How to Start a Blog (and Make Money) in 2021: Complete Step by Step Guide For Solopreneurs

by | Jan 16, 2021

If you’d love to know how to start a blog today and turn it into a lifestyle business you can run from anywhere in the world, then you’re going to love this post!

I was motivated to write this guide by a friend who wants to start a cooking blog but was concerned she’d missed the blogging boat and was starting too late.

I’m here to tell you that blogging is not only alive and well, but absolutely the best way to start any online business, whether you want to sell services, digital products, or physical products.

What follows is your ultimate guide to starting & growing a money-making blog in 2021 & beyond, no matter what niche you’re pursuing.

But this isn’t your everyday ‘How to Start a Blog’ post.

The online world has changed dramatically since the first blog was published, and so I’m sharing strategies that are working right now and will continue to work as we move into a fast-changing future.

Let’s go!

Jo Character

Why blogging is the best way to start your online lifestyle business

These days there are so many ways to start an online lifestyle business; many people never get going because there’s just too many options and too much choice!

Should I start my business on Shopify?; should I become an Instagram Influencer?; should I sell products on Etsy or Amazon?; should I create courses on Thinkific or Teachable?; should I be building my email list?; should I become an affiliate marketer?; should I start a Facebook group?

BOOM! Head officially blown!

mind blown cat meme

No matter what niche you’re in or what business model you think you’d like to pursue, the one thing every single online lifestyle business has in common is that you’ll need an audience.

Just like a shop in a high street, unless you have footfall and people visiting your store, you won’t make any sales.

That’s why sites like Amazon, Etsy, Zazzle, Medium, Udemy, and social media platforms have become so popular for businesses in recent years.

They’ve built the brand, the trust, and the customer databases, so surely the easiest way to start an online business today is to simply put your product in front of their ready-made audience?

If only it were that simple, we’d all be gazillionaires!

The challenge is that everyone is thinking the same, so there are now millions of products on Amazon, Etsy, Zazzle, etc. Millions of blog posts on Medium and millions of accounts, videos, stories, posts, images, courses, training guides, and podcasts on Instagram, YouTube, Udemy, etc., all vying for your customer’s attention.

Sure, by simply being in the game, you can achieve some wins, but without your own strong brand, you’ll always just be another product or service in a sea of products and services that people come across more by luck than by judgment.

Surely it’s possible to build a strong brand just on social media these days though Jo, why do we also need a website?

Great question!

The Importance of Building a Blog

Yes, you can, of course, build a strong brand on social media, as long as you’re willing to feed the beast 24/7. If you’re happy to be pumping out YouTube videos, Instagram stories, or TikTok clips faster than my husband eats pizza, then please be my guest.

But I’m not getting any younger, I travel a lot, I enjoy spending time with my family, and I don’t want to be online every hour of the day.

That’s why I went looking for a way to build a strong brand that would stand the test of time. A platform, that if I put in the hard work upfront, would pay me repeatedly for years to come.

Without a doubt, the best route to achieve this is by starting and building your own website.

This is your space on the web. You own it.

You can put whatever you want on it; you can talk about whatever you want, you can embed videos, audio, images, social media posts. You can add digital products, physical products, services. It’s yours. You can do whatever you want with it.

And with some well-planned content, a growth strategy, and the willingness to put in the work upfront, your website will keep paying you for years to come.

Just take a look at popular digital marketing blogs like Matthewwoodward.co.uk. He started his blog out of his bedroom, where he worked 12+ hours a day, seven days a week for well over a year straight!

Through an incredible amount of perseverance and commitment to publishing top quality content on his blog, he got to a point where his blog was making more than $25,000 a month through affiliate revenue!

Don’t believe me? He published in-depth income reports every single month right here.

matthew woodward blog income report

With such a profitable blog working its magic in the background, it freed up his time to look into new avenues for making money, diversifying his income stream beyond his blog and affiliate earnings.

He now employs a team of like-minded digital marketers that he has built from scratch, securing deals to help huge clients optimize their own blogs and benefit from search engine marketing.

What’s my point?

Building a blog has the potential to earn tremendous amounts of money and free up your time to enable you to do whatever you want beyond blogging.

Be that diversifying your income, enjoying more time with your family, or traveling the world!

living a lifestyle business bora bora

Arriving at Bora Bora – a huge bucket list item!

But before you rush off and start to build your site, you need to answer a crucial question;

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Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, from which, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products and services I’ve personally used and believe can add value to your business. If you choose to purchase from any of my links, thanks so much for your support! 😊

How will you monetize your website?

Most other posts on the subject of ‘how to start a blog’ begin with the steps to start a blog technically, and if that’s all you’re looking for, please click here to jump straight to that section.

However, if you’re at the stage where you’re thinking about how and why to start a blog, the first and most important question to get clear in your mind is ‘how will you monetize it’?

Determining this at the outset ensures that you go into the setup with a clear picture of your end goal.

As Mr. Stephen Covey always says;

‘Start with the end in mind.’

start with the end in mind Stephen Covey quote

There are more than 500 million blogs out there, with more than 200 million blog posts going live every day. But so many new blogs fail to properly get off the ground and ever make any real money.

I believe it’s because people think they should have a website but aren’t sure why or what their website’s goal will be.

They build it, and it just sits there gathering dust.

So if you’re going to put your time and money into actually starting your blog, let’s make sure it’s for the right reasons and that you know what its end goal will be.

There are a multitude of ways to make money blogging, including but not limited to;

Selling digital courses

When I first started online back in 2010, the first money I made online was from a video course called ‘2000 Fans in 27 Days’.

2000 fans in 27 days graphic

It was back in the day when organic reach on Facebook was a thing!

I went on to generate $117,000 in less than 7 days when I sold access to my new membership site – ‘The Social Networking Academy.’

I continued to sell access to my academy and other courses I created over the years, but by the end of 2015, which incidentally was my most successful financial year ever, I was burned out.

I didn’t have a website. I did the whole thing off the back of my social media presence and my email list, who were also getting a little tired of my sales emails.

Had I grown a website from day one, I would have had a constant source of new email sign-ups, a place to showcase my expertise, offer immense value, and a place to advertise my products.

Instead, the growth of my email list depended entirely on ad campaigns, and I only made sales when I ran a launch, which exhausted my subscribers and me.

Organic reach on social media was now a thing of the past, and I had no organic traffic coming in at all. Everything about my model was pay to play.

pay to play

Imagine instead, you start a blog and commit to publishing new and valuable content every week.

You slowly but surely start to build up your readership and, through your well-designed exit pop up simultaneously build an email list of people interested in your content and niche.

The people coming into your funnel are getting a regular stream of value from your blog and emails, and every so often, you let them know about a new course you’re offering, which is available on your site forever and a day!

Along with the people on your email list, everyday visitors who enjoy your content also see your courses and sign up, or click on your well placed affiliate links, or buy your products!

No huge exhausting heavy sales pitch style launches, no email burn out, no sleepless nights.

Just a regular, steady stream of income from subscribers and visitors.

It’s the stuff of dreams, except it’s a reality, and you can do it!

you can do it image

Selling books or ebooks

Perhaps instead of video courses, you want to sell books or ebooks?

Of course, you can start publishing directly on Amazon and work your buns off hustling for reviews, trying to figure out (or hack) the Amazon algorithm, and grow your brand and reputation directly on the Amazon platform.

Or you can do what James Clear, author of NYT bestseller ‘Atomic Habits’ did.

James started a blog in 2012 and committed to publishing a new blog post twice a week (every Tuesday and Friday, I believe it was).

Over time his readership grew, and from his analytics, he could see which topics proved most popular, so he would write more of those types of posts.

He also had a lead page on his site asking people to sign up for his 3-2-1 weekly newsletter, which now has over 1 million subscribers!

When he launched Atomic Habits, he had an audience to launch it to, and he went on to sell 2 million copies.

That is the power of a blog!

atomic habits book - james clear

Coaching

Perhaps your goal is to become a coach.

What better way to showcase your expertise and attract people into your coaching program than via a content-rich website?

Nagina Abdullah started masalabody.com after losing 40lbs on the Tim Ferris slow carb diet. Unhappy with the blandness of the foods recommended, Nagina literally ‘spiced up’ her recipes, making delicious meals with Indian spices, which helped her to stick to the program and lose weight.

masala body blog

She also discovered that the spices she was adding sped up the weight loss.

Focusing on offering as much value as possible, Nagina started her blog, talking about her success and the recipes she used to achieve her goals.

She also reached out to other bigger sites to write for them, which gave her more exposure and boosted visitors to her own site.

Within a year, she’d made over $30,000 in sales for her $5000 – 6 month weight loss coaching program, which, following feedback and her own learnings, she turned into a $2000 – 10-week program that netted her over 6 figures in the following year.

Nagina now runs a group coaching program called Spice Yourself Skinny, all from starting a blog!

Physical products

Maybe your goal is to sell physical products.

It’s very easy for people in the ecommerce space to ignore blogging (and in many cases building a brand) altogether, preferring to focus on traffic and conversion rates.

The preferred traffic method in the ecommerce space is paid Ads.

The reasoning is, if you’re selling a $25 product, which after costs nets you $10, if an ad costs you $4 / sale on average, then you’re making a profit of $6 per item. Happy days!

But what if alongside your ad campaigns, you were also attracting organic traffic. Traffic that costs you nothing other than the time to publish great content, which in today’s competitive world, you should be doing anyway!

Now, instead of paying out $4 for an ad, you’re walking away with $10 instead of $6. Which, if you’re making, say 100 sales a day, is $1000 a day rather than $600. That’s $30,000 a month instead of $18,000 or $360,000 a year instead of $216,000.

That’s a huge difference!

Take Note
Please note I have totally simplified this for the sake of this article and there will of course be costs for time involved in content creation, brand building, etc, but that’s what I mean about doing the work once and being paid for years. Once you’ve built your brand and have a streamlined content strategy, it will pay dividends long term!

If you’re wondering how it works technically, that’s the easy part. You simply start your blog, add an ecommerce plugin like woocommerce, or create a separate Shopify store and link to it from your main site.

Here you can see how Jenna Kutcher, primarily a prolific content producer, links to her Shopify store from her blog.

jenna kutcher website

Selling your services

One of the fastest ways to start and build an online lifestyle business is to start your online life as a freelancer, which over time you can grow into a fully-fledged service-based business if that’s your goal.

The best place to get started as a freelancer is to sign up for upwork.com or fiverr.com, where you can pitch your services and bid for jobs.

However, some of the highest-paid freelancers create their own websites promoting their services and showcasing their skills.

A great example is the fantastic copywriter Laura Belgray. She walks her talk by publishing hugely entertaining blog posts and, of course, selling her services on her website.

laura belgray blog courses

No matter if you’re a writer, a designer, a web developer, or a podcast producer, having your own site showcasing your skills will go a long way in the freelancing world. I should know I hire a LOT of freelancers for all sorts of tasks and jobs.

Affiliate marketing

There is no better way to become a successful affiliate marketer than via a blog.

You can master one or all of the ad platforms and focus on the game of numbers if you prefer. However, alongside the fact it won’t be long before you run into trouble on a site like Facebook where their focus is more and more on real value than what appear to be spammy ads, you’ll quickly burn out. (Unless tweaking ads and appealing Facebook bans all day every day is your thang. And if it is, good luck to you, my friend).

The fastest and easiest way to become a full-time affiliate marketer is to start a blog around a specific niche. Publish high quality, keyword-rich articles, and then link through to reputable affiliate offers/programs via your content.

As your readership and your email list grow, as long as your focus is on adding value, and you’re recommending products and services relevant to your audience, and that in an ideal world you use, you can expect to earn anywhere from $50 – $150 per 1000 visits.

Pat Flynn started his Smart Passive Income blog back in 2008 following being made redundant from his day job as an architect.

Writing about his learnings building niche sites, online marketing strategies, email list building, blogging, etc., he started to publish his now iconic monthly ‘Income Reports.’

As his blog traffic grew, he recommended the products and services he was using to aid his growth. In turn, his affiliate income grew, which he openly shared in his income reports. This resulted in more traffic as people came to see how he was monetizing his blog, which resulted in even more affiliate income.

Pretty genius if you ask me!

He then started to add podcasts, then videos, and went on to become a best-selling author and sought-after speaker.

pat flynn blog

It didn’t happen overnight. It took time, hard work, and dedication for Pat’s site to grow, but if you’re willing to put the work in, this strategy is still alive and well today.

Advertising and sponsorship

A great way to monetize a blog built out of a passion is never to sell anything at all!

Yep, just spend your life writing amazing content all about the topic you are super passionate about. Post every day if you can!

Research as many keywords as possible. No matter if they’re low volume, just grab as many keywords within your niche as you can and create quality content around them.

Over time your traffic will grow, and in no time at all, you can sign up to an ad agency like Mediavine, Adthrive, or Monumetric and generate income from all the page views you’re getting.

Sure, adding ads disrupts the user experience a little, but if your content is stellar and you sign up with a reputable ad agency who allows you to carefully place ads to limit the disruption, you should be good to go.

My favorite example in this space is Jon Dykstra from Fat Stacks. He’s the owner of several niche sites that follow this strategy; he publishes regular income reports walking through how he’s growing his sites. He also hands-down publishes one of the best email newsletters in the business!

Jon Dykstra - Fat Stacks Blog

Becoming an influencer

Perhaps your goal is to become a speaker, a writer, a coach, or all of the above.

Who knows where starting a blog could take you?

Mark Manson, who started a blog all about dating, found over time the posts that really delved into a guy’s psyche and how he truly felt about dating did far better than the bravado type posts. He developed his blog over the years to talk about what he calls ‘negative self-help.’

He’s now one of the best selling authors of the last decade with his books ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k’ and ‘Everything is F**cked,’ a Book About Hope.’

the subtle art of not giving a f**k

Rachel Hollis started her online life as a food blogger. Over the years, she published a series of books, including her bestseller ‘Girl, Wash Your Face.’ Her food blog turned into a small media company, which over time became The Hollis Company, which now produces virtual and live conferences, a successful podcast, movies, books, and physical products.

Earlier this year, Target launched an exclusive line of her ‘Start Today’ journals.

rachel hollis start today journal

Nomadic Matt started blogging all about his travel life some 10 years ago. Who knew that besides becoming the most successful travel blogger ever, he’d start a movement! As well as being a huge influencer, he also monetizes via books, travel guides, courses, and advertising on his site.

nomadic matt blogging course

Starting your own website could be the beginning of a world of opportunity for you depending on your goals!

non straight line

So there are eight ways you could potentially monetize your site. I’m sure as you grow, you’ll find even more monetization opportunities, but for now, it will make all the difference to the growth of your site if you decide your primary objective from the outset.

Please note this isn’t cast in stone. You can and will adapt and change as your blog and brand grow, but to start with the end in mind, gives you the clarity and certainty to move forward with confidence.

So with that in mind, let’s get started building your site!

non straight line

jo barnes cartoon character

8 Steps to Starting Your Own Life Changing Blog!

1. Choose Your Topic (What are you going to blog about?)

So, what do you want to blog about?

There are no rules here. You’ll find examples of success stories everywhere around the web, each of whom has followed a different strategy.

Adam Enfroy swears by starting a blog like a CEO and choosing a money-making niche above something you’re passionate about (although if you can have both, all the better), and outsourcing the bulk of the content.

However, you’ll also find plenty of successful blogs started by people with a specific passion they wanted to share with the world.

There is no right or wrong; it’s down to your personality and your objectives.

My husband is money motivated and passionate about the game, so the niche is immaterial for him. He’s just passionate about growing a business.

For me, I wanted to build a brand I was confident I could monetize but that I’m also passionate about. I’m a content creator at heart and am less in love with the game of business; therefore, it’s far more important for my personality to blog about something I’m happy to immerse myself in.

So when thinking about the niche you want to be in, also think about how you’ll approach the business and answer the following questions;

  1. What am I interested in/passionate about? What could I talk about or write about every day of the week?
  2. What kind of people do I want to attract/work with?
  3. How could my blog meet the needs of my potential customer; solve a problem, educate, entertain, inform, etc.
  4. What are popular topics people are currently searching for?
  5. Is my potential topic in a money-making niche?

how to start a blog

I’m going to use my friend who wants to start a cooking blog as an example here.

She has a 12-year-old daughter who is a fantastic cook (I know I’ve had her Sunday Roast), and they want to start the site together.

They’re particularly interested in Asian Cooking (handy as we currently live in Asia) and want to start a site specializing in this niche.

I first looked at google trends to see how the term ‘Asian cooking’ had been trending the last 12 months and 5 years.

google trends 12 months

google trends 5 years

I was happy to see it was pretty steady with a bit of a spike in the last few months (which is to be expected with more people cooking at home).

I also loved that the bulk of the interest was coming from English speaking countries.

I then added the keyphrase ‘Asian cooking’ into Neil Patel’s free keyword research tool ‘Ubersuggest’ to see how popular the term was.

ubersuggest keyword explorer

Whilst the volume isn’t groundbreaking, I was happy to see how low the keyword difficulty is, which means my friend has a good chance of ranking if they create great content.

There are also some great social stats for shares of content about Asian cooking. Of course, we all know the cooking niche is huge, so the more content they create, the more they’ll start to rank for key phrases associated with the bigger overarching search terms like ‘cooking’ and ‘recipes’ etc.

ubersuggest social shares

They want to monetize by offering cooking books and the daughter is super passionate about adding recipes, cooking videos, and interactive content on the site.

This is a perfect example of a passion coupled with a money-making idea.

I’m excited for them to get it off the ground.

But first;

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2. Pick a name & Register Your domain

Before you set your site up, you’ll need a name that becomes your domain. For example, this blog is called Your Lifestyle Business, and the URL is yourlifestylebusiness.com.

It’s a little long for my liking, but it describes exactly what I’m talking about which is how to build an online business that funds your lifestyle.

Your domain name, otherwise known as a URL, is your space on the web. It’s your website address, which is a great way to describe it, as I always tend to call your website your business home.

So every time someone types that URL into a browser, your website will pop up!

Fun fact; when I started in this business back in 2010, I didn’t understand what a URL was, and I thought all website addresses started with www. I got royally roasted on an internet marketing chat platform called the warrior forum by some guy who was shocked by my question about URLs and told me, “I’d never make it in this business’. Hmm, 30 odd countries, multiple 7 figures later……

(If I can make it, my friend, you absolutely can, and always remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question!)

I wouldn’t get too caught up here. Some of the biggest brands have the most obscure or bland brand names, think Apple, Dyson, IBM.

Many blogs simply go with their name so they can pivot if need be. I started with my name many years back with my site jobarnesonline.com. I sometimes wish I’d kept it so I could cover a more wide-ranging topic base, but I had a bee in my bonnet about my brand being about my customers (hence ‘your’ business) rather than me!

As with your niche, there is no right or wrong, only memorable or forgettable, and no matter what the name, it will be forgettable until it isn’t, and that’s far more about your content and brand presence than your name.

However, the shorter and easier to remember, the better.

To help find a name for your brand, you can use free online name generators to get some ideas.

My favorite is namelix.com.

Here’s what popped up when I typed in the keywords ‘Asian cooking’ and went for the brandable option. (You’ll see the options pop up when you enter your keywords).

I don’t know about you, but I love Wokchoy!

namelix business name generator

Some others include Business Name Generator, First Site Guides’s Business Name Generator, Oberlo’s Business Name Generator & Shopify’s Business Name Generator.

You can also use cunningbot.com to add in your keywords to see what domains are currently available.

When I added ‘Asian cooking’ it gave me these available domains;

cunningbot domain finder

I’m going to strategically ignore the references to porn. Asia is so much more!

Moving on, asiadishes.com gave me the idea for dishesfromasia.com, which is also available.

So don’t spend hours thinking about your name, just type in some keywords into these tools, and the inspiration will grab you!

You’ll have a name in no time.

Once you’ve decided your name and have established the domain is available, you’ll need to purchase that domain name and register it to you, so you now own it, and no one else can ever use that same domain name!

There are plenty of domain services, but I’ve always used godaddy.com.

They’ve always provided a great service; they make it easy to transfer the domain to most hosting companies, including Shopify if you’re setting up an ecommerce store (I’ll explain what all that means shortly, for now, just know that’s a good thing), and their pricing seems in line with most other domain services on the web.

Other domain providers include; namecheap.com, domain.com, google domains, dynadot. They’re all much of a muchness, but there might be a price difference and if you’re watching the pennies, it might pay to shop around.

NB: Before you shoot off and register your domain name, you may want to consider buying your domain directly from Bluehost if you use them for hosting.

Read the next section first about what hosting is and how best to host your website, and then you can decide the best route forward for you.

Let’s move on!

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3. Get Your Blog Online! (Pick a hosting package)

The next step on your awesome journey towards making money through blogging is to get yourself some hosting!

What is hosting?

Hosting is what enables your blog to be visible on the world wide web. A web host is a service provider that provides all the necessary technology to ensure that when a visitor enters your domain name into the browser’s address bar, your website shows up.

There are literally hundreds of web hosts to choose from, and deciding on the right one for your business is a bit like navigating a minefield.

But as luck would have it, I’ve been doing a lot of research into hosting recently for my own site (this very one you’re on right now).

Choosing a Web Host

I’ve discovered that the most important considerations when choosing a web host are;

  1. Speed. Your site’s speed is an important ranking factor in google’s eyes and your web host goes a long way to contributing to that. But we don’t want a speedy website just for google; we live in a highly impatient and distracted world. If your website doesn’t load instantly, you’ll have lower page views, conversions, and sales.
  2. Support. An extremely knowledgeable tech person may disagree that this should be No 2, but if you’re a layman like me and your specialty isn’t in programming and web tech issues, then a reliable support team makes all the difference! I recently walked away from a hosting company because their ‘world-class support’ had become extremely sub-par.
  3. Price. Again we should probably list some of the tech specs as a higher priority. Still, if you’re a solopreneur without a huge budget, then the price will be a critical consideration for you.
  4. Tech specs and other features. If the hosting company is super speedy, has amazing support reviews, and fits within your budget, the next things to consider are; whether it provides email services, free backups, an SSL certificate (an absolute must to get ranked on google), a staging area, CDN included and lots of other fancy acronyms. Most of which I have no clue what they mean but are likely to be included as standard with most services these days.

So with all that being said, what is the best hosting service?

It depends on your objectives, but for this post, I’m going to give my recommendations based on you being a solopreneur starting a one-person WordPress website!

WordPress itself recommends Bluehost.

That’s why, if you do some digging, you’ll see most ‘How to Start a Blog’ posts recommending Bluehost. I always thought it was because they must offer the highest affiliate commissions in the market, but in all honesty, they’re on a par with other hosting providers (if not on the low end).

But they’ve set themselves up as the perfect hosting option for beginners. With prices beginning at just $3.95/month, they offer;

  • Free domain name for one year
  • Free SSL certificate
  • 1-Click WordPress Install
  • 24/7 customer support

Please note, however, these low prices are for ’shared hosting.’ According to Neil Patel ’shared hosting‘ means;

“Shared web hosting will always be the cheapest option. These entry-level plans host multiple websites on a single server.

You’ll benefit from low rates, but your site won’t have dedicated server resources. Other sites on your server could take up the server resources and cause your site to crash. Your host might even limit your bandwidth and slow down your site if you get traffic spikes.

While shared hosting isn’t the top of the line, it’s the best option for the vast majority of new websites. If you want something cheap, there’s no reason to look beyond shared plans.”

If you’re serious about growing your blog into a fully-fledged business, in an ideal world, you’ll want ‘managed WordPress hosting’ or a ‘VPS’ (virtual private server) to ensure you’re getting the best performance possible.

Bluehost does offer Managed WordPress Plans but these packages comparatively start at $19.95/month (3 years paid in advance) or £29.99/month paid monthly.

(As an aside, in my very early days when I used Hostgator, I couldn’t understand why my site went down so often. Now I know it was because I was on a shared hosting plan, so my site was greatly affected by the limitations of the server and other websites taking up space. If you find your site is consistently suffering downtime, check the hosting package you have before migrating to a new host, it may simply be a case of upgrading.)

If you’re chomping at the bit to get going, your budgets are low, and you just want a cheap and easy host to get your site off the ground, then a Bluehost shared WordPress package might be for you. Just be aware that you will need to sign up for a minimum of 12 months, but you do get the free domain.

Why I Chose WPX Hosting

If, however, you want a lightning-fast, managed hosting solution site from Day 1, I found this super detailed study by Matthew Woodward.

In it, he analyses 12 hosting companies by building identical sites and hosting them on each site. It’s the most comprehensive hosting test I’ve come across, and it was very enlightening to me, particularly as I had recently moved to WP Engine.

best hosting for wordpress blogs - matthew woodward

As you can see from this infographic, the top hosting companies by speed are;

WPX Hosting

Pantheon

Kinsta

I was so impressed by this study I immediately set about contacting WPX Hosting to see if their support was as good as Matthew claimed.

Initially with Liquid Web, I recently switched to WP Engine after my server got hacked and Liquid Web, despite months of support calls, live chats, and emails, did nothing to solve the issue.

WP Engine was nothing short of amazing. Their support was top-notch, and they solved my malware challenges within a day. Add to that, just by moving my site to their servers, my website load times dropped by half!

Meaning, whenever someone clicked a link to my site, the time it took to fully load in front of them went from around 7 seconds to roughly 3.5 seconds. I couldn’t have been happier!

However, with site traffic growing fast, I realized that as soon as I hit 25,000 visits in a month, my charges would go from $30/month to $115/month. That’s almost a 300% increase in monthly costs!

WPEngine vs WPX Hosting

My plan with WP Engine was $30/month for just one site, 10GB storage & 50GB bandwidth, up to 25,000 visitors/month.

wpengine pricing

WPX Hosting offers $24.99/month for 5 sites, 10GB storage & 100GB bandwidth, no cap on visitors (as many as my bandwidth can take).

wpx hosting pricing

Even more enlightening to me WP Engine has an average of 4.4 stars on TrustPilot (out of 144 reviews), with WPX Hosting coming in at a whopping 4.9 stars out of 934.

wpx hosting reviews

Even though WP Engine has been excellent since I joined, unfortunately, they’re out of my budget for my website, so I decided to switch to WPX Hosting.

That was six weeks ago at the time of writing, and they have been excellent! The customer service is phenomenal. You just log on, hit live chat, and get your questions answered in seconds (I mean that; it’s like they’re there just waiting for you to have a question).

My site is definitely much faster, but I also added the Nitropack plugin, which I’ll talk about later in the post, so I can’t say categorically it was WPX Hosting. But with the hosting and the plugin, here’s my latest speed score;

pagespeed insights for your lifestyle business

It no longer takes 7 seconds or even 3.5 seconds to load my site. According to Pingdom it only takes 894ms to load my site!

your lifestyle business site speed

Hot TipWhen looking at your site speed, google pagespeed and Pingdom only allow you to test one web page at a time. I found a nifty little tool called experte.com/pagespeed which measures the speed of all of the pages on your site, simply by entering your domain name. Well worth checking out!

In summary, my recommendation is to do your own due diligence and decide which hosting looks good to you, but as I said above, from a price only perspective Bluehost is a great starter plan, easy to setup and recommended by WordPress themselves and when the time is right it will be an easy upgrade to their managed WordPress plan.

WPX Hosting is an excellent option if you want the speediest hosting, fab customer service, an affordable monthly price, and all the bells and whistles – CDN, email services, backups, etc.

squissy line

4. Install WordPress / Design Your Blog

When I started online back in 2010, I watched 3 hours of videos to learn how to install WordPress!

I’m not sure that was entirely necessary, but I knew nothing and had to get my head around what a Cpanel was, an FTP client, a MySQL database. I can’t remember what else but it was a nightmare!

These days, I’m happy to report, it’s literally a few clicks of a button.

Depending on which host you go with, it’s as easy as securing your domain, setting your hosting up, and then following their on-screen instructions to install WordPress.

How to install wordpress in 3 clicks with WPX Hosting

How to install wordpress in 4 clicks with Bluehost

Hot TipIf you have an existing WordPress site you want to migrate, WPX will do that for you for free! You just complete a form with all your login and current host details and they email you as soon as it’s transferred over, with zero downtime by the way!

Once installed, you’ll be asked to log in to your WordPress dashboard, which will look something like this;

wordpress blog dashboard

From here you can click on ‘Appearance’ and ‘Themes’ to start to customize your site.

customizing wordpress

Take Note

Ok, we need to take 5 before you continue, as over the years, this is where I have seen so many solopreneurs and lifestyle entrepreneurs get caught up.

It’s so easy to get embroiled in designing the perfect all singing all dancing site and never actually getting off the ground, or spending so long on the design by the time it goes live, you’re burned out and don’t have the will anymore!

The solution? Keep it super simple my friend.

Go with a basic, clean design to get you off the ground and focus on content! The entire point of a blog is to fill it with valuable and relevant content, so make that the priority, not months of design work!

Your next step is to choose a theme, and the good news is that WordPress has thousands of ready-made beautiful looking FREE themes!

Just click on ‘add new theme’ and they’ll start to populate.

wordpress themes

Click on any theme you like the look on for more details or to see a preview.

wordpress theme preview

Once you select the theme you like, simply click install and follow the on-screen instructions to customize.

Your customize screen will depend very much on the theme you have chosen but will look similar to this;

wordpress customization

From here, you’ll be able to add your site name, logo, change colors, add images, create menus, customize settings, and everything you’ll need to do to get your blog ready to go live.

In the absence of a step by step customization post on my site, here are some great resources to help you get your blog up and running;

How to Customize WordPress 101 by Website Setup

Free WordPress Blog Setup by WP Beginner – Awesome option! The only catch is you have to use one of their hosting partners, but likely worth it for what you get for free. Good on you WPBeginner, what a fantastic service!

Also here’s a great video that will familiarize you with a theme customizer from the awesome side hustle entrepreneur Meredith Marsh;

Hot Tip

There is another option!

Skip all of the above and do this instead;

  1. Find 2 or 3 blogs you love the look of.
  2. Find a free theme that matches the look and feel you ideally want.
  3. Make a note of everything you love about the blogs you chose, colors, post design, menu options, footer design, image sizes, category layouts, etc.
  4. Go to upwork.com or fiverr.com and find a reasonably priced web developer ($5 – $15/hour) who can add all your customizations for you and give you a ready-made blog in a tenth of the time you will likely do it yourself.
  5. While they’re building the site, you’re creating awesome content!

purple line

 

5. Essential Pages & Plugins

So we’re almost to the exciting part of creating the content for your awesome blog. Before we go live though, there are a few recommended pages and plugins I’d like to run through with you.

Pages

Pages are different from blog posts, in that they generally make up the static informational pages on your site, such as your homepage, about page, privacy policy, etc. Once set up, you shouldn’t need to update them very often if at all!

Here are the pages I recommend creating before going live (or as soon as possible).

1. Home page

OK, so this is the obvious one! All websites need a main homepage and what’s on yours will depend on the theme you’ve chosen and your design/usability ideals.

The best way to design a home page is to grab screenshots of all the sites you love and are inspired by and create your own version of the ones you love the best!

Hot Business TipA quick SEO tip for your homepage; as this will likely be one of your most visited pages, be sure to add do-follow links to all your most important blog posts from your home page. This will give them all a bit more google juice as your site grows.

2. About page

Who are you? Why are you running this blog and who is it for?

These are the most important questions to answer on your about page. Just like your design though, don’t get caught up here waiting for inspiration to strike, never launching until you have the perfect about page.

I get it; writing about ourselves is hard and if you’re not a natural self-promoter, you’ll likely ruminate over this page at length!

Here’s my advice. Set a timer for one hour and answer the following questions;

i. Who are you?

Hi, I’m Jo! I’m a globe-trotting, adventure-seeking entrepreneur passionate about freedom, travel, and sucking the juice out of life!

ii. Why did you start this site?

Add a few paragraphs with your backstory, what brought you to this stage and why you chose this niche/started this site.

iii. Who is this for?

This is a fab opportunity to get super clear on your target market. My website is for solopreneurs, digital nomads, and what I call lifestyle entrepreneurs which is basically just a mix of a solopreneur and digital nomad. In other words, anyone who wants to turn a passion into profit and have the freedom to work from anywhere while generating an income that funds their lifestyle.

I’m not looking for startups or entrepreneurs who want to build huge companies and attract outside funding and dream of an IPO etc. I’m very clear about who my target market is, and I identify that on my about page.

Who is your site for, and how can you make that clear on your about page?

iiii. What next?

Lastly, tell your readers what you want them to do next. Do you have a set of blog posts you want them to read, a free offer you want them to opt-in too or a specific action you want them to take? Don’t leave them hanging! If they’ve been interested enough to read your story, direct them to the next step they can take to build a relationship with you.

Then leave it there for now. This is a page that can evolve and grow with you and you can amend or update as you see fit. So get the basics up to get going with a reminder to review as and when you see fit!

3. Contact page

Your contact page will likely start with an email or contact form and evolve over time. Mine simply has my email and a link to my FB Community, but as you grow you may have a specific contact for technical pages, one for speaking events or partnerships, etc.

Just keep it simple and give your audience somewhere they can get hold of you if they want to know more!

your lifestyle business blog contact page

4. Privacy Policy & Terms of Service Pages

Take NoteI am not a legal expert so what I talk about here is based purely on what I’ve done myself and I strongly recommend you get some legal advice on what you should or shouldn’t add to your site when it comes to privacy, GDPR rules, terms, and conditions, etc.

However, to get started with your privacy policy and terms of service page, there is a great online resource to help you generate both these pages for free or for a very reasonable price if you would feel more secure with an attorney-drafted and approved policy;

Terms and Conditions Generator

privacy policy generator

Please note I have not investigated this company to check who the attorneys are or if it’s all above board. It simply looks like a solid resource to me. Please ensure you do your own due diligence before paying for these services, as I take no responsibility should you ever get sued!

5. Ideally – List Building Page

In an ideal world, you’ll have a list building page on your site, at the very least a subscribe button or pop up offering a free gift visitors can sign up for.

Don’t let this hold you up from launching your site, but the sooner you can start to build an email list the better!

Plugins

What is a WordPress plugin you may ask!?

A WordPress plugin is a piece of software you can add to your site that gives it extra functionality.

There are plugins for just about everything these days from connecting your analytics account, creating short links, adding image galleries, tracking Facebook pixels, adding social share buttons, customizing your site, you name it!

However, the challenge is that many plugins may slow down your site and too many plugins will result in conflicting coding creating errors on your site, so it’s essential to choose only the plugins that will add the most value to your site or to the user experience.

Plugins are very much a personal preference but here are my favorites;

1. Nitropack or WP Rocket

Site speed! An important ranking factor in Google’s eyes and we want to give our site the best possible chance to rank, so a focus on site speed is a must.

WP Rocket is a caching plugin, which basically means the content on your website can be accessed faster by the visitor – it’s far more complex than that, and feel free to delve into it, but the most important point is, it makes your site faster.

Nitropack is a full-on speed optimization service that includes caching, but also image optimization, a CDN, and lots of other bells and whistles. CDN stands for ‘content distribution network’, which once again, go knock yourself out learning what that actually means, but for now, just know that it makes your site even faster!

I installed WP Rocket before I installed Nitropack and it made a huge difference to the speed of my site. But then I found Nitropack which is on a different level altogether. Unfortunately, this is reflected in the price, with a single site in WP Rocket costing only $49/year, compared to my now monthly $21 fee with Nitropack.

But it’s worth it!

Please note, they’re not to be used together. You need to choose one or the other. WP Rocket will be good enough to get started, but if you want to really ramp it up Nitropack is the way to go.

2. Yoast or Rankmath or SEOpress

Staying with ranking factors, my second recommendation is the Yoast SEO plugin. I’ve included alternatives to Yoast if you want to explore all your options, but I use Yoast and have found the information they supply invaluable in ranking my posts.

Once installed, you’ll find an extra custom field at the end of each blog post with the option for you to enter the main keyword/phrase you’re looking to rank for.

yoast seo plugin

You’ll then get an SEO score of red, orange, or green to tell you how well you’ve covered that keyword in your post.

However, my favorite part is the list of suggestions to help you get to a green score!

yoast seo plugin details

How fab is that!

For those of us not well versed in on-page SEO, this plugin is an invaluable tool to add to your arsenal.

3. Monster Insights

I love this tool. If you’re a google analytics fan, then Monster Insights isn’t really necessary, but I much prefer to see everything in one place which is why I invested in this.

On the main dashboard, you get a nice overview of your traffic numbers, including session, pageviews, avg.session duration, and bounce rate so you can see at a glance how your site is doing compared to last week, last month, etc.

monster insights

It also gives a rundown of the top pages and posts visitors are viewing over the selected time period.

When you click on ‘see full report’ now the fun really begins. You can see new vs returning visitors, get a device breakdown, connect it to your google console, and even check your site speed!

If you tend to geek out on numbers, you’ll love this plugin!

4. Grow Social

I’ve played with lots of social sharing plugins over the years, and Grow Social seems to be pretty lightweight and straightforward to use.

What’s great is the option to add in images sized for Facebook and Pinterest and add a custom tweet. Meaning, when someone shares your post, the image and copy are exactly what you’ve entered here.

grow social plugin

You can also choose to have buttons in all sorts of different places on your posts, pages, and on mobile. Highly recommended.

5. Mammoth .docx converter

If you’re a fan of writing your posts in google docs first, you’ll love this plugin! Here’s how it works;

  1. Write your main post in a google doc
  2. Add all the headers, images & media you want to use in your post
  3. Add in ‘alt text’ for your images on the google doc
  4. Once finished, export as a word doc
  5. Add a new post to your blog
  6. Head to mammoth .docx converter which is a custom field below where you’d usually write your post
  7. Click ‘Choose File’ and select the file from your computer
  8. Check to make sure the contents look good and click to ‘insert into editor’

BOOM!

There’s your fabulously formatted post, images and all. (NB: You may have to tweak if you’ve added video or podcast code.)

Love it!

6. Easy Table of Contents

Once again displaying as a custom field on your post-draft, adding an easy table of contents allows you to create a clickable box of headers and subheaders for those longer posts, so visitors can see at a glance what’s there and click to head to the relevant section.

If you head to the top of this post, you’ll find a table of contents, just under the initial introduction.

table of contents blog plugin

A great way to improve user experience and increase time on site!

7. Thirsty Affiliates

This plugin is only required if you’re going to be adding affiliate offers to your site.

It works by giving you a much more attractive cloaked URL for your affiliate link, meaning all your affiliate links will look roughly the same, rather than linking in long meaningless fields of letters and numbers as many affiliate links tend to be.

If you click on any of my affiliate links, you’ll see they all start with https://yourlifestylebusiness.com/recommends/’relevantaffiliateprogram’

This doesn’t mean you’re hiding the fact they’re affiliate links, in fact just the opposite. These days you must be extremely transparent or you could run into legal issues. It just makes all your links look a lot more attractive and tracks clicks through your links in the free version.

If you choose to upgrade Thirsty Affiliates adds all sorts of extra features including the ability to automatically add links to keywords you specify! A very handy component if you have a big site with a lot of links.

8. Fusebox Player

I have to be honest, the jury is out on this one right now. It’s a great plugin and does exactly what it says it does which is to add a podcast player box to your site.

fusebox player

I’m just not sure putting all my podcast episodes on one page is the way to go. Time will tell.

That’s not all it does though. You can use it to add attractive podcast episodes to individual pages and also a sticky bar to your whole blog so visitors can listen to your latest podcast no matter where they are on your site.

Podcasts aren’t a huge priority for me right now, so I’ll likely continue with the one page for any new episodes I record. However, if podcasts are your main content strategy Fusebox Player will add some fantastic features to your site which will undoubtedly add to the user experience!

9. Smash Balloon Instagram Feed

I wanted to add an Instagram feed to my homepage and couldn’t believe how easy it was!

I imagined realms of code and a developer would have to be involved, but instead, I installed this lightweight plugin and within seconds had a fab little box on my homepage displaying my latest posts!

instagram feed

Smash Balloon Instagram Feed gives you all sorts of layout options and with the use of a shortcode, you can include it anywhere you like on your site. Better yet, it’s free!

I have to be honest though, I do like the look of their pro version and may well upgrade at some point in the future when Instagram becomes more a focus for me.

10. Pretty Links

Last but not least, I have been using this free little plugin for years. Much like Thirsty Affiliates it both cloaks and tracks your links, but doesn’t have all the affiliate bells and whistles you may need as a growing affiliate marketer.

I use it to add all my social media accounts, so rather than post – https://facebook.com/jobarnespage, instead I use https://www.facebook.com/jobarnespage.

Same with Twitter, LinkedIn, IG, etc. Plus I’ll use it for any other ugly-looking links I may have around the web which I want to brand and make more attractive.

As I said, plugins are a personal choice, but hopefully, you’ve gained some insight into some handy tools for your site in this section.


 

lifestyle business cartoon

6. Your First Blog Posts

So now comes the exciting part. Publishing your first blog posts.

The chances are you already have some topics in mind and are keen to get published as soon as possible; however, before you get carried away with content you’re sure your audience will love, it’s a good idea to take a breath and do some planning here.

Take note. Even though Your Lifestyle Business is a fairly new brand as I write this and I’ve only been focusing on my site for a few months now, I’ve had a few blogs and websites across the years and even spent a full six months on an older blog posting every single day Seth Godin style.

I was convinced my content was awesome and my audience would love it, but the results said differently. I had no views, no sessions, and no rankings. For all intent and purpose, I was invisible, despite my daily efforts.

Looking back now I know that it was because I had no idea what I wanted to achieve with my site, I’d done no keyword research and I wasn’t even sure exactly who I was talking to. I was throwing content against a wall to see if it would stick and none of it did.

Conversely, in the last four months alone with the site you’re reading now, I’ve 10x’d my traffic with only 6 keyword targeted posts and it’s still increasing. I’m on page one of Google for several of my keywords, and I have a very clear vision of who I’m speaking to and what my goals are for the site.

blog traffic - analytics

So here’s what I recommend you do before launching into the big job of writing and publishing posts;

Get Clear on Your Long Term Goals

What is your objective with your blog?

  • Is it to publish content around your passions and generate affiliate income?
  • Is it to grow your personal brand and expertise propelling you into the role of an influencer?
  • Perhaps you want to build your brand to sell physical products or services.
  • Maybe you want to become a best selling author or launch a career as a speaker or coach.

There is no right or wrong, it’s whatever your end goal is for your lifestyle business. But getting clear on your end goal will determine the type of content you create and publish.

For example, if you want to generate affiliate income, you’ll likely post a lot of review posts. If you’re building a personal brand you’ll publish more revealing behind the scenes type content and ‘how-to’ posts. If you’re selling physical products, you’ll talk about the niche you’re in and publish educational or inspirational content leading visitors to your products and so on.

For my friend who wants to start a cooking blog and sell cookbooks, she’ll create recipe posts, list posts around spices or utensils, tips for beginners and tips for seasoned home cooks, reviews of woks and Asian cooking tools (for a bit of extra affiliate income) and she’ll most likely add a video to her site to demonstrate the recipes.

All her content will be created to help home cooks create amazing Asian dishes, all the while building her reputation and the trust and desire of her audience to buy her beautifully illustrated cookbooks.

What are Your Money Making Goals?

Head back to the top of this post and read through the section on monetizing your blog. Also, listen to my podcast episode of the same to help you achieve clarity on the goals for your website and start with the end in mind.

Make a List of Questions Your Audience Likely Has

I love the story about Marcus Sheridan from ‘The Sales Lion.’ Years ago he ran a pool installation company. When the 2008 recession hit, no-one was rushing out to buy a new pool and sales plummeted. Rather than panicking and bottoming out as so many similar companies did, Marcus made a huge list of all the questions his potential customers might have.

He then set about writing blog posts answering each and every question. As a result, his website hit the No 1 spot for anyone searching any questions surrounding pool installations and his company thrived in the darkest of times.

marcus sheridan - riverpoolsandspas

That is the power of a well planned and well-executed blog for any and all business models!

Your blog isn’t about you. Even if you want to become an influencer and will most certainly tell some personal stories, your content still isn’t about you.

quote about content marketing

It’s about the people you want to sell to, to serve, to influence, to coach, to write books for, to create courses for, etc.

So what do they need to know? How can you help them? How can your information solve their problem or meet their needs in some way?

Start, like Marcus did, by listing out every question your audience might have.

Head to quora.com, answerthepublic.com, google forums, Facebook groups, reddit, blog comments. There are hundreds of ways to discover the kinds of questions your potential customers are asking.

Listen on to my podcast episode – Top 10 Ways to Find Awesome Content Ideas for a huge list of ways to research your target market and find out what information they’re looking for.

Once you have a list of questions, you’ll want to dig into which ones are likely to rank on Google to refine your list and prioritize your content creation.

Make a List of Keywords You Want to Rank For.

Keyword research is a complex topic.

In fact, SEO is a behemoth of a topic and so in this section, I’m going to try to keep it super simple and just run through the basics with you (mainly because that’s about all I know!).

If you want to go deeper, I recommend this detailed guide by Brian Dean from Backlinko.

Step 1 – Go through your questions and make a list of your ideal seed keywords.

Using my Asian cooking friend as an example, some questions might have been;

  • How to cook tofu?
  • What are some basic Asian recipes for beginners?
  • Why is ‘Umami’ important in Asian cooking?
  • What are some Asian cooking essentials to have on hand?

Her seed keywords might look like;

  • How to cook tofu
  • Asian recipes for beginners
  • Asian cooking
  • Asian cooking essentials

Step 2 – Use a Keyword Tool

I use ahrefs.com for all my SEO ‘stuff’, including keywords research however, they’re not the cheapest kids on the block. They do however offer a 7 day trial for $7, so as long as you have your big list of questions and are prepared to lock yourself away for 7 days just doing keyword research you could take advantage of the trial.

Google keyword planner is a free tool and can help you create more keyword ideas, but my best recommendation for starting blogs is Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest.

At just $12 / month it gives you everything you need from keyword research to competitor analysis, monitoring your rankings, giving you suggestions for increasing the SEO health of your site, and lots more.

Here’s how to use it for keyword research;

Enter your seed keyword into the main keyword box at the top;

Ubersuggest by Neil Patel - Keyword tool

Take note of the volume, SEO difficulty and backlinks, and domain score.

As you can see for the key term ‘How to Cook Tofu’, the volume is super high at 27,100, SEO difficulty is 14, and the average top 10 ranking page has 147 backlinks with a domain score of 72.

Let’s break that down;

Volume. The higher the better. When trying to attract organic traffic, the more people searching for a term that you’re going to write about the better! This was one of my challenges when posting on my old blog. I was writing about stuff that no-one was searching for! When researching nowadays, I always look for a volume level of an absolute minimum of 500, but preferably 5000 and above.

Please note, however, this is very niche dependent. If you’re selling antique Steinway’s for example, a volume of 50 might be all that you need.

SEO difficulty or SD. This is the ubersuggest algorithm determining how hard it would be to rank for that term. It scores from 0 – 100. The lower the score the easier it is to rank. It’s measured by looking at the ‘authority’ (shown as domain score) of competing sites ranking for the same term and their relevance to the search query.

For instance, in this example of ‘how to cook tofu’ the average ‘authority’ (domain score) is 72.

Much like SEO difficulty, Domain score is calculated from 1 – 100. The higher the score the more authority a site has. This is based on a number of different variables, but the main determinant is the number of other sites linking back to the site.

A website with no-one linking back to it will have a very low domain score as it has no authority in google’s eyes. A website with lots of sites linking back to it will have a high domain score and be seen as high authority by google. And if the sites linking back are all high domain scores themselves, the authority is even higher.

So if the average site in the top 10 for the search term ‘how to cook tofu’ has a domain authority of 72 which is high, why is the SEO difficulty so low at only 14?

From what I can tell, the scores for SEO difficulty in Ubersuggest and Keyword Difficulty in ahrefs are largely based on backlinks and also direct relevancy to the search term.

With this search term, for example, you’ll potentially only need 147 backlinks to rank, as opposed to thousands as it is for many keywords in my niche.

Also only four out of the ten articles seem to be directly targeting the words ‘how to cook tofu’, The rest are ‘crispy baked tofu’ and ‘easy crispy tofu’, etc.

This means that if you create a super valuable article targeting ‘how to cook tofu’ exactly and ensuring it’s much better than everything else on page one, with some active promotion to get 100 – 150 backlinks, the chances are, even with a low domain score, (as your new website will likely have,) you stand a good chance of ranking.

Phew! I said this was a bit complex. If it makes you feel any better, it just took me about an hour to write the last few paragraphs in a way I felt made sense. If you’re still a little unclear, don’t worry, SEO is an unclear game.

funny seo image

We just have to do the best we can with the tools we have. So your best bet is not to think too deeply about it and when starting out, use the volume and SD scores as guides.

If the volume is high (over 500) and the SD is low (under 30), add it to your spreadsheet.

If the volume is low and the SD high, maybe skip it.

If the volume is high and the SD is high, maybe add it to a ‘later on when I have a higher DS myself list’ or create a couple of posts anyway if you feel they’re important for your audience (like this post you’re reading.)

Step 3 – Create Headlines for 3 – 5 Starter Posts

When you start a new blog, unless you’re building a site you’ve purchased with a good domain score, you’ll likely start at zero.

If this is the case there is little value in writing a gazillion posts hoping to rank for lots of low volume, low competition keywords. This is a strategy that works by the way, but it will take a very, very long time.

The best way to increase your chances of ranking faster and thereby capturing more traffic is to grow your own domain score as fast as possible.

I’m going to share some strategies as to how to do that, but to get started you’ll need four to five pillar posts to start your promotion campaign.

Pillar posts are generally meatier than standard blog posts and in fact, I would describe them as your ‘showcase’ posts. These posts are going to tell any visitors, what you do, why you do it, and specifically how you are of value.

One or two of these posts should be ‘cornerstone posts’; a term that comes from the Yoast plugin, which I highly recommend installing if you’re serious about getting your posts ranked.

Cornerstone content in Yoast’s own words;

Cornerstone content is the core of your website. It consists of the best, most important articles on your site; the pages or posts you want to rank highest in the search engines. Cornerstone articles are usually relatively long, informative articles, combining insights from different blog posts, and covering everything that’s important about a certain topic.

My cornerstone posts include;

How to Start a Life Changing Online Lifestyle Business

How We Built a 7 Figure Amazon Business in 12 Months

How to Build a Huge Email List of Hot Leads for Your Business

How to Start an Ecommerce Business and Sell Stuff You Love

and now this one!

Take note, you don’t have to have all your cornerstone posts published and ready to go when you launch. You may decide only to write one or two cornerstone posts to start and add more as you see fit.

I launched with the ones above but am only just adding this blogging one some 5 months later. You can add a new cornerstone post whenever you want to and you can have as many as you like.

Brian Dean’s website backlinko.com is made up of mainly cornerstone posts or ‘power pages’ as he calls them and his strategy is to post less often, but make each one a humdinger! (Love that term.)

Content Marketing in 2021: The Definitive Guide - Backlinko.com

Here’s how you could structure your starter posts;

  1. One super cornerstone, humdinger power post – high volume, high SD (hard to rank – much like this post you’re reading now which is over 20,000 words long, but the search term ‘how to start a blog’ is about as rankable as me becoming the next president of China!)
  2. Two cornerstone posts – medium volume, medium to low SD (challenging but doable to rank with some work)
  3. One normal but super valuable post – medium volume, low SD (long-tail keyword, fairly easy to rank)
  4. One ‘brand story’ post. No keyword research, not looking to rank, but tells a visitor what you are, what you do, and why!

This is just a suggested structure. You can of course launch with whatever suits you and your niche, but the goal is to create 3 – 5 solid posts you feel good about promoting to help get your site off the ground!

Take Note

Just a quick note on why you would bother with a post you may never rank for. If you feel a post is relevant to your audience and you should have it on your site no matter how difficult the keyphrase is, then write it. Your audience is your most important focus and you’re writing for them before Google.

Remember you can always share your post on social media, send it out by email, link to it from forum answers, etc. There is a multitude of ways to drive traffic to your site and we’ll be covering some of those in section 7!

Step 4 – Create Insanely Valuable Content

As I write this post my domain authority according to moz.com is at 33. I have no right to be ranking on page one for some of my search terms amongst websites with rankings of 75 and up.

But I am.

The only explanation is that I write insanely valuable content. I pour my heart and soul into my blog posts and try to give the benefit of my experiences and lessons learned along the way.

I give fair reviews and comparisons putting my readers above sales or commissions and am not afraid to admit I don’t have all the answers and link through to people who know more than me about specific subjects.

You (yes you, the one reading this) are the most important person to me when I write this post.

As a result, some of my posts are over 20,000 words long. With a post as long as that you’re bound to include not only your main search term but lots of related terms, synonyms, semantic content, etc.

I’m certain that’s why I’m ranking in some places, that by the rules of Google, I shouldn’t be ranking.

I’m not suggesting you run out and start writing 20,000-word posts, but I do urge you to write content for your audience first.

  • What’s their main pain point?
  • What do they need an answer to?
  • How can you solve their problem or meet their needs?
  • How can you help them in the easiest and most convenient way possible?

Write first for your audience and then ‘googlify’ your work.

  1. Ensure your main keyphrase is in the headline.
  2. Add your keyphrase to your first 100 words.
  3. Include your keywords or keyphrases relevantly throughout the article.
  4. Add in any related terms or synonyms.
  5. Add alt tags to all your images, including your keywords where it makes sense.
  6. Add a meta description.
  7. Add images, videos, podcasts, or any other content that compliments your main article.
  8. Check your work in Grammarly

If you install Yoast, it will highlight anything you need to do to ensure your post meets SEO standards for your chosen keyword/phrase.

When ready, hit publish and congratulations you’re in the game!

Now the hard work really starts! 😁

horizontal line

jo barnes helicopter cartoon

7. Promote Your Blog

This is where things start to get REALLY exciting!

You’ve spent a lot of time and effort in deciding how your blog will look and the kind of content you will write about.

Now, it’s time to showcase it to the world!

If you want to make serious money from your new lifestyle site you’re going to need plenty of readers.

We’ve already mentioned a few promotional strategies throughout this guide, like SEO and social media, but what do they all mean? Which ones are best? Which ones are most suited to help your site grow?

There really is no exact answer here, you’re welcome to try one or as many as you like!

Let’s take a look at each of my favorite strategies in turn, it should help you decide …

1. SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and is the overarching name given to anything you do to help your website rank higher in the search results.

Say you want to get lots of traffic through Google (or other search engines like Bing) for your guide on “The 10 Best Asian Fusion Recipes”.

What you actually want is for your guide to be the number one link when people search for “Asian Fusion Recipes”.

Geoogle search results - Asian Fusion Recipes

This is because the first link usually gets upwards of 30% of all clicks.

The second link may get roughly 10-15% of clicks; the 3rd getting perhaps 5% of clicks and the next few links getting maybe 1-2%.

Simply put, the lion’s share of traffic goes to those websites that can get their guides ranking right at the top!

So, how do you improve your website’s SEO performance?

Unfortunately, too many strategies to cover in this post, however, here are my Top 5 SEO tips;

Tip #1 – Build backlinks

A backlink is a link back to your site from another website.

Through this post, I’ve linked to Brian Dean, Yoast, and many other sites and resources. Each time I create a link, they’re gaining a backlink from my site to theirs.

They are SUPER important for SEO, and many swear by them as the absolute number one way to boost search engine rankings over time.

Why is that? Because a link from another site gives your site authority. I wouldn’t link out to a resource I didn’t recommend, so by linking out I’m saying ‘I trust and value that site’ and vice versa if someone links back to me.

Search engines rank your content by regularly crawling your entire website looking at all of the “signals” they can find. These signals include things like how long your posts are, which keywords you are using, and how many other websites link back to yours.

For example;

Say there are two completely different lifestyle blogs, each with a post on “The 10 Best Asian Cooking Techniques”. Each post is just as useful to a reader, but one of them has 20 other websites all linking to that exact post, whereas the second post doesn’t have any backlinks.

Which one do you think Google will choose to rank most highly?

It’s going to choose the one it believes has the most trust and authority online because other people have linked to it, thereby indicating that is the case. Therefore nine times out of ten it will rank the first one with all the backlinks before the second one.

However, you don’t want to build hundreds of backlinks from low-quality websites filled with spammy content. Google has become far too clever for that!

Instead, focus on building backlinks from quality sites within your niche that are trusted and are, ideally, bigger or more established than yours.

How do you build backlinks to your blog?

My favorite technique is guest posting.

This is when you write a brand new article (not published on your own website) and allow a different blog to publish it on theirs. In return, the website you have guest posted for will include a link or two back to your blog.

guest post

What’s great about guest posting is that, not only do you get a backlink that can boost your site’s SEO performance, you can also get lots of visitors clicking through these links and checking out your site that way!

The best way to find guest post opportunities is to make a long list of all the other blogs that are similar to yours and within your niche.

Then, scroll through their site, find the contact page, and drop them an email.

Be sure to tailor each email to that site, rather than just sending a blanket email. Here’s an example outreach email you may send for a guest post …

Hi [Name of site owner]

I just wanted to quickly introduce myself, I’m [Your Name] the founder behind [your url].

I’ve followed your blog for a while now and recently stumbled upon your guide on [topic of recent post].

I particularly enjoyed how you [reference something unique they wrote in their post].

Anyhoo, I was wondering if you would be interested in featuring one of my posts on your site?

I recently put together a really awesome (in my opinion at least!) post on [guest post idea].

I think it would fit in really well with your audience!

Just drop me a reply and let me know what you think.

Either way, keep up the great work with your blog!

Warm wishes

[Your Name]

It’s short, to the point, and includes a personalized touch, hopefully improving response rates. From there, it’s a simple case of responding to emails and sending across high-quality guest posts in a timely manner.

Other powerful link building techniques include:

  • Broken link building – This is when you find links on someone else’s website that no longer point to an active page. You point it out via email and recommend swapping the link to a relevant post on your site instead! Here’s an in-depth example of how to do this.
  • Round-up posts – These are when a website owner publishes a big guide on their site, including recommendations/opinions from a range of other website owners. They get the benefit of free content on their site, and you get the benefit of a backlink by only needing to write 100-200 words. The best way to find “collabs” as they are known, is through Facebook. Simply search for “[your niche] collabs” and join the groups that pop up.
  • HARO – Help a Reporter Out is a service that brings journalists or site owners and content creators together. The website owner posts the subject matter they’re looking for content on, and we, the creators, respond which hopefully results in being featured on a post and a backlink! I’ve been using Haro for a while now and recently got a feature in Thrive Global from the opportunity!

thrive global headline

Take Note

You may read about link exchanges being a way to build links, however, engage in this practice under caution! Link exchanges are frowned upon by Google, although I didn’t know this and merrily swapped some links with other sites who had been kind enough to link to me until one of them contacted me to let me know it wasn’t an ideal scenario! (We don’t know what we don’t know right!)

If you do want to thank another site for linking to you, see if they’ll write a guest post for your site, or invite them to become a podcast guest, or save their link for a couple of months down the road and the link to them organically from a new blog post.

It’s best not to get involved in any shady practices when building links as long term it could hurt your chances of ranking.

Ultimately, the secret to building links is to build real human connections within your niche.

The sorts of sites that want to link to you are those that are within your niche, passionate about the same things as you! So take time to network online through different forums and Facebook groups and discover link building opportunities organically.

I strongly recommend Brian Dean’s article on guest posting for lots more tips on finding these sites and how to word your emails,. (This link is an example of a backlink!)

Tip #2 – Focus on speed!

It is extremely rare that search engines reveal the exact things they look for when deciding how to rank your site. One of the few exceptions is their policy on promoting sites that load quickly!

With so much information available online these days, people don’t want to hang around all day for pages to load. Instead, they want them now! And there is a very clear correlation between blog posts that rank high in Google and those that load extremely fast.

Here’s what you can do to help make sure your website loads lightning fast:

  • Pay for good hosting – If all the pages on your site are taking 10 or 20 seconds to load, then it could well be because your hosting provider isn’t very good. As I highlighted above in the hosting section, after migrating to WPX Hosting my site now loads in 894ms! For more help on hosting, scroll back up to section 3 of this guide.

pingdom speed test

  • Install Nitropack or WP Rocket – These are game changers and add all sorts of functionality to your site to ensure it loads faster!
  • Optimize images – Before uploading images to your blog posts, make sure they are resized and then optimized. For example, instead of uploading a 3.2mb image that is 2400px wide and 1000px tall; reduce the size to around 1000px wide and then put this image through an optimizing tool. This reduces the size to closer to 100-200kb.
  • Remove anything unnecessary – This includes images, videos, GIFs, extra code, basically anything on each page of your site that isn’t 100% necessary to the reader.

For more quick and easy tips on how to boost your website’s speed, you can check out a free tool like PageSpeed Insights.

Or you get all these features and more as a part of a subscription to Ubersuggest, which I love!

Website speed insights

Tip #3 – Think about mobile users

Did you know that more searches begin on mobile devices as opposed to laptops?

More than 50% of searches are now on mobile, and Google has made it clear that they favor sites that offer a great mobile experience.

Not only does this mean having the website load quickly, but it also means making it easy to use. Many sites were built originally for desktop only, and when you use it through your phone you find that text is too small to read and links are hard to click. You may also find that you need to scroll the page horizontally, rather than just vertically; this is a big no-no.

The great thing about building your website through WordPress is that it makes designing for mobile really easy.

WordPress - responsive mobile website design

Take note! While I’m a fan of pop-ups, be careful using them on mobile. If they cover the whole screen or it’s hard for someone to close them, not only is this a negative experience for a user, you will get Google punished.

Tip #4 – Write exciting meta titles and descriptions

Over time, if you follow SEO best practices, the aim is for your content to start to rise higher in the search results. When you reach the top spots you want to make sure that people are excited to click on and read your post. This is where metadata comes into play.

What is metadata?

These are the titles and descriptions that you see on search engine results pages.

Metatags.io - MetaData examples

Don’t worry about getting too technical here as WordPress makes it super easy to include metadata in all of your posts. You will see that whenever you go to publish a new post, it has space for you to include these, (especially if you install Yoast.)

For your meta title (this can be the same as the actual title of the blog post by the way) try to create a headline that not only includes the keyword you are targeting but which is also exciting and click-worthy!

Also, make sure it’s no more than 50-60 characters long or else Google will cut the end off.

For example, which of these are you more likely to click? …

  • 5 Asian Fusion Recipes To Cook
  • The 5 Best Asian Food Recipes You Will Ever Try!

The same goes for your meta description, which should ideally be between 150-155 characters long. Make this unique and give the reader a brief yet exciting snippet of what to expect in the post.

When writing your headlines, here are a few more of my top tips.

  • Use numbers where possible – They make titles stand out much more and can greatly increase clickthrough rates.
  • Make your title unique – Have a look at how other people currently ranking for your keyword are naming their guides; then make yours different in some way to help it stand out.
  • Use brackets or parentheses – Again these can make titles stand out from the masses. For example: “5 Awesome Asian Fusion Recipes {+ Pro Cooking Tips!}”

Tip #5 – Perform in-depth keyword research

You’ve already learned the basics of keyword research to help you find blog post ideas, but to help boost your chances of ever ranking for that keyword, it’s time to double down and keyword research your chosen keyword.

Doing this is a fundamental and powerful way to help you write better content that not only your readers will love, but also Google!

Here’s how to go about it;

Head on over to your chosen keyword tool, in this case, I will use Ubersuggest, and type in your chosen keyword.

Ubersuggest - Keyword ideas

The tool will then come back to you with lots of helpful information about this keyword, as well as tonnes of related keywords. These related keywords are what search engines feel is the most relevant information regarding your target keyword.

So in the case above you can see that, if someone is searching for “Asian fusion recipes”, they are also likely to be interested in things like …

  • Asian food recipes
  • Asian food recipes healthy
  • Mexican Asian fusion recipes

Why is this useful?

Because it gives you an effective roadmap for how to structure your posts! You now know that your guide on Asian fusion recipes should mention things like Asian food recipes, Asian food recipes healthy, and Mexican Asian fusion recipes. Your readers will find this super useful and spend longer reading your post (which Google loves), and Google will also think that your post is overall very relevant to the primary keyword.

Many of the keywords found here won’t necessarily need a whole section and many won’t even be truly relevant. Just feel free to scatter them throughout the text if it becomes relevant to do so.

Another one of the best and easiest ways to find these related keywords is through Google itself.

First of all, head to the Google search bar and type in your keyword, but don’t hit search just yet. You see all those suggestions popping up? Throw a few of them in!

google keyword search results for asian fusion recipes

Next, search for your primary keyword and scroll to the bottom of the page. Do you see those two rows of related searches? Throw some of them in too! However, don’t go including dozens of these related keywords unless they actually make sense to the post.

google related searches

2. Social media

Though SEO is a truly excellent way to bring lots of people to your site, for big results it can often be a very long-term game (6-12 months+). That is why my second most recommended way to promote your new blog would be through social media.

I’m sure you’re familiar with many different social platforms, and the great news is that they can all be used in a variety of ways to benefit your blog.

Here’s a look at each one in turn.

I recommend picking 2 or 3 that you think are most relevant to your niche and audience and stick to those for now rather than trying to use a dozen different platforms and never really getting anywhere on any of them!

Pinterest

I’m including Pinterest here under social media, but in many ways, it’s actually more similar to a search engine!

With other social media platforms, when you post a new status, photo, or video, it will gain the vast majority of its visibility within a short period; usually less than a day. But with Pinterest, many “Pins” as they are known, will go up to little fanfare and start to generate more and more traffic over the following weeks and months.

Pinterest - Your Lifestyle Business

This is why Pinterest can be such a powerful way to grow your blog as the time and effort you commit to it in the short run can pay off for possibly years.

Here are a few top tips for using Pinterest to grow readers on your blog:

  1. Create at least 3 different pins for each post – Pinterest LOVES fresh content. If you continually reshare the same Pin over the coming months they’ll get buried and start to gain very little traffic. Instead, a new Pin about the same post is seen as fine in Pinterest’s eyes as it’s new content for users to check out.
  2. Use keyword-rich Pin descriptions – In the same way that keywords in your blog posts help them to rank in Google, the same principle applies to rank Pins on Pinterest.
  3. Use top quality photos – Pinterest is primarily a visual platform. To help your Pins stand out from the masses, images need to be of superb quality and, most of all, original. Your own images are best here as standard stock photos are simply not up to the mark.
  4. Test to see what works best – Your aim with Pinterest is to make your Pins as click-worthy as possible. To do this you can continually tweak the style of your Pins to see which ones work best and get the highest click-through rates. Tweak things like font type, font size, color schemes, and photos used. Over time you should develop a few styles that work well with your target audience.
  5. Create and engage in boards – Boards are what you pin your Pins onto. But be aware that Pinterest is a SOCIAL platform meaning they want you to engage with and share other people’s content too. So create boards related to your niche and as well as sharing your own posts in them, also share others as well. This will directly grow traffic to your own site.

YouTube

Again, YouTube can be looked at as both a social media platform as well as a search engine.

In fact, it’s the second-largest search engine in the world, behind Google. Meaning that YouTube is a fantastic place to broaden visibility for the brand you are trying to create.

If you have the time and energy to commit properly to YouTube, then the results can be dramatic.

Video content perfectly compliments articles you publish on your blog, and getting traffic to videos on YouTube can be much faster than through traditional SEO.

You have the added benefit that, if your YouTube account was to become successful enough, you can monetize through the YouTube Partner program and add another revenue stream to your business.

Your Lifestyle Business - YouTube channel

If nothing else, it is a great place to publish videos for free, and you can then embed those videos directly into blog posts to help compliment your article for readers.

And of course, multimedia-rich blog posts tend to rank more highly in Google. So by simply embedding these videos in your posts you then have a greater chance of getting traffic through search as well!

Facebook

Of course, I have to mention Facebook! It’s how I first started my digital marketing career many moons ago and it’s the platform I know best!

In terms of promoting a new lifestyle blog, you have two different tools to use through Facebook, this includes starting a Page and starting a Group.

What’s the difference?

Well, a Page is best used as a place for you to promote new content to your audience.

With enough avid followers to your page, you can post any new blog posts from your blog and generate likes, feedback, and pageviews relatively easily.

blog post on facebook

On the flip side, a Group is more intended as a place for discussion and building a deeper sense of community around your niche.

For example, the Your Lifestyle Business, FB community.

Your Lifestyle Business - Facebook Group

It is a private space where followers of my blog can ask all manner of questions relating to starting and growing a lifestyle business.

To use a group for the purposes of promoting your blog, be sure to post your latest posts and lots of questions around the main subject matter.

Your group won’t necessarily generate a vast amount of blog traffic each month, but through discussion and questions, it will help you solidify relationships with your readers or subscribers and get a much better sense of what sort of content they are looking for.

Instagram

If your chosen niche has anything to do with taking amazing pictures, then Instagram is a powerful way to get new readers on your site!

Niches that do particularly well through Instagram include:

  • Travel
  • Fashion
  • Beauty
  • Photography
  • Lifestyle/motivation
  • Fitness

That being said, your blog doesn’t have to fall directly under one of these categories in order to be wildly successful on Instagram. These are just a few examples of popular niches.

Every type of business can have success with Instagram, you just may need to be a little more creative with the sorts of posts you create.

It’s also worth pointing out that more followers on Instagram and more likes on each photo DOES NOT mean more traffic to your blog.

Instagram is the sort of platform where most users are looking to just stay on Instagram and get their information there and then.

As such, you need to be creative in how you actually turn your followers into avid blog readers.

So, how do you do that? Well, let’s take Seth Godin as an example …

Seth Godin - Instagram

Seth is a former dot com business leader and has spent the last 2 decades using all internet marketing platforms to help grow and bolster his image.

He has an extremely popular blog and makes use of his 250k strong Instagram fan base to help drive traffic to it. How?

First up, linking directly to websites from recent posts. You can’t add a clickable link into a post itself, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t add a link for someone to copy or write directly into the browser on their phone.

seth godin link in instagram caption

It’s not the most elegant option but it does work. Especially if the rest of that post introduces the post and offers readers insight. It then entices them to go that extra step of copying and pasting the URL.

A more elegant way to directly add links to your blog is inside of your bio. It’s a good idea to regularly update this, perhaps with the newest blog post on your site.

Then, create a post about it and encourage readers to click the link in your bio.
smexaminer caption - link in bio

As a bonus step here, you can set up a Link Tree account for free.

Link Tree is an Instagram bio link tool that allows you to set up multiple links to direct your visitors where you want them to go.

As an example, Seth links not only to his personal blog but also workshops, his new book, and his podcast!

Seth Godin Instagram link tree bio

Finally, and possibly the best way to promote links to your site is by including them directly in your stories.

Seth has a story simply called “Blogs”. He can regularly update this with new blogs or announcements and then include a link which you access by swiping upwards.

It’s a powerful feature but currently only available to those Instagram accounts with at least 10 thousand followers.

seths blog instagram stories

Twitter

If Twitter is a platform that you are already comfortable on, it could be a great way to grow traffic to your site! It’s also the perfect way to grow new connections, as Twitter is very much relationship-focused.

It’s not worth creating an account just to share a link each week to a new blog post. Instead, take time to retweet other people’s similar content and engage directly with potential readers on your site.

If you want to really get involved in Twitter for promoting your blog, it’s a good idea to incorporate share buttons directly within your content.

Either encouraging readers to share the whole article or even a specific quote.

A great WordPress plugin for this is Click To Tweet.

(“Don’t just share your own blog posts on Twitter, take time to retweet other people’s content and engage in conversations!”) CTW

3. Email Marketing

Email marketing is easily one of the very best ways to build long term traffic to your blog. I’ve been building email lists for years! So I know the incredible value they can offer to blog owners.

The problem is, most bloggers don’t fully appreciate this and never put any real effort into collecting emails or nurturing that audience.

Well, I’m here to tell you they are wrong!

From day one, treat every visitor to your blog like they are a potential long term reader, and the best way to maintain that long term readership is through adding them to your email list.

That way, every time you publish a fancy new post on your site, BOOM, you have a few hundred or thousand people you can immediately send it to!

It is an audience that YOU are in control of … not Google … not Facebook … YOU!

Getting started with email marketing

To get started, you’ll need to sign up for an email marketing provider. Mailchimp is a popular one for beginners as it’s free for your first 2,000 readers. It’s also the one I use and I recently ran a study across many of the most popular email providers and Mailchimp came out on top for value for money! (Blog post to follow!)

Their free plan is all you need to start with, but you will need to upgrade to access their most useful tools (such as automation and segmentation).

Next, all you need are a few opt-in forms on your site.

One on your homepage, one on a blog post, and ideally another as a pop-up when visitors are on your site.

Over time, you can experiment with more advanced pop-up tools and testing to see which ones convert best.

I strongly recommend building some sort of lead magnet to help attract people to sign up for your newsletter.

If you are in the Asian cooking niche, you might produce a mini eBook on “5 Secrets to improve any Asian cooking recipe: Not seen anywhere else on my blog!”. It encourages the reader to hand over their email address by offering something valuable and unique to them.

Another one of my favorite techniques for generating subscribers through your blog is to use Interactive quizzes! Everyone loves a good quiz, which is why they’re so effective!

You can use a software tool like Interact which offers effective templates that you can then customize for your audience. Check them out!

Interact - online quiz templates

Nurturing your audience

Once your sign-ups start rolling in, I recommend sending out a weekly newsletter that is fun and that links to any new posts you write. My email subscribers make up over 20% of my monthly blog traffic!

Also, if you have any products that you would like to sell or promote, you can do so directly via these emails, allowing you to directly monetize your email list.

If you enjoy email marketing, you can become more advanced over time; using things like automation and even segmentation, allowing you to customize the sorts of emails that each subscriber receives.

This is based on what emails they have read before and which links they have clicked.

For now, don’t worry too much as this is pretty advanced stuff!

For a better look at email marketing, I recommend checking out my in-depth guide on how to build an email list.

4. Forums

Another little-known technique for helping to grow your blog is “forum marketing”. This includes using sites like Quora & Reddit, as well as any niche-specific forums that you can find, to help drive visitors to your blog.

The idea is to participate in these forums, offering genuine and insightful thoughts on topics that you have in-depth knowledge of. Then, people can either click through a link in your personal signature or a link that you inserted into your answer.

For example, head on over to Google and search for “your niche+forum”:

Asian Food forum - Google Search

Next, sign up for the forum, paying particular interest to create an interesting (but brief) bio with a link to your blog. Once you’re signed up, have a scroll through threads that have been recently active, and which ideally already have some healthy discussion underway.

If you have a valid and insightful thought to make, then go ahead and leave a useful answer, perhaps including a link embedded to a relevant blog post on your site.

The secret is to not make your comments seem too spammy and not promote yourself too often on every thread.

This is a clear sign that you are just looking to divert readers to your site and will get you quickly banned by moderators.

Instead, focus on regularly participating in multiple forums throughout the week, and slowly building up your profile and visibility.

The great thing is that forum topics are constantly being revisited, so you won’t just drive visitors to your site today, but also over the coming weeks, months, and years.

You also get the added benefit of staying in tune with what people in your niche are searching for and what sorts of questions they typically have. This will serve as a goldmine for future blog topic ideas!

non straight line

8. Develop a long term content strategy

Do you know what one of the most stressful & frustrating parts of running a new blog is?

It’s the worry of always playing catch up with new content!

You always feel like you’re a week or two behind with making new posts live and constantly fretting whether or not you are getting things up quick enough.

Then, you’ll be laying in bed one night and you’ll come up with another 3 or 4 amazing blog post ideas, and then lose yourself in planning those when you haven’t even got up the last 3 posts!

You also begin to worry about whether or not these new posts are more important than the old ones!

Stop.

This is where the importance of a proper long term content strategy comes in.

What you are doing here is creating a roadmap for your blog’s success; laying out what new blog content will need to be published and when. As well as how this new content ties into and helps support the cornerstone content from the previous section.

But how do you create an effective content strategy?

In 3 simple (sort of) steps;

Step 1: Decide what content you wish to publish

Sounds easy, right?

Sure it is!

But very few bloggers actually take the time to write down all of their blog post ideas and then forget them later down the line.

My advice here is to make sure you’ve documented all of the possible topic ideas you can think of. Hopefully, you will already have a whole load of these from the previous step when you developed your cornerstone content topics.

Keyword research using tools like Ubersuggest and Keyword Planner will be useful here in helping you to create new ideas.

google keyword planner

Step 2: Prioritise content based on your blog’s long term goals

Once you’ve written out all of the blog content ideas, it’s time to plan when you would like to see them go live on your site.

Don’t worry if every blog post isn’t fully clear yet in your mind. As long as the title roughly suggests what topic you’d like to cover, that’s fine.

Let’s jump back to the example of my friend’s Asian cooking site. A list of blog post ideas for her site might include;

  • What Are The 10 Best Asian Cookbooks?
  • Top Asian Cooking Gift Ideas
  • Asian Cooking Techniques For Beginners
  • Asian Dishes To Cook For Large Families
  • How To Perfect Chinese Clay Pot Cooking
  • My Favourite Asian Fusion Dishes To Try This Year
  • Asian Christmas Food Traditions You May Want To Try

Some of those are a little more specific, but none of them is set in stone. When it comes to actually writing each post, it’s always best to do in-depth keyword and competitor research to make sure the posts are awesome, and that there is suitable demand for them.

But now that we have these ideas, we can begin to prioritize which articles are best to get up on the blog first.

If affiliate revenue is a big short term goal for the site, then publishing a guide on “Asian cooking gift ideas” is more of a priority. That way it has time to slowly start to rank more highly in Google, and for visitors to the site to start finding it and hopefully buying items through the links!

At the same time, it’s only January, and Christmas is 11 months away so there’s not much purpose in posting a “Christmas food traditions” post just yet! So it’s probably best to put that lower down the list.

Let’s now look at “Chinese clay pot cooking”. It gets lower search traffic than other posts but is also less competitive in Google.

It just so happens that my friend knows lots about it and is really excited to get a guide on this specific topic up on the blog. It may not ever become a massively popular post, but it could help in driving traffic to the site in the short term, whilst content that is more competitive has time to rank throughout the year.

Here’s what the list might now look like, in terms of priorities:

  • Top Asian Cooking Gift Ideas
  • What Are The 10 Best Asian Cookbooks?
  • How To Perfect Chinese Clay Pot Cooking
  • Asian Cooking Techniques For Beginners
  • My Favourite Asian Fusion Dishes To Try This Year
  • Asian Dishes To Cook For Large Families
  • Asian Christmas Food Traditions You May Want To Try

Again, all pretty simple.

Onto the next step;

Step 3: Create a solid content calendar

Now that you know what sort of content you want to write, and in which order you’d like to see it go live, you can create a content calendar.

I will say this now … Content calendars are vital!

They help you keep fully abreast of where your blog is headed and what it will look like in 1, 3, and 6 months’ time.

Remember earlier when I said about how stressful it can be running a blog?

Constantly worrying about when new content will go up and worrying about how to fit in new ideas?

Well, your content calendar will be the go-to place to enter all your new ideas as and when they come to you.

How to create a content calendar

You have 2 options here; free or paid!

As you’re just starting out, I recommend creating a free content calendar using a tool like Google Sheets or Google Calendar.

Content Calendar Template - Google Sheets

Based on a content calendar designed by the lovely Amy Porterfield.

All you will be doing here is planning out your content as far as possible, I would recommend at least 6 months.

So, say you plan on posting 2 blog posts per week, you can write on your calendar which blog posts will be going live and when.

It’s a useful idea to schedule blog posts to go live on the same days each week, as it helps you build up routines and habits. It can also help with SEO as search engines recognize that your site is active and pumping out great content on a regular basis.

It also helps with other aspects of scheduling. For example, when your email newsletters can be sent out and when you can publish pins to help promote each new post.

Don’t worry, we will dive into the topic of promoting your new blog in more depth shortly!

Personally, I use and love Trello.

This is online software, purpose-built for helping you manage all aspects of your business, including when new posts need to go live and social media strategy and email newsletters.

Plus, you can invite other people to join these calendars, perfect if you plan on bringing in writers and other freelancers to help you with your new site.

Here’s an example of a Trello board I created for my Gardening example posts as outlined in my article Your Content Plan:

Trello board - post content calendar

Top tips when crafting your content strategy

Allow space for guest posts

Guest posting is an awesome way for you to help build connections in your industry and also to generate free content for your site.

Once you start meeting fellow bloggers in the same niche, you can open up your site to guest posting.

I’ll talk about this in more depth below, but for now, just be aware that you should allow space in your content calendar for potential guest posts.

Having a content calendar will make it much easier for knowing what sorts of topics you would like guest posts around.

Plan around your cornerstone content

The purpose of cornerstone content is to drive loads of traffic to your site, and a great way to help these rank higher is with lots of other posts on your site all linking back to them.

It’s good to plan your content calendar to ensure that all your cornerstone posts are getting regular internal links from new blog posts.

So, say you have 4 cornerstone posts on your site to start with, perhaps you want to make sure that each of these has 2 supporting posts going live every month.

YLB blog posts - Cornerstone content

Don’t over-commit yourself

When building your content strategy, be aware of how much you will realistically be able to write each week.

I absolutely LOVE writing new content, as I really am a content creator at heart.

I could kick back and bust out a 3,000-word blog post in no time, but for others, it could take a few days to plan and properly edit an amazing post. Especially when you are just starting out.

So I wouldn’t say “Oh, I’m going to write a new blog post every single day for the next 6 months” as you will likely become burnt out in no time! (Believe me, I tried it).

Instead, somewhere in the region of 2 new posts, a week is a good starting point.

Think about seasonality

Depending on the chosen niche for your new site, seasonality will have a big part to play in when you should be putting out new content.

For example, you don’t want to be writing and promoting a blog post on “The 10 Best Swimsuits” in the middle of winter … Your readers will think you’ve gone loopy!

Regularly update your content calendar

Your content calendar should be a fluid thing. As you come up with new ideas for topics, there should be room to readjust and reorganize blog posts to maximize results.

I get so many of my new blog post ideas from you, my readers!

I regularly receive emails and comments asking for more help on very specific questions such as how to promote a new blog using Facebook groups or how to build an email list.

I then use these to help plan out what content people really WANT to be reading and make space for them in my content calendar.

Another big factor that’s hard to predict is trends. The world is always changing and for the best results, you should keep your blog up to date with changes in the world and new topics that everyone is talking about.

For a more in-depth content strategy see my 6 Steps to Creating a Super Simple Content Strategy here;

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working on the go

Advanced strategies for building a successful blog

Focus on your Core Web Vitals

I really can’t stress enough the importance of a great SEO strategy for your new blog.

Google offers by far the biggest potential in terms of traffic, so designing your site and content around what they look for is super important!

With that in mind, I wanted to delve a little more deeply into something called Core Web Vitals.

They relate to your website’s speed and performance, namely;

  • Loading – how fast your page loads
  • Interactivity – how usable your page is while loading
  • Visual Stability – how stable your page behaves while loading

Source – GTMetrix

So, what are the core web vitals?

Core web vitals are important data points that can be found and measured on Google’s useful PageSpeed Insights tool.

google's pagespeed insights tool

They refer to 3 key loading metrics:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – How long it takes for a page to load from the visitor’s point of view
  2. First Input Delay (FID) – How long it takes before your content is actually interactive (e.g. being able to play a video or click a link)
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – How much your content moves around as the page continues to load

What do all 3 of these metrics have in common?

They massively affect the user experience!

User experience is everything to Google and all of the algorithm updates they make over time, coupled with vague guidance to website owners, are directed at improving user experience.

Focusing on core web vitals is one of the most vital things you can do today to make your website stand out.

So, what are good core web vitals?

core web vitals

1. Largest Contentful Paint

The target score here is 2.5 seconds or less for the majority of your page’s content to load.

The best way to measure individual pages is by using the Pagespeed Insights Tool, which gives you in-depth metrics for that single page.

However, if you are in the process of growing a blog that already has a dozen or more posts, you may find it more helpful to head on over to Google Search Console. You will find a link to Core Web Vitals on the bottom left-hand side of the toolbar.

It gives you a quick overview of all the URLs with issues, and you can then individually open each of these into Pagespeed Insights to get a more in-depth look at the data.

How do you improve LCP?

  • Utilize Lazy Load images – Plugins like WP Rocket and Nitropack have this as a built-in feature or you can get a separate plugin such as Lazy Load by WP Rocket. Lazy loading means your images will only load as and when a reader scrolls them into view. This is very useful if you run an image-heavy blog, as it loads them only as needed rather than all at once.
  • Improve your hosting – A slow host will ruin your website’s LCP time, scroll back to section 3 for more help with this.
  • Delete unnecessary scripts – This includes any unused plugins, such as social share buttons or video embeds. You have to weigh up the benefit between site speed and the function they offer.

2. First Input Delay

A good score for FID is 100ms or less.

For most bloggers, First Input Delay isn’t the most crucial web vital, because a general blog doesn’t have that many things for people to interact with.

Meaning, when someone clicks your blog post in Google, what they are waiting for is the content to load (LCP) and then to be able to scroll and start reading.

First Input Delay is more crucial for websites that require quick interaction.

Think, for example, Google itself!

They need to load their search bar as quickly as possible and want it to be interactive. That’s why you’re there in the first place, to carry out a search.

So, unless you have a super interactive tool on your webpage, as long as you focus on boosting LCP, your FID should naturally be quite acceptable.

3. Cumulative Layout Shift

This web vital, however, is one that you 100% SHOULD focus on!

You know those really annoying websites (usually recipe sites) that are constantly jumping up and down as you’re trying to read them? Mainly because ads keep loading, causing elements on the page to constantly re-shift so you have to re-find them before being able to click or read.

Those sites likely have very bad cumulative layout shift scores. The goal is for your page to load and be still and easy to read as someone scrolls through it.

A good CLS score is 0.1 or below; and if this is an issue on your site, here’s what you can do;

  • Pre-load ad space – Rather than ads loading in your content as you scroll through, you should mark the space where they will load immediately. Then, they will lazy load in those spots as you scroll through. The exact way ads load on your site will depend on your ad service provider (such as Adsense, Mediavine, Ezoic, etc …). So it’s best to contact them for assistance with this.
  • Put any new interactive elements Below The Fold – This refers to things like sticky videos or ads that load at the very top of the page and, once loaded, will push content downwards. Instead, try placing these further down the page so that they can load while the viewer is still reading content higher up

2. Design pages using Elementor

The standard WordPress content builder is perfect for anyone just starting out with a new blog, giving you reasonable amounts of flexibility over your site’s finished look and feel, especially with the Gutenberg editor, which allows you to design your posts and pages in blocks.

wordpress gutenberg blocks

If you want to take things to the next level, however, then a page builder like Elementor may be the way to go to create entirely unique and fully customizable blog posts!

I’m yet to dig into this myself, to be honest, but it’s definitely on my radar.

elementor page builder

So what is Elementor?

It’s a drag and drop builder, much like many of the other page building tools out there. However, what sets it apart is the sheer level of flexibility in what you can actually create.

It comes with a learning curve, so it’s definitely worth watching some YouTube tutorials first before you get to work switching up your whole site.

But it gives you the chance to produce a professionally finished website without the need to spend hundreds of dollars paying a web designer to do this for you.

And without the need to actually learn any HTML or coding yourself!

Like most great WordPress plugins, there is a free and paid version to choose from. The free version is great for getting started, and to gain access to all of the amazing templates and widgets that they offer, you only need to pay $49 a year.

There are more than 5 million websites out there using Elementor, which pretty much speaks for itself!

Check out some examples of sites for a little inspiration of what’s possible.

3. Outsource from the start

The vast majority of bloggers will approach starting a blog by following all of the steps as outlined above, and then spending a LOT of time and effort learning every single part of running a successful blog, including, but not limited to …

  • Content writing
  • SEO
  • Social media marketing
  • Email outreach
  • Networking
  • List Building
  • Web design
  • Monetization
  • Guest posting

There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but it takes a LOT of work and dedication.

Along the way, many bloggers get burned out and give up, hence why less than 10% of websites get all the Google traffic.

While others get to a point where their blog is making an okay amount of money but it’s taking 50 – 80 hours a week to achieve that.

It’s then at this stage, many bloggers will start to outsource the jobs they don’t like doing.

Well, how about switching up the formula?

  • Instead of learning EVERY … SINGLE … PART of running a successful blog, why not focus on what you are good at, and outsource the rest!
  • Instead of worrying about every tiny detail of the blog, you could instead save yourself a lot of time and wasted energy by outsourcing to others who already have skills you haven’t mastered yet.

I consider this an advanced strategy as very few bloggers starting out consider this approach, believing they have to know all aspects to be successful.

But trust me, it works!

As one of the greatest entrepreneurs alive says;

richard branson quote

Instead of thinking of yourself as a blogger, instead, start to look at yourself as a business owner.

Remember you’re building your business around your lifestyle, not the other way around!

How much should you outsource?

This is up to you and will depend largely on your budget for the blog.

Starting a blog isn’t free, though as you’ve seen, most of the tools you need to get started can be sourced freely or for a low monthly fee.

However, if you have the budget for outsourcing, then it will pay dividends in the long run.

The more jobs you can outsource, the more you can focus on the things that are important to you and your blog.

Jobs you could outsource immediately include:

  • Designing a logo and other necessary graphics
  • Web design & development
  • Setting up your lead generators and email marketing campaigns
  • Creating and scheduling Pins on Pinterest (or other social media scheduling)
  • Email outreach for guest posts
  • Even writing the posts if that’s not your forte!

Sure, there is nothing wrong with doing this all yourself, and learning new skills is always a valuable pursuit.

However, if time is limited and you want to scale your blog as quickly as possible, then outsourcing from the start is a must!

Where do you find freelancers?

My two biggest recommendations here would be Upwork and Fiverr.

Each of these is home to thousands of freelancers, specializing in very unique areas; all ready to work for you!

Tips for hiring freelancers

  • Be extremely specific in your job descriptions – English is not everyone’s first language, so be extra clear in what it is you are looking for
  • You get what you pay for – If you pay someone $5 to design you a site and make it live, don’t expect it to be all singing and dancing!
  • Speak directly to people before hiring – It helps to get to know them a little first and understand how responsive they are and whether they really understand what it is you are looking for
  • Be patient – Many hires won’t work out initially, this is normal. If you’re looking for a long term working relationship, such as with a writer, it may take 3 or 4 hires until you find someone that delivers to your standards.

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Bora Bora

Other FAQ’s

Are blogs still profitable in 2021?

Absolutely!

There seems to be a strange belief that the era of blogging is dwindling or that the only ones who make money are those that started a decade ago.

I would actually argue that blogging is more profitable now than it has ever been, largely due to a much wider array of information on how to start a blog, as well as more tools, services, and hosting providers.

Plus, the number of internet users is still on the rise; especially as developing countries gain access to cheaper technology and faster internet speeds.

10 years ago the way many bloggers made money was via affiliate links. Nowadays you can use a blog to launch an influencer career, become an author, sell physical products, launch an Amazon business, sell video courses, you name it!

If you follow this guide, I honestly believe you will have tremendous success in 2020 and beyond!

How do you start a WordPress blog for free?

If you want a truly free WordPress blog, head on over to WordPress.com (as opposed to wordpress.org) and follow the steps I listed earlier in this guide, minus the whole hosting section.

The issue with this is that you don’t actually own the site.

Instead, your website’s URL will be a “sub-domain” and look something like this;

myblog.wordpress.com

You can still customize your site and blog in any way you like, however, because WordPress owns the site, they’re free to plaster ads all over it … and they will!

Also, having a subdomain doesn’t look very professional, so I would strongly advise against it.

Instead, it’s best to buy a hosting package, I recommend WPX Hosting, and get started with your own domain.

After all, this is a guide on how to make a money-making blog … not, how to help WordPress make money off your blog!

How do beginner bloggers make money?

It depends largely on the niche.

Some niches may require you to receive tens of thousands of visitors a month to make money through, say, ad revenue.

Some other beginner blogs that are little more than a few weeks old have the potential to make a sizable income off no more than a few hundred visitors a month.

The key to making money early on in your blogging journey is knowing how the money will come to you and planning for it.

For example, affiliate marketing through search engine traffic is entirely possible, so long as you target low competition keywords and have specific products you can promote.

Many beginner bloggers start a blog with the mindset that it is all about getting hundreds of thousands of visitors and making money through Adsense.

Many years ago this was largely the case! But certainly not anymore.

Nowadays, I would encourage you to look down other avenues, namely:

  • Promoting affiliate products
  • Selling your own digital product
  • Coaching
  • Selling your services
  • Selling physical products

For more tips, head back to the start of this post where I discuss monetization in greater depth.

Also have a listen to my podcast episode 81 – ‘Your Money Making Blog Content Strategy

Should I start a blog or YouTube channel?

In an ideal world, it’s a good idea to start both.

Creating a successful YouTube channel perfectly compliments a successful blog. The only difference is the sort of content you produce will vary in style.

Blogging is a great business model as you own everything about the site, including how you monetize and how you nurture your readers and build an audience.

It’s a fantastic creative outlet and in a way can be seen as your “online storefront” where you have free reign to talk about everything that you find important and to get your message across.

Here, you can experiment with a variety of ways of making money, all whilst honing in on exactly what your brand is; which is useful if you still aren’t sure which direction you see yourself going in.

YouTube is by nature an extremely visual and personality-driven platform, which, if you are comfortable on camera, is great!

You can very quickly build up a loyal fan following and, within the space of a few weeks, potentially reach the Youtube Partner program standards and immediately start earning ad revenue.

YouTube makes this all extremely easy to do, though do be aware that making thousands of dollars a month through YouTube does take A LOT of traffic. Average earnings usually range somewhere between $1-$3 per thousand views.

You need to do whichever suits your personality and your business goals best!

If nothing else, I recommend starting a blog today, and in time perhaps start a YouTube channel alongside your blog and see how each compliments one another.

How much money do blogs make?

Anywhere from zero dollars a month up to tens of millions of dollars a month.

This isn’t to say that every blog will eventually draw in such massive paychecks every year, but it does mean the potential is there, regardless of niche or your career background.

What are the most successful blogs?

Huffington Post is widely considered to be the most successful blog.

Unless you work there, it’s not possible to know exactly how much revenue they make; but rough estimates based on ad revenue comes to somewhere in the region of $14 million dollars every single month!

The site was sold to AOL back in 2011 for $315 million and the valuation nowadays is estimated at in excess of $1 billion.

Not bad, ‘ay!

Here are some more examples of massively successful blogs in different niches. Numbers all come directly from income reports published by site owners (some dated recently, others stopped publishing these a few years ago);

How can I make $1000 a month blogging?

A goal of $1000/month from blogging is a really good target for any new blogger. You can get there by a variety of realistic means, such as;

  • Sell 10 course subscriptions at $100 each
  • Take on 2 consulting clients at $500 each
  • Sell 25 eBooks at $40 each
  • Make 100 affiliate sales at $10 each
  • Get 66,000 pageviews a month with an ad RPM of $15 (revenue per thousand impressions)

The possibilities are endless!

What blog niches are the most profitable?

Typically, the most profitable niches in blogging are those that have a largely American/native-English speaking traffic source. This means that ad revenue and potential affiliate commissions are much higher.

In particular, the following niches draw particularly high payments in terms of ad revenue RPMs (revenue per thousand impressions), affiliate commissions, and course/digital product prices:

  • Personal Finance
  • Technology
  • Business/Marketing
  • Fashion
  • Making money online (that’s right … blogging about blogging!)
  • Investing
  • Parenting
  • Health & Fitness

Summary

Phew! This has been a long one and if you’re still here, congratulations, I would say you’re on your way to a successful blogging business, my friend!

To sum up the above 8 steps to starting a money-making blog;

  1. Choose your topic – what are you going to blog about?
  2. Pick a name and register your domain
  3. Get Hosting
  4. Install WordPress and design your site
  5. Add essential pages and plugins
  6. Write and publish your first blog posts
  7. Promote your blog
  8. Develop a long term content strategy

If you have any questions about anything along the way, I would love to hear from you! Come and join my FB Community which is full of like-minded lifestyle entrepreneurs all on a similar journey and chat with me directly.

YLB FB Community

In the meantime, thanks so much for reading. The only difference between bloggers who are making money and those who aren’t is ACTION!

Don’t just read about it, make it happen!

Good luck and I hope to see you in the group.

Jo 🙂

lifestyle business cartoon

Please share with anyone you think this might benefit. Thank you 🙂