I feel your excitement. You had an “aha” moment (a great idea if you will). But it requires you to have your own blog or website to make it work. The only problem is you don’t know how to start a blog.
You've even thought of the perfect domain name already.
Am I right?
If so, here’s the good news…
I’ve been building blogs and doing SEO consulting for clients full-time since 2010.
So you’re in good hands.
By the end of this step-by-step tutorial, you'll know how to set up a blog and publish your first blog post. But most importantly you’ll understand why starting a blog is the best online money making asset you could build for yourself. (Seriously.)
An asset that could build an audience, generate leads or customers. And potentially generate a passive income every day if you're smart about it.
A bit more about this later…
The 5 Simple Steps to Start a Blog
- Decide what to blog about.
- Choose a blogging platform.
- Pick a domain name.
- Find a web host.
- Start using WordPress.
(BTW – I also created a video below that shows the entire blog setup process.)
Along the way, I'll also drop in tips and answer some frequently asked questions that will save you time, money, and frustration. (I’ve learned these the hard way!)
If you’re new to this blog stuff… or if technology isn’t your jam. Don’t worry. I wrote this post for you.
You’ll follow the exact same steps I walk my paying clients through when they want to start a blog. I’ll hold nothing back.
So if you get after it, you can have your blog up and online today!
You still with me?
Let’s get to work.
Why Start a Blog?
… for OPTIONS. That’s why.
Starting a blog is akin to being a real estate developer – you buy a plot of land (albeit online via your domain name). And for the most part you’re free to do what you want to do with it.
So it’s up to you to decide on how you want to develop that land.
Everybody's reason to start a blog will be different. Because everybody has different circumstances.
However, I do see a few common themes amongst people who start a blog.
1. Profit While Working From Home (or any other location)
Let's be honest here. Life is expensive (full stop).
Whether it's rent, children, college, or retirement… you name it. Finances keep many of us up a night. And many have found relief by starting a blog and then monetizing the traffic that visits.
In 2010 I walked away from my corporate job and replaced my full-time income working from home offering services as an SEO consultant.
(Note: This is when I first learned how to start a blog.)
Others like Darren Rowse have made millions through affiliate marketing, Google AdSense, and selling digital products.
Here's a snapshot of his earnings he posted in 2018:
It started very slowly. Despite having a decent audience, my first month with AdSense brought in around A$60 (around US $45). My first month of Amazon’s Associates program made even less – around A$7 or US $5.50. My first month of earnings wouldn’t even get me a coffee a day.
Still, it was a start. And as I slowly built my traffic and got better at using these programs, the income grew.
I don’t typically share my income. But to illustrate how it’s grown, here’s a little insight into these two income streams.
My total Amazon Associates earnings since 2004 is around $670,000.
My total AdSense earnings since 2004 is around US $2,400,000. Making money as a blogger takes work and patience. But it's low risk, low overhead, and has a low barrier to entry. Full post here…
2. Prepare Yourself for the Freelance Economy
According to a study conducted by Edelman Intelligence, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers within a decade (by 2027) – most done online.
Moreover, the Freelancers Union “53 Million” report cited 69% of freelancers said technology has made it easier to find freelance work.
So don’t you think now is a good time to sharpen your online skills so you’re not redundant in a few years?
When you start a blog you gain valuable skills needed to promote and sell products or services online.
So let's get on it.
[clickToTweet tweet=”According to a study conducted by Edelman Intelligence, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers within a decade (by 2027) – most done online.” quote=”According to a study conducted by Edelman Intelligence, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers within a decade (by 2027) – most done online.” theme=”style6″]
3. Gain More Exposure to an Existing Business
Whether you're a solopreneur or a corporation…
Having a blog (slash) website is one of the best investments you can do for your business. And to be honest, if your business doesn’t have a blog or website many will scrutinize your credibility.
A website gives you the ability to reach people all over the world at a very low cost.
4. To Build Relationships
There’s probably no better platform to foster relationships with like-minded individuals (and without all the noise) than the people you attract to your blog.
When you start a blog…
You, in essence, create a beacon that attracts people with similar interests. And you get to be the leader of your community – which helps build credibility and authority.
And the best part is everyone sees you content when you post… NOT like Facebook where your content is regulated by an algorithm.
The key to business success is winning and keeping customers. And the key to winning and keeping customers is, and has always been, relationships. The world's greatest business experts – Peter Drucker, Mark McCormack, Regis McKenna and others – have all said the same thing in one way or another. Source: Entrepreneur.com
I’ve never heard of someone complaining that either their life or business went down the drain because they had too many relationships. Just saying. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
5. Personal Development
Some of the best benefits to start a blog is for your own personal growth and development.
Not only does your writing get better, but you're able to refine your own voice.
Blogging gives you a creative outlet to express yourself. Not to mention you learn so much about the topics you write about.
Bottom line. You'll be better for it.
6. To Give Back
So many people go through life acquiring knowledge, skills, and experience. Yet, no one knows what they know because they never shared it.
In other words…
They take it to the grave. What a waste, right?
When you start a blog you get a chance to share your knowledge with others. And by sharing you're helping others who are going through a similar journey you've already walked.
(Kind of like what I'm doing here.)
And you know it feels good when you can help others.
I personally think everyone has something to share. Simply put, I wish people would teach more.
FAQ: How much does it cost to start a blog?
You won't believe this. But you can start a blog for as little as $5 – $10 a month. If you think about it… It's such a small investment for such huge upside. I built client sites for years with this hosting package. It was only after the website traffic grew substantially I decided to upgrade my server. But you don't need a high-performance server to start out.
How to Get Paid for Blogging?
I’d say the majority of the general public still has no idea how someone gets paid for blogging.
But the truth is (as you can see above). There are many ways to make money from your blog.
The real questions is…
How are you going to make money from blogging?
Think about it.
How to Get Paid for Blogging (Made Simple)
- You attract visitors (via SEO, social media, paid traffic, etc.) to your blog.
- You present your visitors' offers (affiliate products, your products, services, etc.)
- You get paid when they buy.
Just to be clear…
Yes, it really is this simple, but it’s not easy. (You see the difference?)
Just like anything in life worth achieving – you got to put in the work!
If you're just starting out, I would choose a low barrier to entry type opportunity… like affiliate marketing.
Then move on to more lucrative opportunities.
Why you ask?
Because it doesn't cost anything to get started and it only requires the time to write a blog post.
Larger income opportunities like selling online courses take a bit more time to produce. And there may be additional costs associated if you don't have the equipment (ie, camera, microphone, video editing software, etc.).
Let’s get this show on the road.
How to Get Paid for Blogging via Affiliate Marketing
So what is affiliate marketing?
Wikipedia describes affiliate marketing as a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate's own marketing efforts.
You're basically an extension of a business's sales force. It's like word of mouth marketing.
You make a suggestion (via your affiliate link) on your website through a blog post, video, podcast, etc.
If the visitor goes to the business's website through your affiliate link and makes a purchase… you earn an “affiliate commission” at no additional cost to the consumer.
Pretty cool, right?
*One more point before I forgetツ.
Don't get hung up on choosing a revenue stream. You can always change it.
If your goal is to make money, you can't overthink everything.
You just got to dive in.
Affiliate Marketing With Online Retailers
Above I defined affiliate marketing in general, but affiliate marketing can be broken down into two main categories.
- Affiliate marketing through online retailers (income stream #1).
- Affiliate marketing through affiliate networks (income stream #2).
To find affiliate programs through online retailers only requires a simple Google search.
Open up your browser and type (affiliate program + retailer) to see if there is an affiliate program associated with the company.
Or simply type “best affiliate programs” and you'll get a list of them.
Popular Affiliate Marketing Programs:
* Note: It's not only major big box stores. You'll find a lot of software companies have affiliate programs like Drip (example of an affiliate link).
Affiliate Marketing With Affiliate Networks
There are several affiliate networks who's entire purpose is to run affiliate programs on behalf of other businesses or individuals selling digital products.
One of the major benefits of going through an affiliate network is the ability to promote several companies or products without having to sign up for each individually.
In fact, a lot of major retailers rely on affiliate networks to run their program.
Popular Affiliate Marketing Networks:
Get Paid for Blogging via Google AdSense
I know you've seen Google ads on websites. Many new bloggers like using Google AdSense, but the commission you get for sending people away from your website isn't worth it to me. You literally get cents per click.
For sites that get “boatloads” of traffic, it might make sense, but you're better off selling a $5.00 ebook before you put Google ads on your site.
I think DJ Quick said it best, “If it don't make dollaz… it don't make sense.”
Another option similar is MediaVine.
Get Paid for Blogging Selling Ebooks
Selling Ebooks are probably the easiest way to create and sell a product you own. I've seen ebooks sell for $7.00 up to $47.00, but you can charge anything you want.
Many bloggers sell ebooks directly from their website but you can also leverage sites like the Amazon Kindle Marketplace.
Get Paid for Blogging Selling Online Courses
Now, this is where you can start making some real bank.
If you have expertise a particular skill set that others are willing to pay you for… package your knowledge into a course (usually video).
You can create courses on almost anything…
From teaching people how to use Excel to organic chicken farming.
Seriously, it's wide open.
I've seen online courses range from $47.00 up to $5,000. Sometimes even more.
Now that's a goal worth focusing on.
Get Paid for Blogging Selling Live Training
For some, charging a fee to attend a live webinar (or boot camp) is a simpler approach to getting the information out of your head and into the hands of the customer.
If you know your topic inside and out… this could be a breeze.
One of the benefits of live training is that students can ask questions in “real time.” Many students like this convenience and are willing to pay for it.
You can use platforms like Webinar Ninja or Google Hangouts to host your webinar.
//Tip// Record your webinar so you can later sell it as a course on its own. You can also use it as bonus material for other products you offer.
Get Paid for Blogging Selling Services
There's really no shortage of services you can offer online. If you're into SEO or social marketing… offer those services to businesses.
If you're a designer… offer designing services. If you're into nutrition… offer nutrition counseling.
You get the picture.
It's an old concept, but now you're no longer stuck to geographic location to gain customers.
Get Paid for Blogging Selling Physical Products
You see headlines year after year that e-commerce sales are steadily increasing.
Yes, we've become one of the largest consumption nations per capita (sad face).
On the bright side, if you're the one selling versus the one buying… you can cash in.
You have three choices when selling physical products:
- You can sell someone else's products.
- You can manufacture products (or white-label products from China or elsewhere).
- You can make the products yourself (ie, a custom painting).
Obviously, the barrier to entry is a bit more costly than selling digital products… but some prefer selling tangible items.
Get Paid for Blogging Selling Software or Apps
If you're a programmer or can hire one… creating software or apps could be a very lucrative option.
But many software developers sell their apps or offer software as a service (SaaS) directly from their website.
Get Paid for Blogging Selling Sponsorships or Ad Space
Once you start a blog and have consistent traffic…
A quick way to monetize is to offer sponsorships or ad space for a monthly fee. You can charge what someone is willing to pay you.
But for the most part… rates are based on the amount of traffic you get to your website. I've seen advertising rates as low as $25.00 per month to several hundred.
You can either reach out directly to website or business owners whose products or services match your website's audience.
Or you can have a page on your blog offering sponsorship opportunities.
Get Paid for Blogging Selling Memberships
Sometimes the best way to serve your audience is not through individual products but through a membership site.
Many join membership sites because they offer additional support through (live office hours, forums, accountability partners, and community).
You can make a membership site on almost anything — from Disney to Bar-B-Que.
Memberships sites are a great way to make consistent money because members pay monthly or on an annual basis.
It's usually easier building up an email list from your blog first… then offering a membership component to your audience later.
When deciding on the best way monetize your blog consider two things:
- The barrier to entry (ie, cost and time).
- Income potential.
- Pick one income stream and double down on it until you get results. Then repeat.
So guess what time it is?
Oh yeah! Let's do this.
Video Tutorial: How to Start a Blog
Step 1: Decide What to Blog About
If you've made it this far — you're probably dead set on launching a blog (high-five).
But how do you choose a blog topic? And how do you know if there is money in your niche? Do you follow your passion or do you follow the latest trends?
At the end of the day, it's up to you to decide… your website, your topic.
If you start a blog as a hobby. And you have no intention of ever making a dime from it – create a blog on anything you want.
If your goal is to generate income from your blog… read on.
How to Find a Profitable Blog Niche
I suggest you pick a blog topic based on two data-driven facts:
- Your Strengths
- Proven Consumer Markets
Let’s first get an understanding of what a “niche market” it is… and what it isn't.
Wikipedia says, “a niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focused. It is also a small market segment.”
I prefer Eben Pagan's niche definition better, “a need many people have that your product fills.”
He goes on to say…
“The process of targeting a niche is about finding a need that many people are having, then creating or finding a product to solve it.” – Eben Pagan
In my opinion, the best way to start a blog is to find a blog topic that's the intersection of:
- Your natural strengths
- Proven consumer markets
Your Natural Strengths
To figure out your strengths (or your competitive advantage) make a list from the questions below:
- What are your natural talents, strengths, and abilities?
- What do people say you are good at?
- What developed skills have you learned?
- What unique experience do you have (ie, military, blacksmithing, etc.)?
- What awards, achievements, or recognition have you earned?
- What do you naturally gravitate towards (or spend energy on)?
- What hobbies are you good at?
Proven Consumer Markets: The Hack
The easiest way of finding a profitable niche is finding a topic within the best three proven consumer markets in the world.
- Business & Money
- Dating & Relationships
- Health & Fitness
Clay Collins, Co-Founder of Leadpages and my favorite email automation service provider Drip breaks it down to:
Getting Paid – (business, making money, real estate, etc.)
Getting Laid – (relationship advice, dating, marriage advice, etc.) and
Not Dying – (health counseling, weight loss, stress, muscle gain, etc.)
Profound words? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- List out your natural strengths.
- Find a consumer market that interests you.
- Pick your blog topic based on the intersection.
FAQ: What if I can't decide on a blog topic?
Don't sweat it. Just pick a topic you could handle for the next 12 weeks and move forward. Have relief knowing you can start a blog on any topic, then change it later.
You'll learn a lot more by starting versus trying to pick the perfect blog topic.
Step 2: Choose a Blogging Platform
They're many blogging platforms or website builders on the market such as Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and so on.
However, none as simple, reliable, scalable, and SEO friendly as the content management system (CMS) of WordPress.
At the end of the day, you want a platform that is easy to use and one you have complete control of. And by complete control, I mean a site you own.
If you start a blog as a hobby site with no intention of ever monetizing or you're not concerned if it gets shut down there are many free alternatives that will suit you.
However, If you're planning on making from your blog… read on.
Best Blogging Platform to Make Money
If your looking for the best blogging platform to make money look no further than WordPress (via Bluehost or WordPress.org).
Let's not confuse WordPress(dot)org with WordPress(dot)com (the latter, a free solution I don't recommend).
The reason why WordPress is the best blogging platform to make money on is because YOU OWN IT!
Secondly, when you start a blog on WordPress it’s SEO friendly out of the box.
This helps you get FREE organic traffic from Google. (And that's a great thing if want visitors to your site.)
On the other hand:
When you start a blog using free alternatives you don't own your website — you rent it!
Meaning if Weebly decided to shut down or shut you down… they could.
And your website/business would also be closed. (NOT GOOD).
You simply don't have control when you use free options — so don’t use them (period). Especially if you're using your blog to make money.
FAQ: Can I start a blog for free?
Yes. But like I mentioned above – only if you're blog is a hobby. If you plan to make money from your blog I strongly discourage the free blog option.
- You don't own the blog. (So if your account gets shut down for whatever reason. Your blog gets shut down too.)
- Most free services don't allow monetization (i.e. make money). The few that do require you to upgrade your own account which defeats the purpose of having a free blog.
- The majority of free blogging platforms limit you to basic features and functionality. This can be frustrating when your creativity is stifled by technology.
- It's costly and labor intensive to move to paid platforms later. So unless you're extremely technical you'll have to hire someone for the job.
If blogging is seriously just a hobby and free is exactly what will serve you best… I would blog at Medium.
Step 3: Pick a Domain Name
Coming from a domain addict — choosing the perfect domain name is no easy feat. And finding an available domain name is even harder.
In the hundred or so domains I've purchased over the years, I've come to realize a few things regarding domains.
- A domain name itself won't' guarantee success.
- The quality of content on a domain is more valuable than the name.
- Domain names are subjective (You might love it, yet others will hate it.)
Let's not got it twisted here.
A catchy domain name is definitely a plus… it's just not everything.
That being said, there are several guidelines you should follow when you choosing a domain name for your site (<1.> So it doesn't suck. <2.> So you don't get sued).
Domain Name Guidelines
- Stick to .com if possible ( others – .net, .org, .co, .io, .me, .blog, etc.).
- The shorter, the better.
- The easier to spell, the better.
- The more memorable, the better.
- Avoid hyphens. It's bad for branding (ie, Off-Road-Truck-Depot.com)
- Consider keywords related to your niche (ie, AccidentAttorney.com).
- Avoid trademarked names (ie, DisneyBirthdayCakes.com).
- Consider “geo modifiers” (ie, AustinAutoRepair.com).
(TIP: Don't let the perfect domain name stifle you. If you can't find a domain, choose your name and move on.)
Domain Name Ideas
Using the guidelines above mix and match words to come up with unique domain names. If you need assistance domain name generators like NameMesh can be helpful.
Another great hack when coming up with names is using Amazon.com to find “buzzwords” in your industry.
Type in your niche under the “books” section and scan for words that grab your attention. Combine the rules above and you got yourself a domain name.
- Pick several keywords for domain name options.
Step 4: Find a Web Host
I started using BlueHost back in 2010, and I recommend them to anyone who wants to start a blog for the first time.
Their 24-hour support is what saved me when I first launched my SEO company because I didn't have a clue about WordPress.
I remember calling support at 2:00 a.m. because I accidentally deleted my first client's website (BTW – this is NOT good for business).
I was panicking!!!
I called them up… and to my surprise, they answered.
Not only did they restore the deleted site, but they also educated me on how to prevent this mistake in the future. Honestly, they've been super helpful over the years. I've used several web hosting companies since then, but there's no better hosting company to start with.
And for the price… you can't beat it.
(Note: the link will open in a new window so you can follow this tutorial as reference.
Click Get Started Now Button
So let's go to the BlueHost homepage click the green “Get Started Now” button.
Select Your Plan
Select your preferred plan. If you want the option to have more than one site you'll need to go with the plus or prime option (this is what I recommend). If you choose the basic plan you're limited to one site.
Pro Tip: Create a Test Site
Use the unlimited website plan to create a test site (aka a “dev site”… short for development site). This way you can install new software (ie, plugins and themes) without potentially breaking your site. It's just a great site to test things on.
Enter Your Domain Name
Next, you have three options.
Option 1: Get a FREE domain from BlueHost.
Option 2: Use a domain you already own… or
Option 3: Choose your free domain later.
Either way works so select an option and hit the “next” button.
FAQ: What if the domain name I want is already taken?
Don't sweat it. This happens more times than not. The good news is you can take advantage of Bluehost's “Choose Free Domain Later” option by clicking the link above (option #3) or when the pop-up appears. Just click the button and continue.
*Remember to use my domain name idea tips (above) if you need help.
Enter Your Account Information
The first part of setting up your Bluehost account is to enter your account information. Complete the form and make sure you enter the correct phone number and email. (All important information and instructions will be emailed to you. Additionally, for security Bluehost sometimes calls to verify the charge.)
Select Your Web Hosting Package
The minimum plan is 12 months and the maximum is 60 months. The longer the commitment, the steeper the discount.
Regardless of what option you choose, Bluehost will bill you upfront for the entire duration. This is NOT unique to Bluehost – most web hosting companies charge upfront.
The ones that do charge monthly are for accounts in the $100/month and up range. So Bluehost is a bargain compared to those.
Simply… the price of Bluehost is a no-brainer.
If you got the “Plus Plan” the only other option I would select is the “Domain Privacy” option. Domain privacy prevents your contact information from being posted online (i.e., your name, address, phone number, and email). If you selected the “Prime Plan” domain privacy is free.
I think we'd all agree…
You don't want strangers from all over the world to know where you live based on your domain name. It's a must in my book.
If you're a business and you want people to know where you are located… then you can skip domain privacy.
Enter Your Payment Information
Make sure you enter your credit card information correctly.
CLICK to agree to the “terms of service”…
And click the “SUBMIT” button.
Skip the Upgrades and Special Offers
Once you hit submit, you'll have to option to add upgrades and special offers. I personally would skip them. Just click the “no thanks” link and move one.
Create Your Password
After you complete your purchase, you'll need to create a password.
You should now see a “Congratulations!” message and a button to log into your WordPress site.
FAQ: Help, something happened and I'm stuck! What now?
Need not worry grasshopper. If you ever get stuck (or like me delete a client's site) simply contact the Bluehost technical support team. You can either call or chat and they're available 24/7. But I prefer just to call in. For US customers call 844-213-7846. International customers can call +1 801-765-9400. Explain your situation… and they'll sort you out.
Step 5: Start Using WordPress
Now that you've set up your BlueHost account it's time to log into your WordPress site. Click the “Log In” button.
Skip the Free Themes
As soon as you log in (more than likely) you'll be offered a free theme to install on your site. I would (strongly) recommend you skip this option and stick with your current default theme for now.
Most free themes are not supported and maintained from a code perspective. Outdated themes make it really easy for “hackers” to exploit your site.
… NOT good.
When you first start your blog, the default theme that comes with WordPress will do.
However, when you're ready to get a paid and supported premium theme I recommend (and use) StudioPress built on the Genisis framework.
Changing your WordPress theme is really simple. It's literally a click of a button.
Start Building Your Site
All new domains are on a temporary domain at first and can take up to 24 hours before it's fully registered.
You can still work on your site with your temporary domain. And Bluehost will switch it automatically when your domain is ready.
If you signed up to Bluehost with a domain you already owned…
Contact Bluehost support or look in the help section to connect an existing domain to your site.
You won't need to access your Bluehost account right now so click the “Start Building” button.
Once you're in the WordPress dashboard you'll see a WordPress (kind of getting started) screen asking you to choose if your site is for “business” or “personal”… click the “I don't need help” link.
All the links on the left and top of the page will become very familiar to you. Everything you need to do to make changes on your WordPress site will take place here (the WordPress dashboard).
Let's now make some important setting adjustments…
Change Permalinks and Category Slug
Changing your permalinks and category slug is essentially changing the look and length of your page and post URLs. You want to keep them as short and specific as possible.
Google gives more credit to the keywords in the beginning of the URL string as a positive ranking signal for “relevance” in the search engine. So the closer your (page and post titles) are to the root domain (i.e., your domain name) the better chance you have your content being found.
To change your permalinks and category slug… go to the “Settings” link.
Once on the “permalinks” settings page. Make the changes below.
First: Change your permalink structure (see image below).
Second: Change your category slug (see image below).
Third: Save changes.
Your permalinks are now set for maximum SEO value. Let's move on to publishing your first blog post.
Publish Your First Blog Post
The first step is to hover over the “+ New” tab at the top of your WordPress toolbar.
Then select “Post” from the drop-down menu.
You'll notice the WordPress text editor is very similar to word processing software… like Google Docs.
Your blog post title is on the top line and your blog content is below.
If you hover over the WordPress text editor icons… you'll see the features available to you.
Most of them should be familiar to you (i.e., bold, italics, justification, hyperlinks etc.).
Above the toolbar, there's an “add media” button.
This is where you can add images, audio, gifs, or video files to your blog.
You can “drag and drop” your media files directly onto the WordPress page or you can select a file from your computer.
Once your media uploads… click the blue “Insert into post” button at the bottom right corner.
When you're finished editing your blog post…
Click “update” to save your changes, then “view post” by clicking the link above your title.
You can always edit and save changes by clicking the “edit post” icon at the top of your WordPress toolbar.
BOOM! You're done.
Congratulations! You've taken the steps needed to start a blog – a self-hosted WordPress site at that. And you've published your first blog post.
If you got a new domain via Bluehost. Make sure you find your welcome email and follow their instructions to complete the activation process.
For you serious bloggers…
When you start a blog, feel free to drop me a line if you'd like some feedback, SEO help, or tips… etc.
Best of luck!