My Ultimate Guide
Welcome to the Successful Blogging guide on how to start a blog and make money.
This page is your starting point, designed to nurture you towards three key goals. These are:
- To successfully create and launch your blog
- To grow your audience through valuable, actionable content they’ll love
- To monetize your blog
If you want to know more about me, Sue Anne Dunlevie, your host and founder of this blog, you can do so by viewing my About Page or come and have a chat with me at one of these places: Twitter; Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook.
More information and resources:
I’ll make sure to give you further study options, reading materials and/or tools in each section, in order to give you an advantage to starting your blog.
Shall we begin?
Forward: What You'll Learn
How to lay the foundation for a strong and successful blog
Step One: Website
How to set up your website with your own domain, hosting and email provider
Step Two: Setting Up Your Site
Getting the best domain name, installing WordPress and picking a theme that converts visitors to subscribers
Step Three: Creating Content
Defining your audience and deciding what problem you solve for your readers
Step Four: Attracting Traffic
Marketing your content through emails, social media and simple SEO
Step Five: Making Money
The four best ways to monetize your blog
Step Six: Automate and Outsource
Resources, tools and other automation and outsourcing advice
Making money through your blog may sound easy. Let’s face it, we’re bombarded by blogs, links and newsletters stating how this person ‘made a six figure income’ or how that person ‘lives from the income their blog generates’.
The thing you need to remember however, is that it takes hard work, dedication and patience.
It won’t happen overnight.
You need to lay the foundation, build your blog’s scaffolding and furnish it before the money starts to come in. So here’s what you’ll learn by reading this:
- Which hosting service to choose for your blog and finding a mailing list provideryour blog and finding a mailing list provider
- How to set up your website, including choosing your domain, installing WordPress, choosing a design and installing a theme
- How you go about creating amazing content, defining your audience and providing value
- Sourcing traffic, optimizing your content and email marketing
- How to make money from your content, from your skills and from your own knowledge
- How to semi-automate the process so you can free up your time
I’ll be with you every step of the way, offering you my thoughts, insights and guidance. I’ll be there to urge you on and show you that you can do it. It simply requires some work, like all good things.
Before you start thinking about what to call your blog, what your topic is going to be and the kinds of content you’ll be creating, it’s best to consider two key things that are vital to your success.
Your website host and mailing list provider.
Everything you do in your blogging journey will hang on those two things.
A good web host needs to be able to handle the traffic you’ll be generating. It needs to be fast, easy to use and quick to set up. Forget about price for a moment and focus on quality.
Your blog is going to be a source of income – it needs to be reliable and accessible .
I recommend BlueHost when you are first starting out just for this reason. (Please note: a few of these links are affiliates which means I will earn a small commission if you buy the item, with at no extra cost to you.)
Similarly your mailing list provider needs to be equally reliable.
Many people may say that email marketing is dead – this couldn't be further from the truth. Your mailing list will be a vital source of targeted traffic and monetization, which you can tap into in an instant.
Finding a great provider for your email marketing, will make sure you deliver consistent, high quality results over and over.
I use GetResponse due to its reliability and how easy it is to use. I've tried two other email providers and GetResponse is the best, in my opinion. Some people prefer to use aWeber – they are a reliable email provider but I found it harder to learn how to use them.
Niche Further Reading:
- How To Start A Blog: How to set up your hosting account with your own domain
- 51 Steps To Launch (Or Relaunch) A Hot Blog: a popular post that has helped quite a few women start their own blogs.
Your next step towards monetizing your blog, is to get things setup. A great blog with the potential to make money doesn't just need to be strong, sturdy and reliable.
It needs to look and sound great too.
First let’s look at your domain name.
An ideal domain name should:
- Roll easily off the tongue – it needs to be easy to say, to spell and to type
- Be memorable – it might be tempting to go for something long and detailed but keep in mind how memorable that will be to your readers. A shorter, snappier URL is much more likely to be remembered
- Reflect your topic – think about what you’re going to be writing about. If it’s about blogging, consider incorporating that word into your URL somewhere. This will make it easier to find and will give readers an idea of what they’re likely to expect.
I use Namecheap to register all of my domains because they give you free “WhoIs” for your first year and it's very easy to set the name servers (sounds technical but it's really easy).
Once you’ve bought your domain, you’ll need to add it to the hosting package you chose to host your website. You should receive an email from your domain provider with instructions on how to point your domain to your host’s servers. These emails are usually to-the-point with clear, step-by-step guides on getting you up and running.
If you’re still stuck however, there’s plenty of guides on BlueHost as well as YouTube, if you have chosen a different host.
With your hosting package and domain sorted, it’s time to actually build your blog.
There are many blogging platforms out there to choose from – I list 10 of them here – Where To Start A Blog: 10 Blogging Platforms For First Time Bloggers- however I’ll always use WordPress.org as my number one choice due to its versatility. Therefore for this guide, that’s what I’ll be working with and we’ll start with installing WordPress onto your website.
Dependent on what hosting provider you use, your WordPress installation should be pretty straight forward. Most hosts these days will offer a one-click install of the WordPress software and will email you instructions on how to do this.
If you settle on using BlueHost for managing your website, I've written a helpful step-by-step guide you can use to get up and running.
We’re at the really fun stage of your blog creation process here. This part is all about getting the look and feel of your blog just right.
WordPress is incredibly easy to design with and make your own. There’s some fabulous websites out there build on the platform that look amazing. Yet we’re not all creative geniuses, so it’s perfectly okay to buy a theme or pay for someone else to design it for you.
For awesome WordPress themes, you’ve got plenty of options:
- ThemeForest is a marketplace that caters to web design. You’ll find many themes there that you’ll instantly want to use.
- StudioPress is a site that deals exclusively with WordPress Themes built for the Genesis Framework. I dare you not to fall in love with these. This is what I use.
- Plus WordPress.org itself has an archive full of free themes that you can use, if you want a basic setup.
To get a theme custom designed or tweaked, consider the following places:
- Fiverr – this site is full of talented graphic designers and artists who will take on a project for as little as $5
- eLance features thousands of freelancers offering a range of services including web design
- Alternatively you could look within the marketing and design community for bloggers who offer design services to their readers.
Step 3: Creating Content
When you begin creating content for your blog, the key thing to remember is your audience.
At the very front of your mind should be the people you’re writing this content for. Who are they? What problems do they have? What questions are they asking? What are their pain points?
Only after you know what their problems are, can you provide the solutions.
Craft your content around those problems and then provide a thorough, detailed blog post that covers the solution – how your reader can overcome it.
An example of this in action might be:
A blogger you follow on Twitter, is struggling to come up with good headlines for their posts. So you decide to create an article with multiple resources and approaches that the blogger could take to craft punchy, attention grabbing headlines.
They have the questions – you provide the answers.
But you can’t just go willy nilly with your content. You need to remember to keep it relevant to your audience. There’s no point writing about blogging, if your audience isn't made up of bloggers.
Which is why you need to define your audience first.
Here’s a few ways you can do this:
- Create personas of your ideal reader. Flesh it out with everything about this person and use it as a guide.
- Research where your ideal reader hangs out online and listen in on their conversations.
- Conduct a survey asking your ideal reader what they struggle with and write posts about the answers to their questions.
If you'd like more information on how to create compelling content, just click on the picture below:
With an audience ready to receive your content, you’re ready to create it. Here’s some further reading you’ll find useful:
- Writing Tips: 6 Effective Ideas Creating Amazing Blog Content
- Be Your Own Blog Title Generator: 5 Ridiculously Simple Ways To Improve Your Blog Titles
- Blog Name Ideas: Why Is Creating Headlines So Darn Hard?
- The Best Way To Start A Blog
Getting traffic to your blog might seem like a futile effort at first. You’re sending your posts out into the ether having put loads of time and effort into making them valuable, yet no one seems to be reading them.
This is where you need to start putting in more work.
Yes, you read that correctly.
I did tell you that it wouldn't be easy. The great news is that the hard work does pay off. You just need to have a little patience.
Your hard work at this stage will be in the form of marketing your content. You can do this in a number of ways but to keep things simple, let’s cover three ways to market your blog posts:
- Posting on Social Media
- Optimizing for Search Engines
- Email Marketing
Posting on Social Media
Social Media has the potential to open up your content to a whole tribe of interested people. With the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest, sweeping the world with their massive networking potential, it’s fairly easy to be found and heard.
However people are generally sensitive to complete self-promotion, so choose your strategy carefully:
- Market on platforms where your audience hangs out the most. If your content is heavy on tutorials and visuals for example, your best method for social media marketing might be Pinterest or Instagram, since this content does particularly well there
- Don’t just bombard followers with links. Choose catchy headlines, include hashtags where relevant and use eye-catching images
- Respond to every notification and mention you receive – carry on the conversation and create lasting relationships
- Share other people's content – this will open you up to reciprocal sharing and will put you in front of key influencers
Optimizing for Search Engines
As you start publishing more and more great content, you’ll begin to notice that you get traffic from search engines such as Google and Bing. This is generally called search traffic or organic traffic, because you’re essentially not marketing it – the readers are finding you instead.
To attract the right kind of readers to your content via the search engines, you’ll need to make sure your articles are optimized properly.
There was a time when this meant stuffing your blog posts full of keywords. Now, however, that’s not necessary. The emphasis is more on quality and value but there are still things you can do to encourage a better performance:
- Research keywords using sites like Google Keyword Planner to find out what people are searching for, in relation to your niche
- Add your keyword naturally into your post title
- Use your keyword sparingly within the body of your post
- Place your keyword in the title and alt title of any images you’re using within that post
- Use the keyword in your meta description (while this is no longer a factor in search engine optimization, it’s still useful to do this to prompt readers to click-through)
I mentioned email marketing at the beginning of this guide as a valuable source of traffic. Growing your email list can be as simple as adding an opt-in form to key areas on your blog such as your sidebar, across the top of your blog, after posts and as a pop-up.
Once your list starts to grow, you can begin sending your latest posts to your readers via email.
You might like to send your subscribers a weekly roundup of your best performing posts. Alternatively you might want to send an email every time you update. Whatever you decide, remember that people are inviting you into their inbox out of choice, so treat your subscribers as you would like to be treated yourself.
- Keep it personal by talking about your targeted readers' problem(s)
- Don’t just list out what they’ll read, show them how they’ll benefit from reading. What problem will it solve for them?
- Invite conversation by asking your list to get in touch if they have any problems
- Encourage users to unsubscribe. It might seem counter intuitive, but inviting people to opt-out of your list, will make sure the people left there will be the ones most interested in what you have to say.
With these key marketing strategies in place you’ll soon see your traffic increasing. Remember consistency is the key, regardless of how many times a week you post. Pick a day and time to post – a frequency you’re comfortable with (and I recommend just once a week) and consistently publish at those times.
Here’s some further reading on getting traffic:
- How To Gain Subscribers: 4 Ways To Get More Blog Subscribers
Let’s now look at what you’ve been waiting for – how to make money from your blog.
There are many avenues you can go down when considering monetizing your blog. I'll just discuss the ones that my clients ask about the most.
Advertising is one of the most common ways to monetize your blog and can come in various formats such as:
- Banner advertising – such as Google AdSense, Bing, Facebook and other ad platforms
- Sponsored reviews – whereby you’re paid to review a product or service in return to for you honest opinion
- Sponsored posts – in this instance a brand or PR will pay for you to write about their product or service and include a link back to their website (be sure to no-follow any paid links to stay within Google’s guidelines and best practices)
In all the examples above, it’s important to have a clear disclosure informing your readers of the relationship between yourself and the advertisers. FTC guidelines on sponsored content requires this as a legal obligation so as not to mislead your readers.
Affiliate marketing is another way you can earn money through your blog content.
This requires placing a banner or a link within a post / somewhere on your blog, which links back to a product or service. When someone purchases through your link, you’ll earn a commission.
There are many affiliate marketing programs out there. Some you might consider using include:
The key with affiliate programs is to just promote products you would endorse and actually use yourself. This gives you context and authenticity when you recommend them to your readers.
Don’t just promote just any old thing. Keep it relevant to you audience, your blog and your existing content.
Product creation is the process by which you develop and sell your own products. It can be a highly lucrative form of monetization, since you’ll be marketing your products to an audience that’s already interested in what you have to say. Further to this, they’ll be your own products – there’s no middle man taking an affiliate fee.
Here’s a few ideas for products you could create:
- eBooks – many bloggers use eBooks as a way of selling information. They can be published to Kindle, made available for many devices and can be as detailed or as simple as you like.
- Videos – create video tutorials and show your readers how to solve a problem they have.
- Courses – a course is a complete information package that promises to teach a “how-to” subject. Bloggers can make large sums of money creating and selling their own courses, it simply takes time and enthusiasm to get the ball rolling.
Again, keep your products relevant to your audience and your content to generate the best results.
Think of your blog as a broadcasting platform – every new reader is another potential client. When you start thinking like this, doors will open and new possibilities and opportunities will present themselves.
Here’s what you could offer as a freelancer from your blog:
- Copywriting services
- Blog design
- Content Management
- Business consulting
- Social Media strategy
The possibilities are endless!
For further reading on monetizing your blog, check out some of these posts which I think you’ll find helpful:
- Are You Being Conned? Fair Sponsored Blog Post Rates and Best Practice Guidelines
- How To Make Money Online
- Blog For Money: A Success Story With Yaro Starak
We've nearly reached the end of this guide. I hope so far you’ve found it useful, however there’s one last thing I want to talk about before signing off. It’s how to automate some of your blogging responsibilities to save time.
Because at the end of the day, running your own authority blog is a lot of work!
It’s also time-consuming – something you might struggle with if you have other responsibilities such as a family and a full-time job.
The good news is, there are ways you can make blogging and monetizing much easier.
- Outsource your content writing – hire a ghostwriter to create some of your content to free up some of your time. The work will be in your own name and a good ghostwriter will tailor the voice of anything they create to fit with your own branding
- Outsource your marketing – get a Social Media Manager in to watch and look after your social accounts. A few hours saved each day from content marketing is a surprisingly good amount of time to do something more important
- Use tools like Hootsuite to automate your Social Media broadcasts
- Use Evernote (my very favorite tool) to jot down your ideas for blog posts as they come to you
Here are some articles on outsourcing and automating that will help you:
- Marketing Strategies 101: The 6 Tools That Will Cut Your Work In Half
- How To Promote Your Blog: The Best Tips From Top Bloggers