This website is devoted to the online blog. And more specifically, to your online blog. Our goal is to help you setup an online presence and to turn that virtual footprint into a career. It may sound far fetched. After all, isn’t blogging just a way of telling a few random strangers what you had for lunch, what you think of the latest trending news story and why you love Nutella so much?
Well, that may define a blog for a select group of people, but that’s not what a blog is to us, and it’s not what the vast majority perceive either. Put simply, a blog is a “website or web page that is regularly updated, is run by a single person or a small group, and is written in an informal tone”. Think about that for a moment. How many sites that you visit on a daily basis fall under that description?
Blogging has been around since the dawn of the internet and it is one of the few trends that has never gone away. It has survived through the social media age, the Youtube age and the mobile age, and it will continue to thrive regardless of what the next trend is. Do not worry about “missing the boat” because that boat has been docked on the shore for over two decades now, and it will remain there for many years to come.
There are many guides out there that will help you to create your own blog. But this guide is bigger, better and much more comprehensive. It will cover everything you ever wanted to know about the subject. It will guide you through every setup, every installation; it will help you to find your niche and to create content; to establish your presence on Google; to set up affiliates and start earning money; and much more.
What follows is the ultimate guide on how to start a blog.
Why Start Your Own Blog?
There are many reasons to start your own blog. In our opinion, the best answer to the question of, “Why would I want to start my own blog?” is “why not?” It’s not something that takes up a lot of your time; it’s not something that costs a lot of money. However, it is something that can generate a lot of profit, respect, status and fulfillment. 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 sizable paycheck.
Ways to Make Money With Your Blog
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:
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…
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 sizable 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 11: 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.