Anyone can start a blog.
Blogging is a relatively easy thing to do. You can start a blog for free, any time you like. But if you want to blog for money, you’ll need to start a blog business. And that requires some more effort, planning and research first.
How to start your blog business.
Step 1: Decide on your niche.
Your blog niche is the topic or topics you will be writing about along with the audience you are writing for. It’s recommended that you choose one or two topics only, when deciding on a blog niche. And if you choose more than that, make sure they are related.
For example, if you want to start a blog about health and fitness, you could focus on writing about workouts, with the related topics of diets and healthy cooking. But you wouldn’t want to talk about getting out of debt and retiring early. That’s not related to your niche of fitness.
Step 2: Choose your blog name.
Once you’ve decided on what you’ll be writing about and who you’re writing to, you get to choose your blog name. Spend some time researching your blog name before deciding on it.
Many people will go with their own names — ie JamesSmith.com, etc. And while this is an effective way to get a unique name, it does present some problems. Once you use your own name as your blog name, you do lose a lot of privacy and identity security. Also, if you ever choose to sell it, or even to just quietly end your blog, your name will forever be attached to that blog. And nothing ever dies on the internet.
There are a few things to remember when choosing your blog name:
- Keep it short
- Make it memorable
- Try for descriptive or topic-related names
- Relate to your niche
Step 3: Buy your domain name.
Once you’ve created a short list of potential blog names, start looking at what is available as a domain name. You’ll want the dot-com version of your blog name, unless you’re running a registered charity.
Before you click buy, however, check on social media for the name as a social media handle. You want to make sure that your blog name, domain and social media handles are all the same. That makes it easier for your audience to find you and connect with you.
When you’ve got a name that ticks all the boxes, buy it right away. Then register all the social media handles that go with it too. Keep track of your names and passwords, so that you can find them easily later, when you’ve got your brand and images decided on.
Step 4: Choose your brand.
Your brand is the face of your business. Make sure that you create a “face” that suits your topics, connects with your audience and is easily memorable.
Your visual brand consists of the fonts, colors and style of your images that you’ll use on all your web properties. So your website, your social media profiles and your email forms and newsletters will all be branded to match.
Once you’ve created your visual brand, create your logo. You can get a designer to create it for you, or you can create your own. Save a copy of it on a white background, black background and transparent background.
Step 5: Get hosting.
Your website is your virtual real estate. The domain name is the address and the hosting is the “land” where your blog home will sit.
Choosing the right host means finding a host that will make sure your site is always visible (“up”) and that your site loading speed is quick. You’ll also want to make sure it’s affordable.
My personal recommendation is SiteGround. The customer service is unmatched, and the hosting rates are very competitive! If you choose to go with them, please click on my affiliate link. I appreciate your support.
Step 6: Set up your blog.
Setting up your blog has two parts to it. First, you’ll need to choose the content management system you’ll use to create your site. And second, you’ll want to set up the website with your brand before you sit down to write a post.
Choose a content management system.
The software you can choose to design your site with varies. Some are better for e-commerce and some are designed for content development, such as a blog.
WordPress is one of the most common website software options — it powers up to 15% of the websites on the internet. Other options would be Joomia, Blogger, Wix or SquareSpace.
Be warned: it’s really hard to transfer your content between content management software. So if you pick Wix or SquareSpace, and later want to switch to WordPress, you might end up with a lot of extra work!
Designing your site.
You can hire a professional to set up and design your website, or you can do it yourself. Just remember, every website, including a blog, is always a work-in-progress, which means that what your site will look like now will change, as you grow, learn and improve.
Key terms to know:
If you choose to do it yourself, there’s a few key terms you need to know about: theme, header, and SEO.
1. Theme: the overall look to your site.
Themes or templates are provided to help give your website a specific look and help make everything work together. The colors, fonts, lines and shapes that you pick that unify the different elements of your blog.
You can get pre-made themes, often free, or you can purchase a theme with premium elements. If you’re really confident with your CSS and HTML skills, you can design one yourself, but for the beginner, I don’t recommend you try.
2. Header: the banner you see across the top of the site
It usually has the name of the site or company who owns the website, and their logo. It will also contain a tagline or slogan of some kind, plus the menu for the website. The menu helps readers navigate through the site.
3. SEO: Search Engine Optimization
It’s where your site gets listed on a search engine. Everything from the domain name to the name of the site, to its description and the content on it helps or hurts the SEO.
SEO is based on “keywords” or certain words and phrases that are targeted when someone searches for something. For example, if you were to Google “how to start a blog” you may come across this blog post. The phrase “how to start a blog” is a keyword, and if I’ve done my SEO correctly, you’ll be directed to this post.
Designing your site means knowing basic graphic design.
Designing a header or any other graphics for your website doesn’t have to be complicated.
If you’ve got an eye for how things should look on paper (and most of us can tell when something looks good or bad), then you can do beginner graphic design. Of course, if you want something fancy, complex or even just to look professional, I do recommend finding a graphic designer to help.
If you’re looking to DIY, try sites like PicMonkey or Canva, or get a beginner copy of Photoshop, and play around.
Step 7: Write blog posts.
A typical blog post is between 300-800 words. For SEO purposes, don’t post shorter than 300 words.
How to write a blog post:
Think back to middle school, and the 5 paragraph essay you were forced to learn. Now forget it. Writing a blog post is nothing like writing an essay!
You want to write as though you were trying to talk to your best friend, your coworker, your neighbour or your mom. Whether you’re describing something, explaining how to do something, or giving your opinion on a topic, you want to write casually.
Short sentences are absolutely OK! You can even do a fragment or two. Like this one.
Lists, how-tos, reviews and descriptions are very popular types of posts. You can also do comparisons, opinions, informational or even a journal entry.
What you blog about will depend on you and your chosen niche. However, spelling, grammar, punctuation and all those rules of writing do count! Poorly spelled or badly written blog posts will not get repeat readers.
Every blog post needs pictures.
I recommend one picture per ~300-500 words. Choose pictures that are relevant to your blog post. They should emphasis, enhance or illustrate a point you made in your blog. You can even create graphics to help — charts, quotes, or infographics are excellent visual material for your blog.
Do NOT just google pictures and use whatever you find online.
You may end up in a lot of trouble doing that! You’ll want to find pictures that are royalty-free. You can use a site like Shutterstock and pay a small monthly subscription for access to thousands of pictures. Or try free stock photo sites like Pixabay or Pexels.
Even better, take your own pictures!
Publishing your blog post.
Once you’ve written, proofread and edited your post, and added in your pictures, its time to publish. You can publish immediately, or you can choose a scheduled time for it to be published.
Now you just need to update and post new content regularly (once a month? once a week? more? less?). The key is to be consistent on your timing of new content, not frequent. It’s better to post monthly than post 5 times in one week, then nothing at all for 3 weeks. (That’s what the scheduling feature is for!)
Step 8: Set up your email list.
It is extremely important to gather and use an email marketing list. Unlike the following you may build on Instagram or Facebook, you own your email list. If the platforms you currently use were to change their rules (as have happened several times!), your business could be drastically impacted.
An email list is the only sure way to connect, contact and advertise to your audience.
Basically, an email list is the 21st century version of the phone or direct mailing address list. Years ago, knowing your customers by their first name was a way to almost guarantee repeat business. Personalized service was the gold standard for all major retailers.
Today, in the global competition for attention, being able to send an email directly into someone’s inbox creates that personal, emotional connection between businesses and their customers.
Your email is worth its weight in gold.
Email marketing is the current standard in online marketing. Your email list is worth its weight in gold. It’s the only sure way to connect with an audience that is already interested in what you have to say. Blogging, social media, and other forms of advertising statistically aren’t as effective as email marketing.
What is email marketing?
It all starts with your list. An email marketing list is the collection of names and email addresses you’ve gathered from various sources, such as your blog, website, or social media profiles.
When your audience members give you their contact info, they are telling you they like what you have said. They want to know more. They want to hear from you more. It’s an acknowledgement of their interest in you. And it’s a request for more information from you.
Email marketing, then, is the regular connection between you and your audience.
It can take the form of regular weekly or monthly newsletters or e-zines. You could be sending a blog post to their inbox, every time you publish one.
Email marketing could also be a specialized sequence of emails, designed to sell a product or service.
It could be the transaction record-keeping emails, such as receipts of purchases or coupons offered.
There are lots of ways to connect via email with your list.
How do you create an email list?
Unlike other forms of advertising, you can’t just send out emails to random addresses, and hope for the best. Email marketing has rules and regulations (not to mention, best practices and etiquette) similar to phone marketing. Most countries in the world have SPAM laws, meaning you must ask permission before emailing someone for commercial purposes.
First, you must collect the contact information using an “opt-in” process.
This is where your customer or reader voluntarily gives you their name and email address. On that form, they should be given full knowledge and acceptance that you will be sending them regular emails.
Second, you will probably want to use one of the many email marketing service providers to collect, store and send your marketing emails.
Options include: MailChimp, ConvertKit, GetResponse, InfusionSoft, Constant Contact, AWeber, and many more. All of these have both free trials and paid versions, with a variety of features and benefits. All of them will have measures in place to make sure you follow the rules around email marketing, including unsubscribe options.
They vary in terms of difficulty of use and learning curves, so shop around. A few, such as ConvertKit and InfusionSoft will offer training courses in how to best use their software and on email marketing in general. You can even get certified in those products, if you so choose.
Third, it’s often easiest to collect email addresses in exchange for a small gift or freebie.
Also known as “lead magnet” or “freemium”, these free gifts make it easier to ask for your audience’s contact information. You can offer anything from ebooks to PDF charts, planner pages or printable posters, email-based courses, videos, podcasts, or anything else you could create to sell.
How do you market using email anyway?
No matter what you specifically send to your list, you need to have regular, consistent contact with them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be frequent, just regular. You can email daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or less often.
What doesn’t work is to email daily or weekly for a few weeks, and then to disappear off the radar for a period of time. You will alienate your audience that way. You’ll be more likely to have your email marketing efforts reported as spam, and then you’ll have wasted not only your time but valuable connections too.
You have a few options for what to send to your list.
The easiest, and most often used option is to simply send out a copy of the blog post you publish. You can even automate that your blog posts go out to your email list when you publish them.
Another frequent option is to create an e-newsletter or e-zine that gets sent out regularly. Usually these emails will contain links to past blog posts, news of upcoming sales or events, and possibly even discount codes or special deals for products or services you sell.
You can create specific sequences of emails for your email list.
These are known as autoresponders and are often used in specific situations, for very specific purposes.
For example, a welcome sequence is a set of automatic emails triggered when a new connection signs up for your email list. It will be a series of 3-5 emails that will be sent out over a short period of time, introducing you, your website, blog and business to your new audience member.
The purpose of this sequence is to quickly build up your new reader’s knowledge of you, promote their attraction to you, and create more trust between you and them.
Another sequence you could use would be a nurture sequence. This would be a longer series of emails, probably 8-10, that would be triggered by an anniversary of their sign up, or some change in your business or blog. The purpose of the sequence would be to remind the reader of who you are, inform them of changes and updates, and build up that trust even more.
A third sequence is the sales sequence, designed for the sole purpose of selling a particular product or service to your email list. Usually these are triggered by the launch of a new product or service.
Sales sequences can be 3-10 emails long, and usually begin with a free offer. Then they add more value through information. And finally, they end with an invitation to purchase whatever product you’re selling.
Email marketing is incredibly valuable.
Your email list is the one sure connection you have to your audience, online.
Social media rules change, frequently. Algorithms on Facebook, Instagram and all the others mean that you can’t always count on your posts being seen at all, let alone by the right people. Your social media marketing is at the mercy of the social media platform that owns that technology.
But you own your email list. The members of your list have entrusted you with their contact information. Don’t abuse it, and don’t forget about it. Use it responsibly. You’ll see your ROI skyrocket, and your reach (and income) grow.
Step 9: Launch your blog.
You can formally or informally launch your blog. If you launch your blog formally, you’ll want to promote that fact extensively. If you launch it informally, you’ll simply push your blog live, and publish your posts with regular promotion, as if you’ve been writing for years.
Formal launches require launch planning and collaboration. With a formal launch, you’ll plan out a campaign to advertise your blog, and get a community to help you promote it. You may even try holding a blog launch virtual party (Twitter? Facebook?) and get the excitement surrounding you blog started.
Step 10: Promote your blog.
No matter what you do to launch your blog, the key to blogging success is promotion. Getting organic traffic — people just clicking on your blog from search engines — doesn’t happen right away, unless your SEO game is huge. So you’ll need to share your post in a variety of places.
This is where social media comes in. Social media is a term used to refer to all those social sharing platforms that anyone who spends any time online knows about. They include websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and others. There are approximately 50 different platforms to share on, not including the numerous message boards, forums, email groups and chat rooms available. The four main channels for most bloggers are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Facebook, as a social media platform, works like a giant message board, with “groups” acting as sub-boards. Things can be seen long after they’ve been posted. And the more comments or likes you get on your post, the more people will see it.
Every blog needs to have a Facebook page. These days, having a Facebook presence gives your blog and business a sense of legitimacy.
You need to set up a Facebook page, not a profile, for your business. Profiles are for people, and pages are for organizations. So when you set up your page, create a branded cover photo, and use your own picture as the profile photo on your page.
Note: some will suggest to use your logo as your page profile photo, but use your own picture instead. People connect better with other people, not logos.
Twitter is more like a giant chat room than a message board. It moves fast and it’s more text-based than visual. Video and images don’t have the same impact as they do on other platforms. However, humor, sarcasm, irony, or deep thoughts do very well to get engagement on Twitter.
Twitter is platform for immediate or next-to-immediate response. This has become the customer service desk for many companies, so it’s immensely powerful.
The key to success on Twitter is your bio and your hashtags. Hashtags are words or phrases that come after the symbol (#). On Twitter they are searchable and clickable. So if you use a hashtag in a post, your audience can click on that hashtag and see all the other recent posts that also used that hashtag. When a hashtag becomes popular, we call it “Trending”.
Set up your Twitter profile with a branded cover photo and a profile photo. Again, a face in the profile photo will get more authority than a logo.
Instagram is a giant interactive photo album, with a mini blog attached. The image is what will get you clicked on, but the caption is what gets you likes, comments, and followers.
With Instagram, you’ll want to use a mix of branded and organic photos. While you can use stock photos in your branded images, it’s better to use photos you’ve taken yourself.
In the caption, you can write something tangentially related to your image. Write at least a paragraph, and make it personal, motivational or helpful. Then use between 5-10 hashtags to connect to your post. And in the first comment, use another 10-15 hashtags as well. You can use up to 30 hashtags in your caption, but that’s not recommended, as it detracts from your credibility.
Pinterest is a combination of social sharing and a search engine. While you want to grow a following on Pinterest, conversations don’t generally happen here. Instead, followers will see your pins more frequently in their home feeds, and then be more likely to repin your pins.
A pin is a visual image that is linked back to a page, post or product on a website. You pin directly from sites, or repin other pins on Pinterest. Pins are placed onto boards. You can have multiple boards and multiple pins, even for one post.
Like a search engine, Pinterest uses keywords to show pins to its users. It shows pins on topics related to topics that a user has boards or pins for, or that a user searches for.
Keywords are vital on Pinterest. Choose the right keywords for your pin descriptions, board names and board descriptions, for maximum effect.
Then pin your posts multiple times a day, every day. You can pin a post to multiple boards, and then repin it to the same board every few days or weeks. You don’t want a board filled with only one post (that’s spam), but you can have the same post pinned to one board multiple times, as long as there are other pins in between.
Step 11: Engage with your email list.
Once you’ve launched your blog and started your email list, you’ll want to grow that list and engage with it, frequently.
How often you choose to email your list is less important than making sure you’re consistent. You don’t want to email so much that your audience is turned off, but you also don’t want to email so little that they forget who you are.
And no matter how often you email your list, make sure you’re offering value. Give them tips, behind-the-scene peeks, strategy, training and tools to use to help them, more than you try to sell them on something. But don’t forget to make those offers too! If you don’t ask, they won’t buy.
Step 12: Monetize your blog.
Speaking of selling to your audience, monetizing your blog is your last step to starting a blog business. Bloggers make money in three main ways: through advertising, through selling other people’s products (AKA affiliate marketing) and through selling their own products.
Set up ads.
The easiest and least complicated way to monetize your blog is through selling ad space. You can do this a few different ways.
Most bloggers will start with an ad network, like Google Ads. They’ll sign up for the ad network, add some code to their site, and the network will place ads on their site in strategic places. Some networks will use algorithms to place the ads, while others will allow you to choose the spaces for the ads.
In order to make any kind of significant income with this kind of advertising, you have to have a significant amount of web traffic or pageviews. The more people that visit your site, see those ads and click on them, the more likely you’ll get paid.
Another form of advertising is the sponsored post or review. This is where a company or brand will pay you (either in cash or product) to post content on your site related to their product. Sometimes this will be a review of their product or service. And sometimes this will be in the form of a done-for-you post, that you publish for a fee. If you post anything you’ve gotten paid to post, make sure you add a disclaimer at the beginning letting your audience know you were paid to post.
The second way to make money with your blog is to sell other people’s products. Usually this is in the form of affiliates.
An affiliate sale is where a blogger will recommend a product, such as a book, and link to a site where the reader can purchase that book. If someone purchases the recommended product through the blogger’s affiliate link, the blogger receives a commission.
The most popular affiliate program is Amazon. Amazon affiliates can use a unique link to gain income from anything their reader purchases on Amazon. So if you posted a recommended book to read, and used an Amazon affiliate link, anything your reader purchases after clicking on that link (as long as they don’t close their browser first), would generate affiliate income for you.
There are tons of products and services you can recommend with an affiliate link. As long as you provide the disclaimer that your recommendation will result in income for you, you can use an affiliate link anywhere on your site.
Create or sell products.
Bloggers can sell any kind of product through their blog. The most popular kind of products are “info-products” or digital products. The second most popular are branded products. Third, you could offer handcrafted products through your site. And another kind would be to offer a selection of products you purchase for resale.
Ebooks, ecourses, planners, webinars, or any number of printable products are all info-product options. Printables are one of the highest-selling digital products, so many bloggers use them.
Branded products are products for your fans. These are the “souvenirs”. Think mugs, bags, t-shirts, etc. that have a logo or saying on them. Those are branded products, and you can create and sell them on your own blog.
Handcrafted items include anything you make and can legally sell. So jewelry, scarves, paintings, books, clothes, etc are all things you can make and sell through your blog.
** Note: be careful selling anything that requires labelling. So food products, cleaning products, anything that is health-and-wellness related, etc, aren’t good things to sell through your blog. There are too many rules and regulations regarding their sale to make them profitable opportunities for the internet marketer. **
One more type of product to sell on your site would be those products you can purchase cheap and resell. So maybe used books & games, or craft supplies, or raw materials (again, be careful here), are a possibility for you. You can also look into dropshipping, where you can list items for sale, but have another company ship them for you.
A blog makes an excellent vehicle to direct customers to your own store.
You can start a blog as a way to advertise another business as well. So if you offer a service (such as coaching, design, etc), you can offer those services in your blog, or use your blog to generate customer leads for your business.
Thousands of new blogs are started every day.
It’s a growing industry! There are a lot of resources out there for the new blogger. Not all are going to be the most useful or helpful. But with so many skills needed, every beginner needs training. Here are my top four blogging resources for the beginning blogger:
- StartaMomBlog.com Suzi, founder of StartaMomBlog.com is a former industrial engineer turned stay-at-home-mom who took her expertise at creating systems for large companies and applied to it blogging. She has created amazing training and tools to take you from beginner to full-time blogger in no time. I highly recommend her Blog-by-Numbers Ebook. It’s step-by-step instructions are so simple yet get you up and running quickly. And then, when you’re ready for more, her Blog-by-Numbers E-course is the perfect hand up.
- Your Content Empire Hailey is a veteran content specialist. She’s been in business for over a decade and she knows her stuff. If you need help with creating the content for your blog, your products or your social media, Hailey can help! Her Content Empire Planner is an incredible resource for planning out your blog posts and advertising. If you’re ready for more, try the Content Empire Kit. And for someone who’s ready to take their blog to the big time, Hailey’s group program Your Content, Your Empire or her personal 1-to-1 coaching is what you’ll need.
- TheArtofBetterBlogging.com Jenn has been a blogger since 1999!! She knows the blogging industry inside and out. She offers everything a new blogger needs to take their hobby blog to a blog that makes money. Check out her Blog to Biz Toolkit as a starting point. Or for a bigger leap, her Better Blogging Academy is like a college course for bloggers. Plus, you’ll want to be part of her Facebook group, for support and encouragement.
- IHeartPlanners.com Laura is a mom of 2 and the organizing guru for your blog, business and life. I’m a planner junkie, and Laura’s blog is like Disneyland for me. I love her easy introduction to starting a blog (Start a Blog in 15), but its her List Building Academy that gets her on my list. Not only that, she makes printable and product design look easy. If you’re looking for pretty, affordable yet functional planners, you need to look at her Etsy store.
Anyone can start a blog.
Not everyone will make money. Only some turn their blog into a money-making concern. It takes time, effort, creativity and the willingness to learn new skills. You also need the right blogging resources. But if you’re willing to put the work into it, you will see the return on your investment. Happy blogging!
For more blogging tips, check out:
9 Surprising Blogging Tips You May Not Have Known
Content Marketing: Build your Email List
Content Upgrades: Everything You Need to Know
How to Use MailChimp to send an Email to your List
Blogging will take time, effort and patience.
Readers for your blog don’t happen overnight, and that will take promotion on your part. But with consistent posting, good value content, and persistent promotion, you’ll develop a community that you can eventually start to sell to, and make money.