Wondering how to start a blog? Two years ago, I was wondering the same thing. I began my skincare Instagram page in December 2018, and a few months later decided to expand and create a blog. My first post, a personal introduction, was shared in March 2019. Almost a year and a half later I’ve posted 40+ articles, reviewed countless brands, and built up my page’s authority to the point where I now rank consistently on page 1 of google.
In this post I will share why I got into blogging, how to get started, the tools you need to succeed, how to monetize and most importantly, how to maintain your motivation when the going gets tough. Read on to learn why 2021 should be the year you start your blog!
Why I Decided to Start A Blog
I launched my blog in March 2019 because I wanted a space to write long-form reviews and share more detail than was possible in short Instagram captions. I was also inspired by other skincare bloggers, like Devan from Dev’s Day and Lindsay Silberman, as I had enjoyed what they wrote since before creating my own page.
There was another appeal to starting a blog. Having a platform that wasn’t beholden to another’s social media platform, one you can own and control, is a key step influencers should look to take. That way, if something happens to Instagram, Facebook or Youtube, you still have a place where you’ve created content and cultivated an audience.
Is it Worth Starting a Blog in 2021?
You may have heard that blogging is dead. And while there are many blogs, way too many to name, the amount of successful ones is far fewer. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, I can say unreservedly that starting a blog is worth it.
How to Start a Blog the Right Way: Setting Yourself Up for Success
When I started a blog, I got my domain, created a page on Squarespace and started writing. While it has worked out for me, there’s a lot I wish I had known about how to start a blog the right way. To prevent you from making the same mistakes, here is my roadmap to getting your blog off to a strong start:
- Pick your niche/area of focus (more on this later!) & develop content pillars
- Decide on a blog name and claim your domain
- Start a self-hosted WordPress blog & choose a hosting service
- full disclosure, this aspect of setting up my page I didn’t do myself. When I moved my blog from Squarespace to WordPress, I hired iMark Interactive to set everything up correctly. For just under $300, I had everything running smoothly.
- Choose a WordPress template and set up the pages of your blog.
- An “About Me” page is key
- You will also want a page for your posts, and a “work with me” page where you outline how brands can contact you
- Sign up with an email marketing service – I use Mailchimp for easy
My Favorite Blog Tools
Wondering what I use for my blog?
- WordPress.org for my page
- Name Hero for self-hosting
- CloudFlare for security
- iMark Interactive for my tech support
- Keywords Everywhere Chrome Plugin
- Yoast Plugin (free version) for SEO
- MailChimp for email marketing
- Google Analytics
- Haute Society for stock photos
Why do I need to have a blog host?
Think of it like this – you need something that provides a connection between your site and the world wide web. It gives your site a space on the internet.
Can I just use WordPress as my host?
You can, but using wordpress.com (rather than a self-hosted site on wordpress.org) gives your blog a lot less flexibility. It also makes it much more difficult to monetize your blog in the future. Independence is key if you’re looking to make your blog more than just a hobby.
What makes a blog successful?
It definitely depends on your metric for success. You might qualify your blog as successful if you hit a certain number of monthly viewers. Making x amount of money would also equal success. If you are fulfilled by the content you are creating, that is undoubtedly a marker of success. For me, I would now qualify my blog as successful because I am ranking on page 1 for almost all of my posts, my reviews are seen as helpful and they are getting me noticed for copywriting jobs.
Finding Your Niche
This is the first and probably the most important step in starting a blog, which is why I couldn’t cover it totally in the small list above! If you try to speak to everyone, you’ll struggle to speak to anyone. Instead, you want to focus in on your ideal audience and decide on one “niche” to focus in on with content pillars that fall underneath it.
For example, my niche is skincare, self-care & social media. Under that, my blog content pillars are skincare reviews, bodycare & haircare reviews, tips for running your own skincare instagram, and insights on being an influencer.
When thinking about what niche to go with, brainstorm things that you have a passion for and are knowledgeable about. Even more so than on instagram, it is important to have authority on the topics you are writing about; with a blog, your writing is what matters even more than the pretty pictures. You need to have something to write about, as the best blog posts are 1200-1500 words (more on this later for SEO!)
How to Start a Blog with a Sustainable Content Calendar
When you first start your blog, you may be inspired to post a new entry every day. But that type of content creation is simply not sustainable. All the steps that go into blogging – brainstorming an idea, writing up an outline, doing keyword research, finding photos, writing a draft, editing, and promoting – takes a lot of time. Each blog post may take me between 3-4 hours, and that’s because I have had a lot of practice.
When you have a lot of ideas floating around, write them down! I keep three types of lists in my Google Drive to track my blog ideas: Published Blog Posts, Blog Post Ideas, and then my Blog Post Schedule where I pull topics from the ideas spreadsheet and schedule them out in a way that makes sense. I currently aim for 1-2 posts a week, but your mileage may vary depending on your other obligations.
Search Engine Optimization: Building Your Authority & Ranking on Page 1
Wondering what the heck SEO is? You’re in good company, because I had my blog for over a YEAR before I learned what it meant and why some articles rank on page 1 of Google and others are lost to oblivion. I have to give a huge thank you to Lindsay Silberman – she taught me everything I know about SEO best practices and took my blog from a little corner of the interwebs to one that consistently has my reviews on page 1.
What do I even mean by page 1? And what the heck is SEO anyways?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. What it means is crafting posts that are seen by google as helpful and authoritative; When your posts are this strong, Google puts them higher in their ranking. The goal is to rank on page 1 – that first page of google results that people are most likely to click on when they search for an answer to something.
So how do you get your posts on page 1? Building an SEO-friendly post.
I’m not going to BS you guys, it takes time to get your posts to rank. I had my SEO training with Lindsay back in May of 2020. Almost eight months later, my posts are hitting page 1 almost every time. So don’t expect to read about SEO and a week later get those page 1 results.
To build up to those consistent rankings, you want to start with keyword research. A keyword is something your page will rank for, such as “skincare 101” or “allies of skin honest review.” They aren’t usually just one word, but rather a short phrase that captures what is contained in your post. I use Keywords Everywhere to determine competitiveness and effectiveness of the keyword and settle on the one I want to focus in on in my writing.
I also make sure to search for related questions that I can include in my post, to make it as helpful as possible. If you can answer all the questions a person might have on a topic, Google will prioritize showing your post above others. Timeliness also matters – more recent posts will rank higher.
Once I’d done that keyword research, I then plug that keyphrase into my Yoast SEO plug in (which is free on wordpress), which helps me build up a blog post that is primed to rank. Their checklist covers outbound/internal links, headings, meta data and crafting your slug.
Why does it take time to rank?
Because it takes time to build up your DA – Domain Authority. You earn this by creating blog posts Google sees as helpful. Helpful, to Google, are posts that answer people’s questions. You also help build up your authority by getting backlinks from other sites. One way I’ve done this is freelance writing for other sites such as Mox and Lindsay’s blog, which she graciously allowed me to contribute to.
What are the benefits of SEO?
Once your page is consistently ranking, getting more blog traffic takes little effort. Being on page 1 means your posts get seen more and therefore clicked on more. And once you rank a few times, it’s likely you’ll keep on ranking.
This was just a brief taster of what SEO means, but if you guys are interested I’ll put together a short training with more detail! Let me know in the comments.
Learning how to Read Google Analytics
Another big part of becoming a successful blogger is understanding your google analytics. You can link this easily through your gmail. While I haven’t even dug into all the statistics GA offers, my most utilized ones are visitors per day/week/month, pageviews, and user location data. Studying these analytics help me figure out which posts are most popular and what my audience gravitates to. It also tells me where my traffic is coming from as it breaks down acquisition by source.
Making Money! How to Start a Blog You Can Monetize
This is probably the topic you all have been waiting for in this post! Many people start a blog in the hopes of eventually making money from it. While I haven’t made any significant amount of money yet, I have landed a freelance blogging job from it and in 2021 I hope to build out my affiliate links as well.
How do bloggers make money?
There are a number of ways bloggers can make money. Brands might pay you for a sponsored blog post where you photograph and review their products. You can also make money through affiliate links that brands give you; When people shop through those links rather than just normally navigating to the site, you earn a commission. A third common way of generating revenue is to utilize Google AdSense – but as the payment is very low, your page would have to be generating 1000s of views in order to make any significant money. AdSense is unpopular because it can also turn visitors off of your blog. Lastly, you can offer digital products, such as courses or e-books, through your blog that are related to your niche.
What type of blogs make the most money?
Pretty much any type of blog can make money! But undoubtedly, there are certain niches that are more popular than others. Throughout 2020, travel blogging took a hit – skincare, wellness, and entrepreneurship blogs conversely soared in popularity. Fashion and mommy blogs also tend to be successful.
But more important than your niche, is the effort you put in to cultivating an audience and serving value. That, more than anything, will help you make money.
How do I promote my blog?
An important avenue of blog promotion is through your email list. You should have a subscribe option on your home page to cultivate an audience that is keyed in to your posts. When you post (or every two posts, or weekly, whatever works for you), you can send out an update to your subscribers to ask them to check out the new posts.
I also share new blog posts on my social media – Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. This ensures that even if people aren’t on my email list, they are kept in the loop of what I’m sharing on Amber Skincare Diary.
While I haven’t yet figured out Pinterest for myself, I know it is an important avenue for blog promotion and when done right, can bring in significant monthly traffic.
In It for the Long Haul: How To Stay Motivated
My last topic for this post isn’t the most interesting, but it is the most important. Blogging can get tiring – it takes so much time and effort to create long form content weekly, and it can feel like it isn’t paying off. To see results, you need to be in this for the long haul. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been blogging for almost two years and am only just starting to see consistent results. But it has without a doubt been worth it.
So how can you stay motivated? First, make sure your content calendar is manageable. One high-quality post a week (or biweekly) will be much more effective than cranking out low quality posts every other day or worse, getting burnt out and not blogging for months at a time. Consistency is key.
Second, choose a niche you’re actually passionate about! While I threw out some niches that are lucrative, make sure the one you focus in on is something you’re deciding on for more than just the potential for making money. That way you can keep going even when you aren’t seeing the results yet.
Third, don’t be afraid to learn something new. I started out thinking I was a good writer, but I had no idea what it took to write an effective blog post. Investing in an SEO consult changed my blog and my social media strategy. I will soon be investing in Pinterest strategy, as that’s my next step. Blogging isn’t stagnant – it requires constant change and adaptation. Let that excite you, rather than drain you.
Final Thoughts on How to Start A Blog
I hope this post helps you as you start out on your own blogging journey. I am so glad I took the plunge, and if you do too, I am here as a resource to guide you. If I missed any other burning questions you had about blogging, please let me know in the comments!