There is so much information out there that promises to tell you how to easily start a profitable blog.
You can barely move on Pinterest for posts on income reports, how to make $1000 in 90 days, and how to make money from social media. Everyone and his dog are making $10,000 a month in affiliate income, and are selling a course to teach others how to do it too.
I’ve read them all. I’ve actioned the advice, and now I have two successful blogs.
But it wasn’t until last summer that realised that most of the stuff I’d read was irrelevant to me.
What I’ve learned is that all of that information needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. If it isn’t, you run the risk of giving up too soon, burning out or wondering why the hell other people can do it but you can’t.
This post has no affiliate links to hosting, courses, or anything like that. It’s just simple, actionable advice which drives results.
Oh, and you don’t need to part with any cash. Hosting is a good shout, but absolutely not necessary. If you’re interested in starting a blog for free (actually free, not $2.99 a month or whatever), then have a look at this post.
What you need to put in is time. None of this post-once-a-week stuff. I mean, it’d work eventually, but the faster you write, the faster you’ll make money.
What you need to do
Pick a niche
Yeah, I know. You’ve heard this before, but for a reason. You need to establish authority, and the way to do that is to write a lot about one topic.
If you absolutely can’t decide on a niche, then pick a couple but start separate blogs for them. Medium and wordpress.com are great if either you have no start-up or you’re not sure if blogging is for you.
The ultimate goal is for search engine traffic to be sent our way, so building brand authority really helps this.
Get to grips with Wordpress
Learning how to use Wordpress is a great skill — not only is it great for personal use, but you can put it on your resume and it’s something that may set you apart from other candidates.
Learning how to use Wordpress can take a while. Take the time in your first six months to familiarise yourself with Gutenberg, learn which plugins you need and which you don’t (possibly more important), and find some themes you like.
The free one is fine, but the resizing option is useful in the paid version, so maybe take advantage of the free trial.
When I first started blogging I was overwhelmed by the photos side of things. I knew I needed pictures to break up text and make my blog user-friendly, but it was so much work.
Canva introduced me to Unsplash, which has a great selection of free, royalty-free images, and allows you to customise them a bit so they don’t look the same as everyone else's (and you can shrink the image file do to help with page speed).
Again, this is such a transferable skill and looks good on your CV.
And, if you want to have a go at cracking the Pinterest algorithm, later on, you’ll be all ready to make your pins.
Creating content should be the main focus of your blog. Each article you have on your site increases the chance that someone will find it. If you’ve stuck to your particular niche there’s a good chance that that person will go on to read more of your articles.
Get used to the format of writing for the internet. Use lists, headings, and colour with abundance.
In your first six months of blogging, set your sights on writing as much as you can. Before you even start, make a list of 100 potential blog post topics and google each one. See if it’s been done if it can be done better. Maybe the market is dominated by online bigwigs — in which case it’s back to the drawing board.
Niche down further, and try again. Look at questions being asked on Quora and Reddit. Can these topics be developed into a blog post.
Not all of these articles will be good, but you’ll improve with everyone.
But what about backlinks, you ask. Or Facebook. Establishing a presence on Instagram. Leaving comments on other blogs, or even guest posting.
What you don’t need to do
Quality backlinks take too much work for not enough in return. I’m not saying it’s a waste of time, but it is time you could spend writing content. Collect backlinks later, if you want.
It’s not really something Google prioritises (since there are so many blackhat ways of getting them), so don’t worry if you don’t have any.
Blog commenting can be a legitimate way to get backlinks, but is it really worth the time? More and more bloggers don’t have comment sections any more, due to sheer volume of spam.
I like getting comments and do leave them on other blogs, but I don’t get much traffic from them. If you’re not bothered, don’t have a comment section.
Don’t guest post until you have a load of articles on your own blog. You need the content more than anyone else. We’ll leave that for next year.
If you’re a natural social media user, then, by all means, go for it. I’m certainly not saying that social media is a waste of time, but I would say is that if you find it stressful, boring, and you’d rather be writing, then write.
Writing new content is always the most important thing you can be doing for your blog.
Get the handles, post if you like, but don’t worry about learning everything there is to know about social media marketing.
Get a Pinterest account if you don’t already have one, and make a few boards relevant to your niche. If you want to make pins for each of your posts, then go for it, but Pinterest is not necessarily the traffic-generating miracle it’s claimed to be.
(There’s just a lot of people either selling courses or who have affiliate links for courses)
Use Pinterest like a normal person.
Pin around five pins a day, save articles to Pinterest (since Pinterest LOVES new pins), but you needn’t do any more than that.
Oh, and Tailwind does NOT save you that much time or bring in that much traffic, in my experience.
Pinterest can work really well IF you’re willing to learn properly and can ride algorithm changes but don’t expect Tailwind to bring in thousands of views easily.
I’d steer clear of courses in the first six months because they’re often pricey and you can teach yourself a lot of stuff in the beginning.
Only buy courses when you have content and you want to improve it, or you have a specific issue, such as wanting to improve your affiliate marketing.
You don’t want to pay hundreds of pounds out for a Pinterest course only to later discover your audience is on YouTube.
There is no point in trying to aggressively monetise your blog until you have a decent amount of traffic.
Blogging isn’t a get rich quick scheme unless you’re very lucky.
A lot of people put Google ads their site on right at the beginning, but ads are considered to be detrimental to user experience by Google.
You won’t get more than a couple of pennies from Adsense until you have a lot of traffic, so it’s not worth compromising user experience for such little return.
The same is broadly true of affiliate links, so whilst it’s a good idea to have a few, don’t link drop in every paragraph. I like to have a ‘resources’ page on my blog that holds all my affiliate links because:
a) I don’t need to put an affiliate disclaimer on every page, just the resources page
b) by encouraging people to click through to my resources page, I’m getting more page views.
It goes without saying that you should only put affiliate links for products you trust.
Your entire goal is to build brand authority.
In a nutshell, my advice for newbie bloggers is this:
Write more content.
Don’t schedule it out. Google doesn’t care.
Write, edit, publish.
You can start posting once a week or whatever when you have a decent bank of articles done.
For now, just write.