How to Start a Blog That Makes Money (Lessons Learned)
- The blog you’re reading now generates hundreds of thousands of dollars each month.
- Millions of readers flock to this blog each month.
- You can do it too.
Using a few proven systems, Quicksprout grew from a tiny little site with a few articles to an income generating powerhouse.
And now, we want to share our secrets with you.
How to Start a Blog That Makes Money
short guide to blogging
Already have a blog name and idea and just want to get started?
Go to Host Company you want to host and sign up for a Basic Plan
Set up your account. When it asks you what you want to add on, choose domain privacy and protection (trust us, it’s worth it).
To build the rest of the website you’ll need to:
- Install WordPress. It’s a one-click install with Bluehost, and it’s where you’ll actually be blogging.
- Choose a theme. These designs determine how your website will look.
- Start blogging. Let your ideas flow in a consistent writing schedule.
If you want to make money, the steps are simple from here: Find your first customer, then your second customer, then your third customer, then your—well, I think you get the picture.
Of course, there’s a ton of different ways to make money. We’ll dive into that later.
Let’s dive into the entire blog making process in full.
Step 1: Find a blog idea
Choosing your blog’s topic (or niche) determines the rest of the website’s future. This is what you’re going to be writing about and hopefully making money from.
There’s practically an audience out there for every single topic you might be interested in.
BUT there are some topics that tend to perform better than others. You need to find the topic that both appeals to a big audience while appealing to you.
To find the perfect blog niche, you’ll need to answer two questions:
1. What am I interested in?
What topic do you love? What are you obsessed with?
This is the basis of your blog niche. After all, if you don’t love the topic, you’re not going to want to write about it day-after-day.
ACTION STEP: Write down 10 – 15 topics you’re interested in. Pull up a Word document or sheet of paper and actually write this down. It’ll help you keep your ideas focused. Plus, you can refer back to it later when you make your final decision.
2. What are other people interested in?
You need to find out what other people are interested in as well. Otherwise, you might find yourself with a blog that doesn’t draw in a lot of people.
For example, you might think that a blog all about how wonderful your dog is is super interesting but is that going to draw in a lot of people?
On the other hand, a blog about how to take care of and train dogs appeals to a much bigger audience of readers.
You need to take your personal interest and find a way to make it universal. Think aback to how you initially gained interest in the topic. How did you gather expertise in the topic?
ACTION STEP: Take a look at your list from before. Do any of them fall under these categories? If not, that’s okay! There’s probably still an audience out there for one of your topics.
Step 2: Find the perfect domain name
choosing your blog’s name. For this, I have good news and bad news.
- Bad news: Most of the very “best” domain names are already taken. The Internet is decades old. Makes sense.
- Good news: That doesn’t matter because we’re going to find the best one for you.
Here are a few good rules-of-thumb to keep in mind when choosing a good name:
- Keep it short. Don’t force potential visitors to have to type a bunch of words to visit your website. We recommend no more than 14 characters.
- Choose a .com, .org, or .net. These are the easiest ones for people to remember.
- Easy to spell and pronounce. You don’t want to spell it out constantly for people when you mention your blog’s domain.
- Avoid numbers and hyphens. Not only does it look clunky in the URL but it’s also difficult to type out when you add hyphens.
- Use your name. It’s pretty likely that your name is available as a domain. That makes it the perfect choice for a personal blog. I’ll speak more on this later.
ACTION STEP: Pick a domain name and run with it.
While it’s important to pick a good, brandable domain name, the most important thing to do in this step is to make a decision and go. You don’t want to be stuck in the dreaded state of “paralysis by analysis.” Instead, just choose one based on the system above and run with it.
Step 3: Sign up for Your choice Host company
A web hosting provider offers server space to host your website. This is where your website “lives.”
People who visit your website do so through this server. It’s one of the most important elements of your website.
We went through all the main hosts for WordPress sites (by far the best tool for blogging) and put together our recommendations here.
Step 4: Install WordPress
Your website needs a content management system (CMS). This allows you to create and manage blog posts.
There’s only one option for this: WordPress.
Seriously, just use WordPress.
That’s because it’s easily one of the most powerful, easy to use, and customizable CMSs out there.
WordPress powers 30% of ALL websites. That’s how popular it is.
Use WordPress for your blog, end of story.
Because of how popular WordPress is, most web hosts offer a one-click install for WordPress. It’s super easy.
Of course, you might want to use a dedicated blogging platform like Medium or even LinkedIn. There are a few good reasons to go with a blogging platform. However, I generally recommend owning your own platform. That way you have fuller control over who your audience is and what you get to write.
ACTION STEP: Install WordPress on your host.
Here are the instructions to install WordPress on BlueHost with just a few clicks:
- Log into your Bluehost account.
- Open My Sites on the side menu.
- Click Create Site.
- Enter your blog’s name and tagline. Click Next.
- Choose the domain you want to install WordPress on.
- Choose the directory you want to install it on. Click Next.
Step 5: Pick an eye-catching WordPress theme
It’s very easy to change your site’s look and feel with WordPress.
The best part: No coding knowledge required.
That’s because WordPress uses “themes.” These are little packages of code that can be swapped in and out. Whenever you change your theme, your site will also change but your blog content stays the same.
This makes it very easy to evolve your site over time without having to rebuild your entire site from scratch.
For now, you’ll need to pick your first WordPress theme.
The number of themes out there makes me dizzy. There are… a lot.
When picking a theme for any of my blogs, I go straight to StudioPress. The themes are a bit more expensive at $130. (Most themes go for $20–50.) But it’s totally worth it.
StudioPress was purchased by WP Engine and WP Engine now includes all the StudioPress themes as part of its hosting package. It’s a nice freebie if you are already planning on hosting your site with WP Engine.
If you want a wider selection of WordPress themes at standard prices, Themeforest is the most popular WordPress theme marketplace. You’ll find just about anything you want in its selection.
ACTION STEP: Purchase a theme and add it to your website.
After you purchase your theme, log into your WordPress blog, go to the Theme section which is under Appearance in the WordPress sidebar menu. Then follow the instructions for adding the theme.
You’ll have to upload the theme files to WordPress and activate the theme from within WordPress. You can find the upload option by going to Themes > Add New, a button towards the top. Then you’ll see this option to upload:
You’ll be able to manage any themes you’ve uploaded to your WordPress blog from your Themes section:
Step 6: Install WordPress plugins
One of the best parts about WordPress is that it’s infinitely customizable. Since it’s open-source, you can change it to do whatever you want.
The easiest way to make changes is with plugins. Plugins are little batches of software you can install within WordPress to get extra functionality. This is how you’ll add a bunch of extra features to your site without having to code anything yourself.
BUT be careful here and try not to go overboard.
Some bloggers will install dozens or even hundreds of plugins on their blog. That can cause a bunch of problems later on.
Not only can plugins cause unexpected conflicts with each other, they become a security liability since it’s unlikely that every plugin owner will maintain the plugin over time. They also become a huge headache to manage.
When you have that many plugins, you’re never sure which plugin is causing a particular problem.
I like to keep my plugins limited to 5–10 amazing plugins.
ACTION STEP: Download helpful plugins
Here are a few of my favorites:
Step 7: Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free website analytics tool from Google. It allows you to do things like:
- See how many people are visiting your website
- Find the demographic info of your visitors
- See what blog posts and pages are receiving the most visits
But it can get very complicated, very quickly.
Which is why we’re going to ignore the majority of what’s in Google Analytics for now.
All you need to do is create a Google Analytics account and install it on your blog.
And while there are plenty of good reasons to install Google Analytics, there are two big ones I’d point to:
First, Google Analytics stores your data over time. When you’re ready to dive in later, you’ll be thankful that you’ve been collecting data since the beginning.
Second, it’s exhilarating to watch people visit your site in the beginning. I remember the first time Google Analytics recorded a visitor on my first blog. I thought it was a mistake. “Someone visited my site? Really? Why would they do that? Who are they? Did they like it?”
Seeing those first visitors come in will give you a huge motivation boost. Even if you only check Google Analytics to see your total traffic, it’s well worth the time it takes to set up.
Step 9: Pick a blogging cadence
Writing blog posts isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Actually, it’s more like a multi-day backpacking trip.
The best bloggers settle into a consistent writing pace they can maintain for a few years. That’s right, years.
ACTION STEP: Start posting at least once a week.
I know writing isn’t easy. After writing blog posts full time for three months, I always want to throw my MacBook out the window. It’s a grind for all of us. This is why I recommend starting at one post per week.
That still gives you the majority of the week to focus on other aspects of your site while also giving you a break from writing blog posts all the time.
A really great post should take you two days to complete. The first day is for research and outlining, along with as much writing as you can complete. The second day is for finishing the writing, proofreading, and publishing the post in WordPress.
Step 10: Build an audience
There’s a super famous article in blogging circles: 1,000 True Fans.
Basically, getting 1,000 true fans means you can fully support yourself. You can quit your job, work from wherever you like, and be in complete control of your life. All from hitting a very reasonable goal of 1,000 true fans.
With blogging, you’ll build your audience of 1,000 true fans slowly and consistently.
As long as you keep at it, you will get there. Typically, it takes a few years.
ACTION STEP: Use this system to get 1,000 true fans.
Step 11: Monetize your blog
There are Various Income streams/ways blogs make money.
- What are the ways bloggers make money (Various Income streams)
- 1. Ad networks: (Beginners)
- 2. Affiliate Marketing: (Most profitable method): Intermediate + Advanced
- 3. Sell your own eBooks: (Intermediate)
- 4. Native Advertising
- 5. Launch online course (Membership site): Advanced
- 6. Direct Advertisements (Intermediate)
- 7. Sponsored Reviews (All level)
- 7. Run campaign for brands: (Intermediate and advanced)
- 9. Services
LAST ACTION STEP: Keep Growing! Read articles on how to start and grow a successful blog
We’ve been writing about blogging and how to make money blogging on Quick Sprout for years. Check out Everything About Blogging for an annotated list of what you should read next.