We've been helping people like you start successful online businesses for more than 18 years. And in this time, we've learned that there's much more to a successful blog than "putting up a website."
That's why we've put together this guide, to teach you everything you need to know about blogging — from starting a blog, to writing quality content that pleases visitors and search engines.
You'll also find our best resources on promoting your website for free, search engine optimization (SEO), building an audience, and monetization strategies that work.
In the mid-2000s, blogging was dominated by users documenting their days, under the mistaken impression that someone (anyone) cared.
A few years later, a handful of visionary bloggers and solopreneurs who saw the potential of this new way to build a website. They started using the software to promote and sell products and services.
Suddenly, blogs became focused on serving the people reading them.
Since then, blogging has grown at a frantic pace. More accurately, the use of blogging platforms, most notably WordPress, has been growing at a frantic pace.
WordPress now powers over 1/3 of all websites online. But they're not all blogs.
As blogging platforms have made it easier to create websites, the world has blurred the lines. Websites are now often referred to as blogs.
Strip blogging down to the essentials, and you're left with content marketing for business.
What exactly does that mean?
Content marketing is the act of publishing content to attract visitors with the purpose of converting those visitors into "leads" — in ordinary language, customers.
Businesses selling to other businesses (B2B) need information to make purchasing decisions.
The rest of us look for information to help us solve a problem or fulfill a desire.
Blogging — publishing useful content on your website — is, and will remain — relevant as long as people keep needing or wanting problems solved.
And it's a great way to start building an online business.
Now that we've covered the what and the why of blogging, let's get started!
Success doesn't happen overnight. It takes time to plan, write, and publish content, and to attract visitors to your site.
Here's a 5-step plan to start a blog the right way:
Before you start building a website (or blog), it's essential to plan what you're going to write about. You do that by choosing a topic, also known as a niche.
The best niche is one that:
Fortunately, there are tools available to help you find the perfect combination of your interest, your expertise, and market demand.
SBI!s keyword brainstorming tool Brainstorm It! is designed to do exactly that. It finds all the words people use to search for topics in your niche. Then it helps you evaluate the keywords and put them into a website structure that makes sense for your visitors.
Once you know your topic, you'll build your website. You can use WordPress, or a website builder such as Solo Build It! (SBI!).
If you already use WordPress, SBI! for WP has a plugin that connects Brainstorm It! to your WordPress account, so that you have all the keyword numbers handy as you write a page or post.
Keep reading to find out more about the best platform to use for long-term blogging success.
Successful blogs always put visitors first. Creating the best possible content to help your readers is key. The satisfaction of providing high-quality information that people love to read is what makes blogging so rewarding.
Each page or post on your site will focus on a single topic or sub-topic. Keeping your writing tightly focused makes it easier for the search engines to understand what your content is about — and that leads to your page ranking in the search results.
And it gives your visitors a better experience, as they don't have to figure out why you're writing about B when they thought you'd give them info about A.
As you publish more content, you'll also begin building your audience. You can do this passively, by adding social sharing buttons to each post, and actively, by creating social media accounts and regularly posting content and engaging with your fans and followers.
You will also use email marketing, sending out a regular email newsletter to people who subscribe on your site. The road to building an audience involves learning how to promote your website and turn your traffic from visitors to subscribers.
If you want to develop an online business, as opposed to simply writing a blog which shares your passion, both your content and your marketing efforts will lead to one goal: earning an income.
You'll do that by promoting products on your site, or selling your own products and services, or showing ads on your site, or using any of over ten more ways to monetize your site. Here's a list of affiliate marketing programs to get you started.
Once you've built enough steady traffic to your website, you can also look into monetizing with Google's Adsense. Although this does take a lot more traffic to get started, here are some Adsense estimated earnings to inspire you.
The result? A thriving business.
WordPress powers over 75 million websites. That makes it the undisputed 800-pound gorilla in the market. Its popularity is due in part to it being free software (users pay only for hosting, and some extras). It's also popular because there are many tools (called plugins) that increase what you can do with WordPress.
All that choice can lead to paralysis if you're new to building an online business. There are over 55,000 plugins to choose from. Add in the thousands of free themes (site designs) that WordPress makes available, plus hundreds of themes for purchase, and you can become overwhelmed within minutes.
That's why website builders like Wix (read our Wix review), Squarespace, and GoDaddy have become popular alternatives. Although they vary in price, ease-of-use, and design, they have one thing in common: the results of these popular website builders for people who want to make money blogging are less than stellar.
All of them give you a much lower chance of success than Solo Build It!, an all-in-one website builder with an 18-year track record.
"I created a blog and failed. I couldn't get enough traffic to it. Then I discovered SBI!. They taught me how to build the infrastructure that turned into a successful online business."
- Travis Wilkerson, www.learn-stock-options-trading.com
Every post or page you write will be about a topic — focused around a keyword — related to your niche. And while you'll write it to give your visitors the best possible, dependable information, the ultimate purpose of each post is to market your business.
In other words, you'll be marketing with your content. This has been shortened down to content marketing.
Content marketing isn't restricted to what you write on your site or blog. It's also the content of your newsletter, your email marketing, your Pinterest pin descriptions, your Tweets, and your Facebook posts. Even YouTube video scripts, closed captioning, and transcripts.
Each post or page needs to be in the 800 to 2,000-word range, or longer if the topic warrants it. That's a lot of words for someone to read on a computer or phone screen. Many people don't. They skim instead.
So you need to break up the content into sections, with subheadings to describe each one.
Since visitors are going to rely on you for credible information, one of the most important pages on your site will be your about page. Like every other page or post, you need to answer the question, "What's in it for me?" — even though the page is about you. Tell visitors why you're the person who can solve their problems and scratch their itches.
Many information-based sites have 100 pages or more. That's a lot of content to write. So it's important to plan ahead, especially if some of your information is seasonal. Use this guide to set up an editorial calendar. It will help you schedule out at least two months' of content creation so that you always know what you'll be writing, and when.
SEO, or search engine optimization, has been around for as long as there have been search engines — over two decades now. As you can imagine, anything that old has seen many changes.
The purpose of SEO is to get each page or post ranked as highly as possible in the search engine results page. This is at odds with Google's (and the other engines') goal, which is to provide the best content available about a topic.
There's a lot you can do to improve your blog's visibility — and get more traffic — when you learn SEO for beginners. Our handy guide is a good starting point.
SEO is played on a constantly changing field, which makes trying to outwit the search engines futile and a waste of time. The only real way to win the SEO "wars" with your competitors is to offer people the best content on the Web.
That begins by creating content that matches potential visitors' search intent. Search intent is the reason someone types a query into the search bar.
For example, someone might type the keywords "running shoes in Asia" into Google. If you provide an article about how running shoes are made in Asia, but searchers want to buy running shoes while they're on vacation in Asia, your page won't rank well for the search term.
We have a focussed article on search intent to help you create content people are searching for.
The best way to write content that your target audience wants is to know your audience intimately. You can learn about them using Google Analytics, which tracks devices people use to visit your site, operating systems, browsers, even where they live.
You've researched your niche, set up a website, started publishing content, added social media activity, and ensured that each page is ranking high in the search results. Traffic is growing on a consistent basis.
That means it's time to start earning an income from your online business.
There are more than ten ways to earn an income from your site. You can learn all about them in this guide on how to monetize a blog.
Some are what's called "passive income," which is income that runs mostly on autopilot. (You'll still need to create content on a regular basis, though.) Affiliate marketing and Google Adsense are the two most common passive methods. You'll need a lot of traffic to earn a solid income from either of these.
With more of your time and energy come higher rewards. You could write and sell ebooks (which will earn passive income once published), start a membership site, or offer paid webinars.
You could represent businesses with no online presence, or those which don't pull in much traffic.
If you're an expert in your field, you could hire out your services as a consultant or coach. The only problem with this monetization option is that you'll trade your time for other people's money. Unless you can pull in $200 or more per hour, you may decide that the tradeoff isn't worth it. Perhaps you can do group coaching.
Depending on your niche, you may find that there's a market for a physical product. You could fill that gap by designing and creating your own version of it, or find an existing model and have the manufacturer customize it for your business.
Creating and selling a product can, if done correctly, create a huge income for you. It requires time, planning, and some funds, but the returns could far outweigh the costs.
Whatever you plan to use to create income, there are WordPress plugins that make it easier to get that job done.
You now have a plan for getting started in blogging. You know about the various platforms you can use, and you know how to start creating content that markets your business.
What you learned about SEO will help you start driving traffic to your blog. And when it reaches into the thousands per day, you'll be earning a substantial income from your blog.
Getting there, though, can be a long and lonely road. Deciding which tools are best to use can be a minefield — and can lose you a lot of money. Sustaining motivation through the highs and lows can be difficult when you're working as a solopreneur.
The answer? An all-in-one platform that has the tools, the coaching and the technical and peer support every new blogger needs.
A platform like Solo Build It!.