Are you looking to start a blog this year? Do you want to start a side hustle but are not sure if blogging is your best bet? Thinking there might be too much competition?
Yeah, you’re right. The Internet is competitive but the fact is hundreds of thousands of people continue to come online for the first time each and every month. This means there is a growing audience looking to read something new – your content. You may have heard the phrase that the best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now. Hindsight is always 20/20 which means 2022 is the perfect year to start a blog!
Thanks to WordPress (the world’s most popular blogging platform) and its evolution over the years, it’s now easier than ever to start your own blog. You no longer need to be a web developer to know how to get a blog up and running. 🤓
With a bit of guidance, you’ll be able to start your blog TODAY. This is the first step for you to earn recurring income for years to come.
First things first… why are you starting a blog?
Before you start your blog, it’s important to ask yourself “why.” Why are you starting a blog?
Put some thought into your answer, and ponder over these questions:
- Are you looking to quit your day job? You will need to find a high-paying niche that’s in demand. Ideally, there’ll be little competition and an increasing growth outlook. An example might be a personal finance blog for Gen Z or getting on top of a trend like NFTs.
- Do you want to be an influencer? It’s not as hard as it sounds! Find a niche that you like, research it, and become an expert. If you’re a movie buff, consider creating a blog that covers the latest Netflix series. One of my favorite stories is about the guy who founded a soap opera blog and sold it for millions!
- Do you just want to write? If just want your own corner of the web to discuss what’s on your mind, that’s alright! Not all blogs need to be money-driven, and many people enjoy documenting their hobbies or family. You can still follow many of the steps in this post to get started – I’ll walk you through every part!
There’s really no wrong reason to start a blog, but hopefully, you’ve put more thought into it and understand why it is important to answer your why. You’re setting expectations for yourself, which is the first part of my blogging blueprint.
How To Find Your Blog’s Niche
If you’re looking to run your blog like a business and make money, it’s important to find your blog’s niche.
It’s not always easy to find the ideal niche, though and it’s not uncommon for bloggers to fail a few times before picking one that makes sense (err I mean profitable).
To find your blog’s niche, look at:
- Your Passion
- Your Expertise
- Market Demand
Create a list of what you’re passionate about. Do you like to travel? Great! Add it to your list.
Once you have a handful of topics, ask yourself if you’re an expert in them (or figure out how hard it would be to become one).
I love sushi but there’s no way I’m a sushi expert! That takes real talent!
If you’re not an expert on the topics you’re passionate about, you’re likely not going to be successful in creating a blog about it.
And, if you’re not passionate about the topic, you’re not going to stick with your blog for long.
Ideally, you should be left with a handful of ideas at this point.
This brings us to the last step…. figuring out if there is demand and money to be made for the topic.
While you can use tools like Google Trends to help, you should be able to make an educated guess. For example, starting a travel blog in the middle of a global pandemic is likely going to be an uphill battle for the foreseeable future. It’s hard to travel right now which means fewer people are looking for travel tips!
What if you made a blog about credit card points that people can use to travel in the future? Now you have an interesting angle for your blog that is also profitable (hint: there’s a lot of money to be made in credit card referrals… we’ll cover this later).
Search For A Domain Name (Don’t Buy It Yet!)
A domain name is how people find you online! It’s what people type in the address bar to visit your website. Also known as an URL, it is basically your address on the Internet. For example, my domain name is codymurphy.net.
My favorite place to search for domains is Namecheap.
I’m sure you have a great idea for a domain name, but don’t rush to purchase it. Spend a weekend thinking of a few possible options that could work. Why? Well, a couple of reasons… 1) it may not be available and 2) it’s easy to get FOMO and want to register every available domain name. Don’t overwhelm yourself!
I’ll show you how to purchase a domain name and web hosting (the other requirement for a blog) in the next step. Domain names are usually free when you sign up for web hosting and cost around $15 per year to maintain. You’ll own your domain name for as long as you remember to renew it.
But how do you pick a domain name?
The easiest way is to use one of the many domain name generators online. A more professional way is brainstorming. A realistic way is probably doing a combination of both since it can be tough to find a good domain name (not going to lie!).
It’s important that your chosen domain name is:
- Short and memorable – you want it to stick with readers so they remember it. This encourages them to return! Travel blogger Matthew Kepnes has a great, memorable domain name: Nomadic Matt.
- Keep it simple (without hyphens, hashes, or numbers!) – Imagine if Amazon.com were Ama-zon.com (with a dash) – people are going to misspell it which means you’ll lose traffic. Make your domain name short and sweet!
- Use an appropriate domain extension or top-level domain (TLD) – It’s no lie, .com is the most popular domain extension, but others like .net or .org are just fine! If you’re not in the United States, it is super common to use region-specific TLDs like .co.uk or .com.au are perfect.
- Make it reflective of your blog’s personality – creativity is the hardest part – but it’s also one of the most important parts! Make sure your domain name is attractive and related to what your blog is about.
If you’re having trouble coming up with a domain name, you can always use your own name as your domain as I did for this blog. In fact, using your own name may make it easier to grow your audience in certain cases.
In the end, it is about getting a domain name that is unique and memorable with a dash of your blog’s personality. Choosing a domain should be a thoughtful process because once you decide on it, it’s not recommended to change it. In fact, it’s quite a bit of work and only gets harder as time goes on.
Domain Name Checker
Use this tool to see if your desired domain is available! Powered by our friends at Bluehost.
Next, Purchase Hosting (And Get Your FREE Domain Name)
Now that you have decided what your blog’s topic is and found a cool domain, it’s time to sign up for web hosting. Web hosting is basically storage for your website’s content (text, images, etc) on a server that allows people to access it on the Internet. Remember, we’re going to get web hosting first since most providers throw in a free domain for your first year.
There are hundreds of different web hosting companies out there, all at different price points depending on features and performance. Prices range from $2.95/mo to $30+/mo.
While hosting companies will try to get you to spend more, you really don’t need much to get started. A cheaper hosting company will be just fine at first, and you can always upgrade to a more powerful provider as your traffic grows.
These are the features you should be looking for at this stage of the game:
- Free Domain Name – there’s no need to pay for a domain name registration, at least this year. The best web hosting companies usually provide one for free as part of their hosting package.
- Free SSL Certificate – An SSL Certificate is an additional layer of security for your blog. It keeps your blog safe by encrypting sensitive information (like passwords). These days, SSLs should be included as a standard part of hosting (but don’t be surprised if they try to upsell you… it’s safe to skip the upsell).
- WordPress Auto-Installed – I firmly believe that you need to use WordPress if you are a serious blogger. Unfortunately, there are a number of technical steps required to manually install WordPress. However, most hosting companies will now automatically install WordPress by default (or with a click of a button, you may need to opt-in). Make sure your host does this for you!
- 24/7 Customer Service – make sure your web hosting company offers 24/7 support. This is going to be important because you’ll probably be working on your blog at odd hours at this point (since it’s not your full-time job yet). It will be nice to be able to hop on live chat if you have questions or if something isn’t working.
All of this sounds like a lot, but don’t worry. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a web hosting provider.
Let’s Get Started With WordPress!
Congrats on getting to this step! You did it – you officially have the foundation for your blog. 🥳
You may ask yourself why are we getting started with WordPress when tools like Wix and Weebly are seemingly soo much easier.
There are a few reasons.
One of the biggest reasons to use WordPress is that it is “self-hosted.” You get to pick the hosting. You can take your website with you and you can grow an unimaginably large site with it. You’re stuck with most other platforms. Think big, play the long game, and stay focused with WordPress.
Here are a few more specific reasons to use WordPress:
- WordPress is Easy to use – WordPress launched a new editing experience (called Full Site Editing) a few years ago that really makes the writing experience enjoyable. It offers the features you need to create, format, and edit without compromising an easy-to-use interface.
- WordPress offers total control – WordPress has a secure admin dashboard that allows you to control every aspect of your website. From managing the look and feel of your website to comments, WordPress is the most straightforward blogging tool. Plus, WordPress has the largest collection of themes and plugins (many free!) of any content management system. All of these are available to install in your WordPress admin area.,
- WordPress makes it easy to monetize – since you own your WordPress blog, that means you can monetize it without having to worry about any pesky restrictions. You’ll be able to run your website like a business by earning money through advertising or affiliate programs.
Fun fact: Over 35% of the Internet uses WordPress! That means that there are soo many different free resources and tutorials out there to learn how to use it.
Install Your Blog’s Theme
As I said, since so many websites use WordPress, that means there are thousands of different themes you can install to make your blog your own. WordPress themes can be fully customized to include your logo, color scheme, and layout of choice.
To install a WordPress theme, you’ll need to log in to your WordPress admin area. From there, access Appearance > Themes in the sidebar. Now click the Add New button.
I recommend trying a Featured theme to get started. If you don’t find a theme that matches your personality, you can try searching for different themes in the search bar.
Install Essential WordPress Plugins
A WordPress plugin basically provides your blog with extended functionality (such as a contact form). There are thousands of free WordPress plugins available, but there are certain ones I highly recommend.
It can be tempting to overload your website with dozens of plugins. Try to refrain from doing that so you don’t slow down the performance of your blog. Fewer, quality plugins are better.
To get started, I recommend installing the following right away:
- Wordfence will help protect your blog against hackers by adding an endpoint firewall and malware scanner to WordPress. The free version is sufficient.
- Yoast SEO is the premier WordPress SEO plugin. It will come in handy if you’re running your blog like a business and need to boost your search engine rankings. Yoast SEO includes features like page & post SEO, sitemap creation, and integration with Google Search Console.
Start Blogging & Build Your Following
Congratulations! You are done with all of the technical steps to get your blog up and running. It’s now time to focus and run your blog like a business. Focus on the niche you decided on, create a content plan, and be consistent with publishing content.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Create a content calendar and blog 1 to 2 times per week. Write content that is a blend of information, “how-to’s,” and guides related to your niche. Provide value to your readers by writing content that is hard to find elsewhere.
- Leverage your professional network for guest post opportunities and collaboration. This will help build your blog’s authority and drive traffic.
- Don’t forget to promote your blog on social media (Twitter and Pinterest is best) – but don’t be spammy. Share new posts when you publish them.
- Focus on data by reviewing Google Analytics and Google Search Console. The metrics in these reporting tools provide insight into what’s working and what isn’t. It’s okay to pivot if you have data!
The first six months of running your blog should be focused on building your following. Write quality content and Google will eventually reward you by ranking your content higher. Higher rankings = more traffic. Remember that this takes time and won’t happen overnight.
How To Monetize Your Blog
Usually, the most profitable way to monetize a blog is through affiliate marketing. Typically, this involves linking to products with unique tracking links. These tracking links will give you a percentage of the sale if your reader purchases.
After the first six months of writing and ranking your content, it’s time to start looking at ways to monetize your blog. In addition to affiliate marketing offers, here are some additional ideas:
- Banner ads from Google Adsense, Ezoic, or Mediavine
- Create and sell courses or e-books to your readers
- Sell sponsorships to advertisers directly
Again, while affiliate marketing is usually the best, some bloggers prefer banner ads and that’s okay, too. It’s really up to you and how you want to run your blogging business.
Resources & Additional Information
Thanks for reading my guide on how to start a blog. I hope you found it helpful and realize that it’s easy to start a blog and you should be able to do it in a weekend — you don’t need to be a web developer to get started online. Stay focused, and with dedication and time, you’ll be able to turn it into a revenue-generating business just like me!