Wondering how to start a blog and make money? In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the right way to create a money making blog.
We’ll start with a simple tutorial on setting up your blog correctly. Then, we’ll thoroughly cover the best strategies to make money from a new blog.
Within a year of launching the The Ways To Wealth, I said goodbye to a job I’d held for over a decade in order to blog full-time.
Below, I share everything I know for those ambitious enough to do something similar.
Let’s dive right in.
Setting Up Your Blog
This article will dive deep into everything you need to know about monetizing your content and running a profitable blog. But if you’re just starting your blogging journey and need some guidance on the technical details of getting your own blog up-and-running for the first time, you can check out my insanely simple guide.
Note for those of you who already have a blog: I’ve found that new bloggers often make a few of the same critical mistakes up-front, with the most common being a poor choice of domain name or operating in a niche (i.e., a blog topic) where it’s impossible to make money. If that sounds like you, the setup tutorial might still be the place to start. Unfortunately, those mistakes are hard to overcome and sometimes the best thing to do is start from scratch.
My set-up guide provides a step-by-step tutorial for:
- Choosing and buying the perfect domain name that will help build your brand (and SEO).
- Signing up for affordable web hosting.
- Installing WordPress (a popular blogging platform) with just one-click.
- Choosing a WordPress theme (i.e., your site’s design template).
If you’ve never worked with WordPress before, don’t worry — it’s one of the simplest tech tools you’ll ever use. Fortunately, it’s also powerful and customizable enough that it can evolve with you as your blog grows.
WordPress is a free platform, but there’s an infinite number of premium plugins and add-ons that you can purchase to extend its capabilities. While those premium plugins are great (and something you’ll utilize in the future), one of the most common mistakes made by new bloggers is spending too much money on plugins and customizations right out of the gate.
In the later section on expected investments, I touch on a few of the areas in which you can skimp a little, and a few in which you should be willing to make an investment.
With that out of the way, let’s get to addressing the elephant in the room…
How Much Money Can You Make Blogging?
You can indeed make money blogging. And to many people’s surprise, very good money.
A reasonable expectation is to earn $500 to $1,000 per month after one year of working on a blog for 10 to 20 hours a week.
After that first year it becomes easier to grow, and making between $1,000 and $5,000 per month part-time is a good benchmark. From there, the sky’s the limit. There are many bloggers who make over seven figures a year.
In its simplest form, the amount of money you can make blogging equates to:
Income = Revenue Per Visitor x Traffic
Revenue per visitor (or RPV) typically ranges from 1 to 15 cents per page view, and is highly dependent on the type of niche and business model you choose.
The other half of the income equation is traffic. If you want to make money blogging, you need to blog in a niche where there’s demand — i.e., traffic.
The Timeline For Creating a Profitable Blog
When I started this blog, I made very little money in the first six months. We’re talking a few dollars a day.
Looking back, that was a time of intense learning for me. I was not only taking in a lot of information, but was also testing out different traffic and monetization methods to see what worked.
At around the six-month mark (and through a lot of testing), I started to find a way to drive traffic that worked (more on this concept below) and generate income. Less than six months later, I was comfortable leaving my full time job to focus on the blog.
A trajectory like mine is honestly a best-case scenario. You should expect to make very little in your first six to nine months after starting a blog — especially if you have no experience in digital marketing. I did have that experience, and the growth of this site benefited greatly because of it.
I don’t blame you if that scares you off. If you’re looking to make money fast, relying on blogging alone to pay your bills for the next few months isn’t something I would recommend.
Pro Tip: If you want to start a blog but need to begin making money right away, my recommendation is to still launch your blog today. Then, start freelancing for other successful bloggers. You can offer basic services like editing, proofreading or social media scheduling, and you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into creating a successful blog while bringing in a decent hourly rate. Here’s a guide to getting started on Upwork, the most popular freelancing platform.
How long does it take to get ranked on Google?
One of the best ways to drive traffic to a blog is through a technique called search engine optimization, or SEO.
The first day you start your blog, Google has no trust in your site. You could be anybody in the world (you could even be a robot), and you might be publishing misleading, incorrect or dangerous information. As a result, your content won’t appear in search results.
But as you begin to publish content on a consistent basis, Google learns how well your site does satisfying a search query (which is what someone types into the search box).
In other words, it learns whether or not you consistently provide the information and answers people are looking for when they conduct a search.
If Google sees that you’re good at satisfying a searcher’s query, it begins to trust your site and rewards you with more traffic. This process generally takes six to nine months for a new site.
You may be wondering: is there any way to speed up the process?
There are two ways to speed up the process of gaining traffic from Google:
- Obtain high-quality links. When other sites Google trusts link to your site, that’s a signal to Google that your site is also trustworthy. The more links you gain, the quicker your content can start ranking.
- Have content that’s worth ranking. If you want traffic from Google, aim to make everything you publish the best answer to a searcher’s query. If the article isn’t going to be better than what’s already out there, don’t write it. If I were starting a site from scratch, I’d write high-quality articles for low-competition, lower-demand keywords that are far and away the highest-quality pages that exist on those topics.
The Three Characteristics of a Profitable Blog
No blog that makes money is exactly the same. However, there are a few vital and overlapping characteristics that most successful blogs have. Let’s dive into these fundamental traits.
#1 — Their primary focus is on creating outstanding content that provides value for readers.
There’s a lot of content published every day. A lot of content. And most of it is bad. Very, very bad. You need to make sure yours is actually worth reading.
That means you need to produce interesting writing that’s clear, engaging, and free of typos and grammar errors.
But it also means you need to offer something of value.
When you set out to write a new article, start with one very important question: “How can I make this unique compared to all the content that already exists about this topic?”
Do you have a unique or unexpected perspective?
Do you have expert knowledge that allows you to cover the topic with more depth and authority than other bloggers?
Do you have a personal connection to the topic that allows you to write about it with emotion and authenticity in a way that others can’t possibly duplicate?
Whenever you sit down at your keyboard, think about how you’re going to produce something that readers genuinely appreciate.
#2 — They operate in a profitable niche.
Choosing the wrong niche is a mistake that’s impossible to overcome. No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to make money blogging in a niche where there’s no demand (traffic) and no way to monetize your blog traffic (revenue).
A good litmus test is to do a quick search for “your niche + blog income report.” For example, search for “personal finance blog income report.” Seeing that other bloggers make money in your niche is a sure sign you can also make money. We’ll talk more about this later.
#3 — They have a strategy for acquiring traffic.
Choosing a blog niche where it’s possible to make money is Step #1. But the next step is finding a way to generate traffic to your blog.
There are many resources dedicated to growing your blog’s traffic. And no single post is going to provide all the information you need on this topic.
But if I were starting a blog from scratch today, here are the traffic channels I’d focus on.
- SEO. This is far and away my favorite strategy, and what I’d put most of my effort into mastering. Yes, SEO does take time (the typical growth curve for a new blog on Google is about nine months), but it has the potential to be a great source of consistent, high quality blog traffic. My recommendation here is to take Mike Pearson’s 5-Day SEO Bootcamp, which is a great introduction to the world of SEO.
- Pinterest. The traffic channel that led to a lot of this blog’s early success was Pinterest. Pinterest wasn’t even on my radar when I launched TWTW, but as I communicated with other personal finance bloggers, I learned that it was indeed a viable blog traffic channel. If your niche does well on Pinterest, it’s a lot easier to get initial traffic compared to Google.
- Other social networks. Social media sites like Instagram and YouTube are great ways to grow your blog’s reach. Your strategy here is highly dependent on your niche, so study what is and isn’t working within your chosen topic area.
When it comes to learning a new traffic channel, I’d focus on developing a deep expertise in one before testing out the next. A common mistake is to try and be everywhere (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.). What usually happens is that instead of realizing that channel’s full-potential, bloggers often give up before going through the required learning curve of each channel.
Types of Money Making Bloggers
One of the smartest decisions you can make upfront is to determine what type of blogger you want to be. Knowing what you want out of blogging allows you to make better decisions today about what it’s going to take to get there.
Here’s a rundown of the different types of bloggers that exist (#3 and #4 are the best for long-term profitability).
#1 — The Hobbyist
The hobbyist blogger gets paid primarily in the form of personal fulfillment. They often have no background in writing, and sometimes start out with no special knowledge of the topic they’re writing about. Blogging is simply something they love doing, and whether their effort makes money or not has no bearing on whether they consider their blog successful and worthwhile.
A common example of the hobbyist blogger is someone who blogs about their favorite sports team. That’s an extremely hard niche to make money in. It’s news-based, so a lot of content is needed, and advertising rates are on the low end. Plus, the content becomes less valuable over time (as it becomes less relevant).
That said, hobby bloggers can make a little bit of money on the side. But this type of approach rarely produces enough to live off of.
What the hobby blogger can also do, however, is establish themselves as an authority within a very small niche and then transition into the role of influencer.
#2 — The Influencer
The influencer is someone who has significant experience and/or expertise within a particular field, and who carves out a niche as a thought leader within that topic. This could be anyone from a master carpenter who blogs about DIY projects to a former competitive gymnast who writes about strength training and fitness.
Influencers use their knowledge, background and credentials to establish authority as a trusted voice within their niche. As a result, they often make money in part by driving their audience to particular brands and products.
For example, if a master carpenter recommends a particular model of hand saw, that recommendation resonates with his or her audience. Similarly, if a former elite-level gymnast recommends a particular nutritional supplement, that carries more weight than an endorsement by a random CrossFit enthusiast who decided to blog about their fitness journey.
For this reason, influencers are extremely valuable to brands and can command very high advertising rates.
To become an influencer, you do not need to be a celebrity or a professional in your chosen niche. You just need to have an unusually expert understanding of the topic, as well as the ability to write about that subject in an authoritative and engaging manner that makes people eager to read what you have to say.
Unlike hobbyists, influencers see their blog as a business — although it’s often just one part of a suite of money-making activities. For example, the carpenter may also have a YouTube channel, or the former gymnast may be a personal trainer who uses her blog not only as a source of revenue, but also for publicity and as a way to garner new clients.
#3 — The Solo Entrepreneur
The solo entrepreneur is who most people envision when they think of a money-making blogger. It’s someone who owns and manages a blog that gets so much traffic that they’re able to quit their day job and run the site as a full-time business.
The Ways To Wealth falls into this category. The site is too big for me to run as a one-man show, so I work with an array of independent contractors (i.e., freelancers), who provide services like editing and web development.
Some bloggers who reach this stage started out as influencers or have significant experience within their niche. For example, you may already know that I’m a Certified Financial Planner® who spent a decade working in the financial services industry. While that background has certainly helped bolster my authority on the personal finance topics I write about, many solo entrepreneurs are successful without having direct professional experience in their chosen topic.
The key is understanding how to identify and answer readers’ questions.
Let’s go back to our example of the master carpenter. He or she may have an infinite amount of expertise to share, and the ability to write about woodworking in intricate and evocative detail. But not everyone is looking for such specialized content. Some people just need to know how to use a plane, or wonder what type of stain they should use on their deck.
Influencers tend to focus on what they know, but the most successful money-making bloggers focus on what the reader wants to know.
And you don’t need to be an expert to put that concept into practice — you just need to know enough about your niche to research effectively and make good judgements about what questions your content should address.
#4 — The Publisher
It may come as a surprise, but I don’t consider myself a blogger. When I’m asked what I do for a living, I explain that I own and operate a publishing company that helps others improve their financial life.
That’s very intentional on my part, as my goal is to one day become one of the larger publishing companies within the personal finance space…
…a publishing space that recently saw one site sell for $105,000,000.
Do you think of a site like NerdWallet as a blog? If not, why not?
Back in the day, a “blog” implied something that was more personal than a regular website. But today, there’s no functional difference between a blog and any other type of online content.
This website runs on WordPress, which is the same platform used by The New Yorker and countless other major media outlets. NerdWallet is a blog, just like The Ways To Wealth. The only difference is the size, the amount of traffic, and the scope of coverage.
This type of blog often has outside investors, or it may be owned by a larger media company. It typically has at least a handful of full-time employees and operates like an online magazine, with the founder focusing more on the business side of things than the day-to-day work of writing, editing and maintaining the site.
Publisher bloggers can make an enormous amount of money. But this represents the absolute pinnacle of success, and you don’t need to guide your blog into this category to do exceptionally well for yourself. It’s possible to make six figures per year (or more, in some cases) as a solo entrepreneur.
How to Make Money Blogging: Top 10 Monetization Strategies
The great thing about blogging to make money is just how many different ways there are to monetize a blog post. While you can make money from any of them, some are better-suited to certain types of blogs.
A good formula is to combine several different methods to see which are most successful for your blog subject and audience, and to identify multiple income streams rather than relying on just one.
1. Advertising Networks
One of the primary ways bloggers earn money is by displaying ads. But can you imagine how much time and energy it would take to go out and find potential advertisers, and then convince them to buy ads on your site? Online advertising networks aim to solve that problem by connecting advertisers to websites and automating the process.
The two most common pricing models for online display ads are called CPC and CPM.
CPC (cost per click) means that you earn money each time an ad on your blog is clicked. How much you earn per click ranges widely, from a few cents to a dollar or two depending on a variety of factors.
Earlier, I mentioned that certain niches tend to have relatively low advertising rates, and this should be one consideration when deciding what to blog about. Most of the time, CPC rates are based on the demand for a particular keyword. So, if you operate in a niche that talks about high-demand keywords, you’ll make more money (all other factors being equal).
CPM (cost per mille) means that you’re paid based on every 1,000 impressions (views) an ad on your site has. In this model, it doesn’t matter if your visitors never actually click the ad — you’ll still get paid. However, CPM rates tend to be significantly lower than CPC rates (around $2 per thousand impressions), meaning that you need a significant amount of traffic to make real money this way.
There are several ad networks out there, but Google AdSense is the largest and most popular. In order to receive a payout, your blog must reach at least $100 a month in earnings.
AdSense doesn’t have a minimum traffic requirement, so in theory it’s a good place for new bloggers to start. However, you have to apply to the program, and the overwhelming majority of applicants are rejected.
Google has strict requirements when it comes to content quality, and one common mistake new bloggers make is applying for AdSense too early. If you’re rejected once, there’s some anecdotal evidence that it’s more difficult to get approved later. So, if you’re thinking about applying, wait until you have a good body of quality content that you’ve produced over the course of a few months.
Mediavine is another ad network, and one utilized by The Ways To Wealth. To join Mediavine, you need at least 30,000 page views per month. In fact, you’ll find that most ad networks have a minimum traffic requirement.
Summary: Bloggers can monetize their site by agreeing to show digital ads.
How to get started: All networks have a different process. For some, you can simply create an account to get started. Some require you to apply and be accepted. And most have publisher requirements, such as no encouraging clicks, no illegal content and no copyright violations.
How much you can make: It varies widely according to your traffic and impressions. This site earns around two cents per visitor. However, that’s on the higher side, as personal finance blogs have some of the higher CPMs. A blog on cooking may make somewhere around one cent per page view.
Pros: Ad networks do the legwork for you. Bloggers no longer have to hustle to find advertisers themselves.
Cons: While some ads can be customized to some degree, they may not always blend well with your site and can make a page look cluttered or unappealing. They also require tracking code to run in the background, which can sometimes slow your site down.
2. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing means that you earn money when you send a customer to a business and that customer subsequently “converts” by signing up for something, clicking something, buying something or doing anything else the business you’re an affiliate for defines as a “conversion.”
Affiliate products can be a great source of revenue for a blog, so you want to choose a topic that allows you to write about things people interested in that topic will need, like and buy.
One of the best affiliate programs to join for beginners is the Amazon affiliate program. As an Amazon affiliate, you link to products on your blog, and when readers buy them through your link, you make money.
Summary: Make money by sending customers to a business.
How to get started: Amazon’s affiliate program is great. Nearly everyone has an Amazon account so it’s easy to convert, and Amazon sells just about any product you want to blog about. From there, you can sign up for an affiliate network like FlexOffers that gives you access to a variety of different companies’ affiliate programs.
How much you can make: Amazon has a flat fee structure: affiliates earn between 1% and 10% per sale, depending on the type of product.
Pros: Amazon pays you a percentage of the customer’s total order, not just what you recommended. For example, if you recommended a face cleanser and the customer also ordered a cell phone case and hand sanitizer, you make money on all three sales. You can also take advantage of recurring affiliate programs, which pay ongoing commissions.
Cons: Other affiliate partners pay a higher percentage than Amazon (but Amazon’s reach is much wider).
3. Direct Ad Sales
Direct ad sales are approaching advertisers yourself and pitching your blog as a good place for them to advertise their products and services. This type of advertising is harder to get, but can be quite lucrative: there’s no middle man (as with an ad network), and you have the freedom to set any rates you can convince advertisers to pay.
This monetization model works very well for influencer bloggers because they have a compelling pitch to potential advertisers. Sticking with our example from earlier, a master carpenter’s audience is most likely comprised of people who are both knowledgeable and active in woodworking. In other words, expert bloggers usually have narrow, specialized audiences that are primed to buy particular categories of goods and services.
Our carpenter blogger could approach a hand saw company and offer to display ads to 50,000 unique monthly readers who are passionate about becoming better woodworkers. That’s an audience the saw company will gladly pay a premium to reach.
Summary: Find advertisers for your blog on your own.
How to get started: Think about what specific companies or brands would benefit from reaching your particular audience (or a segment of your audience), and then craft a pitch. From there, it’s essentially a sales gig.
How much you can make: Advertisers often pay between $200 and $2,500 per month per ad, depending on the niche your blog falls into.
Pros: You get to keep 100% of the revenue.
Cons: You have to spend time finding your own advertisers, or hire part-time salespeople via Upwork or another freelancing site.
4. Digital/Expert Products
Digital products are non-tangible things you produce and sell through your blog. One of the great things about this monetization strategy is that it’s a great source of passive income. Once you create a digital product, you can continue selling it indefinitely.
For example, if your blog is about travel, you might create a webinar that teaches viewers how to travel on $X per day. They can be livestreamed, or pre-recorded so that viewers can watch them at their convenience.
Online courses are an extension of the webinar model. Rather than just a one-off livestream or video, they’re essentially video classes that customers pay for access to. Online courses are often delivered to customers all at once (so they can binge), but are sometimes delivered in what’s called a drip (where they have to wait some period of time to get the next installment).
Both models have their advantages, but a drip can be very effective if you have other products and services to up-sell, because your customers have to stay engaged with your brand over a number of days or weeks. That engagement gives you a chance to pitch other things.
Either way, you’ll most likely record the entire course at once and have the videos “in the can.”
E-books are great because you can sell them on your own site as well as platforms like Amazon.
Membership sites are blogs that charge people for access to specialized, members-only content — often, a combination of all the above!
Summary: Digital products can be several non-tangible things that you sell via your blog.
How to get started: You need some authority and traffic to sell webinars, memberships, and online courses. An e-book is probably the best starting point for newer bloggers, as you can offer it for a relatively low price.
How much you can make: It can range widely, from a few hundred dollars a year to thousands of dollars a month.
Pros: Digital products are a great source of passive income. Once you create them, you can sell an unlimited number.
Cons: Most of the time, selling digital products means that you will be the face of your brand. Some people like that, but it’s a major drawback for others.
5. Buying and Selling (aka Flipping) Blogs
One trend that’s growing, as more investment money gets brought into the online publishing space, is to buy and sell websites (aka flipping).
Blogs sell for between 12X and 36X their monthly earnings. So, every additional $1,000 in revenue you bring to a blog can increase its value up to $36,000 when you go to sell it at a later date.
This is certainly not the way to begin your blogging journey, as you’ll want advanced knowledge of how to build a blog’s bottom line. However, for those with experience, this could fast-track your ability to create a money making blog.
Summary: Blogs are an asset that can be sold, just like any other asset.
How to get started: Start your blog first. Master the basics of traffic and monetization. Then, start studying the types of sites on Flippa that would be attractive to you.
How much you can make: Anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few million.
Pros: You can make seven figures when you sell a lucrative blog.
Cons: Most blogs don’t sell for seven figures!
6. Selling Physical Products
Are you using something to practice the niche your blog is in that you can brand and sell directly on your site? To use a personal finance blog as an example, I could create a physical budgeting workbook that would allow someone to manually track their budget.
I could then sell that workbook right here on my blog, and even list the product on Amazon.
Summary: Sell your own products to your audience.
How to get started: Once you’ve created the product, you can install the Woocommerce plugin, which adds e-commerce functionality to your WordPress site.
How much you can make: At the top end of the market, I think of big name brands that started as blogs like Tone It Up, a fitness site started by two women that now has a massive following. Tone It Up offers a range of physical products, from Protein Powders to apparel, which they sell both online and in stores like Target.
On a smaller scale, many craft blogs or design blogs use their blog to promote their Etsy store.
Pros: Selling physical products is a way to hedge against online advertising rates, which sometimes decrease considerably without much warning.
Cons: A fairly large investment is required.
7. Offering Services
A blog can be a great way to highlight your skills, whether they’re in photography, travel planning, graphic design or any other field. Your entire blog doesn’t have to be one big advertisement for yourself, but it can be used to showcase your work, as a way to raise your stature and profile within your field, and as a way to attract potential clients.
Summary: Your blog can be a great source of advertising.
How to get started: Create a page specifically about your work and how potential clients can reach you, and then plan out a series of content that directly addresses the needs of potential clients. Think about the problems the people who might want to hire you need solved, and then write content demonstrating that you know how to solve them. Remember, the point of using your blog to sell your services is to build potential clients’ trust in your skills and expertise.
How much you can make: Your blog can start as an outlet to share something you’re passionate about and turn into a lucrative side hustle (and even your full-time gig) if you attract enough clients through it.
Pros: Can help you reach a different set of potential clients than you’re currently working with.
Cons: It can take months or even a year or more of consistent blogging to attract clients. Using freelancing sites can be faster (although having this type of blog to point people to can help you win contracts).
8. Sponsored Content
Sponsored content is an article that a company or brand pays you to publish. Sometimes this comes in the form of advertisers paying you to write an article about a particular product. Other times, advertisers will actually provide the article and all you have to do is publish it.
In either scenario, the ethics of this model get a little bit tricky. There’s nothing wrong with publishing sponsored content (especially if you’re not working as a journalist). However, it is wrong to mislead your audience about why you’re publishing something. So, be sure that you always fully disclose when content is sponsored.
Summary: Paid advertising that blends in with the rest of your site’s content.
How to get started: Contact brands that fit into the same niche as your blog.
How much you can make: Possibly hundreds of dollars per post, depending on how many page views your site receives.
Pros: Sponsored content can be money for nothing if the advertiser provides the content.
Cons: Taking every offer that comes along can be tempting, but promoting things that aren’t genuinely useful to your audience can drive people away. This should always be limited to one small component of your overall content.
9. Sponsored Reviews
If you have some influence with a particular audience, companies that sell products and services to that audience will often ask you to use, review and promote their wares. Companies may send you thousands of dollars in free goods and services to test and report to your audience on. Sometimes you have to send the review widgets back, but most of the time the goods are yours to keep.
Summary: Get paid to use and test a company’s products and services, and talk about them with your audience.
How to get started: Reach out to companies that sell things in the niche you blog in.
How much you can make: You may not always be financially compensated directly, but you’ll usually get to keep (and sell, if you wish) the products you’re sent.
Pros: Reviews are a great way to generate affiliate income, as mentioned above.
Cons: You can find yourself in a bit of a sticky situation if you don’t like the product. Different bloggers handle this different ways. Some are brutally honest, which is great for the audience but can burn relationships with brands and advertisers. On the other hand, some bloggers would never publish a negative review, opting to return the item. Either way, you should never write a false review, or let the fact that you were compensated influence your assessment.
10. The Public Media Model
One increasingly popular monetization model for bloggers, podcast owners and other publications is the so-called “public media model,” in which you directly ask your readers for money — usually just a couple of dollars — to help keep the lights on.
In fact, one of the world’s largest and most influential newspapers, The Guardian, recently embraced this model. The following screenshot shows part of the hard ask that’s included at the end of every article:
As you would expect, this works best when your blog has a mission that benefits the social good or connects with people on a personal level.
Summary: Ask readers to donate directly to you.
How to get started: You don’t need anything other than a Patreon or PayPal account, although there are an increasing number of solutions aimed at making this type of micro-transaction as “frictionless” (i.e., as easy) as possible.
How much you can make: People are unlikely to send you hundreds of dollars, but you can use donation sites to allow readers to make small, automatic monthly contributions.
Pros: Even a few Patreons a month can bring in a little extra money to help with the cost of running a blog.
Cons: If you monetize your site using any of the other methods above, it’s more difficult to convince people to donate. However, it’s much harder to get donations than to show display ads. That means this model works best primarily for mission-driven sites that people want to invest in.
Expected Investments: How Much it Costs to Get Started Blogging
While starting a blog is a pretty low-cost endeavor, it isn’t free. With that said, you want to be careful about investing too much money right off the bat. There are a few reasons for that:
- You haven’t spent enough time as a blogger to know if you like it and want to stick with it for the long haul. Blogging is hard work, and there’s a lot more to it than just writing.
- Your first blog might fail. You might pick the wrong niche, or make mistakes that are impossible to correct or recover from. That’s totally fine; many, if not most, successful bloggers have failed at least once or twice. Still, you don’t want to over-invest in an unproven concept.
- You don’t know what you actually need. There are an infinite number of things you can spend money on as a blogger. But when you’re first starting out, what you think you need to succeed will almost certainly be different than what you end up actually needing.
A Few Good Investments To Make In Your Blog
#1 — A Good Web Host
A website is a bunch of different files that have to be stored somewhere so they can be accessed on the internet. This is what web hosting companies do. They also handle things like backup power supplies, network connection equipment, and server maintenance — basically everything required to make sure your site is available 24/7/365.
I started this blog with Bluehost, and they’re my recommendation for beginners.
Your expected investment here is $3 to $20 per month for a decent hosting plan.
#2 — Ad hoc web development
This is basically a handyman for your website. When you’re first starting out, you’ll probably buy a premium theme (see below), rather than spending $5,000 or more on a custom design. But if you’re not a technophile yourself, you’ll need someone who can make small customizations and squash the bugs that are certain to arise.
Ad hoc developers let you pay per-task, which helps limit your costs. You don’t need to pay for this service up-front, but it’s something very nice to have, especially as your site grows. For this site, when I needed something done on the tech end, I would initially go to Fiverr or Upwork. When the site reached a larger audience, I switched to a sole provider (which still costs under $100).
#3 — A premium theme
There are thousands of free themes available, but let’s be honest: they’re usually ugly and lack essential features.
While the design of your site is not one of the most important success factors, I do think it’s important to present your brand in a professional light. Doing so will give readers more trust in your publication, which can have a positive effect on important SEO metrics like bounce rate (which measures how many people leave immediately after clicking on a webpage).
If you have an ugly or unprofessional design, users are more likely to bounce. Plus, premium themes, like those offered on StudioPress, tend to have cleaner code that prevents future problems from happening.
Starting out, don’t worry about investing a lot of money in hiring a designer. A solid premium theme, with a few tweaks you can make on your own (or via your ad hoc developer), is perfectly suitable.
A top-of-class premium theme from a well-known marketplace will cost between $50 and $100.
#4 — A Plugin for capturing prospects and email addresses
When you’re first starting out, you won’t have very much traffic — certainly not enough to make money from advertising. But that doesn’t mean your traffic lacks value. Every person who visits your page is a potential customer for you and/or your advertisers.
A common mistake new bloggers make is failing to capture as much information as possible about their early users. Specifically, I’m talking about email addresses, which can later be used in email marketing campaigns.
You can set up a free email list on sites like MailChimp, but a WordPress blog doesn’t come with a built-in way for people to give you their email and opt into that list. So you’ll need to spend around $50 on a WordPress plugin like Thrive Leads, which integrates with your chosen email list service (i.e., your MailChimp account) and lets you add an opt-in form to your site.
#5 — A Copyeditor and proofreader
Readers expect articles that a free of typos, grammar and punctuation errors. So does Google, as those are all negative ranking factors. Don’t rely on Grammarly or a similar service alone to make sure your copy is clean — all automated software misses mistakes. Plus, a copyeditor will make revisions to improve the structure and flow of an article.
My wife was my first copyeditor, which was fine for a while. If you can’t afford to hire a pro, at least get another pair of eyes to scan your text before hitting “Publish.” But as the site grew, it became clear that I would benefit from hiring someone who was an expert at fine-tuning my work.
You can find good editors for about $20 to $40 per hour on sites like UpWork and Fiverr.
#6 — Ahrefs subscription
If there’s one tool I can’t live without, it’s Ahrefs.
Ahrefs gives you backlink and SEO analysis, analyzes the sites you compete with, and shows you the most profitable keywords and their traffic estimations. It will also analyze your content for common SEO issues and monitor the SEO health of your site.
They actually have a seven-day $7 trial, which gives you full access to the tool. You could easily do months’ worth of research within this one-day trial, and then when your blog starts making money, get a subscription (the cheapest of which is $99 per month).
A cheaper alternative, which doesn’t have the bells and whistles but is still a pretty decent keyword tool, is KWFinder.com.
A Few Investments You Can Hold Off On
#1 — Expensive plugins that extend WordPress
There are nearly 60,000 plugins and add-ons available just in the WordPress repository. And that number doesn’t include all the add-ons that are only offered on their developer’s websites.
To be clear, you’ll need a few plugins right off the bat, including a caching plugin (to speed up your site), an SEO plugin (to make it friendlier for Google; Yoast SEO plugin is the standard option), and an image optimization plugin (also to speed up your site).
But there are free versions of each of those that are perfectly suitable for new bloggers, and you should only upgrade to the paid versions when you actually need to. Outside of those categories, avoid spending money until you better understand your business — you don’t need a ton of add-ons to start a successful blog.
#2 — A professional, custom-designed theme
I know you want your site to look great, but spending money on a premium theme is enough. You don’t need to pay the extra expense of hiring someone to create a completely custom site.
That will cost thousands of dollars, and often the product isn’t actually any better. Developers of premium themes sell them multiple times, so the development cost is essentially split between everyone who has ever purchased the theme.
Some of the most popular premium themes have thousands of hours of development invested in their code, resulting in a far more refined product than you’d get from custom theme that you alone are paying for.
Common Mistakes New Bloggers Make
Writing lots of short, low-value content.
The minimum word count for a blog to be recognized and ranked in a search engine is 300. And frankly, in my opinion, the minimum should be 800 to 1,000 words.
No matter how long your blog posts are, if the content isn’t valuable to readers, no one is going to read them and Google isn’t going to rank them. There are thousands of blogs on even super-niche topics. If your content isn’t unique and engaging, people are spoiled for choices and will go elsewhere. So, plan your content carefully from Day 1.
Not picking a profitable niche.
Not all topics are easy to monetize. There’s nothing wrong with starting a blog to share your passion for postage stamps printed between 1910 and 1911, but you probably won’t make much money from it.
But don’t be afraid to be really niche. Dog product blogs are very general and there are already heavy hitters in that niche that a new blog is never going to compete with. But dog products for “insert your favorite breed here” is a smaller niche, and you can make an impact. Yes, you have narrowed your target audience, but you also have much less competition.
Spending too much time worrying about site design and features.
That stuff is window dressing. It’s creating good, valuable content that matters.
Focusing on their own interests rather than on their readers’ questions.
We all have our weird little obscure areas we love to go on tangents about, but listen to what your readers are asking and address those.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to a few of the most common questions asked by new bloggers.
The best place for new bloggers to begin is with affiliate marketing, because you have the potential to monetize each of your visitors (even if that’s only a handful).
Conversely, relying on display ads (sometimes known as banner ads) for blog monetization at the beginning means you’ll earn just fractions of a penny per day — if you can even get approved for an ad network account with such a low number of page views.
It’s easy to make money online by blogging, but it’s not easy to make a lot of money blogging. It takes a typical blog about nine months of consistent writing to start competing on Google, and at that mark you’ll probably see your traffic jump quite substantially even without much SEO effort.
As a result, you’ll be able to bring in a trickle of income (primarily through affiliate programs). But that traffic won’t be enough to make a full-time income and run your blog as a profitable business. To get to that point, you need a well-planned traffic acquisition strategy paired with great content that both your readers and Google love.
Blogging is about a lot more than writing. Over the course of my day, I write, edit, look for advertisers, run paid social media campaigns, monitor Google Analytics, manage the editorial calendar, and many other things.
As your site grows, you’ll probably end up spending more time on those aspects of the business than on actually creating new blog content (which you can hire writers for). Each of those tasks is part and parcel to earning money, so be prepared to tackle a wide range of responsibilities.
It usually takes a minimum of nine months to even be competitive on Google. If you decide to create a blog, don’t even think about analyzing the results of your efforts prior to the nine-month mark, and make sure you have a plan to stick with it until at least that point.
You want your topic to be lucrative, but you also have to really love it. Writing is hard work mentally, even when you care a lot about and enjoy the topic you’re covering. If you have no interest in your blog niche, not only will it be harder to create compelling content, you’ll also get burned out more quickly.
You know how the most important thing in real estate is location, location, location? The most important thing in blogging is SEO, SEO, SEO. If you’re wondering how to start a blog and make money, the answer — above all others — is to become a master of search engine optimization. Luckily, there are lots of great tools available (like Ahrefs) to help you.
WordPress is a free blogging platform originally produced by the software company Automattic. There’s an open source version of the platform that you can download and install on your own web host, which you can get from wordpress.org. But you can also pay Automattic to serve as your WordPress hosting provider. If you choose to go that route, you’ll access your blog’s back-end via wordpress.com.
Earning Money From Blogging – Final Thoughts
Blogging can be a great way to make money. If you can turn it into a full-time career, it gives you a lot of flexibility as you can work anywhere with an internet connection. Plus, popular blogs can provide a lot of passive income. But there’s no such thing as an overnight success when it comes to becoming a successful blogger. It takes hard work, dedication and often a lot of time.
Still, when you hit on a winning formula, you can achieve great success. To get there, focus on writing engaging content that readers love, and don’t spend too much time or money worrying about adding features via expensive WordPress plugins. You’ll scale up as needed, but at the beginning, almost all of your energy and resources should go into writing exceptional blog posts.
And don’t feel like you need to master (or even remember) all of the monetization methods outlined in the guide in order to start blogging. The important thing is to understand what it takes to be successful, and then be willing to keep learning and tweaking your approach as you go.