Welcome to Smart Blog Income! This blog is dedicated to helping everyday people become professional bloggers and earn passive income online. This guide is the perfect start for beginners and people new to the world of blogging. This guide will walk you step-by-step on how to start a successful blog and by the end of it, you will have a blog on the Internet up and running! Scroll down to finally start your entrepreneurial journey and earn passive income ($1000+ /month) online 😎 ! — updated May 2018
1. MY STORY
MY BLOGGING STORY — Hey welcome to SmartBlogIncome.com 🙂 ! My name is Osman Abraham and I am the founder of this blog. I started my blogging entrepreneurial journey 8 years ago back in 2010 when I was in high school. Back then to me, the Internet was this huge amazing place (it still is!) and like a kid in a candy store I only made my first website because I wanted to get a taste of what it felt to be “online.” I still remember asking my Mom to let me use her credit card so I could buy a domain name and some low-cost web hosting I didn’t really have any technical know-how or any of experience writing professionally (I was in grade 10!). But I did have a strong curiosity and a desire to follow through on my plan to become the next being thing online (That’s what I told my mom 😉 ).
But guess what happened next? I drew a blank. Almost instantly after the payment went through on my Mom’s credit card. I had a “what have I gotten myself into…” moment. I hit me that I had absolutely NO IDEA how to make a website let alone blog (I didn’t even know what the definition of blogging was back then!). The next 8 months or so were grueling. I worked on my website day and night, experimenting, learning, making adjustments and it was terrible. Back then the learning curve for blogging was very high. Creating a website was a lot more technical and there were a lot fewer resources (or guides like this 😉 ) available online. Nowadays you can set up a blog in 20 minutes but in 2010 when I started it took me almost 6 months to have a basic website online. This was what my first website looked like after 6 months. Yes, it’s pretty ugly I know! But I still feel a sense of achievement looking at this:
But long story short looking back at everything it was well worth it. Sure it was tough. Sure I hated the technical bell curve (Thank god for Bluehost one-click installs). But this struggle got me to where I am now. “2018 Me” is a professional blogger. I have a thriving online business. I make passive online income in the thousands from the comfort of my home office. I’m my own boss. And best of all blogging has given me the freedom to travel and experience things a person trapped in the 9 to 5 could never enjoy! But that’s enough about me. I wanted to share this story to highlight the fact that anyone can become a professional blogger and start earning passive income online. Like this income below is from one of my “SMALLER” niche blogs. There were times I wouldn’t even visit this blog for 3-4 months a time but it would continue to churn traffic and earn passive income. Trust me It feels pretty great when you go to sleep at night and wake up the next morning a little bit richer!
So with said, I wanted to share this story to highlight the fact that anyone can become a professional blogger and that no matter where you are in life you can start earning passive income online. It doesn’t matter what age you are, or how much technical background you have or if you type very slowly. If you have a computer and an Internet connection you have the tools to transform your life. I hope you take on this challenge and continue to read below how to start a blog you can live of off 🙂 !
2. DECIDE WHY YOU WANT TO BLOG
More than anyone else you need to answer this question for yourself. 🙂 Why do you want to start blogging? Ideas become goals. goals become actions, actions become habits and habits if done right lead to success. If your foundation is not strong you can’t expect real success. I’ve seen many bloggers start blogging for the wrong reasons. So be like Ryan Reynolds below and ask yourself what is the real reason why you want to blog. Is it the money? Do you simply enjoy writing? Is it for your resume?
Blogging is a marathon. If you’re looking for a get rich quick scheme this isn’t for you. Just like any other business, becoming a successful blogger online requires a long and tough entrepreneurial journey. There will be and ups and downs and a lot of times when you will want to give up. This is where your reason for starting becomes so important. Get in the mindset that you are in it for the long haul. With that out of the way, it’s time to decide on a topic for your new blog.
3. CHOOSE A TOPIC / NICHE FOR YOUR BLOG
WHY TO FOCUS ON A NICHE – I’m sure you have heard the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”. In business, if you try to do a lot of different things at once, you will become “average” at a lot of things but will never become the expert at any of them. Unfortunately for all of you who have diverse tastes 😉 , in business customers look for companies that 1. provide exceptional value and 2. are the best in comparison to the competition. You can never be the best at something or be considered an expert in a field if you dabble in a lot of different categories. This same concept applies to blogging. The Internet is so vast with so much information readily available that if you simply start a blog about “everything”, you will never build a successful high traffic blog. Readers on the web look for expertise. There are millions of wikiHow type websites on the web that provide average summary-type information on a lot of different topics but only a handful of websites that dive into particular topics and niches.
These niches are where you can make money and find online blogging success. So don’t be greedy! Instead of trying to eat the whole Internet pie focus on a particular sliver and become the absolute best in it. Make it known to the world that, that particular sliver of user traffic and money is yours and yours alone. Become the undisputed expert in that particular category, dominate, and start enjoying the money that starts rolling in 😎 !
DECIDING ON A PARTICULAR NICHE – Now this is the hard part. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers fail because they chose a blog niche that was either not a good fit or that it didn’t have a lot of growth potential. I know it can seem a bit overwhelming to choose only one topic for your blog but if you follow these three rules you will be okay:
Rule #1 – Be Interested In the Blog Niche (Some Passion)
You can Google “How to pick a blog niche” and you will get thousands of posts about how you need to be passionate about the topic you choose. I feel this advice is a bit outdated. You simply need interest. Passion is a strong word and I know a lot of successful bloggers who didn’t dream, sleep and eat their particular expertise when they started. So keep this as the minimum standard. You must somewhat enjoy the topic. For example, if you have zero interest in golfing don’t start a blog about it!
Rule #2 -Make Sure Enough People Actually Care About Your Blog Niche
Your blog is an “online business” and the number one thing a business must have is the potential for growth. If your niche is something people will not care about in a one month, one year or even 5 years time, you should look for something else to start your blog about. For example making your blog about the “London 2012 Summer Olympics” is probably not a great idea. Simply looking at the graph below shows that interest in the 2010 Olympic games peaked in 2012 and have been at almost 0 since then. I highly recommend you do this for chosen niche as well on Google Trends to get an idea about public interest. Google trends is a free tool by Google that shows you how many people are searching for a particular topic.
Rule #3 -Make Sure You Can “Sell Something” In your Niche
Your blog is your online “business”. If you can’t sell something in your niche category you have a big problem. I have seen a lot of entrepreneurs start a blog about an unusual topic and find out 6 months down the line that there are no viable income streams for that particular niche. Now sure every blog or website can put Adsense or Amazon links on their blog to get some PPC (pay-per-click) income. But to have a real consistent income stream you have to either sell your own product or make commission being an affiliate for someone else’s product. If your chosen niche doesn’t have room for either of those two things, no matter how small, I would recommend you choose something else.
4. DECIDE ON A DOMAIN NAME + BRANDING
DOMAIN NAME (BLOG NAME) – Your business/blog name is EVERYTHING. Your blog name is your brand and it is what will define your blog for the life of your online business. So take some time to brainstorm a good blog name instead of jumping in with two feet. It gets much, much harder to change your blog name in the future and you don’t want to be stuck with a heat of the moment domain name like ZebraToffee.com (edit: haha reading this again this actually not that bad 🙂 ) in 5 years when your blog is about custom furniture.
A good tool I like using when brainstorming new blog names is Shopify’s Business Name Generator. Sure their goal is to funnel you towards buying a Shopify page but that doesn’t mean it’s still not beneficial ;). You can simply enter two words related to your topic and it will generate thousands of available domain names. Once you like the one you like, write it down (NOTE: Try to stick with .com domain names. They are the most common and are the easiest to remember for your readers). We will use this domain name in step 5 when we set up your web-hosting!
BRANDING (LOGO DESIGN) – Once you have decided on the name of your blog, your logo is the next most important thing. Think about Nike or Apple. As soon as I mention the company name you can visualize the logo and vice versa. If done right your blog name and blog logo should have a similar effect. Now I know many of you are probably saying “I’m not a graphic designer, I can’t make a logo!” Trust me I was once in the same boat. I made my first logo in MS Paint! It was absolutely terrible but it was important in the beginning to make branding for my blog no matter how ugly to begin growing authenticity. Don’t worry you’ll have opportunities to improve your logo in the future. Plus the tools available today are much better than MS Paint 🙂 I personally recommend Logomakr.com. They have a great easy-to-use interface which is great for beginners plus its basic version is FREE to use (but it’s more than enough for basic logo design). Here is a quick logo I dished up on LogoMakr for the ZebraToffee.com example I gave above.
5. PURCHASE WEB-HOSTING + START A BLOG
When I started blogging this step of getting a functional blog on the Internet took me 6 months! Just thinking about having this virtual website on the Internet used to boggle my mind. Thankfully for you, things have gotten a lot better. Modern day web-hosting providers handle the majority of the grunt work themselves and getting a bare-bone website live on the Internet has become as easy as clicking your mouse.
There’s a whole bunch of options out there when looking for a web host but I personally prefer BlueHost. Their unique “one-click install” feature makes it extremely easy for beginners to get their website running on an easy-to-use, fast, stable server almost instantly. Follow the following steps to finally get your blog live on the Internet (I’m so excited for you! Looking back 7 years ago this moment was where my life changed 🙂 !!) Note while I only recommend services that provide real value to you I need to disclose that I will receive a small compensation if you purchase web hosting from BlueHost. There are many alternatives available online and I strongly encourage you to explore them. But I honestly feel that BlueHost gives you the most bang for your buck and is one of the best options for new bloggers starting in 2018 🙂
STEP 1 To Start A Successful Blog: Navigate to BlueHost!
STEP 2 To Start A Successful Blog: Choose A Plan. I usually prefer Plus because of the free extras and SpamExpert addon. But essentially basic is also just as good for beginners!
STEP 3 To Start A Successful Blog: Sign up for a Domain Name. For new bloggers, you use the “new domain” function and enter the domain we thought of in the previous section of this guide. If you already have a domain use the “I have a domain name” function to migrate your domain into BlueHost.
STEP 4 To Start A Successful Blog: Create your account! Make sure to enter valid information. Your web-hosting is the digital equivalent of you renting a brick and mortar building. Very Important.
STEP 5 To Start A Successful Blog: Select add-ons. The only I really recommend is the “Domain Privacy Protection” this will cloak your personal information if someone does a background check on your website (ex. http://who.is)
STEP 6 To Start A Successful Blog: Enter payment information + agree to terms & conditions. Check mark to agree and press “Submit” to continue.
STEP 7 To Start A Successful Blog: Add Special Offers. You can choose any extras if interested. Sometimes there can be some pretty good discounts, otherwise, press “no thanks” to continue.
STEP 9 To Start A Successful Blog: Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a domain name + web hosting on the Internet :). A confirmation email will be sent to you with all details.
STEP 10 To Start A Successful Blog: Create your password. I recommend you make a strong password. If someone can access your web-hosting they can access and change anything on your blog. Press next to continue.
STEP 11 To Start A Successful Blog: Login to BlueHost Admin 😎 ! If you don’t get redirected directly to the login page press “login” from the top right of BlueHost.com
STEP 12 To Start A Successful Blog: Welcome to the BlueHost admin panel! This is the main settings page where you can control all of the technical stuff about your blog. Once setup you probably won’t have to come back here again. Click “Install WordPress” to continue.
STEP 13 To Start A Successful Blog: Install WordPress using the automated installation wizard
STEP 14 To Start A Successful Blog: Select your domain. This will be either the domain name you chose in step 3 above or the domain you transferred over if you already had a domain name. I recommend you leave the directory option blank unless you have to install your blog as a subdomain. (ex. www.domain.com/subdomain/post)
STEP 15 To Start A Successful Blog: Congratulations! That’s it that was all the technical stuff 🙂 ! Your WordPress blog is now live on the Internet!!
STEP 16 To Start A Successful Blog: Login to your WordPress Blog! Navigate to http://yourdomainname.com/wp-admin (obviously, replace yourdomainname.com with the name of your blog ex. http://happyfishcow.ca/wp-admin). Here you can use the credentials you made in the Install Wizard in the steps above to log in.
STEP 17 (FINAL STEP) To Start A Successful Blog: Welcome to WordPress! You will come to love this page ;). This is the dashboard that is behind your blog that you will see on a regular basis. But congratulations the technical stuff is behind you! It’s time to design, create and write!
6. CUSTOMIZE YOUR WEBSITE / BLOG
Now comes the fun part 😎 ! WordPress makes it extremely easy to get your blog looking exactly like how you want it. Instead of writing thousands of lines of code like in the old days, WordPress lets you install “themes” which you can then customize and tweak to get the appearance you’re looking for. You can think of themes as templates on which you can start building the design of your blog. There are thousands of 100% free WordPress themes that are available directly from within WordPress itself. They are perfect for beginners and give you a good taste what premium themes from professional theme studios like StudioPress look like.
While free themes are always a good starting point for new bloggers. I always recommend that as your blog grows you migrate to a professional premium theme. Not just do premium themes make your blog look more authoritative but they also help to get you more traffic as they are better optimized for search engines and social media in comparison to free themes. I personally prefer StudioPress for premium themes, you can learn more about them here:
With that said these steps will walk you through step-by-step how to install a FREE theme on your new WordPress Blog directly from your blog backend admin page.
STEP 1 To Install A New WordPress Theme: Click “Appearance” on the right admin bar.
STEP 2 To Install A New WordPress Theme: Click “Add New” to navigate to the WordPress theme search page!
STEP 1 To Install A New WordPress Theme: Use the theme explorer to find a theme you like 🙂 ! You can either sort by Popular, Featured, and Latest or simply use the search bar to look for keywords. NOTE I recommend you use the feature filter to precisely find what you’re looking for.
STEP 1 To Install A New WordPress Theme: Install the Theme. Hover over the theme you like and press “Install” to download the theme to your website server followed by “Activate” to make the theme active on your blog. After this, the “Customize” option will become available to fine tune your theme.
STEP 1 To Install A New WordPress Theme: Welcome to the WordPress Theme Customizer. Here you can preview your changes in real-time as you make them using the left settings menu.
STEP 1 To Install A New WordPress Theme: Drill down into each section to customize the theme to your liking. Here in this image, I clicked “Header Image” and it opened the Header Image submenu allowing me to change the top Image on the top of the blog.
7. ENABLE GOOGLE ANALYTICS
Now that you are a professional webmaster it’s important you also have access to professional tools for webmasters 😎 ! Google Analytics is a tracking tool which you can use to see how many users visit your blog. You can view live real-time stats and see how many users are on your blog at any moment in time. While it can be fun to simply look at stats for fun the main function they serve is to tell you where you can improve your blog. Vital statistics like time on site and bounce rate can be very important in optimizing your blog and improving your sales.
Follow these steps to get Google Analytics running on your new blog:
STEP 1 To Install Google Analytics On Your Blog: Navigate to the Google Analytics Homepage.
STEP 2 To Install Google Analytics On Your Blog: Got to “ADMIN” and add a new account. Fill in all of the required information for your blog and press submit. After submitting you will be given a UA code. Note this code down you will need in it the next steps.
STEP 3 To Install Google Analytics On Your Blog: After setting up your Google Analytics profile navigate back to your blog admin dashboard.
STEP 4 To Install Google Analytics On Your Blog: Navigate to the Google Analytics Homepage.
STEP 5 To Install Google Analytics On Your Blog: Navigate to the Google Analytics Homepage.
STEP 6 To Install Google Analytics On Your Blog: Navigate to the Google Analytics Homepage.
8. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) + INCREASE TRAFFIC
WHAT IS “ORGANIC TRAFFIC” – Organic traffic (traffic which comes from search engines) is the best type of traffic for your blog. I like to compare organic traffic to “rainwater.” Sure as a farmer you can pump water on your crop but it is a lot cheaper and a lot easier if it simply rains and the water gets into every nook and cranny on its own. Organic traffic is first and foremost FREE traffic. It requires little to no effort on your part to maintain (if you have good content and an optimized blog) and it is consistent. Another added bonus of organizing traffic is that it is targeted traffic because search engine algorithms serve results based on precise search queries users make.
Google is the number one site in the world in terms of traffic and it is the world’s largest search engine. If you are able to rank well on Google (be in the top 3 spots on the search results page for a few popular search queries) you can get A LOT of daily traffic to your blog. This process of optimizing your blog to rank well on google is called SEO or “Search Engine Optimization.” There are lots of techniques out there and there is a whole industry that is built around SEO but honestly do not get too worked up about it. In 2018 search algorithms have gotten a lot smarter compared to say 2007, where simply getting your website link on DMOZ (an online website directory) meant you would rank well on Google.
SETUP GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE – With that said it’s also important that you track and monitor how your website is behaving and is perceived by search engines. All of the major search engines have made online portals where website owners (webmasters) can check how their blog or website is ranking in SERPs (Search engine result pages) as well as help these search engines crawl their blog or website better. With Google’s online suite being the most popular, I’m going to focus on Googles “Search Console”. Google Search Console is a tool to view the health of your blog on Google. What I mean by health is how good Google thinks your blog is. In search console, you can see how many of your pages and posts have been indexed by Google and have been included in Google Search. You can see which search queries your blog ranks for and at what position. You can see crawl stats and more importantly you can see any errors Google finds on your blog. These errors could be broken links or content which is blocked and isn’t crawlable by Google. It is pretty self-explanatory to setup. Simply navigate to SEARCH CONSOLE HOME and follow the on-screen instructions to add your blog! (TIP: when you get the “verify your website step in Search Console. Instead of doing it manually you can easily verify using Yoast SEO. Explained further below 🙂 )
SETUP THE BASIC SEO FUNDAMENTALS ON YOUR BLOG – Your website’s technical health (page speed, usability, security etc.) plus your on-page content optimization (headings, meta information etc.) are also very important triggers that Search Engine Algorithms look for when deciding the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking for your blog. Purchasing a good web host for your blog along with installing a good caching WordPress plugin like ‘WP Super Cache’ and a good WordPress security plugin like ‘Wordfence’ takes care of most of the technical side.
But for the on-page content optimisation I recommend the following two things to new bloggers:
#1 SET-UP CLEAN URLS (PERMALINKS)
ACTIVATE CLEAN URLs – First, you need to activate clean URLs. This will change your blog URLs from www.your-blog.com/?p+123 to something like www.your-blog.com/your-post-name. Search engines like “readable” text in URLs plus this makes your website easier to navigate to users. Follow the instructions below to setup clean URLs:
STEP 1 To Set-Up Clean URLs (Permalinks): Hover over WordPress Settings and Click “Permalinks”
STEP 2 To Set-Up Clean URLs (Permalinks): Choose a URL pattern style. I personally prefer “Post name” or a Custom Structure “/%category%/%postname%/” if you use a lot of categories.
#2 SET-UP YOAST SEO
ACTIVATE YOAST SEO – After cleaning your URLs the second thing you need to do is to activate a SEO plugin like Yoast SEO. Yoast SEO does a great job to automate the entire on-page SEO process. It takes 5 minutes to get everything ready at the start but after that, you can more or less set it and forget it. Follow the instructions below to set up Yoast SEO:
STEP 1 To Set-up YOAST SEO: Go to “Add New” Plugins on your WordPress Dashboard and search for “Yoast SEO”. Press Install and then activate to get Yoast SEO running on your blog.
STEP 2 To Set-up YOAST SEO: After the Yoast SEO plugin activates a new “SEO” option will become visible on your WordPress admin sidebar. Hover over SEO and click on “Dashboard”
STEP 3 To Set-up YOAST SEO: You will now be navigated to the Yoast SEO settings. From here on top click the “General” tab and then click on the “Open the configuration wizard” button
STEP 4 To Set-up YOAST SEO: Welcome to the Yoast SEO installation wizard 🙂 ! The plugin makes it very easy to get your site optimized. You can optionally sign up for their newsletter but press “Next” to start
STEP 5 To Set-up YOAST SEO: Choose which environment you are installing Yoast in. If you followed the above steps and are setup on BlueHost the answer is “Production”
STEP 6 To Set-up YOAST SEO: Choose your website type.
STEP 7 To Set-up YOAST SEO: Select whether your blog represents a person or a company and enter its name.
STEP 8 To Set-up YOAST SEO: Enter your social profile information
STEP 9 To Set-up YOAST SEO: Here you can select which posts you want to hide from Google (if any in the first place). Usually Yoast’s default settings are fine. Make sure you don’t accidently hide Posts or Pages.
STEP 10 To Set-up YOAST SEO: Select whether your blog will have multiple authors or only a single author
STEP 11 To Set-up YOAST SEO: So as mentioned above this is where you can verify your website with Google Search Console if you haven’t done so already manually. This is pretty self-explanatory. Click the button to request an authorization code and you will be asked to login. Copy the code it serves after verifying and paste it into the text area in the Yoast wizard. Press “Authenticate” and voila your blog is verified :). Make sure to now complete the verification step in Search Console
STEP 12 To Set-up YOAST SEO: Name your website and select a title separator for the posts on your blog. This title will show up in Google Search results and in Browser tabs. Ex. If your post title is “100 Awesome Cake Recipes” and your blog name Zebra Toffee; choosing “|” would make your title “100 Awesome Cake Recipes | Zebra Toffee”
STEP 12 To Set-up YOAST SEO: That’s it! You’re DONE setting up Yoast SEO! 😎
9. WRITE AMAZING CONTENT FOR YOUR BLOG
Content is King and if you have great content, search engines nowadays are smart enough to recognize it and serve it to their users. Remember search engines are also businesses and they make their money by serving the HIGHEST quality content to users based on their search queries. So make your content stand out! Put a personal spin on your writing and provide more value than all your competitors combined (Fulfill a Real need!).
In 2018 the two tips I can give you about blog content are:
- Focus on longer posts (2000 words +). Research shows that longer, detailed posts rank better in search engines and have higher social shareability. They also make you come across as more of an expert compared to a competitor who might write about the same topic in 4 skimpy posts of 500 words.
- Write consistently. Everyday sit down and write something, 100, words, 200 words or even 10,000 words it’s important you get in the habit of regularly creating content. In a world with hundreds of million websites the thing that separates the successful ones from the failures is the ability to provide fresh, new content to users (Search engine algorithms also take this into account & a blog creating regular new content will rank better than a blog which has gone stale with no updates in 8 years)
10. ESTABLISH AN ONLINE SOCIAL PRESENCE
I remember when I got started as a blogger, social media was treated more or less like a fad in webmaster circles. Sure Facebook and other social networks had begun generating a lot of user traffic but back then nobody really took them seriously let alone totally understood their power and reach. For you starting blogging today in 2018. I can’t begin to emphasize the importance of social media. Everyone starting from your readers to subscribers, to potential customers. to marketers, all the way up to search engines use social “signals” nowadays to determine the quality of your blog. So much so I feel if a company or blog doesn’t exist on any social media site in today’s competitive digital market, its like they don’t exist at all.
So go and make an account on every major Social Network in your companies name. Try to keep the nomenclature and logos consistent across all of your various social media accounts so that you can start building brand awareness. For example, if your profile picture on Twitter is a “Zebra eating a carrot” make sure your Facebook account is also a “Zebra eating a carrot” and so forth 😉
I also suggest you link your blog and your social media accounts together with reciprocal links. So for example on Twitter, put your blog URL in the website section of your profile page, and then on your blog have a section where readers can click and navigate directly to your Twitter Page. I encourage you to do this for all of your blogs social media accounts.
This is the final step of the guide & is the most important.
You can do every single one of the above steps perfectly but if you are not persistent and don’t give your blog a consistent effort you will NEVER be successful. I have seen so many bloggers crash and burn because they lost their motivation and weren’t persistent enough. All of them started their entrepreneurial journey like absolute rock stars, wth great blog design, great content and great SEO. But three months down the line their when their blogs weren’t getting the million visitors a month or the $500 a day income, they dreamed about, they gave up!
Making money from blogging is NOT a get rich scheme. You have to plan for many sleepless nights, working 60 hours a week and giving your everything to your blog. It is only then that you will have a blogging “breakthrough” as I like to call it where you will see the consistent traffic start trickling in. If you keep working and keep grinding, with a little help from God, this trickle will transform into and a stream and eventually a full-blown river of traffic.
This is why I challenge you to keep at it for at least one year. Sure you might make some mistakes along the way. You might choose a low traffic blog niche or accidentally make some bad SEO mistakes which hurt your SERP ranking (I have made both of these 😉 ), but if you’re truly honest with yourself and keep an open mind for one entire year. You WILL see results. With that said I wish you all the best!
MONETIZE YOUR BLOG
This is the end of your “How to start a blog” guide but after your blog is up and running its time to finally start making some money from your blog. This is not in the scope of this post so I will redirect you to:
Best of luck! If you have any questions, feedback or want to share your success story, get in touch!