I’ve been asked by some of my friends about steps to take to start a blog, most of them with the primary interest of making money off of blogging. I personally caution that making money off of a blog is a long term process and there are far easier ways to make money than blogging. I recently completed 3 years of blogging and have invested north of 3,000 hours on this site. With that effort, so far I have earned roughly $1,500, or 50 cents per hour. With that being said, currently I am earning over $200 per month and only spending about 20 hours a month on my blog, so that works out to a much better $10 per hour. It takes a long time to start earning money off of a blog, so expecting to earn $1,000 to $5,000 a month in the first couple years is extremely unrealistic. Most bloggers who earn this kind of money (or more) have consistently produced excellent content for several years and put forth a ton of effort into networking and promoting their content. Blogging is certainly not a get rich quick avenue. Despite the long wait to start earning money, blogging can be highly rewarding in other avenues. My articles solve problems for other people and help others make the most out of their money and time. This to me is my primary motivation for writing.
1. Decide on Your Topic:
The topic you choose for your blog should have the following three factors going for it. It needs to be a broad enough topic that you can potentially write hundreds, if not thousands of articles on. It needs to be interesting enough to you personally that you can write hundreds, if not thousands of articles on. It also needs to be within a niche that you can potentially make money on it through affiliate/referral income. Furthermore, if your main goal is to make money off your blog, perhaps look for an under served market, where there are few quality blogs on a given subject.
2. Decide On A Domain Name:
A domain name should encompass what your blog is about and your mission in writing it. One key step that I did not look into when choosing my domain name and blog title was checking to see if other organizations had that same title. I failed to do this and it was almost a year after having this blog that I discovered an investing newsletter shared the same name as my blog.
3. Sign Up At GoDaddy:
I have used Godaddy as my domain registrar and my web host since Action Economics began. I have had no issues with their service and the rates are extremely low. For someone starting out a sole WordPress blog Godaddy gives you 50% off hosting plans, charging only $4 / month for a one site economy plan. If you sign up for an annual plan you will also get your domain name free for the first year.
I recommend if you are starting a blog to go with your own domain and hosting rather than getting a free account because it is a pain in the butt to migrate a website, especially if you have several other sites linking in to you. The cost is low enough that if you are serious about starting a blog, it is worth it to pay for your own website.
4. Choose A WordPress Theme:
Over time the look of your site will evolve. So don’t be too terribly worried about your theme when starting out. I’ve had 3 different WordPress themes on Action Economics since I started this blog. In general look for fast loading themes that look good on multiple devices and browsers.
5. Publish Your First Article; Write Great Content:
My first few articles were short, around 300 words each. Over time I started writing in more detail and my posts on average now are around 1200 words. It’s best to use the same writing process we learned in school. Map out your ideas using an outline or web, write a first draft, revise to a second draft, get a peer edit, then publish a final draft. Write with a thesis topic and keep the article on point. I can’t say I’ve done this for every article I’ve written, but for the most part I try to stick somewhat close to this process.
6. Establish A Media Library:
When I first started out I did what many bloggers do and took images I wanted for my site off of the internet. It wasn’t long before I realized this was the wrong thing to do and started building my own image library. I plan out my articles in advance and I start the writing process on most of my articles several weeks before they are actually published. This gives me time to either take pictures for my blog, or create them. One of my favorite tools for this is Canva.com. When I don’t have a perfect picture for a post I use Canva to make the title of my post into an image. Canva is also great for developing pins to share on Pinterest.
I also use the free image editing tool Gimp to edit my images. I ALWAYS scale down the size of my images using Gimp. Most cameras take a massive image that will look great on a poster. I scale all of my images down so they fit well in a blog post. This typically reduces the weight of my images by 90%, allowing my pages to load faster.
7. Email Account For Website:
It’s a good idea to have a separate email account for your website, especially if you choose to remain anonymous in your blogging.
8. Decide Publishing Schedule:
Being consistent with your publishing schedule allows readers to know when to come back for great content. I typically publish a new post on Saturday morning. Search engines also like for blogs to be on a consistent schedule and blogs that post regularly tend to get more organic search traffic.
9. Sign Up For Google Analytics:
I love seeing the growth in my blog over time. I didn’t sign up for google analytics until I had had my blog for over 6 months. Google analytics will show how much of your traffic comes from search, social media, referral, and direct. It will also measure all of these visits and report where the visits are coming from. This was important to me early on to discount the traffic I was generating to my site by testing it.
9. Monetizing Your Website:
The two easiest programs to get started with are Google Adsense and Amazon Associates. These programs don’t require any traffic to get started and provide easy integration into your website. I also affiliate networks for monetization.
With Google Adsense when you sign up for an account you can create ads, like the one at the top of this article. You then can input the ads into your post template, so that you don’t have to individually input ads with each article you write. You cake a tiny amount of revenue based on ad views, and then a whole lot more based on ad clicks. The ad click rate varies greatly depending on what is being advertised. I have made anywhere form 20 cents to $4 for 1 click.
Amazon Associates allows you to link to virtually any product on Amazon. The great thing about the Amazon program is that shoppers don”t need to buy the product you link to, they can buy anything at Amazon within 24 hours of clicking on your link and you will receive a commission on those items. The commissions you earn are tier based for the most part, the more you sell, the higher your commission rate is. They also have set rates for other categories like Video Games and Jewelry, which are not part of the tiered system. Amazon also pays bounties on specific Amazon related products from time to time, such as a $3 bounty for getting people to sign up for a free trial of Amazon Prime.
Affiliate networks are a great way to make money off of a blog, this is how the majority of bloggers make the big bucks. I am part of the FlexOffers affiliate network. Through them if I write about certain products or companies I can link to their sites and if a sale is made, I receive a portion of that sale. Rates vary tremendously on what is being advertised. For some companies I will earn a small percentage of a sale, and other companies pay a set fee for the customer taking a certain action.
10. Marketing Your Site:
Commenting On Other Sites: Commenting on other sites is a great way to develop relationships with other bloggers in your field. It also exposes your website to their audiences.
HARO: Help A Reporter Out: HARO is an email service where reporters who are looking for experts on different subjects ask for help. They send 3 emails per day with several requests for information. If you fit what the reporter is looking for and respond fast enough with what they need you can get published in a major publication. Sometimes they will give you a direct link to your website and sometimes not, but the goal is to build quality links back to your site.
Guest Posts: Guest posts, like commenting develops relationships with other bloggers and exposes your work to new audiences. For the best results, develop a relationship with a blogger who you want to guest post for before asking for a guest post. Also have some quality content on your site to show examples of your writing.
Last, But Not Least, Back Up Your Site:
I went WAY to long without backing up my site. It’s disturbing to know that my entire site could have been wiped off the face of the Earth without being recoverable. I now use the free plugin WP-Backup which automatically backs up my website to my computer on a weekly basis.
I have spent over 3 years and probably over 3,000 hours of my time building this website. The first 2 years I made absolutely nothing. I am currently bringing in around $200 a month from my blog. It take a long time, a lot of hard work, some great marketing, and of course some luck to start making serious money running a blog. A big key to maintaining a successful blog is to always be open to learning. I know WAY more about blogging now than I did a year ago, or a year prior to that.
Have you considered starting a blog or do you already have one? Any additional tips on starting a blog from my blogger friends?