In this post you will learn the basics of how to start and set up a blog and how to begin making money. It is aimed at complete beginners and at those wanting to improve their blogging game and grow their income. I am a travel blogger and a homeschool blogger, my online income supports my family as we travel the world. I’m not selling any blogging courses here, all of this information is available here, for free and in our facebook support group, Living Differently, subscribe and you will be invited. I hope you find it useful. We also have some free tips and blogging guides to send to subscribers, wait for the popup.
How to Start Your Own Blog and Make Money
I wish I’d had somebody to hold my hand through this process back in 2012, when I started a blog, just for fun. Several years down the line, I have one large blog and 5 smaller ones that support my family financially, a millionaire travel lifestyle on a modest income.
Here are the basics, how to start your own blog or website ( they are the same thing) and a look at how bloggers make money, for newbies, just like you or for those looking to grow their blogging income.
Key word research and good SEO lie at the heart of every financially successful blog, I explain more about Long Tail Pro and other keyword research tools, in this post on tools for making money through blogging. If you do your keyword research right, from day 1, your posts will rank in Google and draw the traffic you want. This post contains affiliate links, they cost you absolutely nothing but give us a small commission.
But first let’s go through the basics of blogging.
First Steps In Blogging
I set up this website myself. I had no training or experience in website design or all the technical stuff that goes with it. I didn’t even do IT in school. The only extra skill I have is a basic knowledge of HTML, something I taught myself years ago from HTML for Dummies, just for fun. You don’t need to know HTML, but it helps sometimes.
You do not need to pay somebody to set up a website for you. You can do it !
You can create a website that works, you can improve it as you go along and you can learn new skills and make money. I made $500 within the first 4 months.
In very simple terms, these are the first six steps to setting up your own site.
Step 1. (optional) Practice on a Free Blogging Site.
This is optional and it’s not going to help your “real” blog at all but it will help you find out if you actually like blogging before you spend any money. If you’re unsure, try it, but I would recommend skipping this step.
WordPress.com is a very good place to start your free “practice” blog because when you set up your real site you’ll be using the same interface. These free sites have names like this mywebsite.wordpress.com, a “real” self-hosted site will be mywebsite.com
Setting up a “real” website is so cheap ( usually under $10/month) that you may as well go ahead and buy a domain and hosting from the word go. I’d skip the free sites, knowing what I do today. I’d also use keyword research to target keywords with lots of traffic, right from day 1, I’d even use a key word research tool to pick the name and niche of my new site. I’ve learned so much over the last 5 years that my growth period would be months, not years.
Find instructions on how to transfer old posts to a new WordPress site here, if you decide to take the free blogging route first.
Step 2. Pick Your Domain Name and Buy it.
Register and buy a domain name. There is a great way to do this, SiteGround, the hosting company we recommend, give you one free domain name with every hosting package. Hosting starts at well under $5/month for a basic package.
UPDATE: Unfortunately SiteGround have stopped offering this free domain name with every hosting package but the name will cost you just a few dollars, you can still buy your name through them.
All the best domain names on the internet are already taken, of course, so you’ll have to get creative. Scroll down the above Site Ground page to the “learn more” button. On the next page, hit “Get Started” . On the following page, enter the domain name you would like into the search box and click to view availability. Go for a domain name ending in .com if you possibly can. Site Ground will tell you if that domain name is available or not. This page allows you to research possibilities for names with no compulsion to buy at this stage.
I now have 6 websites ( yes, 6! They all make money, but lets talk about World Travel Family).
I picked worldtravelfamily based on keywords, words I wanted in my URL to help people find my site in searches. Go for something that doesn’t spell out WTF when you abbreviate it, is my best tip! Pick something catchy, short and easy to remember.
The above is an affiliate link to Site Ground. If you click-through this link and buy your domain name, I make money. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but it helps us pay for this resource. Affiliate programmes are one of the ways bloggers make money, find more later in this post.
Step 3. Find Someone to Host Your New Site.
If you bought your domain name from somebody like Go Daddy ( instead of using the tip above) you will next need to find someone to host your new website. The hosting company stores all your files and ensures everything is running as it should. I chose to use Host Gator back at the beginning, at around $5/month for the first few years. They were great and I would still recommend them as a starter option but after a while I outgrew them and had to move, I switched to Blue Host, which was a disaster and just days later switched to Site Ground Hosting. That was when I found out what good hosting and customer support was all about!
If you need help on transferring your domain from Go Daddy to Hostgator, ( should you choose Host Gator as a host and buy your domain from Go Daddy) this video simply explains the process of transferring nameservers. Don’t worry, it’s just a few clicks and a bit of know-how. You can find videos like this on YouTube for almost every problem you run into but these days I just ask the SiteGround support team and they do everything for me, for free.
If you buy your domain from SiteGround to start with, you’ll never have to do this.
These days we’re with Site Ground and we can’t say enough good things about them. If you have any kind of problem they’re onto it straight away with efficient, courteous responses. Our site is faster and they set up caching and back-up for me. I’m not very tech-savvy when it comes to hosting, they’ve been great.
We had a lot of problems with Blue Host, they took my site down for several days and were very unhelpful. I never received the full refund they promised me ( when they admitted liability), so I choose to avoid them.
Buy your Site Ground hosting package here.
Step 4. You Need Word Press.
Install Word Press on your new website. It is a free download and can be done with 1 click from your hosting company’s control panel. This is where your practicing will come in useful, you will already be familiar with the WordPress interface. WordPress is where we write our posts and add images.
Step 5. Pick a Theme, Buy a Theme.
Buy a theme to use on your new site, this is what gives your site its “look”. There are thousands of free Word Press themes, I tried a few but I wanted something slicker.
After much research and a bit of advice, I found the awesome StudioPress Themes for WordPress. All of their unique themes work on the Genesis framework and a huge selection of looks ( they call them child themes) are available. They are constructed with speed, security and usability in mind. Click below and take a look at the range on offer, you’ll be amazed by the diversity of options, from photographic showcase, to magazine style, to pretty, feminine styles.
The initial purchase of 1 child theme plus the Genesis framework cost me just $90, both were easy to use and worth every cent. They are mine to use forever on as many websites as I like. ( The above Studiopress banner link is another example of an affiliate link.) The underlying Genesis framework remains constant, you can change its look with a new child theme at under half the initial cost. I’ve just bought and installed the new Magazine Pro child theme to roll out across my 4 websites at around $30, updating my theme improved usability and speed, increasing income instantly. Changing themes to modernise your site is simpler when you have a theme with a framework like Genesis. For me it took just moments.
Step 6. Off You Go!
Start creating. I transferred some of my blog posts over from my old site, that was very straightforward, just copy and paste. The most popular ones, obviously. Make sure you don’t duplicate content, Google don’t like that and the original content will always rank higher.
You need to learn about SEO, and you need to use all social media platforms to promote your blog. There is a lot to learn but you can do it! A useful tool to buy is Long Tail Pro, it finds search terms for you, tells you how much traffic those terms receive and what chance you have of ranking for those terms, you then write the post around the search term to get traffic fast. I wrote more about this tool in Make your First $1000 with Amazon there is also a video demonstrating what Longtail Pro can do for you in there.
Every scrap of information you need is on the internet, for free. Start Googling!
I also wrote this posts full of tips to grow your blog.
To make your life easier I put together this post on how to be a Pinterest ninja, it should get you started on the road to Pinterest domination. Pinterest brought me 85% of my social media traffic at one point and my success had a lot to do with Board Booster, the Pinterest tool I swore by. It let me step away from the computer while it did the pinning for just $5/month. Lately Pinterest traffic has dwindled and I’m trying to pull it back up using both Tailwind and Board Booster simultaneously. Pinterest remains my #1 social media traffic source, but I’m not seeing the huge figures anymore.
Hint: The “Pin it” buttons on this site appear because of our Social Warfare social sharing buttons ( you’ll see them below). Before I brought this premium plugin I was adding code to make “pin it” buttons, with variable results. It’s a fantastic and versatile tool to have.
How Bloggers Make Money
You will need a combined approach to making an income through blogging, get every ball rolling as soon as possible and over time your income will grow.
Making Money From Blogging
You don’t have to set up a website with the aim of making money, many people do it for fun or to create a record of their family adventures, we even have blogs for the kids as educational projects. But if you can make a few dollars from your efforts, why not? I see no point at all in being snobby about not monetising a blog, to me that’s crazy.
Here’s a basic look at how bloggers make money from what they love.
Making money goes hand in hand with getting traffic, eyes on pages, the more traffic you have, the better your chances. Sometimes pure traffic isn’t the answer though, for sales, you need targeted traffic, visitors who are ready to buy.
The key to attracting visitors is to write stuff that people want to read and that is valuable to them, using terms that they search for. More importantly, they should like it so much that they share on social media. That is why you see all the little social share buttons all over websites, it’s not because they look pretty.
Traffic will come with time, lots of great content and social networking. After 6 months I was getting 9,000 page views a month, that increased sharply once Google gave me a page rank. After 2 years I was on 33,000 page views per month, 2.5 years 55,000, 4 years 110,000.
Traffic comes from different sources such as Google search, social media, image searches and incoming links from other sites. You need to work on SEO to get the Google search traffic, that’s something too big to cover here. Google “Search Engine Optimisation”, what you have to do to make Google show your website to more people.
Of course, a lot of bloggers supplement their online incomes through selling courses, e-books and photographs. Some are freelance writers. I’m doing OK out of a collection of affiliate links, coaching and Adsense so they aren’t avenues I’ve explored as yet. I like to strike a balance between writing the story posts I and my followers enjoy and the money-making posts, they are two different things and your regular readers should never be bombarded with the latter.
To turn your traffic into money you could install adverts using a Google Adsense account. You need to apply to Adsense and be accepted, I was rejected first time as I didn’t have sufficient content, a week later and four posts up, they let me in. If visitors click on the ads on your site Adsense pay you a small commission. Examples of Ads will be on this page Google chooses the ad, tailored to the reader. These days I’m big enough to qualify for a managed ads company, Mediavine, one you get the that stage ( over 30K uniques per month) they double your advertising income overnight.
Don’t expect Adsense to make you rich, it won’t. I made between $8 and $40 per day from Adsense, which is more than enough to cover website costs.
Other agencies similar to Adsense exist, you can run more than one simultaneously, “waterfalling” ads will make you more money, give it a Google.
There is a plugin, Advanced Ads ( Free at basic level), to help you install ads on every page, it’s much easier than manual placement and well worth investing in. You tell Advanced Ads where you want a particular ad ( be it Amazon, Adsense or other) on each page, and it adds it to every page on your site in one click. I went from $20/month to $300/month almost overnight when I bought that.
Affiliate links point to sales sites on commercial websites and are another way bloggers make money, there are thousands of affiliate programmes out there. Most big companies have one, either independently or through one of the agencies mentioned below.
I just published a very useful post to fast track your Amazon Affiliate earnings. Make Your First $1000 from Amazon Affiliates here.
Amazon is possibly the biggest affiliate programme ( join Amazon Affiliates here), the blogger advertises and recommend products, when visitors click-through and buys absolutely anything, the blogger receives around 4% of the purchase cost, the more people who buy, the higher that percentage becomes.
You need to get Amazon set up globally using an Amazon affiliate localiser plugin. You’ll probably find you’ll make most money from the USA, but here is the catch, you can’t access that money easily if you’re not from the USA and you don’t want to end up like me with thousands of dollars in unusable Amazon USA credits. To access you affiliate payments in cash, rather than credits, you need a Payoneer account and card. Amazon payments go direct into your Payoneer account and you can use them anywhere in the world. Do this now! I wish I’d done it a year ago then I’d be using that money rather than wondering what I can buy from Amazon US. I’m glad I can help people through my own mistakes, but it does make me feel rather stupid!
You should also join one or more of the big affiliate sales agencies such as shareasale.com.
My best tip for making money through affiliate links, write the post to suit the link. Don’t just insert random links in side bars and footers, they have to be part of a post the attracts readers who are almost ready to buy. Put at least one affiliate link in every post, right from day one then watch your income grow.
Advertising on websites and social media
Sometimes advertisers contact you, the blogger, to enquire about buying an advert on your site. In my experience this happens rarely. The bigger and more financially successful bloggers chase advertisers, it’s not something I’ve tried.
Social media advertising is easier to get, advertisers want you to share their name or product to your thousands of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram followers. Prices vary and can start at just a few dollars depending on your audience. Sometimes advertisers contact you, sometimes you can apply for these opportunities through sites like Izea.
The days of link selling are almost over, this dodgy SEO practice is frowned upon by Google, so was never a good idea anyway. These days you can sign up to publish legitimate sponsored content with agencies such as Copypress, Cooperatize and Izea. Try to join as many of these as you can.
Other Perks and Financial Incentives of Blogging.
As a blogger with social influence you get perks. Free hotel stays, free admission to attractions, free products to review, even totally free trips, including flights. The bigger you get, the better they get. But of course, you have to work for them, nothing is ever truly free. We take up surprisingly few of the free travel offers we receive, we only say yes if the deal fits with what we actually want to do.
For you for Pinterest Which do you Prefer?
Another Pinterest image…
So, Do You Still Want To Set Up a Blog?
Setting up the site, including all the research, deciding where to host, choosing a theme, installing everything I needed, working out how to do various things, took just 3 days for me, 1st time.
Design and improvements are ongoing. Obviously a website evolves, and changes over time, but in 3 days I had a functioning website.
Starting to make money took me 6 months, it took me a while to figure out how to make blogging a full-time family-supporting income, but we got there eventually. If you get everything set up right from the start your income will start almost immediately, it will be small but it will grow. I’m kicking myself for not having Adsense running correctly all along using Advanced Ads, I threw away thousands of dollars. I wish I’d bought Longtail Pro and started doing solid keywrd research sooner. I should have had EasyAzon Pro for my localised, global Amazon links and I should have ordered a Payoneer account ( the only way to receive international Amazon earnings as cash, not credits) straight away. I wish I’d updated my theme years ago, the improved performance a simple theme change brought was instantly visible. I wish I’d had good hosting from the beginning, bad hosting held me back. I love my new social share buttons ( bottom of the page) they’re from Social Warfare, I paid for them and they do a bunch of amazing things at lightning speed. You do need to spend a little money to make bigger money.
So there you go, if I can do it, with no experience, you can do it, have a go!
If you have any questions about getting started in blogging, feel free to ask in our group, I’m happy to help if I can. The support group above, is a great place to connect and ask questions. So no blogging courses, no e-books no monetization, as yet, we’re going to work though this thing together. Hopefully within a few months we’ll see you making money from your blog. You’ll also get a free blogger’s check list when you subscribe.