A lot of people make a decent living by blogging. Others simply use it as a way to stay social online. Regardless of your purpose, creating your own blog can be rewarding in a lot of ways.
In this guide, I’ll break down the fundamentals of blogging and what you can do to improve your chances of success. Although every experience is unique, these are some of the most common methods many popular bloggers and brands use.
So, how can you start blogging today?
- Blogging Begins with an Idea
- Who is Your Target Audience?
- Choosing a Webhost and Using WordPress
- Finding the Right Theme When Blogging
- Top 5 WordPress Blogging Plugins
- Writing Your Content
- Blogging with AdSense
- Other Ways to Monetize the Blog
- Marketing the Site While Blogging
- Updating Older Blog Posts
- Most Recent Blogging Articles
- Blogging Can Be Fun and Lucrative
Blogging Begins with an Idea
For the most part, setting up a blog starts with an idea or purpose. This could be anything from sharing personal experiences throughout the day to a website dedicated to product reviews. It all comes down to why you want to create the blog, in the first place.
For example, WriterSanctuary’s purpose is to help others learn how to write in various media. As such, it covers blogging, freelance writing, and self-publishing.
Ask yourself why you want to be a blogger while listing out your expectations. This information will essentially dictate the kind of website you build and the content you create.
For instance, a blog centered on making money with affiliate sales from electronics is more likely to produce “Best of” articles as well as publish reviews or perhaps tutorials for using those products.
Yet, blogs have been known to shift focus over time. And this is perfectly fine, as long as that focus is still producing the results you want.
A great example of this is WriterSanctuary. Originally, it was meant as a way to share my experience of becoming a freelance writer while giving me a platform to practice AP Style English.
It has long since morphed into helping all kinds of writers.
What Are Blogging Niches?
Part of setting up your blog is deciding whether or not you want to focus on a specific niche. This will also contribute to how you create the site as well as the content you will write.
A blogging niche means that you’re purposely creating content centering around a general topic. Then, you write blog posts that are most relevant to that niche for your audience.
For instance, a niche website about health and fitness would include things like healthy recipes, product reviews of fitness equipment, or perhaps articles about the best equipment to use for specific workouts.
A niche is vital if you’re trying to engage a specific audience. For the most part, niche sites tend to perform exceptionally well in terms of generating traffic, return visitors, and income.
Who is Your Target Audience?
There is a big difference between basic traffic and a target audience.
Traffic merely means the number of people that find your site whether it’s from a Google search or something they clicked on social media. In other words, it’s anyone who simply looks at your content whether they’re interested or not.
A target audience, on the other hand, are the visitors you’re purposely trying to reach with your content. These people are more likely to subscribe to newsletters, buy your products, trust your experiences, comment, or otherwise interact with your posts.
Take WriterSactuary. This website focuses on helping writers of all kinds. You won’t see reviews or best-of articles in regard to health foods. I am purposely trying to reach those who need help in writing and blogging.
When considering your blog’s purpose, also keep in mind the type of people you want to reach. A great way to do this is by creating a visitor persona sheet. This will help you visualize the visitors as you create your content.
You can create this “visitor character sheet” at any time. I just find it easier to maintain a blog when it’s done sooner rather than later.
Choosing a Webhost and Using WordPress
When you’re ready to commit to making your blog, the Internet is full of ways to produce SEO content. One of the more common is that of using self-hosted WordPress.
A self-hosted WordPress website means that you’re using a web host provider and installing the WordPress core that is available at WordPress.org.
This is vastly different from the WordPress.com platform, which has free options, coincidentally. The problem is that WordPress.com is far more expensive in the long run.
In reality, there are a lot of benefits to self-hosting your WordPress blog. The benefits that stick out the most include:
- Full and absolute control of your content
- Having far fewer restrictions on ways to monetize
- Being cheaper to maintain over time
- Having a higher capacity for customization
How Much Does it Cost to Build a Blog?
If you do all of the work yourself, the cost to start a single blog is cheaper than a cup of coffee every month. For instance, you can start a blog today for only $2.95 per month while using GreenGeeks Web Hosting.
Yes, the above is some shameless promotion as it is an affiliate link. This means I earn a commission on every sale the banner above generates. This is an example of affiliate marketing, which I’ll cover a bit later.
Since WordPress is free to use, the cost of the hosting is the only up-front expense to start. Anything after that just depends on whether you want to use free or premium themes and plugins or perhaps hire writers to help you create content.
I’ll also go over these elements in a moment.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars setting up and creating an amazing blog. And if you monetize the site well, your blog could bring in enough to cover the costs in roughly six to eight months.
Blogging, for the most part, is a long-term investment. But it’s one that has some incredible potential for a myriad of purposes.
Why Use WordPress?
WordPress has a market share of over 40% of all websites online. This means that nearly half of the websites you visit are running with WordPress at their core.
The reason why WordPress has such a massive user base is that it is incredibly flexible, customizable, and well-supported. Everyone from novice developers to seasoned coders can quickly design and publish an amazing WordPress website.
Due to its popularity, WordPress also has tens of thousands of plugins to add features and thousands of themes to choose from to design your blog.
The Internet is full of tutorials to help you build a WordPress blog for virtually any purpose. And if you use web host providers, such as GreenGeeks, you can install WordPress with little effort using Softaculous.
Finding the Right Theme When Blogging
With WordPress installed, the first thing you might want to do is change the theme. This is the overall appearance of your site, which can be near-instantly altered at any time.
Although WordPress comes with several good themes for blogging, there are thousands of layouts available.
It’s OK to use the free theme that comes with WordPress. However, you might just find a layout that is more to your liking that may fit your blog’s purpose better.
As I said, you can change the theme at any time if you find something that is more appealing. Just make sure you keep your target audience in mind when selecting a theme. Some themes will simply have better options regarding your visitor’s needs.
For instance, some themes are built specifically to show off artistic portfolios while blogging. Others might come with a better layout for sharing recipes or selling products online.
In fact, there are a few that are designed to emulate YouTube if you want to show videos.
In the end, it all comes down to what you want to share with the world and how you want your blog to appear.
Free Blogging Themes
In WordPress, you have access to what’s called the Repository. This is where most developers will share their work directly with WordPress.org. And in this repository are thousands of themes you can use for free.
I suggest that you periodically take a look at the repository to see what has been added. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your design options open when using a free theme.
In reality, WriterSanctuary used a free theme from 2013 to 2023. I only upgraded because I enjoyed the layout of this one more and the premium options make setting up certain aspects much easier.
Mostly because I don’t have the time to fine-tune the coding to get exactly what I want.
Premium Blogging Themes
Now, a large number of free themes will have premium versions available. And depending on your needs and wants, it might be worth considering upgrading to a subscription plan.
But in the beginning, most themes will work right out of the box, so to speak.
Depending on the theme developer, premium versions can have priority support, built-in page builders and tools, greater flexibility for customization without coding, and a slew of other benefits.
Customize Your Themes
WordPress comes with a tool called the “Customizer.” This is a built-in, WYSIWYG editor that lets you make quick adjustments on the fly.
Usually, the WordPress Customizer has access to typography, colors, background images, page and post layouts, widgets, and several theme-specific tools.
The features that are available in the Customizer depend on how the developer created the theme. As such, every theme will be different when it comes to using this feature.
However, the Customizer should be the first thing you use when adjusting your blog’s layout. Most will have quite a few customization options available to help you build a blog that looks good to your audience.
Create something as close to unique as possible.
Top 5 WordPress Blogging Plugins
Plugins are essentially the bread and butter of WordPress. Although the platform has quite a bit of functionality immediately after installing, plugins expand what you offer your visitors as well as yourself while blogging.
If there is something you want to add to your blog, there is a good chance it exists for WordPress.
Let’s take a look at my top five picks for plugins. Keep in mind there are well over 40,000 in the repository. Don’t be afraid to spend some time looking for something you want or need.
When it comes to website security, Wordfence is at the top of a lot of lists. This free plugin provides an amazing firewall and will scan your files to ensure nothing has changed.
Even brand-new websites are targeted by bots and hackers. Make sure you have some kind of security method in place to keep your site protected.
2. Yoast SEO
I’ve been using Yoast SEO since 2016, and it’s been one of my go-tos for SEO content writing. It not only helps with blogging, but I’ve used it in the past to write better content for clients as a freelancer.
If you’re trying to perform well in Google while blogging, SEO plugins are exceptionally valuable. With Yoast, you can please both search engine bots and human visitors.
3. Autoptimize While Using Cache Enabler
Autoptimize is a caching plugin that can easily boost the performance of a blog. In fact, I’ve published a video on how Autoptimize removes the CLS in PageSpeed Insights (cumulative layout shift).
Cache Enabler is a plugin that works brilliantly with Autoptimize that further expands Autoptimize’s performance.
Caching is perhaps one of the easiest and quickest ways to get on Google’s good side while blogging. Pages load faster and can ultimately affect the performance of your content in search engines.
4. EWWW Image Optimizer
As a blogger, you’re going to use images of some kind. While there are plenty of ways to optimize those images, EWWW Image Optimizer does it for you automatically.
Not to mention that it supports WebP, an image format that is smaller and faster to load on mobile devices.
You should always optimize your images while blogging. It can cut down how long pages take to load while improving the performance of your posts overall.
Think of Jetpack like the Swiss Army Knife of blogging. It has several modules that can help with everything from adding a “Like” button on your pages to tracking visitors.
Jetpack is made by the same folks that bring WordPress, so you know it’s going to work well after installation. Though, you’ll need to create a free account at WordPress.com in order to use the plugin.
Now, you don’t necessarily need the Jetpack plugin to be successful. But I’ve found quite a few functions within it that eliminate the need to install certain plugins.
Keeping Plugins to a Minimum When Blogging
There is no doubt that you’ll want to install more plugins for certain features. You have access to a wide range of tools to help with everything from search engine optimization to showing books and podcasts.
The important thing to remember is that every plugin you install is going to take up drive space on your hosting account. Not to mention that a lot of them will impact site performance to some degree.
So, while it may be tempting to install everything you come across, only pick the plugins you absolutely need for a specific purpose.
Writing Your Content
Your content is the most vital part of blogging. Without something to read, no one is going to visit, right?
The type of content you create and your unique style are what’s going to bring people in and potentially subscribe to your website.
There are all kinds of ways you can write blog posts. And it really comes down to the purpose of your site. Do you just want to share your daily experiences, or are you trying to replace a full-time income with your content?
Regardless of your site’s purpose, there is one absolute: content is king. As I said, no one is going to visit if there is nothing to read.
Using a Content Strategy
Content strategies can come in all shapes and sizes. Everything from using the best keyword tools to fine-tuning your titles is part of the strategy.
Strategies are another element that is unique to individual websites. Some will focus on WordPress tutorials while others share the “Best Of” regarding their niche. So, it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish by blogging.
The overall benefit of having a content strategy is making the content easier overall to produce. Things to ask yourself while blogging include:
- What does my target audience want to read next?
- Is this topic helpful and informative?
- What are people searching for in my niche?
The bottom line is that a content strategy and plan can go a long way to help keep you productive and focused. Not to mention having the best possibility of attracting a larger audience.
What’s the Best Blog Length?
The longer a blog post is, the better it’ll perform in search. That’s a general statement taken from the average length of a blog post spread across a variety of industries.
The reason why longer posts perform better is that there is more “meat” for search engines to crawl. The more informative the piece, the more answers you provide searchers.
In most cases, an article that has more than 2000 words will have more terms to rank for than one that is 1200 words long.
This doesn’t mean that you should fill an article with fluff and filler to reach a certain word count. Some topics just don’t have a lot of information available.
The last thing you want to do is confuse readers and search algorithms by adding context that isn’t relevant to the topic.
As a rule of thumb, I usually aim for anything over 1200 words depending on the topic and what I can add to it that provides value to the reader.
Pillar Pages and Branching Out
The best approach to blogging, especially if you’re trying to rank for a certain keyphrase or word, is to develop pillar pages and branch out into subtopics.
A pillar page is a piece of content that thoroughly covers a topic from a general viewpoint while linking to the more focused articles.
For example, the page you’re reading right now is a “pillar page.”
Think of pillar pages like the trunk of a tree. All of the supporting topics are branches that reach outward with even more topics branching out even further.
Usually, pillar content requires a great deal of planning and brainstorming. After all, you want to provide the most general information you can about the primary keyword or topic.
One of my favorite tools for brainstorming content and website designs is Mindomo. It’s a free mind-mapping app that has a lot of functionality.
Consider Publishing Schedules
Having your blog on a routine publishing schedule does two important things: keeps your current audience interested and provides a road map to search engines when you upload new content.
If you use something like push notifications, visitors who are subscribed to your website get notified the moment something goes live.
In that case, it’s common to see a quick influx of visitors even if your post isn’t indexed by Google yet.
That’s because creating a schedule when your visitors are most active inspires immediate visits. When you’re blogging, anything that can get the ball rolling for your published content is ideal.
Blogging with AdSense
As you continue to create content, you’ll be able to sign up with AdSense. This is Google’s advertising platform for publishers with websites. It’s also the basis for payouts on YouTube.
It doesn’t take a lot of content to get authorized with Google AdSense. In some cases, a single well-written post is all that you might need.
Then again, it could take a few additional pieces of content before Google recognizes your site as a legitimate source of information.
AdSense is perhaps one of the easiest ways to start generating money from your blog. However, it’s also not the best in terms of payout, especially when compared to other money-making methods.
Still, it can easily pay for web hosting and a few other extras throughout the year if you write quality content.
Personally, I’ll often wait until I have around 10 posts or so before submitting the blog to AdSense for approval. But generally speaking, approval will be determined by how Google views your website.
Other Ways to Monetize the Blog
AdSense isn’t the only way to monetize a blog. In fact, you have several proven methods that work exceptionally well depending on the type of site you’re creating.
The degree of success differs from one creator to the next. Nonetheless, you have a lot of options at your disposal.
Affiliate Marketing and Blogging
Affiliate marketing is when you’re helping a brand sell products or services from your website. Generally, you’ll earn a commission on every sale from visitors who use your affiliate link to that particular brand.
For instance, I demonstrated an affiliate banner earlier when talking about GreenGeeks Web Hosting. If anyone clicks that banner and signs up, I earn a commission.
A lot of people will make some serious cash by blogging and sharing affiliate links. Nearly every “Best of” article you’ve come across on the Internet uses affiliate links to some degree.
Selling Your Own Products
You don’t have to settle on merely blogging from your website. Plugins like WooCommerce let you set up online stores to sell your own products as well.
A lot of people will use drop-shipping services to power their online stores. This is when a third party actually holds the inventory and ships the products you sell.
Another way you can use eCommerce with your blog is by selling digital products, such as writing and publishing an eBook. Digital products are great because you don’t have to worry about inventory levels.
In fact, I’m working to build a storefront on my author blog to sell my books directly.
Creating Online Courses
Do you have knowledge about something that people will pay money to learn? Online learning is a booming industry and can easily provide a great deal of income.
The downside to creating online courses, though, is the process itself. It takes a lot of effort, planning, and knowledge to create a course people will buy.
The trade-off is having a residual income stream that you don’t have to spend a lot of time to maintain. Of course, that also depends on how interactive you want to be with your “students.”
Before you ask, yes, WordPress has several plugins to help you manage online learning courses.
Paid Memberships or Donation Platforms
Membership and donation platforms are plentiful on the Internet. If you provide a solid stream of high-quality content while blogging, a lot of people will offer support.
This is especially true if you deliver meaningful and rich membership benefits.
An example of a membership platform is that of using Buy Me a Coffee. If you look at this website, you’ll see that I have my own BMC account accessible.
Sponsored Posts from Third Parties
Offering third parties the ability to publish sponsored posts on your blog is incredibly lucrative. For example, WriterSanctuary made more money in 2020 from sponsored posts than with AdSense by a wide margin.
The thing about sponsored posts, however, is that third parties usually reserve themselves for blogs that generate a lot of traffic and interest.
In other words, don’t expect to land a lot of sponsorships in the first days of your blog. You probably won’t get serious inquiries about sponsorships until your site generates 5,000 visits per month or so.
Marketing the Site While Blogging
Once you get your website in full swing, you’ll want to consider ways to market the blog. Yes, the majority of your traffic will come from search engines. But going beyond SEO can have a profound impact on your success.
Essentially, it all comes down to the number of eyes you can get on your content. The more visible your blog is to the general public, the greater your chances for success.
Publishing to Social Media
Social media can help promote your blog across the Internet. And it’s worth the time to expand your audience on social sites.
Luckily, there are ways you can automate sharing your posts by using tools like Publicize from Jetpack. As soon as the post goes live, it’s sent to your social accounts automatically.
The type of social media you use to promote your blog will have a huge impact on driving traffic. For instance, WriterSanctuary pulls in more visitors from its YouTube channel than it does from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram combined.
It’s also a good idea to have a separate social account specifically for your blog. It helps focus your audience while keeping your personal social posts separate.
Sites like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter make this exceptionally easy.
Email Marketing and Subscriptions
Email is still one of the most used marketing platforms for any kind of website. Whether it’s a newsletter or a notification through WordPress subscriptions, they can generate a lot of traffic.
However, you don’t want to simply regurgitate what’s already available on your blog. You want to give email subscribers something extra to entice them to open the message or click a few links.
Well, that is unless the person simply subscribes to the blog to get notified when something new is published.
Using push notifications can work remarkably well for blogs of any size. This is common for a lot of sites to instantly update subscribers when something goes live.
You’ve probably seen notifications like this from YouTube and other sites you might follow.
A push notification is that little box that usually opens up on the bottom right of your screen letting you know something you follow has new content. And these notifications can drive instant visitors if you’re blogging about topics people want to read.
Writing Guest Posts
Guest posts are articles that you provide another blog to publish on its website. To keep in line with proper SEO, the site should be relevant to your own. And it should be a site that Google views as “high quality.”
In other words, you don’t want to just publish guest posts on any site you come across. If that particular site ranks higher than your own, all the better.
Writing guest posts usually delivers a backlink to your site while getting your name out there to an audience who may not know you even exist.
For most, though, it’s the backlink they want from the guest post. Links that are heading to your blog are kind of like “votes” for Google. It’s a website telling the search engine they value your content enough to link out to it.
Updating Older Blog Posts
An important aspect of blogging is making sure to update old blog posts. This helps keeps your content fresh and relevant in the eyes of Google.
Not to mention that it gives you a chance to further flesh out an article that may be lacking a few bits of vital information. In addition, rewriting old content can improve searchability and traffic.
In fact, updating content is one of my primary functions for one of my largest clients. As a result, we’ve seen improvements ranging from 200 to 8,000% increases in visitors.
This is why you’ll still see content published in 2010 on the front page of Google. Usually, those articles have been consistently worked on and improved over time.
Using Search Console
When it comes to deciding what articles to update, Google’s Search Console is your best friend. This free tool will show you how people are finding your content, the search terms used, click-through rates, the article’s position in search, and more.
Simply find something that is not scoring in the top 10 and see what you can do to rework the article. Sometimes, all it takes is a few simple changes to vastly improve a post’s position in search.
For instance, I once changed H3 headers to H2 and added about 400 words worth of text. The post climbed by more than 20 positions in search within weeks. And it took about 15 minutes of my day.
Other times, you’ll probably wind up rewriting the entire piece.
The bottom line is that keeping your content updated and relevant makes a major difference for SEO while blogging.
Using PublishPress Revisions
To make updates easier to manage, I suggest using PublishPress Revisions. It’s a free plugin for WordPress that lets you keep track of revising older posts without having to try adjusting live content.
Now, PublishPress Revisions isn’t necessarily a plugin that you absolutely need to be successful at blogging. However, it does streamline a lot of the updating process and is currently among my favorite tools.
Most Recent Blogging Articles
If you need further help creating your blog, below are the five most recent articles I’ve published. You can also use the search field at the top of the page if you’re looking for something in particular.
- How to Add a Podcast to Buy Me a Coffee for Your AudienceOne of the types of content in Buy Me a Coffee that you can add for supporters is a podcast. This can help promote your content further while engaging the ones who enjoy listening to shows. Today, let’s add a podcast for BMC supporters to enjoy.
- Content Pillars: What Are They and How to Build ThemBuilding a content strategy that works involves a lot of moving gears. But perhaps one of the more important aspects is that of content pillars. That’s because they are exceptionally effective. So, what are they and how can you use them?
- How to Embed Google Sheets into WordPress and WhyGoogle Sheets is a great, free alternative to Microsoft Excel. And the best part is that it is incredibly easy to embed Google Sheets directly into any website. Today, I’ll show you how to embed these Sheets in WordPress and why it matters.
- How to Update Old Content with PublishPress RevisionsIt’s always a good idea to go back in time on your blog and update old content. It’s a way to improve your SEO while driving additional traffic to some of the oldest articles. Today, I’ll show you how to make those updates using PublishPress Revisions.
- How to Remove Plugins in WordPress When They Break Your SitePlugins are the bread and butter of most WordPress websites. They can offer a slew of features for nearly any type of audience. But what happens when one stops your site from working? Today, let’s remove those plugins when they break WordPress.
If there is something you’d like to suggest, feel free to contact me on social media or use the contact form on this website.
Blogging Can Be Fun and Lucrative
Blogging has a lot of facets involved, especially if you’re trying to build a blog to replace a full-time income. However, it can be a very fun and rewarding experience.
Overall, it’s not all that difficult of a process to get a site up and producing content in less than an hour. While there are a lot of cogs turning, most of them you can learn as you go.