So, you want to jump on the blog bandwagon? So far, 2020 hasn’t been much of a cause for celebration but now’s the time if you’ve ever wanted to start a blog. We’re giving you the inside scoop on all things blog-related, like how to get started, how to make money, and how to choose what to write. Even if you’re reading this post-pandemic, use this step-by-step guide to blogging in 2020 and beyond.
How to get started with blogging?
Before spending time, energy, and moolah on your blog, ask yourself the following questions.
- Who is my ideal customer?
- How am I solving a problem with my blog posts?
- How will I maintain my writing?
- What does my target audience want to read about?
- How will I make money?
- Do I have any unfair advantages?
- What are the three initial pillar posts I will write?
- What is my outreach strategy?
Now that you’ve started to settle into your new blog, another big question arises: to niche or not to niche? More than 850 million new blog posts are published each month, according to Quoracreative. How will you decide what to post? Can you blog without a niche?
If you choose to go sans-niche, you’ll have the freedom to experiment with your content. A great example is Coming up roses, where blogger Erica writes about anything her heart desires! From fashion tips, her favorite books, to her recent travels, she’s proof you don’t always need a niche to create a successful blog. On the other hand, people pro-niche would argue that honing in on a specific cubbyhole is the best way to turn a profit, like Sewrella, a blog dedicated to all things crochet. Both of these blogs (among thousands of others) earn profits each month. If you enjoy writing about numerous topics, that’s a-ok, or if you want to focus on one, that’s perfectly ok too!
How much does it cost to start a blog on WordPress?
If you’re about to enter the blogosphere, it’s essential to keep in mind your new blog is a business, and it’s not too far off from any other start-up. You will have to spend a little money to make any money blogging.
Welcome to your very first investment, blog hosting. Your hosting provider is responsible for taking your blog online and making it visible to the rest of the web. There are tons of blog hosting companies, but Siteground starts at just $6.99 per month.
While setting up your new blog, you’ll likely be tempted with the almighty free themes. The average theme cost is around $60-$90, but free themes are incredibly limited.
Let’s say you’re using WordPress (arguably the best platform) to build your blog. There are tons of WordPress plugins that can add new features to an existing site. Each add-on will increase the cost of your website but also make your blog way cooler!
If you have your blog up and running, you have to maintain it. One of the easiest ways to support your blog is through email marketing. Email marketing software will allow you to analyze your marketing campaigns to see what works and what doesn’t. The best free option is MailChimp, but they’re only free until your first 1,000 subscribers.
Why Start a blog on WordPress?
And the winner for the #1 best blogging platform goes to WordPress. Did you know you can create a WordPress blog in about 15 minutes? If that doesn’t convince you, check out more reasons to consider starting your blog on WordPress.
- It’s affordable. Most hosting platforms like Siteground starts with plans as low as $6.99
- It’s easy to use.
- Its features are extensible. WordPress is highly extensible through its vast array of plugins available. A plugin is basically an add-on that adds more functionality to core WordPress features.
- Control over your data. When self-hosting your WordPress blog, you have total control over the data you publish on your blog. Unlike Squarespace or Wix, where your content is bound by their policies as well.
The step-by-step guide to creating a blog on WordPress
- Sign up for a trusted web hosting platform, like Siteground.
- Pick a domain name for your blog. Keep it short & sweet, and make sure to register your domain.
- Complete your hosting registration, including your new domain name.
- Install WordPress.
- Log into WordPress and start writing! Once you write your first posh click publish and voila, it’s shared with the world.
What’s the best WordPress hosting platform?
I may be biased but I recommend Siteground. So many other bloggers are recommending Bluehost. They are not that bad, but every time I opened up a trial account with them, I ended up switching over to Siteground.
Siteground offers full-service WordPress hosting for blogs and all other types of sites. Siteground has an automated WordPress installation feature and a powerful WordPress Starter to help bloggers create websites in minutes. Building and maintaining a WordPress site can be challenging, especially if you’re not so technically gifted. Siteground makes website owners a little less stressed and whole a lot happier. Plus, if for any reason you’re unhappy, they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
How to start a blog on Siteground
A lot of bloggers out there recommend Bluehost and I get it, it is one of the cheapest. But once you get started the peace of mind you get with reliability, uptime, the usability of the interface… that you can’t get with Bluehost. This is why I recommend Siteground to my readers.
I will in no way claim to be an expert blogger, in fact, I don’t even make a lot of money from this blog. Like you, I am only getting started with blogging. More or less. What I have though, is a strong background in tech, 15 years of being a software developer in big media companies like Time Inc, and TechCrunch. So I would hope I know what I am talking about, but you be the judge of that. Also, I’ve had this blog since 2012. First I hosted it on Weebly and switched to Squarespace and now on WordPress. And I will never look back. The sheer amount of customization options and the SEO that WordPress offers can’t be beaten by any other software or website builders. Besides you can easily install a Squarespace like website builder in WordPress as a plugin. And the hosting often works out cheaper.
So let’s create a hosting account on Siteground and install WordPress on it.
A host is simply a software company that has servers in a data center whose purpose is to host websites and web-based software like a bank’s website, a blog, etc. The host manages these servers or computers. It is responsible for the uptime and availability of these servers on the internet. And if something happens, a server fails – catches fire for example (very common because of overheating) they have the necessary backup systems to ensure that your data is not lost.
So that’s what a host is. Depending on the host, the features and promises that they make will differ.
WordPress is blog software that is installed on one of these servers of the host. Most of the cheap hosting plans have many users active on a single machine. Unless you go for a dedicated server. This means that you are sharing the computer with other users, hence the cheap costs.
Most times this is all you need, especially when you are getting started. As a blog grows and there is a need to scale, bloggers usually go for a dedicated server. And when the costs become high, they usually switch over to cost-effective solutions like AWS and google cloud.
So two things need to happen.
- Setting up a Siteground hosting account
- Install WordPress software on it
Create a Siteground hosting account
Visit Siteground’s website. Click on ’Web hosting’. You will see different Siteground pricing plans here.
Siteground pricing is very competitive to its rivals like Bluehost – but it’s not the cheapest.
Siteground pricing is based on three different plans.
Siteground startup plan
Good for any beginner bloggers. The prices start from $6.99. To get started this is enough. You get 1 website to play around with, and 10000 visits a month. Once you reach that milestone, you can easily upgrade it to the next plan.
Siteground growbig plan
This is good for anyone who wants to play around with multiple blogs. In case you want to try multiple niche blogs. Or even if you want to play around with WordPress with a second website that is not public. I used to often do this when I was just getting used to WordPress.
This plan gives you 20GB of web space and 20000 monthly visits
Siteground gogeek plan
When I want to have a bit more fine control over my installation and do developer-y things I try out this plan. It gives me that extra control over code and development process, say if I want to develop my own custom WordPress plugin and install directly on the WordPress installation. You don’t need this. Unless you’re a coder.
Select Siteground startup plan
For now, select the startup plan.
Enter the domain name
In the next screen, you will have two options.
Register a new domain name and use an existing domain.
- Registering domain name with Siteground.
For beginner bloggers, it may be easier to buy a domain name with Siteground. So you have all the controls relating to your blog in one place.
- Using an existing domain.
I usually recommend this option if you want to save some money. You save a fair bit of money by choosing this option. This will allow you to purchase the domain name from a domain name registrar like Namecheap who usually provides very cheap domain names. You can probably get a domain name for about $7 and also the security option that you need to purchase as a free add-on, that will remain free forever.
Note: Siteground charges for this security feature for your domain. This is called domain privacy protection.
Enter your desired domain name. And click on “Proceed”
Next, fill in your details. Select the duration of the plan. Choose wisely here. Don’t select the trial plan, that will end up costing you more. It has an additional set up fee and the monthly fee is big too ((Update they seem to have scrapped the setup fee). But double-check.
I recommend the 12 months plan. That will give you enough time to assess your blog and then you can decide to pivot from your original direction or shut down, depending on the success of your blog if you are trying to make money with your blog. To me, it is the perfect balance between long term commitment and enough time to assess.
Finish the process. Click on Pay Now.
You will see something like this.
Click on “PROCEED TO CUSTOMER AREA”
Now the first step is complete. You have successfully set up your Siteground hosting account.
The next step is to install WordPress on your hosting provider.
Install WordPress on Siteground
- Create a website. Once you finish the process of signing up for a hosting account you will be presented with an option to create a new website. This screen also can be accessed by signing in to your hosting account and navigating to the Websites and then clicking on create a website option.
- Select WordPress. Select a new website and select WordPress in the next screen.
- Enter WordPress credentials. Remember this username and password will be the details that you will use to login to the WordPress software and not the hosting account.
- Create website. Click on continue
- Access the WordPress dashboard & the new site. Voila! Now WordPress is installed and time to log in to the WordPress dashboard – the process may take a few seconds to finish. Click on the “Access dashboard” button. And if you are asked again for the username and password, enter the credentials that you created for the WordPress dashboard login (the second set of credentials that you gave under create a website)
Tip: If you struggle with keeping track of passwords, use a password manager like Lastpass.
- Once you are in your WordPress dashboard, click on the visit site under “My WordPress site” and you will see your new WordPress blog. Or simply put in the domain name that you have registered with site ground. If you chose to register the domain name with Namecheap or GoDaddy there will be additional steps needed to be done before you can access your blog by putting the domain name into your browser.
That’s it. That’s how you start a blog with Siteground.
See the wordpress.org recommended hosting providers here. Also below are some of the other hosts preferred by bloggers.
Where’s the best place to buy a domain name?
Every great blog starts with the perfect domain name. Namecheap is one of the best places on the web to buy a domain name. They offer a vast range of domains, and they genuinely care about their customers. All you have to do is think of a name (this is the hard part) and check to see if it’s available.
Where to buy WordPress themes
How to write a killer blog post
Content is king. People today expect to read top-quality content, and if they’re not getting it from your blog, they’ll move onto a competitor’s page.
There are 5 most common types of blog posts:
- How-to Guides
- Pillar posts
- Cornerstone Content
Blog post checklist:
- Choose what type of blog you’re writing.
- Make sure you choose a catchy title; this will hook your reader.
- Always outline your post before you start writing.
- Do keyword research. Think about what readers may be searching for. (Soovle, Jaaxy, and Google Search Console can help!)
- Finalize your keywords.
- Add pictures, Canva and PicMonkey are great!
How to ensure your content is top-notch
No one wants to read a blog that doesn’t flow or is filled with grammar mistakes. If you don’t write something people will actually want to read, at the end of the day, you don’t stand a chance. But don’t worry about that, these tools will help keep your writing up to par.
How do you drive traffic to a blog?
Marketing, marketing, marketing, we can’t say it enough. Search engine optimization or SEO is one of the easiest ways to generate organic traffic to any blog, no matter the niche. But it’s not all about adding in specific keywords and calling it a day. To generate traffic, you’ll also have to put in the time. Upload often and try to gain a social media presence by staying active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Here are 5 simple steps you can take to boost your blog traffic:
1. Focus on Your Content:
There’s a saying that “content is king” and indeed it is. Here are some pointers.
- Write engaging, useful, and informative content that your readers will not hesitate to share with their friends and family.
- Focus on evergreen content that is useful and not seasonal or relevant for only a few years from now, so it will stay relevant for days to come. That is not to say that you should not write seasonal posts, just something to keep in mind. Because these posts will bring in sustainable traffic.
- Use creative and catchy headlines that make people want to click it.
- Use engaging images to make your point and to give supporting information.
- Send your subscribers your best posts on a weekly or monthly basis. This will remind them of you, and nudge them to come back and engage with your content again.
2. Keywords Are the Key to the Top
SEO is a major way to get more traffic to your blog or website. SEO basically helps rank your blog higher in Google’s search results. We all know that customers rarely go past the first page of search results, which is why every business out there struggles to rank well in their niche.
So, how do you rank higher in Google’s search results?
It all starts with good keywords and keyword research.
Keywords are words that are commonly searched for on Google, so if you have them in your blog or website content, then Google will pick up on this and index your blog post or page to be displayed whenever someone searches for those keywords in google.
Placing keywords in your content is a good starting point for SEO, but it has to be done right.
Some important things to note are:
- Don’t overuse keywords. Your posts will read unnatural and put off your readers.
- Long-tail keywords can be extremely helpful. They’re keywords that use 3+ words and they have less competition, so you can use that to your advantage. Google your blog’s topic of interest and see what suggestions you get. Those are the long-tail keywords that you can add to your content to make your work more specifically for search engines. You can also look at Google’s related search options at the bottom of the results page.
3. Find the Perfect Place to Market Your Work
Organic traffic from Google is not the only way to attract readers. Share the word about your new posts in places where your audience likes to hang out.
- If your content heavily relies on visuals, then Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat are the best places to showcase your work.
- If it’s reliant upon specific topics or cultures, then subreddits on Reddit
Share on niche forums. Engagement with the users in those forums is vital to expose your blog to the public and hence gain visitors.
4. Enable SSL to help drive traffic to your blog
SSL helps keep sensitive information safe. Web browsers, even if they’re not purchasing anything on your site, will feel more comfortable knowing your blog has an SSL Certificate.
5. WordPress & SEO
The best WordPress SEO plugin is the Yoast SEO plugin. Keep in mind this is a tool to help you optimize your blog to make it SEO friendly. Getting organic traffic to your blog will depend heavily on search engine rankings. Reaching the top of a search results page depends on keyword ranking, domain authority, backlinks, presentation, and more. Using The Yoast SEO Configuration Wizard can make all the difference in the world when crafting SEO-friendly content. All you have to do is install Yoast SEO. To access the Yoast SEO dashboard find the SEO tab and give it a click.
Most crucial SEO ranking factors in 2020?
Although keywords are a good place to start for SEO and to drive organic traffic, it’s only the start of the equation. There are other factors that tell Google that your content is trustworthy and relevant to what your potential readers are searching for.
- Mobile optimized website
- A fast, user-friendly, secure(SSL) website
- Domain age, URL, and authority
- Positive user Experience
- Time users spend on your page after visiting.
- Readability of your posts.
- Internal links in your posts that will make your readers want to stay on your blog
- External links
- Backlinks – No. of other high-quality sites linking to your content which indicates google of the trustworthiness of your content
Google has recently taken a mobile-first approach to rank their results. This means your blog should load fast on a mobile device to make it to the top of the results.
Visitors can be really impatient and hence will not wait around for your blog or website to load if it takes too long. Test your blog or website’s loading speed using Google Speed Test.
When choosing a theme for your blog, make sure it is responsive, which means your blog will load/resize correctly on a mobile device, and there won’t be any parts of it clipped out of the browser’s viewing area.·
How to Get Traffic from Pinterest
Pinterest is a popular bookmarking site, where people bookmark links to sites using images.
So you might be wondering how to get traffic from Pinterest. Pinterest can be a huge traffic driver for your website or blog. You can attract a huge amount of traffic for no cost at all.
Like google Pinterest has a search feature that allows its users to find new ideas, whether it is for home decor or for some DIY project.
There are more than 2 billion searches performed on Pinterest every month. Pinterest has its own algorithms to suggest pins when a user types in a query.
How to Direct Traffic from Pinterest?
- Build your Business Profile
The first step to directing traffic from Pinterest is to create and optimize a business profile. You can go here and click “Sign Up” and you will see a form that will help set up your business profile.
Once you have set up your account, you need to select relevant pins based on your target audience. Add a picture or logo for your account, the correct business name, the website URL, and an apt description and you are ready to go.
- Upload high-quality images
Pinterest is a visual website, meaning if you do not upload high-quality images, your audience will not be pleased. Use more vertical images as they drive more traffic than the rest.
Create images using a free tool such as Canva or PicMonkey.
- Optimize your Pins
A cluttered board does not look attractive or professional. You can organize pins into categories that are relevant for your audience.
When you upload an image, ensure that you add it to the relevant board and also include the relevant tags. You can use the autocomplete to find relevant tags.
- Add a Description
Each pin on Pinterest has a description that tells the reader what the pin is about. The description has to be helpful, detailed, interesting, and actionable. A call to action such as “click to find out” or “check out” will help increase engagement.
- Pin at the right time
After analyzing the data from Pinterest, you need to find the right time to pin, so that you get multiple repins. This is what makes your pins more discoverable, leading to more traffic to your links.
Although Pinterest was launched back in 2010, it is still popular and isn’t going anywhere. It is a great platform for content creators, artists, bloggers, and many more. You can easily get traffic from Pinterest by following these tips.
How to monetize a blog on WordPress? (How to make money blogging)
Even if your blog doesn’t receive millions of visitors, that doesn’t mean you can’t earn some extra cash writing about things you’re already passionate about. Affiliate marketing is the best way to make money blogging for beginners.
How does affiliate marketing work?
Let’s say you found a product you liked, it can be anything from a protein shake to a makeup brush, and you want to share it with your readers. You can earn a commission by promoting a company’s products on your blog. When one of your readers makes a purchase through your affiliate link, you’ll earn a percentage of the sale.
Top 5 affiliate marketing networks in 2020
1. Amazon Associates
5. Rakuten Marketing
How to join an affiliate marketing network
Image getting financial compensation for the content you already want to share on your blog? Sounds great, right? Regardless of how many readers you have, you can reach out to an affiliate marketing platform to join.
Questions to ask yourself before promoting an affiliate product:
- Do I use/love this product?
- Will my readers benefit from using this product?
- Is the buying process easy?
- Is there a reasonable affiliate commission rate?
How much money do bloggers actually make?
When it comes to earning money off of your blog, the sky’s the limit. Keep in mind that a small fraction of blog visitors will click on your affiliate links, but if you have thousands of regular readers, your chances of making money skyrocket. Bloggers may earn around $0.01-$0.10 per page view. Let’s say you average 1,000 page views a month, that’s $10-$100. If you can reach a much wider audience and generate over 100,000 page views a month, you can make between $1,000 – $10,000 off your blog monthly.
Extra tips on starting a blog for beginners
- Get social! Set up social media accounts on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
- Use tools to help you stay on track. Tailwind and Later are two of the best social media scheduling tools to help you stay organized. Learn what time is best to post and help grow your audience with smart social media posting.
- Set up Google Analytics on WordPress. Adding Google Analytics to your site enables you to keep track of your blog visitors.
- Set up email marketing to reach the masses. Start building your email list now.
- Utilize popular social bookmarking websites like Twitter, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Dribble, Pocket, and Reddit.
- Use the 100 Dollar Start-Up one-page business plan to help you get started. This quick guide asks you all the critical questions before you start your adventure into blogging.
- Use image compression plugins like WP Smush And EWWW Image Optimizer for optimal visuals on your blog.