How to Start a Blog An Illustrative Guide (for 2019)

Want to learn how to start a blog? 

Below is the most comprehensive resource on the internet!

If you’ve read a few “how to” posts already, this tutorial is…bigger.

From setting up a domain, hosting and WordPress…

To driving Pinterest & SEO traffic and making money from affiliate marketing and products.

It’s all here.

How to USE This Blog Tutorial

If starting a blog is just an idea in your head (meaning you haven’t done ANYTHING yet)…

I’d suggest following along with the first few sections of this guide, and doing the work at the same time:

  1. Choose a topic,
  2. Grab a domain name and hosting package on Bluehost, and
  3. Set up WordPress!

Do these things while going through the first few sections!

Then, bookmark this post and refer back to it once you’ve actually got your blog set up.

If you already have a WordPress blog set up, use the navigation above to head to the subjects you’d like to learn more about!

 

Blogging for Beginners - What Does Blogging REALLY Look Like?

First, take note!

80% of bloggers don’t make it through their first year.

Blogging is really hard.

  • You will be surprised how LITTLE website traffic you’re getting.
  • You’ll be amazed at how much time it can take.
  • You WILL lose focus and struggle with motivation.

WAY too many bloggers quit in their first year due to overhyped expectations!

Don’t be that blogger.

blogging for beginners

FAQ: How long will it take to build a profitable blog?

If you want full-time income from your blog, it’s going to take 18+ months in the best case scenario. Part-time income could occur much sooner!

I’d bet my life savings (not a huge risk) on the following: If you were to publish 3 pieces of content a week for 3 years, you would be bringing in a few thousand dollars a month.

Bloggers who persist and consistently publish good content are the ones who thrive. Let’s be THOSE bloggers.

The bloggers who see the most growth in year one are those who get connected with awesome blogging groups.

Build relationships and DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK QUESTIONS!

Speaking of communities, Click here to join the Do You Even Blog private Facebook group.

You’ll get free access to a TON of helpful bloggers, some of which make $100k+ from their blogs, and you’ll find NO spammy self-promotion or sales (even from me, and it’s my group!)

Choose a topic and define your target reader (avatar)

I KNOW you’d rather jump into setting up WordPress and buying domains…

But defining your mission and reader avatar is a VITAL step to connecting with people and driving BLOG TRAFFIC.

define your topic

It’s important to choose a topic and figure out who your reader is first!

Knowing your blog’s purpose helps decision making!

  • Which affiliate products will make me the most money?
  • What topics should I write about to attract THOSE readers interested in that product?

“Find your why!” is corny, but it CAN actually be helpful to think through while choosing a topic to blog about! Speaking of which…

FAQ: Help! I don’t know what to start a blog about!

First off, nothing is permanent! If you end up choosing a niche and HATING it 6 months from now, you can quit. It’s more like dating and less like marriage.

That said, list out 5 subjects you’re

  • passionate about
  • qualified to teach about
  • itching to learn about.

Out of those 15, pick the topic that fires you up the most and START.

It’s incredibly important you understand exactly who you are creating content FOR.

Definition – An Avatar is a hypothetical representation of your ideal reader, or your target customer, etc. Why is this important?

Later on, when we talk about creating good content and monetizing your blog, we will talk about solving your reader’s problems. It’s the single best way to connect with people, make a difference, and sell products.

If you don’t fully understand your readers, you will not be able to connect and sell to them.

To define your avatar, answer these questions:

  1. Hold old are they?
  2. Gender?
  3. What are their struggles as it relates to your blog topic?
  4. Frustrations?
  5. Conversely, what are their likes?
  6. What do they desire the most as it relates to your blog topic?
  7. What do they want to learn? Why do they want to learn it?
Here are extra credit questions that could help you market your blog later…
  • Where does my avatar hang out online?
  • What’s their social media platform of choice? (Pinterest or Reddit?)
  • What other blogs does my avatar follow?
  • What podcasts do they listen to?
  • What YouTube channels do they watch?
FAQ – The more human you can make your avatar, and the more details you can attach to him/her, the better! Knowing them is the first step to solving their problems (thus growing traffic and selling to them).

Example: Here is Do You Even Blog's avatar:

Pat has already read about blogging a bit. He’s seen a few “how to start a blog” courses or articles like this one already 🙂

But, he’s either

  1. Not pulled the trigger yet, or
  2. He’s pulled the trigger and has a blog, but he’s not satisfied with its growth.

He wants MORE traffic, email subscribers, and monthly blog revenues!

Despite the insane amount of blog tutorials on the internet…Pat has been overwhelmed and struggles with the actions needed to facilitate growth.

Pat also struggles to find TIME to blog, as he has a day job, is a parent, or simply underestimated the amount of time it takes to run a blog.

Do You Even Blog aims to help Pat with every piece of content of our blog & podcast, and it’s built into every piece of marketing.

blog avatar

Choose your topic, then define your avatar.

Write and market for your avatar.

This will make it 10x easier to make money from a blog. ✅

Choose a website host & find an available domain name

what is blog hosting

Ok new bloggers, here’s the ORDER of actions:

1 – Choose and find an available domain name, but DON’T buy yet.

2 – Settle on a platform (WordPress)

3 – Choose a “host”

4 – Purchase a hosting package and domain at the same time. (You’ll save money!)

Choosing a Name for Your Blog and Finding a Domain Name

Your name is one of the first ways potential fans decide what you’re about and who you are.That’s why your name is so important.If you were a 45-yr old single mother of 3 kids, which blog would you be more attracted to?
  • parentinglife.com
  • momlife.com
  • singlemomlife.com
#3 of course. It’s much more specific to what you care about.

What should a great blog name have?

Your blog name doesn’t need ALL of these, but the more the better.

  1. A blog name should be easy to say aloud!
  2. It should be easy to spell & type. If you use fancy words or weird combinations, it can be really tough for people to type in your domain.
  3. Keep it short and brandable.
  4. Grab .com’s please! .net, .org, and .co are also ok, but avoid the fancy .ninja or .site or whatever.
  5. Avoid hyphens.
  6. Avoid double letters between words – petessite.com looks odd.
  7. You should like it and be proud of it 🙂

“doyouevenblog.com” wasn’t my 1st choice, but it was brandable, easy to say, and is easy to read and type out.

instant domain search

Where can we find available domain names?

  • Instant Domain Name Search is my GO-TO. Start typing and you’ll see availability and suggestions pop up in real time.
  • Lean Domain Search is awesome if you KNOW at least one word you want in the domain name. If you want “parenting” or “money” in my domain, etc.
  • WORDOID can be fun if you’re trying to create a new word.
  • Domainr if you are trying to find the shortest domain combination possible.
You can also use the widget below to check for some available domain names right this second!👇

How much does a domain name cost?

Note: If you grab a Bluehost hosting plan using my link (details below), you’ll get a FREE domain name! So don’t go buying one separately yet.

Assuming a domain is available for sale, it’ll run you about $10-15 per year.

This does NOT include hosting, which is more. However, we’ll show you how to get a FREE domain with your hosting below 🙂

Which is the best blogging platform to use (to make money?)

By platform, we mean the actual software tool you’ll use to create and publish a blog.

Here are the most common blogging platforms:

  • WordPress.com
  • WordPress.org (the same software, but installed on your YOUR host)
  • Wix
  • Weebly
  • SquareSpace
  • Medium
  • Joomla

My recommendation? Use the WordPress software hosted on your own 3rd-party hosting account.

WordPress powers 30-40% of the entire internet, for good reason: It’s easy to set-up, use, and offers the most flexibility for design AND monetization plugins!

This is the cheapest AND most flexible option!

What is blog hosting? How much is it, and which host should I choose?

When bloggers refer to “hosting,” we are referring to disk space essentially.

A website is nothing but a bunch of files–like files on your computer–and these need to be hosted somewhere.

That’s what you’re paying for.

How much does a domain name cost?

“Shared” hosting means there will be other websites hosted on the same server.

This is totally cool!

Always choose the cheapest shared hosting plan to start with–you can always upgrade later once your traffic starts going up.

For new bloggers, I recommend Bluehost for 4 huge reasons:

  1. You’ll get a FREE domain when you get a hosting package.
  2. It installs WordPress automatically (it’s amazing actually)
  3. Their hosting is priced well.
  4. Their customer support is quick and geared towards bloggers.

Why I Stand Behind My Bluehost Recommendation 110%

I recently went through the new blog set-up process again…

And Bluehost’s pain-free experience blew me away.

When you sign up for a new account–they will install WordPress for you automatically.

bluehost blog hosting

This is valuable if you’re new and have zero experience in cPanel, website backend settings, etc!

Bluehost is the best, quickest, and cheapest host if you’re just learning how to start and grow a blog.

Click here to use my Bluehost affiliate link, and you can follow the section below to have a working blog published within the next 15 minutes.

FAQ: How can I start a blog for free?

There are several platforms that allow you to blog for free, including:

However, you will NOT get a custom domain with free blogs–you’ll have .wordpress.com or .blogger.com on the end of your url.

Example: www.yourblogtitle.wordpress.com

You’ll also be limited in terms of themes & plugins.If you don’t care and just want to write today and have it published, go with Medium!

If you want a bit more control over the design, go with a free WordPress.com blog.

Here's a summary of the first 3 steps to start a blog:

1 – Pick out a domain name that is available.

Make sure it’s…

  • readable
  • sayable
  • type-able
  • not super long
  • explains what your blog is about
  • makes you happy! 😃

2 – Sign up for a hosting package.

For new bloggers, you can’t do better than Bluehost. It’s affordable, includes a FREE domain, and the WordPress installation literally takes one click. It’s fantastic.

How to set up hosting and install your WordPress blog

Here’s a start-to-finish video of me setting up a new blog–in 60 seconds!

The full details are below.

For this tutorial, I purchased a brand new domain to use as an example–theparentline.com!

How to install and set-up WordPress on Bluehost, step-by-step!

Step 1 – Head to Bluehost and click “get started” on the homepage.

Choose the basic hosting package. You DON’T need those extra features right now! You can always upgrade later 😉

Then, enter your domain name you found already.

Step 2 – Enter your contact details and select extras for your blog.

Enter your info, but CHANGE some of the pre-selected extras.

YOU DON’T NEED THESE.

The only one you MIGHT want to grab is the $0.99/month domain privacy protection. This will simply hide your name and address in the domain database records (which is public information).

Other than that, just pay for 12 months. It’s worth sacrificing the $1/month for a cheaper upfront payment.

3 – Enter CC information and pay.

THAT’S IT.

Bluehost will take care of pretty much everything else. 🔥🔥

  1. You’ll be directed to your Bluehost dashboard
  2. Bluehost will install your domain and WordPress software.

They’ll also hook you up with a temporary domain and log-in so you can get started on your site! All changes you make immediately will be carried forward to your real URL once it’s ready.

They’ll send you an email with some advanced information. File it away in case you need it in the future.

bluehost dashboard

FAQ – Where Do I Log-in to My WordPress Blog?

You don’t need your BlueHost dashboard to log-in to your blog’s WordPress dashboard–but rather navigate to yourblogurl.com/wp-admin.

I’d suggest adding it as a bookmark. I’ve got doyouevenblog.com/wp-admin on my bookmarks bar.

Important Note: It will take Bluehost a few hours to get your site set-up, but they’ll give you a temporary domain name in the meantime.

Add this to your bookmarks so you can find it easily!

Important: Change Your WordPress Password!

Click “log in to WordPress” in your Bluehost dashboard.

You should be automatically in your dashboard, at which point you’ll go to the top-right corner and hover over “admin.”

From there, you can click to update your email and scroll down and click “generate password.”

change wordpress password

NOW you should be able to log-in the normal way to your WordPress dashboard.

(Note: At first, you’ll probably be redirected to your temp domain site until BH finishes your install)

FAQ: What is cPanel? Do I need it for my blog?

cPanel is a dashboard software that most hosting providers use, and is what you use to access the actual files of your website, set up email addresses for your domain name, and much more.

If you’re going with another host like Namecheap or Siteground, you’ll use cPanel to install WordPress!

I made a video on how to install a WordPress blog via cPanel here!

If you choose Bluehost, you won’t need this right now.

But if you do need it, you can click “advanced” on the left menu in your Bluehost dashboard 😃

A quick tour of your new WordPress blog

Before we choose a blog theme and design/customize it, let’s take a quick tour of your blog!

Note: WordPress is like riding a bike–you will get frustrated and overwhelmed at some point, but it gets way easier once you learn it!

Here’s a full video walk-through (25 minutes) 👇

The WordPress Dashboard: What You Need to Know:

Your blog name at the top – This will take you to your homepage! (Once you’re there, the same button will take you back to the dashboard)

Posts – Here is where you create and publish new blog posts, view all published posts, and manage blog categories.

Podcast – You won’t see this on YOUR dashboard, but this is an important point: The side menu in the dashboard will eventually show the settings for various plugins 🙂

Links – Ignore this. You might not ever click this.

Pages – Similar to posts, here’s where you create and manage your pages, such as “About Us” or “Start Here” or “Contact,” etc.

Comments – When people comment on your posts, they’ll show up here for you to approve, deny, mark as spam, reply to, etc.

Appearance – Where you customize the look of your site, your theme, and menus. More on this in a below.

Plugins – Plugins are little add-ons to the WordPress system that perform various functions. We’ll dedicate an entire section to these below.

Settings – Controls broad settings for your website. We’ll dive in here in a second.

How to Choose Your WordPress Theme

It’s time for every new blogger’s favorite part of the process…

Building an awesome looking website!

Our best piece of advice? Start simple.

If you have no WordPress or HTML/CSS experience, stick with a WP theme you don’t have to customize a lot.

What are themes in WordPress?

A theme is technically a folder full of files, and these files control the appearance of your WordPress website.

Your theme can be customized, and changes things like…

  • The format and layout of your blog
  • Your fonts
  • Color schemes
  • and more.

Themes can be free or paid, simple to use or built for designers and developers.

Which theme is best for WordPress?

There are thousands of themes available, and you should select which one best works for you!

The theme you choose should be…

  • In your price range (or free)
  • A design style you like
  • Mobile-friendly (most are these days)
  • user-friendly (or have documentation available!)

How do I install WordPress themes on my blog?

There are two ways to install themes. If you have downloaded themes from the web, you can manually upload the zip files.

Don’t extract the zip files. Upload them as is!

how to upload wordpress themes zip files

Otherwise, you can browse, select, and install themes right from the WordPress dashboard, under “Appearance > Themes.”

You will click “Install,” and then “Activate.” All themes you install will be available in your theme dashboard, ready for you to switch if you choose!

wordpress apperance
adding new wordpress themes in dashboard

Where do I find themes for my blog?

You can browse blog themes right in your WordPress dashboard, under “Appearance > Themes > Add New.”

There are also thousands of themes available from 3rd party companies all across the internet!

which wordpress themes free or paid

Recommended provider or premium themes: StudioPress.

Pro Tip: StudioPress gives a 20-30% discount for repeat customers, so purchase the Genesis framework (the base theme you will need anyways), and then purchase a theme separately.

Recommended provider of free themes: Either the default WordPress theme (literally called “twentynineteen,” or a free minimal theme from this post.

Your WordPress blog should come with the default theme already installed–but if not, you can search for it in the theme dashboard.

WordPress makes a new “default” theme each year, and they are AMAZING.

They are simple, easy to get started on and offer the latest features. More new bloggers should use them.

A quick warning on free WordPress themes for your blog (that aren’t made by WordPress)

Some free themes might include limited features and want you to pay for a “premium” version of the theme.

What makes a great blog theme?

  • It needs to be mobile friendly! Most themes will say whether it is or not in the description.
  • You need the ability to quickly get up and running. Simple or “minimal” themes are best for this.
  • You need to be satisfied with the design (even though it WON’T be perfect)–so you can START blogging asap.
studiopress themes

Pro tip for beginners: When choosing a blog theme, look for one where the preview contains a lot of white space and looks LESS fancy. These themes are generally easier to set up.

FAQ: Do you recommend Divi or other drag-n-drop page builders?

Do not use Divi!

My students have started referring to Divi themes as “dreadful Divi” as they are a pain to build–and an even bigger pain to switch themes! They also slow down your blog.

Instead, I recommend the Elementor page builder.

  • It works on top of all other themes
  • It’s powerful and user-friendly
  • It’s free.

Interested in learning more? Check out my full Elementor Tutorial and Walk-Through!

elementor page builder

Before you start customizing your blog, create 1-2 test blog posts & pages.

In your dashboard, click “add new” under blog posts, add in a post title, and add in some dummy text.

As you choose different themes and start to customize them using WordPress, having test content will give you a better picture of what the theme will look like in the future–once you have actual content.

test blog posts to start

How to use the WordPress customizer to design your blog theme.

Good news and bad news, bloggers!

Bad news – Every theme is WAY different, so you’ll have to figure a lot of it out for yourself 🙁 🙁

Good news – You hopefully only have to do this process once, then you can focus on, ya know, blogging.

Head here under your WP Dashboard – Appearance – Customize.

That will bring up the live customizer.

accessing wordpress customizer
customizer dashboard

This is where you’ll shape most of the look and feel of your blog theme.

You’ll be diving through this section in the first month of blogging, and it’s important to remember you WILL get frustrated at some point 🙂

It’s a learning experience!

If this is your first day in WordPress, and you just installed a theme you like...

Here are the customize options you should take care of first!

Site Identity

This is important. If it’s not in there already…add the name of your site under site title, and an optional tagline.

Don’t bother with the site icon for now (though if you already HAVE a logo, great. Resize it to 512×512 pixels and upload it there.

Menu & Homepage Settings

We’ll be covering this below in the “how to create posts and pages” section 🙂

Widgets

Go ahead and play around with the widgets. You’ll see a bunch of random things to choose from that won’t mean much right now.

As you start to add content, build an email list, and install plugins, you’ll figure out which widgets you should put where.

Feel free to play around with whatever other settings your theme has–but do try to keep it simple! Don’t spend days and weeks here.

Get it 95%, then start blogging.

Installing essential WordPress plugins

What are WordPress plugins?

WordPress Plugins are “add-on” pieces of software that are not theme-specific and serve a wide variety of functions.

There are plugins to help with email marketing, images, comments, design, custom fonts, and more!

You can’t start a blog without plugins, period 😃

what are wordpress plugins

How do I install plugins on my blog?

There are 2 ways to install plugins:

  1. Search, install and activate via the WordPress plugin dashboard
  2. Upload manually from the same dashboard

Similar to uploading themes, you can download plugins from 3rd parties and upload them in ZIP format.

1 – Go to “plugins” in your WordPress Dashboard, this will show all the plugins installed on your blog!

wordpress plugin dashboard

3 – Click on “add new” at the top of that dashboard screen.

4 – This is the search function! From here you can search and browse plugins for your blog.

5 – To install, click “install now,” BUT YOU’RE NOT DONE YET. That button will eventually be replaced by an “Activate” button–you’ll need to press that too.

6 – For plugins you’ve downloaded from 3rd parties, the “upload plugin” button is at the top.

plugin installation

What are some good plugins for new bloggers?

Note: ALL of these are available today, for free, searchable right from the WordPress plugins dashboard!

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP)

We’ll use this plugin to connect our Google Analytics account (see below), allowing us to access blogging stats!

ShortPixel

This is easily the best image compression plugin (you simply install the plugin, change 1-2 settings, and it will shrink the file size of your image automatically–making your website load faster–which is important btw).

Yoast SEO

The most widely used SEO plugin on the internet, and it’s insanely easy to set up and use.

W3 Total Cache

All I can tell you right now is that you want your blog to be load really, really fast on people’s computers. You do. And this plugin will help.

UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin

What if you screw things up on the technical end and lose your entire blog? What if hackers destroy everything? Backups act as your safety net. This is the best free plugin for this.

Social Warfare

Used to get great looking social media share buttons for your posts! You won’t get hundreds of shares overnight, but you still need to give readers the opportunity!

Elementor

This is a drag-n-drop page builder–as we mentioned a minute ago.

Pretty Links

You’ll use these to create redirects for your affiliate marketing links–making your URLs contain your blog name. We’ll talk more about this below

Over the first several months of blogging, you’ll end up installing 5-10 more plugins probably, as you discover more of your needs. Don’t think you have to get everything to 110% today! Blogging is a long-term game.

Start simple.

Additional Resources: Here is my full list of blogging tools I use every day!

How to set up Google Analytics on your blog.

Why should we do this NOW?

You will want to see historical data, even if you don’t use Google Analytics (GA) for the next 6 months.

Bloggers LOVE to obsess over website traffic. You might even find yourself constantly logging into GA and checking your stats.

HOWEVER:

Blog Traffic is NOT a measure of your self-worth as a blogger and is additionally a USELESS blog metric on its own.

It’s a metric you’ll eventually use to figure out what’s working, and what types of content your audience enjoys best.

But to do that, you need it installed ASAP.

Sign up for an analytics account here (it’s free)

Once you sign in to your Google account, you’ll be shuffled through set-up questions.

google analytics dashboard

You’ll want to create your first “property,” i.e. “website.”

analytics property

Once you’ve added your first property, you’re done in Google Analytics, but you still have to go back to WordPress, and into the Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress plugin we installed…

  1. Go click on “Google Analytics” item on your dashboard (on the left towards the bottom probably).
  2. Click “authorize plugin”
  3. Click “Get access code”
  4. You might have to click “allow” on the next screen, else COPY the code and go back to your WP dashboard
  5. Enter the code
  6. Click “save access code.”
google analytics plugin setup

How to create blog content in WordPress

Here’s where most “how to start a blog” posts fail:

Getting your blog installed up and running is the easy part–it’s the creating content and marketing part that’s hard!

But don’t feel overwhelmed, we’ll walk through it!

Read on, blogger.

How to create pages and blog posts

It’s helpful to create a few sample posts and pages, (you can delete them later), so you’ll have SOMETHING on your site when looking at themes.

FAQ – What’s the difference between posts and pages? Pages are thought to be static and NOT attached to any particular date in time. Posts are dated and will show up in your “blogroll” (more on that in a second).

Here’s a basic tour of publishing a post. (and below that is the blog post dashboard)

how to publish a post in wordpress
wordpress all pages dashboard

Blog pages are similar, but often have different features depending on your theme.

If you have’t already done this, I’d suggest you create:

  • an about page
  • a BLANK page named “blog.” You’ll see why in a minute.
  • a BLANK page named “home.” Write 1 or 2 paragraphs explaining what your blog is.

Then create your first menu!

How to create a blog menu in WordPress

Menus are incredibly important to help your blog readers find their way around–and it can also be helpful to have a menu created BEFORE you start customizing your theme

(So you can see what it looks like)

creating a wordpress menu

You can add the pages you created, individual posts, categories, or custom links to the menu.

NOTE: You’ll still need to DISPLAY your menu once you’ve created it. You can do this under the WordPress Customizer, simply selecting the menu you just named and created.

NOTE 2: Many themes have different “menu locations,” such as one in the header, one in the footer, etc.

If you want, you can create different menus just for the different locations!

What is a static homepage? What is a blogroll homepage?

You have two options for what to display on your blog’s homepage.

  1. A static page
  2. Your blogroll

Blogroll = Shows your blog posts on the home page, beginning with the most recent.

Static page = Shows a welcome page of sorts as your homepage (you can choose to show any of your WordPress pages).

static homepage vs blogroll

Remember when we created pages named “home” and “blog,” and left them blank? This is why.

wordpress static page or blogroll

Feel free to assign your “home” and “blog” pages you created to see what it does.

There’s no right answer, but if you’re just starting out, I’d recommend sticking with the blogroll 🙂

How To “Produce Good Content”

You’ll hear those words often from people like me, but what does that actually mean?

  • The bad news = when you first start out, your content isn’t going to be great! (sorry)
  • The good news = you’ll get a little bit better with every single post 🙂

It takes time. Prepare mentally for that.

Your content will be “good” when it serves your blog’s purpose and accomplishes your goals.

Here are a few questions that'll help you create better blog content:

Is it well-written?

Are there typos or poor grammar? Is the prose readable and conversational?

Is it formatted correctly?

Are there enough line breaks, images, and sub-headers to make it easy to digest and/or skim?

NOBODY likes “walls of text”

wall of text example

Do you have an enticing intro and headline?

It doesn’t matter how good your content is if nobody clicks through your headline! Click here to learn how to produce awesome headlines using a headline analyzer.

Are your facts straight? Are your examples/metaphors relevant?

Put another way, do you actually know what you’re talking about? (Important if you’re trying to teach something).

Does it present a unique take?

Do you present any original ideas, stories, or theories, or is everything basically found elsewhere on the internet?

Have you infused passion, opinions, or idealism into the content?

Do you have something to say?

Are there share buttons?

THERE MUST BE SHARE BUTTONS.

Is it a good fit for your audience?

Will it connect with (or attract) your target reader?

It is something people want or need?

Be honest, does anybody want to read this? (If so, who and where do they hang out online? #marketing)

Remember: the quality of your content will improve over time, and the growth is directly related to how much “practice” you get. Write a lot!

You Must Optimize the 2 Most Important Pages of Your Site

what is blog optimization

Note: You should optimize ALL your blog posts and pages around your goal.

Is your goal to sell e-commerce products? Or to get people on your email list?

EVERYTHING on your site should be designed to funnel people to this goal.

That said…

Over time, your home and “about” pages will be the most visited pages on your entire blog.

A good home page might have a:

  1. Logo and/or name.
  2. Menu.
  3. Way to follow (opt-in and/or social follow)
  4. Links to your best or most recent content

A GREAT home (and about) page will have all the above, AND the following:

  • WHAT is this site about?
  • WHY should I follow this person (as opposed to other bloggers in your niche!)
  • WHAT is in it for me? (Or what is this blog going to do for ME)
dyeb home page

Where should you put this information?

  • “Static” homepage? use whatever widgets or plugins your theme has…and put it anywhere you can.
  • Blogroll? Put it up top in the sidebar! (With your opt-in right underneath it)

Your home and about pages exist to sell people on why they should follow YOU and reinforce what they’ll be learning on your blog.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to brand your blog, check out The “What Why What” Formula For Nurturing True Fans.

How to generate blog post topic ideas & create a content strategy

Sometimes blog post ideas just flow in your brain–and other times you’ll question every topic you’ve ever thought of.

This is normal…

…but the pro bloggers make blog post ideas into a repeatable system–called a content strategy.

Let’s start blogging with those systems now…

How do I come up with blog post ideas?

For random topic ideas that come out of nowhere, it’s important to have a “place” to capture those ideas for later, like an app on your phone.

However, you can also actively come up with ideas, too!

Method 1 – Prompt blog post topics with questions

  • What makes you angry about your blog topic?
  • Happy?
  • What advice needs to be said more often?
  • What would a complete beginner at [broad blog topic] need to know?
  • etc.

Method 2 – Use categories and sub-categories as topics.

First, lay out your 5-10 blog categories. If you need help, check out this post.

seo categories example

If you can’t think of your categories, go Google your blog’s competitors!

Example: Google “best personal finance blogs,” and dig through the results, noting their categories and sub-categories.

From there, brainstorm 2-3 sub-categories for each category.

Use these to brainstorm individual blog post topics.

Sometimes it’s easier to generate post ideas when we’re constrained to a specific topic or sub-topic! That’s easier than fighting a blank page.

Method 3 – Go to another post and break out one little detail.

Open up a previously published post, and find one section to dive deeper–creating a separate post just for that!

Method 4 – Use Google and Pinterest “suggestions.”

Just type “seed” keywords into Google or Pinterest, and use their search suggestions as blog post topic ideas.

How to create a content strategy.

  1. Generate blog post ideas in bulk first.
  2. Set long-term (2-3 years) and short-term goals (6-12 months)
  3. List out all the topics and individual posts that will contribute to those goals!
  4. Prioritize based on which posts contribute more.
  5. Organize ideas into months or weeks.

This process is basically “reverse-engineering” your blog goals.

Team DYEB keeps all our content ideas, and schedule, in a Trello board.

Start with the end in mind.

  • What are my monetization goals?
  • Traffic goals?
  • Which posts will get me to those goals faster?

Generate a ton of ideas first, then organize them onto the calendar based on your goals!

Further reading: How to Create a Blog Plan (That You’ll Crush💪)

How to start driving blog traffic (for beginners)

Part 1 - social media

So what’s the goal?

To drive traffic to your blog, which you will convert into regular readers, loyal fans, and buyers.

Honest warning: driving traffic is not easy, and will take a while to ramp up!

blog traffic for beginners

Google and Pinterest were specifically meant to drive traffic to blogs.

Everywhere else?

Not so much…

Social media channels were not designed to send people to your blog. They’re designed to keep people on THEIR SITE.

Facebook wants to keep you on Facebook and will do everything in their power to keep you on Facebook.

Any “tactics” or “strategies” we talk about is technically using these platforms for ways in which they are UNINTENDED to function.

That said, social media still plays a vital role in early blog traffic!

How do I know which social media channels will work for me?

what is marketing

Simple. Where does your audience hang out?

Is your target reader on Pinterest all day? Or Reddit?

It’s crucial you target the websites and social platforms that your readers are actually using!

How to drive blog traffic from Twitter

For some niches (blogging, personal finance, travel), Twitter is a GREAT place to start connecting with people and also drive traffic.

How to get started:

  • Head to Twitter, sign up for an account, and start following other bloggers and people in your niche.
  • Some will follow you back, some won’t….but the MORE you engage, the better chances you have of connecting with people and ultimately driving traffic.
  • It’ll take a while though.

Where to find out more: How to Use Twitter to Drive More Traffic to Your Blog : Social Media Examiner

How to drive new blog traffic from Facebook

Yes, feel free to create a Facebook page for your blog!

But as of 2019, Facebook has changed their algorithms to favor people staying on Facebook!

They want you to use paid Facebook advertising to send blog traffic–and use your pages & groups to interact and engage followers/fans ON Facebook.

What does that mean for us?

  1. Facebook groups are probably more beneficial to us than having a page for our blog.
  2. Facebook Ads are where it’s at.

However, when you’re first starting, every little bit helps!

  1. Create a Facebook page for your blog. Make it public.
  2. Spend a bit of time adding your logos, writing a description, etc!
  3. Invite your friends and family to “like” the page.
  4. Promote new blog posts on the page–but also create content just for Facebook! (Facebook live video, text updates, funny memes and gifs, etc)

If you don’t mind doing it, share your blog posts on your personal timelines as well!

You’ll get a small trickle of traffic, but it’s not going to make or break your blog traffic.

New blogger homework: create a "blog hitlist."

Once you work for a few hours on a blog post and hit “publish,” the LAST thing you’ll want to do is spend more time promoting it.

So why not make it easy on yourself?

blog marketing hitlist

Objective: Create a standard checklist of ALL promotional duties you should do after you hit publish for post. (example above)

  1. Grab a piece of paper (or open a Google Doc)
  2. Write out every social profile you promote each post on.
  3. Print it out and USE IT every time you publish

In the early days of your blog, social media will account for the most traffic!

But without a huge following, those traffic numbers are going to be quite small.

The blog traffic strategy I recommend: create social profiles and start promoting when you publish something new–but start playing the long game for SEO and Pinterest at the same time!

It takes time, but it’ll be worth it.

A beginner's guide to driving blog traffic with SEO

what is seo

Warning: Me trying to teach you all about SEO in 5-10 minutes is impossible!

Below are the beginner blogger tactics you can start taking action on now–but if you’re interested in learning more, I suggest taking my FREE 60-Minute SEO course!

First, the basics.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are strategies designed to get your blog posts listed in Google search results (or other search engines) for various “keywords.”

SEO is perhaps the top way of driving traffic to your blog, even though it takes a while to make happen!

Is SEO a viable strategy for beginners?

Yes and no.

It takes a while for Google to start seeing your blog as relevant and authoritative on your topic! It can be slow going….but YES, today is when to start, despite the fact that you might not see results for 6 months or more.

Is SEO free?

Yes, trying to rank in Google is among the free-est of free marketing strategies. 💰

How long will it take me to build SEO traffic?

It depends on several things!

  • How often do you post new blog content?
  • What niche are you in? Some topics are easier to rank for than others.
  • How much will you work on promotion and building backlinks?

On average, you’ll likely start to see organic SEO traffic around months 3-4, building slowly over the next 3-6 months, and then more substantial growth periods between months 12-18.

What do I need to "do" for SEO?

  1. On-site SEO – set your site up to make Google happy
  2. On-page SEO – create content that makes Google’s users happy
  3. Off-site SEO – promote your blog content and earn relevant backlinks!

New Blog SEO Part 1 - Get your site set up.

new blog seo site structure optimization

If you’re just learning how to start a blog, here are the first steps to an SEO strategy:

1 – Make sure Google knows your site exists

2 – Choose a mobile-friendly theme!

3 – Take care of your site title & description for SEO purposes

4 – Set up your blog categories

5 – Install 2 plugins to make your blog load faster

1 - Make sure Google knows your site exists!

This will allow Google to “crawl” your site, searching for new posts and updating search results accordingly!

  1. Install the free version of Yoast (via the link above or in your WordPress plugins dashboard)
  2. Sign up for a free Google Search Console account using the link above.
  3. Here’s how to connect your website, step-by-step!
After you’ve done this, Google will have an easier time digging through your site! It might take 24 hours to kick in when you first set this up.

2 - Test your blog theme to make sure it's mobile-friendly

Make sure your theme is mobile friendly by using Google’s own mobile test here.

If it’s not, you should choose a new theme that is.

3 - Set your site title & description.

If your homepage is set to a static page…navigate to that page in WordPress and update the title and description in the Yoast SEO snippets box (see image below)

If your homepage is set to a blogroll, you can edit your site’s title and description in the Yoast SEO plugin settings dashboard under “Search Appearance.”

site title and description

4 - Make your blog categories SEO-friendly

We use your broad blog categories (“Parenting,” “personal finance,” “travel”) to tell Google what your site is about!

Go ahead and create these in WordPress, even if you don’t have content yet!

  • Name – Make it descriptive! “Tips” is bad. “Dog Grooming Tips” is better.
  • Slug – The name in all lowercase and with hyphens in there (“dog-grooming-tips”)
  • Description – Write 2-5 sentences explaining what the category is about
wordpress categorie dashboard

5 - Use a compressor and caching plugin to make your site load fast.

We’ve already discussed ShortPixel and W3 Total Cache (above in the plugins section).

Google favors sites with quick load times–and these 2 plugins will speed up your blog!

New Blog SEO Part 2 - Identify keywords and produce content that satisfies "user intent"

User Intent = What Google searchers really want and need to find when they enter a search query.

Google’s business model is built on MATCHING the right content to their users’ intent.

If your blog post focused on [XYZ] keyword is actually the best thing on the internet for the search term–theoretically, it should rank #1 in Google.

That’s the mindset of an SEO expert: Try to produce the best possible piece of content (and make sure Google sees it as such) for the given user intent.

When I'm first starting a blog, should I bother with keyword research?

I would do a very basic brainstorming session!

  1. Take your broad topic (parenting, travel, blogging, etc)
  2. Identify your categories & sub-categories
  3. Use those as “seed” keywords to plug into a site like Answer the Public!

If you install the free Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere, you’ll also be able to see rough search estimates!

I made a 10-minute video on free keyword research for new bloggers here.

keywords everywhere

How to produce blog content that ranks for SEO:

  1. Know what keywords you’re targeting.
  2. Understand the intent behind the keywords!
  3. You accomplish this by opening Google, typing in your keywords, opening the first several results and browsing through! Take notes on what sub-topics THOSE posts cover.
  4. Craft your content. Be incredibly thorough, detailed, and engaging–all the while trying to satisfy that “user intent” behind the keyword.

Example: 

If I’m going to target “budgeting app,” I’d do a quick search in Google for that keyword, and open up the 1st 10 results.

After looking at those, it’s pretty clear what Google is ranking–round-up and review posts talking about the best budgeting apps.

After knowing that, I’d head back and craft my content.

I’m not worried as much about keywords–but rather the idea behind the keywords.

Take the free 60-Minute SEO course for way more details!

What are backlinks, and are they important for SEO?

Backlinks are crucial for ranking in Google!

If a relevant and authoritative website links back to your content, Google looks at that like “Woah! This must be good! Some other trustworthy website thinks so at least!”

If I’m trying to rank for the search term “best personal finance tips” and CNN Money links back to my article…Google gives me some “link juice” (SEO lingo for “strong backlink”).

At the time of this writing, DYEB has over 3k backlinks and almost 400 unique referring domains.

How do you get backlinks as a new blogger?

1 – You produce blog content worthy of linking back to.

Not quite the answer you wanted to hear, right? The fact is, nobody wants to link to and share crappy content, so do your best to produce excellent content! You WILL find people linking to it over time.

2 – You ask other bloggers for backlinks.

I’m not a huge fan of this, but some are. Read Brian Dean’s link building guide for more info!

A new blogger's guide to Pinterest traffic

Why is Pinterest good for driving blog traffic?

Pinterest is actually less of a social media channel and more of a search and discovery engine.

This means that it is in Pinterest’s best interest to send traffic to your blog.

It’s part of their business model!

Pinterest traffic overview for new bloggers

Initial steps = set up your Pinterest profile and boards, and verify your domain name

Ongoing Pinterest marketing = create enticing pins for your content, and pin them to relevant boards on Pinterest (manually or using Tailwind).

Here are the specifics, blogger!

How to set up your blog's profile on Pinterest

  1. Create a Pinterest business account.
  2. Set up your name and bio. (using niche keywords if you can!)
  3. Create 15-20 boards based on keywords!
  4. Fill up your boards with other people’s content. (Make sure you’re pinning GOOD and RELEVANT content! It matters!)

Pro tip: How to find Pinterest keywords.

Go to the top search bar on Pinterest, and search for something around your niche.

how to find pinterest keywords

The suggestions that pop up are what other users are searching for!

This is helpful for naming your boards, as well as generating content ideas and finding keywords to include in your Pin descriptions.

How to create great pins for your blog posts

Your pins should…

  1. Stand out & grab attention
  2. Contain only high-quality photos
  3. Optional: contain keywords that are easy to read (big enough to read on mobile!)

I suggest starting with Canva to create your pins. It’s free and easy enough to learn! You can grab stock photos from within the app, or from a site like Pexels.

Here is the pin image for this post. (Feel free to pin if you desire!)

What's a good pinning strategy to drive traffic?

Here is how Alisa Meredith from Tailwind laid it out for me when I spoke to her on the podcast.

  1. For every new blog post, create a pin (or 2-3 pins if you have the capacity to experiment with testing)
  2. First, you’ll want to pin it to the most relevant boards of yours. (not a group board).
  3. At the same time, add the pin to your Tailwind Tribes if you’re a part of any (see the link above for more info).
  4. Next, you can pin it to other relevant boards of yours (it could be the next day, or spread out over a week, etc, using a scheduler like Tailwind)
  5. After that, feel free to pin to any relevant group boards you are a part of.

Note the word “relevant” appears a lot!

Pinterest will NOT send you more traffic just because you’re spamming your pins 30 times a day. Publish the pin in boards that are highly relevant to your post’s contrent.

An Email List-Building Tutorial for New Bloggers

Sending an email newsletter will be your most effective marketing platform!

When you post to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest….your content MIGHT be shown to your followers.

With an email list, there’s a 100% chance your followers will see you emailed them (assuming your email didn’t go to the spam folder).

build email list

Here's a new blogger's overview of email list-building

  1. Sign up for an email service provider (ESP) like ConvertKit (starts at $29/month), Mailchimp (free), or Mailerlite (free).
  2. Install an opt-in form on your website
  3. Convince people to join – Via a freebie (lead magnet, content upgrade), by running a giveaway, or just asking them.
  4. You will “date” your list. (more below)

What do I actually email my blog followers?

Think of your email list like dating.

You don’t want to come on too strong too quickly (spamming new subscribers with loads of emails, links, and sales pitches).

On the other hand, you don’t want to let them completely forget they’re on your blog’s newsletter! (waiting several months between emails).

what to email list

Even when you’re just starting your blog, I believe you should start emailing your small following 1-2 times a month!

  • Notify them of new blog posts, and give a quick “here’s what you’ll learn” summary.
  • Send them content they won’t find anywhere else, i.e. “subscriber-only” content! This will make them feel special and encourage them to keep opening your newsletter.
  • Keep the sales and affiliate marketing pitches to a minimum.

How to get your first 100 email subscribers

Do this BEFORE worrying about an email tool or opt-ins.

  1. Call, text, and FB message your friends and family and ask them.
  2. Use the template below (but PLEASE customize a bit)
  3. Write down their emails on a piece of paper. Upload them to your email service later.
email outreach template

Why do this?

You’re not trying to CON your friends into caring about your blog–you’re trying to get your first bit of support.

A jumping off point. Something to get the ball rolling for a new blog. They don’t need to be super interested in your topic, they just need to know, trust, and like you!

Send them something completely honest, like…

Hey [name]!

So I’ve recently started a blog about [your topic], because [reason you’re doing this].

I thought it might be something you’d be interested in (or at the very least able to support me on). Can I include you in the first newsletter?

–your name

You’ll be surprised how this close group of 100-200 people can kickstart shares and growth.

How to Technically Setup an Email List - a guide for new blogs!

For bloggers with less than 500 subscribers, I recommend Mailerlite (Mailchimp is ok, but less user friendly) or ConvertKit.

  • On a budget? Use Mailerlite. It’s free up to 1,000 subs
  • Ok to pay $29/mo and want the BEST? ConvertKit.
Once you have an account created, here’s the process.

FAQ: My email provider is asking for a physical address--do I have to give it to them?

YES. It’s the law! You must include unsubscribe information and an address in your email footers.

Most bloggers I know rent out a P.O. Box so they don’t have to use their home address. I pay $100 a year for mine. You can also use a work address!

1 - Create a form

In both Mailerlite and ConvertKit, you’ll need to create a form.

New bloggers should keep it simple! We’ll talk about what language to use on your form below.

Here’s a help guide for setting up a form in Mailerlite.

2- Embed the form on your new blog

There are 2 options:

  1. Copy and paste the Javascript OR HTML code your email provider gives you.
  2. Use a WordPress plugin!

Both ConvertKit and Mailerlite have WordPress plugins that you’ll connect to your account using an API key (if you’re having trouble with this, look up some documentation on your provider’s site!).

However, it’s pretty easy to copy/paste the HTML code into your blog posts, sidebars, or widgets.

3 - Test your new opt-in!

Technically, you should have a working opt-in form on your new blog, which allows people to follow you via email!

But you should always test your form to make sure it works! Enter your own email and make sure it works.

How Do I Convince People to Opt-in to My Blog Newsletter?

how to grow an email list 2

“Subscribe here” doesn’t do ANYTHING for anybody.

Here are a few proven ways to attract email subscribers.

Method 1 - The Freebie

freebie optin
A personal finance blogger offering a freebie download

A “bonus” piece of content you give away in exchange for somebody’s email. It needs to be something your reader REALLY wants!

  • A bonus video
  • A PDF checklist or printable
  • A PDF version of the blog post
  • A free email course
  • Anything more than a single blog post!

If the freebie isn’t desirable enough, it’s not going to attract emails. (see more below)

If you’re new, go for the short (but effective) free email course, as you don’t need to learn how to produce video or design a nice-looking ebook, etc.

Method 2 - The “Purpose Ask”

Share the purpose of your newsletter and ask people to join.

Include 2-3 sentences on WHAT your emails cover and WHY they should join!

the purpose ask optin

Example:

Be sure to join our infrequent newsletter, where we send out exclusive content you won’t even find on the blog, as well as updates, deals, and other really useful content on [your topic].

Our emails don’t stink 🙂

Want to learn more? Here are 20 email list-building strategies for beginners.

How to Create Your First Freebie

  1. Brainstorm 5 topics your audience cares about.
  2. Choose 1 you feel the most confident teaching people about.
  3. Outline how you’d teach it over 5-7 lectures.
  4. Write it out for a 3-7 day email course.

Just make sure it’s GOOD and personal!

The more time and effort you put into making it good, the more likely people are to stick around to your email list….or even share it.

Summary: New bloggers should still grow an email list!

There’s not better platform for communicating with your audience, whether that’s informing followers of new blog posts, selling blogging products, or just sharing thoughts or ideas.

Also, it’s not rocket science!

  1. Get your forms installed
  2. Add some compelling language convincing followers to join you (tell them why they should!)
  3. Start emailing them 2-3 times a month.
  4. Give it time to grow!

How to Start a Blog That Actually Makes Money

First, know that making money from a new blog is hard, and it takes time to grow!

But it is possible.

In section we’ll cover blog monetization methods to use when you first start a blog, as well as long-term strategies to produce part or full-time income.

blog monetization for new bloggers

Blog monetization 101

Before we discuss different ways to make money–and strategies–know this first.

There are 2 factors for making money from your blog:

  1. Number of followers
  2. Trust from your followers

Bloggers who make money either have lots of traffic & followers, or a great deal of trust from their audience, or both!

Obviously a blogger who has millions of pageviews a month stands to make more money than a brand new blogger.

However, building a transparent & authentic blog can help jumpstart the earning process, because the followers you DO have will know you and trust you more.

FAQ: How do you become a blogger and get paid?

Blogs are monetized in a few different ways:

  • display ads on your site (and get paid when they’re viewed or clicked).
  • promote other people’s products on your site and get paid referral fees when your readers purchase them (affiliate marketing).
  • create your own physical or digital products.
  • freelance blogging services for other sites.

We’ll cover all of these below!

A New Bloggers Guide to Affiliate Marketing

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is process of promoting other people’s products (usually through a special link given to you), and receiving a “referral commission” when somebody buys through your link.

For example, I applied to be a part of ConvertKit’s affiliate program, they accepted me, and now I can share my “special URL.”

convertkit affiliate link example

If anybody signs up through one of my links, I get 30% of everything they pay ConvertKit!

How Do I Get Started in Affiliate Marketing?

  1. Find products you want to promote
  2. See if they HAVE an affiliate program
  3. If so, apply to join
  4. You’ll get a “special link”
  5. Share that link in your blog posts
  6. Hope people click through and buy 🙂

Obviously, there are strategies to increase the likelihood of your readers purchasing through your link.

We’ll discuss those below!

Where do I find affiliates to promote as a new blogger?

There are 3 different places to find affiliates:
  1. Amazon (see below)
  2. Affiliate networks (see below)
  3. Company-Specific platforms (such as ConvertKit)

Amazon allows you link to any product on Amazon and receive a small commission if the clicking person buys anything.

The Amazon affiliate program is great for new bloggers

You can apply for the Amazon Associates program here.

Once approved, you’ll have a new stripe at the top of your Amazon pages.

There are also several networks of companies that make finding affiliate products a breeze:

new blogger affiliate network

Once you have an account with any of these networks, you can search for products by category, and they also have a streamlined application process for each “vendor.”

They work the same way, but it’s for different companies outside the Amazon bubble.

Do I Need Massive Traffic to Start Promoting Affiliate Links?

Massive? No. Some? Yes.

In order to make referrals, you’ll need people clicking through the links and buying!

There are two ways to improve conversion rates:

  1. Build more trust with your readers (so they’ll know your recommendations are solid)
  2. Build more traffic and clicks (the more clicks, the more likely someone will buy)

An affiliate marketing strategy for new blogs:

There are 2 kinds of affiliate marketing:

  • Passive = casually dropping in affiliate links in your blog posts.
  • Active = creating blog content, social media content, or email marketing content, specifically to promote affiliate products!

In order to make $500/month or more via passive affiliate marketing, you’ll need traffic!

Lots of traffic.

That’s where “active” promotion comes in.

How to actively promote affiliate products:

It’s simple. Create content specifically designed to sell other people’s affiliate products.

SmarterQueue is my recommended social media sharing tool for new bloggers, and I created an in-depth review and tutorial post for it:

Creating blog or social media content specifically to sell an affiliate product is much more compelling to your readers, and it also gives off a feeling of “trust me!”

Else you wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of creating the entire blog post.

Here's another important strategy:

Only promote products that are a good fit for your audience, and that you ACTUALLY recommend.

Do you believe in your own recommendations? If not, DON’T PROMOTE.

Sacrificing reader trust is not worth the chance of the small commission.

Important: You Need a Disclaimer to Promote Affiliate Links!

Warning: I am not a lawyer, nor does this blog post provide actual legal advice. The following are just my tips and opinions.

The government has mandated we disclose that we’re sharing affiliate links! This means

  1. Creating a disclaimer page on your site
  2. Linking to it in EVERY post you include affiliate links.
affiliate disclosure note under blog post title

If you want to get into affiliate marketing when you first start a blog, do this:

Overwhelmed?

When you first start a blog, do this:

  1. Sign up for the Amazon Affiliate program (only because it’s easy and free)
  2. Start blogging.
  3. You’ll find yourself naturally recommending products.

When that happens, do a quick Google search to see if that product has an affiliate program, and apply at that time!

Don’t waste time applying to 18 programs before you have the audience in place to click on your links!

Traditional blog advertisements (display ads)

should new bloggers show ads 2

What are display ads?

Blog ads are “dynamically inserted” advertisements from 3rd party ad platforms, like Google Adsense, Adthrive, or Mediavine.

“Dynamically inserted” just means that all you do is install a bit of code on your blog, and the content of the ads (and which companies are being advertised) update automatically!

You earn a tiny amount of revenue when a visitor sees the ad, and a bit more if a visitor actually clicks through the ads.

How to start showing display ads on your blog

  1. Apply to an ad network.
  2. They review your site, check your traffic, etc.
  3. Once approved, you’ll be able to choose sections of your site to place ads (in the content, in the footer, in the sidebar, etc)
  4. That’s it. You’re done. You collect checks.
Here are a few ad networks:

You can technically sign up for Google Adsense when you start your blog–but until your traffic grows to 1,000-5,000 page views a month, it’s not going to pay you anything!

I do not suggest putting ads on your site as a new blogger! The ads distract from your content, and there are far better ways to make money 😃

How to make money with sponsored blog posts

There are companies out there who will pay you to produce content that talks about their product or service!

However, if the thought of emailing influencers or companies asking them for money scares you…this monetization strategy is not for you.

When you’re a big-time blogger, companies will reach out to you asking to sponsor you!

But when you first start a blog, you’ll have to do the outreach ☹️

new blog sponsorship

How do I get sponsored content for my blog?

  1. Have something to offer the brands you want to partner with (Can you send them customers, leads, or other exposure?)
  2. Conduct outreach to build relationships with the brands you choose.
  3. Once you’re communicating with a decision-maker, usually in the “partnership” or marketing departments, send them a pitch!
  4. Work with the brands on a content strategy that will benefit both them, and you, and your readers.

And by “brand,” I mean another blogger you could provide value to, a small business, or a large company.

How much do you charge for sponsored blog posts?

In ConvertKit’s guide to getting your first sponsored post, they detail three guidelines:

  1. Be honest and truthful
  2. Your audience comes first
  3. Don’t sell yourself short

That third part is crucial! Even as a new blogger, you have more to offer than you think!

When you first start out–start with asking the brand/company what their budget is!

Use that as a first step to negotiating and to get a rough idea of what you should charge.

Check out my how to monetize a blog megapost to learn more about sponsored posts.

A New Bloggers Guide to Creating Your Own Products

new blog digital products

From ebooks, online courses, membership sites, etc…

Creating and launching your own products is more difficult than affiliate marketing–but also more lucrative.

There’s only one rule for creating your own products: It must be worth paying for. The format matters less than whether or not your audience WANTS the product.

Build products people ask for, and making sales will be 10x easier.

What are some examples of digital products (info products) I can sell on my blog?

  • Online courses
  • Workshops or other learning programs
  • Membership sites
  • eBooks
  • Other downloads (spreadsheets, videos, anything)
  • Online “virtual” summits

Out of all the world-class bloggers I’ve interviewed, 90% of them sell their own product in some way!

Here is a screenshot of my friend Liz’s ebook sales widget.

liz wilcox ebook

2 Real Example of Products I sold in the early days of this blog

A 30-day blogging challenge.

My first product was a 30-day email course, prompting bloggers with challenges to grow their audience. 20 people purchased it for $1,600 gross.

What I learned:

  • The more you can build trust and respect from your audience, the easier it is to make sales.
  • Your first product might stink. Mine fell flat with those who bought, but it gave me a roadmap for making it better.

The “Most Productive Month Ever” Program

This was a service where I called bloggers to check-in on their goals each week—and also give them encouragement and advice.

I charged $125 for the month and had 6 people buy-in for $750 total.

What I learned:

Get creative trying to answer the most important question: What does my audience need?

I eventually took everything I learned with those early products and started creating blogging courses & workshops!

I made over $31,000 from courses alone in my first 18 months.

A Step-by-Step Formula for Creating Blogging Products

Step 1 – Have at least some small audience.

If you’re a new blogger, you won’t be holding six-figure product launches.

However, you can (and should) start small, with a small audience, and work your way up!

Step 2 – Establish a connection with your audience.

That ebook pictured above sold over 100 copies when Liz launched it to a list of only 300 people.

How??

Because Liz took extra time to email back and forth with her early followers, asking them questions & creating a real connection! This allowed her to “warm up” her audience, as well as understand them much better.

The responses I get help me establish a connection and create products people want!

Step 3 – Brainstorm ideas for your product.

Here are a few questions to help:

  • What are other people in my niche selling?
  • What topics or sub-topics do my readers generally find more useful?
  • Where does your audience get stuck?
  • What “how to” subject could you teach that could NOT be covered in a single blog post?
I also send surveys out once or twice a year to learn more.

Step 4 – Validate your product.

Repeat after me: I will validate a product’s potential BEFORE I do the work of creating it.

So how do we validate product ideas?

We ask people to pay for them (buy) before the product even exists.

Sure, you could ask readers if they would buy your product, but nothing compares to actually asking for their money. That’s when you know you have a viable idea, or a dud.

Step 5 – Build the product.

  • Online courses? Thinkific (not Teachable!) is what I’d recommend for building your course.
  • Membership Site? Restrict Content Pro is a great WordPress I’ve used in the past.
  • Ebook? Use Canva to help design book covers, then sell the PDFs via Easy Digital Downloads.

Step 6 – Launch the product.

I’ve already mapped out a simple product launch checklist you should read.

Go read that, and good luck!

Blogging Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Many of these questions might not mean much to you know–but they might soon!

When you first start a blog, you don’t actually know what you don’t know.

I.e. there may be things you’re doing wrong or could be doing better–but you’re simply unaware of that fact!

FAQs related to starting a blog:

Click the boxes to expand the answers!

The process of starting a blog has never been easier in 2019! You’ll simply choose your topic & domain name, purchase a hosting account and install WordPress, then customize your site and start producing content!

The only change for 2019 is the fact that so many new blogs are created every single day!

The importance of niching down, standing out, and remaining consistent has never been more important.

Starting a personal blog brings several benefits, including…

  • An opportunity to teach people something you know
  • A fun hobby
  • A potential side hustle to make money
  • In-demand technical skills you could leverage in your career
  • and more.

The cost of starting a blog depends on the medium you choose!

You can start for free using a site like Medium, Blogger, or a free WordPress account.

If you want more customization and a custom domain name, you can start with a hosting company like Bluehost, Godaddy, or SiteGround for as little as $3 a month.

FAQs related to making money from a blog:

It depends on how they are monetizing their blog.

Bloggers who run ads on their site get paid a small amount (from the ad network) per page view and per click.

Affiliate marketers earn a small referral commission every time one of their readers make purchase after using their unique “affiliate ink” URL.

Bloggers who create and sell their own products usually get paid from their customers directly using an ecommerce platform, etc.

When you first start a blog, it could take several months to ramp up an income stream.

The most common forms of beginner blog monetization include serving display advertisements on your blog posts–and making money through affiliate marketing.

New bloggers need to build both the size of their audience, as well as trust and respect from their audience.

This process can take several months, and even 1-2 years.

However, display advertising and affiliate marketing strategies can be implemented starting from day one–and usually grow slowly as traffic starts to increase.

FAQs related to driving traffic to a new blog:

The platforms that tend to drive the most traffic quickly include social media channels and Pinterest.

The first steps to driving traffic quickly is to set up social media profiles on the platforms you believe will serve you the best, then start connecting with other bloggers in your niche (as well as potential readers!).

Next, set up a Pinterest profile and start creating pins for new blog posts, pinning them to relevant boards you’ve created.

Your traffic will not explode immediately, but these strategies are quicker than long-term SEO traffic.

First, you’ll need to define who your audience is in as much detail as possible. This will help you create content that will attract them better!

Next, brainstorm where your audience hangs out on the internet. Which social platforms do they use? Etc.

Next, you’ll need to start creating content (consistently) that matters to them! Once you understand your readers, their lives, and their problems, this will seem easier.

Last, ask them to follow you. Literally.

Ask to follow you on social media and opt-in to your newsletter. Be direct and tell them what’s in it for them to follow you!

There are four primary blog traffic sources that can utilized for free:

  1. Social media platforms
  2. Organic SEO (Google, Bing)
  3. Other people’s websites (that link back to you)
  4. Your email newsletter

By creating quality content that matters to your specific audience, and promoting your blog posts on these channels, you’ll be driving traffic for free.

But it’s a long, hard process!

For short-term traffic strategies like promoting on social media–the speed at which you drive traffic depends on how quickly you can grow your followers!

You can always reach out to your immediate network of family or friends when you first start–this will help you send an initial wave of traffic to your blog.

For long-term strategies like SEO, you’ll need to build authority and backlinks, as well as body of content. This generally takes months to start sending 1,000+ page views a month, and roughly a year to start sending 5,000+ page views a month.

When you first start out, commit to at least 12 months of blogging!

First, you’ll need to identify the “smallest viable audience” within your niche. I.e. “niche down.”

Creating content for this subset of your audience makes it much easier to stand out to those individuals. You can broaden your scope later on.

Also, a catchy brand name, domain name, and professional-looking brand colors can help you stand out in social media promotion.

Your headlines are also incredibly important for grabbing attention on social media or Google SEO–so spend time making sure your headlines are enticing (but also relevant to your audience and to the topic at hand.)

Did I miss anything?

If you have any questions, please drop me a question in the comments section below!

How to Survive Your First 12 Months as a New Blogger

survive new blog

At some point, every new blogger wants to quit during their first year.

Seriously.

Below is a guide to quitting or not quitting–as well as how to set yourself up to make it through the tough times and come out ahead with a success blog!

How to Know When to Persist–or Quit Your Blog:

0-3 months

Do not quit. Period. Commit to at least 3 months.

3-6 months

You’re past the technical frustrations and feeling comfortable producing content.

If you’re feeling frustrated over…

  • not seeing the results you want – DO NOT QUIT
  • spending so much time on your blog – DO NOT QUIT. Do less blogging.
  • realizing you don’t like any of this – QUIT ASAP.
quit blogging

6-12 months

This is when NOT seeing growth wears down your enthusiasm, motivation, and stamina.

It SUCKS.

Quit if you believe it’s right, but I’d HIGHLY encourage you to focus more on the process, and less on the results.

This tough period is why I built most of my courses and programs–to usher people through the other side to blog sustainability!

Here’s How to Make It Through the Tough Times:

Get connected and lean on others.

A blogger support network (friends and groups) will be the difference between success and blog mediocrity.

First, join the Do You Even Blog Tribe Facebook group.

There will ALWAYS be a great group of bloggers willing to step up and help you with any problems you might be facing.

Next, email pete@doyouevenblog.com. I open every single email I receive.

If you’re thinking about quitting but not sure, email me and I’ll do my absolute best to help you make the right choice.

Last, make a blogging friend.

I mean “friend” in the real sense of the word!

Somebody you can confide your struggles with, ask for advice, and generally just grow with!

Start hanging out in blogging groups, be real, and seriously try to find a blogging buddy.

Where to go from here...

A wise person once said “Blogging success isn’t about one big event–it’s about a million small events you conquer every single day.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Now that you’ve started a blog and began the journey, let’s talk about what to do next in order to grow.

next steps to starting a blog 2

First, start blogging.

  1. Write every single day, even if it’s only for 3 minutes! Build those writing productivity muscles.
  2. Commit to a publishing schedule. Once a day or once a month. Make a commitment and be consistent.
  3. Make a marketing hitlist (described earlier in the traffic section)
  4. Choose a long-term traffic strategy to work on and learn first. SEO or Pinterest?
  5. Write, publish, email your list, promote, learn, and repeat.

Do the work! Blogging is about a 1,000,000 small changes and wins performed every day.

To learn more about Pinterest marketing...

I have amazing podcast interviews with Alisa from Tailwind, as well as Kate Ahl from Simple Pin Media.

However, I do not teach Pinterest marketing on Do You Even Blog!

I recommend checking out Kate Ahl’s blog and podcast over at Simple Pin Media!

To learn more about SEO for blog traffic...

Take my free course, 60-Minute SEO!

I’ll take you to 90% SEO mastery in 10 minutes a day for 6 days.

60-minute SEO

You can also check out the Beginner SEO Course here. It’s concise and HD video based!

To learn more about blog monetization...

Check out the Beginner Monetization course.

It covers…

  • Fundamentals for growing trust and selling
  • Affiliate Marketing (in great detail)
  • and more.

Enjoy this post?

First,

If you’d like to join the Do You Even Blog Tribe, you can do so below.

Our email list sends out blogging content you won’t fine anywhere else–including on this site 😃

Second,

If you already have a blog (bonus points if you have your own “how to start a blog” post!), you can support DYEB by linking back to this post from your own blog! 

Third,

If you feel so inclined, share this post with your friends!

Share on facebook
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Email
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LinkedIn
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Pinterest
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Reddit

Questions or comments? Drop a comment below!

If you don’t have any questions, feel free to comment and say “hello” anyways!

I love hearing from you all 🙂

56 Responses

  1. Wow. Simply, WOW!

    I’ve bookmarked this page to refer back to it.

    Thank you so much Pete for putting all this together. Honestly, it’s so refreshing to see a comprehensive post like this.

    Keep it up!

    1. Thanks man! So glad I had the chance to connect with you throughout May. Here’s to another year for both of us!

  2. Love this post Pete. So much value. Very nicely laid out (it’s hard not to just keep scrolling through).

    Thanks for sharing your abundant knowledge!

  3. Pete,
    This is an absolute must read for anyone thinking about blogging. There is so much value here and you provide a roadmap for the first year of blogging. Honestly longer because in year two they can scale, tweak and pivot.

    Love the fact that you provided this for FREE when others would charge! Keep producing high quality posts like this. They are so important for the blogging community as a whole.

  4. INCREDIBLE resource man, thanks for putting this together! I’ve bookmarked it and will be referring back to it. So much valuable information all in one place, that bloggers new and old can benefit from. Keep up the great work Pete, rooting for you!

  5. I do not blog. I was lead to your site by a link and my curuous mind started reading. If I did want to blog I would hope that I would know about your site. It seems to be a thorough up front no bs guide that is great. Just wanted to say that.

  6. Great informative post! I can see you put a lot of time and effort into making this a robust all around guide to starting a blog. I will implement a few of the ideas here into our personal finance blog!

  7. Hi Pete McPherson!
    Nice Article, Thanks for sharing your ideas,
    I know many will disagree, but the hardest part. Choosing a niche, etc. that’s all easy for me. Promoting blog is the hardest part as I think it takes time to really build it up.

    Consistent effort over time will lead to success!

  8. Hi Pete,

    Absolutely unreal resource!

    This is truly content at its best and this will be saved and returned to at lots of points I’ve the next year!

    I’ve started listening to your podcast recently and I love how you started out. You got some big names on there early on too!!

    Looks like you’re crushing it and I’m very grateful I found this.

    Mike

    p.s. I’m 2 months into my “proper blog” do you recommend getting the email list set up and running?

    1. Yup, though my take is a tad controversial.

      I recommend getting the email setup ASAP–optin form on your site/sidebar, etc–writing down a “what why what” paragraph next to the optin (https://doyouevenblog.com/what-why-what-formula/)–then texting/calling/FB messaging 100 people you KNOW and personally getting them on your list.

      Just a little jumpstart 🙂

  9. Already gave some Twitter love on this, but wanted to comment specifically on this article. It’s obvious that you’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating this content (a perfect example of the “good content” you speak about) and it is so incredibly useful to your readers. Way to knock it out the the park.

  10. This is remarkably awesome post!
    I got stuck reading the entiiiiiiiire thing.
    As a new blogger, you’ve given me tons of useful information about blogging.

    Thanks Pete!

    Site bookmarked!

  11. Thanks Pete.

    I read almost the whole post and have had my blog 2 years.

    I bookmarked it and learned some things. I think I will learn even more when looking further into the links you provided in each category.

    Speaking of which when i setup my categories i dont remember writing descriptions for them, this is something im going to do right now.

    keep it up Pete.
    cheers

  12. Hi Pete,

    Thanks for sharing your ideas! I don’t really see the same tabs on my wordpress site. I am trying to categorize my posts into different pages. I don’t see the “appearance” tab on my site. Any help would be appreciated! thank you!

  13. Fantastic resource, Pete. Definitely stands out and provides more value than 90% of the other guides on how to start a blog.
    Keep up the good work 🙂

    Best,
    Lidiya

  14. This is one of the best blogs with illustrations I have recently seen. I have created blog and quit in the first month itself. This motivates me to start again and not quit in a month and atleast give it some time.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  15. Pingback: Episode 111: $10k a Month with a 1-Year-Old Blog with Pete McPherson
  16. It’s more than amazing, really. I didn’t even think that I could find that much information in a single post. It’s a complete guide to start from zero (0) to reach till 100 or even more. Thank you! I am going to start a blog with this guide soon.

  17. Thank you. Very detailed!
    Just share my experiences. I built a free WordPress site and stopped using it after a few weeks because my short stories were brought to different places. I’ve just come back with a new site and this time I will select some effective protection tools.

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