How to Start a Profitable Blog: Step by Step
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Welcome to Moonlight Jo, here we’re going to show you step-by-step how to start a blog (updated March 21′). Before we jump in, it’s important you know a few things.
This isn’t one of those “5 steps to start a blog” articles. This is 4,000 words that will cover everything you need to know in excruciating detail. By following this guide you’ll have a high-performing blog set up in no time, ready to bring in traffic and generate income.
Disclosure: When you reach the end of this guide your commitment to blogging is far from its end. Sure, blogging can yield great profits, but only if you stay on top of it. It’s like going to the gym – learning how to lift weights and going for a week is great, but you’ll ultimately fail if you’re not consistent. The real work takes place in the daily grind of creating content your readers will enjoy.
Don’t be fooled by the “I make $50,000 a month through my blog, and you can too!” This is done through consistent hard work, day in and day out.
So if you’re ready to make this commitment, let’s dive in! If you have any questions prior, or after reading this guide please feel free to contact us.
Why Start a Blog?
Maybe you just want to start an online business and blogging is the place you’d like to begin. Regardless of your reasons, a blog will help you develop skills that offer a host of opportunities in today’s world.
The knowledge obtained in the guide will help you educate, inform, offer practical guidance, and even sell or promote products your readers might be interested in. This is how many bloggers make a year’s worth of income in 1 month.
Part 1: Identify a Niche
A lot of the times newbies will pick a niche because they think it’s more profitable. As opposed to picking a topic they’re passionate about.
You’ll likely face many challenges and some defeats along your blogging journey, that is why it’s critical you pick a niche you’re passionate about. Don’t focus on how you’re going to make money, focus on how you can provide as much value to your readers as possible. Once trust and authority have been established, the sales will come.
For those adamant about researching profitable niches with low competition, check out Matthew Woodward’s post on how to find profitable niches.
The more sub-niche you get, the better. If you’re passionate about fitness, great! Find a sub-niche within the fitness niche. For example, say you’re a male in your mid 20’s and you’d like to start a fitness blog. A great sub-niche could be Crossfit training, or fitness for high-elevation running, or fitness for basketball training – you get the point. Dig your hole an inch wide and a mile deep, not a mile wide and an inch deep.
Part 2: Your Blogging Platform
For this guide, we’ll be using WordPress. If you’re not familiar, WordPress powers about a third of all websites on the internet. It’s the most customizable and it’s the cheapest. I’m happy to explain all the other benefits that come with WordPress, just know that for now, it’s your best option.
Disclosure: There’s a learning curve with WordPress. It’s not as simple as a website builder like Wix, or Weebly, or Squarespace. If you decide to go with WordPress take you time and educate yourself thoroughly on the platform.
Summary: There’s a lot of options as to which platform to build your blog on. Our recommendation is WordPress as you own 100% of the content and it’s the most customizable in terms of functionality and SEO.
Part 3: Pick a Domain Name and Hosting Provider
- Try to use a .com whenever possible
- Keep your domain name as short as possible. www.thisisthenameofmynewblog.com is too long
- Make it easy to pronounce and spell.
- Try to avoid hyphens
- Make it brandable
- Get ideas from tools like Nameboy.com
Once you’ve identified the domain name you’d like to roll with, go ahead and purchase it. Typically domain names cost around $12 per year. Don’t fall victim to the Godaddy upsells, all you need is the domain name for $12 per year.
There’s a lot of really good hosting providers out there. Our recommendation is either Siteground or Bluehost. Both of these platforms offer exceptional customer service and offer shared hosting for a low monthly cost ($3-$12 per month).
Each hosting provider offers a unique set of benefits. Check out this article by Wpbeginner to learn more about which hosting company is right for you.
Point your Domain Name to your Host
Once the nameservers have been pointed it typically takes 24-48 hours for your host to receive the request.
Install WordPress to Launch your Website
Summary – Our recommendation is to use WordPress as the Content Management System to build your blog on. We also recommend using a popular hosting provider such as Siteground or Bluehost to store your files. Choose a domain name that fits your blog, point your name-servers, and install WordPress.
Part 3: Building your WordPress Website
Before moving forward with any theme, keep these tips in mind:
- Check the ratings – your theme should have good reviews and a lot of them
- Make sure it’s mobile responsive – Most themes are mobile responsive. If you decide to go with one that isn’t, it’ll create huge headaches for you later on.
- Preview the theme – go through and check out what the theme actually looks like.
Why a Premium Theme?
Our Reccomendations for Premium Themes
Customize your Theme
Fonts, Colors, Logo
Outsourcing Logo Design
Install Essential Plug-ins
While plug-ins are great, I exercise caution when using too many. They can sometimes lead to issues with each other and updating them over time might become cumbersome. Here are a few reliable plug-ins we’d recommend adding to your website.
- Akismet – You’ll quickly find out that comment spam is very real. Akismet helps filter out these comments and leave only real value-add comments to your post.
- YoastSEO – This plugin is great for SEO. It’ll make sure you’re covering the basics in terms of on-page SEO and makes adding meta-data very easy.
- WP-Forms – A necessary part for any blog is being able to get users’ information, typically in the form of an email address. WP-Forms allows you to create beautiful contact forms that link directly to your email provider.
- WP-Super Cache – The plugin helps speed up your website
- Email Marketing – Mailchimp, Aweber, or Get Response are all great email marketing platforms that will integrate seamlessly into your WordPress site via a plugin
- Smush – will compress your images and remove unnecessary metadata to improve page speed.
A word of caution about plug-ins. Be sure that you’re checking the number of active installs a plug-in has. The more the better. Make sure you also check how long it’s been since the most recent update. It’s a good sign that the plug-in is well maintained if it’s been recently updated.
Set Up Tracking
Check out the video below to see how to set up Google Analytics into your WordPress website.
Set up your Email Marketing
Once you’ve built an email list that you can continuously promote new content and stay top of mind to your readers.
You don’t have to worry about sending emails right away, as long as you’re collecting them you’ll be able to use them later on.
As a beginner Mailpoet is a good bet because it’s completely free. However, once you start growing your list of 500 subscribers plus it’s good to go with a premium provider like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
Part 4: Start Blogging
Everything up until this point is basically a one and done procedure. Blogging requires you to consistently post content. “Content is King” has been said many times over for a reason. If you want to stand out from the crowd and keep people’s eyes on your website you need to create great content.
We need to know how we can best be consistent when writing content. Can you post a new blog article once a week? Twice a week? Three times a week? Whatever your frequency, just make sure you’re consistent with it.
It goes without saying but your content needs to speak to your audience. Know the type of person you’re writing to and how they might talk. If your audience is a 65-year-old retired school teacher than you might write differently to an 18 high school graduate.
Keyword Research and Content Calendar
Think of at least 10 ideas for content you want to write about. Make sure these ideas align with your niche. Take those 10 words and use a tool like Ubersuggest to see which ones have a low competition to rank for.
Filter the SEO difficulty between 0-10, what’s generated is a list of keywords that will be easy to rank for. Once you’ve identified these keywords structure a content calendar around writing about them.
As a good rule of thumb, we like to have one month’s worth of content planned out ahead of time. Many bloggers plan their content out more than that but as a minimum we suggest one month.