Blogging is far from dead and it’s in fact becoming a popular way to earn a living online or to be used for content marketing purposes. I’ve been blogging for many years, albeit only about a year professionally. If you’re interested to start a blog, look no further. Here’s how to start a blog in 2020 and make money blogging.
I’ll make it comprehensive yet simple to understand and it’s the only guide you’ll ever need in 2020 in setting up a blog.
Before you start a blog, you should first decide on your niche.
Do note that there may be affiliate links in this post.
What is my niche?
A niche is basically a topic or category that you will blog about. For example, your blog can be purely on food and that’s your niche. You can also have a multi-niche blog, where you blog on everything including travel, beauty, food, reviews and so on.
Should I get a single niche blog or a multi-niche blog?
They are both viable options but they have their own advantages and disadvantages. A single niche blog is good in the sense that your visitors are targeted. For instance, if you blog solely on travel, your visitors will know that and it sort of sets you out as an expert in a niche. If you jumble everything in your blog, a visitor interested in travel may not be interested in beauty as well. It’s harder to make money blogging that way. You want targeted visitors if you want to make a sale, be it affiliate sales or selling your own products.
The con of just limiting yourself to a single niche is that you may face writer’s block more often than not. Furthermore, it limits your potential traffic. That said, I would generally advise new bloggers to start with a niche and branch out. I made the mistake of starting with too many niches for this blog and ended up narrowing my scope. It’s hard to get a lot of targeted visitors when you’re writing on blogging tips and food at the same time.
Once you’re successful in one niche, you can start branching out, but keep the niche related. Don’t be too random like having two niches of finance and fishing. Keep it related like the topics of frugal lifestyle and making money. They’re both related to finance.
Once you’ve decided on your niche, it’s time to pick a domain name for yourself.
Get A Domain Name
A domain name is basically the URL of your blog. For e.g. mine is www.ordinaryreviews.com. It’s better if your domain name is related to your niche. You can also use your name as the domain name if it’s available, if you’re interested in branding yourself. It all depends on whether you’re trying to brand your blog as a separate entity, or brand yourself as a blogger. For e.g. Martha Stewart uses her own name but Darren Rowse uses Problogger as his brand.
I would personally prefer a “.com” extension, but if you can’t get it, you may want to try other popular extensions. That said, I would still get a different domain name with a “.com”.
To buy a domain name, you can use GoDaddy. I use them to buy my domain names, but their hosting plan isn’t that good. Hosting is for keeping the website online. My domain names are at GoDaddy, but my hosting company is elsewhere.
A domain name should cost about $10 a year so it’s still an affordable investment.
Get Your Hosting Plan
Your domain name is basically your web address, but you need a website builder and a hosting plan for your new blog. I personally recommend WordPress to every new blogger simply because I think it’s a superb website builder and I’ve tried others like GoDaddy’s Website Builder and Blogger.
Hence, go with WordPress first and see if you like it. Do note that by WordPress I mean WordPress.org. It’s not the same as WordPress.com.
WordPress is basically a CMS which is free to use, so you only need a hosting company. WordPress.com on the other hand is hosted by WordPress as a corporation. This means that both the website builder and the hosting are provided by them and it’s free to use. Because it’s free, there are many limitations towards the usage, which is why I left WordPress.com and shifted to a self-hosted WordPress (aka WordPress.org). Do read this article on the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
You don’t have to worry so much about WordPress.org, as your hosting company has the WordPress file with them and they’ll set it up for you.
Which hosting provider/plan should you use?
I’m personally using Bluehost as my hosting provider and they’re also the recommended host by WordPress themselves. Edit (Nov 2019): I’m currently using Kinsta as my traffic increased above shared-hosting levels.
Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to start a blog with Bluehost
1. Go to Bluehost and you’ll see this page.
2. Click on “Get Started” and you’ll see their monthly plans. I’m currently using Prime and I paid only about $3 a month because I subscribed for a 3-year package. The price changes depending on whether there’s a promotion. Select your plan. I personally recommend either the plus or prime plan.
3. Once you’ve purchased the plan, you will be given a free domain, but I recommend that you purchase a domain elsewhere. Keep your domain name and hosting provider separate from each other to be safe. Let’s say you have a GoDaddy domain name, insert it at the “i have a domain name” column.
4. Now, key in your details for the account.
5. Once you’ve done all of the steps above, proceed to make payment.
6. Next, create a password for your Bluehost account. Keep it safe as it’s really important since it controls the back-end of your blog.
8. Congrats, you’ve created your password!
9. Now, pick a theme for your blog. A theme is basically like a template design for your blog. If you’re not sure which is good, always do an online search on the most responsive themes. I’m using Genesis for this blog and it’s a premium theme (so it’s not free). It made my website much faster though.
10. Once you’ve chosen your theme, you’re done! You can start customizing your WordPress blog!
11. Bluehost has changed their interface and made it so much more friendly for bloggers. When I first started using Bluehost, it wasn’t so straightforward to set up a blog. Now they do it for you.
12. What you’re seeing is basically the back-end of your blog, i.e. where all of the action takes place. You can create posts, customize and edit all of the settings that are required for your blog. Basically everything can be edited via the back-end and it will be reflected on your blog.
13. Before you launch your site, you may want to ensure that all of your pages are set. You’re not required to immediately launch your blog. You can always put some posts in it first before the launch. I don’t see much differences either way. If you look at the screen below, that’s how you launch a site! You can put your blog’s title and description.
14. The image below is the new interface of Bluehost. It’s much friendlier than it was before so you shouldn’t get lost. If you have any enquiries, do contact their live chat. It normally takes me about 5 minutes before they answer my question.
That’s basically on how to start a blog with Bluehost in 2020! It’s more simple than it looks. Just do it yourself and you’ll see that it isn’t that hard at all.
Do note that setting up a blog is just the basic part. You need to know about plugins as well. Here’s a simple list of plugins that I use.
Here’s a list of WordPress plugins that I use for my blog:
Akismet Anti-Spam – This plugin is basically the anti-spam plugin that filters the common spam you’ll often see if your site is ranked on Google. You’ll need this to filter all of the trashy comments out.
Yoast SEO – Yoast is probably the best plugin for SEO purposes. It’s like a plugin to help newbies optimize their post for search engines. They’ll give you pointers on how long your description should be, how many times you should use your keywords and so on. It’s a must have if you intend to get Google traffic and you don’t know how.
Jetpack – You can get this for free. This is the same plugin that you would have used if you had started off with a free WordPress.com blog. It comes with many features that are useful to your blog.
Wordfence – One of the best security plugins to prevent attacks from hackers. It’s free to use but the premium one has more functions of course.
Backup Guard – This is vital because unlike your free blogs, a self-hosted blog doesn’t automatically come with a backup plugin. You have to install it yourself. There are various backup plugins but I’m using Backup Guard for this blog. You have to backup manually if it’s the free version.
WP Smush – This plugin helps you to reduce your image sizes and therefore improve the performance of your blog. If your image sizes are too big, it will reduce your website speed greatly and in turn affects SEO adversely. If your website takes too long to load, you will potentially lose a lot of visitors. You don’t want that.
W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache – Any one of these plugins will do. They are extremely important if you want to increase your website speed. W3 Total Cache is slightly more difficult to use but very effective. I’m using WP Super Cache as it’s easier for bloggers who do not have much technical knowledge.
Google Analytics by MonsterInsights – Instead of just relying on Jetpack’s visitor stats, you can use Google Analytics through this plugin. It helps you to analyze many things, including where your visitors are from and the top traffic sources. I’m still using Jetpack although Google Analytics is seen as the best traffic monitor.
Ad Inserter – If you want to insert ads easily but you’re not good with html, you can try this plugin. It allowed me to insert ads wherever I want, whether it’s before the content or even after the first paragraph. You have a lot of freedom in choosing where to insert your ads. For instance, I can set my ads to appear only if my article is above 2,000 words, or to appear right after the first paragraph. There are many things that you can do with it.
How To Make Money Blogging
This topic is always a hot issue. “How do I make money blogging?” is a common question in the blogging sphere. Hence, I decided to combine this topic with the “how do I start a blog in 2018?”.
There are many ways to make money blogging but a few ways are more popular than the rest.
1. Advertising Networks
This one’s the most common way to monetize your blog, but it usually doesn’t give you much.
How it works is that you join any of the ad networks and you can insert ads into your blog. You can use a plugin to insert ads or you can do it manually with your widgets.
Here are three types of ads you should know of:
CPM ads (cost per mille) – They pay per impression. This means that if your advertisement loads for 1,000 visitors, you get paid for it. The rates are generally low.
CPC ads (cost per click) – Google Adsense utiliizes this one. They are more common and you get paid for clicks. However, do not ask your friends to click on your ads. It’s easy to get detected and you will be banned from the network. I’ve tried it before 10 years ago when I was much younger and I was banned in just a few days. Don’t be stupid like I was.
CPA ads (cost per action) – The advertising company pays if your visitors take action. For example, if your visitor clicks on your ad and fills in their details (e.g. email, name), you get paid.
List of advertising networks:
• Google AdSense – perhaps the most popular and the most well-known advertising program among bloggers around the world. How it works is that you need to get your blog/website approved by the Adsense team, which is not easy. Basically you put ads on your page and you earn for each visitor’s click on the advertisement.
• PropellerAds – an alternative to Adsense and they pay you for page impressions as well, not just for clicks. They offer various types of ads, like banner ads, pop-unders, mobile interstition ads, dialog ads, and so on. The good thing about PropellerAds is you can register within minutes and the minimum payout is $50. I’m no longer using them since the rate may not be that good.
• Bidvertiser – another alternative and the minimum payout is $10. I haven’t tried it personally so I’m not sure if they are reliable.
• Media.net – one of the better alternatives to Adsense and many bloggers I know use it. Apparently they have a lot of well-known publishers on their network such as Forbes, Elle and Yahoo.
• Chitika – an advertising program with a low minimum threshold. I haven’t tried it yet.
• PopAds – like the name suggests, they specialize in pop-under ads, i.e. ads that will appear as an additional window behind the main/current page or will appear once you exit from the current page.
• Infolinks – a well-known Adsense alternative. They specialise in ads that integrate better with the page, meaning they are less prevalent.
There are other advertising networks as well, such as AdThrive, Adsterra, Mediavine, Monumetric and so on. Some ad networks are better for certain niches. Mediavine and Adthrive seems to be popular choices among bloggers these days, especially if you’re in the lifestyle niche. They have a minimum traffic requirement though.
2. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to make a living as a blogger.
The most basic explanation on how it works is:
You promote products or services in your blog post and you insert affiliate links, and someone buys a product or signs up for a service using your affiliate link; you get a commission. There are of course other factors like what is the timeframe in which the person must buy a product after using your link.
Here’s a list of affiliate networks you can join. An affiliate network is like a host for thousands of other companies. For instance, if you want to be an affiliate for Etsy, you have to go through Awin or Zanox. Basically, affiliate networks manage affiliate programs for thousands of companies. They are like a one-stop center for affiliate companies.
• CJ by Conversant – They are one of the bigger affiliate networks and have been around for a long time. They also host thousands of companies including ThinkGeek, Bluehost and Hostgator.
• Amazon Associates – Everyone knows Amazon. You basically promote their products and you earn regardless of what your visitor buys. They’re good in the sense that they people trust them, but their commission rates are much lower.
• ClickBank – Similar with CJ but they are good for those who promote digital products a lot.
• MaxBounty – A well-known CPA affiliate network. You can earn from survey affiliates.
• ShareASale – They are pretty popular as well, and they partner companies for web hosting, WordPress themes, books, fashion and so on.
3. Sponsored Posts Or Reviews
Some bloggers make a living off sponsored posts. How this works is that you write a blog post in favor of a company or a brand and in exchange, you get freebies or some money or even both.
If your blog is huge, you’ll probably get offers even if you don’t seek out for them. If you’re a new blogger, you may want to join some networks. I have not done any sponsored content yet, so I’m not certain which network is the best. You can either join networks or ask the company directly. If you use networks, you probably get lesser in payment since you have a middleman, but they make it much more convenient for you.
Here’s a list of some networks that you can join:
4. Sell Ad Space
The truth is, you won’t earn much from advertising networks these days and they used to pay so much higher in the past. There are so many websites these days that the market is rather saturated. This is why it’s good to be an expert in a niche, because you can get targeted audience and that leads to potential advertisers.
A good way to earn is to sell advertising space directly to potential brands. So how do you find these advertisers?
• You can try BuySellAds or Advertiise (not a typo). They are networks that pair brands/advertisers with publishers.
• You can also approach your favorite brands or companies by sending them an email.
• You can also put a blank widget on your blog and say that the ad space is for sale. This one only works if you have enough traffic I suppose.
5. Open a job board
If you blog mainly on freelancing or work from home jobs or anything related, you can actually open a job board. I believe there’s a plugin that is suited for starting a place to advertise jobs on your blog. It may be free or it may be not. You can look at Problogger’s job board as an example. His job board works because he’s already well known as a professional blogger and one of the highest paid in fact.
I believe he earns by charging job advertisers by way of subscription. It’s definitely not his main income stream but it’s better than nothing. He has multiple income streams and that gives him a six-figure monthly income.
6. Sell e-books
You can also sell e-books to your blog readers or to other people. You can re-purpose some of the content you’ve written on your blog.
For instance, if you blog on finance, you can combine all of the topics you’ve written and make it into an e-book. If you have no budget, you can make an e-book using Microsoft Word and save it as a PDF. E-book covers can be designed for free on Canva. Here’s a guide on how to publish your own e-book with zero budget.
7. Sell your services using your blog as a portfolio
Some bloggers don’t engage in affiliate marketing or advertising at all. They use their blogs as a platform or a portfolio to jumpstart their freelance writing career.
A good way to get your blog noticed is to do keyword research and write quality articles. Perform on-page and off-page SEO as well. After some time, traffic should build up naturally. If you’re not an expert in backlinks, then focus on quality writing.
Over time, you’ll get more websites linking to yours if you provide quality constantly.
Some bloggers even sell WordPress technical services as well, such as migration of websites or website design or solving technical problems.
You can also do one on one consultation services via Skype or other networks. Some bloggers need help in traffic growth or even how to build their mailing list. If you’re an expert, you can start selling your consultation services on a per-hour basis.
You can even become a Pinterest virtual assistant these days!
8. Premium Membership
Another way to earn money blogging is to create a distinction between paid members and free members. You’ve probably seen some sites that allowed only premium members to access certain databases.
This is done in some forums as well, such as the Warrior Forum. If you’re churning out articles that are really useful to lots of people, then this is a great way to earn. Apart from access to certain articles, perhaps you can allow paid members to join exclusive groups or to ask questions personally and so on.
9. Sell products on your blog
Instead of being an affiliate where you only earn less than 10% commission on products sold, why not sell your own stuff? I have mentioned e-books above, but you can sell other products as well.
You can do drop-shipping where you get the manufacturer to ship the products directly to the end user. Aliexpress is a popular website for drop-shippers.
It can be anything at all, including watches, handbags, dresses and the list goes on. Most of the things that are on Alibaba or Amazon are probably on Aliexpress as well.
10. Sell your blog
Some bloggers do this for a living. They build their blogs up to a certain size and they start selling after that. You can probably earn a few thousand dollars or even much more, depending on how successful your blog is. A good way of determining value is to see how much you’re already earning a month and times it by 24 months. If your blog isn’t earning, traffic may be a measure of worth.
I’ve not sold any websites yet but I believe Flippa or Empire Flippers are well known for buying and selling of websites.
For more successful bloggers, they hold all kinds of events like blog conferences and they teach others on how to grow traffic, monetize their blogs and so on.
12. Sell courses
You can also sell courses on your blog like what some bloggers are doing. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Michelle Gardner from Making Sense of Cents. She has her own “Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing” course and she’s earning thousands from it each month!
It doesn’t have to be courses on blogging. It can be photography, writing, start-ups or anything else as long as there’s a potential market for it.
How To Get Traffic To Your Blog?
I’ve given some of the ways bloggers make money, i.e. via the 12 methods above and they’re not exhaustive. One thing common about all of them is that you can’t make money (or you can’t make decent money) without traffic. Traffic refers to your visitors and you want more targeted visitors if you intend to monetize your blog.
So how do you get traffic to your blog? I’ve already taught you how to start a blog in 2018 and suggested ways to make money blogging. Here are a few ways you can get traffic to your blog.
SEO stands for search engine optimization and it’s probably the most important thing in getting Google traffic, or traffic from other search engines. SEO is basically divided into two types, i.e. off-page SEO and on-page SEO.
Off-page SEO is more on building backlinks from more authoritative websites. Each website has a domain authority, which is a metric set by Moz (not Google) but it’s a good standard of determining if your website has authority. One way of building authority is to get links back to your blog from other bigger blogs. For e.g. you can do a guest post on Forbes or other websites that are authoritative in your niche.
It helps Google to determine if your website has quality. If you get a lot of quality backlinks from websites with a high domain authority, you have a better chance of ranking high as far as your posts go. By the way, only “dofollow links” will pass link juice.
That said, avoid black hat SEO, i.e. buying backlinks from Private Blog Networks. They may work at first, but there’s a high chance you’ll get penalized by Google and your site will get de-indexed. It’s not worth taking the risk. I rather build backlinks slowly and steadily the white hat way.
Another type of SEO is on-page SEO. On-page SEO is more on the things that you do when you’re writing your article. For e.g. before you write an article, do a keyword research to see if your focus keywords would rank well and how hard the competition is. Once you have your keywords, you need to repeat them a few times in the article. Being too repetitive may be seen as trying to game the search engines and you may be penalized. Other things like meta descriptions, alt texts, length of article and so on also fall under on-page SEO.
I actually have a simple guide on how to do on-page SEO so that you’ll understand better.
2. Promote, Promote and Promote
You can’t rely on Google when your blog is new. In fact, you may need to wait for months before you get decent Google traffic. It took me many months to get 2,000 views a day from Google.
Hence, you have to promote your blog posts rather often if you want traffic. There are many places to promote your blog post.
You can use social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote your posts. Don’t just drop your links. Write at least a description and engage with other members to get better results.
You can also try forums or content aggregators like Reddit, Warrior Forum, Black Hat World and so on to promote your content. Some platforms do not like self-promotion, so do limit yourself on that. Promote only when it’s accepted to do so, especially in forums.
Have your own mailing list. Start collecting email subscribers from the start and you can promote your content to them once a week or once a fortnight. Since they chose to follow you, they are basically your targeted followers.
Don’t forget Pinterest as well. It’s becoming one of the top platforms for bloggers to promote their posts and you can use pin schedulers to do the work for you.
Ready To Start A Blog In 2020?
Starting a blog in 2020 will not differ that much from 2018, apart from Gutenberg, if you’re using WordPress.
It’s not too difficult to set up a blog and make (at least some) money blogging. To be honest, most people don’t make much blogging or make nothing at all. That’s because their visitors are not targeted, their content isn’t of a certain quality, they’re not promoting enough, they don’t have enough traffic or maybe they’re not interested in making money.
There are many factors involved and you should master all of them if you really intend to make money blogging.
The only piece of advice I can really give to new bloggers is that they have to be PATIENT.
Thanks for reading this article. Do share it with your peers if you find it useful!