Note – Some links in this article are affiliate links and I may receive a commission off purchases made off them.
- 1. Pick a Good Niche
- 2. Get a Good Domain Name
- 3. Get a Good Hosting Account
- 4. Connect Hosting & Domains Together
- 5. Pick a Good WordPress Theme
- 6. Add Some Crucial Plugins
- 7. Start Adding Pages
- 8. Do Some Keyword Research
- 9. Start Writing Posts
Times are tough right now and people are looking for alternative ways to make money, and one of these is to make money online through blogging. The idea of setting up a blog or other kind of website can still seem like a daunting task to some people.
They may want to pursue their passions and interests online but don’t even know where to get started getting a website online and ready to add content.
We want to break down this barrier to entry and lay the process out into a easy to follow process. We will take you through the main steps to get a WordPress blog up and running.
Following through each of these steps will give you a WordPress website online and ready to make pages (more static aspects like home page, products, about us etc) and add posts (blog articles that draw in traffic).
If you want, you can tackle just a few steps at a time and keep coming back to it. The process is not too difficult and there are loads of free resources online now taking you through the steps. We will try to piece some of these together in this article, so for every step of the way there is a video tutorial or one of our pages you can refer to to help you out.
1. Pick a Good Niche For Your Blog
If your plan is to make money from your blog, then you need to make sure you pick a good topic or niche that is monetizable enough for you to make a decent income in time. If your blog is more of a pursuit of passion or vocation then you don’t need to worry about this. If you can somehow combine the two then even better!
As we said in our article on finding a good niche for your site, the key here is to find a sweet spot between 4 main factors:
- Something you are interested in or knowledgeable about. A passion.
- Something that is not overly competitive in terms of the websites already covering the topic.
- Something which is monetizable enough for you to generate a decent income. Having plenty of products to recommend on Amazon or other affiliate programs is a good start.
- Alternatively, think about something you have become a mini expert in and searched a lot about online yourself in the past. Could you use the knowledge you gained doing that to teach others what you learned about that topic, by starting a blog about it? Other people are no doubt searching the same questions online that you did when you learned about it.
Ticking off these boxes to some extent ensures that a) You are knowledgeable enough or interested in a subject to the extent you will be motivated to write the amount of content required to build a blog; b) You have a chance of ranking any content you do write and are not going against competition which is too stiff; and c) You have a decent chance of being rewarded for your efforts in terms of decent traffic and affiliate revenue to make it worth your while.
See this video from the guys at Income School for some good advice on how to pick a decent niche and do the correct keyword research for it, as well as our article on picking a good niche.
If you’re really struggling to come up with anything, then check out our more ground up guide to brainstorming different ideas for a niche for those really struggling to get started.
2. Get a Good Domain Name
You also need to get a good domain name, which is the name of your website. The most popular provider is GoDaddy; simply visit their website and search for possible names you could use for your website to see if they are available.
If a catchy domain name relevant to your niche is available, buy it for a set period of time, from 1-10 years – that’s it! You own that domain name for that period of time.
Here are the criteria to look for when getting a domain name:
- Domain names should be short – preferably 20 characters or less.
- They should immediately tell readers what your site is about.
- They should be available (ie. not already taken by someone else).
- They should be catchy and snappy.
- If you are seeking global traffic, go for a .com domain. Only use a local one (eg.co.uk, .ca etc) if you are specifically and primarily targeting traffic only in that country.
- See our Domains page for a full run down of how to do it.
- Keep your domain account page open once purchased from GoDaddy or another provider to connect up with your hosting – see step 4.
GoDaddy and other hosting providers will often try to get you to bundle in loads of extras; you don’t strictly need these when just starting out. You just need hosting and a domain to get going. Get your hosting separate from your domain though (don’t let them bundle in hosting).
The extra level of domain privacy can be useful as well if you want to buy that; it stops your contact details being available on the WHOIS domain directory. Everything else can be skipped unless you really want it.
See our Domains page for a rundown of the process.
3. Get a Good Hosting Account
To get a website online you also need hosting, which is where your website lives. There are plenty of good hosting providers available who will do a perfectly good job; unfortunately there are some poor ones as well who constantly have problems with slow loading sites and customer service. The best way to avoid this is to stick to a reputable provider who have been around a long time.
See our Hosting page for a guide on getting set up with a good host. This site runs off Hostgator; there are several other well renowned hosting companies who will also be fast and reliable.
Shared Hosting is very cheap and starts at just a few dollars a month if you purchase it for large periods of time in advance. It is slightly more expensive if purchased shorter term.
Here are the general steps:
- Visit our Hosting page to see a selection of good hosts. We use Hostgator for our sites but the others are good too.
- Pick one you like and proceed to their website. It doesn’t matter which one when starting out; they’ll all work fine as long as reputable. Hostgator and Bluehost are popular for new bloggers.
- Select the Shared/Web Hosting option if you are just building a simple blog. More advanced hosting is available, but you don’t need to worry about this until you are couple of years in with 100,000+ visits a month.
- Select the left hand side or middle package for your host depending on how many sites you want to set up (one or unlimited domains).
- Purchases your hosting for as long as you want it. Longer term means better value overall in terms of monthly costs. It can work out at just a few dollars a month.
- Keep your hosting and domain tabs open as you will need them both to connect your hosting and domain together. Keep your email your host sent you with your nameservers, passwords etc. open as well.
- See the video after step 4 for a complete guide including getting the hosting. Our Hosting page also has video setup guides for all the individual hosts.
4. Connect Your Hosting and Domains Together and Install WordPress
Now you have the hosting and domains, you need to connect them together so you can get your website up and running.
When you sign up to a host, they will send you an email with login passwords and Nameservers. Keep this email open and go across to your domain provider account (eg. GoDaddy), to the Manage Domains section, and pick the domain you want to use.
You are looking for the option here to Change DNS Settings, or similar. Move to Custom and plug in the pair of nameservers your host gave you into the boxes and Save. This redirects your domain through your own servers on your hosting platform, so that when people click on your website, they will actually be taken to the site you are going to create. See the video below for a demo on how to do this.
You also need to install WordPress on your host, which is really easy to do – all major hosts these days have a 1 click free install of WordPress as standard with their services.
You simply click “Build a WordPress Website” or some similar option to begin the installation. See our Hosting page for embedded videos on how to do it for each of the hosts we recommend.
See this great video from Alex at WP Eagle for a full tutorial on setting up a new WordPress website on Hostgator. It takes you through steps 2-4 completely and is perfect for beginners just starting out.
As a side note, you may hear some talk about using Weebly, Wix or other website builders for your blog. In my opinion, if you are wanting to set up a serious blog, with serious traffic, that makes good money, you need WordPress. Wix and the other platforms are more for smaller sites, local businesses etc. See this excellent video which covers this topic very well.
Once installed you are actually ready to log in to your new WordPress website and being building it.
5. Pick a Good WordPress Theme
Once you are logged into your new WordPress site, you need to pick a good theme for it. If you aren’t too bothered about appearance and just want to start getting content up, then you can use the theme that is already installed on your site, or one of the other preset themes.
Standard WordPress installs usually have a couple to choose from out the gate. Go to the Themes tab of the Dashboard once logged in to take a look.
If you want something more specific appearance wise then you can search for other themes or check out our Themes page for a rundown of some good free or paid themes. We use the Astra theme on out sites; there are loads of decent free or premium themes to choose from so pick one you like and go with it.
They will all produce a respectable looking site; in fact with WordPress it is difficult to make a site look bad so it is best not to spend too much time on this and just get started.
If you really are NOT interested in design at all and just want to get the site set up and get publishing content, then the Acabado Theme from Income School is perfect. It’s fast, looks good out the box and is designed to handle the stuff that actually matters in modern blogging. I use it on my other sites and will be switching this one over as well when the time is right for ads.
- Free themes – GeneratePress and Astra are good options. Also have Premium options.
- Premium – Acabado – recommended ($99 lifetime license, unlimited sites).
See our Themes page for more on these theme and others for other options.
6. Add Some Crucial Plugins
Once your website is up and running, it is also a good idea to install some essential plugins to keep everything safe and running smoothly. You don’t need to go over the top with this at first and it is true that having too many plugins will start to slow a site down and increases the risk of it crashing. However here are a few useful plugins to have right out the gate:
- Image Optimization – Shortpixel – automatically optimizes images when loaded onto the site to keep file size and load speeds down.
- Backups – UpdraftPlus – a great free plugin to keep your site backed up up in case anything goes wrong. See our article on the importance of backups.
- Really Simply SSL – forces secure green padlock HTTPS redirect for all visitors – keeps site secure.
- Google Analytics by MonsterInsights – great for connecting up a Google Analytics account to your WordPress site to see how your traffic grows over time. See our article on how to set this up.
- Cookie Consent – loads of plugins here but we use the GDPR Cookie Consent Banner by Termly. Very easy to use and gets your site GDPR compliant straight away in terms of cookies. See our article on setting this up.
- Simply head to Plugins…Add New on your WordPress Dashboard and search for, install and activate these plugins.
- Also, change your Permalinks Settings in WordPress right from the start. This will save a lot of trouble later. See our article on this for more information.
See our Plugins page for some other useful free plugins you might want to use to do different things as you progress through building your website.
7. Start Adding Pages
They form the backbone of your site and there needs to be a nice flow to how site is organized so that visitors can navigate through these pages easily to find what they need.
It is a good idea to draw out a rough template of how you want your site to look beforehand and simply use the functionality of WordPress to build it. There is a little bit of a learning curve to getting used to how WordPress works but it is not difficult and once mastered it is easy to build websites quickly. The basic structure of a website can easily be built in a day, even for a beginner.
For instance, most websites have some kind of top menu bar with clickable tabs on it like Home, About, Blog etc.
Decide what you want on these top menu and simply create these pages individually by going to Page….Add New in WordPress. You can then organize these into a menu from the Menus section, or from the Customize option on the top toolbar.
8. Do Some Keyword Research
Before you actually start writing your content for your blog, it is important to do some keyword research to find the right topics within your niche to write about.
It is important to tick a couple of boxes here to give any content you do write the best chance of ranking on Google. If you can’t get it to rank, you won’t draw any traffic and your efforts will likely be wasted.
Here are some points to consider when researching which articles to write:
- Keyword Research Tools do not provide reliable search volume figures and so are not to be used as a definitive guide. See our article on this.
- Rather, simply Google search terms around your niche and see what results come up for relevant search phrases.
- If you see poor quality results for certain searches – no articles, poor quality or short articles – and you think you can write a better resource, then you have a keyword topic you can write an article about.
- Go for long tail search phases (5 words or more) which have less authoritative results. Avoid shorter search phrases which already have big articles from well known sites. These will not rank on a brand new site. Go for less competitive search terms.
- See the video below from Income School for an excellent down to earth approach to doing keyword research for a blog.
It is important to follow this kind of process of keyword research and not just launch into writing articles on things you want to say about the topic.
This is a common mistake for new bloggers. To get content to rank on Google you need to actually be answering questions people are typing into Google, and also targeting less competitive search terms you have a chance of ranking for on a new site.
Moreover, the content mix is important, a point constantly emphasized by Income School. Do not launch straight into the most competitive keywords in your niche as soon as you start a new blog. Even if you write amazing content, Google won’t rank it on a brand new site if it hasn’t built up any authority.
Instead, start with low competition, specific keyword searches and build up to more competitive ones over time.
Here are some useful articles on our site on content and keyword research that newbies often ask:
- Are Keyword Research Tools Worth reliable?
- Does the Keyword Golden Ratio work?
- How many articles do you need to start a blog?
- Should you run one vs several blogs?
- Is it worth building backlinks?
See our articles on Keyword Research Tools and the Keyword Golden Ratio for more on this.
9. Start Adding Articles (Posts)
Once you have the basic structure of your site in place in terms of pages, you then need to start adding the posts to your site, which are the actual blog articles that will draw in the traffic to your site which you can actually make money from.
If you have done the keyword research of step 8 correctly, then you should have a nice list of good articles you can write for your blog. Remember, start with low competition, specific keywords searches first though, and build up to more competitive ones over time.
The process then is to simply set about writing high quality, lengthy content that is the best resource on the internet for that particular search term. Make sure your articles are formatted well and directly answer the question or search phrase in as much depth as possible without straying off point.
Here are some general pointers to follow:
- Longer articles rank better. Aim for more length than competitor articles but also don’t add more length than is necessary. See our article on ideal post length for SEO.
- Content mix is important. Start off your site with slightly shorter articles targeting really small search term topics to build up authority. Then build up to longer posts. See the video below for more on this.
- Break down your articles in several H3 subheading sections to make it more readable.
- For longer posts, put in anchor points which allow readers to jump down to certain sections. See our article on creating anchor points on your page.
- Use short blocks of text to make your content more readable, especially on mobile devices.
- Use bulleted lists and tables where relevant to present information more concisely.
- Insert pictures and embed videos into your content where relevant to make it more engaging or emphasize points, but don’t go overboard. Pixabay is good for free images
Key piece of info – Once you publish an article, you will have to be very patient, because it will take around 9 months on average for a new article on a brand new site to reach it’s highest ranking
See our article on writing content for your blog for more on this.
Follow a Recipe For Success
For people new to blogging and niche sites, we always recommend the approach of Income School as ideal for people just starting out trying to make money online from blogs. There are many different teachers you can follow now to get started but we consistently use their videos simply because we believe their advice to be the soundest around and best suited to non technical people.
Their approach is a simple and common sense one, that simply relies on setting up a site and then creating good content and letting Google do it’s job of ranking it.
There is no obsession with social media, building backlinks or other SEO trickery which may deliver short term results but often don’t work long term and aren’t the most efficient use of your time.
On top of this, they come across as a pair of genuine, down to earth guys just giving authentic, honest advice that is also credible and based on years of experience building their own successful sites.
Their approach works because it is the one they have used themselves and they boil it down to simple principles that make sense and don’t involve and trickery or clever Black Hat SEO tactics some people will try to sell you.
They have formalized their own experiences, mistakes and lessons into a membership called Project 24, which is basically their course for newbies to set up their own WordPress website. It comes at a very affordable advice and is highly recommended simply on the strength of their honesty and track record of success alone.
Check out their tutorial on building a niche website below for an excellent introduction to the topic. Click here to visit their Project 24 sign up page.
Binge watching their YouTube channel is also perfect for people new to blogging. It’s what I used to get started several years ago.
Bonus Section – Monetization
It’s all very well covering this topic of setting up a blog, but people new to this often want to know “But how do blogs actually make money?”.
There are several ways; here’s some of them:
- Ads (start to think about this at 10K visits a month)
- Affiliate marketing
- Lead generation
The two bolded ones are most important for beginners. With ads, you simply let a Premium ad company place ads on your site once you have good traffic, and you get a cut, usually anything between $4-20 per thousand visits depending on the niche.
Some Premium ad networks:
- Ezoic (need to 10,000 pageviews/month to start)
- Mediavine (need 50,000 pageviews/month to start).
- AdThrive (need 100,000 pageviews/month to start).
Standard Google AdSense is also an option but is not recommended as they pay very low rates and also slow down your site badly. Wait until you can use a Premium provider.
With affiliate marketing, you are usually linking off to someone else’s product, and you’ll get a commission if the customer buys something after clicking on your link.
Amazon Affiliates is one of the biggest affiliate programs available, and it’s free, but doesn’t pay very good commissions these days (1-5% depending on category). However, they have huge product availability.
See our article about getting started with them. OK for beginners but try to find better programs as you progress. Specific companies/retailers in your niche may also have their own affiliate programs you can apply to directly.
There are also other affiliate networks, where you can join thousands of other programs in all different niches. You sign up to the network, which then gives you access to the programs and handles all your commissions on one place.
Here are some popular affiliate networks:
If you browse through the available programs on these networks, you will find suitable programs you can use on your blog, regardless of which niche you are in.