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I’m sure you’ve come across lots of ‘How to Start a Blog’ posts and read how easy it is to start a blog.
But, if you’re anything like me, your next thought was “It’s easy to start a blog but what then? How do I grow a blog, get traffic, gain followers, and make money from one?”
When I decided to start a blog I did some research, got a vague idea on how to monetize then went ahead and started one… and I made no money whatsoever for the first year.
You read that right- a year.
I know- I probably shouldn’t tell you that. Why would you want to learn blogging from someone who didn’t jump in and immediately start making money like everyone else seems to? Don’t people start making money in the first, second, and third month? That’s what all the income reports say, right?
The problem is we only hear from those who succeed but that’s not the whole story.
There are bloggers out there who were instantly successful but they’re in the minority. I’ve read that over 90% of people who start a blog give up before they even reach three months of blogging. Of those bloggers who stick with it, only about a quarter are able to ever make more than a couple hundred dollars a month. Ugh!
I tried following what all the experts said and build up my content before launching. I wanted to have at least fifteen articles posted when I went live but with two small kids at home I was lucky to get one post a week which means launching my blog took about 3 1/2 months.
Then when I finally launched my blog and started promoting it nothing happened. Pageviews trickled in but I wasn’t making any money.
Finally, after months of earning pennies, I received an email that changed everything.
Ironically, it had nothing to do with blogging, but it’s the reason I was able to stick with blogging long enough to get a consistent income established.
I want to share what I learned with other new bloggers like you because no one wants to twiddle their thumbs for months waiting to be paid for their efforts. You want to see real results.
It’s not the typical “blogging path” but it’s a path that can get you making money a lot quicker. It worked for me and I am confident it can work for you too.
Monetize Your Blog Before You Launch
Step 1: Choose a Niche and Audience
The first step to starting a blog is to know what you plan to blog about. This means choosing a topic and niche. A niche narrows down what you want to write about and who you want to write to.
Some bloggers will insist that you can monetize any niche. That’s technically true but some niches are a lot easier to monetize than others. If you’re blogging to share your passion with the world (which is awesome!) then blog to your heart’s content and you’ll be able to monetize… eventually.
However, if your goal is to monetize as quickly as possible then you will want to choose your topic and niche carefully because they are going to directly affect how fast you’ll start making money.
The seven niches which tend to be the easiest to monetize include:
Narrowing down a Niche
Standard blogging logic is to narrow down your niche as much as possible because the better you know and can relate to your audience, the easier it is to talk directly to them and get to know them. You can even go as far as to have an avatar (one person you write to and get to know intimately).
The concept is great but can often be hard for new bloggers. A better idea is to cast a wide net at the beginning and see what your audience responds to.
For example, instead of niching down to natural parenting for crunchy moms, try a natural lifestyle blog with several topics- one which includes parenting. Instead of a blog for the Keto Diet for Diabetics, write about the Keto Diet and then get to know your audience and see what content they respond to and what struggles they are having.
It’s great to write to diabetics but if the majority of your readers have high blood pressure then start talking more to them and their struggles.
Blogging is about sharing your passion but it’s also about listening to your readers and helping them with their struggles. Choose a niche then keep an open mind and see where your blog takes you.
Step 2: Brainstorm a Blog and Domain Name
Your domain name will be the name of your blog and the URL people type into the address bar. My domain is BloggingEnthusiast.com.
The primary goal of your domain name should be to represent what your blog is about. People should be able to look at your blog name (and tagline) and instantly figure out what you write about. The quicker people figure out what your topic is, the longer they’ll stay to see what you have to say.
There are a few things to think about when thinking of a blog name.
Keep in mind that these are just guidelines and you probably won’t be able to stick to every one of them. There are plenty of blogs out there who have gone against every one of these and are still successful.
You can buy your domain from a number of services but I try to keep my domain and hosting all in the same place because it’s easier. My favorite host is Siteground. To see if your domain name is available scroll to the bottom and under ‘Services’ you’ll find ‘Domain Names.’ Click on it and it will take you to a page where you can see if the domain you want is available.
If this isn’t the first ‘How to Start a Blog’ post that you have read then you may be thinking “This is exactly what everyone says.” Step 4 is where things get a little different though. Instead of jumping to setting up your website, we are going to switch gears and shift to…
Step 3: Setup Your Pinterest Business Account
I know you’re thinking “Why should I set up a Pinterest account when I have nothing to share yet?” Because a warmed up Pinterest account is worth its weight in gold.
When you setup your Pinterest account the right way (meaning you have a business account, a profile with good keywords, and well-keyworded boards) you can start driving traffic and sales within a few weeks before you even start your blog.
You read that right. You can start priming the pump to drive sales before you even start your blog.
I’m not saying you will get rich quick doing this but you can set yourself up to start seeing a few dollars come in in a few weeks instead of a few months (or years) which is what happens to many bloggers.
I want you you to succeed as quick as possible so I am in the process of putting together an eBook to help you out. In the meantime, check out Carly Campbell’s Pinteresting Strategies. It’s an amazing, in-depth e-Book for getting started on Pinterest the right way and it’s amazingly affordable.
Step 4: Register as an Affiliate and Start Promoting Affiliate Pins Your Audience Will Want
There are a ton of affiliate sites out there but the two you should focus on right now are Society6 and Zazzle. Both of these affiliates allow affiliate links on Pinterest and you don’t have to have your own website to promote their products.
Both have easy to use platforms that allow you to link directly to their products and then pin to your well-keyworded boards. If you need help, comment in my Private Facebook group and I’ll help you out (I plan to do a Facebook live on both soon).
*Side note: Never use an Amazon link on Pinterest. It’s a big no-no and great way to get your Amazon affiliate account banned.
Once you’re an affiliate you’ll be able to grab pictures of the products that fit your niche and pin them to your boards on Pinterest.
When you pin your pin, make sureit has the reason why you love it, what the product is, and that you include [aff link]. You can also include three to five hashtags so people can easily find the product on Pinterest once you pin it.
Step 5: Pin Daily
I waffled on making this Step 5 but I decided to because I wanted to highlight the importance of it.
Pinterest loves (and rewards) active users. This doesn’t mean you have to spend all day pinning but pinning 5-10 pins a couple of times a day can make a huge difference in your traffic.
At first you won’t have many pins of your owns but make sure to pin relevant, third-party (aka not your own) pins to your boards. Once you build your own collection you can focus more on pinning your own pins.
You may be thinking “I don’t have time to pin that often!” Which is fine because Pinterest doesn’t care if you don’t pin manually.
You read that right.
Pinterest doesn’t care how you pin as long as you pin so take advantage of Pin schedulers.
Tailwind is a Pinterest approved, easy to use scheduler and their Tribes feature is a great way to start gaining traffic. Join my Private Facebook Group to view a Facebook live on how to get using Tailwind.
Once you have Tailwind, Schedule the pins you want pinned, set it to run, and you won’t have to worry about constantly being on Pinterest (except to update your pinning schedule a few times a month).
Why Should You Blog When You Can Make Money from Pinterest?
At this point you may be thinking “why should I bother setting up a blog if I can just make money from Pinterest?”
Honestly, You don’t have to set up a blog to make money.
But, if you want to help people, increase your earning potential, and have a business you are in control of (instead of Pinterest controlling you) then you need a blog.
A blog is something that is yours. You make up the rules and you own it. Pinterest can change their rules or algorithms at any moment ( and they do- quite often) and your income stream could vanish. It’s a crappy truth but the truth.
That won’t happen with your own site though.
It’s one thing to market through Pinterest and make sales but it’s a completely different ball game once you start to connect with your readers. Connecting with readers is what will keep you motivated.
Another plus of having a blog is that studies have shown building your own email list is the single most important thing an entrepreneur can do to earn more money and building a list is almost impossible without a blog.
Readers are 40 times (that’s not a typo- 40 TIMES) more likely to buy from someone who emails them than any other form of communication. Imagine the difference between 1 in 300 buying a product you suggest versus 13 out of 100.
Yes- a blog is more work (a lot more work) but it’s worth it if you are planning to run a business and not just a side hustle.
Step 6: Start Writing and Build Up Content
At this point you are probably itching to setup your blog. That’s the fun stuff and I just went on and on about how a blog is all yours to do what you like with, right?
But the moment you setup your blog it will become the biggest distraction to writing that you have. You will get sucked into the vortex of branding, email series, learning new platforms, etc.
If there is nothing for your readers to read they won’t come back so focus on content first. At a minimum, you want to have ten articles on your blog when you launch. If you can, try and have another six blog posts set aside. I know six seems like a random number but there is logic to my madness.
Once you setup your blog, you can put up your ten blog posts then launch your blog and open it up to readers. Since you will still be new and trying to build up your trust with Google, you will want to try and post two times a week for the first month at least.
If you can write one post a week and then post one of your previous posts a week there’s your two times. You will then have two spare posts for when life happens and you can’t write one week.
Finding Content Your Readers Want to Read
The best way to find popular content is to check out other bloggers in your niche. See what content has done well for them and start writing about those subjects.
Try not to read the articles until after you write your own to avoid their view influencing yours though. I’m sure I don’t have to say this but I will anyway: research and inspiration is fine but copying someone else’s work is never okay.
Most bloggers have a “Popular Posts” section which is great because your work is done for you. However, another neat trick is to go to Buzzsumo. Type in the URL of a blogger and get other bloggers top four posts. Buzzsumo is a paid service but you can get five free searches a day so use them carefully.
Keep your writing on topic and don’t forget to put yourself in the shoes of your reader. Aim to solve one problem with one post and you will be on your way to blogging success.
Need more tips on writing great blog content? Check out my post on ‘How to Write Blog Posts Your Readers Will Love’.
Set Yourself Up for Success with Good SEO
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and what it boils down to is you want to focus each post around a few keywords that, once your blog is established, will give you the chance to show up on the first page of Google.
SEO and keyword research is a massive subject so I don’t want to try and cover it here but Moz has a great explanation of long tail keywords for Beginners page in their ‘Beginners Guide to Keyword Research’. It’s free to check out and will give you a great basic understanding of what long tail keywords are and the best way to find them.
Digital Nomad Wannabe also has a great free keyword research article and Stupid Easy SEO offers a free eBook for beginner bloggers as well.
Want help planning exactly how to monetize your blog content?
Get a copy of my 25 page Affiliate Marketing Guide for FREE!
Step 7: Setup Your Blog
Now that you have at least ten blog posts it’s time to actually start your blog.
If you need help with the technical portion of starting your blog, check out my post on ‘How to Start a Blog’. I put together a step by step picture tutorial on how to choose the best hosting plan and upload WordPress to get your blog up and running ASAP.
I love Siteground and they come highly recommended from the tech guy I trust most, Grayson Bell. He put together a free course, Blogging on WordPress, to help you understand why Siteground is the best host compared to other popular hosts like Bluehost. He also walks you through the technical aspects of starting a WordPress Blog and setting it up so it’s secure.
Choosing a Theme for Your Blog
A theme is the layout of your blog and it determines where everything on your blog will be. Headers, footers, sidebars- all of these things are built by your theme.
Choosing a theme was one of the biggest headaches for me when I started a blog. There are literally thousands and I had no clue what I wanted. Thankfully, my two favorite theme providers, Studio Press and Elegant Themes, have a great way to narrow things down for you. You can browse by your criteria or choose and compare the themes you like.
When choosing a theme, try and ignore the colors and look at the foundational stuff like where everything is and how big headers, footers, and sidebars are. Colors can be changed but those items can’t.
Free Themes vs Paid Themes
When you upload WordPress, it will come with a basic free theme and there are other free themes you can search through. Starting off you may decide to use one of these which is understandable when you’re still in the beginning stages of blogging and don’t want to invest a lot of money.
However, you get what you pay for.
Free themes are not updated often (if at all), can be glitchy, and when you do update you’ll have to reset all of your fonts, colors, and styles which can be a royal pain in the you-know-what.
Paid themes will generally come with a parent theme and a child theme. A parent theme is the framework for your website and it will hold all of the information you have set like colors, fonts, and styles so that when you update the child theme (which happens a few times a year) you will not have to reset everything.
My favorite parent/child theme duo come from Studiopress. Their parent theme is called Genesis and it is compatible with hundreds of child themes. They also have easy-to-follow tutorials and great customer service in case you ever have any questions.
The first time you purchase a theme from them, it will come with Genesis and the child theme. Down the line if you purchase a different them you will only have to purchase the child theme. For more info on Genesis and parent/child themes, check out their Q&A page.
A couple of blogger friends of mine use Elegant Themes and love them. They have a similar parent/child setup and great customer service.
Both Studiopress and Elegant Themes come with money-back guarantees so if you try a theme and don’t like it, return the theme and try another (I went through three when I started my first blog and never had a problem with returning it).
Step 8: Use Pinterest to Drive Traffic
Now that your blog is setup and you’ve started adding content, the next thing you want to work on is driving traffic to your blog. I wish someone would have told me this one tip when I first started blogging.
Spend the majority of your time PROMOTING your posts.
Content is important because it’s what your readers want but a post without anyone seeing it doesn’t do you any good. Once you have a lot of content you should spend about 20% of your time writing and 80% of your time promoting but at the beginning a 40/60 split is more realistic.
The good news is you’re in position to get great traffic thanks to the time you spent setting up your Pinterest account and pinning daily. Now, you get to start creating and pinning your own pins.
There are a ton of Pinterest resources out there to help you learn how to create your own pins in Canva but the best one I have found is Carly Campbell’s Pinteresting Strategies. It goes through how to create great pins but it also goes through how to create pins in a way that will increase the chances of them going viral and driving tons of traffic to your blog.
A few tips to get you started growing your Pinterest account even faster:
- Pinterest is mostly for traffic so your primary focus is to get people to click through to your blog. However, don’t be afraid to go for the easy win. People love to repin infographics, quotes, memes, cute animals, and even things like color palettes if you’re in the Home Decor niche. Create a couple of simple pins and start circulating them for a little boost in Pinterest traffic.
- Creating pins for blog posts will be different than creating pins for affiliate marketing only. Use Canva to add big, easy to read lettering to your pins.
Check out my article on 19 Pinterest Tips Directly from Pinterest for even more tips on how to grow your account.
Step 9: Make Google Happy
As mentioned before, you will want to get your first ten posts up and then publish a couple of posts a week so you start to show up on Google’s radar.
Why is Google so Important?
Because to make your blog a business you have to have great SEO to send you traffic. The search engine you need to send you traffic? Google.
Of course there are other search engines (Yahoo, Bing, Ask) but Google is the search engine giant. If you ever decide to do sponsored posts (posts in exchange for money, products, or services) or want to have ads on your page, your Google Analytics is what companies will ask to see.
SEO is a beast of a topic which is why I suggested the free resources above but there are a few basic things you can do to start to get on Google’s radar.
Upload the YOAST Plugin
There is a free and paid version of the Yoast plugin for WordPress but if you’re just getting started the free one is fine (they also have a great tutorial on SEO and how to use their plugins).
Yoast is a very user friendly plugin and it’s pretty self explanatory. When you upload it, it will analyze your post and let you know how good the SEO is. Following the plugin is a great way to start crafting your posts in a way that will help them rank high in Google.
It will also create a sitemap of your page which you will want to submit to Google. A sitemap tells google about the organization of your site content and pages with sitemaps tend to rank higher.
Setup Google Search Console
You’ll also want to setup your Google Search Console. Your Google Search Console will tell you what words you rank for.
To ‘rank’ for words means you show up on page one of Google when someone enters a specific phrase. Ranking for any key phrase on Google is a great reason to do a happy dance. The more phrases you rank for on Google, the more traffic you will have.
Upload Your Posts to Google +
Google plus is Google’s version of Facebook. There are quite a few people on it but not near as many as Facebook (honestly, I didn’t know it existed before I started blogging).
You can check out this article by Twelve Skip on how to setup your Google + Business account and then you want to upload your posts to it. When you upload a post to Google +, don’t expect much to happen. However, Google + is owned by Google and rumor has it they give preference to posts on their own platform so take the moment to post it.
Blogging Success Is Mostly About the Right Mindset
This post contained a ton of information but don’t let it intimidate you. Half of blogging is mindset and you can (and have to believe) that you can do this. There’s no magic formula for success, you just have to do what needs to be done and do it consistently until you get to where you’re going but you don’t have to do it alone. Join my Private Facebook Group to ask questions, get Feedback, and share your blog to help you grow. I hope to see you there and best of luck on your blog!
Amber C says
Thank you so much for sharing this! I have had my blog for over a year and make no money from it! Can’t wait to try out your tips!
Wow! This post had so much information for a new blogger, like myself! You have given me the confidence to keep going for sure!
Are you still keeping at it? How’s it going for you?
Brandi @ Simply Brandi Renee says
Really love the points you made in this post! These are pretty much all things I wish I’d done before starting my blog, I would’ve felt much more well prepared haha!
You and me both when I first started out LOL!
Tayla Lindsay says
This was literally the BEST blogging article I’ve read in a while! You delivered a ton of information and answered so many of my questions! I’m looking to start my blog in the next month or so, and I’d love to connect with you! Again, great job! God bless!
How’s your blogging journey going?
Wow this was just what I needed! Fantastic content! Thank you for giving us a place to start!
Glad it helped 🙂
This is such a good post, thank you, really informative among all I have read this has truly helped me
I’m glad it helped!
Abigale Smith says
Hands down the best article on blogging, thanks a lot for sharing…
No problem- glad it helped!
Thank you for the information. I am in the beginning stages of launching my blog and I’m overloaded with information but I feel like this one really spoke to me and gave me a clear guideline.
I am confused about some things. Isn’t it illegal to email a blog post containing affiliate links to readers who are subscribed through email newsletter? I know this is against the rules for the amazon associate program. You cannot mass email affiliate links. Also, in WordPress you cannot use any kind of plugin unless you upgrade to business plan which is $30 a month. That’s a bit heavy for a new blogger. Is there any way to get around this? Also I violated your first tip. My site has hyphens in it but the un hyphenated version is taken.
It’s illegal to email Amazon links directly but MOST programs don’t mind if you email links. Always check their rules for specifics (and I will update my post to include a disclaimer about Amazon).
When I discuss WordPress in my post, I am talking about WordPress program which can be uploaded to a domain which you own- not WordPress.com which THEY still own. If you plan to blog seriously, I would buy a domain and have independent hosting which is often much less than $30/month.
Hope this helps!
Honestly, this has been one of the most helpful articles i’ve read while researching blogging. I’m so glad I found this! I can’t wait to launch my blog!
Thank you. This post was really helpful. It answered my questions about blogging.
Wow! I was glued to this post and downloaded the pdf so I can print it and use it as a checklist! I started a site a year ago…one of those “I have no clue what I’m doing and have information overload but I’m giving something a try!”
I’m about to redo everything with a new niche and url implementing a lot of the tips you have above. I’m glad I made those mistakes and inconsistencies that taught me a lot but I so wish I had found your post sooner lol. Thank you for so much information!
Hi Deja! I hope you are doing well. I found your blog through a Pinterest pin, and I must say I am more than ecstatic to have clicked through to your blog.
Your post was extremely informative and opened up a few new “idea doors” for me.
Just wanted to drop a sweet thank you note to you.
Wishing you continued success.
Thank you for some really helpful tips 🙂
Carmen Applegate says
Wow! Thank you so much! For a newbie blogger (like myself) this post was EXTREMELY helpful! I’m definitely going to set up a Google Search Console! I have been trying to manually pin everyday, but some days I don’t have the time. I will to to try a service such as tailwind, especially to increase my traffic. I really appreciate your in depth tips!
Great stuff! I like the info on Pinterest.
Wow! THIS is the information I have been looking for.
Yes, it was a lot to take in, but I have it pinned to go back to and then I have it all in one place.
There are a plethora of other blogs posting about monetizing your blog before you launch, using affiliate links, etc. But I still had so many questions. With your post, I now understand how to pin affiliate links with your in-depth explainations.
Thank you so much!
*goes to find your Facebook group*
Very informative article about researching blogging, Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much for this post! This is absolutely the best and most helpful blog post I have come across. I’m just starting and it’s very overwhelming. There is so much information out there, and it’s not always GOOD information. Thank you so much taking the time to get straight to the facts we all need. Bless you!
Pinterest is just a life-changing and most underrated tool. Great article Deja.