How to Create a Successful Blog
(the in-Depth Guide for Pros and Amateurs Alike)

Create a Successful Blog

Table of Contents
Introduction
How to Use this Tutorial
Step 1: Register your Domain and Hosting
Step 2: Install WordPress
Step 3: Setup Social Media
Step 4: Setup Traffic Analytics
Step 5: Super Power your WordPress (Best Plugins)
Step 6: Monetize Your Blog
Step 7: Getting Traffic
Step 8: More Advanced Stuff

Introduction

There’s a ton of guides on: how to create a blog. Which is, honestly, easy as pie.

But after that, there are so many other things you have to figure out to become successful.

From solving awkward coding problems, to trying to get more traffic. And to solve those things you will either have to A.) learn it the hard way, through trial and error or B.) find that random tutorial that is kind of what you need, but not really, and force their code/method into what you’re doing.

It’s a pain to say the least.

This walk-through will save you a year’s worth of trouble.

What do you know about creating a successful blog?

For those of you who don’t know, I’m Mark of Badass U.

As of writing this, my blog gets about 100,000 views a month, it ranks #1 for a few of Google’s search terms (mostly about veganism), the blog receives backlinks from super successful sites (like Fing Homepage who gets millions of views a month) without asking, I’ve been able to get in contact with very popular bloggers like Mark Manson, Steve Kamb, and Steve Pavlina, and I’ve been creating websites since I was a kid and this last year I’ve learned a lot about blogging.

I’m not a complete badass at this yet, but the site keeps getting better and better.

Finally, I’ve seen guys who started around the same time I did get no traffic whatsoever. Eventually, they quit. But their mistakes are easy to avoid if you follow this guide.

So let’s get started

How to Use this Tutorial

As the title says, the tutorial is for the noob and professional alike.

The advanced material will be in a black box. If you don’t code, I would suggest you skip it for now and check it out later. But if you are very experienced with website design, go ahead and take a crack at it. It’ll give you a slight edge with your blog.

I’ll be giving lots of detail in each step. Except for the advanced stuff, don’t skip anything. Everything in this tutorial is gold.

Disclaimer: Code in this tutorial is provided as is with no warranty.

Your Options

When it comes to creating a blog you have a choice: free or paid.

With free, you are very limited in what you can do. You’re stuck on that site’s interface. And almost all of those “free” sites will ask you to pay to either get rid of advertisements or to enable features. Plus, a lot of designs provided by these services are very unprofessional looking and are hard to customize.

Paying for your own hosting (it’s only a few dollars a month), will allow you to have complete control, but, more importantly, let you have WordPress (by far the best interface for blogging) and your own domain name (e.g. nameofyoursite.com).

While some of those “free” sites will let you have WordPress, it is a watered down version unless you are willing to pay. Some of the “free” sites will allow you to have a domain name, but will make you pay an arm and a leg each month for it (most hosting sites, like Bluehost, will waive domain name registration fees, anyway).

And if you are thinking about starting out free and then transitioning to a paid site, you will hurt your Google ranking and create a tremendous amount of complicated work for yourself.

For only a few dollars a month and all these benefits, paying a little for your blog is the only option that makes sense.

And that is what we’ll be covering in this tutorial.

Step 1: Register your Domain and Hosting

  

Your first step is to get your website address.

I would recommend Bluehost. I’ve used them in the past and I’ve been very happy with them on different websites I still own. When it comes to hosting, always choose quality. You don’t want downtime or bad customer service.

Once you visit their website:

1.) Click the “get started now” green button.

2.) Choose the “Starter Plan”

Bluehost Starter Plan

What if I want multiple websites?

No problem. See where it says Parked Domains: 5? That will allow you to add 5 more domain names (e.g. example.com, example2.net, etc.) without having to pay for more hosting. I’ll cover that under Step 8: More Advanced Stuff.

3.) Type in your desired domain name

Bluehost New Domain

How to Choose a Name

Avoid dashes and numbers. They look very unprofessional.

A .com is optimal, but you can be plenty successful with a .net

I would avoid all other domain types (.us, .info, .biz, etc.) if this is your first website. Finally, try to keep it simple, but pertinent to what you will be writing about. And no more than two or three words.

Here are some great examples:
CollegeInfoGeek.com
PinchofYum.com
ExpertVagabond.com

You get the idea. Get a domain name like the above and you’ll have a winner.

What about including a curse word in your domain name, like yours?

Overall, having a curse word in my domain name hasn’t hurt me that much. So far, I’ve been rejected from only a site or two that I was trying to submit information or links. But what really hurts me most of the time is having a curse word in the title of a post (like How to be a Badass Lover).

You also risk not being approved by sponsors and affiliate programs. So far, I’ve always been approved, but sometimes ads won’t load in posts/pages that have a curse word in the title.

The most important thing is your audience. Will they be offended or weirded out by it or will you attract the wrong crowd? If yes, then you should probably not use a curse word.

Personally, I like my name too much to change it at the moment. But if I could travel back in time and do it all over again, I would have picked one without a curse word.

4.) Next, choose your packages

Bluehost Packages

If you are new to creating websites, then choose Site Backup Pro. It’ll make restoring your website much easier if something goes wrong. If you’re a pro, you can do it on your own with WordPress plugins.

Domain Privacy Protection is worth it to keep spammers away from your personal information.

I don’t think the other options are that useful.

Finish your order and you are done!

Step 2: Install WordPress

  

Why WordPress for blogging? Because, it’s the best.

Any alternative you find will be a very distant second and/or require more technical knowledge. Trust me and just use WordPress.

1.) Log into cPanel (log-in information will be given after purchasing your website)

2.) Follow the instructions in the video

Use the gear () in the player to increase resolution if necessary. You can also make it full screen by clicking the icon in the lower right corner of the player.

There, now wasn’t that easy?

3.) Getting Familiar with WordPress

I know WordPress can be overwhelming at first, but I’ll walked you through the hardest part (the settings and setting it up).

For now, let’s have an overview.

The left panel is where you’ll access everything:

  • Dashboard – this is the overview of WordPress. You can customize the appearance, but, honestly, I rarely use it…
  • Posts – where you’ll be 99% of the time. This is where you write and edit your blog posts.
  • Media – basically, the images for your website. Video and sound bites can also be uploaded here, but best handled by an off-site third party (like YouTube).
  • Pages – think of pages as the main areas of your site. They are usually linked to the navigation menu of the site. Some examples include your About page, Home page, Contact page, Blog directory, etc. I’ll show you how to tweak the navigation menu soon.
  • Comments – where you manage your comments. However, I suggest new bloggers start without comments as they are easy to become obsessed with.
  • Appearance – here you’ll customize the appearance of your site. There are lots of ways of doing it and can become rather confusing for people. Instead of customizing, best to use a theme you like from the start.
  • Plugins – what makes WordPress so awesome. You can do some amazing things with plugins and they tend to be easy to use. Just don’t install a ton, they’ll run down your site. I’ll tell you some great plugins to use in Step 5: Super Power your WordPress (Best Plugins).
  • Users – lets you access the different accounts using your WordPress site. You’ll probably never use it unless you want to change your password.
  • Tools – tools mostly just lists the different backup options you have. Some plugins might list their settings here.

Since you will be spending all your time in the posts section, let’s take a closer look at some feature you’ll need to know.

Go to Posts -> Add New

Click the following icon ().

Wordpress Add New Post

Now you have more options. Probably the most important is being able to turn normal text into a header.

Wordpress Add New Post Paragraph

Headers are how you organize your content for your readers and Google.

Wordpress Add New Post Heading 1

Next, if you want to see how the post is coded with HTML or want to edit the HTML, click “Text.”

Wordpress Add New Post Text Code

Look to the next menu. At the top it says “Screen Options.” This will let you display more menus (e.g. the “Comments” and “Featured Image” menu).

Wordpress Add New Post Screen Options

Always select your categories and tags for each post. Themes and certain plugins rely on this information.

Wordpress Add New Post categories and tags

Finally, make sure you select a featured image for your blog post summaries.

Wordpress Add New Post featured image

4.) Get familiar with the settings

Since you are getting familiar with the settings, let’s make some changes while we’re at it.

Optimize your URLs:

Under Settings -> Permalinks

Change your URL structure to “Post name”

Settings Permalinks Post Name

This looks more professional and is great for SEO purposes (search engine optimization, i.e. getting found on Google).

Change your Homepage:

By default, your blog is your homepage.

If you want, we can put your blog to a different page (your main blog page will looks like a directory on your site, e.g. yourdomainname.com/blog/). This is completely optional, but you might want to reference this at a later date for when you are tweaking your blog. Side note, my blog is my homepage, so you can really do it anyway you want.

Under Settings -> Reading

Then look at Front Page Display:

Keep it as is if you want your latest posts to show up as your homepage.

Settings Reading Your Latest Posts

If you want to have your blog just be one part of your website (e.g. yourdomainname.com/blog/) then you’ll need to select a homepage and a blog page, under Static Page. The blog page can be blank (this allows most themes to automatically fill it in for you), but you do need to create it in your Pages section, first, so you can select it. Leave this page for now.

Under Pages -> New Post

Type “Blog” as the title then hit Publish. Create another page (“Add New” is at the top of the site you’ve been taken to) and type “Home” and hit Publish.

Return to Settings -> Reading and you can now select your new pages under the drop down menu for the Static Page option.

Settings Reading Your Static Page

Don’t forget to hit the “Save Changes” button at the bottom of the page.

Settings Reading Save Changes

Still a little confused? Here is a video that will help clear things up.

5.) Now let’s install a theme

I’ll talk about customizing the look of your theme with the JetPack plugin, later.

Advanced Technique: Make Your Own Theme

If you are a designer and familiar with creating websites, you might want to create your own theme.

If you plan on doing this, I would highly suggest you use underscores, also referenced as (_s), to get started.

The underscores theme is basically a skeleton of a theme which you can completely customize. Even with this skeleton, it’s still a lot of work, but definitely worth it if you want complete control over your website.

Here is probably the best video tutorial, and one of the only free ones, out there on underscores.

Please show Sean some appreciation for making such a great tutorial by visiting his site at: http://buildwpyourself.com/

6.) Setting up the Menu Bar

You may need to create your navigation bar at the top, or fix it (some themes may pull in pages you don’t want).

First, create all the pages you want on your navigation bar even if they are blank for now (e.g. “About”, “Contact”, etc.).

Under Pages -> All Pages

At the top, click the “Add New” Button.

Just fill out the title for now and hit the “Publish” button on the right.

Repeat for all the pages you need.

Under Appearance -> Menu

With the first option box, select the pages you want displayed. Click “Add to Menu”

Appearance Menu Add to Menu

On the second option box, name the menu, and select “Primary Menu” at the bottom.

Appearance Menu Primary Menu

Click the “Save Menu” button on the right.

Appearance Menu Save Menu

Your navigation menu should be set.

That’s it for WordPress, for now.

But before you start blogging, we need a way for the world to see you. That’s where social media comes in!

Step 3: Setup Social Media

           

So you’re a new blog. How on earth are you going to get any traffic?

Don’t count on Google search. You’re a nobody right now and Google won’t risk nor waste it’s time putting your site at the top of their search results.

But with social media, you can have a ton of traffic on the first day of blogging.

To be clear, you don’t need social media accounts for people to post your content to those sites. But having them allows you to look more professional, update followers about new content, and makes your content easier to find online.

So let’s set up your accounts.

1.) Setting up a Facebook Page

In order to create a Facebook page for your blog, you’ll need an ordinary Facebook account first (you will access the Facebook page through your ordinary account).

So head over to Facebook and set one up if you don’t already have one.

Since Facebook is constantly changing their layout, I’ve decided to link to a video showing you how to create a Facebook Page. I’ll make sure the video listed is always as up to date as possible.

2.) Setting up a Twitter Account

Twitter is a lot easier than Facebook to setup. Just head over to Twitter and create an account for your site (unlike Facebook, no personal twitter account needed beforehand).

Once it’s made, go to your twitter profile page (usually there is a button somewhere in the upper right corner to get you there).

Twitter Profile Badass U

Then click the “Edit Profile” button on the right.

Twitter Profile Edit Options

On the left side, you can then add your homepage.

Twitter Profile Change Homepage

Easy!

In this mode, you can also change your profile icon and background.

3.) Setting up a Google+ Page

A few of you might be confused why I’m having you set up a Google+ page. Google+ can’t hold a candle to Facebook when it comes to traffic. But Google search gives Google+ a lot of weight when it comes to ranking.

And when sites use Google’s services (e.g. Google Webmaster Tools, YouTube, etc.), they seem to rank a lot higher than those who don’t. So for me, I go ahead and focus on it.

Google+ is a lot like Facebook: you’ll need a personal account to make your page about your blog.

If you have a gmail account, you are good to go.

If not, head over to Google Accounts, and click “Create New Account” at the bottom. Follow the instructions.

Once you have your personal account, head on over to https://plus.google.com/pages/create

Select brand.

Google Plus Pages Business Type

Put in your information

Create Your Google Plus Page

Then just follow the walk-through Google provides.

4.) Other social media accounts

The only other social media (besides the social submission networks, which I’ll talk about next) is really just Pinterest and Tumblr.

But maintaining those additional accounts might be too much of a hassle. And it might be time better spent on your blog.

However, it could be worthwhile for certain niches to have those accounts. For example, if you blog about women’s fashion or cooking, definitely get a Pinterest account.

Just remember, you don’t need an account for people to post your content on any social media platform.

5.) Social Submission Networks

And that brings us to the social submission networks. By this, I mean places like Stumbleupon, Reddit, Digg, and Delicious. People also call them social bookmarking sites.

The two I use the most are Stumbleupon and Reddit (from what I understand Reddit pretty much replaced Digg and Delicious).

In the past, I was able to get 10,000 to 50,000 views a day from Stumbleupon. Currently, I get barely any traffic from Stumbleupon, but that should tell you what potential social submission networks have.

In my experience, it is best to have someone else submit your site’s content to Stumbleupon, or else your site might be seen as spam. Don’t pay for someone to submit on your behalf, have your readers do it naturally.

Reddit is also great for traffic. The only problem with Reddit is you can only submit through subreddits. And each subreddit comes with their own rules for submission that you’ll have to get familiar with.

With Reddit, I would suggest you get very familiar with the rules and submit great, pertinent links (not just your own).

Reddit feels a bit like the wild west. But there’s great potential for traffic if you learn the rules.

And also submit your content, at least once, to your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+). Jetpack has a feature to do this automatically that I’ll talk about later.

6.) Optimize Posts for Social Sharing

One last step before we share. There is a protocol called Open Graph you need to be aware about.

Open Graph tells social media sites, like Facebook, what your post is about.

So instead of your post looking like this on Facebook…

Facebook Page not Found

Your post will look like this…

Facebook Open Graph Enhanced

All you have to do is add the following information between the <head> tags in your post (which I’ll show you how to access next).

<meta property="og:title" content="" />
<meta property="og:type" content="" />
<meta property="og:url" content="" />
<meta property="og:image" content="" />

Just fill out the content for title, type, URL, and image. But, if you are familiar with HTML, you know the post already has a title, a URL, and a type (article). Seem pointless, and rather dumb, to fill-in that information again for each new post, so we’ll have a plugin do it for us.

Under Plugins-> Add New

On the right side, there is a search box.

search plugins

Search for and install the plugin Open Graph Protocol.

Click Activate Plugin and you are done.

All we have to do now is set the image for each post.

Search for and install the plugin AddFunc Head & Footer Code.

Activate.

Now go to your post. Post -> All Posts -> “Your Post”

Below the writting part you’ll see a new menu box called “Footer and Header Code.”

Click it to expand.

WordPress New Post Head and Footer code

In “Head:” enter the following code:

<meta property="og:image" content="" />

Between the double quotes (“”) paste in the URL of your image.

If you aren’t sure of the URL of an image already in the post, view your post (or click the “Preview” button if unpublished), right-click the image and click “Copy Image URL”, then paste it between the double quotes.

Click the “Update” or “Publish” button.

Now you have an awesome looking graphic when people share your content. If you want to make sure it loads properly in Facebook paste the URL of the post in this debugger:Facebook Debugger

If you get this error message.

Facebook fetch new scrape information

Click “Fetch new scrape information”

Step 4: Setup Traffic Analytics

  

Let’s set up our analytics so we can see where our traffic comes from.

There are basically three ways I get my blog’s information: on WordPress itself, Google Analytics, and third party websites.

WordPress – Jetpack

To track visitors using WordPress itself, I use a plugin called Jetpack.

To install it, login to your WordPress. Go to Plugins -> Add New

Search for Jetpack and install.

Jetpack by WordPress.com Install Now button

Make sure you click “Activate Plugin” after the install.

Wordpress activate plugin

Finally click “Connect to WordPress.com”

Connnect to WordPress.com

Congratulations, you have the best plugin on the planet installed!

Hey! There is a smiley face at the bottom of my blog now!

No problem, we can hide that. Go to Jetpack -> Site Stats

On the top, there is a hyperlink called “Configure”

Check “Hide the stats smiley face image.”

Hit “Save Configuration.”

I use Jetpack for when I want to get quick information about the site’s stats for the day. Google Analytics is nice, but it can be a hassle to get to the numbers I want.

Google Analytics

But what Google Analytics rocks at is real-time data (who is on the blog this very second), big trend information, and traffic flow.

Head on over to this site: http://www.google.com/analytics/

Click “Access Google Analytics” in the upper right corner.

This video will show you the rest of the steps. If you already have a Google account (e.g. gmail) you can skip to part 3:40.

From there, you will need to add the tracking code or ID, depending on your situation, to your WordPress.

If you downloaded a theme, then I would suggest you use a plugin to add it.

If you install Yoast Google Analytics, you can just add your tracking ID (UA-numbers-1) to the settings.

After installing the plugin, go to Analytics -> Settings, and paste in your ID.

Or…

However, if you made your own theme (like one from underscores) then you can do it without a plugin, no problem.

Go to Appearance -> Editor

Then select “header.php”

Paste the tracking code (<script> google’s code </script>), anywhere after the <head> tag, but before the </head>.

Click “Update File.”

Now, here is the real trick with Google Analytics. If you are using Chrome (which you should be), then add their Google Analytics Chrome Extension.

When you access your site and click the icon () in the upper right corner of your browser, you’ll get instant information about who’s on it.

Click the down arrow (), it’ll give you information about what people are clicking on.

Now, click the up arrow ().

Click the phrase “Google Analytics” () in the dropdown menu and it’ll take you directly to your Google Analytics page.

From there go to Real-Time -> Overview and you’ll see where your real-time traffic came from.

Another useful metric is your Traffic Flow. Go to Audience -> Users Flow

Third Party Sites

That brings me to the final category, third party sites.

You’ll be very surprised by the information you’ll find there.

What do I mean by third party sites?

Sites, like Alexa, that keep track of big data about different websites. However, I would recommend you do not use Alexa.

Alexa was one of the first services to show your rank against other websites.

To determine your rank against other websites, Alexa would analyze the internet viewings of people using their toolbar. From there, they would estimate how much the rest of the world was viewing your site. Here’s the problem, do even know of anyone using the Alexa Toolbar today? Exactly.

To find out your real rank, I would suggest a site like SimilarWeb. They gather their information by using several popular Chrome extensions, Firefox add-ons, and other software installed on your computer. Now do you know of anyone who doesn’t have some type of an extension install on their browser? Exactly.

Not only is SimilarWeb much more accurate, in my opinion, but they offer a ton of other information (like traffic sources). They do have a pro version you can pay for, but for a brand new blog, their free version is more than enough information.

QuickSprout is also a great tool.

It gives you an overview of how your site is optimized for SEO. After you submit your website, don’t forget to click on the Social Media Analysis button to see how your different pages are doing socially.

In my experience, the social media analysis tool isn’t super accurate with the numbers, but for being a free tool, it’s good enough to see what your most popular posts are.

And what is really great about third party tools is that you can check out the competition.

However, don’t try to find a ton of third party analysis sites to use. You are wasting your time. Keep it simple.

Don’t go only by the numbers when it comes to blogging (passion is more important), but if you don’t look you’re flying blind.

Step 5: Super Power your WordPress (Best Plugins)

  

Let’s take it to the next level.

Even if you would rather not use plugins, I highly suggest you install this one at a minimum: Jetpack.

Jetpack

Jetpack comes from WordPress.com and is basically all the features WordPress should have come with and a lot of cool ones. If you haven’t already installed it, do so through your WordPress admin area Plugins -> Add New.

Follow the walk-through above.

Let’s go through Jetpack.

Jetpack comes with a ton of features. We’ll go through them one-by-one.

Go to Jetpack -> Settings

Jetpack Settings

Jetpack is actually several plugins in one. I’ll tell you what they are and which you should enable or disable. In general, if you don’t use it, I would suggest you disable it.

  • Beautiful Math – Great way to display formulas in your posts.
  • Carousel – Launches a full screen view of your images and makes them browsable.
  • Contact Form – Simply way to add input forms to a post or page.
  • Custom CSS Configure – This is a MUST if you want to customize the look of an existing theme. If you manually edit the stylesheet, everything you do might get overwritten when the theme is updated. You can create a child theme (a theme that uses another theme as a base), but that can be rather complicated. Instead, use Custom CSS Configure. Everything done there will not be changed when your theme is updated. To access Custom CSS Configure, go to Appearance -> Custom CSS. If you are new to CSS, this is probably the best CSS primer out there.
  • Custom Content Types – Let’s you create other content besides posts and pages. For example, if you wanted students in a classroom to be able to login and create a website with predefined attributes (e.g. a portfolio). Probably best to disable.
  • Enhanced Distribution – Shares your posts through WordPress.com’s distribution center.
  • Extra Sidebar Widgets – Add new, cool, widgets to your sidebar. You can find them at Appearance -> Widgets. I suggest you include, at a minimum, the Top Posts & Pages (Jetpack) widget in your blog.
  • Gravatar Hovercards – If you use Gravatar (images linked to comments), this will display additional information when you hover over their images
  • Infinite Scroll – Let’s a reader see all your blog posts in one page by allowing them to scroll until they reach your last blog post instead of having to hit “next page.” I would keep disabled.
  • JSON API – Allows authorized applications/plugins to access WordPress.com to increase their functionality.
  • Jetpack Comments – Allows users to leave comments using their WordPress.com, Twitter, or Facebook accounts.
  • Jetpack Single Sign On – Allows you to log in to your WordPress site through WordPress.com. I would keep it disabled.
  • Likes – Allows users to like your posts. Likes are managed through WordPress.com
  • Markdown – Allows authors to write in Markdown. Markdown is a language that lets you quickly add HTML tags with little effort. Just start typing with Markdown (in visual or text mode) when you write your post. Here is a quick and easy guide to Markdown.
  • Mobile Theme – Jetpack will try to make your theme mobile friendly. Probably best disabled, but you can see if it’ll work for your theme.
  • Monitor – Jetpack will email you if your site is down.
  • Notifications – Puts a notifier of events (like unusually high traffic) on your admin toolbar.
  • Omnisearch – Just lets you, the admin, search your entire site.
  • Photon – Lets WordPress.com load your images with their fast servers. Good way to keep your bandwidth low.
  • Post by Email – Let’s you create a post by email. I would leave it disabled.
  • PublicizeGreat time saving feature. Publicize will share your posts on your social media accounts automatically. Go to Settings -> Sharing to link your accounts.
  • Related PostsGreat way to keep traffic. Visitors will tend to click another link if it is related to the post that brought them there. Obvious, right? With Related Posts, you can list related posts once the reader gets to the bottom of the page. And WordPress.com does all the analysis for you on their servers (i.e. it won’t hurt your bandwidth). I would recommend all new blogs enable this feature.
  • Sharing – I highly suggest all new bloggers enable this option.
  • Sharing will give the readers buttons to easily share on social media. It is placed at the bottom of the page, which has been shown to have the best conversion rate. Pro tip: the more choices you give someone, the more likely they will choose none. For social media, have only 1 to 3 options, with Facebook always being your default option. But if you want to give your reader more options, add it to the hidden section (they’ll have to click a “+” button to get to it). You can configure it by going to Settings -> Sharing

  • Shortcode Embeds – Enables you to easily embed material from media sites like YouTube and Flickr using shortcode. Not really necessary. I would disable.
  • Site Icon – You know those neat icons you see next to your bookmarks for certain websites. They are called favicons. Site Icon will take a normal sized picture and convert it to a favicon. I would suggest all new bloggers enable and use this feature.
  • Site Verification – Lets you easily add a meta tag for site verification. Used by services like Pinterest, Google and Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Spelling and Grammar – Uses After the Deadline proofreader in your posts. I would disable. Ginger’s proofreader is far superior. Here is a site you can use it for free: PaperRater.com
  • Subscriptions – Allows readers to subscribe to your blog (i.e. they wil be updated of new posts by email). Most popular bloggers regret not creating a mailing list (getting subscribers) from the start. Don’t make the same mistake. I would highly suggest all new bloggers enable this feature. Don’t forget to add it to your sidebar Appearance -> Widgets -> Blog Subscriptions (Jetpack). However, keep in mind, while you can easily view a subscriber’s email address, I do not believe there is a way to export their data as of yet. So if you move to a more feature rich third-party service (like MailChimp or Aweber), you’ll have to add subscriber information one-by-one.
  • Tiled Galleries – Cool looking photo gallery, great for photographers.
  • VideoPress – Will host videos on WordPress.com’s servers if you have a video subscription.
  • WP.me Shortlinks – A shorter version of a post’s URL in the WP.me URL format.
  • Widget Visibility – Great option to make certain widgets appear on certain pages. For example, if you are selling an ebook you can put it on the sidebar for key posts. Under Appearance -> Widgets, expand the options for a widget you have enabled, and click the “Visibility” button for options.
  • WordPress.com Stats – The main reason to install Jetpack. All new bloggers should have this enabled for sure.
  • VaultPress – You can pay extra to have WordPress.com backup your site.

That’s it for Jetpack. It really is an awesome plugin.

The only other plugin I would recommend, at a minimum, is Limit Login Attempts. If someone is trying to guess your WordPress login information, it’ll block their IP address and record it.

If you are worried about security, your best strategy is to always plan for the worst. Meaning, backup everything, regularly, and limit what each account has access to.

What about other cool plugins?

There are probably at least 100 awesome and cool plugins out there. But whether one is right for you or not really depends on your site.

I will give this word of warning. Don’t install too many plugins. The more plugins you have, the more likely your site will break. If anything, try to keep the amount of plugins on your site to a minimum.

That being said, here is a list of some pretty cool plugins.

Step 6: Monetize Your Blog

  

So I bet a lot of you are starting a blog with the hopes of making money online.

Cool.

But, I’m here to warn you, I’ve seen a lot of blogs come and go without making a cent. And you’ll notice that a lot of people who successfully made a living online didn’t make any money for years.

Don’t want to be another statistic?

Then I would suggest you follow Warren Buffet’s strategy for making money.

No, not picking stocks, but snowballing.

He started very young making money by taking any job available. Even if it didn’t pay much.

From there he was always looking for new opportunities that would pay him even more. By saving his money along the way and always looking for better paying gigs, by 20 he had roughly $100,000 to invest with.

And that is the strategy I suggest for you to prevent burn out.

So let’s start with the monetization strategy that will pay you the soonest.

1.) Google Adsense

Google makes about $50,000,000,000 a year. Almost all of it from advertising.

They are a safe bet.

The great thing about Adsense is you can sign up for it right away and see money added to your account everyday. It’s exciting.

Small amounts. But, remember, we are snowballing.

They pay for views and click. With views, you’ll probably only get a few cents, at most, with a new site. But with clicks, that’ll get you some serious money if you know what you are doing.

Head on over to Google Adsense to apply for an account.

Here is a video if you need help setting it up.

Google’s policies change all the time. So you’ll need to learn them.

As of writing this, Google requires a minimum of $100 before payout and will make you verify your address (they will snail mail you a verification code). Google will pay out about 15 days after the end of each month.

Don’t forget to fill out your tax information.

Here is another video showing you how to add the Adsense code to your WordPress site without a plugin.

You can also use a plugin to manage your Adsense ads. Quick Adsense is a popular one.

2.) Amazon Associates

With Amazon Associates, Amazon’s affiliate program, you’ll link to Amazon products and if someone buys with your link, you’ll earn a small commission.

I recommend doing Amazon Associates after you get familiar with Google Adsense, because readers have to click and buy for you to earn any revenue.

You’ll be surprised by how low of a conversion rate you’ll have and how little you’ll earn starting out.

But that’s okay. That’s why we started out with Adsense. Even though your Amazon Associates account will be a big fat $0 for a bit, your Adsense will still be making money for you everyday.

With some experience, you’ll get better at Amazon. A lot of bloggers make a very nice living (like $100,000+ a year) with Amazon Associates as their main income source.

If you already have an Amazon account for shopping the process is very easy.

Just head over to the Amazon Associates and sign-in with your normal Amazon account.

For setting up affiliate links, I’ll walk you through the process to make it super easy for you.

You’ll want to enable Associates Site Stripe.

If the link above won’t work, then just google “Associates Site Stripe”

Click “Turn On Site Stripe”.

Now, when you are browsing Amazon, you’ll have an option to create an affiliate link for whatever page you are browsing by clicking “Link to this Page” in the upper left corner.

Change the text to say what you want.

Highlight the code and paste it into your post.

In WordPress, when you are editing a new post (Posts -> Add New) make sure you are in text mode when you paste in the code.

Now it’s all about strategy to get people to click and then rely on Amazon to do what they do best. Sell!

The commission rate is around 4-10%. Small, but Amazon is doing most of the work for you.

They pay roughly 60 days after the end of each month.

3A.) Clickbank

Now if you want big commission, then Clickbank is it.

We’re talking roughly 50%.

Clickbank is probably the largest online marketplace for digital products (ebooks, audio courses, etc.).

Once you start making sales on Amazon, then you might want to give Clickbank a try. However, it is a much tougher sell with them.

Why? It’s a trust issue. Amazon is a well known established brand. The sites you send people to through Clickbank are usually from random bloggers on the internet.

But if you know what you are doing, you have some real potential to make money here. Like Google, their revenue is in the billions.

Signing up for Clickbank is rather straightforward.

However, the biggest con with Clickbank has to do with most of their products being cheesy. And you might hurt your reputation if you recommend one just for the money.

Personally, I think I’ve only recommended one product through Clickbank.

Which brings me to your other option…

3B.) Gumroad

With Gumroad you can sell your own digital products. This puts you in complete control over quality and content.

I would suggest you start out with an ebook, as they are incredibly easy to produce. All you have to do is create a document (in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, for example), save it as a PDF, and then upload to Gumroad. Great way to get your feet wet.

Personally, I’ve been VERY happy with Gumroad.

Their interface is extremely easy to use and, unlike other online shopping cart services, there is no monthly subscription cost and no fee to join. They only charge you when you make a sale. This is great for someone starting out as you’ll probably have a few months without any sales. But this way, you can start learning how to get purchases and how the market works without it costing you a penny.

They deposit money into your bank account (no messing with PayPal!) every two weeks.

The only con with Gumroad has to do with there being no affiliate program (someone being able to sell your material on their site and Gumroad splitting the profits between you two). However, there is a work around you can do with bloggers if they trust you to be honest with them.

However, the reason I recommend you save creating your own products for last has to do with this: fans buy, readers don’t.

From what other bloggers tell me, it takes about 1 to 2 years to create an established brand that will have fans willing to buy your products. So just keep that in mind when you want to create a digital product.

4.) Other Options

There are a ton of other services and other ways to make money online. But I would suggest, for now, just do the above and figure out what works. From there, start to explore other ideas.

If you are curious how famous bloggers make their money, then check out my post, How Different Bloggers Make their Money Online.

Good luck!

Step 7: Getting Traffic

  

And that brings us to the most important topic: traffic.

Let’s go over what you should not be doing.

1.) Don’t bother leaving comments on other blogs.

Unless you really want to add something to the article, don’t bother commenting for backlinks (Google pretty much ignores them) or for visitors (no one looks at the comments and rarely do they click them). The only visitors you’ll get will be the bloggers. So, if you want to form a relationship with that blogger, then commenting is a great way to do it. Just don’t say dumb things like, “Great Post!” If you do, then it’s pretty obvious to the blogger you don’t really care.

To digress a little bit, I would even suggest you disable comments on your own blog, when you first start, for the following reasons: 1.) most of the commenters will be other bloggers fishing for traffic and backlinks, 2.) you’ll become obsessions with the number of commenters or depressed if no one comments, 3.) you’ll always be fighting spam no matter what system you use, and 4.) they give little to no value to your readers.

Just turn comments off and focus on your writing.

Back to the subject at hand.

2.) Don’t pay for backlinks or submit to random directories

Google will look at those backlinks as spam. If anything, it’ll probably hurt your ranking on Google.

3.) Don’t spam internet forums with links

So the strategy often seen here is to either put a link in a post or your signature. Generally, people rarely click the links and Google might see it as spam.

If you want to add your homepage to your signature (which is understandable), then this is how you should do it.

Have the text part of your link be the name of your site or URL.

For example, Badass U, Badassu.net or http://badassu.net would all be acceptable ways to list my website on a signature.

But if I made a link to my homepage that looks like this, click here to find out the most amazing thing ever!, then Google will probably ignore all those links.

Okay, let’s now go over how to get traffic.

1.) Write epic content

Hands down the most important rule. Epic content will get noticed eventually. Epic content is ALL that Google and readers care about.

Think about it.

Would you rather write 7 posts a week that no one looks at, or 1 great post a week that gets a ton of traffic? Now you get it!

Forget quantity, quality is all that matters if you want traffic.

How do I write epic content?

If you really have to ask that, you should probably question if you should start a blog or not.

You are also a reader. You know what epic content is. And you know what a crappy post looks like.

In other words, follow your gut.

2.) Write about what is popular

This is something I don’t do. My blog is about my passions, not what is current.

However, if all you care about is traffic, then following the trends might be right for you.

To figure out what’s trending, let’s look at two things: social media and what is being searched for.

First off, social media.

Check out BuzzSumo.

Then type in what your blog is about.

From there, you’ll see what type of content is shared the most on social media.

Next, we’ll use Google’s Keyword Planner.

To use it, sign up for Google Adwords.

Once you sign up with Google Adwords, login. Then at the top, click Tool -> Keyword Planner

From there select “Search for New Keywords and ad group ideas”

Then fill in one keyword that has to do with your blog, for targeting select “all locations”, and click “Get ideas.”

Finally, select the “Keyword ideas” tab to see what people are searching for.

Now you’ll have an idea what is popular with your blog category.

But, no matter what topic you pick, make sure you are passionate about the topic!

If not you’ll burn out quickly.

3.) Do minimal SEO

Don’t bother optimizing for SEO (just make sure your keyword is in your URL and title/headers). Just worry about quality.

My highest ranking posts on Google (even my #1 spots) were never optimized for SEO. And the ones I spent the most time optimizing never ranked.

Again, all Google cares about is quality. If it is quality, Google will eventually find you.

However, if you are really concerned about SEO then I would suggest using this tool:
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Analysis Tool

All other SEO analysis tools I’ve seen are junk or they are trying to sell you a membership. Don’t bother with them.

Again, don’t waste your time trying to over optimize for SEO. It won’t benefit you.

Also, don’t worry too much about backlinks. Quality posts will naturally get them. And do not pay or submit your blog to directories for backlinks. Google will most likely penalize you. I’ve seen a lot of sites with less backlinks rank HIGHER than sites that had more. Again, just worry about quality.

But, if you really want to play the backlink game, then do it the right way:
THE Backlinking Strategy That Works – 2014 and Beyond Edition

4.) Social media – the only way they can find you

So, nobody knows about your site. How is anyone or Google going to find you. The answer: they can’t!

But, luckly, social media can easily make you visible to the world. Your best bet is not spamming your social media accounts (i.e. submitting the same links over and over again), but rather submitting to social bookmarking sites I’ve talked about above. You’ll get some decent traffic and Google will be able to find you.

5.) Let Google know you own the website and submit to them an XML sitemap

Since Google is probably already crawling your site because of backlinks they found, this one might seem odd. But there is evidence that if you just claim your website you’ll see a boost in traffic. Might as well submit a sitemap (it lets Google know all the pages you have for your site even if there are no backlinks to them) while you’re at it.

Head on over to Google Webmaster Tools

After you sign up and login, click on “Add a Site” on the right

Enter your website.

Then download the html and upload through cPanel to your public_html folder.

Now that your ownership is confirmed, let’s upload a sitemap.

First, let’s install a plugin.

Go back to WordPress.

Go to Plugins -> Add New

Then type in “Google XML Sitemaps”

Install and activate.

The plugin automatically does what we need it to do.

From there go back to your Google Webmaster Tools account and click on your site.

Click the third column on the right (or at the bottom if your screen is small) labeled “Sitemaps”

That will take you to another site to upload your sitemap.

Click “Add/Test Sitemap”

Then type “sitemap.xml”

Submit.

Done.

You’ll never have to do that again. The plugin will take care of updating the sitemap for us.

6.) Build Relationships with Other Bloggers

If you follow the above, you’ll eventually hit a plateau.

And, usually, the only way to break it is to get references from more popular bloggers. In other words, build a friendship with them.

How do you do that?

Well, first, let them get to know you. Comment on their blog regularly with thought provoking content. You can find some bloggers at certain forums.

Just don’t be creepy, needy, or stalk them. Come off as a cool guy or gal that offers value. Be someone you would want to hang out with.

And, second, give them value. But, honestly, as a new blogger there is probably not much you can offer. There is, however, one thing you can offer: backlinks.

While your backlinks don’t offer much juice (Google doesn’t pay too much attention to them), who would turn down free backlinks? And maybe one day, they will have a ton of power.

I found a lot of success with this message emailing popular bloggers:

Hey there, I'm listing links for my readers about [Your Topic].

Is there one article on your site you think will be the most beneficial for them?

Thanks!

You noticed the email was clear and concise? That format got me the highest response rate.

And that’s how I put this post together, Popular Bloggers Give Must-Read Posts for College Students.

Great part was, after getting my foot in the door with the strategy above, they shared some of my later posts on their social media accounts giving me a ton of traffic.

Step 8: More Advanced Stuff

  

Ready to rock’n’roll with the advanced stuff?

Get through this and you’ll no longer be a newbie at WordPress.

I tried my best to arrange the following from easiest to hardest.

Edit: Due to the size of this post, I’ve decided to hold off on the advanced stuff. Here is a preview of what is to come. :)

Install a Second WordPress for Testing

Shortcodes

Custom Social Share Buttons

Completely Custom Sidebar

Insert PHP in Posts and Widgets

Host Multiple Sites with one Account

Javascript Popups and Tricks

PHP Database Interaction

End

That ends our tutorial.

Before you get started, keep in mind that 99% of bloggers fail to get decent traffic and even more fail to make any money.

If you want to succeed, besides applying what I taught you above, you need to be persistent and keep learning. That’s what I’ve noticed about great bloggers: they are always innovating and studying. The unsuccessful bloggers just follow the fads. Winners aren’t afraid to lead using what they know.

Use your head and become a leader in your own way.

Good luck!