How To Turn Your Knowledge And Passion Into A Successful, Money-Making Blog In 8 Steps
Hello there, future blogging success story!
I'm Tracy Russell and I launched Incredible Smoothies during the summer of 2009.
Within 18 months, my husband and I 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!
Over the years, I have helped thousands of people lose weight and improve their health with green smoothies and whole foods. Now I am on a mission to help people just like you embrace their passion and make a living from it.
This Blogging 101 guide is geared for beginners - those who dream of starting their own blog but don't know where to start, or how to ensure that it will be a success.
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.
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 your name is taken, 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). Free tools like Dot-o-mator or Domain Groovy can help you come up with ideas if you're stuck.
If your domain name is available, then it's time to decide on a web host.
The web host I use and recommend is Bluehost. Their service is fast and reliable, which is critical for me since most of my income comes from my blog! They also have US-based technical support, which is rare. 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.
Why not 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
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!
Step 4: Make Your Blog 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 elses 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 blog.
The theme I use for Incredible Smoothies is the Genesis Framework with a child theme from StudioPress (the people who also created the Genesis Framework.) These themes are not free, but I definitely recommend them if you want absolute control over your blog design and functionality.
Thrive Themes also features a portfolio of stunning, responsive WordPress themes. Take a look!
Step 5: Optimizing Your 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 Injection, Akismet (eliminates comment spam), Simple Share Buttons (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 6: Start Writing!
Okay, you do not need to be a Hemmingway 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.
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.
Step 7: 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. 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, and Pinterest. 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.
Build An E-Mail List: As soon as possible, you should set up a weekly e-mail newsletter. I use Aweber to manage my e-mail list, and to send out my weekly e-mails (as well as my periodic Green Smoothie Boot Camps).
To entice readers to become e-mail newsletter subscribers, create a 5-7 part e-course that is delivered by e-mail. Or, do what I do and host periodic challenges – either a 14-day, 21-day, or 30-day challenge. I get more subscribers leading up to, and during, a challenge than I do any other time.
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 8: 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 I don't use ads to monetize Incredible Smoothies.
Ads will 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 be advertising my competitors, or products that I don't believe in and would rather not endorse.
2) Affiliate Marketing
Promoting somebody elses product as an affiliate marketer can earn more revue than placing ads on an up-and-coming or small niche blog.
I use carefully selected affiliate programs to supplement the income I get from the information products that I sell.
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 me has been creating and selling my own information products. (I have two - Reset 28 and FreshLeap.) 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.
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.
I waited six months before I started to monetize Incredible Smoothies.
I waited 18 months before I created an information product because I wanted to A) have a large enough readership to monetize, and B) identify a common problem that my readers face and a solution that they would be the most receptive to.
You don't have to wait that long. 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.
Thank you for reading my Blogging 101 guide! I hope it gave you some insights on how to create a money-making blog. 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:
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.
Aweber E-Mail Marketing: We have used Aweber to manage our e-mail newsletter and autoresponder series (e-courses) 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 (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.
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.
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.
More tools and resources coming soon!
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!
I wish you the best of luck with your blog!