How To Start A Blog

When we talk about easy ways to make money online, more often than not, blogging comes to mind. You might even cross your mind to start your own blog but never able to bring yourself to begin. Maybe you worried about not technology savvy enough to set up a blog.

I was not technological savvy in any way before I started my first blog HowToBlog.org. I admit it was kinda complicated in the beginning but setting up WordPress is easy. WordPress is an open source website creation tool which initially, was meant for creating blogs.

There are a few steps to start a blog:

1. Identifying your niche
2. Keyword research
3. Determining Your Blogging Platform
4. Selecting and buying a domain
5. Selecting and hiring a hosting company
6. The wonders of WordPress

I have listed down the reasons for setting up a blog so I won’t waste your time talking about them here. There are certain steps that are more of an art, like step 1, 2 and 4. Steps 5 and 6 are where you tinker with the latest blogging technology.

I shall divide How To Start A Blog into two parts:
Part 1 : Steps 1,2 and 3
Part 1 : Steps 4,5 and 6

1. Identifying Your Niche
This is about your passion and the topics that you love. As my website is about making money, I will focus on finding a profitable niche for yourself first. We shall break this into some mini sub-topics for learning purposes.

a. Can you monetize your niche?
Confused? Not all niches make money.  I’m sure many people asked you to build a business from your passion. But you don’t want to focus on a peculiar love that is difficult to monetize.

Frankly, I think all niches can be monetized but we need time to discover the right strategy. Let us explore some examples. Suppose, you enjoy daydreaming, no, not “dream interpretation”…just daydreaming. Are you going to start a blogging niche about “daydreaming”? Get a few trusted friends and ask them about how you are going to make money out of “daydreaming”.

You need something more solid and focused. You have to think like a business person. Can you create a set of needs out of your blog topic? Perhaps you might want to consider blogging about your professional life. If you happened to be a beauty therapist who is highly skilled in hair removal, you are on your way to a lucrative niche.

b. Are you passionate about this niche?
Not only must you identify a profitable niche within your knowledge, but you must also have a lot of things to write about this topic that you chose. Imagine like you can’t stop talking about a person, a hobby, a sport because you are really in love. Yes, this is what we meant when we talked about your passion. I love all things related to making money and owing to my passion, I am able to churn out one to two post every week since the start of this blog. When you are passionate about your niche, you will even buy books and do the necessary research to feed your craving to deliver that faithful post regardless.

c. Are you comfortable in your blog’s money-making strategy?
When I started my blogging journey in 2009, I was pathetic. Despite making it to the top of Google for the keyword “How To Blog”, I had only Google Adsense as the main money making avenue. True enough, visitors shot up to 300 to 400 per day and their clicks on Google Adsense brought in $ 10 for me daily. I was contented with a monthly addition of $ 300  on top of my day’s job salary.

Things turned south quickly. HowToBlog.org still brought in the same amount of visitors daily. Google tweaked the click earnings for those keywords that my blog ranked and guess what? After just two months, my earnings dropped all the way to $ 1 to $ 2 daily! Devastated was an understatement. What I  needed at that time was to be more imaginative and creative.

I should persevere and continued to build HowToBlog.org into a brand in the blogging world. Imagine the opportunities that could arise from staying on in my passion. But I was lazy. I sold the blog for a high five-figure because I could not imagine myself continuously working on the website after my earnings tumbled. So much for preaching perseverance to you guys.

2.  Keyword Research
This is so old school. Even though modern SEO has changed quite a bit, you cannot just forego keywords research if you are serious in making money from your blog. This section will be a tad complicated because I will take some snapshots as illustrations for the laymen.

Let us suppose you want to do a blog about your beloved Chihuahua.

a.  Search for “Google Adwords Keyword Planner” in Google

b. Register for the service with your Google account and you may start making use of the tool. Now if keywords are useless, Google should have gotten rid of this tool a few years ago after the major Google Panda and Google Penguin onslaught on keyword spamming websites. Apparently, keywords analysis is still very much alive and kicking.

c. Select [Get Started]

You will be given a lot of keywords related to your “Chihuahua” like Golden retriever, French Bulldog, and names of other breeds. But we are not interested in other breeds. We are looking for other keywords that are related to Chihuahua, so we scroll down the window…

d. Find those relevant keywords that you might be interested.
In this case “white chihuahua” and “buy chihuahua” because I think these keywords are a money making opportunities.

At the top toolbar, put [exact match] and select {add to plan}. Then click Keyword Plan as shown below:

e. Analyse CTR (Click through rate)

Based on the data given, the “buy chihuahua” registered a lower impressions as compared to “white chihuahua”. However, the former chalked up a much higher CTR of 12.3 % as compared to the latter of 4.5 %.

What do you understand from this simple illustration? If you want to monetize your Chihuahua blog successfully, you might want to
* Write more about the criteria in selecting good Chihuahua
* Be an agent for kennels in selling Chihuahua puppies. Your blog can actually do e-commerce in selling this breed or as an advertising site.
* Market your own comprehensive E-Book in taking care of Chihuahua.

I have just done a simple illustration of keywords analysis for your upcoming blog. The truth is, you will need to take more time in this so that you will have more topics to attract your readers.

3. Choosing Your Blogging Platform
Basically, there are two types of blogging platforms. One is free and the one that you need to pay for it.

New bloggers usually want to start off with a free blog.
There are a lot of free blogs in the market like WordPress.org, Tumblr, Wix, Yola, Edublogs and many more. Registration into these free platforms is easy, just a username, blog name, your email, an url and presto! BUT all these simplicity come with a price my friend. Let me put them in perspective:

a. You waste time by building a free blog that does not belong to you. The “free” in a “free blog” means you work for free for a master (wordpress.org, Yola, whatever). Worst if you plan to work on your blog seriously as your passive income someday, your master could just cut off the lifeline one day and you are left high and dry (again?).

b. The blog does not belong to you, therefore you can’t sell it!
You have no plans to sell your blog now, yes. One day, when you blog hits 1000 visitors per day, which do you think a potential buyer will show interest? EasyWaysToMakeCash.com of EasyWaysToMakeCash.Wordpress.org?

c. YourBlog.Blogspot.com can hardly rank up in any search engine.
Try searching for a free blog on Google. You won’t find one because few people trust free blogs.

d. Bad for SEO.
No sane blogger in their right mind will give a link to EasyWaysToMakeCash.blogspot.com as compared to EasyWaysToMakeCash.com. Without quality backlinks which still matters in SEO, a free blog cannot rank, period.

All said, always get your own domain and web hosting because:
i. Your own blog means you are the boss. Feel that freedom yet?

ii. You sow what you reap with YourBlog.com. You sow and others reap with a free blog.

iii. Easy to monetize with whatever ways that please you. You can put advertising banners, affiliate links, google adsense, sell your own ebooks and nobody give a damn coz you are the boss.

iv. None of the BAD, mentioned under the reasons not to use a free blog above.

At this stage, you should have decided to have your very own blog instead of getting a free one from those freebies like Bloggers or YOLA. Trust me. They are not worth your time if you are serious about your very own blog’s development prospect.

4. Choosing and buying your own domain name
Now we come to the most exciting part of starting a blog. Getting your own domain name.

You should have an idea now the name you want to use for your blog. Is it your name or something else?

The domain checker will lead you to the next page where they will give you the options of TLDs available. A TLD is an abbreviation for Top Level Domain like .com, .net. , .org and others.

Well, you can check the domain you desire and add into your shopping cart. This host only charges $ 8.99 per year for a .com domain. Godaddy charges around $ 12 to $ 13. The choice, of course, lies in your hand.
Many bloggers started their blog using their own name like ChrisBrogan.com, StevePavlina.com (my idol), amylynnandrews.com. There are bloggers who prefer otherwise, the best example being ProBlogger.net by Darren Rowse.

In the blogosphere there is a very important parameter called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is an algorithm  that is instrumental in bringing your blog to rank highly in Google and other search engines. And when we talk about SEO, take note about the pre-Panda and post-Panda era.

Pre-Panda and Blackhat SEO
Back to my keyword analysis above. I will use the Chihuahua dog as our discussion. If you wanted to start a blog pertaining to your favorite pet, the most effective starting point in the olden days was to get a domain name with the word “Chihuahua”! ChihuahuaCare.com, ChihuahuaReviews.com, ChihuahuaPet.net or whatever. Of course, if you can get the domain name Chihuahua.com, you didn’t even need to develop the domain, you could sell it off at probably 5 or even 6 figures without breaking a sweat.

I will take the example of my former website HowToBlog.org for illustration. Everybody was saying about getting the .com version but rest assured, we the new bloggers could not afford it, so we make do with what we had with the .org TLD.  I wrote contents (around 500 to 700 word) about twice a week. There was one website (I forgot the name) that ranked no. 1 for the keyword “how to blog” and my goal then was to beat this guy for this keyword.

My strategy was straightforward. I blog on a regular basis about the topic on SEO and passive income on HowToBlog.org. All my contents were sprinkled here and there with keywords. With the power of the exact keyword domain name, I dethroned the no.1 guy in about 2 years. Then the new era came…..

Google Panda and Beyond
No thanks to the rise of blackhat SEO, Google took some drastic action to block the rise of “mini-sites”. Mini-sites were blogs that domainers developed with thin contents, usually around 10 posts per mini-site. The modus-operandi was such that a domainer would buy some nice keyword domain name, then got some ghostwriters to put some contents and wait for the domain to move to the top of Google ranking.

Adding insult to injury, these domainers built fake backlinks called “link wheel” using those free blogs 2.0 platform we discussed earlier to fool search engines so that their domain will move to the first page of the big G. Well, Google clamped down hard on these sites. I thought that Google got personal and focused their attack, especially on keyword rich domains. Today, you don’t see those blogs or websites anymore that used to rank highly in 2005 to 2011. My blog was affected by the clamped down after I sold it. I guess God has my back even way back then.

Should You Use Keywords or Your Name ?
Now, in terms of SEO, it does not matter much whether you want to use a name or keywords domain. If your name is Linda Ashton, you could just use LindaAshton.com for your garden care blog. Or if you want to use keywords but could not afford the exact words, consider getting a synonym. For example money vs cash…Lol

However, you should seriously weigh these following issues if you choose to use yourname.com for your blog:

a. You have an obligation towards your own name. A case in point, Jimmy Choo. Jimmy Choo is a famous shoe designer from Malaysia and he has lent his name as the brand to the series of shoes that he designed. Princess Diana loved his shoes. To cut the story short, he was one of the few celebrities that managed to hold their names as a business entity. In the case of a blog, how many can actually sell a blog under their name? What if the subsequent buyers turned YourName.com into a porn or gambling site. Would you care?

b. You ever imagine abandoning your blog one day? There were a finding in 2009 that says 95% of bloggers abandoned their blogs due to various reasons. Imagine Ms Linda Ashton abandoned her LindaAshton.com, and somebody made use of her domain to scam the gullible? Knowing this, you might want to reconsider using your own name for your blog.

c. Difficult to sell your own name blogging website. People and corporations buy blogs for commercial reasons. Imagine yourself in the shoes of the CEO of a car manufacturer. There are two popular car blogs in the market, one called PaulCussac.com and the other one CarBlast.com, and both command similar traffic. Which one would you choose as your investment?

Apart from the points above, there are many points that we need to take into considerations in buying domain names. But for blogging purposes, these are adequate unless you intend to go a step further to become a domain investor.

5. Selecting and Hiring A Web-Hosting Service
After you have thought of a nice domain name, it’s time for real business. Finding a web hosting service. Let us do an analogy of what a web host is. If a domain name is the address of a piece of real estate, the web host is the house, the utility, the architecture, the everything that makes the real estate liveable or shoppable.

For illustration, I will use the service provider I engaged as a guide:

Click on “login” and and Signup for a new account.

Select Your Plan
If you are new, go for the basic so as not to burn a hole in your pocket. In my case, I chose the $ 0.80 plan. If your blog works out, then consider going for a better plan in whichever host you want to engage. The infrastructure mentioned in this $ 0.80 should have more than enough features to cater to my blog growth for the next 4 years. Commit for the long term. Choose at least a 3-year plan if given the choice.

In choosing a web host, you need to consider at least 4 critical issues:

a. Safety
b. Speed
c. Service
d. Pricing

a. Safety
After I sold my blog, I reinvested a portion of my earnings into creating multiple blogs. I thought I was going into the big league! Oh, how I wish…Anyway, I hand registered 5 to 6 new domains names in different niches like bed bugs, exotic pets, health care, and beauty care. The reason, all these are lucrative niches and I figured that if I am able to bring them up to the first page of any of the search engine, be it Google, Yahoo or Bing, I’ll be rich. I even hired writers to work on these blogs, finally me, the CEO of a new blogging startup.

Due to the high expenses of my new blog venture, I was very cost conscious. In choosing my web hosting service provider, getting a low price was my no. 1 priority. I was careless what those web host reviews said about speed. Foolishly I counted all those concerns as irrelevant and I chose iPage. I was glad and thought I have found a good deal. Cheap, at only $1.99 per month.

My nightmare started in less than a year when all my blogs got affected by vicious malware. And who do you think informed me about the infection? That damn iPage! I mean wtf, they were my web host and shouldn’t they be the one to keep my blogs safe from all these viruses? Fortunately, I had my day job and those blogs never did make it to the top 5 pages of any of the search engines. Putting in the right context, which search engine in their right mind would allow blogs infested with malware to rank well?

A good hosting nowadays will provide a sitelock security features free of charge with your purchase. Why must we pay for security when it is supposed to be provided by the web host company? Sitelock is a cloud-based security feature that scan and prevent your website to be infected by malware. You only need to come face to face with a malware issue to appreciate the feature.

From the snapshot, you will see the sitelock if you see Https instead of the normal Http. I will show you some snapshots of websites that aren’t protected by sitelock (aka SSL)

No Sitelock

b. Speed

Go to any reviews website about web hosting services, 9 out of 10 times, they will be discussing about uptime that usually falls in the range of 99.80 % to 99.99 %. Nothing special right? Now pay attention. You would see the biggest variables in load speed among these companies.

Goto this link, and test the speed of your blogsite.

I will compare the load speed of my blog with some other blogs in similar niches. Below is the loading speed of my blog using my current hosting plan. The results are good.

Now let us look at another website hosted by some other providers. Below is the page loading speed belonging to another blog.

If you are serious about ranking your blog favorably by Yahoo, Bing and Google, make sure you engage a web host service which can provide the loading speed advantage. The logic is, if your readers are unwilling to wait for your post to load, they will BOUNCE off and that’s bad for SEO.

c. Customer Service

I have had experience working with the technical supports of GoDaddy, iPage and my current provider called Hostinger.

d. Price
After weighing all the above, we will look at the price. Make sure you are happy with the top two criterias; Safety and Loading Speed. Finally, look at the price.

6. The Wonders Of WordPress
There are a few popular platform that you could consider to build your blog like Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. My preference is WordPress because of the established communities that are supporting this platform.

A blog platform is called a Content Management System (CMS) and WordPress is the best there is for non-technical beginners like us and of course the ease for future growth and expansion.

Choose a theme for your blog.
The beauty of WordPress is the vast selection of theme that you could download using the platform. After installation, make use of the dashboard under “Appearance” to select the theme that meets your needs.

Setup plugins
Wordpress plugins are extension features that you need for your blog. These extensions cover a vast array of functions in 4 basic areas like:
– Security
– SEO
– Analytics
– Appearance

At this stage, I think I have covered most of what you need to know about blogging. Boy, this is the longest article I have ever written in my life.

Stop wasting your time and instead of engaging in movie marathons. Instead, make something worthwhile out of your leisure. Share your knowledge and experience. Take the first step, and let this wonderful experience unfold.

Before I end this piece, let me share a good post from a good friend of mine. He is a Turkish blogger, and this is his post, Yeni Blog Yazmaya Başlayacaklara 5 Tavsiye. Yes! Yes! It’s in Turkish. Hey, we are bloggers. And bloggers have friends from around the world. In case you forgot, blogging is a global business!

In the Grace of God, Amen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.