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.
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.
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.
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 atwith a subdomain such as , 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.
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
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.
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.
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.