I made the decision to start a blog while on maternity leave with my second daughter. I was looking for a way to make some extra income to pay for dance classes, skating and vacations.
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I decided to start a blog after reading some articles from Pinterest that showed the income of some top bloggers. Some make over $100,000 a month from their blogs! I couldn’t believe it. I thought well, I would be happy with a fraction of that so maybe there is a way.
To be honest, I had started 2 other blogs in the past on blogger.com but I never got past the first post or two before giving up and I certainly didn’t come close to making any money.
This time I decided to do things differently. This time, I was determined to be one of the 5% of bloggers who succeeds at blogging.
How to start a blog the right way
- Choose an awesome name for your blog
- Sign up for web hosting
- Install WordPress
- Choose a theme that matches your brand and customize it
- Install Useful Plugins
- Create your About, Disclosures & Contact pages
- Create Awesome Content
- Promote your content
- Apply for ad networks
- Join relevant affiliate networks and programs
First of all, I recommend starting with a self-hosted site using WordPress.org. While it is possible to start a blog for free on WordPress.com or Blogger, if you plan to monetize your blog and make an income from affiliate marketing and ads, then it is worth the small investment to have a self-hosted blog with your own URL.
Self-hosted blogs use WordPress.org (not.com) and you will be able to install it right from your host.
1. Pick your domain name
Easier than it sounds, you need to pick a name that suits you, is catchy, and above all, isn’t already being used. The name can either tell your readers what your blog is about or you can choose a memorable phrase or word (which is what I did).
You can use the domain checker at Bust a name to enter keywords and work from there. I would advise against picking a domain name that is similar to an existing website, especially if it is very successful. Readers will be confused and it might cost you in blog traffic.
Once you have picked the perfect name, you should register your domain so that no one else can take it.
You can use the same company for both your host and domain or you can use two separate companies which some people recommend for security reasons. I currently use different companies just because I switched hosting companies a few months ago but before that, I was using the same one for both as it made the whole set up process easily (plus I got a free domain with my hosting package!).
2. Host your site
Once you have registered your domain , you need to host it somewhere. Imagine your URL is a car, you need a parking spot for it on the internet. A host is the parking garage.
The host you choose is important because your site speed and reliability will all depend on your hosting company. You also want to make sure their customer support is good in case you experience any problems with your site. Sometimes sites go down or crash because of too much traffic or a plugin issue (we will get to those!) and you need your host to act quickly to get you back up and running.
If you are a new blogger, I highly recommend Bluehost. It is great for new bloggers who are just starting out and want reliable hosting at an awsome price. If you are not sure how blogging will go and are on a tight budget, Bluehost is a good option.
Bluehost includes some extras that other hosting companies charge for which is why I recommend them for newbies.
- Free Domain Name
- WordPress.org for free
- 24/7 support (phone or chat)
- 30 days money back guarantee
- Self-hosted blog for less than $80 a year which means you can monetize your blog using affiliate links and ads
Bluehost has 3 plans to choose from depending on the traffic you get on your site. I recommend getting Basic one when you are just starting out. You can always upgrade your plan if your traffic grows quickly.
Also don’t buy any extras that they offer unless you want the Domain Privacy Protection for an extra $0.99 a month (this means no one can find your address through your domain).
Bluehost also offers FREE SSL certificates for all WordPress sites which for me is a huge advantage. The host I was with charged me $99 just for 1 year of SSL so you can see that Bluehost really provides value.
An SSL certificate gives your site the padlock sign in the browser bar and is favored by Google in searches. I highly recommend starting your blog with the SSL installed to avoid having to do redirects at a later date.
Check out all the Bluehost Plans here.
Once you are ready to begin setting up your blog, you can click through to Bluehost and get started!
The first page you will get to is the domain registration. Enter your chosen name in the “new domain” box and click next.
Create your account
You will be instructed to create your account, choose your package and enter your payment details.
I signed up for the longest term possible as that is always the cheapest option. Don’t forget there is a 30 day money back guarantee if you decide blogging isn’t for you in your first month.
Using my link, you can get your hosting for $2.95 a month for 36 months or 60 months. That will cost you a smidge over $100 for 1.5 years of hosting which is an awesome deal. The reason I recommend the longer term is because the prices for hosting always go up after the first term so the longer you can stretch it out the better!
As I mentioned before, you don’t need any of the extras mentioned in the package part so you can go ahead and uncheck them.
Next, create your account and choose your password and you are done!
3. Set up WordPress.org
Don’t mistake this for setting up a WordPress.com account. The two are very different. For your blog to be able to access ad networks such as Google Adsense and make money through advertising, you need to have WordPress.org installed.
- Once your account has been set up with Bluehost, you will be in your account dashboard. Click the “install WordPress” button at the bottom of the screen to start the process.
- You can pick a free theme now but don’t worry about it too much as you can change it later. This is just to get you set up.
- Click ” Install” on the pop-up
- Create a username and account name and click “install now”
- You will now receive an email from Mojo Marketplace with your WordPress.org login details. Keep it somewhere safe.
- You are all set! Time to do the fun stuff and make your blog pretty!
This is what your WordPress dashboard will look like. Along the left hand side, you can choose to start a new post or page, add media (images or videos), customize the appearance of your blog (colors and fonts) and add plugins.
4. Choose a Theme
Here you have some options: You can either use one of the free WordPress themes that Bluehost offers or you can purchase a theme.
A theme is the style and look of your blog to your readers. Themes have different fonts, layouts and customizable options. Some are free and included with your Bluehost hosting package and others cost extra.
When I first started my blog, I chose a free theme as I wanted to keep costs as low as possible. I’m not too tech savvy and it seemed to work ok until I started to have issues adding Google Adsense links and other plugins. After wasting a few weeks trying to make my free theme work, I bit the bullet and bought a Genesis Child Theme.
Genesis is highly recommended by professional bloggers because it comes with a lot of extra features that make setting up your blog really simple. The Genesis framework will let you bypass all of the complicated HTML code stuff on your site which is great for beginners who just want to get up and running.
The only thing that held me back from buying a theme was the costs involved after having already spent money on my hosting but I did manage to find a low cost Genesis Theme that I absolutely love.
I went with the “Silver” theme from Boutique Design Studios. Their themes are feminine, modern and easy to use. My theme cost less than $50 and it was worth every penny.
I have since found out that you can pay up to 4 times as much for a theme so I’m really happy I found Boutique Design Studios by fluke.
There are detailed instructions for setting the whole theme up which I followed step by step and was up and running within an hour. I will say that after the confusion of having the free theme and trying to work out what to do, the instructions were just amazing.
You can see all the themes at Boutique Studios here.
The theme kits from Boutique Studios include:
WordPress Theme – Stunning WordPress theme design and development
Genesis Framework – Awesome framework **($59.95 included value)**
SetUp Tutorials – In-depth theme tutorials with images and videos
Demo Content – Import demo content if needed
One Flat Price – No ongoing monthly subscriptions
Lifetime Updates – Free theme and Genesis lifetime updates
This is one of the best values I have seen and really great for new bloggers on a budget.
** Hint** – check out some blogs that you like to read and normally you will be able to see the name of the theme at the very bottom of the site. Here is an example from Seaside Sundays.
Once you have bought your theme, you will be able to change the colors and customize it to suit your preferences. You will also be able to add your logo if you have one (I made mine using PicMonkey which is the program I use for creating all my social media images).
You can get a free 14 day trial of PicMonkey here.
5. Install Useful Plugins
Once your blog is set up with a theme, you can take some time to add some plugins to make your site easier to use.
If you purchase theme from Boutique Design Studio, they actually give you a list of must-have plugins for bloggers which I found really helpful.
To install plugins, simply scroll down to the plugin button on the left-hand menu in WordPress and click “add new”. You can then search for any plugins that you wish to add to your blog.
Plugins that I use often include:
- Yoast SEO – This plugin is essential for making sure your content is readable and SEO friendly.
- Adinserter – If you use Amazon or Google Adsense ads, you can easily choose where to place the ads on your site.
- Genesis Simple Hooks – This plugin makes it easy to widgets and content into your framework without messing around with the HTML.
- Akismet Anti-Spam – helps to blog spam bots and spammy comments on your site
- Social Warfare– Buttons for Pinterest, Facebook and more.
6. Create your About, Disclosures & Contact Pages
Spend some time creating an engaging “About” page so that readers can get to know you. The Boutique Designs tutorial shows you exactly how to create a “contact me” form on your site for comments and emails.
7. Start Creating Awesome Content
Now that your blog is set up, it’s time to write some posts!
A few tips that work regardless of your niche:
- Post frequently and on a schedule so that your readers know when to expect new content (2 or 3 times a week is good)
- Write naturally and use your own voice. Readers want to relate to you.
- Use photos to illustrate your points.
- Aim for 10-20 blog posts at launch to keep your reader’s interest. (PRO TIP: you can backdate posts on WordPress – I launched my blog in March 2017 but I have many backdated posts to create a library).
8. Promote Your Content
Once you have your excellent blog posts up, it’s time to get some readers! I’d recommend choosing a couple of social media platforms to start with so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
Different platforms work well for different niches – Pinterest is great for mom blogs, lifestyle and personal finance, Instagram is great for fashion and Facebook is good for recipes and crafts (especially if you make videos).
If you want some help getting started on social media promotion, here are my top picks for each platform:
My FREE ebook that will get you started the right way on Pinterest with great pins.
Blog posts about Pinterest Marketing:
A ebook will help you to grow your Pinterest traffic quickly through manual pinning. Carly grew her Pinterest referrals from 0-200K page views in 6 months using these techniques.
Facebook and Google +
Free course by Lena Gott who grew her traffic from 30-400K page views in only 10 months. I highly recommend every new blogger downloads this completely free guide.
A really awesome course that delves deep into each platform (including Pinterest). This course helped me to grow my traffic quickly (from 0-70K page views in 4 months). You can read my complete review of the course here.
Free course by THE guru of Instagram success.
I cannot say enough about this course! It is awesome. I grew my followers from 300 to over 1000 just by following the actionable steps Saira talked me through. Twitter is a very good platform to be strong on if you want to get sponsored posts and even get paid to tweet.
9. Apply for Google Adsense
Some bloggers recommend not applying for Google Adsense until you have some traffic but I applied almost the second I launched my site with zero traffic and was approved with no issues.
The reason I wanted to get Adsense up and running was that I wanted readers to be used to my site having ads so that it wasn’t a shock when I added them.
Adsense is a program that places ads on your website and pays you for each person that views the ad or clicks on it. There are other, high paying ad networks out there but they normally have a minimum pageview threshold so are not ideal for new bloggers.
10. Join Affiliate Networks
If you want to monetize your blog, you can also add affiliate links to your blog pages. Affiliate links are good for recommending products that you love or that you have found useful.
Affiliate links are basically referral links that will pay you a portion of the sale made by your reader.
There are a lot of different affiliate programs out there for bloggers and the best way to get started is to join the big affiliate networks so that you have access to many different products with just one application.
Click here to read The Top Affiliate Networks for New Bloggers
If you would like some help to get started on affiliate marketing, you can check out my ebook, Affiliate Action Plan.
It is very affordable and great for beginners who want to monetize their blog from the get-go. Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to make money from your blog even if you don’t have many readers. I made over $300 in just my 3rd month of blogging and quickly grew my income from there.
Final tip for starting your blog the right way
Blogging is constantly evolving and social media algorithms change all the time. Constantly learning and trying new things on your blog to see what works is so important. The key to a successful, profitable blog is adapting to changes as quickly as possible and giving your readers what they want.
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