You’ve read some of the most successful blogs on the Internet and you can’t get away from one nagging idea.
You could do better.
More than that, you want to leave behind your 9-to-5 office cubicle life and start working for yourself. You want the freedom to do what you love and earn a living on your terms.
The good news is that you could start a blog in 20 minutes if you really wanted to. But if you want to build something that will last, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started.
Choose a Topic
First things first: before you pass Go and earn a real-life income, you need to choose a topic.
Not just a topic for your posts. A unifying topic for your whole blog.
The good news is that if you’re thinking about starting a blog, there’s a good chance you’ve already given this some thought.
If you haven’t given it much thought yet, no worries! Here are a few things to ask yourself to find a topic:
- Who’s going to read your content?
- Is there a large enough audience for the content?
- Off the top of your head, can you think of 25 different blog posts that you could write about in this topic? (i.e. will there be enough to write about in the future?)
- How much competition is there?
- Given the competition, what will you do to make your content stand out?
You could write a personal blog about budget-friendly vegan recipes, a home design blog making interior design and repair accessible, a political blog offering smart, down-to-earth commentary, or a blog about a personal hobby. As long as there’s an audience, the sky’s the limit.
Of course, you might be asking yourself: there are so many other blogs out there on my topic, is there really room for another?
Here’s the thing.
If you’re genuine, engaging, and willing to put in the work to cultivate a readership, there’s always going to be an audience willing to read your content.
Choose Your Platform and Domain Name
Once you’ve got a topic, it’s easier to choose a domain name and start hunting for a platform.
A domain name is simply the name of your site. You have to buy a domain name so that no one else can register the name on the Internet–otherwise, a browser won’t know where to go when someone types a web address!
The expensive part of choosing a platform comes from hosting.
You see, buying a domain name is sort of like signing a lease on an unfurnished apartment. No one else can occupy the space, but making it look inviting is on you.
In Ye Olden Days of the Internet, the only way to populate this space with an actual website was to hire a coder (unless you already knew how to code). These days, you don’t need to code.
Instead, you can go to a hosting platform. The platform will provide preset themes with the code built in. All you need to do is modify around the edges to make your site unique to you.
If you’re new to platforms or don’t know what you’re looking for, check out our three favorite blogging platforms of 2019.
Include the Right Components
Once you’ve chosen a hosting package, don’t forget to include the right components in your blog.
Technically, you could put up a site that just lists your blog posts in order from the most recent. But if you’re serious about attracting traffic and building a successful blog, you’re going to have to do better than that.
Here are a few essentials that every blog needs.
Blog categories are critical for building a quality reading experience. Think of it this way.
You’re writing a blog about a topic. Let’s say vegan recipes. Technically, every post on your entire blog can fit under that umbrella.
The problem is that you aren’t always going to write about the same aspect of vegan recipes. Sometimes you’ll write about the best vegan cashew cheese, sometimes you’ll write about vegan drinks or vegan junk food.
Your readers want to find all of it. But if you don’t have blog categories that let them whittle down to the recipes they’re looking for, they won’t stick around to keep looking.
About Page and Contact Page
Take a moment. Wave hello! That’s what your About page is for.
Your About page is your story. It tells your readers who you are, the topics you write about, facts about you or your blog, and, of course, a photo of you.
After all, your readers like to know that they’re getting information from a real person with real interests. It helps them trust you.
Alternately, if your blog is a business, it’s also the place where potential media contacts can find out what you’re all about. This is where the contact page ties in.
If you want potential media partners or clients to reach out to you, a contact page is essential. You can use a form if you’d like to keep your life private, or you can use an email and phone number (personal or business) so that visitors can reach out.
Responsive design is the new It thing in web design.
Back in 2015, Google announced that mobile search surpassed desktop search in the sheer volume of users. And because more people search on their phones, on the go, with a tiny screen, you need a mobile-friendly site in order to keep your readers.
With responsive design, you don’t need to design a mobile site and a regular site. Instead, you can have one website with flexible grids and layouts. This site can assess the visitor’s viewing experience and adapt the site to suit the screen.
So if someone visits on an iPhone, responsive design can change your layout to make it readable for them.
Write Awesome Content
Your site’s set up and ready to wow. Now it’s time for the key ingredient.
To do this, start by asking yourself what people want from a website. What do you think?
The answer is simple: value.
Treat your readers like hunters in the jungle. They’re on the prowl for content that solves a problem for them and does so in the most complete, efficient way possible.
So, if you’re a personal website, they expect the best advice or the best recipes. If you’re a political site, they expect savvy content delivered in an engrossing manner.
Most searchers trawl the web to answer a question. If your content answers that question better than anyone else, they’ll keep reading.
Think of it as taking your visitors on a journey. Take some time to write a longer post so that you can give a truly good answer. They will read it–and search engines will reward you for it.
If you’re not sure where to begin, check out these 10 blog posts that drive traffic to your blog.
Start an Email List
If you plan to earn an income from your blog one day, starting an email list is critical.
The average person checks their email about 15 times per day. That means you’ve got an average of 15 chances to engage your readers.
To be clear: we’re not saying you should email your readers 15 times a day. That will land you in the spam folder.
But when you write a really great blog post, one that you know is chock-full of great information and destined to go viral, send an email to your subscribers to get them excited.
How do you build an email list? Offer up some free champagne.
Not literally free champagne. When someone visits your site, offer them a free reward for signing up for your email list, like a free e-book. It gives them something useful and shows them that you’re offering real value.
Last but not least, you’re ready to monetize.
The best way to think of blogging is the newspaper analogy. When you subscribe to a newspaper, your subscription helps, but it’s not what keeps the newspaper afloat. The actual money comes from advertisers and sponsors who pay to have their ads in the paper or on the paper’s website.
The same thing is true of blogs.
A blog provides free sample articles to your readers and gets them hooked. You earn money through things like affiliate marketing, freelance work for clients, creating a paid online course, or a subscription program.
Let’s say you’re a yoga teacher and you run a yoga blog and post free yoga classes. This is your teaser content that builds a loyal following. The real income comes from your subscription service where you offer exclusive classes and extended learning opportunities to subscribers.
Bloggers earn a wide range of incomes. You can earn a living while blogging, but the key to earning money is to choose your avenues and be persistent. You won’t see results overnight, but you will see results grow over time.
Ready to Join the Ranks of Successful Blogs?
Your blog can be one of the most successful blogs in your field. The key is knowing what you’re after and not giving up until you figure out how to do it right.
If you need more tips, check out our blog for more useful advice, like this post on the 10 best resources for bloggers.