With all the personal websites out there featuring slick ads, sponsored articles, and endorsement opportunities, bloggers today must be making bank, right?
According to a ProBlogger survey, only 13 percent of bloggers make more than $1,000 a month from their blogs. On the flip side, 63 percent of bloggers make less than $100.
But there is a sweet spot in the middle – the 24 percent of bloggers who earn $100 to $999 a month. How much faster could money like that help you pay off your student loan?
How to start a blog the smart, cheap, and easy way
If you’d like to be one of the people who earn several hundred dollars a month through blogging so you can put that extra income towards student loan payments, keep reading to find out how.
A few key decisions
1. Choose your niche
What’s your area of expertise? What are you passionate about? What topic can you see yourself blogging about for years to come?
Once you have your list, do some research to find out what specific terms people on the web are searching for related to your chosen topic(s). This will ensure there’s an audience out there for you.
I recommend using the Keyword Planner from Google Adwords. Use the “Get search volume data and trends” option to search your topic (and related keywords) for average monthly searches and competition.
If the results aren’t what you hoped for, that’s not to say you need abandon a topic you love. If you’re an entertaining writer with a unique point of view, you can garner a following writing just about anything. Even so, keyword research is a good way to rule out ideas you could take or leave.
2. Choose your host
You need a web hosting company to house, serve, and maintain the files on your site. You have numerous options, but I recommend choosing from one of PC Magazine’s best-rated web hosting services. Just be sure you choose one with managed WordPress hosting.
There are free options, too, but that’s not the route you want to go if you’re looking to make money from your blog. Fortunately, using a web hosting service is not expensive. As you’ll see, GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator all have hosting plans under $4 a month.
3. Choose your domain
Maybe it’s your main keyword. Maybe it’s a word you made up. Maybe it’s your name. What’s most important is making sure the domain you choose is:
- Easy to spell
- Not too long
- Has a .com extension
You’ll likely be offered a free domain when you sign up for web hosting. Otherwise, domains are pretty cheap, running from $10 to $15 per year. I recommend signing up for automated renewal as well (I lost a domain because I forgot to renew and getting it back wasn’t easy).
Getting your blog set up
1. Install WordPress
Provided you’ve chosen a service with managed WordPress hosting (as you should), they’ll walk you through the simple installation process.
2. Choose your theme
Your theme is essentially an out-of-the-box design scheme. You can pay for premium themes, but exhaust your free options first. You can always upgrade to a premium theme later.
3. Install plugins
Plugins are add-ons that can help add special features and reporting to your blog. There are countless options, but start with the free basics. Once, you’re up and running, I recommend checking these out:
- Akismet (to protect your blog from spam)
- Google Analytics
- Yoast SEO
- Check and Enable GZIP Compression
- EWWW Image Optimizer
- If Modified Since Header
- WP Fastest Cache
- Simple share buttons adder
Don’t let any of the names of these plugins scare you. Find them, activate them, adjust Settings (if necessary), and you’re good to go. And should you activate a plugin you decide you don’t want, just deactivate and delete it.
A few blogging best practices
When you’re first learning how to start a blog, you don’t need any technical expertise. But it’s a good idea to learn what you can as you go. Explore your dashboard and use the free tutorials available to you through WordPress.org.
It’s also a good idea to follow these simple best practices of blogging so you can give your readers a clean, enjoyable reading experience:
Some may be on the long side (1,500+ words). Others may be on the short side (500 words or less). That said, you’ll see that your Yoast SEO plugin recommends a 300-word minimum.
In each post, include a couple of internal links to other posts or pages on your site. It’s also a good idea to sprinkle in external links to other blogs or websites, too.
Use short blocks of text, subheaders throughout, and a font style and size that’s easy to read.
The title of your blog post is the first thing readers will see. If it’s not intriguing, it will also be the last. Spend time on it.
Promote your blog
Build a presence, publish your posts, and share the posts of others. The social media platforms you choose to use depend on where your audience hangs out. You know the usual suspects – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.
Find other blogs in your niche, become a regular reader, and leave comments on their posts. It’s a great way to drive traffic to your site and develop relationships with other bloggers.
How to make money blogging
Ad networks, such as Google Adsense, are the easiest of the monetization options to set up. They can also be the most difficult to make much money from, as you need a lot of traffic for clicks on Google ads to add up.
Private display ads are another option, but selling them requires a healthy amount of traffic so that advertisers have good reason to pay you for the space.
This is most lucrative monetization option for a lot of bloggers. You just have to let readers know when a post contains affiliate links (meaning if the reader clicks through and buys the product, you get paid for it). If you go this route, the Amazon affiliate program is a good program to start with.
This is where a lot of bloggers say the big money lies, particularly e-courses for which you can charge hundreds of dollars to an unlimited number of people. Other product ideas include webinars, e-books, special content membership/subscriptions, books, and merchandise.
Once you start blogging on a topic, your readers see you as an expert in your niche. That means you may be able to charge for services like consulting, coaching, and speaking engagements.
You don’t necessarily need your blog to make a dime for it to lead to new income. It just might get you a job – blogging for another site or supplementing your resume for landing full-time work.
What does a successful blog look like?
Take a look at some of the income reports of various bloggers. You can see how many pageviews they’re getting, how much money they’re making, and where that money is coming from.
Bottom line: Yes, you could blog your way out of student loan debt. The odds are against you, but if you like blogging, love your topic, and do the work, anything is possible. You could make enough money blogging to pay off your student loans and even turn it into a new career.
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