If you’re looking for a guide on how to start a blog and make money with it for beginners, look no further. There may be a million guides for this on the internet, but everything here comes from my personal experience with making money through blogs since 2013.
So remember, these are steps I actually took. And the advice is what I know works through personal experience, not just what I read about somewhere else.
Get comfy, take notes, and stay awhile. I’m hoping you will learn a lot and be able to use this as a resource for starting up your first blog!
One thing I need to mention before we get started…
So, within this guide, you’re going to find that I’ll recommend you sign up for a program called Wealthy Affiliate.
This is a training platform that’ll teach you the ropes of building your website, getting traffic, and learning how to monetize it. It’s actually the exact step-by-step training I used to get started.
The good thing is, you can sign up for $0. In fact, you don’t even need a credit card to access the starter membership. That’ll get you 2 free websites, the getting started training lessons, plus a few bonus features for your first week.
Obviously to access the full features and really utilize the training you’ll need to pay for a membership, but the ability to test it out first is incredible and not something you’re going to find anywhere else within this industry.
Anyway, just wanted to explain that in a little more detail. Whether you want to sign up for Wealthy Affiliate or not, keep following along. (But seriously, it’s $0!)
Find your niche
Before you even start up your website, it’s going to be really important to sit down and think about your niche. (This is basically what your blog will be about)
Sometimes, people try to start a general blog about everything or have one with no particular focus. But if your goal is to make money with your website you’re going to have to drill down to blogging about a particular topic.
Specifically, you also want to have product(s) or services you can recommend to your readers so you can make money. Keep that in mind when deciding your niche.
So let’s talk about what a niche actually is…
The definition of a niche is ” a segment of a market”.
You can think of it as a group of people that are looking for stuff – whether it’s information, a solution to a problem, or a particular product.
You might notice that many popular blogs cover a huge range of topics. For example, many “mommy blogs” cover everything from raising kids to sleep training to meal planning and budgeting, and even how to make money online! But that’s a major undertaking if you’re just starting out on your own.
It’s easier to pick a particular focus. This helps you establish yourself within the niche and gain authority more quickly than if you were just trying to make a massive authority blog from the start.
For example, smaller niches could be:
- Meal planning for busy moms
- Momming on a budget
- Sleep training infants
- Feeding picky kids
- Helping kids learn to read
Let me walk you through another example (this was the first website I ever made)!
So, let’s take the fashion niche.
You could start a blog about fashion, sure. But it’s going to be much harder to get established within a niche like “fashion” unless you go for a specific sub-niche.
Fashion is just HUGE. Fashion for who? Women? Men? Kids? Babies?
Ok, fashion for women is a niche. But it’s still HUGE!
Fashion for TALL women? Now that’s a niche.
Ok, so this is a pretty specific example. But it can be applied to any topic and niche!
It’s important to understand the people who you’re targeting with your website because it’ll allow you to better understand their problems, what information they’re looking for, and what solutions are best for them.
It’s also going to be easier to rank in search engines like Google when you’re entering into a specific niche topic, rather than a very generalized blog about everything.
The more specific your target audience, the more helpful and relevant you can be, and the more people can connect with you.
Tip: If you can’t think of a topic, don’t sweat it. Your first niche doesn’t have to be perfect, and it probably won’t be your last. If it ends up not working out, or you change your mind and want to do something else, that’s normal. I’ve had my share of failed attempts because I realized after I started that I picked the wrong niche for me… but that’s ok. I didn’t give up!
You can read more about how to find a good niche here if you need some help.
Buy a domain/hosting
So after you’ve established what your website is going to be about, it’s time to go through the process of buying your domain and hosting.
While you can blog on a free platform like Blogger or WordPress, if you’re trying to establish and blog and a professional presence to make money, you’re going to want your own domain.
What is a domain?
A domain is the actual website address, like the domain here is survivingaftercollege.com.
This typically is the cheapest part of owning a website and runs between $12 – $15 per year.
Tip: Never pay more than around $15 for a domain. Sometimes you’ll see them for thousands of dollars so if that happens just choose a different one.
This is your piece of property on the web and gives you the right to do whatever you want with your website and assures you own all the content on your website.
It also just looks more professional. It’s better to see a “.com” than a “blogger.com” address.
Where can you get a domain?
You can buy a domain within Wealthy Affiliate, they have their own domain registrar platform!
However, if you don’t want to do that, you can also buy it somewhere externally.
I’d recommend buying your domain here, and hosting it somewhere else. They don’t try to lure you in with super cheap “.99 cent” domains (like Hostgator) and then raise the price astronomically each year. I’ve had domains for 7 years through Namecheap and they never once raised the price when I had to renew it.
If you need help thinking of what to name your website, refer to this.
What is hosting?
Hosting is what you need to purchase to go along with your domain. Without hosting, your domain won’t be able to be “live” on the internet. This part is a bit more expensive but varies tremendously based on what type of hosting you need.
For a start-up blog, you’re not going to need anything super expensive. Around $10 – $20 a month would be more than enough. Most companies offer introductory start-up rates that are much lower, so you can definitely take advantage of that and get a lower cost for the first year (or three) depending on how long you pay for the hosting plan.
Where to buy hosting
I highly recommend you consider starting out at Wealthy Affiliate. What’s really sweet about it, is it’s an all-in-one platform that includes web hosting, tools, a community (for help and support), AND training to help you create your site and make money.
If you’re a premium member, you’ll have access to their hosting. It’s NOT an additional cost!
And it’s not just cheap web hosting either. It’s actually managed WordPress hosting (the hosting I told you you didn’t have to buy to even use WordPress, because it’s pretty expensive) for up to 25 domains you own. This is included in the cost of their membership.(It’s $19 for your first month, $49/month after that, with cheaper pricing if you go yearly)
Heck, you can even try it out for free with a starter membership.
I actually recommend you check out Wealthy Affiliate even if you do decide to host your domain elsewhere, even if at the very least you just test it out with the starter membership. (It’s $0 and no credit card, so you really have nothing to lose).
Now, if you want to go solo and do this on your own, that’s totally your call. You can absolutely purchase a domain and hosting from somewhere else.
This is probably one of the most popular and budget-friendly places you can host. They actually are recommended by WordPress. You can get unlimited websites and storage for just $5.45/month for the introductory period, and $14.99/month after. Check out their full pricing and plans here.
Their hosting is a little more expensive than Bluehost, but they have excellent site support. If that is something that’s important to you, Siteground might be a better option. With Siteground, you can grab unlimited web hosting for $5.95/month for the introductory period, which increases to $19.95/month after. (Unlike Bluehost, you have restricted storage space and traffic limits) Check their plans and pricing here.
Tip: You don’t need to purchase Managed WordPress hosting to use WordPress on your website, you can definitely get away with purchasing a shared hosting plan.
Building your site with WordPress
Now, if you opt to host your website with Wealthy Affiliate, this is something you won’t have to even think about because it’ll automatically be built on the WordPress platform.
They make it super easy and you can build it with just a few clicks!
If you use a host somewhere like Bluehost or Siteground, you’ll have different options for which platform you can build your site with. They both include drag and drop website builders (Weebly) if you’re looking to build something super easily, which would work for something like a simple business website.
However, if you’re trying to build out a blog I recommend you opt for a CMS like WordPress. (Joomla and Magento are other popular CMS options).
Both Bluehost and Siteground have a simple beginner-friendly WordPress install.
There’s a slight learning curve involved when it comes to knowing your way around the WordPress dashboard and being able to get things to look the way you want. It does involve practice, as with most things in life. You will get better the more you use it.
Tip: If you don’t want to work with WordPress, you don’t want to get Wealthy Affiliate web hosting because they’re WordPress based.
There are quite a bit of step-by-step instructions for using WordPress and getting your website set up inside the Wealthy Affiliate platform, so if you follow along with the training there you’ll be in the right place.
Write content, Get Traffic
Content is going to be the core of your blog – you’re going to want to write some really great content. Maybe you already have a lot of ideas, and that’s great!
Ultimately content is what is going to drive your traffic. Whether that’s through search engines or social media, it’s the content that matters.
Keywords are something you’re going to want to use with your content.
These are things that will help lead people to your website. There are many ways you can find keyword ideas.
You can also use Google autocomplete to help you find long-tail keywords people are typing in.
Tip: If you type in a core phrase, and then type “a” “b” “c” etc, going all the way down the alphabet, you’re going to discover a ton of new keyword ideas.
If you want specific data on a keyword, you’ll need you to use a keyword tool.
Jaaxy tells us information about a keyword and whether it’s a good keyword to use. In this case, the green lights indicate yes. It also gives many related keywords to give you even more ideas really fast.
Keywords aren’t everything
Finding good keywords for your blog can help you drive a ton of traffic. However, you don’t always have to use them for a few reasons.
First, you’re writing content for actual people. It’s very difficult to build out an entire blog (that seems natural) around pure keywords. If there’s topics you want to write about and include, but a keyword tool isn’t showing “good” results, don’t let that dissuade you.
Another thing is, these days Google is much more about trying to find the best fit for a particular search query. Your content is going to rank for many search terms, not just a keyword you targeted.
Keywords can be good for making sure what you’re writing about is something people are actually searching for, but you can also use common sense. If you know you’re addressing a problem, or answering a question people have, and it’s useful to your website and audience, write about it even if it’s not a specific keyword, or even if the keyword doesn’t show good data.
Not all the content you write needs to be keyword focused. You can write content just because you want to, or because you think it will provide value to your readers.
Search engine traffic like Google, Yahoo, and Bing can drive a ton of traffic to your website. This is where our content and keywords come in to play.
With search engines, there are 2 types of traffic – organic and paid.
Organic traffic vs paid traffic
Organic traffic is the normal results you see, and paid are the ads or sponsored results.
If you have a lot of money to play with, you can set up your own ad campaigns in search and get traffic straight away. However, it’s really easy to lose a ton of money with this if you don’t know what you’re doing.
In order to successfully make money using paid search ads, you need to know a lot of variables that are impossible to know unless you’ve already tested it with real traffic. The cheapest way to do this is to test how well it converts with organic traffic. Which takes some time and experience.
The reason you want to get organic search results is that they’re free. Your profit will be higher if you don’t have to pay for ads. It’s also highly targeted traffic coming to your blog. These people didn’t just randomly stumble upon your website, if they come through search it means their specific search query led them directly to your website. That means you are providing the answers, solutions, or products they may be looking for.
The downside of organic traffic is you don’t actually have control over it and it takes time to build up. However, over time and with sheer force you will rank on the first page for many many keywords and it’s a great source of traffic.
You’re going to want to spend some time writing content and regularly publishing it on your blog. Over time, as you learn to target low competition keywords you will start seeing your website organically rank in search results and start to accumulate a lot of traffic this way.
Social media is another medium for traffic to come to your blog. You can choose to not use social media at all, or you can just pick one platform you want to work with.
If you do use it, you want to make sure you’re doing it with intent.
Pinterest can be a pretty good traffic source for your blog, and in my opinion better than other social media platforms. If you don’t like social media, I’d recommend you try Pinterest at the very least.
The reason being is because Pinterest is actually kind of like its own search engine. Unlike other platforms like Facebook where your post appears in someone’s newsfeed temporarily and disappears, your Pinterest pins have the ability to reappear if someone performs a search query that matches your pin (just like a Google search!).
Pinterest isn’t just for arts, crafts and baking. People use Pinterest to search for all kinds of stuff.
The trick to Pinterest is creating high quality visually appealing pins, and targeting the proper keywords (as well as being consistent with pinning, and a few other tricks, it does take effort!)
You can easily create some good visual Pins within a free online editor program, I recommend Canva.com because it’s pretty simple and user-friendly.
Instagram may or may not be worth pursuing with your niche. With Instagram, it’s more difficult to drive your following back to your website because an Instagram post does not let you have a clickable URL like a Facebook post, or a Pinterest Pin (unless it’s a sponsored post).
However, if your niche meshes with Instagram well, it can definitely be worth it to help yourself gain a following.
You can create a Facebook page for your website, and invite your family and friends to like it (if you want). You can also put a Facebook like box on your website, and people visiting will be able to see it and like your Facebook page. This is a good way to build up an organic following with Facebook.
When you publish new content on your website, share them with a relevant story or a thought-provoking captain/question. You can also share other articles, memes, and videos related to your niche.
Facebook can be tricky to work with because they seem to be actively trying to get business owners to pay money for people to see their posts rather than showing up organically in the newsfeed.
However, if you have an engaged enough following and audience, you can work against that. But it really depends on how your following interacts with your posts.
This is one I’ve never really used much, but it’s very popular. You post brief status updates and can link back to your blog with Tweets.
YouTube is another way you can gain a following and even send traffic back to your blog (or directly to offers).
If you build up a YouTube channel in addition to your blog, you’ll be able to get much more traffic. This is because YouTube videos show up in searches within the YouTube platform AND Google – so you can have a lot more eyes on your content!
The fact is, there are many different ways blog owners can make money, but within this guide, I’m only going to discuss two methods.
The 2 easiest methods for beginners to make money blogging
This is most likely something you probably already know – many blog owners use ads to make money with their blog. These are the ads you see within the sidebars or within the content of the site.
You have to have a lot of traffic coming to your blog to make a decent amount of money using ads because the cost per click (or impression) you receive is very low.
The most popular platform for this is called Google Adsense, but there are many others.
Another way you can monetize a blog is with affiliate marketing. This can be much more profitable than just using ads because you get paid a commission when your readers purchase the products or services you recommend to them.
The typical commission range is anywhere between 1 – 50%, and it depends on what type of products you are selling. Physical goods have lower commissions than digital products.
Something that makes this really easy for beginners is you don’t have to deal with things like inventory, customer service, shipping. You don’t have to deal with anything related to the actual product. You literally just send them to a unique link, and the seller takes care of the rest.
With affiliate marketing, you don’t need a ton of traffic to make a good profit. You can also use ads in conjunction with affiliate selling to make more money.
Additional ways to make money
There are definitely more ways you can monetize your blog, however, for complete newbies, I recommend you start with the simplest methods like ads and affiliate selling.
Creating an email list
Now, the last thing I want to talk about is your email list. You might notice every blog under the sun has a signup form. This is where you’re prompted to enter your name and email address, usually in exchange for something like an ebook or guide.
Do you really need one?
According to everyone else who tells you how to make money with a blog, you absolutely do.
According to me? The real answer is it depends.
If you want to have an email list, you’ll need to work on building up a relationship with them. You can use your list to share your latest blog posts , helpful info, and share more products and services with them.
Since the audience has already established an interest in you and your content, their more likely to trust you and purchase things you recommend to them.
You can think of a list like repeat customers, and every business thrives on them.
However, managing a list is not easy. It can be really difficult to establish a responsive list and make money through it.
If you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with trying to establish a list, you really don’t need to do this step in the beginning.
It’s time-consuming and the good services aren’t cheap, and you can spend that energy and money on getting more traffic and building out your website.
The truth is you can make money with a blog without an email list.
How to get a list (if you want)
Ultimately it’s up to you. Having a list can definitely increase the money you make through your website, but only if you do it right.
You can do this with an autoresponder service. Popular services include Aweber and GetResponse.
Free autoresponder services
You can actually start growing a list for free with services like Mailchimp, but you’ll be limited in how many subscribers you can have and with special features.
Congratulations if you followed this guide all the way through! You should now have a better idea of what it takes to create a blog and make money.
It’s definitely something that is going to take a lot of hard work. While you can grab hosting somewhere like Siteground or Bluehost, and go through the process on your own, I recommend you check out Wealthy Affiliate as your first resource.
You’re not required to host with them if you don’t want to, and you can just check them out for the $0, free starter training if you want.
If you choose to upgrade, you’re going to find an extremely thriving and supportive community behind you the whole way through. Even more, I’ll be behind you the entire process as well, and you can get help from me whenever you want.
Ultimately the proper support, guidance, tools, and training can really amplify your success.
I wish you the best of luck.