If you want to learn how to start a successful blog, this step by step blogging guide for beginners will teach you everything you need to know about building and running an online business. Becoming a successful blogger isn’t beyond your reach. Plenty of non-technical people with no online experience start blogs and make money blogging. Like anything else, it just requires a strong work ethic, determination, and diligence.
To help new and experienced bloggers alike, I’ve compiled a list of actionable blogging tips that will help you create, grow and maximize your online earnings. This blogging checklist is applicable for all types of blogs, including lifestyle, fashion, and food bloggers, so if you’re ready to be a successful blogger, let’s make it happen!
Setting Up A Blog
Once you’ve decided on the type of blog you want to start, you can begin the process of setting it up. To create a successful blog and become a real professional blogger, you will need hosting and a domain. While there are some free blogging sites, such as Blogger, Tumblr and Wix, these blogging platforms place limitations on your website’s potential.
The best web hosting service for new bloggers is BlueHost. The hosting plans at BlueHost give you everything you need to start your own blog, including a free domain, a one-click installation of WordPress (the best blogging software online), and plenty of bandwidth and space to grow your blog’s traffic. The best part is that my readers get a huge discount with BlueHost and can set up a blog for only $2.95 per month!
Once you’ve set up your blog, you can focus on these tips for successful blogging.
Identify Your Niche and Target Audience
If you think too small and narrow, you may be catering to a tiny group of readers with keywords that don’t have the search volume to justify your investment of resources. However, thinking too big and broad pits your blog against authority domains for keywords you don’t stand a chance of ranking.
Small, gradual victories in the form of traffic, traction, leads, subscribers and revenue growth will help you continue to invest time and money into growing your blog. The goal is to pick and choose your battles early on, and this means targeting keywords that other smaller, weak blogs are getting traffic from.
My favorite tool for this strategy is SEMrush. By spying on your competitor’s source of organic traffic, you complete keyword research and target terms that your blog has a fighting chance of winning. To do this, enter a domain and click on “Organic Research”. You can choose to see a complete list under “Positions” or click on “Pages” to find a per-page list of keywords.
Look to target keywords and pages that not only have a several high-traffic terms, but hundreds of related medium and low-traffic, low-competition terms. Even if you don’t end up ranking well for the top phrases, which may be more competitive, the goal is to be able to garner at least some of the medium and low-comp traffic that will help your blog build exposure.
The Basics of Content Marketing
Different niches cater to different types of content. Generally speaking, how-to guides and list posts tend to earn the most links and shares. Similarly, infographics continue to be popular, especially for B2C blogs whose readership prefers entertaining, easily-digestible content. Coupled with an extensive outreach campaign, these types of blog posts are easiest to pitch for inclusion on resource pages.
If a keyword or topic seems to be a high-converting, high-potential blog post, then it is important to give it the best chance of ranking, earning links, and getting shared. This means:
- Invest a lot of time writing a killer introduction. As a reader, blogger and editor, it absolutely pains me when an introduction is weak. Given the short attention span of online users these days, make sure your introduction is relatable, insightful, and eventually offers the promise of improving the reader’s life in some way.
- Covering the topic comprehensively. If your article is about “How To Start Investing in the Stock Market”, then it’s important that you cover why you should start right away, historical returns, how fees affect returns, the top brokerage houses in the industry and their pros and cons, the need for a strong investing platform, and which brokerage firm may be best for beginners, day traders, professionals, and retirement accounts. The goal is to produce an in-depth, authoritative post other bloggers can reference in their own content, and since length offers the perception of depth, you should aim to write close 2,000+ words.
- Include statistics and links to other references. Another way to convey credibility is to cite statistics and link to case studies that back up your claims. Statistics are great bits of information that can be tweeted for social traction, and links to other blogs give you an “in” with the blogger during your outreach campaign.
- Incorporate at least one graphic, chart, image, or photo, although I would recommend avoiding stock photography. The advantage of using graphics is that it makes your blog post aesthetically-pleasing and encourages click-through. Furthermore, a graphic can grow your referral traffic from social platforms such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.
- Create an infographic to accompany the post. If a term turns out to be as valuable as you suspected, one way to increase the number links to the page is to create an infographic. Offering another host site a guest post comprised of an intro and your infographic is far more efficient than writing a full blog post for every opportunity.
Ultimately, when it comes to the creation of content, err on the side of writing killer content. In the long-run, it will help you avoid any Google algorithm penalties and the need to ever feel that your content may be holding you back.
SEO and Links – Focus on Quality
The worst thing you can do to yourself is waste your resources building a low-quality backlink profile that will eventually earn you a Google penalty. While a focus on quality links and partnerships is time consuming, it does offer peace of mind and the ability to rank higher with fewer links.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind with your SEO and link building strategy:
- The foundation of your backlink profile should be branded text. For example, with your own blog, I would focus on building your brand conservatively with backlinks that look like “Your Blog” and “YourBlog.com”.
- Be conservative with anchor text selection. Oftentimes, links from the likes of Inc., Forbes, Huff Post, Daily Finance, Entrepreneur, and US News aren’t questioned or devalued by Google. These sites have been around for over a decade, have proven to implement strong editorial standards, and generally enjoy a lot of Google Trust. A few well-placed links on large platforms can skyrocket your rankings across the board. Of course, if you’re too aggressive, your links will be removed in the editing phase, so focus on phrases that are front heavy. If your target keyword is “Hottest Celebrity Styles”, then use a phrase like “Hottest Celebrity Styles That Won’t Break The Bank”.
- Remember to use keyword phrases, not just exact match. Google’s Penguin algorithm targeted over-optimization of specific keyword phrases. To counter this, use variations to rank for related, relevant terms. For instance, if you want to rank for “How To Save Money”, 100 links with that exact match phrase is the fastest way to getting a penalty. However, if you use the anchor text “Ways To Save Money”, “Money Saving Tips”, “Best Way To Save Money”, “Tips on How to Save Money in 2016”, and the like, you avoid the issue.
Outreach Is Critical To Your Blogging Success
If you want to make money blogging, then you can’t afford to wait around and pray your content gets seen, appreciated, and shared. After you publish a great guide full of useful information, practical tips, and step-by-step instructions, you need to start an outreach campaign to garner your work the attention it deserves.
Here are the steps to an effective outreach strategy:
- Find other webpages with similar content and bookmark each URL.
- Enter each URL into a backlink finder. The best two on the market are Ahrefs and Majestic.
- Open every domain that has linked to the other resources. Review the legitimacy of the domain (I lightly refer to Moz’s DA, but focus on SEMrush’s Keyword Rankings), and if it is a site worth reaching out to, check out the “About” and “Contact” pages as well as a “Contributor Guidelines” page, if available.
- Read the “Contributor” page to see what the requirements are. Look for any indication that they may not be accepting contributions anymore. Then review the “About” page to get a name and maybe some way to connect with the owner or blog manager. Maybe they live in the same country, state or city as you.
- Finally, have a pitch/template ready, but with room to customize the email. Be friendly, but concise and to the point. A long email discourages someone from reading and responding instantly because the receiver will assume it requires a commitment of time.
How much effort you invest connecting with someone depends on the value of that connection.
How To Leverage Social Media Marketing
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a long-term game that requires a steady investment over a long period of time, and as much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, SEO is primarily focused on Google.
With that near-monopoly, Google can wipe away your search engine presence if it deems your profile spammy. And unfortunately, the game is skewed towards larger brands with teams of PR and SEO specialists who have established relationships and deep pockets.
On the other hand, social media marketing has become a great equalizer. Viral campaigns can put anyone on the map overnight. Although this is sometimes luck, there are tactics that can result in the steady growth of followers, shares, tweets, and pins.
Ultimately, it comes down to giving your target audience something actually worth sharing and then doing everything you can to make sure that update or share is seen by the right group of people.
Here are a few social media marketing tips:
- Before sharing updates, complete your profile page. For visual niches such as fashion or travel photography, you’ll want to be most active on Twitter and Pinterest. For professional blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn are ideal. For general consumer-focused businesses, Facebook and Twitter are most effective. When creating your page, be sure to add a profile image, background image, description, link to your website, and plenty of updates to fill your feed. Where possible, always include an image in your updates – it increases the amount of digital real estate your update occupies and thus further encourages readers to click and share.
- Research the 3 most popular hashtags in your industry. If there are multiple hashtags you can use to better hone in your individual updates to specific target audiences, document them all.
- For Twitter, skip the follow/unfollow strategy some online apps offer and directly target the users who tweet and like updates from other related brands. The goal is to not only build followers, but get ones that are active and willing to share your content.
- For Pinterest, if you have a page with multiple images, rewrite the descriptions of each Pin to target different variations of what might be searched. Find other high performing pins and look at the structure of their descriptions.
- For Facebook, invite your family and friends to establish a base audience and some form of social proof. No one wants to “Like” an empty page. For posts that initially perform well, experiment spending $5 or less boosting their reach. Review your Google Analytics and evaluate whether this expenditure resulted in additional click-through traffic or page likes.
When spending money for paid social media, you should always review metrics on a weekly basis to determine if the money was well-spent or if other platforms may generate a higher ROI. Just remember that social media marketing is optional and not every brand or niche can justify the expenditure. For instance, if you are a company that serves government agencies, social media does not matter.
As you can see, all of the above tips are simple and accessible to everyone. Their execution isn’t easy, but none are overly technical or prohibitively difficult. Becoming a successful blogger eventually comes down to hard work and determination. Implement these blogging tips in the coming year and see your blog explode in traffic, search engine rankings, and revenue.