So you want to start a blog but have no idea how to actually get started?
Then you are most definitely in the right place as I have created a guide to help you get started all based on my own experience of building a few of these, which have all generated traffic and revenue in one way or another, so let’s get started…
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Step 1: Choosing a Niche
The very first step in starting a blog is to choose the niche around which your blog is going to be built and there are thousands of options out there and one thing I see a lot are ‘niche hunters’, who try to find a niche with little competition and good income potential.
But in most cases, it is better to build your blog around a subject that you are knowledgable about, preferably have experience in and enjoy because you are more likely to remain interested in running the blog and creating content over a long period of time, even if your site goes through a rough patch.
But you also need to consider the following when choosing your niche?
Generally, the best place to start is with your own interests and/or hobbies as it is something that you:
- Know About
- Are Interested In
- Prepared to Keep Learning About
- Potentially Be Able to Market Directly to your Audience
Just don’t chase the money when looking for a niche, so many people do this and it usually ends in failure!
Step 2: Get a Domain Name
Once you have decided on a niche, it is time to start working on getting your website built and the very first step is to get a Domain Name and if you aren’t sure what this is, it is basically the virtual address of your website just like nicheawesome.com is the address of my site.
While buying a domain name is pretty easy and straightforward, there are a couple of things you do want to think about.
Domain Name Best Practices
Your domain name is part of your businesses branding, so you want to make sure that it works for your business and some things to think about are:
- Keep it Short and Simple – this makes it easier for people to remember your website and increases the potential of return visitors.
- Avoid Hyphens – the only reason most domain names have a hyphen is because the non-hyphenated version wasn’t available. It is best to avoid as people won’t type the hyphen and it could lose you traffic.
- Avoid Numbers – this can cause confusion if someone hears your domain name as they might not know whether you are using the spelling of the number or the number itself.
- Avoid Having Two Letters Together – what I mean by this one is try and avoid the last letter of one word and the first letter of the next being the same, this reduces the chances of people typing your name wrong.
- Make Sure it Reads Properly – sometimes when two words are put together in a domain name, they may not read how you intended them to!
- Try To Use Top-Level Domains (.com, .net, .org etc) – This one is getting more difficult (hence why this site is a .me not a .com) but if possible going for top-level domains is generally best practice
Just to expand on the top-level domains, if you are focusing just on one country, you can opt for a country-specific domain such as .co.uk for the UK, .ca for Canada and .com.au for Australia.
Due to the limited selection of top-level domains, in part due to domain flippers buying and trying to sell them for a profit (sometimes an obscene profit!) and the fact that there are more websites than ever before, other options such as .io for tech companies and .me for personal websites/blogs are becoming more popular.
Buying a Domain Name
Once you have decided on a domain name, you need to find somewhere to buy it and for this you need to use a domain name registrar.
Always keep your domain name and website separate as this gives you more control over your blog!
There are lots of registrars out there but there are a couple of things you need to be aware of before clicking the buy button.
I have used a few different registrars over the years but I now only use namecheap.com as they not only have very reasonable pricing but it is also very transparent, with .com domains, you also get free whois privacy protection.
Step 3: Choosing a Blogging Platform
Next step is to choose a platform for your website and there are a lot of options out there, including:
- WordPress.com (hosted)
- WordPress.org (self-hosted)
- Blogger (hosted)
- Wix (hosted)
- Squarespace (hosted)
I imagine your next question is what is hosted and self-hosted?
Now while the likes of Wix and Squarespace do have blogging functionality, both are primarily website builders and the blog features are pretty basic.
As hosted options, WordPress.com and Blogger are both better as they are designed from the ground up for blogs and while both do get the job done (I have used both), I do think there is a better option.
And for me personally, a self-hosted WordPress website is the best way to go and the majority of popular and successful blogs are also self-hosted WordPress sites. Yes, the learning curve is steeper but you will more than likely find yourself getting frustrated with the hosted ones as the functionality is pretty limited, whereas there isn’t much you can’t do with a self-hosted WordPress site!
If you are still not certain which WordPress option to go for, check out my WordPress.com vs WordPress.org post that gives a much more detailed breakdown of the two options.
The rest of this guide will be based on choosing a self-hosted WordPress website.
Step 4: Choosing a Web hosting
As I mentioned above, you will need to buy web hosting for a self-hosted WordPress website and there are thousands of hosts to choose from and it can be incredibly daunting trying to choose the right one.
I currently don’t have a list of recommended web hosts (it’s on my very long to-do list) as testing out hosting companies isn’t the most straightforward process but here are some things you want to look out for when doing research:
- What do you get in terms of resources for your money?
- What support options do they offer?
- Do they offer dedicated WordPress hosting?
- What do their customers say? Check Trustpilot, G2, Google etc for genuine user reviews
- How reliable is their service? Uptime reports etc
This will help you find out who the good companies are as there are some bad options out there, who are often promoted quite heavily.
When getting started with your blog, you will probably be fine to start on normal shared hosting as your site probably won’t be getting much traffic to start with but when your site starts to grow, you may want to consider upgrading to managed WordPress hosting.
Once you have got your hosting set up, there are a couple of steps I would recommend doing before installing WordPress:
- Point your Domain to your Web Host, this is usually done by changing the DNS settings in your domain registrar dashboard, ask your hosting provider for their nameserver so that you can do this
- Install an SSL Certificate, once your domain is pointing to your web host’s servers, install an SSL certificate (most hosts offer free LetsEncrypt SSL certificates that are one-click installs). This allows you to install WordPress on the https protocol.
- Update PHP Version, not as scary as it sounds but this can usually be done from your hosting dashboard or cPanel and my advice would be to update to the last but one version as most things work properly on that (most hosts will have documentation on how to do this).
Once all of this has been done, you can install WordPress, once again, most hosts will have documentation on how to do this and some hosts might even do it for you if you ask nicely.
Step 5: Building your Website
Now that the foundations of your site have been set up, it is time to start building your website and you want to get some basics in place before you even think about creating your first blog post.
#1 Install a Security Plugin
Because WordPress is open-source software, it has allowed the more undesirable members of society to be able to see exactly where the weak points of the system are.
And while the developers behind WordPress do their best to patch these up, it is always advisable to use a reputable security plugin to enable you to add some more protection to your website.
There are some really good plugins out there such as:
These will take some configuration and it may seem a little daunting when just getting started but most offer some form of quick start guide and they all offer detailed documentation to help you get set up.
#2 Install an Optimisation Plugin/s
Next up is optimization and while WordPress isn’t bad in its base form, once you start installing plugins, a theme and adding content, it soon starts to slow down and that is where optimization plugins are very useful.
The basic things you want to optimize on your site are:
There are many options out there when it comes to optimization, from all-in-one plugins to specialty ones and some of the ones you could consider are:
- LiteSpeed Cache – great all round plugin, especially for sites run on LiteSpeed servers bonus its FREE!
- WP Rocket – a paid plugin but known as being one of the best optimization plugins on the market
- Smush – is one of the best-dedicated image optimization plugins and its free
The benefits of optimizing your website are that your site will load faster, which will help search ranking and also user experience as no one likes waiting for a website to load.
#3 Install a New WordPress Theme
As standard, WordPress will install its default themes, which are all named after the year they were created (Twenty Twenty, Twenty Twenty-One etc) and while they will get the job done, they are quite basic, generic and have limited customizations, so you will want to think about installing a new theme.
When it comes to themes, there are thousands to choose from but they fall into 1 of 2 categories:
- Paid Themes – these are themes that you pay for (obviously!) and are bought directly from developers or from theme marketplaces such as ThemeForest. They usually include premium features and you also get support with the theme. In order to keep getting updates for the theme, you may have to pay an annual fee for it.
- Free Themes – they are free (surprisingly!) and many are available directly from the WordPress Theme Library and there are some freemium themes out there (free themes, with premium options/functionality) that can be a great starting point for a new blog.
Just be aware though, that the theme won’t look like the demo themes that developers put on their sites. They all look pretty rubbish when you first install them and you need to customize the theme to get it looking how you want it to.
Creating a Child Theme
Talking of customization, before you make any changes you want to create a child theme for your chosen theme. The reason for this is that whenever a theme gets updated, it will override any changes that you have made to the theme, meaning that you need to go in and customize it all over again.
With a child theme, all of your changes and customizations remain, even when the parent theme is updated. There are a few different methods out there for doing this, which involve creating new files within your cPanel file manager or uploading new files to your cPanel but the team at Lilaea Media has made a very useful Child Theme Configurator Plugin that does it all for you.
Step 6: Creating Content
It’s taken a while but now that your site is built, it is time to start creating content for your site!
When it comes two WordPress, there are two different types of content that you can create:
- Posts are for creating written content on your site, exactly like this post that you are reading and as you create new posts, the older ones get pushed down the list. You can also organize your posts into categories.
Posts are what you will create the most as this is the content that you are going to produce that is going to get visitors to your site but there is a process that you need to put into each one and I’ll go through these below:
Before you start hitting those keys, you first need to put some research in!
Now, you probably have lots of ideas as to the different posts that you are going to create but you need to tailor these ideas so that they stand a greater chance of attracting visitors and what you want to research is:
By doing good quality keyword research, you increase the chances of your blog being successful.
#2 Creating a Blog Post
After the research stage, you should have a basic outline of your post with your Title and Subheadings and now it is time to start creating the actual post.
Obviously, each piece of content is going to be different but there are some general things you want to implement in each post:
Creating a good quality blog post takes time and practice (my first ones were abysmal!) but the more you do it and the more you look at what successful blogs in your niche are doing, the better they will become.
For the different types of content, you can use page builders like Elementor but I prefer the standard Gutenberg editor and a couple of block plugins such as Stackable.
I have created a guide on How to Write a Blog Post, which covers this in much more detail.
How Long Should a Blog Post Be?
A very common question and the simple answer is…
As long as it needs to be!
There is lots of information out there about how long posts ‘should’ be but it really depends on the post that you are creating.
If you are doing a quick tutorial and you have provided a complete guide in 600-800 words, then that is how long the post is going to be and if you have done it right, the post will rank (I have 5-600 word posts that rank really well).
Padding out content so that it is over 1,000 words is waste of time as it is the quality of content, not the length that matters.
For some posts though, you will have a really high word count and an example are my ultimate guides, which are usually in excess of 5,000 words as I try to give as much information as I can.
Step 7: Marketing Your Blog
Once you have created a few posts on your site, you want to think about marketing your site so that you can start getting traffic and there are a couple of options for this…
#1 SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
One of the most popular methods for marketing a blog is SEO as this is what is going to help you rank in search engines and get organic traffic to your site.
Now you will have done some SEO already by placing the keywords and phrases in your posts that you found in your research. These keywords help search engines understand what your post is about and if your post matches the searcher’s intent, there is a higher chance of it appearing in search results.
There are also other elements to SEO that can help you rank in search engines:
Getting backlinks is also the most challenging thing to do as you need to produce top-quality content that people want to link to, the kind of content that attracts backlinks are:
- In-depth Guides and Tutorials
- Original Research
- Best of Lists
You can also employ companies to run backlink campaigns for you, where they will reach out to higher authority websites on your behalf and try to get a link to your site placed in a related piece of content.
For some of the onsite SEO, you may want to use an SEO plugin. Although not completely necessary, they do make configuring some SEO settings on your site considerably easier and once again, there are lots of options to choose from, including:
- Yoast SEO, probably the most beginner-friendly SEO plugin and incredibly popular (just ignore their traffic light system as it doesn’t really work!)
- All in One SEO, another very popular SEO plugin, with lots of tools and features built in
- The SEO Framework, a no-frills plugin that gives you the tools you need to do SEO on your site, not the best option for anyone new to blogging
- SEOPress, another popular option and a bit more beginner friendly that The SEO Frameworkbut without the excess branding of Yoast and All in One
SEO Takes Time!
While SEO is one of the most important aspects of marketing a blog (in my opinion), it does take time to see any results from your efforts. Don’t be surprised if it takes 6-12 months to start getting any kind of organic traffic to your site but if done right, it will turn out to be very much worth it!
#2 Social Media Marketing
Another great option for marketing your blog is to use social media and there are plenty of options to choose from, including:
Even though the last two are video-based, a lot of bloggers have YouTube channels and TikTok accounts.
Which One is Best Social Media Platform for a Blog?
There isn’t a best one out there as certain platforms work better for certain types of blogs but a very popular option amongst bloggers is Pinterest as pins stay around for a long time and it isn’t unusual to get traffic from something that you pinned months ago as Pinterest is effectively another search engine.
This is different to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where posts have an ‘active’ life of a few minutes before they are replaced in someone’s feed by another post.
It can however be a case of sharing your posts across multiple platforms and see which one gets you the most engagements and click-throughs.
I couldn’t talk about social media marketing without touching on paid adverts.
If you aren’t sure what these are, you can pay social media platforms to put your posts in front of a much larger audience, if you want any kind of growth on Facebook or Instagram, this is becoming more necessary as organic posts are reaching on average less than 10% of your audience.
However, for blogging, I don’t think paid adverts are the best option as you may not get any return on your investment and I think putting your effort into SEO or something like Pinterest, would be a better option.
#3 Email Marketing
Email marketing is more of a second-stage marketing option as to build up an email list, you first need to get traffic to your site and then convince them to sign up to your list.
But it can be very effective as you can then market directly to an audience that it interested in your website (they wouldn’t have signed up to your list otherwise!) and it is also the form of marketing that you have the most control over.
This is because you aren’t reliant on algorithms, keywords or finding the right hashtags in order to reach your audience, you can simply drop them an email with a link to your latest post and you will get yourself a few clicks.
When it comes to email marketing, you will need to use a specialist email provider and for most small blogs, MailChimp is one of the best as it is free to use with up to 2,000 sign-ups and can send up to 10,000 emails a month. Beyond this, you can either use a paid plan with MailChimp or move to one of the other email providers out there.
Step 8: How to Monetize Your Blog
I left monetization to the very end as it is one of the last things that you will do to your blog and honestly, for the first 6 months or so, you just want to be focused on:
Basically just learning everything you need to about blogging and how to get traffic to your site as without learning how to do this, you aren’t going to make money, no matter how many different monetization methods you implement.
But let’s look at some of the ways you can make money from your blog..
One of the most popular ways to monetize a blog is to run ads on your site as this can be used on pretty much any kind of blog and can be a very good choice for blogs that may struggle to implement any other monetization methods.
To run ads on your site, you will need to sign up with an ad network and the most popular option for this used to be Google Ads but their ad rates have been declining over the years and even with thousands of views, you may only earn pennies.
Fortunately there alternatives such as Ezoic, who pay much better ad rates and can also be used on sites with low levels of traffic. When you traffic grows (50,000+ page views a month), then other ad networks such as Mediavine also become options.
The amount you get paid for the ads on your site depends on the number of visitors you get to your site, how many ads you have on your site and also things like the time of year as ad rates do vary from month to month.
#2 Affiliate Marketing
Another incredibly popular way to monetize a blog is Affiliate Marketing and if you aren’t sure what it is, let me explain:
Affiliate Marketing is when you partner with a company (or affiliate network) and post unique links to the products and/or services provided by this company and when someone clicks through on this link and purchases said product or service, you receive a small commission.
This is a great way to monetize a blog, especially if you post lots of information about products and/or services that you use and some blogs can make in excess of £100,000 a year just from affiliate sales.
Commissions do vary and physical products usually have the lowest commissions and can range from 1-15% on average and the Amazon Associates Program is one of the most popular programs to join but Amazon has quite aggressively slashed their commission rates over the last couple of years.
Digital products usually have higher commissions and can range from 20% to 200%+ depending on the product. Some monthly paid digital product commissions can also be recurring, which means you get a commission for every month that the customer is using that service, which is one of the best ways to make money in my opinion from blogging.
You do want to be selective with the products that you promote as you are effectively endorsing the product and if it is rubbish, it is your reputation that can suffer and that is why I only partner up with companies whose products I have either personally used or I have tested and think it is good.
#3 Sell Your Own Products
Rather than promote other people’s products, you could create and sell your own and this could be Physical and/or Digital products.
Obviously, this is very niche dependent as to whether you have the opportunity to create a product or not but some things that bloggers have successfully sold, include:
To do this though, you will need to add an ecommerce element to your store and this can be done directly through WordPress using something like Ecwid or you can create a complete stand-alone store using something like ShopWired or EKM (this can be done on a subdomain of your main site).
I’m impressed if you read through all of this and got to the end!
But I hope that this tutorial has somewhat enlightened you to what is required in order to start a blog and also understand that it can take time and a lot of effort to see any kind of financial return from your blog but I still think they are one of the best online businesses that you can start.
And I know it may seem daunting but if you work through things 1 step at a time, it is not so daunting and as they say “every journey begins with a single step” and once you are up and running, it can be an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding thing to do.
If you do start a blog after reading this post, it would be awesome if you dropped me a message when you are all up and running as it shows me that it wasn’t a waste of time writing this post.