This website is devoted to the online blog. And more specifically, to your online blog. Our goal is to help you setup an online presence and to turn that virtual footprint into a career. It may sound far fetched. After all, isn’t blogging just a way of telling a few random strangers what you had for lunch, what you think of the latest trending news story and why you love Nutella so much?
Well, that may define a blog for a select group of people, but that’s not what a blog is to us, and it’s not what the vast majority perceive either. Put simply, a blog is a “website or web page that is regularly updated, is run by a single person or a small group, and is written in an informal tone”. Think about that for a moment. How many sites that you visit on a daily basis fall under that description?
Blogging has been around since the dawn of the internet and it is one of the few trends that has never gone away. It has survived through the social media age, the Youtube age and the mobile age, and it will continue to thrive regardless of what the next trend is. Do not worry about “missing the boat” because that boat has been docked on the shore for over two decades now, and it will remain there for many years to come.
There are many guides out there that will help you to create your own blog, but this guide is bigger, better and much more comprehensive. It will cover everything you ever wanted to know about the subject. It will guide you through every setup, every installation; it will help you to find your niche and to create content; to establish your presence on Google; to set up affiliates and start earning money; and much more.
What follows is the ultimate guide on how to start a blog.
Why Start Your Own Blog?
There are many reasons to start your own blog. In our opinion, the best answer to the question of, “Why would I want to start my own blog?” is “why not?” It’s not something that takes up a lot of your time, it’s not something that costs a lot of money and it is something that can generate a lot of profit, respect, status and fulfilment. Why would you say no to all of that?
The main purpose of a blog, of course, is to make money. There are several ways that you can do this:
- Affiliates: You place advertisements for particular company and are paid for every paying customer you send their way (also known as “leads”).
- Adwords: Google places a small, ever-changing ad on your website—the ads this displays are targeted to each individual user that views them—and pays you for impressions and/or clicks.
- Sponsored Content: A company pays you for exposure, reviews and/or a series of ads. This is how social media networks and sites like Buzzfeed make most of their money.
- Guest Posts: If your blog has a lot of influence, with a high Domain Authority and Pagerank (two metrics used by Google to determine the value of a site in its search engine) then companies will gladly pay a lot of money for a link on your website.
- Selling: Big brands and keen bloggers don’t always want to start their own projects from scratch, and there are countless individuals and companies out there that will gladly buy your successful blog. For them, it’s a long-term investment that they can build on; for you, it’s a huge payday, and you can always use a share of your profits to create another blog.
Blogs can also be used to build your brand. This applies if you are an aspiring writer, artist, poet or entrepreneur; if you run your own Youtube channel, or if you just want your share of internet fame. There is no end to the ways that you can make money from a blog.
Not convinced? Maybe these statistics will give you reason to get excited about the prospect of creating your own blog:
- The richest bloggers in the world reportedly make at least $500,000 a month (source).
- Around 6% of bloggers make more than $60,000 a year, with 11% making more than $30,000 (source).
- 81% of US consumers trust the advice that they receive from bloggers and 61% have made a purchase based on this advice (source).
- 92% of companies that blog on a regular basis have generated leads from those blogs (source).
- Companies that blog receive over 400% more indexed pages than those that do not (source).
If that doesn’t give you a reason to start your own blog, then nothing will.
Here at How to Start a Blog we understand this industry in and out. We have been creating profitable blogs for over a decade and we’ve helped, worked with and befriended countless other bloggers in that time. Everyone’s story is different, and below we have gathered a few of those stories to give you an idea of how your own path might develop:
P.J. Aitken (freelancer, and author of The Online Writer’s Companion)
An author by trade, Aitken had always been familiar with blogs and their uses, but it wasn’t until he started freelancing that he really began to understand this industry. As a freelance writer he worked on countless blogs and websites. In his words, “Clients were uploading WordPress to a blank slate and then paying me to write the content and fill that slate. I was writing basic pages, including terms and conditions and home pages, and I was also writing countless SEO articles. It was all my content, my work. I was getting paid for it, so I was happy, but it also got me thinking: If they’re making enough money to pay my fees and still be in profit, and if I’m the one doing all of the work, why can’t I just do this myself?”
And so he did. Aitken began using the knowledge he had acquired through his clients to create blogs, writing the content himself and building a profitable portfolio of websites. He was also able to use his writing skills—along with some help from a designer—to “flip” blogs. He bought blogs that were poorly written, with bad designs and terrible writing, spent several days fixing this content and tweaking the aesthetics, and then sold for a profit.
Simona White (housewife, non-native, owner of many websites)
“As a Romanian living in the United States, I always felt it difficult to fit in and was always drawn to the internet. It allowed me to connect with my family and friends back home, first through email and MSN, then through Facebook and Skype. I have been living in the US for twenty-five years and came over to marry my husband, who was born here.
I didn’t have a job and was happy to spend my time looking after the kids and growing our family. I did try to find work as the kids grew up, but my lack of qualifications made this difficult.
I spent a lot of my time writing, mainly about my hobbies, but also a few creative projects. Over time, I found that my writing improved and I was more confident in what I was producing. So I decided to start my own blog. The kids had left home by that time, so I had more than enough time on my hands. In the early days, I was still a little unsure about what I produced, so I asked my husband to check over everything before it was published. In time, however, his services were not needed.
I wrote about life in the US from the perspective of an immigrant. This proved very popular. It began as a blog for friends and family, both here and back home. But then it grew into something much more. After a year, I was able to sell the blog for a lot of money (it was turned into a travel blog) and I invested that money into other sites. Before long, those sites were also making money and while I was happy to write for some of them, I was also able to afford freelance writers to update the others.
These days I make more money than my husband and love everything I do. These blogs don’t remain for long, as I’m always happy to sell and to start again. None of them become massive, none of them are every worth millions, but they are created with such ease and for so little money that it’s always easy to make a profit.”
Chapter 2: Problems with Starting Your Own Blog
If you’re a capable writer, you know how to use a computer, are well acquainted with the online world and you have a few dollars in the bank, then you’re ready to start your own blog. If so, then feel free to skip this section. If not, and if any of those prerequisites raise red flags for you, then don’t worry, because there are still options.
Let’s address each of those potential hurdles in turn:
I Can’t Write
If you’re not a very good writer, then you’re at a serious disadvantage when it comes to starting your own blog. All hope is not lost though. The vast majority of blogs out there are poorly written and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, the majority of bloggers are not writers and many of them are not native speakers of the language they choose to write about. Secondly, the bloggers choose to hire ghostwriters, but they pay very little. They also tend to hire the first person they see and as a result they often get someone who writes just as poorly as they would.
You could do the same, but in doing so you would merely contribute to the vast number of poorly written blogs out there, and no one wants that. Instead, there are a few simple things you can do to improve the quality of your blog:
- Hire an Editor: If you’re not confident in your writing ability, then hire a professional editor to go over what you have written and to make changes where needed. If you shop around, you can find a capable editor that doesn’t charge a lot. If you insist on hiring a cheap writer to create your articles, then you should hire an editor to check their work as well.
- Check for Originality: Unfortunately, a lot of the aforementioned cheap writers will simply copy articles from other websites. So make sure you run everything they create through Copyscape, a cheap and easy-to-use plagiarism checker.
- Ask a Friend: Don’t have the money to hire an editor? Ask a friend instead. Pick someone who has a greater understanding of the language than you do and offer them a share of the revenue if you need them to do a lot of work.
- Use Writing Software: Although you should never rely on it, you can use writing software to help you. Programs like Grammarly and the WordPress SEO plugin Yoast can help to pinpoint the faults in your writing.
- Hire a Professional: If you have the money, then hire a professional writer. Just make sure you check their credentials first, and expect to pay a lot of money.
You can use freelancing platforms like Upwork and Guru to find writers and editors, and you can also use these platforms to find designers and developers. Make sure you vet everyone before you hire them and make sure you check the samples they post on their portfolio. You get what you pay for in this game, so don’t expect to pay very little for a top-notch writer.
However, even the best writers have to start somewhere, and to establish themselves writers will often charge very little when they first begin. Their work will not be as polished at this stage, but it will still be good enough for your blog. To find these writers, look for people that are new to the platform and produce a clear, coherent cover letter. Go through their profile and look at the samples they have posted. If there are none, then ask them to produce a sample for you (you will need to pay for this).
These writers may abandon you when they establish themselves on the platform and begin to charge more money for their services. But when that happens you may be making enough money to cover those extra costs. And if not you can just find another new writer.
I’m Not Technically Minded
These days, most people have at least a basic knowledge of the internet, of smartphones and of computers. But that doesn’t apply to everyone and there are still a lot of people out there that struggle to get to grips with this virtual world.
If this sounds like you, then you might want to create a blog to push your business, you might want to create something that will earn you a little cash on the side. Whatever the reason, all hope is not lost.
This guide will help you with most of the technical stuff. It will teach you how to get a domain and a website, how to upload WordPress and how to do pretty much everything else. But if you are someone who struggles with simple things such as email and using a mouse, then you need to go back to basics. Take a course at your local community centre. Ask a friend or relative to teach you the basics.
If it’s just the technical side of things that you worry about, then you can use the freelancing platforms mentioned above. There are many companies out there that promise to do everything for you, but they typically charge a fortune and you don’t need to pay that much. These are basic things we’re talking about, and you can probably get someone for less than $10 an hour, with the job taking less than a few hours in total. You can also keep them on hand incase you run into problems down the line.
“I Don’t Know What to Write About”
This is something that trumps a lot of bloggers. They want the freedom to write. They want to experience the joy of being read and they want the money that comes with both of those things. But they are not sure how to go about it. They don’t know what their audience wants, or even who their audience is.
The trick is not to put too much thought into it. The richest bloggers got to where they are because they were random, they were normal. Of course, there is a limit. Don’t think of your blog as a personal project. Don’t think of it as an extension of your Facebook profile. This is something that you want the world to read, something that you will be putting into the virtual display cabinet that is the internet. You are creating a website that sells a product, and that product is your thoughts, your opinions, your writing and your content.
The best thing about blogging is that you don’t need to put too much thought into it. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Write About The Things that Interest You: If they are of interest to you, then they might be of interest to someone else. It doesn’t matter how small the niche you’re targeting is. The entire world uses the internet, so even the most obscure niches will have a following large enough to reward you for your time.
- Be Original: It’s good to get ideas off your favourite bloggers and vloggers, but don’t copy them. Readers want originality, not re-hashed content.
- Give Opinions: Voicing your opinions is a great way of getting exposure for your blog. The people who agree with you will praise you, share your posts and try to open a positive discussion with you. The ones who disagree with you will probably swear at you, but they’ll also share your posts and look to open a—less than positive—discussion with you. All publicity is good publicity, and opinions are great at generating this.
- Showcase Your Talents: Many bloggers have a knack for writing, developing or designing. If you do something really well, then use your blog as a platform to showcase that talent.
- Give Reviews: Even in a world of Trip Advisor, IMDB and Amazon, people still look to blogs for reviews of the latest films, games, software and more. If you own it, you can review it.
“I Don’t Have Much Money”
A sizeable budget will help you. It will allow you to pay for top designers, writers and editors. It will allow you to advertise your blog, to get some quality backlinks and to give it a push on social media. But none of that is relevant. The vast majority of profitable bloggers started with nothing and didn’t spend a penny until the blog was earning enough to justify it.
Of course, you will need to pay for your domain and your web-hosting, but in chapter 3 we’ll point you to some cheap, quality providers that will give you everything you need for the price of a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Considering what that domain and that web host can lead to, that’s not a bad deal.
I Have a Full-Time Job
Blogging can be a full-time career. The bloggers that earn 6 figure salaries tend to work incredibly hard and for very long hours. But it doesn’t need to be like that. In fact, even if you want to run a million-dollar blog (as many of us do) then you won’t need to put in those sort of hours in the beginning. Not until the traffic is there will you need to work that hard and for that long, because once the traffic rolls in then you’ll need to think about regular updates, you’ll need to attend events and tours, you’ll need to negotiate with sponsors and deal with contributors.
In the beginning, you can get by on just a few hours a week. As your blog grows then you can devote more time to it. The worst case scenario is that you create a blog that eventually earns you tens of thousands every month, and demands so much of your time that you need to quit your job. But unless that job earns you even more money (and if it does, then there’s no reason for you to blog in the first place) then this is a very good worst case scenario to have.
Even if you work a 12 hour day, you should still find time to blog. I can use an example of a very close friend here. He worked as an author and a full-time freelancer. He put in 12 to 15 hour shifts and he worked 7 days a week. But he still found time to create a few blogs. Of course, as a writer he was able to work quickly, writing for 30 minutes here and there in order to keep those blogs updated.
It’s all relative. You put in what you get out, and in the long-run, the more time you devote to your blog, the more money you will make and the less reliant you will be on your full-time job. My friend was able to reduce his freelancing to just a few hours a week, using his blogs to fill the gaps that would otherwise appear in his paycheck.
Chapter 3: Domain & Web Host
Choosing your domain, your web host and your hosting plan will define your blog for months to come, and it could be the difference between success and failure. Many first-time bloggers rush into this process and end up with a domain that doesn’t tick any boxes, a host that is either too expensive or too inefficient and, as a result, a blog that is destined to fail.
So, take your time and read this chapter through before you get out your credit card and take a leap towards starting your own blog.
Choosing Your Domain
The majority of first-timers are of the belief that a good domain is one that matches their name or brand and one that is cheap. After all, a domain is just a domain, right?
Well, not quite. Your domain needs to be catchy and relevant, and if possible, it should also contain a useful keyword or phrase. This website is a good example of that. If someone wants to know how to create their own blog, they might type “How to Start a Blog” into Google. And because that’s the name of this site, because it’s in the domain and because it’s a keyword that also features throughout, there’s a good chance that this will be the first site they see.
The important thing to remember is that it should not be a case of your domain matching your name, but your name matching your domain. In other words, the domain should come before the name. So, think of something that makes sense to your blog and the industry you’re in. Think of something that contains a good keyword or two, and then use that as your domain. If you can get your main keyword in your domain and your title, then you’re off to a brilliant start.
As for the place you buy your domain, they’re not all the same. The domain itself will certainly be the same, but the service you get may not be, nor will the options for forwards, renewals, special offers and a number of other things. Price is important, but it’s not everything.
Do not put your trust in a company purely because you know them from their billboards or their Super Bowl commercials (we’re thinking of one company in particular here). Shop around. That particular company has a huge market share, and because of that market share other companies are desperately reducing prices in order to attract custom and stay afloat. You can take advantage of that and scoop a very cheap domain, just make sure you are dealing with a reputable company (a search on Google, Facebook or a review site will tell you all you need to know about that).
As for the domain extension, it’s always best to focus on .com. If you are outside the US, you should also pick up a domain that carries your country’s extension (.co.uk in the US; .ca in Canada, etc.,). And in many cases (if you choose the right supplier) you will be able to pick up a discount on this domain when you buy it alongside a .com domain.
Chapter 4: WordPress
There are many platforms you can use for your blog, all of which have their share of pros and cons. The majority of first-time bloggers set the bar too high, dismissing standard content platforms and aiming to create something they believe (often wrongly) will allow for more customisation. As Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”.
And when it comes to simple platforms that don’t sacrifice on usability, scalability or aesthetics, you can’t beat WordPress. This is the biggest blogging platform in the world (in 2014, there were close to 75 million WordPress sites in existence), and not without reason. WordPress is packed with features, it’s very easy to use and it works on most sites.
- Platform of Choice: WordPress blogs account for nearly half of all blogs out there. It is used by sites like USA Today and the New York Post and as much as 4.5% of the internet is based on this platform.
- Potent Force: There are millions of WordPress developers out there, all of which exploit its open source nature to create, maintain and upgrade. WordPress officially hires fewer than 400 employees. Despite this, wordpress.com, which gets little input from those open source developers, attracts more hits than Amazon.
- Extras: The average WP theme costs $40. From 2003, when WordPress was first launched, up until 2014, there were more than 125 million downloads of these themes. Plugins, on the other hand, have been downloaded more than 1 billion times.
- Reach: WordPress sites can be found in over 100 languages and in hundreds of countries. There are at least 50,000 new WordPress sites created every day and the term “Wordpress” is googled close to 40 million times every month.
Not only is WordPress free, but it’s also open source, which means its source code—the thing that makes it tick—is widely available. Think of open source software programs like Wikipedia. They are vast, complex things that are controlled by a small minority of official employees and a huge majority of creative, determined and ambitious users.
As a result, a new feature, a security upgrade or a simple update is never too far away. In fact, these things are being created all of the time and there are millions of themes, widgets, plugins and more available. Whatever you want your blog to do, these can help you to do it. These extras allow you to do everything from monitoring traffic to integrating social media accounts. There are also plugins that improve SEO and offer a critique of your articles.
WordPress is one of—if not the—safest platforms out there. There have been some notable hacks and issues, but these are present in all software and on all websites. They are more down to the determination of criminals and hackers than any particular security flaws. And if anything, they are testament to the size and popularity of this platform.
Scalability is another important feature, and it is something that means a lot to the average blogger. After all, creating an award-winning, traffic-grabbing blog is not an instantaneous process. Your blog might grow into one of the most popular blogs on the net, at which point you’ll probably be sending a lot of money on the aesthetics and devoting a lot of time to the content. But when you first launch your blog and your audience is limited to friends, family and the refresh button, then you don’t need all of those bells and whistles.
This is one of the main reasons WordPress should be your platform of choice, but it’s far from the only one.
There are two options available to all WordPress users. First off, you can go with the basic option. This will get you a subdomain, a semi-customisable website (you can choose from several free templates and many more paid ones) and a few other basic features. However, you will not be allowed to insert ads, the control you have over your website will be limited, and that website will forever be connected to the WordPress community.
The basic option is ideal if you want to upload some random thoughts and pictures for your friends or family to see, but that’s what Facebook is for. If you want to create a truly customisable blog, one that still makes use of the many features that WordPress offers but also has a great deal more versatility, you need to choose the advanced option.
This is the option that we recommend. It is the option we will refer to throughout this guide and it is the option you should choose. It’s not as simple as the basic option, but it’s still free and your blog will be better for it.
Setting up WordPress
WordPress are very proud of what they like to call their “5-minute installation” and if you’re technologically adept then this is how long it will take you. If not, then it might be a little more painstakingly, prolonged and frustrating, but not by a great deal. What follows are three guides. The first of these is a general guide for installing WordPress, while the other two (which are very similar) relate specifically to BlueHost and WebHostingHub.
All of these will get the WordPress software onto your website. There is no better option, so don’t worry if your particular option seems to easy to be true. If you do not use either BlueHost or WebHosting Hub and you can’t get to grips with the standard installation, then your web host should also have an easy-install option. Just take a peek at your control panel, ask the support staff or type “installing WordPress on [your web host]” into Google.
General WordPress Installation:
- Visit this page and install the WordPress software. Make sure you know where you are downloading it to, as you will need to access and upload this file.
- Create a MySQL database on your hosting control panel (each provider have tutorials that can help you with this and the support staff should also be able to help).
- Find the “wp-config-sample.php” file in the WP download and change it to to “wp-config.php”. Open this file and add the database information. You can find more details on this here.
- Upload the WordPress soft to the root of your domain (http://domain.com). You can either do this via FTP or via your hosting control panel.
- Type your URL into your browser to access your site and complete the WordPress installation.
How to Install WordPress on BlueHost:
- Login to your BlueHost account and access cPanel (tab at the top left).
- Under “Website Builders” select “Install WordPress”. On the next screen, click “Start”.
- Select the domain on which you want to install WordPress (it is recommended that you chose the “without www” option). Click “Check Domain”.
- Create your username and password. Just to be on the safe side, try to create a username that is not “Admin”. You may also want to generate a long and randomized password that contains a lot of unique characters, before simply storing this on your computer.
- Install WordPress and wait for the installation to finish. You will then be sent a confirmation email. When this arrives simply click the link that it contains and access your new WordPress website.
How to Install WordPress on WebHosting Hub:
- Login to WebHosting Hub and access your cPanel account.
- Click “Preferences” and then click “Install WordPress”.
- Choose the “Install” option (top right hand corner).
- Customize your details. You will be asked everything from the name of your site to your username and password (make these as unique as possible) and your security settings. This is all self-explanatory and it will guide you through.
- Finalize the process. The installation will then begin and you will receive a confirmation message when it has finished.
Blogging is a great way for students to dive deep into a passion of theirs, while gaining marketable skills such as professional writing, web development, and more.
Scholarship amount: $2500 USD
Deadline: Applications are accepted year-round
To apply: Students should follow the free guides available here on HowToStartABlog.com to create a blog about a passion of theirs and on that blog, post a video explaning how they think blogging will impact the future of the digital age and working in America.