How to become successful blogger in 2020?

In this article you will not only learn about starting a blog from scratch but also mastering the blogging craft. I have created this post with YOU in mind, especially if:
  • YOU are very new to blogging and don't know anything about this online activity.
  • YOU have a blog with good amount of information but you are poor in technological aspects.
  • YOU want to open a self-hosted blog - not on a free blogging platform.
  • YOU already maintain a blog but it is  not doing well, but you are ready to work hard to become a successful blogger.
  • YOU have a personal blog for a long time but you now want to earn money out of blogging.

First thing first: Blogging is not hard but it is also not fast!

Please note that to be successful, you do not require much knowledge of technology.
Also, don't go blindly for the confusing stuff some people advise (SEO, on page and off page optimization, AMP, schema, markup, etc): they usually show off jargon to scare you so that you buy their services.

However, you need to love your subject and have expertise on that.

You must also be ready to give time to blogging on a regular basis. Success in blogging demands time and energy - and patience: ask any successful blogger if you have doubts.

Arrangement of this long article

This article is long because it is meant to guide you step by step and to explain why some things work and some not. So, this is in fact a big book on blogging with many chapters.
You can jump to these chapters and come back where you left, by clicking on links at the bottom of each chapter.

Go to Chapter 1 if you want to open a blog but have little knowledge about blogging.
Go to Chapter 2 if you have expertise on the subject you love, but you are poor in web technology.
Go to Chapter 3 if you want to open a self-hosted blog.
Go to Chapter 4 if you have a personal blog but now you want to do blogging for money.
Go to Chapter 5 if your present blog is not doing well despite your best efforts.

hot to start a blog that becomes successful


CHAPTER 1

I want to start blogging but don't know much about it.


Before moving any further, let me assure you that you do not need any technical skills or someone's assistance for opening a blog.

I would suggest that you open a blog on Blogger. This is a free blogging platform. Blogger is also very simple to learn and so I recommend this platform for opening a new blog. In this article, I have given steps on how to open a blog and improve its looks within just a few minutes. But read that article carefully and do not be in a hurry - that will help you understand the basics of blogging.

Once you know how to create a simple blog, experiment with it. On Blogger itself, you can open more blogs to see which design or style works the best for you.

There is another good platform, Wordpress, for such experimentation with starting a blog. Once you are comfortable with blogging on Blogger platform, open an account on Wordpress and make a blog there. The options are similar to Blogger but may work slightly differently. Experiment on Wordpress also with 2-3 blogs. If you like this one better than Blogger, go for it.

There are other popular platforms, e.g. Tumblr and Medium. If you just want to give information or advice on the subject of your choice but are not interested in giving your blog a special look or making money out of it, I would suggest Medium. It is simple and without fuss - a great place for writers and readers.

Once you have made up your mind, stick to the platform and stick to only one blog.

Once you are comfortable with basics of blogging, visit other chapters of this article and the links given here and there. These will take you to the next steps: how to make the blog visible on search engines, how to bring traffic to the blog, how to make money from blogging, etc.

Jump back: how to start a blog.
 



CHAPTER 2

I have a blog with lots of information but I don't know web technology.


Don't worry at all! As a blogger, you should become master of the subject, not of technology.

When you open a blog just for keeping information in it, you need not bother about technology. If you feel like applying a new background color, adding some widgets sand doing search optimization (SEO) yourself and your blog is on a free blogging platform (Blogger or Wordpress), let me assure you that these platforms have enough screen-based options for these little tasks. You can learn some tasks easily by clicking on the menu items in the blog dashboard. If you get confused, I have posted articles on starting and maintaining blogs here and you can make use of them  (Click on 'blogging' in the right sidebar).

If you're thinking of starting a blog for a more serious purpose (e.g. earning from it or for professional works), you must look at the blog as a business or self-employment. For such professional blogging, knowing technology helps in doing additional tasks. If that is your goal, I will advise you to open the blog on Wordpress CMS rather than free Blogger, Wordpress or Medium platforms. (If you are very new to blogging, start with what I have recommended in Chapter I above and then come back.)

In all cases (free or self-hosted blog), you will need to learn some techniques (not the coding/ technology behind them) for introducing important feature on the blog. These are no more difficult than sending a location map or taking a photo on your mobile phone. If you do not know them, you feel helpless at times, isn't it? Now that you have started blogging, it will help you greatly if you quickly learn such techniques within the blogging platform or website-builder that you use.

You will need to learn additional techniques for web hosting, registering domain name, web security etc in case you decide to open an independent blog (more on it in the next Chapter).

Then there are some blogging actions that need a some knowledge of HTML, but not too much. On some Wordpress themes/ plugins, even these are menu-based and do not require any knowledge of a web language. Some examples of such blog-features are:

  • Headline tags: these help in highlighting keywords.
  • Alt attributes on images: the ALT text makes images visible to search engines, otherwise search engines find it difficult to know the subject of images.
  • Rich cards: these help the blog comes high on search results when people search for local products/ services.

A somewhat higher knowledge of HTML and CSS (a language that is used for adding styles on web pages) is needed if you want to play with base code of the website. If you want to learn a bit of HTML and CSS, there are great tutorials on the web. I found this one very easy to understand.

Options if you are a technology-averse blogger


If you want to keep your blog modern in terms of technology and features but fear/ hate technology, you need not learn technology at all! Yes, you can succeed as a blogger without knowing even a bit of technology. These are the options before you:

* If you've created your blog blog jsut for hobby, don't bother about tech.

* If you want to maintain your blog professionally.

  • Either learn technology bit by bit. You can decide to learn HTML and CSS if your blog is on Blogger. If your blog is on Wordpress, a bit knowledge of PHP helps in sprucing up blogs there. There are many tutorials on the web on these web languages.
  • Or learn technology like a pro. You can join a course on web technology, either online or in a technology institution. Basic web technology is not difficult and even a matriculate can learn enough of it with some practice. 
  • Or hire a specialist. If you want someone to design a blog, you will need the services of a web developer. He will also set up the blog and help with domain name registration and web hosting. For search engine optimization, you might think of hiring an SEO expert - but that is optional, as this article on SEO would show you.  
Jump to the beginning: blogging basics.
 


CHAPTER 3

I want to open a self-hosted blog, not one on a free blogging platform.


When the blogger creates a blog, buys a name for the blog and places it as an independent property on the web (not on a free blogging platform), it is called 'self-hosted' blog.

Advantages of self-hosted blogs compared to blogs on free blogging platforms


Free blogging platforms put a number of limitations on the blog. While Blogger is generous, The free plan of Wordpress has many more limitations. Tumbler is even more restrictive, and Medium does not allow any design change. On Blogger, you cannot have unlimited bandwidth or storage space, and you cannot do ecommerce through it though you can put advertisements. On others, you cannot even put advertisements.

On a self-hosted blog, you pay for all resources and therefore you are the boss: you can do whatever you like with the blog in terms of design, content, putting advertisements etc. The limits placed by free blogging platforms do not apply to you.

If you want to create a professional blog and want to earn money from blogging, do not go for a free blog except for experimenting. If you already maintain a free blog, migrate it to a self-hosted blog.

Steps in hosting a blog/ website


You may want to start the blog directly as a self-hosted blog or you might have already created a blog on a free blogging platform and now want to make it self-hosted. Let us handle both the situations separately.

A. Creating a new self-hosted blog


For a new blog (or any other website) to work on the web, you need to (i) get a name (domain name) for the blog so that it can be identified, (ii) place the blog on some computer connected with internet all the time (called 'host'ing of blog/ website) and (iii) create the blog, beautify it and add content to it. There are hundreds of technological actions that are done in the background but you need not bother about them.

For getting a name and hosting the blog, you need the services of a blog hosting service. Blog hosts usually give a complimentary domain name or you can separately buy the domain name from a different domain name registrar.

Bluehost, Godaddy and HostGator are some of the biggest web hosts. GoDaddy is one of the biggest domain name registrars. They have many hosting plans ranging from a few bucks  to many thousand dollars a year depending upon the resources they provide. You can buy a small plan initially and scale it up if your business grows and you need more resources.

You must give the blog a befitting name. The name should be small, memorable, relevant to the subject of the blog. If you want to brand yourself through the blog, you can give it a name that reflects your identity. The name is to be given to the web hosting during the hosting process.

Generally these actions do not need a technical help. If you get stuck during hosting process, the host will help you on chat/ phone/ email. But if you are technology-averse, you can take services of a techie.

Remember that hosting as well as keeping the domain name has to be perpetual and you need to pay fee to the service provider year after year.

Once the blog is hosted and has a name, the real job is in designing the blog well. For creating/ designing the blog, I strongly recommend Wordpress, though there are many website builders or blog making suites available. All the web hosts named above have separate sections for 'Wordpress hosting' customised for Wordpress. Wordpress has all the tools for designing a feature-rich blog/ website. There are many free resources (themes, plugins), and hundreds of experts are available on the Wordpress forums all the time to help you with an issue or guide you on some feature.

B. Shifting from a free blog to a self-hosted blog


If you already have a blog on Blogger/ Wordpress, you can easily shift that blog to a self-hosted Wordpress blog. You need to go to 'settings' menu of the existing blog, export the blog contents as an XML file and then import this file to the new blog.

Keep in mind that the content of the old blog consists of many content pages, media, styles, etc. The text content is generally transferred without much problem, but its formatting and styling, image placement, comments and other elements get disturbed. So, you must check each post/ page individually before publishing them on the new blog.

Back to the beginning of chapter 1, on blogging first time.
 


CHAPTER 4

I have a personal blog for a long time but I now want to earn money out of blogging.


The first thing you should do is to decide the subject of your blog. Personal blogs usually are either limited by content (e.g. a poetry blog, a personal literary blog) or cover all things under the earth (e.g. in the same blog, one can write about his hobbies, experiences, and social and political thoughts). Blogs for money earning have to be focused on a subject.

Not all subjects are well-paying. For some years, blogs on finance, travel, food, beauty & fashion, and lifestyle are reported to be generating good income for bloggers.

But you should not decide on the subject based only on their earning potential. You must be passionate about the subject and have expertise on it - otherwise you will get exhausted soon.

As said in the above chapter, one of the thing you must do - when you want to earn money from blogging - is to make the blog a self-hosted blog.

I recommend Wordpress as the website designing tool. Among web hosting services, I have seen many comparisons in which Bluehost was found the best among web hosts. I suggest that you make your decisions after comparing different web hosting plans offered by web hosting companies in your country.

Write quality stuff. Stuff that is well-researched. Information that people are looking for. Advice that can help people. This all needs a lot of research into the subject of the blog. You must also keep improving your expertise as you go along. You must update yourself about new developments in that field.

Do all the necessary promotion and search optimization. However good the blog, you cannot make money if people do not visit your blog. Moreover, you need people who are interested in your subject, not all types of people. You must, therefore, identify the type of visitors you want: students? people wanting to paint their house? people suffering from diabetes? those interested in cheap travel? Find ways to meet people interested in the subject or at least interact with them online. Promote yourself on social media. Be present on web spaces frequented by your visitors. Send link on email or chat apps to interested people. And so on.

Search engine optimization or SEO is a must for blogs created for making money, because despite social media bringing a lot of traffic, search remains a major source of relevant traffic for blogs. You can visit this article if you want to see a list of SEO actions that should be taken/ avoided.

Finally, out of the many ways to monetize the blog, choose the best - those working for your type of blog. Some of these could be:
  • PPC advertisements (e.g. AdSense)
  • Affiliate advertisements (e.g. through ClickBank, CJ)
  • Direct advertisements (= when you get ads directly from a business)
  • Reviews (e.g. reviews of restaurants/ hotels, baby products, music, books) 
  • Paid posts (=when you write posts at a price or after being taken on a guided tour)
  • Using the blog as the base for getting offers (e.g. speaking classes)
  • Selling services and products through the blog (e.g. online courses, ebooks, merchandise)
Successful bloggers in different fields have shared that just blogging does not pay enough, and the blogger needs to tap more than one earning stream (for example, PPC ads and paid posts). It is also seen that all monetization methods do not suit all subjects and all regions. So, the blogger needs to look at the demand (local, in a  broad area or global) for products/ services linked with the blog's subject. For example, a fashion blog may earn very well when it is in English and focuses on New York, but may not earn at all when it is in a local language focuses on a small town in India.

If you are not earning well from the blog even after years of blogging, you might be doing it all the wrong way. Check whether your blog suffers from one or more issues given in the next chapter.

CHAPTER 5

What should I do - my blog is not doing well though I work hard?


You will already know that a blog's success depends on dozens of factors. When a blog does not succeed, that usually happens because the blogger has ignored one or the other area - or many areas. When a blog does not work well despite the blogger's best efforts, there could be something more deep.

I will suggest that you look at your blog closely and see if one or more of the following issues are pulling it down. Note that your diagnosis may not be perfect; you should diagnose the reason, take corrective action, measure the change... and if the blog still does not work well, you will have to again look at the list. The process must go on till you have found the right answers to your problems.

A. Content issues:
  • Low-quality articles, with poor language or grammatical mistakes. 
  • Very small articles. 
  • Articles not well-researched. 
  • Articles without useful advice or information.
  • Wrong information. Content copy-pasted from other websites.
  • Articles good but no good heading and sub-headings, Bad formatting. Long paragraphs. 
B. Design issues:
  • A poor design that is not appealing.
  • Too small or unreadable text.
  • Too childish design.
  • Poor navigation.
C. Traffic/ engagement related issues:
  • No search engine optimization (SEO) or faulty SEO or undesirable SEO.
  • Not on social networks or not using social media entities properly. 
  • Not engaging with commenters on the blog and other social media accounts.
  • Not promoting the blog at all among people interested in the blog's subject. 
  • Too much self-promotion that irritates and puts off visitors.
D. Improper monetization:
  • Not using different ways of money-making and depending solely on just advertisements.
  • Too many or too few advertisements.
  • Advertisements not placed in proper places.
  • Improper advertisements, unrelated advertisements.
  • Taken wrong action and so the blog has been penalized. Such actions include clicking on ads on one's own blog, asking visitors to click on ads, putting advertisements in a way that fools visitors.
E. Other issues:
  • Blog being on a free platform. That can result in low level of search optimization, low reputation and consequent low traffic/ no money. 
  • Low frequency of updation.
  • No internal links with other resources on the blog.

Jump to chapter I: Start blogging.

If you want to help other new bloggers by clearing their doubts and giving them ideas on how to succeed as a blogger, think of tweeting this post:  

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