How to Start a (Successful, Moneymaking) Blog
Creating Urbanette, was much more difficult than starting a blog nowadays. I started Urbanette when I was fifteen, which is farther in the past than I’d like to admit. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with magazines. I grew up in rural Canada (like, really really rural — no visible neighbors and the nearest stoplight was a ten-minute drive away if I was speeding). I used to beg my dad to take me to the local garbage dump because there was always a tall stack of magazines next to the recycling, just begging for me to go through it and pick which to rescue. My favorites were Sassy and Jane, neither of which exist in print anymore. They were opinionated and feminist, with very little of the typical gender-role BS. My dream was to be a magazine writer, or better yet, also in charge of a magazine.
So when I got hooked up to the Internet, I immediately moved from writing in my notepad to typing out my opinions and publishing them online. I taught myself HTML by looking at the code of other websites, and built mine from the ground up using trial and error. I started the first online magazine, so (obviously) back then there weren’t any resources to help me start my blog, let alone any content about how to learn programming.
Nowadays, starting a blog is so much easier. That’s why there are so many of them. There are website builders that do all the coding for you — for free. There are grammar check apps that automatically check your writing as you type. There are books that offer sage advice for newbie bloggers.
Over the years, many of my friends and readers have asked me for advice about how to start a blog. So, to make things easier for
myself all of you, here is everything you need to know:
Start by asking yourself what you’re interested in
Your blog will only be successful if you are passionate about the topic you’re blogging about. You’re also far more likely to keep it going and post regularly if you’re writing about something you’d be researching or doing anyway.
For example, if your Pinterest boards are all about food, and you love cooking, then you could start a blog about food and provide recipes and instructional videos. If you love interior design, then give your personal take on the coolest apartments around the world, coupled with your pick of the best products, and throw in some DIY tutorials. You get the picture.
It’s best to stick to one theme, like style (fashion and home decor), or financial tips (career, budget tips, and money management) for women, etc. so you can become known as an expert in that field. It also makes it easier to secure advertisers in your focus area (more about that below), since they can be sure that 100% of your readers are into learning about said topic.
Pick a name and a tagline
Once you have your topic, make a list of names you’re considering. The best names are short — one or two words. For example, Deliciously Ella is a great name because it’s unique, personal, playful, and perfect for a food blog. Stumped? Make a list of words that describe your blog, and their synonyms, then mix and match them.
To see if you can actually use the name:
- Check if the .com domain name is available by searching on GoDaddy.com. If it’s available, register it! If it’s not, then try a different name.
- Important tips:
- Don’t register it if it’s only available with dashes or funny spelling. If Deliciously Ella had registered www.deliciously-ella.com, or deliciously-ellas.com while www.deliciouslyella.com was already taken, she would have lost a lot of readers who’s friends told them to go to Deliciously Ella .com. Not to mention, she would’ve had no control over what the owner of www.deliciouslyella.com put at that domain (that’s scary!)
- Keep it simple and memorable. Don’t use hard-to-remember or hard-to-pronounce words. Assume that people will be talking about your blog and pick a name that they’re likely to be able to easily say, remember, and spell.
- Important tips:
- Google the names you’re considering to make sure nobody else is currently using the same name. If they are, you could consider buying it from them and having them sign a contract saying they’re selling you the rights and they won’t use that name again.
- Once you’ve settled on a name, trademark it so nobody else can use it. It requires a bit of research, but you can do this yourself.
Next: create a tagline. It should explain what your blog is about in about 10 words, but still sound intriguing. For example, Deliciously Ella’s is: “Love Your Life, Love Your Food, Love Your Self”.
Get your website and social channels set up
- When you’re starting out, free website builders like WIX are a huge time-saver. They take a couple of hours to get a website set up, and let you get started without any programming skills. You literally just follow the simple instructions, pick a design you like, and drag-and-drop text boxes and other elements. Eventually you can switch to WordPress, which is what Urbanette uses, but that comes with a load of headaches that you don’t need when you’re just starting out.
- Make a text-based logo. Sites like 99designs and CrowdSpring are great for this. Pick a simple and elegant one that looks great small, since it’ll be small on social networks.
- You’ll also need to sign up on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under your new blog name and use your tagline as the ‘bio’ or summary. If you already have accounts with a following, change your username and info to your new blog name so you can keep your following. Here’s my guide to how to get a following on Instagram: 12 Ways to Kick Ass on Instagram. Here’s another valuable trick I learned: you can use Dlvr It to auto-post from Instagram to Facebook and Twitter, which saves a ton of time.
Create pretty, personality-filled content that ranks well in Google
Start with your ‘About’ page. Explain your motivation for starting your blog, and include a couple of great photos of you, looking relatable. Here’s Deliciously Ella’s fantastic ‘About’ page.
Great bloggers don’t just teach; they tell stories. People won’t return to your blog again and again to read content that they could easily find elsewhere. They will return because they are interested in your unique and personality-filled perspective and experiences. Don’t write dry, boring articles. Instead, create your own style.
Take time to photograph, edit, and add fantastic photos to each article.
Make sure your posts are filled with great photos. Try the easy-to-use exposure settings on BeFunky, and as you get more comfortable with photo editing, upgrade to Pixlr. Canva is great for making Pinterest-worthy images with text overlays.
For more tips on how to create great content, check out this audiobook: Blogging: How to Write Blog Posts That Go Viral Without Selling Out: Attract a Raving Fan Base, Understand Your First Viral Hit, and Discover Your Unique Blogging Voice.
And then listen to this one: SEO for Bloggers: Learn How to Rank your Blog Posts at the Top of Google’s Search Results because writing great content that nobody can find sucks. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a way to get your blog posts to show up when someone searches for similar keywords in Google. It’s essential that you learn this, and then keep these strategies in mind before, during, and after writing a blog post.
Submit guest posts
The best way to get more eyeballs to your blog is to guest post on other blogs and poach their readers. Make sure that the blog you’re contributing to has a section that covers the same general topic as your blog, since you’ll be writing about the same topic area. If your article is filled with personality and well-researched, then readers will want to read more from you; they’ll check out your bio and continue to your blog. Presto! A new reader!
Many websites have a page about guest posting. Urbanette’s is here. Blogs get a lot of guest posting offers, so you’ll need to make yours stand out. Make sure your pitch isn’t generic. Read some of the articles on the website and suggest some article you could write for them. Tell them the potential title, and describe the article in at least a paragraph of detail.
Here’s a great audiobook that will teach you everything you need to know about doing guest posts: Guest Blogging Goldmine: How I Got More Than 100,000 Visitors a Month on My Blog in 9 Months Using a Free Marketing Strategy.
Learn about blogging… and then learn some more
Like any business, the biz of blogging is constantly evolving. It’s important to learn everything you can about it, and then stay up on the latest changes.
The best book I’ve read about the business of blogging is by a woman who started out as a blogger and now runs her own influencer marketing agency. It’s called Blogging Your Way To The Front Row: The Insider’s Guide to Turning Your Fashion Blog into a Profitable Business and Launching a New Career, and it’s available in audiobook format. If you want to start a blog, this audiobook is a must. It covers everything from the planning stage, to creating shareable content and getting inspired, to getting readers and being seen as an expert, to building relationships with brands and other bloggers, to detailed instructions on ways to make money from your blog.
If you’re not ready for the deep-dive yet, and you’re starting a blog during your lunch break, then listen to this audiobook: 5 Minutes a Day Guide to Blogging: How to Create, Promote & Market a Successful Money Generating Blog, which is packed with tips on building a social media following.
Once you have a decent following, you can start turning a profit.
- Affiliate marketing agencies like Commission Junction let you place affiliate links in your articles and, if someone clicks through and makes a purchase, then you get paid a % commission. Here’s a tutorial on that.
- If you have a larger following, another way to make money is to join an influencer network. There are tons of these, and new ones popping up all the time, so spend some time searching around for them. If you’re not sure what to charge, check out this blog post (and the comment from Sarah Woodstock).
- Look into drop-ship options. Basically, you’d pick products you like and set up an online store (which you can do through WIX). When you get orders, you copy them to your drop-shipper and they handle the manufacturing, inventory, and shipping for you.
- Create a book from your blog posts. You can get this published by a traditional book publisher, you could self-publish using CreateSpace, or you could sell a PDF version on your website. You could even make a short book and give it away to people who sign up for your email newsletter.
A couple more important tips
- Create a comfortable workspace for yourself at home. Make it a quiet place where you can concentrate on writing, and that isn’t cluttered. Decorate it in a way that you find relaxing and inspiring. Make it your own little writing sanctuary.
- Don’t view other bloggers as competition. Everyone is different and you should try to be unique. Jealousy will only set you back. Instead, befriend and collaborate with other bloggers. You’ll succeed so much faster if you collaborate rather than compete!
There you have it! If you listen to these audiobooks and follow my instructions, you could get your blog up and running over a weekend. The hardest part is thinking up unique content on the regular, and getting readers. But if you’re determined, you’ll get the hang of it! Many of the most successful bloggers almost gave up before their tipping point, so stay excited and passionate, and don’t get discouraged!
If you have other questions, let me know below.