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 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.)
But some blogs are much more successful than others.
In the following guide we’ll cover not only how to start a blog, but how to outrank competing websites in your niche.
Let’s dive in!
Not everyone wants to start a 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:
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 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 name and positions you as someone others want to know more.
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.
Don’t have a business, but want to start one? Many of the best online businesses start as blogs. Then once they’ve generated a 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.)
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 for WordPress, 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.
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.
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.
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.)
Here are the six basic steps to starting a blog:
The first step is to choose your blog platform. 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:
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.
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 a blog host.
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 one 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:
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.
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 is important. It impacts your 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.
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 one of their themes, manipulate the different elements, add copy and graphics, and begin publishing great content. 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 templates, etc.
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 blog posts are neatly organized into a grid for maximum clickability. Social media feed-style designs are also popular.
At this point your website looks pretty. But if you want people to visit and engage, you need rich content that propels your blog to the top of your industry or niche. Here are a few pointers for developing high-quality content in today’s digital landscape:
FYI, but if you need help creating compelling blog, landing page or content for your case studies, we invite you to check out our professional blog writing service.
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.
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:
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 out trying to publish two new blog posts 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 year is probably going to be slow on the traffic front. But if you can produce 12 to 15 quality cornerstone pieces, you’ll set yourself up for sustainable growth.
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.
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).
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, consider factors like website speed, tags, meta descriptions, keywords, and backlinks.
Speaking of backlinks, you need to make this a priority.
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 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.
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.
Here are some different ways you can take blog visitors and clicks and transform them into a steady stream of revenue:
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.
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 things to keep your members happy (and paying).
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.
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.)
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.
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 ideas.
At SEO.co, we work with small brands, bloggers, and established corporations to help you scale your organic traffic with high quality content and links.