A blog is an online outlet for content that you can potentially use to make a living. This blogging guide will show you how to set up a blog for free and how to make money with a blog for beginners. To make money with a blog, you’ll monetize by creating courses, sponsorships, and e-books.
Successful bloggers need a reliable web host. DreamHost is our pick for as low as $2.59 per month. They offer a free domain name, pre-installation of WordPress, and a free secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate. Get started with DreamHost today.
Blogging Guide: How Blogging for Beginners Works
Blogging is a great way to share your message and ideas with the world. Many blog posts are informational in nature and teach the reader something. However, there are also blog posts that are commercial and written to make money. Profit-making blogs may also be referred to as money pages and are often detailed descriptions of products or services. An example of this is a review page that tells how a product or service gets used, pros and cons, and where to buy it.
No matter the content you create, getting started is easy. You’ll set up an account with a platform such as Squarespace, write quality content, and optimize your blog for search engines. You’ll then want to share that content on social media and via email. Once you’ve built an audience, you can begin to monetize your blog.
Building an audience takes time—the more you focus on creating great content, the faster this can happen for you. Initially, most of your traffic will come from people you know through your own sharing efforts and on social media. In time, search engines can start to recognize the content you create as something worth recognizing. When this happens, you’ll get traffic from search engines.
Who Should Start a Blog?
One of the most common questions asked of successful bloggers is how to get started blogging. However, the most important question is not how, but should you? To have a successful blog, you’ll need to create content consistently and have the time to learn about search engine optimization (SEO) and other methods for growth. It can take years to see success from blogging—it’s rarely something that happens overnight.
These are the people who are more likely to see success blogging:
- Experts: Blogging about something you’re passionate about and an expert in makes it much easier than writing about a topic you’ll need to do a lot of research on.
- Savvy: While you can hire people to handle the tech side of things if you have some tech knowledge already, it’ll save you money and time.
- Self-starters: We’ve found those who aren’t perfectionists get started much faster than someone who overanalyzes.
No matter your skills and personality type, there is a chance of success as a blogger. You may need to work harder and longer than others to make money blogging.
A Beginner’s Blogging Guide to Platforms
While you can blog for free on platforms such as WordPress.org, a free platform limits your ability to make money blogging. A free platform―as opposed to one like WordPress.com, which is a fee-based hosting site―is useful for someone who just wants to blog for fun and get started right away. It takes a bit more work to set up a self-hosted blog, but if you want to make a living blogging, it’s the best option.
Self-hosted blogs allow you to host your own content and monetize it with very little restrictions. The most popular way to do this is to sign up for a web host such as DreamHost. They’ll give you a free domain name, and then you just pay as little as $2.59 per month for hosting. While they host the domain for you, you’ll do your blogging through WordPress.org.
There’s a bit more technical setup for using WordPress.org, but it’s one of the most popular platforms to use. Others prefer using Squarespace, which makes it easy to drag-and-drop each feature for a custom blog design in minutes. You’ll pay $12 per month and get a free domain name when using Squarespace.
Beginners Guide to Starting a Blog & Making Money
The various ways to make money as a blogger are endless. Many bloggers start by becoming an affiliate for someone else’s products or services so that they can get started right away and have little overhead. Once they’ve mastered that, many move on to offering their own products and services. These include e-books, courses, apparel, and membership sites.
1. Choose a User-friendly Blogging Platform
A blogging platform comes in two forms—hosted and self-hosted. When using a hosted platform, you’re essentially creating content on someone else’s site. Along with that usually comes restrictions on how you can make money. Self-hosting is typically done through a third-party provider but gives you the freedom to monetize how you choose.
The most popular platform for bloggers, WordPress.org, allows its users to monetize their blogs however they choose. The creator owns any content created on this free platform. This is unlike platforms such as WordPress.com, which heavily restricts how bloggers can make money and doesn’t extend ownership of content to those who created it. If you choose WordPress.org, you’ll also need a website host such as DreamHost, which starts at $2.59 per month.
Users of Squarespace love its easy drag-and-drop features because it allows complete customization with the click of a button. While you’re not technically self-hosting by using Squarespace, you own everything except the template you use on the platform. This means that, should they get rid of that template, you’ll need to choose a different one. They also don’t restrict how you can monetize. You can get started with Squarespace for $12 per month.
Weebly also allows customization with drag-and-drop features. It’s also an all-in-one website builder, so you won’t need a separate hosting package. Because it’s a website builder, its templates don’t allow for your posts to show on the front page as traditional blogs do. Instead, you’ll have a landing page that is similar to the front page of most nonblog websites. Users need to click the blog link at the top to visit your blog posts. Weebly starts at free and goes to $38 per month.
Optional blogging costs to consider when choosing a blogging platform include premium themes, stock images, and email management software. You can find premium themes for any blogging platform for less than $50, but a custom theme can cost more than $1,000 if it has a lot of features and design. Stock image providers have photos for less than $1. Your biggest expense will be an email management platform, which averages $30 per month.
2. Pick a Blogging Niche You Love
There are many different types of niches you can blog about. Many bloggers choose a broad category such as travel or money. Some bloggers prefer to be an authority on a specific topic rather than something broad. A blogger could choose to write about traveling the world as a solo female. Alternatively, they might choose to be an expert on paying down debt to become a digital nomad.
No matter the niche you choose, know that it can evolve over time. Some bloggers start broad before finding their sweet spot and settling on something specific.
A lifestyle blogger writes about daily life and activities. Blog posts consist of topics such as fashion, beauty, health, mindset, and family. It’s important to know that blogging under a general category such as lifestyle will make it more difficult to grow your blog. This is because it’s not a narrow niche and more of a catch-all for topics. Many bloggers start as a lifestyle blogger before getting more specific.
Food bloggers share recipes, techniques, and pictures of food. Some food bloggers are very specific, such as paleo or ketogenic foods. Bloggers can also write about topics such as grilling, baking, using an Instant Pot, and single sheet pan meals.
Money bloggers write about topics such as business and personal finance, making money, debt, and saving money. These categories can get specific, such as becoming debt-free by paying off everything and moving to an area with low cost of living. The blog can also focus specifically on the best credit cards to have.
A travel blogger writes about different travel destinations and can even give tips and tricks for traveling more, packing for a trip, or planning for a trip. Many travel bloggers are masters of the art of storytelling—helping put readers right there with them. Some travel blogs are specific, such as solo Disney travel. Others are general, such as domestic or international travel.
3. Create Viral-worthy Content for Your Blog
The content you create for your blog should answer your reader’s most burning questions. The questions you answer will depend on the niche you’re in. For example, a travel blogger might answer the question, “How can I afford to travel?” A money blogger could answer the question, “How do I pay off all of my credit cards if I’m broke?”
Much of the content created from these questions are considered evergreen content. This is a type of content that is likely to have relevance a year from now. It gets its name from the evergreen tree, which keeps its needles year-round rather than losing them in the fall like a lot of other trees.
Nonevergreen content is timely and won’t likely be relevant for long. An example of this type of content is a blog post about where to find the outfit that Kylie Jenner wore in her latest Instagram post. Fashion trends change quickly, which is why you’re not likely to find an item of clothing at a particular retailer beyond the current season. Not only that, but that content may get a quick burst of pageviews for a month or two and fizzle out over time.
Your blogging strategy should have a combination of both evergreen and nonevergreen content. The bulk of your content should be evergreen, and then as something timely or relevant happens, write about that. The relevant content will get shared quickly and could potentially go viral for a short period. The evergreen content can also go viral as long as it’s a quality article that answers a question in depth—much like the articles you’ll find on Fit Small Business.
4. Learn About & Implement Search Engine Optimization
SEO is a technical term for making your blog posts show up at the top of search engine results. These results are usually called search engine results pages (SERPs). Your SEO strategy involves two critical pieces—content and backlinks.
Without content, whether it’s evergreen or timely, you can’t rank in a SERP. A backlink involves someone posting your blog link on their own site. This is typically done when a blogger wants to reference original research that you’ve talked about in a blog post. For example, if we’re writing an ultimate blogging guide for food bloggers, we’d likely link to other food blogs to show examples of how it’s done.
Some agencies handle SEO for you. However, you will want to research the strategies they use. You may run into unethical SEO companies who use what are called black hat SEO strategies. This refers to utilizing SEO tactics that violate terms of search engines. These black hat SEO strategies include tactics such as paying for a dofollow link and keyword stuffing.
A dofollow link creates a backlink on the site you’re referencing, which tells search engines that this is a relevant link. All sponsored links need a nofollow to remain in compliance with search engines. Keyword stuffing is the act of using many phrases and keywords in an unfair attempt to manipulate SERPs. If caught using black hat tricks such as this, search engines can make it so that your site does not show up in search engine results.
Your blog should have the following features to increase your search engine rankings:
- Fast loading time: Google says this is one of the factors they use in their SEO algorithms. A fast loading website increases conversions, time spent on the site, and has lower bounce rates.
- Easy navigation: When a site is easy to navigate, users will spend more time on your site. This lets search engines know you’ve answered the right question with the best answer.
- Mobile-friendly: With more mobile users than ever, bloggers want to make sure their site’s design, speed, and structure is friendly to use.
- Descriptive metatags: These are bits of text that explain what a page’s content is about. By being as descriptive as possible, you’re telling search engines exactly what question you’re answering.
- Quality: When you focus on creating great content, a user won’t have to search anywhere else to find their answer. This tells search engines that you are an authority and are trusted.
5. Grow Your Email List From Your Blog
An email list is essential for bloggers because if something happened to your blog or social media, you wouldn’t have a way to reach your readers without their email addresses. An email list allows you to share new blog posts with readers and is an important step to making money blogging. Periodically, you can send emails to your subscribers with offers, whether it’s an offer for a product or service you sell or if you’re promoting someone else’s.
To get an email address from a visitor to your blog, you’ll need to give them an incentive. This incentive is usually in the form of a freebie or opt-in. These are e-books, PDFs, cheat sheets, exclusive videos, and free courses. You’ll place an opt-in form on your blog’s sidebar, within blog content, and sometimes even in a pop-up.
These opt-in forms collect and store email addresses with your email service provider. You can use a provider like ConvertKit, which starts at $29 per month. Once you collect an email, you need to nurture your new subscriber. This is done through a welcome sequence that onboards a reader into learning more about you and what they can expect as a subscriber.
After sending a welcome sequence over several weeks, you should send periodic emails to your subscribers. These emails need to provide value to encourage your readers to stick with you. Bloggers typically send weekly emails, unless it’s a product or service launch. During this period, you might send emails daily for a short period of time.
6. Become an Affiliate
An affiliate receives a commission for referring a sale to a merchant. If a blogger is going to talk about a brand or service they like anyway, it’s an added benefit to get a commission for referring customers, which is why many bloggers start with affiliate programs before creating their own products and services. Sometimes, an affiliate program will pay even if there isn’t a sale—they might pay per click or lead generated.
We recommend getting started with an affiliate program before offering your own products and services. The reason for this is because it takes time and money to launch a product or service. By becoming an affiliate, you can start to generate revenue right away.
There are affiliate marketing programs that are merchant-specific, such as the software program Clickfunnels. You can also find entire networks of affiliate programs to join, such as those held in Rakuten or ShareASale. This is where affiliates have a list of thousands of merchant affiliate programs to join. The affiliate is then paid by the network rather than directly from a merchant.
Commissions earned by affiliates vary wildly by merchant but are typically 1% to 10% of the sale. A click or lead generally pays less than $1 per action. However, there are affiliate programs that pay as much as 75% of a sale such as some of those found in ClickBank. They’re able to provide high commission rates because all of their offerings are digital.
Bloggers can also find affiliate programs through the courses they’ve taken. A popular strategy is to give a thorough review of a course or program in a blog post and then link to the course with an affiliate link. Many bloggers find success in offering an incentive for someone to sign up for a course or program using their link. This incentive is typically something that won’t cost the blogger anything out-of-pocket and is easy to scale—such as their own course on a related topic.
7. Make Money With a Blog for Beginners
Bloggers make money through their blogs in a variety of ways. Many start by using affiliate links and then transition into selling their own products and services. After that, more popular blogs even start to host their own events—such as a retreat or workshop.
The various ways to make money blogging include:
- Courses: Showcase your expertise on a topic by creating an online course. You’ll use something such as Teachable to host it.
- E-books and books: Overhead on e-books is much lower compared to producing a physical book. None of these books need to be very long.
- Ads: Participate in AdSense as a blogger, or you can also work with ad networks, such as Media.net
- Memberships and subscriptions: A membership site allows bloggers to share exclusive content with subscribers each month. You can host these right on your WordPress blog with a plugin such as MemberPress.
- Sponsored posts: Work with brands to promote their products and services. Many brands provide a product in exchange for the promotion, and others pay for it.
- Retreats: Lifestyle bloggers and travel bloggers find success hosting retreats for their readers. You can host one for just a weekend or make it a much longer event.
- Workshops: If you’re a travel blogger, you could host a workshop on taking travel photos. Money bloggers can host workshops on budgeting or homebuying.
Blogging Guide Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
This section includes the most frequently asked questions about how to make money with a blog. If you don’t see your question, head over to our Fit Small Business forum, and post your question there. We have an entire team of industry experts who answer questions from small businesses every day.
How much do bloggers make?
You might not make anything as a blogger, and some even lose money with high overhead. You can make a full-time living as a blogger, but that’ll depend on your skills, resources, and consistency. If you treat your blog as a hobby, it might pay you like one instead.
Can I make money as a new blogger?
Yes, although you’re not likely to make much, if anything at all. Your focus should be on creating great content first.
How many pageviews do I need to make money blogging?
The number of pageviews you get on your blog isn’t the most important factor in making money. Engagement is something that brands will pay more for since you can purchase vanity metrics such as pageviews. However, some ad networks require you to have at least 25,000 pageviews on your blog for acceptance into their network.
Bottom Line: Blogging Guide
Getting started blogging is easy with free and paid blogging platforms. After you’ve created great content and built an audience, you can start to monetize your work. What you make will depend entirely on your skills, resources, and consistency.
To make money with a blog, you’ll want to have a reliable web host. We prefer DreamHost because it’s $2.59 per month, and it offers a free domain name, pre-installation of WordPress, and a free SSL certificate. Get started with DreamHost today.