Tuesday, June 18th, 2024

12 Steps to Starting a Successful Blog

by Rahimah Sultan

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You like most people, can spend months or years creating a blog that has no chance of succeeding, then you start another one that fails or a third and fourth.

You’re not dumb or lazy. You’re just choosing the wrong topic.

1. Choose the Right Topic

First, make a list of topics that interest you. They can be your hobbies, topics you think are highly profitable, or something random you saw in a magazine.

Now ask yourself these five questions:

1. Do any current blogs on this topic have a Facebook page with more than 10k fans?

2. Are there any blogs on this topic that have more than 50k followers on Twitter?

3. Are there any books on Amazon with more than 30 reviews on this topic?

4. When you look for words and phrases connected to this topic, are there any Google ads?

5. Do any words or phrases related to this topic have more than 100k searches in Google’s Keyword Planner tool?

By answering these questions, you’ll know if there’s an existing audience for your topic.

Don’t try to be too unique or clever by hunting for an audience that no one else is serving.

It’s counterintuitive, but the more competition you have in a blogging space, the easier it is for a new blogger to find success there.

2. Choose the Right Platform

Choose the right blogging platform

There are several free blogging platforms like Tumblr, Blogspot, Wix, or Squarespace. These are fine to test your ideas and content to be sure they’re workable before creating a full-fledged blog.

But when you’re ready to build an audience and make money online, a self-hosted WordPress blog is the way to go.

WordPress is open source and technically free, but you have to buy a hosting plan to install WordPress on your own web host and purchase a domain name.

If you’re serious about blogging, you need to set up your blog on a firm foundation.

3. Choose a Domain Name

When choosing a custom domain name for your blog, consider using these three strategies:

Name the audience. The simplest way is tocall out the audience in the domain name. (Examples: SmartShopper.com, FashionDesign.com, AFineParent.com)

Name the topic. (MakingJewelry.com, EasyCasseroles.com, PaleoHacks.com)

Name the benefit. (BeABetterWriter.com, BeABetterPainter.com, Woodworking.com)

Use these strategies to make a list of 10-20 domain names. Use a blog name generator tool like NameStation to get many ideas at once.

Once you’ve decided on a name, use Namecheap’s Beast Mode to check availability.

Give yourself a few days to a week to make a decision.

4. Get Web Hosting

You pay a small fee to keep your website online, handle all your visitors, provide customer support, back up your website, manage the security of your website, etc.

Although website hosting costs money, a good bit comes along with it.

It’s possible to get blog hosting and a registered domain from the same place, but it’s not recommended because if you ever decide to switch to a different web hosting company, the process can be complicated. You can save yourself future headaches by keeping your domain registrar and blog host separate.

You can do a Google search to compare and determine the best web hosting for your needs.

Once you have your web hosting set up, you need to use a registrar like NameCheap to register your domain.

5. Install WordPress

Now that your domain and web host are connected, it’s time to install WordPress. It’s not complicated.

These days most hosting providers offer one-click WordPress installation.

To log into your WordPress dashboard use your favorite browser and go to WordPress login URL by appending /wp-admin (or /admin or /login or /wp-login) to the end of your domain name.






You’ll be taken to your WordPress login page.

Enter the username and password you created earlier.

Click Log In.

6. Choose a WordPress Theme to Design Your Blog

Don’t get bogged in details. Focus on making your site functional. You can always make changes later.

Content is the important thing to focus on.

Enter the username and password you created earlier.

Click Log In.

Your theme is the design of your website and dictates how your blog looks to the world.

If you want a free WordPress theme, choose Astra (https://wpastra.com/?bsf=2922&campaign=how-to-start-a-blog).

If you want a premium blog theme, choose Astra Pro which has an advanced page builder that lets you customize your design.

Choose the theme that best fits your needs and situation and download and install it.

First way: To install a free theme from WordPress.org:

Enter a theme name or a chosen feature (Example: “minimalist”) in the Search themes… field
Click the Install button

Second way: If you want to install a WordPress theme you downloaded from a third party, click the Upload Theme button and:

Click the Choose File button
Find the third-party theme you downloaded to your computer (Example: premium-theme.zip) and select it
Click the Install Now button

To activate a WordPress Theme

Immediately after installing your WordPress theme, you’ll be given the option to “Activate” or “Preview” it.

If you want to publish the theme immediately to your website, click the Activate button. If not

1. In the left-hand navigation pane, go to Appearance
2. Choose Themes

Then you’ll see every theme you’ve installed and the default “themes” that are automatically installed by WordPress. Find the theme you want to use and click the Activate button.

You’re done.

Now your new blog design is visible to the world but not yet ready.

You need to adjust its functionality by installing a few WordPress plugins.

7. Install WordPress Plugins

WordPress is filled with features, and plugins offer even more.

There are thousands of free and third-party plugins—virtually a plugin for everything. There are specific types or categories you need, but there’s no such thing as an essential plugin.

There are six types of plugins you need to install.

1. Performance Plugins
2. Security Plugins
3. Backup Plugins
4. SEO Plugins
5. Social Sharing Plugins
6. Email List Building Plugins

You need a good performance optimization plugin to “cache” your content so it loads faster. If your blog is slow, your readers will bounce and Google will rank you lower in search engine results.

For a performance plugin, WP Super Cache is simple, maintained by the company behind WordPress, Automattic, and it’s free.

You can easily protect your site with the security plugin iThemes Security which has a one-click setup wizard. The cost is free, and there’s also a pro version with extra features.

UpdraftPlus strikes a good balance between features, flexibility, and ease of use. It has a 4.8 out of 5.0 rating on the WordPress plugin repository, and it’s actively updated by its developers.

There’s a free and a $70 pro version.

For SEO Yoast SEO is the gold standard of WordPress SEO plugins. It has both free and premium versions. The free version offers everything you need.

Social Warfare doesn’t slow down your website and offers unique features like “Click to Tweet” boxes and Pinterest-specific images and infographics.

The free version has all the basics you’ll need, and the pro version is only $29 annually.

Use Convert Pro to turn blog traffic into leads so you can continue to engage with them.

You can get it for free or pay $99 annually or $399 for a lifetime license.

To activate a WordPress plugin you can click the Activate button that appears immediately after you install it or:

1. In the left-hand navigation pane, go to Plugins
2. Choose Installed Plugins
3. Find your plugin and click Activate

8. Blog Set up and SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

If you want to start a blog that brings in traffic or if you want to drive your content to page one of Google, you have to learn SEO.

To guarantee search engines like Google and Bing can find your blog, make sure the following are unchecked:

1. In the left-hand navigation pane of your WordPress dashboard, hover over Settings
2. Click Reading
3. Confirm “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is unchecked

Create an XML Sitemap (and Submit Your Sitemap to Search Engines)

“A sitemap is a file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site, and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to crawl your site more efficiently. A sitemap tells search engines which pages and files you think are important in your site, and also provides valuable information about these files. For example, when the page was last updated and any alternate language versions of the page.”

A sitemap helps confirm Google can discover the new content you create, when your blog is new and has few external links pointing to it.

To create an XML Sitemap using the Yoast SEO plugin recommended earlier:

1. In the left-hand navigation pane of your WordPress dashboard, hover over SEO
2. Click General
3. Click the Features tab
4. Scroll down to the XML sitemaps option and make sure the switch is toggled to On

Now you have an XML sitemap for your blog. Next give it to Google, Bing, and other search engines.

Before leaving the Yoast SEO plugin, copy the URL of your sitemap:

1. Click the question mark icon next to XML sitemaps
2. Click the See the XML sitemap link

Your sitemap will open in a new tab in your browser.

Copy the URL in the address bar and save it.

The steps for submitting your sitemap are different from search engine to search engine.

Here are the most popular ones:

To submit your sitemap to Google Search Console

1. Go to Google Search Console and sign in using your Google account
2. In the left-hand pane, select your website

If you haven’t added your website to Google Search Console, you’ll need to click “Add property” and follow the steps provided before continuing below.

3. Under Index, click the Sitemaps option
4. In the Add a new sitemap section, enter the URL you saved earlier and click Submit

Bing Webmaster Tools

1. Log into Bing Webmaster Tools. Create an account if you haven’t done so.
2. Under the My Sites section, click your website

If you haven’t added your website to Bing Webmaster Tools, enter your blog’s URL in the Add a Site section and click the ADD button.

That’s it.

You’ve submitted your sitemap successfully to Google and Bing.

Permalinks structure

WordPress sets the links on your blog to the following format by default:


No one knows why, but you need to update this link structure before you publish ANY content.

Here’s how:

1. In the left-hand navigation pane, hover over Settings
2. Click Permalinks
3. Under Common Settings, set the option to Post name

Install an SSL Certificate so Your URL Begins with https Instead of http. Here’s why:

Readers will know your website is safe
Your website will be safe thanks to the encryption of readers’ sensitive data and personal info
Google sees it as a ranking signal, which means not having an SSL certificate will hurt your content’s rankings in search results.

How to Install an SSL Certificate

Log into your account
Click the Go to cPanel button
In the Security section, click Let’s Encrypt
Select your domain name, choose the Let’s Encrypt SSL option, and click the Install button

A few moments later, your SSL certificate will be up and running!

9. Your First Blog Post

To start your blog post in WordPress

1. In the left-hand pane of your WordPress dashboard, hover over Posts
2. Click Add New

You’ll be able to add a post title— aka headline, write your post, choose your category, tweak HTML and CSS, add free stock photos, etc.

The steps are alike for adding a new blog page in WordPress, an About page, a Contact page, etc.:

1. In the left-hand pane of your dashboard, go to Pages
2. Click Add New

For detailed instructions on how to navigate the classic content editor, WordPress offers a detailed support article.

10. Boost Traffic, Promote Blog, and Master Social Media

You should spend as much time promoting your posts as you do writing them. Preferably, you’ll spend more time promoting than writing them.

Here are 4 Tips for promoting your posts

1. Focus on one Social Platform, as There are too Many out There.
For now, pick only one. As there are only so many hours in a day.

2. Avoid These Traffic Mistakes That are a Waste for Beginners.

a. Commenting on Popular Blogs
b. Submitting Your Site to Directories
c. Trying to go Viral on Redditt, Hacker News, etc.
d. Paying for a Unique Design

3. Reach out to Influencers to Make Powerful Friends.

4. Pay for Facebook Ads

Wait until you have a solid foundation in place like reaching 1,000 email subscribers and you have traffic rolling in. Then consider supercharging your efforts by learning the ins and outs of Facebook’s ad network.

11. Build Your List

Get started now with building your email list. Start building it on day one!

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an email marketing pro, there are numerous email marketing services available to meet your needs. You can go to Google and check and compare services and pricing.

12. Make Money

When you’re just starting out, whatever you do, DO NOT cover your blog in Google Adsense, because:

1. Blog ads pay peanuts
2. They distract your readers
3. They make your blog look sleazy and cheap

The best monetization method for bloggers is to build an audience that trusts them and then offer high-quality products or services that will genuinely help that audience.

Affiliate Marketing helps with this process by:

letting you introduce your readers to a product or service from a trusted source
Your readers looking at the product/or service, deciding if it will help them, and purchasing it
You earning a commission on the sales

With affiliate marketing you win in multiple ways. You help your audience, you earn money, and — most importantly — you learn what types of products and services your audience buys.

This article covers a lot but it’s only a beginning. Besides these twelve steps to starting a successful blog, there’s so much more you’ll learn as you go along.

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