If you've stumbled upon this post, you may be interested in how to start your own blog. Before I created The Dollar Blogger, I had a deep interest in making money from blogging one day. I also have and had an incredible passion for personal finance.
I started my first blog in 2011, but it lasted three weeks before I threw in the towel. I had no direction and no knowledge of how to blog effectively.
In 2019, I started researching how to blog for money and landed on a number of free guides, but that only confused me more because there was so much information and not enough detail.
In late 2019, I investigated for personal finance topics to blog about, and after I found an online blogging course with a hefty price tag. I decided to take the plunge and give it a go.
In this post, I'm going to go over:
- How much bloggers can make
- How to start your own blog
- Tricks to being successful at running your blog
- Tips for blogging for profit
- When and how to monetize your blog
- The reality behind trying to blog for free
- How I started my personal finance blog
That's a pretty hefty list, so let's jump right in. First off, before you even decide if you want to take the plunge, you'll want to know your income potential, and I'll go over that just below.
How Much Do Bloggers Make
This is the million-dollar question (literally!). All prospective bloggers want to know how much bloggers can make. When I started my research, I checked on three of my favorite blogs for these answers.
I read articles and income reports from:
- Making Sense of Cents by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner
- The Busy Budgeter by Rosemarie Groner
- Financial Samurai by Sam Dogen
All three of these top bloggers say the same thing. You can make $0 blogging, or you can make over $1,000,000 a year blogging.
How Do Bloggers Make Money
Bloggers make money through multiple means. One such way path is that affiliate marketing can be your biggest driver for income. That is, networking with other companies through affiliate networks and advertising their products on your blog. I discuss affiliate marketing later in this post.
Other ways bloggers make money is through Google AdSense or other ad networks, as well as selling your own products and services. You can also allow brands or companies to write sponsored posts on your blog, where they pay you for you to place their content on your blog.
I'll get into the monetization side of blogging later in this post. Now, let's talk about how to create your own blog.
How To Start Your Own Blog
The first thing on your mind might be, “How do I start a blog and get paid?” but let's slow down a bit and focus on simply coming up with a blog idea and getting set up. There's a process that you'll need to follow, and this process can take longer for some people than others.
Come Up With The Main Topic
Your main topic, also known as your niche, is the broad topic that your blog will address. The Dollar Blogger is a personal finance blog, and the vast majority of my posts focus on getting out of debt, making more money, and making healthy financial lifestyle choices. Coming up with personal finance topics to blog about was a challenge at first, but as I got more comfortable with writing, I now find it to be somewhat easy.
You'll want to niche down because targeting a specific audience will allow you to build a following of people that regard you as an expert in your content. Also, by niching down to specific topics, you can focus your attention and optimize your blog for search, so to stay competitive on search engines.
As an example of niching down, create an “avatar” for your blog. That is, someone you're writing to. Are they male? Female? How old are they? Are they married or single? Do they have kids? What kind of job do they have and how much money do they make? What are their hobbies? And so on.
By creating an avatar, you know exactly who you're content is directed at, and you'll attract like-minded people to your blog.
Only after you've come up with a topic and an avatar should you jump in and start paying for hosting and possibly even a course. By getting knowledge early on, it will help you make money blogging quicker.
Choosing A Web Host
You'll need a web host to host your blog. My recommendation for starting out is Bluehost. You can get hosting through Bluehost for $3.95 per month by using my link. Bluehost has a simple approach to setting up your new blog and is streamlined to get you up and running with minimal technical knowledge required.
Here's a walkthrough:
First, you'll want to use my Bluehost link to get hosting for just $3.95 per month. You'll see this screen when you click through.
From here, you'll want to click on the Get Started button. Simple enough, right? You'll be presented with four plan options, as seen in the below image.
If you're just starting off and you're on a budget, the Basic plan is more than enough. You pay the least amount of money per month by signing up for the 36-month Basic plan. If you plan on taking blogging seriously, then there's no reason not to sign up for a Bluehost 36-month plan unless you were going to switch hosts very early on.
Next, you'll need a domain. If you have a domain, that's great! Otherwise, use the next screen, as seen below, to create a domain.
Generally speaking, having a .com site is the way to go. Most people typing in a URL in their browser will, by default, think to type .com. If your exact domain is not available, Bluehost will suggest similar domain names to help you decide.
Your domain name should be the same as your blog's name. For example, my domain is thedollarblogger.com, and the blog's name is The Dollar Blogger.
Once you've successfully selected a domain name, Bluehost will ask you for your personal information, such as your name, address, phone number, and email address. You'll also be presented with add-ons, which can be seen below.
The first selected item in the screenshot is Domain Privacy + Protection, which I recommend to everyone. This will prevent people from finding out your personal information if they look up the owner of your website. The last thing you need is spam mail and phone calls that could potentially be scams.
Codeguard Basic will regularly backup your blog in case something happens, and you need to restore your site. Some plugins can do this, and the plugins are free. If you aren't comfortable using a free plugin, then Codeguard Basic might be right for you.
Bluehost SEO Tools is probably not necessary. You can use SEO plugins on WordPress to do most of your SEO, and it won't cost you anything. There are also many free tools on the internet to learn SEO and to help you with your blog's SEO. I simply wouldn't pay for this service. Using a suite such as SEMrush, my personal SEO suite of choice, is a better option.
Related Post: SEMrush Guide: Keyword Research, On-Page SEO, and More
The next selection is the 30 day free trial of an email address at your domain. There's nothing more authoritative than having an email address at your own domain. If you're blogging as a business, customers and readers will likely respond better when they see you email them from your own domain versus a Gmail account or similar.
Lastly, SiteLock. SiteLock protects your blog from malware and hacking attempts. I'm all about safety and security, and I believe SiteLock would be a good choice for any site, even a new blog.
Once you've sent payment, you'll get to the screen below. You'll want to click on My Sites on the left and then click on Create Site on the upper right. This will begin the process of installing WordPress, my blog platform of choice.
After you've clicked on Create Site, you'll see the below screen:
You can name your blog and give it a tagline. If you haven't thought of a blog name or a tagline, you can use something temporary and change it later.
Now, you'll want to choose your domain and link it to your blog. You can also select some default plugins, as seen below:
Personally, I recommend WPForms the most, and for absolute beginners, that's all you'll need. OptinMonster will help you grow your mailing list, which you can certainly add now if you don't want to add a plugin later to do this. MonsterInsights can be linked to Google Analytics to track traffic and trends, but in the early stages, this is less important.
Next, you'll want to choose a WordPress theme.
Choosing A WordPress Theme
A WordPress theme is how your site will look. The theme defines the structure of your blog, the colors, and if there's a sidebar, and what side of the page the sidebar is on. Think of your theme as the physical appearance of your blog.
You can buy a theme from the Bluehost Marketplace, found on the left of the screen where you logged into previously. You can also get a free theme by logging into your new WordPress website and clicking on Appearance -> Themes on the left side. See below:
Note, your left sidebar might look different. This is a picture from The Dollar Blogger in which I have several plugins installed. At the top of the page, you'll see Add New next to Themes. Click that, and you'll be presented with a plethora of themes.
You can search themes based on filters to help you find exactly what you want, or you can simply surf through themes that you like. Here's what the filter page looks like:
One great place for paid premium themes, plugins, and other excellent content is Envato Markets. At Envato Markets, you can get themes, plugins, and video templates to further enhance your blog, and the prices are quite competitive. Check out Envato Markets.
Coming Up With Blog Categories And Content
Your niche likely has topics and subtopics that you can talk about. For example, The Dollar Blogger has topics that fall under money-saving tips, entrepreneurship, investing, debt management, and more. You'll want to have at least five categories planned out to write about.
To create categories, click on the upper left side of the screen where you see Posts and then click Categories, as seen in the below screenshot:
Here you can name your categories and provide a slug. A slug is the URL name for the category. So, if your topic was “Money Saving Tips,” then your slug might be “money-saving-tips.” Slugs should be in lowercase, have letters and numbers, and hyphens. Slugs should not have special characters or spaces.
It's up to you if you want to create your categories right away or not, but I'd recommend it.
Now that you've created the basic design for your blog, you'll want to write your first post. I'll go into that below.
How To Run A Successful Blog
Running a successful blog requires commitment and dedication. Whether you blog part-time or full-time, you'll need to work hard to make money blogging successfully.
Successful bloggers have a plan and structure they follow. As a blogger, I regularly evaluate how I go through the day and make sure I'm making good use of my time.
What's a blog without posts? Let's talk about that!
How To Start A Blog Post
There's a lot that goes into a blog post. When you're thinking of how to start a blog post, you might simply think that you need a topic and to write about it to the best of your knowledge. While this is technically true, this is only a fraction of the truth.
Writing successful blog posts requires research into what your readers want to read and how you will present it to them. The best blogs are blogs that either solve problems or answer questions.
When coming up with a blog post, you'll want to think about what are your readers' pain points. What's on their mind? What are they troubled by? How can you help?
You may be tempted to write a blog post similar to a journal entry where you talk about something in your life, but if your blog post doesn't draw in your readers by helping them in some way, then you probably won't have many readers long term. Without long-term readers, you won't make money blogging – at least not much.
The best way to find out what's on people's minds is to use a keyword planner tool. A keyword planner tool helps you find what people are searching for on a search engine such as Google. If you want to know how to blog for profit, one of the first things is blogging about something that will get you traffic.
Let's talk about Google's Keyword Planner tool, which is one tool I use to determine what my readers need help with.
Before I get into Google's Keyword Planner tool, I want to point out that making high-quality blog content means having no spelling and grammar errors. Spelling and grammar errors make your blog look unprofessional. The best tool I've found for spelling and grammar checking is Grammarly. There's a free version and a paid version, in which the paid version, I believe, is totally worth it (I've used it from day one).
Keyword Planner Tool
Google's Keyword Planner tool gives you the ability to do research into what people are actively searching on Google. In order to access the tool, you may need to spend a few dollars on ads. Even if you spend $2, this is totally worth the access you'll have to Google's data.
Once you have access to Google's Keyword Planner tool, click on the Wrench in the upper right-hand corner and click Keyword Planner. You'll then see the below screen:
Enter a keyword idea into the search field. Let's assume you're a personal finance blog like me, and you want to do research on “budget templates.” Here's what happens when you type in “budget templates” in the tool.
An entire post could be spent on keyword planning, but the short of it is you want to target a number of keywords since many of them are competitive. By targeting multiple keywords, you can pick up more Google searches in the same post.
For example, in this post, I've targeted keywords such as “How to blog for profit”, “How to start a blog post”, “How to make money blogging”, and so on. This is to draw in traffic from a variety of questions around blogging.
In the case of the above screenshot, you could write about “monthly budget template”, “household budget template”, and similar.
By doing keyword research, you have a much better chance of having your post picked up more often because more people are searching for the topic you're discussing.
Next, let's talk about social media.
Being Active On Social Media
Social media will not be your primary source of traffic, but early on, it definitely helps. Also, by being active on social media, you can grow a base and draw people into your mailing list.
People want to connect, and by being active on social media, people will know that the blogger behind the blog is a human being. For example, when I started this personal finance blog, I was less active on social media, and my early traffic was minimal. Like, so minimal that I think I spent the first month with less than 10 people coming by per day most days.
In my second month, I became very active on Twitter and Pinterest, engaging daily on Twitter and pinning more on Pinterest.
The result? On Pinterest, I draw in the vast majority of my non-search traffic. Twitter has been great for promotion, too, as I regularly engage with the personal finance blogging community as well as others who are interested in money topics. This leads to traffic and email list sign-ups.
The best way to get started with Pinterest is to take a Pinterest course. I recommend Big Pin Energy, the course I took that taught me all the ins and outs of Pinterest. As a Pinterest newbie, the information in Big Pin Energy was priceless.
When you want to blog for money, you certainly need to have some sort of presence out there and promote yourself.
Having A Blog SEO Plan From Early On
It's crucial to start SEO for your blog early on. SEO can take between four and six months to pick up results if you're a new domain, but you can certainly start appearing on Google earlier. My first post, How Saving $5 A Day Can Make All The Difference appeared on Google within 4 weeks because it targets less competitive search terms.
When you're starting your own blog, you'll want to consider reading about SEO. Neil Patel is considered one of the top SEO gurus, and I highly recommend that you check out his YouTube channel and website for all things SEO.
You can also use an SEO plugin such as Yoast on your blog. Yoast will help you determine if your blog post is optimized for search engines. While Yoast won't actually affect your position on a search engine, it will help you rank higher by providing feedback about your posts.
If you want to dive in deep, you can use a tool like SEMrush to take care of almost all of your SEO needs, including:
- Keyword research
- Site audits
- Research into your competitors
- Keyword position tracking on Google
- On-page SEO recommendations
- And more…
How To Blog For Profit
When blogging for profit, it's essential that you have a strategy from early on that evolves as you learn what is working and what isn't. You'll also want to understand that the overwhelming majority of blogs don't earn more than coffee money in their first 4-6 months. Some blogs can take as long as 12 months to earn any noticeable money.
That said, to earn a full-time income as a blogger, you may be blogging as long as two years or more. That's why it's hard to judge how much money you can make blogging. As you begin to blog more regularly, you'll build up passive income from older posts, affiliate links in your posts, and paid content that you may provide.
Let's go into some specifics on how to make money blogging.
Growing Your Email List
Your email list is your tribe, and you can expect a solid amount of revenue coming from your subscribers after they've been with you for a while. People who've signed up for your list are warming up to your content and want to hear more from you.
While this isn't a ticket to spam them with email marketing campaigns, you can certainly (and should) weave in the occasional promotion with your regular newsletters.
One way of increasing your mailing list sign-ups is to provide a freebie. This could be something simple like a printable, or something much more advanced like an eBook or a course.
As your email list grows, you can get an idea of what your subscribers are interested in and market your products or products from affiliate programs to them.
For creating a mailing list, I recommend using a tool that will allow you to grow effectively and manage your subscribers efficiently. I've been using ConvertKit for that and I definitely recommend it once you're ready to grow.
How To Monetize Your Blog
When it comes to monetizing your blog, there are several things you can do. Aside from monetizing by marketing to your email list, you can make money blogging by revenue streams such as having an ad network like Google AdSense, offering a product or service, having affiliate links from affiliate networks, and earning money from sponsored posts.
One thing I'll add about making money blogging is that I wouldn't focus too heavily on the monetization of your blog in the early stages. You want to focus on building a beautiful blog that's easy to navigate. Then you want to create compelling content.
After that, you'll want to work on your SEO and social media presence. Only after you've done all of those steps, should you focus on monetization.
Signing Up For Google AdSense
While you don't have to put ads on your blog, nor will they be your primary source of monetization in the long run, using an ad network like Google AdSense can help you make money blogging.
After you've signed into AdSense using your Gmail account, you will see this pane on the left:
Click on Sites and then on the right, click on Add Site. You will be prompted for the URL of your website. After you enter in your website, you'll be presented with a code that looks similar to below:
You need to copy this code into your blog's header. You can do this by using a free plugin such as Insert Headers and Footers. Once you've inserted this code, click Submit at the bottom of the screen.
There are some rules to Google AdSense, including what you are and are not allowed to have in your blog's content. You also must have some amount of content already available. Google AdSense will reject your application if your blog is empty or has inappropriate content.
If you are unsure of whether you should apply for Google AdSense just yet, read the terms of service. If you do get rejected, you can simply reapply again after you fulfill the requirements.
It can take up to a few weeks to get approved for Google AdSense, so don't panic if you don't hear anything right away. Some approvals can be quicker as well.
Now let's talk about making money off affiliate marketing.
Getting Into Affiliate Marketing
You can monetize your blog via affiliate marketing and there are books and courses dedicated to this. I'll cover a few basic examples and provide some networks that you can apply for.
Affiliate marketing is when brands and companies give you a commission for sharing a link to their product or service, and a user clicks the link and does something to complete an offer. This could be signing up for a mailing list, purchasing something, or filling out a survey.
For example, Bluehost offers a $3.95 per month hosting plan through my affiliate link, and if you use my link to sign up, I will earn a commission. This does not cost you anything, but it's Bluehost's way of marketing through others.
Oftentimes, affiliate marketing costs less than spending money on advertising, so many companies are more than willing to offer bloggers a cut of sales.
Many of the big-name bloggers report earning $50,000 or more per month some months just from affiliate marketing! That's because they have a lot of traffic, and their traffic is very interested in the types of products and services that the blog goes over.
If you know your audience well, you'll be able to find just the right products to review or teach them about, and that will help you make money blogging through affiliate marketing.
Some popular affiliate networks include:
Making Money Off Sponsored Posts
Another way of making money by blogging is through sponsored posts. If you have a fair share of traffic, it's possible that a business will reach out to you and ask if they can add a post on your blog that advertises their business.
For example, a tax accounting company might reach out to a personal finance blog and request a post that shines them in a positive light or advertises them in some way. They may offer several hundred to a thousand dollars or more for this post, depending on your blog's traffic.
By accepting payment and writing the post or posting their content, you would, in return, leave the post up indefinitely and help them earn business.
Offering A Product Or Service
One must not forget about offering your own product or service. Some bloggers make printables, others write eBooks, and some create courses. There's no limit as to what you can create as far as a product to sell. One could also offer consulting services.
When creating a product or service, you, as a blogger, need to figure out what your readers need in their lives. What can you talk about that they want so badly that they're willing to pay for? What can they not find for free on Google that you can provide them with your expertise?
Those are the kinds of questions you have to ask yourself when developing a product or service.
I've developed The Dollar Blogger's Money Mastery System to help people save thousands. I also developed an eBook on how to earn consistent passive income with Lending Club using my winning strategy.
To sweeten up your product or service, you could offer an invite to an exclusive Facebook group where you interact with your customers. This adds a personal feel to your product or service and may help increase conversions.
How To Start A Blog For Free
If you're looking to make a blog for free, you have a few options, but you may find yourself quite limited in how much you can accomplish without spending anything.
Signing up at WordPress.com or Blogger will allow you to create a free blog, but I highly suggest only doing this if you're toying around with the idea of blogging and aren't yet ready to take it seriously.
The reason is, when you blog for free on either of these platforms, your customization and monetization options are extremely limited, and if you can't make money on your blog, then are you sure you want to blog?
Remember, you want to treat blogging as a business, and a good business requires an initial investment. Most starter blogs can be created for under a couple hundred dollars, and that includes a domain, and 3-year hosting at a company such as Bluehost.
Your blog could earn you thousands of dollars per month (arguably tens of thousands per month over time). Don't you think spending a little upfront is totally worth it? I do!
How I Started A Personal Finance Blog
Starting a personal finance blog is not much different than creating any other blog. The first thing I did was look into what my competitors were doing. I focused on ten specific blogs and browsed through much of their content to generate ideas. I opened a free Trello account and jotted down these ideas.
After I had brainstormed a few dozen personal finance blog post ideas, I signed up for Bluehost and installed WordPress. My brother, being a professional web designer, helped me get the blog up and running and looking nice. While I didn't personally get a theme from Envato, I highly recommend checking it out if you're in the market for a premium theme.
Once the blog was up and running, I signed up for Elite Blog Academy's waiting list and started writing my first several posts. Elite Blog Academy opened up in March, as it does every year, and I joined the course and Facebook group.
Every day is a learning experience. I write new content, and I consistently update and improve older content. Beyond that, I engage on social media, and I develop new strategies. The secret to blogging successfully for money is constantly learning and adapting.
Wrapping It Up
If I could summarize this entire post in a single sentence, I would say: “To blog for profit requires a lot of work, and this is just the initial startup tasks.” Whew!
If you're serious about blogging and you want to make a living blogging, consider taking a course to get the nitty-gritty of everything you need to know. The initial investment will be worth it because it will eliminate a lot of the guesswork when you're new and unsure how to proceed.
Of course, if you have any specific questions, you can send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll be happy to help in any way I can! So what are you waiting for? Start a blog today!