Don’t let resistance defeat your desire to learn how to start a blog! This ultimate guide is here to help you break through the barriers and win your inner creative battle. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth accomplishing ever is.
One of the best decisions I ever made was learning how to start a blog and get paid. I’m not going to lie, when I left law school and went all in, I was filled with anxiety.
I struggled for over a year before I found the formula to success, and I share all of the lessons I learned in this epic ultimate guide (including the one strategy that lit my brand on fire!).
With every passing year, it gets harder to make money blogging, but for you, that’s a good thing.
Because there’s always room on the internet for high-quality content!
Sure, the era of get-rich-quick blogging is behind us, but for soon-to-be bloggers like yourself, the time is ripe for those willing to work hard.
My strategy has helped dozens of internet entrepreneurs explode their email list, generate thousands of dollars in revenue, and rapidly gain authority, all in a short period of time.
Many of the tools and resources I recommend in this article include affiliate links. When you make a purchase through one of my links, I earn a small commission. I only recommend reputable services that I’ve can stand behind. Keep in mind that while certain tools may boost your growth, the real engine of progress is your commitment to providing value to your audience.
With that said, killer content doesn’t just magically appear.
You’ll need to go through the step-by-step process of starting a blog from scratch, beginning with this essential first step…
How to Start a Blog Today: The (Not-So-Big) First Step That You Can Take Now
One of the most exciting things about starting a blog is that not much stands in your way aside from your own resistance.
The first two steps to starting a blog are:
1. Buying an (affordable) domain name.
2. Getting (affordable) hosting.
You can register a domain name and sign up for a hosting plan through Bluehost.
After that, all you’ll need is the motivation to create exceptional content (I know you can do it!).
How quickly can you bust out the first 1,500-word article for your audience?
It doesn’t have to be a piece of art. As a matter of fact, you’ll probably look back on your first article and laugh, but hey, even Picasso had to start somewhere.
Learning how to start a blog for profit may seem like an intimidating task, but just take it one step at a time and you’ll be fine.
Before you continue reading, take a breather, head over to Bluehost, and get some skin in the game. Once you have a domain name and hosting plan, you’ll feel supercharged to write your first article. By the time you come back and finish reading this guide, you’ll be stoked and ready to roll.
I’ve structured this guide so that you can tackle each task as you read along. Take it one easy step at a time and you’ll have a blog created before you can say “monetization.”
The time is now to start a blog and get paid!
EXCLUSIVE FREE BONUS DOWNLOAD
Download my FREE Virtual Summit Mastery Cheat Sheet PDF to learn more about my favorite way to build your blog audience and make real revenue before you even start your blog.
It’s so powerful that it helped me and my students generate 100,000’s of email subscribers and millions of dollars in sales with our virtual summits in just the past year alone.
Note: This in-depth guide on how to start a blog and make money on the side this year is over 14,000 words long, so you can check the table of contents below to jump to the section you’d like to dive in to more.
How To Start A Blog And Make Money In 15 Easy To Follow Steps
Are you ready to light the blogging world on fire?!
By the end of this guide, you’ll be reved-up and ready to dominate your niche.
Like I said before, the time is ripe for passionate people to excel with their first blog.
Let’s get to it!
1. Picking a Niche
If I had to leave you with one piece of advice before sending you on your way, it would be this:
“Write about something that excites you!”
Figuring out how to start a blog is like running an ultramarathon. When you choose your niche, think of it like choosing a pair of comfortable running shoes. You’ll be bursting with blisters if you pick a pair of sneakers just because other people wear them. The same goes for your niche ̶ it needs to be a good fit for you.
Write about something you’re passionate about.
It doesn’t have to be your ultimate obsession, but you do at least have to be genuinely interested in it.
Your readers will feel your excitement and want to join the party.
Why You Need to Choose a Niche
Niche down ‘til it hurts!
Your content should be specific so that it gives your blog direction.
Picking a niche gives you a topic to focus on.
Your niche is more than just a topic, it’s a commitment to providing solutions to a certain set of problems.
Start with a narrow focus when you first start your blog.
Let’s say you decide to start an Italian cooking blog.
It might be a good idea to focus exclusively on sauces for your first batch of content.
The next time someone needs to know how much ground pine nuts to add to their pesto, they’ll know to come to you for the answer.
Niching down like this will help you build authority faster.
As your blog evolves, you can start covering a broader range of topics. Be the master of sauce first and you’ll become the Italian cooking boss in no time.
He became the dog food master.
Soon the internet started to see him as an authority on dog nutrition.
Perrin’s strategy worked. Here Pup! was making $46k/year in revenue before Perrin sold the website in late 2016.
Common Blogging Mistakes
The most successful blogs are run by people who genuinely care about the subject of their blog.
I’m not saying that it’s impossible to start a blog in an industry that you aren’t super familiar with, but for your first blog, stick to a topic that interests you and avoid these common blogging mistakes:
- PITFALL #1: “Craving quick results” Blogging is a race without a defined finish line. Commit to the process, not the results. The revenue will come if you put your focus on creating the highest quality content possible and solving problems for your readers.
- PITFALL #2: “Not investing in your audience” Your early readers are your new children. Baby them. Pamper them. Coddle them with comments. They’re the beginning of the 1,000 true fans that will ensure your success.
- PITFALL #3: “Outsourcing too quickly” As your blog grows, you’ll inevitably need to recruit writers and outsource tasks. When you first start out, put a personal touch on every piece of your blog. Don’t start outsourcing until you’ve earned the loyalty of your core fanbase.
Always create top-of-the-line content.
Have a Clear Image of Your Audience
Chances are that if you’re passionate about something, you’re going to know a lot about the community surrounding it.
That’s great, because without a detailed audience persona, you’re blog will most likely flop.
What makes your target audience tick?
- Where do they work?
- Where do they live?
- Are they single or married?
- Do they have kids?
- How old are they?
- What music do they listen to to?
- What do they do for fun?
- What are their biggest worries?
- What are their biggest worries?
- What problems do they have that need solving?
This last question is the most important one.
Your blog has to solve your audience’s biggest pain points.
What will your blog offer that no other place on the internet does?
What will make you their go-to source forthe answers they need?
Know Their Internet/Social Media Habits
Where does your audience spend most their time on the internet and how do they spend that time? This is important to know when it’s time to promote your posts. Most social networks are growing rapidly within in the US and there’s no sign of them slowing down.
- Is your audience on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat Google or LinkedIn? 59% of 18-29 year olds use Instagram, while Snapchat users tend to be under the age of 24 and live outside the US.
- Do they participate in forums or belong to Facebook groups?
- Are they the type of people who scroll compulsively or do intentional research?
- Do they prefer extensive, in-depth posts, quick reads, or images and video?
The goal of your blog is create value for your ideal reader, not somebody else’s. Your content has to be effortless for your target audience to find and easy to consume.
Your valuable content is useless if it’s buried in articles that are shared on the wrong platforms and are too dense to read.
How Competitive Is Your Niche?
Before you pick a niche, you need to find out how hard it will be to rank for keywords.
Some niches, like health and online marketing, are notoriously competitive.
This doesn’t mean that it will be impossible to get organic traffic, it just means that you’ll have to work a lot harder for it.
Make a list of article topics that you think would provide value to your readers.
Then search for those article topics in Google. What types of websites rank at the top of the list?
Is the page filled with tons of high-authority blogs that dominate the niche? If so, it could make it difficult to get early traction with your blog.
Signs of a strong website include…
- High traffic
- Lots of other sites link to it (especially other high-ranking, relevant sites in the niche)
- Domain Authority/Domain Ranking
Using Ahrefs to Dig Deep Into Competitive Research
Ahrefs is the best software to use to explore the competition. They have the second-most active crawlers on the internet behind Google and provide detailed backlink analysis.
Let’s say you want to write and article on how to lose weight fast and you want to see what the competition is like.
Google the keyword phrase “lose weight fast.” and see who ranks.
Healthline.com is at the top of the list. Go to Ahrefs.com to check out their metrics.
As you can see, Healthline.com is a monster in the niche:
- High traffic: 82 million visitors a month
- Lots of backlinks: 7.2 million
- A high Domain Rating (DR): 90/100
The other sites that rank in the top ten for “lose weight fast” are super strong too:
- Rd.com (Reader’s Digest)
In order to get organic search traffic from this keyword phrase, you’re going to have to beat one of these sites and take their place on the first page.
It’s going to be hard for a new site to rank for this keyword.
On the other hand, if several weak websites rank in the top ten, then you might have a chance of beating them as long as you make your content longer and better.
Here’s what the Ahrefs metrics of a weaker site look like:
This site, Optimal Living Dynamics, is an example of a site that you might be able to outrank for certain keywords after a few months of networking with other sites and getting more traffic to your blog.
Ideally, look for sites that are even weaker than this site. 10k visitors a month is still pretty darn good and so is having over 8k backlinks from other sites.
A site with a few hundred backlinks and couple thousand or less in monthly traffic is one that you have a chance of outranking immediately with only a couple links and highly-optimized content.
Before we go any further with this guide, I’d like to address a common question that many first-time bloggers have…
How to Start a Blog for Free in 2019 (and not get paid)
Starting a blog for free is easy in 2019, but if you want to learn how to start a blog for profit, the free route is the wrong path to take.
There are several downsides to consider with free services like…
- These options seriously limit your ability to make money with affiliate programs and ads. The amount of money you save from a free website service is peanuts compared to the revenue you’ll lose down the road.
- As your blog continues to prosper, you’ll inevitably want to upgrade hosting. Transferring your blog from free hosting like Blogger to paid hosting like Bluehost can be a hassle. If you aren’t familiar with the process, your blog could lose its rankings and run into technical problems.
Other reasons why free hosting platforms are a major pain:
- Free services don’t give you full control over the the structure and design of your site. Not only will your blog not look as cool, but you won’t be able to use nifty tools like ConvertKit to generate leads.
- Free blogs are free for a reason ̶ they don’t provide much support when shit hits the fan. Bluehost and other affordable hosting platforms like Siteground have support teams to help you troubleshoot technical problems.
- You won’t be able to customize your domain name with free hosting. Having a branded, memorable domain name will help you rank in Google results and give you greater brand recognition.
If blogging is just a hobby for you, then by all means go the free route.
If you want your blog to become a revenue-generating machine, then paid hosting is the only way to go.
Today there are more opportunities to make money blogging than ever before. You just have to be willing to invest…
- To invest your time
- To invest your energy
- To invest your money (not necessarily a lot, but some)
Be generous with the value you offer your audience and they’ll give you their loyalty back in return.
Now that it’s clear why you shouldn’t go with a free hosting plan, it’s time to get a domain name.
2. Choosing a Domain Name For Your Blog
Are you ready for your first mini-milestone?
It’s time to choose a domain name for your blog.
What is a Domain Name?
Your domain name is the URL that you type into the search bar to navigate directly to a website. Your domain name, or URL as it’s called, is the first impression you’ll make on your audience.
Sure, it’s your blog’s virtual address, but it’s also the face of your brand.
A good domain name is…
- Easy to say
- Spelled correctly (avoid using intentional misspellings like koolkids.com)
Now for some brainstorming tips…
How to Pick the Best Domain Name for Your Blog
Will you choose a “professional” sounding name or will you make it playful and laid back?
Is your domain name going to…
- Roll off the tongue?
- Be easy to remember?
- Directly represent your content?
- or be the name of a personal brand?
Neil Patel has one of the successful blogs of all time (arguably in the internet’s most competitive niche: online marketing), and yet his domain name is simply NeilPatel.com.
I decided to promote my personal brand with my domain name too a few years ago when I started out online.
SearchEngineJournal.com covers the same type of content as NeilPatel.com, but instead of using a personal brand, their domain name describes the type of content they cover.
Compare NeilPatel.com and SearchEngineJournal.com to a URL from a free hosting platform like Blogger:
It’s clunky to say the least, and definitely doesn’t put your best foot forward.
Choose a Broad Domain Name That Gives You Room to Grow
When you first start your blog, you should focus on a core subtopic within your niche like HerePup.com did.
At the same time, you don’t want to pick a domain name that’s so narrow it prevents you from expanding into other dog topics later on.
It would’ve been a bad idea for Perrin Carrell, the founder of HerePup.com, to name his blog DogNutritionDepot.com. He would’ve had to focus on dog food forever or migrate his site to a new URL (a huge pain!).
Instead, Perrin was able to target all the easy-to-rank-for dog food keywords and then expand to dog toys, dog training, dog medicine, dog grooming, and everything else dog related.
Don’t box yourself in! Give yourself room to grow in the niche.
Research Other Blog Names in Your Niche
Find blogs that are already successful. What types of domain names work for them?
Find your future competitors by searching for keywords in your niche.
You can search for “best BLANK blogs” and find them that way.
Notice how they brand themselves and see if you can find any trends in the types of domain names they use.
You might notice that the pet niche has more blogs with playful/creative names whereas the health niche uses names that are more professional and straightforward.
BeBrainFit.com is a “medium-level” blog in the mental health niche.
The name is clever, straight forward, fun to say, and memorable.
Will Your Name Resonate with Your Ideal Audience?
Start by making a list of words that embody what you want your blog to be about.
Then try different combinations of these words until you find something that represents the message of your blog.
Which of the below blogs would this domain name work best for? InnerGlowFitness.com
- Blog #1 is about yoga.
- Blog #2 is about weight lifting.
When it comes down to it, you’re going to have to follow your gut.
Hopefully you you chose Blog #1.
“Inner Glow” doesn’t exactly scream pumping iron. You get the idea.
Ask Your Friends and Family to Vote for Your Domain Name
It’s time to put your domain names to the test.
What do other people think about your ideas?
Make a list of your top 3-5 domain names and ask your Facebook friends to vote both for their favorite.
Ask them how the name makes them feel when they say it out loud.
The winning name should evoke positive emotions and inspire thoughts that are relevant to your niche.
Once you settle on a domain name, it’ll be time to share it with the world.
To do that, you’re going to need to choose a blogging platform. Choose WordPress!
Congrats! You’re the proud owner of your very own domain name!
3. Picking a Blogging Platform (CMS)
WordPress is the most common blogging platform / content management system (CMS) on the internet. Over 60% of the web runs on WordPress.
There really isn’t any reason to use a non-WordPress CMS for your blog.
WordPress alternatives like…
Wix and Squarespace
…are more difficult to personalize, monetize, and optimize for outreach.
What is a CMS?
Your content management system (CMS) is where you write and edit your content, format your pages, and publish your posts.
It’s the interface for you to add videos and upload images.
When it’s time to design your website, you’ll install a theme into WordPress and then design it with a plugin called a page builder. Thrive Architect is the page builder that I recommend in this guide.
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
WordPress comes in two very different platforms: “.com” and “.org.”
The “.org” version is the the type that gets set up when you install WordPress through Bluehost.
I strongly recommend setting up a WordPress.org website through your hosting provider.
The alternative, WordPress.com, comes with free built-in hosting, but you lose the ability to customize and monetize your site. Lame!
WordPress.com (with free hosting)
- It’s free (not counting all the income you lose due to limited monetization options)
- Can’t sell your own ads
- Limited support (you’re on your own if you get stuck)
- Limited analytics and SEO
- Limited free storage
- Can’t upload plugins (that means no lead generation plugins for capturing emails)
- You have to pay extra to remove all the WordPress branding
- Can’t choose a custom domain name (your URL will look like this: YourSiteName.wordpress.com)
You have the option to upgrade according to the pricing plans listed in the image below. The free option is highlighted with the red box.
…but your life will be much simpler if you just sign up for WordPress through Bluehost when you open an account.
Installing WordPress is easy with Bluehost, and setting up WordPress this way gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility later on when it’s time to upgrade.
Now let’s learn how to sign up for Bluehost and install WordPress.
4. Getting a Hosting Provider
The last major technical step of starting a blog is to choose a dependable hosting provider.
If you’ve already gone the free route with a service like Blogger then you can skip this step, but I have to remind you that “free” hosting ends up losing you a fortune in the long run because you won’t be able to monetize it.
Comparing all the different hosting providers can feel overwhelming.
Keep it simple and get started with Bluehost so that you can move on to creating killer content as soon as possible, because that’s where the real fun begins!
What Is Web Hosting?
Your host provides the actual computing power of your website. Without a host, your blog couldn’t exist. A company like Bluehost “serves” your blog’s pages to your visitors when they connect to your website.
There are a lot of hosting options to choose from, but I recommend Bluehost because they take care of all your needs in one place.
Bluehost’s top features:
- Easy-to-use cPanel interface
- One-click WordPress installation
- Round-the-clock technical support
- Plenty of room to grow when you decide to upgrade your hosting plan
For 95% of early stage bloggers, Bluehost is an idea hosting provider that will serve you pretty well (I even use it for a smaller site we have right now).
Types of Hosting Plans
I recommend starting with the cheapest shared hosting plan when you first start out.
Bluehost’s shared hosting should be all you need during the early stages of your blog.
Bluehost Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is the most affordable hosting option. Rather than having computing resources dedicated solely to your site, you share the same “computing real estate” with many other small sites. The downside is that your site can slow down when you get a lot of traffic.
Bluehost offers shared hosting beginning at only $2.95/month.
Other Bluehost Hosting Options
- Cloud hosting is a new arrival on the hosting scene. Rather than serving your pages from a single physical server, cloud hosting mirrors your data across three devices.
- VPS hosting uses virtual private servers built with SSD storage from the ground up. VPS hosting tends to offer greater flexibility and control while delivering more computing power to your website.
- Dedicated hosting is the opposite of shared hosting. You get a bunch of computing power reserved for your site and your site only.
When you’re ready to upgrade from basic shared hosting, I recommend going with a different hosting provider.
I currently use WP Engine, but that’s because I need a bit more extra power and advanced features for most of my sites, members area and everything else we have going on. When you’re starting out you will most likely not need all that.
Setting up WordPress with Bluehost
Bluehost will automatically install WordPress when you sign up for a Shared Hosting account. If you purchase one of their other hosting plans, you’ll be able to use their one-click install in the customer control panel (cPanel) of your Bluehost account.
1. Login to your Bluehost account and navigate to your cPanel.
2. In the “MOJO Marketplace” section of your cPanel, click the “One-Click Installs” icon.
3. Choose “WordPress.”
4. Click the “Install” button.
5. Select your domain name and click “Check Domain.” Don’t do anything with the non-highlighted box that says “directory.”
6. Read through the license and service agreements and check the boxes.
7. Select the “Install Now” button after agreeing to the terms and conditions.
Here’s a quick recap of what you’ve accomplished so far:
- Registered a domain name
- Set up hosting
- Installed WordPress
Congratulations! You’ve already come a long way in learning how to start a blog with WordPress.
Now it’s time to make your blog look phenomenal, and to do that, you’re going to need a WordPress theme…
5. Design Your Blog with a Theme
A WordPress theme is the visual template of your blog.
Most themes are highly customizable and only cost around $60.
The best part is that you get to design your site without using any computer code.
You can make your blog eye-catching or plain, it’s up to you.
Theme developers usually design their themes with a specific industry in mind.
You’ll find themes for local businesses like gyms and restaurants alongside themes for affiliate marketers and other online business models.
Thrive Themes has a collection of roughly a dozen themes that are specifically for bloggers who want to monetize their site.
Are you ready to turn your blank WordPress site into an aesthetically pleasing billboard for your brand?
Why Blog Design Matters
You only have one chance to make a first impression.
Whenever you meet someone new, you make a snap judgement about their character within seconds.
If you think that’s harsh, wait ‘til you hear how how quickly users judge a website based off of its design.
In just 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) new users rated your site’s functionality and content based on the quality of the design.
In other words, if your blog looks sub-par, users automatically assume that the content sucks too.
Web design can either be your first big win or it can kill your blog fast.
Build Trust with Good Design
The best way to avoid snap judgements is to improve your design.
In the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, bus drivers decorate their buses with elaborate graffiti of mid-90s rappers and professional athletes. The more impressive the paint job, the easier it is to attract business.
Customers assume that if you can afford to decorate your bus then it’s mechanically sound and safe.
The same psychology is at play when it comes to your website’s design.
A good design builds trust.
Your site doesn’t have to be the next Mona Lisa, but it does have to have to be clean, crisp, and easy-to-scan.
Using Attractive Fonts
The fonts you use should be modern and complement each other well.
Use these tools to play around with font ideas:
You’re theme should come with a pre-set color scheme and font pairings, but if you want to get creative, check out Canva’s ultimate guide to font pairing.
Canv is an incredibly easy-to-use software for designing images of all kinds.
Their templates are an excellent place to search for font ideas.
Fonts, just like any kind of fashion, go in and out of style. Canva’s templates feature fonts that are hip and up-to-date.
Tips for Choosing a Good Theme
When you’re deciding on a theme, keep your audience in mind.
Choosing a theme is like decorating the clubhouse where all your readers will hang out.
At the same time, your blog is a business. That means your theme has to be optimized for SEO, collecting emails, running ads, making sales, and generating revenue.
Here’s what to look for when you’re shopping for themes:
Must be responsive: Responsiveness refers to how good your site looks and how well it operates across all devices. In 2018, 63% of all browsing happened on mobile phones. Depending on the target audience of your niche, an even higher percentage of your users might come from mobile devices. Most themes say they’re “mobile-friendly,” but it’s always best to test it yourself. Paste the URL of the theme’s demo page into Google’s Mobile-Friendly tool just to be sure.
Works on all browsers: Before you buy your theme, open up the demo in a variety of browsers. Most developers test their themes rigorously, but it’s still a good idea to confirm that your theme will work on Safari just as well as it does on Chrome.
SEO-friendly: For most blogs, organic search traffic from Google is a big part of their monetization strategy. The same will be true for your blog. Some themes are built with cumbersome code that make it difficult for search engines to crawl. If a theme doesn’t advertise itself as being SEO-friendly, be sure to check with the developer before you buy.
Support: Chances are you’re going to have a question or two when you start setting up your theme. Only consider buying a theme that has an active support team with positive reviews.
Compatible with plugins: One of the greatest things about having a WordPress site is that you get to use all of the world’s best plugins to streamline your site. Confirm that your theme supports all the top plugins.
Most of the themes that you’ll find on ThemeForest or Elegant Themes will check all of these boxes, but it’s always a good idea to contact customer service before you buy and ask them directly if their theme will fulfill all your needs.
Some themes are fairly limited in terms of how much you can tweak the design, and like I mentioned above, others have clunky code that can hurt SEO.
I suggest buying a theme with a demo that instantly catches your eye, that way you won’t have to tweak it too much to get it how you want it.
Where to Hire a Web Designer
I recommend setting up and designing your first blog yourself.
It’s an invaluable learning process that will help you understand the inner workings of your blog.
I also understand that life is busy, especially when you’re taking on a side project as intensive as starting your first blog.
Design work may not be one of your strengths either, and it might make sense to outsource this task. As a general rule of thumb, if you have to outsource anything, outsource the stuff you’re bad at.
Designing your blog is a one-time process and is an easy task to assign to a freelancer.
It’s an additional cost, but there are a few different places on the internet where you can find affordable blog designers:
Fiverr is a freelancer platform for gigs of all kinds, web designers included. The range of quality on Fiverr is vast and you have thousands of profiles to choose from. It’s a great place to start, but be prepared to pay more for high-level work.
Upwork is the granddaddy of freelancer marketplaces. This is the spot to go for high-quality, thoroughly-vetted designers. You’ll need to create a client account and then post a job offer. Browse the freelancers in Upwork’s database and invite the ones you like to check out your listing.
99Designs is ideal for getting a logo designed because you’ll get to choose between several different submissions. These guys use a unique contest system where freelancers compete for your business. You get to sit back, relax and pick from the best designs.
6. Essential WordPress Plugins You Need For Your Blog
Plugins make a blogger’s life easier, more profitable, and lower-stress.
There are plugins that…
- Strengthen security
- Help you build pages
- Make your site run faster
- Improve SEO
- Collect emails
- Improve conversion rates
Not all of the plugins I cover in this section are mandatory per se, but they are tools that can enhance your blog’s performance while keeping it safe and secure.
1. Thrive Leads
One of the first things you should do when you set up your blog is install a plugin like Thrive Leads to collect emails.
Your email list is the beginning of your fanbase. You can survey them for ideas about article topics and upcoming information products.
Your email subscribers will become the messengers that tell the world how awesome your blog is.
Thrive Leads allows you to create conversion optimized optin forms to collect emails and conduct detailed A/B split testing.
2. Thrive Architect
Thrive Architect is made by the same folks who create Thrive Leads and Thrive Themes.
Thrive Architect is an intuitive drag-and-drop page builder. You can use it to build pages and blog posts from scratch or use their pre-made templates.
I used Thrive Architect as the builder for this website (and Astra to build my theme… we have a custom design now though.
And I also use it for my Virtual Summit Mastery program and VSM Website Template I provide my students.
3. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is a free plugin that is invaluable when it comes to optimizing your on-page SEO.
On-page SEO refers to how well the content is written to rank well in Google results.
Yoast gives your content a score for readability and for keyword usage. It’s bad SEO to overuse or underuse keywords. Use your target keyword too many times and Google will think you’re trying to cheat by “keyword stuffing.”
Use a keyword too few times and you won’t have a very good chance of ranking. Yoast SEO lets you know when you have it just right.
Sitemaps is also included in Yoast SEO so you won’t need a separate plugin for that, which is great.
4. WP Rocket
WP Rocket is a caching plugin that uses a variety of techniques to help your site run faster.
It “minifies” files, “lazy-loads” images, and serves cached (saved) versions of pages to return visitors. It’s easy to configure even for beginners despite being extremely thorough.
Alternative: W3 Total Cache
MaxCDN speeds up page load times by making images and other static page elements load faster.
Jetpack is a free software from one of the designers of WordPress.
It covers everything from website performance and appearance to traffic growth, security, and image optimization.
It even creates sitemaps and shares them with Google so that your pages and posts are always easy to find.
The security feature protects your site against direct attacks and monitors your site for issues.
Askimet is a free anti-spam plugin that come free with WordPress. The creator of WordPress makes Askimet as well.
It scans all of the comments that users leave on your blog and then notifies you if they’re spam.
8. WP Smush
Who likes big, awkward image files that slow down your site? Not me, and you shouldn’t either.
WP Smush shrinks all of your image files so that they don’t slow down your page load times. It works with JPEG, PNG, and GIF formats.
Their compression techniques will save you a ton of storage space.
9. Google Analytics by MonsterInsights
Google Analytics breaks down your sites traffic statistics and puts them right in your WordPress dashboard. MonsterInsights can be connected easily to your Google Analytics account (you can sign up here if you don’t have one yet).
10. Schema.org Rich Snippets
Rich Snippets increase the click-through-rate (CTR) of you Google results by enhancing them with things like star ratings, images, and review counts.
The more your search results get clicked on, the higher they’ll rank.
7. Creating Your First Pages
You’ll need to build a few pages before your site starts to feel like a blog.
Some essential pages include and:
- Home Page
- About Page
- Blog Page
- Resource Page
- Work With Me Page
- Lead Magnet Page
- Contact Page
Having these pages represented in your menu gives your site a more professional feel, even if you only have one or two articles to post.
1. Home Page
Your home page is the “face” of your blog.
It’s the first place people land when they check out your site.
The home page should be quick and easy to set up with a drag-and-drop builder like Thrive Architect.
All you’ll have to do is brand it with your logo, ad some copy, and embed links to your posts once you have them.
Plenty of bloggers keep their home pages simple.
You can do the same and get by with nothing more than your logo, a mission statement, and maybe a short call-to-action to join your email list.
Don’t get too caught up in perfecting your page design until you have more content and traffic.
Get your pages up fast so that you can focus on providing killer content for your audience.
Make it clear which problems your content solves.
- Why should they hang around?
- How can you help them?
- Why should they come back for more?
This is your chance to make a solid first impression. Make it count!
2. About Page
The About Page is where you go into more detail about who you are and what motivated you to start your blog.
Link to your About Page in the main menu.
Tell your story. How have your life experiences driven you to want to create value for your audience?
Speak directly to your audience. Tell them who this blog is for. Prove that you’re part of the same special community. Readers are more likely to become loyal fans if they feel a connection with you on a personal level.
Most importantly, why should they listen to you instead of somebody else? Qualify yourself. Why are you the blogger that has what it takes to address their pain points?
How can they get the most out of your site?
- Which content should they read first?
- Should they subscribe to your email list right away?
- What will they learn when they read your articles?
End your About Page with a call-to-action to subscribe to your email list or to read one of your best articles.
If they’ve made it all the way to the end of your About Page, it’s a great sign that they’re warming up to you, but you still have to earn their trust with exceptional content.
One final piece of advice: BE VULNERABLE.
Vulnerability is the cornerstone of good leadership and is the quickest way to earn the trust of your audience. Back it up with posts that improve their lives.
3. Contact Page
Link to your Contact Page in the main main or in the footer menu at the bottom of your pages. Most bloggers end up linking to their Contact Page in the footer menu, but you can put it wherever you like.
The important thing is that they can find it easily. You don’t want them to struggle when they feel like reaching out to you.
Your blog is a way to make meaningful connections with other people.
At the beginning of your Contact Page, write a little bit about why people should contact you and what they can hope to get in response.
Don’t be afraid to set expectations. Soon you’ll have a ton of subscribers and you’re going to need to be efficient with your time.
Remind them of why you’re qualified to give advice and end with a contact form where they can submit their information.
Having a nice smiling picture of yourself somewhere doesn’t hurt either.
4. Blog Page
Your Blog Page is where you link to all of your content.
It doesn’t need to be anything more than a list of your posts.
As your blog grows, you may decide to separate your Blog Page into separate pages of topics. For example, a fitness blog might have a page for nutrition, a page for exercise routines, and a page for injury management.
Don’t create a sub-category page until you have at least ten posts written on a given subject, otherwise the page will look too empty. You may even want to hold off creating a Blog Page until you have at least a dozen or so posts to put there.
Until then, just link to your articles on your home page.
Now that your have a place to put all of your amazing content, it’s time to plan your content strategy…
5. Work With Me Page
A Work With Me Page is where companies can partner with you to advertise their brand to your audience.
You’ll want to mention…
- The amount of traffic you get
- The number of social media followers you have
- A detailed audience profile
- The types of businesses you’re open to working with
This way companies can decide whether or not your blog serves the audience that they’re trying to target and whether or not you’ll be a good match.
Here’s what the Work With Me Page looks like for the travel blog MissTourist.com:
You can also offer your services as a freelancer or consultant and where you can invite others to write for your blog.
6. Resource Page
I highly recommend creating a valuable resource page on your website where you feature some valuable tools and resources you use that would be valuable to your audience.
If you do this the right way, over time this resource page can become one of the most profitable pages on your site since you can use affiliate links for the different products you recommend.
I personally make $1,000’s each and every month in passive income from this one page alone… and I don’t even have a ton of traffic to my site yet!
7. Lead Magnet Page
Create a Lead Magnet Page for your free ebook or whatever it is that you’re using as a lead magnet to hook email subscribers.
Link to it in the main menu of your blog.
This page will act as a sales page for your lead magnet and should help you build your email list faster.
8. Develop a Content Strategy For Your Blog
You haven’t quite learned how to start a blog, but you’re getting close! You still need to develop your content strategy.
A content strategy refers to:
- The types of posts you’re going to publish
- The publishing order
It’s a good idea to figure this stuff out before you get too far along with your blog. Once you have a million things to take care of, it’s going to be harder to sit down and plan it all out.
Why Have a Content Strategy?
A content strategy is important for several reasons:
- It helps you define your goals.
- Keeps your content production on track.
- Motivates you to create the next piece of content.
At this point in your journey, you pretty much have all the pieces of the puzzle.
Now you just have to put it together.
- You’ve already chosen a focused niche that has room to grow.
- You know the pain points of your target audience and have several ideas about how to address them.
- You know the value you offer and have a unique angle that will separate you from the pack.
Now you have to decide which problems you’re going to solve for your audience first, and to do that you’re going to need to answer a few key questions.
1. What’s the Goal of Your Blog? (for yourself)
As important as your readers are, you’ve got to look out for yourself first.
Before you start getting traffic, you need to decide what you want to do with it.
What are the goals you want to achieve with your blog?
Do you want to…
- Get as many visitors as possible?
- Make affiliate sales with the products you recommend?
- Build an email list?
I’d encourage you to plan for the long-term health of your blog, and that means focusing on building your email list as fast as possible.
Your email list is the single most powerful asset that you have for growing your brand.
You can continually market your content and products to your email list. Email subscribers are more likely to opt-in to services and spread the word about your blog.
Chances are you’ll have to grind for at least several months if not longer before you get enough traffic to grow your email list.
I know first hand how painstakingly slow it can be in the early stages.
After a year of blogging and podcasting like a madman I had only a few hundred subscribers.
Then I discovered virtual summits and gained tens of thousands of subscribers in a matter of months, but more on this later…
2. What’s the Goal of Your Blog? (for the reader)
This part should be easy since you’ve already created a detailed audience persona earlier in this guide. For a quick refresh, your audience persona is a full breakdown of what makes your audience unique.
- It includes demographic factors like where they live, what they do for work, their age, marital status, etc.
- It also includes personality traits like their belief system and what interests them. Are they artistic or athletic? These sorts of things.
It used to be that all you had to do was optimize your content for keyword usage, but Google’s algorithms have evolved quickly over the last several years.
In 2015, Google announced the launch of their machine-learning technology called RankBrain.
RankBrain identifies intent behind a user’s search rather than just the meaning of the words.
In other words, Google has gotten really good and figuring out the problem that the searcher is trying to solve rather than just what they’re searching for.
Your readers follow your blog for a reason, and that’s because you offer a unique solution to a core problem they’re facing. Solve the problem, and your articles will rank.
A content strategy is your game plan for making this happen over the long term.
Your target audience has more than just one problem to face, and that’s why having a content strategy is so important.
It allows you to prioritize your content creation so that you can help your audience in the most effective way possible.
Creating Content Clusters
Brainstorm a list of all the pain points that readers have in your niche. These will form the foundations of your content clusters.
What Is a Content Cluster? and Why They’re Important
A content cluster is a collection of articles that are tightly linked together.
Organizing your content into clusters has several advantages:
- When Google crawls your website, it likes to find tightly-related groups of content.
- Readers like it when they land on a page that’s directly linked to other relevant content.
When you have a piece of content that’s isolated or only loosely related to the rest of your articles it provides a poor user experience (UX).
And if we know anything about Google it’s that what’s bad for UX is bad for SEO.
Coming Up with Article Ideas
Whip out the audience pain points that you brainstormed earlier.
Let’s say that you’re starting a blog in the nutrition niche and the first pain point you decide to focus on is “How to heal a damaged gut.”
Next, brainstorm article ideas that are closely related to healing a damaged gut:
- Licorice root (tea, supplements)
- Bone broth recipes
- Foods that damage the gut (sugar, acidic)
- Anti-inflammatory foods (cucumber, celery, turmeric)
By tightly niching down your article topics, you’ll start to develop a reputation for being the go-to source for gut health solutions.
Building a successful blog would be a walk in the park if all you had to do was create amazing content that solves your readers’ problems.
While this is the most important part of how to start a blog and get paid, you do have to take other factors.
The fact is, you’re not the only blog competing for the top spots in Google results.
This is where keyword research comes in big.
Strategically using the right keywords in you articles will help your little minnow of a blog swim with the big fish.
What are Keywords and Why Do They Matter?
Keywords are single words or phrases that users enter into Google during their search query.
Long keyword phrases of three words or more are called “longtail keywords.”
The name doesn’t come from the length of the phrase like you’d think. Instead it refers to where these words fall on a Search Demand Graph like the one picture below:
As you can see from the graph, longtail keywords make up 70% of all searches on the internet.
Longtail keywords tend to be easier to rank for but have a lower search volume per keyword, meaning they’ll drive less traffic to your site.
How Keyword Usage Impacts Traffic
By targeting the right longtail keywords, you can drive traffic to your site even as a new blog.
Google evaluates the quality of your content based on a long (and somewhat mysterious) list of algorithmic factors. One of the many ranking factors is keyword usage. The best content earns a spot in the top ten of Google’s search results.
By naturally using keywords low competition keywords, you can increase the chances of ranking in the top ten of Google results.
According to Yoast SEO, the ideal keyword density for an exact-match keyword is 0.5 to 2.5%.
If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin with your WordPress website, a good keyword density score will look like this:
Use plenty of keyword synonyms as well.
Google has gotten pretty smart at recognizing the related meanings of words based off of the context within a piece of content.
How to Pick Winning Keywords
Here’s what to look for to find winning keywords:
- Low competition (low KC): not many high-ranking blogs compete for it.
- High search volume: people search for it a lot. High monthly search volumes are anything between 5k to 10k searches a month, but it can still be worth pursuing keywords that get searched for only a few hundred time a month depending on the intent behind the search.
- Searcher intent: What’s going through the user’s mind when they search for a given keyword? A keyword has “buying intent” if the user is getting ready to make a purchase. These are called “money keywords” and are generally the most profitable for making affiliate sales. “Best…of…” keywords tend to have a lot of buying intent. When someone searches for “best survival knife of 2018” chances are they’re getting ready to buy.
There are several SEO research tools that can help you find winning longtail keywords with a low KC and high search volume:
Once you have a list of potentially profitable keywords, you’re going to need to decide which ones you want to build your first batch of content around.
Which Pain Points Will You Address First?
The first goal of your blog is to prove that you’re an expert at solving one MASSIVE problem that your audience faces.
Become the ultimate authority on the internet for addressing that one pain point.
How to decide what content to create first:
- Adds value to audience
- Fits into a content cluster
- Generates traffic with easy-to-rank-for keywords
The first pain point you decide to tackle will need to have plenty of articles with keywords that are easy to rank for.
If a pain point belongs to a content cluster that’s full of highly-competitive keywords, then save that pain point/content cluster for later when your blog is more well-established.
Map out Your Content Strategy
Make a map of the articles you’re going to publish and in what order. Having a plan will help you stay motivated to keep producing content.
More importantly, a content map will ensure that you release your content in a logical order.
Big authority sites will map out their entire content strategy months in advance if not for the whole year.
If you prefer, you can wait to publish all of your content until you have 20-40 articles ready to go.
Your site launch look a lot more professional, but waiting to publish has one major downside:
- It can take weeks for your first articles to rank.
The sooner you publish each article, the sooner it will have a chance to rank.
9. Creating Killer Blog Content
At this point your site looks great and you have a killer content strategy.
- You know your audience and how you’re going to help them.
- You have a feel for your competitors and the type of content that they create.
- You have winning keywords so you can rank and drive traffic.
Now you’re going to take this knowledge and use it to create epic content that keeps readers coming back for more.
Why “Bounce Rate” Is Your Enemy
Bounce rate is a metric that tracks how likely visitors are to immediately leave your page.
People “bounce” after making a snap judgement about the quality or relevancy of your content.
A high bounce rate means that there’s something about your blog that triggers a red flag or that makes it obvious you don’t have a solution to their problem.
The higher your bounce rate, the harder it gets to rank.
How do you keep your bounce rate low and your on-page time high?
By having incredible content, of course.
Common red flags for blog posts:
- Walls of text: huge blocks of text that intimidate readers.
- Ugly fonts: ugly or out-of-date font combinations will make visitors bounce before they even know what happened.
- Too many ads: fill your page with too many ads and your blog will look spammy.
- Low-quality images: it’s too easy to find high-quality images to use in your posts. Using grainy images will make your visitors bounce.
Now that you know what to avoid let’s see what a well-designed blog post looks like..
1. Easy-to-Scan, Easy-to-Read
When visitors first see your article, they should see a whole lot of:
- white space
- bullet points
- numbered lists
- images, charts
These elements make articles easy to read and easy to scan.
What is Scannability?
Ignoring the fact that “scannability” is a made-up word, scannability means that visitors can quickly scroll from top to bottom to get a feel for what your article covers.
As they scan, their eyes catch your bolded headings, bullet points, key concepts and images that bring the text to life.
Why Scannability Matters
This style of formatting makes it easier for readers to go back and find key information without wasting time looking for it.
Most users are used to quickly evaluating a post for quality.
They know a pleasant reading experience when they see one.
Readers learn over time that blogs with poor scannability tend to do a poor job of addressing pain points.
Your article could be incredibly well-written, but if it looks like a wall of text with no images then nobody’s ever going to stick around long enough to find out.
Font Size, Sentence Length and Paragraph Length
When you write an article in Google Docs or Microsoft Word, you probably use a 12pt font or something close to it.
- When you publish your article, set your font size to 16pt or higher.
Here’s how to set your font size using Thrive Architect for your WordPress site:
1. In the side menu of you WordPress dashboard, select “APPEARANCE” and “CUSTOMIZE.”
2. On the page that you’re directed to, click on “FONTS.”
3. Set the body font size to be at least 16pt.
Tips for sentence and paragraph length:
- Keep your sentences short. Between 50-85 characters is ideal if you want your readers to be able to move through your content quickly and comfortably.
- Paragraphs should be no more than three to five lines long. Mix in plenty of one-line paragraphs as well.
These tips will make your content easier to read across all devices.
Take a look at how the Neil Patel writes his content:
If you’re using Thrive Architect to build your posts, you should always view your content in responsive mode before you hit publish.
You can change viewing modes in the bottom left corner of your control panel:
This is what the same page looks like on a tablet:
Hit publish once you confirm that your article looks just as good on iphones and tablets as it does on desktops.
2. Organize with Headers and Sub-headers
Headers and sub-headers are just another way to break up your post into more digestible chunks.
How often should you use headers and sub-headers?
Once every few hundred words is a good amount, but don’t be afraid to use them more often if you feel like it makes the content easier to read.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule here. Go by feel.
3. Emphasize Important Ideas with Font Styling (bold, italics, parenthesis, etc.)
Great content is effortless to absorb.
Bolding and italicizing important points adds emphasis and personality to your writing while making it easier to read.
Font styling also makes it easier for readers to go back and find sections later on.
The secret to using font stylings effectively is only use them here and there. You don’t want to become the writer who cried wolf by bolding the heck out of everything you can get your cursor on.
Overusing font stylings will cause them to lose their effect.
4. Writing Headlines That Get More Clicks
The headline or title of your blog is the entryway into your article.
Brace yourself for this next fact. You’re mind is about to be blown.
The headline is responsible for up to 50% of your blog’s effectiveness!
When real estate agents are sprucing up a house to flip, they put the majority of their focus on the front of the house and the entryway. That’s because they know the power of first impressions.
Check out these headlines from Upworthy and see if you can pick out what makes them so good:
- “7 wonderful reasons to give to strangers this holiday season.”
- “This guy built a ‘glitter bomb’ and filmed Amazon thieves getting their just desserts.”
- “This 11-year-old U.S. citizen has been separated from her asylum-seeking mom for 222 days.”
- “People on SNAP aren’t who you think. Case in point, this hard-working couple.”
- “A woman who’s tackling revenge porn, and 9 other women changing the world for the better.”
Headlines flounder when they don’t match the article or aren’t relevant to the specific theme.
Headlines perform well when they:
- Use specific numbers and data (numbers are like brain candy)
- Convey a sense of urgency
- Are ultra-specific
- Offer useful advice and rationale
You don’t have to use all of these elements every time, but your headlines should always incorporate at least a couple of them.
Here’s an example of a headline from NeilPatel.com that is ultra-specific, uses numbers and offers helpful advice:
Still feeling stumped? Try using this headline analyzer tool from CoSchedule.
5. Sprinkle-in Images and Media
Use images and videos that emphasize the lessons of your article.
Most humans are primarily visual learners.
Articles are verbal in nature and every reader has a point at which his brain could use a quick break.
Images provide an excuse to take a breather before going back to reading.
Images, videos and charts are great for SEO. They increase your on-page time, which is a factor in Google rankings. The way Google sees it, the longer visitors actively use your page, the more satisfied they are with your content.
PRO TIP: using pictures of real people increases on-page time even more. People like seeing human faces.
Where to Find Copyright-free Images
Most images on the internet aren’t free for everyone to use. They’re owned by the photographers who took them before being sold to a third party.
You can join a site like Shutterstock, where for a monthly fee you get access to a wide selection of stock photos.
A lot of stock photography features cringy fake smiles and awkward poses, but most of it is really well done.
Here are some of my favorite free image sources:
Pixabay has over 1.6 million copyright-free photos and videos. You’ll find quite a few cheesy stock photos mixed in with the gems, but with such a large catalogue you’re bound to find something close to what you’re looking for.
Pexels is similar to pixabay in terms of volume and variety. Both Pexels and Pixabay are good places to begin your photo search if you aren’t sure where to start.
Unsplash is a great source for hip shots of animals, fashion, architecture, food and drink. They’re a lot more selective about the types of images they curate. A downside is that there’s less variety compared to Pixabay and Pexels.
Using Canva to Design Incredible Branded Images
Canva is a free image design software that’s easy to use. Their paid version, called Canva for Work, is only $13.99/month and gives you access to a large collection of premium designs and clip art.
Canva has a wide variety of pre-made templates so you can make your own infographics, social media posts, Pinterest graphics, eBook covers, email headers and other marketing materials.
Upload your logo and drag it onto any design to create branded images.
Their drag-and-drop image builder is easy to use even for people who have never done design work.
Now that you have stellar images you’re going to want to promote the heck out of your posts to drive as much traffic as possible.
How to Publish Your First Post
Publishing a post is easy with WordPress. Their Visual Editor is very beginner-friendly and allows you to stylize text, add headers, and insert images just as you would with any word processor.
1. Log into your WordPress dashboard at https://YourSiteName.com/wp-login. On the left side of the screen you’ll see your side menu.
2. Hover over “Posts” and click on the “Add New” button that pops out.
3. Add a title.
NOTE: If you have Thrive Architect installed, you’ll see the green button at the top of the page to launch Thrive Architect and use their page builder to design and publish your post. For now, we’re going to learn how to use the WordPress Visual Editor that’s built-in to WordPress.
4. Start writing your post here.
5. To add a heading, click on the “T” icon.
Using the buttons that pop up, you can set your headings, stylize them with bold or italics, insert a link, or perform several other modifications.
6. Use this button to add an image by dragging it into the visual editor or uploading it.
7. When you’re finished writing and editing your article, click the “Preview” button in the upper right corner of the page to see what it will look like once it’s published.”
8. If it looks good, go ahead and hit “Publish.” Congrats! Your first blog post is live.
QUICK NOTE: WordPress automatically saves your work every 60 seconds. If you ever want to save it manually, the “Save Draft” button is just to the left of the “Preview” button.
You’ve already come so far in such a short time! You should be proud of yourself, but if you thought that you crossed the finish line when you hit “Publish,” think again.
10. Promoting Your Blog Through Social Media and Forums
Promoting your posts is just as important as writing quality content in the first place. It doesn’t matter how impressive your “Ultimate Guide to Online Marketing” is, if nobody sees it, you might as well have not written it in the first place.
Where you decide to promote your posts depends on where your audience spends their time.
Not a lot of guys spend their time on Pinterest.
Soccer moms, on the other hand, are Pinterest fanatics.
You have to know your niche, which is why it’s a huge advantage to make your first blog about something that interests you.
Social Media Outreach
There’s no reason to share your content on every social media platform known to man. Instead, pick a few where you readers spend most of their time.
The main social media platforms include:
Your in luck if your audience uses Pinterest. Pinterest strategy can be a gamechanger.
Joseph Hogue used Pinterest to increase monthly traffic to PeerFinance101.com by 8,000 visitors a month.
With Pinterest, you can create five to six different pins per post with different titles and images.
Every social network has its advantages.
Here are some of the strengths of each social platform:
- Pinterest: visual content like illustrated guides, infographics, images. The majority of Pinterest users are women.
- Instagram: High-resolution photos and inspirational quotes
- Facebook: videos work best here
- Twitter: news and other time-sensitive posts
- LinkedIn: professional and career-related content
Make Sharing Content Easy with Buffer
Buffer is a handy piece of software that allows you to manage all your social media outreach in one place.
Logging into each social media platform and posting directly can be time consuming.
With Buffer, you get to customize and schedule all of your posts and Tweets within their dashboard.
Just copy and paste the URL of the post you want to share and Buffer will pull your featured image and article information from your website.
Posting to Facebook Groups and Forums
While sharing your blog posts on your social media pages is a good place to start, you may want post to Facebook groups forums as well if you have the time to do so.
There are Facebook groups and forums for all sorts of topics.
There’s a group or forum somewhere with your blog’s name on it.
If you’re into digital marketing like me, there are plenty of high-traffic Facebook groups to choose from, like Facebook Ad Buyers, which has over 76,000 members.
The key to participating in these groups is to not be spammy or salesy.
Only mention your articles when they are directly relevant to the question being asked.
Most Facebook groups and forums have moderators that will flag and remove people who do flagrant self-promotion.
Keep an eye on what people are posting in these groups, actively participate in them, and sneak in a link to your article only when it provides real value.
LinkedIn has groups of its own to check out and Reddit is a massive forum with tons of subReddits for every niche.
11. How to Grow Your Blog with Virtual Summits
Social media and guest posting can be effective marketing strategies, but for me, they never delivered the results I was looking for.
Starting my own podcast didn’t do much either.
Instead, it was hosting my first virtual summit that transformed my blog (and my life) forever.
It’s isn’t that these other strategies can’t be effective. In fact, the infamous Neil Patel thinks that guest blogging is the best inbound marketing strategy, but even he’ll admit that “guest blogging is not a shortcut to grow your blog.”
Virtual summits on the other hand, are…
Using Virtual Summits to Grow Your Blog
Rather than gradually growing your email list over the course of several months or years, what if you could explode your growth by hosting a single online event?
I went from a few hundred to over 40,000 subscribers to my Insider’s Newsletter List all thanks to virtual summits.
What Is a Virtual Summit?
A virtual summit is a collection of webinar interviews where you typically bring together 20-30 industry leaders in your niche.
Feel free to think of virtual summits as webinars on steroids, because that’s pretty much what they are.
You air the recordings on a pre-advertised date to everyone who subscribed in advance to your email list.
Anyone who wants the ability to watch the recordings at their own convenience has to buy an all-access pass.
Benefits of Virtual Summits
Your email list is the single greatest asset that your blog has.
The faster you grow it, the more effectively you can promote your blog posts and market products.
Virtual conferences generate high-quality email subscribers that are motivated to consume your content. If someone is willing to watch your summit, there’s a good chance they’ll open your emails too.
The amount of money you can make from your first virtual summit might shock the pants off you. The best part is, the Virtual Summit Mastery model works in any niche and at any stage of your blog’s growth.
I tend to sell the all-access passes to the summit for $67 (discounted from $97 if they act now). I’ve split-tested several prices and discount combinations and this is the one that seems to work the best for me… but pricing is very strategic, so be sure to know your audience and market so you know what they are willing to pay for something like this.
Lastly, virtual summits help you rapidly gain authority in your niche. Your audience will see you as being at the same level as the experts you interview. Rather than working years to build authority, you can piggy-back off of the established expertise of your guests.
This is the immense power of virtual summits.
- Grow your email list
- Generate revenue
- Establish authority
My Virtual Summit Success Story
When I launched this blog in June of 2013, believe me, I was just as hungry for success as you are now.
I hit the ground running…publishing articles and guest blogging for other blogs in my niche.
I knew that success would take some time, but I never saw the early traction I was hoping for. My niche, digital marketing, or online marketing, whatever you like to call it, is arguably the most competitive niche in the world.
By the time I launched my podcast, the Lifestyle Architect, in April 2014, I still had only a couple hundred email subscribers.
A few months later, a light bulb went off – ding! I came up with the idea for my first virtual summit: The Branding Summit.
With The Branding Summit, I grew my email list to 3,000 subscribers and generated over $20k in revenue. I immediately quit my job in Stockholm, Sweden and moved abroad.
That all happened in November and December of 2014. The month after the summit, I generated over $40k in revenue from affiliate sales of Ramit Sethi’s information product course and became his #1 affiliate.
I think you get the picture – my virtual summit blew over a year’s worth of blogging and podcasting out of the water.
My Student’s Success Stories with Virtual Summits
The idea for my Virtual Summit Mastery (VSM) flagship course came when My Branding Summit audience kept asking me “how I did it.”
Now hundreds of students have completed Virtual Summit Mastery and most of them launched their first virtual summit before they even had a blog.
That’s part of the beauty of virtual summits – you can use your interviewees to promote the event to their followers.
Chandler Bolt runs the Self-Publishing School, which is now a multi-million dollar business. When he launched his first summit, he hadn’t even started his blog yet. Between two virtual summits, Chandler brought in 60,000+ email subscribers and generated $700k in revenue.
Steph Gaudreau started blogging in June of 2013 after quitting her teaching job just a few months before. Her blog, Stupid Easy Paleo, was set up for monetization but wasn’t making any money. Her first summit changed all that by bringing in 19,560 subscribers and selling over 600 all-access passes.
Mitch Asser had a similar experience with virtual summits. He was a personal trainer with no previous experience online. Mitch used virtual summits to generate over 6-figures in revenue and take his intermittent fasting blog from zero to 30k subscribers.
Lisa Edwards had a struggling blog in the photography niche when she decided to host her first virtual summit, which brought in 6,000 subscribers and $30k in revenue.
Check out the video playlist below featuring some of my successful VSM students…. be prepared to get inspired 🙂
12. Guest Posting To Drive Traffic To Your Blog
Inbound marketing tactics like guest posting can be an effective way to grow your audience and increase revenue over time.
Neil Patel says that his Quick Sprout blog wouldn’t have been nearly as successful if it wasn’t for guest blogging.
According to CopyBlogger, “content marketing results happen slowly and they happen over time.”
Blogger Jon Cooper was a nobody in the SEO world until he did a guest blog for Moz.
He ended up getting 400 visits from his guest post, “The Complete List of Link Building Tactics,” which was #1 in Google results for the keyword “link building strategies” for some time. The article gave Jon credibility and recognition.
The key to a successful guest post that drives traffic and gets you noticed is to have a solid ending that lets people know about you, the author.
How to end your guest post with authority:
- Always use a closing subheading like “Conclusion” or “Final Thoughts.”
- Place a short call-to-action towards the end of the article.
- Finish your guest post by asking an interesting question.
Guest blogging can gain you exposure to a new audience and increase your authority, but again, this happens slowly.
Instead, you can grow your audience in a fraction of the time by sending out a newsletter out to the people who have already subscribed to your virtual event.
13. Growing Your Audience with an Email Marketing Campaign
A email marketing campaign is one of the best ways to keep your readers excited about your work.
The more your current subscribers engage with your content, the more likely they are to share it with their family, friends and colleagues.
Collecting Emails With a Lead Magnet
Tempt your site visitors to subscribe to your email list with a lead magnet.
A lead magnet is anything of value that you offer to people in exchange for subscribing to your email list.
Your lead magnet should be something that only people who match your ideal audience persona will want.
The point is to gain subscribers who will continue to engage in your content and open your emails.
Common lead magnets include:
- Cheat sheet
- Resource list
- Virtual summit (yes, a summit can be one of the best lead magnets ever for your business… it doesn’t follow all the “rules” below, but it’s been like a lead magnet on steroids for my business!)
A good lead magnet is…
- Quick to digest
- Instantly accessible
- Promises a quick win
- Solves a real problem
- Demonstrates your expertise
Tools for Managing Your Email Marketing Campaigns
Your email strategy happens in two stages:
- First, you gotta collect the emails.
- Then, you gotta send the emails.
Gathering Emails with Thrive Leads
Thrive Leads lets you choose from a variety of different pop-ups, optin forms, banner ads, and side widgets so that you can request emails in a non-intrusive way.
Here’s a Thrive Leads tutorial you can watch:
Their software allows you to conduct detailed split tests so that you can find out which designs and copy get the highest conversions.
Manage Your Email Marketing Campaigns with ConvertKit
Design, schedule, and automate your newsletter campaigns with an email service provider like ConvertKit.
ConvertKit is my top recommendation for email automation that will allow your business to grow with it… and it’s very easy to use.
And you can even get an extended 1-month free trial through my blog.
Use ConvertKit to notify your entire email list when an article goes live. This will ensure that thousands of people will immediately read your blog posts.
Google is more likely to rank your posts when they get a substantial amount of traffic shortly after being published.
Explode You Email List with Virtual Summits
You should never stop collecting emails on your website, but why not boost your list by hosting a virtual summit?
It can take years before your email list grows to 10k, 20k or 40k email subscribers.
Hosting a virtual summit can get you there in the relative blink of an eye.
Caitlin Pyle, who runs a membership site about how to work from home, grew her email list by 60,000 subscribers in just two weeks through her virtual summits.
Lisa Edwards went from struggling blogger to 6,000 email subscribers with her first summit, and Augustas Kligys went from no experience making money on the internet to gaining 4,500 email subscribers and making $58k in revenue.
14. Building Links to Your Blog
Having quality content is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to learning how to start a blog.
The other critical element is getting other websites to link to your blog.
Naturally, blogs with incredible content will get linked to more often.
The better you get at solving problems for readers and packaging you content in an easy-to-read format, the more likely websites are to link to you.
Promoting your content through social media and sharing it in your newsletter is a good first step to exposing your content to more people, but there are other more creative ways to get quality links.
Before we discuss more link building strategies, let’s talk about why links are so important.
Why Links Matter
When someone links to your site, they can set the link as either DOFOLLOW or NOFOLLOW.
DOFOLLOW links act as a thumbs up for the quality of your site and pass on “link juice.”
The more link juice you have, the more competitive your site will be in Google’s search results.
NOFOLLOW links do not pass on link juice and do not increase the strength of your site.
Other Factors That Affect The Value of a Link
You can register with Moz.com and use their to see the Domain Authority of any blog.
- Site relevancy: how relevant the linking site’s content is to your own..
- Site strength: a site with a high Domain Authority (DA) has a stronger overall rating. High-DA sites pass on more link juice. A site with a DA of 80/100 passes on exponentially more link juice than a site with a DA of 20/100.
You can register with Moz.com and use their free MozBar tool to see the Domain Authority of any blog.
Aside from publishing and promoting killer content, try the following strategies to get more links from relevant sites with high Domain Authority.
1. Linking to Strategic Sites In Your Content
You should always link to the sources you use for you research.
When you’re deciding which sources to use, consider which sites you might want to get a link from in return.
Whenever you link to a relevant site in your niche, reach out to them with an email.
Let them know that you featured them in your article and ask them to share it with their audience.
They might even be so flattered that you used them as a reference that they promote your content. It could be the beginning of an ongoing relationship that leads to virtual summits and partnerships down the line.
2. Interview Leaders In Your Niche
Reach out to other bloggers in your industry and ask if they’d like to do an interview.
It doesn’t have to be a recorded. Instead, it can just be a series of questions that you email to them.
I’ve interviewed several thought leaders for my podcast, The Lifestyle Architect, including Cal Newport (the author of the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You), and Robert Greene (author of Mastery and many other bestselling books).
It’s a win-win because they get exposure to your audience and you might get a link when they share the interview with their readers.
Make sure to target big players with high Domain Authority.
Reason #1: High DA sites have bigger audiences.
Reason #2: High DA sites pass on more link juice.
In the early stages of your blog, it’s okay to pursue links from some lower DA sites, but only if they’re highly relevant to your content.
Once you have a high DA, low-DA links will only drag down your overall Domain Authority.
3. Round-up Posts
Ask a bunch of industry thought leaders and turn their responses into a single article.
If you have a blog in the online marketing niche like I do, your readers won’t be able to resist a post that features the likes of Tim Soulo from Ahrefs, Rand Fishkin from Moz or Neil Patel.
Rather than getting only one link from a solo interview, you can get several with a round-up post and get exposure to several new audiences.
Round-up post tips:
- Ask a question that directly addresses a problem that your readers are facing.
- Reach out to a ton of blogs because many of them won’t respond.
- Put the longest and most detailed responses at the top and the ones that provide the least value at the bottom.
Here’s a few examples of expert round up posts I’ve written before:
- 30 Experts Share Their Best Guest Blogging Tips
- 37 Experts Share Their Best Personal Branding Tips For Entrepreneurs
4. Guest Post Swaps and Other Content Partnerships
You can also do guest post swaps and offer to help them sell their information products.
As you reach out to thought leaders in your industry, it should always be your goal to build long-lasting, meaningful relationships.
One of the fastest ways to forge lasting relationships is by doing a live interview with them.
With an interview, they get to experience you as a living, breathing human. It’s always easier to bond through a genuine live interaction.
While you’re at it, you might as well do a couple dozen of these and turn it into a virtual summit.
The people you interview will share the virtual summit with their audience and possibly link to your blog.
You can generate extra revenue by selling your guests’ information products on the backend of your summit.
15. How to Monetize Your Blog
In addition to virtual summits, there are a lot of ways to make money blogging.
I have a full 5,000-word article on how to make money blogging that you can check out here, but I’ll share a few ideas now so that you can start getting excited about getting paid!
Sell Affiliate Products
While you build your blog, you’ll inevitably use a lot tools and resources along the way.
These can be your first affiliate products.
Affiliate products are anything that you help other people sell in exchange for a cut of the profits.
The products you sell don’t necessarily have to be related to your niche.
Instead, they can be related to starting a blog.
If you use Bluehost to host your website, you should consider becoming their affiliate.
Bluehost will give you a link with a unique tracking code. Anytime someone makes a purchase after clicking on your link, you get paid!
It’s that simple.
Make a Resource Page like mine and feature all of your affiliate products with a short description of what makes them so amazing.
Include products that you aren’t affiliated with too.
Recommend anything that you think will provide value to your audience.
Run Paid Ads
They help you publish ads for other companies and you get paid according to how many people click or view the ads.
I’d rather just promote my own affiliate products instead of running ads for random products. That way I control the ad placement and only advertise products that I know will be of value to my readers.
Besides, affiliate programs are generally more profitable than ads unless your site gets hundreds of thousands of visitors a month.
Create an Online Course
Even if you blog gets less than 1,000 visitors a day you can start making money with an online course. It doesn’t take many leads or customers.
In fact, once you have at least 50 visitors a day you can start selling your first online course.
Survey your visitors and email subscribers to find out what type of course they would find useful.
It doesn’t have to be the best course of all time.
A lot of the time people prefer paying for information even when the same knowledge can acquired for free.
Why people prefer buying an online course:
- Convenience: learning is faster and more efficient when all the relevant information is gathered in one place. This convenience is service in itself.
- Organized: the knowledge in an online course is well-formatted and actionable.
- Higher perceived value: when you pay for something you’re more likely to see it as a worthy investment. People don’t like thinking that they bought a worthless product.
- Higher perceived effectiveness: when you pay for something you’re more likely to think that it fulfilled its promise.
Obviously, the bigger your email list, the more money you’ll probably end up making.
Natalie Bacon made $5k in five days with her online course called “Design Your Dream Life Academy.” She priced the course at $297 and ran a 40% of deal for the first five days of its release.
Run Partner Webinars and Mini-Summits
Once you have organic traffic flowing to your blog, monetizing it will just be a matter of picking a strategy and putting in the time.
While you wait for your traffic to increase, you might as well host some virtual events.
Diana Rowen even made virtual summits work in the harpist niche.
You read that right, she hosted a virtual summit for harp enthusiasts and sold 460 all-access passes, PLUS used it set up a recurring revenue stream.
In between your big virtual summits, you can run mini-summits with just a few interviews or do a partner webinar with a single thought leader.
Use them to generate revenue while growing your email list.
Your Next Steps: Are You Ready To Start Your Blog?
I think it’s time for your to take the first step if you haven’t already.
To everyone who’s worked through the first steps while reading this guide, I salute you.
You’re well on your way to making one of the most powerful and transformative decisions of your life.
Still haven’t gotten started?
Here’s what you need to do:
- Research a niche
- Register a domain name
- Get affordable hosting with Bluehost
- Know your audience
- Create a content strategy for your blog
- Create killer blog content
- Promote your content
- Grow your email list
- Network and build links
- Monetize and conquer
BONUS SHORTCUT:Host your first virtual summit before you even start your blog (to build your email list and blog audience… while making money at the same time).
There you have it…. the most in-depth guide out there on how to start a blog and make money on the side this year. All I can do now is send you out into the blogosphere to thrive.
As long as you know your audience and solve their problems with amazing content you should do fine.
Other than that, you’ll have to forge your own path.
How will you bring your own unique perspective to your niche? What will give you the edge over your competition?
Leave your answer in the comments below.
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Hint: I highly recommend you implement this before you even start your blog in the first place (it’s a much faster approach than blogging for years without much success to build your audience).