How to start a blog

There’s a lot of hype about blogging these days.

But the big question is – how to start a blog that actually makes money?

I’m going to show you how to put together a simple blog that’s ready to earn.

In a time of inflation and global cost of living increases, imagine how your life would improve if you had a profitable blog.

Earning an income online also gives you freedom to travel, move abroad, and live life without being tied to a permanent location. With a profitable blog, you could even become a digital nomad.

I started making money from my blog around two years ago. Now, I’ve replaced my full-time salary with blogging, and achieved total location independence.

Affiliate disclaimer: I sometimes link to products and services to help cover the costs of running this blog. There’s no extra cost to you – and I only recommend products that I’ve both used personally and think are awesome. Thanks for your support! ❤️

How To Start A Blog That Makes Money in 2022

Step 1. Choose the Right Niche

Your niche is the main topic of your blog. It should be a combination of the following:

  1. Your interests
  2. Your experience or expertise
  3. Money-making potential

Your interests are important because they will keep you going long enough to make your blog profitable. If you find your niche boring, you won’t stay motivated enough to write consistent content and promote your blog.

(Read more about the pros and cons of blogging)

Your expertise and experience are important because they will give your blog credibility and leverage. For example, if you’re a lawyer who recently moved abroad, you could start a blog focusing on legal issues for remote workers.

The best niches combine several different topics to create a unique perspective. Always remember, even if there are many other people in the same niche, your personal brand and experiences are uniquely you. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel – just put your own spin on it.

Last, but most important – does your niche have money-making potential?

Niches with the biggest moneymaking potential are those which help people meet their most fundamental needs.

Those relate to health, wealth or relationships. (I highly recommend Alex Hormozi’s book, $100M Offers).

That’s why so many people, myself included, blog about making money online.

In fact, I recently put together a list of the 12 most profitable blog niches – which will help you get on track.

The trick is to narrow down those overarching areas and find something within them that resonates with your interests and experience.

Mine is blogging your way to global freedom. It’s exactly what I’ve done myself, so I can draw on many aspects of my own experience. Leveraging your own journey is a great way to find a niche.

Most niches can be monetized in some way, but you should pick one where the moneymaking mechanisms are plentiful and obvious.

Here are the most common ways that bloggers make money:

  • Consulting in their area of expertise
  • Selling freelance writing services
  • Affiliate marketing (i.e., reviewing products and getting paid a commission for successful sales)
  • Creating and selling digital courses
  • Running ads on their blog
  • Hosting sponsored products on their blog

You won’t have much traffic when you’re first starting out. So the best way to make immediate income from your blog is by selling consulting services.

The other ways of making money will make more sense once you have some initial traffic.

A good way to evaluate your niche for moneymaking potential is simply to look at your competitors.

Figuring out who your competitors are early on is a smart move. You can then learn from them and follow their strategies.

For example, if you want to start a blog about legal issues for remote workers, simply Google those keywords (and any related ones) and see what sites already exist around that topic. Many of those sites will be your competitors.

Step 2. Get Your Domain Name

Your domain name is both your brand identity and your home on the web.

That’s why it’s important to get it right from the start.

The best domain name option is your first name last name dot com (e.g., this blog is my first name and last name).

The biggest benefit of using your own name is the flexibility it gives you. It makes pivoting easy, if you end up choosing a niche that doesn’t work out.

I’ve owned this domain since 2014, and I’ve launched several completely different blogs on it.

Using your own name is the first step in building your personal brand. Having a strong personal brand is one of the major keys to success in making money online.

When we think of brands, it’s usually large companies such as Apple or Nike that spring to mind. But people can have brands too, and these days more and more of them do.

Building a personal brand allows you to funnel your unique experiences, interests, hobbies, and stories into your online presence, which keeps your blogging journey interesting.

When you combine this approach with a proper SEO strategy, your blog becomes an unstoppable force.

Having a personal brand is a great way to stand out from your competition, because no one can ever copy the unique brand called you.

So buy a domain with your own name, if you can.

If you have a very common name, or the.com version is already taken, you could try using different versions such as: “bysamanthanorth dot com”, or “samnorth dot com”, for example.

There are loads of domain name marketplaces out there. My favorite is Namecheap, which I’ve used to buy all my domain names for the last 10 years. They have great customer service and an easy to use interface.

Step 3. Find Blog Hosting

Your domain name is your street address on the web and your hosting is your plot of land.

Your website itself is your house. But first you need hosting to have a place to build that house.

The type of web hosting you choose depends on your budget.

Many new bloggers start with Bluehost. You can pick up a WordPress hosting plan with Bluehost for just over $3 per month for an annual plan, making it an affordable way to begin your blogging journey.

But, if you’ve got more budget to spare at the beginning, I recommend investing in a managed WordPress hosting service. It’s faster than shared hosting, with dedicated customer support to guide you through those tricky moments with your blog.

WPX is my top pick for managed WordPress hosting. When my blog started to make money, I chose WPX, and I haven’t looked back.

It’s a managed WordPress hosting service, so there are dedicated WordPress experts on hand to look after your blog. And they really do look after it well.

Every time I have an issue with one of my blogs, I jump on the WPX chat support, and they sort it out for me. They go above and beyond. I’m constantly surprised by the extent of things they’re willing to help me with.

If you already have budget to spend on your blog, then I highly recommend using WPX for your hosting needs. They currently charge $24.99 per month, and you can host up to 5 websites with them.

What’s more, WPX will set up your entire WordPress site for you. All you need to do is purchase the hosting plan, and they’ll do the rest.

Voila! You’ve got a brand-new, fresh installation of WordPress ready to customize.

Step 4. Set Up Your Blog on WordPress

So you’ve bought your hosting plan and you now have a fresh installation of WordPress.

We now need to do a few tweaks to make sure your blog is ready to use.

Install your theme

The theme is the collection of styles, colors, fonts, and so on that dictates the look and functionality of your blog. All new installations of WordPress come with a default theme installed.

There are hundreds of themes to choose from, but I’d only recommend a few of them.

Many are free, while others are paid. I tend to avoid most of the free ones, because they can be bloated with excessive code which could slow down your site.

Good quality free themes (also with Pro versions available):

  • Kadence (my top choice)
  • Astra
  • GeneratePress

I recently rebuilt this blog on Kadence and I’m super happy with its speed, look and feel.

Choose your starter template

The great thing about Kadence is its range of starter templates. These are pre-built sites with the content already fleshed out with stock images and lorem ipsum text.

(Other themes mentioned above have starter templates as well, but I like the Kadence ones best).

Starting with a template instead of an empty theme is great, because you can immediately see how the blog will look and feel.

Plus, templates are easy to customize. All you need to do is remove the parts you don’t want and replace the images and text with your own.

Once you’ve installed your theme, you’ll typically find the starter templates under Appearance > Starter Templates. You’ll be able to see how they look in the demos. Once you find the one you like, it’s easy to install it on top of your theme.

Your starter template will give you a fully functional site. You can customize the colors, fonts, and pages however you like.

Install basic plugins

Our next important step is to install some plugins, to extend the basic WordPress functionality.

WordPress has hundreds of plugins to choose from. Here are five essentials to get started with.

  • RankMath – adds lots of SEO tools to your blog (essential, don’t skip it!).
  • Kadence Blocks – essential if you’re using Kadence. It extends the Kadence theme for easier building of pages and posts.
  • Akismet – for keeping spam out of your blog comments.
  • Contact Form 7 – gives people an easy way to contact you.
  • WP Rocket – keeps your blog running fast and smooth (paid).

To add these plugins to your blog, go to Plugins > Add New, and search for the names above. First install the plugin, then click Activate to make it work.

Customize your blog setup

Add the essential pages

Your starter template may already have included some basic static pages. All you need at the beginning is your homepage, your About page, your Contact page, and your blog archive page.

Make sure these are in place and that you’ve added some suitable content. A good starting point for the About page is to use it to tell your personal story and how that led you to create the blog.

A relevant story builds your expertise in the eyes of Google, while also helping readers see you as human and relatable.

For the contact page, adding a simple contact form (use the Contact Form 7 plugin) is all you need to get started.

Your homepage and blog archive page will have been created automatically – all you’ll need to do is edit the homepage to your liking. I recommend keeping it simple at this early stage!

Customize your permalink structure

Your blog won’t need much customization in the early stages.

But I do recommend changing your permalink structure. The default WordPress permalink structure isn’t great for SEO.

A permalink is the full URL that leads you to a particular post or page on a website. For example, the permalink for this post is samanthanorth.com/how-to-start-a-blog

It includes your domain name plus the slug, i.e. the string of words that follows the domain name (The slug can also include numbers, dates or symbols).

Permalinks make it easy to find and share specific pages, as well as clarifying what the page is about.

To customize your blog’s permalink structure, go to the WordPress dashboard and click Settings, then Permalinks. The default setting is Plain.

Make sure you select Custom Structure and copy the EXACT settings in the below screenshot.

This will give you nice clean permalinks without any trailing slashes (which can cause issues with SEO)

How to start a blog permalinks setup

Step 5. Understand SEO Basics

Overlooking SEO is one of the most common mistakes new bloggers make.

But having the basics of SEO locked in will put your blog far ahead of others who don’t bother with it.

Search Intent

Much of success in business comes from giving people what they want, rather than what YOU want. Blogging is no different.

But how do you find out what people want online? Simple: You find out what they’re searching for in Google, then write your blog posts to answer their queries.

In this way, you’ll never run out of topics to write about.

Search intent is the foundation of building a profitable blog. It means understanding the intention in the mind of your visitor when they type a certain keyword into Google.

What sort of content would best meet the user’s search intent for that keyword?

That’s the content Google will rank highest. Your goal is to make sure that content is your blog.

To succeed in SEO, you need to understand what your visitors are looking for, then make sure your blog provides it.

In general, search intent is divided into four categories:

  1. Navigational intent
  2. Informational intent
  3. Commercial intent
  4. Transactional intent

Understanding these terms is key to your blogging success, so let’s go over them one by one.

Navigational intent

This is where people type in the name of a company, because they want to go directly to its homepage.

For example, you might type the keyword “Facebook” into Google search, because you want to navigate to Facebook’s website.

To maximize the value of navigational intent, make sure your blog can easily be found when people search for your name (or the name of your company).

Informational intent

In this type of search, people are looking for information to answer a specific question or learn more about the topic. One common example is ‘how to’ questions, such as “how to start a blog”.

People searching for this keyword are looking for step-by-step guides on how to start a blog, such as this one. They’re generally not looking to buy anything. But you can often weave affiliate or product purchase opportunities naturally into the text of your informational content.

Informational intent is great for creating blog posts that help your audience solve problems. It doesn’t necessarily translate into sales. But it’s a great way to build trust with your audience and – maybe –subtly get them to buy from you.

Commercial intent

People searching with commercial intent are doing their research on a product or service with an intention to buy.

But they don’t necessarily want to buy immediately. Instead, they want to compare X vs Y, or the “best Xs for Y”, and so on. For example, “Mac laptop vs Windows”, or “best laptop for remote workers”.

They might also be looking for an alternative to a certain product or service, perhaps because it’s too expensive or the wrong fit for their needs. For example: “Best Alternatives to Apple AirPods.”

You should answer commercial intent with blog posts that compare a range of products, compare two similar products, or present an alternative products.

Transactional intent

Transactional search intent is the closest type of search to the user actually making a purchase. Here, they know what they want, and they just want to find the fastest way to purchase it.

For example, a search terms for “Apple AirPods 2022 model”, usually means that searcher wants to make a purchase of the latest Apple AirPods.

Keyword Research Basics

Start with Google Search. Pretend you’re someone searching for your blog. What would you expect them to search for? Make a list of a few potential keywords.

Then type those keywords into the Google search bar and check out the top ten sites that show up in the results.

What sort of content do they provide for that keyword? Are they selling something directly? Or are they providing information on how to achieve a specific outcome?

You should also look at the People Also Ask section of the search results. Here, you’ll find a list of question keywords related to your main keyword (in this case, ‘paleo diet’ was our main keyword).

Answer the Public is another useful tool for extracting question keywords around your main topic. These can make excellent keywords to structure your first few blog posts around.

My suggestion would be to find 5 to 10 long-tail question keywords related to your niche. Then use them as the focus for your first blog posts.

Because you’re using question keywords from People Also Ask, you can be confident that real Google users are typing these questions into the search bar. That removes the guesswork and creates a good starting point for your blog.

For best results with SEO, I suggest investing in a professional keyword research platform such as Semrush or Ahrefs. I’ve used both, but am currently using Semrush. Both platforms have similar features, but only Semrush currently offers a free trial.

Step 6. Publish Your First Post

Ok, so you’ve lined up some promising keyword ideas. You’re ready to turn one of them into your first blog post.

To give your post the highest possible chance of ranking in Google, you need to follow a specific optimization process. This is known as on-page SEO.

In a nutshell, on-page SEO is all about structuring your post in the correct way to ensure the Google bots understand the post’s topic. If Google understands your post, it’s more likely to rank in search results for your target keyword.

Before we dive in, make sure you’ve installed and activated the free WordPress plugin, RankMath. RankMath has an excellent scoring feature that helps you stay on track with your on-page SEO.

Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post

Let’s look at the most important elements of optimizing your blog post for Google. We’ll use the blog post you’re reading now as an example. The focus keyword is “how to start a blog”.

  1. Put your focus keyword at the beginning of the H1 title
  2. Put the focus keyword in the first 10% of the body text
  3. Make sure the keyword is included in your meta description (the summary that shows up in Google search results)
  4. For extra help, set the primary focus keyword so RankMath can guide you as you optimize the post
  5. Make sure the keyword is present in the URL slug. Use the exact keyword and leave out any dates or numbers (for example in a list post).
  6. Use the main keyword in your first H2 header
  7. Scatter the keyword (and any variations) throughout the text body, but only in places where it would occur naturally. Don’t overdo it!
On-Page SEO part 1
On-Page SEO part 2
On-Page SEO part 3

You should also add at least one featured image, and use the keyword in the image alt text. If your blog post is very long, you should consider using additional images or screenshots to break up the text.

Don’t forget to use short paragraphs and additional headings!

You should also include several external links to reliable and authoritative sources relevant to the blog post topic. I like to use news articles from trustworthy outlets, scientific journals, government website, and reputable blogs in the niche.

Once you’ve got several blog posts published, then you can start adding internal links between them. I like to include around 5 to 10 internal links in each post. I also make sure that as many posts as possible link out to the new post.

Internal linking is a powerful tool for SEO. And the best part is, it’s totally under your control. You don’t have to write guest posts, ask anyone for backlinks, or submit any HARO pitches.

Step 7. Monetize Your Blog

Once you’ve published your first post, you’ve started the journey towards making money from your blog.

Getting ranked on Google in the early days of your blog is a matter of targeting low competition keywords, publishing new content as often as possible, and making sure each post is properly optimized.

If you’ve got all those things dialled in, then you should be well on track to start ranking in Google within a few months. Be patient though. SEO is a long game. There’s no getting around it.

But what if you want to start earning sooner, before your blog starts getting organic traffic?

I recommend offering paid consultation sessions from your blog. You can base these on your area of expertise. For example, if your blog is all about email marketing, you can offer video consultations to help businesses solve their email marketing problems.

A paid consultation pipeline is easy to set up. You just need four tools (most of them free):

  1. A Google Calendar account to show your schedule (free)
  2. A Calendly page where people can view available slots and book (you’ll need the Professional plan for taking payments: $15 per month)
  3. A Stripe account integrated with Calendly where people can pay online after booking (free)
  4. A Zoom account where you can deliver the calls (Zoom is free for calls under 40mins)

Also, take a look around at your competitors. Is anyone else offering paid consultations? How much are they charging?

Once your blog gets a trickle of organic traffic, then a lot more monetization methods will open up.

These include the following:

  • Display ads (e.g. via Ezoic)
  • Affiliate marketing programs for products in your niche
  • Referral partnerships between you and other businesses
  • Creating and selling your own digital products
  • Offering professional services based on your area of expertise, such as freelance writing, consulting, or coaching

Once again, a great way forward is to explore your main competitors to discover the different ways they monetize their blogs. What works for them will more than likely work for you – especially as your blog grows and attracts more organic traffic.

How To Start a Blog: FAQs

Do beginner bloggers make money?

Yes, beginner bloggers do make money. It depends on their monetization strategy. One straightforward way to monetize your blog early on is to offer paid consultations in your area of expertise. You can then promote these in your social media and personal networks. Once your blog becomes visible in Google and gains a steady flow of organic traffic, you’ll have a wider range of monetization opportunities. These include affiliates, ads, and selling digital products.

What are the requirements to be a blogger?

The requirements to be a blogger are as follows: A blogging platform (such as WordPress), a domain name, and web hosting (such as Bluehost or WPX). That’s all you need to get started. Then you just have to start writing and publishing your posts.

Is starting a blog hard?

Starting a blog is not hard. You need just a few basic requirements, including a blogging platform (such as WordPress), a domain name, and web hosting (such as Bluehost or WPX). To make the process even easier, you could even start your blog on Medium or Squarespace. But for maximum flexibility and SEO potential, I recommend sticking to WordPress.

Is there a downside to blogging?

Downsides to blogging include the need for patience if you want your blog to rank in Google, having to write a lot of content (if you don’t like writing, you’ll struggle), the need to be highly organized and have basic tech skills, and the risk of people trolling or criticizing your blog posts.

Is blogging once a week enough?

Blogging once a week can be enough in some cases. It depends on your goals with your blog. If you want to grow quickly and rank on Google as fast as possible, then I recommend publishing new content every day for the first few months. But, if that’s too much for you, then once a week is enough to see gradual progress.

Final Thoughts

Having a profitable blog is a huge asset, especially in these difficult times.

An online income gives you the freedom to travel easily, move abroad if you want, and live life on your own terms.

In this post, I’ve shown you how to start a blog with potential to make money. I’ve walked you through the basics of SEO, so you can start getting Google traffic. I’ve also shown you some of the most common ways to make money from a blog.

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