You want to learn how to start a blog? I agree, becoming a blogger sounds amazing!
You read it everywhere. People create a successful blog and earn a 5-6 figures income while doing what they love. Who wouldn’t want to start a blog and earn money blogging?
So what do you do?
You search for information about how to start a successful blog. You go through all the blogging advice and How to Start a Blog for Beginners Guides of rich bloggers who made it. Of course you read everything they have to say because you think if they are going to generously put together their success recipes of how to start a successful blog, it would be silly not to try them in your own kitchen.
We did the same … And it let us go absolutely nowhere!
After we created our blog almost 1 year ago, we spent many months in the desert of absolute stagnation. We published content almost weekly, spent many hours a day on social media, and yet, we got hardly any visitors to our website.
You can imagine, we unknowingly made the most terrible mistakes any new blogger could do.
If you’re serious about stepping up your blogging game, don’t miss our FREE Blogging Secrets for Beginners Checklist.
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Who are we to tell you how to start a successful blog?
So why should you keep on reading any tips about how to start a blog from us if we admittedly sucked at blogging?
Because something happened that sent us on a blogging roll!
In the last 3 months we went from under 2,000 monthly sessions to over 6,000 sessions. And it’s growing on a daily basis!
We also started using Pinterest for driving traffic to our blog and grew our Pinterest account from 0 to 100k in only 2 months.
We finally seem to have cracked what works for us and we want to share our most valuable lessons with you.
In this post, we’ll walk you through our most important learnings for how to start a blog.
Our aim is to be open with you to help you avoid making the same stupid mistakes we made when we started out, and to get you on the same roll.
Let us tell you upfront: We don’t have a magic recipe for you that will make you become a successful blogger in no time. Blogging is hard. You will have to put in a lot of time and experiment with the strategies we introduce.
But one thing is sure: All the blogging advice and tips we share are based on our most recent experience of the last months. Not on what worked for a rich blogger three years ago.
Is starting a successful blog realistic in 2020?
Blogging is like any other business. The more players move into an arena, the more competitive it gets, and the more difficult it is to stand out.
Especially in recent years more people decide that they want to become a blogger and make money blogging. In fact, many social media influencers call themselves bloggers without even owning a website.
Most bloggers fail to create a profitable blog. While this seems mostly bad news, we see it as good news too. How come? Because mostly, bloggers who fail are the ones that give up too early.
Wow, that was a mouthful! Especially from somebody that hasn’t passed the 10k monthly blog visitors yet.
We know, there are plenty of income reports of bloggers that show how they made very good money in less than 3 or 6 months. How discouraging for a beginner blogger that hardly scrapes the first 1000 website visitors after 3 months!
But honestly, if you reached overnight success, wouldn’t you want to tell the world about it too?
The truth is that for most people it takes many months and sometimes even years to get to “overnight success”.
So if you want your blog to succeed, prepare yourself to be patient. Don’t expect any major income for the first year. Set yourself a timeline and commit to it. If you’re focusing on the right things, we’re confident that success will come eventually. Your strategy is to out-last your competition.
Let us remind you. For the first 8 months we were sitting absolutely dry. Our blog was a ghost town with only some lonely visitors passing by once in a while. Most people would have given up without seeing results in such a long time.
We’re glad that we didn’t! Because only in the last 2 months our blog started to pick up. And our number of sessions is increasing by the day.
So, is it still worth it to think about how to start a blog in 2020? We think, absolutely! That is if you’re willing to put in the hard work and to sit tight patiently in the beginning.
How to pick your niche – a frequent misconception
Do what you’re passionate about and earn money blogging! That’s what the sales pitch of most rich bloggers and their How to Start a Blog for Beginners courses sound like. The promise is that you can write about stuff you enjoy and make a fortune with it.
Did you notice that most bloggers who claim to be successful offer a blogging course? Travel bloggers, food bloggers, mommy-bloggers, they all tell you at one point or another how you can make money blogging.
Why is that?
Successful bloggers are successful for a reason. They pick a BIG niche that has proven to make money.
What is a successful niche? One with a large audience of people that are willing to spend money.
Are we saying that in order to be successful you can’t write about what you’re passionate about? No, but there are niches that have higher chances for monetary success than others.
Looking at what topics sell on Pinterest (Pinterest is an amazing tool for bloggers as you will learn later in this post), here are the niches with the highest monthly search volumes:
- How to make money
- Personal Finance
- Food & Weight loss
- Self-development & Self-care
- Fashion & Beauty
- Home decor & DIY
Before you start writing, define your audience. Who is your ideal reader? What are their characteristics and what problems are they looking to solve?
Then, write for this ideal reader. Instead of trying to fit your content into a certain niche, try to optimize it for your ideal audience.
Before you start your blog, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is my ideal reader?
- What do they worry about?
- What are their goals and results they aim to achieve?
- How can I add value to them?
The Techy stuff: How to set up your blog for success
After you have decided which ideal audience you want to address with your blog, you can move on to the techy stuff and set up your blog. In short, there are a handful of things you need to arrange:
- Register your domain
- Get hosting
- Set up your WordPress account
- Get a theme
- Pick a newsletter provider
While there are countless tools and resources to pick from when starting a blog, remember this when choosing service providers.
To be successful, you need to set up your blog technically for success.
Starting a blog comes almost for free nowadays. That’s why blogging is such a lucrative business. Your initial investment is very low while your returns can be very high. Given you put in the necessary hours and energy of course.
Don’t get blinded by first impressions when choosing providers. Do through research.
In the following steps, we will walk you through all technical steps using Bluehost as an example.
We like to recommend Bluehost for your web hosting because their price is hard to beat. You get your monthly subscription for only $3.95 and it comes with a free domain in the first year.
If you decide to go with Bluehost for your web hosting, your domain name will be free for the first year. You will also receive a free SSL certificate, which will be visible via a little lock sign next to your domain name in the browser. This will let website visitors know that your website is secure and their data is processed safely on your website. Other great benefits are unlimited bandwidth and their 24/7 support service.
On their website, they walk you step by step through the entire process from registering your domain name, getting hosting, to setting up your WordPress account. This is great because it takes away the hustle of figuring things out on your own. Especially if it’s your first time of starting a blog.
Register your domain name
The first technical step when starting a blog is to get your domain name.
Think of domain name ideas for your blog. Our advice is to pick a domain name that reflects your content and leaves room for expansion at the same time.
Try to make it catchy. You want that readers can remember and return to your website easily.
For example, we picked generationnomads.com because we believe that millennials are increasingly becoming world travelers and seek a location independent lifestyle. Besides that, the name gives us room to write about additional challenges of our generation beyond digital nomadism, like career change and financial freedom. This wouldn’t be possible if we sticked with twoinflipflops, which was the first domain name we registered!
Once you come up with domain name ideas, you can check here if it’s available. Type in your domain name idea and see whether it’s free to use and how much it costs.
Web hosting service providers make sure that your website can be accessed and viewed online. For this, they provide servers to store your data securely.
The cheapest subscription of Bluehost costs $3.95/month. This basic package comes with a free domain, a free SSL certificate, and unlimited bandwidth. It includes 50 GB SSD storage, which is more than enough in the beginning.
Once your blog’s traffic grows substantially and surpasses the 50 GB, you can upgrade anytime to unlimited SSD storage. This would then be a monthly subscription of $5.95.
The set up processes is straightforward and easy to follow.
Set up your WordPress account
Now comes the fun part! You’re setting up your very own brand new website, so exciting!
Set up your website on wordpress.org. Trust us, this is the open source software you want to use for your blog!
Being the #1 software for building websites, developers are creating and updating WordPress specific additional features all the time. It has hundreds of design themes to choose from and thousands of plugins available.
When you start out, you might not care about extensions. But if you want to include customized email sign-ups, a web shop, and other gimmicks later, it will be a pain in the butt to do so if you’re not on WordPress from the beginning. You will have to migrate your entire site to WordPress. So be smart and do it right from the beginning!
Creating a WordPress account is simple. Just follow the sign up instructions until you arrive at your dashboard view.
The backbone of your blog is born!
Now you can start creating your blog Pages, blog Posts, set a Menu, link to your socials, and much more.
We know, building a full functioning blog can be an overwhelming task at first. Our recommendation is to pick a blog you love as example and copy components you like. By copy we don’t mean literally copying their content. That would be terrible! For them and for you! We mean that you see them as inspiration and add your own personality and twist to it.
Get an open source or paid blog theme
After your WordPress account is set up, you can move on to picking a design a.k.a. theme. Your theme is the first impression you make on a blog visitor. And you want it to be a good impression.
This does not mean that your site needs to look perfect – especially not in the beginning. Don’t be a perfectionist about it. Just make sure that the look of your website doesn’t scare people off. As long as you do that, you’re fine.
Plus, don’t forget that you can polish up your design over time. It’s a work in progress task and comes on your priority list only after creating amazing content that your readers love.
There are plenty of free themes to choose from. For the beginning, we recommend to go with a free theme. Free WordPress themes are already very good as they come and leave a lot of room for customization. Just make sure it’s responsive to desktop and mobile.
If after some time you realize that your free theme does not support all configurations and functionalities you need, you can decide to purchase a paid theme. You can find a lot of inspiration and previews of available WordPress themes on ThemeForest. In case you’re wondering, we are using the Avada Fusion theme.
Pick a newsletter provider
You probably want to collect email addresses at some point to send out newsletters and promotions. For this, you will need an emailing software.
Again, there are many mailing list services to choose from. We went with mailchimp.com because it is free for your first 2000 subscribers in your list.
How to write content as a starting blogger
When we started our blog we wanted to write content about how long term travel can help millennials to re-define their career and live a more fulfilled life. We did a competitor benchmark and defined how we could differentiate ourselves from other successful bloggers. As a result, we came up with truly unique content ideas that we hardly saw any blog posts about.
We thought we outsmarted everyone else.
It took us a long while to understand that there is a reason why there is a lot of content about one topic and hardly any topic about another topic.
It’s all about what readers want to read! And even though we still think that our philosophical content is interesting to our audience, it’s simply not what somebody would type into a Google search.
Stay away from unique content and focus on popular content that has proven to be successful instead.
At least until you have built your brand presence and are generating consistently high traffic to your blog. Once you have a stable number of page views and have a good portion of returning visitors to your site, you can sneak in your own unique content and differentiate yourself that way from competitors.
Now your question is: How do I find the starring content that my audience wants?
We created a strict routine we follow every single time before we write a new blog post.
Our strategy consists of the following steps. You can find a detailed explanation of every step and the online research tools we use in our Blogging Secrets Checklist.
- Research our best competitors on Pinterest and Google
- Find the best performing content of competitors with Busszumo (we used their free trial)
- Find keywords our best competitors are using with Moz (paid, but we like it better) or Ubersuggest (free!)
- Do keyword research on Pinterest
- Do keyword research on Google
- Research questions that your audience has with Answerthepublic (free & awesome!)
Start with Google SEO from the beginning
You have to understand the following. People usually end up on a blog post because they were typing a search query into Google. They are looking to find answers to specific questions.
We’re sorry if we’re the first ones who have to break it to you, but you will thank us later:
Nobody cares about you.
This realization is painful, but it is essential for creating a successful blog.
When we started out, our blog posts sounded something like this: “Today we tested the pool in our amazing villa in Thailand. It was raining, but we still went into the water and had a great time.”
Say what? Nobody. Cares. Not even our own families were reading these blog posts.
Let us be clear: You are writing for your ideal audience to help them solve their problem. Unless you have an incredibly entertaining or educative story to share, keep your personal stuff for the ABOUT US page of your blog.
This means you need to get familiar with Google keywords and Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Google needs time to index your blog content. It can easily take a couple of months before you start generating organic traffic from Google SEO. As a reference, it took us about 6 months until Google started showing our first blog posts in their search results.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t focus on Google SEO as a beginner.
Exactly the opposite!
You have to start writing with Google SEO in mind and then wait for Google to pick up your content. Once that happens, you will see a steep increase in your traffic that will stay and grow in the future.
There are a couple of things you need to do to get Google SEO right:
- Find relevant and high search volume keywords research with the Google Keywords Planner
- Install the free Yoast plugin for WordPress for SEO optimization of you blog content
- Write your blog post in a Google keywords optimized way
We take you through the detailed steps of keyword research and content SEO optimization here.
Increase blog traffic from Day 1 with Pinterest SEO
You won’t believe us but ignoring Pinterest for almost one year, was one of the biggest blogging mistakes we have ever made!
If you haven’t heard it before, Pinterest is one of the top social media platforms for bloggers. If you want to be a successful blogger, you need to take Pinterest seriously.
You might not have looked at it that way before but Pinterest is – same as Google – a search engine. The difference is that Pinterest is a visual search engine and that Pinterest has a huge benefit over Google.
As opposed to Google, Pinterest can generate traffic to your blog from Day 1. That’s why it’s so powerful and that’s why you need to learn everything you can about Pinterest marketing. However, it will only work if you master one thing:
Pinterest will only help you if you become best friends with Pinterest SEO.
In those two blog posts we help you to set up your Pinterest account for success and write SEO optimized pin descriptions that will start generating traffic to your blog from the beginning.
When starting a new blog: Focus on brand building!
When you’re starting your blog, nobody knows you yet. That’s why you need to get the word out about your blog and your brand on various mediums and platforms.
You need to promote the hell out of your blog.
Think of it roughly as investing 50% on creating content and 50% on promoting your content and your brand.
As you don’t have your own audience yet, your best strategy is to piggyback on other people’s audiences.
One great tool is podcasts. Contact podcasts that talk about similar topics as you and try to get invited for interviews. Podcast hosts need new content and you need publicity. It’s a win-win.
Another option is to write guest posts for successful bloggers in your niche. Link back to relevant articles on your blog within the guest post, so that their audience visits your blog as well.
Your main goal in brand building is to gain attention and start building your own community. Try to be creative!
How to start a blog for making money
There are different ways to earn money from blogging. The good news is that it’s most commonly the same options that all bloggers use:
- Advertising: Make money from ads
- Affiliate marketing: Earn a commission from selling other people’s products
- Sale of own Products: Create and sell your own products, e.g. ebooks, online courses, and services
- Sponsored content: Get paid by companies for product reviews and promotions
You’re probably wondering which option is the best one for you?
In short, there is no right or wrong.
What is important to note though is that your business model will determine what you need to focus on when setting up your blog.
See your blog as a conversion engine and clearly define which conversion you aim to achieve.
- Ads: Focus on decreasing your bounce rate, increasing page views, and recurring visitors
- Affiliate marketing: Focus on building an affiliate content strategy for your blog content
- Selling products: Focus on building your email list
You can take advantage of all options. However, it’s a good idea to create focus by defining your primary strategy and setting priorities.
In the beginning, you will hardly make any money. That’s just how it is and nothing to be worried about when you’re first starting your blog. Your commitment is long term, remember?
Your next steps: What to focus on when starting your blog
This post about how to start a blog is only the beginning. After you have picked a niche, got your domain, got hosting, and set up your blog on wordpress, the hard work begins!
As we admitted in the beginning of this post, when we started our blog as beginners, we were focusing on the wrong things. We picked the wrong content, wrote in the wrong way, used social media wrongly, the list goes on. After many months of experimenting and learning, we finally found out what works best for growing our blog traffic!
We reached a turning point!
In only 2 months we went from 0 to 87k unique monthly viewers on Pinterest and increased our blog traffic by over 300%.
To help you avoid doing the same mistakes and focus on the right things instead, we created our Blogging Secrets for Beginners Checklist. There we share our most valuable lessons of the last year and a practical checklist of things you should be focusing your time on. Grab it here for free.