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How to Start a Successful and Profitable Blog

How to Start a Successful and Profitable Blog

August 2, 2016
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How do I start a blog?

Perhaps, one of the most commonly asked questions I receive. It’s a simple question with a relatively simple answer. Anyone can start a blog, but starting a quality blog that is successful and profitable takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work — much more than you may realize. But where there’s a will, there’s a way — you bring the will, I’ll bring the way.
Creating your own brand and business is rewarding beyond measure, so it’s absolutely worth the time and effort investment.
I have distilled the creation of a successful blog into TEN simple steps, and while these TEN steps reflect my experience, there’s many ways to get from point A to point B.

how to start a blog -- the cultureur

Now, let’s create the perfect blog…

1) Why do you want to blog?

Do you want to become an authority on a particular subject? Do you love writing? Are you interested in starting your own business? Do you want to be location-independent? How committed are you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Is it an added feature to your existing business?
Whatever the reasons may be, be honest with yourself as your answers will affect your approach to your blog and inform many subsequent decisions.

2) Figure out what you want to blog about.

I started The Cultureur for a very particular purpose — to catalog all my travels, tips, and stories on one platform so I didn’t have to field individual emails from friends and family asking for travel advice. I’m often the go-to person in my personal network on where to travel, what luxury hotel is best, etc. and I had emails ready to be sent out for destinations around the world, so I thought it would be much easier and more efficient to direct everyone to a link instead of having to reply to each email. I had no long-term plans for the site and certainly did not walk in with a business approach. I love people, travel, and writing, so when I decided to transform the site into a profitable platform, I did not have to do much fine tuning, as luxury travel was already my travel style of choice and my website was simply a digital embodiment of my real life. If I didn’t have my website, not a single thing about my lifestyle would be different.
My advice, from a rear view mirror, is to figure out what niche is an organic extension of your personality and lifestyle, and let that guide you. Consider a topic that you are passionate about — the longevity of your blog depends on it. 

3) Think of a name for your blog/brand.

Spend some time thinking about the name of your business — consider the domain as your digital identity. It should be unique and something that resonates with you and your brand. Do a quick Google search to ensure that no one else is using the name and that there is no possibility for confusion, especially in your same niche. 

Link(s):

» How to Come Up With a Blog Name

4) Check the availability of the name on a domain registrar.

Once you’ve figured out what name you want to use, check its availability on GoDaddy or Google Domains and purchase the domain. Consider privacy protection so when people look up your domain information, your private information, including name and address are not in plain view for all to see. Note: domains may be free with select hosting plans, but you’ll still have to renew it every year.

5) Find a hosting plan that fits your needs.

Finding the right host for you is largely a trial and error endeavor — at least it was for me. But learning from the advice of people who have been blogging for years and have had experience with many different companies can save you both time and money. If you’re using WordPress (WP) and you’d rather not concern yourself with the technical aspects of hosting, I’d highly recommend managed WP hosting. I use Flywheel and WP Engine. If you’re already hosting elsewhere, Flywheel offers free migrations for websites. Both companies specialize in Wordpress websites and offer blazing fast speeds and excellent customer service. Hosting is one area of your business that you should not skimp on — you want to make sure that your site is in the hands of professionals who live and breathe only WordPress.
If you’re still not sold on using managed WP hosting or you’re still not sure you’re ready to take the entrepreneurship plunge, try out Bluehost. It’s a less expensive option than WP Engine or Flywheel, but you get what you pay for. While you get more value for your money if you purchase hosting for multiple years upfront, consider all the different pricing options, including the one-year option, especially if you’re not 100% committed from the beginning. 

Link(s):

» How Site Speed Affects Your Business
» Cleaning Tips for WordPress Optimization
» Ecommerce on WordPress: Getting Started

6) Install WordPress.org and add plugins.

WordPress is one of the world’s largest and most popular publishing platforms. In the past, I have worked with WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Blogger, Squarespace, Weebly, and Tumblr, and WordPress.org wins, hands down. There are hundreds of themes to choose from, and it allows you immense flexibility in design and features. 
Once you’ve installed WordPress, add plugins to enhance the features and functionalities of your site. Many plugins are free, while premium plugins charge an upfront or monthly fee. Two plugins that I would highly recommend: 1) Akismet — to keep spam under control; and 2) Yoast SEO — to make your posts more search engine-friendly. Beyond that, consider adding plugins for anti-scraping, Google Analytics, image optimization, watermarking, and automatic social media sharing.

Link(s):

» 37 Essential WordPress Plugins You Should Know
» How to Install WordPress – Complete WordPress Installation Tutorial

7) Configure your email account and set up your social media accounts.

Set up a professional email account, so you can get an address that looks like yourname@yourdomain.com. I highly recommend using G Suite (formerly Google Apps) (get 20% off your first year with code: E4VRCR4CL7MLWAP) for all your email needs. In addition, set up accounts on all the common social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. To keep it easy for your readers, try to keep the same name across all social media platforms. Note: You won’t be able to create a custom Facebook URL until you have at least 25 likes.

Link(s):

» 9 Reasons Small Businesses Shouldn’t Use a Personal Email Address for Marketing

8) Choose a suitable email marketing platform.

Building an email list is one of the most important parts of a successful blog. People are far more likely to see your content via email than they are by any other social network, and while social networks come and go, email addresses are here to stay. Consider using platforms such as Mailchimp and AWeber — I use both. Mailchimp is free for the first 2,000 subscribers, making it a great idea for beginners and for those who are not sure how committed they are to blogging. But keep in mind: if you use one platform initially and then switch to another platform, you may run into issues while importing your email list, as people may have to confirm their subscriptions once again.  

9) Understand the laws that blogging implicates.

Learning about how to stay on the right side of the law may be the least glamorous part of your blogging journey, but it’ll likely be the most important aspect and if not given adequate attention, the most expensive. If you’re thinking your blog is too small or you don’t blog often enough for the law to apply to you, think again. In my 4 years of blogging, I have seen many entrepreneurs make legal mistakes that could have far-reaching effects.
If you post text or photos on a website, you need to understand copyright and trademark laws. If you collect email addresses or sell products, you need to know the importance of a privacy policy and terms of use. If you work with brands, you need to have a basic understanding of contracts and FTC disclosures. Check out La Marque Law — it offers a guide for the best legal practices for bloggers and content creators. If you sign up for the free monthly newsletter, you get a legal checklist upon signup. Whether you need more information about intellectual property, trademark and copyright registrations, business formation, or contract review, consider spending some time reading through the individual posts about all the potential legal pitfalls that blogging implicates.

10) Sign up for email newsletters from inspiring marketing and blogging professionals.

The digital marketing industry is full of voices, some of whom are full of noise and others who are full of wisdom. Drown out the charlatans and spend some time learning the tricks of the trade from professionals who have been blogging for years and are full of interesting, helpful information. Don’t forget to also compile another list of leading publications and sites in your particular niche.
» A few personal marketing and blogging favorites to follow: 
» Inc.
» Entrepreneur
» Fast Company
» ProBlogger 
» Neil Patel
» Matt Cutts
» Rand Fishkin
» Gary Vaynerchuk
» Seth Godin
» Amy Lynn Andrews
» A few favorite travel industry favorites to follow:
» Skift
» Tnooz
» Hotel News Now
» Phocuswright

The next step?

It’s time to start thinking of ideas for posts and start writing! A few additional things to consider:
1) Make a list of possible topics so you have a reserve of ideas on hand at all times;
2) Think of how you want to monetize your site (freelance work, consulting, advertisements, etc.); 
3) Create a social media marketing strategy — consider a social media management program such as Hootsuite; and
4) Get professional business cards printed — try Moo.
If you need a website developer who specializes in WordPress, I’d highly recommend my developer, Elliot Sowersby. The quest for an excellent quality website developer is like searching for uranium and I went through a rolodex of developers before finding him. Use code “THECULTUREUR” for a 10% discount off your first quote.
Some additional resources:
» Ultimate list of blogging resources
» 12 DOs and DON’Ts of Blogging
» Sign up for a one-on-one consulting session: email me for more information!

Good luck!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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