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UPDATED JUNE 2017
How much can you make blogging online?
How to Start a Blog: The Ultimate Guide
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.
Chapter 1: 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. However, 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. You may also see it as a creative outlet, as a way of unleashing your thoughts on the unsuspecting public, but money is the main aim. And don’t worry about sounding greedy by admitting that, because we certainly don’t worry about saying it. The truth is, you need that financial incentive. Because if you’re only here for the fun of it, then you’ll give up at the first sign of hardship, you’ll drop everything as soon as your job or other obligations get in the way.
When there is a financial incentive, however, then not only will you always have a reason to work and to keep trying, but you may one day reach a point where you’re making so much money that you can quit your day-job and work from home, choosing your own hours and earning a sizeable paycheck.
There are several ways that you can make money from your blog or website. These will be discussed in detail a little later on, and they are also discussed in more detail throughout How to Start a Blog, but here is a quick rundown:
- Affiliates: You place advertisements for a particular company and are paid for every paying customer you send their way (also known as “leads”). They benefit by getting extra customers, you benefit by earning a share of the spoils. It’s a win-in.
- 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. With this option, you don’t have to worry about finding relevant ads and affiliates, as Google does all of the work for you. However, you will have less control over those ads and what they show.
- 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. It is also how many popular bloggers, vloggers and social media stars earn most of their money. If you’ve ever wondered why your favorite blogger is suddenly spending a lot of time eating/drinking a certain product on camera, or why a popular Twitter user you follow won’t stop talking about a particular service, it’s probably because they’re being paid.
- 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.
If you’ve ever wondered why your favorite blogger is suddenly spending a lot of time eating/drinking a certain product on camera… it’s probably because they’re being paid
There is no end to the ways that you can make money from a blog.
They 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.
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 maybe the following testimonials—written by people with first-hand experience of creating successful blogs from scratch—will change your mind.
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 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?”
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; he spent several days fixing this content and tweaking the aesthetics; and he sold them on 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 children 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 on 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 does and I love everything that I do. These blogs don’t remain for long, as I’m always happy to sell them and to start again on new projects. None of them become massive, none of them are worth millions of dollars. But they are created with such ease and for so little money that it’s always easy to make a profit.”
I make more money than my husband and love everything I do…
Chapter 2: Problems with Starting Your Own Blog
If you’re a capable writer, if 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 put hurdles in front of 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 in. Secondly, the bloggers choose to hire ghostwriters, but they pay them very little. They also tend to hire the first person they see and as a result they get someone who writes just as poorly as they would have done.
The vast majority of blogs out there are poorly written
You could do the same, but in doing so you would merely contribute to the expanse 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. Your articles don’t need to be flawless. You’re not publishing a book or a newspaper article. Mistakes are not only forgivable on blogs, but they are almost expected. There is a limit, of course, and it’s not acceptable to publish work that is riddled with errors and bad grammar. But a few small typos won’t hurt. As a result, you can hire an inexperienced editor or an English student to do the work, spending less and getting something that is perfectly acceptable.
- 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. If you discover that they have been blatantly plagiarising the work, just get your money back and sever ties. We have worked with many such freelancers and every single one of them denied it until they were blue in the face, even when shown proof. One “writer” wanted us to believe that he just happened to write an article that was an exact duplicate of one that had appeared in Forbes. Monkeys and typewriters come to mind.
- 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. Even if they don’t write as well as you do, they might be able to help. It’s difficult to see your own mistakes, but a competent friend shouldn’t fail to spot them.
- 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. Don’t rely on these to write the articles for you and don’t focus too much on getting a passing grade. Instead, analyze what you’re being told, study the reasons your work is raising red flags and look to improve your writing based on these notifications. This will help you to improve, which will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
- 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 for good quality. A writer charging a lot of money should have the credentials to back that fee up, as well as the skill. So, ask for references, ask for samples and check them out thoroughly.
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 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 are able to produce a clear, coherent cover letter. Go through their profile and look at the samples they have posted. If there are none, 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 to fill their shoes.
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. There are still a lot of people out there that struggle to get to grips with this technological world, even though its virtual claws reach into every facet of our lives.
The problem is, these people still need to access the internet as much as the rest of us. They may choose to avoid playing games, connecting with friends or randomly browsing through cat pictures (you know you do it) but what if they have a business and need a blog to promote it? Want if they want to try their hand at writing and see a blog as the perfect outlet for that?
Whatever the reason, these people need to get online as well. And thankfully, all hope is not lost. It doesn’t matter how technologically inept you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re just a little behind on smart phone technology, or if you still think “LOL” means “Lots of Love”. There are options for everyone, and we don’t discriminate here on How to Start a Blog.
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. For the most part, even those who know very little can make it through and eventually figure it out.
However, if you are someone who struggles with simple things such as sending an 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. It won’t take long, and it could be your first step on your road to creating a successful blog or website.
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 just a few hours in total. They will upload WordPress, fix your themes, and deal with any other problems that you may encounter. All of this stuff is very simple and straightforward, and we’ll show you how to do it yourself in this guide. But if you’re still concerned or you don’t have the time but you do have the money, then it may be the best option.
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 and your ideas.
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. Sometimes, it pays to emulate the biggest stars, especially if you’re one of the first persons to do so. But if they have made it to the top, then there’s a good chance there is a wealth of copycats out there already, and the world doesn’t need another one.
- 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. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself and your talent. But try to be humble. Readers like modest, they like humble. They don’t like arrogant.
- Give Reviews: Even in a world of Tripadvisor, 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. Some of the biggest blogs and vlogs are based around simple reviews, from the “reaction videos” to “angry reviews” and “rage-quit reviews”, all of them are based on this simple concept. If you don’t have a unique angle, then you may want to focus on hard-to-find products and unreleased products. If you have an angle, then you can review anything and people will still flock to your site.
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. In CHAPTER 10: TROUBLESHOOTING, we’ll discuss how you can basically buy your way to success in this industry. For example, this page on the Applebee’s menu is a good example of a post that can be written yourself for $0.
However, 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: DOMAIN AND WEB HOST 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 bloggers 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. And while we said there is no point blogging if you’re earning a lot of money, there are exceptions. This friend is one of them, but there are others. Even if your job pays well, blogging could pay just as well. And with blogging you get more freedom, more choice. So, in reality, blogging is for anyone who thinks they can earn more, as well as people who already earn a lot of money, but don’t like their job.
We will discuss more about how you can outsource your content to a capable writer, thus taking some of the strain off your shoulders, in CHAPTER 6: CONTENT WRITING TIPS.
Chapter 3: Domain and 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 features throughout this guide, there’s a good chance 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). In fact, if you were to ignore those high-budget ad campaigns and simply punch “that” company into Google and into review sites, you will discover that Super Bowl commercials and testimonials aside, they don’t have the best reputation for quality, price or service. It’s all about brand power. Heinz may not have the best tasting baked beans; Kleenex may not be the best tissues; and Band-Aid may not be the only sticky plaster, but those are the companies we associate with that product, so that’s where we go when we need that product.
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 UK; .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. For instance, right now there is a major domain host in the UK offering a free .co.uk domain (for one year) for every purchase of a .com domain.
Choosing Your Web Host
Like domain names, web hosting plans can be bought cheaply. But by focusing entirely on price you will only be creating problems for yourself down the line. Shared hosting is one of the biggest cons in this industry, at least for the most part.
Shared hosting is the most basic hosting plan you can purchase. It is cheap, but it is far from cheerful. Shared hosting is brilliant for the providers as it allows them to crowd a single server and receive subscription charges for each user they load onto it. They can also charge very little, using that price point to attract new customers.
But regardless of the spec, regardless of how much bandwidth or space they offer you, be very cautious of this option. Shared hosting, as its name suggests, means that you will be sharing a server with many other users and countless other websites. Web hosts rarely make a point of telling you how many bandwidth-hugging users they will cram onto a single server, and even when those servers are relatively sparse, your website will still struggle during peak times.
If you have ever set up your own website and wondered why it seems to crawl at a snail’s pace, this is why. Even when your blog has just launched, even when there is very little content and very few users, this is still a bad idea. If your site is slow, users will ignore it; if your site times-out, Google will ignore it.
if your site times-out, Google will ignore it
Fortunately, you don’t need to splash the cash on a dedicated server to get a website that runs smoothly. In fact, even if a dedicated server is within your budget, it’s not something you need right now. A shared hosting plan might fall short of your needs, but a dedicated server would be overkill.
VPS servers are somewhere in-between shared hosting and dedicated servers. They are very quick and they are all yours, but they are also fantastic value for money. There are two kinds of VPS server, and understanding which is which is very important. The “self-managed” servers need to be managed by you. If anything goes wrong, you’ll be expected to fix it. In many cases, sending an email to customer support will return a message along the lines of, “As this is a self-managed server, we are unable to help you”, although the better web hosts will point you in the right direction. These VPS servers are cheaper and they are perfectly acceptable if you have a little technical know-how or will be hiring a developer to oversee things. If not, you need to look for a VPS server that is managed by the web host, one that comes with its own dedicated support team.
Factoring in cost, features, customer support and everything else that a good web host needs, these are the two providers we recommend, along with the plans that standout the most:
Web Hosting Provider — BlueHost
- Best Plan — Pro Plan: This plan is usually listed at $29.99 a month, but we have ever seen it that high. There are always offers available, and at the time of writing you can sign up for less than $14 a month. All users will be placed on a high performance server and there are a number of features available as well, including the ability to backup your site and keep those backups stored safely.
- Second-Best Plan — Prime: This is a shared hosting plan, but it is considerably less restrictive than typical shared hosting. You can create an unlimited number of websites and you have as much space and bandwidth as you can use. The best thing about this plan is that all new users will get up to $200 in free marketing, as well a further $80 worth every year. Take these figures with a pinch of salt. You won’t need to use everything they offer and a lot of it is useless, but some of it is very handy and it’s good to have it as an option. This plan is often available for less than $7 a month, although the standard price is nearly twice that.
Web Hosting Provider — Webhosting Hub
- Best Plan — Dynamo: Although the standard price is listed as $16.99 a month, you should be able to get this for less than $9. There is always an offer on and those initial prices are as genuine as a “blowout sale” at a furniture store. This plan is geared towards websites that attract a lot of traffic, and it means you’ll be prepared for that traffic when it comes. It’s always good to be ready for this, because if any of your articles go viral and you don’t have the bandwidth to handle the traffic, then you’ll miss out. You can create as many sites as you want under this plan and you will also receive some free advertising credits and a free domain.
- Second-Best Plan — Nitro: This option is just a couple of dollars cheaper, but if you are on a tight budget, it can still get you through. It comes with many of the same features as the Dynamo plan, but it won’t be able to handle as much traffic, there are a fewer number of resources available and you won’t get any advertising credits.
The prices, features and the plans themselves are always changing. But if you concentrate on leading providers like the two mentioned above then you can typically expect to receive the same features at each price point. Put simply, if you’re paying anything less than $5 a month, then you’re going to get something that will have more of a negative impact on your blog than a positive one.
If you’re paying around $10 a month, then you can expect something that will not timeout, will be easy to manage and will come with a number of additional features. Unless you’re getting some extraordinary features, or unless you’re signing up for a VPS server, a cloud server or a dedicated server (all of which can cost upwards of $30 a month) then there is no need to pay more than this.
You don’t have to opt for one of the above hosts and you don’t have to stick with the plans that we recommended. But whatever you choose, remember the following rules:
- Cheap isn’t always cheerful, and with shared hosting you really do get what you pay for.
- Unlimited space is not essential to begin with. Articles, themes and occasional images won’t take up that much space and you can always add more later.
- Unlimited bandwidth is important, but not essential.
- Get a plan that covers your needs now and your needs in the future, but don’t go overboard.
- Your hosting/domain budget should not account for more than a quarter of your total budget.
- A domain is essential, so don’t try to skimp with a free subdomain instead.
When purchasing your domain name and hosting plan you will be offered a lot of extra features as the provider attempts to bump up the cost and get a little extra cash out of you. These are the chocolatey treats that you can’t resist at the supermarket check-out line, but they’re not all worthless.
Below are a few of the extras you might be offered and the reasons why you should and shouldn’t purchase them. But before you take any of this into account, make sure you read the small print and make sure you look at the bigger picture. It’s not uncommon for hosting providers to offer you a “special” price for the first month, only to increase this for every month after.
So, if you see the words ”special offer” or anything similar, do your research and make sure that the price won’t go back to normal as your membership continues. And remember that lots of small extras will amount to a sizable sum over the course of a year or over the lifetime of your blog.
As an example, let’s say that you’re offered 3 extras at $2, $0.50 and $1.50. These small amounts may not look like much on the surface and if they’re followed by a big red “sale” sign, it may even look like a deal you can’t refuse.
But that’s $4 extra a month, $48 extra a year. And if you run that blog for 3 years only to sever ties, call it a loss and start again, that’s close to $150 in extra cash that’s not sitting in your bank account, $150 that could have been used to fund an entire new project. These sites are hoping you won’t do the math and that you’ll only focus on the monthly cost.
These sites are hoping you won’t do the math…
As for the extras that are offered, this is what you can expect to encounter:
- Privacy Protection: Very few first-time website owners seem to understand that when they purchase a domain, their details are logged and made available for everyone to see. The name, address and phone number you use to register a domain can be viewed via something known as WhoIs search, and the only thing they need to view these details is your URL. You can make these details private though, which is where this optional extra comes in. It can cost around $10 a year and if you’re running an anonymous blog, or if you just don’t want your details exposed, it’s worth it. If you do not purchase it, you will be spammed for weeks after making the domain purchase, with web developers, designers and more emailing you and phoning you. For this reason alone, it’s worth it. It’s also essential if you want your blog to be anonymous.
- Mailboxes: Every blog needs an email address, so this is an extra that you should always purchase, right? Well, not quite. You see, most domain purchases and most web hosting packages will come with free email addresses. You own the domain after all, so it’s only right that you own the chance to use it in an email address. To use these, you just need to enter your POP email information into a program like iMail (Mac) or Outlook (Windows). These mailbox extras are not offering you the chance to use email addresses, they’re just offering you a platform through which you can receive, view and store your emails. It’s a mailbox, not an email account. Even if you don’t use an email program, these are still not necessary, as you can always forward your emails to a free email provider like Gmail.
- Cloud Backup: Some web hosts will offer you the option of backing up your site to the cloud, providing a little extra security. There are other ways to backup your content, but if you’re not very technically minded and are concerned about losing all of your content, then you might want to consider this option. Just make sure you actively backup your site to the cloud every now and then. Too many blog owners purchase extras like these and then don’t do anything with them, only to panic and curse their oversight when something happens.
- Advertising: All web hosts will offer you some form of marketing, usually attaching a monetary value to this to suggest that you’re getting a lot more than what you pay for. This is the case with the hosting providers mentioned above, and with the marketing included in the recommended packages. Even in these cases though you will probably be offered optional extras. These are often labelled as “SEO Packages” or something similar, with the suggestion that by purchasing these extras your site will be placed higher in the Google search engine. This isn’t really the case, and there’s nothing special they can do that you can’t do yourself. So, unless they’re offering to assign an SEO expert to work on your site, unless they can actually guarantee to get you placed high on Google (neither of which are likely) then skip these extras. Email marketing packages may also be offered, but these typically consist of giving you the option to spam people who really don’t want to hear about your website.
- Enhanced Support: Many low-end packages don’t come with decent tech support, and some of them specifically exclude one-on-one support (Self-Maintained VPS Server packages are a good example of this). In such cases, the technically disadvantaged of you might want to opt for an extra like this if one is available. Just don’t spend too much money on it, as it may be cheaper to hire a freelance developer.
- Software, Scripts, and Website Builders: You shouldn’t need to pay extra for e-commerce scripts, as these are easy to set up through PayPal and other payment providers. You don’t need a website builder either. These programs are often fiddly and time consuming, and they don’t always deliver the results you need. Don’t be lured into buying something like this under the pretense that it is essential to building your site, because building a WordPress website is incredibly simple. In fact, it’s easier to get a WordPress site up and running than it is to build a site using a standard website builder program.
Chapter 4: WordPress / Installing Your Site
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”.
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 with 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 new plugins and themes, as well as maintaining and upgrading what’s already there. 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 and most of these are available for free.
- 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. Without these users, it just wouldn’t be what it is. And because users are in control and not owners, they understand the program from a user’s perspective and are only interested in improving it.
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. Like Windows, WordPress is targeted not because it’s a sitting duck, but because it is the biggest of its type and is therefore used by more people.
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 spending 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 painstaking, 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 too 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 has tutorials that can help you with this and the support staff should also be able to help. This is not as complicated as it might seem, and once you read a few basic instructions you’ll be able to do it yourself. However, this is something hat a developer can do in their sleep and will only charge around 30 minutes of work for. Read CHAPTER 11: RESOURCES to learn how you can hire someone.
- 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 software 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 to complete the WordPress installation. You will be prompted to create your username and password and can then go about setting-up your theme and everything else.
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. WordPress hacks are common because many users have basic passwords and usernames.
- 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.
Before we discuss how to find templates, how to install those templates and how to launch your website, you need to buy yourself some time. From the moment your website is accessible via your URL, you are exposed. If Google and other search engines find you and index you when your site is not yet complete, then they’re not going to have a very good first impression of you.
So, until you’re ready (we’ll tell you when) you need to stop them from indexing your site. Luckily, there is a built-in feature on WordPress that lets you do this. Simply click onto Settings >> Reading. There you will see an option for “Search Engine Visibility”, just put a check in this box.
Your site may be indexed in other ways, but at this point in time, when there is no content available, no backlinks created and no advertising done, it is very unlikely.
Choosing Your Theme
When choosing your theme, you need to focus on aesthetics, convenience and SEO. Not all themes take the Google algorithm into account, not all of them are conducive to the sort of site that you want to run, and some of them are just plain ugly. Your theme is not set in stone and you can change it at a later date, but it’s best to take your time in order to get it right first time. Once you have images, logos and content in place, changing your theme will be complicated and messy, and the less adept you are at developing and coding, the messier and more complicated it will be.
There are two kinds of themes: free themes and premium themes. WordPress is open source, which means anyone can create for it. As a result, some developers make their money by creating WP themes and selling them on, and there is even a community of popular developers showcasing their premium themes.
WordPress is open source, which means anyone can create for it
That’s not to say that premium themes are in anyway better, of course. Many of them are, as the developers spend a lot of time developing them. But as there is no regulation and as WordPress only has a hand in setting the price for a small number of themes, some premium themes are just not worth it.
The best thing to do is to ignore the cost and focus on what you want and what you need. Look at the aesthetics, look at the templates, and look at the features. When you find the theme that is perfect for you, then you can focus on the price. If it’s out of budget, then look at a theme that is not out of budget and compare the two.
The is an abundance of free themes built into the WordPress platform. You can access these directly through your dashboard. Just go to My Sites>>Themes, find the theme that you want and choose “Activate Theme” in the menu option (click the little dots). You can also preview it first, making sure it looks the way you want it to look.
On this page you can browse through thousands of free themes, sorting them by “Featured”, “Popular” and more. Most users go straight for the most popular themes, but just because it works for someone else’s site, doesn’t mean it will work for yours. Themes are discussed extensively by the WordPress community, and you can find a lot of info on outstanding themes simply by searching message boards, social media groups and by Googling “Best WordPress Themes”. Once you have the name of your theme, just punch it into the search bar and it’ll pop-up. You can also use this search bar to find themes that have specific features.
Take your time, because this is the foundation of your site, it’s something that all of your content will be based around. And as mentioned below, it can be a nuisance to change the theme further down the line.
WordPress themes are big business. A lot of freelancers make a living from creating these themes and selling them on. You can find them on WordPress itself, but there is a greater variety of them on ther sites and communities. There are hundreds of thousands of premium themes out there, and you’ll pay a different price for most of them.
Googling “Premium WordPress Themes” is a good place to start. This will give you a long list of sites that offer such themes, as well as listicles of the “Best WordPress Themes”. There are a lot of junk sites in this mix though, a lot of sites hoping to direct you toward their own overpriced themes.
The best option is to stick with the WordPress search mentioned above, and to add browse one of more of the following sites as well:
- WordPress Themes Checker: This site has a huge number of lists, covering themes based on specific needs.
- Theme Forest: A great source for low-cost, high quality WordPress themes, with tens of thousands to choose from.
- StudioPress: A source of themes and plugins, with around 200,000 available. Perhaps a little more useful for plugins, there are also plenty of high quality themes.
Changing Your Theme
If your site is up and running and has been for some time, then changing your theme can be a fiddly business. And just like when you install a new operating system, delete your old one or sell your computer, there’s always something that gets left behind, something that you forget about. So, before you change your theme, take all of the following into consideration:
changing your theme can be a fiddly business
- Set “Maintenance Mode”: Your site will be active when you make the change, so you need to setup a page that stops users from accessing your site and tells them that it’s under maintenance. This way they won’t get frustrated when certain links don’t work and they won’t think your site is broken and never return as a result. To install this mode you just need to download the “Maintenance Mode Plugin”. This will display a “Under Maintenance” page until you get the site up and running and are happy with the way things looks.
- Don’t Forget Your Analytics: Certain features can get left behind and forgotten about during the changeover. Because Google Analytics is something often installed early on and then forgotten about, it’s one of the main culprits. And you want to make sure that you have this installed so that you can track the activity of all users on your new template. Not only will this give you an indication of whether your users prefer this theme, but it will also help you to weed out any issues with broken links.
- Backup Your Files: You need to make sure that your content is covered just incase something goes and you realize you have lost everything. You should be able to back-up your files via your web host control panel. You can also use a little WP plugin known as “Backup Buddy”. In fact, neither of these actions take very long, so it’s best to back-up your content by doing both of them.
- Announce It: When you have finished with the upgrade and Maintenance Mode, you should let your users know about the changeover. A short post will do. Explain that a change has taken place, tell them why you made the change and tell them how they and the site will benefit from them. Pin this post to the top of your feed for a week or so to make sure all of your regular readers see it.
Before your site is launched, you should look to signup to Facebook, Twitter and other sites. Try to avoid using your personal accounts for your blog, and instead create something specifically for this project. It might be a little daunting to begin from scratch, but there are ways that you can quickly build up a following, ways that you can make sure your early posts are not falling on deaf ears.
Create a Facebook page as opposed to a profile. Set a cover image and a profile picture, write a bio and add a link to your website. When your site is ready to launch, click “Invite” and ask all of your friends to like the page. If you don’t have any (or many) then ask a friend or family member to invite everyone on their friend’s list. If you want to use Facebook Ads to help you out, then avoid posting an ad for your page. This will cost you between $0.50 to $1 per like, which just isn’t worth it. Instead, create a post that uses a striking, eye-catching image and is linked to your blog. In the description write something brief, maybe inviting everyone to check out your page or blog.
Then you just need to sponsor that post, targeting people in your chosen niche or demographic. You will get a lot of likes for your post and a handful for your page. At the end of the promotion, click on those post likes and you will be given the option of inviting each one to like your page. This method will get you targeted, organic page likes for between $0.05 and $0.20 a piece, as opposed to generalized, occasionally spam likes for $0.50 a piece. This is a great way to start out, but it’s not practical in the long run.
So, to make sure you have a steady stream of likes, use the Page Likes campaign but target cheaper regions such as South Africa, Central America and India. Likes in the US and UK might cost you around $0.50 each, but you can generally get between 500 and 1,000 likes for just $15 in these regions. These should not be your main audience, so don’t overdo it. It’s just a nice, cheap way to keep the likes coming while you look to build an audience.
It is very easy to make a start on this network as most people will follow you back if you follow them. You should look to create a few posts first, using hashtags that relate to your niche. Add a quote or a comment, put a link to a blog post if you have one, and then follow this with a few hashtags. Once posted, click on these hashtags and then follow a few people in the resulting search field. If you find someone who does follow back, then you can just click on the list of “People They Follow” and then follow a few dozen. It’s quick, it’s easy and it will ensure you’re followed by a decent number of people early on.
It’s best that you don’t continue doing this, as you don’t want to waste time on non-targeted followers. But to stop your Twitter page from being empty, it’s worth a little effort. In the long run, if you just focus on using hashtags in everything you post, if you comment on trending topics and if you make comments to accounts with high followers and try to engage them in conversation, then you will build your following in a more natural and worthwhile way.
This is a social network for professionals and businesses, which means it’s the perfect platform for your blog. Create an account, post your details and then look to post snippets of your blogs every time you publish them (as well as a link to the full thing).
When your profile is populated, you should look to connect with other bloggers, freelancers, writers and anyone else in your niche. LinkedIn has a domino effect, so when you connect with 1, others will follow. When you have a decent number of connections, look to create blog posts just for LinkedIn, and never copy and paste full articles from your blog here.
[LinkedIn] is the perfect platform for your blog
Chapter 5: Installing Plugins and Other Essential Programs
Once you choose your theme and pick some essentials, it’s time to load your website with some plugins and software. Don’t overdo it, you don’t want it to look like a 2005 MySpace page. In fact, most of the essential plugins and basics work behind the scenes, offering extra features and capabilities to the webmaster, and making their site better for the user, without being too in-your-face.
Once your blog is launched, you’ll want to know how many hits you’re getting. The days of the colorful hit counter, which adorned so many Geocities pages, are thankfully behind us. You don’t need to show the world how many hits your website has had, and you don’t need to reduce each user to a single digit.
Google Analytics is used by most sites and is infinitely better than simple web counters. You can install this for free and it’s easy to setup. Just follow these instructions:
- Visit the Google Analytics page here.
- Signup for a new account, input your details and wait for your Tracking Code.
- This code needs to be installed on your website. The simplest way to install this on WordPress is just to paste it into the code of the website. On the directory there will be a header.php file for your chosen theme. Look for this, open it and install the code between the body tags.
- If this seems like a daunting process, you can also simply download the Insert Header and Footer Plugin and install the code here.
Google Analytics will keep track of every visitor. It will tell you how they got there (under the Acquisition tab); what they do when they’re on your website (under the Behavior tab); as well as their age and preferences (under Audience>>Demographics). It is essential for keeping track of your blog’s popularity, for determining where it’s heading and for keeping an eye on essential information such as your Bounce Rate (see CHAPTER 11: TROUBLESHOOTING to find out how you can reduce this) and your daily hit rate.
Google Analytics will keep track of every visitor
Google Webmaster Tools
This is a complete SEO package, and it’s one that you can also link to your Google Analytics account. You will need to prove ownership of your website before you can sign up, but if you already have an Google Analytics account, you don’t need to verify. Make sure you create an account for both the www.YourDomain.com and for YouDomain.com, and make sure you also create accounts for any other extensions you have.
You can ask Google to “Fetch” newly launched pages and posts through here, and if they are hyperlinked extensively (which they should be) then you can tell it to Fetch that page and every linked page. This is not essential, but it’s quick and easy and it may help you to iron out some issues. You can also use this software to uncover indexing errors and broken links, but that’s about where its benefits end.
In CHAPTER 11: TROUBLESHOOTING, we’ll also discuss Bing Webmaster Tools, but you don’t want to overdo things at this stage. In fact, it’s not even essential to download Google Webmaster Tools just yet, although it is something you will need in time, and the Bing version should also be considered at a later date.
A WordPress plugin is essentially an app for your website. Think of your WordPress page as an iPhone and the plugin section as the App Store. You can browse thousands of available extras, install them all in a matter of seconds and create a wealth of extra features, capabilities and more in the process.
The aforementioned “essentials” are not plugins (although you can use plugins to help with their setup). In fact, they are two of the only non-Wordpress extras that we recommend, because while there are more available, there is usually a plugin version that is better. What follows is a list of the best plugins. These have not been listed in any particular order, but take a look through, study the features and our recommendations and determine if one or more of these will be of use to you and your website.
Think of your WordPress page as an iPhone and the plugin section as the App Store.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast: We have mentioned Yoast many times on this site, as it plays a big role in helping your blog or website to grow. This is as essential as Google Analytics, especially if you’re a little wet behind the ears when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation. You need to download this before you write your first articles.
- Login Lockdown: This simple little plugin will help to stop hacks by limiting failed logins to just 3 attempts, after which they can’t login anymore. A lot of hacks are done by brute force, which essentially means that they try to log-in over and over again until they get the right password (often using a password list and an automated program). This program will stop those hack attempts from working and it will keep your site secure from everyone but the luckiest of hackers.
- Ad Sanity: This is an adverts manager. It’s best to avoid flooding your site with affiliate links and ads to begin with, as this could have a negative effect on SEO. But once you are ranking and the visitors are flocking, then you can use a program like this to keep track.
- WP Forms: It’s always better to use a contact form on your website than to simply list your email address. A contact form will let readers send you messages and comments without you exposing your email address to spammers. You can use this plugin to setup those forms, as well as other essential forms.
- Backup Buddy: This can help you to backup all of your content in a few simple clicks. We have already discussed it, and if you have a lot of content and are worried about losing it all, it’s essential.
- TablePress: If you plan on using tables on your site, whether as a simple way of displaying data or as a way of creating everything from sporting league tables to detailed product information, this is the plugin you need to do that.
- WP Touch: This plugin will make your theme slightly more responsive, essentially enhancing your website and creating a better experience for your readers.
Chapter 6: Content Writing Tips
Blogging is all about content and whether you succeed or not will depend on how much content you have and how good that content is. That may sound like a redundant statement, but it’s one that many webmasters overlook. SEO is important as well, of course, but good SEO follows good writing.
Good SEO follows good writing
Good content takes some time to create, and if you’re paying for it, it also costs quite a bit of money. But let’s suppose for a minute that you save on the content and focus purely on SEO, making sure the title, the keyword density and everything else is solid, but paying little heed to the actual quality of the writing.
People will still find your site in Google, they will still visit it and they will still generate leads, impressions and all the other good stuff that makes blogging such a profitable enterprise. But there are many more negatives than there are positives to this:
- Bounce Rate: A low bounce rate percentage looks good to sponsors and to Google, and it could be the deciding factor for a prospective buyer. With bad content, your bounce rate will be very high, and this will raise red flags to the people that matter.
- Viral: The best blogs are shared by online newspapers, listicles, wikis and content sites. They spread like wildfire through social media and can turn a small blog into a massive one overnight. With poor content, no one will want to share your articles.
- Comments: The more people that make it to the end of your articles, the more comments you will have. Genuine comments are fantastic for SEO and for your hopes of a viral success. With poor content, you’ll be lucky to get anything more than an occasional ad for viagra.
- Your Brand: If you want to build a blog into a brand, something that you can use to sell merchandise and sponsorship, and something that you can turn into the next Buzzfeed, Huff Post or Cracked, then you need content that is trusted, respected and solidly written.
Of course, you still need to work a little SEO into your articles, but focus on a well written, well researched piece first, and then you can look to add the extras. We’ll get to that shortly (see CHAPTER 7: SEO TIPS), but first let’s look at some ways that you can build that foundation.
Populating Your Site
Your website needs to look professional in the eyes of Google. And for that to happen, it needs to include a few basic pages. These are often overlooked, and if you are not selling a product or a service, then it probably makes little sense to include them. But when your Google ranking hinges on it, it would be a mistake not to.
These pages all need to be a minimum of 800 words long (preferably 1,000+). They shouldn’t take up prime real estate on your page, but they should be linked on the main page and, if possible, throughout. The best way to include them is via the addition of small text links in the footer or header, something that most WP templates have an option for.
These pages are as follows:
- Home: This is your basic homepage. In theory, it is where most of your visitors will land when they click onto your blog, but in practice, the majority of them will actually land on one of your articles first. This text is just to make sure you don’t have a blank homepage. You should also look to mention your blog’s name/title a few times, while working your main keywords in there as well.
- About Us: Describe your blog, yourself and your purpose. With small blogs, it’s not always easy to extend this section to 800+ words, so you’ll have to be verbose. Just remember that few people will read this anywhere, so no one cares if you’re a little OTT.
- Directory: This is a strong section and a good way to include some valuable links. Google likes it when respected sites link to other respected sites and it will appreciate yours more if you link to high ranking sites. Don’t get too caught up in Domain Authority though, just make sure you link to relevant sites that use the .GOV or .ORG extension. You can write a little bit about each other, including some relevant keywords.
- Terms: This doesn’t need to be legally sound if you’re not selling a product or service. You can follow a template to complete it, just make sure that what you write is 100% original.
- Contact Us: You don’t need to make this page 800+ words, and in most cases it’s not essential to include it at all. But it makes for a nice addition, and when your blog takes off and starts to flood with genuine views from interested visitors, they can use this to get in touch. It’s good to give them a means of contacting you. Do not post your email address, as it will be trawled by spambots. Instead, use one of the available contact form plugins and link this to your email.
You should also look to populate the site with at least 10 articles. If you have the time or the money to create more, 30 would be a better number. These are your base articles and should be the strongest articles on your site with regards to SEO. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what makes them stronger than the articles that follow, just focus on making sure they are well written and that they have solid SEO.
As mentioned in CHAPTER 4: WORDPRESS, your blog should not yet be indexable by Google, but once you get these pages and these articles published, then you can change this option, letting Google index your blog.
Writing a Quality Article
The only thing you need before you begin to write an article, is an idea and a theme. The Google Keyword Planner can help with this.
You will need to sign up for AdWords to access this, but this is recommended anyway (AdWords and other revenue streams are discussed in CHAPTER 8: REVENUE STREAMS), so get yourself an account and login to the Keyword Planner. From here, you just need to enter a single keyword that relates to your blog.
As an example, let’s say that you run a blog about gardening. If you type “gardening” into the search field, followed by your chosen location, you’ll see a list of related search terms, followed by the amount of times they have been searched in the last month (you can ignore the “Suggested Bid” for now).
From here you can see that “Plants” and “Botanical Gardens” are the top search terms, but these are too vague. While good keywords, they are not ones that you will be able to rank highly for this early on, not when you’re competing against established garden centers, retailers and content sites.
If you look further down, you can see that “Landscaping Ideas” also generates a lot of searches. This is noteworthy not only because it’s a keyword string (more than one word) and because it’s quite popular, but also because it lends itself to an interesting article title.
Next you want to put this term into the search field, at which point you will get a list of terms that are a little more niche and a little longer, making them perfect for your article titles. All of the following standout here:
If people are searching for these strings, you can guarantee they will be searching for variants of them. So, from this, we can assume that the following titles would rank highly:
Landscaping Ideas: Top Designs for Your Patio
Gardening Tips for Landscape Gardeners
Garden Design Ideas: Top Ten Ideas
Patio Designs: How to Arrange Landscaping Rocks
It’s not about cramming as many keywords in there as you can. Because you should only be focusing on one keyword. But if you can get another in there, then go for it. Just make sure that the title makes sense and that people would actually want to click onto it.
If you go with the “Gardening Tips for Landscape Gardeners” idea for your first article, then you just need to write an article that stays true to that title. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, if you’re a professional writer it is. If not, then you have a steep learning curve to traverse. Or, alternatively, you could just hire someone to do the work for you.
Outsourcing Your Content
Just because you can’t write doesn’t mean that you can’t blog. It’s always best to try and create your own content. Even if you’re not quite good enough to begin with, you will improve in time and you will save yourself a lot of money in the long run. There are some potential pitfalls with writing your own content though. It will take you longer than it will take a professional writer, and when you factor in the research, the length of time you spend hashing out the content and the time you spend mulling it over, getting stuck and then making edits, it may take you in excess of 4 hours to complete one 1,000 word article. This is not ideal when you consider that a professional writer can do the same amount in under an hour.
It is easy enough to find quality writers though. Just follow the steps below:
- Signup for an account on Upwork.com.
- Place a job with an hourly contract (if you set a fixed price, then that will magically become everyone’s fee, making it difficult for you to get genuine quotes).
- You want to set the parameters to “Content Writing” and “Experts Needed”. You don’t need to make it mandatory for applicants to have completed any tests.
- In the description, make it clear that you need a writer for ongoing work. Do not state a budget or provide the URL to your blog, but let them know the subject of the blog.
- Create your own questions and use the following: “What is your price per word?”, “Can you reduce this for a sample article?” If you want to invite freelancers, remember that they will not see your questions, so paste these questions in the proposals that you send them and ask for answers in their replies.
- Carefully sort through the entries over the next 2 days. Review their profiles and the samples they provide. Ignore freelancers with poor feedback, and bear in mind that you will need to pay between $0.03 and $0.10 per word for good content. Anything less should be viewed with suspicion and anything more is too much.
- Create a shortlist and ask each of them to complete a sample article based on a title of your choosing. The majority should have agreed to do this at a discount, but make sure they are all writing different titles, as that way you can actually use the content they create.
- Wait for the submissions to be sent. Disregard poor writers, and any submissions that have taken longer than 48 hours to get to you.
- Compare the good articles and the good writers and make a final choice based on quality, price and speed. If you’re still not sure, you can also hire those inconsistent freelancers.
You don’t have time for excuses and should not make any allowances at this point. As someone who has hired more than 50 freelancers, including developers, coders, designers and more, we can say with certainty than at least half of the freelancers will let you down. There is a small percentage of hard-working, dedicated freelancers who will never fail to deliver, but if a freelancer fails to deliver a simple sample on time, they are definitely not in this category and should be dismissed.
Getting Your Content For Free
There are ways that you can get free content, but thanks to the aforementioned freelancing platforms, this is not as easy as it once was. There was a time when you could offer aspiring writers the platform and the experience, and in return they would give you occasional content. But these days there are many ways for such writers to get their work out there and many ways for them to get paid for it, so this rarely works.
However, it all depends on what you can offer them. If your site is in a particular niche and has a decent following, then it’s a different story. As an example, I know of a blog that focuses on the sport of boxing. It’s well known in the country in which it is based. It is referenced by the press in that country and it gets interviews with boxers in that country. At the time of writing it is looking for new writers and while it’s not offering to pay them, the experience that comes with working for such a site, as well as the many perks (tickets to fights, interviews with big names) means they are getting a lot of applicants.
Basically, if you have something to offer the writer, then you don’t necessarily need to pay them. Still, even if the offers come in, even if you have checked their work and deemed them to be good enough, there are a few steps you should take to make sure they don’t hurt your brand:
- Links: Some writers make a living by selling links. They will contribute to many sites for free and will contact webmasters in similar niches and offer them guest posts on those sites. You may get free content, but they could be earning upwards of $500 per article that they post, and they could be filling each article with links to low quality sites. It’s okay to let them do this once or twice, especially if you get good, free content in return, but warn them against making this a regular thing.
- Editing: Even the best writers struggle to edit their own work, so you should never assume that just because they are good at what they do, they will deliver flawless work. Make sure you give what they write a once-over.
- Access: It may be easier for you if you give the writer access to your website, but in doing so you will be exposing all of your hard work to someone you don’t really know. If you think they can be trusted, then create an account for them. This way they can post under their own name but they can’t make any changes to your site or your other posts.
- Laziness: If a writer has a hidden agenda (such as the guest posts mentioned above) if they are only doing this until something better comes along, or even if they’re just not professional enough, they may start taking liberties. They may start missing deadlines, which could be costly if you are relying on them for a particular piece. They may start plagiarizing work. They may even look to outsource their work to other, less talented writers. This is why it is important to keep an eye on everything that they produce.
In CHAPTER 8: REVENUE STREAMS, we’ll discuss how you can sell guest posts, getting the content and getting the money.
Before you Begin
Okay, so we lied to you. It’s not quite as simple as writing an article that adheres to a title or paying someone else to do it for you. There are a few things you need to do to make sure that that article is displayed prominently on the Google search results. So, before you begin, read CHAPTER 7: SEO TIPS first.
Chapter 7: SEO Tips
Later on we’ll look at ways that you can increase traffic to your website. Some of those ways will also help with regards to your SEO, while some of the tips included here will give your traffic a direct boost. But to avoid duplication and to keep things simple, these tips are all focused on improving the status of your website and improving its ranking with Google. Indirectly, you may get some hits for you site, and with some of these tips you almost certainly will, but that’s not the main aim.
For tips that help more directly with increasing the number of readers to your site, check-out CHAPTER 10: HOW TO GET MORE VISITORS TO YOUR SITE. For SEO tips, read on:
WordPress plugins can help you out with a lot, including SEO. They’re not going to do all of the work for you. Don’t expect these plugins to take the place of hours of work or of an SEO expert. They won’t do anything in that sense. They’ll act as more of a guide than anything else, pointing out problems that need to be fixed and giving you suggestions on how to fix them.
This may not sound like a lot, but it’s essential, especially when you don’t really know what you’re doing. Some of these plugins can actually teach you more about SEO, becoming a tutor of sorts. The best one by far is Yoast, which we have already discussed. This is the most common one, it’s one that many top bloggers use and it also has the best features.
To download this, click Plugins>>Add New and then punch “Yoast” into the search bar. This is the ultimate SEO plugin, but there are also a few others that might help in similar ways:
- Simple URLs
- RB Internal Links
- NextGen Gallery
- Lightbox Plus
Yoast can help you to prepare all of your articles and it covers everything that you need. You will find the details underneath every new post and it will immediately tell you the SEO value of any given article, attaching a color dot that ranges from red (bad) to orange (average) and to green (good).
Many writers prefer to write all of their articles in a word processor, applying some basic SEO rules while I do. If you operate in the same way ( recommended, as it’s easier to save and store copies of your articles) then it might be easier to upload the first draft and then apply your edits while you’re following Yoast’s SEO instructions. You can also simply write your article straight into Yoast, but if you do this you shouldn’t pay too much attention to the Yoast results early on. If the article is someway away from completion, you’ll get a false set of results. Instead, try to check halfway through and then near the end. If you generally write very well and hit most of these targets naturally, then you can just check on completion.
Yoast can help you to prepare all of your articles and it covers everything that you need.
There are a few things that Yoast won’t tell you, so let’s cover those steps first. This is what you should do after completing your initial article:
- Find a relevant image to match (you can download free images from sites like Pixabay. Just make sure everything you use is free from copyright). Rename the image to your chosen keyword and then include this keyword in the “alt description”. You add a caption. These are added to the total word count of the page, so as well as giving you a little extra content, you can also use them to slip-in an extra keyword or two.
- Upload via the “Text” option and not the “Visual” option, otherwise your word processor will add unnecessary code and complicate things for Google.
- Ensure the spacing is correct and then add header tags. The easiest way to do this is to highlight your headers, click the “Bold” option, and then replace each “strong” with “h1”, “h2”, “h3” or “h4”. Use the first for your main title, the second for your main section headers, and the others for smaller headers. The first two should always be included; it’s not essential to include either of the other two.
- Add WordPress tags. This is more about site layout than SEO, so use tags you will use again as a way of connecting similar articles.
- Add your article to your main “blog” category and to another relevant category.
- Try to use 3 or less words in your URL, and include your keyword.
Once you do that, then you need to add your keyword into the relevant bar in the Yoast plugin. You should also click “Edit Snippet” and add some relevant text that includes your keyword. Yoast will then tell you what you’re missing. There are a couple of things worth mentioning here that might confuse you if you’re not used to this setup:
We have already discussed the importance of writing more than 800 words and even more than 1,000 words if you can. If you go overboard this will show as a warning and it’s one you could ignore. But if you have something that is 2,000 words or more, then you’d be much better off breaking it into 2 articles, using the same keyword for both and simply adding “Part 1” and “Part 2” to separate them.
If you have something a little less than 2,000 words and would rather have one article of 1,800 words than two articles of 900 words (understandable) then simply add a small paragraph to the beginning of each article, reminding readers that this is the first/second part; and one to the end, telling readers where to find the other part. This will give you a couple of hundred extra words, allowing you to create two articles of more than 1,000 words. It will also give you some additional internal links.
While the readability plugins and the Flesch Reading Test can tell you some things, you shouldn’t rely on them too much, especially the plugins. You could put Pulitzer prize winning articles through these and many would come up red or orange.
It doesn’t like long sentences, it doesn’t like long paragraphs and it has a very tight definition of just what “long” means. Use it to get rid of repetition, to shorten paragraphs (just add extra paragraph breaks) and to quickly clean-up the text, but don’t get too caught up with this.
Don’t concern yourself too much about this red flag. You can still get a green-light even if this is red. Stop words do need to be minimized though and you should avoid using them in URLs and image titles.
You may need fewer keywords than you think to turn this green, but it all depends on the size of your article. Density is about percentage, not a predefined number. In most cases, once you hit the green light then you will be able to add many more keywords before you go over. But again, it’s all about percentage.
You should look to include your keywords in at least 1 header, and many more if possible. These are given priority when your site is indexed, and they are also easier to use here. For example, if you’re writing about a movie-star, with headers to separate sections on “History”, “Film Career”, etc., Just change it so that those headers read, “[Actor Name] History”, “[Actor Name]’s Acting Roles” and so on. Have a little think and you will discover many ways you can work your keywords into your headers without them sounding unnatural.
One of the things that stumps many bloggers is trying to get the focus keyword in the first paragraph. Even professional writers struggle with this, as it’s just not standard practice for non-SEO writers. The first paragraph is a short introduction at best, and it can feel awkward to include the keyword.
Most writers find that they have included the keyword in the second paragraph though, so if you’re struggling, just lump these two paragraphs together. You can also simply pose a question to the reader, using the keyword/title to do so. This works 9 times of of 10, getting the keyword in without sounding awkward.
Base Articles vs Additional Articles
Not all of your articles need to be prepared this way. We have already discussed the importance of having a set number of articles on your site prior to launch, articles that focus more on SEO and serve as the foundation of your site. These should definitely be SEO prepared and you should look to tick every one of those green boxes. You should also make sure that the keywords you use are your main keywords and that they are not duplicated.
You can focus on SEO a little with the other articles, but you can afford to be even more niche and a little less exacting. For instance, it won’t matter if there are a few red boxes, if you use “stop” keywords, if you don’t use images, etc., As long as there is enough content, as long as it’s well written, as long as it contains a niche keyword or two and as long as you have those foundation articles behind it, you’ll be okay.
To give you an idea of what we’re talking about, let’s assume that you have a sports tipping site that covers every sport. You may decide to create 5 foundation articles that cover the following keywords*:
- Sports Betting Previews
- Sporting Tips
- Betting Tips
- Online Betting Tips
- Gambling Tips
You then create another 10 foundation articles that use the following:
- NFL Betting Tips
- Football Betting Tips
- MLB Betting Tips
- Baseball Betting Tips
- MLS Betting Tips
- Soccer Betting Tips
- NBA Betting Tips
- Basketball Betting Tips
- NHL Betting Tips
- Ice Hockey Betting Tips
*We didn’t do any actual research into these keywords and are merely using them as an example.
If you have more foundation articles, which is recommended, then you can add more sports, leagues and/or disciplines. You can also add a different variant to “Betting Tips”. The idea is that these articles cover your main keywords for each major demographic.
You’re telling Google that if anyone is looking for betting tips, regardless of the sport or the league, your site can help them.
These keywords will a face a lot of competition, so to begin with they won’t rank very highly. But once you start adding some specific keyword articles to the mix, then you will strengthen your site’s reputation, improving its position and bolstering those initial keyword articles.
Links are a big part of the Google algorithm and they play a significant role in determining which sites it respects and which sites it doesn’t. It’s a trust thing. If a respected site links to your site, then in Google’s eyes, it must be trustworthy. One link is not enough to drastically alter your site’s status, of course, but if several big sites start linking to you then your PageRank will improve significantly.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, not quite. If you get too many links on too many low quality sites, then Google will assume your site is just as worthless as those sites are. There are also two kinds of links that can be placed: “dofollow” and “nofollow”. The difference, on the surface, is very slight and it only takes one line of code to change a “dofollow” link into a “nofollow” link. But for backlinking purposes, the difference is massive.
A “dofollow” link will be trawled by Google and will help to raise the status of your site (or lower it, depending on the status of the linking site). A “nofollow” link will not be trawled. As a result, it won’t have any effect on the status of the linked site or the linking site, and the only purpose will be as a reference point for an article, or as a link that can drive traffic.
It’s important to remember this, as we shall discover.
So, how can you get sites to link to you?
Links are a big part of the Google algorithm and they play a significant role in determining which sites it respects and which sites it doesn’t.
A high value website will not post a link to your blog at random, nor will they post a link just because you told them your blog was good. You need to offer them something in return. In a moment we’ll look at ways you can pay for these links, because money is as good of an incentive as any. But you don’t need to fork out a bundle of cash to get what you want and sometimes, if you’re lucky enough, good enough and persistent enough, well written content will suffice.
Check to see whether the site you want a link on actually posts links to other sites in its articles. These will either be embedded within the article or listed at the header or footer, where the contributor is noted. You then need to check the Source Code of the page (Right Click>>View Page Source) and find that link. If you see the words “nofollow” within the link code, then this means they probably don’t accept “dofollow” links (there is no “dofollow code”, it’s basically just a link with the “nofollow” tag omitted) and should be ignored.
If they do, then send them an email. In CHAPTER 8: REVENUE STREAMS we’ll look at this from the other side, showing you how you can receive guest posts as a way of boosting content or making money. When you’re the one asking for such a link, many of the same rules apply:
- Include the full article.
- Make sure the article is relevant to their site and yours.
- Include other links, preferably to high-profile sites (.gov, .org, etc,)
- Be professional, double check your email for mistakes.
- Don’t write anything longer than 3 paragraphs. Don’t go overboard discussing your site and don’t beg.
- Tell them that you can make changes if needed.
- Give them exclusivity on the article.
You can also contact them as a writer seeking a few writing credits. Just ask them if they would like to post the article and tell them that the only thing you ask for in reply is a credit in your name. You can also ask for a link to your blog along with your name, although in such cases you should remove any other embedded links to your site.
contact them as a writer seeking a few writing credits.
- Huff Post: $200 (from an actual contributor) to $800.
- Forbes: $1,500 to $3,000
- Buzzfeed: $80 to $400 (all “nofollow”, but none mentioned this until we asked)
- Business.com: $400 to $1,000
So, shop around, don’t take the first offer you receive and always be prepared to pay for a high quality link.
…always be prepared to pay for a high quality link.
Everyone’s favorite Wiki uses “nofollow” links, so it’s no longer a viable source of backlinks as far as many webmasters are concerned. But you’d be surprised at what a simple source link can get you on a Wikipedia article.
Contributors understand that it’s easier to use Wikipedia for research than it is to trawl the dozens of other relevant websites and source materials. But no one wants to reference Wikipedia when they’re sourcing material. Not only because Wikipedia is open-source and therefore a little less reliable than it should be, but also because they’ll look incredibly lazy and that won’t win favor with readers or with their editors.
So, they simply scroll down to the bottom of the relevant Wikipedia article, click on the source links and then link to those instead. This is a great “cheat” for writers. But the more astute of you will notice that there is also a fantastic opportunity here for webmasters.
Let’s assume that you own a website about sports and you have written an article on a rising sports star. You can then edit (or pay a contributor to edit) a Wikipedia article on that rising star, adding a link to an article that you wrote about them. For instance, you can add a sentence to a description of their Personal Life that mentions who they are dating, or where they went to school, before providing your own article as the source.
This won’t raise any eyebrows and shouldn’t be deleted or amended. That’s how Wikipedia works after all. Typically, no one would care, as that link would be “nofollow” and there would surely be no way of benefiting from it (these links aren’t known for driving much, or any, traffic). But the next day, a reporter for the Bleacher Report may decide to write an article on that player after a recent performance. The report may decide to include a short bio of the player as an intro or a seque, writing about their partner and/or where they grew up.
He gets the info from Wikipedia, and from the article you amended, but instead of quoting Wikipedia as his source, he scrolls down to the bottom of the page, finds your link and then uses that instead.
Now, instead of having a useless link on Wikipedia, you have a valuable link on the Bleacher Report. What’s more, the sheer size of that site will ensure that article appears at the top of Google–along with the Wikipedia page–for any searches on that player’s name. And before you know it, people are finding that info, replicating it and then quoting your initial article as the source.
I have seen this happen time and time again. In one case, a webmaster posted what seemed to be an insignificant source on an insignificant Wikipedia page, only for it to be linked by the BBC a week later.
In time, your source material may be edited by another Wikipedia user. That’s why it’s important to monitor any pages you amended close. You can also just pay a current contributor to do this for you. If you’re using one account or paying one contributor, try not to go overboard with the links. It won’t raise any red flags if a contributor posts a few links to the same site, as writers tend to have preferred sites when it comes to researching material. But if that contributor only seems to be linking to one site and is obviously creating content just for that purpose, then those flags will definitely be raised and your little scheme will be brought to an end.
There are some sites where members ask questions for other members to answer. These are like message boards, but very specific, and unlike message boards, they are usually centered on links.
That’s because everyone who gives an answer is required to quote their sources, providing a link. And in most cases, this is a “dofollow” link. You can use these sites to answer questions in your niche, while providing links to your own articles as your source material. You can also create several accounts and ask questions that you then answer yourself.
If you’re going to do this, then regardless of the method you use, you should try and answer other questions and you should post links to other sources, so it’s not obvious what you’re doing. Some of these sites include:
There is a tool called Site Explorer which can help you immensely when it comes to finding backlinks. This site is part of Moz, which we’ll discuss in more detail later on in this chapter. It basically lets you find out where your competitors have gathered backlinks, and tells you how strong those links are.
Regardless of your blog and your niche, you will have a good idea of the biggest and best sites in that niche, and you can use this as a basis for your own SEO throughout the life of your blog. Just punch the URL of one of these sites into the Site Explorer and then see what it comes up with. There will be some sponsored links in there that they probably paid a lot of money for, but there will also be a number of links from guest posts, directories and more. Just click through onto these links, email the site behind them and then ask if they would be interested in linking to your site as well. If it’s a guest post (you will learn how to spot these in time) then you can send them one of your own articles, add your link to it, and ask them if they would be interested in publishing it.
Before we leave this section behind, it’s worth noting that if you only get “dofollow” links, then Google will get suspicious. And in your efforts to stay legit and to improve your status, you could be doing more damage than you realize. If you build your backlinks steadily, which is recommended anyway, and if you keep publishing content and generating exposure in that time, then you will find that the “nofollow” links just happen. Sites will post your content, they’ll link to you and the links will flow. But just in case, it’s worth checking how many nofollow and dofollow links you have, before adding some of the latter if there are far too many of the former (see “RESOURCES” section below to discover how you can check and monitor these links.
You don’t want to pay much for these, but you don’t have to. “Nofollow” links do not drive a high premium and in many cases, you can get them for free (in the case of the Wikipedia links mentioned above, you would generate a host of both “dofollow” and “nofollow” links, with the main Wikipedia link being a “nofollow” link.)
Links can also help to boost the articles that you place on your site. There are two kinds of links you can add, both will help in different ways and both will serve to boost your Google ranking, if only slightly:
- Links to Your Site: You want to encourage Google to trawl your site and to cover every article in it. This won’t be easy in the beginning, but if the Googlebot finds a link, it will follow it. This is how the trawlers work, and it’s how it knows that there is a link to your blog on a high-authority (or low-authority) site. So, you want to encourage them to keep trawling by placing links to other articles in every article you write. Make sure they are relevant, as this will also help your regular readers to find similar content, and try to get at least 2 or 3 in for every 1,000 words you write. If every article you write contains links to other articles, then it’ll just take one session for Google to crawl through all of your content. By the same extension, you should also look to add links to your Contact Us page, About Us page and any other pages on your site.
- Links to Other Sites: You can also boost your status by hyperlinking to other sites, preferably high authority ones. If you’re writing an article, it’s a natural process to link to your source material, quotes, etc., so this shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. You don’t have to check the Domain Authority of each site, just make sure it looks strong (and preferably that it has a .Gov or other high-value extension) and that you don’t link to sites full of ads, and sites that contain gambling or mature content.
Hiring an Expert
We have already discussed how you can use sites like Upwork to hire capable developers and writers, and how there are many cheap and nasty SEO “experts” on these sites.
There are some true SEO experts on these sites, but they’re not always easy to find. Just try to avoid working with teams, as they tend to outsource the work cheaply, and always look to work with someone in a first-world country who speaks your language, to avoid mistakes and misunderstandings.
You can also find big SEO companies and experts on Google, in which case just remember that if they can’t rank highly for “SEO Experts” or similar keywords, then they probably can’t help you rank highly for your keywords. That’s not to say that you should choose the highest ranked company, but that you should do your research on all major keywords and pick the one that consistently performs well.
Many experts will charge you by the day, and an SEO campaign will usually take many weeks or months. If you do shop around, which is always advised, then make sure you get a plan of action from each company/expert, as well as a price list and a timeframe. You can then compare everything that you receive (including any successful campaigns they have in their portfolio) to determine which option is the best, or which is the most cost effective for your needs.
What Not to Do
You will be enticed into doing some potentially harmful things early on, whether because they are cheap or because you’re desperate. SEO is not what it used to be and it’s constantly changing. It’s something that costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time when done properly, but there are a lot of pretenders out there promising to do it for very little and delivering very little as well. In fact, a lot of the cheap SEO options out there will do more harm than good.
So, before you do anything, make sure you don’t fall for any of the following:
- Black Hat: SEO is like hacking in the sense that there is a “White Hat” and “Black Hat” version. They both aim to get results and they both can, but while the former refers to techniques that are entirely above board, the latter refers to techniques that are not and may result in severe penalties. Don’t be tempted into doing or paying for any Black Hat methods. It’s not worth the risk.
- Clarity: If you hire someone to do some SEO for you, make sure you get a detailed list of everything that they will do and make sure you discuss this with them extensively beforehand. You don’t want them using Black Hat techniques and you don’t want them to take liberties either, assuming that they can rob you blind, promising the earth and delivering the moon. Always make it sound like you know what you’re talking about and are hiring them because you’re short on time and not knowledge.
- Duplicate Content: Original, well-written content is the foundation of good SEO and you should avoid uploading duplicate content at all costs. It doesn’t matter if you own the content and are just looking to place it on another website. Google doesn’t care and will punish you regardless.
- Spinning: If you do own several sites and want to replicate content, do not use spinning software. It produces terrible results and of all the positives that original writing brings, bad writing will negate them. Just use that original article as a basis and then write it for a different angle before running them both through Copyscape to make sure they are 100% different.
- Keyword Stuffing: Whether you’re loading keywords into your articles, your titles or your tags, it’s keyword stuffing and it’s a huge no-no.
- Relevant Links: Make sure all links you post on your blog are relevant to your niche and that any backlinks you get in reply are also relevant. A few random links are okay, but too many and you’ll be penalized.
- Fix Links: Broken links will frustrate Google and reduce your blog’s status as a result. So, make sure links are fixed and make sure that links to expired sites/articles are removed. There is software you can use to uncover broken links, as mentioned in the RESOURCES section at the end of this chapter.
- Hidden Text: Don’t hide keywords, or any text for that matter, anywhere on your site. This is an old-school trick, but while it may have worked well for the porn sites and scam sites of old, it’s no longer effective.
- Don’t Cut Corners: There is one thing that many bad SEO techniques have in common, and that’s the fact that they tend to involve shortcuts. There is no shortcut to good SEO, so don’t look for it and be suspicious if you find something that presents itself as a shortcut.
If you do use any of these techniques and you end up blacklisted, then read the Troubleshooting section at the end of this guide to find out WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE BLACKLISTED BY GOOGLE.
Sites like Forbes and Huffpost, which attract a lot of visitors, post a wealth of articles and have a great PageRank, both hire a number of contributors to keep the content flowing. These contributors are not always paid, but they make money on the side by charging webmasters to post backlinks in their articles. It sounds deceptive, but providing they aren’t packing too many links into those articles or breaking the site rules, it’s okay. It’s a win-win for everybody.
It’s not easy to get in touch with these contributors directly and we wouldn’t recommend trying. But you can let them come to you, as they are often actively seeking clients. They need to make money after all. You can also get in touch with guest posters who create a network of these contributors and find clients for them. You can find such guest posters on sites like Upwork, Guru and, to a lesser extent, Fiverr.
You have to make sure that the link being offered is “dofollow” (ask them outright, because they won’t be upfront with this and many customers only find out when the money has been paid and the link has been posted) and you have to make sure the site is relevant and has a high PageRank and Domain Authority.
As for the cost, it all depends on the sites. But bear in mind that 90% of the people offering you such posts will be middlemen and not the contributors themselves. In fact, most of them don’t even qualify as “middle”men. It’s like a drug trade. You’re the end user and the contributor is the grower. But there are countless national and local dealers stepping on that product and taking their cut along the way.
To give you an idea of price, we recently posted a job on Upwork to ask for quotes for three specific sites and this is the range of offers we received. In each case, we received at least half a dozen quotes and only spoke with an actual contributor once:
- Bing Webmasters Tool (free): This is the Bing version of Google Webmaster Tools and it is similar in many ways, albeit with a few less features. If anything, this is easier to use, but Bing gets a fraction of the traffic that Google gets. Don’t get too caught up in this early on, but by all means signup, spend a little time on it and then come back to it at a later date, when your increased presence and reach means it has more to offer your blog.
- Moz (paid, but with free trial): A paid subscription to Moz can cost as much as $600 a month, so it’s not cheap. But this is the gold standard of SEO software and covers everything. It will monitor your backlinks (“nofollow” and “dofollow”) your Domain Authority, your site speed, mobile compatibility and everything else. There is also a free trial so you can try it out for yourself. We would recommend signing up for this trial, running a few checks to determine site speed, broken links, etc, and to fix any issues it raises. Use it extensively throughout that first month and you’ll probably not need it again for another few months, at which time you can weigh up the pros and cons of a paid subscription.
- Google Keyword Planner (free): This is part of Adwords and is something we have already discussed. It’s a program that you should have used by this point, as it can help you to find the best keywords for your articles. It’s free and it’s easy to use. There are some more advanced features that are a little more complicated, but you can ignore them for now and focus on the basics.
- KeywordTool (free): This is another free keyword tool, and because it’s universal and not owned by Google, it can help you with other search engines. You may actually find this easier to use if you’re not completely clued-up on SEO and keyword research in particular.
- Small SEO Tools (free): There are a few free SEO tools on these site, all of which can be accessed through your browser. If you’re just looking to retrieve some quick data, from the originality of your articles or guest posts, to a quick backlink checker, then this sort of site is ideal. We’re always very wary of these sites as they are straddling the line between a legitimate service and an annoyance only interested in spamming you or loading your computer full of malware. This one seems okay (for now) but you should always remain vigilant and never download anything or enter any details if/when prompted.
- Screaming Frog (free and paid options): This is a website crawler designed to give you some insight into SEO on your website and the websites of your competitors. It might be a little confusing at first, but there is a lot to be gained from this software, so stick at it. It won’t fix many problems for you, but it will point you towards them.
- Woorank (free and paid options): This program offers some insights in your SEO, helping to improve your digital marketing efforts and to optimize each page on all of your websites. There are free options and paid options, depending on how many of the features you want to take advantage of, and at most it costs around $300 a month.
Chapter 8: Revenue Streams
In the “good old” days, it was very easy to make money from your blog. Back then, advertisers were willing to pay you for every person that clicked one of their links on your site (known as CPC or Cost Per Click programs), and there were also a glut of CPM (Cost Per Impression) programs.
This was a golden time to be a webmaster. Especially when you consider that attracting visitors and getting those clicks/impressions was incredibly easy. But of course, times change. Those methods were exploited. Hackers discovered that they could set up automated programs that delivered a regular stream of clicks and impressions, generating different IPs for each one and making the sponsor believe they were getting value for money.
These days, there are many systems in place to stop this behaviour. Advertisers are more diligent and the industry has changed. But many of those changes are for the better. On the surface, making money may seem like an impossibility, but it’s easier than you might think.
Before You Begin
Loading your site with ads as soon as it’s launched is a costly mistake. It’s understandable that you want to take advantage of every visitor that clicks onto your website, but there are more disadvantages to this than there are advantages. Google doesn’t like sites that have more ads than content. After all, no website user enjoys being bombarded with ads, and Google tries to be as user friendly as possible.
So, by all means look into the right marketing for your website and keep this in mind for the future, but don’t do anything just yet. You won’t be missing out on much, because your blog will be lucky if it gets more than half a dozen visitors a day to begin with. And this sort of traffic would not generate much revenue anyway.
Once you have a few dozens articles on your site, and once the visitors are beginning to roll in, then you can consider banner ads, affiliate networks, etc., (discussed below). Many webmasters avoid posting any ads until they have made it to the top of Google for their chosen keyword, as it is much easier to make it this high up the pecking order without affiliate links and banner ads.
Loading your site with ads as soon as it’s launched is a costly mistake.
Cost Per Impression/Pay Per Impression Programs
Although they are not as common, you can still earn money by displaying banner ads, pop-ups and text links. The problem is, to make any decent money you need to be generating a lot of hits, and you’ll also be alienating many of your readers by forcing annoying ads on them.
You will typically be paid per 1,000 impressions, albeit usually no more than a couple of dollars. So, if your blog is generating 100 hits a day, then over the course of a month you can expect to earn between $5 and $20, depending on the network.
Below is a list of CPM networks. These will display an array of ads and they all pay based on their own unique revenue models.
- Advertising.com: As an AOL owned company, Advertising.com have a lot of clout behind them, so it’s no surpise that they claim to monetize over 2 billion impressions every day. They work with many large sites and tend to be very selective as a result.
- Vibrant Media: Another large network, Vibrant claim to help you create ads that deliver more engagement and give you more value for money. You will need to be turning over a lot of hits to make this worthwhile though, and they may reject you if you are not.
- Axill: This is a smaller network. It is growing fast though and it has attracted a number of high profile members. With Axill, your blog will stand a better chance of being accepted and you may also find that it’s easier to make money.
- CJ Blog: This is a long established affiliate network, one that connects you with thousands of brands and websites. There are many ways that you can make money here, not just CPM.
- BuySellAds: This is one of our favorites. It is simple, yet it works with many big websites and it is a useful network for both advertisers and publishers. You tell them how many hits your site is getting and how much you want to charge for a day, week or month’s worth of impressions, and they’ll find the clients willing to pay you. This is actually a good place to discover just how competitive this market is and how much you can expect to earn for your impressions. On the Marketplace you can see that 1,000 impressions can be bought for as little as $0.10 on BitTorrent, which has billions of impressions and attracts people of all interests, and as much as $5 on Hemming’s Motor News, which has millions of impressions and is very niche.
Who Should Use CPM
Sites looking for a secondary revenue stream
General content sites
Sites attracting 10,000 visitors a day
Sites with high bounce rates; low quality visitors
Who Should Avoid CPM
Sites with only targeted visitors
Sites with very few visitors
Cost Per Impressions are usually the preferred method for advertisers on a budget, as they enjoy the idea of getting their product in front of a large number of people while paying very little for the honor. But the truth is that everyone is accustomed to ignoring ads, and there are also many people using ad blockers. For every 1,000 impressions, half of them will not see the ad (either because of a blocker or because they are accustomed to ignoring them) and the others will see it repeatedly. Once you factor in the chances of any of those viewers actually being interested in your niche, you’ll be lucky to have 2 people from that 1,000 who respond to your ad.
Cost Per Click/Pay Per Click Programs
At the outset of this chapter we discussed the early days of online marketing, a time ruled by high paying impressions and clicks. Well, while you get much less for your impressions than you used to, you can still get a very respectable amount for a click. There are two reasons for that. Firstly, the technology employed by many CPC programs makes it very difficult to cheat them. Secondly, a single user will only be recorded once, unlike the old days when it was possible for one user to record many clicks.
Cost per Click programs are still one of the best ways to market a product online and they are also one of the best ways to make money advertising those products. Think about it for a moment. Let’s imagine that you are a professional language tutor and you own a website advertising Skype lessons for $100 an hour.
If you choose the “Cost per Impressions” model to advertise your business, you’ll be putting your services in front of a lot of people, but very few of them will be interested in learning a second language. Of the ones that are, the chances of them clicking your ad, being willing to pay $100 an hour and being ready to learn, are very slim.
If you choose the CPC method, and if you use Adwords in particular, you can choose which keyword to target. So, you can set a price of $0.50 for every person that searches for the keyword “English as a Second Language Lessons” and clicks onto your website. Not only are these people looking for your service, but they’re probably ready to sign-up for it when they find it, making this by far the best value form of online marketing.
And what’s good for the client is good for you. Because if you run a website that discusses language lessons, you can use Google Adwords to earn a share of that $0.50 for every person you send to that website.
what’s good for the client is good for you
Who Should Use CPC
Sites with a broad appeal
Sites with targeted users
Sites with an average to large number of followers
Sites with average to high quality visitors
Who Should Avoid CPC
Sites with very few visitors
There are many CPC networks out there, but Google Adwords is the best. You will need to apply for membership here, but providing your site does not contain any forbidden content (gambling, porn) then you will be okay. The beauty of Adwords lies in its simplicity. You just need to install the Google Adwords code where you want their banners to show, and they’ll do the rest. They will show targeted ads to each individual user, and when they click on those ads, you will be paid.
Alternative CPC Networks:
- Media.net: If Adwords is the king of Google advertising, then Media.net is the king of Bing and Yahoo advertising. This network is vast and its reach extends to where Adwords just doesn’t go. In August 2016, this company was acquired for close to $1 billion in what became the third largest tech deal ever. That alone should give you an idea of Media.net’s size and reach.
- 7Search: This offers highly specific, tailored advertising for publishers and it offers advertises a great way to sell targeted ads. It focuses on smaller search engines as well as larger platforms and its customers include some of the net’s biggest companies, including Netflix, AutoTrader and eHarmony.
- TVLMedia: Tailored advertising is also the theme of the day here. This platform works on a Real-Time Bidding model (known as RTB for short) and offers some advanced monitoring and analytics.
- Chitika: This is a straight-forward platform. You don’t need to sign any contracts or make any long-term commitments. They use that as their USP, although in truth, many of their rivals work in the same way. The Chitika network is quite expansive and it’s worth considering as a secondary network. But it doesn’t come close to Adwords or some of the others mentioned above.
- Bidvertiser: This is great for publishers seeking to get their message out there as it allows them to focus their ads on a specific location, a specific channel and a specific keyword. For the advertiser it’s not as good, but it’s still worth considering. And if you can’t get verified on some of the other networks, it might be your only option.
Leads (Affiliate Marketing)
Lead marketing, like CPC and CPM, has been around since the dawn of online advertising. But like the aforementioned programs, it has changed a lot since then. You can find these programs on some of the CPM and CPC networks mentioned above as they often go hand in hand.
Instead of being paid per click or per impression, you’re paid a percentage of the website’s profits. If someone clicks an ad on your site and from that ad they purchase a product or a service, then you will be entitled to a share of the profits. In the early days, it was hard to profit from such programs as it was hard to keep track of those clicks. If someone clicked through and made a purchase immediately then you were okay, but few shoppers make purchases so quickly. Many will click-off, only to return hours, days or weeks later when they have made up their mind. To counteract this, modern lead generating programs will plant a cookie in that user’s computer as soon as they click the link. Depending on the particular program, that cookie will stay for months or even years.
One of the most popular Cost per Lead programs is Amazon. Everyone loves and trusts Amazon, and most of us are happy to use them. So, we don’t think twice if we see a product we need or like being advertised on another site. The problem with Amazon is that the percentage they offer is low, and with the average Amazon shopping basket at just $30 to $60, you could be making just $5 per lead.
Amazon can’t offer a lot because their margins are so low. But if you focus on sites that sell something with a high mark-up, sites that have a low turnover and need outside support, then that rate goes up. Share trading companies like Plus500, for example, offer as much as $500 for every paying customer you send their way. While on BullionVault, you can earn a percentage of every trade that a customer makes. The average customer may only spend a few hundred and may only generate around $30 for your coffers, but if you refer a big trader then you could make $1000s from a single lead.
Gambling sites work in a similar way, in the sense that it only takes one high-roller to boost your income tenfold. Of course, Google hates gambling links and you could harm your rankings if you place too many of these on your website.
Google have taken a hard-line on link building, and as a result, affiliate marketing seems to have taken a knock from both sides. But the truth is that the Google algorithm seems to be sympathetic with this revenue model. It sees it as a viable way for publishers to get the message out and for advertisers to earn more. If you use it properly and sparingly, and you don’t start filling your site with affiliate ads too early on, then you will be okay.
Cost per Lead programs have their uses, and some website owners build their websites around them. For instance, if you create a website based around share trading, then you can signup for an account with Plus500 and use “Plus500” as one of your main keywords. If you create enough content on the subject and if that content is good enough and specific enough, then you can ensure that the majority of people who click onto your site are doing so to learn more about Plus500.
This means that the majority of your visitors are ready to sign-up to that company, and if your site is the one that convinces them to make the leap, then you could be the one to pocket the $500 commission. These sites will typically get an average of just a few hundred hits a day, but because their visitors are so targeted, they can still generate a 5 figure revenue per annum.
Of course, not all lead programs are high paying. But what you lose in quality, you gain in quantity.
Who Should Use CPL
Sites with a niche, targetted following
Sites with a small number of quality visitors
Sites that are struggling to grow
Who Should Avoid CPL
General content websites
Websites with a broad appeal
In CHAPTER 7: SEO TIPS, we discussed guest posts, and how essential these are to building your online presence. But if your site is successful, if you have a good DA and PR (the latter of which is no longer visible to you) then other webmasters will want to put their link on your site.
It works in the same way. They provide the quality content, they pay the money, and in return you get an article and a payment. By the time your site is worthy of such offers, you will have made plenty of similar offers yourself, so you should have a good idea of just how much a post on your website is worth.
You will also have a firm grasp of what you should and shouldn’t post, but just incase:
- Reject proposals that don’t include the actual article.
- Check that the article is original using Copyscape.
- Make sure the article will be an exclusive, and check Copyscape again a few weeks after posting to double check.
- Do not let anyone include links to gambling sites, porn sites or any other sites that Google does not look fondly upon.
- Insist on 1 paid link per article (some posters work for many clients and will look to cram several links into one article, collecting half a dozen commissions but only paying you once).
- Insist on targeted, niche content that will rank well and is at least 800 words.
- Ask them to post on social media. The extra exposure wouldn’t hurt and if your site is big enough, they’ll do anything to win your favor.
- Do not edit it yourself. If it’s poorly written or riddled with mistakes, point this out and insist that it is edited by a professional before it is submitted again.
- Get the money in advance.
- Don’t overdo it and don’t rely on guest posts with low quality links for all of your content.
A lot of guest posters will come to you, but you can also go to them. You can use sites like Upwork, Guru and Freelancer to find brands looking for guest posts. You can also advertise on gig-based platforms like People per Hour, and on more specialized platforms. This is discussed in more detail in CHAPTER 12: RESOURCES.
Sponsored content is somewhat similar to guest posts, although it’s more about the exposure and the endorsement than the link. You can make a lot of money this way, and for some sites, it’s where most of their revenue comes from. Buzzfeed is the perfect example. You’ve probably seen their Sponsored Posts yourself and you may have even entertained the idea of paying for some of these to boost your blog or business.
But these sponsored posts are not one-off articles. They are part of a broader campaign, one which aims to get the brand’s message out across the entire Buzzfeed platform. That’s why the spend on these campaigns can run into the millions of dollars, and it’s why Buzzfeed won’t even entertain your brand unless you have at least $100,000 to spend.
Now imagine being on the receiving end of that. Buzzfeed have brands queuing at their door, eager to throw money at them in exchange for a few articles and social media posts. If your site becomes just as big, then you can earn your share of that money. But even if not, there are small brands with smaller budgets that still need exposure, and they will pay you to post about them, to write about them, and to review them.
The only way to make this happen is to grow your blog, and to become well known in your niche. Once you make it that far then the sponsors will come to you. Just make sure you include a contact address for all media and advertising queries.
Once your blog begins to grow, there are a number of things you can do to increase your revenue. Don’t get too caught up in these ideas just yet, as they won’t work this early on and will only slow you down. But by all means come back to this later on, or use them as an incentive to grow your blog.
If you believe Youtube stars, big brand ambassadors and social media gurus, then videos are the future of the internet. They’re already here of course, but some are predicting that everything will be presented in video form sooner or later. It might sound far fetched, but a few years ago the idea that more people would access the internet using their phone than their desktop was equally far fetched to some, and now desktops seem to be a thing of the past. So, if you want to get on the bandwagon, then look to create a Youtube channel alongside your blog and look to embed the videos in your blog. It’s not easy to create a successful Youtube account. But if you already have an established blog, then it’s a great way to build your channel and to start the ball rolling. It’s worth bearing in mind that a single viewer on your channel will typically return more than a single reader on your blog.
They may seem a little dated, but forums are still popular. Reddit is one of the biggest sites on the internet, and it’s based on a forum. The same goes for many other popular websites. A forum is not only a great revenue stream (thanks to the sheer number of people who visit and remain) but it’s also good for SEO. After all, you have endless content being created without your assistance, and all of this content is being indexed and picked up by Google searches. Not convinced? Ask Google a question about fitness and/or bodybuilding, and see how many results you get for Yahoo Answers (based on a forum) and bodybuilding.com (a forum with over 13.5 million members). You will need a popular site first, and that site will need to have good content that people want to discuss. But once you reach that point and create your forum–a very easy process using scripts like VBulletin–your site, your revenue and your brand will grow exponentially.
They may seem a little dated, but forums are still popular
Selling Your Blog
If you want one lump sum, then you could of course just sell your blog. It doesn’t matter what the content is, if you have a blog that is well placed in the search engines, has a lot of content and is making money, then there will be a market for it. There are upsides and downsides to this. You won’t always get what the website is worth, and there’s really no way of knowing exactly what it is worth either. We will discuss this at length in CHAPTER 10: SELLING YOUR BLOG.
It’s quite astonishing to see what some of the world’s biggest blogs can become. Many bloggers and vloggers have become celebrities in their own rights, selling autographs, getting book deals and arranging events for fans. They sell merchandise that their readers/viewers are more than happy to buy and show off to the world, and they endorse products and they receive a fortune for doing so. Even if you do not attain celebrity status, if your blog is a big deal in your chosen niche, you may still be booked for events, you may still get a book deal or even a TV deal. It may be hard to believe, but we live in an age in which someone can attain celebrity status, and all of the perks that go with it, just because they have a large Twitter following.
Chapter 9: How to Get More Visitors
The worst thing you can do when you first create your blog is get caught up in the analytics, fretting because too few people are reading your content. These things take time, and if you focus on quality content and stick to the basics, then it will happen for you eventually. At least to some extent.
But there will come a time when you reach a plateau of sorts; a time when you need to start thinking proactively in order to increase your visitor count. And that’s what this chapter can help with.
There is a lot to cover here as there are many ways you can boost that visitor count and make those analytics stronger. If your site is not quite ready, if you’re still building content, then SEO should be your main goal. But if you’ve done all of that and are just looking for a boost, read on.
What Not To Do
Before we take a look at the things that you can do—and maybe should do—let’s cover the things that you should definitely not do. Some of these things have been mentioned in passing already, some will be covered later on. That’s because these are things that many bloggers do, and things that could do more damage to your blog than a shared hosting plan and a terrible copywriter. If you start looking for ways to boost your visitor count, if you start asking questions, then you’ll be offered some of these. You may also be offered them out of the blue (if your domain is not private, your details will be trawled using Whois bots and you will be spammed by everyone from web developers to SEO “experts”).
As tempting as they are, avoid them at all costs. This is one of those things that really is too good to be true.
- Cheap Paid SEO: There are so-called SEO experts out there that are willing to work for very little, often around $5 an hour. You can find them on Upwork, Guru and similar platforms and they’ll respond in their droves to any marketing project that you post. It is true that $5 goes much further in some countries and that you can get specialists for less in these countries, but not at this price. These experts will promise you the world and then deliver something that damages the reputation of your site. You lose out, your hard work is undone, and you have to pay for the pleasure. They use many techniques to do this, including the ones below. Just remember that while actual SEO experts do exist and while you can pay less for ones in poorer countries, ones not attached to major firms and ones without experience (we’ll discuss true SEO experts further down) will still cost well above $30 an hour, while first-world experts can make hundreds of dollars an hour.
- Directory & Search Engine Packages: One of the old-school ways of increasing your visit count was to pay for a package that promised to add your site to a number of directories and search engines. This was a great money-spinner for web hosts back in the day. They tagged a random monetary value to this package and offered it as a “special” offer when you purchased a plan or domain. But like most special “one-time-only” offers, these weren’t all they seemed. Search engines will trawl your site if it’s connected to others (and if it’s worth anything, it will be) and directories are not what they once were. It will happen anyway and you don’t need to apply. Also, Google clamped down on link trading and link building programs some time ago and most of these sites (there are exceptions) do more harm than good.
- Spamming: In no form is spamming acceptable. Do not pay for email lists, do not spam comment sections or social media, and do not harass bloggers with copy and pasted messages. You’ll raise red flags for your blog and your reputation will take a hit as well.
- Paid Tweets: There is something to be said for Facebook ads and even Twitter ads, but don’t be tempted into paying for sponsored tweets. These may have been effective at one point, but only if you had the money to pay people with millions of genuine followers. Anyone who is not a celebrity and has tens of thousands of followers has either spent months following-back low quality accounts, or has paid for fake followers. In any case, neither of these are effective: Also, Twitter users who do pay attention tend to ignore anything that contains the “ad” hashtag, and this is now mandatory on all paid tweets.
- Backlinks: Be very suspicious of any person, site or service that promises hundreds or thousands of backlinks for very little money. Even if they claim that those sites have a high DA or PR, it’s not what it seems. There is a reason high DA sites can make hundreds of dollars from posting a single “dofollow” link, and if someone is promising you hundreds of these links for less than $50, something is amiss.
- Landing Pages: While effective, landing pages are not really suited to blogs. They require a lot of time and effort (not to mention money, if you’re not creating your own content) which is better invested in other areas.
- Fiver: Let’s keep this simple, while gig-based platforms do have their uses, and while Fiverr is great for a gimmick and a bit of fun, nothing that costs $5 in this industry is worth your time.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on the things that you should do, things that can give your analytics a boost.
Be Active in Your Niche Online
There are a few ways in which you can do this. The first is to simply respond to the comments that make it onto your blog. WordPress allows all readers to add their comments and these are a great way to boost the SEO value of a single article. Remember that any publicity is good publicity. If you write about a controversial topic, then you’ll get people who comment to say that they are on your side, and people who comment to call you every name under the sun. But a comment is a comment, and if there is a mixture of both, then that will kickstart several arguments, which in turn will kickstart a flourish of comments.
Comment threads have been known to become viral in themselves and they have even started memes. If someone is involved in a comment argument, which seems to be the norm these days, they will also be more inclined to share that article.
Of course, you will get a lot of abuse and if you’re not used to criticism, then that can be hard to take. But trust us, it will come anyway, and at least this way you can profit from it. There are ways you can close you blog down to comments, but this is not advised.
What is advised, however, is that you tweak the settings a little. Even if your site is not generating a lot of hits, it will still be flooded with spam. These are very repetitive though, which makes it easy to block them.
Click on Settings >> Discussion. This is where you can manage your comment settings. You want to allow “people to post comments on new articles” and “link notifications from other blogs on new articles”. But you want to stress that the “Comment author must fill out name and email”. This is all you need. Don’t be tempted to insist that users are registered, because this is very limiting.
You should also check both of the options under “Before a Comment Appears”. At this point, you’re exposed to spam. Not a lot of it, as the fact they need to enter a name and email will cut much of it down. But spammers are persistent. To get around this, automatically block anything with more than 1 link and include key spam words in the blacklist. You will get an idea of what these are when the spam rolls in, but make sure you don’t block anything that relates to your content.
As an example, a friend of How to Start a Blog recently launched a blog relating to stock trading, and within a week of getting hits, he was inundated with spam relating to handbags, all offering knock-off gear. He added “handbags” to the blacklist, as well as many of the brand names the spammers were using. It worked, and the spam reduced significantly. But if you run a fashion website, you will need to find another angle.
As well as your own blog, you should look to comment on other blogs. You will find that many bloggers comment on your posts and some of them may even recommend that you read their content. This is fine and although it’s technically spamming, it’s okay to overlook if they are polite about it. In fact, if you take the time to read their post and to make a comment of your own, you will establish a connection that could point regular readers of that blog towards yours.
This is small scale stuff though, and only really worthwhile if you’re just starting out and are happy to do the legwork if it means a few extra people who will read your content. You will get even better results if you post on well-known blogs. Just make sure that those blogs are in your niche, and make sure you don’t spam a link to your blog too much.
You should also look for communities that cover your niche, from message boards to Facebook groups and everything else you can find. In most cases you will be allowed to post a link to your blog in your signature, and in all cases you should be able to discuss your blog in threads or chats. You won’t always get “dofollow” links, and these are actually very hard to come by these days when you use those methods. But it’s not about backlinks, it’s about putting your blog in front of people who follow your niche. And you’ll find that the more niche it is, the more likely someone is to pay your blog a visit when they see a link or read a well-informed thread, post or status update.
This may sound small scale. But one reader can do a lot, especially if you have solid, original content. One person can share to hundreds of their online connections. And if just a dozen of those friends do the same, and a dozen of each of their friends do the same, then you’ve put your blog in front of thousands of valued readers in a short space of time.
make sure you don’t spam a link to your blog too much
Be Active in Your Niche Offline
Regardless of your niche, there are usually some events that you can attend that will get your face and your blog out there. We’re not suggesting that you fly halfway across the world just to hand out business cards. But if there are local events, then by all means go along.
Print business cards in advance and use a program like Lanyrd to check when important people in your niche and on your contact’s list are going to be at key events. Offline Networking is just as important today as it has always been. Fellow bloggers and webmasters will ignore your emails and your messages, treating them as spam, but if you’re talking to them in person, they’ll hear you out.
This is a great way to collaborate and to learn.
Use Social Media
It’s important to use social media when promoting your blog, but you have to use it properly. We have already discussed starting social media pages and getting some followers so that your accounts don’t remain empty or inactive. From there you just need to share each blog post to each of your accounts.
To simplify the process, you can use a social media management program, which will allow you to connect all of your accounts and post to each of them. The following programs are all worth considering:
There are also Twitter specific programs, which can be essential if you have a Twitter business account. That’s because you can’t schedule tweets using Twitter (although you can schedule posts using Facebook). You need to either go through Twitter Ads (their paid sponsorship program) or use a third-party program to do this. Some of these are very simple, completely free and web-based; some are a little more complicated and costly. The saying of “you get what you pay for” doesn’t always apply here. But there are some marked differences between the basic free programs and the feature-rich paid programs.
- Twuffer: A free, easy-to-use web-based program. It’s easy to schedule tweets, but there are limitations, such as the fact that you can’t add images or any form of multimedia to those tweets.
- TweetDeck: Arguably the best program of its type, and one that covers everything.
- ManageFlitter: A free program (although there are paid features) that lets you flush unfollowers, spam accounts and more from your Twitter. There are features being added all of the time and this program has always been one of the best of its type.
- Tweepi: This program is very similar to ManageFlitter, with the interface and a couple of minor features being the only differences.
- Audiense: This used to be known as SocialBro, a name that’s hard to read without picturing a group of drunken frat boys high-fiving each other. Presumably, that’s why they changed it, and rightly so. Audiense focuses on insights and analytics. It can help you to target your tweets and to get more from Twitter ads.
Don’t just post and then hope you get lucky. If you’re using Facebook, attach an image to each post, keep the written content minimal, make sure the image is linked to your article, and use relevant hashtags. For Twitter, include several relevant hashtags so that your content will end up in front of people who also use those hashtags, whether to post or to read.
Always be on the lookout for new connections. Follow someone who likes your post on Twitter; invite someone who likes your post on Facebook.
You can also join social sharing sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon. These can be difficult to get your head around if you’re not used to the format. But these are some of the biggest websites on the internet and there is a lot of value in them if you know how to use them.
There are also social sharing sites for specific niches, which tend to be more accommodating when it comes to posting links and may even be easier to get visitors from. You’ll have to do some research into your own niche. But to give you a head-start, here are a few niche social sharing sites:
- GoodReads (books)
- Newsvine (news)
- Ravelry (knitting)
- Care2 (nonprofits)
You can also try your hand at Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and even Instagram. Just make sure you focus on the main ones first, the ones more likely and more obvious. If you have the time and the inclination, then you can try some of the others. Some bloggers have found their niche with obscure networks they barely gave a second thought to when they started out, only to end up getting most of their traffic from them.
Encourage Repeat Visitors
Readers have vast amounts of content at their fingertips. Even if they love your article and your site, they may never return. They may not even pay attention to your blog name or to you, the blogger. But if you make it easy for them to keep track, they might return and they might turn into a fan and a regular reader.
Social media buttons can help with this. Once you have your accounts setup, just add the plugins and connect them. You should also look to add an RSS feed, which will alert readers whenever you post something new and will give each new post an immediate boost without any initial advertising on your part. In the beginning, such a feed isn’t going to do you many favors. But in the long-run it’s a great way of keeping regular readers onboard and attracting new ones.
There are many RSS Feed plugins for WordPress, including:
- Feedburner (probably the best one available)
- WP Subscribe
- Simple Feed States
- RSS Links Manager
- Know Where to Focus Your Efforts
Pay attention to your analytics to understand where your hits are coming from. If something is not working but you think it should be, then re-double your efforts and then check back in a few weeks. If it’s still not working, you’re either doing something wrong, or you just need to focus on something else.
Find out what works and then focus more time on that area. If you spend equal amounts of time and money on four different avenues, but the return you get in terms of hits is closer to 60/10/10/10 than it is to 25/25/25/25, then clearly you should be spending more time on marketing efforts that attract 60% of your visitors and less on ones that attract just 10%.
Pay attention to your analytics to understand where your hits are coming from.
Chapter 10: Selling Your Blog
It’s incredibly satisfying to own a profitable blog and to see that income drip-feed into your bank account every month. When your hard work pays off, it’s an unbeatable feeling. At least, in the beginning it is.
Inevitably, the honeymoon period wears off and you’re stuck with something that wasn’t as good as it used to be, and requires even more work to keep it running (any comparisons to marriage are purely coincidental). That’s one of the reasons bloggers reach out and create more projects, because that way they always have something new and something exciting to keep them going.
But it’s also one of the reasons that many bloggers end up selling the project they worked so hard on. If you need the money, if your heart is not in it or if you have several other projects on the go, then this is something we’d recommend considering. If not, just grit your teeth and power through. The difficult and repetitive work may be getting you down now, but if you take that away and lose the income it generates, you’ll regret it later.
We’ve been in that position ourselves and we’ve worked with many bloggers who have sold their projects, only to watch it flourish and regret it. So, by all means look into selling your site if the circumstances are right, but don’t rush into it. Don’t accept less than it’s worth (and don’t set the bar too high either) and make sure the sale price justifies the reduced monthly income and the potential growth you’re missing out on.
Flippa is the ultimate platform for people looking to buy and sell websites, domains and turn-keys. It’s very easy to get lost in their auctions for hours on end, setting your sights on dream websites and ideal websites, and even contemplating making a purchase that is within your budget.
The truth is that the sales should be ignored, at least for the most part. A lot of the websites listed for sale on the Flippa marketplace have been posted by full-time webmasters who make a living from creating and selling. They put very little thought into it, they add poor content and they use questionable SEO tactics. As a result, the site may look good on the surface, but once you dig a little deeper (typically something you can only do when you purchase it) you’ll discover that you just overpaid.
There are some good sites posted though, and as the Flippa buying community is generally well aware of what goes on, these sell for a premium. If you have a blog that is attracting a lot of visitors, is ranked high on the Google search engine and is making money, then you should be able to sell for a decent sum of money. You will be at a disadvantage if you are new to the site, of course, and you may lose money from potential bidders who just don’t want to take the chance.
So, if you are new and if you think your site will sell for upwards of $5,000, then you might want to consider making a few small purchases and sales first. You can buy sites cheaply, play around with them and then sell them back on. You will build a reputation, you will get good feedback and you may even make a little money. But even if you lose every penny that you invest, the amount you spend will still be less than the amount you would stand to lose if you didn’t have that feedback and that reputation.
How to Sell on Flippa:
- Your first step should be to signup and then tell Flippa whether you’re selling an “Established Site” a “Domain” a “Starter Site” or an “App”. If you do not have a website attached or if the website is of little or not value, focus on the domain; if the website makes money and attracts a lot of visitors, it’s established; if it’s new, basic or otherwise short on activity, then list it as new.
- Next you need to choose whether to list it as an auction or not, which is recommended. This will ensure a higher sale price and is essential if you’re not sure of the value of your site.
- Write your description and post any relevant details. It is not essential to post analytics, but it is if you want to make a claim about how many people view your site. The same goes for claims about profit.
- Set a Reserve Price at an acceptable amount; set a Buy-It-Now price at a substantial but respectable amount.
We have already discussed how important it is to build your feedback if your site has a premium price tag, but here are a few other tips that apply to all sites and all sellers:
- Do Your Research: One of the biggest red flags for Flippa members is a seller who overvalues their website. There are many such websites being sold on Flippa, and nearly all of them come from new members. It is not unusual to see a site listed for a starting process in excess of $2,000 with a Buy-It-Now much higher, despite the fact that it only gets a few hundred visitors a month and makes less than $50. The sellers put a lot of time and effort into a site and spend years building it, so they want to be compensated for that. Of course, they never are. Such listings are just a waste of time for everyone involved and a waste of money for the seller. So, try to avoid becoming one of these. Do your research in advance, see what similar sites have sold for and don’t price yourself out of the market. If your site is only making a few dollars a month, then you’re not going to get 5 figures for it. And don’t use the excuse that “it will grow”. The same could be said for all websites, and buyers are not stupid. If you genuinely think it will grow into something bigger, then wait for that to happen and then think about listing it.
- Bide Your Time: To save a little money and get some freebies thrown in, go through the motions of adding your site and then stop at the payment screen. Add a few extras to your cart, but don’t complete the sale. You will get a reminder from Flippa in your inbox and they’ll probably send this a few times. But after a week or so, they’ll begin sending you offers to “help” you complete the transaction. You could save quite a bit of money this way.
- Reach Out: Flippa has a ready-made audience interested in your blog or website. This audience will understand quality and they’ll know a good thing when they spot it. But you need to think like a local realtor. Because while you have a ready-made customer-base amongst the local populace, that local populace understand the market better than anyone else and will always drive a hard bargain. As a result, you should look to spread the message. Get in touch with non-Flippa members, focusing on bloggers and webmasters in your niche. Not only will they understand that niche better, but the fact that they are not members of Flippa will mean they are less likely to drive a hard bargain. Many flippa members are also there to buy and sell, so they’ll look to keep the margins low. Bloggers, on the other hand, will likely hold onto your site and profit over the long-term, which means they may be inclined to pay a higher purchase price.
- Respond: An unresponsive seller is a huge red flag to the Flippa community. Many buyers will have questions for you and they won’t make a bid until these have been answered. Other bidders will look to browse through the questions and answers section, bidding if they see a seller answering questions in a timely manner, and backing-away if they see a lot of questions and very few answers.
- Be Professional: When answering questions and writing your description, remember that this is a professional environment. Approach it as if you were writing eBay listings for an established online store. Don’t use “txt tlk”, don’t use emoticons, and try to be as professional as possible. When someone asks a question, begin your reply by thanking them for taking a look at your auction and end by signing your name. If someone asks several questions over the course of a long message, you may want to finish with something like “I hope this answers your question. If you want to know anything else, please don’t hesitate to ask”.
- Be Patient: Good things come to those who wait, as the saying goes, and this is no exception. In most cases you won’t get any bids or offers until the final day or the final few hours of the listing. However, if your website is particularly sought-after, then you will experience a rush of activity early on. This is actually a great indictor of what sort of site you have and how in-demand it’s going to be. And the best thing about this is that the more questions, the more views and the more bids, the higher your listing will place in the rankings, which in turn will increase your views, questions and bids.
Good things come to those who wait
It really is true that you can find everything on Craigslist, and that includes blogs and websites. But this is a terribly ineffective way to sell your blog. Prospective buyers will be trawling through sites like Flippa, but they’ll leave Craigslist well alone.
The same can’t be said for eBay though, making this an ideal place to sell. There is an entire section for websites and while this is full of cheap and nasty turnkey sites (which have put a dampener on the entire category and have made it difficult for people to sell legitimate and successful sites) this just means that yours will stand out. The problem with eBay is that feedback plays an even bigger role than it does on Flippa.
So, ask a friend if you can use their account if you don’t have a lot of feedback on your own. This is the world’s biggest online auction site and it has been going for a number of years, so you’re bound to have someone in your social circle that has a respected account.
eBay listings are free, but you should look to give your listing a boost to make sure it stands out from the aforementioned turnkey sites. Don’t spend too much on promotions. It will be seen regardless, just spend a little to make it more appealing to people as they browse through.
eBay will charge a commission, and PayPal will also charge a commission. But don’t be tempted into asking for an alternative payment method. You’ll lose a lot of potential bids if you don’t accept PayPal, much more so than you would lose by letting them take their 5%.
Don’t list a “Buy it Now” price, but let people make offers. At the very least it will give you an idea of its worth in the eyes of others. Set the starting price very low (but place a respectable reserve on it) and opt for a long-term auction. All auctions are indexed by the search engines, so the longer it runs for, the more chance you have of it being picked up by people looking for successful blogs to buy.
You should also do some keyword research to find the perfect title, as the difference between a bad title and a good one could be a substantial sum of money, and one that is definitely worth a few minutes of research on your part.
There are other auction sites, of course, but unless they are focused entirely on the buying and selling of websites, they’re not worth it. Other general auction sites just don’t have the market share that eBay has, which means that whatever niche you’re in, you’re always appealing to a very small minority of customers.
Chapter 11: Troubleshooting
You will encounter a few problems along the way, and here at How to Start a Blog we want to help you with those problems. Many other so-called “comprehensive guides” stop as soon as your site is launched. It’s not all plain sailing from there. But we don’t want you to get dishearten or confused, we don’t want you to give-up. So, if your blog is up and running and you run into a problem, checkout this extensive Troubleshooting FAQ.
As with every other section of this guide, we’re always expanding on this section. So, if you have a question or comment that is not addressed here, feel free to get in touch. Not only can we help you, but we can pose the same question and answer here to ensure that other bloggers get the same help when they need it.
What to do if You’re Blacklisted by Google
It is a common misconception that Google indexes all of the sites on the internet. That’s just not true. In fact, every day it blacklists about 10,000 websites, all of which break their terms and conditions in one way or another. And if they make it onto the blacklist, then they no longer appear in search results.
This may sound like an extraordinary number, but it’s merely a fraction of the 140,000+ websites that are added to this vast virtual world every single day.
You can get blacklisted for a number of reasons and we’ve already discussed some of these things in CHAPTER 7: SEO TIPS. It may be that you paid someone who wronged you; it may be that a competitor or rival wronged you; it may even be that Google made a mistake. Most of the time, it’s because of a hack, which is a very difficult thing to have to deal with as a webmaster. Whatever the reason, this will be incredibly costly for your blog, all but ruining your chances of ever making it big.
To check to see if your site has been blacklisted, you can use this app from Sucuri. A blacklist will likely eradicate more than 90% of your visitors overnight, giving you a sense that something is wrong when you check your analytics.
So, if you find yourself on the blacklist, then what are your options? Well, you can fix things, but it’s not going to be easy. If you have just launched your blog, then you may be much better off just writing it off, learning from your mistakes and then starting over again. Especially if you were at fault and you employed questionable SEO techniques. If you have already invested a lot of time and money into it, then follow the steps below:
- Monitor Your Site: Check out this link to discover whether Google is flagging your site as suspicious, in which case you can determine what the issues are and then fix them. It will give you an idea of exactly what the problem is.
- Security: If your site was hacked or loaded with malware, then you need to make it secure to ensure it doesn’t happen again and to make sure the hackers are not still accessing it. Change passwords, secure your database, update WordPress, and make sure they can’t get back in.
- Fetch: Use Google Webmaster Tools to “Fetch” and simulate a crawl. This will highlight the issues on your account. You should also receive notification of the blacklist through your account.
- Remove the Issue: Whatever the issue is, you need to fix it. If it’s malware, which is common, then you can look to remove it from the code. If you can’t do this yourself, then pay a developer to do it. This is a common issue and it won’t be difficult to find a developer who knows how to do this and has done it many times before.
- Check: You can use programs like cURL and Gerp to safely enter your site (important if it is infected) and to scan the code for lingering issues.
- Reconsider: Using Webmaster Tools you then need to ask Google to reconsider your site. This may take some time, but if you resolved the issues then it will be removed from the blacklist eventually.
You can get some assistance from the following links, all of which are part of Google’s extensive help guides.
My Blog is Failing
Success isn’t always guaranteed. However, if your blog or website is failing, then there is probably a reason.
- A Niche: In most cases, your niche isn’t that important as you can always succeed if you tick plenty of other boxes. But that’s not always the case. As an example, a friend of How to Start a Blog invested time and money in a host of websites and blogs a couple of years ago. Many of these succeeded and are still popular to this day, but two of them flopped. One was a sports site, with content previewing and reviewing sports events, and the other was a gaming site, covering classic games. In both cases, he didn’t focus on keywords and just zeroed in on good content. But in doing so, he was merely adding to what was an incredibly saturated marked. When you have a subject that is so popular it is covered by millions of bloggers, Facebook users and Twitter users, as well as everyone else and their dog, you need to hit a niche. For instance, everyone may be talking about the latest sports games, but not everyone is offering betting tips on them; everyone may be discussing classic video games, but not everyone is offering previews of forthcoming titles. So, as a rule of thumb, try to find a subject that not everyone is writing about, and if you can’t, then find a niche within a popular subject.
- Steady Content: The more content you create, the bigger your site will become and the sooner those visitors will start to roll in. It’s important to create a steady schedule of content, whether it be publishing once every day or once every two days. You want to show Google and your readers that this is an active site, one that has not faded into the abyss and one that still has value. The newer your site is, the more regularly you should be posting content. Many sites fail because webmasters only post once every couple of weeks, or because they often go days or weeks at a time without posting.
- Good SEO: It’s not that essential to tick all of the boxes when it comes to SEO. You don’t have to get that Yoast green light every single time for every single article. However, it’s important to have some degree of quality SEO, whether it comes from well written content, good titles with well researched keywords, or even just articles that hit the right word count. In most cases, you’ll hit the right marks just by focusing on well written content. But if your content is poorly written and researched, if it provides no value to the reader and it doesn’t have any keywords or tags, then it’s not going to work. Of course, the main thing you should focus on is 100% original content.
- Bad SEO: Many first-time webmasters and bloggers get frustrated with the lack of instant success, and they resort to paying for cheap backlinks, directory inclusions and other low-quality SEO. Sometimes, the worst thing you can do is hire a cheap “PR Expert” to improve your rankings, because while they may only cost a few dollars an hour, they don’t really care about your success. They will do what it take to get an instant rise in your rankings, knowing that once they have been paid and you have lost contact, those rankings will drop and Google will punish you. Good SEO takes a lot of time and/or money. If it requires neither of these things, then there’s a good chance that it’ll do more harm than good.
- Bought Website: If you purchased an established website for a ready-made blog, your problems could be someone else’s doing. This can be a great way to turn a quick profit and to avoid all of the time-consuming work that comes with starting a blog or website. But it’s not recommended unless you know what you’re doing. In many cases, you aren’t privy to essential information, such as any previous blacklists, problems with Google or compatibility issues. A good indicator is if no one else is bidding on it and it seems like a steal. In many cases, the reason it seems like a steal is because you’re not seeing what all of the other, more experienced bidders, are seeing.
- Self-Promotion: Although a self-promotion isn’t essential, it won’t hurt. And if you want to create an active community of readers, a community that will engage with you and your site, then it becomes essential. If you do this, the numbers will increase, you will generate higher profits and your articles will get more comments and shares. If not, your site won’t grow very quickly and depending on the niche, it may fail to grow at all.
- Patience: So you’ve followed the steps in this guide bit by bit. You’ve created those base articles and you’ve made sure that those articles are followed by regular content. You’ve done the promotion, you’ve avoided bad SEO, haven’t employed any dirty tricks and have even acquired a few backlinks. But it still isn’t working. Why? Well, in most cases, all cases actually, it just takes time. Google need time to discover your site, they need time to index it, and they need time before they start trusting it. The older a site is, the more it is trusted, especially if it is still pushing out content. It usually only takes a few months, but it can take up to a year before things really get going. As an example, if you have an old blog that you have since given up on, check back with your analytics and take a look at your Domain Authority. You might be surprised to discover that some of your old posts are ranked quite highly and are attracting more visitors than when you first launched it, and that your DA is higher than it was back then. Now, just imagine how many visitors it would have attracted if you hadn’t given up on it.
if your blog or website is failing, then there is probably a reason.
We have communicated with many bloggers who think they have done everything right and, for whatever reason, just can’t make a success of things. But as soon as we dig a little deeper and ask some questions, they usually admit to failing in one of those areas. Most of the time they believe that one oversight or one mistake isn’t going to hurt them, but it can, and it does.
Blogging is like life in that there are two ways you can make a name for yourself, two ways that you can succeed. On the one hand, you can put in the hours. You can work incredibly hard, make necessary sacrifices and never give up. If you do that, then eventually, you will succeed. But on the other hand, you can throw some money around and enjoy more success sooner.
So, with that in mind…
Can I Buy a Successful Website?
Obviously, the easiest way to buy your way to success is just to purchase an established website. That way you will get the content, you will get the business and you can build from there. But this is not recommended. Firstly, you will pay way over the odds for that content and for the traffic that it drives. Secondly, unless you plan on creating the exact same website, in which case you won’t need to make any changes, then that content could drop off and you will have a lot of work to do to convince Google to keep trusting you when you change over.
It is a good idea, however, to purchase the domain of a successful website. If a name is a relevant keyword, and if that domain ranks highly, then that’s all you need. The content doesn’t matter. The website doesn’t mater. It’s all about the domain. In fact, that’s exactly what happened with How to Start a Blog. This is a premium domain, because How to Start a Blog is a premium keyword. It’s existed for years, just like many other big keyword domains, and we’re not the only owners. In fact, How to Start a Blog has probably had dozens of owners over the last couple of decades. It worked for them, and it’s working for us.
In many cases, premium domains will be sold based entirely on their SEO value, with the owner paying no heed to the website that is attached to it. If you want to buy your way to success, then this is what you should focus on.
Some domains won’t be attached to websites at all. In fact, many high quality domains that are listed for sale simply point to domain auction pages. You will pay a lot of money for these, but they will be worth it. Your URL will play a huge role in your Google rankings, so by purchasing a big domain that has your keyword, you’re getting off to a great start.
the easiest way to buy your way to success is just to purchase an established website.
There are also other ways that your money can help you:
- Endless Content*: Good content, and plenty of it, is what most successful sites are built upon. Most bloggers work alone, and because they’re not professional writers, they produce very little content. As a result, the majority of blogs will publish 1 post per day at best, and may struggle with 1 per week. If money is no object, you can afford to hire several writers, paying each of them to produce good-quality SEO articles everyday. If you hire several writers and they all work to this level, then your site could publish half a dozen quality articles a day. Not only that, but many writers who make it to the highest level will already have a strong fan-base and a strong internet presence. So, if you give them all a bio (making sure your site pops up when someone Googles them) and an incentive to promote their pieces through social media, you can benefit from additional direct traffic.
- Social Media: Facebook is brilliant if you have a little money. You can setup something known as a Facebook Pixel, which combines elements of targeted advertising with analytics. You can then create campaigns to drive likes to your Facebook page, campaigns to drive readers to individual articles, and campaigns to drive traffic to your website. The pixel will monitor all of this and will help you to keep an eye on that traffic, to send repeat adverts their way and, eventually, to convert them into leads, whether in the form of paying customers for your product or service, or long-term website visitors who bookmark your site. There is also a paid ad option on Twitter which works in a similar way, but is a little less effective in terms of spend vs results.
- Guest Posts: Let’s be honest, it takes a lot of time and effort to get guest posts, and if the only thing you have to offer the sites is free content, then you can pretty much rule out the biggest sites. However, if you have a little money to throw around, your site can receive instant “dofollow” links on the internet’s biggest URLs, from Forbes to the Huff Post. You can use middlemen to do this, or you can save a few bucks by going direct to the contributors. Of course, for this to work, you have to limit yourself to blogs and to sites that allow “dofollow” contributions (which rules out Buzzfeed), but there are many big sites that fit the bill.
- PR Campaigns: So, what if you want to get on sites that don’t allow contributions? Well, there is a way. If you signup with a PR Firm, they will be able to make the connections. They will create a story (whether it’s a truthful press release or a fabricated PR stunt) and they will pitch it to the biggest newspapers, tabloids and news sites. You would be surprised at how many newspaper stories are PR, the result of someone throwing money around and getting exactly what they paid for. These stories are great for hard-to-acquire backlinks, but they can also generate huge exposure. As an example, a close friend of How to Start a Blog recently got a story onto a major online tabloid. The story was a seasonally relevant article that mentioned his website and secured him a backlink. But 150 million people visit that website every month, and over 1 million read that article and saw his site/blog. He paid good money for it, but he got a return that helped his blog in terms of SEO, exposure and visitors, not to mention the knock-out effects from aggregate sites republishing that story and from bloggers blogging about it.
- Prominent Listings: How many times have you seen a list of “The Best Blogs” on a certain topic and thought to yourself, ‘What was their criteria for choosing those blogs?’ Well, in some cases, it has nothing to do with quality or popularity and everything to do with how much money they have. That’s not always the case, but there is usually some financial incentive hiding behind even the most innocent of lists. And then you have the big ad campaigns that feature on news sites. Take Buzzfeed, for instance. They work with many big companies and create a wealth of content for each campaign. If you have ever seen the Buzzfeed posts that end with an ad or are based around a certain product, then you have seen these yourself. These provide great exposure for blogs and websites, but you’ll also pay a lot for it. We tried to contact Buzzfeed to enquire about this and they told us that a customer needed a budget of at least $100,000 before they could look at creating a campaign.
*It’s worth noting that there are ways to get endless content even if you don’t have a budget. For instance, you can use Media-Wiki as a base for your site. To begin with, you can put a lock on all content and make sure that only you and your writers can create and edit. But as your website grows, you can open it up to anyone who has some free time, effectively creating your own Wikipedia. Forums work in much the same way, as do community sites that ask members to provide opinion pieces, fan-fiction and other content. But in all cases, you need a popular site, so it’s a catch-22.
I Have a High Bounce Rate
Google has changed a lot over the years, learning to focus on quality content and to send the spammers further down the pecking order. One of the biggest improvements was its focus on sites with a low Bounce Rate. Simply put, this is the average time that a user spends on a website, and the higher this is, the better that website is likely to be.
If a website is filled full of ads and focuses only on SEO and not on good content, then it may attract visitors through Google, but they won’t stay for long. As a result, it will slip down the rankings and eventually disappear altogether. And rightly so, because that leaves more room for sites with good content.
Of course, a high bounce rate isn’t always down to poorly written content. You also need to make sure that you have something visual to attract the eye. If readers see a wall of text then they’ll get bored very quickly and might even click-off before reading any of it.
So, make sure you include images and videos in your article, and if it’s a long article, include several of them, preferably one for every major header. You can also use headers, footers and sidebars–anything to break up the page and keep the readers interested. Don’t overdo it though. Modern internet users don’t have patience because everything loads quickly. So if your site hasn’t fully loaded within a few seconds, they’ll give-up.
Shorter paragraphs also work, as do extra headers and sentences that make a user want to keep reading. So, in the first paragraph, entice them with a promise, a secret or a reveal. Try to leave your readers on a cliffhanger at the end of a section and use one sentence paragraphs that keep them on tenter hooks. So, if you’re writing a guide with many secrets and tips, you can break up long paragraphs and sections with “And what’s the secret? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out” and “Want to know what it takes? We’re about to tell you”.
It may sound odd, and it doesn’t always make for great writing, but 99% of readers who are preparing to close down your website will continue reading at that point. As a result, just one or two sentences like that could add several extra seconds onto your bounce rate average.
Google has changed a lot over the years, learning to focus on quality content and to send the spammers further down the pecking order
Chapter 12: Resources
There are a great number of tools, websites and tips out there that can help you with your blog. This is one of the biggest online guides on the subject of How to Start Your a Blog, but this is an ever-growing subject and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. So, in this chapter we’re going to dig a little deeper and provide a little more assistance with everything from getting ideas for your articles to staying up to date with the latest Google algorithm.
We have already discussed how you can use Google Keyword planner to come up with some keywords to use in your article. A lot of this process relies on a little creativity on your part, but what if you’re drawing a blank? Even if it’s not happening right now, it might happen as you progress. After all, you may feel like you have a glut of ideas when you’re just starting out. But once you’ve written a few hundred of those articles, it’s natural for those ideas to dry up.
There are a few things you can do to keep the ideas coming and to ensure you don’t get stuck in a rut:
- Idea Generator: It may sound a little odd, but there are programs out there that can generate blog ideas for you. In many ways they work like an extension of Google Keyword Planner, only they are a little more specific. Hubspotis Blog Topic generator is a good example of this. You just need to input a few simple words based on your intended audience and your subject matter, and then let the algorithm do the rest. You’re probably not going to get the perfect blog title from this. But you can use it to form the basis of an idea, before expanding upon that idea with a Keyword Planner tool.
- Competitors: Your competitors are a good source of keywords and ideas. Take a look through their site and see what they are posting. Just make sure that you don’t blatantly rip off their titles or any of their content. You can also use some SEO tools to get an idea of what keywords your competitors are using. SEMRush also lets you see the top keywords that a particular site is using, and if you narrow it down to that site’s article page, you get get an idea of the specific keywords that are working for them.
- Trending: Whether your site is topical are not, you can’t beat a trending article to give your site a boost. This is especially true if you have signed up to several social media accounts. Just click onto Facebook or Twitter and look at what’s trending. You’ll find a mixture of topics that have been trending for a matter minutes or hours, and ones that have been trending for a day. You need to move quick in either case, writing an article based on those topics and then posting it on social media with the relevant trending hashtags. This is easy if your blog posts general content. It’s a little more difficult if you’re focusing on niche content, but there is always a way of spinning it. You just have to use you imagination. For instance, if you run a financial blog and want to post about a trending celebrity, focus on their business ventures, their previous failings (bankruptcies, etc,) or their estimated worth. If it’s about a sports team, you can discuss their wage bill; if it’s about an event, you can discuss how much that event is likely to earn for the organizers and/or how much of an impact it will have on the local economy. There is always an angle, always a way to use those trending topics to write a quick article and get a big social media boost.
- Google: All major search engines have a predictive search string built into their searches. This is the thing that pops up when you begin to type a query. It can provide an amusing insight into the human condition (try Googling “is” followed by a random celebrity to get an idea of how bizarre the general public is) but it can also give you some article ideas, and ones that have some big SEO potential. For instance, if you run an entertainment site you might decide to run a few articles on Netflix. And as soon as you type “Is Netflix” or “Why Netflix” you’ll instantly get a number of great potential article titles. Generally, anything phrased as a question that contains a keyword relevant to your niche will work. Whether you’re typing, “Are Manchester United?” for a sports site or “Are Credit Reports?” for a finance site.
- Quora: Question and answer sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers can also be a great source of ideas. Whether you’re writing about the absurd questions and answers that people give, or whether you’re using them to pick-out potentially strong keyword articles, there is a lot to be gained from these sites. They are so often overlooked as a source of article titles, but I can think of many successful articles have written that were formed after spending some time researching these sites. It’s best that you are acquainted with them before you begin, but once you know your way around, you can use the search bar to search for a keyword and then see what comes up. For instance, if you punch the keyword “Credit Reports” you’ll find people asking everything from “Why Are Credit Reports so Essential?” to “Can Credit Reports be Faked?” both of which would make for great article titles.
Question and answer sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers can also be a great source of ideas.
Where to Find Writers, Guest Posts and Backlinks
We have discussed ways that you can hire writers, designers and more already. But we have yet to break the top of the iceberg on this subject. Below you will find a number of links to platforms and classifieds that you can use to find writers, designers, coders, backlinks, guest posters, and even PR companies:
- Upwork: This is the biggest freelancing portal out there and it should be your first stop when you’re looking for quality writers and other freelancers. You can also use it to find guest posters. Just create a job seeking backlinks and then sort through the quotes that you get.
- Guru: A somewhat stripped down version of Upwork, Guru is a little more user-friendly to begin with, but it’s also smaller and there are fewer contractors and freelancers. This is especially good for designers, but not for writers.
- Freelancer: This can be a nuisance to navigate and there are a lot of pitfalls. However, it’s a decent platform if you are a client seeking designers or coders. Just don’t work here if you’re a freelancer yourself.
- Fiverr: Get anything done for a fiver. Simple but genius concept. Just remember that good writing and good SEO costs money and avoid any backlinks, guest posts or anything along those lines, as it’s all cheap and nasty. Instead, use this site to get a little exposure, to get a logo, to get some quick editing or to find a virtual assistant.
- PeoplePerHour: This site is like Fiverr, except there is no ceiling on the price. This opens it up to higher quality freelancers, which makes this a great place to find quality guest posts and backlinks.
- Carters News Agency: This is a PR company that can help to spread your message in the UK. They work with many big tabloids, helping you to sell a story of your creation (with some links back to your blog) or to create one for you. The beauty of UK PR companies like this is that they are often cheaper than ones in the US. However, the sites they target are just as big, and if those sites publish your story, then there’s a good chance it will be picked up by many US-based ones as well.
- Craigslist: This classifieds site is a hub of horror stories, because there is no shortage of “quirky” individuals. But the same can be said for any large community that lets people post their requests. It does have its uses though and although good freelancers are hard to find on here, they tend to be cheaper.
Don’t forget, you also want writers to volunteer to write for your site, whether because they want a guest post or because they want the writing credits. You can use some of the above sites to sell guest posts if you have an established site, but it’s easier just to wait for them to come to you. Create a page called “Write For Us” and use this as your keyword for the page. Make sure you get it in there a few times and that you create a few hundred words of content. Include a contact form, publish the page and link to it on your homepage.
Most freelance writers use the term “Write For Us” to find work, and even if your site is not yet popular, you will still attract potential contributors to this page because many writers search by results from “Last 24 Hours”, “Last Week” and “Last Month” so they can get new opportunities as soon as they arise.
Scholarship Amount: $2500 USD
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 Awarded: The Start of Every Financial Quarter (2017-2022)
Deadline: Applications are accepted year-round
Who Qualifies?: High-school Seniors attending school in America
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 explaining how they think blogging will impact the future of the digital age and working in America.