How to Start a Successful Blog (And Make Money)

how to start a successful blog

So you have heard that you can make money blogging…

While this is true, it’s not as easy as some people may say it is. But in this article, I am going to show you exactly how to start a successful blog and actually make good money from it online.

The hard part isn’t actually setting up the blog or even building the content, it’s getting quality traffic to your blog that you can convert into dollars (and make a profit).

But no worries as I am going to show you how to build a blog that actually gets traffic and makes money online.

Choosing a Niche

Picking the right niche is imperative to being successful with a blog. If you create a blog about general topics then it will be much harder to become an authority in that market but if you have a specific niche, you can build more authority which is what you need to rank high in Google and get free traffic to your blog.

It’s also important because some niches pay much better than others. For example, entrepreneurship and business pays a lot because businesses are the customer and they have a lot of money. Gaming is a very low paying niche because it’s a younger market that doesn’t spend much.

choose a niche blogSo choose a niche that has affiliate offers with higher payouts and you will see a lot more money down the line.

Here is a list of common niches that can be successful:

  • Business
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Beauty
  • Health
  • Dating
  • Fitness
  • Weight Loss
  • Insurance
  • Finance
  • Real estate
  • Home & Garden

Anyone of these niches will have higher paying affiliate offers that you can promote on your blog to make money. Simply pick one that you are the most passionate about because you are going to be working on it a lot upfront.

You may also want to look at the competition in the niche. It’s going to be a lot harder to rank for health or finance topics so its good to pick a niche of a niche. For example, you could start a blog about only getting home loans. The more specific you get the easier it will be to get traffic, but there will also be less volume so find the perfect balance.

Now that you know your niche, its time to choose a domain name that we are going to host our blog on.

Get a Domain Name

The very first thing you will need to do is purchase a domain name where you can host your new blog.

What is a domain name you wonder?

A domain name is simply the base URL of your website. For example, our domain name is solopreneurInstitute.com.

You can think of domain names as real estate because when someone buys a domain name, you can’t purchase it unless they let it expire.

buy a domain nameThere are a number of different TLD (top-level domain) and the amount of them available growing as well. Here are some of the more popular TLDs:

  • .com
  • .co
  • .net
  • .org
  • .edu
  • .ca

So now that you are familiar with what a domain name is, its time to purchase one.

There are many options you can choose for purchasing domain names, but here are a few of the biggest ones:

They will all have about the same pricing and you are looking at about $10/year depending on the TLD you choose.

Now its time to find the right domain.

Unlike popular opinion, the words in the domain really don’t matter that much so don’t spend all of your time finding and choosing the right domain. What really matters is the content you put on the website and the backlinks you build (but we will get deeper into that later).

Buying Expired Domains for Faster Results

But instead of buying a new domain, I would recommend checking to see if there is a good domain available that is aged and maybe even already has links to it.

A good way to do this is to use ExpiredDomains.net. You can sign up for a free account and search for domains that are expired recently.

Let’s say you are looking to start a blog about outdoor gear. Simply enter your desired keywords in the search bar.

expired-domain-search

Next, you will want to add some filters to get rid of the bad or unavailable domains. Click show filter, and select ‘only available Domains’. This will only show domains that are expired and ready to be purchased.

You can also add any other filters you may want like if you only want .com or you only want it to be 10 characters max. I like to sort the table by BL (backlinks) so we can see domains that already have backlinks to them. This will make it a lot easier to rank faster in Google.

expired-domain-filters

As you can see here, NorthlandOutdoorGear.com possibly has some backlinks built to it already plus it was registered in 2005 which is a long time ago. So now we can put this URL into an SEO tool to see if it has any backlinks and if they are very good.

Putting into Ahrefs, we can see that it already has about 19 backlinks and a non-zero DR (domain rating). This will make it a lot easier to rank our content in Google with some link power already going.

ahrefs overview backlinks

The backlinks look like decent links from local websites in Northland so this seems like a great domain to start with for our example outdoor gear reviews site. Just be careful to check the backlinks pointing to the site already as sometimes they are very spammy and may hurt your site in the long run.

ahrefs backlinks

When you start with an expired domain, you will see results a lot faster as Google is already familiar with the site. Not only that but the more backlinks pointing to your site already, the faster it will rank and the less work you have to do!

Next, we will need to purchase a spot on a server so we can host our website on our domain.

Hosting Your WordPress Blog

Hosting is simply a server where you can host your WordPress blog online. It has become such a big business that it’s very affordable to host a lot of websites online.

There are also thousands of choices when it comes to hosting but remember you get what you pay for. I would highly suggest not using hosting with Godaddy and instead hosting your sites with Bluehost or another recommended host below. You will see much faster loading times, which is vital for SEO.

WordPress Hosting Glossary

But first, some common terms to know:

  • Bandwidth: The amount of data transferred between your website and the internet.
  • CPU: Central Processing Unit of the server you’re hosted on.
  • CPanel: A simple and robust control panel for Linux-based systems.
  • DNS: Domain Name System is basically the phonebook for the internet.
  • RAM: Random Access Memory is the memory of the server you are hosted on.
  • Disk Space: The amount of space that the server allows for your files, images, media, etc.
  • Linux: An open-source operating system that works great for server applications.
  • Shared Server: A server that hosts many websites on one single server.
  • Dedicated Server: When you have an entire server for your hosting.
  • SSL: Secure Sockets Layer makes your website secure and creates an encrypted link between the web server and the browser.
  • Softaculous: A script library that automates the installation of web applications like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.
  • MySQL: An open-source relational database management system for PHP applications.
  • PHP: Hypertext preprocessor is a programing language and is what WordPress is created in.

Now that you are more familiar with what hosting is and how it works, let’s look at the best hosting providers for WordPress websites.

When it comes to choosing a hosting provider, you should be very careful with who you pick. If you choose a provider that has too many people on each server, your website will be slow and you won’t be as successful.

You want a super-fast website, 99.9% uptime, 1 click WordPress installation and Cpanel. But here are some of the best hosting providers for WordPress blogs.

Best WordPress Hosting

Host Price 1-Click WP
Bluehost $2.95 Yes GET DEAL
Siteground $3.95 Yes GET DEAL
Inmotion Hosting $6.99 Yes GET DEAL
Dreamhost $4.95 Yes GET DEAL

You simply can’t go wrong with any of these hosting options and they will all provide easy WordPress installation and super fast loading times for your blog.

When your blog starts getting more traffic, you may need to upgrade from these smaller plans as they just can’t handle larger traffic sites.

Now that you have chosen a host, its time to install WordPress on your host so you can start blogging!

Setting Up WordPress

WordPress is the most widely used CMS (content management system) currently powering over 37% of the web.

This very website you are viewing is WordPress. It’s simply the best platform as far as SEO optimization, customization, and overall google-friendliness. I would highly suggest using WordPress to build your money-making blog.

Installing WordPress

Installing WordPress on the hosts above is as easy as 1-click.

Simple login to your cPanel and scroll down to the Softaculous apps installer.

softaculous apps wordpress install

Click WordPress to go to the WordPress install page. Click the install now button to install WordPress on your hosting environment.

install wordpress

You will be asked a few more questions about your WordPress installation. Make sure that your Installation URL is https and isn’t in any directory (so that the homepage is on the base domain).

install wordpress version

The rest of the options can be changed later,  but be sure to write down your username and password so you have it for future use.

Click the install button and WordPress will now be installed on your domain!

To log in, just visit www.yoursite.com/wp-admin/ and login with the details you wrote down earlier.

Next, you will choose a theme for your WordPress blog.

Choose a Theme

A WordPress theme is a bunch of template pages and CSS stylesheets that create a theme for your WordPress blog.

There are thousands of free themes and there are also paid themes that can cost anywhere between $20 and $100. You can even get a custom theme developed but this cost thousands of dollars.

I would recommend starting out with a free WordPress theme or a $60 theme from Theme Forest.

They are easily customizable and usually come with a bunch of free paid plugins.

Here are some of the best themes to use that are SEO-optimized and good for blogging:

  • Schema
  • REHub
  • SteadyIncome
  • MagOne
  • Voice
  • NewsMag

To install a downloaded theme, you simply go to appearance->themes and click the upload theme button at the top.

upload theme

Then select the downloaded theme and click install.

Now that your theme is installed and set up, its time to optimize it for search engines.

Yoast SEO

With Yoast SEO, you can easily build meta titles, meta descriptions and optimize your content for SEO.

Installing Yoast SEO is really simple. Just head to the plugins page, then choose to add a new plugin and search for ‘Yoast SEO’.

yoast seo plugin

Click install, then activate and you are well on your way to optimize your WordPress blog.

To set up Yoast SEO, go to the new SEO tab in the left side menu of your admin area. Choose Search Appearance to create dynamic meta tags.

On the first page, you need to set up your knowledge graph for yourself or your organization. I would recommend choosing an organization and adding the name and logo of your organization here.

yoast knowledge graph

To test or view the installed schema tags you can use the Google Structured Data Testing Tool to see if the schema was installed correctly by Yoast SEO (it will be).

Now we need to set up meta titles and meta descriptions for all of our content types.

The only content types you should be showing in search results are posts, pages, products, and any custom post types if applicable. I would highly recommend removing tags, blocks, portfolios or any other non-valuable post type that you don’t need to be indexed in Google. These don’t provide any value to the user as they are usually duplicate pages and unrelative content.

deindex yoast seo content types

To disable them just click the content type to expand it and choose ‘No’ where it says ‘Show in search results?’. This will remove it from the sitemap file and add no index to these pages.

That way, Google will only index our valuable pages that give value to the users.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free website traffic tracking software that allows you to see where your traffic is coming from and what they are doing on your site.

With WordPress, you can install Google Analytics very easily.

First, you will need to create a Google Analytics account by visiting Google Analytics and singing up.

Create a new property in your account and add the details of your website URL, name and timezone.

google analytics property details

Head back to WordPress and go to the plugins area again, where we can install a plugin to connect our Analytics account to WordPress.

The Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin by MonsterInsights has over 2 million active installations and is just fine to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site.

Just install the plugin and go through the Wizard to connect Analytics to your WordPress site.

To test if it is working, go to your website in a browser and look at the Google Analytics real-time section to see if you see yourself on the stats.

google analytics real time

Google Search Console

To get up to date stats about your website, backlinks and where you are ranking, Google Search Console is the best free resource for any blogger.

Just go to Google Search Console and create a new account.

Add new property and add your base URL into the URL prefix.

search console add property

Next, you will need to verify that you own the domain. You can do this in a number of different ways, but the easiest way is to choose to confirm it with Google Analytics.

Since you just installed it on your site, Google can confirm you own it by the Analytics Code.

Once, your domain is verified you can see a number of different stats about your SEO and rankings in Google. If you are a new site, you won’t see much (if any) data.

solopreneur institute seo overview

You can also add an XML sitemap file which is a file that lists all of your website URLs and their priority.

This file is automatically created by Yoast SEO, so all you have to do is add it to Google Search Console. Just click sitemaps in the left column, under Index.

Enter in ‘sitemap_index.xml’ in the field and click submit.

add a new sitemap

You can see your submitted sitemaps in the table below to see the status and how many URLs are included.

Now Google is aware of all of your pages and how to find them. Next, we need to build content for Google to index and rank.

Building Quality Content

Congrats, your website is live!

But without any content, you will not get any traffic from Google or any other sources really.

Quality content is what brings in backlinks, social shares, and viral posts as well as being a medium to send targeted traffic to your affiliate offers.

Its also how you are going to get the most traffic from Google.

Your blog should have hundreds of articles about your niche that can drive visitors and convert them into dollars. Here are some good  examples of content you can build that ranks well:

  • Product Reviews
  • Top 10 Lists
  • Guides
  • How-To Posts

Your content should contain lists, images, videos, and be easily readable. The longer people stay on your content the better you will ultimately rank in Google.

Content Research

Doing content research is a smart idea to find topics in your niche that are already getting traffic.

This way, we know that we can get a good amount of traffic to our post and convert it into money. So let’s go back to our SEO tool called Ahrefs and use their content explorer to get some ideas.

Simply enter in your niche keywords and choose ‘in title’ from the dropdown.

ahrefs content explorer

This will pull back all ranked content that has the keywords ‘best outdoor gear’ in the title. Now we can sort by organic traffic to see which articles get the most traffic from Google Search.

content explorer ahrefs

Here are some good ideas of posts to start with that are already getting a good amount of traffic each month. Just look at the content and build better content on your WordPress blog and you will get a piece of that traffic.

You can use this method for any niche. Just change the keywords you search for in the Content explorer to find high traffic article ideas.

Content Optimization

Having optimized content can help you rank better as well as be featured in rich snippets.

Here are some ways to rank your content better in Google:

Adding Tables (of content)

Tables (like the one at the top of this post) not only help great good user experience on your site by allowing users to quickly jump to sections, it also allows Google to more easily process information because of the layout structure of tables.

When you add tables to your content, it helps separate boring paragraph content, allows for rich snippets or site links, and can also help show a lot of data in a small area.

Here is an example of how tables can help Google show a featured snippet of that data:

google featured snippet

Meta Tags

Your meta tags are a part of ranking well in Google. Your meta title and meta description should include the posts main keywords.

Meta Titles should be 50-60 characters and contain the primary and secondary keywords as well as the brand name.

Meta Descriptions should be about 155 characters that explain what the page is about in detail.

The meta title and description are what you see in google when you come across a listing. Here are Solopreneur Institutes’ meta title and description for our homepage.

meta information solopreneur instititute

SEO Optimized Images

Adding images to your post and optimizing them is important for getting your images rank in Google Images.

Google Images can not only bring in traffic to your website, but it can also help you rank higher in Google.

Name your images keywords that explain the image and also add alt tags when you upload them in WordPress.

Simply upload an image and then you can add an alt tag in the media uploader.

alt tags wordpress

Internal/External Linking

Linking to external content on your posts can help pass link power to other pages on your site. It can also help the search engine crawler better crawl your website and pages.

You can also use external linking to provide a link to other relevant sources or information about your content.

Content-Length

Content length has become more important for ranking well in Google.

Google is going to show the most informative content that provides the searcher with an answer.

200-word articles simply can’t give thorough information about any subject.

Posts should be 1000+ words but the longer your content, the more keywords it will have, which means the more traffic you can potentially get.

Affiliate Offers

In order to make money from your blog, you will have to sign up to relevant affiliate programs that you can sell on your site.

For example, if your blog is about outdoor gear, you will need to find affiliates that sell outdoor gear that you can send traffic to for a commission.

There are a few large affiliate networks that you can sign up with to get a large range of affiliate offers. Some of the best affiliate networks are:

All of these options have thousands of advertisers that you can promote on your new blog.

You just need to create your affiliate links and then add them to your content. Banners are also a great way to drive more traffic to your affiliate links. Advertisers will already have premade banner adds taht you can simply add to your WordPress blog with a simple HTML code.

Here is an example of how to do it:

Step 1:  Grab your special HTML code from the affiliate network.

html affiliate code

Step 2: Go to Appearance->Widgets in WordPress and drag a Custom HTML widget into your sidebar.

custom html widget wordpress

Step 3: Click save and your banner will now be visible in your sidebar.

widget wordpress ad affiliate

One of the best ways to get more clicks and sales is to add contextual links to your affiliate offers. Linking to relevant offers in your content is really what can drive sales to your affiliates.

Types of Affiliate Offers

  • Pay Per Lead: You earn a commission on each lead to send to the affiliate.
  • Commission Based: You earn a percentage of the sale you send to the affiliate.
  • Pay Per Call: You earn a flat fee on each call you send the affiliate.

Each offer type has its own advantages and disadvantages but as a blogger, commission-based affiliate offers are usually the best bet.

And if you are promoting high-priced items, those commission payouts will be really high, which means more money.

Building Traffic

Without traffic, you will make $0 on your WordPress blog. Traffic is the most important part of making money online with a blog.

There are a number of different sources to get traffic to your website and I will go through the most important ones here.

Search Engine Optimization

This is easily the most powerful and longterm solution for building quality traffic to your blog.

By optimizing your website on and off-page, it will rank high in Google search, bringing in traffic to your site 24/7, 365.

On-Page Optimization

A lot of your on-page optimization has to do with what WordPress theme you have chosen. Some of them aren’t optimized so well for SEO.

You can install a number of plugins that will help you rank better in Google. We talked about Yoast SEO earlier, which is one of the best plugins for easily building meta titles, meta descriptions, schema tags and a number of different tools for SEO.

Building Backlinks

Without backlinks, your content will not rank for keywords in Google and you will not get any traffic.

But how in the hell do you get backlinks?

One of the best ways to get good backlinks is by building really good content. Informative and educational content naturally attracts more backlinks from quality and relevant websites.

Here are some other great methods to build backlinks:

HARO

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a simple online service that allows media companies to get news and information from users.

Every day, they send out 3 emails that include reporters who are looking for specific information about a topic or article they are writing.

Send them valuable information answering their question and you will more often than not get a backlink from them when the article publishes.

Just sign up for free and then choose which categories of media sources you want to target.

haro email

The key to success with HARO is answering the questions quickly and very informatively.

Skyscraper Technique

The Skyscraper Technique is a very simple technique of finding high traffic and highly backlinked content and then creating an ever better or bigger piece of content.

You can then reach out to anyone linking to the original content and tell them about your better content to link to.

Guest Posting

Guest posting is another great way to get referral traffic and more backlinks to your website. Guest posting is where you write and publish an article on another website’s blog.

This provides them with valuable content on their website for free (sometimes paid) and provides you a chance to link back to your site as well as build credibility and awareness.

Social Media

Building a traffic channel with social media can be a very good way to get more affiliate sales online.

We have a great digital marketing guide for solopreneurs that goes in-depth on how to market your blog with social media.

I recommend only focusing on one social media platform and focusing all of your time on that one.

Which platform you choose depends on your niche and content.

Instagram

Instagram can be a great way to send traffic to your website and create affiliate sales. Once you reach 10,000 followers you can add links to your stories which (if you have a good following) can send a large amount o traffic quickly.

tyler horvath instagram

Search for relevant hashtags in your niche/business and follow relevant users. They will follow you in return and you can engage with your growing community.

Like other social networks, you will need to be active to grow your following.

Post amazing images daily and use a ton of relevant hashtags that are related to your niche or brand. Make sure that you are also using stories regularly to engage with your following.

Facebook

While its harder and harder to grow an organic following on Facebook, it still is possible to generate targeted traffic to your blog from Facebook.

Create a Facebook Page

Create a page for your blog and post content regularly around your niche. Keep your Facebook Page active with relative content, videos, and information about your blog

Join Groups

Groups are a great way to get more followers on Facebook.

Simply search for groups around your subject or niche choose to view ‘Groups’.

solopreneur groups facebook

Now, you can simply join all of the groups that are relevant to your blog’s niche. Be active (see next) in the community and give value to the group by answering questions and publishing relevant and helpful content to these groups.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is perfect for b2b sales and promoting business-related websites.

Start connecting with people in your niche and putting out relevant content on your LinkedIn page. You can even create a company page for your blog and get a good backlink from LinkedIn.

YouTube

YouTube can be a very powerful source of the traffic to your affiliate offers. You can even make money with affiliate marketing just from a YouTube channel!

You can also use YouTube to increase your visitors and sales to your website.

tyler horvath youtube

Create review videos, how-to videos and other valuable content around your blog’s niche. If we go back to our outdoor gear blog idea, we could create a channel dedicated to reviewing outdoor gear.

Simply add your affiliate links right in the video description or add your YouTube videos to a blog post with the relevant affiliate links in them.

In Conclusion

Wrapping up, I hope you have learned how simple it can be to start a successful blog with WordPress. Remember that SEO takes time so in the first few months, you may make $0. Just keep writing great content and building relevant backlinks to your blog.

You can also use social media to build a relevant following and post occasional affiliate offers to generate income from your following on social media.

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