How To Start a Blog and Make Money

by David Utke | Last Updated: November 4, 2021

So you want to learn how to start a blog. Not just any blog, but a professional blog that gets traffic, makes money and helps people. First, what is a blog? A blog is just a part of a website where you publish content in chronological order that is organized into categories.

On a well designed website, it should be the it’s own section of a website. It’s primary function is to get search traffic from Google and to then turn that search traffic into email subscribers, product sales, advertising clicks or social shares.

That’s why you should start a blog. Because you want to grow your traffic and then convert that traffic with a specific purpose. Can a blog really make money? Yes! Words, images and video all put together can become a very valuable and profitable asset.

Take a look below at the earnings for the last 30 days from a website promoting tech products from Amazon Associates:

While $1,318.74 is not enough to live off, it’s just one of many revenue stream you can implement with a blog. Given the right content and audience, a high traffic blog can make money very passively. It’s simple, but not easy. Let’s get started.

Blogging Tutorial Overview


This “how to start a blog” tutorial will cover a variety of topics you need to understand in order to build a successful blog. What we’re going to be doing in this tutorial is creating a website and then adding a blog to it. I’ll show you how to design your blog and what type of content you should publish so you can get search traffic.

With traffic and attention you can then make sales of products you’ve created or products you’re promoting as an affiliate, grow your email list and get social shares to expand your reach.

Let’s get started blogging:

The Best Blogging Platforms

With starting a blog you have three options – self hosted, website builder or a free platform. Self hosted means you have your own hosting account with an open source content management system (CMS). A website builder you own your content, but are using a proprietary CMS and a free platform you don’t own your website in any way.

The advantage of self hosted is that it’s cost effective and you can install WordPress for free which is an open source CMS. Website builders are a good option too, but you’re paying for a closed source CMS and it’s difficult to move your site away from them.

Free platforms are fine for casual use, but let’s assume you want to build an asset for yourself. WordPress is the top recommendation everywhere because it is designed for blogging and content creation first and foremost. But it has the flexibility to be used for any type of website.

What about Blogger.com, WordPress.com and other options?

WordPress is both a CMS you install on a shared hosting account (found at WordPress.org) but they also offer their own dedicated website builder option to compete with Wix and Squarespace found at WordPress.com. In this tutorial we’re going to use WordPress on a shared host, not WordPress.com.

Blogger.com is a great platform for casual use but not ideal for building a sellable asset. Blogger blogs are difficult to rank and get search traffic, difficult to sell and you don’t own the platform. Squarespace is an outstanding website builder a good option too, but it can get very expensive.

Last is Ghost.org. Ghost is an open CMS too, but it’s much more technical to setup and is strictly focused on creating a paid subscription around your blog content. With WordPress you get more flexibility with features and design so it has a wider appeal than Ghost for more aspiring bloggers.

Why Does Everyone Use WordPress?

WordPress is open source, easy and free to install on any shared hosting account while being feature rich with the ability to create any type of website from an ecommerce site, to a blog or even a membership website. Here are WordPress’s main selling points:

Easy to use. Creating content, adding products, pages, images, videos and links to your website is so easy with WordPress. WordPress is used by some of the biggest brands in the world like CNN and the BBC to manage their content publishing.

Total control over your blog. WordPress comes with some excellent tools so anyone can learn how to use to create a beautiful website. WordPress themes make designing your website the way YOU want an easy and fun process.

Excellent support community. WordPress is has a thriving community so you can always get help and advice for any aspect of your blog.

WordPress is secure. It’s constantly updated and supported so you never have to worry about running software that is out of date.

Great SEO – WordPress can be setup with ease for proper SEO. There are also countless SEO tutorials you can follow and all assume you’re using WordPress.

Choose your blogging topic

Do not be a money chaser. Too many people start websites and blogs on topics they are currently consuming but have no deep knowledge on. What they end up doing is creating blogs that are simply echos of more popular blogs. Instead, think about what you’re really interested in and can provide value on.

Here is how you pick a blog topic:

1 – What are your skills? What do you know how to do that other people don’t know? What do people ask you for help with or advice on?

2 – What can you talk about and write about effortlessly? For a blog, you should confidently be able to write 100+ topic ideas.

3 – How will you make money? What do people pay for in your topic? You need to have a monetization strategy.

4 – Are you interested in starting a long term project on this topic? You don’t need to be an expert, but you need to be a step above your audience and willing to learn. This also helps with content creation.

5 – What is your content angle? Does your topic have a lot of questions to answer as well as low competition phrase you could rank for quickly? How is your blog going to be different or better?

6 – Are there similar sites on your potential topic? You want competition. Where there is competition there is money to be made. Ideally you want to find smaller sites as with larger website you’ll need a budget to compete.

7 – Are there high traffic, high value keywords? Low hanging fruit is fine, but if you want to make money you need to rank for competitive topics that get traffic and can be monetized with affiliate marketing, ads and so forth.

Provide value

While money chasers are spinning their wheels creating low quality blogs about making money online, crypto currency or yet another generic tech blog promoting Amazon Associates, wondering why they don’t have traffic and looking for short cuts – instead ask yourself these questions and create a great blog on a topic others can’t easily compete with you on.

Start a blog with WordPress


Now we need to create a website so we can start blogging. For this we will get a domain name, a web host and then install WordPress in three simple steps.

Bluehost – The #1 recommended host for self hosted WordPress

Bluehost is the #1 recommended web host for WordPress by the team behind WordPress. They are an excellent shared web host and provide all the tools, support and resources you need to grow your website to 50,000 pageviews or more per month.

In addition, you can also get your domain name fee waived for the first year with any purchase of a 1 year hosting package.

Bluehost comes with four different pricing plans:

The Plus and Choice Plus plans are the best. In general, most bloggers should go with Choice plus and buy a 2 or 3 year hosting package to lock in the low, introduction rate.

Once you make a purchase you’ll have to add a primary domain to your account. All shared hosting accounts need a primary domain so here is where you’ll register your .com. Below, click on “create a new domain.

Go ahead and click on “create a new domain.” Here you will need to register your domain name. A domain name is the web address for your website. Try to get a .com as it’s the legacy extension of the internet and has the most resell value.

Next carefully fill out your payment information and proceed through the on-boarding process. On the payment page you can uncheck all extras. You also get a bigger discount the longer your package term is.

Finally, you’ll be presented with your Bluehost dashboard:

Bluehost

The #1 recommended webhost by WordPress. Free domain for the first year with your purchase.

What about the Bluehost builder? It’s a great option too. It’s build around their own proprietary theme and framework on top of WordPress. Watch this tutorial video on how it works.

4 – Install WordPress

You need a content management system to help publish content, design your website, upload pictures and embed videos. All this can be done with WordPress.

To get started with installing WordPress we need to create a website with our Bluehost account:

Create a website with WordPress

Installing WordPress with Bluehost is very easy. In your dashboard simple click on “my sites” and click on “create site.” Next you will have to set some admin details for your WordPress install:

The site name should match the URL of your website. Add a tagline if you like. Both the site name and tagline can be changed or deleted within WordPress.

Also click on the “advanced” tab where you can enter an email address which will be your recovery email as well as an admin user name and password of your choosing. If you don’t fill this out, the install process will randomly generate for you an admin user name and password.

Choose Domain Name

With your hosting account you can add multiple domains. At this point you should only have your primary domain name. You can install WordPress on a directory only, but it’s typically best to leave this blank so you install WordPress on the root domain.

You can also at this stage add on some free plugins. WP Forms is our go to for creating contact forms, but in general you can ignore all these plugins. When ready, click on the “next” button which will begin the WordPress installation process.

Upon completion you’ll be presented with this page:

You have now created a website and are ready to start blogging.

How To Log Into WordPress

You can log into WordPress from your Bluehost dashboard or you can log in via your WordPress installation.

To log into your WordPress powered website all you need to do is visit example.com/wp-admin

To log into your website now, all you have to do is go to website.com/wp-admin and put in the user name and password you made when installing WordPress. 

This is how you will log into your website from here on out.

Verify your SSL certificate is working correctly

With your Bluehost account you get a free SSL certificate installed on your website. That means you should see a little “lock” icon in your web browser. If not, contact Bluehost support and they will fix it quickly and easily.

In order to check your SSL certificate:

  1. Log in to your Bluehost portal.
  2. Click on the “my sites” tab.
  3. Find your website and click on “Manage Site.”
  4. Go to the “Security” tab.
  5. Under “security certificate,” you will find your “free SSL certificate” status.

Welcome to WordPress.

What will My Blog Look Like?

For a blog that can make money, there are a few layouts that work (check out our successful blog examples). Each one has their own distinct focus and benefits.

The blogroll

The blogroll simply means to use your blog archive page as the homepage. This layout shows your latest posts first and the rest of the posts in chronological order.

This setup is good because it allows readers to find your latest content very easily. It’s weak though on introducing people to what your site is about.

If you lack design skills or your website does not have a lot of content, then go with the blog roll layout. If your strategy is strictly to build out a site that has blog posts that rank for keywords and you don’t intend on doing any sort of email marketing, then the blog roll layout is for you.

Visual Menu

A visual menu homepage layout works because you show the best in class content you have for different, relevant categories. This is helpful for the end visitor to find content they are looking for and to be introduced to a wide variety of topics.

You can also consider adding in a call to action to subscribe to an email list at the top and bottom of the homepage as a way to build out a very effective homepage.

Influencer

The influencer style blog leverages a homepage with you front and center with a clear call to action to subscribe to an email list. While your blog obviously has blog posts, design the homepage to be optimal for getting people on your email list.

The end goal being to get organic search traffic with your blog posts to then converting that traffic into email subscribers you can help out with your content and products.

How to create a homepage with WordPress

Start off your new blog with the blogroll layout. Once you have published 20 pieces of content, then consider creating a dedicated homepage. In order to make a homepage you first need to create two blank pages with WordPress.

Next go to “settings” in your WordPress dashboard and click on reading.

Create two pages. Set one as the homepage and one as the blogroll page.

Here is where you can set your a page for the homepage and another page for the posts page. Now you’ll have to jump into the homepage and design it to your liking.

The best permalinks for blogs

Permalinks are the URL structure of your blog post. In WordPress you have a few different options:

To change your permalinks, go into your settings and you’ll see an option called permalinks.

What Is The Best Permalink Structure?

For most blogs, the ideal URL structure is this to have /blog/post-name type setup. It helps give a nice structure for search engines and it helps separate blog posts from pages and affiliate links.

Install a Theme


Themes are frameworks you can install to easily design your website. Themes can be a broad, general purpose theme with multiple layout built in or they can be specifically designed for a singular purpose. Theme for WordPress are either free or premium.

When you’re in your WordPress dashboard, go to appearance, then “themes” and then click on “add new.” Here you will see a wide variety of free themes you can install. Don’t forget that you can also filter by most popular and most downloaded as a way to narrow down your search.

Free themes:

Click on the theme you want to install. It will be downloaded and installed right from the WordPress directory. Make sure to click “activate” to make it go live.

Choose a free theme of your choice

Look through the themes to see if anything catches your eye (you can also sort by most popular). Just click the theme to install it with the click of a button.

Premium Themes

These are themes you have to buy and install manually yourself as they are not listed in the WordPress directory. Instead, you purchase them from a theme design shop. T

o install a premium theme:

Go to “appearance” then “themes.” Click on the “add new” button then click on the upload button. Find the zip file of the theme you just bought and downloaded and simply upload it.

Then click “install now” to install the theme. Leave it as a zip file after downloading it. You can only upload compressed ZIP files.

The most popular themes currently:

You have a lot of options with themes, here are some of the best themes you should be aware of. By no means is this an end all and be all list. It’s simply to help make you aware of your options:

Astra (Free and premium version)

The Astra theme is the most downloaded theme for WordPress. The free version is feature rich and allows you to easily create a blog or website. You can also use the Astra Sites plugin to download pre-made websites (free and paid).

Twenty Twenty Theme (Free)

The flagship theme from the team behind WordPress for 2020. Each year they release a new theme for the new year. The 2020 theme has a great homepage, is fast and is optimized for mobile.

Ultra Theme (Premium theme)

This the is a general purpose theme to help you design any type of website you want. Excellent homepage, elegant, simple layout for blog posts that focus on readability. Specific control over the look and design of individual pages. Use ULTRAPRO for a discount.

DIVI (Premium theme)

It has a front end page builder allowing you to have a lot of control over the look and feel of your website. Ideal for those who want a very beautiful, design heavy website.

Avada Theme (Premium theme)

This is the best selling theme on Theme Forest. It’s a theme that comes with the ability to customize various aspects of your theme however you want as well as coming with different templates you can download and use.

Hello Theme (Free theme)

Made to work with the pro version of the Elementor plugin, this theme is a “blank slate” plugin that allows you total control and flexibility over your website. Perfect if you intend to use Elementor to design your website.

Kadence theme (Free and premium)

One of the best free themes around, it rivals Astra as one of the best options for creating a blog. Great homepage, premium features built in that other themes lock behind a paywall.

Essential WordPress Plugins


A plugin is a a piece of software that acts as an extension for WordPress, giving it new features and functions. There are thousands of plugins you can install. What plugins you install is dependent upon what you need.

You can install plugins that add social share buttons, affiliate link management, contact forms and so much more. To add a plugin to your website is a simple process. Simply navigate to plugins and then click add new.

The most essential plugins for any WordPress blog are:

Checkout our list of essential WordPress plugins.

Install WordPress plugins

To install any plugin for WordPress simply navigate over to the “plugins” tab in your WordPress dashboard. From there, search for then install any plugin of your choosing.

Also, there are “premium” plugins for WordPress as well. They work the same as premium themes in that you buy them, download them as a zip file and then upload them to your website.

Rank Math – The best SEO plugin for WordPress

Rank Math is an on-page SEO plugin. That means that by installing this plugin you have the ability to adjust the meta description for your blog posts and pages.

This is important when creating content that is targeting a keyword phrase you wish to rank for as you can now “optimize” your content to have the best chance of ranking.

With it you can give an dedicated SEO title, a meta description, you can enable breadcrumbs on your website and Rank Math will give you an overall score as to how well optimize your content is for a specific keyword.

Smush It – Image optimization

Smush It is a WordPress plugin that compresses your images upon upload to your website. It reduces the file size and thus makes your website load faster.

While you should be using a .webp image format, sometimes you’ll need to upload .jpeg files or .png files. This plugin is very helpful and making your website load quickly.

W3 Total Cache – Increase speed

W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your website by increasing the performance of how quickly your website loads while reducing load times for different aspects of your website.

A cache plugin is a must have for all blogs. Your website needs to load as quickly as possible and that’s exactly what this plugin helps to accomplish.

How to structure a blog


Writing content for a blog is not the same as a paper for school. There are a few things you need to know.

Titles

When writing a blog post title make sure it has a searchable keyword or phrase in it. Like if I was tying to rank a post for “best cheap headphones” I would make sure to have “best cheap headphones” in the title of the blog post.

I would also add something extra on it to make it more click worthy. Something like “best cheap headphones for introverts” is a much more specific. Again though, related it your topic. If headphones and introverts makes no sense for your blog topic don’t publish irrelevant content.

Font size

Make sure to use a largish, 14px+ size font. You want your website to be easy to read.

Don’t make massive paragraphs too. No one wants to read a wall of text. Write 3-5 sentences then hit that enter button. This helps reader retention, time on site and again makes for a easier, more enjoyable reading experience.

It’s fine to have a sentence be all alone like this one.

Pictures and video

Use at least 1 picture in every blog post. Make sure the picture is a jpg and is of a small size, under 50 mb. This ensures your page loads fast.

Don’t steal pictures! You can find many places to get free, high quality pictures by checking out this page that is part of our resources.

Use pictures only when it’s demonstrating something or it’s the feature image of a blog post.

Links

Inter-link your own content and link to other websites regularly. You can and should go back into older blog posts and link to newer content when it makes sense.

One page one purpose. Stay on message with each post you write.

Have a call to action. Ask your visitors to share your website or subscribe or buy your product or whatever! Ask them to do something.

I suggest you take some time out to read about some web design practicesdo’s and don’ts.

Correct Tags

In online publishing, you can choose between H1 – H6 tags. You can select the tag you want to use here:

H1 is for the title of the page. The title you put here should already be marked as H1 by your theme. You should never use H1 for your actual content.

Next, use H2 for your main topics, then H3 for sub topics and H4 for topics within the sub topic and so forth.

Tags are important because it tells search engines what’s important and it gives a logical structure that helps search engines understand you content but also make it much more easy for visitors to scan.

Check Your Grammar

No one is perfect but a lot of mistakes makes you look dumb and it turns people off from trusting you. Check and double check your writing.

Make sure your titles and meta are done correctly

With the Yoast SEO plugin you can change the way the title and meta description is presented to Google.

What to write about with a blog


Write what people actually want. It’s all about that 80/20 rule. 80% of the time you should be writing on proven topics. 20% of the time you write whatever you want (because you may stumble on a topic people love).

Sounds simple enough but most bloggers end up writing all the time about what they think and feel or current events. Instead write for what people want, this will result in you creating content that is valuable and it will result in you getting search traffic.

The types of content you should create:

Questions that answer questions people type into search Engines. How to do ______ in 15 minutes flat.

Shareable, list oriented blog posts that contain a keyword. The 7 best backpacks for college students.

Long form blog posts that are the best on their respective topic.

Focus on providing, helpful and valuable content

Value is not copying other more popular websites. Value is being a small part of the solution for someone else. Maybe you create a piece of content, a buying guide or a tutorial that helps someone in some small way.

Your goal with content marketing with a blog is to be very helpful and to then elegantly convert your traffic into email sign-ups and customers.

Build a Brand

Brands stay on topic and become the trusted authority in a given area. A good blog should be a brand and that brand should have relevant, related content. A blog about travel, personal finance and dating is going to struggle.

Google wants to rank and index brands, a blog about multiple, unrelated topics is not an authority.

How to Start a Blog Conclusion

So that is it for our “how to start a blog” beginners guide. If you found it helpful make sure to share and bookmark this page as it’s constantly updated. Starting a blog is easier than ever and you should be up and running in a day. If you want an advanced guide, take a look at our course.

Want to learn how to make money with a blog? Checkout this dedicated guide on how to make money blogging.

David Utke is a professional blogger, web designer and a highly rated user experience consultant. He translates technical skills in an easy to understand way for beginners with his educational tutorials based on real-world experience. Join over 30,000 monthly readers and 16k YouTube subscribers.