Welcome to the complete guide to how to start a blog for profit! Who am I? I'm a professional blogger who's been blogging since 2009. I started a successful travel blog which I built up to 100,000 pageviews/month and up to $5K of monthly revenue.
Eventually, that blog was acquired by another business! Yep, you can sell successful blogs and make money that way.
I'm obsessed with all things blog monetization, and today I want to share with you how you can start a money-making blog.
Ready? Let's dive in!
What is a blog?
A blog is a website, but not every website is a blog. What makes a website a blog is that it shows blog posts in chronological order. So, on a blog, you'll see a feed of posts in the order in which they were published.
What do you need to start a blog for profit?
Get familiar with the parts of a blog:
For non-technical folk like me, starting a blog can be overwhelming because there are so many parts. To simplify things, I want to introduce a metaphor: Your blog is a store. Let's pretend it's a clothing store. So:
- Domain (business address) – A domain (example: startablogforprofit.com) is your business address. When people try to drive to your store, they need to know how to get there. A domain helps people get to your blog.
- Hosting (plot of land) – When you open up a store, you'll need a place to build the storefront on. You can think of hosting this way. Hosting is where all your blog's information is stored.
- CMS (offices) – The Content Management System (CMS) is where you go to assemble all your blog content. It's where you type up blog posts and upload photos. Think of the CMS as the offices in the back of your store. The public doesn't see what goes on behind the scenes, but you're back there doing all the work to prepare to present to them.
- Theme (storefront) – A theme is a pre-made template for your blog's design. Think of it as your storefront. This is what is presented to the public, so it needs to be beautiful and well-designed so that it appeals to them.
You need a plan to make money
As with any business, you need to have an idea of how you'll attract customers and make money. Now, I'm not saying you need to write a 15-page business plan, but you do need to have some basics established:
- Who is your target audience/ideal customer?
- What will you write about?
- How will you monetize your blog? What will you sell?
- What's your income goal?
- What other goals do you have for your blog?
How to make money blogging: The different income streams
Here are the most common ways to make money blogging:
- Affiliate marketing
- Physical products
- Digital products
If you want more details, I have an entire blog post on how to make money blogging for beginners.
How to Start a Blog for Profit: The Setup
Step 1: Register a domain.
First, you'll need to come up with a domain for your blog. A domain is basically the address where people can go to find your blog. For example, the domain for this blog is “startablogforprofit.com.”
Many beginner bloggers get stuck on this stage for months and never start their darn blog! So let me assure you: You can always change the name later. Just pick one and register it.
Here's how I do it:
- Go to domains.google
2. Search for your domain to see if it's available.
3. Add your domain to cart.
4. Keep “Domain Privacy” ON (it's free!).
I've used many different services to register domains in the past, including Bluehost and SiteGround, but I still highly recommend Google Domains. It's the cheapest I've found for the long-term. Yes, you can find cheaper INITIAL prices on places like NameCheap, but I've read that they always raise the price after the first year. Google Domains is always $12/year for .com domains, and they include Domain Privacy for free. Most domain registrars do not do that.
Step 2: Buy your web hosting.
Okay, you've got your address (domain). Now, it's time to buy your plot of land: web hosting. Web hosting is basically where all your data and content will live. It is the servers that store all your data.
In the past, I've used SiteGround, which I highly recommend. But if you're a beginner blogger, I recommend BigScoots because it's cheaper. Both are GREAT services (and I've used both), so you really can't go wrong with either one.
How to Buy Web Hosting from BigScoots
A) Choose a plan.
I chose the cheapest plan, 105CC, and this plan should be plenty enough for a beginner blogger. While you could pay $7.95/month for month-to-month (you could cancel at any month), you get a discount for paying more long-term. I recommend paying annually because I believe you should give blogging your best shot for at least one year before deciding whether to continue.
B) Submit your order.
During the checkout process, you'll be offered some more add-ons. Personally, I don't think you need a Dedicated IP or SiteLock Domain Security, so save your money. I did not purchase either of these.
C) Open a support ticket.
Once you've bought your hosting, if you need to migrate your site to BigScoots (for example, if you already have a blog being hosted on SiteGround), then you don't have to do it yourself! All you have to do is open a support ticket to the BigScoots team, and they'll do it all for you. (See why I LOVE BigScoots??)
Step 3: Pick a design (WordPress theme).
Okay, you've got your address (domain), your land (hosting), now you just need your storefront (WordPress theme)! We will plug it all together later, don't worry.
This part is super fun because now you get to choose how to make your site look beautiful! A WordPress theme is essentially a pre-built template for your website's design. So instead of having to go in and hand code everything yourself, you can flip through various themes and pick one that you like.
Once you choose a theme, you can always customize it. The level of customization depends on your HTML/CSS skills, but you can always hire someone to help you tweak your site.
Here are some of my favorite places to find good WordPress themes:
Step 4: Connect all three!
Phew, you've made it this far—give yourself a pat on the back! Now, we're going to connect all three of the things we mentioned above:
How to Point Your Domain to BigScoots
Step 1) Log into Google Domains (or whichever domain registrar you're using).
Step 2) Copy the following BigScoots nameservers info. You will need this for the next step:
Step 3) Go to “My Domains” and select the domain whose nameservers you’d like to change.
Step 4) Click “DNS.”
Step 5) Select “Use custom name servers.”
Step 6) Copy and paste the two BigScoots nameservers.
Remember those two BigScoots nameservers in step 2? Copy and paste BOTH of those into Google Domains.
Step 6: Click “Save,” and you’re done!
If you plan on starting multiple blogs, here's info on how to add another domain to BigScoots.
How to Install WordPress on Your Site
Step 1) Log into your BigScoots cPanel.
To get to your cPanel, log into BigScoots. Then look you need to the left side and go to Services > Shared SSD Hosting (or whatever kind of hosting you bought).
Click your domain name in the Services page.
Click “Access Control Panel.”
Click “Click here to access Control Panel” button.
Step 2) Click the “WordPress” icon in cPanel.
Okay, now you're in your cPanel. Scroll down and click the WordPress icon.
Step 3) Click “Install Now.”
Step 4) Scroll down and click “Install.”
Step 5) Wait a few minutes while the WordPress installation completes.
How to Install Your Theme
Almost there! You're SO close to a complete and functioning blog! Now, we need to give your blog a storefront by installing your theme. Here's how:
Step 1) Log into your WordPress dashboard.
Hot tip: If you're having a hard time figuring out where to go to log into your WordPress dashboard, just add this to the end of your domain: “/wp-admin”
That should take you to a screen that looks like this:
Step 2) Go to Appearance > Themes.
Step 3) Click “Add New.”
Step 4) Click “Upload Theme.”
Step 5) Upload your theme's .zip file.
Step 6) Customize your theme the way you want it.
Step 5: Consistently publish high-quality blog posts.
Woohoo! Now your blog should be up and running. But it's probably lookin' kinda…empty. The real work begins. You must publish high-quality blog posts on a consistent basis. Consistent does not mean daily (unless you want to)! Even if you publish only one blog post per month, make it high-quality and you'll be set.
Remember, blogging is a long-term play. Don't expect to get thousands, or even hundreds, of readers within the first few months.
I always encourage new bloggers to put forth their best effort for at least 12 months before they ascertain whether they should continue blogging.
Step 6: Focus on SEO and Pinterest to drive traffic.
If I were you, I wouldn't waste any time on Facebook or Instagram. The exception here is if you want to be an influencer; in that case, Instagram will be important for you.
Step 7: After some time, add Google AdSense and join affiliate networks.
Once you've published a handful of posts and gotten some traffic to your site, you can start applying for Google AdSense and affiliate networks. The reason you need to wait is that many programs will reject your application if your website is too new.
Step 8: Reinvest profits into education.
When you start making your first profits (gross income minus expenses), reinvest that money back into your blog via educational resources. I'd use that money to buy online courses about blogging that can help boost your success.
Step 9: Track your progress.
It is of UTMOST importance that you track your progress as you grow your blog. On the first day of each month, I open up my blog tracking spreadsheet and review the analytics for the previous month:
- Domain Authority
- Income earned
- Hours spent
- Posts published
This helps you see what's working and what's not. It also can be a big confidence booster when you see your blog is growing in a concrete way!