Blogging is still a massive online attention channel and one of the best ways to build an audience and monetize your website. If you want to start a successful blog, though, it's important that you follow the right steps. Here are the 10 most important steps for you to take to start your blog the right way and have the highest chance of success.
You're in good hands. I've been blogging since around 2004 and I've taken multiple blogs from scratch to over 100,000 unique monthly visitors over the course of my blogging career.
I also have a laundry list of failures that have taught me valuable lessons – lessons that have helped me streamline the process of starting a successful blog.
I've outlined a lot of my process below, so let's dive in...
[Step 01] How to Start a Successful Blog
Pick a Niche for Your Blog So You Can Build a Highly Engaged Audience
The biggest mistake you can make as a beginner is to start a general blog where you plan to post your thoughts on all sorts of different topics.
It's much better to pick a niche and stick to it. Here's why...
- It's easier to attract a highly engaged audience. It's impossible to find a lot of people who are interested in ALL the stuff you're interested in. If you want to build a dedicated, highly engaged blog audience, it's best to pick a targeted niche.
- It's easier to rank your blog posts in Google. Ranking in Google isn't just about your individual blog articles. Google also wants to categorize your site. The easiest way to do that is to stick to one core topic or audience.
- It's easier to become an authority or influencer. People inherently recognize that "a jack of all trades is a master of none" and they tend to value specialists over generalists. It's more lucrative to be a specialist, which happens when you narrow your blog's niche.
- It's easier to monetize your blog. If your blog covers 5 different topics, how can you possibly create a product that appeals to your audience? Your product will only appeal to 1/5 of your audience (and that 1/5 probably aren't highly engaged). This is why it's best to focus on a specific niche where your product ideas will apply to the vast majority of your audience.
As you can see, picking a specific niche is important to starting a successful blog. It's not just as easy as picking a main topic, though. There's a process of finding, validating, and narrowing down your niche that I lead my clients and students through so they can make sure the niche they choose is going to be a successful one.
[Step 02] How to Start a Successful Blog
Create a WordPress Website So You Can Leverage the #1 Blogging Platform
Once you've chosen your niche, you're ready to get your new blog setup.
You definitely don't want to do this on one of the free blogging platforms (such as Blogger, WordPress.com, etc.).
You also don't want to do this on website builder services like Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly.
I wrote a post breaking down the pros and cons of WordPress vs Squarespace that you can read if you'd like. The same points hold true for services like Wix and Weebly as well.
WordPress is the premier platform for blogging and there's a reason it powers over 25% of sites on the web.
The confusing part is that there are two versions of WordPress – WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
WordPress.org is version you want. It's the downloadable version that you can install on your on hosting account (you don't need to actually download it as almost all good hosts will have a button you can click to automatically install it. Or, if you use Flywheel hosting, it will already be installed for you as soon as you open your account).
[Step 03] How to Start a Successful Blog
Brainstorm "Seed" Keywords for Your Blog Topics
Another beginner mistake bloggers make is to brainstorm blog post ideas and then spend a ton of time writing and publishing.
The problem with brainstorming blog post ideas is that there's no way to confirm whether or not those blog posts are going to be successful. In other words, how do you know that blog post idea is something your audience wants or is searching for?
It's great to brainstorm ideas, but you can't jump straight from brainstorming to writing and publishing.
Instead, it's best to list out your blog's main sub-topics and then brainstorm as many "seed" keywords as possible for each sub-topic. A Seed Keyword is a word or phrase that you *think* your audience might be looking for or interested in – it's a starting point for the research you're going to do.
For example, let's say you run a baseball blog for baseball coaches. A main sub-topic might be, "batting." So I'd start to list Seed Keywords like, "batting drills" and "how to swing a baseball bat properly."
Even though I'm pretty sure these topics are of interest to my audience, I still need to confirm it. I also need to make sure I'm finding the exact phrasing that my audience are going to respond best to and that will help me rank better in search.
[Step 04] How to Start a Successful Blog
Do Basic Keyword Research to Find Winning Blogging Ideas & Get Ranked in Google
Here's a question: Why guess at what your audience wants and needs from you when the data is right there in front of you?
It's easier (and cheaper) than ever to find out what your audience is searching for and then provide content around those exact searches. There's no reason why you'd simply "brainstorm" anymore.
When you do this research you're not only ensuring that you're giving your audience what they want, you're ensuring that your posts have the best chance of ranking in Google because Google ultimately wants to serve the best content that people are looking for.
Plus, if you blog smarter by doing your research, you can actually blog less. When you "spray and pray" with your blogging, you're only going to get lucky maybe 1 out of every 25 articles. When you do your research, you can get almost every post to rank eventually.
Elite bloggers who really know what they're doing – and I mean elite in terms of quality, not quantity – are able to publish once every 2 weeks or even once a month and get better results than daily bloggers.
[Step 05] How to Start a Successful Blog
Write Engaging Blog Posts That Educate or Entertain Your Readers
If you don't publish great content, your entire blog is gonna be dead on arrival.
Assuming you've done the right keyword research, I'm confident you'll be publishing content that your audience actually wants. All that's left is to execute with quality.
What's that mean? Well, first it means that your blog post must be either educational or entertaining ... or both. If your audience doesn't learn something or isn't fully engaged with what you're writing about, they have no reason to share or stick around for more.
It needs to be written in a manner that's easy to scan and read – short paragraphs, sub-headings, bullets, images, etc. And it needs to have an intriguing title and be optimized for ranking, among other things.
I have a 16-point blog post optimization checklist that I recommend you follow for every single blog post you publish. You can grab it free...
Tip: Every great blog post needs high quality imagery. Make sure you bookmark this list of cheap stock photo sites.
[Step 06] How to Start a Successful Blog
Build an Email List for Your Blog so You Can Leverage the Power of Email Marketing
There's no better sales and conversion channel right now than email. Even if you don't have anything to sell directly, building your list is massively important for future monetization and networking opportunities.
Email is also the best way to drive people back to new content you publish, develop a relationship with them, and create an engaged audience.
Also, email is a "owned" channel. Unlike social media, you own your email list (you don't own your social followers). Having an email list is massively important for "sustainability insurance."
Starting an email list is simple and tremendously valuable. First, you'll want to open an account with an email provider. I recommend Convertkit for beginners.
[Step 07] How to Start a Successful Blog
Pick a Social Media Channel to Dominate so You Can Expand & Diversify Your Blog Traffic
Social media is a valuable tool for bloggers. It's not an owned channel so I don't put a TON of effort or time into it, but it's definitely valuable nonetheless.
The key when you're starting out is to not spread your efforts too thin. A lot of people will tell you that you need to "be everywhere," but when you're new to the scene you simply don't have the time or resources to be everywhere with any sort of quality.
"Be everywhere" means to have an active presence on every social media channel. It's just not practical or effective in the beginning.
Instead, I recommend you maintain a "passive presence" everywhere (you create accounts on every platform), but put all your effort into having an active presence on only one platform.
How do you choose your platform? You don't, your audience does. You identify the platform your audience uses most and setup shop there.
And when I mean "setup shop" I mean, "be prolific." Show up every day. Show up multiple times per day. Make it impossible to not notice you.
If you can engage with video, especially live video, even better.
After a while you'll start to gain traction and momentum. It's a long game. Don't expect this stuff to create instant success overnight.
[Step 08] How to Start a Successful Blog
Monitor Your Rankings & Massage Your Blog Posts Onto Page One of Google
Here's the biggest myth about SEO and blogging: "You set it and forget it."
In other words, you publish an article, hope for the best, and move on to the next one. After a while, you have an archive full of articles. Dozens or even hundreds of of them.
Most do absolutely nothing to bring in traffic. The traffic you get to your site only comes from a very small handful of articles you got lucky with and some of that traffic is irrelevant to the goals you have for your site.
Elite bloggers and elite SEO players don't publish like that. After they do their research and publish the first version of the article, they wait 3 to 4 months. Then they check their rankings in Google Search console, analyze the keywords they're ranking for, analyze the position and ranking trend, and "massage" the content up the rankings.
It's actually a pretty simple process once you learn it and it allows you to literally manipulate the rankings (100% legitimately) until you're on page one. I call this "Rank Massaging" and it's a critical technique for bloggers to learn.
[Step 09] How to Start a Successful Blog
Build the Infrastructure for a Real Online Business (Hint: A Blog Isn't a Business)
Super sorry to break this to all of the bloggers and aspiring bloggers out there: a blog isn't a business.
A blog is a marketing channel (a really good one, but still not a business).
When people try to make their blog their business (by running ads, sponsored posts, etc.), they end up with a bumpy ride on the struggle bus.
The most successful bloggers are successful because they make the leap from "blogger" to "online business owner."
In other words, they...
- Get super specific on who they want to help.
- Nail their core messaging.
- Develop their own products and services.
- Develop ROI-positive paid advertising funnels.
- Expand marketing into other areas and strategies.
- Build consistent sales channels.
- Assemble a small but mighty team to help them execute more consistently and at a higher level.
- Blog less – they move their blog from a primary focus to a secondary focus.
By transitioning from "blogger" to "online business owner" (ideally from the start, honestly), you stand a MUCH higher chance of success (and it's more fun and far more impactful).
[Step 10] How to Start a Successful Blog
Monetize Your Blog So You Can Start Earning a Serious Income
Once you've done the work to build an audience and build a solid infrastructure for a real online business, it's time to monetize.
There are a bunch of different ways that you can monetize your website and make money online. The goal is to choose a method that you feel comfortable with and that positively impacts your audience.
Personally, I'd much rather build products and services for my audience that I know they want and need and that truly help them rather than lure them to clicking on ads or reading sponsored posts or other nonsense.
When you monetize with advertisements, you're turning your audience into the product and you're not really making any real sort of personal impact in their life.
Wrap-Up: If You Want to Start a Successful Blog in This Noisy World, You Have to Stick to the Process
Starting a successful blog today isn't as easy as it was a few years ago. There are millions of blogs and social media is getting noisier and noisier.
If you want break through the noise, build and audience, and generate an income, you need to follow a proven process like the one I've outlined above.
If you're really serious about making this work, the best move you can possibly make is to invest in trainings and a mentor.
Learning from someone who has successfully done this time and time again for themselves and others will supercharge your success and make the process a lot less frustrating and a lot more fun.
Drop a comment below if you have any questions about starting a successful blog. I'm happy to jump in and help.