How to Start a Successful Money Making Blog – The Ultimate Guide
I’ve been in content marketing for a long time now. I’ve headed up some of the most amazing marketing teams in the country for some award winning tech companies. Plus, I’ve also started my own businesses. I know a lot about content marketing and about starting and growing your own business or blog. So, I wanted to share this knowledge with you.
[This blog was last updated on March 18th 2021]
You might be starting your blog for fun, to dive deeper into a topic you love or for your online or physical business. At any rate, you want to make sure you’re doing the right thing from the get go and that you’re setting yourself up for success from day one, right!
This ultimate guide will take you through the steps it takes to create your new successful blog. How to get started, what pitfalls to look out for, how to get started with posts and basic SEO strategies.
But, it isn’t a magic bullet! You should never put your success in someone else’s hands! And, you should definitely read widely on the topic. No entrepreneur was ever made from one article alone. It takes a village! And if you’re ever reading a blog post that claims that they have ALL the answer to blogging for success. RUN!
So, sit back, grab yourself a cuppa herbal tea, or whatever your poison is… and enjoy. Grab a pen and paper, you’ll want to take notes! And for your convenience… I’ve also created this into a FREE downloadable How to Start a Blog Course that you can print and scribble alllllll over if that takes your fancy!
There are plenty of how to start a blog courses out there. Some cheap – and there’s a reason for that! and some on the more pricey side of the scale. Some are awesome. But, I am a firm believer that you shouldn’t have to pay for this knowledge! You shouldn’t have to pay for any How to Start a Blog course.
Starting a blog needn’t be stressful! It should be fun! So I’ve broken the process of starting a blog down into 8 easy to follow and simplified steps! No jargon or heavy tech speak in this epic post!
So, jump in! You can totally feel confident in starting your new blog today!
How to Start a Successful Blog – The Ultimate Guide
1. Map out your framework
Find your why
One of the very first questions you should be asking yourself is this. Why do I want to start a blog?
Do you have something on your mind?
Have you processed a difficult or life changing event that has led you to want to write? Have you always had a burning passion for a particular topic and want to share it with the world? Do you create or make something that you want to sell? Do you have a business that needs a marketing funnel? Is content marketing something that would benefit your small business?
Do you have specific expertise in an area that you think others would be interested in?
Or… are you simply wanting a place to share your innermost thoughts or your latest project?
You need to find your why. And there’s a good reason for this.
Once you know your way, will a lot of other things fall into place!
Find your why by asking yourself some questions.
- Do I want to make this into a business or am I just keen on writing for a hobby?
- Am I wanting to monetise my blog at some point in the future?
- Do I want to set myself goals and aim for targets or am I happy tinkering?
Write down your answers, do some free writing or daily pages about your writing. Find the passion in your process and figure out the reason behind your desire to put your words out into the world. It’ll make everything else so much easier
2. Decide on a niche
Once you know your why… it’s time to really focus in on your what. What type of blog are you looking to create? Is there a specific niche that you’re aiming for?
There are a number of great blogger niches and general topic categories that are all proven to be successful. You might like to pick from one of these on the list.. Or grab one and make it your own…
Sometimes it’s a good idea to start a little wider and then narrow yourself down as you get a feel for the topic and what specific area you’re really into. Niche specific blogs are far easier to monetize than broad ones.
Popular blog niches
- Home decor
- Mom/ Parenting
- Self care
- Lifestyle (general)
For instance. You might be a jewelry maker, and choose to focus in on a blog specific to jewelry making… but… then branch it out a little more to include fashion…
Or… you might start with fitness workouts – then, as you progress, decide to broaden your focus into a more general wellbeing or health and fitness niche.
Alternatively – you can start wide and then narrow in… for instance. Starting off as a marketing blogger, then narrowing your focus to paid search, or Etsy sellers, or SEO.
A lot of bloggers double up… or even triple up! … Moms who budget, Making money blogging, Traveling with kids…
The main thing is this. Start a blog where you have an in-depth interest and a niche that you truly enjoy. Writing a blog is hard work and there’s nothing worse than staring at a screen and not knowing what to write! And, if you don’t love your topic, then things just got that much harder!
Head on over to Google and type in your specific interest… Google will show you results for that search… and how popular it is… just for kicks!
You can then drill down a little more to maybe your specific area…
Don’t stress if you find a niche that you love… but are worried that there might be a fair amount of competition in that space. There will always be others in your niche, no matter what you want to do! Just remember this point.
You are unique. You have a unique voice and a unique perspective.
Think about your ultimate goal with your blog when you’re deciding on your blog niche. Do you want to make money? Do you want to educate and inspire? Or do you just want to share your thoughts.
All important questions to ask yourself when picking a niche. Some niches are far, far easier to monetise than others.
But by far above anything else… blog about what you’re passionate about. You’re gonna be writing about this stuff for a long time! So, make sure it’s something you love!
3. Picking your blog name
Now that you’ve decided on the niche where you want to dwell, it’s time to name that little baby of yours! Or, perhaps you’ve already figured out a name that you love and want to use?
Tips for picking your blog name:
- Go for an easy to remember name
- Choose a name that’s not too long
- Don’t use hyphens or numbers
- Use a .com extension
- Don’t try to be too clever, simple is better
Once you’ve chosen your blog name you’ll have to secure a domain name. Your domain name is your instantly recognised web address.
A domain name might be your name if that’s your brand… or your business name or something that catchy related to your niche.
Head on over to somewhere like Domain.com and type in your preferred domain name. They will instantly tell you if it’s available and if not, give you alternatives to try.
But wait! Don’t buy your domain name there! Yet! First, decide on where you will host your blog – as many hosts give you a free domain registration with hosting. You may need to go back and buy your domain name once you figure out your platform.
4. How to pick a blog platform
Ok this is where things might get confusing for some people. And that’s Ok. It can be confusing! … I wrote a pretty in depth post on WordPress.org vs WordPress.com for beginners the other day if this is something you want to dive a little more into.
But – the gist is this…
A blog platform
A blog platform is your shop front and your CMS- where you write your blog and where people go to read your blog
A blog host
A blog host is a company that offers you a place on the web to store that blog … Some platforms offer hosting with their service.
You can build your blog on a few different platforms. You can go for a platform like Wix or Squarespace… These are website builders. They will walk you through step by step and you’ll end up with a fab site. There are however limitations with customisation, SEO, plugins and space.
WordPress.org is the preferred platform of choice for 95% of successful bloggers. OR if you are certain you JUST want a hobby blog… perhaps WordPress.com might work for you.
WordPress.org offers flexibility, it’s cheap and your blog will be future proofed in case you want to add plugins, customise or monetise it at a later date. WordPress.org requires you to also sign up with a blog host company.
WordPress.com is a fast start platform where you can literally get up and running in a day. But it is limited in flexibility, monetisation, plugins and customisation. If you are wanting to make custom changes, you’ll have to upgrade and this can get expensive.
My preference is WordPress.org.
WordPress.org is free, open source software. Most hosts will help you download and install wordpress.org. Mine did.
5. Choose a web host for your blog
Now, if you’re going for WordPress.org you’ll need a host. A host gives your blog a home on the internet 🙂
Self hosting is absolutely nothing to be scared of! although initially it can seem a little overwhelming and daunting. Even the name. Self hosting implies a whole heap of technical knowledge and work! But trust me. It’s not that bad. At all. And with the right web host can be super easy and massively beneficial for your blog.
They are both pretty cheap (just make sure you lock yourself in for at least two years at the cheap rates).
They are super helpful and they helped me set up my site. Their support is amazing too. And they have often helped me work through issues on chat with no problem at all. My site speed is great and I have had zero issues with them.
There are lots of different hosting companies around that are great for beginner bloggers. Just jump into a blogging forum or Facebook Group and do your research.
You’ll be paying around $10 a month for either of these two options above.
Bluehost is a super affordable option if you’re looking to start slowly and pay very little. They start at $3.95 per month.
6. Setting up your blog
So, you’ve now got a domain name, a platform and a host! Yippee… you’re a blogger!
Now, head on over to your WordPress dashboard. Under Appearance, click Themes > Add New – this will take you to a page where you can choose your theme.
There are a few themes already on WordPress, but you’ll want to head on in and browse the new ones.
There are a tonne of great blog posts out there about themes. I’d suggest doing a bit of a Google search and reading a bit about what themes are great for your particular niche. If you’re going to be image heavy, you’ll need a slightly different set of must haves… like site speed. You can definitely get some great ones for free, or there are some super paid ones as well.
You can search by popular, latest or use your own search term.
You can also filter down by these three options, which I highly recommend!
Go wild! Try out a few options.. You can’t make a mistake here.
Once you like the look of a particular theme you can see how it will look by clicking the preview button at the bottom of page
You can purchase a theme from other providers and upload it to WordPress if you prefer. But if you’re a newbie, it’s easier to pick one off WordPress.
In general, there are plenty of great free options. I use Kale by Lyra themes. Their support has been AMAZING… and even though the theme is initially a food blog template, as you can see, it is incredibly versatile. Don’t let the example put you off choosing a theme! Go for layout and features.
Once you’ve made your choice, simply click Install, then > Activate.
Do not stress over the imagery or anything on the template! You can change all of this to meet your own requirements once you have the theme installed.
Decide on your brand look and feel
There’s a few things you’ll now want to do to make your blog your own.
Swap out the imagery, add your own logo and headers. Don’t overthink things too much right now. Trust me, you’ll want to make plenty of changes and tweaks as you go. So, start small and then you can always go back and edit things.
But, the first thing I’d tell new bloggers is to create a one pager that will become your brand look and feel guidelines. Choose 3 colours – or a palette, that you’ll work with across your blog and your social channels.
Maybe pick a font. And maybe choose a few images as the basis for the type of imagery that you will feature. Consistency is key and once you decide on a brand look everything gets so much easier!
As soon as you have your palette you can change out things on your blog to match your brand.
Your WordPress Dashboard
WordPress is insanely easy to navigate. You’re dash is laid out intuitively so you can easily access all aspects and features of WordPress.
A few of the main tabs you need to pay attention to are:
This is where you’ll go to create your content. It’s your main content management tab!
If you click on Posts you’ll get the following options…
All Posts is where you’ll be able to see everything you have in your CMS. Drafts and Published posts.
Add New is where you’ll go to create a new post.
Categories is the tab you’ll use to create categories for your blog posts. I also call these buckets! and they are the foundation for what you’ll write about on your blog. It’s a good idea to initially create yourself a list of 3-5 buckets that you’ll focus on and add these associated categories.
Tags are how you can group similar sub topics together. Tags can be displayed on the sidebar of your pages or in the footer of you blog. If a visitor clicks on a tag they’ll get a results page of all the posts on that particular topic.
Pages are static content on your blog website. They are not dated and are aimed at being content that is evergreen and not often edited. Your About me page is a good example of this.
Pages are also not displayed chronologically on your blog, but are access from the nav bars or menus.
This is where the magic happens!
It’s here that you can change the look and functionality of your blog. Adding in menus and widgets to change how people navigate your site and editing home page images and site colours.
If you do nothing else, then this wee tip is one you need to remember. Add the Yoast SEO plugin. It’s free and it will give you the peace of mind that you are optimising your blog posts each and every time.
Simple to install.
Go to Plugins > Add New
Then, search for > Yoast SEO.
The other plugin I highly recommend is Grow by Mediavine. A social sharing plugin that gives you a beautiful sharing option on your blog complete with a scroll bar if you want it.
The other plugins I recommend are Smush, designed to optimise your images for site speed. And, UpdraftPlus Backup/Restore. As the owner of a self hosted blog it is your responsibility to make sure you keep backups. Although most hosting companies will do this as well, it’s best to be prepared!
If you want to find out a bit more about plugins head over to my post on the Best plugins for WordPress bloggers.
Add foundation pages
Next up, foundation pages!
There’s a few pages on your website that you want to make sure you have from the get go.
Foundation blog pages:
You’ll want to make sure you have these pages sorted early on. Pages are easy to add on WordPress.
Simply go to your dashboard and head down to Pages. Add new
This will open an editor where you can add all the details you need.
You definitely don’t want to skip the legal pages! Make sure you’re setting yourself up right from the start. There are plenty of amazing experts who offer legal bundles that are super easy and affordable. This legal bundle by Amira Law is comprehensive and highly regarded amongst new bloggers.
7. What makes a great blog post
Ahhhh… now you’re ready to write! Finally! …. There’s a few things to remember when you’re writing your blog posts and especially when you’re writing your first one!
Tips for your first post
Don’t overthink it
You started a blog for a reason… try not to overthink your first post. Just jump in and get it down. Done is better than perfect.
Write as you intend to continue
Use your unique voice and your unique style and tone. Try to not emulate anyone else. Find your tone and be brave with it! You have a voice like no one else.
Write for your audience
Find your niche and write for your readers. Write what they are searching the internet for.
Try to avoid doing a long monologue or an introductory post of why you’re starting this blog… write what your readers want to read. Be relevant. You can save that other stuff for your About Me page. Soliloquies are for Shakespeare.
You can always go back and edit, make it better, add. Just rip that bandaid off and get it out into the world! It’s far better to get your blog post into the wild and start generating traffic.
Google takes a long time to trust your site. So the sooner you start the better off you’ll be in the long run. Remember too, that it’s part of your blogger workflow to go back and revisit old posts to make them better, add additional links (especially internal links to new posts that are relevant) and update them with new information.
My advice to new bloggers is to get three blog posts written in advance of launching… then hit publish on all three consecutively! That way, your readers will have other things to pop into when they visit your first post.
It’s always massively nerve wracking to publish your first posts. But if you have 3 or 4, then you can feel better about the way your blog/ website looks overall to new visitors.
Don’t stress too much about any more than that. You want to get your content published and out there! …
The longer a post is out there, the more likely it is that Google will pick it up and you’ll rank higher. Only around 5% of all blog posts published ever get to page one on Google within the first year! So, give yourself lots of time and scope.
Aim for great, meaty posts with a word length of no less than 1200 words. Most of mine are 1500- 2500. Some over 3000. Long form content is far preferred by Google now than sparse content.
A few years back it was acceptable and even encouraged to post content that was only 5-600 words in length! A post over 800 words was considered long form. but, now, Google pays much more attention to content which is considered deep. Over 1200 words is my go to. But longer is better, IF you have a lot of meaningful things to say.
You can add a new post to your blog by simply going to your WordPress dashboard and clicking Posts– Add new. Like you would with a New Page.
Layout and structure
Make sure your post follows the correct layout and structure.
Start with an introductory paragraph or two leading into what the topic is all about. Make sure you add your keywords into this first section.
Label your next section – the main body, with headers. H2 headers are a great way to let Google know how your post is structured and it’s contents. You can also use H3 and H4 headers to break up sections into subtopics if you need to.
Using headers in your post also allows you to add a table of contents on your post. I use WPLucky Table of contents- a plugin which automatically generated a TOC for your blog post based on the headers you use.
Wrap up your post with a conclusion to solidify the points you made in your post. And don’t forget your call to action! Finish your post with a question, or perhaps a recommendation for more content that they might love on your blog.
Use lots of white space in your post so that you’re giving your content room to breathe. Remember that a good deal of your site visitors will be reading your content on mobile devices. So make it easy for them to navigate!
The same goes for paragraph length. Make it short! Forget everything your 9th grade English teacher taught you about paragraphs! and make small, easily digestible snippets of info for your readers to skip and browse through on your post.
Make the most of your post by adding a subscriber form or a pop up that gives readers the opportunity to get a free download, checklist or printable that relates to the specific topic you talked about. This is a great way to grow your email list! You can easily do this with an email platform like ConvertKit- for FREE!
Dive a little deeper into the anatomy of a great blog post over on my latest blog How to write a blog post.
Or watch this great wee video (only 6 mins long) by the infamous Neil Patel (of UberSuggest fame) who walks you through a handful of easy to follow tips. So, so good!
Don’t forget to add optimised images to your post and use Yoast SEO before you hit publish!
8. SEO basics for bloggers
SEO is a massive topic. I’ll cover some of the basics for bloggers here. but I highly recommend that you read widely on this topic and keep yourself up to date frequently. It is ever changing!
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the things you do in order to help search engines rank your content higher in the SERPs (search engine results pages). You want to be mindful of SEO when you’re creating your blog, writing blog posts and promoting your blog so that you can generate more organic traffic to your blog.
Organic traffic just means traffic that comes from search engines – for free.
Other types of traffic could be social – coming from social channels like Facebook, twitter or Pinterest, referral traffic that comes from other websites, and direct.
The basis of great SEO stems from keywords. Keywords are the words (or strings of words) that a person might type into the search bar on a search engine page like Google in order to find info on a topic.
For instance, you might be looking for decadent raspberry chocolate cake recipes – so, you type in rich raspberry chocolate cake recipes – on Google.
You’ll be greeted with a page of search results. And can scan the ones that you like the look of to click through to those sites.
Keywords play a huge part here in what is served up to you. A food blogger for instance will add keywords to their post, in their title and in their headers that closely resemble what it is they want to be found for in the search engines results pages (SERPs).
For example – the search we did above showed up results like this.
How to find relevant keywords for your blog
You can find keywords that might be great for your posts by typing in your idea into Google.
Let’s stay with the food example.
Let’s say you were a food blogger and you were going to write a post on Gluten-Free Christmas Cookies. You’d type that into Google.
Once you’ve typed in your query, make sure you pause and check out the list that comes up underneath your query.
Here you’ll find gold! The queries that come up beneath your entry are what people are searching for. This is great intell to show you what people are actually looking for in your subject area.
Next, enter your query and scroll through the results to see what sort of websites are ranking highly for this type of query and where you can see your post fitting in.
Choosing a keyword that is not overly popular, but perhaps a bit more niche will ensure that you’re not competing with a huge amount of other people. Gluten-Free Cookies will have high competition. Whereas, Gluten-Free Quick and Easy Gingerbread Christmas Cookies may be easier to rank for.
Also check out the other recommendations at the bottom of your search query page where you’ll find other searches similar to yours.
Next, enter your search query into a cool tool like UberSuggest (it’s free!) where you’ll get a whole heap of info like search volume per month, how difficult it is to rank for that keyword and even keyword and content ideas.
You can see in the graph below that this particular keyword ranks over November and December, as expected!
It also shows the age range of people who used that search query, and lots more!
There’s a whole heap more to SEO that we won’t cover for now, as I don’t want to over bombard you!
BONUS Section: Setting yourself up for blogging success
Ok, now this is the stuff that in my opinion really matters!
You’ve created a pretty cool blog, yay you! … and you now have written 3 foundational posts to get you started. Your posts are live! Another yay! Well done.
You want to do a few other things now to get you on the path to success.
- Plan your content
- Set up analytics
- Join communities
- Set up your socials
Plan your content
It’s always exciting when you start a new blog or anything new for that fact. Your first few blog posts will probably come easy to you and that’s great!
But, every single blogger hits a writer’s block every now and then. Make some time to plan things out a little in advance.
Create yourself a content calendar. Add in general topics and then break these down into smaller sub topics . Pop in events or holidays or special times of the year where you might be able to take advantage of a seasonal post.
For instance, if you’re a mom blogger you might want to schedule in Easter, Christmas and School holiday posts.
Give yourself plenty of ideas to get you started and remember to stay consistent.
Here’s a few numbers for you:
The magic number of posts per week is said to be 11. So posting 2-4 times a week is perfect.
Hubspot did a little research (go figure)… and they found that those bloggers who published more than 16 posts a month had 3.5x more traffic than those who published less than 4 x a month.
You can see the exponential increase once you hit 10 or so a month in this graph!
You want to get your blog up to 50 or so blog posts as fast as you can without compromising on quality. Hubspot’s research showed that those blogs with over 400 posts did twice as well than those with 301-400 posts… (dont stress! – yes, 400 is A LOT)… but you have to start somewhere.
Anecdotally, the number of posts on a blog to get Google to noticeably start paying attention is thought to be 55-70. So, start small. Aim for 10, then 20.
But, most of all…
- Stay consistent
- Create high quality content
- Celebrate all your wins!
This is a journey, not a destination folks.
Set up analytics
You can’t improve upon what you don’t know. Always know your stats.
Two things I recommend to set up:
1. Google Analytics
2. A monthly results table
Don’t let this scare you. Google Analytics allows you to see a couple things that are really important. Your traffic, who they are and where they came from.
Super important for you to know where you’re getting traffic from. The more you know, the better you can do.
Its really simple to set up. Watch this video to see how. Plus, he has a super cute accent!
Monthly results table
Ok so, you’ve got me. I am a massive nerd. Ha ha ha. I love processes and systems. And I always, always set myself up with a spreadsheet or two to track my goals and targets.
Results tables are simple – they are spreadsheets where you track your performance month on month (MOM). And can be really simple… or a bit more flash if you’re that way inclined.
Set up some monthly goals- make them realistic! And then at the beginning of each month record your progress. Don’t just stick to the big ticket things either, like traffic! Or you’ll get discouraged.
Goals can also be things like community building and social engagement. Make sure you set yourself up with a variety of targets. And make sure they are measurable and achievable. No point in putting you want 1 Million sessions per month… and month after month be disappointed!
- 100 sessions per month
- 100 new Facebook/ Instagram followers
- 100 Email subscribers
If you’re stuck- I created a really simple free template with some of the results basics on it here.
Note: Just MAKE SURE YOU COPY the doc and add it to YOUR drive FIRST before changing anything!
There’s a plethora of fabulous Blogging communities out there… Oh my gosh! So many amazing ones and one thing’s for sure. Bloggers are a certain breed. They are kind and generous and non competitive. They want to see you succeed!
Join a few communities like Facebook Groups… My Favourite Facebook groups for bloggers are:
I also wrote a piece on How to use Facebook groups to grow your blog for you.
Get your social channels sorted so that you have somewhere to share your blog posts to. Don’t rely on your friends and family for readers! They are probably NOT your audience. So don’t be too sad when they don’t seem as enthusiastic as you are about your new found passion for blogging.
The 3 social channels that I recommend setting up in the beginning are:
- A Facebook Page
- An Instagram business account
- A Pinterest business account
Again, start slow and give yourself small goals. Be yourself and have fun!
Q. I still don’t understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org … help!
A. Glad you asked… if you need further info on the differences, here’s a simple and easy to follow post to answer that for you What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
Q. What other tools or resources should I look into to help me as a beginner blogger?
A. Excellent question!… this outta help The best blogging tools to grow your blog . I also have a resources link up on my main menu with freebies and resources I offer.
Q. SEO scares me! Help!
A. I know, I know! SEO can be scary. We’ve all been there. Don’t worry. Take a breath, grab a hot tea. If you need further info on SEO than is provided in this guide, I’ve got you covered with this basic guide for beginners SEO for bloggers – a beginners guide
Q. What other things can I do to promote my blog posts?
A. Sooo many different ways to do this! Don’t be daunted… pick a few and start small. We covered a lot in this guide, but there’s definitely more detail to it. Start with this handy post How to Promote your Blog posts in 2020
Q. I’m confused! Help! I feel overwhelmed!
A.** hugs ** …. Relax… walk away and take a walk.. or do some yoga… then, head over to this post… we got together with a whole heap of experienced bloggers to help show you the ropes. We really are a very nice bunch of humans 99 tips for beginner bloggers
Starting a blog is exciting and terrifying all at once! What if I fail? What if no one reads my work? What if I get stuck? What if I suck?
But, hold tight. There’s so much info out there to help you. Remember how I said bloggers were the most kind and generous humans ever? Well, they are and I’m right. Join groups, ask questions. Have fun!
There’s a lot of information in this post, I know! Pin it, come back to it and write down a few notes.
Or, if you prefer:
Learning how to start a blog needn’t be overwhelming.
It’s an exciting ride to becoming a blogger. But remember one thing. Celebrate every single win along the road. Because there truly is no destination. Enjoy the process!