Follow this guide on how to start a blog to build your work from home blogging business to thousands a month
I struggled for more than a year with the idea of starting my own blogs. I had done enough research to know how to start a blog and the commitment it takes to make money blogging. I finally started my first two blogs late 2014…I wish I had started much sooner.
Since launching those first two sites, I’ve started three other blogs. I made just over $10,000 from the first two blogs in 11 months to February 2016 and that’s just from about 15 hours a week. Not only are the blogs a source of income from affiliates and advertising, they’re critical marketing tools for my books and courses.
I’m happy with my progress so far but it’s just the start of what’s possible in blogging. I know bloggers that have had their site for just a few years and are making nearly $10,000 a month. One influential blogger I follow makes more than $30,000 a month!
The huge potential for making money on a blog and using it as a marketing tool for your other work from home businesses is tempered by the work and commitment needed to be successful. I won’t lie to you, it takes a few months to start a blog and build it to more than a few thousand visitors a day. Sometimes it will feel like you’re talking to yourself but stick with it and it’s all worth it.
The best time to start a blog is before you want it to start making money. A lot of your visitors are going to come from Google search and it takes time to build your search ranking. Even if you don’t have much time to spend on your blog right now, consider starting it now and just posting once a week. Just spend five hours a week as a hobby and don’t worry about making money or blog traffic. When you’re ready to really start making money, you’ll already have huge search rankings and lots of monthly visitors to get you started.
The upside to the work and time to start a blog is that it’s one of the least expensive ways to make money. I’ve included my link to Blue Host WordPress Hosting which will get you a discount deal for a free domain and monthly hosting for just $3.49 per month.
Click here to get this deal from Blue Host. Then follow the tutorial below on how to start a blog.
Why BlueHost to start your blog? BlueHost is pretty much the go-to hosting service for beginning bloggers. It’s easy to use and provides the best discount deal in hosting. By clicking on the link above you get a free website name, easy site building tools, a money-back guarantee and hosting for just $3.49 per month. You’ll have everything you need to run the whole blog on less than $45 a year.
Why not start your blog for free on Blogger or Blogspot? Because you can’t control the site. The blog provider is going to be running advertising and making money off your site. You also won’t have access to the blogging tools you need to be successful.
If you’re not sure how to start a blog and ho you can make money blogging, take a look at some of my income reports. Besides the money that comes directly from my blogs, my other work from home jobs like self-publishing and freelancing have benefited from the blogs as well.
BlueHost isn’t the only webhosting service. I know other bloggers that have recommended GoDaddy.com as well. Check out some of the offers but most new blogs start with BlueHost for a reason.
Once you’ve registered your domain and signed up for hosting, it’s time to get started.
How to Start a Blog Table of Contents
Picking and Registering your Domain Name
How to Start a Blog and Install WordPress
Getting the Perfect Blog Layout with a Theme
Using Plugins to Start a Blog without being a Techie
How to Start a Blog Post
Getting Google Love for your Blog
Taking your Blog Viral with Social Media
Blogging Rules to Live By
Picking and Registering your Domain Name
Your first job in starting a blog is to pick a domain name which is just the name of your website. This is more important than you might think. It’s tough changing your domain once you’ve started and it’s an important factor in ranking on Google. Use the keyword research ideas later in this post to find domain name ideas that get a lot of monthly Google searches.
Picking the domain for this blog, I knew I wanted to tap into the “work from home” search traffic. I looked at more than 30 different combinations of things like work from home and work at home, finally finding a combination that described the site and looked good for search.
- Stick with the standard .com name unless you run a charitable organization, in which case .org works just as well
- Check out a search site like Instant Domain Search to make sure your site name is available or to get ideas on a name
- If your ‘perfect’ domain name is taken, try adding things like “a”, “the” or “my” but I would stay away from hyphens
- Simple and easy to remember is the key
You can register (buy) your domain name from a number of sites but it’s best to register with the company that’s going to host your website. Register with Blue Host and you’ll get your domain for free, a savings of $15 annually.
BlueHost offers three packages with extra features on the plus and pro packages. Really the only consideration that would change the package you need now is the number of sites you plan on launching. I started with two blogs so signed up for the Plus package but most people will only need the Basic package to get started. The $3.49 per month deal is only available on a 36-month signup but the 12-month package is just $4.95 per month, so still a pretty good deal. BlueHost runs one of the few truly money-back guarantees in hosting and you can cancel at any time to get a pro-rated share of your money refunded.
How to Start a Blog and Install WordPress
BlueHost just keeps your site on its servers and delivers it to readers, WordPress is the behind-the-scenes tool you’ll use to run your blog. To start your blog on WordPress, go to the cPanel in your BlueHost account and scroll down to the MOJO Marketplace.
- Click on “One Click Install” and then on WordPress
- When choosing your username and password for the WordPress site, don’t use “Admin” or a username that includes your name. Blogs are a big target of hackers and one of the most common ways they get in is through common usernames.
- The URL for WordPress will be your domain plus wp-login.php, http://yourdomain.com/wp-login.php make sure you bookmark this and write down your username/password because you’re going to be using them a lot.
Getting the Perfect Blog Layout with a Theme
The theme of your blog is just the layout, where things show up and the overall design. Themes can change the number of columns, display content different places and even make your blog look better on tablets and smartphones.
There are a few free themes available on WordPress but they aren’t as attractive and are not responsive for different sizes of devices. A responsive design, one that changes according to the device size, is important as more people surf the web on their tablets and phones. Google will punish your site and lower its search ranking if your blog isn’t responsive to different devices.
I started all my blogs on a Genesis framework available on StudioPress. The site offers a huge selection of themes and developers. You only have to buy a theme once and you can apply it to however many blogs you own.
You can also get a custom theme from a developer on DesignCrowd. The site is a freelancer platform for getting design work from digital developers to logos and graphics. It takes less than five minutes to describe your project in a request and set your budget. Within a few days, you’ll get dozens of design ideas from different developers or designers. You choose the best one and work with the developer on specifics. I’ve used the site for logos and some custom infographics.
If you have a developer design your theme, they’ll upload it to your website as well. It’s not too difficult to do yourself or you can outsource the work to a developer from Upwork even if you didn’t have them design the theme.
- Login to your WordPress admin area and click on “Appearance –> Themes”
- Click “Add Theme” and then “Upload Theme”
- Most downloaded themes will come in a zip file. Upload the entire zip file and click “Activate” when the theme uploads
- Depending on your theme, you may have more options to customize when you activate it.
Using Plugins to Start a Blog without being a Techie
Plugins are tools for your blog created by tech people because…you’re not tech people. There are hundreds of thousands of plugins that will let you do everything from decrease the time it takes your blog to show up on someone’s screen to showing the most popular posts in a feature box on your site. Plugins are indispensable.
You have to be a little selective though because having too many plugins will slow down your site. You shouldn’t have to worry about it much unless you have more than 20 or so plugins.
Most of the plugins you’ll need are free though many will offer extra features for a price. I only use four paid plugins compared to 16 free plugins. To find a plugin, go to “Plugins” on your WordPress menu and then search for a specific plugin or for a topic.
A few of the plugins I use:
- Akismet – this one comes preloaded on WordPress blogs and will save you a ton of time with spam comments. It automatically weeds out spam comments and will notify you when a legit comment needs approved.
- Broken Link Checker – Nothing is more annoying than clicking on a link in a blog and going nowhere. These broken links will also hurt your search ranking as well. The plugin notifies you when a link isn’t working. Activate it for a weekend once a month to find broken links then turn it off because it constantly runs and will slow your site down otherwise.
- EWWW Image Optimizer – Images will slow down your site so use this plugin to optimize the file size for fast site loading.
- WordPress Popular Posts – this is one of my favorite plugins to show a list of posts in a feature box. You can set it to show posts from a specific category or all posts by popularity. It’s a great way of showcasing your best stuff.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – another must-have plugin that will give you hints on how to improve your search ranking for each post.
- Genesis Responsive Slider – this is the plugin I use to show the sliding posts on my blog page. I like the dynamic movement of a slider, a great way to get readers’ attention on different posts.
- Shareaholic – is the plugin I use for social sharing. It puts the floating buttons on the left of the screen so people can share posts with their friends.
- OptimizePress – is a paid plugin to design landing pages. These are special pages to sell products, get signups and really focus on a specific message.
- Sucuri Security – is website protection against hackers, malware and a bunch of other problems that can break your site in an instant.
- UpdraftPlus – will back-up your blog files so if it ever crashes or something happens, you won’t be scrambling and wondering what to do.
Installing plugins is pretty simple. When you’re searching for new plugins, check out how many other people have downloaded it and when the last time it’s been updated. I wouldn’t use a plugin that hasn’t been downloaded by at least a few tens of thousands, just to make sure it’s been tested by a lot of users.
WordPress will notify you when an update is ready for a plugin. You should wait a few days after an update is ready before you update yours. This gives other (unlucky) users time to test the update for any problems.
Once you’ve got your plugins installed, you will want to finalize how your site looks by managing widgets. Widgets are just tools that let you place a plugin or item in a certain place on your blog. Go to “Appearance” and then to “Widgets.”
Moving these widgets around and customizing them is also pretty easy. You will place them in different spots of your website. The widgets are shown on the left half of the screen and you have website areas on the right side. You just drag a widget to that area and it will show up as a dropdown item, i.e. the Text widget in my Header Right section. By clicking on the dropdown for the widget, you can customize how it shows up on the site.
I like to include WordPress Popular Posts and a User profile at the top of the Primary Sidebar (the right-hand column of the site). That showcases some of your best work for visitors and introduces yourself.
How to Start a Blog Post
Once you’ve got everything set up, you’re finally ready start blogging! This section and the next are going is your new best friend. I’ve seen blogs that have been around for years that aren’t using some of the ideas below…and are paying the price in low blog traffic. Follow the ideas below and for a head start on getting people to visit your blog.
Getting your post on your blog is pretty easy, just go to “Posts” and then “Add New” in your WordPress menu.
One of the most frequent questions I get from new bloggers is how do I come up with new post ideas every week. I’ve been blogging and writing freelance since 2011, most of that time writing upwards of 20 or 30 pages a week. The best way to get new blogging ideas is to spend half an hour or so every day reading other blogs and news. You’ll need to read other blogs as a way to build relationships with other bloggers anyway.
Actively reading everyday will provide ideas of things to write about. When you get an idea or see a topic you like, jot down the idea and a few key points. A big part of being a successful writer or blogger is to have a process that makes everything go faster. Whenever I get an idea or go to write a blog post, I start with a rough outline of key ideas. Having an outline and the key ideas really helps when you go to do the actual writing.
When you do sit down to write a post…just write it out. Don’t worry too much about it being a perfectly crafted Pulitzer-worthy post. Just write out a paragraph or two for each key point. Too many new bloggers spend hours on a single section or paragraph, worrying too much about their rough draft. Make sure you copy the URL website address for any facts you come across because you’ll want to provide links in your posts if readers want more information. Once you’re done writing out a rough draft, you can go back through to make sure it flows well.
It’s a little superficial but people decide whether they’ll read something based on the title. Put together at least five title ideas for every post before you decide on the best. What titles always seem to attract your eye? Consider title themes like surprise, humor or disbelief. Numbered lists always work well but you don’t want to do more than every few posts.
How long should your articles be? I managed a couple of blogs that had been posting for six years with barely 1,800 visitors a month. Compare that with one of my blogs that reached over 10,000 visitors after six months. Among other things, a lot of it was because of post length. Most of the posts on the other blogger’s site were under 300 words and were absolutely worthless in the eyes of Google.
There’s some debate about whether Google will even rank your post if it’s under 300 words long but there’s no question that super-short posts won’t bring you many readers. In fact, research on the average word length of first-page Google results shows an average well above 2,000 words. Longer posts are more likely to have a lot of detail that people will share and link to fro other sites. Longer posts will also give you a better chance at ranking for different keyword phrases.
Now every post you write can’t be thousands of words long, it would take just too long to write. I try writing at least one long-form post a month, something with lots of detail and search value. For the rest of my posts, I’ll aim for between 700 and 1,000 words. It’s still enough to get in some good detail but won’t take you more than an hour or so to write.
Adding images is important for readers and for SEO purposes. For readers, images help break up long reads and help with visual information. We’re not talking about just adding any old image but ones that add to the content. When you go to add an image to your post, make sure you save the file name with the keyword in it.
When you add the image into the post, through the “Add Media” button, you’ll see boxes along the right side of the screen for title, caption, Alt text and description. These are things that Google will see when it sees an image in your post. You don’t necessarily need a caption but must have a title, alt text and description. The Alt Text and Description should be a sentence or two and should include keyword phrases.
When you insert the image, make sure your keywords have been populated into the “Alternative Text” and “Image Title Attribute” boxes by clicking on the image and editing it.
Before you hit publish on your post, you’ll want to assign it to a category. These are the main topics you regularly write about on the blog. Assigning posts to categories helps readers find their way around to more articles of interest. I like including a category list in my sidebar and on the blog page so people don’t have to look too hard for something else to read.
You’ll also want to add three or four tags to your post. These are other keywords and phrases that relate to the post.
One of the last things you’ll do when you write a post is to write the meta-description. This is what people see under your title when they search on Google, so make it descriptive and interesting. If you’ve got the Yoast plugin, you’ll get a handy box at the bottom of the WordPress post page to put in your description. It should be at least 120 characters but less than 160 words.
You can either publish a post immediately or schedule it to post in the future. I write up all my posts early and then schedule them in advance. It helps to make sure you keep a regular posting schedule even if something comes up.
Getting Google Love for your Blog
Search traffic is going to be the majority of visitors to your blog, most of it from Google. Most blogs I’ve seen get between 50% to 75% of their total visitors from Google search. While Google doesn’t share its computer program that determines search rankings, we know a lot of the biggest factors.
Many of the biggest ranking factors start with what’s called on-page search engine optimization (SEO), things you do in each post you write.
One of the most frequently missed is using H-tags in your posts. H-tags are a way of formatting words so they stand out to readers and Google. For readers, H-tags make sentences stand out with bolding. For Google, H-tags mean that something is important and includes the key topic or idea in the post or in a section.
Every post should have a headline, designated with either an H-1 or H-2 tag. These are the most powerful tags and should only be used once in your post. Each section of your post, where you talk about new key points, should be designated with an H-3 or H-4 tag.
Internal and external linking is also an important way to build SEO power. Linking is when you highlight a word or phrase and then link it to another website or page. External linking, where you refer to data or detailed info on another website, helps your readers find more information about a topic. Research has also found that Google sees external links to high-quality sites as a sign of credibility for your page as well. Each post should have at least one external link but shouldn’t have more than a few, except in the case of roundup posts.
Internal linking is when you link to another page on your own site. Besides helping your readers find more information and find their way around your site, it also helps Google find its way around the site and determine what pages are important for which keywords. Each post should have at least one or two internal links.
Keywords…I could write a book on keywords and many people have. When you type something into Google, that’s a keyword or keyword phrase. The blogs and sites that show up first did keyword research and a lot of SEO to get those posts to rank so highly.
If you’re not quite sold on the importance of SEO and ranking highly on Google, check out the graphic from Chitka research. It shows the percentage of clicks that each result gets according to its ranking in a Google search.
The #1 spot on Google gets, on average, 33% of the search traffic and if you’re not on the first page…forget about it!
It all starts with drafting your post. The best way to make a post really stand out for a keyword is for that keyword to be natural to the post. Once you’re done drafting the post, think about what the post is about and use a keyword density tool to find which ones already show up.
Starting your keyword work like this, writing up the post first, means that your keyword and related keywords are going to show up naturally. Ranking factors for Google include the keywords themselves, related-keywords, the distance between keywords, and a host of other things that make just stuffing a keyword into a post the wrong way to rank.
Once you have a few ideas for what keywords you might want to use, it’s over to the Google Keyword Planner. If you are still not sure about keyword ideas but know the topic of the blog post, type it into the “Search for new keywords” tool. The easiest way to use the information is to download it into an Excel spreadsheet then sort by “Avg. Monthly Searches” from high to low. The spreadsheet will help you with keyword phrases related to your topic. Pick one that has more than 500 monthly searches but a competition score less than 0.90 if available.
If you’ve already got a list of keyword ideas, use the “Get search volume” tool to see how many monthly searches each gets and their competition scores. The keyword phrase you choose might not necessarily be the one with the most searches but the one that is not too competitive and still has high search traffic.
Instead of just using one narrow keyword or two-word phrase, make your post keyword a phrase of three words or more. It would be great to rank for a single keyword that gets hundreds or thousands of searches a day but these are actually a small part of overall searches, around 20% of Google searches. Think about how you search. Do you search for one or two words or do you search for a longer phrase?
You’re more likely to rank a post for these long-tail keywords because there will be less competition. You’re going to be writing hundreds and even thousands of posts over the years, using longer phrases for your keywords means you won’t repeat them and you will rank for more searches.
Check out your keyword phrase on Google. Are the top ten search results super famous websites like Huffington Post or Forbes? What are your chances of ranking among these sites? Choosing a keyword phrase that you can rank in because of lower competition is just as important as choosing a phrase with lots of monthly searches.
Once you know the keyword you want to use for the post, it’s time to go back through and optimize your post for the phrase. The idea is to show Google that this keyword phrase is important to the post’s topic so include it in all the key places that Google looks.
- Include your keyword phrase in the main headline and as many of the section headings, with H-tags of course.
- Include it in the image file name, alt-tag and description.
- Include it in the post’s meta-description
- Include it in the post title and URL
- Include it in the first and last paragraph of the post
When you are trying to rank a page for a specific keyword or phrase, try getting links either from other websites or internal links on your blog with that keyword phrase linked. This tells Google that the page is important for that keyword. The best way to do this with external links is to write a guest post for someone and include that link in the content of the post.
Taking your Blog Viral with Social Media
Social media is like the Holy Grail for getting blogging traffic, many people believe in it but I’m not sure it actually exists. You’ll get good traffic from social sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter but probably not as much as you think.
The graphic is from Shareaholic research that shows average traffic to blogs from social media sites. While about a third of blog visitors come from social media, almost all of it comes from just two sources, Facebook and Pinterest.
Don’t get me wrong, you can have huge social media days where your traffic spikes from a mention by another blogger. These days are awesome and you’ll be hoping to have the same success every day but it just doesn’t happen on average.
So the idea is to spend time getting your posts on social media but not to spend so much time that you’re disappointed when visitors from social traffic aren’t the massive flood you were expecting. One of the best ways to do this is through a social media management tool like Hootsuite. Hootsuite Pro allows you to link up all your social media accounts and schedule tweets or posts to go out ahead of time. Not everyone is on Twitter or Facebook at any particular time so you need a constant flow of updates and content going out, something that’s pretty much impossible without a social management tool.
In fact, research shows that the average life of a tweet is less than 18 minutes. That’s the time it takes for your tweets to get buried until nobody sees them. Facebook posts and posts on other sites live a little longer, upwards of a few hours, but you need to be sending out multiple updates a day.
You need a Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest page for your blog. You’ll post to these every day, whether you’ve got a new post on the blog or not. I avoided Pinterest for a long time thinking that my personal finance theme wasn’t visual enough for the site. Big mistake! In less than three months of using a solid Pinterest posting schedule, I was getting more than two thousand visitors a month from the site. I know bloggers that get hundreds of thousands of visitors from Pinterest every month, way more than they get from any other social site.
Besides keeping a constant stream of your own posts showing up on social media, you need to do one more thing to be successful…be social. Commenting, liking and sharing other bloggers’ posts on social media is the best way to get on their radar and to get them to share your blog. This is called “content curation” and helps you build a name as a great source of info with your readers as well. You’re not just endlessly spamming out your own stuff but being a source of quality content, no matter where it comes from on the net.
If you’ve ever written for someone else, or just handed in a school paper, you’re going to love having your own blog. Instead of turning something in only to see it cut to shreds by an over-bearing editor or sit on their desk forever, you can write what you want and when you want. That said, there are still a few blogging rules you’ll want to keep.
- Don’t steal posts. Copying parts or a whole post from another website will be discovered. There are plugins that will alert people when their post is copied and Google is very good at finding duplicate content. Not only is it illegal to copy someone’s post but the search ranking for your whole site will be lowered.
- Don’t libel or print false information about someone or some company. This is going to open up legal problems you can’t afford. This includes just stating your opinion. I know a blogger that is being sued for comparing a popular multi-level marketing company to a pyramid scheme. You don’t have to stay silent but tread lightly when your post could cause someone serious financial or reputational hardship.
- Understand fair use of images. Never use a picture that is copyrighted or that you do not have the right to use. If you are looking for images to use for posts, make sure you are searching within Google for “creative commons” which means that they can be used without permission.
If you’re still with me, you’re probably committed enough to start your own blog. Blogging is easy to start but you’ll need real commitment to stick with it until it starts paying off. This post just covered how to get started blogging. We haven’t even started talking about how to make money including affiliates, advertising and sponsored posts. Stay tuned for everything you need to make your blogging business successful.