One of the most common questions I get is how to start a blog. Inevitably, the second question is: how to start a blog that makes money. While there is no short answer to this one, I can certainly layout how to get started. Anyone can do it, all you need is a topic that you are passionate about and the motivation to write about it.
First a little bit of background about how I got into blogging. It was almost on accident. I was a frustrated Nurse trying to start a nutritional counseling business on the side. I kept copying and pasting my recipes and emailing them to my clients when one day I decided that it would be so much easier if my recipes just lived online somewhere and I could just direct people there. So one night I crawled into bed with my laptop and started up my free wordpress.com site.
How to Start a Blog That Makes Money
First, I want to offer you up this webinar that I recorded with a blogger friend of mine: Arsy from Rubies & Radishes. We go over pretty much everything that I cover in this post. So, if you want to hear our stories, watch the video below.
Step One: Come up with a Domain Name
A domain name is your desired web address, mine is www.realfoodrn.com. Come up with something that is easy to remember, easy to spell, and not too long. People will never remember your blog name if it is something like www.iliketoblogbecauseilikefoodphotos.com. Believe me, I have seen some interesting names out there. Heck, I started with www.nursemompaleo.com — yep, google it, my old site is still out there somewhere. Promise you won’t laugh!
With a free wordpress.com site, you can simply use the web address that they provide you with. It will, however, contain the word WordPress in it. Ex: www.realfoodrn.wordpress.com. If that’s okay with you, then you are ready to go. If not, then you need to find a domain and have it directed to your host. I use Namecheap.
You can also get a domain name in the steps I list below. So read this post all the way through before you start anything!
Step Two: Set up a Website
You have to get a website up. There are two ways that you can do this: free or paid. I started with free because I never intended to monetize. But I eventually migrated to paid as my website traffic increased, so I could make money with ads and affiliates.
Here is the difference
Free websites: I used wordpress.com. It is basically a storehouse for your content. The only problem is that you cannot have paid ads or plugins because the platform is free. So, your options are very limited. But, if you are not looking to monetize, then this is perfect for you. WordPress has ads on these sites, but you do not earn from them.
Paid websites: I migrated to wordpress.org and then paid a web host. A web host is a company that provides space on a computer (server) to host the files for your website, as well as providing Internet connectivity so that other computers can access the files on your website.
My website is hosted by Flywheel and they are amazing! If you want a super-fast site with the ability to handle high levels of traffic then Flywheel is great. They also have awesome customer service! They also have a variety of different plans, to fit different budgets and traffic levels. I think they are the best bang for your buck, for the quality they provide! If you want to find a host that you will stick with long-term, then start with Flywheel. If you want to start with the absolute lowest priced host, you can certainly do that (see below), but as traffic levels increase you might have to pay someone to help you migrate your entire site to a bigger host. That is a big pain in the rear, I had to do it. It also can be costly.
Below is a great step-by-step that Blue Host provided to make setting it up all by yourself super easy to do!
Setting up your hosting account
First, go to Bluehost’s home page and click “Sign Up Now.”
If you already own a domain name, you can enter it here, and you will just have to go through a few extra steps to make sure you get your DNS pointed to Bluehost. If you don’t already have a domain name, you can purchase one from right in the signup process, and the best part is, it comes free with your new WordPress hosting account purchase.
Once you’ve entered a domain name, you’ll fill in your personal information.
Now, choose which hosting package you want. To help save you money, the longer term you purchase, the lower the monthly rate will be. For example, by choosing a 36-month hosting term, you can get a great introductory rate of $3.95/month.
There are a few other offers provided at sign-up, that are totally optional. One I recommend is Domain Privacy, a paid service that allows personal information to be kept private on WHOIS databases.
You’ve filled in your information and chosen your hosting package, now click the “Next” button to complete your purchase. You’ll then be asked to create a password for your account. It is required to have both capital and lowercase letters, a number, and a special character (?!#, etc.) in order to have a strong enough password to protect your account.
You are all signed up and are able to log into your account!
In your cPanel, scroll to the section titled “MOJO Marketplace” and choose the “One-Click Installs” button. This will take you to a page inside MOJO Marketplace called Scripts and Platforms. The blog section is at the very top, so all you have to do here is click on the WordPress icon.
An installation window will open. Click on the green “Start” button that will start the WordPress installation process.
Choose where you want to install WordPress. This can be any domain on your account, or a subdomain or a folder for one of your domains. Next, click on “Check Domain,” which will make sure the domain is assigned and pointing to your account. You may get a warning that you are overwriting files, but as long as you don’t have another website built yet, you can check the box and continue. This is mostly to make sure that you really want to install in that location. If you do have other sites built, you will want to make sure you’re not overwriting something important.
Show Advanced Options. This section allows you to set up your own username and password for your WordPress install. IT is recommended to use a different username than “admin” and a very strong password. Make sure that the “Automatically create a new database for this installation” box is checked unless you have a database already set up that you want to use.
After you’ve read the terms and conditions, check the box indicating that you’ve done so, then click “Install Now.”
Once WordPress is fully installed, it will provide you with your site URL, the admin login URL, your username, and password. You will get a copy of this information, except your password, in your email as well. Make sure to keep it in a safe place.
You can now log into your WordPress site by going to the admin login URL. Enter your username and password, then click “Log In.” This will take you to your WordPress dashboard. From here, you can control everything to do with your WordPress site!
Here is a short video that will walk you through the process
Your Theme: After you get your site set up, you will need to decide on a theme. Then you will need to add pages and information about yourself and your mission. It’s helpful to put up an about page right away, people want to know who you are and what you’re about. Also, having a tagline really helps people know what you are about at a glance. I use the Genesis theme, it is very user-friendly for the non-tech-minded person.
Step Three: Create Content
This is the fun part! I love blogging. I am already experimenting in my kitchen all the time, why not write the recipes down and take some pictures. Then slap together a blog post and voila! Um, it’s not exactly that easy. You most definitely have to be passionate about your topic, or you will run out of content ideas really fast. You also have to be passionate in order to keep the fire burning, if it’s not what you love, then you will not love doing it.
Here are some awesome tools to help you make your content really great:
- Food Blogger Pro — learn how to do everything in place to get a food blog up and running
- Pinch of Yum — how to take amazing pictures for your blog (pictures are super important!)
- Eat Pretty Things — another amazing food photography how-to book!
- PicMonkey — this is what I use to edit all of my photos and add text to them
Take good pictures! These days people hardly even read blog posts, the images bring them in and if they don’t like what they see then they are likely to bounce. Invest in an entry-level DSLR camera, HERE is the one I have and love!
Step Four: Monetize
You can make money blogging in a variety of ways: ads, affiliates, sponsors, or paid promotions. I have chosen to use ads and affiliates. Sponsors and paid promotions always seemed to be more work than they were worth, and often times I felt too salesy when I did posts about particular products.
Affiliates: Amazon is the main affiliate program that I use. You will need to set up an affiliate account. Then you generate affiliate links with your affiliate ID attached to them. You use these links in your posts. When people click on the links you can earn 4-8% on what they purchase through your link. Even better, you generate a 24-hour “cookie” with Amazon and earn a commission ANYTHING they buy in the next 24 hours! Pretty cool, huh? But, you always need to disclose your affiliate relationships on your website. You can find my disclosure HERE.
Ads: I use Google Adsense. You create ad banners and place them on your site to generate income based on clicks. I actually wish that I did not have to have any ads on my website. I think they clutter things up. But, right now they help me pay the bills and keep my website up and running. You can learn how to get Adsense set up HERE.
If you want to learn more about making money with a blog, my friend Kelly wrote a book all about it called the “How to Make Money Blogging Blueprint”. You can download your copy HERE.
Step Five: Set up Social Media
You can write the world’s most interesting and captivating blog post ever, but if no one shares it you will not see any success. Social media and networking are where it’s at, they are the bread and butter for bloggers. You will want to set up social media on all of the major sites so you can attract people from all of them. You can check mine out and follow me to see how I promote my business across them. Don’t only promote your stuff, share others’ content too or your readers will get bored of you very quickly!
Here are my social media accounts:
Step Six: Network and share other bloggers stuff
Now, as the saying goes: “it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know”. That is true for bloggers to a certain degree. I am a part of several blogger networks. We all learn and grow together, but most importantly, we promote each other and help spread the love. I routinely share my friend’s posts and content (the stuff that is relevant to my audience) and hope they do the same for me. My blog grew overnight once I joined networks with fellow bloggers. You have to form online relationships in this business!
PLEASE, don’t be one of those “shares for share” people who shamelessly ask people to share your content. Share others’ stuff and comment on others’ posts — genuinely. They will notice, and if you have good content, they will share your stuff too. This step takes time.
Step Seven: Track
Set up Google Analytics and track how you are doing. Get insight into where people are finding you and how Google sees you. Then focus on growing your strong points. Learn about SEO (search engine optimization) and keywords, so your posts are more visible in Google and you can “rank” better. This is the “advanced” level of blogging. Once you have the site set up and get your feet wet writing and composing posts, then you move on to set them up for Google.
Now, this gets a bit technical and I actually have recently hired a tech team to help me track all of this stuff. So, I highly suggest that you do your own homework on this. I spent hours upon hours watching YouTube videos all about this stuff!
Step Eight: Send a Newsletter
The most important thing you can do, if you really want to promote and make money blogging, is capture emails. People may find a recipe of yours on Pinterest and come to your site, but that does not mean that they will come back every week to see what’s new and fresh. Nope, they don’t really care that much. BUT, if you get their email address, then you can deliver your fresh content right to their inbox and keep them coming back every week! Plus, you can tell them about your latest promotions and also refer them to any affiliate links you want to monetize on. But, PLEASE do not promote and spam the heck out of your list, that’s a sure-fire way to get unsubscribes.
I send out a weekly email every Thursday. I try to keep my email short and sweet, people have enough stuff to read! Occasionally when I am doing a promotion for a summit or an event that is time-sensitive, I will send out an additional email. But, I try not to do that often. I think consistency is key. I always send an email on the same day, and I never skip out. That’s just my style though, everyone does things differently when it comes to emails. I use Convert Kit for my email service. If you want to check out how I structure my emails, you can sign up HERE.
Step Nine: Consider Complimentary Businesses as Sources of Income
You have an audience now, is there anything else you want to tell them?
I have also started up an essential oils business, in conjunction with my blog. I was already using the oils and had been writing about them. Now that I had a blog established, I had an audience and a place to talk about my oils. I will not go into detail here because I have already written a post about how I make money with essential oils. You can read that post HERE.
Finding affiliates that are in alignment with your message is KEY to your success. Do not go sign up for every affiliate out there and expect it to resonate with your audience. That’s tacky. I have found many affiliates over the years and every single one of them is aligned with my message. I also only promote stuff that I personally use. Stay true to your brand and quality. Always! I have many affiliates, if you would like to learn about the affiliates that I work with, shoot me an email, I would be happy to discuss affiliates that would be right for your personal brand: firstname.lastname@example.org
So, now that you know all of my top secrets, will you go off and start a blog of your own? I would love to have you on my team so I can show you how to start a blog that makes money too! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!