How to Start a Blog and Make Money (Free Guide)

Welcome to my free guide on how to start a blog which is set out entirely below.

If you want to skip all the conceptual stuff and jump straight to website set-up video tutorials, click here.

If you want conceptual guidance on the big picture on how to start and grow a blog that makes money, keep reading.

What’s up with the castle photo above?

I love castles and palaces.

On a metaphorical note, I equate building an awesome niche site, whether a blog, narrow niche site or authority site to building a rock-solid castle.  Yeah, weak metaphor, but if anything, the photo is cool and inspiring.

If you’ve read other posts on my site, you may have noticed I feature images of scenery, cities, nature… basically stuff that doesn’t relate to making money at all.

I do this because generally, make money and business images are boring and don’t bring anything to the party.  Hence, I figure why not feature something nice to look at.

My Highest Earning Ad Network

Let’s get down to business.

Who is this guide for?

My intention for this course is to help people at any stage of the blogging process.

There’s sufficient detail for someone starting out, but I also include plenty of advanced information for people already with an established niche site.

Expectations

It is unlikely your blog will be a success overnight.  It happens, but it’s unlikely.  You will have to be patient and consistent.  It’s also a ton of work.  If you find that you aren’t excited about working on it, perhaps consider a different business model.

How long does it take to grow a successful blog that makes decent money?

Generally, it takes 2 to 5 years of consistent effort, even if you implement some of my blogging hacks.

I’ve been at this for a number of years.  I had some false starts, but I just kept hammering away and along the way had some “aha” moments that helped me grow my blogging business.  In fact, while I currently publish 8 niche sites that all together earn a very decent income, I don’t expect all of them to be a huge success.  I focus on my 3 highest earning sites leaving not much time for the 5 smaller sites so they’ll have to grow at a slower pace.

How to Set Up a Blog or Niche Website

The bad news is that setting up a blog requires some tinkering and effort if it’s your first time.

The good news is you only need to do it once.  If you launch additional sites, it’s a lot easier the second, third, fourth, etc. time.

Choosing a niche (i.e. website topic)

Find your niche photo

The first step is coming up with website topic ideas.

OR

  • You can choose a niche by what you think will make a lot of money.  Many people succeed this way and if you’re highly motivated, it can work.

Read my analysis of dozens of niches here.

Other niche selection considerations include

Broad vs. narrow:  I prefer broader niches that can cover plenty of topics.  An example is “Outdoor Life” – this is very broad.  A narrow niche would be “Back Country Camping”.  Both types of sites can work.  If you plan to monetize with ads and affiliate offers on the site, going broad works great.  If, however, you plan to focus on building an email list and marketing to that email list, typically narrower niches are better (results in a more responsive email list).

Potential traffic:  I think it’s a good idea to do some preliminary keyword research with the free SEO Book keyword research tool or if you have some funds, Ahrefs.  This will give you an idea if there’s decent traffic potential for your niche, especially if monetizing with display ads.  In order to make decent money with display ads, you will ultimately need a lot of traffic.

What is a lot of traffic?  If the main keyword in your niche gets 50,000 monthly searches, that’s a good indicator for plenty of potential traffic in the niche.  The thing is most niches, especially broader niches, have a lot of long tail keywords so the total amount of traffic can quickly climb to a couple of million monthly visits for niches with a seed keyword that has 50,000 or more monthly searches.

The second step is to get familiar with the main blogging models.  I’ll help with that below by setting out the main ways you can generate revenue from a website.

What if there’s a lot of competition in the niche?

I prefer niches with lots of competition and lots of keyword options.  Big niches means big potential traffic with decent commercial opportunities.  Yes, I consider display ads to be good commercial opportunities.

If you learn and do good keyword research and publish good content and perhaps do some good promotion (not always necessary), you can break into competitive niches.  In fact, I only operate in big, highly competitive niches.

What if there aren’t affiliate marketing opportunities?

Way too many people choose niches because they’re the usual “desperation” niches which offers plenty of affiliate marketing opportunities.  I do not care for those niches (think weight loss) because they’re boring.  At least for me they’re boring.  Most of my niches don’t have all that great of affiliate potential at all.  That’s where ad revenue comes in.  Ad revenue solves the problem.  I prefer to enjoy the topics I blog on than writing some other keyworded weight loss article.

Should you go the “Amazon Affiliate Website” route?

An Amazon affiliate website is a site geared around one product or a product line.  An example is a site on sleeping bags, tennis racquets, vacuums or power saws or waffle irons.

I don’t like this approach.  Instead, I prefer entering larger niches within which I can publish a series of articles on a product or product line.  An example would be a blog about tennis, which would include tennis news, how-to articles (and videos) and tennis equipment content.

How to make money with your site (the monetization model)

Blogging for money photo

1. Ad revenue

Do not underestimate the earning potential of display ads.

Some bloggers, especially those whose only website is a blog on how to blog will say monetizing with ads is not a good option.  I agree for those types of sites.  You don’t see ads on this site.

However, in many other niches, ads are the only and the best option.  Affiliate offers don’t perform well in many niches.  Nor does selling stuff.  Of course, you could choose a niche based on affiliate or ecommerce potential, but that’s not my style.  I prefer choosing niches based on my interests and experience.

I’m currently using this ad network and AdSense for display ads on my sites.  The two together work really well.

Add placement tips 

Here’s a shortlist of the best ad placements based on my experience:

  • Directly below the title
  • If you use a featured image at the top, directly below the featured image.
  • Above your second or third image
  • Sidebar above the fold.  I push the top ad in the sidebar down a tad with a list of 5 recent posts at the very top.
  • Sticky unit at the bottom of the sidebar.  Do NOT make an AdSense unit sticky.  That’s against their TOS.  I use this ad network to set up the sticky unit.
  • Below content. I like the AdSense in-article unit here followed by an AdSense Matched unit.
  • AdSense matched unit in the middle of the content (in addition to below content).
  • In-screen sticky unit:  this ad network offers this; it pays very, very well.  An in-screen sticky unit is a 728×90 unit that sticks to the screen in the middle of your website, even as visitors scroll down.
  • Mobile:  you definitely want to turn on an anchor ad which displays at the bottom of mobile screens.  AdSense offers this.
  • Video ad:  I strongly recommend one video ad on your site.  These earn much more per 1,000 visitors.  You can use this ad network or if you have 500,000 monthly visitors, check out this video ad provider.

After years of testing ad configurations with this service, I’ve pinned down what works best for my sites.  Once you have some traffic, you might want to do some extensive testing.

Should you pepper ads throughout your content?

Try this and then test revenue without it.  I found doing this doesn’t add all that much revenue so I don’t do it other than an AdSense in-article unit, Matched unit or link unit.  These types of ads, in my view, aren’t as ugly.

2. Affiliate revenue

This may be a new term for you.  Affiliate marketing is when merchants provide you a tracking code to use for links on your website or in an email newsletter or on a social media channel.  When a visitor clicks a link and buys something, you get a commission.

Amazon, for example, has an affiliate program.  Once your site is up and running, you can apply to Amazon to become an associate (same as an affiliate).  You’ll then be able to create affiliate links to pretty much any Amazon product.  If someone clicks a link and buys something on Amazon, you earn a percentage.

These days, there are thousands of merchants who have affiliate programs.

For example, if you start a sewing site, you can link to your favorite sewing machines on Amazon.

If you start a camping site, you can do the same for camping gear.

Amazon isn’t the only option.  There are other huge “affiliate networks” that offer affiliate opportunities with hundreds of leading merchants such as Walmart, Target, various software products… pretty much any type of product you can imagine.

I compare AdSense (display ads) to affiliate marketing here. Both have pros and cons… but at the end of the day, your niche will dictate how to best monetize.

How should you present your affiliate links to get more clicks?

There are many ways to implement affiliate links in your content.  I published a list of 12 types of affiliate links here.

3. Sell Stuff

If you make the effort to establish wholesaling deals with manufacturers or create your own product, you can sell them directly from your blog and social media channels.

You can sell info products, digital products (e.g. image licenses), software licenses, services and/or physical products.

More: 47 Ways to Monetize a Website

How to set up your blog (the technical details)

Man launching new blog on a laptop

You have many platforms on which to build your blog.

My preferred option is WordPress.org.  It’s free, but you need to pay for website hosting (which costs $5 per month or so).  WordPress.org is the most popular website platform in the world (by far).

FYI, WordPress.com offers hosted websites but I would avoid that option.  While totally free, you technically do not own the website; WordPress does.  Instead, register your own domain name and get your own low-cost hosting.  While there’s a bit of a learning curve, you’ll be happy you did because you retain control.  Moreover, you can sell your website down the road.  They sell for 10 to 50 times monthly income.  So if your site earns $200 per month, you would sell that for a lower multiple – let’s say 15 times $200 = $3,000.

Here’s a quick and easy way to go about it (this is exactly how I got started).

Step 1:  Come up with a site topic (i.e. niche).  Again, consider what you enjoy, are good at and/or know a lot about.

Step 2:  Think up and then research a domain name.  A domain name is the website address.  Fatstacksblog.com is a domain name.  You can see if a domain name is available at Godaddy.com.  A few suggested guidelines:

  • Your domain name is your site’s brand – so get something unique and brandable.
  • I would personally avoid any dashes in the domain.
  • The shorter the better.
  • Come up with something that resonates and makes sense for the topic, but don’t get a domain that’s just a keyword.  For example, if your site is about camping, a domain (hence site name) could be “Campingking.com”.  If you’re starting with a narrow niche, you might choose a domain that’s a bit broader so that in the event you wish to expand the niche topically in the future, you’re not hedged in with the keyword you choose.

Step 3:  Get Bluehost hosting and register your domain at the same time with Bluehost.  While I use Kinsta hosting now, I got started with Bluehost, which is less expensive than Kinsta.  Bluehost is a very low-cost hosting service that does a good job and makes it easy to get your WordPress site launched.  You can register a domain name (your-site-name.com) and get WordPress installed – all in a few clicks.  Bluehost offers good support and video tutorials.  It doesn’t get easier.

Step 4: Follow my video tutorials on how to set up your WordPress website:  Once your hosting and WordPress website is set up, check out my 20 free video tutorials on setting up your website’s basics.  Click here for the free video tutorials.

At this point, you have a live site.

Content

Time to publish new content on blog image

Now that I’ve covered much of the blog start-up technical details, it’s time to build and grow your site.

This is an extensive section in this online guide for good reason.  Content is important in this business.  Everything you do involves content, whether it’s publishing articles on your site or promoting your site.  All of it requires good content.

Don’t worry if you’re still trying to wrap your head around all the technical stuff.  Every website owner and blogger has been there before.  If it takes a few weeks to get the ball rolling, no sweat.

In the meantime, I want to give you some guidance on what to write so you can start thinking about that.  It’s your content that will grow your site.

Before you settle on a website topic (aka niche), I strongly recommend you check out established websites on topics you’re considering.

Visit those sites and take note of how they’re set up, the topics they cover, images, navigation, videos, how it makes money, the email newsletter process – analyze everything.

I’m not suggesting you copy other sites.

I’m suggesting that you get ideas for your site that you can make your own.

How do you find great sites?

Just go to Google.com and type in various topics.

TIP:  A great way to find sites is to search for “best X websites” or “best X blogs”.  Replace X with the topic.

  • Example:  “Best personal finance websites”
  • Example: “Best DIY websites”

What you’ll get in Google are articles that list out what they think are the best websites for that topic.

Visit those articles and then check out the various websites that are listed.

After visiting 10 to 20 established, successful websites for any topic, you’ll get some understanding on how to go about building your site.

TIP:  I research “the competition” extensively before launching any new website.  I want to see what’s working and more importantly, what’s lacking and how I can contribute to the topic via my sites.

To get you started, below I’m setting out a laundry list of different types of content and articles that are popular and published by many sites.  FYI, some of the ideas below are more relevant to certain website niches.

Coming up with article topics (keyword research)

Keyword research graphic

In my view, keyword research is a very important part of the process.  I undervalued it for years.  It’s particularly important when starting out.

While I do extensive keyword research, some very successful bloggers don’t.  These guys own several high-earning niche sites and don’t use keyword research software.

The basic concept is you should publish content that people want.  And by want, I mean search for in the search engines.  The terms/phrases people type into Google are called keywords.

Fortunately, there is software that tells you the monthly search volume for pretty much any keyword.  While the software isn’t perfect, it serves as a good guide.

Keyword research tools:

There are tons of them, but here’s a short list of what I like:

I’ve used dozens of such tools, but these days Ahrefs and Keywordshitter.com does it all for me.

There are 2 main approaches to keyword research and website promotion.  Both work, but both result in different blogging models.

1. Low competition, high content volume

Right now, my preferred approach is to find keywords with little competition so that I can rank for those terms without much or any promotion (i.e. link building, outreach, etc.).

The downside to this approach is you need to publish a lot of content to get a lot of traffic.  This requires a significant investment of time and/or money into content.

What’s considered low competition?

I  generally rely on the keyword difficulty score generated by Ahrefs.  Anything under 10 is pretty good.  Under 3 is terrific.

2. High search volume, focus on content promotion

While of focus mostly on lower competition keywords, now that my niche sites have some decent authority and lots of natural inbound links, I do target higher search volume keywords.  Generally, the more potential traffic a keyword or keyword phrase can haul into your site, the more competition there is to rank in search engines for those terms.

Usually, in order to rank for higher competition keywords, you need links.  You can get links by doing nothing.  This is my main approach.  I just wait for other sites to link to me.

Or, you can build links via guest posts, buying them (not recommended) or contact website owners and mentioning your awesome content and inquiring whether they’ll link to you.

I’m not a link builder so I don’t have much more to say on the subject.  You can Google “how to build links” or something equivalent and find tomes of articles and guides on the subject.  A good one to get started is the Ahrefs link building guide.

Read more about the benefits and distinctions of these two keyword targeting approaches here.

Can you do both methods?

Yes, in the long run as your blog grows, you will likely target both high and low competition keywords.  I do for all sites, although the lion’s share of the content I publish targets lower competition stuff.

How much monthly searches should you require?

I’ve published a lot of content that targets very low search volume.  I’m talking as low as 10 to 20 monthly searches.  The reason I do that is I know from experience that if I publish a detailed article on the topic, I’ll naturally include many other keywords.  The result is that I end up targeting many keywords, most of which have very low search volume, but altogether the search volume is pretty good.

However, most bloggers don’t take my approach.  If you want to focus on higher search volume keywords, many bloggers wouldn’t consider anything under 200 to 500 searches per month.  What’s interesting about this is because most bloggers ignore the really low search volume keywords, the competition is practically non-existent.

If you prefer a more scientific approach, read my Breakeven Approach to Keyword Research here.

Okay, so how do you actually go about executing keyword research?

That’s where my course comes in.  I set out several unique approaches that I’ve come up over the years and use for finding 100’s of fantastic keywords.  In fact, I doubt I’ll ever run out of keywords and topics using my methods.

How to build links on auto-pilot

While I don’t go out and build links, that doesn’t mean my sites don’t have links to them from other sites.  My established niche sites have hundreds, or in two cases, thousands of inbound links.  I built none of them.

Those links were acquired naturally because other blogs and websites considered various articles as a good enough reference to link to.  These are the best links because these are what Google wants to see (no risk of a search engine ranking penalty) and I didn’t have to invest time or money in acquiring them.

Over time, these thousands of links have built up my sites’ authority which makes it easier to rank new content.

How do you attract links naturally?

The key is good content, but it’s more than that.  I’ve found that incorporating media into content such as great images for visual sites and/or charts, graphs, tables and illustrations for text-based sites works well.

Other bloggers use images, charts, tables, graphs and illustrations on their site and source you.

My course has a module that steps you through how you can create custom table charts for almost any topic in almost any niche in minutes.

12 Different Types of Website Content

Woman writing a blog article on a laptop

IMPORTANT

It is imperative that you publish good content if you want traffic from the search engines.  My aim is to always thoroughly cover a topic and present the topic in a user-friendly way.  Am I the best at this?  No, but I do pretty well, which does the job.

1. Listicle

The listicle is an article that is a list of something.  An example is “10 best beaches in the world”.  Buzzfeed publishes a lot of these articles and it’s the foundation of its success.

2. How-to / Tutorials

If you know how to do something and can get photos of you doing it (and/or video), this is a terrific type of article.

3. Image galleries

I use photo galleries extensively on 2 of my niche websites.  I also publish a hairstyles site that publishes photo galleries.  This works in visual niches such as interior design, beauty, cars, tattoos, etc.

4.  News

Most niches have news you can cover.  I’m not big on publishing a news site, but it’s a viable type of content.  If you stay up-to-date in your niche, when a story breaks, you can cover it.  Some sites are “news” focused and only publish news.  I don’t run these types of sites, but it’s pretty popular.  An example is a niche site that covers a certain sport.  Most sports content is news.

5.  Product review

If you own products relevant to your niche, you can review them.  These can earn money if you provide an affiliate link to the merchant that sells them.  This is a very popular way to generate revenue from a website.  Look around your home; no doubt you own plenty of stuff you can review.

TIP:  An offshoot of the product review article is a “vs.” article, which is an article that compares 2 to 3 products.  These are very long tail in nature which I like because you can start getting a trickle of targeted traffic to your website fairly quickly.

6. Tips articles

This is a form of a listicle.  You can list out tips to achieve something.  An example would be “30 dining room design tips”.

7.  Checklists

I should do these because they can be popular and helpful, but haven’t gotten around to it.  However, you can easily create checklists for most topics.  Examples include “car buying checklist”, “moving checklist”, “spring cleaning checklist”, “house buying checklist”.

8. Interviews

Experts and other bloggers love being interviewed because it’s easy and free exposure.  What you do is put together a series of questions and then contact experts asking if they would like to be interviewed.  You can restrict it to one expert or multiple experts (usually called a round-up).

9. Personal stories

You can write about your personal experiences.  This works better in some niches such as travel where readers will be interested in your experience.

10. Best-of

You can put together the “best of” or “top 10” of pretty much anything.  If you include products, you can provide affiliate links for revenue.  But it need not be products.  It can be movies, locations, services, websites, etc.

11.  Curated content

Curated content is when you take a little bit from multiple pieces of content on the web and create a comprehensive article.  It could be “25 cleaning hacks” which could include YouTube videos (which you’re permitted to embed on your website), snippets from other bloggers, etc.  Just be sure to give attribution with a link crediting the source.  FYI, you don’t need to give attribution with embedded YouTube videos.

12. Definition articles

Some concepts are complex and so what I call “definition articles” can be a great type of content.  I’m not talking about starting a dictionary.  I’m talking about writing in-depth articles that explain more complex concepts.

Example:  What is a niche website?

That alone would make up an entire article.

13. Op-ed

Op-ed stands for opinion editorial. It’s an article where you state your opinion on an issue and set out support and opposing views.  These are fun to write because who doesn’t like to put forth an opinion?

14. Case Study

A case study deconstructs a result so that readers understand what happened to achieve a particular result.  Case studies are common on business-oriented blogs like this site.

An example would be a case study of how a blogger grew their blog to 1 million monthly visitors.  It would set out the steps taken along the way.

Case studies can be used in many niches such as weight loss, bodybuilding, business, marketing, lawsuit, addiction, dog training, etc.

You can write a case study on a result you achieved or the result another person or entity achieved.  Many bloggers do both.  If you profile another person or entitys result, you just send them a list of questions that they answer.  From that you construct the case study.

15. Round-ups

There are many forms of round-ups.  Here are a few common approaches:

Answers from a large number of “experts” to one or a few questions.  Each person’s responses are listed under their own section.  You’re no doubt familiar with these since not too long ago every blog in the “make money online” space featured these.

Another concept is to feature a large number of projects under a particular theme.  An example would be 40 Bargello Quilts by Expert Quilters.  Each featured quilter would have an image of the quilt, a brief write-up about it and a link to the full project.  Another example is showcasing a large number of recipes for a particular dish.

16. Interviews

Interview articles are answers provided by one expert on a particular topic in the niche.  You, as the blogger, reach out to experts in the space and ask if they’d like to be interviewed in written form.  If they agree, send them youu questions.  They respond with answers.  That’s your article.

Another way to do this is to verbally interview them and then get it transcribed.  Of course, you can also publish the audio version too.

17. Epic Guides

This article is an attempt at being an epic guide on how to start a blog that makes money.  The aim is to thoroughly cover a top from A to Z.  Often it links out to many additional resources on and off-site.

These articles take days to put together and usually target high search volume keywords.

Other terms used for this type of content are “cornerstone article” or “foundation article”.  It can also be treated as a niche site landing page that comprehensively covers a topic but leads visitors to other more specific articles on the site.

Don’t Forget the Bells and Whistles for your Content

One thing I do regularly with new content and old content is add what I call “content enhancers”.  I use one or some of a variety of options.

You can read my full list of 21 content enhancers here.  These are really good ways to make your content even better.

While that article is fairly popular, it’s probably the one resource I refer to the most on this site.

Whatever types of articles you publish and the topics you go after, focus on quality and consider how you to gain a competitive advantage in your niche and 29 ways to make your content better.

How to Get FREE Content for Your Niche Website

Free content graphic

When it comes to content, you can write it yourself, hire writers or writing services or use my method for getting plenty of free content.

In a nutshell, my method, which many sites use, is accepting guest posts.

I have 4 caveats about accepting guest posts:

First, the key here is to be fanatical about quality.  I reject most guest post submissions.  I only accept guest posts that I would publish as if ordering them from a content provider.

Second, I do not accept money for guest posts.  That’s essentially selling links.  I will accept money for a sponsored post where the links to the submitter’s site are nofollow.  However, if the links are dofollow, I do NOT accept money and I have very strict quality requirements.

Third, I require that the guest post target a good keyword.  Sometimes I provide a keyworded topic; other times I tell them to figure it out and to pitch me some topics/keywords.

Fourth, if you require high-quality guest posts on your site, it is a time-consuming process.  You must vet everything and there’s quite a bit of back and forth with the submitter.  It’s a tedious process, but I have many guest posts that pull in a lot of traffic… and it cost me nothing.

Fifth, the lion’s share of my content is not guest post content.

Learn more about getting free content via guest post submissions here.

My favorite sources for content

There are loads of content writing services available.  I’ve tried many of them.

My current top 4 content sources are:

  • Content Development Pros:  I order quite a bit of content from this outfit because they upload and format everything for me directly in my WordPress sites.  They also find, optimize and add images to all my content.
  • Writer Access:  When I need higher quality content from someone with industry experience, I search out writers in Writer Access.  For example, I publish a law niche blog.  I can hire lawyers at Writer Access.
  • Textun:  Good content for great prices.
  • Human Proof Designs:  I use their Premium article packs for product-oriented content such as “vs.” articles and product galleries (organized via various product themes).

Read about all the content sources I’ve used over the years here.

Many successful bloggers I know prefer hiring freelancers via writing job boards who have some expertise in the area.  This is definitely a good option if you take the time to find the right person(s).

I’ve found some services do better in some niches than others.  It may be a bit of trial and error for you to find the best content source for your website.

If you have the budget, hiring an in-house writer who writes full time for your niche is a great idea as well.  I hope to give this a shot soon.

How to Instruct Writers

A big book of instructions image

I’ve learned the hard way that the content you get from writers is in-part only as good as your instructions to them.

If you provide little or no guidance, you may likely not get what you intended.

Check out my 8-step process for ordering content here.

Following that checklist doesn’t guarantee happiness with the results.  Sometimes you’ll need to request a revision.  That’s okay.  Don’t be afraid to do so.  I don’t abuse revision policies, especially if I failed in my instructions, but if my instructions were good but the writer didn’t read them or failed to follow them or wrote badly, I request a revision.

My simple instruction template

When my article is straightforward, I use the following instruction template which is instructions for an article listing out all alternatives to something.

Thank you for picking up this order.

Please research, list and describe all viable alternatives to X.

The description should adequately explain what it does and how it’s the same, better, and worse than X.

The introduction should explain what is X. The body of the article sets out viable alternative options to X.

Please do NOT write a conclusion.

The headings (the options that are the alternatives) should be h2 format and enumerated.

Please include a link to each option you find.

Do not include pricing information.

Thanks again,

Jon

If your article is more complex, video instructions and/or an outline may be required.  I’ve crafted full page outlines for writers for long, complex articles.  This ensures they cover everything I want to be covered.

If your writers also format your content in your websites (as one of my content agenices does), I strongly recommend you send them video instructions showing them an existing article exactly how you want it formatted.

Content Formatting

You can go crazy with formatting or keep it simple.

By going crazy, I mean using a page builder such as Thrive Architect to make your content look amazing.  I do this for some SOME landing pages such as email sign up pages, but for most content, I just keep it simple and use the default WordPress visual editor.  I explain why I don’t like custom page builders here.

Important content formatting tips:

1. Use Heading tags

I recommend using a lot of headings and assign proper tags to them.

Here’s how I structure heading tags which in html look like <h2></h2> and so on.

  • Article title:  Heading 1 (most WordPress themes do this by default).
  • First main heading:  Heading 2
  • Sub-heading:  Heading 3
  • Sub-heading (b):  Heading 3
  • Sub-sub-heading (i): Heading 4
  • Sub-sub-heading (ii): Heading 4
  • Second main heading: Heading 2

And so on.

2. Use Lots of white space

Avoid long paragraphs.  Instead, split your paragraphs up into small chunks.

Also, if you have an article with lots of sections, consider inserting dividers to further break it up.

If you use a page builder, you can add all kinds of snazzy visual effects such as content boxes, tables, etc.  I reserve this for my most important content, but if you’re particular about the design of every page on your site, by all means use a page builder for every page.

3. Images

Every article I publish has at least one image so there’s a featured image.  Most articles I publish on my niche sites have multiple images.  My gallery showcases for a couple niches have many images.

Your article topic dictates whether you should have a lot of images.  If you publish a Bargello Quilt round featuring 40 examples from expert quilters, you’ll have 40+ images.

However, if you publish an op-ed or a guide like this, you don’t need many images.

I also urge you to optimize images properly and manage them correctly for your site.  I wrote an extensive article explaining exactly what I do for image management and optimization here.

Where can you get images?

Briefly, you can:

FAQ

Should you write your own content?

Yes, especially when starting out if you don’t have a budget to pay for content.  An exception to this would be if you are not a good writer.

I find it’s very helpful to write at least one article for any particular type of content so that I can use that as an example for writers I hire.

I still write content.  I write most content for Fatstacksblog.com.  I write an article here and there for my niche sites.

Do you have to be a good writer to succeed as a niche site publisher?

No, you don’t.  You can hire good writers and pay for good content.  That’s no problem and is done all the time.

For more on this, read this article on the benefits of writing your own content vs. outsourcing it.

Very good read: How to write killer articles fast (step-by-step)

How much should you pay for content?

Good content will cost you.  It does me.

Expect to budget $25 to $100 per 1,000 words for decent content.

How long should your content be?

It should be long enough to cover the topic extensively.  That may be 800 words or 5,000 words.

If you can’t get 500 words or so on a topic you might consider combining that topic with another article.  You don’t have to if super long tail or that content is combined with other media such as a photo gallery.

I publish an analysis of content length and organic search traffic for one of my niche sites here.

How often should you publish content?

In the beginning, you want to get a good number of articles on your site.  20 to 30 is a good first phase goal.

After that though, it really depends on the scope of your niche and how you want to go about getting traffic.

Here are two approaches:

1. Focus on fewer keywords and rank them fast:  One approach is to go into a narrow niche and focus on a few quality keywords.  This requires a lot less content, but chances are those are more competitive keywords so you’ll have to invest time and/or money in backlinks.  20 to 30 pages could make up the entire website.

2. Go broad and publishing lots of content:  If you prefer building a large site covering plenty of content going after lots of long tail keywords, you will publish content more frequently on an ongoing basis.  You’ll likely post frequently to social media channels as well and in time your aim is to attract natural links to your long tail articles and slowly rank for many long tail keywords which will grow your traffic.

Can you do both?

Of course.  If you have the budget, you can simultaneously try to rank for more competitive keywords and publish lots of content targeting long tail keywords.

I hope this gives you some ideas to consider as you research your new endeavor.

IMPORTANT:  Whatever you do, focus on publishing really great content.  Make it the best you can.  Always think about what readers would want and provide that to them.

On the flip side, don’t strive for perfection.  You can always go back and improve your articles.  I do that all the time.

Next…

At this point you’ve fully set up your blog by choosing a niche, setting up a blog and publishing articles.  Going forward, focus on publishing awesome content for search traffic.  If you’re in a visual niche, set up Pinterest and Instagram accounts.

Otherwise, focus on content.  If you chose to target higher search volume keywords, start promotion.

Once you get some decent traffic, test different monetization options as well as various display ad placements and networks.  You definitely want to maximize your revenue per 1,000 visitors.

I share my display ad configurations and a whole lot more than what I covered in this post in my course.

 

Fat Stacks quote from Breaking Bad by Jesse Pinkman
My Highest Earning Ad Network

What do you think? Leave a comment!

  • Nice Guy says:

    Very Nice uber long post…very Useful. But i wanted to ask since you’ve used both Ahref and Semrush, which is better for keyword research and why? Ahref doesn’t have a free trial so i can’t test it yet.

    • Jon says:

      Both Ahrefs and SEMRush are good. I’ve used both, but Ahrefs more. I like Ahrefs Keyword difficulty scoring better but all else is good.

  • Sandy says:

    Great article! Lots to consider and very well laid out. Thank you.

  • Valerie says:

    This is amazing value, a real “skyscraper” anchor post. Very useful, thank you

  • Edmund says:

    this is amazing, i’ve shared it with my content production team as a blueprint to grow, monetize and scale up my travel niche blog. Been reading all your emails for the last few years and the income reports/case studies. Thanks Jon.

    • Jon says:

      Thanks Edmund. Glad you found it helpful enough to share with your team. I have more of these coming. I’m going to create several massive guides on all aspects of blogging. The really good stuff is in my course.

  • CM Burns says:

    Dude! I was thinking about writing a similar post but this is gonna be hard to beat! Super comprehensive and actionable. Maybe I’ll just put up a blank page with a link back to this article. You should turn the part on different post types into a PDF.

    • Jon says:

      Thanks CM. Glad you like it. I was thinking of creating some form of checklist pdf. I’ll give it thought, but I’m knee deep on some more of these guides for other aspects of blogging such as Pinterest (I like Pinterest a lot), affiliate marketing, AdSense and a few more.

      The link sounds good haha. The greatest praise in blogging is a link.

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