Imagine how life-changing it would be to make regular income from blogging about your interests and passions?
Plenty of people do exactly that, and this article teaches you some essential blogging tips for beginners to help you get started.
Before we begin, I must emphasise that blogging isn’t for everyone and ISN’T a get rich quick scheme. Blogging is fun and rewarding, and can be truly lucrative, but it’s a long game. You must be prepared to put in at least a year of solid and consistent effort before expecting to earn a meaningful amount of money.
Stories of people making six-figure annual incomes (and more) from blogging are widespread and usually genuine, but there’s a lot more to being a blogger than publishing a few articles and waiting for the cash to roll in.
Successful blogs are run like businesses, and there’s plenty of work involved. The good news is that it’s (mostly) enjoyable work. There is a learning curve, but it’s manageable, if you’re prepared to put the effort in. So don’t worry if you’re not a technical “guru.”
- Why Listen to Me?
- How DO You Start a Blog?
- Blogging Tips for Beginners
- The Early Days
- 1. Get Started
- 2. Decide Your Niche
- 3. Start Narrow, But Give Yourself Scope to Go Broad
- 4. Ensure You Have Enough to Write About
- 5. Be Realistic About How Long Things Take
- 6. Be Prepared to Spend a Little Money
- 7. Pay Up Front for Hosting (If You Can Afford It)
- 8. Understand that there’s FAR More to Blogging than Writing
- 9. Understand the Importance of Keyword Research and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Once Things Get Underway
- Building Momentum
- Conclusion and Recap
- While You’re Here
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Why Listen to Me?
I’ve been blogging professionally since 2009. I’ve been involved in many blogs over the years, and you’re currently reading one of them. As well as blogs of my own, I’ve worked on client blogs that have gone on to make seven-figure annual incomes.
Perhaps most importantly, I’ve seen what doesn’t work, as well as what does.
Before we get into our blogging tips for beginners, the answer to a really important question:
How DO You Start a Blog?
Here are the key steps involved in building a profitable blog. We’ll delve into a lot more detail later.
1. Decide what to blog about: Successful blogs have a distinct niche, and a distinct target audience. A non focussed blog about YOU is not what people out there are looking for, unless you’re a celebrity!
2. Buy some web hosting and a domain name: You can start a new blog for very little money. If you can budget to spend around hundred dollars in the first year you’ll have more than enough. It IS possible to spend far less. Get hosting from just $1.99/month here.
3. Install WordPress and choose a theme: This will establish the initial look and feel of your site. Don’t get hung up on this step – it’s much easier than it sounds and you can change and enhance things as you go along.
4. Start creating content: You must ensure you produce articles that provide genuine value to readers. In at least some way they should be better than what’s already out there – otherwise what incentive do people have to choose your blog over the millions of others out there?
5. Share and promote your site: This could mean forming partnerships with other bloggers, mastering social media, gaining press attention, or learning about Search Engine Optimisation and working your way to the top of Google’s search results. Successful blogs do all of these things.
6. Monetize your blog: There are MANY ways to make money from a blog: making space for adverts, marketing products as an affiliate, selling related products and services of your own, arranging sponsorships – the list goes on.
7. Rinse, Refine and Repeat
All of that sounds pretty simple really doesn’t it?
It’s not actually that complicated if you take things one step at a time and learn as you go.
But let’s now dive in to the reality. If blogging was that easy, everybody would be doing it! So let’s run though our big list of blogging tips for beginners.
Blogging Tips for Beginners
The Early Days
1. Get Started
The blog that’s certain to fail is the one you never start.
An eternal “planning phase” may give you some ideas, and consumption of endless courses and articles may teach you a few things. But the time between you starting a blog and making money from it only begins to tick away when you actually start your blog and start publishing articles.
Registering your domain, installing WordPress, and creating your first few posts will teach you more – by doing – than any amount of reading ever will. Spending the small amount of money required to launch your site gives you some accountability and “skin in the game,” making you far more likely to actually stick at it and take some action.
2. Decide Your Niche
Your blog needs to be about something specific.
That sounds obvious, but several aspiring bloggers that I’ve coached go into it with the idea of starting a personal blog that covers all the things they’re interested in.
The trouble is, nobody’s going to want to read that – unless you’re a big celebrity, and there’s interest in every area of your life. Furthermore, Google (and the other search engines) will struggle to work out what your site is about.
Home working is a niche. Training a rescue dog is a niche. Haircare is a niche. Vegan food is a niche. But YOU are not a niche.
3. Start Narrow, But Give Yourself Scope to Go Broad
Niches can be narrow or broad. I have a wellbeing blog that covers weight loss, alcohol free living, healthy eating and various other topics. Home working is a pretty broad niche, spanning freelancing, remote working, side gigs, training, and various other things.
A good general rule is to start off narrow, with a view to broadening things later on. Google needs to understand what your site is about, so make that easy for it. Just be careful with what you name your blog. If you call it spanieldogtips.com, it won’t make much sense to decide to talk about labradors after six months, and it certainly won’t make any sense to start talking about cats!
4. Ensure You Have Enough to Write About
Once you’ve decided your niche, make sure you can easily come up with a BIG list of relevant things to write about.
If you get up to ten article titles and struggle to think of more, you may have a major problem. Your blog needs to endure for years to come, so if you’re scratching around for inspiration right at the start, that’s a really bad sign.
If you can’t readily come up with an initial list of 50 article ideas, it may be an idea to rethink your niche. Perhaps you need to go broader, or perhaps you need to think of something else entirely.
5. Be Realistic About How Long Things Take
Of all the blogging tips for beginners here, this is the most important:
You MUST be aware that nothing happens instantly.
You can build a website and fill it with great content, but the chances are that months could elapse with few people beyond your family and friends ever looking at it.
When it comes to building a reputation, climbing up the rankings, being trusted by Google, and getting natural “organic” traffic, you’ll have to wait a while.
Many people believe that Google operates a “sandbox” system, which prevents brand new websites from quickly gaining traction. This is to prevent people from using technical trickery to quickly rank new sites.
Regardless of the intricacies of how Google works, the reality is that blogs take time to get off the ground.
Here’s a real-life illustration of that, from this very website. It took just under a year before gaining real momentum. If you keep in mind that this is far from being my first website, and that everything was planned carefully, it shows that it’s not too realistic to expect much to happen for the first 6-12 months – at least.
I worked solidly on the site between July 2017 and February 2018, producing content every week, before seeing any real increase in traffic. You can quickly see why many people give up before they get anywhere!
If your long-term plan is to make money from blogging, you’re going to need some other money coming in (or some savings) while you get things off the ground. Thankfully, it also makes for a perfect part time project.
6. Be Prepared to Spend a Little Money
Starting a blog is probably one of the cheapest business ventures you could undertake, but it’s unrealistic to expect to do it completely free.
Yes there are free blogging platforms, but you’ll quickly outgrow them with anything more than a hobby blog.
You NEED your own domain and hosting. I recommend Dreamhost as the place to get it – and this link will take you to their current special offer.
7. Pay Up Front for Hosting (If You Can Afford It)
Most hosting companies charge less if you’re willing to commit to a longer contract. Since blogging is a “long game,” you’re likely planning for your blog to be around a while. As such, if you have the funds to pay for a year (or even three) at one time, it makes sense to do so, because you’ll pay much less in the long run.
8. Understand that there’s FAR More to Blogging than Writing
Writing the content for my blogs is one of the things I enjoy most in my working life.
But in reality, only a fraction of the time you spend working on a blog is spent actually creating content.
Here are some of the other things you will find yourself doing as a professional blogger:
- Addressing technical issues such as backing up your site and protecting it from hackers.
- Reaching out to other bloggers and industry people for guest posts and mentions (perhaps my least favourite task!)
- Hunting for places that will link to you and boost your credibility with Google.
- Monitoring the competition to ensure you’re producing better content and generally keeping up with them.
- Signing up to and dealing with affiliate schemes and advertising networks.
- Studying lots of reports and analytics.
- Responding to reader emails, blog comments, social media posts and – sadly – trolls.
- Promoting the site on social media.
- Hiring writers and freelancers (once things start building up).
- Sending out marketing emails and newsletters to readers.
- Doing lots of work on keyword research and Search Engine Optimisation (more on that in a moment).
- Handling all of the record-keeping and accounting. In truth, this can get complicated quite quickly, even with only a small amount of money coming in.
- Sourcing and optimising lots of images.
- Updating privacy policies and firefighting legal issues.
I’ve written this big list to make an important point: If you’re planning to get into professional blogging, it’s important to know that this is what’s really involved.
I provide coaching for aspiring bloggers and I’ve faced several situations where people have been put off the whole idea of blogging once they’ve understood this reality.
That’s OK – and there’s no shame in it. In fact, I’d encourage you to look at the list and be honest with yourself about whether you want to do all those things.
If you plan to run a blog as a business, there’s not a single thing on that list you can skip. Once you start to bring in some money you can certainly pay other people some of it, but you’ll have to learn to do it all yourself to begin with.
9. Understand the Importance of Keyword Research and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a hugely complex topic – and it’s way beyond the scope of this article.
The crucial thing to understand is that creating content is only one piece of the jigsaw; You also need people to actually find it online.
A huge part of SEO is doing keyword research. Put simply, keyword research shows you how many people are looking up certain terms online, and what the competition is like around those keywords.
Why does this matter? Because if – as a new blogger – you write an article around a term that’s already well-covered by leading websites, your chances of anyone finding that article on Google are close to zero.
Similarly, you don’t want to spend time writing about topics absolutely nobody is interested in.
There’s no limit to how advanced you can get with SEO and keyword research. I’m often up into the early hours reading long articles on its intricacies, or walking around my local areas listening to podcasts on the subject. You needn’t take it this far (at least initially!) but a basic grounding in SEO is really important if your blog is ever going to truly compete.
Take a look at this SEO Specialization from Coursera, for a good way to learn all of the essentials.
Once Things Get Underway
10. Plan for How Your Site Will Make Money
It makes good sense to have a firm idea of HOW your blog will make money before you put too much effort into it.
The possibilities are endless. You could start a blog about graphic design trends with plans to sell your own design services; You could blog about mental health and promote related books or even telephone counselling services; You could create a food blog and market recipe books and kitchen gadgets, making money from affiliate commissions.
The list goes on, but the key thing is that the blog itself isn’t what makes money. It’s the off-shoot books, the affiliate commissions, the display ads, or the services you offer personally (using the blog as a sales tool) that really matter.
You CAN adapt as you go along, but it makes sense to have an idea of your main strategy. The three main models are:
- Attract traffic, and use your blog as a “shop front” to sell your own products and services: courses, eBooks, consultancy, or even physical products.
- Review, compare and recommend products and services, making money from affiliate commissions.
- Produce a LOT of content, attract a LOT of traffic, and make money from display adverts.
Many sites, this one included, make money from all three of those avenues and more. There are no “rules” around this, but having a monetisation plan early on makes sense.
11. Start Collecting Email Addresses
A big blogging cliché is that “the money’s in the list.”
There’s a reason that almost all blogs (and businesses) collect customer email addresses. It gives them a way to stay in touch, and to attract clicks to content without reliance on anything else, such as traffic from search engines or social media.
As soon as you get anybody visiting your site, it’s worth trying to build your email list. Some bloggers decide to wait until they have a certain amount of traffic, but this means wasting the opportunity of signing up each visitor that’s been on the site prior to that.
Thankfully, most email marketing service providers offer a free service for a certain number of subscribers. ConvertKit, which we use for this site, offers a free plan for up to 300 subscribers, and lots of useful resources to learn the basics of email marketing. You can sign up for free here, and we have reviewed the service in full here.
12. Analyse What Works and Do More of It
Once you have a number of posts up, and start to see some traffic, it’s worth doing some analysis of what’s working. There are no hard and fast rules for when to do this, but somewhere between 30 and 50 posts and 6 – 12 months from your site’s launch is a good yardstick.
Google likes to see “clusters” of related content. Let’s say you started a hair blog, and you notice that a handful of articles on wedding hair are doing particularly well, and bringing in the bulk of your traffic. That’s a strong sign that Google’s algorithm “likes” those articles, and that it’s beginning to see your blog as an authority on wedding hair.
So what do you do? Write MORE articles like that, on closely related subjects, or on “shoulder niches” that have some relevance – maybe bridesmaid’s hair or christening hair.
Nothing provides better data on what’s working than the articles that already bring you traffic (and perhaps money). The secret of blogging is establishing what works and doing more of it.
13. Get Your Monetisation Working
There’s little point in waiting until you reach a certain level of traffic before you try to make money from your blog. Even little dribbles of money can pay for the site’s expenses, or for treats.
So, if you’ve reviewed a product, look out for its affiliate scheme, or sign up to Amazon Associates, so you promote products from Amazon’s huge catalogue. If you’re planning on running display ads, both Google AdSense and Ezoic let you sign up when you have a relatively small amount of traffic. It will only make you pocket change in the early days, but it will give you experience of working with these networks, and even small amounts of income can be very motivating.
As I often say, the first Dollar from a new site is way more exciting that the next $100 from an established blog.
14. Diversify Your Traffic Sources
Google isn’t the only way to bring traffic to your blog. Some bloggers pretty much ignore Google and rely on Pinterest (which can work in certain niches, such as crafts, food and lifestyle). Other bloggers master Facebook and find that a reliable source of traffic.
The ideal scenario is to have traffic coming in from all sorts of directions. That way, you’re not (so much) at the mercy of a single algorithm for your blog’s success. Not everything you try will work, but it’s wise to keep trying things, and to double down on everything that works.
15. Keep Your Articles Up to Date
Publishing a blog article isn’t a “one and done” scenario. Everything goes out of date eventually: A product you’ve reviewed may change its design or its pricing structure, and over time your own opinions (and writing style) can change and evolve.
In addition to this, Google does seem to appreciate fresh content. Over time, articles that have ranked well will begin to slip and disappear from the rankings if they get out of date. As such, make updating and freshening up your older articles part of your ongoing blogging schedule.
16. Build Partnerships (and Links)
Google’s algorithm relies a lot on incoming links to determine how “authoritative” each post is. Put very simply, if another site links to you, it acts as a “vote” to show the algorithm that a page has some merit. That IS a vast simplification, and links are far from equal. A single link from Forbes or The New York Times passes much more authority than a link from a tiny, personal blog.
Over time, you will build some links naturally. But for most bloggers, proactive link building is an ongoing task in itself. It’s also way beyond the scope of an article on blogging tips for beginners. Suffice to say that promoting your content is at least as important as building the content itself.
17. Keep On Top of Your Compliance
As a commercial blogger, you have a host of legal responsibilities, from keeping customers’ data safe, to ensuring your site is secure and accessible.
Doing all this legal stuff may not be particularly appealing, and you may not relish the prospect of becoming an expert on things like GDPR and accessibility standards. But this stuff isn’t optional.
As your site gets bigger and busier, it will get more attention – from readers, and the relevant authorities (and that includes paying tax on your income). Ignore compliance at your peril.
Conclusion and Recap
Blogging is hugely rewarding. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s changed my life, and those of many others.
Building an audience around something you love is a wonderful thing, especially if it goes on to make you money. It is, however, essential to emphasise that while “six-figure” blogging is far from being a myth, it’s never easy money.
It bears repeating that people who make big money from their blogs run them like businesses. A lot of work is involved.
Once you’ve gained some momentum, having a business that literally earns money WHILE YOU SLEEP is pretty amazing. But plenty of active work goes into creating that “passive” income.
I’ll end by repeating that obvious but crucial point: the one blog that’s certain to fail is the one you don’t start. Buy the hosting and start to play around. It’s such a small investment that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t go the distance. If you DO – well, anything’s possible 🙂
While You’re Here
Be sure to read these two complementary articles:
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben has worked freelance for nearly 20 years. As well as being a freelance writer and blogger, he is also a technical consultant with Microsoft and Apple certifications. He loves supporting new home workers but is prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.