How to start a blog and make money from it in 2019

Blogging in 2019 is not what it was in 2006 or even in 2012. Earlier, most people started a blog because it was the only (or the main) medium for socialization on the web. Now that role has been taken up by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.  Bloggers earlier used to do blogging mostly for expressing themselves. Now a big section of bloggers open blogs for professional purposes: (i) to create a strong personal or business brand or (ii) to make money out of blogging. 

How to start a blog and make money - in 2019 

The present post will concentrate on professional blogging, especially blogging with the aim of making money. For the sake of ease and clarity, I give below a quick intro to blogging. This is basically meant for friends who are not fully aware about how blogging happens. More knowledgeable visitors may like to go straight to the next section that deals with the actual nitty-gritty of making a professional blog.

The basics of creation of a blog

* A blog is a website of a special type, and it consists of some code and resources (e.g. text, images and videos) that are served to people who visit it. 
* So, the first thing we need to do for creating the blog, or the blogging website, is to decide (i) on what subject the blog should be and (ii) how it should look. There are many website creation tools available on the web - and you need to choose one of them. 
All website creation tools are simple and intuitive, and most bloggers can create blogs by themselves. If you cannot create the blog yourself, you need to hire an expert for that. 
* The blog must have an appealing design so that you can put the blog's title prominently, and put other elements the way you like. That is not done from scratch but there are  THEMEs already available on the web. You can  apply a free theme available on a blogging platform or elsewhere, or buy a theme. 
* The blog creation tools and themes are free when you open your blog on a free blogging platform. But as it happens with any free offering, there are limitations of designs and functions. 
Professional blogs should be created using a proper blogging/ website-creation software and should have a professional looking theme. 
* In addition, the blog needs to be placed somewhere on the world wide web so that it is available to people who want to visit it. This action is called WEB HOSTING  of the blog. 
Free blogging platforms provide free web hosting, but you need to buy space and have associated software if you want to make a professional blog. This is because blogs hosted on free platforms have many limitations. 
You need to pay to the web hosting company for hosting your blog on the www, if your blog is not on a free platform. 
* Well, even if the blog is ready and hosted somewhere on the www, how do people recognize it? For that, you need to give a name to the blog. 
There is a set system according to which websites are named (called domain naming system) so that each website (or blog) has a unique DOMAIN NAME
Free blogging platforms give you a blog name for free but your blog looks like a subordinate entity under that platform. Therefore, professional blogs should have independent domain name. 
To register your blog's name, you need to apply to a domain name registrar. Getting a domain name and maintaining it year after year also costs annual fees. 
* A professional blog must have features for attracting traffic, visitors' interaction, social sharing of posts, etc. If you want to sell products or services from the blog, you also need to have provisions to accept payment. Such functions can come only when you apply special features on the blog, and you either need technical know-how or you should be prepared to hire an expert for that. 

*** To sum up, you should have a feature-rich and professional looking blog if you want to build a brand around it and make money from it. For this, you must have
  • a blog designed using standard blogging software and/or using a good theme - with good features
  • a good web host
  • a good domain name
Web hosting and holding the domain name have annual fees that are essential. Designing the blog (and purchasing a theme, but this is  optional) may also need one-time investment in case you are not confident of doing the work on your own.  

In the lower section, we discuss the best practices relating to blog design, web hosting and domain naming.

Best practices for blog creation and maintenance

Let me answer some frequently asked questions from bloggers:

Which blog creation software is best for creating blogs?

It is reported that Wordpress is used by over 30% of the websites, including blogs, the world over. We also recommend it over other website and blog creation software.  However, if you intend to make a blog that looks more like a standard website, we'd recommend Google Sites.

How to choose the right web host?

There are many web hosting companies, some of global size and some local. Some small companies and individuals buy plans from big companies, divide them in small packets and sell them at cheap rates to small businesses and bloggers (= re-selling). 
I would recommend that you go for local units of big brands such as Bluehost, HostGator and SiteGround (and choose local companies only when these big hosts are not available in your country). Do not go for re-seller plans. 
There are numerous types of web hosting plans. Go for cloud-based, shared hosting (VPS) plans out of all available plans of the host. These will be cost-effective and will have reasonably good service. 

How to choose the best theme or design for the blog?

Wordpress has many themes in-built. You can browse the web for available premium themes. If you like a premium  theme much more than the free themes available, you can go for that. 
Apply a theme that looks clean and in which different resources of the blog (e.g. different categories, archives) can be accessed easily. The theme should not be too heavy to load. It should be SEO-optimized and should have social-sharing buttons. Do not go for unusual themes and those with built-in animations. 
There are free themes that go with blogs on free blogging platforms. You can also choose to apply a premium theme on a free blog. 

How to choose the right domain name for website/ blog?

A website's domain name is  its permanent address. You can change the theme, re-design the blog and change the host, yet visitors will find your blog with the same web address.  But if you change the domain name of the blog, you will have to change links to the blog wherever you have shared them and there will be many more issues. Therefore, choose the domain name with a lot of consideration. 
There are many domain name registrars, e.g. GoDaddy. Your web host itself might also be a domain name registrar and may offer a free domain bundled with web hosting offer.  When you look for a domain name, the registrar suggests available options. 
Choose a name that can relate with the subject of the blog or with your name. Do not make it too difficult to type. .com is the most used suffix, but you can choose any other suffix that suits the blog. 
Do not choose a name or suffix that would misguide the visitors.

Why not to go for free blogging platform for a professional blog?

You can always open a free blog on Wordpress or Blogger and then upgrade the blog to a professional blog. However, it is neat and hassle-free to create the blog on a paid platform. There are many other free blogging platforms but they do not allow upgradation.
Some of the limitations of free blogging platforms that pinch when you want a professional blog are:
  • Limited disk-space and resources.
  • Risk of blog being knocked down if its content violates the platform's policies.
  • Wordpress asks for money for any upgradation. 
  • Free platforms do not generally allow posting advertisements (except Blogger).
  • Free platforms usually do not allow much tinkering with the core code. Blogger allows it to a certain extent.
  • Blog's domain name is subsidiary of the platform's domain. (However, you can buy an independent domain name and map that to the free blog, but most of the platforms charge for that.)

Do I need to apply SEO and buy analytical tools for traffic and site performance?

A bit of search engine optimizatin (SEO) and some monitoring of the performance of the blog is essential for success. However, you need not spend too much time or money on such activities. Most of SEO actions are common-sensical and can be taken care with minimal effort. 
Do not apply 'black-hat' or unethical SEO. Not at all! For finding the best keywords on which to write, checking search performance of the blog, finding how your competitors are doing and other SEO actions, you need not buy expensive tools. The following are some of the free and useful tools that suffice a blogger's needs:

How well does social media engagement help in getting traffic and convincing people to click/ buy?

A bit of social media engagement is necessary, much like SEO. You must engage with others on some of the main social networks. You must also put social sharing buttons at the bottom or top of every post and prominently on the blog. 
How much you should engage, how many posts you should publish on social media or which social networking platform you should use depend upon many factors. Your product or area of activity is one important factor; if you are into fashion, beauty, travel etc you must be active on Instagram and Pinterest; if you want to build a professional brand around your name, you should be active on LinkedIn; and so on.  
Do not spend too much time and don't be on too many social media platforms. Start with the main ones, e.g. Facebook and Twitter. Then, if a platform is wasting your time without much gain, analyse the reasons. If that platform does not suit you, quit that.

Should I promote my blog, and how?

If you are serious about your blog, you must keep promoting it on the web and also offline, in different ways, e.g. by emailing new posts to subscribers, discussing a related topic on others' blogs or forums, cross-posting blog posts on social media, etc.
Do not forget to occasionally promote the blog around an activity, e.g. by giving away a free ebook or something else, emailing expert bloggers or companies in your field when you publish an exceptionally important post, doing surveys in your field, and so on. 


How to earn from blogging in 2019
You can think of paid promotion also. Issuing advertisements through Google Ads and by issuing ads on Facebook and Twitter are reported to be quite cost-effective. But do not commit too much money in one go. Experiment with targeting ads to your potential audience/ customers. Use their customization tools for best targeting. 

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