Ultimate Guides

How To Start A Blog From Scratch (2020 Edition)

The Ultimate Guide

So you want to start a blog and make money online from it too. The task of setting up a side hustle that produces passive income can seen daunting – but that’s what this ultimate guide is for.

Don’t know where to begin?

Well, you’re in the right place because below it the ultimate guide on how to start a blog from scratch.

What this guide will go over:

  1. Selecting the right name and niche for your blog
  2. Setting up hosting with SiteGround
  3. Installing WordPress
  4. Selecting and installing the right theme for your WordPress blog
  5. What plugins you need for performance and SEO
  6. Setting up Analytics and Google Webmasters Tool for SEO and tracking
  7. What pages you need for your blog
  8. Planing and writing your blog’s content
  9. Monetizing your blog
  10. Driving traffic to your blog
  11. What to do next

Due to the in-depth nature and length of this post, it’s best that you also bookmark this page for future reference.

Let’s get started!

** Please note that this post contains affiliate links and that all reviews and recommendations are based on personal opinions and experiences.

1. How to start a blog – selecting the right name and niche for your blog

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Before we begin, when it comes to starting a blog, you need to figure out the name and niche. What you end up will also determine your branding, your SEO potential at the domain level and how targetted you want to go with your niche.

A niche is a particular audience group. Your blog and the content will effectively revolve around a particular topic or set of topics. This will help your audience figure out your brand, what you stand for and what you’re an expert in.

If you want to make money from your blog, you will need to position yourself as an expert in a particular field. Remember, you don’t have to be an expert at everything – just the thing you’re an expert at.

When it comes to starting a blog, people often struggle to find their niche is because they feel like they have to know everything there is to know about a topic. This isn’t always true and you’ve got to start somewhere. What you need is just enough to get started on your first pieces of content. You can always learn more about it later on.

Knowing what niche your blog is going to be in will also help with determining what vibe you want to communicate through your content and aesthetics.

So how do you go about selecting a niche? Here are 5 questions to help you out with the process.

How to figure out your niche

What are you good at?

Everyone is good at something. At this particular point, don’t worry about what others are doing and ask yourself – what are you good at?

You may be able to answer this by looking at what you do on a day-to-day basis. What’s your job? What’s something you consistently do and know how to do properly.

Do you cook your own meals? What about drawing? Or do you read a lot in your spare time? Do you make your own clothes from time to time?

Start off by brainstorming a series of skills you have and things you do often.

What do you enjoy doing?

If you want to make money from your blog, you’re going to need to enjoy the process of creating content.

What’s something that you enjoy doing? that you know you’ll be able to sustain writing about in the long run?

This is where you start to look at what your hobbies are, or things that you like to research and read about.

Don’t worry about how you’d monetize it just yet. What you need to focus on is figuring out what is it you enjoy in your spare time. Is it traveling and having local adventures? Or is it creating your own jewelry?

If you struggle to answer the first two questions, then perhaps you might want to give the next one a try.

What can you teach others to do?

You know more than you think you do. Pick a topic, any topic.

Do you have pets? What do you know about them that can be useful to someone that’s looking to adopt a new family member? Or maybe you’re a bookkeeper by trade. How do you go about doing your job? What are some things your clients keep doing that’s costing them money?

Or perhaps you know a lot about meat because you’re the BBQ chef in the family.

Whatever it is, your knowledge about a particular topic is always monetizable through a blog. You just need to be confident enough to share it.

What are your competitors doing?

Perhaps you already have a rough idea of what you want to blog about – but you’re not sure about where to start.

You could look at your competitor’s content – or blogs that you admire or read a lot. Take a look at what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

Have they got a lot of blog posts on a particular topic? If so, what’s the latest thing they’ve written about? Could you write something similar but with your own ideas and spin on the topic?

You could start off with just one topic and then grow your backlog of content from there. This will keep your niche offering strong and help when it comes to the initial SEO and attracting the right sort of audience.

What can you do differently from them?

So you’ve had a look at a few competitors and different blogs you aspire to be like.

Having a point of difference can help you carve out your own niche. You can create this point of difference by merging two distinctive niches together. For example, if you want to start a food blog but also have a strong interest in the science, your blog could be about the science of cooking.

Or perhaps you want to start a finance blog – but targetted at stay at home parents who like to flip things on eBay, like yourself. You could write about the processes and things to look out for.

You need to be interested enough to keep creating content for and around it.

How to figure out your blog’s name

Your blog can be anything you want. Brands are created based on the relationship between your audience and your blog. While the name may help indicate what your blog is about, it’s not the end game.

What you need is something that is still available. Based on your brainstorm from the questions above, you can string a few words together – perhaps an emotive word, or description word followed by a noun.

You can check the availability of your blog’s domain name here.

2. How to start a blog – set up hosting with SiteGround

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When it comes to starting a blog, you’re going to need your own hosting.

You might already have your own domain name. The next step is to set up your hosting – or you can do both at the same time.

I’m recommending SiteGround because it’s the hosting company that I’ve personally been with since 2013. I’ve used it early in my career and used it to start multiple blogs and websites. I was with two other companies before that but didn’t stick around for as long as I did with SiteGround.

Based on my experiences, the service here has been solid, with good and responsive support – a perfect backend for you to start a blog with. I also like their transparency when it comes to communicating what you should be expecting. In the past, I’ve found that other hosting providers use unlimited as their selling point but with fine print caveats. SiteGround is upfront with you can expect and delivers accordingly.

Once you’ve selected your plan, SiteGround will take you to the next step, which is to select a domain name.

If you already have a domain name from elsewhere, you can skip this step by selecting I already have a Domain.

The difference between domain name and hosting is that the domain name is the website address and the hosting is the physical space where your website sits in – sort of like the difference between the address to your house and your actual house.

Once you press proceed, you’ll hit step 3, where you just need to fill in your details and credit card number for the payment processing. At the end of it all, you’ll get the final total.

Once you click Pay Now, the system will start the billing process, charge your credit card and create your account.

You’ll also receive an email about your account details, including your username and any other additional important information. Follow the instructions there on how to access your new hosting account on SiteGround.

And that’s it! You’re now one step away from the start of your blog and side hustle journey.

3. How to start a blog – installing WordPress

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Now that you’ve got your hosting with SiteGround, it’s time to boot up your WordPress installation so you can start your blogging journey.

WordPress is fantastic for starting a blog. It’s a free software was created for the blogging space specifically. It makes starting a blog from scratch super easy. It is also one of the reasons why WordPress currently holds over 50% of websites currently in operation. When you start your blog, WordPress is the perfect platform to run your content on.

Note: this tutorial is based on SiteGround because it’s the hosting provider that I’m with and therefore have access to take screenshots of the process. If you’re with a different hosting provider, they may have something similar but I can’t personally guarantee that it’ll be as easy as the screenshots below.

Firstly, navigate to the cPanel. You can find this under the My Accounts tab and looks something like this:

You’ll be greeted with a bunch of options. What you’re looking for is in the second section – Autoinstallers – and click on the WordPress icon.

This will take you to the WordPress installation page. There isn’t really much to it after this. You just need to click install, fill in the form and wait.

Once completed, the installer will give you the link to your brand new WordPress blog and login link. The login link often starts with the domain name and then followed by wp-admin.

So the final link looks something like this: yourdomainname.com/wp-admin

Y should be greeted by a login screen that looks something like this:

Your username and password are what you filled out in the form during the installation process. After you’re logged in, you’ll be directed to the dashboard.

From here, you can set up the look and feel of your blog.

4. How to start a blog -selecting and installing the right theme for your WordPress blog

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When you start your blog, choosing the right theme can sometimes feel like a difficult task. There are so many good looking blogs out there. How do you compete?

The theme is important – because it determines the look and feel of your content – but it doesn’t determine the final quality of your blog. If you think of a theme as clothes for your content, then it means that it can be changed at a later date.

You don’t have to worry too much about it at first – only that you have one that works for you.

There are a lot of WordPress themes out in the wild and it can make you feel overwhelmed as to which one to choose. Depending on what WordPress is currently running, the installed blog will come with a default theme.

WordPress often comes out with a free yearly theme. Currently, I’m running this blog on the 2020 theme – simply because it gives focus to the content and nothing else – which is what I envisioned this blog to be.

That is why it’s devoid of any additional images unless it directly adds value to the content – like screenshots and diagrams.

However, this look and vibe may not work for what you want to do with your blog. Here are a few things to consider to help you find the best theme that fits your needs.

What’s your vibe?

You’ve figured out your niche and what you’re going to blog about. Now the next question is – what’s your vibe?

That is, what kind of appearance do you want to give off to your readers?

Are we going for a sleek and clean appearance with minimalist tones? Or are you looking at something more friendly that showcases the feature image? What kind of colors are you looking at? Earthy tones? Approachable blues? vibrant reds? or calming greens?

Take a look at your favorite sites. What is it that give them their personalities?

Good design is often invisible – meaning that the content is presented in a way that captures your readers’ attention and makes them want to read on.

But you don’t have to overthink this part too much – because what you’ll be focusing on the post is content. However, there are a few technical things you should be aware of so you’re not tied to a bad theme.

Technical things you should be aware of

There are a lot of themes out there. Some are coded better than others. Here are a few things to keep in mind that will help you in the future when you want to change up your blog and switch the theme. When you start a blog for the first time, this information can determine how easy it is to make updates in the future.

Shortcodes are not attached to the theme

There are things in WordPress called shortcodes. They’re surrounded by [] and are used in the content to display something. It may be a contact form. It may be a survey or some sort of special feature like ratings, recipe cards, Instagram feeds etc.

Whatever the shortcodes are used for, a good theme won’t have special features that let you use them via shortcodes.

This is not good practice because your blog’s functionality becomes tied to the theme – meaning that if you want to switch it out for something else at a later date, you can’t, not without turning your shortcodes into plain text. If your shortcodes are linked to your theme, switching a different look and feel can break the way you’ve set up your content.

Visual layout editors should be in a separate plugin

This is a common one to look out for. Many themes, especially premium ones, comes with some sort of visual layout editor to help you configure what your pages look like.

These editors should be in the form of a plugin and not part of the theme itself. It may come bundled with the theme but if you were to ever change that, your preconfigured layouts still work through the plugin. The expectation is that plugin continues to work until you turn it off.

Visual editors are expected to deal with the structure – that is, the layout, where things sit and how things are displayed on your page while the theme applies the final look and feel, such as color, font and how images are displayed.

New post types

This goes along the same lines as shortcodes and visual editors. Some themes come with the promises of a portfolio section or new ways to categorize and tag things. It’s good to stay away from this kind of theme because if you turn off that particular theme, entire content sections of your blog disappear with it.

When you start a blog, the default post types are posts and pages. Any additional types should be created by a plugin and not a theme.

The easiest way to think about it is – if the theme does something that is not directly related to the look and feel of your blog if you were to switch it for a different theme, will it impact your content negatively?

If the answer is yes, you should look for a different theme.

Don’t think too much about what the theme can do – rather, focus the final look and overall feel that the theme creates. When it comes to functionality, that’s what plugins are for.

Free theme suggestions

Here are five good themes to help you start your blog and save you some time searching for your perfect theme. I’ve included a brief screenshot to help you see what your blog could potentially look like.

But remember, it’s the content that makes the blog so you can always change the theme later.

1. Kale

Kale is a beautiful theme with a clean design. If you’re looking to start a food, fashion or any kind of blog that showcases a lot of fantastic photography, then this theme is an excellent choice to start with.

You can download Kale here.

2. Nisarg

Nisarg is a fully responsive theme, meaning that it will still look under all viewing conditions. We’re talking mobile, tablets, small ad big screens, which can help with the way content is presented when you start writing on your blog.

You can download Nisarg here.

3. Writee

Writee is another flexible blogging theme that you can use for any occasion. Like all the themes that are recommended here, Writee is focussed on displaying your content in the best possible light with just the right color combinations and fonts.

You can download Writee here.

4. Garfunkel

When you start your blog, Garfunkel can be a cool one with a masonry grid layout for your content. Think Pinterest-style. This theme would work well for those who are looking to incorporate different types of medias into their blog – so it becomes more like a wall rather than your traditional list of posts.

You can download Garfunkel here.

5. Verbosa

I started off this blog’s theme using Verbosa before I ended up on the current theme that I’m on. Personally, I quite like the side navigation and the way featured images are displayed.

You can download Verbosa here.

How to install a theme

Once you have the theme file, all you have to do is over Appearance, select Themes and then Add New.

This is located inside your WordPress admin. Look to your left navigation panel.
Once you clicked on Themes, it will take you to your Themes page. This Add New button is at the top of the page.

This will take you to another page that will give you the option of installing one of the WordPress free themes or one of your own. If you’ve chosen to install your own, simply click on upload theme.

Once you click on Add New, it will take you to the Themes installation page with the option to select one of WordPress’ free themes. This button is also right up the top.

Once that’s done, be sure to activate the theme and viola! Your blog is ready and set to go.

5. How to start a blog – plugins you need for performance and SEO

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You can start creating content for your blog now at this point. However, if you want to rank well on Google and have good SEO, there are a few technical things you can do to help your fledgling blog grow.

Plugins in WordPress separates functionality from the theme. This is important because it doesn’t tie up the behind-the-scenes and extra features of your blog with the look and feel of everything.

As your blog grows, you may find yourself needing additional features like a mailing list subscription or a way to display your Instagram feed (on that later in this post).

This section will go over the things you need to help you get noticed and indexed by Google.

Simple WP Sitemap

A sitemap is a list of all your blog posts and is important for Google bots to crawl your website easily. It maps out an index of all content and its links, making it easier for Google to figure out your blog’s content.

Simple WP Sitemap is small, lightweight and easy to use. All you have to do is download it, activate the plugin and that’s it!

Your sitemap link will be yourdomainname.com/sitemap.xml

Broken Link Checker

Broken Link Checker does exactly what it says it’s going to do – check your blog for broken links. While this might not be a problem just yet but as your blog grows, you might find yourself with a good dozen or two of broken links, for whatever reason.

It’s better to fix them up and get them right before Google finds it and penalizes your blog for it.

When something is not working, Broken Link Checker will notify you either via email or through your admin console.

SEO Optimized Images

Google bots and SEO spiders tend to only read text-based content. This means that labeling your images correctly can help them figure out what your content is about. Having proper alt and title tags can mean the difference between your final ranking score and not having one at all.

This plugin’s free version is enough to put a large dent for impressing Google’s requirements and should be part of your starting set of activated plugins.

Site Kit by Google

This plugin is an official plugin by Google. It deals mostly with showing your analytics data and doesn’t directly impact your SEO. However, the data you get from it can help you see how effective your keyword targetting has been, along with additional data like search funnels and what people are looking at.

It also consolidates your Google tracking analytics with Search Console, another Google tool that is not as talked about as Analytics.

It’s up to you if you want to download and install them now or do it later. These plugins are only suggestions and are not in any way prescriptive. They will, however, help you in the long run without overwhelming you with information.

There are other plugins out there that do the same job but they can be quite a lot to take in, especially if you’re new to the blogging space. I’ve chosen these plugins as suggestions due to their efficiency and simplicity. Feel free to play around with other SEO plugins but also be sure to read up on what their features do to prevent double-ups and conflicts.

6. How to start a blog – setting up Analytics and Google Webmasters Tool for SEO and tracking

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When you start your blog, Google Analytics is most likely the most popular analytics data tracking tool currently available. As the name suggests, its owned by Google and provides free insights into your website.

If you’ve never worked with Analytics before, you’ll be amazed by the amount of data it collects and feeds back to you for your own analysis. It also gives you real-time data when visitors enter and read your content.

As for Webmasters Tool – this has been renamed Web Console by Google. The purpose of this tool is to let Google know and index your site and can come in handy for when you start writing on your blog. This tool is not as talked about as Analytics because the data is often delayed by a day or two.

However, the information provided is highly valuable – such as which pages are crawled and indexed by Google. It also tells you why certain pages are rejected and how many times Google has shown your site as an option to select when someone searches for something.

Having both Google Analytics and Webmasters Tool can increase your SEO’s impact, let you know how well you’re doing in the grand scheme of things and let you start writing the right keywords for your blog.

Setting up Google Analytics

For both Google Analytics and Web Console (aka Webmasters Tool), you’re going to need a Google Account. The easiest way for this is the have your gmail account ready.

Go to Analytic’s homepage and you’ll be greeted with something that looks like this:

The actual homepage for Analytics may be different for you, depending on if Google has updated it, but there should be a set up button somewhere on the page.

Analytics is a completely free tool, so you don’t have to worry about hidden surprises or upgrading plans in the future.

Once you click on the set up button, you’ll be directed to a Create account form. For your “Account Name”, you can just use the title of your blog or the domain name. I usually use the domain name because titles can change but domain names are permanent.

The next step is to select what kind of tracking you’re expecting to use this particular set up for. Don’t worry, you can set up more than one website per account.

Google also allows for Analytics to be used on mobile native applications – that is, apps you have to go and download from the app store and not actual websites being viewed on a mobile device.

For the purpose of this guide, select the first option, which is Web.

The next step is to fill in your website’s name, domain address, and category.

Once you click create, you’ll be greeted with a Terms and Conditions popup. After you’ve agreed, Google will take you to a page that contains your tracking ID. If you’ve installed Google Site Kit earlier, then you don’t have to follow the steps as suggested by Google Analytics.

That’s because you can use Site Kit to directly connect to Analytics without having to copy and paste code into your theme or download an additional plugin. All you have to do is activate Site Kit and follow the account linking instructions from the plugin.

Setting up Web Console

The set up for Web Console is slightly more technical than Analytics – but equally as important. This is because it allows you to submit sitemaps directly to Google and get your blog indexed and crawled.

To get started, head over to the Web Console homepage and click on the big green button that says Search Console.

If you’re not already logged in, you’ll need to log into your Google account to get started. Once you’re in, you’ll be greeted with a welcome page.

There are two methods of setting Web Console and the easiest way to verify ownership is through your Google Analytics setup. To do this, select the URL prefix option and type in your domain name.

Once you click continue, it will automatically try and detect if you’ve got a related analytics account. If everything works as expected, you would have successfully set up the tool. If not, it will prompt you for a verification method. Scroll down and select Analytics.

Click verify and it should work. If not, you might not have Analytics properly installed against your site and you’ll need to go and double-check with Site Kit that everything is working as expected.

Once you’re done, it’ll give you the console’s homepage with initial statistics and tracking. You don’t have any data at first and it does take time to build up the results. However, once you’ve got it connected and running for a couple of weeks, the information should be much more informative.

SEO is a long game and Search Console captures the speed of the crawl and indexing process.

To start the crawling process and get your blog on Google’s radar, navigate over to the Sitemaps section of the Search Console. This option can be found on the left navigation panel.

Once you’re there, you’ll have the option to submit a sitemap for your blog. If you’ve installed and activated the suggested sitemap plugin (Simple WP Sitemap) above, the sitemap url will be yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml

Once you hit submit, you’re done! Your website will be queued for crawling and when that’s done, you see a last crawled date on the sitemap page. Google will keep checking back on your blog every now and then until it figures out the frequency of your updates and posting schedule.

The more consistent you are with your posts, the higher the chances of Google indexing your content as soon as it comes out right away.

7. How to start a blog -pages you need for your blog

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Pages are separate and different from your posts. The way they’re treated by WordPress determines how your content gets indexed as well.

When you create a page, you are creating a stand-alone piece of content that sits outside your usual activities.

In the beginning, you don’t really need much – an About page is usually enough. If you plan to grow your blog and monetize it through client work or 3rd party contacts, then a Contacts page will certainly come in handy.

How to write an About page

Writing an About page can be tricky. While the task may seem simple enough, when it comes the time to sit down and type out the words, finding content for it may be a bit more difficult than anticipated.

There are many ways to write an About page – and there’s no right or wrong way to do. An About page gives you the opportunity to connect with your readers who are curious about who you are and want to know more about you.

But what exactly do you write?

There are multiple ways to approach an About page. Here are a few writing prompts to help you get started:

  • who are you?
  • what do you represent?
  • why are you blogging about the things you’re blogging about?
  • what makes you an expert in your field?
  • why and how did you end up writing about the topics you’re writing about?
  • what makes you passionate?
  • what you hope to achieve from blogging?
  • what’s your vision for yourself?

The About page is also a good space to link particularly epic blog posts you’ve written. This will bring to your readers’ attention content that they might have missed, especially for new readers of your website.

Once you’ve got enough content, your About page can also be used as a starter guide to help your readers navigate through what you’ve written in an ordered way.

This is because when we write, we don’t always write content in chronological order. Sometimes, things pop up that later down the line that makes more sense if read before a particular article. Or perhaps your blog posts still a work in progress and having a roadmap to help navigate around can be built up over time.

If you’re really stuck for what to write on your About page, you could just start by introducing yourself and then come back to it later.

What about the contact page?

In theory, you could just put a contact form in the about page to save you from creating a completely different page. The thing with SEO is that it’s a balance between quantity and quality.

The length of a piece helps crawlers and bots determine quality. It’s better to have a highly engaging about page that contains almost everything rather than the content being spread across multiple places.

Unless you’ve got something that is different from your about page, such as a contact form that lets people guest post pitch, then perhaps you don’t need a contact page immediately.

A contact page should have a purpose. Why do you want people to connect with you? Are you planning to sell your services? Are you opening up for advertisers? Or is there something else?

A good contact page should have clear goals on what it’s trying to achieve and you shouldn’t have one just for the sake of having one.

Affiliate disclosures?

If you’re planning to monetize your blog with affiliates, it’s good to tell your audience so for transparency purposes. Some affiliate programs also require you to disclose the relationship, so having a blanket affiliate disclosure can help satisfy this requirement.

You can, technically, do this in the about page as well. However, if you’ve got a lot to write about it, the content can be in its own stand-alone page.

The point of an affiliate disclosure is so that your readers aren’t feeling like they’re being tricked into a product or service. It also helps set the standard for your blog and differentiate your content as something genuine, informative and helpful rather than just something created for the sole purpose of making money.

In summary, you only really need an About page if you’re just starting out. Everything else can be bundled into this page until your blog has grown enough for it to be separated out into their own pages.

The purpose of pages is to provide additional information and lets you achieve something that is outside your normal content creation flow. Most of the time, a well written About page is all you need.

8. How to start a blog – planing and writing your blog’s content

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Consistency is the key to success when it comes to blogging. Growing your traffic is more than just posting content to various social media sites and then calling it a day.

You’re going to need content.

Content is your organic bread and butter. It’s the thing that will get crawled by bots and shared by readers. Your content is the reason why your blog exists in the first place.

So how do you go about creating content? Or even coming up with ideas?

Start with a few first, then branch your way out with new headlines and summaries. There are also multiple ways of keeping track of your ideas. For some, the traditional pen and notebook is the way to go. For others, Google Docs or Google Sheets is the way to go.

Here is the planning and writing process that I personally use to consistently create written content.

1. Start with a headline

I usually start with a list of headlines and write them down on a Sunday, in preparation for the coming week.

I don’t think much about the content itself, only what would sound interesting to read. If you’re planning to be a food blogger, this process can also help you with your shopping list and meal prepping.

Sometimes I do a subtitle to further expand on what road I want to go down with the content. It can set the tone and overall trajectory but is not prescriptive.

I write as many as I can within 30 minutes. It doesn’t matter about the difficulty or potential complexity – only that there is something on the page by the end of the session.

2. Select my top three for the week

Over the last 12 months, I find that three headlines are a good amount that is not too much and not too few. Personally, I can certainly pull off writing three articles in a week, in addition to my other work.

I pick the three headlines that I feel most excited about and leave the rest to sit. It’s easier to write about something if you’re attracted to it.

Selecting my top three headlines also helps prime my brain for writing them. If you don’t have the time to complete three, you can scale it back to two or even one.

The purpose of this step is to make it a commitment and ensure that you consistently create content, no matter what.

3. Schedule in the writing time

If you need to do prep for the post – like taking photographs – you’ll need to account for that too.

The purpose of properly scheduling in writing time, rather than just finding time to write, is that you make growing your blog a priority.

When you actively put creating content as part of your routine and work schedule, you will find it easier to complete the content rather than scrambling each week to make time.

The growth of your blog’s backlog of content is determined by how committed you are at creating content. Once you have a few posts that are posted each week, Google will start to take notice and crawl your content more often.

Scheduling in time will also let you figure out how much time you actually need to complete a blog post. Having the time pressure there can force you out of any writer’s block as you work on developing your content creating muscle.

4. Rinse and repeat

People often ask me how I create so much content and so consistently. It’s because I follow the three steps above and then rinse and repeat it all over again every week.

The more I repeated the process, the better I became at it.

It doesn’t matter if you feel like your first few posts aren’t that great. Everyone goes through that stage, especially if writing and content creation isn’t something you do regularly.

I find this process works the best because I’m not overplanning my content with strict deadlines. I pick my three headlines and run with it. The only deadline I have is that they are completed by the end of the week.

If not, I do a personal review of what happened, why it happened and how I can prevent/improve the situation for the coming week. Sometimes I overload myself with too many things and I need to accept and recognize my error. It also lets me see where my priorities are and if I need to increase or decrease my writing commitments.

Reflection on your processes can help you identify issues and help you figure out how to efficiently create content consistently.

9. How to start a blog – monetizing your blog

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If you want to make blogging your full-time job and replace your income completely, you’re going to need a way to monetize it. There are multiple ways to do it but the most popular method is through affiliates.

An affiliate program is where you recommend a product or service and get a portion of the sale or fixed price commission for every valid sale.

Every affiliate program has its own definition of what is considered valid and will often have a cooling down period of 15 to 30 days in events of cancellation.

The easiest way to achieve affiliate income is to associate the product or service with relevant information. Conversion is the act of persuading your reader to trust your recommendation and purchase from the affiliate.

To do this, you need to connect the product’s value with your readers’ need for it. It needs to match with your niche – because the programs will be much more effective if it’s relevant to your readers’ interests and needs.

Here are 30 affiliate programs for 4 different popular niches that may work for your content.

Technology Affiliates


Microsoft runs an affiliate program with commissions that vary between fixed price offers and a percentage of up to 10%. When you sign up, you will get given a table of commissions, based on the different kinds of products under the Microsoft brand such as digital, software, games, subscriptions and hardware.


Adobe is one of the major players when it comes to digital editing software. However, their subscription prices are not for the faint-hearted and some times need a little nudging to get people to convert. If you want to start a graphics related blog, or start a blog about design, Adobe can be a good affiliate to consider.

Their affiliate program offers up between 85% commission for the first month or around $72 for certain products.


iTunes commission rates vary and depend on the type of product sold. The products available on the platform are more than just music and include apps, books, movies, and TV, with a rate ranging from 2.5% for music and 7% for other products. If you’re looking to start a review blog, iTunes can be good match.

It’s also good to note that iTunes also offers up 100% commission for the first month’s subscription to Apple Music.


GearBeast offers up a range of technology-related goods and you are able to earn up to 50% commission for new purchasers.

The actual commission rate ranges from 3% for higher-priced items like laptops and electronics and around 20% for lower priced items like shoes. You need to check their commissions’ table to see the commission rate for the different categories available.


If you’re planning to start a photography blog, Olympus has an affiliate program that lets you earn around 3% from gear sales. While it may not seem like much, remember that camera lens can range in price and can sit in the $1000s.


Sony offers up 4% commission rate for any sales of its product through the affiliate network VGlink and can be great if you’re looking to start an electronics blog. However, it’s not open to every online store that they’re operating. Currently, only the German online store is available for sign up.


Dell is also another one that’s on VGLink and averages around 3.85% commission rate paid out. This means that the rate can differ, depending on the product type such as cellphones, laptops and other electronic goods like monitors and TV.

The Canadian, American and UK sites are currently open for affiliate partnerships.


Canon is another good brand to affiliate your content, especially if you’re planning to start a photography blog. The commission rate currently averages around 3.49% and is currently open for canon.com, canonestore.com, and global.canon sites.

Food Affiliates

Blue Apron

Blue Apron is a meal delivery service where they make life easier by doing the shopping for you. It comes with everything you need and the instructions on how to make it.

Affiliates earn $15 for every new sign up and have a payment threshold of $50. This means you need to refer at least 4 people to get your first payout.


Graze is a healthy snack box delivery service that offers up $2 per box ordered from them. It’s free delivery for the customer, gives an alternative to snacking by offering up healthy choices and can be great if you want to start a health food blog.

Shipping is free for the customer and their cookie lasts for 14 days.


HelloFresh is a similar food delivery box that is similar to BlueApron. Their commission rate is a little bit higher at $25 per new sign up with offers of bonuses for volume sign-ups.


Vega is a protein supplement and health bar brand that offers up around 2% – 10% on commissions and makes a perfect product if you’re planning to start a health and fitness type blog. The program is managed by Commission Junction and they do all the tracking and payout for you.


Who doesn’t love Vitamix? At 3% commission, these blenders offer up a good return for promoting their products on your blog. As a product, it would fit food blogs very well and can be paired with soups and sauces.


Averaging 6.93% commission payment, MyProtein affiliate program is run through VigLink. This health store brand specializes in protein drinks, creatine and snack bars, and can be a great pairing if you want to start a fitness-related blog.

Vitamin World

Vitamin World is a health and fitness food store that specializes in vitamins, supplements, protein, digestion, and weight support. It is also another good affiliate partnership if you want to start a health and fitness blog. The affiliate program offers up an 8% commission rate, a higher rate than the other health and protein-related affiliates listed here.

Shopping Affiliates


Amazon runs one of the most popular affiliate programs currently available. The commission rate schedule ranges and gives you the opportunity to earn up to 10% for luxury beauty brands. The commission rate other things sits at around 4-5%, depending on the category. Amazon is often used by many blogs and can be a good place to start.


Target is a good alternative to Amazon when it comes to products. Their commission rate sits up to 8% with tracking cookies that lasts for 7 days. The range of products available makes it flexible for whatever kind of blog you want to start.


eBay isn’t just for second-hand goods and features new items run by legitimate stores. The commission rate is 50% – 70% calculated against the final fee collected from the seller. eBay products can also make a good affiliate if you want to start a product discovery type blog.


Sephora is a major beauty product retailer, stocking over 200 top brands from around the world. There are no brand restrictions for affiliate sales and gives a commission rate of up to 7.2% for certain categories.


Etsy gives 4% as the commission rate and can be good for spotting indie and unique pieces to promote from the marketplace.

The products on Etsy are often unique and can give your blog a different edge when it comes to promotions and product placements.


Shopping isn’t just for people, fur babies can use some love too. FitBark is a GPS tracking tool for your pub and can work well as a product to promote for blogs relating to dogs, or posts about dogs.

FitBark pays out 10% on all commissions and can be a worthy endeavor to check out.


Petco is your online pet care site that includes a variety of pet-related products for cats, dogs, fish, birds, reptiles and small pets.

The commission rate for Petco is 4%.


Are you planning to write about DIY solutions or renovation processes? HomeDepot is a good one for this niche and offers up a 3% commission rate.

You could link in the materials and tools you used in order to make it relevant for your readers that may be looking to follow through with your instructions.

Travel Affiliates


Booking.com offers up 25% of the commission they collect. Their payout model is similar to eBay’s – where they give you a portion of what they make rather than from the base price of the product sold.

However, this can still be a lucrative affiliate program, especially for travel bloggers who can make genuine recommendations for places they’ve stayed in.


TripAdvisor is a similar site to Booking.com and offers up 50% of the commission they collect. You could offer up both Booking.com and TripAdvisor as potential recommendations to help your audience compare prices on different platforms.


Agoda offers a flat 6% from whatever you’ve successfully referred to the website. Because you’re getting the 6% from the actual price and not the commission rate, there is a chance that you’ll end up with more in terms of affiliate sales.


If you’re a travel blogger, Skyscanner can make a great flight recommendation and the website offers up a 50% revenue share from whatever they make.

We go back to the eBay model of giving making a commission on the fees they get from their suppliers and then sharing it with you. Flight booking can be a competitive market but also lucrative since plane tickets for certain trips can run in the $1000s.


Airbnb has grown in size and property availability. Perhaps you’re a digital nomad looking to create a blog and make some money on the side. Why not monetize from your experiences and gain 25% to 40% commission on the collected fee?


Expedia is another online booking platform for hotels, packages, flights, cars, and activities. This is another option and gives you up to 12% commission. They’ve managed to gross $88 billion in sales last year, so the demand for travel is high and with the supply and options to match your blog’s niche.

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet is famous for their tour guide books. But did you know that they also do hotels, flights and tour bookings? While the affiliate for that is still in the works at the time of writing this guide, they do offer 15% for print books and ebooks sold through their digital platforms.

There are many more affiliate programs out there but these ones are a good solid start to help you monetize your blog.

10. How to start a blog – driving traffic to your blog

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For many beginners, driving traffic to your blog can be a confusing journey. Having content on its own is not enough in 2020. You have to have a social media presence and build up your authority ranking.

But it seems like a catch 22 moment where you need the traffic to drive more traffic. So how to do you go about gaining traction for an unknown blog?

So how to do you grow organically?

Be everywhere

The mistake that many new bloggers often make is that once you make a post, people will automatically find it. But that’s not the case.

You still need to go where the crowds are and get yourself out there. When you’re starting a blog from scratch, it’s like building a business from ground zero – you’re going to need some marketing and social media is one way to do it for free.

Not all social platforms will have the same effect and some are better than others at attracting certain crowds. Here is a list of some places you can do some self-promotion for free.


LinkedIn is a good social network to get onto if you’re not already a member. The vibe here is very different from Facebook – leaning towards a more mature and professional audience, which means fewer memes and junk content to scroll through.

The members here are very engaged and content with a more mature audience.

Marketing, technology and business-related content will thrive on this platform.


In general, Facebook has a more casual and personal vibe. The audience group on here are often in search of casual entertainment to fill in their time.

The demographics of this social network vary and you’ll need to find the right groups for your content to thrive. Groups that are geared towards no or limited self-promotions tend to fare better than like or like or follow or follow groups.

Try to avoid these kinds of groups since they will only waste your time and won’t help you gain genuine readers. Don’t get distracted by large numbers. Search for groups with smaller numbers but are active and engaged. Make friends with the people on there and spread your content through word of mouth that way.


Hashtags are your portal to a wider audience, especially when it comes to Twitter. The content here has a short shelf life but if you figure out what hashtags work for you, it can gain you, followers and readers, quickly.

It might pay and save you time by looking at people who are in the same niche as you and seeing what they’re doing – what hashtags they’re using and what kind of conversations they’re creating.

Create connections by commenting on other people’s tweets but avoid blatant self-promotion. Work on figuring out your digital social persona rather than trying to sell things to people.

It’s easier for people to get curious and go searching about who and what you when you’ve added value to their life in some way.


Instagram is more than just for filters and pre-arranged shots of food. Although, good photography will do quite well on there – but only if you use the right hashtags.

Hashtags are linked to your discoverability. It also has a time component linked to it as well.

With Instagram, gaining an audience does require consistency and semi-long form descriptions. You’re not limited by the number of characters like Twitter. Longer posts that are akin to micro-blogging tend to do well as it allows the audience to become engaged with your snaps.


TikTok is the rising star of social networks. The demographic on here is more Gen Z and those under the age of 25 and TikTok is still a new thing when compared to other social networks means that it’s not as saturated.

The market here is fresh and mixes video with social media – a concept that appears to be thriving.

If you start marketing your content through TikTok now, it can leverage you with a headstart before everyone else starts to come on here.

Discoverability on TikTok is similar to Instagram and Twitter. The trick to getting views and engagement is to use hashtags. You might need to search around and experiment to figure out which hashtags works best for you.


Flipboard is something that’s gone under the radar but can be highly effective.

It is a similar concept to Pinterest – but more geared towards written content and creating magazines that you can add the equivalent of pins to.

Flipboard is easy to set up and requires very little maintenance. It’s another space that allows you to share your content, and the algorithms make suggestions to its users for content within their field of interest.

Create authoritative content

Authoritative content isn’t predicated on how many years experience you’ve got. Authoritative content, in the eyes of Google and organic search results, is how informative and useful your content is to the reader.

Long-form – that is, content that is more than 2000 words – tend to rank better than shorter pieces. When there are that many words in a single piece, it often signals to Google that you’re the real deal and not some click-bait content.

When people use Google, they use it to find answers and shorter pieces tend to be shallow in the depth and information category.

Think of Wikipedia – and all those fan sites that have long and in-depth information about a particular topic or subject. They’re usually the ones that come up first for a lot of topics.

They’ve established themselves as content leaders in that particular area or subject.

And that’s what you need to rank well on Google. When it comes to SEO, it’s not a quantity game but a quality one. The higher the value your article is, the higher it will rank – and this value is often determined by word count.

So give long-form content a go. Write a few highly in-depth pieces and see how it goes in your search console after a few days.

Guest post for backlinks

When you guest post on another person’s blog, you are exposing yourself to their audience and making yourself known to the world. It also gives you the opportunity to exchange content for a backlink.

Backlinks are markers that tell Google the trustworthiness of your blog. It tells Google that you’re serious and have something useful to say. Backlinks from trustworthy sites help Google figure out if you’re just another spammer or someone who is really trying to offer value to readers.

Because there is a lot of spam on the Internet and backlinks from sites that Google ranks and trusts acts like a good referee for your blog.

To get backlinks, you can compile a list of your favorite content sites and see if they accept guest bloggers. Sometimes it takes finding the contact form, others it’s writing in a pitch for an article.

Or if you’ve got a friend, you can exchange content and link each other in return.

It’s easier to drive organic traffic than a site that’s sitting alone and unconnected on the world wide web once you become established.

11. What to do next

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When you start a blog, you are playing a long game – especially if you want to turn it into a full-time income and quit your day job.

To run a successful blog, you need to consistently create content for it. Think about your blog from a reader’s perspective – why would they trust you? Why would they keep returning to your website? Why would they listen to your recommendations?

You need to build trust and to do that, content is the answer.

If you’re looking to growth hack your way to a million views per month, you’re going to need content. Going viral, getting that free organic traffic and making money online is not something that will just fall into your lap – but if you work for it, the chances of it happening will increase with every action you take.

I hope you’ve found this ultimate guide helpful and thank you for reading.

I am currently embarking on a Prototype Year to experiment my way into a life I want. This space is for documenting that journey.

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