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Have you ever thought about starting a blog but you don’t know where to start?
You might think that blogging is difficult but I am here to tell you quite the opposite. With the tools available today building and sustaining a blog has never been easier.
On the other hand, running a successful blog is a whole new story. Until you figure out the right strategies of course.
If you always wanted to start a blog but didn’t make it happen because you often overthink things or have doubts, I encourage you to reconsider.
So, my greatest advice for you is to stop hesitating and start your own blog now! You will learn everything as you go into the path of blogging day by day.
I honestly wish I had started my blog sooner, but I sure as hell can’t bring back time!
Anyways, in this guide, I will share with you the most honest and up to date tips on how to start your own blog. It’s going to be a long one so, have a seat, grab a cup of coffee or whatever you like, and let’s dive into it.
A brief history of blogging
Blogging began in early 2000 and since then it started to spread and grow quickly, and in 2005 there were approximately 32 million Americans reading blogs daily.
Today, blogging is a well-known and widespread thing. Billions of people are reading blogs and also many of them have their own.
Initially, people started blogging out of curiosity and the enthusiasm to share their ideas with others. As they continued doing so, they found the potential and the opportunities blogging can offer for both them and other people.
As time went by, apart from the excitement and interest that blogging offered, it started to make money. With the use of the right tools and services (which we will see below) bloggers began to earn money for what they do, which gave them one more reason to continue.
Can you really make money blogging?
But can anyone really make enough money from blogging? As the post title says, I’ll be very honest with you.
Yes. Blogging can make very good money if it is taken seriously. You have to be consistent and treat your blog like a business if you want to actually start making some decent money.
Many people have quit their 9-5 jobs and now make the same or more money through their blogs.
There are also a lot of people who have decided to get into blogging mainly because it can be very profitable. That’s right! You read that well.
I will agree though with what most bloggers out there say. And that is “Blogging is NOT a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme”. Like any job, you have to really work hard to get the results you want. In addition, you have to be very patient, organized and strategic about it.
So, without further due, here’s the most honest guide you will find on how to start a blog in 2020!
1) Choose a niche
To start a blog, you first have to choose a niche. I’m sure you’ve read many articles that say you should have a niche that interests you and that you are passionate about. As nice as this sounds, it can fail miserably in practice.
Let’s say for example that someone starts a blog about collecting stamps. Do you think a blog with this niche could ever make enough money? Hmm, I would say chances are very low to none. And that’s because not all niches are profitable.
To determine which niches are profitable, one should check their market’s value.
Don’t’ worry though. I have gathered everything I could find for you.
Below we’ll take a look at the most profitable niches this year and their market value in the United States.
- Health and Fitness (Market value: $4.2 trillion per year)
- Weight Loss (Market value: $68.2 billion per year)
- How to make money (Market value: $17 billion per year)
- Dating and Relationships (Market value: $2.5 billion per year)
- Hobbies and Activities
- Lifestyle (Market value: $28 billion per year)
- Pets (Market value: $66.75 billion per year)
- Travel (Market value: $7 trillion per year)
If your blog contains one or more of the above niches, then your chances of making good money are greatly increased. Therefore, you have to choose wisely about your niche or niches if you want to build a really profitable blog.
2) Choose a domain name
Choosing a domain name for your blog can be an extremely time-consuming process. Many of us spend a lot of time trying to find a domain name that fits the niche of our blog and that we also like.
This whole process can be done much faster if one has the right tools.
The number one tool that has helped me, and many bloggers I know, to choose a domain name is Lean Domain Search.
This website is fantastic because it combines two things.
The first thing is that it offers you many word combinations so that you can find a domain name that really suits you.
And secondly, it instantly checks if that domain name is available for you to register.
When I was searching for a domain name, I spent several days trying to figure out a name of my liking and then using other websites to see if it was available. I had spent almost a week searching until I discovered Lean Domain Search. With the help of this website, I found my domain name in only one day.
PIN THIS FOR LATER
So, you no longer have to spend most of your time trying to think of a domain name solely with your mind.
Now, when it comes to choosing a company for registering your domain name, the one I highly recommend is NameCheap. Don’t even bother with companies like GoDaddy and such. They truly do not worth it.
NameCheap is a great and well-trusted company that is actually used by many new bloggers. It provides quite cheap domain names (as the name implies), has an amazing service, a clean and easy to use dashboard, and great security features.
They also recently made WhoisGuard service free forever! WhoisGuard is a privacy protection service that prevents other people from seeing your personal information like your name, address, phone number, and email address when they do a Whois search on your domain. That’s amazing if you think that other companies are actually billing you for that every year.
Now let’s see what domain name would be best for a single niche and a multi-niche blog.
Single niche blog
If your blog has a specific niche then it is best to find a domain name related to it. That’s because, in addition to making it easier for users to remember your domain name, it also improves your blog’s SEO and thus making it appear higher in Google searches.
For example, doyouevenblog.com is a single niche blog created by Pete McPherson, that teaches you how to build a profitable blog. See what he did there? He chose a domain name related to his niche.
It is also very common for bloggers to include their own name inside the domain name.
For example, Anastasia owns a very successful blog over at anastasiablogger.com that also teaches people how to create and maintain a successful blog by providing many blog posts, guides, and online courses on that topic.
Multi niche blog
If you want to have a multi-niche blog, then it’s best to have a catchy domain name. Something unique and maybe even a little odd that sticks into people’s minds.
For example, Silas & Grace run a blog over at chasingfoxes.com which is a multi-niche blog and they write about many different topics including lifestyle, money, style guide, travel, food and drink, and how to blog.
Another good example of a multi-topic blog that has a catchy domain name that sticks is therockysafari.com. This one is run by Rocky Trifari and is around for many years, providing valuable information to its readers.
That’s how I thought too when I chose a domain name for my blog. What Deluxe Cave means to me is that it’s a place (or cave) with really valuable information. Kind of like a cave with a treasure inside it.
Related Post: Blogging Resources
3) Choose hosting
One very important thing you need to choose wisely is the web hosting of your blog. You need to choose a good hosting company that will provide you with great speed, reliability, and good customer support.
The speed of your blog plays a huge role in Google’s rankings. To understand what I mean, one of the most important criteria that the google algorithm ranks a website in google results is speed.
There is a reason for telling you again and again that this is one of the most honest guides to starting a blog that you can find out there. And I’ll explain why.
When I first started searching for a good hosting company back in late 2019, the first thing I started doing was googling around. The number one web hosting company that popped up in almost any blog was… Bluehost.
Almost every single blogger out there recommends Bluehost. And at first, I believed them… for a week. But then it got me thinking.
Why do the majority of bloggers recommend Bluehost? That’s when I started going crazy about it and started searching for more information on the matter.
The following posts are just a few of the many I found that speak the truth about all that Bluehost hype situation.
Basically, there is a big company called Endurance International Group, or EIG that owns many hosting companies, including Bluehost.
And there’s a rumor in the industry that when EIG takes over a company, the quality drops.
From what I have seen around the web EIG focuses more on their earnings rather than their customers. I mean there are many people who dislike Bluehost and yet it’s the one company the majority of bloggers recommend. Isn’t that weird?
After a while, I found out why it’s happening. One thing EIG does is to offer highly attractive affiliate commissions to entice people to spread positive feedback about them. That’s why almost everyone chooses to promote Bluehost…
This is proof that you don’t always have to believe the hype. Especially on the Internet!
Now, I am not here to throw dirt on Bluehost, neither I am here to say that Bluehost really sucks. I am just here to say that, in my opinion, there are way better web hosting companies out there.
The #1 web hosting company I recommend is SiteGround.
SiteGround is one of the 3 hosting companies recommended by WordPress.org and it is one of the best companies to start with.
Just take a look at the following articles and see how good SiteGround is:
SiteGround offers excellent uptime, high-speed SSD servers, a simple and easy to use interface (they updated their interface in late 2019 making the user experience 500% better), free migration, advanced features, and of course their top-notch customer support!
Most hosting companies don’t even have free backups and you actually have to download a plugin for that job. To be honest, their daily backups feature has saved my blog from unexpected data loss 2 times already.
The thing I like most about them is that they really care about their customers and want to make sure that everything goes well. Seriously, I have never had a problem when reaching for support. They always solve my problems on time and answer every question I have the best way that they can.
I went with SiteGround from the start and I honestly never looked back! I wouldn’t promote a company if I truly didn’t like it and I honestly encourage you to start with SiteGround if you are thinking of starting your own blog.
I could as well recommend Bluehost because of the high commissions the offer, but I would rather share honest and true opinions. I mean, that’s my blog’s whole purpose after all. I want to have a sincere relationship with you, my audience.
As a side note, I give props to the few bloggers out there that choose to promote Siteground instead of Bluehost. In my opinion, it’s better to be honest with your audience because the truth will eventually show.
Finally, take a look at those two reviews from TrustPilot.
The conclusion is yours to make. Remember, the fact that a company is popular doesn’t always mean that they are good!
Don’t make the same mistake many bloggers did. Start with SiteGround now and get 60% OFF your first payment.
4) Choose a CMS
A CMS (Content Management System) is an online software that simply allows you to modify the content of a website. Things like text, images, and videos.
In other words, a content management system helps you keep your website up to date in a simple and easy way!
The most used and most popular CMS in the world is WordPress.
WordPress actually powers 35% of all the websites on the Internet, making it the world’s best and most popular content management system!
Other popular CMSs are Joomla, Drupal, Shopify, and Squarespace.
Some of the reasons that make WordPress so good are its ease of use and the thousands of plugins and templates available.
It’s the go-to CMS to choose if you want an easy and smooth experience throughout your online presence.
Some of the biggest and most notable brands using WordPress are:
Some of the world’s most famous celebrities using WordPress are:
and many more…
Every site owner that takes his/her online presence seriously uses WordPress. So why not use it too? Long story short, when choosing a CMS, WordPress is your best friend!
5) Choose a theme
When it comes to choosing a theme it’s best to invest in a paid theme over a free one for many reasons. Of course, that’s not absolute but it is highly recommended.
You should also make sure that the theme you select is responsive. That means that the theme adapts and as a result looks wonderful on every device including desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
If your theme isn’t responsive then you are going to have many problems, and mostly about traffic. And that’s because nowadays mobile traffic accounts for over 50% of the total traffic on a website. And that number is still growing constantly.
By choosing a paid theme, your site will have way more customization options and also look really professional.
The best places to look for a premium theme are:
Let’s take a look at some advantages and disadvantages of free versus paid themes.
Advantages of free themes
- It’s free!
- Strict review process
Disadvantages of free themes
- Not so unique
- Limited support
- Lack of personalization
Advantages of paid themes
- More features and customization options
- Support and updates
- More unique
Disadvantages of paid themes
- Some themes can be poorly coded
6) Customize your theme
Now comes the fun part! You installed your theme and now it’s time to customize its appearance.
If you own a free theme then you don’t have much to play with.
On the other hand, if you own a paid theme, you have lots of customization to do. Things like the layout of your blog, the header and footer, the sidebar, fonts and colors, adding your own additional CSS code, and much more.
I actually spent 6 months customizing my blog’s appearance. Can you believe it?
I know that is a lot of time and you don’t need to be spending that much time to make your blog look amazing!
I am a bit of a perfectionist though and I customized almost every tiny detail on my blog until I had the result I was satisfied with.
7) Install essential WordPress plugins
WordPress plugins are a great way to add extra functionality to your blog without having to write your own code. Every blogger counts on a number of useful plugins to improve many aspects of their site including usability, security, the appearance of a theme and much more.
Since WordPress is one of the most popular CMS at the moment, the number of plugins available is huge.
As a blogger friend of mine says, “a website without plugins is like a library without books”.
One the other hand, you shouldn’t install lots and lots of plugins as that could slow down your site’s performance and as a result, degrade the user experience. Install only plugins that are necessary and that are only made from legit creators.
Below I am going to show you some very useful plugins that can save you a lot of time and also add the extra functionality your blog needs.
Yoast SEO is the #1 plugin you will ever need for your website’s SEO. With this plugin you can manage a variety of SEO aspects including how your site appears on Google, editing meta tags for pages and posts, creating an XML map, adding breadcrumbs, customizing your post appearance on different social media platforms, tools that can help you improve your posts for search engine optimization and many more.
Google’s new plugin finally went live at the end of 2019 after months of continuous building and testing. This amazing plugin combines all of Google’s services in one place.
Things like Google Analytics, Google AdSense, Google Search Console, PageSeed Insights and more. It is really convenient to have all these services on one dashboard.
If you want to protect your website from spam comments then this is the plugin to use.
Anti-Spam checks everything with their algorithms eliminating any spam comments from your site so that you can rest easy knowing that everything is under control.
Blogging needs organization or else all hell breaks loose. With this plugin, you can easily organize your media into folders and subfolders so that you find what you want easier.
As a blogger, it has made my work a lot easier. I have organized each of my posts into subfolders and now I can easily find any image that I want to delete or replace with no effort at all.
If you want fast loading times on your site pages then you have to optimize every image on it so that you can improve user experience as much as possible. Smush is one of the best free image optimization plugins with over 1 million people using it all around the world.
The only, and I mean it, THE ONLY social sharing buttons you will EVER need. Formerly known as Social Pug, this plugin is now in the hands of MediaVine with the name Grow.
This plugin was amazing even before MediaVine takes over and now I can confirm that it’s even better.
Everyone who takes his site seriously knows the impact that a bad social sharing plugin can have. Don’t even think about it. Go with Grow and you’ll thank me later.
How many times did someone ask you for your WordPress login credentials so that they can check a problem of yours? In the early stages of your site, I would say pretty darn often.
That’s where this plugin takes place. With it, you can create self-expiring, automatic login links for your WordPress site.
This way you can easily share a link with developers or other people who ask for admin access to your site. It has saved me an enormous amount of time from having to copy/paste my login username and password and then changing it just to be safe.
Everyone needs a caching plugin in order to improve their site’s speed and performance.
W3 Total is one of the best WordPress Performance Optimizations plugins there is and I find it to be the most compatible one with other plugins.
Something of ultimate importance is your site’s security. I mean, you don’t want to risk losing all of your hard work, right? Don’t worry though. Wordfence has you covered!
It’s the most popular WordPress firewall and security scanner and for good reason. Prevent hackers from accessing your site, fix security vulnerabilities, prevent unwanted attacks, monitor and erase any malicious activity and much more. A tool every blogger must have!
You may not have heard of a plugin like this before, but trust me when I say it’s a useful one. You can actually improve your site’s speed and save space by cleaning your database from unwanted leftovers.
Stuff like old revisions of posts and pages, auto drafts, trash posts, pending comments, orphan post metadata, expired transients and much more.
If you want to have more control over your sidebars then this is the perfect solution. With this plugin, you can dynamically create and display custom sidebars on any page, post, category, post type, or archive page.
It’s really convenient to have a feature like this especially when you want to have many different sidebars each one for a specific use.
In the early stages of your blog, it’s better to have a coming soon page available. It’s better for your audience and for Google.
But not just that. Every site owner needs a Maintenance Mode when things unexpectedly go wrong. So, this is a must for any site owner.
Have you ever noticed that when replacing an image with the same file name on WordPress, the previous one keeps appearing? This has been a very frustrating issue on WordPress for as long as I can remember, but no more!
This plugin lets you replace media files with the click of a button without the need to delete and reupload. So, you get to keep the same file name with a different image easily.
TIP: If the same image keeps appearing even after you replaced it with a new one, then you have to clear your caches. Check this article for more information on the matter.
If your theme’s thumbnails look wrong or not how they should look then you probably have to regenerate your thumbnails.
When I first installed my paid theme, the thumbnails on my blog home page and on the sidebar looked wrong, until I found out this plugin.
The same issue can be noticed when changing from the existing theme to a new one. So, keep this plugin in mind because it might be handy.
When it comes to adding custom code like JS, CSS, and HTML this plugin is the best by far!
You can add and keep track of your custom codes in a simple and organized dashboard. You can easily add and edit the extra functionality your blog needs all in one place.
Let’s face it. Adding PHP code to your functions.php file is a pain in the ass. This plugin offers a super easy and independent/detachable way of adding extra PHP code without having to edit the original file.
That means that you won’t ever lose the changes you made every time your theme updates.
For jQuery code to work properly, the latest version is required. For example, a jQuery script of mine did not work at all until I installed this plugin.
If you think something related to jQuery code doesn’t work as it should, this may be your solution.
8) Set up a newsletter opt-in and start growing your email list
Many bloggers, when deciding to start their blogging journey, do not focus on starting their own email list.
This is hands down the biggest mistake any blogger can make. And that’s because an email list is the most basic foundation you can build for your blog.
The biggest advantage of having an email list is that it’s yours. You can contact the subscribers at any time for any purpose.
You can promote your products and services, promote your affiliate links or simply bring more traffic to your blog with a newsletter. For your own good, don’t skip this part or you will most definitely regret it later.
9) Be legal
One crucial part of being a blogger that many ignore is the legality of your blog. You should invest time into making your blog legal so that you can rest easy that nothing bad will happen in the future.
The following things are required by law and you must have them on your blog from day one.
- You must have a cookie consent tool asking for user acceptance.
- The GDPR and IAB Europe framework require that publishers provide a persistent link on their site that allows users to edit their privacy consent preferences at any time.
- You must have a Disclaimer page to protect you from lawsuits.
- You must always disclose your affiliate links and sponsorships to let your readers know, as stated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Protect your blog content with copyrights.
10) Monetize your blog
Great! You did all the hard work creating and customizing your blog. I’m sure you feel really proud of what you accomplished. I know I did!
Now it’s time to make some profit out of it, don’t you think? There are several ways to make money from your blog.
First, I will show you the basic ways which are the ones I recommend for when you first starting your blogging journey.
The first most common way to monetize your blog is through affiliate marketing. It is a really great and effective way to earn money simply by promoting products you like from various companies using your custom affiliate link.
When someone makes a purchase from your affiliate link then you earn a commission because you brought a sale to the company. Simple as that.
Nowadays there are lots of great affiliate programs that you can join, but the most popular ones are the following.
– Amazon Associates
Who doesn’t know Amazon? Amazon Associates is the most popular and trustworthy affiliate program out there.
With more than half a million people buying from Amazon daily, there is not a reason why you shouldn’t join their affiliate program right now.
– Share a Sale
ShareASale is another high-quality popular affiliate program based in Illinois that has a large network of merchants that can easily make you thousands of dollars per week.
This way you can join many affiliate programs within your ShareASale account without the need to register for each and every program separately.
– CJ Affiliate
Cj affiliate is one of the oldest and most trusted affiliate networks today, with over 3,000 advertisers to work with.
Their affiliate program is used by the world’s largest brands and therefore you can find many great products that you can promote when you join their network.
Another one of their pros is that their dashboard is one of the best ever as it is easy to use and also has great tools that can make your job way easier.
– ClickBank Affiliate
ClickBank is another well-known affiliate program that is used by many. They have a wide variety of lifestyle products for you to promote, created by passionate entrepreneurs.
Product categories include Arts and Entertainment, Self Help, Education, Cooking, Health & Fitness and much more.
For quite some time now, ads are the most common way bloggers use to make money. It’s a great way of passive income that can earn you money almost on auto-pilot.
All you have to do is update your blog regularly with new valuable content and have a good amount of traffic every day.
Below we’ll see the best ad networks you can join as of today and what are the requirements of each network in order for them to accept you.
– Google Adsense
Adsense is the most popular ad network today. Every new blogger has a goal to get accepted into this network in order to make some money from their blog. There is not a pageview limit in order to get accepted but you do have to comply with their policies.
Google Adsense Requirements
- Original and engaging content
- Own a Self-Hosted blog (Don’t use free hosted platforms like Blogger)
- At least 30 well-written posts
- Don’t have under construction or empty pages
- Make sure you have real traffic and not paid/bot traffic
- More chances to get approved if you have a great looking uncluttered site (clean design, nice logo)
- Comply with AdSense Program Policies
Media.net is another great ad network that is growing rapidly and doesn’t have a minimum traffic requirement in order to accept you.
It’s a high-quality network with many advertisers who mainly advertise on Bing and Yahoo network. There is no doubt that media.net is the best alternative for AdSense.
- Original and engaging content
- Own a Self-Hosted blog (Don’t use free hosted platforms like Blogger)
- Your content must be in English only
- At least 40 well-written posts
- Don’t have under construction or empty pages
- You must update your content regularly
- Most of your traffic must come from USA, UK, Canada
- Must have a reasonable number of visitors
Monumetric is a great ad network that has a higher ad income potential than Adsense and media.net.
Once accepted, Monumetric takes care of everything, including placing ads on your blog so that you can only focus on writing fresh and valuable content. It also provides a wide range of ad units making it way easier to find ads that fit on your blog.
- At least 10,000 pageviews a month
- Original and engaging content
- You pay a 99$ setup fee when accepted
- Your sidebar must be at least 300px wide
- You must use either WordPress or Blogger
Mediavine is the ultimate goal for many bloggers and that’s because Mediavine is truly amazing. This company is made by bloggers that want to help other bloggers grow and earn from their blog.
The ad income potential is really amazing and that’s one of the reasons why so many want to join this network.
Once accepted, Mediavine assigns you a personal ad manager that will take care of everything so that your only focus is creating new content.
- You must have at least 25,000 sessions a month (not pageviews)
- Original and engaging content
- You must update your content regularly
- Your Google AdSense and Google AdExchange account must be in good standing (not banned)
- Make sure you have real traffic and not paid/bot traffic.
- Most of your traffic must come from USA, UK, Canada
Now we’ll see some more advanced ways to make money from your blog. These include sponsored posts, selling ad space, and selling your own products or services.
Sell your own products/services
This is by far the best way to earn money online. It sure takes time to create your own digital or physical products but it is really worth it down the road!
It is all about building an honest relationship with your audience and then leveraging that relationship to sell your own stuff. It requires trust and lots of traffic, but it can be as much of a passive income source as ads.
Sponsored posts are articles that someone is paid by companies or brands to post on their own blog, related to the site’s niche for the purpose of advertising something.
These articles can be either written by the owner of the site or the sponsoring brand itself. If you’re hired to write and publish the post on your website, you’ll probably charge a higher rate than if you’re only renting space on your website.
Don’t sit around and wait for companies to just find you though. You have to actively search for companies related to your blog’s niche and then contact them asking if they are interested in a sponsored post. This way you will have more chances of having a sponsored post on your blog.
Sell ad space
When your blog has a significant amount of daily traffic, you can easily sell ad space. This way you have more control over the whole situation because you are the one that sets the rules.
Advertisers and bloggers love to promote their stuff on blogs. This is because blogs are known for their rich content and are certainly more attractive to readers than other commercial websites.
Finally, you both need to agree on the period of time and the price of the ad space.
Blogging is still profitable and will be for many years to come.
I hope this guide helped you understand that it is important to make sure you start your blog the right way so that you can avoid stepping into unexpected problems down the road.