How to Start a Blog (in 2020): A Beginners Guide to Starting a Profitable Blog

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Updated: 18th Sep 2020
Written by Drew Cheneler
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September 1, 2020
Written by Drew Cheneler

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In this Article: How to Start a Blog and Make Money. Follow our step-by-step playbook to start a profitable blog.

2020 has been a turbulent year. Many have lost their jobs, been furloughed, started working from home, and all of us are uncertain about when things will return to normal — if they ever do.

But where there is change, there is also a business opportunity.

Whatever the future of our economy looks like, we can say with confidence that it will be an economy based increasingly on eCommerce, virtual meetings, and online experiences. In short, the internet is looking more and more like a refuge from the unpredictability of the current market.

That’s why there is no better time to start a blog than right now. In this ultimate guide, we will teach you how to start a blog from scratch. That’s right, no experience needed.

By the end, you will know how to launch your blog on WordPress, create meaningful content, drive traffic, and make money.

What is a Blog?

The word blog is a portmanteau of the words web and log. Blogs used to be a public diary where bloggers would share their interests and hobbies with whoever would read them.

Many blogs still follow this general format, but things have changed.

A blog is an online website that allows people to share ideas, recommend products, and help readers solve problems.

For example, Steve Kamb started publishing 1-2 articles on his blog back in 2009. He wrote about fitness to an audience often ignored by the established fitness industry — Nerds.

Today, NerdFitness is a full-on business with 25 employees. 150,000 people subscribe to its biweekly newsletter, and the site pulls in upwards of $100,000 a month.

So, while Steve’s initial idea about blogging about fitness for self-described Nerds like himself hasn’t changed, the potential for growth and monetization has.

Why Are You Starting a Blog?

Money is not the only reason to start a blog, but almost anything you want to blog about can be monetized.

So, whether you are looking to free yourself from the boring 9-5 or you just want to share your obsession with whiskey to the world and justify that time by making money online, blogging is for you.

Why are you Starting a Blog?

Here are some other reasons why you might want to start a blog:

1. Creative Outlet

Are you a poet? A writer? A photographer? A graphic designer? You can start a blog to share your work.

2. Business

With affiliate marketing (which we will discuss in greater detail in Step #7) you can turn your interests into a business. Embed sponsored links within your content to relevant products and enjoy a healthy return on investment (ROI) as your readers utilize your recommendations.

3. Portfolio

You can’t get experience without a job, and you can’t get a job without experience. Use a blog as a resume and portfolio of independent projects that you can present to prospective employers.

4. Inform

You can get the word out on issues you care about by writing posts on that topic. You can take it a step further and share those posts with larger websites. If they are interested, you can write a post or two for them and connect with a new audience.

5. Content Marketing

Do you already have a business? Start a blog on the topic of your business and create a sales funnel with that content.

6. Make Money

Almost any niche blog can make money on the internet. Of course, there is a large disparity if you are writing about hamsters as opposed to personal finance. Still, even with hamsters, the opportunity is there.

The possibilities for blogging are always growing and changing, which is why now is such an opportune time to start a blog. Many of us are at home, spending more time than ever on the web and making most of our purchases online.

If you want, you can wait to start a blog; however, longer you wait, the tougher the competition will become, and the barrier to entry will only get higher. But, if you are ready to make life-changing money, break barriers, and leave a legacy, then you need to start right now, not tomorrow.

You can literally start a blog right now by following these simple steps, and it will cost you less per month than most people spend on coffee each day.

How to Start a Blog (Step-by-Step) And Make Money

Our step-by-step beginners guide to starting a blog.

Step #1: Choose a Blog Niche

Blogging is about communicating with people online. You should choose a niche that you are a subject matter expert in and one that is easily monetizable.

The whole ‘monetization‘ aspect becomes essential when you are starting a blog to earn a steady income.

Choose a blog niche that has a large audience and is profitable.

Let’s face it. If you weren’t earning any money, how long would you actually blog for?

Here are some basic questions to ask yourself to help you brainstorm a profitable blog niche:

Can this blog idea be monetized?

I’m not just talking about banner ads. I’m talking about affiliate marketing, which has a much higher return on investment (ROI). Type this into your preferred search engine “(your blog topic) affiliate program” and browse opportunities.

Can I add value to my readers lives?

Ranting about any whim that comes to mind is probably not going to net you many readers. When deciding on your blog niche, ask yourself the following questions, “How can I provide value to my potential readers?” and “What problem am I helping my readers solve?”

If you have any professional or educational expertise, these questions will be easier to answer. But even if you don’t, you can still learn as you go.

Can you sustain the blog topic?

Are you passionate or at least interested enough in your blog topic not to get burned out after writing 2 or 3 blog posts? If you’re worried about burn out, try writing a couple of potential articles before you start the blog and see how it feels.

Is there interest in the topic?

You probably have a pretty solid intuition about how much interest there is in your topic, but it’s always good to do some research. You might be surprised.

Go on Reddit and see how many people follow groups interested in your blog topic. You can also type some keywords associated with your blog topic into Google Trends and see if there has been sustained interest over time. Has your blog topic gotten much interest on Quora? What about social media?

Blog niches like marketing, travel, and personal finance all have a large audience. They are incredibly profitable, but they are also the most competitive. If you want to break into one of these niches, try niching down a bit more and then expand once you have a considerable following.

Remember NerdFitness? Rather than compete in the well-established fitness niche, the blog focused on a particular demographic… Nerds. Instead of a general travel blog, you might start a blog about traveling with pets, kids, or even traveling as a vegan.

You do not have to stay in this niche forever, but it is much easier to get your blog posts to rank on search engine pages if you are competing for more targeted topics.

Step #2: Choose a Domain Name You Can Grow With

Do not let this step slow you down. Don’t mull it over for weeks and stress yourself out. Domain names are not as important for ranking high on search engine pages as they used to be. Having said that, there are some critical factors to consider.

  • .com is still the best – There are various domain extension you can use: .com, .co, .org, .net, etc. But .com is still the most trusted. Going with another domain extension is not the end of the world, but if you can make some adjustments to your desired domain name and snatch a .com, do it.
  • Short and Simple –You want your domain name to be easy to remember and easy to type. Having a longer domain name is not the end of the world if it’s easy to remember but avoid using hyphens and numbers.
  • Don’t limit yourself – If you choose a very specific domain name, you will have less flexibility to diversify your content later. What if Amazon had selected the domain name onlinebookseller.com? You can always migrate your site to a new domain, but that is a hassle.

Tips for Choosing a Blog Domain Name

For this reason, most people use their names. But it’s okay to get creative. Search engines pay much more attention to the content on your blog when determining how to index and rank it.

  • Make it a brand – Consider the vibe of your blog. Serious and authoritative? Fun and punchy? Rebellious? Are you writing to new mothers? Teachers? Teenagers? University students? A domain name for a blog on heavy metal should be different than one for a blog on raising a toddler.
  • Check trademarks – If you are planning on using your domain name as your business name, you should check the trademark database to make sure that the name isn’t already taken. This could help you avoid legal issues down the road.

Don’t let finding the perfect domain name be the excuse that allows you to procrastinate on starting your blog.

The average domain name through a domain registrar costs anywhere from $10 to $20 per year. But, with web hosting services like BlueHost, you can get a FREE domain name for the first year. We’ll discuss web hosting at length in the next section.

Step #3: Blog Web Hosting

Using a web host for your blog is the safest and most streamlined way to create a blog. Web hosts host your blog on their servers and provide various technologies and services that you can use to customize and build your site.

Bluehost is the best Blog Web hosting.

There are many web hosting services, but since 2005, WordPress, which 38% of the web uses, has recommended Bluehost.

Bluehost is excellent for beginners because it’s affordable ($2.95/mo) and it boasts a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you change your mind, you can get that $2.95 back and buy a coffee.

Bluehost Benefits

  • 1-Click WordPress Install – WordPress powers over 35% of all websites on the internet. WordPress is a free and open-source content management system that makes building a website simple for nearly anyone. With Bluehost, you can download WordPress in under a minute with a couple of mouse clicks.
  • Free Domain for the 1st Year – Not only do you get a free domain name for the first year, but if you decide that Bluehost isn’t for you, you can transfer that domain name to your new hosting service.
  • Free SSL – SSL Certificates ensure the security of your personal information through an encrypted communication channel.
  • 24/7 Support – This isn’t just phone support. Bluehost offers video tutorials to help you get the most out of your blog.
  • Unmetered bandwidth – Even with a basic plan, you never have to worry about exceeding a data limit. Bluehost won’t charge your extra fees for high bandwidth use.
  • Lightspeed loading time – With an uptime of 99.99% and an average load speed 405 milliseconds, you can be confident knowing that your audiences’ experience will be smooth and reliable.
  • Intuitive design – You don’t need to be an expert to navigate Bluehost’s cPanel. The interface is easy to use from the get-go.

There are plenty of hosting services that offer variations of these services, but Bluehost manages to keep its price point low without sacrificing quality.

Launch your blog today with BlueHost for $2.95/Month.

How to set up Bluehost in 5 Minutes

Setting up a Bluehost account and creating your blog is a quick and easy. Follow these steps, and you’ll be ready to start blogging by the time you finish this article.

1. Navigate to Bluehost’s home page and select “Get Started.”

Choose Bluehost to start a blog.

2. Choose a new domain name.

Get a FREE Domain Name on Bluehost.

3. Fill out some basic personal information.

4. Choose your desired hosting package.

You can choose to pay a term of 12, 24, or 36 months. The longer the term, the cheaper the monthly rate. (Bluehost recommends signing up for their domain privacy protection on this page which keeps your personal information totally private).

5. Create a password

6. Find WordPress.

All you have to do is navigate to your cPanel (control panel) and scroll to “MOJO Marketplace”. You will be taken to a page called “Scripts and Platforms” within MOJO marketplace.

7. Install WordPress.

Select WordPress and click on the start button when the installation window appears. Select your blog’s domain and click “Check Domain”. Read the terms and conditions and click “Install Now.”

Once WordPress is successfully installed, you can navigate to your cPanel by going to your admin login URL which is your domain followed by /admin.

Are you ready to make life changing money? Get Started today with Bluehost.

Now you are ready to make your first post!

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Blog?

Starting a basic blog can cost as little as $50 in the first year. As your blog grows, you may want to start using that extra income to purchase more snazzy themes, do some A/B testing, invest in social media marketing, or add more advanced plugins. But for a beginner, it’s best to start simple and take it step by step.

Why Not Just Start a Free Blog?

There are free blog hosting sites, but if you are serious about blogging, and especially if you want to earn an income from your blog, it is not a good idea to use free web hosting. Here is why:

  • Limited options – Free platforms have limited themes and functions. You can’t download new plugins and update your site like you can with a paid hosting service.
  • Limited monetization – You won’t have the unmetered bandwidth you would get with a web host like Bluehost. You also will have more restrictions on memory, video time, and advertising. All these factors result in poor user experience and display a lack of professionalism.
  • Risky – You aren’t paying anyone, so the hosting service doesn’t really have an incentive to continue hosting you. If you violate their terms of service, they can just send all your hard work to the trash.
  • Unprofessional Domain – If you chose a free hosting platform, then your domain will have that in your domain name (i.e. yourname.wordpress.com). Everyone knows that you are using a free web host which looks unprofessional and undedicated.

The only real benefit of a free web host is that it’s free. With web hosting services like Bluehost, you get tons of features, customization, and it literally cost less than a cup of coffee per month.

Step #4: Design Your Blog

Most new bloggers are intimidated by web design, but WordPress makes it incredibly simple for a beginner blogger. They provide a multitude of professional themes for you to choose from.

How to Design a Blog.

Before you read on, the most important thing to remember is that you should not focus your time on finding the ‘perfect design.’ Why? Your design does not generate revenue. Instead, you need to prioritize on creating standout blog content that resonates with your readers.

It’s easy to get lost changing this shade, or moving that content box, or experimenting with new fonts. All of that is good, just don’t forget that content is the substance of a blog, perfecting the aesthetic shouldn’t be your main priority.

Choosing a Blog Theme

There are over 10,000 themes on WordPress so you should have an idea of what you want your blog to look like before you start searching. Find blogs you wish to emulate and take note of their design.

You can even draft a preliminary blog design on a piece of paper. That way, the right theme will catch your eye.

Here are some general tips on choosing the right theme for your blog:

Functionality

Having a beautiful design is great, but making sure that it is intuitive and easy to navigate should take priority. You can preview themes before you download them, so this gives you a chance to test their functionality.

Also, ask yourself what the purpose of your blog is. Are you displaying photographs and art? Selling a service? Or writing content? Make sure the theme you chose is related to the substance of your blog.

Responsiveness

More and more internet users are surfing the internet on phones and tablets. Be sure that whatever theme you chose is not only compatible across devices but that it looks good and is functional as well.

You can do this by previewing the theme on your phone or tablet, although most of the time you will have an option to preview it across devices from your computer.

You can also use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test Page by inputting the demo page URL.

Plugins

Plugins make your blog customizable. Make sure that whichever theme you choose supports popular plugins like Yoast SEO.

Page Builders

Drag and drop page builders like Elementor, make it easy to customize your blog’s theme. A page builder makes it easy for you to customize each page. Whether you want to add a text box or an image, a page builder will allow you to do that with ease.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization makes it easier for search engines to index and rank your blog and blog posts. A theme can help or hurt your SEO, depending on the cleanliness of its code. Most premium themes will be optimized for SEO, but don’t be deterred from the free themes, just do some research and see what others have said about that theme’s HTML.

Ratings

Tried and true, word of mouth is still a great way to determine the quality of a theme. If the theme has thousands of positive, 5-star reviews, then it’s probably a safe bet.

You might want to go for a free theme for the first month or so and get used to what kind of features you like. There’s no rush to spend money on a theme in the beginning. Play around with it and see what you want before you go investing your money into something.

Step #5: Write Bad Ass Content

There is no shortage of content writing advice out there. But all of it can be boiled down to a straightforward statement: Write for the reader.

From SEO to headlines, word count, and format, these are all vital. However, all of them are useless if you do not have the reader in mind.

There is no such thing as a great headline in general, it always depends on who you are hooking with that headline. A headline that grabs a stockbroker might deter a contractor. And the same can be said for tone, voice, and verbiage.

Let’s break down some essential aspects of content and how to optimize them for your reader.

Headlines

The headline should solve a problem and be specific, “How to Start a Blog” is too vague, who are you talking to? “How to Start a Blog for Beginners in 2020” has a specific person in mind — a person just starting their blogging journey this year.

You’ll notice that most headlines begin with question words, like “how”. This is because when people are searching on the internet, they are looking to solve some problem, to have some question answered. Use the headline to show them that you have the solution.

SEO

SEO and keyword research can seem daunting to a beginning blogger. Do not worry too much about it. Google, and every other search engine, has one end goal in mind — to put the right content in front of the right people.

The best way to optimize for SEO is to write long, well organized content that is packed with credible information. Add statistics, testimonies, and infographics. All of this adds value to the reader.

With that said, there are some basic things you can do to boost the SEO of your content:

  • Use H1, H2, and H3 headers to organize article content
  • Bullet and number information to increase scroll ability
  • Have a table of contents if the article is long
  • Link to the sources of your information and make sure they are credible and authoritative
  • Always anticipate reader questions and answer them

Ready to take the next step? Start your today on Bluehost ($2.95/Month)

Make it Original

This might seem impossible. This, for example, is certainly not the first article written on how to start a blog.

That’s why you need to find the best blog posts written on your topic and synthesize that information in a way that best suits your particular audience in an up to date and organized manner.

Focus on the Reader

I can’t stress this enough. Know your reader. Don’t use jargon and industry lingo without an explanation. Do not assume the readers know what you know. Don’t try to show off. This isn’t poetry.

Be mindful of the readers time, be straightforward and personable. You are, after all, writing to a real person.

Break up the text

Long rambling paragraphs are intimidating. People might be scrolling on their phones or tablets. Try to keep your paragraphs around 2-3 sentences so the reader can read the information bite by bite.

When you’re writing, have an imaginary reader in mind. I don’t mean some abstract idea of a reader. I mean an imaginary reader with an identity, a job, relationships, etc. Imagine they asked you a question and you are trying to answer it for them as thoroughly and simply as possible.

Step #6: Promote Your Blog Across All Social Media Platforms

Once you have a solid understanding of who your audience is, you should be able to determine where they hang out on social media.

If your target audience is more professional, then you should prioritize LinkedIn, if you are displaying photographs and art, you should focus more on Pinterest and Instagram.

Regardless of your preferred social media platforms, you should optimize for multiple platforms if you have anything to gain from them. Even Instagram can be used for written content by posting quotes, or photos linking to an article.

Once you’ve created social media accounts for your blog, you need to make it easy for them to subscribe and share your work. Social media widgets do this efficiently. You can add them to a sidebar, or at the end of your content, just make sure they are easy to find and easy to click.

Tips for Promoting Blog Content:

Promote other bloggers

Don’t do this just because another blogger is popular. Be genuine. Find bloggers that offer great information related to your blog and share it on social media.

Your returns might not be immediate, but eventually, someone you promoted will get curious, check out your blog, and if you have great information to share, they will promote it on their social media.

Hashtags

Put hashtags before relevant keywords or keywords phrases so that your tweets and posts can be organized with other tweets and posts that use that hashtag. This makes it easy for people browsing that topic to find your posts and tweets.

Shareable Content

You don’t have to design all of your content around being shareable, but here are some factors that have been shown to increase share ability: emotional content, content tied to identity, content about a trending topic, content that provides value to the reader, eye-catching headlines, ease of share ability (make it easy for your audience to share your content with a simple click).

Once you’ve joined various communities on social media and you have been posting for some time, you will start to get a better idea of what kind of people are visiting your site, and which content is connecting the best with your readers. Pay attention to your analytics and calibrate when necessary.

Step #7: Monetize Your Blog

This is obviously the most exciting part of starting a blog. The potential for monetization varies greatly depending on the topic of your blog; however, even extremely niche topics have the potential to bring in a substantial income.

The main thing you need to monetize your blog is traffic. And not just any traffic. You want traffic that will convert into sales.

To bring traffic into your blog, you need to post consistently around keywords related to your topic.

If you are blogging in a competitive niche like starting a business, you are going to want to start out trying to rank for long-tail keywords. Instead of trying to rank for something like “best business ideas”, you will try to rank for something like “best side hustles for college students” (although even that will be pretty competitive).

The point is to begin accumulating traffic for lower competition keywords until your site has the authority to go after the more competitive keywords.

You can begin monetizing your site immediately, you don’t have to wait until you have 100,000 visitors per month. Even 1,000 visits per month can make you money if you’re putting the right products in front of the right people.

How to Monetize a Blog for Beginners:

1. Affiliate Marketing

This is probably the most straightforward and most uncomplicated way to monetize a new blog. Affiliate marketing works like this — you promote a product and embed a link to the product in your content when someone clicks on the link and buys the product, you get a commission.

You can find affiliates through affiliate networks or by contacting the business directly. Let’s say you are blogging about video games, you can partner with Amazon Associates and promote VR headsets, or video game accessories on your blog. Or you can do product reviews, and whenever someone buys something on Amazon through your link, you will earn a commission.

Every program has different commission structures and different cookie lengths (meaning the length of time you will still receive a commission after someone clicks on the link you provide).

Here are some of the most popular affiliate networks:

You can also check if brands associated with your blog topic have their own affiliate programs and partner with them directly. Of course, be genuine, don’t promote products that you don’t believe in, your audience will catch on, and you will lose credibility.

2. Sell eBooks or Digital Products

Since you will be writing tons of content around a specific topic, you can eventually use your growing expertise and backlog of great content to write an eBook and promote it on your website.

You can publish through Kindle and earn up to 70% royalty on sales.

Even if your book doesn’t sell, you can re-purpose it as a free pdf download for people signing up for your email list.

3. Online Courses

Platforms like Thinkific make creating an online course easy. You can promote the course through your blog and social media, and there are even courses on how to create online courses.

Just like the eBook, as you accumulate content and learn more about your niche, you will already have the knowledge to create a course.

4. Sell Products

You can create your own products and sell them directly to the consumer. Aaron Marino started a YouTube channel called Alpha M, where he produces content about image management (it’s basically a men’s beauty and style channel).

Eventually, he was featured on Shark Tank pitching his own DVD on men’s grooming. He later began selling hair care products for men on his channel. He now has an estimated net worth of $4 million.

What are people in your niche lacking? What can be improved upon? Create it and sell it to them.

5. Freelance

You can use your blog as a portfolio of your work and get paid to write for other blogs. There are tons of opportunities for paid writing jobs.

The greater your influence and the larger your audience, the greater your potential earnings will become.

I haven’t mentioned ads until now because for a beginning blogger, they are probably not the best way to go. It takes a lot of traffic to get a substantial income from ads, and it’s best not to ruin the aesthetics of your site for pennies. You might need 100,000 page views in a month to make $500, depending on your niche. Freelancing remains one of the best ways to make $1,000 extra a month

When you are just starting out, it is best to search around for great affiliate programs and write some content where you can present that affiliate product in a natural and non-pushy way. You don’t have to wait to become an authority in your niche to start making money.

Blogging 101: Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions from beginner bloggers.

How Do I Start a Successful Blog?

To start a successful blog, you need to choose a niche that has a broad, monetizable audience. Determine what pain points this audience has and how you can uniquely solve their problems.

Then start your blog with a web hosting service like Bluehost and start posting consistently. Be sure to partner with affiliates in your niche so that you can monetize your content.

Do Bloggers Get Paid?

The average blogger salary is around $32,800 per year. However, this number varies significantly, with some bloggers making pennies and others making millions of dollars per month.

It all depends on whether you treat your blog as a hobby, a side hustle, or a full-time business.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is an open-source content management system that is used to create websites.

Should I Use WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

WordPress.com allows you to create a website for free, but there many downsides to this: limited disk space, limited monetization options, limited plugin options, not professional, and your site is under a subdomain.

WordPress.org is offered through web hosting services like Bluehost that can cost under $50 per year. This option provides much more freedom and security for bloggers.

Final Word: How to Start a Blog that Makes Money

Do not become discouraged if you believe your initial blog idea doesn’t seem immediately lucrative. You can always modify it or expand on it.

Consider the example of hamsters that I jokingly mentioned earlier. How could a blog about hamsters be monetized? Amazon associate links to hamster wheels, cages, food, toys, etc. How can it be expanded on? You can start blogging about other small and easy to care for house pets.

A better, more thorough plan can always be created. But with blogging, it’s best to jump in and learn by doing. It takes time to build an audience, and the longer you wait, the further away that day is when you start making a steady income from your blog.

If you are ready to leave a legacy and make SERIOUS Money then get started with Bluehost for $2.95/Month.

Drew Cheneler
Drew Cheneler
Drew is a recognized Credit, Small Business, and Personal Finance Expert. He has been quoted in CNBC, The Huffington Post, Business.com, Moneyunder30, and more. He is known for breaking down complex personal finance topics into action-oriented advice, so you can make the most of your hard-earned money.