Starting a blog is complicated so here are the essentials, in the form of a Blogging Checklist, from choosing a Niche, to the software tools you will need to use and a simple organisational structure to keep track of progress. Within this article are a few links to more detailed posts on some subjects
- Choosing the Right Niche
- Niches to Avoid
- Your Domain Name
- Your CMS ( Content Management System)
- Essential Pages
- Be Compliant with the Law
- Plan Your Post Schedule
- Only Write Articles That Get Visitors
- Be Consistent
- What topics to Write About – Do I need a keyword tool?
- Choose Simpler Topics When Your Blog is New
- Loading Speed – 2 to 5 seconds Max
- A Page builder Tool can Bloat the page code
- The Elementor Page Builder
- Writing For Readers
- Monetize with Ads
- Affiliate Pages – Monetization with Commerce
- Plugins on WordPress
Choosing the Right Niche
This can be any subject although you will find it easier if you have personal experience in it. Also you’re going to be writing articles about it for a long time, so unless it is something you know well, its going to be a case of doing a lot of research before each writing session. Typically a website will ‘take off’ and be successful in around a year, ( about 100 articles ) if you can keep to at least 2 articles a week. In the very early phase, 3 posts a week would give it an initial boost.
Niches to Avoid
YMYL is “Your Money Your Life”. Blogs in these niches, talking about money advice or health related issues are really ONLY going to work if you have credentials and you are an acknowledged expert, these days. Google has clearly sent out the message that Trust is a big part of these niches and will not rank sites well if that is not established.
Your Domain Name
Exact Domain Match is no longer a huge advantage in Googles eyes, so don’t worry about the domain reflecting exactly what you do. The name can hint at the content, one great example is Neil Patels “Quick Sprout”, which is also a memorable name. Although there are now many TLDs (top level domain types) like .com .net .org .tv .biz .co and so on, by far the most successful is .com
So choose a .com name. It is immediately associated with commerce, business and selling. It’s been around since the beginning so it can be difficult to come up with a unique name. Use my Domain Checker to help you choose.
Choosing the Domain Name is VERY important. I recently downloaded a so called “Profitable Blog Guide” to see what a competitor had to offer. They skimmed over it in one sentence!
Names can attract or repel potential visitors, having typed in their query to Google, they are usually confronted with a choice of websites, offering solutions to the query. Yours needs to be Understandable, Unambiguous, Simple, Ideally Memorable and Clear, to be the one that gets the click.
Your CMS ( Content Management System)
You’ve chosen a niche and Domain name, Once you’ve purchased your hosting package, you can load up WordPress. WP is a no-brainer choice, a third of the web is based on this software and it is free. Launching WP is simply achieved with a script found in the Cpanel, on most host sites today and it’s all ready for the first article, what next?
Since GDPR …… . . . . Google will only give you full attention, if you have ALL the essential pages:
- GDPR compliance page
- Cookie compliance pages
- Terms of Business
- Contact me
On the last point – You will need a method for your readers to contact you. The Word Press email send function is notoriously fickle. For years I used the plugin Contact Form7 on all my blogs and websites. Then I tried it on this site and ….. total failure. After a whole day of testing, reading, Googling and researching, it seems that many people have had the same problem and nearly all suggest the use of an external SMTP service, as is used in email autoresponders. But before giving in and subscribing, I tried WPForms Lite.
In the setup WPF lite points you towards the PRO version, but in testing, the lite version works perfectly.
Make sure to respond to people using this form and address their issues fully.
Be Compliant with the Law
To be 100% compliant, with GDPR and Privacy, you should use a lawyer or solicitor to draw up suitable pages, in practice though, unless your business needs to keep a large amount of customer data, there are some straightforward resources to be found online to draft a perfectly good set of terms to enable full compliance to be generated and published on your site. Please seek legal advice.
Plan Your Post Schedule
Most bloggers have a bunch of topics they want to start off with, things they know well and have detailed information to share on. But are these really the ones to go with? A better plan is to search for topics not fully covered by other blogs. This research can take a long time but is totally worth the effort as they will probably rank almost immediately, creating a foundation of trust within Google.
Only Write Articles That Get Visitors
An essential item on a blogging checklist is a focus on things that move the needle! I have seen the efforts of a few bloggers, that just have to write on their favourite topics. If you write without checking first, if that is actually going to help the blog succeed and rank well, you risk being very disappointed.
Beware as this can be completely wasted effort. After month 3 or 4, you should monitor the position of the articles within the index using Google Analytics and Search Console to see where any traffic is coming from and how to increase it. You will need as many articles as possible in good Page one positions, to do well.
You should blog on a regular basis, be consistent. Google monitors all sites in its index for regular output and updates, the best content and most up-to-date content is what is going to be served to the public. There is a more detailed description of the way I do content research here from this I build a private site-map page, which serves 2 purposes 1. I can immediately see what wants writing next and 2. I can spot internal link opportunities between my posts.
What topics to Write About – Do I need a keyword tool?
Well, you may have read, or know someone that uses a keyword tool to do research for their blog posts. Fine, but do you really need to buy Ahefs marvelous all singing all dancing wonder keyword tool? I would argue no, you really don’t. A keyword tool is nice-to-have but it’s not essential when your blog is new, and until your posts are competing for the top spot, against other bloggers’ articles hopefully a year down the blogging road from now.
When you have no ranking posts in Google’s index, you need to write about subjects that are not fully covered by your competitors. These easy topics will rank quickly, as there will be no exact competition. You can start your progress to gain authority in Google. You need a track record, before that trust is built up, enabling you to progress further. SEO specialists refer to it as “getting out of the sandbox”.
As you make progress, writing your blog, it will become necessary to have some keyword help. Several tools have free or limited free use. Ahrefs has a limited tool. Ubersuggest allows a few searches per day, and of course Google keyword Planner is completely free, once you sign up for a Paid Ad account. Using these will give you some long-tail keywords which will give you a chance of ranking.
Choose Simpler Topics When Your Blog is New
The method I use to find topics to write about is quite easy once you have the seed idea. To help you fully you will need some of the resources that I list in my topic research article. Bear in mind that you may come across a phrase that seems to be under-served ie. articles don’t fully cover the subject or not in any depth. To investigate these more thoroughly, use Ubersuggest for search volume. Rewrite the phrase as many ways as you can to be sure that some variation is not already out there, with high visitor numbers, high competition, making it hard to beat in the SERPs. An example: Simply rewriting the phrase below gives variations with anywhere between 0 and 260 searches per month
how to create a blog and make money online ……………………… Search Volume Zero
how to make money online with blogging ………………………… Search Volume 260
So this example would not be good, too much competition. Ideally, for a new blog, look for phrases with a search volume of 30 or so, there should be very little competition and it will probably rank quickly.
Loading Speed – 2 to 5 seconds Max
When someone finds your site, how fast does it load. This is especially important for mobile viewers. Much has been written about choosing a Theme for your WP blog. In the algorithm “Core” updates in 2021, Google placed more emphasis on site speed ( amongst many other things ) so although you may think you need a flashy site presentation with images all over the place, pull-outs, pop-ups, pull-down menus… in reality it is not necessary. The plus of a simple Theme like Astra or Generate Press – is it is quick to load.
Using a slow WP theme will not only not do well in the SERPs as Google is placing a higher priority on site speed, but when your site visitors have to wait more than a couple of seconds, for the pages to load, they will hit the back button and …. game over!
I suggest you load the theme and test the loading speed, aim to use the fastest theme that will actually function correctly for you. I have used the Astra theme, A theme that I built using the theme builder program Artisteer and just lately the Generate Press theme. Don’t forget Google is using “mobile-first” indexing of sites now, so test using a mobile phone, not a desktop computer.
If you do have slow load times, you can use Pagespeed Insights, which might indicate what the problem might be. If you already have ads showing on your site, that is a common problem, perhaps fine-tuning the ads loading, can be done. With Adsense you can cut the number of ads, with other providers like Foremedia you can add the code yourself to the site, to check what is dragging the time out, and with Ezoic Ads, they have a very good method in place to minimize the load time.
For newbie blog builders – don’t worry too much about this, do the most that you can with any obvious problems, later on, when your site is earning, from Ads and Affiliate income, simply choosing a faster site host can be a real boost. Dedicated WP hosting is always going to be much faster than cheaper shared hosting that everyone starts on.
A Page builder Tool can Bloat the page code
WordPress has its own native page editor using blocks – the new Gutenberg editor. Love it or hate it, it is light ( meaning it generates less HTML code and is, therefore, faster ) compared to any external page builder. I must emphasize the importance of load speed here.
More than any other factor the page builders can load up so much code it can really slow down the all-important page load speed. So – especially for new bloggers – my advice is if you have to use a page builder then use only the simple features and speed test everything.
The Elementor Page Builder
I have used Elementor for years, just the free version, which I find is brilliant and intuitive. The ease with which you can edit backgrounds, borders, fonts, and colors is superb.
Compared to Divi or Click Funnels or any of the other ‘funnel’ softwares, Elementor is way faster to load and more versatile. Its user base is huge, there are currently (2021) over 5 million users, building sites with Elementor and new updates come quite frequently.
Elementor’s engineers seem to add more and more features with each updated version and are always working on any speed bottlenecks. I have never felt the need to buy the PRO version. Should I ever find that the page load time is getting slow, I will disable features one by one and retest.
For some pages, where presentation is less important, like Terms and Conditions, About, Contact page, and similar admin type pages, I will usually choose to go with Gutenberg
Writing For Readers
Write informatively but don’t forget personality. Too many bloggers just write in a report style, informing but not as you would talk to someone. No one will want to read a list of facts or a Wiki on a subject. Write exactly how we all use conversation. It’s full of contractions use” it’s” instead of “ it is” use some colorful descriptions and try to tell a story or something that says ‘this is my own experience’
Monetize with Ads
Don’t forget that when you reach a certain level of visitors, you can apply for Adsense Ads to be placed on your site. When you have Ads your site will slow down significantly. So do make a big effort to get it as fast as possible. Always manage Ad placement manually. Google’s auto Ad placement is a little unselective, though it is better than a few years ago, it will initially bloat the heck out of your best pages!
Affiliate Pages – Monetization with Commerce
When there is a base of articles on your site, you can start to introduce pages based on commercial intent, rather than just informational content. Simple reviews don’t do so well in 2023 as in earlier years, so writing from the point of view of a user, being helpful, is a better approach now. A how-to article perhaps.
Yet another Google update Nov/Dec 2021 the Core Update, cut down the number of poor quality affiliate page rankings. Only the best survive. It is no use trying 2010 tactics, simply listing the features of a product and hoping that is good enough. In 2023 Google is demanding more thorough reviews based on personal experience, stuff that makes the review stand out.
Include things that only a genuine owner of the product would know or would be able to find out. If it is obvious that you have not actually used the product, it will not rank, so don’t go into this half-heartedly, it needs detail. Be sure to include a comparison to other products.
A Drawing Software is a good example, you can show your own experience of creating something with the software. You can make a screen capture and show the video in the blog article. Important too is pointing out defects as well as the advantages. Any review which only has plus points and no downside is just a sales pitch, not a good review.
To make the most of your commercial pages, disable Adsense on these pages, ideally leaving a clear CTA call to Action.
Plugins on WordPress
A security plugin is fairly essential these days, I’ve tried a few, the one that was recommended by my Hosting company is the best I have seen – WordFence. Attacks on logins are occurring more frequently and you should have some security on your site to stop them. Ensure you do not have easy passwords to your admin area too.
One of my favorite Plugins, especially when your blog reaches the size that attracts visitor levels of 10k/month and you start to monetize it with affiliate products, is Pretty Links. Affiliate links can be redirected with this, so any changes to the product or link can be updated in one place, not a big list of links on different pages, which can be a real pain to update. Also this plugin will count link clicks and so perform basic tracking.
Table of Contents
For any post of 1000 words or more, I would add a TOC (table of contents) it is extremely simple to do for both Elementor and the block editor (Gutenburg) or Classic WP editor before that and is explained here : TOC
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