How to Start a WordPress Blog and Make Money Blogging (8-Steps)
So, you want to learn how to start a WordPress blog and turn it into a money making business, right?
Well, it can be done — but it’s not as easy as many make it out to be. Starting a blog that attracts readers is difficult itself — monetizing it adds an additional layer of difficulty.
I’m not trying to discourage you at all. I just want to be very clear from the start. It’s going to require a lot of hard work to start a blog and make money from it.
If you understand this 100 percent, then keep reading. I’m going to show you how to start a WordPress blog step-by-step.
Many people start blogs with the goal of turning it into a full-time job and earning a living blogging.
There are several success stories out there and one thing is consistent among them all — it took a lot of hard work and dedication before the money started coming in.
Most successful blogs start out as a passion project, and that is why they evolve into successful blogs. The creator is focused on publishing great content for his or her audience.
I think this approach is crucial for success. Your main focus needs to be publishing the best content in your niche — forget about making money in the beginning.
If your content isn’t amazing and if you don’t connect with your audience then there will be no opportunity to make money. Building a successful blog is a lot like building a house.
You need a solid foundation to build on.
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The information I have put together in this guide applies to any new blog. It’s for anyone that is serious about learning how to start a WordPress blog.
From a mommy blog with the goal of generating a little extra spending money to a consumer electronics blog with aspirations of generating seven-figures in Amazon affiliate commissions a year.
Why Start a WordPress Blog?
Starting a blog appeals to people who want to start an online business for many reasons. The typically include:
- Flexibility: You aren’t tied to a desk or set hours. You can literally blog from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection. You can also blog when you want — you have complete flexibility when it comes to your hours.
- Share Your Passion and Expertise: Blogging allows you to write about what you are truly passionate about and subjects you are an expert on.
- Unlimited Income Potential: While the majority of blogs don’t make a lot of money, there are some that generate a ridiculous amount of money. When you find the right combination of audience and monetization strategy the earning potential is unlimited. Just don’t expect results overnight.
Sounds great, right? If you are ready to learn how to start a WordPress blog then keep reading. I’m going to dive into eight easy-to-follow steps that will have you up and blogging in no time!
1. Select a Niche You Love (with a Large Audience)
Successful blogs establish a strong connection with their audience. This is done by being authentic and letting your personality shine.
You don’t want to publish boring blog posts that sound like informational articles written by a professor. They need to have a personality and they need to provide something that can’t be found on other blogs in your niche.
With so many people wanting to start a blog and live the dream, it’s created a lot of competition, especially in common niches like finance, travel, parenting, fitness and food.
This isn’t to say you should shy away form those niches. If you are knowledgable and passionate about a particular niche and feel you can provide value and a new twist, then by all means, go for it!
I will suggest that you choose a niche that you love, because you will be writing about the topic often. If you are truly into it and passionate about the topic it makes creating content more enjoyable.
Also, make sure it’s a niche that has a lot to talk about. If not you will be blogging about the same thing over and over, which will not appeal to an audience.
You will need to use a little common sense combined with a little research. You can use Google Trends to see what people are searching for on Google and compare the search volume of different queries over time.
You can also use a keyword research tool like KWFinder to search for related keywords in a niche and see their search volume. This can give you a good indication of its potential.
2. Buy a Domain Name and Set Up Web Hosting
Once you are fully committed to learning how to start a WordPress blog and have a niche decided on you need to create a “home” for your blog to live online. This includes two steps — buying a domain name and setting up WordPress hosting for your blog.
It’s simple to do.
Secure Your Blog’s Website Address
A domain name is a website’s address online. When typed into a browser directly, it takes that person to your blog. It’s also what shows up in the search results when Google’s algorithm detects relevance between your blog and the search query.
You blog’s domain name has to be easy to remember and be highly related to your blog’s content.
There are many different TLDs (top level domains) available (like .com, .net, .info, .org, etc.) but I would recommend sticking with a dot-com. It’s what the majority of people associate with website addresses.
The tricky part is finding a suitable dot-com domain name that is available to register. You can visit HostGator’s domain search tool to see if the name you would like it available.
Put some thought into this. Remember, this is going to serve as your blog’s identity online. Make it short, memorable and relevant.
Once you find the perfect domain name for your blog don’t register it yet — HostGator has agreed to extend a special offer (a free domain) to our blog readers and community members when you set up your WordPress hosting with them.
So, let’s show you how to do that now.
Set Up a WordPress Hosting Account for Your Blog
Now it’s time to find a “home” for your blog online. This requires that you set up website hosting and it’s a lot easier than it sounds.
There are a lot of hosting options available, but I would recommend you use hosting specifically configured for WordPress.
I recommend HostGator’s WordPress hosting — it’s very affordable and they provide great customer service, which is helpful, especially for beginners.
I personally use HostGator for all of my hosting needs. This blog sits on a HostGator dedicated server. Also, you get a free domain when you set up WordPress hosting through them. It’s a great deal.
Also, by committing for multiple years upfront you can save a tremendous amount of money. Not only that, but it gives you one less thing to worry about while you build your blog.
Another option is WP Engine’s WordPress hosting. They are a premium WordPress host and the price reflects that. They are another trusted host that I recommend for blogs that want a highly scalable host.
When just starting out you don’t need to worry about server resources as much since your traffic volume will be minimal.
So, in an effort to keep your initial costs low, I would suggest you sign up for HostGator’s Starter Plan and take advantage of their free domain offer.
3. Choose a Blogging Platform (CMS)
There are a few CMS (Content Management System) platforms you can pick from, but I recommend WordPress over everything else out there (This guide is about how to start a WordPress blog, so this shouldn’t be a surprise).
It’s hands-down the best blogging platform available.
It’s the most SEO-friendly and user-friendly option available. It’s also free open source software. There is no cost to download, install or use it. It’s also updated regularly and there are endless options when it comes to themes and plugins to help customize your blog.
There are other blogging platforms that are free also, like Weebly and Wix, but they are garbage compared to WordPress.
There are no limitations when using WordPress. I wouldn’t suggest considering anything else. After all, this guide is about how to start a WordPress blog — not a Wix or Weebly blog.
The Hustler Alliance blog you are on right now is built on WordPress. I would never suggest something I don’t use personally. I’m not alone though, as some of the largest blogs in the world are built on WordPress.
You can download WordPress here, but if you sign up for HostGator’s WordPress hosting plan as outlined above, you can easily install WordPress with one-click via your hosting dashboard.
For a more detailed look into installing WordPress via your HostGator account check out this guide.
Now it’s time to start setting up your WordPress blog.
4. Set Up Your WordPress Blog
Once you install WordPress and set up your username and password you can dive in and start to customize it, creating an identity for your new blog.
I’ll just touch on a few simple steps here. These are the very basics — but it will give you a good foundation to launch your blog with. Remember, the hardest part is just starting — you can tweak and perfect your blog as you go.
Install a Theme (Free or Premium)
When you install WordPress for the first time there will be a default theme activated and some other common themes installed that you can select from.
While these are decent themes, they are also very basic and common. There are better options available. There are free options available for download directly from WordPress and paid options that you can buy from third-party marketplaces and developers.
There is nothing wrong with starting with a free theme. Many blogs are built using free themes. Down the line you can always look into a paid theme or having a custom theme developed.
Visit the WordPress Theme Directory and browse the thousands of options available. Use the “Feature Filter” option for more customized results.
Take your time and find a theme that will match both the look and feel of your blog. Make sure the theme provides a pleasant user experience and is easy to view on all devices.
If you want to explore paid themes, I would suggest visiting the envato market — it’s the number one resource when it comes to premium WordPress themes.
Don’t assume a premium theme will cost you a fortune. There are many affordable options. I personally just purchased a theme for a new project (a new online magazine) and it was only $39.
It’s easy to get stuck in this part of the blog-building process (oh, the vanity), but remember it doesn’t need to be immediately perfect. You can change the theme in the future.
Plugins expand the functionality of a WordPress blog and there are plugins available to handle almost any feature you could want to add to your blog.
You can search the WordPress plugin directory to get an idea of what is available, but I’m going to give you a few suggestions to look into. These are all plugins that we use on this blog that I think are worth looking into.
- Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin for WordPress by MonsterInsights: Google Analytics is something you must use — the data it gives you access to can be used to help you drastically improve your blog. This plugin creates a nice dashboard within WordPress that allows you to view the most important Google Analytics data.
- iThemes Security: WordPress is one of the largest CMS platforms targeted by hackers, so it’s important to take every security precaution to keep your blog safe. In my opinion this is the best security plugin available.
- Smush Image Compression and Optimization: This plugin automatically “smushes” images to make them load faster. A fast loading blog is important, so consider adding this plugin.
- perfmatters: As mentioned above, page load speed is important, both for SEO and user experience, so anything you can do to ensure you have a fast-loading blog should be welcomed. This is the number one performance plugin available and something every WordPress blog should use.
- WP Super Cache: Keeping on the performance topic, a cache plugin in something all blogs should use, but they are not all created equally. While there are a lot of popular options, I wouldn’t use any other cache plugin on my WordPress websites.
- Yet Another Related Posts Plugin: Displaying related posts at the bottom of your content is a great way to keep visitors on your blog longer. This is a great plugin that makes doing so easy. You can see this plugin in action at the bottom of every post on this blog.
- Yoast SEO: This is the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress and for good reason. It’s simple to use and provides a great check-list and guide for improving your on-page SEO.
- (Bonus) Contact Form 7: We don’t use this plugin because we use the contact option from the forum here on the blog. But, for other WordPress websites that I have this is the contact plugin I use. It’s the best available.
Set Up Your Sidebar
Your blog’s sidebar is a great place to display things like new posts, post categories and advertisements, if and when you monetize your blog with ads.
You access your sidebar through the dashboard:
Appearance » Widgets
From there you will see a “Right Sidebar” section. This is the most common place for your sidebar. You can drag elements into the sidebar, and even use a “Custom HTML” box to display custom code.
This is what the sidebar looks like on this blog:
Our sidebar is very simple. We have a search option on top, a widget that displays the blog’s latest ten posts, a listing of all blog categories, a call-to-action that is displayed only to non-logged in users with an offer to sign up and then a Google AdSense ad unit.
5. Create Your Main Pages
While the majority of your content will be “Posts” (this is what WordPress classifies blog posts as), you will need a to create a few standard “Pages” for your blog.
Creating a new page for your blog is easy. Within your WordPress dashboard simply navigate to:
Pages » Add New
Now, different blogs will have different requirements for this, but there are a few important ones that are fairly universal. Let me go over those real quick.
This is going to be the most important page of your blog, as it’s the first impression a visitor typically receives. You want someone to land on your homepage and have a very good understanding of what your blog is about.
I like blogs that are very simple and easy to navigate.
Simple flat designs with a few main colors, creating a consistent look and feel throughout all of your content.
The Hustler Alliance blog homepage is a little different, in the sense that it’s not the first page most see when they hit our website. Our online business community is the main component of our website — the blog is hosted in a sub-directory (/blog).
Since the main community explains what this site is, the blog doesn’t have to repeat this information. It’s simply the latest eight posts on the front page (with an additional eight posts per page via the pagination).
There are also two CTAs (calls-to-action) inviting visitors to join the community. Now, these are only displayed to visitors that are not logged in. If a current member is logged in they will not see these.
This page of your blog is where you want to try to really connect with your audience. Put your expertise and credentials on display here. You want to let your personality shine.
Who you are. Why you are an expert. What your interests are. You want people to read this page and think, “Wow, this person is someone I could see myself becoming friends with.”
This is how you must approach this. In order to build a successful blog you are going to need to create a large loyal following.
Use this section as a platform to separate and differentiate yourself from the other blogs out there in your niche. Give people a reason to want to read your blog and connect with you as a person.
Tip: Don’t forget to include pictures of you. Avoid headshots. Instead, go for candid shots and if you have a family, include family pictures as well. This can really help you connect with your audience.
You want to make it as simple as possible for your audience to contact you and you should make an effort to let them know that you welcome their questions, comments and feedback.
Making yourself accessible like this can really help you build a strong following.
Instead of listing your email address publicly on this page, use a plugin to create a contact form. This allows your readers to contact you without putting your email address out there for spammers to get their hands on.
Now, you will receive some spam through your form, but you can easily just delete those messages. Using a contact form gives you more control.
Bonus: Create a Simple Navigation Menu
Now that you have a few of your main pages created you will want to create a menu. This is something you can always edit down the line as you add more pages.
When in your WordPress dashboard follow this flow:
Appearance » Menus » Create Menu
You will need to give your menu a name (“Menu” works just fine) and then select the pages you want it to include. You can also rearrange the order of your menu items.
All themes have slightly different menu options in terms of their location and additional options, but for the most part all main menus are going to be located on the top of the blog.
6. Publish Your First Blog Post
Now we come to the fun part. It’s time to publish your very first blog post. To get started, click on:
Posts » Add New
This will bring up the WordPress editor. This is where you add your blog title and start to write the actual content.
It will take a little bit of time to learn all of the functions and editing/formatting/styling options, but after a few posts you will have the hang of it.
It’s a very user-friendly blogging platform as you will learn.
Here are a few tips to help you write a great first blog post:
- Create an Attention-Grabbing Title: Your title is the first thing potential reads are going to see in Google and on social media. Make sure it grabs attention and makes someone want to click-through.
- Develop Your Voice: The most successful blogs all did one thing exceptionally well — they developed their own voice. Be yourself and let your personality roll over to your writing.
- Write Short Paragraphs: Break up your blogs into several small bite-sized paragraphs consisting of no more than tow to three sentences. It creates a much better user experience.
- Use Headings & Formatting: Using headings to break up sections and to highlight new thoughts is a good practice. So is using bullet and numbered lists when it makes sense. Formatting blog posts for easy content consumption ensures that your readers will get the most out of your posts even if they quickly scan through them.
- Include Visual Elements: Images, graphs, charts, infographics and videos can all add to your blog posts. They do a good job at breaking up content and giving your readers another content format to view and engage with.
- Pay Attention to On-Page SEO: The sooner you understand how to optimize your content for SEO the better. Pay attention to your on-page SEO score using the Yoast SEO plugin.
- Use a Compelling Featured Image: Your featured image needs to be compelling and help draw potential readers to your blog post. There are plenty of resources to find royalty-free images, like Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash and Burst.
7. Promote Your WordPress Blog
Every blogger wants to scale fast — and there is nothing wrong with having high goals. But wait to focus on promoting your blog until after you have a lot of great content published.
You don’t want to put in a lot of time, effort and money into promoting your blog if it only has a couple of posts on it or if you don’t have a content publishing schedule identified yet.
Remember, building a successful blog takes time. Once you have your content game on-point, here are some effective growth strategies to help you build your blog’s audience.
Learn On-Page SEO
SEO (search engine optimization) involves several components: on-page, off-page and technical. Why is SEO important? When done correctly, your blog content will be shown in Google’s organic search results for keywords and phrases that your articles are optimized for.
Having organic (and free) traffic visiting your blog 24/7/365 can really help it grow. When just starting off I suggest you lear on-page SEO inside and out. It’s a great way to pull in search traffic for low competition keywords.
Our on-page SEO guide is a good resource that will help you fully understand all of the important components that contribute to your blog’s organic search visibility.
SEO can be overwhelming for some, so when you are just starting out focus on optimizing all of the on-page factors of each post (that guide explains everything).
Let me touch on a few things here as well:
- Keywords: In the beginning, don’t focus too much on keywords. Down the line you can create content that is more keyword-focused (all successful blogs do this), but when you are just starting focus on writing the best content in your niche.
- Interlinking: If you are writing a blog post and reference something that you have previously blogged about, link to it. This is beneficial for many reasons, as I mention in this on-page search engine optimization guide.
- Long-Form: I suggest you focus on writing long-form content from the very beginning. Everyone has different definitions of long-form content, but I like to categorize it as anything that is at least 2,000 words. On this blog for example, I don’t publish anything less than 3,000 words and most of the content far exceeds that word-count.
- Topics: If you need help thinking of good topics to blog about take a look at what has performed well in the past in your niche. You can use a tool like BuzzSumo to search keywords or specific websites and see what content has received the most engagement.
SEO can have a steep learning curve, so be prepared to put in the time to learn. Here are some great SEO tools worth checking out that can help you:
- SpyFu: Download your competitors’ most profitable keywords and ads for paid and organic search.
- SEMrush: Access 30+ SEO and PPC tools, 8.3B keywords & 8.7T backlinks.
- Mangools: Collection of five awesome tools you will love that help improve your SEO.
- KWFinder: Find long-tail keywords to rank for easily with low SEO difficulty.
- LinkMiner: Backlink checker with access to the largest database in the industry.
- SERPWatcher: Rank tracking tool that delivers easy to understand advanced data.
- SiteProfiler: SEO analyzer with all the vital SEO metrics and insights in one place.
- SERPChecker: SERP analysis tool that identifies your competitors’ weak points.
Leverage Your Personal Social Media
As soon as you publish your first blog post you should be sharing it on your personal social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LikedIn, etc.
These are the people that are going to read it and share it (if you ask) because you already have a personal connection with them. It’s a great way to get initial traction — and don’t underestimate the power of their reach as well.
In the beginning don’t worry about promoting it on social media accounts specifically for your blog. Now, you can create them so you claim the blog name as the handle and URL, but without an audience following them in the beginning you will be talking to an empty room.
So, share your content on your personal accounts in the beginning and ask your followers to help you spread the word by sharing the post(s) as well.
You will want to make sure you add social share buttons on your blog. This makes it much easier for your readers to share your content. Remember, each time someone shares a blog post it introduces it to a new audience.
There are several free social share plugins available. Personally, I love the Easy Social Share Buttons for WordPress plugin — it’s the best social share plugin available in my opinion and it’s only $20. You can purchase it here.
Here’s an example of how the share buttons appear on our blog, just below the post’s title:
We take it a step further, adding social share buttons at the bottom of the posts as well.
Since the content on this blog is extreme long-form it’s very unlikely a reader is going to scroll all the way to the top to click a share button, even if they absolutely loved the content.
By having the option also at the bottom it makes it very easy for them to share it immediately after reading the post.
Here’s an example of how the share buttons appear at the bottom of each post:
Learning how to guest blog the correct way is key. It’s highly effective in both driving blog exposure and referral traffic, as well as acquiring niche-relevant links for SEO gains.
When you guest post on niche-related blogs you are introducing your blog to an audience that is already interested in the topic you are publishing content about.
Create a list of desired outlets — what blogs would you like to be featured on within your niche? You will have to start off small, but as you build up your guest blogging resume it makes it easier to approach (and be accepted by) the larger blogs.
Make sure you have a lot of good content on your blog to use as examples of your writing. It helps if you can show examples of content that received a lot of social shares and engagement.
A blog is going to be more inclined to accept your pitch if you can show them examples of successful content you have written in the past.
Start Building an Email List on Day One
Your blog’s email list can be its most valuable asset. It’s important that you know this from the start and focus on building your email list form the very first day.
This allows you to let your list know when new content is published on your blog and send them information related to your niche. It’s a great relationship building tool.
There are several email tools available. Since my main focus is on e-commerce I really love Klaviyo. Their deliverability rate is unmatched in my opinion. They also have a free plan you can use for up to 250 contacts.
All of the hard work in the beginning building your email list can pay off big time when it comes to monetization.
Imagine if you decided to launch your very own product or service down the line and had a list of 20,000 potential buyers to market to for free? That would be awesome, right?
Building an email list from day one is a must-do.
Analyze Your Google Analytics
The data that Google Analytics provides you with is key to successfully growing your blog. It’s a free tool that you should implement during setting up your blog.
Some things you will want to pay close attention to:
- Traffic Source: Knowing where the majority of your traffic is coming from can help you scale much faster. Is it coming from social media? Referral traffic from guest blogging? Organic Google searches?
- Pageviews: If visitors are viewing more than one page when they visit that is a good indication that they enjoy the blog.
- Average Session Length: If visitors are bouncing off your blog after just 45 seconds, for example, you will need to make improvements in its user experience to keep them more engaged.
Analyzing this data on a regular basis will help you publish content that performs exceptionally well.
8. Monetize Your WordPress Blog
After you get the hang of publishing content and start to see your traffic numbers grow consistently month-after-month it’s time to start thinking of monetization options.
There are numerous ways you can monetize your blog — here are a few examples for you to consider.
Most popular blogs have ads on them. Why?
Because it’s a very simple way to monetize blogs. You insert some code and the ad network handles everything else.
Google AdSense is the most popular option. They essentially have an unlimited inventory of display ads, so you never have to worry about whether or not ads are being served.
There is no set price for ads — the price will vary depending on what the advertiser is willing to pay, whether they are paying for impressions or clicks, etc.
You aren’t going to get rich from AdSense revenue, but it’s a great first-step towards making money blogging. At the very least it can help you cover operational costs in the early stages.
We have Google AdSense ads on this blog and use the Advanced Ads plugin to help manage the placements.
Also, as your blog grows, you might be contacted directly by advertisers looking to buy ad positions directly.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to generate revenue from your blog. It involves including links to products or services within your content, and if someone clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase you are financially compensated.
One of the ways we monetize this blog is through affiliate offers. When you are able to extend special offers to your readers that are highly relevant it’s a win-win situation.
You will have to either apply to be an affiliate directly with the company you want to promote, or through the network their offer is managed by.
Conducting proper research is important. There are thousands of affiliate offers out there. You have to make sure you only promote relevant offers your audience will likely be interested in.
Some of the top affiliate networks worth checking out (that are highlighted in this blog post) include:
- Amazon Associates
- eBay Partner Network
You are going to want to wait to apply until you have some traffic data to show them. You are more likely to be approved if you have a warm audience to immediately start putting offers in front of.
Your Own Product or Service
Selling your own product or service can be the most financially rewarding monetization option.
The opportunities are endless.
Have a personal finance blog? Sell an eBook that teaches people how to quickly pay down their debt and save money.
What about a blog about surfing?
You could start a Shopify store and sell t-shirts and board shorts. You can create a Shopify store on your WordPress-based blog — you would just use a sub-domain as its home (example: store.yourblog.com).
Many blogs start an e-commerce business and use their existing audience to help get their brand off the ground.
Now You Know How to Start a WordPress Blog
Well, there you have it — you now know how to start a WordPress blog and turn it into a money making online business.
There are plenty of guides and tutorials that make it seem easy, but the truth is that most blogs fail to generate revenue.
Is it possible? Yes.
Do some blogs do very well financially? Yes.
But it takes a lot of hard work and time invested to build your website traffic and audience up to the level where your monetization opportunities generate a substantial amount of income.
If you are prepared to put in the work and blog non-stop, even when your traffic numbers are stagnant and you become frustrated — then jump right in and get started.
Most blogs fail, but that is because people quit too early. They want overnight success and it just doesn’t work that way.
There is nothing stopping you from starting a blog and turning it into a successful online business.
Are you going to take the leap and learn how to start a WordPress blog? If so, what niche are you going to focus on? I’d love to hear — let me know in the comments below.