For those of you that have signed up for my email updates, you might have noticed that as part of my welcome email, I ask two questions:
- What is your biggest blogging struggle or challenge right now?
- What is the primary goal for your blog?
The most common response I receive for #1 is – “Not sure how to start a blog” and the most common answer I receive for #2 is “make money“. While I couldn’t find any recent numbers, in 2006 a new blog was created every half a second. That’s over 63 million blogs a year in 2006, and I can imagine the numbers are significantly larger here in the 2013.
People around the world, like you, are looking to learn how to start a blog and make money. The good news is that it can be done, the bad news is that it takes dedication, hard work and a little knowledge. Blogging certainly isn’t easy, but you can earn an income blogging and blogging is incredibly rewarding.
I’ve started more than 20 different blogs over the past 7 years and many of them earned money. Some of them, like this one, earn a decent income. I can help you with the knowledge part, but it’s up to you to find the dedication and put in the hard work required.
Trust me, if I can do it, so can you. This article will teach you how to start a blog and make money.
This article contains affiliate links. Affiliate links are links that take you to a product or service, and if you purchase that product or service, I receive a commission. There is no additional cost to you AND I only recommend products that I personally use and have bought myself – You have my word.
What should I blog about?
People tend to make this question far more complicated than it really needs to be. So complicated in fact, that many people wanting to start a blog get stuck here, and never start a blog! Deciding on what to blog about is really pretty easy, and to stimulate a few ideas, ask yourself these three questions:
- What topics do I enjoy and know a little something about?
- Is the topic sustainable?
- Are others interested in the same topic?
First and foremost, if you are going to start a blog, you absolutely need to start a blog on a topic that you are interested in and enjoy. Why? Because you’ll need to be writing on that topic often and for a long time in order to make money. So be sure the topic is something you are passionate about.
Next, be sure the topic is sustainable. This basically means that you can think of lots of topics to write about and for at least a months if not years. A good test is to see if you can very quickly write down 50 article ideas. If so, you’ve found a sustainable topic. Go ahead and do that, you’ll use the list later.
Assuming you’re passionate about the topic and the topic is sustainable, ask yourself this:
Are others also interested in and passionate about the topic?
If so, than you have an audience. If you aren’t sure about others being interested or not, do a little research using Google trends, and see what the search volume for the topic looks like. The larger your audience, the more readers and traffic you will get. More traffic equates to more money.
LongTail Pro (affiliate link) is also an excellent tool for doing research and determining what topics people are using Google to search for. LTP will also give you insight into the topics level of competition too, which is valuable. LTP is also an investment that you’ll find yourself using often as you look for article ideas and for building out additional blogs and websites in the future. Definitely well worth the money spent.
As part of choosing a topic, now would be a good time to start thinking about and maybe even writing down a vision and plan for your blog.
Choosing a blog name
With a topic in mind, the next thing you’ll need to is choose a name. This is often the hardest part for me. Here are some guidelines for choosing a blog name:
- Unique – Make sure you really research this. Worst case scenario is spending a year or more growing your blog, only to find out you’re being sued for trademark infringement.
- Easy to remember – I recommend keeping your name to no more than 4 words, and preferably 3 words or less. Anything longer is too hard to remember. Use simple and easy to remember words as well.
- Make it meaningful – Avoid boring names. Things like “Being Successful”, “Making Money”, or “Leadership Basics” are boring and don’t excite a web user to click through. Simple and clear is good, but find a way to “jazz it up” a bit and make it unique.
- Can you think of a logo for it? – Having a simple logo to go along with your blog’s name is critical for establishing your brand. Make sure you can come up with a few ideas for a simple logo to compliment your blog’s name. A logo can be a picture, text or a combination of both. Having a logo helps with establishing a recognizable brand.
- Ask your friends – Once you have a few candidate name ideas, bounce them off your spouse, significant other and some friends. See what they think.
- Don’t over think it – Don’t over think it, just pick one of your ideas and move forward. Honestly, if you spend more than a few hours or even a day coming up with a name, you’re spending too much time.
We’ll discuss domain names a little more below, but a domain name is the website name people will enter in the address bar of their browser. For example: sideincomeblogging.com. You will need to reserve a domain name for your blog. Use your name or some very close version of it. Try to get a .com, but if you can’t no big deal. .Net, .co and many other options work just fine. There used to be advantages to one over the other, but not anymore. Most people remember .com a little better, so that is always the better option if you can get one, but if you can’t, no big deal.
Assuming you have a good topic and a name for your blog, it’s time to register a domain name and establish hosting.
In a nutshell, the way the web works is like this: when you visit a site like sideincomeblogging.com, your browser routes that request to a computer on the internet called a server. That server contains all of the code for your website. That server responds to the web browser and returns the page that should be shown. Under the covers, all computers and servers on the internet have a unique address called an IP address (yes even yours). Domain names, like sideincomeblogging.com are used to keep people from having to memorize IP addresses. Domain names are automatically converted to IP addresses under the covers so we as web users don’t have to worry about it. If your curious, special servers called Domain Name Servers (DNS) do this.
As I mentioned, your website runs on a server. There are many options for the type of software you can run on your server to host your blog. I would strongly recommend WordPress. WordPress is the most common software package used for running blogs, and the best part is it’s free. Most hosting companies have WordPress auto install features that allow you to install WordPress to your server with just a few clicks. WordPress is fairly easy to use and learn, and works really well.
Hosting companies are companies that have tons of servers, and will lease one to you on a monthly basis for a small fee. For good basic hosting, usually less than $25/month. When working with clients, a common response I receive at this point is something like “Well, I’m starting a blog to earn money, because I don’t have any. I can’t afford $25/month”. If you follow the steps in this article, and really put an effort in, you can earn enough to cover that $25/month in less than 3 months.
Your website is the foundation of your online business, and you should never compromise on a spending money on a quality and reliable host.
If a small expense like this is stil an obstacle for you, use Blogger, a free blog service from Google. There are some trade-offs, as nothing is really free, but Blogger is an option for people without the money for hosting. You can always migrate to a WordPress later once you have a little income.
Back to hosting for WordPress. There are numerous hosting companies and each has it’s own set of pros and cons. I always recommend
HostGator or Bluehost (both are affiliate links) to my clients.
Update 5/3/2016 – I no longer recommend HostGator or Bluehost, or frankly any company run by Endurance International Group (EIG). Over the past few years, they have been acquiring great hosting companies, and based on my personal experience, within a few months, the level of service provided by these hosting companies goes considerably down. Based on numerous recommendations, I moved all of my sites to Traffic Planet Hosting about 4 months ago, and now recommend them. I’ve found their performance, customer service, and reliability to be excellent. They aren’t the lowest cost option, but the few extra dollars are money well spent. They even include automatic backups of your site!
Traffic Planet Hosting is inexpensive, easy to use and provide excellent service and support. They also both offer seamless upgrade options for when your website begins to grow beyond the capacity of the starter plans. In either case, start your blog off with the least expensive plan.
Set-up is easy, and will take you less than 1 hour.
Choose a WordPress Theme
One of the really slick features of WordPress is that it’s themable. WordPress allows you to select and install a theme that changes the look of your blog, without changing the content or basic layout. There are numerous WordPress themes available, some free and some at a cost. I highly recommend using one of the Genesis Child themes (affiliate link). Genesis child themes are what I use on all of my new sites. Genesis is fast, customizable, SEO optimized, and very well supported. Genesis is well worth the money spent.
Write Blog Content
Remember that list of 50 article ideas I told you to make earlier? Time to pull it out. Before we launch your new blog, I recommend writing and publishing 10-15 articles that are each a minimum of 500 words. So get writing. Once you have 10-15 articles you’re pretty proud of, you can move to the next step.
For some tips on writing your articles, read these:
- Write your first blog post
- Finding your blogging voice
- How to format a blog article
- Optimize your articles and blog for search engines – Search engine traffic is a critical ingredient for earning money from your blog.
Monetize your blog
The number of ways you can monetize your blog are almost endless, and new options come out almost every single day. Discussing each of these options just isn’t feasible, but I will address the “big hitters”. These are the ones that most bloggers have immediately success with.
But first, you have to address the question of when you want to monetize your blog. Some people start from day one, while others wait until they have some traffic and readers. There really is no right answer here and the choice is really up to you and what you feel comfortable with. Personally, I’ve done it both ways and generally now start from day 1. Why? Because I don’t want to surprise my readers all of the sudden with ads, and I like to start earning money as soon as possible. Sure, maybe it’s only a few cents, but cents add up.
The two main ways to monetize your blog are by using Adsense and Affiliate offers.
Adsense is an ad service from Google, that allows you to place ads on your blog. Google Adsense will read your page, and place ads that it thinks are relevant to your blog in those ads. Adsense is highly effective and can earn you a large amount of money. I say can, because in order to earn a decent amount, you have to have a lot of traffic. Read more about how to monetize your blog your adsense.
The second monetization option is by using affiliate offers. Affiliate offers are providing my companies that either provides services or have products. If you refer your blog visitors to the companies product or service, and the visitor buys, you receive a sales commission. This is done using special links called affiliate links. Like adsense, earning money from affiliate offers requires lots of traffic or a large mailing list. Read more about affiliate offers.
Again, these are just two of the main options for monetizing your blog. Others include:
- Link based ad units like Kontera or Infolinks
- Private ad sales where you sell ads directly to advertisers
- Sell information products like eBooks.
- Provide consulting and services like I do.
- Develop a product and sell it, like a WordPress plugin or an iPhone app.
Two monetization options I would highly recommend you avoid are text links and paid posts. Both of these are discouraged by Google and can result in your blog being negatively impacted by Google. Just say no.
Also, constantly tweak and change your monetization strategy and ads. Constant tweaking and tracking of those changes will allow you to highly optimize your site so it earns the greatest amount of money it can. Don’t be afraid to try things and keep your advertising options diverse.
Market your blog
Alright, so your blog is up, you have at least 10 great articles published, a nice looking theme, and your monetization is in place. Now it’s time to begin marketing your blog.
Traffic to your blog will come from three primary sources:
- Search engines
- Social Media
- Direct Traffic
Search engine traffic is traffic from Google that occurs when someone clicks on one of your articles listed on a Google search results page (SERP). You get search engine traffic by writing great content that provides value to people AND is search engine optimized. Now, doing both of these won’t suddenly generate a huge rush of traffic. It takes time. So be patient and keep writing.
One highly effective way to market yourself and your blog (aka your brand) is to be active on Social Media. I’ve covered social media and blogging in depth in prior articles I’ve written:
- The power of Facebook and social media
- Marketing and promoting your blog
- How to kill your blog by over promoting
- Increase Facebook likes to your page
Bottom line: Being active on social media is critical to the success of your blog. The trick is finding the best place to spend your time. The best place is the social media sites that leads to the greatest amount of converting traffic, with the least amount of effort from you.
Lather, rinse, repeat
That’s it. I just shared with you the fundamental basics for how to start a blog and make money from it. The most important aspect of running a successful blog is providing high value content. Write content that people are looking for and need. Make it your primary focus to provide the highest quality content possible. Doing so will bring people to your blog.
People => ad and affiliate clicks => income.
Also remember that blogging is a long way from a “get rich quick” strategy. Blogging is hard work that often requires an extensive amount of time to earn any substantial income. It could take 6-months, a year, or maybe even 2 or 3 years before you begin to earn more than a few dollars a month. This is why I emphasized passion so much early on.
Finally, I have a series of articles called Start a Money Making Blog that goes into far greater detail on each of these topics. I would highly recommend you read though it and bookmark it for future reference.
Good luck! I know you can do it. Feel free to ask any questions by posting a comment below or contacting me directly.