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Ever thought about launching your own blog? Ever wondered what it takes, not only to start up that blog, but also to successfully build it over time to make money online or generate a passive income? Clearly, you’re not alone. Millions of people try their hand at blogging, but so few actually ever generate a substantial income from their efforts.
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How to Start a Blog and Make Money Online
However, if you’re starting a blog for the purposes of making money, and you’re not actually passionate about writing in the first place, then you’re largely wasting your time. The art of blogging isn’t simply scientific or formulaic. Without a deep-seated passion for your craft, you’ll face a tide of frustration and upset.
Why? While it’s relatively straightforward to begin a blog, it’s a monumental undertaking to generate any semblance of traffic and profit from your arduous efforts. You need laser-focus and persistence to build an audience or reach mass saturation with your prose. It takes time and it takes long and drawn out evenings burning the proverbial midnight oil.
Take it from me. As a blogger who’s built a substantial platform with hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors, I can bask in the warm glow of success. However, I can’t sit around for too long enjoying the freedom and passive income that my blog has created. Without constantly adding insatiable content, any blog can die off.
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So, what does it take to start a successful blog and actually make money online? I suppose that depends on what you consider successful and what you consider making money. If, like millions of other potential bloggers out there, you’re looking to rake it in, you’ll have a long road ahead.
But if you’re willing to put in the time and the effort, and you can stay persistent over the years (and yes, I said years), then you can most certainly generate a substantial income online. In fact, your blog is quite possibly one of the best hubs of passive income generation, and if done the right way, it can attract the right clients and customers no matter what industry or niche you might be in.
Related: 4 Ways to Stock Your Content War Chest
How to start a blog: step-by-step
Okay, if I haven’t dissuaded you just yet, and you’re serious about launching the next Mashable or TechCrunch or whatever other blog you might think is wildly successful in your eyes, then here’s what you need to do in a step-by-step fashion. The more you prepare and plan, the more likely you’ll be to succeed in the long term.
1. Pick a topic
Get clear on what you’ll write about. Define a topic or niche, and design all your content around those things. This will help you to not only laser-focus your writing, but also to build digital products and services that compliment your content.
This allows you to attract customers in, enticing them with your highly-informative posts, then tempting them with a lead magnet before dropping them into your sales funnel (more on that shortly).
2. Select a platform
While WordPress is the most popular platform for blogging by far, there are others out there that can be leveraged such as a micro-blogging platform like Tumblr, Blogger.com and even Medium. However, if you’re serious about your blogging efforts, you’ll likely want to go with a self-hosted WordPress installation on a custom domain.
While you could setup a blog at WordPress.com with a subdomain such as myblog.wordpress.com, you’ll get more traction with a self-hosted solution, and then be able to use subdomains on popular platforms for your content-marketing efforts.
Related: Medium Is the Solution If You Want to Blog Without Any Overhead
3. Pick a domain name
Custom domain names are important if you’re serious about making money from the blog you start. Rather than relying on a third-party-hosted subdomain, find a short but relevant keyword-rich (if possible) domain name that’s descriptive of your intended topic, industry or niche. Use BlueHost, HostGator, 1&1 Hosting or any other number of domain name providers to source your domain.
If you’re at all concerned about things like SEO, when selecting your domain name, you should adhere to the following suggestions:
- Use a known top-level domain (TLD) such as .com or .net
- Keep the domain short, no more than 15 characters or so
- Try not to purchase a domain name with hyphens, since they’re more often associated with spammers
- Avoid using self-hosted subdomains to rank or categorize posts
Related: 21 Ways to Market Your Business Online
4. Find a good web hosting company
There are loads of good hosting companies out there. If you’re starting a WordPress, self-hosted blog, there are a near-endless amount of options. The important thing is to do your due diligence and pick the right one that’s suitable to your budget and to ensure that the service-level and up-time guarantee is there.
At the beginning, you’ll likely want to start out with either a Managed WordPress solution or a Virtual Private Server (VPS), and scale from there. Eventually, you’ll probably need a dedicated-hosting solution with a CDN (below) once you break through a few thousand visitors per day.
5. Caching and content-delivery networks (CDNs)
Use a system like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache and turn on browser caching to ensure that you speed up the delivery of your webpages. In the beginning, this might not seem as important. But as you grow and your traffic increases to thousands of visitors per day, this will be critical. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights to test things before and after the installation.
It’s also important that you setup a CDN, which will speed up the global delivery of your content. For example, your page might load relatively quickly in the United States, but what happens when someone in Australia tries to load your content? CDNs replicate data across multiple repositories around the world, and make content delivery ultra-fast.
This is important for the user’s experience because most people who are foced to wait even a few seconds for a page to load, often abandon the website and go to the next one in the search results. W3 Total Cache integrates with Amazon’s AWS and MaxCDN, two very good options when it comes to CDNs.
6. Enable permalinks
In WordPress, you should enable permalinks before getting things off the ground, which will give you nice canonical URLs that are SEO-friendly. Permalinks are located within the settings > permalinks section of your WordPress admin and select the post name option.
Related: 10 Smart Ways to Earn or Build Backlinks to Your Website
7. Install the AMP plugin
The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an initiative by Google to speed up mobile accessibility to a large degree of their content. The AMP specification, which you can read more about here, helps to thin down a webpage to its basic structural components with scaled-back JS and minified CSS code, makes for lightning-fast page speeds.
8. Install Google Analytics
Install Google Analytics so that you can keep track of your efforts while building out your blog. This is a great way to keep track of your results while using the URL campaign builder when dropping links in social media and other places so that you can effectively determine where your traffic is coming from.
9. Setup Google’s webmaster tools
Anyone who’s serious about building a blog and making money, needs to leverage Google’s webmaster tools to see what keywords they’re ranking for and any messages that would impact their ability to rank. This will also allow you to submit an XML sitemap and track keyword impressions along with click-through rates. This is one of the most useful tools for growing your site or blog through constant analysis of your efforts.
Related: Why Your Startup Content-Marketing Strategy Isn’t Working
10. Learn SEO the right way
Although you shouldn’t start a blog with the intention of optimizing it to oblivion, you most certainly should understand the fundamental principles of search engine optimization so that you pay attention to the key aspects that will impact your ability to rank on search engines like Google. Begin with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and digest and implement that information. Learning SEO is a long and drawn out journey. You should always be increasing your knowledge and expanding your skill set.
11. Regularly build useful content
If you’re serious about succeeding with your blog, you need to build useful anchor content. It needs to be engaging, keyword centric, insightful, unique and well written. Don’t write your content for search engines. Rather, write your content for humans while also paying homage to search engines and what they want. Simply put, it’s a skill that develops over time with practice. It’s also important to regularly publish your content on a weekly basis.
12. Sign up to an email marketing platform
The best avenue for making money from your blog is through email marketing, plain and simple. Hands down, this offers one of the quickest and surest strategies for earning an income through your blog. But before you get there, you need to sign up to an email marketing platform like Aweber, ConvertKit, MailChimp, Constant Contact, InfusionSoft or any other number of platforms that exist out there.
Related: 4 Golden Rules to Boost Blog-Post Engagement
13. Build a lead magnet
If you’re serious about marketing anything online, rather than opting for running ads on your blog (which won’t make you real money unless you have at least hundreds of thousands of visitors per day) or engaging in affiliate marketing, you should build a topical lead magnet that will sell a digital product or offer that you create in the back-end. The lead magnet will entice people to sign up to your list and provide you with their email address.
14. Build a digital product and position your offers
Email marketing and lead magnets are all designed to help you build out an automated sales machine. However, you need a digital product, service or other kind of offer in the back-end to do that. You can create multiple offers or products that can lead people up a value chain towards your high-ticket sales.
15. Create a sales funnel
Take the time to build your automated sales funnel. There is so much involved with sales funnels, but the basic premise is that your visitors will show up to your site by discovering your content, drop into your sales funnel through an offer via your lead magnet or some other tripwire, and they’ll then be led through a journey with drip-fed messages at some periodic schedule that will allow you to sell your products and services on autopilot.
Related: How This Entrepreneur Created a Premier Women’s Lifestyle Website
16. Get social
Building a blog isn’t easy by any measure. To help you along the road towards success, you have to get social. Not only by linking up with other like-minded bloggers interested in online marketing, but also by sharing and engaging with others on social networks like Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms.
17. Market your content
The single most important strategy you’ll find for building up a blog and boosting your visibility on search engines like Google, and my all-time go-to strategy for rocketing up the search rankings on Google’s SERPs, is content marketing. Marketing your content is an intricate process that involves long, seemingly-never-ending hours of building more useful off-site content that links to your primary anchor content, but it’s well worth it.
You can use this single strategy to rank number one on Google’s searches for nearly any keyword if it’s done the right way. There’s most certainly an art to this as well as a technical outline and to doing it the right way. Don’t try to spam or overstuff keywords in an effort to market your content by any means.
Content marketing can be done with articles on sites like Medium.com or Scribd.com, it can be done by answering questions on Reddit or Quora, and it can be done with videos on YouTube or Vimeo, along with a variety of other means. The point is that all of the content has to be useful, period. Don’t try to do the least amount of work for the greatest return. You need to do the exact opposite if you want to succeed.
Related: 5 Tips for Starting Your Own Online Publishing Company
How can you monetize your content?
Let’s face it, starting and running a blog can get costly. Don’t expect to get rich overnight. However, you can take certain measures to monetize some of your content along the way. Be sure that you remain topical with your content and that your lead magnets help to drop people into a sales funnel that will eventually sell your high-ticket items.
However, aside from that, you can always opt to generate small amounts of cash flow by doing other things such as creating articles that will lead people to courses or audiobooks that you’ve developed, or building out video tutorials that will ultimately sell some big package or system that will help to teach people whatever it is that you’re really good it.
Related: 5 Ways to Boost Content and Promote Your Blog in 2022
If you’re going to make money blogging, you need to make sure your blog content is always relevant and up to date. Your readers need to trust that the information they’re getting from you is reliable and trustworthy, not to mention related to a niche or topic of interest. Keeping your content topical will help build loyalty among your readers, which can ultimately result in more sales for your blog.
Especially for new bloggers and beginners, it can take a lot of hard work to get readers to trust your new blog. If you’re trying to start a profitable blog, using affiliate programs, Google AdSense, and eCommerce email lists can be a great way to convert blog traffic into sales metrics. However, it’s essential that your blog topics, blog name, and blog theme all stay relevant and informative, even from the first blog post.
Without meeting the needs of your blogging niche with quality content, you won’t capture your target audience. The most successful bloggers know how to make money blogging, and it comes from prioritizing the needs and interests of your readership throughout your blogging journey.
Find products that fit
Once you’ve determined the topics for your content, look for sellable products that fit those topics. If you’re writing new content about fitness and nutrition, find some courses or programs that offer comprehensive information on diet and exercise, or promote high-quality fitness gear or wellness products.
You can make a lot of money partnering with online businesses for new posts since your organic traffic will be desirable in their digital marketing efforts. You can sell your own products as well or find relevant brands offering sponsorships.
Keep in mind that you can sell both physical and digital products. Here are a few more examples:
- Sell online video courses.
- Sell digital downloads like e-books, PDFs, audiobooks, and more.
- Sell physical products such as supplements or health foods
- Offer one-on-one coaching sessions related to your topic.
- Create bundles of products that offer value.
Related: 8 Ways to Get Your Online Store Making Money Fast
Driving more traffic to your free blog is the key to turning it into a full-time income stream. Once you’ve built a large enough following, you can begin selling advertising space or creating sponsored posts.
One way to increase traffic is through SEO keyword research. Some website builders, such as Squarespace, Wix, and even WordPress (if you have the right WordPress plugin), offer SEO tools to help drive organic traffic to your site.
You might also consider affiliate marketing, where you use your reach as an influencer to promote other people’s products and receive a commission for any sales that result from your referrals.
Related: 3 Tips to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing can go a long way in growing your audience and boosting your blog’s overall sales. If you’ve never done it, consider these quick tips to get an idea of what to expect:
- Work with reputable brands and products.
- Promote only products that fit in with the message of your blog.
- Be transparent about your affiliations with product creators.
- Provide detailed reviews and honest opinions on the products you promote.
- Include clear call-to-actions to encourage readers to.
Introduce courses or audiobooks
If you have a lot of knowledge and experience on any given topic, you can create courses or audiobooks to monetize your blog. You can promote these products on your blog or website by writing reviews, creating video tutorials, and offering discounts for readers who purchase them.
Developing a course or audiobook is an excellent way to generate passive income. Spend a little time upfront creating the product, and allow your blog to sell it for months (or years) to come! Here’s a five-step process to creating your first online course:
- Identify the subject you want to teach and research the topic.
- Create an outline of your course.
- Gather digital assets, like images and videos, to use in your course.
- Develop the content of your course (videos, text, etc.).
- Test your course and make sure it’s working properly.
Add a podcast to the mix
Adding a podcast to accompany your blog can give your readers another format in which to consume your content. It can also help you to reach new audiences who may not be interested in reading blogs but might be more inclined to listen to your thoughts on their daily commute.
When creating a podcast, it’s critical to make the content interesting and engaging. You don’t want listeners tuning out after just a few minutes, so plan each episode carefully and take the time to record quality audio.
For instance, if you run a travel blog, you could curate podcast episodes as step-by-step guides or FAQs for various travel destinations.
As long as you do it well, podcasting can be a lot of fun, and it’s an excellent opportunity to connect with your audience on a deeper level.
Related: 8 Ways Podcasters Can Profit From Their Shows
Develop video tutorials
Making video tutorials can generate high income, and you can create them around any topic that you’re knowledgeable about. Then, you can sell them on your website or other sites like YouTube or Vimeo. Here are a few popular topics for video tutorials:
- DIY projects
- Beauty and fashion tutorials
- Home improvement
- Web development and coding
- Art and design
You can also offer video tutorials as a form of coaching or as part of your course sales. People love to learn through visuals, and they may be more likely to purchase a product if they can see a demonstration in person.
Finally, if you have a lot of knowledge and experience, you can create packages of products and services that help teach people about your area of expertise. Your packages can be small or large, depending on the amount of content and services you can provide.
When it comes to creating a package of products and services to sell on your blog, think about what your followers would be most interested in. If you’re a food blogger, for example, you might make a package that includes a cookbook, recipes, and cooking tips. If you’re a lifestyle blogger, you could offer a package of fashion tips, beauty products, and home decor ideas.
No matter the type of blog you write, figure out what your followers would find useful and interesting. Then, market your packages on your blog and social media channels. You might even create a landing page on your website specifically for your product or service package.
Don’t let yourself become complacent. If you plan on monetizing your blog, remember to remain up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies.
Remember, there is no ultimate template for success. The path for each blogger will look slightly different, but hard work will always be a factor. Constantly work to improve yourself and keep learning new things to create better content; better content will increase sales while establishing you as an authoritative voice in your niche.
There are numerous ways to monetize your content and make money from your blog, but don’t try to take shortcuts along the way. Don’t look for the fast buck if you’re serious about your long-term results. Take action and stay persistent if you want to succeed and achieve your goals.
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