Hello there, future blogging success story!
Tracy and I launched a green smoothie blog called Incredible Smoothies during the summer of 2009.
Within 18 months, we were living off of the income on this blog.
In just over two years, we were making a six-figure income from it!
And we did that from a blog about what we drink for breakfast every day!
We’re not marketing geniuses. We weren’t necessarily lucky either. We just put in the work of turning our knowledge and passion into a thriving, blogging business.
If we can do this, you can too!
This guide is geared for beginners – those who dream of starting their own blog but don’t know where to begin, or how to ensure that it will be a success.
Read on for an 8-step guide to get started on your own blog:
Step 1: Turning Your Ideas & Interests Into A Successful Blog
You don’t need a groundbreaking new idea in order to create a money-making blog.
You just need to decide on a topic for your blog that you are interested in and want to learn more about.
You should have some level of passion for this topic or you will find it hard to consistently write about it, and your blog won’t go anywhere.
You’ll want to choose a blog topic that has a large enough audience – but not too broad. For example, a blog about “health”, or “travel” is too broad. There are way, way, way too many established travel and health blogs out there that you won’t ever carve yourself a piece of that niche.
But narrowing down your topic to one aspect of health (ie: a specific diet or fitness regimen), gives you a better shot at building a following and standing out from the competition.
You can also use a keyword planning tools like Wordtracker (which comes with a 7-day free trial) to help you narrow down a niche with potential.
Dive Deeper: Find out how to do the in-depth research you need to do to predict the success of your blog.
Step 2: Choose A Name & Web Host
Okay, time to stop procrastinating and get your blog created! Are you ready?!
Thankfully, you do not need to know any code at all in order to create your own blog. I’ll show you how you can be up and running in no time.
The first step is to pick a domain name for your blog and set up a hosting account.
The most difficult part of this process is choosing a name you love that isn’t already taken!
I strongly recommend sticking with a .com domain name, so if the name you love is taken (as a .com), don’t go for the other extensions (.net, .org, .whatever) – pick a different name! Get creative and think along the lines of creating a brand.
Now that you have brainstormed a few possible names, visit BlueHost.com (the web hosting company I use and recommend) to see if one of them is available.
You can also use the domain lookup tool below:
Drumroll………and it’s available! Yay!
If not, don’t get too stressed out about it. Just keep thinking up names until you find one that you love (and available as a .com).
If your domain name is available, then it’s time to decide on a web host.
The web host we use for Incredible Smoothies is Bluehost. Their service is fast and reliable, which is critical for us since most of our income comes from our blog! They also have US-based technical support, which is rare at the prices they offer for most hosting packages.
PLUS – You can get your website up and running for as little as $3 to $4 per month!
If you are just starting out, then all you need is the “Starter” hosting package.
You can easily add features or upgrades later when your blog is making money and growing in popularity. But for right now, just the basic hosting plan will be more then sufficient as you grow and develop your audience.
Why not just use a free web host? If you just want to have a personal blog, then a free WordPress.com or Blogger.com account will do.
However, these services are limited (they are free, after-all) and if you are serious about having a professional looking blog that has the potential to replace your income, you will need the features, as well as the customization and monetization options, that you can only get with a paid hosting account.
Step 3: Install WordPress, Make It Petty, & Optimize Your Blog
WordPress is the most popular blogging platform that enables you to quickly and easily post content to your blog, make it pretty, and do all sorts of things without having to know a single line of code. Millions of blogs use WordPress, like the one you are reading right now.
WordPress couldn’t be any easier to install. After ordering your hosting account with Bluehost, simply log into your control panel and you will see a screen that looks something like this:
That’s right, just click on the “Install WordPress” icon and follow the simple instructions (so easy your child could do it). WordPress will be automatically installed on your hosting account. Now wasn’t that easy!
Make It Pretty!
Now it’s time for the fun part – making your website look stunning, unique, and original. You don’t want to look like everyone else’s blog, now do you!
Another big perk with using WordPress to run your blog is that you don’t have to know any code, or hire a designer, to have a stunning blog.
Simply log into your WordPress dashboard and click on the “Appearance” link on the left-hand navigation menu.
A WordPress Theme is essentially the “skin” of your blog. Theme files contain all of the design elements and some of the functionality for your blog.
The best thing about WordPress themes is that you can create a professionally designed blog with the click of a button! Oh, and they are free! See – I told you you didn’t need to know any code!
Several very basic themes are already bundled with the default WordPress install, but I recommend browsing the many more free themes available for download via the WordPress dashboard.
Click on the “Add New” button at the top of the page to find a theme you love.
Any of the free themes will be fine for you when you first launch your blog. As you grow, you’ll probably want to buy a premium WordPress theme that will give you much more control over the look and feel (and functionality) of your website.
Thrive Themes also features a portfolio of stunning, responsive WordPress themes. Take a look!
These themes are not free, but I definitely recommend them if you want absolute control over your blog design and functionality.
Optimizing Your WordPress Blog
There are a few things you can do to optimize your blog. To do this, we’ll use WordPress plug-ins.
Plugins add functionality to your WordPress blog. They install with just one click and they take your blog to the next level. And the vast majority of them are free!
A few of the Plugins that I consider essential include: Ad Inserter, Akismet (eliminates comment spam), Add To Any (adds icons that make it easy for readers to share your content on social websites), and Yoast SEO (makes optimizing your blog – and content – for search engines much, much easier).
You can install any of these plugins by clicking on the “Plugins” link in the left-hand navigation menu in your WordPress dashboard, and then clicking on the “Add New” button. They are all completely FREE!
Now that was easy! Doesn’t it feel great to have your blog up and running? It’s time to celebrate!
Step 4: Start Writing!
Okay, you do not need to be a Hemingway to write a blog. In fact, the most successful blogs are written in a conversational tone.
So don’t try to impress your readers with your vocabulary or professional, academic style – that won’t hold your reader’s interest.
The established best practices for every major website, from major news sites to tiny niche blogs, is to write at a 7th grade reading level! (Remember that many of your readers may not be native English speakers, as well. )
What To Write About
The most effective blog posts on Incredible Smoothies are ones that answer questions, solve problems, or take a unique (and sometimes controversial) approach to a popular idea or trend.
Obviously, you want to cover the basics for your topic. But then write about what you love about your niche. Write about your frustrations, challenges, victories – because I can guarantee that many of your readers will feel the same way.
Use keyword research tools like Wordtracker to help you brainstorm keyword-specific topics to write about on your blog.
As you inevitably answer questions from your readers, turn your answers into a blog post. For example, many of the blog posts here on Incredible Smoothies were written in response to reader questions.
Build A Relationship With Your Readers
Your goal as a blogger isn’t just to educate your readers about a specific topic. It’s to build a relationship!
Share your story. Let your readers into your life. Put yourself into your blog. Don’t just be a faceless “author” of a blog with a generic “about” page.
Your blog should be an extension of who you are. Your readers should feel like they know you. Get to know your readers, too!
How Much And How Often?
When it comes to writing blog posts, quality beats quantity every time. It’s better in the long term to post quality content less frequently than it is to post low quality content on a daily basis.
Ideally, you want to post 2-3 times per week on your blog – but ONLY if you can provide value with each and every post.
As for post length, I typically shoot for 1000-1500 words. I often go over that if I’m providing a piece that offers a ton of value. (This post is over 3000 words long!)
The minimum blog post should be 500 words, but generally, longer, more in-depth blog posts get more social media traction, and rank higher in Google.
One more tip about content – make it evergreen. Instead of focusing on current, dated material, write blog posts that will stand the test of time. You don’t want half your blog to become irrelevant in a year, or five. (Pro Tip: I usually remove the date from my blog posts if they are over a year old.)
Step 5: Build A Massive Following!
It takes time to build an audience for your blog. Don’t get discourage if you spend the first few months feeling like you are blogging to nobody. You will be. It is 100% normal.
Trust me, every single A-list blogger started with zero readers. Blogging success doesn’t happen overnight. But successful blogs are built over time by people who stay with it and don’t give up.
Here are some tips for building a massive following:
Create Value: I know I’ve said this before – over and over – but it’s really important! Every post on your blog should solve a problem, clarify a confusing issue, entertain, educate, encourage, motivate, inspire… Make your content matter, and your readers will promote it for you!
Be Active On Social Media: As soon as you purchase your domain name, set up social media accounts for your blog. Create a Facebook page, and then set up accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, YouTube, Pinterest, and any other social media platform that makes sense.
In fact, just reserve your blog name everywhere – whether you intend to use that platform or not.
While it may take a little time for search engine traffic to get to your blog, you can get much quicker traction on social media.
But don’t use social media to spam your followers with links back to your website. Provide value. Develop a relationship with your followers. Engage with them and get to know your readers.
You can also use social media to network with other bloggers, as well as with companies that sell products that your readers may be interested in.
Build An E-Mail List: As soon as possible, you should set up an e-mail newsletter. We use Active Campaign to manage our e-mail list on Incredible Smoothies, and to send out our weekly e-mails (as well as our periodic green smoothie challenges).
To entice readers to become e-mail newsletter subscribers, create a 5-7 part e-course that is delivered by e-mail. Or, host periodic challenges – either a 14-day, 21-day, or 30-day. We get more subscribers leading up to, and during, a challenge than we do any other time.
Give something valuable away for free to entice your readers to become e-mail subscribers. Then continue providing them value. Use your e-mail list to build a relationship.
Be A Thought Leader In Your Niche: Don’t just parrot the same things that everybody else in your niche is writing about or saying. Don’t be afraid to share your opinion and experience. Conduct your own research and interpret the results. Take a different approach. Put your unique spin on an established topic.
In short, stand out and be a leader. Don’t follow the pack.
Step 6: Monetize
There are three ways to monetize your blog. They are:
Most people assume that I make my money from putting ads on my blog. The truth is that we don’t use ads to monetize Incredible Smoothies.
Ads work well if you have a very high traffic blog (like 2 million+ unique monthly visitors). They will not generate much revenue for an up-and-coming blog, or a blog that covers a small niche – where affiliate marketing or creating your own information products will be much more profitable.
The biggest drawback with ads for blogs like Incredible Smoothies is that I have limited control over the content of those ads. They could advertise my competitors, or products that I don’t believe in and would rather not endorse.
For example, I might write a post on attracting bees to you pollinator garden, only to have ads served for pesticides. Or ads for gimmicky, “get-rich-quick” scams might be displayed in an article like the one you are reading now. It looks bad, and works against your interests.
A high-traffic recipe or news website that reaches a general audience would have a better time serving ads than a small niche authority website where a specific position is taken on a topic.
2) Affiliate Marketing
Promoting somebody elses product as an affiliate marketer can earn more revenue than placing ads on an up-and-coming or small niche blog.
We use carefully selected affiliate programs to supplement the income we get from the information products that we sell on Incredible Smoothies.
Choose high-commission products over low-commission ones. I prefer products that offer a 50% commission, or where I make $25 or more per referral.
The Amazon.com Associates program is probably the most popular affiliate program out there. Millions of people already shop on Amazon, so linking to relevant products can add a nice supplemental boost to your blog’s income.
3) Create & Sell Your Own Ebooks & Information Products
The most effective monetization strategy for us has been creating and selling our own information products. (We have three – BLEND, Reset 28, and FreshLeap – all of which we sell from the Incredible Smoothies website.)
Relying on ad revenue, or promoting affiliate products, would have made Incredible Smoothies less than half as successful it is.
Even a small niche blog with a few thousand unique daily visitors can earn a six-figure income by selling a valuable information product that solves their reader’s problems.
During the month of April 2012, Incredible Smoothies generated $12,823.19 in income. 88% of that income ($11,300) was from sales of our information products.
At the time, around 5,500 unique visitors per day were visiting the website! A year later, our income (and traffic) nearly tripled.
It is impossible to make anywhere near this kind of money from ads or by promoting affiliate products at this traffic level (5,500 uniques/day) from a content blog!
That just goes to show to powerful you can be when you know your readers, cultivate a relationship with them, and deliver what they want.
Rather than only getting a tiny percentage of ad revenue, or a 50% or smaller commission from an affiliate product, your earning potential is much higher if you create the product yourself. Plus, you can recruit affiliates to promote your product for you!
An information product can be an e-book, an audio program, video tutorial product, or a combination of e-book and video. This product can then be sold from your blog, and your customers can download and use the product immediately after purchasing.
Before you create an information product to sell, however, be sure you know your readers well. Learn about what they want. What common problem do they need solved? What common frustration have you figured out?
When To Monetize
While you are probably chomping at the bit to start making money from your blog, I recommend waiting until you start building a following.
We waited six months before we started to monetize Incredible Smoothies.
We waited 18 months before we created an information product because I wanted to:
A) build a large enough readership to monetize, and
B) identify a common problem that our readers faced and a solution that they would be the most receptive to.
You don’t have to wait as long as we did to roll out an information product, however.
In my opinion, it’s best to start monetizing (via ads or affiliate recommendations) when you have at least 100+ unique visitors to your blog, AND at least 50 pages of content.
Hold off on creating an e-book or information product until you have a much larger following, and you know what your readers want to buy.
One mistake that people make is that they put all their effort into a product, or into monetization channels, and they don’t take the time to build a following that they can monetize.
Conclusion & Additional Resources
Thank you for reading my blogging guide! I hope it gave you some insights on how to create a money-making blog of your own.
And I hope it gave you some inspiration to take the plunge and start your own blog!
Additional Tools & Resources:
Here are some more resources that I have used to make my blog a huge success:
Research Your Niche
Keyword Research (WordTracker): The best tool I’ve used that allows you to research topics and keywords for online supply and demand. Use this tool to find a niche topic that has a good chance of getting enough traffic to be profitable.
You can also get tons of ideas for what to write about based on what your target audience is searching for. Sign up for a 7-day free trial <-- Not an affiliate link.
Active Campaign E-Mail Marketing: We have used Active Campaign to manage our e-mail newsletter and autoresponder series (e-courses) on Incredible Smoothies since the very beginning. You’ll get lots of control over how your e-mails are sent out to your subscribers and the ability to track performance – which is critical for making an income online. Sign up now for a free trial.
Thrive Leads (Premium WordPress Plugin): If you really want to grow your e-mail list fast, then you need the Thrive Leads plugin for WordPress. Thrive Leads gives you the ability to create a variety of different e-mail opt-in forms such as the “Sticky Ribbon”, the “Pop-In”, and other popular forms that actually work and increase your opt-in rate.
Analyze Traffic & Your Niche
Statcounter: Simple and easy to use, StatCounter tracks a lot of detailed information about your website traffic. The best thing about it is that it’s invisible on your pages and it’s free! Sign up for your free account.
Google Analytics: Provides detailed information about your traffic and search engine keyword performance. Sign up here (it’s free!).
Google Webmaster Tools: Provides lots of great insight into your website and how it is indexed in Google. You can use this service to find errors and improve Google’s ability to properly index your blog. Sign up here (also free).
More tools and resources coming soon!
I wish you the best of luck with your blog!
AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Many of the links on this page are affiliate links. That means I may earn a commission if you sign up/purchase after clicking on these links. Thanks for your support!