Blogging for Dummies: How to Start A Successful Blog in 2020

Article by Jerry Low . .
Updated: Feb 19, 2020

 

Have you ever wanted to start your own blog? Or, do you already have a blog that you are unsure how to take to the next level?

If your answer is “yes” then this page is the place to be.

 

In this blogging guide, you will learn:

 

 

Why this blogging guide? A little bit about myself

 

I founded Web Hosting Secrets Revealed (WHSR) back in 2008, and thanks partially to a great welcome by the blogging community we have gone from strength to strength. Since then, WHSR has grown to become one of the Net’s leading sites for web hosting advice, and I have attracted to the brand some of the strongest voices in contemporary blogging – all of whom have fed their input into this book and the site, making it the go-to resource for anyone starting down the self-hosted blogging route.

With this no-nonsense guide, I will be providing you with some of the quickest, easy-to-understand and above all effective solutions to your blogging problems – culled from my own experience and from the minds of people who enjoy what they do.

My problogger author profile page
My author profile page at Problogger.net – I published regularly in a number of high profile blogger guide site between 2015 – 2018.

 


 

Chapter 1. Setting Up a Blog from Scratch

It's easy and cheap to start a blog in 2020.

The most popular blogging software, WordPress.org, is free. Professional developed WordPress themes and plugins are free. And there are literally millions of free tutorials to get you started (including this one). The only cost involved in starting a blog is the money you pay for a web host and domain name.

Sure, it could get very tricky in the later stage; but generally speaking, blogging is do-able for everyone who has a computer with an Internet connection. In fact you can actually create a blog and get it running in the next 20 minutes.  The steps mentioned in the following steps are exactly how I create my blogs in the beginning.

Basically all you need to do is:

  1. Select a good web host and domain name
  2. Point your domain DNS to your web host
  3. Install WordPress to your new web host (very easy using auto-installer).
  4. Login to your WordPress and publish your first post.
  5. And… that’s all.

Sounds easy? You bet!

I am going to walk you through the steps below. Feel free to skip to the next chapter if you already know how to setup your own blog.

1. Select a good web host and domain name

To start a self-hosted blog, you will first need a domain name and a web hosting account.

Your domain is the name of your blog. It is not something physical that you can touch or see; but merely a string of characters that give your website an identity – like the title of a book or a place. Your domain ‘tells’ your visitors what sort of blog that they are visiting.

Web hosting, on the other hand, is the place where you store your blog content – words, blog themes, images, videos, and so on.

 

Domain Names – Where to Register?

You can choose and register your domain names via a domain registrar. GoDaddy, NameCheap, Hover, and Domain.com are some of the most popular registrars on the market.

Note that it’s important to separate domain registration from your web host. Just because your web host offers a free domain doesn’t mean that you should let the hosting company controls your domain registration. Personally, I use NameCheap to manage my domain registrations; but any other reputable domain registrars should be just fine. By doing so, I am able to change my domain DNS anytime I want and avoid myself from being locked with one particular web host. I strongly recommend you to do the same for your own protection.

 

Web Hosting – Where to Host your Blog?

As for web hosting, check out my best web hosting picks and hosting reviews index.

For starters, I recommend to start small with a shared web host.

In shared hosting – Although the hosting resources are smaller compared to others (VPS, cloud, etc), you'll need less budget (often <$5/mo at signup) and technical knowledge to start. When choosing a web host for your blog, these are the five consideration factors:

  1. Reliability – Your blog needs to be stable and available online 24×7.
  2. Speed – You need a host that loads quickly because speed affects user experience and search ranking.
  3. Pricing – Hosting with <$5/mo is a good start, you don’t need a premium service at this stage.
  4. Room to grow – You will need hosting upgrades (extra features, more server power, etc) as your blog grows.
  5. Support – The Internet is ever-changing, it's always good to have someone to back you up on the technical side.

 

Recommended Blog Hosting for Newbies

 

1. InMotion Hosting

start a blog using InMotion Hosting
Host two blogs at InMotion Hosting for $3.99/mo.

Visit website: https://www.inmotionhosting.com/

InMotion Hosting is a web host that I’m willing to personally vouch for. They have several things that make them stand out from the competition, including their stable server performance (>99.98% uptime) and richness in features offered to basic starter sites. Best of all, their pricing is at a sweet spot for beginners.

 

2. Hostinger

start a blog using hostinger
Hostinger shared plan starts at just $0.80/month.

Visit website: https://www.hostinger.com/

Hostinger is one of the cheapest web hosts around, especially during the honeymoon signup period. Despite being a budget hosting company, Hostinger is offering tons of premium hosting features that are suitable for bloggers.

 

3. SiteGround

start a blog using SiteGround
SiteGround charges $3.95/mo for hosing one blog.

Visit website: https://www.siteground.com/

SiteGround is one of the best WordPress hosting providers and it’s recommended by WordPress.org. They offer a similar customized architecture for a site using WordPress as Bluehost (another web host that's recommended by WordPress.org) does, albeit at a lower price.

  Pro Tip: Just because a web host is popular, doesn’t mean it is best for your blog. Look at the hosting performance and review carefully before making a decision.

2. Point domain DNS to your web host

Next, you'll need to update the DNS record at the domain name registrar (where you registered your domain at step #1) to point to your web host’s servers (InMotion Hosting, Hostinger or SiteGround).

DNS stands for Domain Name System and it is used to direct any incoming user towards the IP address of the server. So, when a user enters “WebHostingSecretRevealed.net” the DNS records will fetch the IP address of my web host and serve my site to the user.

Pointing domain nameservers
Example: Pointing a website to InMotion Hosting nameservers at GoDaddy.

Here’s the step-by-step instructions on updating your blog DNS at GoDaddy or Namecheap.

3. Install WordPress to your web host

To start blogging using WordPress you will first need to install the system into your web host. This can be done manually, or automatically using a one-click installation app. Both methods are fairly simple and can be done easily.

 

WordPress Manual Installation

In a quick glance, here are the steps you need to do:

  1. Download and unzip the WordPress package to your local PC.
  2. Create a database for WordPress on your web server, as well as a MySQL user who has all privileges for accessing and modifying it.
  3. Rename the wp-config-sample.php file to wp-config.php.
  4. Open wp-config.php in text editor (notepad) and fill in your database details.
  5. Place the WordPress files in the desired location on your web server.
  6. Run the WordPress installation script by accessing wp-admin/install.php in your web browser. If you installed WordPress in the root directory, you should visit: http://example.com/wp-admin/install.php; if you installed WordPress in its own subdirectory called blog, for example, you should visit: http://example.com/blog/wp-admin/install.php
  7. And you are done.

 

WordPress One-Click Installation

Most bloggers nowadays do not install their WordPress manually.

With the support of one-click installation services like Softaculous and Mojo Market Place (depends on which web host you are using), the installation process is very straight forward and can be done in just a few simple clicks.

For your reference, the following images show where you can find the auto-installation feature on you Hostinger dashboard. To install WordPress, just click on the circled icon and follow the dummy-proof instructions – your WordPress system should be up and running in less than 5 minutes.

Hostinger WordPress auto installer
Example: You can install WordPress to your web host in just a few clicks using Hostinger Auto Installer (visit Hostinger here).

Things might look different for different web hosts but the process is basically the same. So don’t worry if you are not using one these hosts I am showing here.

Why WordPress?

Personally I think WordPress is the best blogging platform for newbies. Based on statistics from Built With, more than 95% of the blogs in United States are built using WordPress. Globally, there are almost 27 billion blogs run on WordPress.

4. Login to WordPress and publish your first post

Once you have got your WordPress system installed, you will be given an URL to login to your WordPress administrator page. In most cases, the URL will be something like this (depends on the folder you installed the WordPress):

http://www.exampleblog.com/wp-admin

Go to this URL and login with your preset username and password; and from there, you will now be at the back-end (dashboard) of your WordPress site – this is the part of the blog where only you as the administrator can access.

create new blogpost
Creating a new blogpost in the new WordPress Gutenberg.

The latest version of WordPress at this time of writing is version 5.3.2 – by default you will be using WordPress Gutenberg as the text editor. Gutenberg brings a lot of flexibility to the WordPress platform. This is especially useful for beginners since many things like setting background colors and more no longer require coding. The block system helps with article layout management as well.

To write and publish a new post, simple navigate to the left sidebar, click ‘Posts’ > ‘Add New’ and you’ll be directed to the writing screen. Click ‘Preview’ to preview how things look like on the front-end (what your readers will see), click ‘Publish’ once the post is complete.

Hola! You now have your first blog post published.

  Pro Tip: It is a good idea to bookmark your WordPress wp-admin login URL since you will be coming in here very often.

 


 

Chapter 2. Designing Your Blog Appearance

Now that we have the bare WordPress ready, it's time to take a deeper dive. Like all CMS, a WordPress blog consists of 3 main elements:

  1. CMS Core – the system that we installed earlier using auto-installer,
  2. Themes – the “front-end” of your blog, this is where you control how your blog looks like, and
  3. Plugins – add-on that gives you control and functions on your blog (more about this later)

To design or customize a blog outlook, all we need to do is to customize a set of PHP and CSS files that are usually located in /wp-content/themes/ directory. These files are separated from WordPress core systems and you can change them as often as you want.

Most individual bloggers do not create their own blog themes from scratch. Rather, what most of us do is to pick a ready-made theme (or a raw theme) and customize it according to our needs. There are endless numbers of beautiful WordPress themes around the Internet – a simple search on Google will lead you to millions.

If this is your first time establishing a WordPress blog, my suggestion to you is to start with a ready-made theme and tweak it along the way.

Here's where you can get ready-made WordPress designs:

  1. Official WordPress Theme Directory (free)
  2. WordPress Theme Clubs ($89/year – $400 one time payment)
  3. WordPress Theme Marketplace ($30 – $100 one time payment)

We will look into each option below.

1. Official WordPress Theme Directory

Wordpress theme directory

Visit: WordPress Theme Directory

This is where you can get all the free WordPress themes. Themes listed in this directory follow very tight standards provided by the WordPress developers, hence, in my opinion, this is the best place to get free, bug-less theme designs.

2. Paid WordPress Themes Club

Another way to get high quality paid themes is to subscribe to WordPress Theme Clubs.

If this is the first time you heard of Theme Clubs, here's how it works: You pay a fix amount of fee to join the club and you get various designs offered in the clubs. Themes offered in Theme Club are usually professionally designed and updated regularly.

Elegant Themes, Studio Press, and Artisan Themes are three WordPress Themes Clubs I recommend.

There are a lot more others out there – some clubs even cater to a particular industry, such as realtors or schools; but we will only cover three in this article.

 

Elegant Themes

WordPress paid theme club
Elegant Themes Samples – More than 80 premium WordPress themes, click here to view actual theme demos.

Visit: ElegantThemes.com . Price: $89/year or $249/lifetime

Elegant Themes is arguably the most popular WordPress theme club in the industry. With over 500,000 happy customers, the theme site offers over 87 beautiful and stunning themes to choose from. It also lets you download premium plugins that will supercharge your online business. The subscription on Elegant Theme is affordable enough. You can enjoy access to all themes on unlimited sites for $69/year. If you wish to use the plugins too, you must pay $89/year. If you love Elegant Themes, you might as well purchase the lifetime plan for a one-time payment of $249.

My experience with Elegant Themes was overall positive and I have no issue recommending them.

It is affordable and easy to use, and the customization options are pretty much endless. Whether you are a casual blogger or an experienced businessman, Elegant Themes is not only a great way to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your website, it also helps to make your site navigable and more user-friendly, which is good for attracting more traffic and boosting business.

 

StudioPress

studiopress themes
WordPress themes at Studio Press.

Visit: StudioPress.com . Price: $129.95/theme or $499.95/lifetime

If you’re a long-time WordPress user, then you’ve probably heard of StudioPress. It is popular for its Genesis Framework, the minimalist and SEO-friendly WordPress framework for all StudioPress themes.

StudioPress offers flexible pricing based on your needs. The Genesis Framework with a child theme is available for a one-time payment of $59.99. The premium theme, which includes the Genesis Framework, cost $99 each. If you want access to all the themes, you can pay $499.

 

Artisan Themes

ready made sites
Ready made sites offered by Artisan Themes.

Visit: ArtisanThemes.io . Price: $129 – $389/theme

Artisan Themes is not your usual WordPress theme club. Instead of downloading themes with pre-made layouts, this theme club lets you build a theme from scratch using over 20 modules (calls to action, tiled displays, portfolio elements, etc.).

You can unleash modules on its themes. Two of its most functional and contemporary themes are Indigo and Modules. Unlike other WordPress theme sites, you can only buy the themes individually for $129 each.

Ready Made Sites is perfect for people who don’t want the hassle of customizing a WordPress theme. Simply choose the theme that best describes your business so you can set it up in a matter of minutes. You can only use the Ready Made Sites if you have installed the theme from the shop as specified.

3. WordPress Themes Marketplace

WordPress Themes Marketplace is where you can choose and buy professional designed themes from multiple vendors. Because WordPress has such a big user base, there are actually a number of great marketplaces (and thousands of vendors and developers) to choose from.

For example, my personal favorite – Envato Market, offers large collection of premium WordPress themes neatly organized based on themes, date added, user ratings, and price.

where to buy wordpress theme
Envato Marketplace (previously known as Theme Forest) offers tens of thousands of professional-developed WordPress themes (visit).

 


 

Chapter 3. Adding Functionalities with Plugins

What is WordPress plugin?

A plugin is an add-on application that run on top of WordPress and add new features and functionality to a WordPress blog. There are more than 55,000 plugins in WordPress.org official plugin directory right now and tens of thousands more available in other market place.

Bloggers use plugin to add all sort of functions to their WordPress blog. For example, you can:

Essential plugins for WordPress newbies

In case this is your first time using WordPress, here are some essential (and free) plugins to begin with:

 

Plugins for security & spam protection

Akismet WordPress plugin

For security and spam protection – AkismetVault PressWordFence, and iThemes Security are the plugins that I recommend.

Akismet is one of the oldest plugins that come along with your WordPress by default. This plugin helps check all your comments against its service to see if they are spam. It collects all the spam and lets you review it under your blog’s ‘comments’ admin screen.

Vault Press, on the other hand, is a real-time backup and security scanning service designed by Automattic. This plugin gives you the functionality to backup and synchronizes all your posts, comments, media files, revisions and dashboard settings on the servers. WordFence and iThemes Security are plugins that combine all necessary WordPress security features. The main function of this plugin is to tighten a blog’s security without having to worry about conflicting features or missing anything on your site or blog.

Learn More: Here are a number of other simple things you can do to protect your WordPress blog

 

Plugins for better blog performance

W3 total cache WordPress plugin

When it comes to blog performance optimization, W3 Total Cache and Swift Performance are most popular options.

The two other performance plugins that you should also look into are Cloud Flare, and WP Super Cache. Cloud Flare is a free plugin provided by the CDN company, Cloud Flare; while WP Super Cache is developed by Donncha and Automattic, the company that developed and operates WordPress now.

A cache plugin is a must-have in modern blogging world – it improves the user experience greatly by increasing the server performance, reducing the time taken to download and increases page loading speed.

If your blog has lots of images in it – consider adding EWWW Image Optimizer. It is a one-click image optimizer that able to optimize the image files in your library. It also has the automatic image compression feature to reduce the size of images while uploading them. By optimizing images, you can reduce the page load times and result in faster site performance.

Learn More: 8 actionable tips to speed up your website

 

Plugins for search engine optimization

Yoast SEO WordPress plugin

Although WordPress is a SEO-friendly blogging platform, there is quite a lot more to do to improve your basic on-site SEO scores with the help of plugins.

WordPress SEO developed by Yoast and All In One SEO Pack developed by Michael Torbert are two very good additions in your plugin list.

Learn More: SEO 101 for first time bloggers

 

Plugin for Gutenberg blocks

Custom Gutenberg Blocks

With the introduction of Gutenberg editor in WordPress 5.0, bloggers can now create content using a block-based editor. By default, WordPress offers a set of basic content blocks such as a paragraph, image, call-to-action button, shortcode, and so on. By adding in Gutenberg Block plugins, you get to add more engaging elements (for examples – FAQ, accordion, author profile, carousel, click-to-tweets, GIF blocks, etc) to your blog.

Stackable, Ultimate Blocks, and CoBlocks are three easy and free Gutenberg Block plugins to try out.

 


 

Chapter 4. Finding a Niche and Creating Content

This is normally how a newbie starts a blog: they would write about their work on Monday, hobbies on Tuesday, movies they have watched on Wednesday, and political views during the weekends. In short, these people simply write on a wide variety of topics without a prime focus.

Yes, these blogs would accumulate a steady following among their friends and families; but that’s about it.

It’s very hard to have a significant number of loyal readers when you are blogging randomly because people will not know if you are a movie critic, food reviewer, or a book critic. Advertisers will also be reluctant to advertise with you because they don’t know what you are about. To build a successful blog, you need to find a niche.

How to choose the right blogging niche?

To find the right blogging niche, here are the key points to consider.

 

1. Fill a need

If you’ve ever thought “I wish someone would blog about this”, that’s the a-ha moment. If it is a topic that you’d like to know more about, then it is likely a topic that other people want to know about.

What is your unique knowledge? How can you provide something unique to the topic that no one else can? It could even be through an interview with an expert.

Example: Gina's blog, Embracing Imperfect, focuses in helping moms raising kids with special needs.

 

2. Something you are passionate about 

Remember that you will be writing, reading and talking about your topic every single day for the next few years. If you have no interest on your blog subject, then it would be very tough to stick around constantly.

Plus, you’ll enjoy writing on those topics.

 

3. Topic that has staying power (evergreen content)

While controversy is great, it doesn’t ensure that your topic will be here next week. For example, if you’re very passionate about Vine and start a blog centered on it, when that falls out of fashion you’ll be out of content. It’s better idea to focus on a more a general topic, such as “cutting edge social media trends” or “image apps that rock”. That way, if a fad falls out of fashion, your blog can still keep a lookout for whatever replaces it.

 

4. Profitable

Your blog needs to be in a niche that you can make money from.

Ask yourself if it is a topic that will attract readers and create income – whether through advertising or sales. If you are blogging to support your existing business, does the blog bring in new clients? If you are blogging just because you are passionate about the subject, is there a way to monetize your individual blog?

I use SpyFu, a Pay-per-click advertising tool, to estimate the profitability of a niche sometimes. My logic behind this – if advertisers are paying thousands of dollars to Google Adwords, there must be money to be made in this field. Here are two examples I found:

_niche2-monthly budget - sport appearels
Example #1: This is the advertising stats for a sport apparel manufacturer (think sport brands like Adidas or New Balance but smaller). This company was spending more than $100,000 a month on Adwords according to Spyfu.
Niche #3 - IT solution provider - a global market, most people who run a site will need them. There are 10 - 15 other big players in this field. This company bids on 3,846 keywords on Google and spends about $60,000 per month.
Example #2: This is the advert stats for an IT solution provider. There were roughly 20 other big players in this niche. This company, in particular, purchased ads on 3,846 keywords on Google and spent about $60,000 per month.

Learn More: Gina and I discussed in detail about finding the right blogging niche in this article – be sure to check it out if you need more help.

How to write good content consistently

I remember before I started blogging professionally, that most of the successful bloggers and writers out there must have some magic trick that keeps them spinning out amazing words, day after day. I thought to myself that bloggers, writers, journalists and novelists must just have a brain that is wired that way.

I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I discovered that content isn’t just about a great idea, fact or subject. It’s all about what you do with it, and how you present it.

  • How does this product compare with others?
  • Where did it come from?
  • What is interesting about it?
  • What is not so great about it?

What follows below is three idea starters that will help you talk about your blog’s topic in engaging ways.

  • A Beginner’s Guide to ___________ Fill in the prompt above with a topic that someone who doesn’t understand your blog subject at all. For example, if you run a blog about baking cakes, then the above prompt might become: A Beginner’s Guide to Smooth Icing.
  • 10 Lies You’ve Been Telling Yourself About __________ This is a warning style headline. It draws the reader in because she wants to know what she’s been doing wrong. One example might be a dating website. The headline would become something like: 10 Lies You’ve Been Telling Yourself About Why You’re Still Single.
  • 3 Steps to Learn __________ This title is very versatile. To fill in the blanks for this title, think about what your readers need and want to learn and what special knowledge you have. If you run a cooking school, you might right about: 3 Steps to Learn to Make the Perfect Souffle.

These simple phrases are meant to jog your brain and get your creative juices flowing. When you are at a loss for ideas, you can turn to these prompts and come up with something to write about.

For the prompts above, you will take the title and fill in the blank. This will serve as your idea for a new article. There are hundreds of ways to finish each prompt. Even if you’re at a loss for new ideas, with these prompts, you’ll never face that problem again.

Learn More: How to write at least one great content per week consistently

 


 

Chapter 5. Growing Your Blog Readership

The sad truth for many bloggers out there it has taken them too much time to build up their readership. Getting their first 1,000 pageviews can take months, and some very specialist blogs never seem to get there.

Here are five basic strategies that will help you take your blog from Day 1 to 1,000 page views.

1. Write something that people want to read

People are drowning in social media updates, news feeds, emails, and different kinds of promos. It's increasingly hard to get people to read your content. However, you can still do well if you know who your ideal audience is and what they are looking for. Think about the gap in your niche, what type of content is missing and how you can bring more value to your audience.

Here are things that can help you with your research:

  • Use social media tools to track the successful content on social media. In such away, you can generate content ideas that get good feedback from social media.
  • Use content tools like Answer the Public to search for popular questions people ask in Google.
  • Use number of views in YouTube to find topics that people are interested in.
  • Use a keyword research tool to determine the specific topics that people are looking for within your niche. You can produce content based on those keywords.

2. Connect with your community

“Shared and done” is no longer the name of the game.

You must continually share your posts, over and over. If you are invited to join a group Pinterest board that matches your niche, sign up and share and comment frequently. If you join a list of like-minded bloggers, odds are they will share each other’s content regularly – weekly or daily. This will help grow your readership and engagement.

Consistently seek out your tribe – reward other members in it and connect with them.

Help out at Twitter parties. Comment on other members' posts. Share articles in your newsletters. Round up and reward blogs that you love by featuring one every week or month.

Ask how you can help someone out with a guest post or by offering guest post spots. Sell their products, use their affiliates links, promote their links on your social media while tagging them. As opportunities to recruit bloggers come up, these bloggers will remember your help and invite you to participate.

3. Make sure your blog is easy to read

I get frustrated when I find a blog with a title I’m completely excited only to find the content with a big chunk of text, few paragraphs, no headings or bullets and tiny fonts. That drives me away.

On top of what I’ve experienced above, your blog shouldn’t burden readers with pop-ups and click-throughs. Instead, present the content skillfully to your readers. Know your readers’ time constraints and understand what drives them to stay on your site.

Here's what you can do to make your blog easier to read:

  • Optimize your blog by using headers, sub-headers, bullet points, or numbered lists. This helps your content to appear more organized.
  • Break up your blog content into sections or paragraphs. A wall of text can look intimidating and overwhelm readers.
  • Avoid using fancy fonts. Stick with web-safe fonts such as Arial, Georgia, Times, etc.
  • Use simple English and write in short sentences. Aim your article readability for an eighth-grade student.

4. Blog commenting

First off, commenting on blogs is quite possibly the most overlooked method for building blog traffic – mostly because people suck at making quality, meaningful conversations with strangers (myself included). However, blog commenting is a quality method for building traffic that also happens to be free – can’t argue with that!

There are two golden rules to blog commenting:

  1. Always write a quality comment. If you don’t have something meaningful to add to the discussion, don’t leave a comment (“Thank you – great post” comments… they’re useless)
  2. Only drop a link where appropriate. Don’t spam, no matter how tempting it may be; it will backfire on you.

While another rule (not a golden rule, perhaps), if you leave a link, don’t just give your blog’s URL. Instead, link to a relevant post of your own that adds value to the original post and discussion. Relevancy is the key here.

5. Q&A Platforms

Forums and Q&A platforms are great places to get a seat in front of your relevant, interested audience. The trick is to monitor ongoing conversations in your niche so that you can chime in when you have something helpful to say (and no, not every post is going to be an opportunity – but some will). You’ll need a good feed reader, such as Feedly, to make this work.

Not finding an exact fit or enough on-the-dot opportunities?

Create some custom content relevant to a particularly hot conversation. For example, if someone asks how to do something with .htaccess code, you could write a tutorial and post it to your blog – then, in the Q&A section of the site, respond to the requester with a teaser, linking them to your blog to get the full codes and demos. Odds are that if one person asked the question, others have that same question – and your forum answer and link will live on to advise them as well when the time comes.

In terms of which Q&A platforms to use, I recommend

  • Quora, Klout, and Yahoo! Answers – these are three of the best general Q&A platforms
  • StackOverflow – if you are a publisher selling programming books.
  • Tripadvisor – For travel bloggers

Learn More: Growing your blog is a wide topic – I have written a 6,000-words advance guide on growing your blog, be sure to read it once you have learned the basics.

 


 

Chapter 6. Making Money from Blogging

I am sure you have heard about some bloggers success stories by now – people who started a blog and made it rich a few years later.

Peter Cashmore, founder of Mashable makes around $7.2 million a year and TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington makes around $10 million a year. Pat Flynn, blogger at Smart Passive Income makes hundred of thousands a month. Lindsay and Bjork from Pinch of Yum made more than $85,000 in one month revenue one month in revenue.

While becoming an overnight Daddy Warbucks may not be in your future, you can certainly monetize your blog and start bringing in a bit of money.

Your first step in monetizing your blog is to decide what your boundaries are.

  • Do you want ads on your site?
  • What type of ads will you accept?
  • What type of ads will you ban from your site?
  • What percentage of ads versus content do you want?

Be careful, because if site visitors and the search engines see your site as spammy, you will take a ranking hit. Once you’ve set some guidelines for the types and number of ads you’ll accept, it's time to consider some of the ways to monetize your blog.

1. Direct advertising

Direct advertising is possibly the quickest way to get the revenue out of your blog.

Simply put; you make space available on your blog for external companies to advertise, for a monthly, quarterly or yearly fee. You get to choose what companies you allow to advertise, where the adverts go, and how much space they take up on your blog!

Here are some requirements of your blog to attract advertisers to your site:

  • A blog with a minimum of 1,000 page views per month and good engagement
  • A large and effective social media following, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • A clear and focused niche.
  • Superior search engine positioning for your niche.
  • A professional presence and appearance for your blog.
  • A template or theme with space for advertising. Keep in mind that you want users to read and click but you do not want them to be so overwhelmed with ads that they stop visiting.

 

How to begin?

To begin, create a media kit is a one page information guide that will help prospective advertisers get to know your blog at a single glance. It should include measurement of all your social media numbers (followers, engagement rates, etc), blog page views and unique visitors, as well as information about your audience and niche.

There are a variety of standard ad sizes for web. The bigger the ad, the more you should charge. Typically, advertising is sold on a month-to-month basis. Find sizes that work for your blog. You don’t want to commit to a large leader-board at the head of your blog right away and then find that it is driving visitors away.

The most common ad sizes (in pixels) are 125 x 125 px, 150 x 150 px, or 300 x 300 px but there are lots of other options. Keep in mind how much real estate you are willing to give up on your blog, ad position, and length of run.

Standard sizes for banner advertisement.
Standard sizes for banner advertisement.

2. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based business where companies pay people who promote their products – these people are known as affiliates.

Most affiliate companies pay affiliates through Cost Per Action (CPA). This means the affiliate earns money whenever an action takes place. This usually takes the form of a sale (when someone buys something) or a lead (when someone signs up to something e.g. newsletter, free trial, registration, etc.).

 

How to begin?

As new bloggers, the best way to get your foot in the affiliate marketing door is by signing up with affiliate networks. Sites like CJ Affiliate or ShareASale represent a range of products from multiple vendors. They also offer useful tools for new bloggers that can help you track sales and act as intermediaries to ensure you get paid fairly.

 

Which affiliate product to promote?

Choosing which affiliate product to promote is a little bit of ‘the chicken or egg’ question. It depends on which direction you’d rather go. Many bloggers often create content about topics they are passionate about – and look for related affiliate products to support their content creation. Alternatively, you can also target a specific niche that you think might fit well for you and build your content geared towards those products.

Do take into consideration that different types of products often come with very widely varying degrees of affiliate commission. Retail products tend to be very low commission and your earnings rely heavily on you being able to push large quantities of those products. Big ticket commissions are normally for services or digital goods such as subscriptions and software.

To get a better idea of how well some products may do, you can make use of the data from your affiliate network as a guide. Alternatively, an estimate of interest can also be gotten from web tools like Google Trends.

ShareASale merchant info
Example: Merchant details – including 30-days average sales and commission paid, are published on ShareASale.

 

3. Selling premium content

If you aren’t comfortable selling other people’s products, consider creating products of your own to offer. Whether it is a new software that helps business owners, a cooking utensil or a how-to guide, there are many different items you can create and offer on your website.

 

Digital downloads

The most common items are ebooks and instructional videos. These items are based exclusively on your knowledge of your niche area. They go a bit deeper than short blog posts or offer very specialized information. It is easy to get ebooks out via platforms like Amazon Kindle Publishing and SmashWords.

 

Membership sites

Speaking of specialized information, some blog owners choose to create a separate, membership-based area where the best articles or videos are placed. Those who are members can access this information. You can entice people to sign up for membership by offering a short excerpt to entice the reader to subscribe.

There are a couple of keys that will help make your membership area more successful:

  • Keep membership fairly reasonable. Think $5/month instead of $5/day.
  • Offer quality articles, videos, guest speakers and other events to your members. No one wants to pay for a membership to something that is never updated.
  • Make payments recurring. Use PayPal, Stripe, or any other recurring billing model so that membership payments and cancellations are automated. This is a huge time saver.
make money from blogging
Membership area created by Copyblogger where readers need to register to access premium content (See example).

Learn More: Find more ways to monetize your blog and read Kevin Muldoon's Case study in selling BloggingTips.com for $60,000.

 


 

Chapter 7. Using Free Blogging Tools

Even though useful free tools and web services do exist online, the trouble is picking up them among all other junks or/and outdated tools.

As a parting gift for reading my guide till here, I am going to provide you a list of free tools that we use all the time at WHSR. Good luck, and I wish you success in your blogging journey.

Writing 

  • After the Deadline – Advance style and grammar checker.
  • Grammarly – Most popular web writing assistant.
  • Hemingway App – Write short and bold with this tool.
  • Freedom.to – Block distracting websites so you can focus on writing.
  • ByWord – Distraction free writing tool.
  • Evernote – The one tool that needs introduction.

Image Editing

  • Fotor – Edit and design beautiful images tool for social media posts, posters, invitation, etc.
  • Canva – Design pretty images and social media posts.
  • Design Wizard – Create pretty images using free templates and ready-made images.
  • JPEG Mini – Reduce size of .jpeg files.
  • Tiny PNG – Reduce size of .png files.
  • Skitch – Taking image notes.
  • Pic Monkey – Award-winning image editing tool.
  • Pik to Chart – Simple infographic creation tool.
  • Pixlr – Image editing tool.
  • Favicon.io – The best favicon generator, ever.

Free Stock Photos & Images

  • Icon Finder – Huge free icon directory.
  • Morgule File – More than 350,000 images for commercial use.
  • Stock Snap – Image directory site with beautiful free photos added weekly.
  • WHSR Free Icons – Free icons designed by our in-house designer.

References & Researches 

Social Media, Marketing & SEO

  • Bing Webmaster Tool – Bing's free site diagnostic tool.
  • Google Webmaster Tool – Google's free site diagnostic tool.
  • Follow – Stalk your competitors
  • Majestic SEO – Free version allows you to check a site link profile (CF/TF) quickly.
  • Engage Bay -All-in-one marketing, sales & service automation platform
  • Similar Page Checker – Check for duplicated pages on your blog.
  • Like Explorer – Check social metrics of your (or competitors') content.
  • Tweet Deck – Mange multiple Twitter account in one dashboard.
  • Buzz Sumo – Find popular content and influencers on major social media networks.
  • Tag Board – Social media market research.
  • IFTTT – Publish content on multiple social media platforms easily.

Web Analytics & Productivity 

Website Speed Testing 

  • Bitcatcha – Check site speed from 10 locations.
  • Webpage Test – Check webpage speed in detail.
  • GT Metrix – Test and track webpage loading speed in detail.

 


 

Blogging Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much does it cost to start a blog?

The estimated costs to start a blog which includes a domain name and a web hosting is below $120 a year (less than $10 a month). This cost is based on a self-hosted blog (using WordPress). The break down of the cost would be:

  • $15 annually for a .com domain name
  • $96 annually for web hosting fee (about $8 a month)

2. How do bloggers get paid?

To get a better picture of how bloggers get paid, I categorized them into 2 types – one is where you deal directly with customers or advertisers while the other is where you join a program offered by a company or network.

When you are dealing directly with customers or advertisers, you have more control over the pricing. You can earn money by:

  • Selling premium content (membership site)
  • Direct advertising
  • Selling your product
  • Job boards
  • Writing and publishing sponsored posts

On the other hand, if you want to skip the hassle of dealing with end customers, here are a few ways to get paid:

  • Google Adsense or other similar advertising networks
  • Affiliate marketing (you get a small commission for a sale that comes from your site)
  • PPC and CPM advertising

3. How to start a blog for free?

There are numerous platforms where you can start a free blog today, this includes WordPress.com, Tumblr or Blogger. To create a free blog, all you have to do is to sign up and you can start publishing your content.

But, here's the catch:

  • There are rules laid down by each platform that you need to observe
  • The domain name of your blog appears to be a subdomain such as “myblogname.wordpress.com” or “myblogname.tumblr.com”
  • There are limited functionality, plugins and theme selection you can make to your blog
  • Usually, free platforms limit the opportunity of monetizing your blog
Screen captured from WordPress Advertising Policy Page.

I strongly suggest you start your blog using WordPress.org as what I've covered in this guide. Besides overcoming the limitation of the free blog, the potential growth of your blog is limitless.