If you want to learn how to build a successful blog, I’m assuming you want to start a blog that can make money. Now you’re thinking, “Duh, Bobby, of course.”
I bring it up because there are lots of people who start blogs as more of an online journal. They’re not trying to make money. They just want to share their thoughts.
But if you do want to learn how to make money blogging, this guide will walk you through each of the steps you need to be successful. You’ll learn which blogging platform is best, how to pick a topic, building your audience, different ways to monetize your blog, and more.
Let’s just get started. We have a lot of ground to cover!
How to Build a Successful Blog in 2021
Step 1: Pick a topic
This is the very, very beginning – what are you going to blog about? If you have an idea… awesome, but don’t skip over this section.
The topic of your blog is what you’re doing to be writing it about. It’s your niche, and it helps you fit into the blogging world and connect with your readers. Also, your topic shouldn’t be too broad or too niche.
A topic that’s too broad would be something like “money”. There’s a lot to say about money. Investing, real estate, budgeting, student loans, saving money, credit cards, making money, frugal living, FIRE, retirement planning – those are just a few.
On the most basic level, a blog that’s too broad is hard for readers to connect with. Someone clicks on an article that explains how to pay off student loans, but as they start to click around your site, there’s a lot of other stuff they’re just not interested in.
So then what’s too niche?
Using the blog topic of money, too niche would be if you wrote about budgeting for single parents who live in Seattle, WA. Sure, you could capture a few readers, but not enough to be successful.
A well-defined blog topic (not too broad or narrow) for money would be something like:
- Frugal living with kids
- Traveling on a budget
- Credit card hacking
- Retirement planning for millennials
- Real estate investing for beginners
- Side hustles
As far as deciding on your blog’s topic, I recommend thinking about what you enjoy talking about. What are you really good at? What things can you teach other people? Do you have an inspiring story? What kind of job background or experience do you have? Is there something you’re interested in learning more about – blog about your journey to learn more.
Those questions should give you an idea, and then you can niche down by thinking about your unique point of view and voice.
For example, I started my blog, Millennial Money Man, as a personal finance blog for millennials. I wanted to talk about money (too broad!), but I niched down by providing a millennial perspective, and focusing on things like paying off debt and making more money– things millennials struggled with.
Step 2: Start your blog on WordPress
Bluehost is the platform that stores all of your blogging files (images, HTML codes, etc.). You can think of it like renting a physical space for a brick and mortar business.
The reason Bluehost is the preferred host for many, many new bloggers is because it’s designed specifically for bloggers who are just starting out but still want to take their blogs seriously and make money. That’s because it comes with the following features:
- Tons of free themes so you can ge a professional look without paying for web design services
- 24/7 customer service chat support
- A free domain name for your first year
- WordPress comes with Bluehost
You can start on Bluehost for as little as $2.95/month when you sign up through our exclusive Laptop Empires link.
There are three options total with Bluehost, but the $2.95 option is all you need.
This article, How to Start a Blog on Bluehost, walks you through each step of the process if you need help.
Once you’re set up on Bluehost, you will install WordPress, which comes for free with Bluehost.
This is going to be confusing, but there are two kinds of WordPress– .org and .com. You want WordPress.org. It’s the one that comes with Bluehost, but in case you don’t use Bluehost, I want you on the right site.
WordPress.org has more robust customization tools for bloggers, and it gives you complete control of your content. Not the case with the .com option, unfortunately.
There are a ton of free themes on WordPress so you can get a professional looking site. Once you start making money from your blog, then you can invest in a different theme. Look at these beautiful themes.
The whole process is pretty simple, but if you want any help, check out Launch That Blog. This is our free service that handles the entire installation and setup process of your WordPress blog.
Our team gets you ready with a fully customizable theme, 10 essential plug-ins, four training resources, and video and PDF guides so you know how to use your brand new blog.
Step 3: Write compelling content
When I say compelling content, I mean write interesting posts that engage readers and provide value to their lives.
That might sound like a tall task for a brand new blogger, but take it one article at a time.
Here are some tips for writing blog posts:
Make it personal. We all have a unique story, and you can use it when you write about your topic. You don’t need to get too personal, but a personal connection helps the reader connect as well. Real stories are inspiring.
Do simple keyword research. Look at other blogs in your niche and see what articles they’re writing. Do not copy their articles, but you can use them as a guide for what will work with your blog. Seriously, don’t copy.
Make sure your content is useful. This will help you establish yourself as a resource or expert. Explain concepts, common terms, help readers problem solve, etc. Do the research for them, and explain it clearly.
Write content that’s easy-to-digest. I’m talking shorter sentences and paragraphs. You can break things up with subheadings and bullet points. Dense online content is difficult to read.
Get to the point quickly. If your article is 10 Best Family Vacation Spots in Kentucky, don’t waste 500 words talking about something else. Give your readers what they came for.
Blog posts should be around 2,000 words. Some posts might be a little shorter or a little longer. But 2,000 is about the standard these days.
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation is important. If you struggle in those areas, ask a friend or partner to check your posts before you publish. You can also use software like Grammarly. When you start making more money, you can invest in a proofreader.
Your goal should be to publish blog posts on a regular schedule. That can be once a week, twice a week, once every other week, etc. Don’t commit to more than you can handle, and once a week is honestly pretty good for a new blog.
Now, if you have an idea and want to write more than that, do it! Save those extra posts for times when you lack the motivation to write.
Step 4: Start building your audience
To learn how to build a successful blog, audience is key. But it’s not just reaching a massive number of pageviews – you want quality readers, or true fans.
True fans are the readers who sign up for your email list, ready all of your content, share it with their friends, follow you on social media, and click on your affiliate links.
These are the people that your content really resonates with. They know your story. You’ve helped them solve some kind of problem. You’ve been building a relationship on trust.
There are two things you’ll want to do to start building your following: get on social media and interact with other bloggers in your niche.
Getting on social media
You do not need to be on every single platform – you’d spread yourself too thin. Focus on one in the beginning, something you already know well. Set up a profile and fill it out, then use it to start sharing your content. Share other kinds of content too, like memes, thoughtful questions, funny stories, pictures, etc.
Interacting with other bloggers
Using your social media account, follow other bloggers in your niche. You can sign up for their email lists, too. Share their content using your social media accounts. Comment on their posts, click their like buttons, etc.
After you’ve built up some of your own blog content, reach out to those bloggers and ask if you could guest post on their site. You have a better chance of getting a “yes” from smaller blogs, and guest posting on smaller blogs is still really awesome. It’s like an introduction to readers who might be interested in your content.
Step 5: Learn how to make money blogging
There are half a dozen or so ways you can earn money with your blog. It might seem crazy to think about making money when you first start your blog, but you can monetize sooner than you might think.
Display ads are the ones that pop up on the sides or bottom of a blog. A blogger decides where they want them on their site, and the ads are run through an advertising network like Google Adsense, Mediavine, or AdThrive.
You make money when people click on those ads (CPC, cost per click) or by the number of people who see the ads (CPM, cost per impressions).
There’s not a lot of money in display ads until you have several thousand page views per month, but it’s very passive. It might be tempting to slap them all over your site with the thought that it increases your earning potential, but the reality is that it will take away from the quality of your blog.
Freelance income isn’t direct blogging income, but it’s quality supplemental income. Plus, you can use your blog to promote your services.
Here are a few freelance ideas if you’re stuck:
Run Facebook ads for local businesses. Digital marketing is an in-demand service, and you can use what you learn about Facebook ads for your own blog.
Manage Pinterest accounts for other bloggers. This is promoting other people’s sites on Pinterest, and you can use those skills for your own blog too.
Virtual assistant. You can perform any number of tasks for other business owners – email management, social media support, bookkeeping, scheduling, etc.
Freelance writer. A lot of bloggers hire freelance writers for their sites, and your blog can act as a portfolio.
Graphic design. You can design logos, templates, stationary, printables, and more. You can link to clients on your blog, and eventually sell some of your design products.
Copy editing/proofreading. You can work for other bloggers and business owners who need help polishing their content.
Bloggers who freelance often have a “Hire Me” or “Work With Me” section on their blog where they can explain their services.
Affiliate marketing is when you work in partnership with brands to promote their products and services. You’re given a unique affiliate link that you can use in your posts – only share it when it makes sense – and you make a commission when people sign up or buy something through your link.
The kinds of products and services you promote must relate to your blog and genuinely help people. For example, we’re an affiliate for Bluehost, the blog hosting platform I mentioned earlier.
It’s an inexpensive and high-quality hosting platform that is really great for new bloggers– that’s the value for my readers.
If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, I highly recommend checking out the Making Sense of Affililate Marketing Course. It’s taught by my good friend Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, who regularly earns around $50k/month in affiliate income.
Sharing sponsored posts is when a company pays you to write posts that promote their products or services. It might be for a set number of blog posts and/or social media posts.
These can come off a little spammy if you’re not careful or honest, so only do it for companies you really believe in.
Sell digital products
Digital products are things like online courses, ebooks, guides, and printables. Creating online courses take significantly more work than the rest of those options, but I think they provide the most value, making them a little more lucrative.
I’ve seen some newer bloggers do really well with printables, like planner pages, calendars, budget templates, etc. These things normally sell for just a few bucks, and you can sell them over and over again because they’re created and delivered digitally. This is another potential source of passive blogging income.
To learn more about these monetization methods and more, check out Can You Make Money Blogging? 6 Strategies for a Profitable Blog.
Step 6: Start driving more traffic to blog
To really build a successful blog, you’re going to need more traffic.
The options we talked about before – social media and networking with other bloggers– are just the start. They’re also free, so a great place for beginners who aren’t ready to invest in their site.
Now let’s talk about two more strategies to try:
The first place I recommend is Facebook ads, and here’s why: Facebook has a highly targeted ad platform that lets you create ads and put them in front of the kind of people who are more likely to be interested in your blog.
What I did for my site, Millennial Money Man, is take blog posts that were already performing well. I call these unicorns, and create an ad based on those posts. There was clearly something about them that resonated with people, and if I could just get more people to see links to those posts, it was likely they’d visit my site.
My Facebook ads unicorn strategy worked, and I was driving approximately 250 new readers to my site every day. That’s 7,500 readers a month, and those ads were costing me $5/day (or $150/month).
Those were more views for my display ads, people were clicking on my affiliate links, and it’s when I saw my blogging income take off. That was five years ago, and I still get readers who bring up the Facebook ad that brought them to my site.
To learn more about Facebook ads, I highly recommend our Facebook Ads for Bloggers Course. It has everything you need to know about running ads for your blog, and we update the course content on a regular basis.
Search engine traffic
Working on your SEO game is something I also strongly, strongly suggest. It’s making your blog content more visible to people who are searching on Google.
I don’t have enough space here to tell you exactly how to optimize your blog for search engines, but I can give you some quick strategies you can learn more about.
Start using a keyword research tool. This will tell you the kind of keywords to go after and how difficult they are, plus related keywords. Ahrefs is what we use, but Semrush and Moz are both popular options.
Use the Yoast plug-in for WordPress. Yoast is free and it tells you if your posts look good for SEO.
Start writing long-form content. These are big posts that are longer than 2,000 words. You’re more likely to get long tail keywords in posts with higher word counts, but these posts are also more likely to cover exactly what readers want. Make sure you’re still focusing on quality and not just cramming words in there.
Update existing content. Google likes “fresh” posts. Take posts that aren’t doing well, rework the keywords, add a little length, and make sure all of your info is up-to-date.
Put alt text on images. This is adding suitable keywords to the file name and captions for any of your images.
Put keywords in the title, subheading, meta tags. Try to add keywords to each of these things without stuffing or making it feel awkward.
Matt Giovanci’s SEO for Blogger’s Course really helped us build out our SEO strategy for this site. He teaches on and off page SEO through a behind the scenes look at some of the sites he’s created. I highly recommend it.
Step 7: Don’t neglect your email list
You want to know one big mistake that me and many of the other big name bloggers I know have made?
We didn’t pay attention to our email list in the very beginning. Maybe that was not starting a list at all, or not doing anything with it.
Don’t be like us! Start your email list in the beginning and nurture it like the sweet baby it is.
Let’s back up for a second… why is your email list important?
Your email list is 100% yours. It’s not tied to any other platform, so there’s no concern that a platform is suddenly going to make a change to its algorithm or policy that affects how you get people to your site.
And, because your email list is built on trust, the people on your list convert at a higher rate. They want to hear from you, and they trust you enough to let you show up in their inbox.
The first step to setting up your email list is to find an ESP (email service provider). MailChimp is a good one when you are learning how to start a blog – it’s free for up to 2,000 readers.
From there, I recommend ConvertKit because it’s made for bloggers.
After you have an email service provider, make sure you add a place on your blog for people to sign up for your list. A little opt-in box that pops up or something on your sidebar.
Then work on creating a lead magnet. This is a free product that you trade for an email address. While it’s free, it should be something of value. You’re getting an email address for it, and it sets an expectation.
Below is an example of a lead magnet we use on Laptop Empires:
You can learn more about starting your email list and lead magnets in How to Start an Email List from Scratch.
The final word on how to build a successful blog
Blogging is a pretty slow business model overall, and I think that’s probably obvious after everything you just read.
The most successful bloggers in the business have spent a ton of time and energy on their sites. That shouldn’t scare you away, because you can do it all in your own time. That’s one of the really appealing parts about blogging. It’s insanely flexible.
Starting my blog legitimately changed my life, and there’s still a lot of money to be made out there for new bloggers.
It all starts from the beginning– pick a topic and launch your blog. Again, a Wordpress blog hosted on Bluehost is the way to go.
After that, use this article as a guide and start checking things off your list.