HOW TO START A SUCCESSFUL BLOG IN 2020

I learned how to start a successful blog after a massive FAIL with my first YouTube channel. I didn’t realize the power of the written word, but after I up-skilled through a blog writing course, studied what my competition was doing, researched other popular blogs, and went to town on producing super valuable content, it all clicked into place.

In this blog I’m going to share with you the what, the how, the why and the where of blogging:

What is a blog?

How do bloggers make money blogging?

How can you get started?

Why you should follow my lead and do a course.

Where can you find blog writing jobs? Just in case you don’t want to start your own.

After you read this blog you’re going to have a much better understanding about how to start a successful blog in 2019.

WHAT EXACTLY IS A BLOG

 

A blog is a written form of content creation that is found on a website, whereas something like YouTube is a video form and a podcast is an audio form. The website is the main ‘hub’ so to speak, which normally has a ‘blog’ page where you can find links to all the blog posts

A blog can be for personal use, but in this post I’m going to focus on blogging as a means of attraction marketing.

I’m sure you’ve experienced an onslaught of advertising at one point or another, whether it’s on radio, tv, billboards, websites, at the movies or anywhere else where someone sees the potential to sell advertising space. Over time this advertising overload makes you somewhat immune to truly watching. Ads can go by in a haze of seeing them, but not really watching them. 
football fans yawning at ads

A commercial blog on the other hand is something that is often found or stumbled upon when you search online. For example, if it’s a friend’s birthday and you Google ‘gifts for her’, the results will show several online stores or gift shops (e-commerce), but there will also be a collection of blogs that have been setup to help you choose gifts that will have blog posts with information specific to ‘gifts for her’.

These blog sites, unlike spamy ads on tv or Facebook, will add value to your online experience. It might help you compare gifts, compare prices, review several options head to head, show results from personal product testing, or any number of helpful things. This sort of experience helps build TRUST, which is a lot harder to achieve by spamming people with ads about your product or service.

Remember, people buy from people they TRUST.

I hope that helps you understand what a blog is and helps you see the critical difference between advertising and blogging, but you probably want to know how to make money blogging.

 

HOW TO MAKE MONEY BLOGGING

 

One of the best things about a blog is that it opens up many avenues to make money online.

It’s important to note that before you make money blogging you’ll need visitors to your blog (i.e. TRAFFIC), and you’ll need to build TRUST by creating valuable content that isn’t constantly trying to sell stuff.

Here’s a list of the main ways you can make money blogging once you have TRAFFIC and you’ve built TRUST:

1.      Sell Your Products

Such as your skin care products or your online cooking course.

 2.      Attracting Clients

To your services such as your coaching services, your real estate agency or to your hair salon.

 3.      Affiliate Marketing

This is when you offer other people’s products or services and take a commission if they sign up or purchase.

 4.      Advertising

Allowing Google or others to place ads on your blog site (don’t overdo this, it can be a real turn off and damage the trust you work so hard for).

 5.      Consulting

By showing that you’re an authority in a certain space or in a certain topic, people will want to hire you for their projects.

 

Ok, now you get what a blog is, why it’s so much better than traditional spam-ertising, and how you can make money blogging, but you still might not have a clear picture in your head about what a blog looks like, so here are some…

Examples of Popular Blogs That are Killing it (and How They Make $)

·         Making Sense of Cents – this is a personal and family finance blog that aims to help people save money and budget properly. The owner of this blog, Michelle, monetizes it through affiliate marketing, selling her own courses and displaying a small amount of ads.

 ·         Just a Girl and Her Blog – Abby, the owner of this blog focuses on writing about organization, DIY and crafts. She makes her money through the blog by affiliate marketing through one of the most popular affiliate programs, Amazon. She also sells her own courses.

 ·         Fatherly – These two guys, Simon Isaacs and Michael Rothman, blog about parenting for millennial men to help empower men in the role of raising amazing kids and beating outdated stereotypes. Simon and Michael monetize their blog through display ads and affiliate links.

 As you can see, the three examples above are quite contrasting. Because you can create a blog in any and every niche possible, it really shows that ANYONE can create a blog around a subject they’re passionate about.

Feel like you’re getting a little closer on your journey of how to start a successful blog? Hope so!

So now you’ve got the full bottle on what a blog is, why it’s a powerful way to create a living, how to make money blogging, and what a blog looks like (don’t get overwhelmed, yours would look like that too after a few months/years of consistent effort), but now you need to know…


HOW TO GET STARTED

 

Many websites will tell you that to start a blog you need WordPress hosting, a domain and then you get writing. All those steps are necessary, but they sure fire aren’t the first steps to get started. In fact, suffice to say that if that’s how you start, you won’t be starting a successful blog because you’ve missed the critical first few steps.

Thankfully you found this blog post, so here’s a step-by-step process to help you visualize the path to starting a successful blog:

Now I’m not going to lie, the research is time consuming, and after a while it can get a bit tedious, but by following through and doing it properly you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re setting yourself up for blogging success.

Then, at that stage, you can setup your site and get hosting and plugins and a domain and think about content and SEO and backlinks and monetization and all that sort of stuff.

So, true to my word, this is how you get started so you know how to start a successful blog:

the five steps to starting a blog

 1 – Uncover Your Passions & Experiences

This part is fun. By the end of it you’ll discover some things about yourself that you haven’t realized before or thought about in a long time. This is the first tangible step in working out how to start a successful blog.

Take some time to get all zen, burn some incense, sit cross legged, make a chai tea because it’s time to brainstorm, dig deep and discover what’s within.

Grab a pen and paper, a word processing document, or follow my lead and get some butchers paper and different colored markers as shown by the photo below, and write down as many answers as possible to the following questions:

  • What hobbies do I enjoy doing? What sports, arts, crafts, activities, past times?
  • What are some of your goals? At a global level, without getting into the nitty gritty, what are some 5 or 10 year things that I’d like to achieve?
  • What do people come to you for? Why do others, friends, family seek you out?
  • What are some of your pain points? What is a persistent niggle (or worse) in your life?
  • Who are your role models? Who do you respect and why?
  • What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing that you do well
  • What do you value? What makes you feel good on the inside and lights up your soul?
  • Finish the sentence “I am…” – for example “I am passionate about floristry” or “I am a teacher” or “I am inspired to change” or “I am recovered” etc.

After spending a good few minutes on each and bouncing back and forth between questions as your mind unravels, you should have quite a few insights written down.

When I did this back in 2018 for my first YouTube channel I used butchers paper so I could see it all laid out in front of me.

mind map of Rowan's questions and answers

As a final exercise spend a few minutes looking over all your answers and pick out the common threads. Do you see any patterns or commonalities?

Now, with a blog site in mind and months, if not years of content creation, create a shortlist of 5 things you’ve noticed within your answers that were either common threads or that made you feel really good inside.

This is where you have emotional experience, and even if you don’t have real time experience with this just yet, you’d be motivated to pursue it, learn it, live it, and blog it. Exciting hey!

Step 1 will subconsciously influence what you click on and how you approach Step 2, so without further ado…

2 – Niche Research

This step of the process is all about digging around and seeing what you can find from various sources. Similar to step 1, look out for trends and commonalities.

Something to consider at this point is, do you want to create a blog for a broad niche or a narrow niche? For example a broad niche is ‘health and fitness’, but a narrow niche would be ‘yoga for mums post birth’ or ‘strength training for dancers’. Another example would be ‘care for family pets’ vs ‘caring for your Husky’.

Both broad and narrow have their pros and cons, and many successful marketers say that the pot of gold lies in serving the specific needs of those in a narrow niche. That being said, if the only objective is to cash out, then it’s going to be a long road ahead.

List of amazon niche categories

Now, here’s how you look into various sites to start creating your list of possible niches.

Amazon Bookstore – Head to the Kindle Books section and scroll down until you can see the categories of books as shown by the image below. Click on the ones that interest you and see if there are sub-categories, and sub-sub-categories (i.e. more narrow versions of the broad niche).

For example, as shown by the image below, ‘Elementary School’ and ‘Preschool & Kindergarten’ education is a sub-sub-category within the ‘Education & Teaching’ niche.

Have a look through the various categories and note down anything interesting that you find regarding the niches, sub-niches and the eBooks that are being published.

Flippa – Head to Flippa.com and browse their ‘assets’ for sale. Select the asset type ‘Website’, and status ‘Sold’, then search. Have a look through the various websites that sold, taking note of any niches that interest you. Hopefully one or two of the niches that interest you sold for $100k+. That’d be nice wouldn’t it!

Magazines – Head to Magazines.com and click all categories. Similar to Amazon, click on the categories that interest you and take note of the niches that magazines are being sold in. Magazines are a bigger deal to create than eBooks (which can be outsourced and created in a few days), so if there are magazines that interest you, that means there’s money to be made in that niche. Again, take some notes.

Time to reflect. Look back over your research and start pulling out the common threads or findings that you have an emotional connection to.

To note with common threads is that you shouldn’t be scared of the fact that there are people out there doing what you might want to do. Competition is good, and there’s more than enough room in this world for your blog. Ensure you don’t take on a scarcity mindset.

By now you should be starting to create a list of possible niches; 10+ options is what you’re aiming for.

A crucially important step in this process is to score your niches so you’re making an informed decision based on an objective approach. You might want to pull out your laptop and start a spreadsheet at this point. It’ll serve you well.

The first two scores out of 10 that you need to allocate to each niche are:

From Step 2, out of 10 points, how prevalent was this niche (i.e. did it pop up frequently = more points, only once = less points, or somewhere in between)?

From Step 2, out of 10 points, how connected do I feel with this niche (i.e. I love this niche = more points, not fussed with this niche = less points, or somewhere in between)?

Ok, we’re making good progress on how to start a successful blog. Let’s move onto the next step where we’ll do more point scoring to get us closer to selecting the right niche.

3 – Competitor Research

Now we want to find out if there are blogs of various sizes doing well in our list of niches.

For each niche we want to find a stack of blogs by Googling ‘*niche name* blog feedspot’. For example ‘gardening blogs feedspot’ or ‘rowing blogs feedspot’.

Feedspot is a great resource for listing blogs within a certain niche. You should also drop the word ‘feedspot’ from your Google search and see what blogs come up.

Now start looking through each blog to check that it is in fact a blog in your niche. Sometimes Feedspot throws some red herrings in there. Put the URL’s for all the relevant blogs into your spreadsheet. When you eventually select a niche, these links will come in handy to look back over your competition should you want to work out ways to do what they’re doing, but better!!

Try to find 15+ relevant blogs for each niche.

Now you want to work out how much of an authority each blog is. There are a few ways to do this.

The best way is to use AHRefs as this will give you the Domain Rating (DR) and organic traffic which are good metrics showing how much authority a site has. More authority means they’re more likely to rank on the first page in Google searches for their keywords.

snippet from AHRefs

For AHRefs you’ll need to sign up for a trial period which is 7 days for $7 at the time of writing this post. You might want to aim to finish all your searches in 7 days before you roll over to a paid monthly plan.

Alternate search tools include Mangools SiteProfiler, Moz Domain Authority or SEMRush.

When using your search tool, copy the URL for each blog site into the search bar and note down the organic traffic and DR (or Domain Authority (DA) if relevant) in your spreadsheet.  Do this for all your sites so you get a clear picture as to whether the blog site is smaller in size, larger in size, or perhaps somewhere in between.

You want to see small blogs so you know others have broken into this niche, and you want to see large blogs so you know there’s scope to scale up and turn it into a 6 figure site should you wish to.

To put some metrics to it, a good small site would have DR less than 25, but traffic more than 2,000. A large site would have DR greater than 60.

The next two scores out of 10 that you need to allocate to each niche are:

From Step 3, out of 10 points, how prevalent are small blog sites in this niche (i.e. quite a few = more points, one or two = less points, or somewhere in between)?

From Step 3, out of 10 points, how prevalent are large blog sites in this niche (i.e. quite a few = more points, one or two = less points, or somewhere in between)?

 

Side note: the “I-have-no-budget” way to do a hack version of the above is to copy your blog site URL’s into SimilarWeb or UberSuggest. These free sites will give you traffic volumes, but at the time of writing this blog they didn’t show DR or DA values.

4 – Monetization Research

Finally, the last bit of research I’m going to show you to help you choose the right niche and how start a successful blog is monetization research. Here you’ll work out if there are physical products (something tangible like a watch) and digital products (such as an online course like a ‘learn how to play the piano online’) that are available for you to market as an affiliate in your niche.

This, along with advertising, is the most common way to monetize a blog, however as noted above there’s also other strategies like selling your own products, attracting clients to your business and offering consulting services amongst others.

Check out the following sites and take notes (both mental and spreadsheet) on your findings.

Amazon – As I’m sure you know, Amazon is more geared towards physical products, although there are some digital products.

Type one of your niches into the search bar, then have a look through the departments on the left hand side for sub-niches that fall under the umbrella of your main niche. For example, if your blog was going to specialize in watches, Amazon would have plenty of options as shown by the many department categories below.

List of amazon niche categories

Have a look at the various products in the various department categories. Sort some pages by ‘Price: Low to High’ and then ‘Price: High to Low’. Get a feel for how many options there are with regards to number of products and prices of products.

Clickbank – Clickbank is one of the leading affiliate platforms where vendors list their product(s) for sale and affiliates can search for a product they’d like to market and earn commissions on. Clickbank has more of a mixture of physical and digital products.

On the left hand side you’ll see a range of categories. Search for your various niches in these categories. When you click on a category, on the left hand side you’ll want to change your gravity to 5 minimum and average dollars per sale to $15 minimum as shown below.

filters on clickbank

Alternatively you can ‘Sort results by: Gravity’ high to low, and just keep an eye on the minimum gravity and Avg $/sale.

Gravity is a metric created by Clickbank that basically shows how many affiliates have earned a commission by marketing the vendors’ products in the last 12 weeks. Gravity isn’t the actual number of affiliates or sales, but a metric to give you a feel for how well the product has been converting in the last 12 weeks.

Now, scroll through the results and take note of the number of physical and digital products you see that might work for you and your niche, that also work with the gravity and avg $/sale metrics we’ve allocated.

The final two scores out of 10 that you need to allocate to each niche are:

  • From Step 4, out of 10 points, how prevalent are physical products in this niche (i.e. more than 20 = more points, less than 5 = less points, or somewhere in between)?
  • From Step 4, out of 10 points, how prevalent are digital products in this niche (i.e. more than 20 = more points, less than 5 = less points, or somewhere in between)?

We won’t score the dollar values for the products, but use some common sense. If there are loads of products but they’re all selling for less than $5 or $10, consider whether you count them as products you would spend precious time trying to make a commission on by marketing them.

5 – Niche Selection

Holy macaroni, if you’re anything like me, this process nearly broke you. But if you have done the research thoroughly you have 2 big wins to celebrate. The first is that you’ve proven your commitment. You’re not just dabbling or under the influence of shiny object syndrome. You’re a doer and you genuinely deserve every success that comes your way.

Secondly, by analyzing the results you should have 1 to 3 niches that have a commanding lead over the others. Niches that haven’t just been plucked out of a hat, but have been drilled down on, put under the microscope and tested across several areas.

So, what are your results??

You should have a score out of 60 for each niche based on the following questions:

  • How prevalent was this niche?
  • How connected do you feel with this niche?
  • How prevalent are small blog sites in this niche?
  • How prevalent are large blog sites in this niche?
  • How prevalent are physical products in this niche?
  • How prevalent are digital products in this niche?

At this point it’s a good idea to sleep on it. Mull it over for a day (and one day only). Your gut instinct is incredibly useful when it comes to this sort of decision, so go with it and choose your niche.

How excitement!!! So excitement I can’t even use the word excitement correctly!!!

Now and only now do I give you permission to consider setting up your blog with all the technical aspects like domains and hosting and this and that. Now and only now do I give you permission to continue on your journey to creating an incredibly successful, insightful, problem solving, cash cow of a blog WHOOP WHOOP!!!

WHY DO A COURSE AND THE BEST BLOG WRITING COURSES

As I’ve mentioned a few times through this blog, I tried to create a YouTube channel and after 1 year and over 70 uploaded videos, it failed miserably. But I learned some great lessons, the main one being to find someone who has achieved what you want to achieve and suck them dry of all the information you can possibly extract.

The only problem was that I didn’t know anyone who had started a successful blog, but I did have a secret weapon. The internet… ok, not so secret really.

After searching high and low I found a great course that was pivotal in getting me from where I was to where I wanted to be.

As I’ve learned the hard way over the last few years, you can work it all out yourself if you want. All the information is out there, free of charge too. But each bit of information is like a piece to a gigantic jigsaw puzzle that you’re trying to put together in the dark.

You’ll put it together eventually, after enough years go by, but time is your most precious resource.

When I came to that realization my mission changed from putting together the jigsaw to finding the best course and saving myself years of frustration.

So here are some courses that you might want to consider. This first course is The Authority Site System which I’ve personally purchased, used, implemented and highly recommend! Gael and Mark really know what they’re talking about with their years of experience in the world of blogging and creating authority sites.

The Authority Site System

The following Udemy courses I have not personally purchased, however I chose them because I wanted you to have some options, but also based on their high rating and high number of reviews (most of which are very positive). The age of reviewing that we live in makes it so much easier to make an informed decision. Check them out and see what you think.

Blogging Masterclass: How To Build A Successful Blog In 2019

WordPress Blogging : How To Start A WordPress Blog (2019)

WHERE TO FIND BLOG WRITING JOBS

If you’ve made it this far and you’re not excited to start your own blog, all’s not lost. You still have options. Below are some job boards and freelance sites where you can pick up freelance blogging work.

ProBlogger – This site is setup 100% for bloggers and freelance writers. Heads to the ‘Jobs’ page and check out the loooooong list of job posts. Bloggers from all sorts of different niches need writers right now.

Flexjobs – This jobs board has a special section for blog writers and other freelance writing jobs. If you’ve got writing skills don’t pigeon hole yourself with just blogging.

Freelance Writing Jobs – Head to the Writing Gigs page which is updated just about every day, or the Freelance Writing Job Board. Again, lots of options beyond the blog.

Indeed – Search for Blog Writer or Content Writer jobs here. What I like about Indeed is you can filter by salary, job type (FT, PT, Contract etc.), location, company, experience level (including entry level). Great for getting laser focused on the right job for you.

Media Bistro – This website is known to have jobs for well established companies, primarily in the media world such as for newspapers and magazines. Not dedicated to blogging like ProBlogger, but lots of opportunities for those in the content and media world.

Fiverr – Long gone is Fiverr’s reputation as being the place for cheapo work to be done. It’s far more professional these days, with Freelancers signing up as ‘Sellers’ who sell their skills. Articles & Blog Posts is a popular category at Fiverr.

CONCLUSION

Blogging is an incredibly powerful way to connect with your audience, build trust, grow your brand and become an authority in your area of expertise.

To help you figure out how to start a successful blog, follow the five steps described above to find which niche you’re most likely to have the most success with. If this wets your appetite, then I can’t recommend The Authority Site System course enough.

Don’t fumble around in the dark trying to work things out on your own like I did with my first YouTube channel. Time is far too precious for that.

I wish you every blogging success, be it your own blog or creating content for someone else’s.

If you got something out of this blog, we would be endlessly grateful if you’d share it with someone, or better yet, others, who would also benefit. All the very best.

P.s. you can find other online business ideas at the ‘Start an Online Business and Be Your Own Boss’ page or in the Online Business Ideas blog category.

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