You probably don’t want to start a blog the way I did it.
I started a blog without any knowledge (and perhaps care) about how I was going to sustain it. I didn’t plan ahead. I didn’t think much of #1 (niche selection) and there wasn’t any way I could have been thinking of number 8 (monetization).
I am Nate, one of the editors here at Nomads HQ and I have been blogging for the last 11 months. I have a long list of blogging failures and it wasn’t until the last 3 months that I actually started making a full-time income blogging. I had created websites back when I was in college but hadn’t really tried blogging for money until 2019.
My Success So Far?
One of the latest affiliate marketing blogs that I registered on August 7th, 2019 was already making $1k+/m by November 2019. You can check the registration details of the blog (10BabyGear) at Whois.com
While I do not have the longest time blogging, I believe my success growing income of a blog to $1k per month by the fourth month gives me some authority to write this beginner guide to blog for income.
I was there. I used Bluehost to purchase my hosting and I got a free domain. It cost me $64. More details on the cost of a website in another section below.
How much can I make?
It can take a few months or even several years for your blog to start earning money. If you follow the steps we’ve mentioned to set up your blog and take advantage of your freebies (especially SEO guides), you should expect your blog to be bringing in $500/month. By the 12th month, you should be earning $1000 to $1200.
However, you should note that several other factors come into play and it is possible to make more than this after one year or to make virtually 0 after doing it for 12 months. And this is what makes blogging exciting and scary.
This guide is the most pocket-friendly but it packaged with lessons I learned from hundreds of Youtube videos (free).
I learned a lot from several online markets that post their income reports publicly and share their guides on publicly accessible videos(Youtube), podcasts, and Webinars. I credit Jim and Ricky of Income School. Jim and Ricky ran an online course that costs $500. I found their free Youtube videos good enough and didn’t actually buy their course. I haven’t paid for an online course but have relied on tools to optimize my websites for search.
Why Use Tools and not courses?
There are over 300 million active websites as of Feb 2020 and over 70 million blog posts are published every month. That’s a lot of content and it tells you of the competition by millions of blogs to appear on search engines. That’s why you should care about SEO and leverage superior tools to get you ahead.
If you don’t care about ranking high, you won’t. That simple! If you don’t rank, no one will visit your site. And your dream for digital-nomad life will die because your word-of-mouth outreach campaigns wouldn’t earn you $5/month. Of course, this is different if you are some celebrity with 100,000 + engaged social media followers, you’ll have to rely on search engines for traffic.
The principles we used to set up the 10BabyGear blog are the same principles we are using to grow this website, 10Webtools. We are optimistic of up to 10x success and we’re already on our way there. This is only possible with a careful selection of topics to share with our readers while publishing the most quality actionable guides on the best tools for online marketing.
In a rush?
If you are in a rush and perhaps here for a more specific topic, here are some helpful shortcuts you can use to navigate this guide:
Intro for Beginners
What is a Blog?
A blog is a kind of website where posts/articles are posted by the author with the latest posts appearing at the top. Unlike a website that may be static or rarely updated, a blog is regularly updated and may be written in a conversational style.
Why Start a Blog?
If you are wondering whether it is worth starting that travel, food or products review blog that you’ve been thinking about, the next section may be of help.
Here are key reasons we found to be the top reasons why people start a blog:
1. Earn Income Online:
Most bloggers start a blog to earn an income. If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking about starting a blog and somehow monetize and become and digital nomad. Often, new bloggers are inspired by blogger success stories such as those earning 6-figure income (create and go) while working from home. No boss and own-schedule. I personally got bought to this dream and wanted to start earning as fast as I could.
And this is a great year for work-from-home stats.
In 2021, it is expected that the number of people working remotely will surpass 50% of the world’s workforce. A lot of people, including bloggers, are finding ways to sell their skills and experiences online without the need to be confined in a 9 to 5 job.
What’s driving this change?
The number of people who have access to the internet rose from 16 million people in 1995 to 4.5 billion people connected by June 2019. Another 3.2 billion will be connected by 2030. Another study claimed that 50% of the world’s workforce will be working remotely by 2021.
Technology is making it easy to do a lot of what employees used to have to physically go to the office. You can chat online face to face and can chat using apps and several other helpful tools. Jets may be making it easy to fly from New York to New Delhi but technology is making the need to travel insignificant.
2. Get your work out there
A number of accomplished individuals working in several career tracks find it important to build an online presence. You’ll note several professors being engaged with a blog focussed on a certain topic. If you are a fan of the New York Times, you may have come across distinguished professors such as Paul Krugman who have the passion to deliver their research and analysis to the public.
3. As an outreach tool for organizations:
Several organizations are using blogs to drive engagement with their partners and increase their reach. If you have a business, you can create a blog to generate leads from engaged blog readers.
4. Document experiences:
Are you traveling to Africa or perhaps trying to create a lifestyle blog to document your weight-loss journey? A blog is a great tool for that. There are many bloggers that make money while documenting their experiences.
I personally think the internet is a great tool that allows anyone to innovate and get rewarded for doing it. Unlike other platforms such as Social Media sites such as Facebook or Instagram, you are able to have total control of your blog.
Convinced to get started? Let see how much it will cost you.
How much does a blog cost?
The proven steps I have outlined below requires that you obtain a custom domain name such as ‘mybiz.com’ and host it somewhere. This is the basic cost you’d need to spend. If you go with Bluehost, you’ll only get charged $71 and if you go with Siteground, it would cost you around $103.
Why custom domain and not a free domain?
It’s all about control. If you are serious and want to earn from your blog, it’s probably great that a custom domain such as ‘mybiz.com’ can be customized, monetized and optimized for higher income. Otherwise, you could just blog on any medium such as Medium (haha), Facebook, Instagram or Reddit and earn pennies.
What is my best option?
It would cost you as low as $2.75/month to $10/month to obtain and host your domain with a reliable host. This budget is decent and you won’t need to increase it unless your traffic goes above 25k per month.
As your income grows you can upgrade to superior tools and services that you don’t really need when starting out. Bluehost cheapest hosting is $71/year but the big downside with this plan is that you can only host one website. If you are starting blogging, chances are you’re going to purchase more domain, not just for income. Some expired domains will boost your SEO.
The plan that allows you to host unlimited websites is Bluehost Plus which will cost you $89.40 for the first year ($5.45/month). And you get the following with this plan:
- Free Domain
- Built unlimited websites/blogs on the hosting account. You’ll just need to pay about $15 per domain but no more cost for hosting to you.
- Free SSL
- Free custom emails, up to 50
You May Outgrow Bluehost Hosting
Bluehost is cheap and I had no problem with 10BabyGear until when it recently outgrew its package. And after some research and tests, I decided to migrate it to Siteground. I was getting several Jetpack notifications similar to this:
Siteground is more expensive but has super-efficient SSD servers (as opposed to HHD) that will not have your website going off-line after utilizing its allocated bandwidth. It’s unlimited bandwith is true to the word ‘unlimited’.
When your blog/site runs out of the bandwidth it has been allocated in a shared server, it will start having downtimes. I moved to Siteground right after Black Friday as it started experiencing outages up to 5 times a day. You should only worry about this if you think your blog will go over 25,000 visitors per month.
Can you start a blog for free?
It is possible to start a blog for free but if you intend to make money and actually replace your current earning with your online income, do start a free blog. A free blog will allow you limited branding abilities and this will totally limit your growth. Here are some other key reasons not to start a blog for free:
- You limit the opportunities to make money online. If you ever want to monetize your ‘free’ unbranded domain, several service providers will require you to upgrade which defeats the purpose of starting a free domain.
- You limit the support you can get when working with a hosting provider. When you get a free website, you’ll barely get services and tools to get you ahead of over 300 million active websites.
- Basic features in free websites will limit your growth
Lets now go through the 8 key steps to get started creating a blog and succeeding:
8 Steps to Start a Blog that will actually succeed:
- Chose a Niche/Topic
- Pick a Domain Name and Hosting
- Design your website using a personalized theme
- Install Essential Plugins and Set up Permalinks
- Verify and submit your blog to Search Engines
- Plan Your Content using Keyword Research of at least 30 articles
- Start posting quality content on your blog and start promoting
- Start monetizing your website
Step 1: Chose a Niche/Topic
The first step, when you sit down with your computer ready to get started, is to decide on a topic to write about. In layman’s term, a niche is the topic of your blog but usually specific to only one topic. While it can be fun to start a blog, one of the toughest parts of a blog is sticking to your topic.
How do you decide on a topic?
My decision was purely based on potential earnings. You can find out about the top-earning bloggers by studying various income reports.
Top earning affiliates
You can review top-paying affiliates to understand whether the decision of what you want to write will be guided by what will make you a buck fast. Some affiliates pay as high as $80 per customer lead while others pay from 4% to 50% commission when you refer a client to them. Here are 30+ the high-paying affiliates in 2022 and you can watch this Pat Flynn’s $2M affiliate commission.
Through affiliate marketing, your blog can make money by promoting products in your blog posts. Some people opt to promote exclusively via email while others prefer not to send any promotional emails to their subscribers and include it in their blogs. Affiliate blogs build trust and a good online reputation which is the easiest way to earn from your blog. When choosing a niche based on affiliate marketing, it is wise to select one which is related to products that often offer affiliate marketing opportunities.
In blogging, finding a suitable niche is critical to get a substantial audience. Similarly, in affiliate marketing, SEO, WordPress, and so on, finding a favorable niche is essential for successful online branding.
Here are a few other questions you should ask before selecting your niche:
Do I enjoy the topic?
It is essential to pick a topic that you are passionate about. However, make sure it is a topic that other people are interested in. It is essential for your blog’s continued growth that you continue with the same enthusiasm after 50+ posts.
Here are some of the niches we’ve written about:
- Writing niche and blogs for writers and authors
- Fashion niche blogs
- Weight loss niche
- Travel blogs
- Restaurant and food blogs
- Software niche
- Lifestyle niche
Are other people interested in the same topic?
To earn an income or build your blog’s online reputation, you will need to build a list of the topics that interest you, then look up each of them online and ask your trusted friends to give you their opinions. Go with the topic that you are interested in writing about and still have a substantial audience.
2.Pick a Domain Name and Hosting
There are two primary approaches when choosing the perfect domain name for your blog. The first is concentrating on a keyword and crafting a domain name around it. For instance, a blog with a domain name such as wpblog.com focuses on the “WordPress blog” keywords.
The second approach is primarily focusing on the brand. If you already have a brand name, you can adopt an identical domain name. Whether your domain name is focused on specific keywords or on your brand’s name, there are a few issues you will need to consider when selecting your domain name.
- Always opt for .com domains: Since .com domains are the most used, they are given greater support by search engines. While other alternatives like .net and .org may be cheaper, .com domains are considered more legitimate and trustworthy.
- Make it as short and memorable as possible: Your brand will always be a step ahead of your competition if your domain name is easy for your visitors to remember. They can easily type your domain name into their browsers to access your site. Take a look at the domains of all popular sites: very few have more than ten characters.
- Avoid using numbers and hyphens: Besides making your domain name look ugly, domains with hyphens or numbers are considered by most search engines as spammy. That is the last thing you could hope for as a blogger.
What to consider when selecting a host
Hosting your blog is the process of getting it online. If you have been following my guide and have successfully completed step 1 above, it is time to host your blog. A good web host should be able to keep all your personal data secure and make sure that no users are blocked from accessing the site when they click on its URL.
Other than being able to provide these basic services, there are a few factors you need to consider when selecting the most convenient hosting service for your blog. But first, you will need to understand the common types of website hosting. Here are three of the most common hosting services:
- Shared hosting: In shared hosting, several customers are given a share in the resources of a specific server.
- Dedicated hosting: Unlike in shared hosting, dedicated hosting gives the customers their own servers and the resources of each server are only available to one user.
- Cloud hosting: In cloud hosting, resources are fetched for the customers from a virtual server network making them always scalable.
Now that you understand the most common hosting types, you need to select the right one for your blog. Here are a few factors you need to consider when selecting the appropriate host for your blog:
- Will traffic on your blog increase?
- What’s your budget?
- Can you understand the technicalities of web hosting?
- Will your blog contain sensitive data?
- Will there be large amounts of dynamic or static data?
The answers to the questions above will guide you through selecting the ideal hosting plan for your blog.
WordPress has been for a while the best content management platform around the globe. In just a few clicks, anyone can install WordPress into web servers and have your site up. Most of the top hosting providers offer a one-click option to their customers. In fact, as of this publication, 50+ % of websites are powered by WordPress.
You can install WordPress on your server using either the one-click WordPress installation or the FTP method. The combination I often recommend to my clients is WordPress as your blogging platform and Bluehost as your hosting provider. What’s more, they use the simple one-click installation method plus.
Once you’ve settled on WordPress, you need to host your files on a server. You’ll need to rent space from a hosting service provider and we strongly suggest going with Bluehost if you are starting out. Siteground is the cheapest in the market and if you get hosting with them, you get a free domain for the first year! You also get free SSL, one-click WordPress install and superior 24/7 support. You can get started with Bluehost here.
However, if you expect your traffic to hit 100k within the first year, I recommend Siteground. Siteground is pricier but you get value for your buck as they have super-efficient SSD servers and provide free caching, Cloudflare, free SSL, free back-up and guaranteed uptime of over 99%. You can check out Siteground’s pricing here.
I still encourage you to get started with Bluehost if it’s your first time blogging. For less than $3 per month, you wouldn’t be losing a lot if you quit working on your website, 6-month down the line – which can happen. The honest truth is that not everyone can make it.
Below is a process you can quickly sign up with Bluehost.
Hit the green “Get Started” button and scroll up or down the plan choices to select your preferred plan. Personally, I fancy the Choice Plus plan since it offers more unlimited features including domain privacy. With domain privacy, your personal information remains secure. You could, however, add domain privacy on a different plan for a fee
Pick a hosting plan that would be best for you. If you want to register just one domain for your blog with no intention of creating other blogs or websites, choose the cheapest plan that will cost you $2.95.
On the next step, enter your preferred domain name and proceed to the next step. Here you can create a new domain name or use an existing one. You could also skip the step to choose later by clicking the link at the bottom.
Fill out your account details on the next step such as your name, email address and address. You can sign up using your Gmail account and fill out all the information automatically.
Select your preferred hosting package: Depending on your budget, you can select plans ranging between one and five years. Bluehost does not provide a monthly payment plan since most hosting providers that offer monthly payments end up being much more expensive.
After you choose your domain name, your next step lets you enter your personal info such as your name, state, country, and email address, among other details as shown below.
You’ll also be asked to enter your payment info by entering the credit card details as shown in the snapshot below
Next is to finish your account by creating a strong password as shown in the snapshot below:
The next step is to log in to your Bluehost dashboard.
3. Design your website using a personalized theme
When users click on your blog’s URL, the first thing they see is the design and layout of the page. Your blog page needs to be eye-catching but not overly decorated. Visitors are easily discouraged by the choice of colors on a web page or an unpractical arrangement of information. The theme you select will carry the blog page’s look and feel. While paid options are often better than free themes, you should also choose a theme that is in sync with the blog’s content.
Free Templates vs. Paid Themes
For most passionate blogging beginners, the stash of free themes available does not satisfy their individual preferences in look and feel. There are two alternatives for paid themes to consider, premium themes and custom ones. Though most of the time they incur tiny costs, paid themes can sometimes be considerably expensive.
Premium themes are usually created by single designers and dedicated websites. The prices for single-use licenses usually ranges between $30 and $500, depending on the features of the theme. Custom themes are usually created by dedicated designers or agencies who can customize an existing theme on your blog or create a new one for you. Although they come with a lot of advantages over free and premium themes, custom themes are not ideal for novice bloggers due to their expensive nature. The cost of customizing a theme usually ranges from %500 to $2,000, determined by the features you select.
4. Install Essential Plugins and Set up Permalinks
Plugins are excellent tools for extending and adding functionality to WordPress. The choice for plugins depends on the niche of your blog. However, there are several plugins that every WordPress blog must-have. The WordPress plugins below are some of the most efficient and can be a great resource for your site:
Autoptimization WordPress Plugins
Every user enjoys visiting a site that is fast and powerful. Here are some WordPress Plugins that are great for speed and optimization of your blog.
You can now compress and optimize the images on your blog without reducing their quality using the WP Smush plugin. It automatically optimizes all the images were in JPG, PNG, or GIF format using advance compression tools to save lots of storage space for you.
W3 Total Cache
One of the easiest ways to improve the speed and performance of a website is WordPress caching. Caching works by temporarily saving website data so that the sites load faster the next time. The cache is where temporary data is stored. Caching plugins save your pages and posts as static HTML files, which drastically reduces the page loading time and aids the overall performance of the page.
The W3 Total Cache plugin is among the best for caching on WordPress. It offers features such as, database caching, browser caching, page cache, and object caching. What’s more, it allows integration with CDN services to increase page loading speeds
WordPress Security Plugins
It is essential for every WordPress blog and website to install a security plugin to tackle any kind of online threat on your blog. As a website owner, it is vital to secure your platform from hackers. There may be thousands or hundreds of thousands of malicious bots online that can attack your blog and destroy all the work on it in a matter of seconds. There are many WordPress security plugins available. One of the best among them is Wordfence Security. It features malware scans, firewall protection, login security, and many more. The plugin monitors your online traffic in real-time against human and robot threats, errors, logins and logouts.
Set up permalinks
A permalink is a post’s permanent URL or method of categorizing elements on your page together, like archives. Permalinks make each post’s URL pointing to your blog permanent. People use the URL to link to your blog posts or articles on your site. They can also use them to send you emails regarding the posts through permalinks.
To get the best SEO results and take advantage of page rankings, you should optimize your permalinks to search engines. You can achieve this by displaying appropriate keywords in your domain name instead of numbers and hyphens.
To set up permalinks on WordPress, log into your account and click on Settings on your dashboard section, then click on permalinks. This will display the settings page. To configure a search engine friendly URL, you need to change the permalink structure from the default.
Select the “Common Settings” section and check the “Custom Structure” setting to create your own search engine-friendly links. Make sure they do not contain any symbols and have the appropriate keywords in them as discussed above and you will be ready to verify your blog post and submit it to Google.
5. Verify and submit your blog to Search Engines
To use Google Search Console, you will need to verify your blog’s domain with Google verification. These tools allow you to access Google search data and submit your sitemap to Google for indexing. Here is the easiest way to add your domain to Google’s Search Console.
Verify Ownership of Domain and Create Google Console and Google Analytics accounts.
- Log into your Google account through the Google Search Console; https://search.google.com/search-console
- From the property dropdown on your menu, add a new property,
- Select your URL prefix and enter your domain using the https:// protocol,
- Select verification methods and click on “HTML tag”
- A string of letters and numbers will appear between the quotations after content=”. This is your Verification ID. Copy it and leave the window open.
- Open another tab and go to your project SEO settings in your Webflow dashboard.
- Paste the ID in the “Google site verification” field and save the changes
- Proceed to publish your blog.
- Return to your Google Search Console window and click on “verify”
Create a sitemap and submit it to Google and Bing
You can create a sitemap using a plugin such as Yoast or using websites that generate sitemaps such as this. Sitemaps will make it easy for search engine crawlers to find your content.
Once you have successfully completed the verification process, you can submit your site to Google and Bing for indexing. While Google can automatically find your blog through links on other sites, verifying your blog through Google indexing is much faster.
6. Plan Your Content using Keyword Research of at least 30 articles
Content is king.
You will need to carry out in-depth keyword research of at least thirty articles in the same niche as your blog. With the most appropriate keywords, you can optimize your blog for search.
Optimize your blog for search
With a competent SEO strategy, you can get your blog ranked higher on SERPs. Search engines scan for certain elements of your content before indexing it by topic and subtopic. To increase organic traffic to your blog page, you will need to base your SEO strategy on best practices depending on your niche.
Do keyword research for the appropriate keywords
Keyword research is finding the most used phrases when users are searching for your product on search engines. Keyword research is important because it helps your blog appear on the results page every time a user searches for these keywords. By carrying out keyword research of the phrases that are often used, you can identify the type of topics that you would like to create your content on.
7. Start Posting quality content on your blog and start promoting
Post long content
Without long content on your blog, you might be missing out on a lot of SEO benefits. From startups to giant corporations, everyone is investing in long content to improve lead generation. However, it is not all about throwing together a bunch of paragraphs and pushing the ‘Publish’ button.
The purpose of any blog content is to attract more readers and hope to turn them into purchasing products or services on the page. Typically, the length of your post plays a vital role in the success of your content. Content that goes beyond 2,000 words is capable of better performance than shorter content. Moreover, long content offers several marketing pros, including:
- More social sharing
- Efficient website authority
- Better link building
- Higher online presence
Undoubtedly, if your blog does not feature long content, you could fail to reach your goals in content marketing and your returns from blogging might be insignificant.
Get free stock photos
To pump up your online presence and gain a reputation in your niche, you will need to groom your posts with exciting photos. Unfortunately for most novice bloggers, cheesy stock photos of men shaking hands in suits are what they are accustomed to. These designs are not only tacky but also expensive.
Thankfully, there are plenty of websites offering beautiful stock photos that will make your page glow. What’s more, they are provided to your free of charge. There are plenty of great photos to choose from on the WordPress platform depending on your preferred niche. WP is also linked to other great sites and tools that help you find the best photos for your blog.
Promote your content on social platforms
Marketing is one of the most important steps to making your blog successful. You will need to identify your target audience on different social platforms. Send requests to pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks and engage in discussions in subjects within your niche.
You will need to be passionate and patient, a combination most new bloggers lack. Regularly update your social network accounts with fresh posts or links to fun facts on the subject. You can also ask your loyal clients to refer their friends to you or post a promotional update on their social media timelines for an offer on your products or services.
My name is Nate, a digital nomad and the founder of this blog, Nomads HQ. I am a SaaS expert with 4 digital nomad visas and 8 years of experience using 50+ different web tools ranging from podcast, web hosting, email marketing, and much more. I previously managed a team offering support services to a large conglomerate that utilized tens of software solutions. I now run this blog full-time and when I am not reviewing or testing software, I enjoy riding bikes and supporting my clients achieve internet success. You can reach me directly at email@example.com