If you want to learn how to start a successful blog, then I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say this:
Starting a blog is confusing.
There are so many sites telling you what you should and shouldn’t be doing that you’re never too sure if you’re doing the right thing.
So, I want to help you find your feet. Because while there is no right way to start a blog, there are more effective ways to start a blog than the usual tactics you see.
In this post you’re going to get a complete walk through of how to make a successful blog in 90 days by focusing on the most effective methods of getting your blog off the ground and setting yourself up for long term success.
What You Will Learn
- How to start a successful blog in 90 days
- The importance of blogging with a goal in mind
- How to give your audience what they want
- The most effective ways to generate traffic
- How to monetise your site instantly
How To Start A Successful Blog Quick Start FAQ
That means that along the road I’ve had to make sacrifices to what does (and doesn’t) make the cut. So you can consider this article the-
- No fluff
Guide to the first three months of your blogging career. Everything you are about to read is essential to your success.
That being said if you’re reading this and you are an absolute beginner, then this section is a simple quick-start FAQ to answer some of the most common questions you might have about blogging.
If you’re more experienced with blogging then feel free to skip this and move onto the next section, “Getting Started”.
How Do You Choose The Right Niche?
Only you can really answer that.
There’s a lot to be said for blogging about a niche that you’re immersed in or passionate about.
But there is also the method Jon Morrow recommends which is:
- Google search the niche you’re thinking about
- Look for blogs with over 10,000 followers or subscribers
- If you can find more than five of these blogs, you’re in a good niche
- If you can’t, try a variation
Competition is good in blogging; because it means people are interested and are readily looking for blogs like yours.
Where Do You Get A Blog?
There are loads of free hosting services and places to get a blog. But my recommendation would be to get a self hosted WordPress blog.
You can get completely setup for around $2.50 a month which will give you everything you need to get started including a domain.
Many would be new bloggers make the critical mistake of using a free blog which is very limiting. For the sake of how much it costs, it’s better to do it right the first time.
Do You Need A Design Budget?
Yes and no.
If I’m brutally honest, I’m not a fan of blogs that don’t take pride in their appearance and the user experience. So I feel that at least having money set aside for a good mailing list and premium theme is a minimum.
But there are blogs all over the Internet using free themes and mailing lists that have a following – and have sold for good money on Empire Flippers.
So, it completely depends on your end goal and the amount of money you have. If you don’t have a budget, don’t fret. If you do, use it wisely.
But your design doesn’t have to be pretty.
In fact, Survival Life found that their conversions went up when they scrapped their pretty design and used an ugly one. Which throws conventional wisdom right out of the window, doesn’t it?
Matthew Woodward Note: I started this very blog with zero design budget.
Do You Need To Be A Good Writer?
You don’t need to be Stephen King to write a blog. But you do need to make sure that what you write is:
- Easy to understand
- Free from typo’s
- Relevant to your subject
If you’re not sure about your writing skills, make sure what you lack there is made up for with epic knowledge about your subject.
Matthew Woodward Note: My grammar is absolutely terrible, so don’t stress too much about that. I get complaints about it all the time!
How Do You Start A Mailing List?
A mailing list is one of things you just need as an online marketer – and if you’re a blogger, that’s what you are – so the sooner you can set this up, the better.
There are two places I’d recommend you start:
- Aweber: If you do have a budget get one of their mailing lists. They have a bunch of customisable options which make life (and design) easier.
- MailChimp: If you don’t have a budget, MailChimp has no-frills email lists that will work wonders until you do have a budget.
Once you choose your provider, just follow their integration methods and put it in a super-accessible place on your site.
Matthew uses Aweber on this blog and has shared his full strategy & email marketing examples with us.
What Do You Do If You Don’t Understand SEO?
Psst! Want to know a secret?
I don’t know that much about SEO either.
That’s why we have wonderful people like Matt to show us how. And he has a load of tutorials you can follow to help get better at it, too:
Matthew Woodward Note: I started this blog as an experiment to see what happens if you ignore SEO. Turns out ignoring SEO is great!
Is It Essential To Drink Coffee?
It’s not essential; just highly recommended.
Go through this FAQ as many times as you need to make sure you’re happy with everything and are confident you’re ready to move forward.
If you are, let’s jump onto the next section…
Part #1: The Gut-Check
At this point I’m going to assume you’re okay with everything above and that you already have at least a WordPress hosted blog ready to rock and roll.
If you don’t, do that now.
If you do let’s get started…
Set A Blogging Goal
In order to start a successful blog & actually be successful – short term and long term – you need a goal for your blog.
That is, something you want to achieve with your blog that you can use to measure your success.
So let’s start by setting a goal for the end of these three months.
Now your goal is completely personal to you and the niche you’ve chosen. It’s also really dependant on how far into your blogging journey you are.
But if this is your first rodeo, I have one piece of advice for you:
Don’t set a money focused goal.
Although money is a great way to measure your success (I mean, just look at Matt’s monthly round up’s) when you’re first starting out it makes you blog with the wrong end-goal in mind.
Instead of connecting and adding value to your audience, you focus more on padding out your wallet.
It also means that if you don’t make your first $1 in your first few days, you’re likely to quit.
Instead set a goal around growth:
- Total email subscribers
- Social shares to a post
- Number of comments
- Page views
Because when all of these elements grow, they eventually lead to money in your back pocket – and you’ll learn more on how to generate income later.
Once you’ve set your goal, write it down and keep it somewhere that you can see it. Not only for motivation, but because it will help you make better decisions down the line too.
Manage Your Expectations
Blogging is amazing.
It gets you out of the bed in the morning; it makes you view the world differently and it’s the source of many great things in life.
But…manage your expectations a little.
Building a blog takes time. It happens gradually and then suddenly. You can go weeks or months with no real results and then…BAM! They call come flooding out of nowhere.
Have your goal and have ambition, but don’t be upset if you’ve tried your hardest and have fallen a little short.
To paraphrase Walter White, “You’re in the Empire Business”.
Part #2: Creating Content
Content is the heart of your blog.
Without it, well…you don’t have much. It’s the reason people come to your site, it’s the reason they stay and it’s the reason they sign up to your mailing list.
Forget traffic; forget link-building; forget conversion rates – content is the most important part of your site. Everything else revolves around it.
But in your first three months is where content is usually a little, well…sketchy. While you don’t have to be the worlds greatest writer, your content needs to be of a certain standard.
It’s important, then, that you create content that your readers want to read and share.
Creating good content comes down to:
- Understanding your target audience
- Going to depth
- Having a predictable posting schedule
All of which you’re going to learn how to do, right now-
Understanding (And Writing For) Your Target Audience
A lot of bloggers start by jumping head first into their topic, without thinking about who they’re writing for:
Don’t be one of them.
Because, if you take the time to understand your reader, the results you get – traffic, subscriptions, social shares – will be much better than if you just get your head down and write.
Let’s look at the example of Canva’s Design School Blog:
At the end of 2014 their blog was doing, well…alright. They were getting six-figure traffic, but that was to be expected for a platform as big as theirs.
But someone in-house noticed that their blog wasn’t really being engaged with and there was a gaping hole that was just dying to be filled.
So, they took to researching their target audience. What content they wanted, how long they liked their posts, when their audience were around to read their posts.
And in just three months they managed to:
All by simply taking the time to understand their audience better and create the content they were looking for.
How can you replicate these results for yourself? Well there’s two quick steps you can take:
Step #1: Find Out Who Your Competitors Are…
If you’re in a profitable niche your blog will have competitors. And they’re a great place to start looking at who your own target audience is.
You can find these answers with a quick Google search:
Or you can use a website like BuzzSumo to find hot content and sites on your chosen topics:
And if you want to go really in-depth, you can even click the ‘View Sharers’ link on BuzzSumo and look at other content people have shared too:
Step #2: Steal Their Posts
Did I just tell you to steal someone’s blog posts? Yes I did. But not in the way you’re thinking.
Originality online will be the death of you. Mostly because you’ll burn yourself out so much trying to be original – and have original ideas – that your blog wont be sustainable.
But your audience are also looking for familiarity: topics, trends and conversations they know they want to read (or talk) about.
For example, take a look at the Internet marketing niche. There are only really four types of post:
- How to get more traffic
- How to convert more readers
- How to reach more people
- How to make more money
The rest is all down to the angle you take on each of those topics. But, back to stealing content…
This is called the Skyscraper Technique and it comes from the wonderful mind of Brian Dean. Basically, you’re going to:
- Find your competitors highest shared content
- Rewrite, improve and change them to fit your audience
Now I should point out that you aren’t just copying and pasting their content and putting it on your blog.
You should rework and improve it so that it fits your audience and is even better than it was before.
It’s All About Value
Have you ever been to NicheHacks?
Their owner, Stuart, has one mantra when it comes to creating content:
“Does it add value to my audience?”
That’s why the average length of post on his site is 4,000 words and almost all the content – with the occasional exception – is made through the Skyscraper Technique I just mentioned.
That way he knows his audience is always getting exactly the information they want, need and will share. And it’s the main reason he’s managed to build a massive (almost 10,000 at time of writing) mailing list in less than a year.
You should adopt the same mantra too.
Every post you write – whether using these methods or not – should add an incredible amount of value to your reader and be actionable straight away.
The rest, as they say, is up to you.
Going To Depth
What do I mean by depth?
Put simply I mean:
Make your point, then go deeper. Then, go deeper again.
On the Internet there is a lot of fluff. That is, sentences that are filled with words that don’t really mean anything.
Like if you’ve ever sat in a corporate meeting and they tell you to do, “Blue Sky Thinking” or use the word “Synergy” seven times. And they’re mainly used by bloggers who assume their audience knows as much as them.
If they did, they probably wouldn’t be reading your blog, would they?
Let’s use a fictional example so you can see what I mean:
“Visual content is great for getting social shares”
Okay, cool. Great information. But what does that do for you as a reader? Not much. So let’s expand it:
“Visual content – such as videos and images – is a great way to get more social shares”
That sheds a little more light on it, because now you know what visual content is and what it looks like. But it could go to much more depth still, so let’s try it:
“Visual content – such as videos and images – is a great way to boost social shares when attached to a tweet”
Excellent, now we’re getting somewhere. We’re lifting the fog and starting to see the real value in that sentence. And, for some blogs, this would be enough depth. But if you truly want to be a stand out blog, I’d take it even further:
“Visual content – such as videos and images – is a great way to boost social shares when attached to a tweet. In fact, research suggests you’ll get 150% more retweets than just a plain-text tweet.”
See the difference? You’ve taken a sentence that sounds like it adds value (but actually doesn’t) and turned it into a sentence that your readers could use, understand why they’re using it and know what results to expect.
The same applies to any niche, whether you’re teaching people to bake a cake or ride or horse.
The So What Test?
After you’ve written a sentence ask yourself the question, “So what?”.
As soon as you do this you’ll start to identify which sentences are adding value and which ones are flabby.
Because when you ask yourself the question, suddenly all the wasteful parts of what you’ve written rear their ugly head and you can’t get rid of them until you’ve expanded – or removed – that sentence from your article.
This is by far the simplest and most effective way of getting rid of flabby, unwanted sentences; unless you want to pay for an editor.
Matthew regularly removes upto 30% of what he has written during editing, finding shorter ways to say the same thing without losing value.
Create A Posting Schedule
Okay I’m going to come right out and say it:
There’s no perfect posting schedule.
Some Guru’s will have you believe that you should post at X, Y and Z time. And there are those who tell you to post 20 times a day.
And there is the statistical approach, like Dan Zarrella research, that tells you the optimal times to post and share across the board.
But to h*** with all of that.
You’re the captain. This is your ship. And you’re going to plot the best d*** course that you can think of.
However you should keep the next few ideas in the forefront of your mind as you go about it:
Make Sure You Can Stick To It
I once tried running a blog that needed me to post five 1,200-word posts a week. Because, well…it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I burnt out within the first two weeks, because I couldn’t get ahead of myself. I didn’t have enough time to do it and it was never sustainable.
Don’t get caught in that trap. If you can only post once a week, only post once a week. If you can post 10 times week, do it. Just be sure it’s a schedule you can stick to.
If you tune into either of their blogs on a Monday or a Thursday, you’ll find a new blog post. Because their schedule is set in stone and they never miss a beat.
I’d recommend – at least to begin with – that you do the same. Find days that work for you and post on them. Do it like clockwork, week after week after week.
Because as Seth Godin said,
“Showing up every day […] gives people a hint as to what it is you’re actually trying to accomplish.”
Once you have a predictable schedule, you can start listening to your audience and adapting your schedule to fit them and their needs.
Always Have A Post In The Chamber
Write more posts than you need.
There is no worse feeling as a blogger than missing a post and letting your audience down. Even if you have the best reason on earth, it still feels crappy.
Write an extra post and keep it in your back pocket for a rainy day, just to be safe.
Okay, so that’s content covered. Let’s move onto the most valuable topic on the whole of the Internet – traffic.
Part #3: Getting Traffic To Your New Blog
Did you hear that?
That was everybody else reading this post breathing a sigh of relief because they finally made it to the traffic section.
Traffic is an important part of the blogging puzzle, because you need those people on your page for your blog to have any impact on people. And it’s by far the hottest topic in Internet marketing.
And if you have a new blog, well…you’re going to need it.
But before I dive right into it, I want to bring you to an important strap line from KissMetrics:
That’s right; people pay you, not page views. So for your first three months we’re not going to look at volume of traffic, we’re going to look at quality.
Because it’s better to attract less people who will actually buy from you, than more people who wont.
Let’s look at how to get quality, sustainable traffic…
The Four Methods Of Getting Quality Traffic
There are four always effective ways of building traffic to your blog:
- Guest Blogging
- Podcasts and Interviews
But I’m going to focus on just two of them: Guest Blogging and Distribution.
These are – from my experience and the experience of the blogs I write for – the two most effective ways to start building traffic to your blog in the beginning.
The Art of Guest Blogging
In recent months you might have seen a rise in people throwing their laptops in the air and screaming:
“GUEST BLOGGING IS DEAD!”
At the top of their lungs. But it’s not, don’t worry. It’s still one of the most powerful tools you can use to grow your blog. You just have to know how to do it right.
And luckily for you, I’m (literally) a Pro.
If you’re not sure what Guest Blogging is, it’s what I’m doing right now. Putting your content on someone else’s site, so you can tap into their audience (and traffic streams).
Let’s look at some of the benefits of it:
And they’re all benefits your blog could use, aren’t they?
Well let’s look at how you can do it then.
Finding And Contacting A Blog
Earlier you made a note of all your competitors, didn’t you? You found them and made a note of their high performing content.
Those are the blogs you’re going to with.
Take a look around their site and look for a ‘Contact’ or ‘Write for me’ page:
If you feel a little intimidated by writing for these bigger blogs – which is normal at first – just work your way through your list of competitors until you find one your comfortable with…and then work your way up again.
Once you’ve done that, you need to come up with some content ideas.
If you want content that’s definitely going to get you featured, come up with some topics or ideas using the skyscraper method we spoke about before.
Just be sure the post you’re re-working isn’t one that’s already on their site.
Pitching To Blogs
This is the make or break of getting featured on someone else’s site.
Much like the first 10 seconds when you walk into a job interview, this is where the person you’re contacting decides if you’re a good fit for their blog, or not.
So, no pressure then?
Luckily pitching to a blog is super-simple:
- Use an honest headline: “Guest post opportunities?”
- Explain who you are and why you’re writing: “I’m James and I’m writing to see if you have any space in your calendar for guest posts?
- Share your content ideas: “[X] Reasons You Should Do [Y] For [Z]”
- Sign off confidently: “Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you”
Which gives you something a little like this:
Warning: Have Something On Your Blog
Don’t make the mistake of writing to a blog without anything on your blog for them to look at.
That doesn’t have to be blog posts mind you. It could be a:
- Landing page with sign-up form
- Landing page with free eBook download
- Under construction page
- Bio or Portfolio page
Just be sure there is something there, on your own site, that says “Hi, I’m here…and I’m serious about this”.
If You Get A Spot…
Okay, it’s not a question of if; it’s a question of when.
When you get a guest post spot, you want to make sure it’s the best quality work you can produce and that you go above and beyond what you’d normally write.
Because you want this persons highly engaged audience to fall in love with you, so that you get comments like this:
And it puts you in a good position for people to want to click back through to your site, check out your blog and maybe join your mailing list too.
Also go the extra mile to:
- Respond to comments
- Distribute the post
Not only does that keep the blog-owner happy, it gets you as much exposure as possible too.
Once you’ve done all of that: wash, rinse, repeat until you start getting a solid flow of traffic.
This is the phase after you’ve written and published your blog post. And it’s where the life of your blog post really begins.
When you’re at the start of your blog you have to do a lot of your own legwork to get traffic. Because, well, people aren’t just going to come to your blog just because it’s there.
You have to go out there and get them to come to your blog.
That’s where distribution comes in.
Now – much like everything else to do with blogging – this depends on you, your niche and your audience.
For example, if your blog is based in an Arts and Crafts niche, you might be better suited to Pinterest:
While if you have a blog in the sporting niche, Forums and Facebook Group’s might be your best way of distributing content:
This comes back to what we spoke about a few minutes ago about knowing your audience, understanding them and building around them.
This stage is worthy of a post in itself – and we still have a lot to cover – so instead here is a thorough, wonderful guide from the marketing team at Onboardly on how to distribute your content from start to finish:
Part #4: Monetising Your Blog
The final part of all of this – and one of the big drivers to starting a blog – is making money through it. Although this shouldn’t be what your goal revolves around, it’s a nice option to have.
Because who doesn’t like money, right?
Now there are lots of ways of monetizing a blog – but we’re focusing on the first three months and what’s most effective.
So where should you start?
We’re going to look at three methods so you can hit the ground running and monetise from day one:
- Product Reviews
- Amazon Affiliates
- Your Own Products and Services
Note: The results for each of these will depend on your niche, but they should be applicable to any and all niches in one form or another. If you’re stuck, use your imagination (or ask for help in the comments).
This is probably the easiest way you could monetise your blog. And, you could start doing it within minutes of setting up your blog.
There are people in your niche with products to sell, who could use your help to sell them.
Some of them will pay you to write a lovely little review about their product and get all your readers (no matter how many that is) to buy into their product.
Or, they will do it as affiliate sales. Where for every unit you sell, you get a percentage of the full price.
You can either ask around your favourite blogs and see if they have any affiliate schemes. Or, you can sign up with Clickbank and get yourself hooked up straight away.
Again this is a crazy simple way to create an income on your blog. All you need is an Amazon Affiliate account – you can get that here – and a PayPal account.
The products you can sell are endless, but they do need to be relevant to your niche. But you can sell:
- Industry specific products
- Quirky and novelty goods
- Blog post specific products
Among pretty much anything that fits your niche and what you’re blogging about.
Easy to set up. Easy to do. And a nice little money spinner if you play it right with content.
Your Own Products And Services
Is there something you feel you can bring to the table better than any of your competitors?
Turn it into a product.
- Freelance consulting
- Video Courses
- Freelance Services (Like writing)
You have scope to create a product or learn how to create a membership site that people will buy, use and tell all their friends about.
It also adds a level of credibility to you (and your blog) if you’re willing to put your abilities to the test and deliver them to your readers.
You’ve made it to the end. How do you feel, alright?
This has been an epically long post and there is a lot of information for you to take in. And, you might need to bookmark it and come back to it a couple of times over to get everything done.
But I hope you’ve learned exactly how to start a successful blog and make money in the next 90 days!
Either way, if you follow this system your first three months will set you up for long term blogging success no matter what your niche is.
If you need help setting up a blog, Matthew has a detailed video tutorial for you.