stay away from the rabbit hole topics like celebrity news, sports, general food, and recipes.
These topics are saturated and nearly impossible to break into if you don’t have a nice micro niche or money to spend on advertising to drive traffic or do some public relations outreach.
#2 – Choose a brand and domain name
These brands have names that are not entirely clear as to what their product is but have become game changers in their industries. The reason for that is their branding and memorability. People tend to remember a brand if its name makes you stop and wonder.
This is a guide on how to start a blog, not how to create a brand so I will try to be general to appeal to all readers. It is vital for a new blogger to establish a tone and voice for your brand. This can be the defining factor in your success.
There are hundreds of blogs around that are all talking about the same things and creating the same content. The key is to stand out.
If you are writing about fitness, then your brand name and domain should be about fitness.
Here are five tips to pick the perfect blog name and brand.
- Your domain name should reflect your brand.
- Make your name memorable and catchy.
- Make it a relevant name or phrase, and not a made up word.
- Choose a .com or bust.
- Do some legal homework.
Now its time to buy your domain.
After deciding on a name, you will need to purchase a domain name and pay for hosting.
→ You can find the full guide on How to Choose a Domain Name here.
#3 – Choosing a host for your blog
When many people look into how to start a blog, they get stuck on the technical side of things. One of the technically challenging aspects is obtaining and managing a host provider for your site.
I have tried Wix, Blogger, private websites, and tons of other website platforms. Hands-down the best platform for beginners or experts is WordPress. Important: Do not go to wordpress.com and use their dedicated hosting and platform.
After doing your branding research, legal homework and have a domain name in mind, it’s time to get started.
You have a few options for which host you can use. Here are some of the common choices:
- InMotion Hosting
#4 – Install WordPress to your blog
After you have purchased your hosting and have your domain name locked in, it’s time to start designing your website. The beauty of installing WordPress on a private hosting account is that you will have full access to all WordPress premium themes, plugins, and capabilities.
As opposed to having to pay an arm and a leg through wordpress.com’s platform just to use their measly free themes and minimal optimization opportunities.
After installing WordPress, it’s time to find a theme for your blog. This part is up to you but my advice is to not put too much focus on this part. Choose a simple theme with simple images.
The bulk of your efforts over the next months will be on content creation and optimization.
Alternatively, there are custom themes that typically cost anywhere between $5-50. These themes are amazing and come with premium plugins and have great capabilities. Themeforest is easily the best place to get these custom themes, or even just browse designs for inspiration.
#5 – Choosing a theme and structure for your blog
As I mentioned previously, the theme of your blog is not incredibly important right now.
Most blogs start and fail because bloggers spend too much time thinking about small design details rather than putting in the hard hours writing.
If you are hosting a website externally and downloaded WordPress like I recommended, you have access to the directory of free premium WordPress themes that are segmented into tons of different categories and styles.
Conversely, you can head over to a site like ThemeForest which is a marketplace for all types of digital assets including customized and amazing WordPress themes.
The benefit of a custom theme is that you will stand out from the other blogs around that are tapping into the free pool of themes on WordPress. With themes going around $25-50, you can find something in your budgeting.
#6 – Install useful plugins
One of the best things about using WordPress is the customization opportunities you can take advantage of.
WordPress allows you to install pre-coded plugins to add extra features or functions. Prior to WordPress, web developers would typically develop and design your website and create custom programs to achieve this same thing.
There is a massive library of plugins you can tap into for various things like top bars, social media icons, image compressors, etc. Many of which are very useful.
Be careful here as too many plugins can slow down your website drastically and create long loading times for users, making them more likely to leave your site out of frustration or poor user experience. Along with slowing down your site, some plugins can also cause technical problems which can be problematic for a beginner.
I have a few core plugins that I automatically download on every site I create and I would highly recommend these as well:
- Yoast SEO – The most used SEO plugin for blogs. Provides a back-end dashboard that allows you to set each blog post to a particular keyword which gives tips and recommendations to make sure your on-page content is optimized and SEO-friendly.
- Jetpack – A powerful plugin that protects your site against brute-force attacks and unauthorized logins. Basic protection is always free, while premium plans add expanded backup and automated fixes.
- MonsterInsights – Google Analytics is a great tool to track the performance of your site and Monster Analytics provides an embedded dashboard onto WordPress that allows you to monitor stats easily.
- WPSmush – This plugin ensures a fast loading and powerful website by allowing you compress and optimize your uploaded images without reducing the quality of the images. Awesome for preventing large image sizes from slowing down your site.
- W3 Total Cache – WordPress caching is a great way to improve website speed. This will cache your pages as static HTML files so when users visit your site, they are shown a compressed version. Not only does this help your site’s SEO performance, it makes your site user-friendly.
#7 – Create a content strategy
The best strategy to producing content is to actually have a strategy.
Let’s picture two scenarios.
Scenario 1: You spend 15 total hours researching different content ideas, researching valuable google search terms, analyzing competitors etc. and you compile a 52-week content plan, including 52 blog titles with a structure of cornerstone topics and sub-articles linked to them. You then execute each blog post on a weekly basis without spending a large amount of time figuring out what to actually write about.
Scenario 2: You want to write an article but have no idea what it should be about. You spend an hour researching search terms, social media, etc. You finally come up with a topic and need to think of a headline. Three hours have passed and you are ready to write. You are burned out. You open Netflix and start watching How I Met Your Mother.
While I encourage How I Met Your Mother binging, your productivity was not optimized in the second scenario.
Create a structured content strategy after doing leg work at the beginning. This way, anytime you want to jump into your blog, you’re ready to write.
To do this, keyword research is vital. Keyword research is essentially finding specific terms or phrases that people are searching for on Google. This is a great way to make sure you are writing about topics people actually want to read. However, keep in mind that the best blogs contain a combination of Google-tailored content and interesting thought-provoking content.
From a formatting point of view, structuring your blog posts around a few core themes is a great way to make sure your blog falls into a specific category. For example, let’s say you are running a fitness blog. It is important to categorize your content strategy into something like “Weight Loss” and “Weight Training”. All posts should cover a topic within each category, targeting specific keywords within each.
#8 – Writing your first post and creating templates
It’s time to write your first post!
You have your topic, headline, keyword, etc.
This first post is a great way to define what structure your posts will have.
Make sure you have the Yoast SEO tool plugin and keep your sentences short and concise.
Write the way you speak!
Formal writing is boring and difficult to digest for readers. Allow them to understand the important parts of your post easily and quickly, otherwise you risk them leaving because they aren’t finding what they are looking for.
Research best practices on fonts and content structures that are appealing to readers within your industry.
Additionally, researching your competitors is a great way to find out how to speak to your audience. The top competitors in your niche have put in years of research and testing to find out the best practices to a lot of these questions. Don’t be afraid to learn from the best!
After creating your first post, I highly recommend saving that post as a template within WordPress. Each new post you create afterwards can be made from this template to ensure consistency with structure and design.
If you have different content types like blog posts, guides, numbered lists, etc., you can create templates for each. It really makes creating content soooooo much faster.
#9 – Email marketing
Despite having all kinds of innovative communications standards introduced over the years, the one method that has stood the test of time has been email. It is still the primary means of business communication.
Over 205 billion emails are sent every day – a figure expected to grow by 3% each year (Radicati)
Knowing this, using it to reach current and future audiences can not be ignored, especially from a marketing point of view.
Using email is also very lucrative in terms of spending advertising money to grow it. (see below)
For every $1 spent on email marketing $44 is made in return, according to a study by Campaign Monitor.
From the very beginning of your blog, I advise setting up an email creation system to capture emails in exchange for value or services.
This can be a free template, a guide, a white paper, etc.
Offer it as a download to your users in exchange for their email.
After doing so, you can then use this list of emails you have gathered to send new content, promotions, surveys, etc.
Your subscriber list will be your core customer base as they are a representation of your ideal buyer (customer) if they have already shown interest in your products.
Email marketing is extremely complex and the audiences of various niches all react differently to certain tones and promotional strategies.
Because of this, an entire guide can be written on how best to execute it. The best way for you to get started is to get your readers used to you promoting your email list.
#10 – Promoting and growing your blog
You are cranking out blog posts and have near 30 search-optimized posts written around a centralized topic.
You are starting to build a bit of organic traffic on Google and might even be ranking for a few terms.
How do I grow this thing!?
Organic traffic is the overall best strategy to a blog’s success because you own that traffic as long as your post is indexed on Google.
However, promoting your blog is the next step to exponentially growing and finding new users.
Social media, your own email subscriber list, and potentially even advertising (search and display) are available options to promote your blog to different users.
You can use your subscriber list to share new posts, products, and even source content ideas.
My recommendation is to analyze your successful competitors to see what works for them.
What is their main weapon of choice when it comes to promoting their blog or products?
Are they focusing on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google Ads?
This is a good way to obtain free market research about your audience.
If you are in a professional business-to-business niche, Pinterest may not be the play.
Find where your audience spends their time and begin creating content, sharing content, and engaging with people organically.
Do not over-saturate and promote only your content.
Building an audience on a third-party platform requires organic engagement on top of actual good content.
#11 – Automation and re-promotion
Most blogs fail after 3 months.
The reason is that people will spend a lot of time early on and will be motivated to see their blog get massive traffic.
When that massive traffic spike doesn’t come after around 3 months, people quit.
It is basic human psychology : the more time and effort spent toward a goal without achieving it makes it difficult to continue trying.
The way to prevent this is to minimize the manual work involved with growing your blog.
With automation and re-promotion tools, bloggers can avoid the burn out from repetitive tasks.
Posting on social, sharing articles, creating graphics, writing content, etc. are all draining tasks for a blogger.
Find a social media tool that allows you to create posts promoting your blog posts, snippets, infographics, etc.
These tools typically allow you to set up multiple post dates and automated re-promotion.
While this will not ensure success without engagement and real human interaction, it is a good way to make sure you remain top of mind.
Email automation is another place where you can interact with your audience efficiently.
Creating automated email campaigns to your subscriber lists maintains their interest in your blog and sends readers back to your posts.
While you can do this manually, having an organized and timely funnel that will drip out content periodically is a great way to save time.
#12 – Monetizing your blog
If you have followed all of the above steps, your blog should be fully prepared to start making a bit of money from.
Based on your industry, there are tons of advertising opportunities in which you can convert your readers into potential buyers. Some strategies are :
- Affiliate marketing
- Selling info/physical products
- Google or third-party ad platforms
- Selling services or consulting
I recommend a new blogger focuses on creating great valuable content before attempting to monetize. Once you garner a solid and consistent readership, you an begin testing different strategies.
Thanks for reading!
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