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There are a lot of articles out there detailing what to do in your first six months of blogging, and they have their pros and cons.
I personally believe that the first six months of building a blog are an almost private thing. You don’t have enough content to be actively sending random users to your site. Just concentrate on creating content. Don’t worry about what other people will think because they won’t see it. This is your time to experiment. you’re learning a valuable skill.
For all of you that want to start a site showcasing your short stories or poems or whatever, that’s great, but it isn’t what I teach.
When was the last time you randomly stumbled over a website? It just doesn’t happen anymore. If you want to make money blogging you need to create content people are searching for.
And no offence, if someone searches ‘great short stories’ they’ll have to wade through pages of Google results before finding you (if you even rank). I’m afraid the likes Dickens and Hemingway have rather hogged the first dozen pages.
This blog post gives you a step by step guide of your first six months of blogging.
1. Pick a niche
You’re a writer, I get it. You want to be creating worlds and beautiful prose and all of that. But that’s hard to get traffic to. Instead, pick a hobby or interest that you have and write a website on that.
It can be about anything. The only prerequisite is that you can’t be the only person in the whole world that does it.
What can you teach people?
Do you love gliding, paper crafts, makeup, gardening, the tuba, Schitt’s Creek, anything. If you think you could write 100 detailed articles on it, you’re onto a winner. It doesn’t have to be your biggest passion. You just have to be able to write about it better than anyone else out there OR provide unique information.
I know that sounds impossible, but it isn’t.
2. Pick a domain name
Google isn’t particularly bothered about domain names, but if you pick a domain name that at least hints at your niche, then it’ll give users viewing the SERP (search engine ranking page) a clue that you might be legit.
For my house plant website, I picked Planet House Plant. I spend approximately ten minutes picking it because it really doesn’t matter that much.
So long as you stay away from profanities no one much cares.
If you want to use your name go for it but I wouldn’t. Only because if you plan to be an author one day, you’ll want to use your name as your domain name. ‘My domain name was already taken’ is a crap reason to have a pen name.
I buy my domain names from Google Domains, because they’re cheap and come with domain privacy.
If you have absolutely no clue what you’re doing, it may be easier to get a domain name with your host, because you don’t have to worry about pointing your website to your domain name.
Although the Siteground people will help you if you need it, once you’ve got your hosting.
3. Create your website
Buy hosting. You can go with wordpress.com or Medium if you like, but wordpress.com is too expensive for what you get (the free package allows for barely any customisation) and Medium is too volatile when it comes to algorithms and such.
As I mentioned I use Siteground.
Download WordPress in your Cpanel (which is the technical side of your hosting site) and then go to yourwebsite.com/wp-admin and you’re ready to go!*
*I’m making this seem easier than it is. If you buy a separate domain, you have to get the Siteground nameservers, that look something like this: ns6.uk56.siteground.eu and copy and paste them into the right part of Google Domains (DNS -> custome name servers).
It’s NOT difficult, but it can be very stressful and confusing when you have no idea what’s going on.
I would do a whole ‘how to start a blog’ technical article, but there are a million out there already. Watch a Ferdy Korpershoek video and install GeneratePress instead of whatever theme he uses (I believe he owns Elementor, so that’s what he recommends).
Elementor will lead you down a rabbit hole of web design. Don’t get sucked into it. Been there, lost the hours. You don’t need it now. If you want to use it in six months, be my guest.
4. Get Plugins
So, once you’re in your WordPress dashboard, you need a theme and plugins.
I love Generatepress because it’s fast, free, and has great customisation options.
These are the plugins I use:
Ad Inserter: I use this to add my affiliate disclaimer
Antispam Bee – to get rid of spam. I use it instead of Akismet because Akismet only allows you to use it on one site and doesn’t let you monetise your site (everyone does though) and use it and I wouldn’t do well in jail.
Autoptimise – compresses images and code
Content Views – creates post galleries for easy navigation
Insert Headers and Footers – add bits of code. You can do it directly but it means adding them all again when the theme is updated. Or creating a child theme, which I don’t know how to do. Add you Google Analytics coded here.
Pretty links – a great plugin for configuring and tracking links
Recent Posts Widget With Thumbnails – it adds recent posts (and thumbnails, if you hadn’t guessed) widget that I put in my sidebar. Again, great for improving site navigability.
SG Optimizer – this is a Siteground specific plugin that I use for caching.
Updraft Plus – backs my site up to Google Drive. Invaluable.
Wp-optimise – removes old revisions – basically a trash cash. I leave this deactivated most of the time. I turn it on every month or so to improve page speed.
These aren’t all necessary, and a lot of bloggers more able than I would argue I don’t need them all, but they make my life a bit easier.
If you want to know how to configure these plugins to make your site run super quickly, then watch this video.
Plugins I’ve reluctantly gotten rid of
Jetpack and Monster Insights Google analytics. They really slowed my site down, and I didn’t need them, they just made a lot of stuff easier.
5. Keyword research
This is KEY.
If you’re writing the same article as everyone else NO ONE WILL BE ABLE TO FIND IT. You’ll have to rely on social media, and that’s like stepping into a hamster wheel of despair.
I have an article on Medium here about how to conduct keyword research, but I’ll do a more comprehensive one here soon.
You need to find those questions that are being asked on Google that aren’t being answered – or at least aren’t being answer well. Once these posts bring in a bit of traffic, you can start tackling more competitive keywords.
Do not rush your keyword research. My method is free, but it takes a while depending on your niche.
The Income School YouTube channel has amazing free keyword research methods.
6. Niche research
At the same time you’re doing your keyword research you should also research your niche. Check out the hashtags and YouTube videos and see if there’s a gap in the content.
When I was researching house plants, I found a lot of YouTube content was for collectors, but a lot of the content for either casual plant owners or newcomers to the hobby was inaccurate.
I wasn’t knowledgable enough about the indepth stuff, but there was a lot of beginner-centric keywords that I could target.
Listening to podcasts and watching videos in your niche in your free time is a great way to not only learn what information is missing, but it gets you up to date on current controversies, trends, and events that you didn’t know about.
Whilst I wouldn’t worry too much about networking, keep tabs on a few of the well-known figures in your field – you may be able to reach out to them for an interview.
7. Think about monetisation
I don’t recommend monetising your site in the first six months, for a couple of reasons:
1 – It takes times to set up affiliate links and join ad networks – time which would be better spent writing
2 – You’re unlikely to make more than a few pennies, and that can be disheartening, especially when it can take so long to set up.
Repeat after me: Adsense will NOT make you rich. Unless you have millions of views. If you want to make money from Adsense, you need a YouTube channel, not a blog.
8. Learn how to use Canva
Canva is a great skill to have, whether you blog or not. You can use to create business cards, flyers, invitations, and all kind of other crap.
I use Canva to create my logo, my favicon (the little symbol in the tab at the top), my featured image and my Pinterest pins.
Once you’ve picked your website name, head over to Canva and make yourself a logo (I think mine is 500px x 500px). There’s loads of templates to set you off – you can change the text and the font and the background colours.
I don’t think you need the paid version, but stick to the same couple of colours so you can find them easily.
Pick two to three fonts and colours and use them in your favicon, logo (I use my logo as a header) and graphics. You can even add your logo to your images as a kind of watermark if you like.
There are a lot of bloggers that claim that it’s better to pay a professional to create a logo, but I don’t agree. A similar text logo is absolutely fine. In the first six months of your blogging journey, as long as your website is clean, fast, and easy to navigate, it really doesn’t matter what it looks like.
9. Create Content
Once you have your keywords, it’s time to get writing.
Create a content calendar so you know what you’re writing every day or week or whatever. Don’t write so much you burn out, but also obviously the quicker you are the better, as long as you don’t compromise quality.
I like to plan at least fifty posts ahead of time. That should take you nearly up to the 6 month mark. If you have a really niche, er, niche you many only ever need 150 posts.
There’s nothing stopping you from planning out every post you plan on writing before you begin. That’s pretty much how I’ve done this website.
I’ll do a whole post on formatting blog posts for the web in the future, but again, here’s a Medium post to get you started.
Make sure you answer the question that you’re answering fully – it’s the best way for Google to rank you. A number one position on Google isn’t as hard to get as you’d think, especially if it’s for a small keyword. As long as there’s search volume, it doesn’t matter.
I like to pose the question in the title because I’ve found you get a good click-through rate.
Make sure you make your post easy to read by having a lot of short paragraphs and subheadings. I also make the subheadings questions (if it makes sense to) in case there are other similar keywords I could rank for.
This is a good technique for ranking for keywords that don’t require a 1500 word post.
Creating content should take up the bulk of your time.
I know it’s tempting to try your luck at Pinterest or Facebook marketing, but please trust me – it isn’t worth it. None of the social media channels are surefire ways of getting traffic. Wait until you at least have a decent amount of content to share before really hammering them. Like, 100 posts or so.
You will read that blogging is 20% writing and 80% promoting. This is not true unless you want it to be. I spend 90% of my time writing and 10% of my time creating graphics and adding the odd affiliate link.
I try to publish 10 articles per month, but I put up more at the beginning. The faster they’re up, the faster they’ll rank.
Aim to write 1500 words per article, but anything between 800 and 5000 words is great.
The subject matter will dictate the length. If you’re unsure, read a competitor’s post on a similar topic.
You don’t need a consistent publishing schedule. Literally no one cares when you’re first starting. Hell, most people never care. The days of new lifestyle blogs are pretty much done, unless you have a really unique life.
10. Don’t get hung up on stats
This is the hardest part.
On my house plant website I had no traffic for three months. Maybe the odd bot. In November (I started in July) I had 172 views.
I was ecstatic!
The next month I had 331. Then 417. Then 903. Then 1134. Then 1676 and so on.
Almost every view was from search engines. I wasn’t working 60 hour weeks – I spent about eight hours a week on my blog.
I use the WordPress app to check my stats, but I didn’t put it on my phone until I was a few months in, because frankly, it was depressing. Google Analytics is worse, because it kept saying ‘no hits’ and assuming that I had it configured incorrectly.
I get that this is a slow way to get traffic, but it’s great for reasons:
- The emphasis is on writing. Which is what I love to do, and what I want to spend my time doing. This whole website is for writers that want to make money writing.
- The traffic you gain is sustainable – you’re not relying on other people sharing your content – if you’ve done your keyword research properly, people are actually looking for your content. You’re trying to get people to look at it – your audience will be searching for it.
- It’s less time consuming than going the social media route – it’s neither easier nor harder, but when you’re relying on social media you still have to write a great, SEO-optimised post, though admittedly less onus is put on keyword research. But then you have to promote it, which also means creating graphics for Facebook, Twitter and wherever else you fancy putting it.