Whether you want to start a blog for personal reasons, or you have been told by other associates or small business owners that it is mandatory for SMB success in the 21st century, here is your complete guide to building a new one from the ground up!
What is a Blog?
We assume that you already have a decent idea of what a blog represents but let’s do a brief overview. The definition of what exactly a blog is has transformed over its early days. It is largely thanks to the sophistication of services offered through a blogging platform like WordPress.
A blog is defined as a regularly updated website or web page, typically one that is ran by an individual or small group. It is also written in an informal or conversational style.
Do you notice that the definition does not simply refer to as a blog being an online journal, but more like something that is a professionally developed website or web page?
How does a blog help drive traffic and earn money?
There is arguably no stronger (not to mention easier) strategy you can implement for your small business than establishing a new blog. They are excellent tools for digital marketers. A professional, informational blog can help:
- Improves your SEO: Otherwise known as search engine optimization. Blogs help improve your rankings in Google and thus get you noticed by more people on the web.
- Compliments your social media: If you look at the best examples of digital marketing, social media is often nothing more than additional platforms to promote the content a company has on their blog. The two work interchangeably.
- Provides you with an identity: While most pages on a website are only designed to promote and sell your products or services, the blog actually gives you an identity and builds a brand. SMBs without a good blog rarely have much clout with their leads and customers.
- Delivers another source to create CTAs: Along with providing a legitimate, trustworthy source of information it can serve as a great source to add more calls-to-action. Blogs should compliment and enhance the products or services you offer.
The Basics of Starting a Blog – 6 Steps Everyone Needs To Do
There are a number of reasons people start blogging. For some it is purely a hobby, others want to earn a living exclusively through blogging. Even more turn to blogging to help build a freelance business or launch a personal brand.
Regardless of the intention, before you can get too deep into the writing process here are the technical basics to creating a new blog:
- Pick a name for your blog and buy an available domain.
- Find a web hosting provider.
- Choose a blogging platform.
- Choose a theme and design the blog.
- Build the essential pages of the blog (about, contact, etc).
- Develop a content strategy.
Finding Your Niche
The biggest problem with the internet is the unfathomable amount of content available on the web. To put it bluntly: it’s kind of hard to stand out these days. You are merely competing with so much information.
The most crucial aspect to finding your niche is first discovering a need that you can help address, without the need being too broad, but also not too specific that it lacks an audience. It is a complicated balancing act, but you would be surprised how many extraordinarily successful blogs or podcasts have taken off with the most irrelevant topics that ended up being surprisingly popular.
If your a small business, your blog is probably just an extension of the products or services you sell. But what is going to separate your content from the number of other residential painting services located throughout the United States? What angle are you going to take that is going to make your content worthwhile to read as well as get you ranked high on Google when people search relevant keywords?
Therefore, you need a rock solid content strategy.
How to Write a Successful Blog Post – 6 Easy Steps
After handling the technicalities of a new blog it is time to get into the fun part of it – the actual creative process. Though there should be no limits set on what type or style of a blog is acceptable, there are definitely characteristics that not only help define what represents a good blog post/article, but also what helps certain ones get ranked well in Google.
If you are a brand new blog it is going to take some time to get noticed and build up a respectable audience. However, these simple steps can help take your blog to the next level much quicker.
3 Steps to Get Started
- Craft an interesting title: Every article begins with a subject, or topic. However, instead of stating the topic in the title straightforward, find a way to make it CAPTIVATING and ENGAGING. How can it stand out? Think about the title like how certain ones catch your eye in a bookstore or at the library. There is just something about certain titles that make you think ‘I want to investigate this read further’. A great blog title should have the same effect. For example, the title ‘How to Write a Successful Blog Post – 6 Easy Steps’ caught your attention enough to cause you to read this section. Therefore, an appropriate title should get to the point immediately yet also captivate in some manner.
- The intro needs to engage the reader further: The introduction is important in any writing medium, but especially in blogging. In addition to needing to garner interest and entice the reader to continue sifting through the article, the intro also has SEO value. Google and other search engines check the first paragraph for keywords. As a result, articles that get to the point immediately are more prone to rank well.
- Structure your content with headers and bullet points: These are two of the most powerful tools you can incorporate into your content. Headers help break up the content and provide titles to immediately grab the attention of the reader. It lets them know exactly what the section is going to contain information on. Bullet points serve a similar purpose. They are easy to read and digest. Remember, the typical reader these days has a shorter attention span and they “scan” more than they “read”. Is your content scannable?
Additional Steps to Building Rich Content
- Add suitable images: The proper use of images helps make the content more presentable. It breaks up large sections of text. Most people already know this, but the point is not that you need images, but you should get your photos from the right sources. There are a number of free online photo sharing websites like Unsplash and Pexels.
- Add internal and external links to the content: Links serve a variety of purposes. They are mostly used to improve SEO. Some bloggers cross-link to help promote each others content though there are a number of other reasons to incorporate them like affiliate marketing links, etc. You could devote an entire guide to why linking is beneficial.
- Create meta titles and meta descriptions: Another SEO tool, meta titles and descriptions are used for search result purposes. They help get you picked up when people search for particular keywords. The title (usually between 50-60 characters) and description (usually between 120-160 characters) also point the reader toward what the blog entry will contain information about.
Great Blog Writing Resources
Do you struggle stringing together words into sentences that are precise, clear, and engaging – otherwise known as writing? You are not alone, many bloggers are not professional writers per say, so they rely on many of the following tools:
- 750 Words
- Blog Topic Generator
- Cliche Finder
- Daily Page
- Hemingway App
- Power Thesaurus
12 Best Blog Examples of 2019
If you would like some samples of blogs that are already well established, bring in six figures or more in terms of unique visitors, and have really strong templates for effective blogging – check out the examples below:
- Cup of Joe
- Know Techie
- Laughing Squid
- Miss Thrifty
- ModCloth Blog
- Musician’s Friend – The Hub
- Orbit Media Studios
- Pinch of Yum
- Spoon Fork Bacon
- Tiny Buddha
- We The Parents
Finding a Blogging Platform
One of the best aspects of operating a blog in the current era is that you do not need a lot of technical savvy, like knowledge of HTML or CSS coding in order to run your own website. Blogging platforms, or CMS managers, do most of the heavy lifting.
It leaves you with a basic editor that is comparable to Microsoft Word or Google Docs for creating new content, yet can also introduces a lot of customization and advanced features for people looking to take their blogs to the next level.
One of the first steps you need to make after getting a domain and finding a web host (more details, below) is to select a blogging platform. According to recent data, WordPress powers 30 percent of all websites on the Internet which makes it by far the most popular CMS manager. An estimated 75 million websites use WP, and almost half of those are also self-hosted through WordPress.com.
Consequently, we are not going to say you have to go with WordPress, but there are numerous reasons why you should probably make it your provider. Here are a few other popular options for CMS:
What makes WordPress so popular?
It is clear why WordPress is easily the most dominant blogging platform with over 82 million active users. It has countless plugins and add-ons, with an almost infinite number of ways to design and layout a blog. There are a number of benefits to using WordPress:
- It’s super easy to set-up and free to use.
- WP provides plenty of free themes and layouts if you decide against a paid version.
- The community support on WP is excellent. There is always someone to provide technical support.
- WP blogs are renowned for performing very fast and the functionality is always stellar
- It is easy to interact with your audience, share content, and embed other content or connect with other apps.
WordPress is everything you could ask for in a content management system. It enables you to write, design, and publish your blog posts. WP is extremely easy to use, provides quick uploads of videos and images, and provides complete control of your website design and layout. It is practical for BOTH beginners and advance developers.
Ask any professional and chances are 9 out of 10 will recommend WordPress first. It is simply that popular.
WordPress is available in two different formats: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The platforms are very different from each other, so here are the primary differences:
- Free to use
- Users are unable to pick a custom domain name
- Features very few monetization options
- Unable to upload your own plugins
- Features limited theme support
- Provides limited SEO and analytics
- Costs a monthly fee
- Provides fully customizable design and unlimited plugins
- Total control over monetization efforts
- Powerful SEO features
- Provides ability to add own eCommerce store
WordPress.org is clearly the better option if you want to make it look far more professional and earn income from your blog.
Where to Find Web Hosting
Now that you have made a decision on the CMS, you need a permanent new home for your blog. There are a number of different web hosting providers on the Internet. All of them have pros and cons, though most of them are fairly dependable. Some of our personal favorites include:
- Liquid Web
- Media Temple
- WP Engine
There are free hosting options available on the Internet yet they are not recommended for anything more than a small blog that is just being created for a hobby. Web hosting is cheap and affordable, and comes with numerous benefits including:
- Improved speed and website performance
- Added layers of security to keep your website from getting exposed
- Online support that is available 24/7 to help with technical issues
- Great functionality and compatibility with WordPress (assuming you go that route)
The host will keep your files safe and secure. Some of the top rated web hosting services also are a one-stop shop as you can also purchase a custom domain name at the same time, eliminating one less step. Furthermore, bloggers can save money on a domain registrar and hosting by packaging them together.
In the end, hosting is your websites home so it needs to act reliable.
Building an Audience
A common cause of burnout for new bloggers is they get really excited about a new idea, commit to it, then get disgruntled after a couple of months when they struggle for readership.
It is important to remind people new to the industry that blogging is not an overnight sensation. You may have heard about a few wonder stories in the media, but for the most part building an audience takes a lot of time and energy.
Blogging is an investment like anything else. It is not only as good as its content, but also the amount of time, money, and resources you invest in it.
The most successful blogs on the internet are all ran by people that care very deeply about the subject matter and have also dedicated plenty of time and energy to making them successful.
Increase Site Traffic
Though it is easy for new bloggers to get so caught up in SEO strategies because they want to bring in higher volumes of traffic quickly, skipping out on the importance of high quality content — first and foremost — is a major flaw of many startups.
There is power in having gripping, riveting content. If you have a solution to offer, and can effectively communicate it, the traffic will follow. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it doesn’t matter how good your SEO is if your content is not useful. Audiences may visit, but not stick around for long time so the opportunities for steady growth are not there.
When your content is solid, and SEO strategies are effectively implemented, Google will take notice. Readers will also start to share your content on social media. The domino effect will be incredible.
Search Engine Optimization
Did you know that search engine optimization (SEO) is a multi-billion dollar industry? It is kind of like the Holy Grail of successful online content. Everyone is aware of it, but very few know how to actively pursue it.
SEO helps get you noticed on search engines like Google, which are the primary source for connecting new visitors to a blog. They help you get discovered, and since first page (even more so, top or top 3) rankings are so important – you need to capitalize on SEO in order to grow an audience.
SEO is effective when the right keywords and phrases are used in your content to help get picked up by Google when users search for similar information. While the basics of SEO optimization are simple, actually applying it effectively can get far more complex. Thankfully, blogging platforms like WordPress have made it far more easier to understand and approach.
Yoast SEO is one of the most popular plugins used for SEO on WordPress. If you are choosing this platform for your website (and we highly recommend it!) than adding Yoast SEO is a necessity as well if you are truly serious in growing the blog.
If you have spent even a short amount of time researching SEO principles and ways to grow an audience you’ve probably heard people already talking again and again about building email lists. Why are they so important?
When you think about it, there is no other way to reach your audience quicker and more effectively than having a direct lines of communication to them via email. Face-to-face and over the phone conversations are no longer nearly as utilized with businesses. Therefore, email is probably the most direct and personal form of communication you can have with your customers.
While it may not seem like there is a correlation, email lists help generate more traffic. They also help turn more profits. Therefore, you can never start building an email list soon enough after the launch of a blog.
Email lists give you a lot of control. Armed with this important contact information, you can go to them when you need to highlight your content, promote a product or service, etc without waiting for them to come to you.
How to Earn Money Blogging
Though it is easy to get caught up in the success stories you read about on the web where someone was able to quit their 9 to 5 job and earn a full income simply by blogging, these stories do not evolve overnight. They take time. Therefore, finding ways to monetize your blog should be the very last step in the blogging process.
One great way to view and value your audience is to treat it like a relationship. It takes time to produce readers, especially readers that want to keep coming back to see what else you are offering them. That trust is only built up after a relationship is established and the reader can assert that you are reliable and will deliver relevant, important information that they may not be able to find elsewhere.
Blogs share a special value that traditional media is unable, yet desperately seeks to establish. It is very much a community where the readers play a more vital, critical role to the content. They help influence not only what is being published but are also able to share their own opinions and reflections on the content. You must treat a blog this way in order to establish success.
Once that relationship is forged, it is time to move forward by establishing ways to also make money off your readership.
Blogging is an investment that pays high-end dividends yet it is a very long-term strategy. Once you get successfully established you can have reliable, steady income for a long time. But it does take patience to get there. It is not a “get paid quick” scheme. If you want that type of income you are in the wrong line of business.
Freelancing as a Blogger
Bloggers, especially those just starting out, often freelance their services to other well established blogs in order to build up a reputation and hopefully make some money on the side.
You may not have a recognizable name yet in the industry so having a blog that looks great automatically builds credibility. Then, it’s a matter of reaching out to other blogs that are a good fit and providing a strong enough pitch.
Along with the supporting pages of your blog (about, contact) a few relevant writing samples from the website will help demonstrate to the other site that you are a high quality writer, knowledgeable, and perfectly capable of providing some type of worth to their content.
If you have yet to develop writing samples through a blog, take that time now. It really improves your credibility as other clients are far more willing to try you out as a freelancer.
Sometimes your blog is a direct source of income, other times it serves as a tool and part of your portfolio to get you earnings elsewhere. So, until you build up a bigger following on your own blog, you can earn money through other clients blogging.
Offer Online Courses
Blogging should make you become an expert on a particular topic, particularly one that has a specific niche. For example, instead of being an expert on basketball (which is very general and thus has many other bloggers talking about), become an expert on coaching youth basketball. You are now narrowing down your expertise to a very specific though necessary niche that is under reported, yet people still need information about.
When you become an expert you have a skill that others will pay you to learn about. Often the best method is to get people interested through free information you provide through a blog, then offer to give even more information and knowledge about the subject through a paid course.
There are a number of affordable, easy-to-use online course software builders. What’s even better about online courses is you do not need a huge audience to make some money.
Even with a few faithful readers you can encourage them to interact, ask questions, share advice, join email lists, and offer free downloads. They will often reward you for providing this community by enrolling in online courses, assuming they are reasonably priced.
The old tried and true method of traditional advertising still works and is very practical with blogs. There are many bloggers that opt to join what is called an ad network. The networks help partner blogs with relevant brands and then small ad placements are spread throughout some of the higher traffic areas of the website.
Advertising is easy and straightforward to implement, however, despite its perception it is far from the top way to earn money through a blog. Advertising only provides a minimal return even to sites with six figure monthly unique visitors.
There are options to try and improve a return by selecting marginally higher ad networks like ones that are CPC (cost per click) or CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions). However, the risk is that the advertising is not nearly as specific to your subject matter with CPM and CPC advertising, so for example you may get some inappropriate ads compared to what your blog is related to.
Advertising can turn off readers quickly, so you need to exercise caution and not make it too obnoxious. No one has ever been a major fan of pop-ups or irrelevant ads that just distract the eye away from the primary content.
You can start implement advertising immediately on your blog, but it’s not going to really be beneficial until your site reaches nearly a million monthly readers.
Combine a Podcast with a Blog
It is fairly new concept compared to other ways to monetize online. The popularity of podcasts has really taken off over the last decade, as they are arguably more popular for listeners these days than even traditional radio.
Podcasts, like blogs, are fairly easy to launch yet require a few more resources as you’ll need audio recording equipment and some type of platform to host and potentially record the broadcasts. However, if you have the means, they make a great pair with a blog.
Podcasts can serve as extensions to your blog, and many like them because the host generally brings on guest speakers for a Q&A session. The interview format works much better in audio than text, and definitely enhance the subject matter you are already dealing with through the blog.
Podcasting is like a double opportunity to earn income as you can endorse sponsorship, place ads, network, and reach out to customers much like a blog. And the different mediums can bring new visitors to the blog, and vice versa that may have never discovered you had it not been for a podcast.
Affiliate programs are a hidden gem in the online world. The income is very passive, and when used effectively can provide a stable source of monthly income by doing very little.
The programs work by getting a special tracking link from a company that you want to affiliate with. So, for example, if you write about exercise equipment you may want to affiliate link with Bowflex or Nautilus.
After you get the link you incorporate it into your posts and email newsletters. Whenever someone clicks on the tracking link and/or completes a purchase, you get a financial incentive for helping lead to the sale.
Each affiliate link will have a different set fee or percentage that you get for leading your audience to their brand, as some are more lucrative than others. When you think about it, that’s a very simple way to earn a little extra cash for doing very little.
When you transform into an authoritative figure, or expert, on a particular subject you may get companies that will actually pursue you for monetization purposes. Sponsored content happens when a brand wants to pay you a fee in order to get their content in front of your audience. It is very easy money to make, but of course you’re only going to garner the interest of brands after you build a big audience.
The most important thing with sponsored content (like other blog monetization) is not to make it obvious that you are doing so to your readership. If you make it obvious, you may alienate your audience and have them jump to conclusions that you sold out. Sponsored items can effectively get woven into content with the right practices.
When can you start capitalizing on sponsored content? Experts may give you different numbers, but you’re unlikely to generate much interest until you at least reach the 10,000 monthly unique visitors plateau.
Of course for many businesses, the blog is just an extension of the products and/or services that they primary sell. So, for example, if you are a digital marketing company your blog is there to provide information about digital marketing, but also get CTAs to entice new clients to sign up for the services you provide.
Blogs are great ways to generate sales leads and help finalize a deal. In addition to bringing more traffic to your products or services because of the SEO value a blog has, the web page also serves as a practical piece of information to help enhance the value of the product or services you provide. They work hand in hand with small businesses these days.
Blog Post Templates
Are you not a writer by trade and need a little guidance on how to get started writing clear, effective, and intriguing content?
While there is no formula that you have to stick to, there is definitely a blueprint — or series of them — that can help bloggers get started with good content. Otherwise known as templates, these blueprints help give you a foundation to which you can expand on.
In addition to taking advantage of these free and effective blogging templates, also consider emerging yourself in other content on the web. We have recommended some of our favorite examples for 2019, and you can learn even more about what these blogs are already doing well.
Types of Blog Posts
The difficult part of creating new content is not so much coming up with ideas, though we all have those days of writer’s block, but more how to structure the post. The structure, or outline, is just as important as the actual sentences you write. It helps keep your thoughts organized and delivers a nice flow so the reader can easily follow along and get the ideas presented to them in a fluid form.
There are several types of structures that work really well for posts. A few of the most common include:
- How-Tos and Tutorials
- Lists (Top 10s, etc)
- Cheat Sheets or Checklists
- Controversial, Shock-Treatment Titles
- Instructional Posts
- Personal Spotlights
Template for the Intro
The introduction is also known as the hook. Why? Because it hooks the reader into wanting more and therefore reading the entire article, or at least skimming through it. Therefore, the first few sentences of your blog post are extremely important.
Great approaches are to launch off the article with a question. Or state something that is mildly controversial. How about providing a universally interesting fact or troubling statistic to hook a reader?
It is a good idea to keep your paragraphs short, no more than 4-5 sentences. You’re not writing a novel. It is good to keep things short and concise. Readers digest information online very quickly, so you do not want to overwhelm them with bloated paragraphs.
5 Step Approach to a Creating a Blog Template
There are a number of different styles and formats to cover the same exact information depending on if you use a how-to template or stick to infographics. They both may lead to the same conclusion, or answer, but the means in which you get there are going to be totally different. One approach may be more appropriate than another depending on the subject matter, though there is never only one right answer.
When you utilize this 5 step approach it can help lead you to the right template for the subject matter:
- Tell a story related to the topic.
- Identify the problem with your story.
- Re-state the problem in general terms that apply to your reader.
- Lay out the steps to solving.
These steps, regardless of the template used find a problem, offer a solution, and bring up the steps needed to reach it.
Resources for Other Blog Templates
For additional templates that you can find on the web visit: