How to Make Money Blogging
Blogging is a fun and creative endeavor that can turn out to become quite a lucrative hobby if you do it well. A lot of people aspire becoming a blogger but don't take the step because they don't know how to set-up a good blog.
In this article I’ll explain you how to start blogging. More so, I’ll teach you how to start a blog from a to z. The topics I’ll cover in this article are:
- How much can you earn blogging? + blogger income examples
- How to start blogging
- Getting started: hosting and a domain
- Domain and hosting
- Picking and installing a content management system
- Designing and styling your blog
- Tool selection
- Creating content
- Building an audience and growing your blog
How much can you earn blogging?
How much can you earn blogging? This is a question that I receive from a dozen readers each week.
Before I throw around some financial figures I usually tell them that first, they need to know something about the distribution of blogger incomes.
Basically, I tell them that I have good news and bad news for them. Let’s start with the bad news shall we? From there, things can only get better.
The bad news is… that over 81% of all bloggers never manage to earn even 100 dollars from their blog. And... that only 8% of all bloggers manage to earn enough to sustain a family. The distribution of blogger’s incomes is not extremely wide.
However, the good news is that there are dozen bloggers out there who earn well over a million dollars a year blogging. On top of that, these seven figure incomes are not limited to one particular profitable niche market or so.
There are numerous six and even some seven figure blogs in several different niches like food, lifestyle, travel, frugality, business and so on.
So, in essence, the answer to “how much can you earn blogging?” is quite simple. Enough to retire early. Enough to travel the world and never have to worry about going 9 to 5 anyore.
But it is difficult. The competition is high and the distribution of earnings is small. It’s basically a “winner takes all” market.
Blogger income examples
There are lots of bloggers out there who make it no secret how much they earn from their blog. They publish income reports to create transparency, to inspire other people to start blogging and to keep themselves accountable for growth.
Below are some examples of how much you can earn blogging:
Frugal living – Making Sense of Cents
Reported income: 100.000 USD per month
Income sources: Affiliate, Courses, Sponsored Partnerships and Display Ads
Lifestyle – Just a Girl and her Blog
Reported income: 41.000 USD per month
Income sources: Digital Content, Affiliate Sales
Travel – Adventure in You
Reported income: 20.000 USD per month
Income sources: Affiliate Sales, Display Advertising, Sponsored Partnerships, Digital Content
How do I start blogging?
I can imagine that the earning examples above triggered you to get your blog online as soon as possible. But… how do you start blogging?
I don’t want to sound like a wise ass and kill your “GET ME A BLOG RIGHT NOW!” mood, but… Where you start is by asking yourself whether blogging and you will be a perfect fit.
Despite its popularity, blogging isn’t the only way to make money online.
You could also open an e-commerce store, build an app, create an online platform or pick one of dozen other business ideas that have as much earning potential as blogging does. So… ask yourself.. why blogging?
As I’ve just told you, over 80% of all bloggers never even manage to earn 100 dollars from their blog.
For an average person there are a few reasons to start blogging. Look at the three reasons below and answer for yourself which reasons you can relate to.
Reasons to start blogging:
- You like writing
- You like sharing your knowledge or ideas with others
- You like earning money online
If the answer to number 1 and number 2 is “no” and only the answer to number 3 is “yes”, I would advise you to ask yourself if you really have what it takes to become a successful blogger.
Building a successful blog can take years of consistent hard work. There are dozens of blogs on almost any given topic with competitors who are genuinely passionate about what they write about.
Do you think you can compete them out of the market when money is your only objective?
Can you answer all three questions with “yes” then you might want to draw the conclusion that blogging might be perfect for you.
How do I start blogging when I know blogging is perfect for me?
The first thing you do is decide what you want to blog about. What passions do you have? What are you interested in? Is there anything that makes you special? Do you want to blog about your guinea pig? Or perhaps you want to start a travel blog?
You’re free to blog about anything you want as long as it doesn’t involve breaking laws on subjects like copywriting and slander.
If you have multiple ideas, just write them all down. Having more ideas is often better because it gives you the ability to compare them and to weigh their pros and cons. What I recommend you to do is to just explore possible ideas and topics for a short while. For a few weeks or perhaps a month. Take a little notebook with you or use a notes app on your phone and write down any idea that comes to your mind.
The reason I recommend you to do this is because the really good ideas often come spontaneously and are hard to force.
From my past experience, the worst business idea’s I’ve had were the ideas that I had to force at some given moment. The best business ideas and the best blog posts that I’ve had were the ones that just occurred to me on a random moment. The ideas that suddenly wake you up in the middle of the night. Or the ideas that simply occur while you’re doing groceries.
Real inspiration is hard to force so that’s why I strongly advise you to take some time to gather ideas. Don’t bet all your money on the first idea that you can think of.
After you have selected an idea, it’s time to elaborate on it. Basically there are two simple factors at play here. One is potential profitability and the other is your passion.
Not all blogging topics have equal monetization opportunities. If what you want to blog about is only appealing for a very small niche market and not related to any affiliate product, then monetization potential will not be great. If you can live with that it’s absolutely no deal. However, many people do see their blogging endeavor as an opportunity to earn some money on the side.
Due to this, many people advise you to double down on potential profitability and blog about anything that is profitable. However, I don’t believe that bloggers who share no passion for what they blog about have the potential to become really successful.
Hence.. the goal, in my opinion, is to end up somewhere right in the middle between profitability and passion. You’ll need enough passion for the topic you blog about to do it well and to be able to grow it for years. On the other hand, the niche needs to be profitable enough for you to make some serious cash on the side. The cash is what also motivates you extra from time to time to keep growing your blog.
We’ve now arrived at the point where hopefully you’re certain about starting a blog and you have an idea of what you want to blog about.
The next step to undertake is planning. Blogging is mostly about doing. It’s about writing content, sharing your content, building backlinks and connecting with your audience.
The hours that you put in planning what you’re going to do cannot be spent actually doing things. For this reason I’ll keep the planning phase short. Blogging doesn’t require as much planning as other type of businesses because you’re flexible and the amount of activities is limited.
But, skipping the entire planning phase and moving on straight to doing would be foolish. So what do you need to plan when you start blogging?
The main goal of planning is:
“Reflecting on all the different options you have, and making a conscious decision which direction you’ll go and why”
In the past I started businesses without planning. I went straight to the “doing” phase and due to this I missed quite some opportunities.
As a blogger there is one thing that determines a big part of your success. This is consistency. Having a clear and consistent brand, a clear blog structure and a clear content structure. This consistency is what makes you reliable for visitors.
What you don’t want to happen is that you do X, and then months later come to the realization that you would have been better off doing Y.
In this example X and Y can represent a variety of things. A brand name, a domain, your usual content structure, your monetization strategy and so on. Evidently something like this can always happen. Blogging equals learning so I won’t give you the expectations that you need to have everything figured out before you start. But, many of the X versus Y mistakes that people make can be avoided.
They can be avoided by taking some time to think about the different options that you have. To think about both X and Y thoroughly before you blindly start doing the first thing you think of. By thinking what the pros and cons of X, Y and perhaps other options are.
By weighing these pros and cons and making a conscious decision whether you choose X or Y. And making it clear to yourself why you choose X over Y or vice versa.
So in the planning phase, ask yourself questions like the ones below. And write down the answers to them to keep you accountable for later.
- How will you brand your blog? What are the different options? Why are some options better than others?
- Which monetization streams are there and what are the pros and cons of each?
- What will your content look like? Why? What makes it different?
- How often will you post content? Why?
- In which language will you blog? What are the pro’s and cons of each language?
By answering these questions, and many other questions that I haven’t listed above, you ensure that you give your future blog some serious thought. This prevents you from diving head first into suboptimal decisions without exploring possibly better alternatives.
It also gives you guidance for when thoughts of doubt start lingering in the back of your head someday. When you experience difficulties growing your blog it’s easy to start doubting your decisions.
Should you change your brand? Or perhaps something is wrong with your blog structure? In such situations knowing why you chose to do what you do can keep you on the straight path to success.
Hosting and a domain
Once you’re done planning, the first concrete step you can take is finding a place where you can host your blog and acquire a domain name.
The first thing I strongly want to recommend you is that you pick an independent domain.
An independent domain is a domain name followed by an extension like .com, .org, . net and so on. I’m telling you this because there are lots of blogging platforms and tools out there that offer you a free domain when you start blogging with them. However, this “free” domain is usually not an independent domain but a subdomain within their main domain. So instead of amazingtravels.com you get something like amazingtravels.blogspot.com or amazingtravels.weebly.com.
I got one simply advice. Don’t do this.
Just register your own independent domain name. The branding potential and growth potential of an independent blog is way bigger than a blog that has a subdomain.
When it comes to hosting and domains, I personally favor and recommend using Bluehost. With Bluehost you can procure a package that includes hosting and a domain name for just a few bucks per month.
One of the most important and also the most challenging parts of starting a blog is choosing a good domain name. This is because a good domain name is determined by a lot of factors.
For starters, your domain name needs to be easy to memorize. This means it needs to be short, catchy and simple. Next to that it needs to be brandable so you’ll ideally want it to be unique in some sort. At last, it needs to be optimizable for search engines which means you’ll need a decent extension and it need not to contain any hyphens.
Sounds easy right? It isn’t….
As of 2019, there are over 350 million different domains on the internet. Are you thinking of creating a travel blog? The odds are high that the first fifty good and catchy ideas that you can think of are already taken.
Not only are they taken by other bloggers but there are millions of domains reserved by organizations that deal in domains. They procure a fancy domain for 10 bucks a year and then try to charge you 500 dollars if you want to buy it from them.
Finding the perfect domain name will take some time but it is definitely worth it. If you have a hard time coming up with ideas try a domain name generator like Bust A Name or Lean Domain Search. Or just take a notebook with you and write all the ideas that pop up into your mind down. (yes, I’m a big fan of notebooks)
For picking a domain I’d like to give you the same tip as with picking a subject to blog about. Don’t immediately settle for the first idea that pops up in your mind. Usually, the first ideas are forced and not all that great.
Just spend a few weeks and write down anything that pops up in your mind.
Domain name creation tips
As some extra guidance with choosing a domain name I have a list of additional tips for you.
- Preferably use a .com extension. Other extensions are not necessarily bad for search engine optimization purposes but people generally memorize any domain they encounter as it having a .com extension. If you take a different extension be very conscious of how it sounds and how easy it is to remember. (yes… I did not follow this advice myself. Consciously though.)
- Do not use any hyphens in your domain as search engines generally treat them worse than domains without a hyphen. This is because with a hyphen you can create copy domains of famous websites like face-book.com or you-tube.com and so on.
- Make sure your domain name is short and simple. Long domain names or domains with difficult words are incredibly difficult to memorize well. Bad examples:
- oscillococcinum.com (try writing that out of the top of your head)
- michaeljacksonsthisisitmoviemerchandise.com (whut?!)
- Make sure that your blog brand name actually translates into a decent sounding and writable domain name. Look at the examples below of how not to do it:
- Pen Island – Penisland.com
- Teachers Talking – Teacherstalking.com
- Who Represents? – Whorepresents.com
- Big Bus Tycoons – Bigbustycoons.com
Pick a CMS
When you’ve got your hosting and a domain name it’s time to select a CMS.
CMS stands for Content Management System. It’s basically the software you use to build your blog in. There are many different content management systems on the market that you can choose from.
However, currently the market for blogs is mainly dominated by one player and that is WordPress. WordPress is an intuitive, user friendly and rather simple CMS with a huge community around it. In my opinion for a blog it’s not even worth looking at any other alternatives than WordPress.
On top of that, if you have chosen Bluehost as your hosting party, installing WordPress on your domain and hosting is incredibly simple. After you’ve installed WordPress you can login to the admin end of your blog and start blogging.
From zero to a fully optimized blog
The road from a fresh WordPress installation to a fully optimized blog is long. When building a blog there are four key features that need your attention. Below I’ll explain these four features for you.
The first thing to focus your attention on is the design of your blog. With design I mean your blog layout and usage of colors.
Within WordPress, the design of your blog is mainly determined by the theme that is installed. By default, this is the somewhat simple and plain Twentysomething theme. But, you can change this theme for a different theme.
There are thousands of different WordPress themes that you can download and activate on your blog. Some of them are free and others cost money. Whichever theme you use is entirely up to you.
The only advice I give you is to first think of a possible blog layout and then pick a theme that fits your needs. There are so many different themes that finding one that fits your needs should be no problem. Hence, it would be foolish to select a theme and then spend a lot of time completely changing it.
If your theme needs too many customizations you’re better off looking for a different theme that fits your needs better.
The second thing to focus on for your blog is the tools you need to properly manage it. WordPress has thousands different plugins that you can install and use. Plugins that will make your life as a blogger a lot easier. I’ve created a list for you with must-have plugins for a blogger.
Yoast SEO (link)
Yoast SEO is a SEO plug-in that has several functionalities. It has an XML sitemap functionality that will send the contents of your website to Google so it can be indexed by the search engine. Next to that you can use it to optimize your content pages with a custom SEO title, a meta description, keyword analysis and readability analysis.
ThirstyAffiliates is a plugin where you can manage all your outgoing affiliate links. You can manage all links in one place, change the url extension of the affiliate links and monitor usage. Your affiliate links no longer look messy with all the tracker details after the url and you can also keep track of how many people clicked on your affiliate links as well.
Classic Editor (link)
Unfortunately WordPress decided to update the look and feel of their content editor a while ago. Although the new editor looks neat, it’s horrible to use. Luckily there were people who shared this opinion and someone created a plugin where you can revert to the old content editor. The plugin currently has over 5 million active installations and a solid five star rating.
All in One WP Security & Firewall (link)
With the All in One WP Security & Firewall plugin you can add extra layers of security to your WordPress blog. The plugin has several measures you can implement to increase security on different aspects. You can block ip addresses of people after several failed login attempts, change the default /wp-admin slug so that people cant easily find the login page and several other options.
Invisible reCaptcha (link)
If, in any way you let users engage with your blog through forms you’ll want to keep out spammers. By implementing invisible reCaptcha you can ensure that people can’t spam comments under your post or spam your contact form with crap. ReCaptcha is simply the latest version of the captcha verification that was developed by Google.
When you have a layout and the right tools it’s time to produce content.
WordPress allows you to produce content in two places: pages and posts. The existence of two different sections for the production of content in WordPress often confuses people. Hence, people often email me asking which type of content they should produce where.
Essentially, pages are made for static content and posts are made for blog articles.
Even though they both look very similar, there are subtle differences between pages and posts. Posts are accompanied with a publication date and an author. They are also organized using categories and tags but cannot be organized hierarchically like pages are.
Pages on the other hand cannot be categorized by categories and tags. Nor do they have an author nor publication date. The content on pages is meant to be timeless and the content in posts is meant to be timely. Not that the content in posts have an expiration date but knowing when a post is published and by whom is much more relevant than with pages.
So.. this means that bloggers generally publish all their blog articles in the posts section. The pages section is mainly used by timeless content like the about you page or the privacy disclaimer.
Evidently, the content you write needs to be appealing for your visitors. Writing good content takes practice.
Building an audience
When you have a design, the right tools and content it’s time for the next and last step. This step is about building your audience. The first step is attracting more visitors. The second step is making them return.
There are several things you can do to attract more visitors. You can increase your organic search presence, start guest blogging, become more active on social media or other channels where you can reach your audience.
Increase your organic search presence
Organic search traffic is people who find your blog by searching for a specific keyword or phrase in a search engine. Search engines, like Google and Bing, index all websites on the web and rank them on relevance based on a complex algorithm.
When someone searches for a keyword or phrase related to your blog it’s possible that your blog turns up somewhere in the search results. If you have a strong search presence your website might just turn up as the first in the results. But it can also pop up as the sixth, 27th or perhaps the 86th spot in the results.
Contrary to advertising, organic traffic doesn’t cost you anything. Hence, as a blogger, organic traffic is an important source.
However, as you might be able to guess, the position in the search results that your blog ends up on isn’t random.
Search engines like Google and Bing don’t toss all the relevant websites in a giant roulette wheel every time someone executes a search query. Behind these search engines is a complex algorithm that gives website a relevancy score. The website with the highest relevancy score turns up on the first position of the search results and the one with the lowest score turns up on the last position of the search results.
This algorithm contains over 200 features and is immensely complex. However, throughout the years people have been able to unravel some of the things you can do to make your website or blog rank better in search engines like Google.
Optimize your posts and pages
Make sure that your posts and pages revolve around a specific keyword or keyphrase. The keyword or keyphrase needs to be present in the post/page title, one or more subheadings and it needs to be present in the content.
Next to that you need to ensure that your post or page has an SEO title and a meta description that also contains the focus keyword or keyphrase.
Optimize your blog speed
Google has indicated that the page speed of your blog is one of the factors it uses to rank your blog. Page speed is the amount of seconds or perhaps even milliseconds it takes to load your pages.
Your page speed is affected by your hosting, your files and how you leverage browser caching. You can optimize your page speed by, for example, optimizing your images. By optimizing your images you make the images smaller in size without compromising a lot on quality.
Most high quality photo’s these days can grow up to over 10 mb. Having a 15 mb header image for example can have a severe negative impact on your page speed. You can optimize images yourself before uploading them with a tool like resmush.it. But you can also use the WordPress “Smush Image Compression and Optimization plug-in”
Luckily there are various WordPress plug-ins that will do the job for you.
However, do beware with the usage of pagespeed optimization plug-ins. The features that optimize your CSS scripts can cause them to become difficult to interpret, which on its turn makes it more difficult to make style changes to your website.
I’d recommend you to back up your blog before implementing these features and to implement them after you’re sure that your design is perfect.
Optimize your backlink portfolio
A last, and for your search presence also the most important activity, is optimizing your backlink portfolio.
A backlink is when another website or blog places a link to your blog. Your backlink portfolio is the quality and quantity of incoming and outgoing links. The first important thing to know here is that search engines don’t treat all backlinks equally.
When judging a backlink, search engines take the authority of the linking domain into the equation. This means that a backlink from a website with a high authority on the internet, like CNN.com for example, is much more valuable than a backlink from some low authority website like a link directory.
Optimizing your backlink portfolio is about trying to attain a variety of quality backlinks.
There are several strategies you can implement to do so. Reaching out to other websites to trade backlinks would be one of the easiest things to do. This is because both parties are expected to benefit almost equally.
However, a well-known life lesson teaches us that easy things don’t yield great rewards and this is very much true for trading backlinks as well. More so, trading backlinks on a large scale can even lead to you being penalized by search engines.
When it comes to building a backlink portfolio there is one key thing to keep in your mind. Your portfolio has to look as if its completely natural.
You can get a good idea of what this would look like by imagining that backlinks would have no effect on your organic search presence. Would you trade links with irrelevant websites? No. Would you buy links from some shady internet entrepreneur?
No. So, how would backlinks in this care originate?
They would originate from some other blogger out there who stumbles upon your content and shares it with his readers because he thinks it’s relevant for them. They would originate from some news website who publishes and article about a subject related to what you blog about and needs a source for their article.
There are a few activities you can engage in to optimize your backlink portfolio. The first and most important thing for backlink building is writing truly amazing content. Most of the backlink building comes down to other people sharing your content with their audience. In order to make that happen you just have to write amazing content.
After you’ve done so, you have to reach out with this content. You can email other bloggers or websites to notify them about your new content or share it via your social media channels. Another way to build backlinks is by guest blogging. Guest blogging means you get to write blog articles for someone else’s blog with the agreement that you can link back to your blog from this article.
A last tip
I hope that all the content on this page provided you with enough information on how you can start your own blog.
I tend to close all of my how-to guides with a last tip. The most important tip that I give aspiring bloggers or online business owners is some wisdom what is often referred to as the “Golden rule”. The golden rule of life, but most importantly in this context, also the golden rule in online businesses.
The golden rule states:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
In their search for growth, online business entrepreneurs sometimes lose their grasp of moderation. They start with one newsletter signup form and a few months or perhaps a year later they ended up with five different sign-up forms and a full page pop-up.
Preferably a pop-up with a super mega tiny [X] somewhere in the left bottom corner that is so hard to spot that it’s easier for a visitor to get rid of the popup by leaving his or her email address. When this happens, the one and only thing I do myself is find the other [X]. The X in the right upper corner of my screen that equals “screw you and your shitty popup, I’ll find the information I need somewhere else”.
I don’t think there is any person on this planet who can say he or she appreciates getting slammed in the face by a popup. Ergo, with everything you implement on your blog ask yourself how you would experience this if it were somebody else’s blog and you were a visitor. Would it be a negative experience for you? It’s likely that it would be the same for your visitors.
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