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Starting a blog is easy. Starting a blog and growing that blog into a money-making machine isn’t quite so easy.
But it’s possible if you give it time. How much time?
It depends on a few factors but typically it takes about two years to generate a decent monthly income. With that said, you can expect to start making pennies from around month six of your blog’s life.
After that, hopefully, you’ll see steady growth each month until you reach the point where your blog is generating enough to replace your full-time wage.
But nothing is guaranteed in the world of blogging.
The reason I’m telling you this at the very start of the article is that blogging, as a way to make money online, looks simple. Sitting around all day, thinking about ideas and writing content sounds great, doesn’t it?
But there’s more to blogging than that.
Running a blog requires hard work and determination. You’ll have technical issues to deal with and mental hurdles to climb over. But the rewards are there – if you stick at it long enough and keep working on the right things.
Still want to do this? Great.
In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about how to start a blog. We’ll look at choosing a domain name, deciding where to host your blog, the best software to use for blogging (HINT – it’s WordPress, IMO), and how to make it look good.
Before we get started, I should let you know this is a guide for creating a self-hosted blog on its own web server.
I should also let you know this method isn’t free. You’ll need to buy a domain name and hosting but they don’t cost a lot when you’re starting out. I recommend Namecheap for buying domains and starter US hosting, and Guru for hosting in the UK.
If you prefer to start blogging for free, and with fewer technical issues to deal with, you could try one of the best free blogging platforms.
What is a blog?
A blog is a type of website, or part of a website, typically run by one person or a small group of people, that’s regularly updated and managed through a browser or app.
This means you can run a blog without buying specialist software and with nothing more than a device for connecting to the internet. That’ll be a laptop, mobile, or PC, and the ability to get your thoughts out of your head and onto the interweb.
Of course, there is way more to it than that! Keep reading to learn more.
What’s the dictionary definition of the word ‘blog’?
Let’s go back to the beginning for a moment. Just to add some context.
The word ‘blog’ is a truncation of ‘weblog’ – the term originally coined for an online journal, which is essentially what a blog is, or was – an online diary with content typically organized and displayed in reverse chronological order (newest first).
Before the term ‘weblog’ appeared, people referred to this type of website as a ‘personal homepage’. Simply because that’s how blogs started – as a personal online space to share your thoughts, activities, and the like.
Cambridge Online Dictionary hosts a number of definitions for the word blog. Here are three for you.
Noun: “A regular record of your thoughts, opinions, or experiences that you put on the internet for other people to read.”
Noun: “A website on which one person or group puts new information regularly, often every day; weblog.”
Verb: “To write or add material to a blog”
Modern blogs are way more than ‘personal homepages’
Modern blogs and bloggers are more commercially aware than ever. With the rise of social media, influencers, and the vast amount of traffic swirling around the web, there’s a lot of money to be made from a successful blog.
But why do people start blogging? Search for the answer to that question and you’ll find plenty of reasons.
Some blog to chart a journey, it could be a physical journey from one location to another or a journey about personal development (weight loss, muscle building, learning a skill). They write about their thoughts and experiences. Their successes and their failures.
Probably, and I’m kinda guessing here, most people start blogging to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that and many people make a success of it. But it’s not an easy journey.
If you’re the shy type or you don’t want to blog about your personal life, you might prefer to start a blog about a particular topic instead.
Here are a few examples that have tremendous scope:
- Making money
And there are tons more. In fact, you’ll find blogs on just about any subject you can think of.
If you’re struggling to think about the kind of content you’d create for a non-personal blog, here are a few ideas:
- How-to guides and tutorials
- Product and service reviews
- Expert roundups
Remember, part of the definition of ‘blog’ is a ‘regularly updated website’, so if you don’t want to blog about what’s going on in your personal life, blogging (or writing) about another topic is a perfectly acceptable alternative.
What are the differences between a blog and a website?
There are many different types of websites on the internet. Here are a few examples:
- Business websites (Microsoft, Apple, your local plumber and other service providers)
- Web directories (Yell, Best of the Web, Yelp)
- eCommerce websites (Amazon, eBay, Walmart)
- Forums (niche specific)
- Streaming websites (Netflix, Amazon)
- Photo sharing websites (Flickr, 500px)
- Personal portfolios
- Social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
- Wikis (Wikipedia, WikiHow)
- SaaS (software as a service) – (Adobe, Slack, Dropbox)
- News portals (BBC, CNN, Fox)
You can’t describe any of these types of these sites as your typical blog. However, each and every one of these websites could incorporate a blog. Either in a subdomain or a subfolder.
In fact, plenty of these websites do have a blog. Here are a few famous names you’ll know and links to their respective blog:
It’s hard for the average person to set up sites like some of the ones listed above without investing heavily in their creation and marketing.
A blog is different.
You can start a blog for free or for very little outlay. This is one of the reasons why starting a blog and growing it into a full-time business appeals to so many people.
Once the blog is set up, you can start adding content for free. After a while, if you do things the right way and create content that answers people’s questions or entertains them, you’ll start seeing more and more traffic coming to your site.
Once you get a decent amount of traffic, you can start generating income.
And you can do all this on the side, while you’re working at your day job, without any financial risk to yourself or your family.
How does a blog compare to a typical small business website?
A typical small business website consists of a set number of pages: a home page, an about page, a services page, etc. If you’ve searched for a service provider in your local area, you’ll know the type of website I mean.
The website is enough to get the message across about the products and the company. It’s also enough to get some decent rankings on Google locally for keyword phrases that bring in business.
The pages on the site never change. The content you see today is the same content as a year ago, two years ago, on day one.
Why should the content ever change? What’s the point? The service stays the same. It never changes. So there isn’t much point in updating the website.
A blog, on the other hand, can grow and grow and accommodate any amount of content. And you don’t need the help of a webmaster or web designer to add content as you did in the early days of websites. These days, you can do it yourself through a browser or app.
How do you make money from a blog?
There are many ways to make money from a blog. Let’s look at a few:
- Display ads from an ad network or sell ad space directly (the first option here is easy to set up, the second isn’t)
- Affiliate marketing (when you promote products by other people or brands and you earn a percentage from each sale)
- Sponsored posts or endorsements
- Create and sell digital products such as eBooks, printables and courses
- Promote your own services
- Create a membership area that people pay to access
Is blogging right for you?
It depends upon how much effort you want to put into running your blog and how much business or money it generates for you. A profitable blog takes a lot of time and effort to run.
Let’s look at how a business can use blogging to grow its customer base.
If there is a lot happening in your industry and you enjoy writing about it, somebody within your company enjoys writing about it or you hire a freelance blogger, then a blog is a great way to make sure new and fresh content is regularly added to your site.
From a traffic/search engine perspective, this is good because:
- Publishing new content keeps your site active and relevant
- More content means more keywords in Google which potentially means more traffic and more customers
- You have plenty of new content to share on your social media channels
It’s also a good way for you to build relationships with customers.
Another reason you should think about setting up a business blog is this – competitors.
Do they have a blog? Are they in the process of creating one? If the answer to these questions is yes, you’ll likely lose out in the long run.
If you already have a website and you’ve been thinking about adding a blog, I would certainly urge you to do so. Google loves fresh content and it’s really easy to add a blog to most websites, especially if you’re already using WordPress.
Examples of blogs
Let’s look at some examples of blogging in the wild.
Think about sites like Huffington Post and Lifehacker – these websites follow the typical blog format. They publish new content multiple times per day and the homepages always change to show the latest content.
Would you call them blogs? Probably not. But they both started many years ago as blogs.
Major news sites, although they fit the criteria and publish content just as often, are not blogs.
I guess you could call them portals.
Let’s have a look at a few more down-to-earth blogs. The type the typical person can start today to build into something bigger. Something that can become a profitable and successful business.
Do you need technical knowledge to run a blog?
It helps to have a little technical knowledge, especially an understanding of HTML and to some extent, CSS, but essentially, the answer to this question is no – if you can use Word or Google Docs you can master blogging.
There is a learning curve as all the blogging platforms work differently, but most of them are really intuitive (otherwise people wouldn’t use them).
WordPress is the most popular blogging software. It powers 35% of all websites and blogs you see online.
What should you blog about?
One of the first decisions you need to make is what to blog about.
The topic you choose depends on your goals.
If you’re blogging to promote your business, you should blog about the stuff that answers your potential client’s questions.
If you’re not using blogging as a marketing strategy, and want to generate income from affiliate sales, ad revenue, sponsored blog posts etc, you can choose pretty much any topic you like.
With that said, you should choose a topic that:
- You enjoy writing about (this is a long journey that could last several years)
- Has the potential to generate revenue
Tap into your areas of expertise
Many successful, full-time bloggers write about the things they did in their previous life.
By that, I mean their offline jobs and careers.
If you want to get into an over-crowded niche like travel or food, pick a niche or write in a way that helps you stand out.
Here are a few ideas for niching down in the travel and food niche:
- A specific location – city, country or continent
- A certain demographic – singles, LGBT, under 30s, over 50s
- Method of transport – car, train, plane
- Lifestyle choices – veganism, low carb, real foods
- Meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, slow cooker
- Ingredients – tomatoes, pasta, steak, chicken
If you choose to niche down, try to avoid choosing a domain name that lets you broaden your topic choices in the future.
How do blogs make money?
If you’ve ever wondered how niche websites and blogs make money, you’ll be pleased to know, you’re about to find out.
Before we get going, let me define “niche websites and blogs” as independent websites and blogs run by one person or a small group of people without the massive backing of a media company.
So, basically, anyone. You, me. Your auntie Maureen or your uncle Mick.
For many people, running a niche website or blog is a cheap way to start a business because you can run it in your spare time with virtually zero set-up costs – you only need a domain name, hosting, a writing device and time.
But there are pitfalls. And plenty of them. For now, though, let’s take a look at how websites and blogs make money.
1) By placing display ads within the content and in sidebars
Millions of websites around the world earn money from ads so this one isn’t confined to independent publishers.
Sadly, unless you get tens of thousands of visitors every day this method will only pay you peanuts.
That said, if you run several sites, each of them getting thousands of visitors per day, you could do very well.
The forerunner in this department is AdSense. Now it has a bunch of competitors such as Ezoic, Mediavine and AdThrive (these are the big three).
I started using AdSense in December 2003 and I’ve made over £100,000 since then. Not too shabby, but certainly not enough to provide me with a comfortable lifestyle. And the vast majority of that came from websites I ran between 2003 and 2012.
Since 2012 my AdSense earnings have bottomed out as I’ve looked for other ways to earn a crust.
AdSense or Ezoic are the two platforms most easily accessible to beginners or websites with low traffic. To get on the other two I mentioned, Mediavine and AdThrive, you need significant traffic before they’ll consider allowing your site to use their platform.
For many businesses in this space, it’s a stepping-stone process – start with AdSense or Ezoic, once the site reaches a minimum of 50,000 monthly pageviews, move to Mediavine and once it reaches 100,000 monthly pageviews, move to AdThrive.
How much could you earn?
The sky’s the limit if you have the traffic (but that’s getting harder and harder to come by as more people get into running websites and media companies become more dominant in the search results). Ad earnings tend to fluctuate through the year, with Christmas often being the best time to earn.
For many people who get into running websites and blogs and who generate revenue using some or all of the methods mentioned on this page, ads are the easiest and most passive to implement, but they often make the least overall. Something to bear in mind.
2) By promoting affiliate products
In theory, this is an easy way to make money.
Here’s how it works.
- You place a link on your blog to a product/service offered by somebody else
- A visitor to your site clicks on your link and purchases said product/service
- You earn commission
- The money lands in your bank account
Sounds simple, right?
It sure does, but things can go astray:
- Nobody clicks on your links
- If they do click they might not be in the right frame of mind to buy at that moment, and by the time they decide to go ahead, the cookie’s expired
- They may be unsure about the site you’re sending them to
- They might know you’re an affiliate and don’t want you to earn a commission so they go incognito or clear the cookies from their browser
- They’re just being curious and have no intention of buying
- They don’t trust you
Affiliate promotions work best when the visitor trusts you.
Once you build up a rapport with your readers and prove yourself to be trustworthy, people are more likely to buy the products or services you recommend.
What does an affiliate link look like?
Typically, there are two types of affiliate links available to you.
The first is a standard in-content link like this one (it won’t take you to another page, so don’t click it). You can place these links anywhere (sidebar, footer) but the ones that work best are those within your main content.
The second is a banner ad. Like the ones you usually see in the sidebar, header or within a blog post.
How much could you earn?
Untold millions, if you know what you’re doing and the affiliate fairy is on your side.
Your earnings are usually commission-based. With the figure worked out on a percentage basis. Some affiliate programs pay very well, and you can earn anything from 40% to 100% of each sale.
Typically, affiliate commissions for larger brands, the names you see on the high street or in the mall, pay a lower percentage rate. Sometimes as little as 2%.
How to find affiliate offers to promote
One of the best ways to find affiliate offers to promote is to join an affiliate network. They’re a kind of broker that acts as an intermediate between vendors and affiliates. The bonus of working with one of these companies is that you don’t have to register with each brand you want to work with. You just register with the network and apply to the programs that interest your audience.
Here are a few examples
How do affiliate networks work?
You join the network, add some details about your blog (or blogs), and then apply to join individual programs.
Once you hit the submit or apply button, you’ll see a notification telling you you’ve either been accepted, been declined or your application needs to be manually approved.
If accepted, you’re then allowed to access the code you need for your site.
How often do affiliate networks pay out?
Payments to you are usually processed monthly, but some networks pay fortnightly or weekly if your commissions reach the payout threshold, which varies from network to network.
What is a ‘cookie’ in relation to affiliate marketing?
A cookie is a little piece of code placed onto somebody’s computer when they click an affiliate link. Each cookie lasts a certain amount of time. If the person who clicked on your affiliate link buys the product your promoting within the time limit set by the cookie, you get a commission.
If they buy after the cookie expires, you don’t get a commission.
Typical cookie periods vary from 30 to 90 days.
The cookie for Amazon’s affiliate program lasts just 24 hours (yes, you read that right. It’s not a typo). So, people must be in the mood to buy when they click or you don’t earn.
Blogging about a topic demonstrates expertise and competence. Visitors to your site can discover a lot about your skills and your work ethic/principles simply by reading your blog posts, about page and testimonials.
For this reason, many business owners blog to promote their business. They see the platform as an efficient marketing tool.
And it is.
If you publish blog posts regularly, say once or twice a week, you stand a better chance of getting traffic from search engines than people publishing once a fortnight or once a month.
What kind of services could you offer?
It all depends on your skills and experience. Obviously, it’s no good offering graphic design services if you’re crap at creating graphics (like me). But because you’re running a blog, you might well be able to offer freelance writing services or even a blogging consultancy.
I know you might find the idea of offering services a bit pointless if your goal is to make money from your blog without working with clients, but it could be something you do until you’re generating income in other ways.
How much could you earn?
The sky’s the limit, it really is.
Copyblogger started life as a blog about copywriting. Now it’s into all sorts of related media: WordPress themes, hosting, and educational ebooks.
Create a training program
If you have spent years learning a craft or skill that other people could use, why not create a training program you could sell?
It could include videos, tutorials, worksheets, case studies, ongoing support and mentoring.
I know, I make it sound so easy…
In truth, putting together a detailed training program is hard. Not only do you have to create the materials, you must also work out the technical logistics and the sales and marketing process.
Diving in with a training program is not for the faint-hearted, but the rewards, when done well, are massive.
An option worth considering is creating small modules you can build up over time. If you’re a crafter, you may first teach people how to crochet before moving onto embriodery, for example.
The logistics of putting it together and selling it remain the same, but the time and effort taken to create the course is much less.
Once you have a system in place, you can start building more courses, which you may later combine into one.
How much could you earn?
Once again, the sky is the limit.
Create an outstanding course that goes way beyond expectations and you could earn thousands within a few days of launch, and more as time passes and new people join.
Write and sell an eBook
Following on from creating and selling courses we have a simpler way of doing something similar. Sure, you might not make as much money, but the process for creating an eBook is relatively simple.
And people are much more likely to buy due to the reduced investment and risk.
Remeber what I said earlier about building trust? An eBook is a good way to start building trust with your readers.
Write and sell a Kindle eBook
If you’ve succesffuly created a eBook and sold it through your site, why not take the next logical step and convert is to a Kindle edition and sell it through Amazon?
In a few short steps you could go from your limited blogging audience, to one that’s global!
Self-publishing has exploded in the past few years and people are making a full-time income from selling books for Kindle. Many of the people in the niche started out or still run a blog.
It seems like a natural course to take. The next logical step.
Sell advertising space
Instead of using AdSense to display ads and earning pennies per click, why not sell ad space directly to business who want to target your community?
If you’ve got a busy site, with lots of traffic coming your way, you could make a fair chunk of money using this method.
Finding advertisers will likely be your first obstacle. Once you get over that, you then need to work out a rate you and they buyer are happy with.
Yaro Starak provides a method for working out the ideal advertising rate on this post.
Here’s the method he uses:
You can charge X dollars per month, per ad, with X being equal to your daily visitors count divided by ten.
So if you get 500 visitors per day, you can expect to make $50 per banner ad.
Use this as a rough estimate. You might be able to get more, depending upon the subject of your blog.
Where you place the ad on your site is another factor to think about. Typical locations include the header, sidebar, footer, mid-post, before-post and after-post.
If you’re happy placing an ad in the middle of a post, you could charge more than the fee you’d charge for a sidebar ad.
useful resources for selling ad space on a WordPress blog:
Publish sponsored posts
When a business asks you to publish a sponsored post, they want you to write a blog which is about or mentions their brand and post it on your site.
Sometimes they’ll ask you to link back to their site, sometimes they just want you to mention the brand name or a product/service.
Either way, sponsored posts can be lucrative. Particularly if you have an engaged audience who respond positively to your recommendations. If that’s you, sponsors will pay handsomely to feature on your blog.
Once again there’s the issue of connecting with suitable brands and negotiating a fee both parties are happy with.
If you’re running a popular blog in your niche, there’s a very good the brand will find you. To make it easier, created a “sponsored post” page. On the page, explain you’re happy to work with sponsors and outline your requirements and what you will and won’t do for the brand.
It could be something like:
- I will write an honest and unbiased review of your product/service.
- I won’t accept sponsored posts written by anyone but me.
- You will provide me with all the information I need, including photos.
If done correctly, this page will show up in the search results when outreachers look for suitable blogs to work with. They’ll take a look at your blog, and if they like what they see, they’ll reach out to broker a deal.
And then we have the age-old question: “How much should I charge?”
And here’s the answer: “As much as you can!.”
Nick Loper, from Side Hustle Nation, blogged about earning $1,500 in 12 months from this little-known hustle. Another blogger, this time secretly, disclosed how she (I assume) earned £7,000 in six months.
Choosing a domain name for your blog
Now you have some topic ideas floating around your head, it’s time to choose an awesome domain name. The chances of grabbing the first one that comes into your head are probably zero. But never fear, with some creative thinking, you can find a suitable alternative.
Choose a domain that’s relevant to what you’re going to be blogging about. Try to include one keyword so people get it right away. Here are a few suggestions for domains that may or may not exist (I’m not checking!):
- superblogging.com (super blogging or superb logging?!)
If you’re looking for a global audience, buy a .com domain. If you’re looking for an audience from a specific country, choose that country’s domain extension. For example, .co.uk is for UK sites and .fr for French sites.
Registering and managing a domain name
When you decide upon a domain name, the next step in the process is buying it. The average cost for a domain is around $10. But you can get them cheaper, as you can see in the screenshot below from the company I use, Namecheap.
Typically, you register a .com domain for one year at a time, but you can register them for longer. If this is your first time, don’t bother registering your domain for longer than a year.
Once you register a domain, remember to renew it when the time comes!
A lot of hosts provide an automatic renewal service so you never forget to renew a domain. This is a good thing for many, but can also be a hindrance if you buy a lot of domains or you discover blogging isn’t for you.
I switch off this feature and instead rely on reminder emails or memory.
Choosing and buying web hosting
This is where things start getting a little tricky.
It’s a lot of fun and exciting choosing a domain name for the first time, but looking for a suitable web hosting company isn’t.
There are tons of companies to choose from. And loads of technical jargon to get your head around.
Here are a few words you’ll come across:
- Cloud hosting
The list goes on.
When you set up a website or blog, it’s a good idea to choose one of the well-known hosting companies. If you find it hard to make a decision, ask a friend or associate for a recommendation.
Whatever you do, don’t ask in a Facebook group! I’ve seen this happen so many times. You end up with a million different answers with people loving and hating the same company.
As you learn more about running a blog, if you don’t like the hosting company you signed up with, you can move your site to another provider.
Many hosting companies offer a free migration service. They move your site from your old host to the new one.
Typically, changing hosts shouldn’t affect your search rankings as long as both servers provide the same experience.
Page loading time is a ranking factor, so if you move from a fast server to a slow one, your rankings might drop. Not overnight, but over a period of time. So keep checking your analytics data.
And if you move from a slow server to a fast one, your rankings might improve.
One of the most popular hosting companies is US-based Namecheap. They provide a reasonably priced shared hosting service good enough for most beginners. It’s the company we use to host this site and it’s the one we use to buy all our domains.
Here’s a mind-blowing statement for you: WordPress powers 43% of all websites, including some of the largest brands in the world*.
That’s because it’s easy to use, practical and backed by a huge community of creators developing ways to make it better.
Yes, there is a learning curve at the start but once you grasp the basics and get to know how it works, it’s a walk in the park.
When you’re a beginner, you’ll need help understanding how WordPress works. So check out the Learn WordPress page for sites and resources you can use.
Instead of walking through the process of creating a WordPress blog with Namecheap, take a look at this video to see how easy it is.
Making your new WordPress blog look good
Once you’ve installed WordPress on your blog, the next step is making it look good.
You do this by installing a ‘theme’. A theme is a bunch of files that create the design and default styling.
WordPress comes with a few default themes pre-installed. Each one is named after the year it was published.
Anything prior to Twenty Twenty-Three is a good starting point, but a better option is a theme like Kadence. It’s easy on the eye and can be used without any customizations.
It’s the one used on this site.
If you install Kadence (or any other theme), you can customize the various settings using the Customizer in the WordPress admin area.
At this stage of your new blog’s life, it’s easy to get caught up with making your site look amazing. I get that, but I recommend focusing on creating content until you’ve published about 20 posts.
When you reach that point, you’ll have a better idea of which theme works best for your content.
Instead, focus on creating content.
Whether you’re running one site or multiple, consistently creating ‘evergreen’ content will stand you in good stead for the future. Creating content that ranks takes hours, days, and sometimes weeks, so the fewer times you need to go through this process, the better. Right?
So, what is ‘evergreen content’? To sum it up in a sentence: it’s content that stays relevant for a long time. In the tech niche, “a long time” could be six months to a year! In other niches, it could be two to three years or longer.
It will need updating from time to time to stay evergreen forever, but those updates shouldn’t take long. And in the meantime, you’ll see a steady flow of traffic and earnings from ads and/or affiliate commissions.
Let’s take a look at some of the types of blog posts you could create to add variety and keep people interested.
1) How-tos and tutorials
The vast majority of blogs use how-to guides and tutorials as the basis for most of their posts. After all, people turn to the web to find out how to do something so how-to guides work in just about every niche.
If you can get your article into the top results for competitive phrases, you’ll see steady traffic for years to come.
How long should you spend writing one? It depends on the task you’re describing. If it’s complicated, with many steps requiring a screenshot for each, a decent tutorial can easily take a few hours to get right.
2) Beginner guides
Beginner guides could be lumped into the ‘how-tos and tutorials’ category, but I’ve given them their own as a beginner guide doesn’t need to go into the same detail as a how-to guide.
That’s because a how-to shows the step-by-step process to do something. A beginner’s guide takes a broader look at a subject.
Within the context of a blog, a beginner’s guide is often used at the top of the funnel to attract people who know little to nothing about a subject. From the post, you could filter people through to other areas of your site by turning relevant keywords and phrases into hyperlinks.
Alternatively, link out to your affiliate partners.
Better yet, use a mixture of both of these methods (as I try to do in the articles listed above and other sites I run).
3) Personal opinion
A strong opinion piece related to your niche can generate a ton of traffic and quickly grow your audience.
If you really want to go for the jugular and piss people off, write something controversial.
I mean really controversial.
Get it in front of influencers so they share it with their audiences and prepare yourself for the inevitable backlash. It will come. But that’s the point in writing a strong and emotional piece. You want to attract new people who think like you and feel the same way about whatever it is you’re writing about.
There will be haters.
Once they’ve had their say and the dust has settled, you’re left with your tribe.
4) Personal experience
When it comes to blogging, creating content about your experiences is an excellent way to grow an audience, generate traffic, and earn money. This topic bleeds slightly into the next one (reviews), but depending on the subject and how you format your post, can be treated very differently.
The type of post I’m thinking about covers personal travel experiences, a journey through an illness, growing a business, or anything else your audience finds relatable or that people search for.
5) Product reviews
Product reviews, with affiliate links to Amazon or other online retailers, are a great way to increase the revenue potential of your website.
But there’s a problem.
On 8 April 2021, Google announced the Product Reviews Update. This broad core update rolled out over twenty-two days and had a major negative impact on some affiliate websites that contain ‘thin’ reviews.
The update is designed to reward reviewers that go to the trouble of buying and using a product before finally writing a review about it. Once again, Google’s looking for real-world experience and authenticity because it wants to show searchers the best content for their query.
Before the update, a lot of the content for Amazon niche sites (as they’re known) was created by curating information from product descriptions by the manufacturer, buyers’ comments on Amazon, and other reviews of the same product.
This was exactly the type of content Google wanted to tackle.
So, if product (or service) reviews are going to play a large part in your content strategy, the best way to go about it is to create completely original content and to use your own photos rather than those supplied by the manufacturer inside for the review.
And if you can go a step further and create a video, which you can post on your YouTube channel (with affiliate links embedded in the description (it’s allowed, but include a disclosure in your video)) you’ll add another level of authenticity to your review.
People love lists. They love to read ’10 best this’ or ’75 best that’. You’re reading one now!
Put simply, a listicle article is made of a list of things associated with a topic. They’re similar to the beginner guides mentioned above in that they attract people at the top of the funnel, at the start of their journey.
Say you’re on the lookout for a new smart TV. You’ll likely start by searching for ‘best smart tv 2021’. You’ll almost certainly find a couple of listicle articles in the results. Chances are you’ll click on them to see what’s on the market (because you have no clue at this stage).
Listicles work in any niche.
If you want to try this type of article, and I think you should, studies have shown that people prefer odd numbers over even numbers, so use 5, 7, 9, 15, 21, etc over 6, 10, 14, 26, 50.
The next type of post I want to mention is the round-up. Typically, you ask X amount of people their opinion on a subject your readers care about and post their answers in the form of a blog post.
It’s not the kind of post you create in a day, but they have enormous potential to bring in readers and get social shares as almost everyone you feature will share it through their social media profiles.
The people to ask are the big-wigs, the people with authority, opinions, and expertise. You want to tap into their world and get them to do some marketing for you.
They’re very common around the web, and I’m sure you’ve seen them before.
Google says that around 15% of the phrases entered into its famous search box each year have never been searched for before. A lot of those phrases relate to the launch of new products, news and entertainment events (sports, music, movies, etc).
If you want to jump on the bandwagon when you see the opportunity to create content about a breaking story in your industry, whip out your laptop and set about writing a post. They’re usually quite easy to write, and depending on how in-depth you go, shouldn’t take too long.
Depending on how much authority your site has, and how competitive the news is (you probably won’t rank for anything related to iPhones or Windows or BitCoin), but you could rank for the launch of a new tool or service in your niche.
Formatting blog posts for easy reading
It’s important to make blog posts attractive and easy to read. Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to help your readers enjoy their experience.
1. Write short paragraphs
Keep your paragraphs short and easy to read. Two to four sentences in each one is a good benchmark. If you’re a wordy writer/blogger you may struggle with this at first, but it gets easier with practice.
Why do you want to keep the sentence count low? Because it’s easier on the eye.
Massive blocks of text are difficult to read. People will take one look at it, think “Nah!” and click the back button or swipe to another site.
When people surf the web, they’re typically searching for information. They don’t read every word on a page. They scan. They want to find what they’re looking for and move on. They don’t have time to read every word. They want clues and hints.
It’s our job to do what we can to make their life easier. We want the people who land on our pages to stay and read what we’ve written. We don’t want them to take one look at the page and click back to Google to rerun their search query. If this happens too often, it will hurt your rankings.
On the upside, if people stay on your site and don’t return to Google, it should improve your search rankings. Which means more traffic. Another reason for making your pages look good.
2. Use relevant images
Use images in your posts. I like Pixabay. It’s my first port of call when I need an image.
You might like to have one at the top of the post, under the first paragraph, or after every subheading.
You have a whole arsenal of image styles to choose from: stock photos, screenshots, infographics, quotes, memes, diagrams, your own smartphone photos. You can use tools like Canva to create images too.
Some of the images could also be used for sharing on social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Choose your images carefully. You want to convey the right message. If you’re writing a tutorial or a how-to guide, images are invaluable for people who prefer visual learning over reading instructions.
Want an image with a bit of movement? Use a GIF.
Places to find free high-quality images you can use without breaching copyright laws:
- Death to Stock Photo
- Flickr (look for images published with a Creative Commons license)
Places to find infographics:
The best place to find animated GIFs:
Apps to create your own animated GIFs:
3. Use subheadings to introduce new topics and ideas
Subheadings quickly guide people to important areas of your posts.
Easily break up long pages into smaller sub-sections by using subheadings to differentiate between one subject from another.
Using subheadings to guide them, impatient readers can quickly scan your content and skip to the juiciest bits.
I know you want people to read every word you write, but it’s not about you. It’s about them. And unless they’re really interested in what you’re saying, they’re not going to do that.
Put subheadings in heading 2 tags so they’re larger than the rest of the text. Heading 1 tags are usually larger still, but it’s bad practice for a web page to have more than one heading 1 tag. Heading 2 tags are standard practice for subheadings so you can use as many as you like.
4. Prefix subheadings with numbers
Prefixing subheadings with numbers helps people measure their progress down your page.
This is really useful if you’ve written a post that promises the 10 best solutions for hair loss or 25 places to visit in London.
5. Use bullet points instead of large blocks of text
Everybody likes a list.
The internet is awash with top-tens, top-twenties, and even top-one-hundreds, but that’s not the type of list I’m talking about here.
What I’m referring to is a numbered list or bulleted list.
What’s the difference between a numbered list and a bulleted list?
Take a look:
- Lists are great for summarising information
- You don’t have to write whole sentences
- Just cut to the chase
- And they’re very easy to scan (which is what most web users do)
- Lists are great for summarising information
- You don’t have to write whole sentences
- Just cut to the chase
- And they’re very easy to scan (which is what most web users do)
Use a numbered list to describe a step-by-step process such as a recipe or method for replacing the screen on a smartphone.
Use a bulleted list when the order of the items in the list doesn’t matter so much. Typically, bulleted lists feature the most important stuff at the top and work down to the least important.
6. Use videos
Add a video to your blog post to add more value. You could use your own video or somebody else’s, as I’m doing here.
The video could be about the exact topic you’re writing about or it could be related to the topic you’re writing about. Like this one by Pat Flynn on how to write the perfect blog post.
7. Use bold and italics to add emphasis
Remember, people scan your pages. They’re not reading every word. Bold and italic text helps them pick up words and phrases you consider important enough to emphasize.
Whatever you do, don’t use too much bold text – it looks terrible.
Use it for emphasis and use it sparingly.
8. Use blockquotes
WordPress makes it easy to embed quotes into your posts. Usually, they’re style
Finding a new theme
You can choose from thousands of free themes from inside the admin area of your new blog. All you have to do is navigate through the available themes, choose one you like and go through the simple installation process.
Once you’ve done this, you can run the live preview to see how your blog looks using the new theme.
To find a new theme, navigate to Appearance > Themes and click on Add New.
Starting a blog is so, so easy. It really is.
The hardest part comes after you’ve passed the setup stage. Now it’s time to start creating content, generating traffic and making money from your blog.
I’m sure you’ve read the blogging success stories you find all over the internet and you probably feel inspired by them. Take heart in realising that all successful bloggers started somewhere, often with an audience of zero. But as time passes, through a lot of hard work, focus and networking, they saw traffic and income grow to the point where they could support themselves and their family.
It’s all up to you.