How to start a Blog that makes money
So you are wondering how to start a blog?
Or even better: How to start a money making blog!
‘Cause let’s be honest,
“I don’t want to make any money!”
Said no one ever…
Starting your first blog is super exciting! But without any help it can also get a bit overwhelming. When you start a blog, you’re not just a blog writer, you will also be a designer, a web developer, a researcher, a social media manager… and the list goes on…
There’s a lot to figure out when you first start a blog, but that is also the fun part about blogging. Here’s the good news though: You don’t have to figure everything out by yourself! I can show you how to start a blog the right way.
This blog post is perfect for beginner bloggers. All you have to do is follow along with the next 10 steps and you’ll be on your way to have a solid foundation for your first blog.
Don’t have time to read this whole post now? Pin it for later.
I may earn a small commission for affiliate links in this post at no extra cost to you. Please read my disclaimer for more information.
How to start a Blog in 10 steps
1. Pick a profitable blogging topic or niche
2. Name your blog the right way
3. Buy a domain name and web hosting
4. Install a WordPress theme
5. Install these vital plugins
6. Brand your business
7. Create these must-have pages
8. Write your first blog post
9. Promote your blog
10. Make money with your blog
These are the main 10 steps, let me walk you through it and you’ll see it’s not all that hard.
1. Pick your blogging topic or niche
If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a while, you might already have a topic in mind. Probably something you know a lot about, something you’re passionate about.
The question you’ve got to ask yourself is: Is this a popular topic? If you want your blog to be a success it would make sense to pick a topic that is in demand, a topic that people are looking for.
How do you know if your topic is being searched for?
Try using Ubersuggest to find out how popular your topics are. Type some keywords and phrases in the search bar and it will show you the search volume (how many searches per month these particular keywords get). Make sure to try lots of different variations of keywords and phrases, you’ll find that some will have a high search volume while others might be surprisingly low.
Have a look at my blog topic. My key phrase for this post is: How to start a blog?
It gets 3600 searches per month in Australia. That’s quite a good amount.
Another way of finding out if your chosen blog topic will get enough traffic is by Googling your topic. If lots of other bloggers are blogging about it, it’s a topic that’s in demand.
If you need more help deciding on a blog topic and to find out what the 7 most profitable niches are, read my post: What should I blog about?
2. Name your blog
Now you know what your blog is going to be about you need a name. Keep your target audience in mind and try to pick something that will connect with them.
It has to be short and memorable and it has to be available as a domain name and as your chosen social media handles.
It should convey what your blog is about or give your readers a little peak into who you are or what they can expect from you.
A good thing to try is to put two short words together, eg: crochetqueen.com.
To check if your blog name is available as a domain name type your domain name in the search box below and hit the green ‘check availability’ button.
Aim to get the .com extension but if you are struggling to find a name available you can also use .co or .net. sassyboss.com wasn’t available so I bought sassyboss.co, it’s shorter so I think it’s great!
Make sure to Google your name before buying it. Be careful if the .com version of your domain name is already taken by an established brand or company, if they have trademarked their name, you might get in trouble for using the same or similar name.
If nothing you want is available that means you have a good eye for a catchy blog name.
In this case you could use your own name or your first name combined with another word. Eg: craftycat.com.
3. Buy a domain name and web hosting
Now you’ve decided on a domain name you need to secure it as soon as possible, but don’t buy it yet, because you can get it for free. More about that in a second…
What is web hosting? A web host is basically where your blog lives on the world wide web.
Hosting prices range from free to hundreds of dollars a month, so what do you go with?
It can be tempting to start a blog for free with wordpress.com or blogger.com or wix.com etc… but if you are serious about your blog I recommend staying away from free blogging sites. These platforms have limitations that you’ll outgrow quickly and are not meant to be used for professional blogging.
The three main problems with free blogging sites are:
#1. You don’t have your own domain name, it will look something like this: www.mysite.wordpress.com which does not look professional.
#2. You don’t own your site. If you ever outgrow or decide to leave your free platform it can be tricky or impossible to migrate your site, meaning you might have to start all over again.
#3. Most of these free platforms have restrictions when it comes to placing ads or using affiliate marketing. And they place their own ads on your site, which you have no control over.
(Another thing about free hosting; often newbies get lured in by the free hosting, they set up a blog, then realise they really want a more professional looking domain name. Here comes the catch: with most free hosting sites, attaching your own domain name cost more per month then a whole self-hosted blog would… So while trying to save money it soon ends up costing you more.)
If you are serious about your blog and you aim to make money with it, you need to set up a self-hosted blog with wordpress.org.
To set up your self-hosted blog you need to buy web hosting. This is super easy to set up and it costs about the same as a cup of coffee a month.
If you are just starting out I highly recommend hosting your blog with Bluehost. Bluehost is the number 1 recommended WordPress host. They have 99.99% uptime, fast website loading times and great 24/7 support.
The thing I love the most about Bluehost is that they make your life easy!
They do all the technical stuff for you.
The trick is to buy WordPress Hosting, it costs the same as regular shared hosting but it comes with WordPress already installed. That’s one less thing to worry about!
Another great thing about Bluehost is that it comes with a free domain name for the first year. Because of this you won’t have to point your domain name at the name servers. Another thing you don’t want to worry about.
And last but not least they install a free SSL certificate for you. An SSL certificate makes your site show up as secure which makes your visitors and Google trust your site.
Without an SSL certificate, your site visitors will see this warning in the URL bar:
This does not look good and will scare some people away.
With an SSL certificate your domain name will show up like this:
The lock in front of your domain name shows your visitors and Google that your site is secure and can be trusted.
Some hosts will charge you for an SSL certificate, and with most hosts you have to install it yourself. With Bluehost your SSL certificate is included in your plan and the best thing is they install it for you.
If you’d like me to walk you through your blog hosting set up, please read:
4. Install a premium WordPress theme
Once you’ve set up your web hosting, it’s time to install a WordPress Theme. Every WordPress website needs a theme. A theme is like a template that your site is build in. Every new WordPress installation comes with a couple of free themes installed. I highly recommend deleting all these free themes and buying a quality premium theme instead.
Of course it’s tempting to try a free theme for your first blog. I tried a free theme too, but I got so frustrated that I started my whole site over with a premium theme. That was a waste of time…
The money you spend on a premium theme you’ll earn back 10 fold in time saved problem solving on a free theme. So yes, totally worth it!
The best WordPress theme for beginners: Divi
Divi is probably the best theme for beginners. It has a drag & drop builder that makes it super easy to get the look you want. No coding needed, just front-end bliss. It even comes with more than 20 pre-made layouts that you can kick off your blog design with. Here’s a sneak peek video, to show you how easy it is to use Divi…
For $89 you get a year access to all themes and plugins on the Elegant Themes site. They offer a 30-day-money-back guarantee, so it’s risk free!
Check out the Divi Theme here.
5. INSTALL THESE MUST-HAVE PLUGINS
The first thing I do when I create a new website or blog is install the following free plugins:
1. iThemes Security
Many WordPress sites get hacked each year, so a security plugin is the first one to install. iThemes Security stops automated attacks, enforces password security and blocks users who have too many failed login attempts.
2. Updraft Backup Restore
If your site ever happened to get hacked, you’d better hope you have your site backed up. This easy to use plugin performs complete manual or scheduled backups of all your WordPress files, databases and plugins.
This plugin reduces image file sizes to help your website load faster. It also improves overall performance and boosts your SEO.
4. Yoast SEO
This is the plugin you need so people can find your blog. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, it lets you optimise your blog with keywords so you can be found in Google.
5. Antispam Bee
To stop your blog getting overloaded with comment spam you need a spam blocker. Antispam Bee is easy to use, ad-free and GDPR compliant.
6. W3 Total Cache
This plugin is vital for speeding up your website’s loading times. No one likes a slow site, if your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load you have a good chance that your visitors leave before they’ve even seen your site. Now that’s not what you want! W3 Total Cache is a free plugin that stores a copy of your pages in your browser for quicker loading and increases your site’s overall performance.
6. BRAND YOUR BUSINESS
Before you start designing your blog, you need to brand your business.
When branding your business it is important to know who your target market is. In other words, who are you creating your blog for?
Don’t just pick random colours, actually think about who you are trying to attract and how you want your audience to feel when they interact with your brand.
Branding is more than picking colours and creating a logo. When you brand your business, you create a consistent look and feel for your website, your social media platforms, your newsletter and anything else that you use to communicate with your clients. Being consistent on every platform will create recognition and trust.
Related Reading: 1000+ Feminine Logo Design Ideas
When branding your blog you need to be consistent with:
- Your colour scheme: Try to go for soothing colours that make your audience feel relaxed and happy to spend more time on your blog. Try coolors.co, a free colour scheme generator.
- Your fonts: Pick easy-to-read fonts for your body text and headings with maybe one or two more stand-out fonts for occasional use or Pinterest pins.
- Your gravatar/profile photo: Make sure to use the same profile photo/logo on all social media platforms. Use a photo in which you look friendly and approachable (smile). Try to incorporate your brand colours in your clothing or background if possible. You can also use a round version of your logo.
- Your brand personality: What vibe does your brand give off? How do you talk to your audience? The best way to be consistent with brand personality is to be yourself and talk to your audience as if they’re a close friend.
Once you have developed and designed your brand, you can apply these brand styles in your blog design.
For a more in depth tutorial, read: How to design a kick-ass brand for your blog.
7. Create these must-have blog pages
Every blog needs the following pages:
Some bloggers have their blog as their home page, but I recommend creating a separate home page for your website. This way you can add more content and help your site visitor navigate your site.
A good home page should include:
- An easy to navigate menu bar
- A newsletter signup offering an opt-in freebie
- Your blogging categories
- Your most popular blog posts
Your About page is one of the most important pages on your blog. This is where people go to check out the genius behind your blog.
Use your about page to connect to your readers and let them know what you can help them with. You can tell your readers a little bit about yourself, but keep it short. The main thing to focus on is letting your readers know how you can help them.
Your About page should include:
- A friendly photo
- Your most popular blog posts so your readers are encouraged to stay on your blog
- An invite to your facebook page or group
- A newsletter sign up
Always create a Contact page for your blog. Let your fans know that you’d love to hear from them and make it easy for them to contact you by adding a contact form to your page.
You never know who wants to contact you:
- Your blog visitors with questions or feedback
- Bloggers interested in collaborating
- Bloggers wanting to write a guest post on your blog
- Potential sponsors
- Clients (if you offer a service)
All blogs collect personal information from your website visitors in the form of cookies, email newsletter sign ups, comments, Google Analytics etc.
- The type of personal information that you collect and store
- The purpose of this stored information
- A promise not to ‘spam’, sell or rent a visitor’s email address
- A cookies policy
- Your contact details
You can get affordable legal pages here.
Your disclaimer lets your site visitors know that you don’t take legal responsibility for anything you publish on your blog. You need a disclaimer to protect yourself from lawsuits.
Your Disclaimer should include:
- Your blog content is not to be taken as professional advice
- You accept no liability for your blog content or third party links
- There are no guarantees for success if someone follows your advice
- If you use affiliate links on your blog, you’ll need to include an affiliate disclosure
- Your intellectual property rights
- An explanation of your site visitors rights & obligations
- Your right to make changes to your site or to terminate anyone’s use of your site
- A limitation of liability
This is just a quick overview of legal pages your blog needs. Please contact a lawyer for more details or check out The Legal Bundle Value Pack which has all the must-have legal pages for bloggers in one affordable package .
8. Write your first blog post
Writing your first blog post can be a bit daunting. But to overcome any fears it’s best to just start writing. Your first post will never be your best, but remember it’s better to get it done then to get it perfect. You can always edit it a few months down the track.
To get the most out of your first post make sure to brainstorm and create an outline.
Include the following:
- Post topic
- Post title
- What is the purpose of your post?
- Who is your target audience?
- How can you provide maximum value to your target audience?
Keep these key points in mind when researching, writing and editing your post. Even if you know a lot about your blog posts topic, make sure you research and delve a little deeper, so you can give your readers maximum value.
I’ve written a blog post that goes a lot deeper into this subject, you can read it here:
9. Promote your blog
One of the most important things about blogging is promoting your blog. No one will magically find your blog once you’ve hit publish. You need to actively promote it. In fact there’s a famous 80/20 blogging promotion rule. You should spend 20% of your time creating content and 80% promoting it.
The best platform to promote your blog on is Pinterest. Pinterest is not so much a social media platform but more a visual search engine, which means if you use it right, Pinterest can drive lots of traffic to your blog.
To set up your Pinterest account for success:
- Start a new Pinterest business account
- Add your details and write your bio with relevant keywords about what you do and who you help
- Add a friendly profile picture of yourself
- Claim your website
- Enable Rich Pins
- Create relevant boards to your niche
- Create beautiful pins with Canva
- Add your pins to your blog posts and pin them to relevant boards
To gain more reach with Pinterest you need to pin often. No one has time to pin around the clock so you can automate your pinning with a scheduling tool like Tailwind. Joining group boards and Tailwind tribes will increase your reach even further.
Other great ways to promote your blog are:
- Facebook groups
- Commenting on blog posts
- Email marketing
- Writing guest post on other blogs
For more tips on driving traffic to your blog, read:
10. Make money with your blog
There are several ways you can make money with your blog, the most popular ones are:
1. Affiliate Marketing
Promoting products through affiliate links is a great way to make a passive income. It doesn’t cost anything to set up and is super easy to do. You have to make sure though that the products you’re promoting are related to your blog topic. You have to make your readers see the value of the product and how it can help them.
Once you’ve added your affiliate links to your blog post all you have to do is promote your post and let the money roll in. You can read here how to get started with affiliate marketing.
2. Sponsored Posts
When your blog is a bit more established, you might get requests for sponsored posts. In sponsored posts you write about a brand or product that you like and get paid for it.
3. Product Sales
To really amp up your earning potential you could create your own product. So instead of selling affiliate products and receiving a cut of their profit, you could sell you own product and keep all the profit. To avoid up-front production costs you could create digital products like e-books and courses.
Memberships are also a great way to make passive income. There will be a bit of work up front to set it all up, and once you’ve got it going you have to keep creating new content. If you’re a photographer you could create a stock photo library. If you’re a yoga or fitness instructor you could create work-out videos that your customers can subscribe to.
If you have a specific skill set that could help your target audience, you could offer this as an online service. To make money with services you don’t need lots of blog traffic, you just need the right traffic. I offer graphic & web design services to my site visitors, other services you could offer are: virtual assistant, social media manager, business coaching, accounting etc.
Personally I don’t like ads, they are annoying and direct your hard earned visitors away from your site. But high traffic blogging niches will benefit from ads. For example: if you have a food blog and create lots of recipes, you could get tons of Pinterest traffic. Food blogs can be hard to monetise, so adding a few ads is a great way to monetise this niche.
These are the 10 steps to starting a blog, if you have any questions please let me know in the comments below.
If you need help setting up your self hosted WordPress blog, read this detailed guide:
And to help you plan your blog, I’ve created the Ultimate Blog Planner Workbook, you get this for free when you sign up below.
Why do you want to start a blog?
Let me know in the comments below!