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  • How to Start a Blog – An SEO Guide for Starting & Growing a Blog

    How to Start a Blog – An SEO Guide for Starting & Growing a Blog

    Blogging has democratized the internet.

    It’s made it possible for anyone – whether you’re a CEO in Manhattan or a kid in the streets of Delhi – to share thoughts, ideas, and content with the world.

    Anyone anywhere can launch a new blog, write words, and publish them in a highly-accessible manner.

    Want to know the best part?

    Anyone can monetize their blog and make money from wherever they are.

    It isn’t easy, but it’s certainly a realistic possibility for those who put in the hard work to learn the proper techniques and strategies into a new blog.

    But some new blogs (or new blog post topics) are much more successful than others.

    And further still, most businesses don’t realize that they should already be in the content business.

    In the following guide we’ll cover not only how to start a blog, but how to outrank competing websites in your niche when you blog online.

    Let’s dive in!

    Who Should Start a Blog?

    Main Motivations for Blogging

    Not everyone wants to start a new blog, but most people can start a blog and experience moderate levels of success. You don’t need to be a foodie, interior designer, Pinterest Queen, wedding planner, or stay at home mom to launch a blog. There are topics, niches, strategies, and audiences for any individual, business, or brand.

    With that being said, why should you start a blog?

    The answer is different for every person, but here are a few reasons:

    1. Start a Blog To Establish Authority

    Nothing gives you preeminence and authority quite like having content attached to your name. While authoring a book has always been seen as the ultimate authority play, blogging has quickly emerged as a contender in the thought leadership space. When you have a blog post to your name – one that consistently produces high-quality content – it gives you something to share with others. It adds a layer of credibility to your blog name and positions you as someone others want to know more.

    2. Start a Blog To Grow an Existing Business

    Do you have an existing online business that you want to grow or scale? A blog provides an excellent avenue for enhancing the credibility of your business, generating a search presence, and nurturing website visitors into paying customers. It’s one of the top marketing investments you can make.

    3. Start a Blog To Start a New Business

    Don’t have a business, but want to start one? Many of the best online businesses start as blogs. Then once they’ve generated an online presence in their niche, they begin monetizing their authority to sell products and services. (This can be a slow process, but it’s one of the most sustainable methods for growth.)

    4. Start a Blog To Learn New Skills

    Starting a blog is one of the fastest ways to acquire key digital marketing skills that are transferable in your career and useful for all future business ventures. Blogging has helped many of today’s leading entrepreneurs first learn how to design a WordPress blog, write compelling copy, design basic graphics, understand SEO principles, embrace analytics, hire/manage freelancers, and dip their toes into the social media marketing waters. Regardless of whether your blog works out or not, you’ll walk away with an entirely new skillset.

    5. Start a Blog To Generate a Side Income

    Already have a full-time job, but want a way to generate some side income? By starting a blog where you share your expertise, you could potentially monetize what you’re already doing and generate several hundred to several thousand dollars of recurring monthly income.

    6. Start a Blog To Build Your Network

    There are certainly networking benefits to starting a blog. And as your blog grows, you’ll begin to develop relationships with other bloggers, readers, and entrepreneurs in and around your space. If your blog becomes successful enough and you build a large enough presence, you could even get invited to speak at conferences and summits – something that can exponentially increase your audience overnight.

    How to Start a Blog

    How to Start a Blog

    The first issue – and the reason you’re reading this blog – revolves around starting a blog. In other words, how do you create a blog from scratch so that you can enjoy all of the advantages and perks highlighted above?

    Truth be told, the process itself is rather simple. (The hard part is rolling up your sleeves and actually having the discipline and mental fortitude to follow through.)

    Your first blog post will be easy. It’s the next 1,000+ consistently blogging that will be more difficult.

    Here are the six basic steps to starting a blog:

    1. Choose a Blog Platform

    The first step is to choose your blog platform or content management system (CMS). This is the backbone of your blog and is what you’ll use to actually create the blog that people end up seeing when they visit your website in their web browser.

    There are a variety of blog platforms to choose from, but as a new blogger, there are a few that stand out as being affordable and user-friendly. They include:

    • WordPress. This is the largest blogging platform in the world – and for good reason. Building a WordPress blog gives you complete control over your website, has thousands of WordPress plugins and add-ons available, features tons of free themes (as well as paid WordPress theme options), and has a massive support forum that’s there to help with anything you need when designing or tweaking your WordPress blog with a custom design or simply building your blog using an existing, quality WordPress theme. Our website is, in fact, a WordPress site.
    • Blogger. Looking for a platform that’s free and simple to use? Blogger checks both of these boxes. It’s one of several free blogging sites. It includes hosting, maintenance, and a variety of web templates to choose from. It also integrates with all of Google’s products (including Google Drive) for added ease of use. Having said that, it has limited tools (compared to other platforms) and ads will be displayed on your blog.
    • Wix. While primarily used as a website builder, Wix can also be utilized to start a blog. It has an easy interface that’s perfect for brand new bloggers who have no coding skills or experience. It also comes with a pretty cool A.I. feature that designs your blog automatically.
    • Medium. While a little bit different from the other options on this list, Medium is a great tool for building a blog – albeit hosted on a third-party publishing platform. With Medium, your blog is built on their platform and benefits from its own built-in audience. The con is that you don’t have total control over your content (after publishing) and can’t perform any sort of site migration.

    If you aren’t careful, choosing a blog platform can become a stressful process. With so many options, your head will spin and you’ll be tempted to throw in the towel before you even start. So don’t spend too much time overanalyzing this step. Pick one and go from there.

    2. Select a Blog Host

    While a blogging platform allows you to build a website, you have to find a way to serve that website to people on the internet. And in order to do this, you need blog hosting.

    While it might seem like a minor detail, choosing a blog host is actually a very significant step in the process of launching a blog.

    Select the wrong web hosting company and it’ll slow down your site, expose you to security issues, and possibly even crash your blog (all while costing you a pretty penny). Choose the right one and you’ll enjoy a smooth blog with good user experience and, most importantly, the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re in good hands.

    As is the case with blog platforms, there are dozens of hosts to choose from. Some good ones include:

    • Bluehost. With 99.9 percent uptime, fast web hosting, and low prices (just $2.75 per month at the time of publishing), Bluehost is widely considered to be the best web hosting services for a self hosted WordPress blog.
    • HostGator. At a similar price point, HostGator offers excellent uptime, fast page loading speeds, and unlimited storage (something Bluehost doesn’t offer). And while the initial cost is cheap, it does feature a higher renewal cost than some competitors.
    • SiteGround. If you’re a total newbie who wants good WordPress support, SiteGround is an excellent option for web hosting. It’s going to cost you a little more than the other two on this list, but it’s worth it. (You also get excellent uptime, fast speeds, etc.)

    We can’t do a full breakdown of all the different blog hosts in this guide, but feel free to do some additional research so that you can be sure you’re selecting the right one.

    For the most popular content management platforms, most of today’s domain and web hosting services typically provide CMS installations with just a few clicks. For instance, all of the hosting provider services listed above install WordPress with the click of your mouse.

    3. Select a Custom Domain Name

    The third step in the process is to choose a domain name for your website. This is the name that people type into their web browser to visit your blog. (Our domain, which also happens to be the name of our company, is seo.co.)

    Choosing a domain name or blog name is important. It impacts your search engine optimization (SEO), branding, traffic, and other key elements. For best results you should:

    You can search for domain name availability and generate some ideas by using a tool like Instant Domain Search.

    If you search enough, some low-cost blog hosting platforms actually provide a free domain name when you sign up for their web host service.

    If you do procure a free domain name from a blog host company, be aware they become your domain registrar, which ties you to their hosting service.

    We actually recommend keeping your web host and domain name registrar separate.

    4. Design Your Blog

    Armed with a blog platform, host, and domain name, you’re ready to begin the fun process of designing your blog. This is where all of your ideas finally come to life on the screen in front of you.

    If you chose a blog platform with a simple drag and drop builder, this process will be surprisingly intuitive. You can use a blog theme, manipulate the different elements, add copy and graphics, and begin publishing great content. There are literally thousands of free blog themes across dozens of blogging platforms.

    If you’re more experienced with web design and/or want to hire someone, you can develop your own custom site using code, third-party website templates, or even simply through the WordPress dashboard.

    The key with blog design is to keep things simple. You don’t want a lot of competing element and “noise.” Embrace white space, use no more than three colors, keep fonts consistent, and direct the reader’s attention to the parts that matter most by using directional cues and contrasting colors.

    If you study today’s most successful blogs, you’ll notice that they typically use some sort of card-based design where quality blog posts are neatly organized into a grid for maximum clickability. Social media feed-style designs are also popular.

    5. Set Up Google Search Console & Google Analytics

    Before you even start blogging on your new content management platform of choice, you will want to set up Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

    By doing so, you will be prepared to:

    • Track the health of your blog, including any technical SEO issues which may be dragging down your rankings in the search engines
    • Understand the volume, geography and type of traffic that will be visiting your blog thanks to your fabulous content.
    • Improve your exposure in the search engines based on the feedback provided.

    In doing so, you will want to submit your sitemap to Google, ensuring Google can both crawl and index your site globally.

    We recommend the Google Site Kit plugin for WordPress if you run a WordPress blog or simply installing the code snippet and confirmation code provided in your Google Analytics and

    6. Start Blogging by Creating Rich Content

    At this point your website looks pretty.

    But if you want people to visit and engage, you need rich content that propels your blog or blog page to the top of your industry or blog niche in online search. Here are a few pointers to start blogging, brainstorm blog topics and develop high quality content in today’s digital landscape:

    • Focus on quality over quantity. It’s better to have 10 really good and in-depth posts than 25 low-quality posts that add no value. You should blog frequently, but not if it doesn’t add value to your readers.
    • The best blog posts tend to be over 1,000 words in length (and are often 2,000-5,000 words).
    • Keywords matter, but avoid being spammy. The best keywords are natural, long-tail search terms that you casually splice into your posts.
    • Mix things up by using a variety of media elements in your blog posts, including videos, soundbites, graphics, charts, etc.
    • Write in second person – addressing the reader directly with “you.”
    • Include calls-to-action throughout the post to sign up for your email list. (Your email list will become an important part of your blog’s business model.)

    FYI, but if you need help creating compelling blog post, landing page or content for your case studies, we invite you to check out our professional blog writing service.

    7. Optimize and Iterate

    Your first iteration of your blog won’t be your last. Go back and study what today’s most successful blogs looked like two, five, or even 10 years ago, and you’ll be shocked by how much they’ve changed.

    Part of blogging is studying the analytics, observing what people do on your blog, and gathering direct feedback from visitors. Based on this information, you can optimize and improve the SEO, overall user experience and content quality.

    How to Generate Traffic When Starting Your Blog

    How to Generate Traffic When Starting Your Blog

    Having a blog is great. The question is, does anyone other than your mom visit it?

    Unless you’re content with simply having your own little space to document your thoughts and experiences, you probably want readers. But they aren’t going to find you if you don’t have a strategy.

    Getting traffic is the hardest part of this entire equation. And it’s those first few traffic bumps that are the most difficult. Going from 0 to 100 visitors feels like climbing a mountain. Going from 100 to 500 is hard, too. But once you reach a certain threshold, it starts to increase exponentially (assuming you implement the right principles).

    Here are some of our favorite tips for new bloggers that want to generate traffic and establish prominence in their space when they start blogging:

    1. Write Quality Content

    Want to funnel people to your website? The first step is to write high-quality content that pleases the search engines, satisfies the visitors you already have, and is compelling enough to get people to click your blog posts when shared on social media.

    As mentioned above, quality is far more important than quantity. Don’t stress yourself writing blog posts multiple times every week.

    You might be better off publishing one super high quality “master” blog post every month. You want content that’s magnetic and sticky. And in order to develop these pieces, you need time, vision, and creativity.

    Your first blog post and especially your first year is probably going to be slow and methodical on the traffic front. But if you can produce 12 to 15 quality cornerstone pieces , you’ll set yourself up for sustainable growth.

    2. Leverage Your Social Networks

    If you already have a social media presence (personally or professionally), these profiles can be leveraged to drive traffic back to individual posts on your blog.

    You don’t want to be super spammy with your posts, but sharing the occasional link and giving followers a reason to visit (like a free PDF download) can provide a nice and steady flow of traffic.

    3. Try Paid Traffic

    While social media can be a practical source for cost-effective and organic traffic, you may find it helpful to supplement with the occasional paid traffic boost.

    One of the best ways to leverage paid traffic for blog posts is to share the post on your Facebook profile and to then boost the post with an audience that falls within your target demographic. (If you already have an audience that you know responds well to your blog posts, you can set the ad to serve to a “lookalike” audience).

    If you’re looking for help with a new PPC campaign, we suggest our PPC management service. For new clients, we provide a free PPC audit to get started! 

    4. Optimize for Search Engines

    The long-term game plan for any successful blog is to establish a presence in the search engines. When your content ranks well in Google, you basically get a free and unlimited flow of traffic (assuming you’re ranking for the right search terms).

    SEO requires an investment – and it can take lots of time to see the sort of results you want. But if you commit to doing it (and doing it well), you’ll eventually see the needle move in a positive direction.

    As you optimize for search engines , consider Google ranking factors like website speed, blog post title tags, meta descriptions, keywords, and backlinks.

    5. Invest in Link Building

    Speaking of backlinks, you need to make link building a priority for your own blog.

    Backlinks are one of the top trust signals for Google. When they see a blog that has a bunch of links pointing from other highly authoritative websites and URLs, they’re going to assume that your blog is authoritative, too. As a result, you’re more likely to climb the search engine rankings.

    Link building can be done naturally or manually. Natural link building is the process of creating quality content and then waiting for other bloggers and websites to find you and include you in their copy. Manual link building is the process of going out and finding websites you’d like to get backlinks from and then casually “soliciting” a backlink.

    One of the best ways to gain backlinks for your site is to write guest blog posts on other blogs. Many websites will give you a backlink in return for your willingness to write a post for them.

    Once your blog is established, you can outsource your link building with our white hat link building service or if you would like to engage in building links yourself, we suggest taking a look at our comprehensive link building guide or following the tips in this link building strategies post. 

    Or you can scan your website’s backlinks now with our free backlink checker tool!

    How to Convert Traffic Into Dollars to Make Money Blogging

    How to Convert Traffic Into Dollars

    Once you have traffic on your website, you’re ready to turn this blog into something monetizable. And, once again, you have plenty of options.

    In considering your monetization strategy, it’s important to note that most successful blog owners don’t make money blogging, they make their money from the traffic blogging can provide.

    Here are some different ways you can take blog visitors and clicks and transform them into a steady stream of revenue from a profitable blog:

    1. Create and Sell Online Courses

    One of the more popular blog monetization strategies is through selling online courses. The beauty of course is that once you create them, you can sell them at scale without requiring any additional input of time (other than administrative oversight and support).

    Don’t think you’re enough of an expert to create a course? Well, as long as you know more than the people you’re teaching, you’re qualified. Think about it this way: To a third grader a fifth grader is an expert.

    2. Create a Membership Side of Your Blog Site

    A lot of successful websites have a free side of their website – i.e. the blog – and then a paid membership portion with gated content, resources, forums, and access to experts. You can always use your blog as the free gateway into your site and then try to upsell people to pay for a monthly membership to access other elements.

    The great thing about a membership site is that it provides steady and recurring income. If you can get 200 people to pay $20 per month to become members, that’s $4,000 in monthly income. Increase the price and/or the number of members and watch how the revenue scales.

    The biggest challenge with this monetization strategy is that it requires constant work and upkeep in order to keep members engaged. You must constantly add new value and try new blog and content topics or new value-adds to your blogging community to keep your members happy (and paying).

    3. Write and Sell Books

    Much like online courses, books are a fantastic source of residual income. While it takes a lot of time and energy to create a book on the front end, it’s an easy source of passive income once it’s complete.

    You might think writing a book is something only people with publishers and deep pockets can do, but this simply isn’t true. Self-publishing has become a massive industry in today’s market. You can design a book from your computer and print it on-demand, which eliminates the risk of sinking a ton of money into copies that may or may not get sold.

    The key with a book is to write something that’s very closely connected to your blog’s niche. This ensures your visitors will be interested in your book.

    4. Become an Affiliate Partner

    We would be remiss not to mention affiliate marketing. While many people are turned off by the idea of affiliate marketing, simply because it’s a saturated strategy, it can work when you already have traffic on your blog.

    Affiliate marketing, for those who don’t already know, is basically the process of marketing products from other brands on your own website using a specific link with a tracking code. This code registers every time someone clicks and buys a product. Then you get a cut  – such as 10 or 20 percent of the purchase – from the purchase.

    The biggest thing with affiliate marketing is to choose the right product and to avoid coming across as too salesy. The best affiliate marketers seamlessly introduce products into their blog posts and content without making a big deal out of it. (However, there are certain rules you must follow in order to disclose affiliate partnerships.)

    5. Sell Advertising Space

    The final option we’ll mention is advertising. And while it’s a good one, it’s not something you can lead with. We mention it last because it should only be a small part of your strategy.

    In order to effectively monetize display ad space, you need proof of concept. And in order to establish proof of concept, advertisers want to know that you have traffic numbers. So by holding off and waiting until you’ve built a steady stream of clicks, you can maximize the value of your ad space and earn more.

    You can also accept Google AdWords on your site. This operates automatically and you don’t have to directly interact with the advertisers. Google serves related ads and then gives you a certain cut of the pie every time someone clicks.

    Start & Grow Your Blog With SEO.co

    Building and growing a blog is fun, exciting, and…well…downright frustrating at times.

    If you’re tired of feeling like all of your hard work in marketing your new website is going unnoticed, it’s time to rethink your strategy for generating traffic and turning clicks into dollars. Take a look at the abundance of information available at the SEO blog to get additional blog post ideas.

    At SEO.co, we’re an SEO company that works with small brands, bloggers, and established corporations to help you scale your organic traffic with high quality content and links.

    Want to learn more about our link building and content marketing services? Simply contact us today and we’ll be happy to give you a free website assessment.

    VP of Business Development at SEO Company
    Ryan Nead is the Vice President of Business Development at search engine optimization services company, SEO.co. Ryan has spent the last 10 years as a digital marketing consultant working with enterprise clients and top brands on digital marketing initiatives that drive digital results. He has worked with brands like Smashburger, Fatburger, PHH Mortgage and Con-Way (now XPO Logistics). He resides in Texas with his wife and three children.
    Ryan Nead