How to Start a Profitable Blog
There’s seven basic steps in starting a blog before you write your first post:
- Choose a Blog Niche you’re knowledgable and passionate about
- Choose a Great Blog Name
- Buy Blog Name + Hosting
- Install WordPress
- Log In to WordPress
- Get a Spiffy Blog Theme
- Download Amazing Plugins
Understand How a Blog Works
“Domains, hosting, plugins… my brain hurts!”
There are a couple of buzzwords you’ll need to learn before starting a blog. Understanding the nuts and bolts of how websites and blog work is similar to how a cell phone works.
First, you need a domain. This is your web address, or “.com”. Your domain is what you’ll email people or share on Facebook to tell people you have a blog; they’ll use this domain to look you up online. It’s similar to how you give people your phone number so they can call you.
“Hosting” is what powers your domain/blog. Hosting is like having AT&T, Verizon, or any cell phone provider — just because you own a phone doesn’t mean you can use it immediately for free; you have to pay for a plan so your phone gets service. Similarly, to use your domain, it has to be powered — and hosting is what powers a domain.
“WordPress” is like a highly advanced word processor for building your blog. It’s where you write your blog posts, design the layout, and tweak blog design.
“Plugins” are customizable tools, usually free, that you download to make your blog function better. For example, see the social media icons below? I downloaded a plugin for that (Shareaholic, if you’re curious).
Step 1: Choose a Blog Niche
Before you start a blog, you’ll need a topic. It’s true, there are millions blogs out there; but there’s always room for a passionate, unique voice.
“I want to start a profitable blog about travel,” you may say. That’s great! But what is your angle? Just being a person who travels doesn’t really cut it in today’s cut-throat travel blog industry.
For example, a solo traveler in Thailand is far from unique. Think about ways to differentiate yourself from other travel bloggers: Market yourself as a specific destination expert. On top of that, think of other ways to further make your blog stand apart from the rest: Are you a student? Divorcee? Struggle with a disorder? Flunk out of college?
Writing about general topics means more competition. The more you can differentiate yourself and carve a niche for your blog, the easier it will be to gain an audience. Also, the better you can identify your niche, the more profitable your blog can be.
Step 2: Choose a Fantastic Blog Name
Before you start a blog and buy a domain, figure out how you want to be identified on the internet. Do a bit of research — are all the social media handles available? You’ll want to snag a Facebook page, Twitter handle, and Instagram handle, at the bare minimum.
You’ll want a creative blog name that people can remember.
Ideas for choosing an effective blog name:
- Adjectives that describe you
- Your name
Be careful choosing a blog name reflective of anything that may change. For example, “30s Fashion” may sound catchy today, but what if you want to keep blogging when you’re 40?
Step 3: Buy the Blog Domain and Hosting
While every blogger and their mother recommends Bluehost, I use and recommend HostGator for web hosting. I’ve been with them for about three years now, and love them. They have great customer service, and my sites rarely, if ever, go down. They routinely offer pretty stellar sign-up deals for new customers, too — like, get three years of hosting for around $120. (For reference, it’s usually $100 per year.)
HostGator also makes it a one-stop shop to buy your domain along with your hosting. So, let’s start there.
Next, select your hosting plan, and your login information.
For now, start with the Hatchling plan. If you decide you want to add more domains further down the road, you can always upgrade your plan.
Next, enter your billing information, and uncheck all of those hosting add-ons. You don’t need them.
Use this promo code for extra savings!: When you go to checkout, your total will be around $150. Seems a bit steep, right? Use promo code rsosaveas2new to save an extra $30. (Be sure all the “hosting add-ons” are still unchecked– sometimes they’ll pop back into your cart!)
BAM– $120 for your domain PLUS three years of hosting!
Step 4: Install WordPress On Your New Blog
After you’ve made your blog purchase, log in to your HostGator cPanel. (The link to your cPanel will be sent to you via e-mail).
Your HostGator cPanel will look something like this:
Click on “WordPress Installer”.
From there, you’ll be asked to select the domain you want to install WordPress on. Using the dropdown menu, select your domain name. Leave the “directory” section blank.
Next, fill in the blanks. “Admin User” is your username for logging into your blog. Your “Admin Email” should be your personal email, as this will be where you receive your WordPress log-in information.
Step 5: Log in to WordPress
After you’ve installed WordPress, it’s time to log in! You should receive an e-mail with log-in details.
You can access your log-in page by simply adding “/wp-admin” to your domain name. So, for our purposes: http://yourkickassblog.com/wp-admin
Your username is whatever you chose for your “User Admin” handle. Your password should be e-mailed to you via WordPress.
And now, you’re logged in!
Step 6: Get a Sleek, Spiffy Blog Theme
The fastest way to have authority as a blogger? Get a blog theme that gives your blog personality.
You can get a free theme, but there are just so many disadvantages. I did it for my first few years of blogging, and I ended up having to teach myself coding to make the themes work AND look halfway decent, which took days/weeks/months. There also isn’t any technical support when you use free themes.
I began using paid themes a few years ago, my first one being from Elegant Themes. Elegant Themes is a good deal if you’re just starting out — for $79, you gain access to ALL of their themes, plus access to a very helpful support community.
Currently, I’m using Genesis framework paired with a lovely child theme. Honestly, I’ve had far fewer technical problems with Genesis. I haven’t used ThemeForest yet, but they have some spectacular themes for around $50 or less.
Once you choose a theme, it will download as a .zip file. Notate where on your computer this saves. While logged into WordPress on your domain, select “Appearance”, and then “Themes”.
From there, click on “Upload New Theme“. Once it’s uploaded, click “Activate”, and ta-da! You are now able to customize the look of your blog.
Step 7: Download WordPress Plugins
Plugins are basically apps for your blog — they add functionality. While your theme you controls the look of your blog, plugins will help you fine-tune your blog to its optimum potential.
Some of my favorite WordPress plugins:
Akismet – A plugin that keeps spambots and spammy comments away.
Pretty Link – Makes any affiliate links seem seamless. Instead of showing up as a sketchy configuration of numbers and letters, your affiliate links can be something like “earningbyblogging.com/affiliate”.
Shareaholic – Makes your posts and pages easily sharable. Shareaholic also includes “related posts” at the bottom of each post, which will keep traffic within your blog. You can also monetize your site by allowing Shareaholic to suggest other posts elsewhere, but I haven’t experimented with this yet.
Yoast SEO – This plugin is so friggin’ useful, for so many tech-y reasons as well as making sure you’re producing quality content that the search engine gods will smile upon.
Other Tips for Starting a Profitable Blog
Design a logo. Having a professional logo sets your blog apart from the casual bloggers. A logo also looks way better than basic text! If you’re not savvy with Photoshop, you can get a blog logo designed by a graphic designer for about $10-15 on Fiverr.
Write, write, write. It’ll take time to develop your voice. Before you publish your first blog post, I highly recommend having several (10-15) high-quality articles in reserve.
Set a timeline. Starting a profitable blog doesn’t happen overnight. It takes persistence, quality content, and at least a couple of months before you can expect to start earning money.
Set a budget. It’s easy to pour tons of money into your blog at first, from hosting to add-ons to spiffy themes. And then there’s all these bloggers offering how-to-blog courses for $297 (seriously, guys?). When you’re first starting out, limit your spending until you start earning money. I think $250 is a reasonable limit: It’ll cover your hosting and theme/design costs.
Focus on Pinterest. If you only focus on one social media platform for your blog, make it Pinterest. I use the free site BeFunky to design all of my blog pins (as well as the miscellaneous graphics you see around here).
Don’t take sponsored posts. Once your blog gains a bit of traction, you may attract companies who want to put a pre-written post on your blog. It’s very hard to keep an audience if you do that.
Get a Google Adwords account. This is moving beyond Blogging 101 and into the realm of Blogging 102, but Google’s “Keyword Planner” is a good, free place to explore the kind of keywords people are searching for. Keyword Planner will give you ideas on how to name and structure your posts so that it reaches the audience that is looking for it.
Was this guide helpful? Pin it!