Alright friends, I’m back today with an in-depth look at how to start a blog to make money! After I outlined how to transfer from Blogger to WordPress on Wednesday, I thought it might be good to do a variation of that post that shows how to start a blog from scratch if you have never had one before. Today’s post is going to be very similar to Wednesday’s because many of the steps are the same…this one will just show you how to start from nothing!
Before we start, a little bit of background on me if you’ve never stopped by here before (and a big welcome, if you’re new!)…I started blogging in 2009 for the reason most people did back then: to keep up with my family and record memories. As the years passed, my blog has transformed into more of a resource for home enthusiasts; I like to call it a “homemaking lifestyle” blog (even though I’m pretty sure that genre doesn’t even exist). I love to blog about recipes, family activities, and organization…really anything that helps others run their home.
For years, I was on a Blogger blog, which I still believe is an incredible resource if you’re looking for a blog platform that’s absolutely free and easy to use! It’s really no-fuss when it comes to adding minor customizations, and you can’t beat starting a blog without paying a dime. As a matter of fact, if you’re really gung-ho about starting a blogger blog, I have an old tutorial here that will help you.
However, if you’re really serious about building a profitable blog, hear me out before you do that.
I ran a money-making blog on Blogger for years; despite what many will tell you, it is possible. But it isn’t always easy. I had to know a good bit about coding to make many of the customizations to my blog that were needed to make it look professional and not cookie-cutter. Making those customizations tends to slow your blog down and decrease user experience, which isn’t a good thing when you’re trying to build a solid reader base. It was also very difficult (sometimes even impossible) to make customizations to individual pages, like adding custom email opt-in boxes and offering tailored pop-ups for the type of post you were doing.
And, as I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, it is becoming more and more difficult to find support for Blogger blogs, since most professional bloggers have moved on from the platform to self-hosted WordPress. Opting for a self-hosted WordPress blog, in my opinion, is a much wiser option now. Yes, you’re going to have to pay a little bit for hosting each month, but it isn’t much…as you’ll see in a second, it can be under $4 a month!
Being self-hosted also means you’ll have complete, 100% control over your blog and content. Many people use the analogy of renting vs. buying when referring to Blogger vs. WordPress. Because you’re building your blog (i.e. your business) on another company’s hosting with Blogger, they have the ability to shut it down at any time (honestly, that isn’t exercised a whole lot, but the threat is still there). With WordPress, you’re really just using their software to run your blog…the actual site is 100% yours to control.
Again, there are merits to both platforms…but, as of 2017, I would recommend WordPress if you’re really serious about starting a blog to make money.
That leads to the point of today’s post…a step-by-step guide to starting your own self-hosted WordPress blog! Let’s get going.
(Affiliate links used in this post. Read more about my affiliate link use here.)
1. Set up your hosting and domain name.
Your hosting is where your files/photos/blog content/basically anything that’s seen on your blog will be stored. There are a few amazing options out there that aren’t expensive at all!
I did so much research about what host I wanted to use before switching to WordPress. Ultimately, I chose Siteground as my host. I’ve heard incredible things about Siteground in several of the blogging Facebook groups I’m in, including their top-notch customer service and really low amount of downtime. They also have a wide variety of packages available to suit many traffic and storage needs. And, while they’re offering their packages for 60% off the regular price, it’s a great time to sign up!
Once you follow this link to Siteground, scroll down just a little to see the options for your hosting needs. If you’re a new blogger, the StartUp package will probably be your best bet…that covers up to 10,000 hits per month, and offers 10GB of web space (I had over 1,600 picture-heavy posts when I migrated and didn’t even come close to 10GB, so that should be plenty unless you’re storing a ridiculous amount of files). As your blog grows, you can always upgrade to their larger packages if needed. (But, one perk of picking a bigger package right now is that you can lock in that discounted price for up to 36 months. If you upgrade later, you would pay the full monthly rate.)
If you think you’re going to need a little bit more storage right off the bat or are starting more than one website, the GrowBig or GoGeek packages might be for you. Both of these accommodate more monthly visitors (the GrowBig up to 25,000; the GoGeek up to 100,000) and have double and triple (respectively) the web storage space of the StartUp pack. They also have some nice perks – both of these come with Priority Support (so Siteground’s support would be even quicker) and a SG Optimiser solution that makes site load time as much as several times faster (which is great for user experience and SEO rankings).
All blogs have different needs, so it really just depends on what you’re wanting to do with your site. All three options are relatively inexpensive (especially with the current 60% discount) and offer incredible speed and service.
Click the “Get Started” button below your package, and you’ll be taken to the next page (it might look a little different…I had an account before I started registering, so if you’re not signed in it’s broken up a little more, but still the same general idea)…
Make sure “Get a new hosting account” is selected at the top and select “Register a New Domain” (unless you have a domain for some reason…chances are you don’t if you’re just starting your blog). Your domain is your web address…i.e. whatever you’re going to type in when you go to your blog (www.yoursitenamehere.com).
Select your hosting package (probably the StartUp plan if you’re a new blogger…possibly GrowBig or GoGeek if you will have more hits or have more than one site that needs hosting) and choose the the amount of months you want to pay for today. You can select 1, 12, 24, or 36 months…I did 12 so I could lock in the 60% off for a full year.
You’ll see a couple of extras you can add on…from my experience, you’ll definitely need domain registration if you need your domain (i.e. www.yoursite.com) for the blog and maybe the domain privacy option. That just makes sure your personal information as the owner of your domain (including street address) isn’t listed in online search directories. It isn’t 100% necessary (I didn’t get it) but, if you blog anonymously or are very private, you might want to consider it. I did a little bit of research about the SG Site Scanner before ordering, and from what I read, it isn’t a really necessary addition.
Put in your payment information at the bottom of that order page, and you’re all set! You now own a self-hosted website! Let’s turn that website into a blog.
2. Install WordPress.
Don’t think of WordPress so much as your blog…think of it as the software that makes your site function as a blog. In this step, you’ll be putting it on your site to essentially turn it into a blog.
Go to “My Accounts” at the top of your Siteground account, click “cPanel” under your site’s address, and select the WordPress icon on your cPanel page (as seen above). Once you select that, you’ll be taken to a page that explains what the software is all about…click “Install Now” on that page. Put in your blog info (names can be changed later if needed) and desired WordPress login info, and that’s it…you now own a self-hosted WordPress blog!
3. Log in to WordPress.
Once WordPress is installed, go to www.yoursite.com/wp-admin (replacing yoursite with your domain) and you should see the screen below. Sign in with the login info you just entered when you initiated the WordPress install.
4. Get WordPress ready for your posts.
Once you’re in WordPress, you should see your dashboard. Get used to this – you’ll be controlling most aspects of your blog through these pages!
If you click your blog name at the top of the page and click “Visit Site,” (or just type in www.yoursite.com), you’ll see what your site currently looks like. This is what mine looked like shortly after signing in to WordPress for the first time. If you’ve registered through Siteground, there are a couple of default posts that will show up.
Go delete those posts by going to “Posts” on the left-hand side of your WordPress dashboard, checking the posts, selecting “Bulk Actions,” then Delete. If you’d like to go on and add your first post, go ahead…this is where you’ll publish your posts in the future! Just click “Add New” at the top and get to writing if you’d like.
Do a teeny little bit of housekeeping in WordPress by going to “Settings,” “General,” and putting in “www” before your URL in the WordPress Address and “Site Address” fields, just to make sure your address points to the right place.
5. Set up your theme.
This is a fun part…setting up the look and functionality of your blog!
I did a ton of research on this aspect too, because there are so many options out there for what framework to use to set up your WordPress blog. To shape what features your blog will have and its overall layout, you’ll need to purchase a theme. Many, many bloggers I know and love use the Genesis framework as their theme…it’s super-solid coding that many readers are familiar with (to make for easy navigation) and allows for a lot of customization. Think of Genesis as the foundation, bricks, and framing of your new house (can you tell I’m in house-building mode right now?)…it gives a solid structure that has great, optimized, mobile-responsive coding. It’s one of the most popular themes for a reason!
To purchase that, click here and complete the checkout process. Once you get a download link, make sure to right click and select “download linked file” (or some iteration of that) to download Genesis (don’t just click it to download). Your file needs to stay zipped to be able to upload it to WordPress (as do all themes and plugins you’ll upload). You might also want to download an additional version that you can unzip on your computer for future use.
Now, go back to WordPress, click “Appearance” on the left-hand side, and click “Themes.”
Now, select “Add New” at the top of your page, upload the zipped file you just downloaded…and voila, you have Genesis! Easy peasy.
You could stick with Genesis as your look, but as is, it’s kind of boring. Great coding, but kind of boring. So I chose to add a child theme that makes it pretty. A child theme is the design elements that shape how the blog looks. Think of the child theme as your new home’s furniture, paintings, and accessories. There are SO many options for child themes out there…I went with Pretty Darn Cute designs because I’ve heard great things about their solid, mobile-responsive coding and I fell in love with their Pretty Happy child theme.
This follows the same process as purchasing/installing the Genesis theme…purchase here, download the zipped file using the right-click method explained above, then go to your WordPress dashboard and click “Appearance” on the left-hand side, and click “Themes.” Now, select “Add New,” upload the zipped file you just downloaded. You should see your child theme when your blog is loaded now. After you do this, you can go to “Appearance” then “Customize” to change around your child theme’s colors, sizes, etc…you can make it yours!
I’ve also heard amazing things about Restored 316 Designs…it’s a similar business that has gorgeous, feminine-themed WordPress themes that have solid coding and great support. They were definitely in the running when deciding on my theme!
6. Add plugins that will make your life so much easier.
One of the big reasons I made the switch to WordPress was the vast (and I mean vast) collection of plugins that adds just about any functionality you can think of to your site. You name it, and there’s probably a plugin for it. I have been blown away by the number of super simple plugins that took hours of work off of maintaining my blog!
Now, in all fairness, I’m new to this WordPress thing, but there have already been quite a few plugins that I would highly, highly recommend:
- EasyRecipe: This plugin allows you to construct beautiful and printable recipe cards for your blog posts. Highly recommend if you’re a food/recipe blogger!
- Wordfence: This is a security plugin that protects your site from malware that can infect your files and from hacking attempts. I get an email every time there is a login attempt on my WordPress account.
- Social Warfare: These are the pretty social share buttons you see at the bottom of my posts (and very bottom of the page if you haven’t quite scrolled to the bottom of the post yet). I upgraded to the premium version so I could customize the look to my site, but the free version offers this functionality too (just with standard buttons).
- Pretty Link: This allows you to format commonly-used links with your domain. So, for example, my link to Siteground above is “http://www.lambertslately.com/siteground“…it still links to their site, but just makes that link really pretty and customized to my own site instead of one ugly, long link.
- Updraft: This is what I use to back up my site nightly. You can link it to lots of different types of file storage accounts and set it to automatically back up your site in specified intervals.
- Genesis Simple Hooks: If you’re using the Genesis theme, this is an absolute must-have. It allows you to add code to specified sections of your blog when you know next to nothing about coding or theme files. This plugin breaks your blog down into sections and gives you a box to add code for each section, making it super easy to customize your blog if you don’t know what you’re doing! Simple Hooks also makes it very difficult to mess up your theme files (which, trust me, can be easy otherwise…I’ve already had to re-upload them twice).
- CommentLuv: This is how you allow commenters on your blog to add their recent post links to their comment, making it much more likely you’ll draw in commenters for your posts.
- Akismet: A very easy plugin that wards off spam comments (which you will get tons of)!
- Yoast SEO: You will grow to love and hate this plugin. 🙂 This shows you where you can improve in the SEO and readability department…it’s super picky, but that’s a good thing! It also allows you to customize how your page looks in Google search results.
- Google Analytics by MonsterInsights: Easily add your Google Analytics info so you can track your page hits and trends. Google Analytics is the gold standard for website analytics…you will absolutely need it if you’re going to be blogging professionally!
With all of this being said, don’t bog down your blog with plugins! They can significantly decrease the load speed of your blog, so use sparingly.
7. Start your email list on a solid platform. (Yes, now.)
I held off on starting my email list for the longest time, and it’s one of my biggest regrets in my blogging career. By holding off, I missed out on a golden opportunity to convert so many one-time Pinterest visits into dedicated, long-term readers. I can honestly say that my email list is my most effective (and by far my most profitable) method of networking with readers!
I have used Convertkit as my email service for about a year. It is an incredibly powerful and innovative platform that allows me to segment readers by interests, send out multiple automated follow-up and email series, and even test out email titles on a segment of my audience before sending the most effective one to the whole group automatically. I love its ability to send email sequences with very little babysitting and I’m already using the Convertkit plugin on my blog to customize my opt in forms to the type of post I’m writing…check out how this post has a blogging-specific opt in at the bottom!
If you’d like to check out Convertkit for yourself, click here! They have a very reasonable pricing structure that allows you to pay based on your number of subscribers, so if you’re just now starting your email list, you will start out with a package that is just $29 a month (and allows for unlimited emails).
And just like that, you have a WordPress blog…congratulations! Can you believe you learned how to start a blog that quickly? You just gave your blog so much functionality and power (not to mention rock-solid coding). Enjoy your new self-hosted WordPress blog!
Now, how the heck do I make money from it, Leslie?
Well, luckily for you, I have a few resources that detail how to do just that! Click the links below to go to each one of the posts in my Basics of Blog Monetization series.
- The Basics of Blog Monetization: An Introduction
- The Basics of Blog Monetization: Using Ads on Your Blog
- The Basics of Blog Monetization: Using Affiliate Links on Your Blog
- The Basics of Blog Monetization: Creating Sponsored Content
- The Basics of Blog Monetization: Selling Your Own Product(s)
I also have a comprehensive post of my favorite blogging resources – click here for that one! And, if you’re interested in getting a sneak peek into my blogging business (including what my monthly income looks like, detailed blog stats, and my successes and failures from the month) that’s only for email subscribers, click here or use the form below to sign up for my monthly blogging newsletter.
Disclaimer: By following the advice in these posts, I am not suggesting you’re going to make a huge profit, especially immediately. Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme – it takes a lot of work and perseverance! My results aren’t typical, but could be possible through a lot of hard work (and maybe even a little bit of luck).
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