Are you good at something? Are you passionate about something? Do you think there is a market for people wanting to become good at what you are doing?
If your answer is yes to all the above questions, you will be able to make a career out of blogging. I’ve been running my blog for more than 4 years now, and it is my primary source of income. Blogging has also helped me launch my own digital marketing agency GETSALES.
With today’s tools and technology, anyone can make blogging a full-time career. There are a lot of steps in setting up a blog, building traffic, and eventually monetizing it.
This might not give you all the information that you need to become a professional blogger, but should be more than enough to get you started. You will eventually overcome obstacles with the help of free or premium video tutorials that you can find around the web.
What we have here is a roadmap for becoming a professional blogger through my years of blogging experience. Let’s get started!
1. Choose your niche
If you are just going to blog on the side without considering a full-time blogging career, there are no restrictions. You can have a personal blog, and you can blog about anything. I also have a personal blog, and I don’t worry too much about how it will be known in the market. I don’t make any revenue from this blog.
If you want to be a professional blogger to earn a full-time living, you should choose a niche and stick to it. For your blog’s brand to grow, you need to be known for one thing. You might have expertise in three different subjects but you, as an expert and a blogger, should be remembered for one thing.
Be a master of one trade, and with time, you will be known for it. If someone else wants to become a digital marketing expert, it would be a better idea to brand themselves as an expert in a sub-category of digital marketing. It could be SEO, Analytics, or Conversion Rate Optimization.
Four years back, when I started my blog, no one branded themselves as a digital marketer so I had the opportunity to brand myself in this category. Now, the market is crowded with many “experts.”
You should choose a niche that is neither too narrow nor too broad – where the marketplace is already not crowded with “experts” in a specific category.
To help you understand, let me give you another example. If you want to blog about fitness, you will never be able to get traction by being a fitness expert because there are so many fitness experts in the world. However, if you create a blog in a specific category, say, ‘Fitness for busy professionals’, ‘Fitness for pregnant women’, ‘Fitness for 50+ men’, then you have a chance to dominate in that niche.
Your niche should be a combination of your talent, passion, and marketing opportunity. Find your passion, strengthen your talent, and write about a topic, which has a demand in the market. If you get all three right, you will be able to become a financially successful professional blogger.
2. Choose a domain name
You have to choose your domain name that will also become the name of your brand. Sometimes people register their name and start blogging. Sometimes it’s a generic brand name, and sometimes it is a combination of both.
Neilpatel.com is owned by Neil Patel, where he blogs about online marketing and blogging.
3. Install a self-hosted WordPress blog
Now that you have chosen your niche, and your domain name, it is time to get started with blogging. There are many blogging platforms on the web, some are free, and some are premium. I will not recommend blogging at an open platform like Blogger.com or WordPress.com. Most of the free platforms do not allow commercial use, and you will not own your web-property.
WordPress also has an open source content management system which you can download and install it on your web-server. As soon as I say this, many people get uncomfortable. You might have a question in your mind right now, “Do I need to learn coding or programming to become a blogger?”. The answer is no. My background is Statistics & Programming, though I understand a little bit of code, it is not a prerequisite to starting blogging.
Explaining the entire process of setting up a WordPress blog is outlined in this video below.
4. Get a custom logo and theme design
A self-hosted WordPress blog right out of the box is not going to look great. The standard design template that comes with the installation is not going to help you get love from your readers.
If you have a budget, get a logo and a custom theme designed for your blog. You can head to places like canva.com and get a fantastic logo and theme designed for your blog.
Do not worry about the design and logo so much as it can be changed later on. Just focus on choosing the right niche and the right domain name because that is more difficult to change later.
Sometimes, worrying about design can become an obsession, and repeated revisions are not going to satisfy you either. Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect design. A design that looks colorful and appealing to the eye might not be the best for readability and might increase the page load speed, affecting your SEO.
A design that looks plain without fancy colours and zing might be a better option for readability. At the end of the day, it is the content that matters, how it connects with the user, and what kind of value it adds to the user’s lives. If it adds value, it will spread among others, and your users will come back to your blog for more.
5.Install essential plugins
One of the benefits of running your blog on WordPress is that you get plenty of plugins that can add functionality to your website. Even huge sites like TechCrunch are powered by WordPress.
As soon as you install your blog, I recommend adding a few great plugins, as mentioned in this list.
- Akismet: To prevent spam comments on your blog
- All in One SEO Pack: To optimise your blog for the search engines
- Mashare Social: To show the share count of your articles and add social share icons to your blog.
- OptinChat: Helps you add a chat module, which will automatically chat with your visitors and collect their email IDs to help you build a subscriber list.
- WP Time Capsule: Backs up your blog’s content and files every day and stores it on Dropbox or Amazon S3. It makes sure that your blog is safe in the event of a crash, security compromise or file corruption.
- W3 Total Cache: Helps you create static pages of your web pages so that your website loads faster.
- Google XML Sitemaps: To develop sitemaps in XML format that has links to all the pages of your website. This is monitored by search engines to make sure all your web pages are indexed. These get automatically updated with links as you publish new posts. You can have a look at my sitemap here at https://getsales.africa/sitemap.xml
Most of the plugins mentioned are free. WordPress also has premium plugins to help you enhance your website further.
6. Publish your first post
For a non-tech person, reaching this point can be quite an anxiety-inducing thing. However, if you have reached this point, don’t stop.
Blogging is a marathon and not a sprint. And you have to keep the motivation going. According to the law of diminishing marginal motivation, the longer you take to get your blog up and running, the less likely you are to succeed as a professional blogger.
It is time to publish your first few posts and pages. Let’s get started with the ‘About Me’ page.
One of the most visited pages on my blog is the ‘About Me’ page. People want to learn from people, and when they visit a blog, they want to see who the author is. Make sure the blog connected to your brand rather than making it look like a publication.
While writing your ‘About Me’ page, put yourself in the shoes of your readers, and write accordingly. You might have accomplished a lot in your life, but no one is interested in your resume. Write about yourself but talk about how you are going to help your readers.
In my page, I talk about my experience in digital marketing, but I also talk about why they should read my blog – because they have a lot to learn about digital marketing from me. You shouldn’t be boastful but at the same time, you need to talk about your credentials.
Think about what you would expect when you read the ‘About Me’ page of a fellow blogger. You can also read the ‘About Me’ page of a few bloggers you follow. There are no strict rules, but keep it personal, unique, and make sure to put yourself in the shoes of your reader.
This page shouldn’t be a post. It should be published as a page inside WordPress with a link on the navigation bar of your blog. People should be able to reach your ‘About Me’ page from any page of your blog, and it is essential to build a strong personal brand.
After you publish your ‘About Me’ page, publish your first post. There are no rules or guidelines on it should be. It could be a welcome post for new users, or you can dive right into some value creation.
7. Install Google Analytics and configure search console
Web analytics tools were not easy to purchase and implement before the release of Google Analytics. When Google Analytics launched, it gave the power of enterprise web analytics to every blogger and website owner.
Once you install Google Analytics, you will be able to track the daily number of users, sessions, and pageviews of your blog. You will also be able to track the source of this traffic. The primary sources of traffic will be direct, social media, and search engines. Search engine traffic can be from paid search or organic search.
The next thing you might have to do before you start building traffic is to configure the search console. The search console gives you essential data and insights about how your website is performing in Google Search. You will be able to see the keywords that people search for when they come to your site.
Once you have all the above in place, the next step is to start building your traffic sources.
8. Build your social media presence
The initial set of visitors to your blog will mostly come from social media. If you have a few years of work experience, I’m sure that you have hundreds of Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections, if not thousands.
Start sharing your articles on these channels and the initial trickle of traffic will start to flow. You will be able to see the traffic in your Google Analytics dashboard, and you will have your initial motivation.
The first time I saw traffic on my blog, I had 22 visitors. Since then, I have seen as much as 4000 visitors on a single day.
Apart from optimising and frequently posting on your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you can also start maintaining a Facebook group.
Every time I publish a new post, I share it on my group, and I get thousands of visitors. I also get ideas for new posts by running polls and asking open-ended questions on my group.
9. Have a good SEO strategy
50 percent of the traffic I get comes from search engines. And without search traffic, I would miss a lot of high-quality visitors who could become my subscribers and followers.
When you are getting started as a blogger, it is essential to have a good SEO strategy. Search engines send you free and high-quality targeted traffic, which you shouldn’t miss. But don’t worry, you don’t need anything too technical to have a good SEO strategy.
The good news is that WordPress, a content management system that I recommend, is optimised for search engines by default. With a good web-hosting, lightweight theme and SEO WordPress plugins, you are all set for getting traffic from search engines.
What you should be focussing on is researching the demand for various keywords related to your niche. After a keyword research, you should publish articles to fulfill the request of those keywords that people are searching for.
You need not worry about your SEO and keyword strategy for the first ten articles that you publish on your blog. After ten articles, as long as you have posted something that people want to learn about, you will start getting some search traffic, even if you haven’t had an SEO strategy for your blog.
You will be able to see keywords that people are searching for and arriving at your blog from the Google Search Console (previously known as Webmaster Tools).
You will also be able to see on your Google Analytics dashboard that you are getting some visitors, which are tagged with the source as search engines. This can be seen under the ‘Acquisition’ tab.
These keywords will give you an idea about what people are searching for, and you can write more articles based on the findings. Apart from Google Search Console, you can use the following tools to do keyword research:
- UberSuggest: A free keyword research tool
- Ahrefs: Keyword research tool for advanced users and agencies
- KeywordTool.io: A premium keyword tool
- Google’s Auto-Suggest: If you type in a keyword in Google, it will automatically show you suggestions for longer tail keywords. These keywords are showing up because people are searching for it, and there is a demand for it.
Don’t worry about it too much when you get started. Keyword research and SEO are advanced blogging strategies that I wouldn’t recommend to newbies.
The most important thing with blogging is to get started and get that momentum going. Once you have that flow of regular writing and a habit of publishing posts, you will be motivated to learn more.
Don’t do too much of a technical analysis of what you are going to do in the future. It can hamper your motivation and make it look like it’s more complicated than it is. It would make sense to invest time, energy, and money in learning advanced blogging skills when you have a blog to apply those skills on and learn from the results.
Do not try to learn everything about blogging right from the get-go. It’s impossible. Learn the basics and work on it. Once you act on it, you will have some results, which will motivate you to learn more. This is the hardest part of blogging.
10. Build your email list
Email marketing is an essential part of digital marketing and blogging. It is one of the most reliable ways to reach out to an audience without having to go through a middle-man.
You see, when you have a huge Facebook fan page with millions of “Likes,” it might look like you are building an excellent distribution asset. But the reality is that you do not control the distribution. Facebook does. Its users are not your users. They signed up with their email on Facebook. Your “Likes” just hit the ‘Like’ button – they did not give you their email.
Earlier, Facebook used to give brands and pages a lot of organic reach who were able to reach out to a significant portion of their audience by posting an update on their Facebook Wall. But lately, the company has changed its algorithm, to show more ads on the news feed and fewer posts from brands that have pages and followers.
Since brands did not own the email list of their audience, they were not able to break through Facebook’s barrier to reach their users. Building a massive following on social networks is nice, but they can never be a replacement for an email list.
With emails, there is no one between you and your audience. Even though a small percentage of your emails might end up in the spam folder, and some go to the ‘Promotions’ tab on Gmail, you will still be able to reach almost all your audience through an email broadcast.
I have mostly grown my blog using email marketing, and investment in email list building has given me the most returns.
The first step to getting started with email marketing is to have a lead magnet. What is a lead magnet? You see, people like to read content on your blog for free. But they will leave your blog and never come back. To encourage your audience to share their email ID, you need to give them something of value – an ethical bribe.
A lead magnet is a content upgrade for your blog’s audience — something of value that motivates them to give you their email ID. In my blog, I am giving away a free digital marketing course with 25 videos to collect names and email IDs of my subscribers. As of today, I’ve received more than 10,000 email IDs, and that’s the best traffic generation asset that I’ve got.
Lead magnets can be videos, ebooks, an email course, access to a report or a tool, a free worksheet or a calculator. You have to learn what your audience would want and value in your niche and develop a lead magnet. Once you have your lead magnet, get a premium WordPress plugin like OptinChat.com or OptinMonster.com to start collecting email IDs.
OptinChat uses an AI chat module to talk to your visitors, get their email IDs, and deliver the lead-magnet. OptinMonster uses exit popups that interrupt the user when they are exiting the website. Both these plugins help you collect emails from your visitors.
You will be able to convert two to five percent of your visitors into email subscribers. If you get 1,000 visitors a day, you will be able to convert 20 visitors into email subscribers at the least. This will help you grow an email list of 600 people within a month and 7,200 people within a year.
Whenever you publish a new post, email all your subscribers – they will visit the website, and they might link back to it or share it with others on social media. This will help you bring a new set of audience into your blog, and some of them might become your email subscribers.
All traffic sources feed on each other, and this leads to compounded traffic growth over time. That’s how my blog has grown to 3,000+ visitors a day in the last six years.
After you capture a visitor’s name and email ID, you need to add them to a CRM. An Email CRM tool is an essential requirement for email marketing, and they don’t come cheap. Almost four percent of my startup’s revenue goes into the cost of my email marketing CRM.
You can check my article about the top five email marketing tools for startups. They are ActiveCampaign, MailChimp, ConvertKit, Aweber, and Drip. You will be paying based on the number of subscribers you have, not based on the number of emails you send. To start with, a basic plan costs anywhere from $29 to $49, which should be more than enough.
As your revenue grows, your subscriber base will grow, and you can invest more on your email marketing tools and subscriber growth. Speaking of revenue, let’s talk about the next step in your blogging journey – generating revenue from your blog.
11. Create multiple revenue channels for your blog
This is the most important step in your blogging journey. And making revenue and profits could be the only reason we started blogging in the first place.
Many bloggers think that they can make money from their blog using display ads (Google AdSense). Unfortunately, display ads are no longer a viable way to monetise the traffic that you get.
Internet users have developed ad-blindness, and many popup blockers block ads, meaning most people never see them. Display ads pay the lowest revenue per visitor to your blog, and it is not going to be worth your time in creating content for your blog in the first place.
It is crucial to have a revenue strategy for your blog because even if you are not investing money into your blog, you are investing time in creating content, and that needs to be monetised. If you cannot monetise your blog, you will not be able to fund your content creation, and you will not be able to grow your blog.
Publish a book
One of the most challenging tasks you will face in your blogging career and personal branding journey is to publish a book. It takes a lot of time, energy, and money, and is not the same as writing a blog post.
Blogging is the first step in your journey to becoming a published author. Some of the best books in the world have their roots in blogging, where the author used to blog about the book’s topic. For example, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, first started blogging about tips on growing habits on his blog.
Having a blog helps you have a set of audience who will give you feedback on your content. You can learn what your audience wants through the readership that you build from your blog.
Sell access to a premium tools
Just like content, software code can replicate itself and create value for thousands of people without any cost of replication. The key to building wealth using the internet is to create something of value that has a meagre marginal cost of replication.
If you are a blogger and get at least 1,000 visitors to your blog every day, you can consider launching a tool for your users. Some bloggers giveaway tools for free to attract visitors and backlinks to their blog.
Sell others’ products for a commission (Affiliate Marketing)
We have already discussed that display ads are a poor source of revenue and selling products and services can be the best source of revenue for professional bloggers.
However, it takes time to create your own products and services. It took me four years after I started my blog to create my first training product.
Selling other people’s products for a commission can be a lucrative revenue source. This sits somewhere in-between display ads and building and selling your own products. It is also called ‘affiliate marketing’ and some like to call it a ‘Partner Programme’.
By selling others’ products and services, you will also get an idea about what kind of products your visitors are ready to buy. If you are promoting others’ ebooks and training products, and if you can make sales, you will be able to understand the buying behaviour of your audience and build your products and services accordingly.
Affiliate marketing is the minimum viable product for your blog that helps you understand how your audience will respond to an offer.
Turn your blog into a business
When you start experimenting with blogging, it is fine to invest a small amount of time, energy, and money to see if it works. What you have read here is just theory and you will not be motivated enough to invest years into growing your blog only by taking my word for it.
Take some action, and you will get results, which will motivate you to do more.
If you are already in a full-time job, your goal should be to generate enough profit from your blog so that it enables you to quit your job and become a full-time professional blogger. Once you become a full-time blogger, you will be able to grow to a point where you are generating more money than what you need to survive. Once you get to that point, invest the extra profits that you have back into the growth of your blog.
You can hire more content writers, designers, SEO analysts, and even developers.
Your motivation and inspiration to become a blogger will fade away very quickly, and you might forget about it because of family and work demands that are always around the corner. But do not let it get to you. Start working on your blog for 30 minutes every day, and one day, you will have a profitable blog that will become a profitable business.
Remember, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today. The best time to start a blog was five years ago. The next best time is today.