Everyone who’s everyone wants to start a blog that makes money. They’ve been lured in by the stories of the world’s most popular bloggers that are generating tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars per month on autopilot. However, like any other goal in life, starting a successful blog that actually makes a respectable amount of income is no easy feat.
I remember seeing a shirt once that said, “This shirt will be seen more times than your blog.” If that isn’t discouraging to most would-be bloggers, then I don’t know what is. Sure, it’s hard to do it. But so is anything else in life that’s worthwhile. Yet, it’s a goal that’s achievable by anyone that stays persistent.
The truth? It’s easy to give up on blogging. When all you see is a trickle of traffic coming through your virtual doors, it’s no wonder people throw in that proverbial towel. But if you’re committed to a location-independent lifestyle and you’re sick of the 9-to-5 hustle, then building a blog is the way to go.
Keep in mind that it won’t be easy. However, if you’re willing to put in the work, your dreams of living off a passive income or traveling the world as a digital nomad will be far closer to reality. All you need to do is to follow a few simple steps if you’re looking to succeed in your blogging career.
The biggest difference between those that “make it” and those that don’t is simply persistence.
Why Do You Want To Start A Blog?
Before we start discussing the ins-and-outs of starting a blog in an effort to generate an income (passive or active), you need to ask yourself why you’re starting it in the first place. Are you doing it purely for profit? Or, do you have more altruistic intentions of fulfilling some greater good and adding value to the world?
If your answer was the former, you’re wasting your time. In fact, if you’re not starting a blog because you’re inherently passionate about whatever it is you’re blogging about, it truly is a lost cause. Why? Because building a blog to any semblance of an audience is an astronomical feat. I don’t tell you that to scare you. Only to prepare you for what’s to come.
However, to the victors go the spoils, or so the saying goes. But that’s most certainly the truth. Some blogs command vast audiences of millions of visitors checking in daily, weekly or monthly. And those visits translate into real actualized earnings, which can seem almost unattainable to those that are just starting out.
Here are a few reasons why you might want to start a blog:
- Create a location-independent lifestyle – Blogs are great for working while traveling and producing an income no matter where you might be living. In a recent article that I wrote for Forbes, I talked about how Nomadic Matt, one of the most popular travel bloggers, started his blog so that he could enjoy traveling the world and not be tied to a 9-to-5 desk job.
- While launching or building a business online – Another great reason to start a blog is to deliver content to help support and promote a business. Whether new or existing, blogs are a great way to deliver content that adds value and in turn gets traction from search engines like Google.
- To help others by sharing experiences and conveying knowledge – Oftentimes, people simply want to start a blog to help share their experiences and convey knowledge, especially in areas that might prove very useful to people such as in online marketing, passive income generation or search engine optimization, just to name a few.
- To promote a book, band, art, hobby or personal brand – If you’re an author or part of a band, or simply love art or have another hobby you want to share with the world, or you just want to boost your personal brand, a blog is a great way to help increase your visibility into the public’s eye.
- Help document travel, education and other life events – Sometimes, people start blogs to help document some kind of journey. That journey might be traveling to some far-off destination. That journey could also involve learning a musical instrument or a new language. It could also involve a life event such as getting married, divorced or fighting through a health scare.
What Should You Blog About?
Obviously, you can blog about almost anything. However, you won’t succeed at it if you’re not staying true to yourself. Don’t blog about something you’re not passionate about. Don’t blog about something you’re not knowledgable about. You have to have some degree of knowledge and a big degree of passion. That’s just how it works if you want to succeed.
The truth is that success through blogging will take time. It clearly doesn’t happen overnight. So if you’re not passionate about it, you’ll end up throwing in that proverbial towel. You’ll give up when the going gets tough. Plain and simple. So you have to absolutely love what you’re doing and write vehemently about it.
When you do that, it comes across to your audience. They’ll know whether you’re being real or fake. It will resonate with them. They’ll relate with you and become a firm believer in your cause or your journey. If you’re not being honest or real, they’ll know it. And so will Google. And that’s really important.
When your content resonates with people, it naturally gets shared more and engaged with more, which search engines like Google pay a lot of attention to. The point? Love what you’re going to blog about or don’t waste your time doing it. You won’t have fun and you won’t make money if you don’t follow that one guiding principle.
So where do you go from here? If you’re absolutely ready to start your blog and be on the road to making money over time (not overnight) then here are the steps you need to take.
#1 — Decide On A Niche
The first step in building a blog is to decide on a niche. What do you want to write about? What area are you an expert in? Now, you don’t actually need to be an expert, but you do need some knowledge or a willingness to learn all that you can and eventually convey that knowledge.
You should also note that certain niches are far more competitive than others. So if you plan to generate steady income from your blog, you’re going to need to rank your posts competitively on Google’s search engine results pages. That’s not just about understanding SEO. That’s also about ensuring that you’re not in a fiercely competitive niche.
For example, if you plan to start a blog about making money online, passive income and things of that nature, which is extremely competitive, then it’s going to take you considerably more time to start generating money from your activities. You can’t simply expect to prop up a blog, make a few posts and become a millionaire overnight. It doesn’t work that way.
Although most internet marketers (IMs) would have you believing otherwise, there is no “secret success formula” that will help you build a mass fortune quickly on the web. There is no “newly-discovered blueprint” that will give you the tools for success. No, it’s all a grind. Plain and simple. However, the niches that involve more competitive transactional searches, such as the online money-making niche, are going to be harder to make progress in at the outset.
#2 — Purchase A Domain Name
The next step in building a blog that will actually make you money somewhere down the road is to purchase a domain name. If you’ve decided what you’ll blog about, then you need to find a domain name that’s going to be harmonious with that. Pick a name that’s short enough to be easily remembered, but also keyword-rich enough to be applicable to your content.
Keep in mind that you’re not just building a blog, you’re going to be building a business and a brand. The more memorable you make your domain name, the more likely you’ll be to succeed with your blog. If it’s catchy and people can remember it, they might just come back to it over and over again as long as the content is great. But it all starts with a domain name.
So, how and where do you get a domain name? While there are numerous sources for getting a domain, it’s quite simple to purchase one while you buy your hosting account (explained in the next step). Or, if you already have a domain that you intend on using, you could simply port that over to your new blog.
Your Domain Is Your Online Home
This is going to be your virtual home, so put some careful consideration into choosing the right domain name. You wouldn’t just purchase the physical home that you live in on a whim, would you? Of course not. So choose wisely. Take time to scour and analyze domain names to find the right one. Here are some pointers when searching:
- Limit the domain name to no more than three keywords such as riverraftingtours.whatever or professionalresumeservices.whatever or marketingschool.whatever. Get the point? Don’t go over three keywords because it becomes to cumbersome, burdensome and difficult to remember for visitors.
- Pick a domain name that contains a keyword related to your niche so you can get a leg up on being found relevantly in online searches. That’s not to say you’re going to rank right away. You definitely won’t. But that keyword will help you down the line to build your brand within that niche.
- Try to avoid using hyphens if you can. Although many of the best domain names are taken, you can still find good, relevant domains without having to insert hyphens. While it might be unavoidable depending on the niche that you’re entering, try to purchase your domain name without it.
- Where possible, select a domain name that ends in .com rather than any other extension. As appealing as it might seem to select a domain name with a different extension, you’ll find the dot com extension to be the most assuming type when people are trying to locate your blog.
#3 — Purchase A Hosting Account
Okay, so you’ve made the decision to start your blog and you’ve done your due diligence on what you’ll blog about. Your next step is to take some action and register that blog by purchasing a hosting account. A hosting account is simply a computer attached to the internet where your blog will live. It’s always on and it’s always connected.
When you purchase a hosting account, you’re actually just renting space on a server. Either you’re sharing that space with others, or the server is yours and yours alone to use. When you first start out, it will likely be the former. Your hosting account will be what’s called a shared hosting account, likely on what’s called a virtual private server (VPS).
Without getting to technical, a VPS is simply a configuration of web software that helps you manage everything that lives on your server. From your files to the database and applications that live there, you get unfettered access, in realtime, to managing all of that on your hosting account. But you have some virtual roommates, so to speak.
When you’re ready to get started, head over to BlueHost, which powers over 2 million websites worldwide, and is possibly one of the most popular hosting companies in the world. At their homepage, simply click on the “Get Started Now” link and you’ll be forwarded to a page where you can select your account type.
The best part? If you’re not happy with their service, you’ll get a full refund within 30 days. If you’re outside of 30 days, you can get back a prorated refund. Their refund policy applies to their hosting only and not their add-on services, so you couldn’t get a refund for any domains you potentially purchased, so just keep that in mind.
Currently, there are three account types there:
- Basic Hosting Account: Less than your morning latte, this is definitely one of the least expensive hosting accounts out there. You can host a single website with up to 50GB of space, which is more than plenty by the way, unmetered bandwidth, so you’ll never be charged overaged and 100MB of email storage.
- Plus Hosting Account: The next tier up is the Plus account, which includes unlimited space and an unlimited number of domains, just in case you want to host more than one website. You also receive unmetered bandwidth and unlimited email storage for not much more than the Basic account.
- Prime Hosting Account: This account is their best value. Not only do you get everything that you get with the Plus account, but you also get website backup, which can come in very handy by the way, and private domain registration. They’re also throwing in $80 per year worth of extras here.
Once you’ve selected the right account, you’ll move to the next page where you can actually purchase your domain. Either you already have a domain, which you can easily port over to their service, or you’ll buy a new domain name. If you’ve already done the research on your domain, this step should be fairly straightforward. If you haven’t, don’t rush this step and take enough time selecting the perfect domain.
Please Note: I am an affiliate of Bluehost. That means, I’ll get a commission every time someone uses one of my links to sign up for the service. However, I do believe that Bluehost is one of the best hosting companies out there, with one of the best customer service departments, which is crucial when you’re doing something technical like hosting a blog.
#3 — Install WordPress
Once you’re up and running with your hosting account, your next step is to install WordPress, the most popular blogging platform, onto your newly-minted blog. This is a rather straightforward process, so don’t be alarmed here. In your Bluehost control panel, you’ll find a simple one-click logo icon with the description “Install WordPress,” that will help guide you along in the process.
All you have to do is select a few key details such as your site name, admin username, password and email address, and you’ll be well on your way to being up and running very quickly. Simply look for the WordPress icon towards the bottom of your hosting control panel screen once you’ve setup your account.
Also, keep in mind that for security purposes, you should choose a difficult username and password for your blog admin when going through the setup process. Don’t use the username “admin” and don’t choose an easy-to-crack password. You’ll be doing yourself a disservice by doing that.
When WordPress has been properly installed, you’ll need to configure your settings. One of the important settings that you’ll need to address is called permalinks, which is located in the settings > permalinks section of your WordPress administration.
Navigate to that page and pick the “Post Name” option so that your page titles are translated into nice semantic URLs, which is crucial for higher visibility. Remember, every little advantage will count in the beginning!
#4 — Write Like the Wind
Okay, so there are a ton of other considerations. For the sake of brevity, I’ll have to skip over all the little nuances that are involved with configuring things properly and optimizing for things like search engine optimization and installing plugins and so on. If you want to learn about SEO, I would recommend checking out my course on Udemy or one of my books or audiobooks on the topic.
However, the biggest point that needs to be made here about succeeding with your blog and eventually making any semblance of a respectable amount of cash, is to write like the wind. Consistency is critical if you’re going to succeed, which is the problem that almost everyone has with blogging.
If you’re not a self-motivating individual, you might find this to be extremely difficult. The truth is that it takes years to build a solid blog audience. It won’t happen overnight. However, once it does happen, this is by far one of the most lucrative passive-income generating activities that you can engage in.
Deliver Real Value
Keep in mind, that you have to deliver an enormous amount of value when you’re blogging. You won’t build an audience overnight, but you also won’t build an audience over time if you try to skimp on the value. People won’t waste their time if you don’t deliver value in some form, plain and simple.
What does it mean to deliver value? Either your posts have to be extremely informative, in that they teach people how to do something useful, or they need to be entertaining or provide value in another format. Your posts also need to be engaging. Don’t expect people to spend a lot of time or even share any of your content if your posts don’t deliver value and they’re not engaging.
Also, not to get into too much technical details, but things like the time spent on the page, session times, bounce rates and exit rates all count when it comes to your presence on Google and other search engines. One way Google can tell if your content is useful is based on the amount of time people are spending actually consuming that content.
Are they spending many minutes on the page? Or, are they arriving and leaving quickly after 30 seconds or so. Keep in mind that your posts should be lengthy, so plan to write at least 1000 words per article or more. On this blog, I focus on a minimum of 2000 words per article. Not to be verbose. But because I know that value and engagement is delivered in length, not in brevity.
Google pays acute attention to the length of your articles. Short articles are called “thin” content. They generally tend to be 500 words or less. Even sub-1000-word articles are largely a waste of your time. Why? You can’t compete in the beginning with thin content. Unless you have an existing audience, which takes time to build, you need content that packs the value-punch.
#5 — Build a Platform
The hardest part about making money from your blog is actually building a platform. Your platform is your brand. And brands are built by building trust over time. Not overnight. Over time. This requires consistency, integrity and honesty. It doesn’t happen quickly or easily whatsoever.
However, building a platform isn’t just about that. Building a platform involves ensuring that you’re always doing the most amount of work for the least initial return. Sound crazy? Okay, it might be a little bit crazy. But it’s true. You have to go out of your way for your readers. Because, believe me, they pay attention and remember what you do for them.
If you’re solely interested in extracting money from your readers at the outset, you won’t succeed over time. You’ll fail. However, if you do things honestly and with integrity, ensuring that you’re being consistent and truthful in your advice and your prose, people will pay attention.
The Currency Of Attention
When people pay attention, not only are they engaged, which is great for Google, but they’re also likely to share and comment on your work. These are all indications of engagement. And those share links help you considerably as long as they’re real and they’re organic. You can’t just go out and buy shares or engagement. You won’t make any traction like that.
Instead, you have to do the work to build your platform over time if you’re serious about earning money with your blog. You have to put in the long hours and burn that midnight oil day-in and day-out. It’s brutal at the outset. It feels like you’re just working and working with absolutely no returns.
I still remember the beginning days of building this blog. I worked tirelessly for 60 to 80 hours every single week without fail. In the beginning, I saw a trickle of traffic that amounted to maybe 20 to 30 visitors per day. That number multiplied by about a 100 after approximately a year and a half or so of grueling hard work. And since then, it has climbed significantly for one reason and one reason only: consistency.
In order to build a platform, you have to be consistent in your value delivery. You can’t go cold for weeks and months on end. You need to stay in front of your audience. They’ll be actively checking back for updates from you, so don’t let them down. Get out there and over time, you’ll see an exponential rise. Just don’t expect it to happen right away.
#6 — Get Social
Finally, in order to build a blog that actually makes money, you need to get social. You need to collaborate with others. Communicate with leaders in your niche. Reach out and share other bloggers’ content. Acknowledge their work and give them positive feedback. Don’t be pushy about it and don’t look for anything in return. It doesn’t quite work that way.
The problem is that in order to build your audience and increase the size of your platform, you need visibility. But in order to be visible, you need great content. However, if people can’t discover your great content, how are you supposed to build your audience? If you know anything about SEO, then you know that it’s the proverbial Catch-22 at the outset.
The truth is that people won’t discover your blog. You will see that shirt more times than people will see your blog. It’s painful in the beginning. If that doesn’t dissuade most would-be wild-eyed bloggers, then just about nothing will. But it doesn’t stay that way. Clearly, things change gradually over time as long as you don’t give up.
Offer Great Content To Gain More Visibility
So, in order to gain visibility, you have to go directly to the source. You need to tap already-established bloggers by offering them your great content with a chance to secure a single link back to your own site. Keep in mind, this isn’t about exchanging blog posts or links. No, do not do that. This is about offering to write for existing platforms that will help you build your own audience.
No, it’s not easy. Most bloggers will ignore you. Most won’t answer. And when they do, it might be a snide remark. I receive countless requests to guest blog, which I largely leave unanswered for the simple fact that, right now, my blog is my voice. Not anyone else’s voice. My voice. But that might change in the future.
Most bloggers actually welcome the advance to create great content for their platform. So you shouldn’t be shy in at least trying. There’s no harm in trying. If you succeed, then it will be a big win. If not, continue to network and add value on your own, and eventually, as you build it, they will most certainly come. Just don’t expect it to happen quickly or easily.