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The Complete Guide On How To Create A Successful Blog

You’d be a fool to think there’s no more money in blogging.

Just recently, a 33-year-old blogger named Stephanie bought a two-bedroom apartment in Hertfordshire. She did this through her lifestyle blog earnings. Even more impressive is the fact that she did all this in under two years.

Do you want to learn how to make money through blogging just like Stephanie?

What are the factors you need to consider getting your blog off the ground?

In this post, we’ll go over the basics of blogging including how to set one up and optimize it for your target audience.

Let’s begin.

Choose the Right Niche

Knowing what niche or topic to cover is the first step toward building a blog.

Why?

Isn’t the whole point of a blog to express yourself? Shouldn’t you be able to write about all the things that matter to you?

Sure. And yes, you can launch a personal blog to do with what you wish. But if your goal is to make a living through blogging, you’ll need a targeted approach.

Even the most successful bloggers—the leaders in the industry—know who their audience is. That’s why bloggers stay within their circle. They know the type of content their audience wants.

It also helps with SEO. The more related your pages are to one another, the better search engines understand what your site has to offer.

If you jump from one niche to another, your pages would seem unrelated. This will only confuse Google, resulting in low rankings.

With all that said, how would you know which niche is right for you?

Is There Interest About the Topic?

You might want to write about restoring rusty can openers. But if nobody is searching for this topic, then how are people supposed to find you?

To be a successful blogger, you need to find a niche that people find interesting. There are a couple of ways to see which topics people are actively searching for.

The first would be Google Trends.

complete guide blog - choose niche - google trends

Google Trends is a free online tool that shows you how popular a topic is on a global or local scale.

Say you want to blog about sushi. You can enter that search term and find how many people have Googled that term over the course of a year.

Note: You can customize the time frame if you’re looking for specific data.

complete guide blog - choose niche - sushi traffic

Google Trends even shows you which states search for your keyword the most.

complete guide blog - choose niche - sushi interest by region

It’s a good place to start. Once you find your potential topic and want to get a bit more specific, you can use the Google Keyword Planner Tool.

complete guide blog - choose niche - google keyword planner

What makes Keyword Planner special? Not only does it tell you how popular a keyword is, but it also shows you related keywords that you might want to investigate.

complete guide blog - choose niche - sushi adwords

The tool gives you a potential topic for your blog and a way to research keywords for when you plan your posts. We’ll dwell deeper on the topic of keyword research in another section.

Do You Have the Passion for It?

You must have a passion for your chosen niche.

Remember: Once you have a niche, you must write about it for a while. You should see that it’s a topic that’s sustainable.

Let’s use an example.

Say you want to blog about the latest FPS game (let’s name it Game X) that you’re really into. Since Game X is a new title, searches about the game are probably off the charts. That makes it an ideal topic.

You could say that you love this game right now. But where do you see Game X five years from now? Do you see yourself still playing the game by then? Is it worth investing in a blog that’s all about one game?

The answer is totally up to you. If you think you could regularly update a blog that’s all about Game X and it remains profitable long after its debut, then you should give it a shot.

Can You Monetize It?

You must do some research on the ways you can monetize your blog.

Si Quan Ong published a post about picking the right niche. His first attempt had him publish a blog about breakdancing which is his passion. It didn’t really go anywhere since it’s not a profitable topic.

He eventually learned how to scope out topics that are profitable. That’s when he started making money.

Let’s look at some ways that bloggers monetize their blogs.

  • Google Ads — Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) are pay-per-click (PPC) banners that you insert in your pages. Depending on your preference, you can earn every time a user views or clicks on the ad. However, you must have thousands of users before you see significant earnings. It’s not ideal for new bloggers.
  • Affiliate Marketing — Affiliate marketing is a great way of selling products without the need to invest money in merchandise. You basically earn through commissions. You promote a product using special banners or links that the seller provides you. And you get a cut every time a product or service sells. It’s great for bloggers in the lifestyle and travel industries.
  • Selling Digital Products — You could try selling digital products like e-books, online courses, tutorials, or coaching services. If you’re in the photography niche, offering camera basics courses might interest your readers.

Amazon Associates is a popular affiliate program with new bloggers.

Be as creative as you can. You don’t have to stick with our suggestions. As long as you know how you could monetize your blog effectively, you’re golden.

Setting Up Your Blog

Starting a blog used to be a complicated process. But technology has evolved by leaps and bounds. It’s no longer the daunting task that it once was. Today, you can build a site from scratch — you can even do so without having to learn how to code.

However:

You need to be aware of some things. For starters, do you know if you want to pay for a blogging service or not? And where do you go to find a domain and web hosting solution? And of the many blogging platforms out there, which one do you choose?

Fear not for we’re here to walk you through the process.

Free or Paid?

The sound of a free blog might sound appealing. But you have to know that there are limitations to free blog services.

First, you won’t have your own domain. Instead, you’ll end up being a subdomain. Take Blogger as an example.

complete guide blog - setting up - blogger.com

Blogger lets you create a free site. However, blogs registered through this platform will include “blogspot.com” in the URL.

complete guide blog - setting up - blogspot results

And the URL isn’t the only problem. Being a subdomain means you can only make limited changes to your site. You are bound by the platform’s terms and conditions.

If you’re comfortable with that, then that’s fine. But there’s another problem: digital sharecropping. What does that mean?

It’s when platforms make changes to their site that would directly impact your business. Because you’re just another user in their platform, your content is essentially theirs.

Take Instagram, for example. It’s a great place to share your photos and thoughts. But what you’re doing is providing the company free content. And should they decide to close their doors, all your data goes with them.

This is not the case when you pay for your site hosting and domain. Your content stays with you forever so long as you keep paying your fees.

Choosing a Web Host and Domain Name

You need to think carefully about what web host company you partner with. It will have a direct impact on how well your site runs. So what should you look for in a web hosting company?

  • Plan Selection — The needs of bloggers differ from one person to another. There isn’t a one-plan-fits-all solution that factors in everything you want at a price you’re willing to pay. So any company that offers over one hosting plan would be great.
  • Great User Interface — When you log into your web host’s interface (commonly referred to as a cPanel but it can go by another name depending on the provider) for the first time, you might find it confusing, especially for those who are new to launching a website. So look at reviews to see if the company you’re researching has the tools you need and that it’s easy to navigate.
  • Uptime — Imagine your site going down during your busiest times. That would be horrible. And yet that thing happens whenever people sign up with companies that can’t promise a 99% uptime.
  • Reputation — To get an edge over their competition, newer web hosting companies would offer their services at discounted prices. However, unproven companies can cause you headaches along the way. Issues like lackluster customer support or frequent disconnections are possible. Stick to companies with a proven track record.
  • Customer Service — Speaking of customer service, you want to work with a company that gets back to you as soon as possible. And because you never know when you’re going to run into issues, find a service that has 24/7 support whether through chat, phone, or email.

Matthew Woodward conducted a speed test of the leading web hosting companies. It’s a good reference if you’re looking for a fast hosting partner.

Below is the result of his hard work.

complete guide blog - setting up - woodward

Some web hosting companies double as domain registrars. That means you could buy a domain name from them.

Here are a few pointers on how to select a domain name.

  • Stick to .com Domains — You might want to buy a domain extension that ends in .biz or .agency to make your name stand out. However, not everyone is familiar with unique extensions. They may end up confusing your audience.
  • Keep It Short — You don’t want a long domain name. Keep it short so that users will remember it. Try to keep your domain name under 15 characters.
  • Add Your Keyword (If Possible) — This makes it easier for websites to associate your site with your niche.
  • Avoid Numbers — If your domain includes a number, people won’t know if they have to spell out the number or not. You also want to avoid hyphens as well.

Choose a Blogging Platform

Blogging platforms are also referred to as content management systems or CMS. Without a CMS, you wouldn’t be able to publish content without resorting to coding.

Needless to say, they make it possible for even inexperienced people to make changes to their website.

complete guide blog - setting up - wordpress

The most popular example of a blogging platform is WordPress. We highly suggest that you start your blog using WordPress. Here are the reasons why.

  • Easy to Use — Developers designed WordPress so that everyone can use it. Its layout is instinctive and self-explanatory for the most part. And should you encounter a term or a section you don’t understand, there are thousands of resources online that can help you.
  • Free — While the platform offers paid services (like web hosting and plugins), the CMS itself is accessible to everyone.
  • Plugins — Plugins are like apps you install inside WordPress that add functionality to your site. If you want to add a countdown timer to your web page, there’s a plugin for that. Want to improve your SEO, there’s a plugin for that as well. There are thousands of WordPress plugins to choose from. No matter what functions you need, there’s a good chance that you’ll find a plugin that can address your needs.

Most web hosting companies offer WordPress installation from within their platform. That means you’ll no longer have to import the files needed to your web hosting account.

From the cPanel, you just have to find the WordPress installer.

complete guide blog - setting up - cpanel

Every web host cPanel looks different. But the WordPress installer is always in the main dashboard area.

Click on it and follow the on-screen instructions. It should set itself up after a few clicks.

Installing a WordPress Theme

Those who are unfamiliar with WordPress might not realize just how customizable it is. By choosing a theme, you can load up a pre-built template that you can refine further to make your blog truly yours.

You can either purchase a professionally designed template or pick from a selection of free WordPress themes.

complete guide blog - setting up - wordpress themes

But what should you look for in a theme? Here are a few.

  • Price — Yes, there are free themes. However, you must know how to code if you want to make significant aesthetic changes to your site. So you might want to stick to paid themes if you’d like to make your life a little easier. Prices vary though. You have to decide which price point makes the most sense to you.
  • Updates — You want to find a theme that’s still being actively supported by the developer. That way, you can rest assured that someone would continuously patch the theme if there are issues.
  • Features — Themes have different features. Some are for photographers while others target written works. There are themes that you can integrate with social media with a few clicks. Then there are those with built-in drag-and-drop page builders. You need to decide which features matter most to you.

Need help to find the right theme for your blog? We recommend that you check out the ones listed below.

GeneratePress

complete guide blog - installing theme - generatepress

GeneratePress is a WordPress theme that claims to be compatible with any site builder plugin. It’s currently one of the highest-rated themes in the market.

There are two versions available: free and premium.

The premium version—which you can buy for $49.95—has additional modules that add more features to your site like e-commerce integration, dynamic page heroes, special menu navigation features, and more.

The good news is that you can use GeneratePress Premium on as many websites as you wish.

And because the theme is lightweight, you can expect it to run fast.

Astra

complete guide blog - installing theme - astra

Astra is another WordPress theme that you could set up in minutes. You can integrate it with modern page builders relatively quickly. You can make changes to your site’s layout like where you want the sidebar placed or what features your want disabled.

Just like GeneratePress, Astra has a free and paid version. The Pro version is $47/year, the Mini Agency Bundle is $169/year, and the Agency Bundle is $249/year.

complete guide blog - installing theme - astra pricing

Note: There is a Lifetime Deal option if you’re looking for a long-term investment.

There are also 70+ designs to choose from if you’re looking for a pre-built design. In the free version, you get 35).

OceanWP

complete guide blog - installing theme - oceanwp

OceanWP is a responsive WordPress theme. What does being responsive mean? A responsive site means it can work on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. You no longer have to create a dedicated page for non-desktop users.

When you edit a page, you can use the quick-view mode to see your changes in real-time. This enables you to make edits to your site’s appearance without having to make your changes go live.

You can make changes to your headers, footers, and other sections that affect how users see your domain.

OceanWP also has its own set of paid and free extensions that adds more functionality to your pages.

StudioPress

complete guide blog - installing theme - studiopress

StudioPress offers a selection of premium WordPress themes for different niches and industries.

All of its themes use the Genesis Framework as its parent theme. The framework boasts fast load times and is fully responsive. Also, its clean and airtight code guarantees increased security from online threats.

StudioPress has recently partnered with WPEngine to give you the full turnkey solution for building your site. Along with access to over 35+ premium themes, you get one of the best web hosting services at very affordable prices.

The Pro Plan opens you to the StudioPress theme marketplace for a one-time payment of $499. But if you just want one of the themes for your blog, each is available for $129.

Installing the Best Plugins

As mentioned earlier, WordPress plugins add more features to your site. Some improve user experience such as adding social media sharing options. Others are there to work in the background, improving things like your on-page SEO.

But there are drawbacks to using plugins. The more you have installed, the slower your site becomes. Also, some plugins have vulnerabilities that people could exploit. So you have to be cautious.

So if you end up installing plugins, only choose those that people trust the most.

Here’s a list of plugins that you should consider adding to your WordPress site.

WP Rocket

complete guide blog - installing plugins - wp rocket

Caching is a computer process that allows sites to load faster. And by installing WP Rocket, you make caching possible for your blog.

But WP Rocket does more than caching.

It can also perform static file compression. This reduces your code through minification. And That makes your site run even faster.

There’s also a feature called Images on Request. When you turn this feature on, all the images in a post will only load as the user scrolls down the page.

WP Rocket costs $49 for a single website. There’s also a $99 plan for those that have three websites. $249 lets you install the plugin on an unlimited number of sites.

RankMath

complete guide blog - installing plugins - rank math

You want to optimize your content for search engines. That’s where RankMath comes in.

This plugin helps you write blogs that can outrank your competitors. Once installed, RankMath checks your site’s settings and lets you know if you have the ideal setup. There’s a step-by-step wizard that guides you through optimizing your site.

There are other features such as snippet previews where you can see what your entry would look like when it’s shown in the results pages.

It also monitors your site for 404 errors which are pages that won’t load properly.

Wordfence

complete guide blog - installing plugins - wordfence

Every site should have security measures in place so it’s safe from hackers. Wordfence can help with that.

What kind of protection can Wordfence provide?

The company has a real-time IP blacklist. What this does is prevent IP addresses that are attacking WordPress sites. It also blocks malicious traffic from entering your site. It also scans and places a firewall to protect your site from malicious attacks.

And if a user with a compromised password tries to log into your site, Wordfence blocks that user from entering.

Wordfence costs $99 for one license. The more licenses you buy, the more money you’ll save.

Contact Form 7

complete guide blog - installing plugins - contact form 7

Contact forms give you a way to gather emails for leads and other information you could use for your blog. It’s also a great way for people to contact you and is usually placed on the About page of websites.

If you need to add contact forms to your site, you have to install a plugin like Contact Form 7. The great thing about this plugin is that it has so many users (more than 5 million as of this writing). And there is also a lot of documentation for it, meaning if you run into any issues, you’ll find some tutorial or articles on how to resolve it.

Elementor

complete guide blog - installing plugins - elementor

Elementor is one of the best page builders today. With it, you can make changes to a WordPress theme and make the appearance unique.

It’s a drag-and-drop builder which means you don’t have to learn how to code to make your changes happen. This is perfect if you want to build beautiful pages on the go without any design or coding experience.

There is a live view option that allows you to see your changes in real-time.

You can add images to your page, insert text and videos, and customize your headers and footers. Even better, the team behind Elementor delivers updates regularly. These updates are crucial since they often introduce features that weren’t offered before.

Installing Tracking Tools

Tracking tools are important. It’s the only way you’ll see if your blog is getting any traction. Not only will they be able to tell how many visitors you’re getting, but it also shows you how these users find you.

Here are the top tracking tools that you need to set up.

Note: For both tools below, you’ll need a Google account to set them up.

Google Analytics

complete guide blog - installing tracking - analytics

You need to install Google Analytics (GA). No ifs or buts about it.

Most blogs have GA installed because it’s the only way of measuring site visits, conversions, and other crucial data about your site.

To open an account, go to analytics.google.com, sign in, and click Start Measuring. Follow the on-screen instructions and fill up the required fields with your information. When asked what you want to measure (Web or Apps), click Web.

Once you’re done with the application, you’re given a GA tracking code. You’ll need to add this to your WordPress site.

You’ll need to add the tracking code by configuring your site’s HTML code which can be difficult especially for beginners. This is why we recommend that you install MonsterInsights, an analytics plugin. It has a feature that lets you add your tracking code through the plugin directly.

complete guide blog - installing tracking - monster insights

All you need to do is to copy-paste the code in the header field and you should be set.

Google Search Console

complete guide blog - installing tracking - search console

If Google Analytics keeps track of your site’s performance, the Search Console monitors the site itself.

What do we mean?

It looks at issues and tells you what you can do to resolve them. Also, there are features that make it easier to rank on Google like sitemap submission and indexing. It’s a fantastic tool for optimizing your site.

Installing Search Console to your site is like installing GA through MonsterInsights. You’re provided a tracking code that you copy-paste into the MonsterInsight plugin. Note that you have to be using the same Google account for both GA and Search Console.

Both GA and Search Console will connect once activated.

Brainstorming for Content Ideas

Once you have set up your site, you can start publishing posts. Your site can’t thrive on static pages. You need to regularly update it with fresh content. Otherwise, it won’t rank on search engines.

But what posts should you publish? How do you know which articles would be effective?

Keyword Research

The best way to know what topics people are into would be through keyword research. Keyword research lets you develop a content strategy based on what keywords people use when they use search engines.

There are different third-party tools you could use to find keyword opportunities. However, the best one would have to be Google’s Keyword Planner which we briefly discussed earlier.

You want to find keywords with high monthly searched but low competition (also known as low-hanging fruit keywords). This would give you the best chances of ranking.

Needless to say, you should only target keywords that relate to your niche.

Not sure what keywords to go after?

There are tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush that let you look at your competitor’s keywords. You can use this information to find opportunities you could go after. These tools, however, are not free so only use them if you have the budget for either one.

Use Idea Generators

If you’re in a dry spell as far as generating new content, you can use an idea generator to find new things to talk about.

HubSpot has a Blog Ideas Generator tool that can help you.

complete guide blog - brainstorming content - blog ideas generator

All you need to do is enter a keyword and HubSpot will give you ideas for your next blog post. The more keywords you enter, the more refined the results will be. You can enter up to five topics at a time.

complete guide blog - brainstorming content - ramen

The free version gives you limited options though. If you want more ideas, you’d have to give HubSpot your personal details to unlock more blog topics.

You don’t have to use the exact suggestion. We suggest that you use it as inspiration.

Search for Questions

You can visit sites like Quora to find frequently asked questions about your niche. There you’ll find tons of people searching for answers about things that you’re an expert in.

For example, using the keyword “ramen”, we found people asking these questions.

complete guide blog - brainstorming content - quora

These are all great topics for a blog post. Try entering your niche or topic in the search bar to find questions that you could write blog posts about.

Pro Tip: Using the Topics filter, you can find other relevant conversations based on the keyword you entered.

complete guide blog - brainstorming content - ramen quora topics

Reddit is also a good source of inspiration. You could use that platform to uncover blog post ideas.

Just enter your keyword in the search bar and you’ll see subreddits and posts all about it.

complete guide blog - brainstorming content - reddit ramen

Whichever platform you use, be sure to try different keyword combinations. That will give you a better chance of finding those unique ideas.

Writing Your Blog Posts

High-quality posts are the ones that people link to and share on social media. But what makes an article good? And what can you do to make sure your posts make it to the right people?

Let’s look at some of the things you should do when drafting your posts.

Make Your Content SEO-Friendly

Proper SEO sees that your pages rank higher in search engines. You should know what keywords to target and how to organically insert them in your posts.

You can also use one of the plugins we mentioned earlier, RankMath, to figure out what else you need to do prior to publishing your post.

Once installed, you’ll find additional fields on the Post Edit page that aren’t included in the theme you installed.

complete guide blog - writing your post - rankmath score

For example, you will see your current SEO score in the upper-right corner of the Edit page. This tells you how optimized the page is as you work on it.

complete guide blog - writing your post - rankmath snippet

You can also preview the snippet and make changes as needed. This is also the section where you can update the URL for the page.

Don’t forget to insert your focus keyword so RankMath can check if you managed to add insert it in all the right places.

Implement Copywriting Tactics

Here are some tips on how to make your copy stand out.

  • Be Relevant — Is your post useful? How will it help your target audience? Is this something your readers need right now? You want to add some sense of urgency to your posts so that your audience has an incentive to continue reading.
  • Call Their Attention — Your introduction should compel readers to scroll down and read the rest of the article. What’s in it for them? What will they take away from the post?
  • Make It Actionable — Are you writing a guide? Make sure your audience walks away from the post with actionable information. Otherwise, you might end up wasting their time.
  • Tell a Story — Sometimes, giving a personal anecdote can help readers relate to you. It’s also a good way of keeping their attention. Just make sure your story is about the topic at hand.

Set Up Your Editorial Calendar

Be consistent with your updates. Set up a content calendar to make sure you stick to your schedule.

What’s a content calendar?

It’s a list of posts you want to publish with all the relevant details plotted out. An entry should include a topic, target keyword, date of publishing, the author assigned to it (if you’re working with a team), and length.

You can customize it to include other details like what channels would you use to promote the posts (email, social media, etc.) or their current status (planned, in progress, published, etc.).

By having a calendar, you’ll be more organized and you get a better view of where the blog would be months ahead.

Monetize Your Blog

Once your blog is up and running, you can shift your focus on setting up monetization for the site. We will inspect some ways you can make money through blogging.

Setting Up Affiliate Links

Setting up an affiliate link is easy though, depending on the affiliate network, you might have to meet certain requirements to qualify.

For example, Amazon Associates require that your site should be at least 60 days old. The applicant should also be the owner of the site. You can see their requirements on their Application Review Process page.

Here is a list of affiliate programs for bloggers that you could join.

Whenever people buy products you promoted, you get a certain percentage of the profit. To track sales made through your site, you must use the links provided by the vendor.

However:

Some users take issue with affiliate links as lengthy URLs make the links look spammy. You could try using Pretty Links or ThirstyAffiliates to mask the URLs of the affiliate links.

Applying for AdSense

Google has a page that explains how you can open an AdSense account. Basically, you’ll need to sign up, enter an email address, and choose what ads you’d like to run. Afterward, you must activate your account.

Once activated, you can insert the ads on your site.

According to one case study, the best place to insert AdSense would be on the top part of the page. If you don’t feel like this program is for you, you can always try out some Adsense alternatives.

Selling Your Own Products

If you want to sell your own products (whether digital or physical), you’ll need to install a plugin that can handle payment transactions.

You can install PayPal plugins like Quick PayPal Payments or PayPal Responder to set up your store immediately.

You will also need a fulfillment center to handle the orders. You can have an in-house fulfillment center but most bloggers run a one-man operation. So we’d recommend going with a third-party option like Fulfillment by Amazon (FAB).

complete guide blog - monetize your blog - fulfillment by amazon

With FAB, you can send them your products and have them process all incoming orders.

Conclusion

There’s no reason why you can’t make money by writing about topics you’re passionate about.

However, it should clear to you after reading this post that there’s more to blogging than just writing!

From choosing your blog URL to setting up monetization tactics, you will have to take care of everything. Granted, you can hire someone to do this for you, but that’s only if you have cash to spare.

At this point, you want to blog because you want to grow your income. So, you’re left to your devices to do everything in this post.

But that’s not a bad thing at all! Part of being a blogging is understanding how every aspect of blogging contributes to its growth in traffic and income.

Also, fair warning:

Expect to reap the benefits of your blogging efforts approximately a year after you launch. It’s not the quickest way to make a buck, but if you can sustain your efforts, then sky’s the limit!

As long as you follow the steps above, you should be a successful blogger sooner than later.

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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