Blogging For Dummies: The Noob Friendly Guide to Starting One This Year

Considering starting a blog? Our blogging for dummies post shows you how to start and monetize yours using affiliate links.

by Candice Elliott | Last Updated: July 20, 2020

Everyone and their grandma seems to have a blog these days. Some people are blogging as a hobby; they have an interest they want to share with others.

But more and more bloggers are creating content with an eye toward monetization. A successful blog can make a lot of money.

If you’re entertaining this idea for the first time, this blogging for dummies guide is for you.

Starting a blog has a low cost of entry.

Depending upon your goals and the type of blog you want to start, it costs around $34.50 to $65.40 to start a blog in 2020 and cover your first year of expenses.

To grow your own blog into a next level, full-time gig, you’ll need to spend more, but even that only costs about $1,000. How much money can you make as a blogger?

It’s pretty easy to make an extra $500 to $2,000 per month blogging in your first year. And then in years 2, 3, 4, and 5, you can significantly increase your monthly blog revenue.

How many hours a week do bloggers work?

Pros were most likely to say they work between 0-5 hours per week on their blog. Of those pros, 42% can make more than the median U.S. household income in just five hours per week or less.

blogging for dummies

Not bad, the median U.S. household income is $63,030. Have we convinced you? Great, let’s get to blogging for dummies.

The First Step Is the Most Important

There are two ways to choose the specific topic you want to blog about, but ever how you choose, getting it right is the most crucial step in creating a successful blog.

Blogging for Love

If you want to create a personal blog about your life, you might make money, but blogging will probably never be your full-time income.

Most of us don’t have such fascinating personal lives that other people want to follow. A personal blog is more of a way to document your life for yourself or far-away family and friends (who, sorry to break it to you, probably don’t give a shit).

Or maybe you have an obscure interest like researching vintage apple seeds. It’s your passion because you’re weird, and you love blogging about it.

‘You do you’ to use a stupid, overused phrase I hate. But you probably aren’t going to be able to monetize this blog heavily.

Everything doesn’t have to be a money-making endeavor. If you enjoying blogging about your life or a specific topic that other people aren’t interested in, do it!

Plenty of people enjoy hobbies that don’t make money.

Blogging for Money

The secret to blogging for money isn’t being the best writer in the entire blogosphere, being an absolute beast at SEO (search engine optimization), finding the perfect domain name, or WordPress theme.

It’s finding the right niche and learning how to become successful at affiliate marketing. Lasso will help you with the second part, but we’ll get to that.

A few perennial topics making for a profitable blog subject:

Great, I did the work for you. You want to start your blog and make lots of money, so you’ll pick one of these subjects. Well, there’s a problem.

Those topics are done to death, and there are well established heavy hitters in each one. As a newbie, you have no chance of ranking in Google because it’s already been done many times.

If you Google “personal finance blogs,” you get 249,000,000 results, and you’ll be going up against big names like NerdWallet, Mr. Money Mustache, The Penny Hoarder, and Wise Bread.

But what if you’re really passionate about personal finance, does this mean you can’t blog on the topic and successful monetize? No, but you have to find a little niche.

When you choose a niche, especially in a saturated topic, you won’t be competing against well-established blogs, and you’ll find a loyal audience (if you’re providing value).

If you Google “personal finance blogs for single parents,” you get far fewer results than we saw for “personal finance blogs,” just 45,900,000 compared to 249,000,000.

And despite being a personal finance blogger myself, I’ve never heard of any top-ranking blogs that come up when you search for the niche of personal finance blogs for single parents.

The Happy Medium

The ideal subject for a blog is one that you enjoy and have some interest in, one other people will find interesting so you can make a respectable amount of money from, if not make it a full-time career.

Even if you’re only spending a few hours a week blogging, you don’t want it to be on a topic you have zero interest in or openly dislike.

Partly because that will be miserable for you and partly because your readers will detect it.

The Nuts and the Bolts

Once you have a specific topic in mind for your blog, it’s time to get things set up to share your scintillating writing with the world.

And don’t worry if you’re not a particularly tech-savvy person. The tools available for bloggers are user-friendly and truly ‘blogging for dummies’ level.

Register Your Domain Name

Don’t try to get overly clever when choosing a name for your blog. You’re not going to go viral overnight.

Most people will find you through a Google search, so you want your domain name and your blog name to represent what your blog is about.

You can check GoDaddy if your domain name is available. If it is, you can register it there.

Choose a Web Hosting Provider

Odds are you’re going to use WordPress as your blogging platform. And you won’t be alone given that more than 455 million websites use WordPress.org.

When choosing a web hosting provider, you can choose from dozens, including HostGator that offers WordPress hosting or use WP Engine.

WP Engine is a managed hosting provider optimized for WordPress. New bloggers facing a learning curve when it comes to the back of house aspects of running theirs will appreciate a hosting provider built around their chosen blogging platform.

blogging for dummies wp engine home page

And there’s a lot of WordPress support available in and for the blogging community. Because it’s so widely used, many developers create plugins for it (including Lasso!), and designers create themes.

Look, we love a bargain, and there are free platforms out there, including WordPress.com (not WordPress.org, which is what we mean in the paragraphs above).

But there’s such a thing as a false economy, and choosing a free platform is one.

Most importantly, your blog name won’t be “yourblogname.com.” In the case of using WordPress.com, it would be “yourblogname.wordpress.com.” It looks a bit second tier, a bit downmarket, you know? That’s not the impression you want your blog to make.

Some free blogging platforms have restrictions that could limit your ability to monetize your blog. For example, WordPress.com forbids the use of image ads and has limitations on affiliate marketing and sponsored posts.

Boo to that! Just stick with a paid blogging platform.

Design Your Blog

Designing your blog can be fun. You get to express your unique personality and style! You get to brand your brand! That’s fine, have your fun. But in the beginning, stick to one of the many premade WordPress themes.

You can tinker around with something forever and still be unsatisfied, but you’re wasting time. Just get something out the door and start to build an audience. And in the beginning, when your blog is costing you money, you want it to cost as little as possible.

Once you’re making some money and have a better sense of your voice and audience, you can think about hiring a fancy designer to create your bespoke blog theme.

Give Them What They Want

You have a niche, you have a name, and you have a blog! Now, what in the hell are you going to say, and how are you going to attract readers?

Don’t Be Boring

There are many “authoritative” blogs on any number of serious, grown-up topics on the web, and I read some.

But a lot of them are boring, and take themselves too seriously. It’s a blog, not The Journal of American Medicine.

If you’re writing on a dull topic, you have to add a bit of personality to keep people interested. If you don’t, readers may stop by when they need specific information on a particular topic. Still, they aren’t stopping by every day to have a few minutes of entertainment while getting the information they need.

Use Swear Words

It sounds weird, but hear me out. You don’t just swear in front of anyone, right? (Well, some of us do, but we’re degenerates.) No, you swear in front of people you know, people you trust.

I have done this in blogs and real life, and it makes people like you. Swearing in front of someone you want to know better builds intimacy any blogger wants with their audience.

It’s like you’ve let them in on something naughty.

Now, I’m not saying litter your blogs with F-bombs or call people the C-word, but a well placed swear is a powerful tool.

And that old chestnut about people who swear having a limited vocabulary? It’s bullshit:

A 2015 study found those who have a healthy repertoire of curse words at their disposal are more likely to have a richer vocabulary than those who don’t.

See!? Science bitches.

Be Consistent

Before you launch your site, decide how often you want to post. It could be every day or once a week; be realistic. Even if your blogs are only a few hundred words long, writing good quality posts seven days a week takes a lot of time, energy, and effort.

It may be impossible, especially if you’re working a steady job.

Let your audience know your posting schedule, so they know when to come back. You can do this on your landing page, “Your weekly review of the latest rock albums!”

Or in your sign off at the bottom of posts, “See you on Friday for the latest roundup of the week’s newest movies!”

When people know when to expect more content, they keep coming back. It’s disappointing to find a blog you like only to keep coming back, looking for new content and finding none and having no idea when to expect more.

It’s true of podcasting, too, very annoying and will turn off your audience.

You can change how often you publish. If you do start making enough to quit your job and decide to blog full time, you’ll have time to create more content.

Or, if you have a baby, you may need to cut back on content. Or you might go on vacation and not want to work while you’re away and miss a week.

All of that is fine. Inform your audience of the change before it happens.

The easiest way to start and maintain consistency is to batch several content pieces before you launch your site and always have a few pieces waiting.

The unexpected happens to us all. If you get sick and can’t blog for a week, having some content in your back pocket will enable you to keep the consistency your audience wants and has come to expect from you.

Be Useful

We all have eleventy million options when it comes to spending our downtime. Podcasts, news sites, a hundred social media sites, Animal Crossing, and blogs on every subject imaginable.

If you want people to spend some of that time on your site, you must be useful. It doesn’t mean you have to teach them something profound or open their minds to new ways of thinking.

It can mean you take pretty photographs of pretty places and they like looking at them. That’s perfectly useful and an excellent way to spend time!

Your usefulness might be your sense of humor. No matter what the topic, you give them a laugh. Perfectly useful. Or it might mean you teach something beneficial, like how to start blogging!

You see what I mean. Provide value to your audience.

Interact

One of the best ways to build an audience is to interact with them. As we discussed, people have many choices regarding how they spend their time, and it’s all limited.

If someone takes their time to read your content and leave you a comment or send you a message, acknowledge it!

Unless you are Marina Ambrovavic, thousands of people aren’t lining up to be silently ignored by you.

Marina Abramovic blogging for dummies

That said, don’t feed the trolls.

I once used an abstract image of some rectangles on a personal finance article I wrote. Someone emailed to tell me it was a veiled reference to the Holocaust, which must mean I was a Nazi at worst or a Holocaust denier at best.

It was SO STUPID; it made me angry, but I ignored it because nothing can be gained from feeding a troll.

Monetizing Your Blog

Getting paid to blog is great. I’ve been doing it for seven years, about half that, full-time. It takes time to monetize a blog, but Lasso can be your secret weapon to make that money faster than you imagined.

Affiliate Marketing

There are two primary ways to make money in the blogosphere, selling something and affiliate marketing. Bloggers can sell various things; books, ebooks, merch, courses, one on one training.

But monetization through selling something requires an additional time investment on top of the time you spend running the blog. You have to write the book, design the merch, create the courses, etc.

Not all bloggers have the time or inclination to do it. Affiliate marketing is less time-consuming. It monetizes the content you’ve already created.

Simply put, affiliate marketing is when you get paid to send an existing business a customer. However, to get paid, this customer must convert into an actual sale (or whatever the business you’re an affiliate for defines as a conversion).

Affiliate Programs

The most significant affiliate marketing program is Amazon Associates. And that makes sense as millions of people shop through Amazon.

But Amazon Associates isn’t the only affiliate program.

You can find opportunities through FlexOffers, Commission Junction, Impact Radius, ClickBank, and ShareASale. Most affiliate programs have a low entry barrier.

You don’t need a ton of traffic or have existed for X amount of time to join. Sign up for as many platforms as you want and look for products or services you’d like to promote to your readers.

Choosing Affiliate Products

Yes, you’re doing this to make money, but don’t get greedy recommending products to your audience. If you’re plugging unrelated things you don’t believe in, they’ll catch on.

You may earn some quick and dirty money in the short-term, but it’ll cost you money; you broke the trust of your audience.

They will be unwilling to take recommendations from you and stop consuming your content.

What Lasso Can Do For You

Lasso is a plugin that will help you monetize your site. It allows you to manage your affiliate links in one place.

Custom Link Displays

With Lasso, you can create custom affiliate links. Readers will see a display box that includes the name of the product or service, a description, an image, and a buy button. When they know exactly where a link is taking them, they’re more likely to click on it.

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Find More Affiliate Opportunities

Lasso will create a database of all the links on your site and automatically insert your affiliate URL into an existing link. You don’t have to do it manually through WordPress.

Amazon Integration

When you add affiliate links from Amazon, Lasso automatically updates product information every 24 hours. Lasso also uncloaks Amazon links, so you don’t run afoul of its affiliate policies.

Link Alerts

Broken links cost you money. Lasso notifies you if you have a broken affiliate link or if a product you recommend is out of stock on Amazon.

Click Tracking

Lasso shows you which links on your site are the most successful by synching to Google Analytics.

Affiliate Dashboard

See all of your affiliate links and new linking opportunities at a glance.

Link Cloaking

Create vanity URLs by adding a custom permalink to all of your affiliates.

Plugin Import

Import your affiliate links from other plugins like Pretty Links, Thirsty Affiliates, and others.

Link Groups

Lasso lets you organize your affiliate links into groups and display them as a grid or a list.

You Have a Full-Time Job

I hope our blogging for dummies guide as shown you the light. Maybe you have more than one full-time job. If you’re blogging and working full-time, managing your affiliate links shouldn’t be another.

When you partner with Lasso, your links will practically take care of themselves. So you can do what you love best, create killer content for your audience.

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