Congratulations! You’ve finally decided to start your own blog. You’re on the path toward creating a successful online business with a website that perfectly reflects your brand, brings in revenue, and helps with search engine optimization.
The hardest part about blogging is finding the time and the ideas you need to do it consistently. Getting started, however, is fairly easy.
To get started, you need to identify a niche for your blog. You need to find a lucrative niche, one that has a large audience – and an audience that has enough buying power. In other words, if your target audience can only afford low-ticket products (under $50), it will be difficult to take your blog earnings to the next level.
Ideally, you should try to find an audience that you can sell both low-ticket and high-ticket products and services; for example, offering high-end consulting services to businesses. This is especially important if you want to keep growing your blog and improve your earnings.
Your niche should also be something that you’re familiar with; a topic that you’re knowledgeable about (and prepared to constantly learn more!).
So, think of your skills, your passions, your hobbies, your past jobs and once you’ve got some ideas of topics for your blog, start researching the potential of that audience:
- Look up popular blogs in that niche and check their websites to see what products and services they’re selling: if they’re successful and selling a combination of both low-ticket (like selling an online course, for example) and high-ticket products (such as consulting services), then you’re definitely on to something good
- Make a list of keywords that people would use to search for a blog like this; then, use the SEMRush keyword research tool to look up these keywords and find out what their search volume is (ideally, look for keywords that generate upwards of 50k average monthly searches).
- long keywords – or phrases – like “how to create an app” will help you get in relevant search results and get more targeted, organic traffic
Lets get started with blogging
To get started, visit BlueHost and sign up for a Basic Plan for just $2.75 per month. This is the best web host for beginners, and the easiest way to get a great blog up and running. That price is for a three year plan, but it is the best deal by far.
Set up your account. When it asks you what you want to add on, choose domain privacy and protection.
To build the rest of the website you’ll need to:
- Install WordPress. It’s a one-click install with Bluehost, and it’s where you’ll actually be blogging.
- Choose a theme. These designs determine how your website will look.
- Start blogging. Let your ideas flow in a consistent writing schedule.
If you want to make money, the steps are simple from here: Find your first customer, then your second customer, then your third customer, then your forth…and so on.
Now let’s dive into the blog-making process.
Step 1: Find a blog idea
This is the most important step for your blog.
Choosing your blog’s topic (or niche) determines the rest of the website’s future. This is what you’re going to be writing about and — hopefully — making money from.
The good news: There’s practically an audience out there for every single topic you might be interested in.
BUT there are some topics that tend to perform better than others. You need to find the topic that both appeals to a big audience while appealing to you.
To find the perfect blog niche, you’ll need to answer two questions:
1. What am I interested in?
What topic do you love? What are you obsessed with?
This is the basis of your blog niche. After all, if you don’t love the topic, you’re not going to want to write about it day-after-day.
To help answer this question, we suggest looking at several areas:
- Talents. Is there something you’re naturally talented at? Maybe a sport, game, or musical instrument.
- Expertise. What skills and knowledge have you built up over the years? Maybe there’s something you went to school for that you can write about now. Think academic subjects or skills like languages and car repair.
- Career. Your current career can be a fantastic place to write about. For example, if you’re a developer for a startup, you can start blogging about front-end development or the tech industry.
- Hobbies and passions. Is there a topic you just love learning about? Think about the things you do in your free time. Maybe it’s reading books, or working on your fantasy novel, or repairing that old car in your garage. This can be great topics to write about in your blog.
2. What are other people interested in?
You need to find out what other people are interested in as well. Otherwise, you might find yourself with a blog that doesn’t draw in a lot of people.
For example, you might think that a blog all about how wonderful your dog is is super interesting — but is that going to draw in a lot of people?
On the other hand, a blog about how to take care of and train dogs appeals to a much bigger audience of readers.
You need to take your personal interest and find a way to make it universal. Think aback to how you initially gained interest in the topic. How did you gather expertise in the topic?
Think of all the questions and confusions you had when you started out and what helped you gain expertise.
To help, here are a few popular categories that always do well:
- Personal finance
- Online business
- Real estate
- Test prep
Tip: Use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to see how often people search for a specific category or niche. It’ll reveal what people are and aren’t interested in.
Step 2: Find the perfect domain name
Now the fun part: choosing your blog’s name. For this, I have good news and bad news.
- Bad news: Most of the very “best” domain names are already taken. The Internet is decades old. Makes sense.
- Good news: That doesn’t matter because we’re going to find the best one for you.
Here are a few good rules-of-thumb to keep in mind when choosing a good name:
- Keep it short. Don’t force potential visitors to have to type a bunch of words to visit your website. We recommend no more than 14 characters.
- Choose a .com, .org, or .net. These are the easiest ones for people to remember.
- Easy to spell and pronounce. You don’t want to spell it out constantly for people when you mention your blog’s domain.
- Avoid numbers and hyphens. Not only does it look clunky in the URL but it’s also difficult to type out when you add hyphens.
- Use your name. It’s pretty likely that your name is available as a domain. That makes it the perfect choice for a personal blog. I’ll speak more on this later.
When you come up with a domain you like, head to BlueHost to see if it’s available using their domain tool. If it is, great! If not, you now have two options:
- Search until you find an available domain. I highly recommend you do this until you find a domain that’s available. If you’re going to write a blog, sharpen your synonym skills by searching other words and phrases that might be available. Trust me. As a working writer, this is a VERY crucial skill.
- Purchase a domain name. While it is possible to buy a domain from someone who already has it, that’s an advanced option and can get expensive fast. Low-quality domains will usually go for a few thousand dollars. Highly quality domains that are two words can easily go for $10,000 to $50,000. I’ve even been in discussions to purchase domains for over $100,000 and the really hot ones can break seven figures. Not to mention all the hassle that comes from finding the person who owns the domain, negotiating with them, and transferring the domain if you even reach an agreement.
Your best bet is to keep going until you find a domain that you like and can purchase directly from a domain registrar for about $10.
Using your name as the domain
If this is your first blog and you’re not completely sure what you want to blog about, I recommend that you use your personal name.
The reason is that changing your domain later will mean that you have to start over from scratch. There are a lot of mistakes in blogging that can be corrected later; having the wrong domain isn’t one of them.
Let’s say you pick a domain like fitnessfordoctors.com. Then after six months, you realize you’d rather be doing personal finance blogging for doctors. You’d need to get a new domain and start over from scratch.
Personal domains are much more flexible — it’s just a name after all. So if you jump categories after a few months, it’s not a big deal. Take down any old content that’s not relevant with your new direction, start posting new content, and you’re good to go.
That said, personal domains have two major downsides:
- Scalability. It’s much more difficult to recruit other writers or grow your blog beyond your personal identity later on.
- Profitability. Personal blogs, even if they’re generating serious cash, are much harder to sell. Prospective buyers want a site that isn’t dependent on a single person.
However, these are pretty advanced problems to have. If this is your first blog, the benefits of using your name as the domain greatly outweigh the costs that only show up down the road.
TIP: Pick a domain name and run with it.
While it’s important to pick a good, brandable domain name, the most important thing to do in this step is to make a decision and go. You don’t want to be stuck in the dreaded state of “paralysis by analysis.” Instead, just choose one based on the system above and run with it.
Step 3: Sign up for BlueHost
A web hosting provider offers server space to host your website. This is where your website “lives.”
People who visit your website do so through this server. It’s one of the most important elements of your website and we recommend BlueHost
For your first blog, you want a host that is popular, trusted, easy to use, reliable, and reasonably priced. No need for anything fancy.
Step 4: Install WordPress
Your website needs a content management system (CMS). This allows you to create and manage blog posts.
There’s only one option for this: WordPress.
Seriously, just use WordPress.
That’s because it’s easily one of the most powerful, easy to use, and customizable CMSs out there.
WordPress powers 30% of ALL websites. That’s how popular it is.
Use WordPress for your blog, end of story.
Because of how popular WordPress is, most web hosts offer a one-click install for WordPress. It’s super easy.
Of course, you might want to use a dedicated blogging platform like Medium or even LinkedIn. There are a few good reasons to go with a blogging platform. However, we generally recommend owning your own platform. That way you have fuller control over who your audience is and what you get to write.
Step 5: Pick an eye-catching WordPress theme
It’s very easy to change your site’s look and feel with WordPress.
The best part: No coding knowledge required.
That’s because WordPress uses “themes.” These are little packages of code that can be swapped in and out. Whenever you change your theme, your site will also change but your blog content stays the same.
This makes it very easy to evolve your site over time without having to rebuild your entire site from scratch.
For now, you’ll need to pick your first WordPress theme.
When picking a theme for any of my blogs, I go straight to Themeforest. The themes are affordably priced at $25 to $59.
StudioPress was purchased by WP Engine and WP Engine now includes all the StudioPress themes as part of its hosting package. It’s a nice freebie if you are already planning on hosting your site with WP Engine.
Themeforest is the most popular WordPress theme marketplace. You’ll find just about anything you want in its selection.
After you purchase your theme, log into your WordPress blog, go to the Theme section which is under Appearance in the WordPress sidebar menu. Then follow the instructions for adding the theme.
You’ll have to upload the theme files to WordPress and activate the theme from within WordPress. You can find the upload option by going to Themes > Add New, a button towards the top. Then you’ll see this option to upload:
Step 6: Install WordPress plugins
One of the best parts about WordPress is that it’s infinitely customizable. Since it’s open-source, you can change it to do whatever you want.
The easiest way to make changes is with plugins. Plugins are little batches of software you can install within WordPress to get extra functionality. This is how you’ll add a bunch of extra features to your site without having to code anything yourself.
Some bloggers will install dozens or even hundreds of plugins on their blog. That can cause a bunch of problems later on so make sure not to install too many.
Step 7: Set up your email list
Every marketing engine I’ve built for companies has relied on emails at its core.
And there’s a good reason for that: Email lists are the best marketing tool. Period.
Think of your email list as a giant laser ray you can focus on any offer you want. Selling consulting? Pitch your list to the reader.
Publishing a new blog post? Pitch your list at the bottom of the blog post.
A podcast just interviewed you? Pitch your list to the podcast’s audience.
Of all the marketing channels that have come and gone over the years, nothing compares to the power of a high-quality email list.
Even if you’re not sure what to send your email subscribers, that’s okay. The important thing is you start gathering a list of subscribers and build the foundation early.
Using Constant Contact or other email marketing services, start collecting emails on your blog so that the list is ready for you as soon as you need. It takes time to build a decent size list so your future self will be extremely grateful if you set it up now.
Even a super basic opt-in in your blog sidebar is enough to get you started.
Don’t even worry about sending any emails yet unless you want to. The main thing is that you’re collecting email subscribers from the beginning. Email lists can be a gold mine once you have a few thousand subscribers, and the money really rolls in once you have 10,000 subscribers and above.
Step 8: Pick a blogging frequency
Writing blog posts isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Actually, it’s more like a multi-day backpacking trip.
The best bloggers settle into a consistent writing pace they can maintain for a few years. That’s right, years.
Here are a few posting frequency to follow:
- At the bare minimum, find a way to post once per week. This needs to be a substantial post, too: 2,000 words at least. I recommend you start here.
- Serious bloggers will post 2-3 times per week.
- Larger sites quickly get to 5-7 posts per week. This requires multiple authors.
- The heavy hitters who push things to the limit will do 25-50 posts per week. No joke, this is for large businesses using content marketing as their primary customer acquisition channel. HubSpot is a classic example of this.
A few takeaways: 14% of bloggers post monthly. But let’s get real, monthly isn’t really consistent enough for your readers to anticipate a new blog post from you.
If you post weekly, you’re already posting more regularly than 37% of other blogs — this gives you a huge advantage.
TIP: Start posting at least once a week.
Step 10: Build an audience
There’s a super famous article in blogging circles: 1,000 True Fans.
Basically, getting 1,000 true fans means you can fully support yourself. You can quit your job, work from wherever you like, and be in complete control of your life. All from hitting a very reasonable goal of 1,000 true fans.
With blogging, you’ll build your audience of 1,000 true fans slowly and consistently.
As long as you keep at it, you will get there. Typically, it takes a few years.
TIP: Use this system to get 1,000 true fans.
Here’s what to focus on in order to get 1,000 true fans faster:
- Always post at least once per week. Never skip a week.
- Start posting 2-3 times per week if you can.
- On every post, push on quality as hard as you can. Google the topic and see what other people have done, then ask yourself how you can write something even better.
- Write stuff that hasn’t been written to death already. Find a new take or perspective on your topics that other people haven’t already covered.
- Find your voice and be authentic so people can get to know you. This builds connections with your audience faster. A quick hack for this is to pretend that you’re writing your posts to a close friend.
- Allow your readers to comment.
- To push even harder, get active in other online communities. Post in Facebook groups, subreddits, on Twitter, do podcast interviews, get speaking engagements when you can – anything and everything. Be as helpful as you can be in these communities.
- For all of your content, constantly ask yourself, “How can I make this as valuable as possible?
Step 11: Monetize your blog
There are three ways blogs make money.
Yes, only three. They are:
- Infoproducts. Online courses, webinars, e-books, etc.
- Affiliate programs. You work with a brand to promote their products and you get a cut of any sales.
- Freelancing and consulting. You use your blog as a platform to find clients and customers for your own services.
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