Last Sunday evening, it was freezing cold in NY, and so it seemed just the right time for a pow-wow with old school friends in our cozy neighborhood all-night Starbucks. Coffee and delightful hot buns opened up our senses, and we ended up brainstorming ideas to help beginner bloggers. This is the post which was born out of our midnight palaver.
“How do I start my own blog? How do I drive traffic to my blog? How to create a blog to earn money?” These are some of the questions we see most commonly asked by bloggers who are about to start their own blog.
Here is a step-by-step guide to blogging resources which would help you start a blog for free and make money.
How Much Time it Takes to Grow Your Blog?
This post is about “how to start a blog from scratch.” However it is very reasonable for you to be thinking of this question: how fast can you grow a blog?
It takes about three to six months for a blog to really start attracting traffic, comments and followers. Why does it take so long for a blog to get traction on the internet? The simple reason is that, your blog takes off when your blog posts start showing up in search results. Google search index gives ranking not only based on the quality of posts but also the age of blog. So around the six month mark, you’ll begin noticing that your older posts are contributing significantly to your overall traffic, and your keywords are showing up higher on Google searches.
Coming back to our original theme, “how to start a blog,” I have created this post in a way that you not only have three clear phases of a blogging journey (start, analyze, grow), but also a time-frame to shoot for.
If you follow this guide, then in three months you will have a truly amazing blog you can be proud of.
Month #1: Get Started with Your Blog Now!
The most important thing is to get started now! Don’t really waste your time with things like domain names and WordPress software. Trying to be perfect at the start would simply sap your energy.
Identify your NICHE and focus on CONTENT CREATION, i.e. writing blog posts.
Right now your entire focus should be to master the basics of content creation.
Start by figuring out your main area of interest (aka niche) and some words associated with your niche. Try to be narrow in your niche (e.g. Italian cooking or Indian Cooking, instead of simply cooking). The narrower your niche is, the easier it is to shine. You can broaden up later when you get some experience.
Say, you have chosen “Italian Cooking” as your niche. Search on Google to see what’s out there on this topic. You want to get an idea about who are the other bloggers in your niche and what are the topics they blog about. What are the top blogs, vlogs and books in this niche?
Identify a list of KEYWORDS for your blog, and in every blog post weave in some of these keywords.
Don’t worry about complicated keyword discovery tools – just put in your niche name in Google and then scroll down, you will see that Google surfaces the keywords for you in the ‘related searches’ section. You see that some keywords associated with your niche are “Italian cooking recipes” and “the essence of Italian cooking”.
To make sure your posts gets visibility in search engines, you should try to weave in these keywords in each of your blog posts.
Aim to write at least two or three posts every week. You will see your writing style getting more crisp and captivating as you continue writing.
But writing regularly has another crucial benefit.
Unless you are thinking of blogging as a trivial pursuit, it is not something that you can take up one day and put down next day. Think of blogging as a job – a very pleasurable job in which you are own master. But just as any other job, you have to show up for work every day, regardless of how you feel that day. It is vital that you make a resolution to post a certain number of posts every week, and then STICK to that number. Search engine indexing spiders monitor the regularity of posts on each site on the internet.
How to Find Topics for Your Blog Posts
How do you come up with blog post ideas? As you start your blog, forget about writing on exotic and exciting topics. Focus on writing about things which interest YOU! For example, write about how you are struggling today in blogging, your personal experiences with blogging. Write posts as if you are taking notes. As another example, you could simply review this article and post a blog saying what you found helpful and what other articles on the internet you use to complement the information in this article. You can also write about the ideas you have shortlist for your blogpost content so your readers know what to expect in the coming months. At this point, don’t worry if the post topics are interesting for the readers or not. If the post topic is interesting for you, if you would feel it worthwhile to go back to it in future then I can guarantee that your visitors will find it useful also.
The best bloggers and vloggers write about topics that interest them! You can’t pretend to be someone else and create content which you don’t like. It would not be authentic, it would be painful to create and it would turn out to be boring. That’s why I suggest that you don’t try to simply create checklists and how-to articles on topics that don’t interest you. Write down a set of topics that interest you, focus on a group of related topics (e.g. topics about blogs, or about cooking) so you have a niche, and write about them!
PROMOTE your blog
We aren’t going to leave our blog promotion to the mercy of search engines. The old fashioned door-to-door canvassing is needed if you really want your blog to fly. The only difference is that instead of physically going to brick-and-mortar houses we will be visiting Facebook groups, Twitter personas, YouTube celebrities and Instagram stars.
Try some easy blog promotion ideas such as joining in a few Facebook groups (search for “bloggers” in Facebook groups), and mentioning your blog posts there. Do the same for a few pertinent Reddit groups.
Aim to get at-least three EXTERNAL backlinks from decent blogs.
Directly message a few people in those groups and ask if you can guest post in their blog. Aim to write at least one guest post every month. Make sure you put in a link to your own blog in every guest post you write on other sites.
Instead of writing a guest post, you can also request some people to review your blog and post the review on their site with a link to you. You can offer to do the same for them.
In addition to Facebook, mention all your blog posts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Examine on which social media channel you get most engagement. Eventually you would start focusing on just a couple of social media channels but now is the time to experiment ….and do some hard work 🙂
Visit Quora at least once a week and answer some questions. In your answers put a link back to your own blog. Don’t put more than one link, and make sure your answers are longer than 300 words. Make sure to include some images in each of your answers. Above all, make sure your answers are relevant otherwise Quora will mark you as a spammer!
Blog Promotion Lessons Learned
- Write very LONG posts, no less than 2000 words each. Illustrate your posts with multiple images and explanatory screenshots. You can get completely free images from pixabay.com and unsplash.com.
- After you write each post, review it to see what keywords you have embedded – make sure one of these keywords also appears in your headline. Bold one of the keywords in your post.
- I have given you some ideas for getting external links like requesting guest posts and blog reviews from other bloggers. However, you should focus on writing your best and longest posts for your own blog. Do not kill yourself writing awesome guest posts to be posted in other blogs. Many of the other blogs may be here today and gone tomorrow. One good post takes hours and sometimes, days to create. Focus on creating incredible content for your own blog.
DIRECT marketing has no substitute.
The idea of contacting individual bloggers for guest posts and blog reviews isn’t very appealing to most people. I can understand that you would rather post your blog than go around begging people for something. But blog promotion is part creative content production, and part sales & marketing. When you put on your sales hat, you got to get in the zone and enjoy the experience instead of feeling uncomfortable about asking strangers for favors.
If you ask enough people nicely, you will get some response, believe me. Be very nice about messaging someone. Do not ever message anyone more than once if they don’t reply. There are 7.5 billion people on our planet. You don’t need to pester anyone if that person doesn’t want to talk to you 🙂 Find someone else.
You can find bloggers in Facebook and Reddit groups. You can even try to search for bloggers on the internet who allow guest posts or do blog reviews. Just search on Google and contact them via their contact forms.
Here are some killer resources to help you get started with Month #1:
- Write Your First Blog Post or Vlog Script Today: https://www.zavesti.com/write-your-first-blog-or-vlog-script-today/
- How to Write your First Blog Post with Confidence: Create Mind-Blowing Blogs with Zavesti Blog Template: https://www.zavesti.com/beginner-bloggers-zavesti-blog-template/
- How to Write Blogs & Vlog Scripts: A Step by Step Guide for Bloggers: https://www.zavesti.com/how-to-write-killer-blog-posts-a-step-by-step-guide/
- How to Come Up with Ideas for Your Blog Post: The following video is about finding ideas for your vlogs, but applies equally well to blogs. It emphasizes the point that in your blog focus on topics which are of interest to YOU. It’s the simplest strategy to create awesome blogs.
Month #2: Blog Audit & Fine-tuning: How Are We Doing?
In the first month of blogging you would have written at-least 10 blog posts, and created one guest post linking back to your own blog.
In addition to the whirlwind content creation exercise in the first month, I hope you also dipped your feet in content promotion by joining in some Facebook groups and connecting with a few fellow bloggers.
Believe it or not, if you have done everything I mentioned in Month #1, you are ahead of 90% of bloggers! Amazing, isn’t it?
Most people think of blogging as an exotic science and get trapped in all the mumbo-jumbo floating around the internet. To start your own blog you don’t need blogging courses. You just need to actually start blogging!
Let’s do a SITE AUDIT
Alright! In Month #2, we are going to review and audit your blog. Let’s do it!
First we do an overall site-audit. Go through this checklist and see what results you come up with: A Step by Step DIY Site Audit Guide for Bloggers: https://www.zavesti.com/diy-site-audit-for-bloggers/
One of the first tools in the audit checklist is nibbler which assesses your site from various viewpoints such as mobile/responsiveness and number & quality of incoming links. Don’t worry if the Nibbler score isn’t very high. The important thing is to become aware of what you need to start fine-tuning. Some of the parameters against which your website is evaluated are – Alexa Rank, Incoming links, Printability, Meta tags, Social interest, Amount of content (average of 527 words per page), Images, Internal Links. Whew, I wouldn’t have been able to think of all these parameters without this tool. This is such a great bird’s eye view of your blog.
In the Nibbler report you can click on each of the items on the right side and it will take you to the details about it. For example, clicking on mobile will tell you how Nibbler calculated your mobile score.
A word of caution – Remember that some parameters in Nibbler wouldn’t be applicable to you. Website ranking tools like Alexa rank entire domains, so if you are using Medium or Blogger, the rank may not show your specific blog’s rank. Don’t worry about it for now.
Let’s go through the rest of the checklist and finish your site audit: A Step by Step DIY Site Audit Guide for Bloggers: https://www.zavesti.com/diy-site-audit-for-bloggers/
What is the #1 thing you need to improve in your blog?
When you are done with the audit, you want to sit back and think, what’s the outcome of your self-audit. Create short lists of the things you can improve immediately – and things you would improve later. What is the #1 thing you need to improve in your blog?
So far as you see, the answer to the question, “how to start a blog” is easy. We go through a series of steps in a logical order, that’s all there is to it. Let’s continue on our journey!
Let’s do some CONTENT AUDIT
In the site audit we just now did in the previous section, we primarily focused on the site infrastructure aspects such as mobile responsiveness, performance, site security, SEO and your marketing maturity.
In this section on content audit, we refocus our attention on the quality of content you are creating. We aren’t focusing on grammar, spelling or creative storytelling. We are focusing on the attention-grabbing, action-generating aspects of your blog post in this section.
To put your blog content under the microscope, use this checklist: Bloggers & Vloggers: Complete Checklist for an Amazing Blog or Video: https://www.zavesti.com/vlog-blog-checklist/
Take a blog post you have written and re-examine it with this checklist in your hands. Is your headline attention grabbing and search optimized? Is your content longer than 2000 words? Do you have a CTA at the end?
Do the above analysis for EACH of your blog posts. Make the appropriate changes in your blog post content as you identify gaps through your content audit process.
The goal is to ensure that EVERYTHING you write is killer content. Eventually, all these content creation best practices will become internalized as a natural part of your content creation process.
Get some blunt, impartial OUTSIDE feedback
Now that you have done a self-audit, it is time to get some candid feedback from outsiders. Ask at least three friends to go through your blog and give you their honest opinions.
It is difficult to get people to review your blog honestly. But this step is crucial if you want to be a truly successful blogger. You can message or post a request on some Facebook groups asking for feedback. Make sure you make it clear that you want their feedback privately. You don’t want them plastering, “here’s what’s wrong with your blog” all over the internet 🙂
Re-examine your blog NICHE & PERSONAS
In the first month, we came out of the gate swinging our notepads, and created awesome content. When we started out, we did make sure that we have a clear blog theme in mind which is what we refer to as a niche. In this section, I invite you to refocus your attention on your blog theme.
- Whom are you creating content for?
- What’s the personal brand image you want to communicate to your visitors?
- How happy are you with the niche that you chosen?
Here is a template which can help you in your blogging introspection: Download the Zavesti 3 Vital Blog Elements Printable Template: Ignore These Essential Blog Elements at your Own Risk!: https://www.zavesti.com/download-the-zavesti-3-vital-blog-elements-printable-template-ignore-these-essential-blog-elements-at-your-own-risk/
Month #3: Let’s Grow Your Blog!
So far everything we did was free and easy. Start a blog on blogger and medium, go through the various checklists to optimize & promote them. You did put in a lot of work through a lot of steps, but it wasn’t hard, was it?
Now, however we are entering the phase when some real brain-work is required.
You shall make decisions about choosing some paid options such as domain name, blog software and blog hosting provider. And, you will take your blog promotion to another level through blog monetization strategies.
Fear not, it sounds more difficult than it actually is. And we have our ubiquitous templates and step-by-step blog guides for this month as well!
In this month #3, we focus on “how to grow your blog”.
Revitalize your PROFILE
People not only want to listen and read your ideas, they want to know WHO YOU ARE. Without sharing your private information, you can still share your vision and passions with your blog visitors. This is what re-imagining your profile is all about.
Let’s revitalize your profile. On your blog page, Facebook page and other places, check your profile against this template: PR for Authors & Artists: Attention Grabbing Profile Template: https://www.zavesti.com/attention-grabbing-profile-template/
Create a nice story for yourself based on the above template and post it on your blog “About” page.
Check this post for inspiration about your online image and personal brand: The #1 Thing that Will Help You Earn $4313/month from your Blog or YouTube: https://www.zavesti.com/the-one-thing-that-will-help-you-earn-4313-month-from-your-blog-and-youtube/
Getting serious: Selecting a DOMAIN NAME, BLOGGING SOFTWARE and HOSTING PROVIDER
If you have been putting in serious work and following everything we have spoken about over the last two months then you would feel confident about taking this next step in your blogging journey. This is a part in which you take the leap from purely free blogging to setting up your own platform. Setting up your own platform may mean spending some money.
My suggestion is, do not splurge. Wet your toes. A domain name costs $9.99 per year. The best blogging software in the world, WordPress, is free. A cheap and good hosting provider would cost zero dollars as many good hosting providers even offer a free package to get you started. Some really good hosting providers such as WordPress.com and x10hosting offer premium hosting from $8/month, which includes the price of a domain name.
I have shared here a practical guide for helping you navigate through this step. A Practical Guide for Choosing the Best Domain Name, Hosting Provider & Blogging Software: https://www.zavesti.com/a-practical-guide-for-choosing-the-best-domain-name-hosting-provider-blogging-software/#take-action
The guide (A Practical Guide for Choosing the Best Domain Name, Hosting Provider & Blogging Software) includes the considerations for making your choices. I didn’t think it would be meaningful to give you an encyclopedia of screenshots for actually making your purchase or deploying your blogging software. Since each hosting provider has a different approach, I didn’t think it would be meaningful for me to give you a “how to purchase a domain name” or “how to deploy WordPress” or “how to get started with WIX” guide. When you decide on the hosting provider, that provider’s site will have step by step guides for deploying your software and starting your blog. Their support team will be able to help you with your questions.
Why I don’t Provide a Guide on Hosting Providers Like the Rest of the Internet
You will find many posts on the internet on ‘how to start a blog,’ which have detailed instructions on a couple of specific hosting providers like Bluehost or WordPress.com. These blogs are seeking to make money through affiliate programs of these providers. If you sign up for those hosting providers by clicking on the links in the posts, the writer earns a lot of money – $65 for each Bluehost signup, and $300 if you signup with WordPress.com! I don’t believe it is ethical to provide such recommendations without clearly disclosing (and not just in small print) that one would earn money from the recommendations. Nor would I trust such a person who tries to sell you something in the garb of helping you start blogging. I do want to state that these hosting providers are completely legitimate and good providers – but I simply don’t trust bloggers who try to make affiliate money without full disclosure to their readers. Finally, I don’t think that it is even necessary to provide such detailed instructions on my post about specific providers since if you select them, they have a much better set of instructions on their site itself. I only want to focus on essentials of how to start a blog – the kind of lessons learned which come the hard way and which you would not generally find elsewhere.
Focus on Essentials
In this post, we focus not on the technical nuts and bolts, but on expanding and flourishing your blogging blogging business. However, the technical aspects of blogging are not too difficult. In my guide (A Practical Guide for Choosing the Best Domain Name, Hosting Provider & Blogging Software) I have outlined various options depending on your comfort level with technology. My suggestion is that even if you are completely technically challenged, take a shot at doing things yourself. If you are into this blogging thing, then you can not, not get your hands dirty. Paying someone else or pleading with your neighborhood geek isn’t a good idea. Either they will charge an astronomical sum for doing silly little things, or they will set up your blog in a way that you wouldn’t know how to change or tweak in future.
C’mon, it’s not that difficult. Read my guide and then when you have made a selection of your hosting provider, set aside an evening to go through their sign up process and then another FULL DAY to go through the blog installation process.
Do not decommission your free blog now or ever! Let it run. It is not asking for care and feeding. Remember, it will take a LONG time for your paid blog to stabilize – and even after that, your free blog can continue to be up on the internet – bringing SEO juice to your new paid blog.
After you have your shiny new blogging platform ready with your own domain name, you need to practice some backup and recovery before you create anything useful. Take a backup of everything, and then wipe out your work, try to restore from your backup. You need to be fully comfortable with the knowledge of how to restore if your site gets hacked or if you accidentally delete stuff.
Above all, pay a HUGE amount of attention to your blog security. Make sure you keep a local copy of everything you post online. If your blog gets hacked or just crashes due to technical difficulties you will have some way of starting afresh.
Remember, with your new domain name and your own blogging platform, the responsibility to manage it has shifted to you!
Why can’t you just stay on the free platforms like Google Blogger or Medium? The problem is that these platforms are not dependable. Google is specially renowned for deprecating projects. Remember what happened to Google+? Medium, too keeps changing its policies, for example, Medium no longer allows custom domains. Unless you have a custom domain your blog you will not accrue domain authority or page rank.
Like it, or not, a change is mandatory if you want to really mature your blog.
How to MAKE MONEY from your blog?
The next step is to understand how to get some value out of your blog.
I fully understand that making money may not be your blogging aspiration. You may want to run your blog to share your knowledge or simply to document your experiences. Even so, you would benefit by understanding blog monetization strategies.
I have explained practical blog strategies very comprehensively in this detailed post: How You Can Actually Make Money Online: The Complete Guide for Blog Monetization: https://www.zavesti.com/how-to-make-money-from-your-blog/
When you go through the blog monetization strategies pick up a few which seem the easiest to implement. Try out a few ideas. The post I have shared above (How You Can Actually Make Money Online: The Complete Guide for Blog Monetization) will help you enjoy your blogging journey even more as you start seeing some revenue coming in.
As we come to the end of our three month journey, we are not done with self-examination 🙂 Use this checklist to re-examine what you have done so far: Blog 2.0: Take your Blog to the Next Level in 7 Steps: https://www.zavesti.com/next-level-blog/ Where are the gaps? What can you improve?
I hope you have enjoyed this three month journey with me. Wishing you much success in your blogging!!!
I believe that this post gives you complete path for “How to Start a Blog.” You really just need to have patience and actually do the things we have spoken of in this post.
This blog post is ideal for you to take up as a project. Say you have summer vacation coming up, or perhaps a period of lull in your day-job. Take up this blog post as a challenge and get started with blogging in three months.
Once you have put in an intensive effort for three months, your blog will not need much care and feeding on an ongoing basis. It’s more of question of creating content and posting it from then on.
This post, and this site itself (zavesti.com) was born out of my utter frustration at seeing a plethora of misleading blogging advice and unnecessarily complicated blogging courses on the internet. Blogging is not complicated. There is not much more to it than what we have discussed here.
There is no secret to blogging success. You just got to do the things we have spoken about in this post.
If you liked this post, and you want to have a concise guide in your hands (or on your Kindle), you may want to check out the book, The Blogger Trailmap: How to Take Your Blog to the Next Level in Easy Steps: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07J5CN15W
I have shared in this post a lot of things which you will read in the book “The Blogger Trailmap: How to Take Your Blog to the Next Level in Easy Steps.” However, the book provides a more structured path for you to start your blog, and it introduces ideas like “swipe files” and new content strategies which you may not have thought of.
You could start a travel blog, a food blog, a lifestyle, other business blogs like a blog for your realtor’s business, or a blog for your author platform. Regardless of your area of interest, I am positive that what we have discussed in this post is going to skyrocket your success.