Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn commissions if you purchase something through the links below. Please read my disclaimer for more info.
Blogging is still the #1 most accessible way to make money online in 2021.
More bloggers than ever are sharing their 5-6 figure monthly income reports.
Want a piece of the action?
Well starting a blog is simple….but it isn’t easy. That is unless you have a step-by-step guide outlining exactly what you need to do.
In this article, I’m going to detail all of the steps for proper site set up so you can monetize your blog for years to come.
Don’t want to read all of the steps? Skip Ahead ♻
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Blog?
Unlike many other ways to make money online, the cost to get a new blog off the ground is very minimal.
So how much does it cost to start a blog?
There are two recurring expenses you will have for every new blog:
If you plan on having multiple blogs, make sure to pick a plan that allows you to host more than one site so you can split the hosting expense between them.
Once you get your blog started you may incur additional costs like:
- Premium WordPress Theme and Plugins
- Link Building (getting other sites to link to you)
- Email Marketing Service
- SEO and Marketing Tools
At the bare minimum, you will have to sign up for a couple of tools after your blog starts making some money if you are serious about making a full-time living through blogging.
Paid Tools I Use
How to Pick Your Blog’s Niche
Now that we have covered how much money a blog costs to start and the different ways you can monetize it, it’s time to talk about niche selection.
My standard advice is usually to start your first blog in a niche that you are passionate about or at the very least interested in.
This makes it easier to follow through to the finish line and not give up (trust me you want to see it all the way through for the maximum reward).
Below are some of the most popular blogging niches:
- Blogging about Blogging
While the above niches are all wildly popular, they are all broad and very saturated.
One way to stand out is to write about a smaller segment of a broader niche. This is called a sub-niche.
Here are the main niches I would avoid unless you already have some major blogging experience under your belt:
The above niches have the highest returns (you could make six figures per month), but they also are the most competitive.
How Do You Name Your Blog?
A lot of time can be wasted trying to decide on the perfect name for your blog, but I do have few tips for picking a good domain name.
Use a .com
Try to use a .com as your domain extension if possible. The only exception should be if you live in a country where your domain is also strong like .co.uk or .com.au and you’re targeting a non-US audience.
You will see plenty of blogs use .net and .org extensions, but I would advise against this.
People are more likely to click on the search result of a site with a .com extension (I don’t have any hard data to back this up, it’s just my experience from working with various blogs over the years).
So just stick to a .com domain when starting your blog.
No Hyphens or Numbers
There isn’t really any explanation needed.
Stay away from using a domain with hyphens or numbers.
They look spammy.
Keep it short (2-3 words max)
Two to three-word domains are just more memorable than a longer name.
I prefer to start my search with two-word domains, but I’m not against a three-word domain if it’s catchy and makes sense in the niche.
I’m also a big fan of alliteration when branding a blog. This means using the first letter to start both words.
An example would be SeriouslySmoked.com (Grilling Niche).
Alliteration isn’t necessary, but I usually like to start off my search with it in mind.
Basically, I like to keep my domain names short and sweet.
Check it on Archive.org
Archive.org is a recorded history of all websites (hence the name).
Before you pull the trigger on buying a domain name, plug it into Archive.org to see if it has ever been used for a spammy site or a site that is not topically relevant to the content you will be producing.
If either of these is the case, just move on to a different domain name.
See if it’s Already Indexed with Google
If you happen to pick up a domain name that was recently dropped it may still be indexed with Google.
You can check to see what pages (if any) are still in Google’s index.
In the Google search bar type:
If there are any pages indexed you will see them in the results.
Checking indexation is just a foolproof way to make sure your domain wasn’t recently used for anything spammy, illegal, or completely off-topic to your niche.
Run a Trademark Search
The last thing you want to happen is to start a blog, get it profitable, and then get a letter telling you that you have been infringing on a company’s trademark.
It’s never personally happened to me, but I’ve heard a couple of horror stories.
So make sure to check every domain name in your jurisdiction’s trademark database.
In the USA it’s as easy as running a query on the US Patent and Trademark Office website.
If the words in your domain name show up as trademarked, you should scrap it and move on to a different option.
Where Should You Buy Your Domain Name?
NameSilo has been my preferred domain registrar for years.
They offer the cheapest domain name registrations in the industry.
But the main reason I love NameSilo is they include free WHOIS Protection with every domain.
Most other registrars or hosting companies that give you a complimentary domain name charge between $9-15 per year for WHOIS Protection.
If you own a lot of domains, those additional fees can really add up come re-registration time.
With NameSilo, WHOIS protection stays FREE FOREVER.
The reason you want WHOIS protection is that if you are building multiple sites you don’t want people to be able to piece together your entire site portfolio through your WHOIS data.
Trust me, when you get successful, there will be people trying to take shortcuts to figure out exactly what you are doing.
Plus NameSilo’s domain management interface is super clean and easy to use.
Some hosting companies offer a free domain name registration when you sign up, but I like the free lifetime WHOIS Protection so I would eat the $8 and register your domain with NameSilo instead.
Where Should You Host Your Blog?
There are a number of quality choices when it comes to website hosting. Below are my 3 favorite hosting platforms for blogs.
- 24/7/365 Support
- Managed Security
- Automated Backups
- Lightning-fast CDN
- Free Unlimited Site Transfers
- 24/7 Real-time Chat Support
- Starting at $3.95 per month
- Easy Setup
- Free Domain Name
Cloudways is by far the best bang for your buck when it comes to hosting your blog.
Unlike the other hosting services on this list, Cloudways acts as a middleman and manages your blog that is hosted on a cloud server.
They take the complexity out of managing cloud hosting and charge a small premium to manage it for you.
The advantages of using cloud hosting are speed and scalability.
Not only will your blog load extremely fast, but Cloudways also allows you to scale your server resources as your traffic grows. Essentially you aren’t paying extra for resources until you actually need them.
When you sign up, Cloudways gives you a choice of 5 different cloud providers to host your blog with.
The most inexpensive package starts at $10 per month.
Cloudways walks you through the entire process of setting up your cloud server, installing WordPress, and managing your account.
Cloudways gives you the perfect balance of affordability and power.
This is why they are my #1 Recommend Hosting Service.
Bluehost is perfect when you are first starting out, and you probably won’t get a better value for website hosting.
You have to pay for your hosting yearly, but it works out to be as low as $3.95 per month.
The promotional pricing is super inexpensive, but the plan does automatically renew the next year at standard pricing. .
Last year on the recommendation of a trusted friend, I moved some of my top-earning sites over to WPX.
I’m very happy that I did.
The customer service and security are top-notch, and they migrated all of my sites over to their servers for free.
My website loading times with WPX are lightning fast!
WPX has its own Content Delivery Network(CDN) that serves your files from the closest physical location to your visitors.
I highly recommend trying out WPX if you have multiple blogs (or plan to).
WPX is $24.95 per month for up to 5 sites, and you can pay monthly if you choose.
Getting Started with WordPress
Once you have purchased your domain name and hosting, the next step is setting up the domain and installing WordPress.
Almost every host has 1-Click WordPress install, so it should literally be as easy as ONE CLICK.
Congrats! Now you are ready to start building your blog!
Once you have WordPress installed, you can optionally spend money on a premium WordPress theme that will make your life a little easier.
The WordPress theme is essentially the framework.
When I first started out I took the cheap path and used a free theme that took forever to customize and had no tech support.
I would spend days (sometimes weeks) tweaking all of the code and making adjustments.
It was a total time suck.
So, I did some research on premium themes and narrowed it down to a couple that I liked.
No matter which theme you decide on using (there are literally 1000’s of choices), you shouldn’t pay more than $70 for it.
Also, try to find one that gives you a multi-site license so you can use it for additional projects.
Elegant Themes (Best Value)
Elegant Themes makes an assortment of premium themes and plugins, including Divi which is essentially a theme and page builder plugin all in one package.
You can purchase an All-Access Pass to all of Elegant Theme’s themes and plugins for $89 per year or $249 for a lifetime license.
When you purchase a license you can use it on UNLIMITED SITES!
There really isn’t a better deal than that.
WordPress plugins offer additional functionality that isn’t available in the core code of the theme.
Unless you build your site from scratch and are already an accomplished coder, you are going to need to use a few plugins to get the best results.
That being said, sometimes plugins are built with bloated code that can slow down your site, so try to keep them to a minimum.
All of the plugins listed below I deem essential when starting a new blog.
The best part is…they are all FREE!
Rank Math (Search Engine Optimization)
For years there were two choices for a WordPress SEO plugin.
This all changed when MyThemeShop launched Rank Math.
Rank Math is my favorite plugin in my stack. It is super easy to set up and really helps structure your site for SEO best practices right out of the box.
The best part is it’s completely FREE!
Nothing is more annoying than having to moderate spam post comments every day.
Akismet is a free plugin that helps cut down on spammy comments.
The reality is that websites get hacked every day, and you are going to want to have protection from intruders.
Wordfence is a free plugin that will give you some basic protection against attacks.
The free version works very well.
The only time I suggest upgrading to the premium version is when your blog starts making a good deal of money because by default that means there are more eyes on you.
Remember to always protect your investments.
Really Simple SSL (Security)
Want to make sure you have the little lock next to your URL when someone visits your site?
Of course, you do!
First, you need to make sure that your site has a valid SSL certificate installed.
Thankfully most web hosts make it easy to install one for free.
Just install the Really Simple SSL plugin, and it will scan your settings and configure your entire site to run over HTTPS.
Now you will have a secure website (and the little lock).
W3TC (Speed Optimization)
Making sure your page loads quickly is directly correlated to your page’s bounce rate (% of users who leave a page without taking an action), which is in turn correlated to the number of pageviews.
More pageviews = MORE MONEY!
There are many different caching plugins, but W3TC is free and does an amazing job of speeding up sites for most configurations.
Once your blog starts making money I would suggest purchasing a license for WP Rocket. It’s my favorite overall speed optimization plugin.
Shortpixel (Image Optimization)
The #1 culprit of slow-loading sites is….UNOPTIMIZED IMAGES!
The good news is that there is an excellent free plugin that will optimize your images on the fly.
Shortpixel is free for up to 100 image optimizations per month.
This is fine for most small affiliate sites that are only publishing a handful of posts monthly.
Even if you need more optimizations it will only cost you $4.95 per month for up to 5000!
As a bonus, Shortpixel works hand-in-hand with Autoptimize to serve the WebP version of your images.
WebP is a next-gen image format that was developed by Google.
Since we are trying to make Google happy, why not use their own technology.
Plus, WebP images are smaller in size and will help your site load faster.
Easy Table of Contents
It’s always a good idea to include a table of contents at the beginning of any post. This especially rings true when you are publishing long informational type posts.
Easy Table of Contents allows you to easily add and customize a table of contents into any post.
There are many free TOC plugins, but this one is the industry standard.
How to Setup Google Analytics & Search Console
Now that you have WordPress installed and set up to your liking, there are just two final technical steps you need to complete.
Google Analytics (GA)
Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool offered by Google to help you analyze your website traffic.
Once GA is set up, you can download the accompanying app on your phone and monitor your site in real-time.
Google Search Console (GSC)
Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results.
You don’t have to sign up for GSC to be included in Google Search results, but Search Console helps you understand and improve how Google sees your site.
Setting it up is as easy as signing up for an account, going to your hosting dashboard, and adding the code GSC provides to verify that you own the domain.
If you are using the Rank Math plugin you can configure GA and GSC through its Setup Wizard.
How to Create a Logo for Your Blog
Many new bloggers spend wayyyyy too much time on creating a logo.
Creating a logo should be the least of your worries.
It should really be the last step before you start writing posts for your new blog.
I use Canva Pro to create my blog logos and I suggest you do the same.
They have a large assortment of premade logo designs that you can customize and tweak to your liking.
I used Canva Pro almost every day for creating images for my blog and social media accounts.
It’s a must-have program if you are serious about becoming a successful blogger.
💡 Keep your logo simple. You can always go back and do a professional rebrand once you start making money from your blog.
How to Start a Blog Checklist
Once you have completed all of these steps you can start writing your blog posts.
Wondering where you should start?
Every niche is different, so analyze the topics that other successful bloggers in your niche are writing about and create similar content.
This doesn’t mean you should copy what that they are doing, simply use it as inspiration.
If you are creative and stay consistent with your writing, you will no doubt have success as a blogger!