Starting a blog is easy. Driving traffic and making money online is not easy.
I am sure you are reading this because you desire to launch your own blog! You have read about others blogging and making millions while they work pool side 4 hours a day. You are probably wondering how easy it is to do the same and make money online. There are over 2 million blog posts each day which means the blog sphere is very competitive. Millions of people set up a blog and attempt to be professional bloggers, however very few ever put in the hard work required to generate an income they can live off. In fact, few generate a decent passive income as a side business.
Why is that you ask? I don’t want to discourage you because there are a lot of success stories out there and I am one of those successes. While it’s relatively easy to install and host a new blog, the blog is just a Hub. You need to build a business and inbound marketing around that Hub. So you see, you can’t simply start a blog and expect to simply make money online. You have to have a passion and a business plan surrounding it. If you are not passionate about what you will be writing about then you might as well stop here and not proceed. It’s a waste of time if you don’t have a passion for your business and if you don’t desire to put in a lot of hard work in the first few months to get things going.
You can trust and learn from me. I am a blogger with a substantial platform and an entrepreneur who has built businesses with millions of monthly online visitors. I enjoy online success, but it’s not a pool side gig or a passive income that lives forever. There is heavy lifting on the front-end for several months if not longer. Once established, one has to constantly be adding engaging content to maintain and grow your traffic and authority.
Ok. So, what does it take to start a successful blog and actually make money online? That will depend on how much hustle you have and how much money you desire to make. If your desire, like mine was, is to make a lot of money to obtain the dot com lifestyle, then you’ll have a several months of hard work ahead of you.
How to Start a Blog and Make Money: Step-by-Step
If you have read this far, then you are serious and understand the hard work involved in launching the next big successful blog traffic magnet. Here is what you will need to know and do in a step-by-step process. Even planning is an effort and tedious task. If you take the time to map out a plan, then the odds are higher in terms of your long term success rate.
1. Pick a Topic
To build a successful blog it needs to have a clear focus. What will you write about? You need to build content around something you are passionate about. My blog is focused on teaching people how to make money online, seo, and online marketing. That is my expertise and passion.
You need to write a lot of content since you will also need to write short ebooks, teasers and lead magnets. To make money, you need to use your blog to build an email list. Exchanging an email address for valuable information. These digital content pieces will attract and entice visitors to sign up for you list, which will become you future sales funnel. We will talk about your sales funnel and how you make money online in the later steps.
2. Select a Platform
My blog is running on WordPress which is the best and most popular blogging platform in the universe. There are other micro platforms out there such as Weebly, Tumblr, Blogger, Medium, Squarespace, Joomla and Wix. These all come with some sort of limitations once you scale your traffic.
There are two options for using WordPress. You can use the hosted solution and WordPress will host your blog and provide you a subdomain with a myblog.wordpress.com URL. However, if you truly are serious about your blogging empire, then you’ll likely desire to go with a self-hosted WordPress installation on a custom domain like I did. This is where you install WordPress on your own hosting plan at a selected hosting provider. There are many WordPress hosting providers that have 1-click WordPress installations. You can control SEO better for organic traffic with a self-hosted solution and your dedicated domain name.
3. Pick a Domain Name
Picking the right domain name can be a big factor in your success. It can determine if you make money or not. You can self brand with your own name if you are trying to build a personal brand. You can also select a name that is keyword descriptive to the industry or specific topic you are writing about. SEO can be an important factor in improved rankings if the keywords are in your domain name. However, make sure the domain URL is short, is top level using a .com extension and ensuring their are no dashes or hyphens in the name.
Once you have selected a name you will want to ensure you are purchasing the domain from a top level ICANN accredited domain name registrar. The best domain registrars are Namecheap, Bluehost, Hostgator, GoDaddy, Hover, Network Solutions or 1AND1. I have had great success with Hostgator because they are also the top WordPress 1-Click Hosting provider.
4. Find a Good Web Hosting Company
This is one of your most important decisions as speed and up time equals money. There are many good hosting companies in the marketplace. If you decide on WordPress, as most pros do, there are many good options for self-hosted blogs. Review pricing plans, bandwidth, up time guarantees and service level support.
To start you can opt for a shared server on a basic hosting plan for a few dollars per month. Certain hosting companies like Hostgator will offer managed WordPress solutions with 1-click WordPress installation. That’s how I started my first WordPress blog. I only recommend Hostgator because I find them to be the best hosting provider dedicated to WordPress with award winning support. Once you reach a few thousand visitors per day, you can then think about a dedicated server along with CDN (below).
5. Caching and Content-Delivery Networks (CDNs)
Speed and download time equals money in the eCommerce world. CDN’s cache your content on edge servers nationwide and even worldwide depending on what you spend. This allows your content to download from the closest location instead of only being sourced via the single location of your native site hosting provider. You will want to use plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache which will cache your content and speed up content delivery.
It may not seem necessary to start, but it is very important when you obtain steady visitor traffic. Every major website in the country uses a CDN such as Akamai, MaxCDN, or Amazon AWS. Your site may seem like it loads fast enough, but it may not load fast for many visitors across the country. Especially for those away for major cities on what is called the last mile. Don’t take my word for it. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights to review and provide you with a free ranking of your site performance. CDN’s cache and replicate data across multiple edge servers across the country to make website load times really fast.
In eCommerce, top websites load in under 1 second. Your user experience will suffer if your site is loading in 4-6 seconds or longer. Speeding up your content delivery and having a fast website will reduce visitor abandonment. W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are the 2 top WordPress plugins and they integrate easily with MaxCDN which is the top CDN for blog sites. MaxCDN is now a part of StackPath which is what my blog runs on.
6. Enabling Permalinks
A permalink is the web address used to link to your content. Permalinks are permanent URLs to individual pages and blog posts as well as category and tag archives. The URL to each blog post must be permanent, and should never change, which is why it’s termed a permalink. In WordPress, you will need to enable permalinks before getting your blog running. You will desire canonical URL’s that will help support your SEO initiatives. In WordPress admin, go to settings > permalinks and then select the appropriate post name option. My recommendation is to not use dates in your URL which is sometimes the default as it provides no SEO benefit. I recommend that you do use the category and tag option so that it appears as a sub-folder in the URL.
7. What is SEO / Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to gain visibility in organic (free) search results on search engines.
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! send web crawlers to crawl your website. Those crawlers pull back many factors on your website and then they add your website and factors to the search engine index. Google is essentially an answer box. You type in a question known as a query. Google then queries its index looking for factors that match and it displays the best suited results. The index is fed through an algorithm that ranks the factors of your website. These factors and the algorithm determine whether you are page 1 on Google or ranked on page 50.
SEO includes technical and creative elements which help improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness or authority in search engines. The technical side of SEO relates to domain authority, internal links, backlinks, content, keyword density, relevance, Click thru rate, readability, load speed, traffic, and social metrics. SEO is sometimes as simple as making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines like Google understand. Optimization (O) is the fine tuning of those many factors on your website in order to improve your ranking in the search engine algorithm. If you don’t rank well you need to beef things up. It may be rearranging content so that it matches what visitors want to see. It can be reviewing and revamping title tags and meta descriptions. You may want to ensure you are creating internal links to page you want to rank high for and show off.
8. Selecting the Best WordPress Blog Theme
If you are serious about blogging and running a website, you probably know how important, albeit hard, it is to rank on Google. Not all websites are created equal and some rank better than others. I recommend getting a Blogging Theme from MyThemeShop which is what powers this site. While there are a few to choose from I went with the Schema WordPress theme for its SEO purposes. Schema theme helps blow your competitors out of the water by having an ultra SEO friendly website that’s elegant yet simple, advanced yet user-friendly and loads so fast that your users (and Google) will love you for it.
You already know how important on-site SEO is. You also know that Google considers the loading time of a website as a major ranking factor in its algorithms. That’s why MyThemeShop created Schema – a theme so good, your competitors will wish they had bought it before you. Schema is not only the most SEO friendly WordPress theme they have ever built, but it is also the fastest loading one. Handwritten with quality code, and keeping best SEO practices in mind, it has a built-in review system and comes pre-configured with rich snippet support.
9. Regularly Build Useful Content
Content is King! If you are serious about making money online, then you need to build quality content. You will need a lot of it, but don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. Your content needs to be anchor content that drives someone to tack action. There are thousands of blogs being launched every day. There are already established blogs publishing content on your topics. You just need to be a little unique and influence a special group of people that have been waiting to hear what you have to say. Making money online is not difficult, you simply need to become a master of content writing. As a blogger, you need to be a leader from a content perspective so you can build a following. My recommendation is not to go mainstream or broad topics like online marketing. Not only do blog earners have that covered but so do the major major magazine outlets and software providers. Go niche and dive deep into that niche like becoming the guru of email marketing.
Keep in mind that your content needs to be written for your readers while at the same time being friendly and crawl-able for search engines. Make sure it is engaging, keyword rich for search engines, unique and well written. You don’t need to write masterpieces, just good informative content. Remember, you will need to publish your content on a weekly basis.
10. Sign up for an Email Marketing Platform
“The money is in the email list.” Every good marketer knows this. I own a few web properties where the email lists are in excess of 500,000 subscribers. I can attest that email marketing is the number one choice for successful marketers. That’s because it is the most effective and best return on your investment. This is the main way to make money through your blogging efforts. Before you can go there, you will need to sign up with an auto responder which also known as a marketing automation platform. There are many email marketing platforms out there like Aweber, ConvertKit, MailChimp, Constant Contact and a few other platforms that exist. However, I am only going to recommend one to you which is Aweber. That’s because the majority of the money making blogs and affiliate marketers use Aweber since it’s affordable, easy to use and effective. Once you sign up a subscriber, you can email them automatically and even make money in your sleep.
11. Build a Lead Magnet
If you want to make real money from your blogging efforts then you need to entice visitors to subscribe to your email list. You will only make minimal dollars if your intent is simply to run banner ads or affiliate links to monetize your site. You would have to have a few hundred thousand people on your site to earn a substantial income using ads and splitting the revenue with Google Adsense or other banner networks. As a professional direct response marketer, I have learned that you always must give in order to receive. This means that in order to receive someone’s email address, you must give them something of value to entice them for their efforts.
You will need to build a lead magnet that provides valuable information based on the topic of your blog. This means you need to sell a digital product, provide a free eBook, provide a free case-study, whitepaper or offer to giveaway on the back-end with your autoresponder. The lead magnet will entice visitors to sign up for your list by providing you with their email address.
12. How to Make and Market Core (Top-Tier) Digital Products
Your email marketing machine and your lead magnets are all intended to help you build out your list and marketing automation system. Now that visitors are on your mailing list, you need to make money. You don’t want to just peddle low price priced products with small affiliate commissions that just barely cover your advertising costs. This requires you to make a Core Product. The Core Product is something that leads visitors up a value chain towards higher ticket items of $1,000 or more. The high profit dollars built into your Core Product will more than offset your costs of your lead magnet giveaway.
If a visitor trusts you enough to buy your low price lead magnet, then they are highly likely to buy your high price core product. Lake of a Top-Tier core product is the number one reason internet marketers don’t make money online. If you don’t have a core product then you are leaving your profits on the table like most affiliate marketers.
13. Create a Sale Funnel
The sales funnel is the ultimate secret to making money online. Most bloggers think its all about blogging content and then placing banner ads, Ad-sense, or affiliate links to earn a side income. In order for a blog to earn the income of a dot com lifestyle, it needs to have a multi-step sales funnel. Your blog content is simply the mechanism to attract and engage with visitors. You use the content to help them discover your blog. You then provide an offer or lead magnet to get an email subscriber out of them and drop them into your automated sales funnel. Once they are in your automated sales funnel, the sales process runs on autopilot. The Marketing Automation platform you select will schedule and drip feed subscribers with tripwires, to core products and ultimately to the high price, high profit platinum products.
14. Getting Social & Networking
You have put in a lot of time and hard work to get to this point. Setting up the blog, writing content and building your sales funnel is not easy. Now that your house is in order, its time to start inviting people to your house to show it off and to party. What do you do at parties? You get social and network with others. You will need to search for other bloggers with similar topics and engage with them and their blogs. This includes exchanging comments and links between sites. You will also need to share your content and engage with visitors on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media networks. If all goes well, you will start to build a following.
15 . Marketing Your Content
According to the Content Marketing Institute, Content marketing is defined as: …”a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” This is the most important marketing strategy to ramp up traffic generation to your blog and climb into the top 100 search rankings on Google SERPs. Content marketing is a very technical process and must be done right. It will take a lot of time to build the off-site content, but the juice will be worth the squeeze. This off-site content links to your core anchor content on your blog pages.
Content marketing can be accomplished with articles on sites like Scribd.com, and can be done by answering questions on Reddit or StumbleUpon. It can also be accomplished with videos on Youtube, along with other platforms.
16. Monetize Your Content
There are many great ways to monetize your blog. Google Adsense, Amazon product ads, affiliate based commissions, banner advertising and paid reviews. Everyone wants to get rich quick here. If there is one word of caution, I recommend not putting ads up until you have built out amazing content over a few month trial period. Let you blog build up integrity and domain authority. As part of building your blog, first focus on the lead magnets, building the list and selling core products. Remember that the ultimate goal is to build a sales funnel to eventually sell your high-ticket core products.
Once you get this going, you can also make cash flow from selling ads, adding affiliate commission links via anchor text in your articles, and providing paid reviews. Other options are to create content that specifically leads visitors to online courses, audio books, video tutorials or live local events. When you hit the big time you will become confident to sell large packages or training systems that teach people how to do what you are really good at. For me its about teaching people how to become online marketing experts and how to make money online.
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a fast buck. The goal of a blog is to constantly grow your readership and subscribers. It’s all about building your business overtime in order to maintain a long lasting success.
17. Install Google Analytics
Once you start a blog, your top goal is traffic generation and building your list of email subscribers. Knowing how your audience interacts with your website is crucial to your success. The best way to know your audience is through your traffic stats, and this is what Google Analytics will provide for FREE. Google Analytics will help you make data-driven decisions by showing you the traffic stats that matter the most. You will need to create a Google Analytics by visiting the Google Analytics Signup Page. MonsterInsights is the most popular Google Analytics plugin for WordPress and is what I use on my blog.
18. Setup Google’s Webmaster Tools
Before you start optimizing your blog website, the first thing you should do is sign up for Google Webmaster Tools which is now re-branded as Google Search Console. It’s FREE and provides you valuable data about the performance of your site. If you are serious about getting traffic to your site and making money then this is the main tool to let Google know you exist. The tool lets you submit your site to Google’s index and allows you to upload a sitemap to ensure that Google has a list of all page URL’s that you want found in Google organic search results. Once logged in you will need to verify that the domain belongs to you. You will need to go through the verification process by uploading a piece of HTML code in your WordPress header, installing an HTML Tag, Domain Name provider verification, Google Analytics verification or Google Tag manager verification.