One question I receive over and over again is exactly what I’ve done to build a successful blog.
I love sharing this information, but I also want to remind you before we begin that everyone has a different starting place and path to success. Plus, we all have different versions of what success means to us.
Starting a blog, no matter what direction you want to take it, is a lot of hard work! Still, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I started Making Sense of Cents entirely as a hobby, and I had no idea that blogs could make money or that this could turn into my full-time job. I actually didn’t even understand what a blog was or how it worked.
Eventually, I learned that you could make money blogging, and because it sounded like a fun way to make extra money, I tried my hardest to make it happen.
The more time I spent on my blog, the more I wanted to pursue making money with it. But honestly, I never had plans of it turning into my full-time career.
When I started, I was simply looking for something to help me pay off my student loans and stop living paycheck to paycheck.
I came to realize that blogging was exactly what I wanted to do with my life and that it was possible for me to make a full-time income from it.
As soon as I committed to working as hard at my blog as I did my full-time job, everything just grew crazily from there!
I have now earned over $5,000,000 blogging over the years, which still seems so unimaginable to me. I never would have expected this for myself all those years ago.
Blogging has allowed my husband and me to leave our day jobs, travel full-time, see family and friends more often, meet great people, and live a satisfying life.
Because blogging has had such a positive impact on my life, I want to share the 10 best things I’ve done to grow my blog to where it is today.
I’ve taken courses, learned from other bloggers, and experienced a lot of trial and error to get to where I am today. I am definitely not perfect (and nowhere near close to being the perfect or best blogger), but I have learned a lot over the years.
With today’s tips and advice, I hope that you can gain some knowledge about how to build a successful blog for yourself.
Related content: Best Blogging Courses & Resources That Helped Me Make $100,000+
Here are the 10 best things I did to build a successful blog.
How To Start A Blog Free Course
Before we go any further, if you don’t have a blog, then I recommend starting off with my free blogging course How To Start A Blog FREE Course.
Below is what you will learn in my free How To Start A Blog course:
- Day 1: The reasons you should build a blog
- Day 2: How to decide what topic to write about
- Day 3: The easy step-by-step tutorial to start a blog
- Day 4: How to make money with your blog
- Day 5: My tips on how to make passive income blogging
- Day 6: The ways to attract readers and grow your page views
- Day 7: Other blogging tips that will help you be successful
This free course is delivered directly to your email inbox. You can sign up for free with the form below.
Now let’s get started!
1. I switched to self-hosted WordPress and bought a domain name
I know that as a person new to blogging, hearing “self-hosted blog and owning your domain name” probably sounds like a foreign language, but I promise to explain it to you in a minute.
For almost my full first year of blogging, I didn’t own my domain name or have a self-hosted site.
This was a huge mistake.
Not being self-hosted or having a domain name meant that I had no control over my blog. At that time, Google was regularly shutting down blogs like that for no reason at all.
And then it happened to me. My blog was accidentally turned off by Google. Yes, turned off! Luckily, I was able to beg for it back after I pointed out their glitch, but I knew I didn’t want it to happen again.
Once it was back up, I switched to self-hosted WordPress as quickly as I could.
I highly recommend that you start a self-hosted blog and own your blog’s domain name if you want to make money with your blog.
Luckily, neither of these things are difficult or cost much money.
I show you exactly how to start a self-hosted blog and purchase your domain name in my tutorial How To Start A WordPress Blog On Bluehost. Thankfully, it is extremely affordable to do it this way, and once you complete these easy steps – you are done!
I recommend that you start on self-hosted WordPress (this tutorial will help you start your blog the correct way). I cannot say this enough, but I do not recommend Blogger or WordPress.com if you want to start a blogging business (you want the self-hosted version, which is WordPress.org – confusing, I know). Buying that $10 domain name from Blogger or GoDaddy does not mean you are self-hosted either.
To recap, the positives of being self-hosted and owning your domain include:
- You will have complete control over your blog.
- You own your blog, and it can’t be deleted for any reason.
- You have many different options when it comes to tools and plugins that you can use to grow your blog.
- You will own your domain name, which is something you definitely need!
2. I started an email list
I waited years to start an email list, and I still can’t believe that I waited so long and wasted so much time.
I think I was simply overwhelmed with the thought of starting one because it seemed too difficult. I was already busy with work and side hustles, and I felt like there was too much to learn to get started with an email list.
Little did I know that starting my list early would have helped me make more money and be less stressed.
When I finally jumped in, starting an email list wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought.
I use Convertkit and have been for many years now. They have a free plan to get you started if you are new to blogging.
Once I started my email list, I was able to grow my blog in terms of both income as well as readership. This is because I am able to help my readers even more by sharing additional resources, and I can attract new readers with lead magnets and opt-in forms on my blog.
To have a successful blog, I highly recommend that you have an email list. Whether you are brand new or if you’ve been blogging for years, an email list is a must for pretty much any blogger or business owner.
Here is why I think you need an email list right away:
- Your newsletter is all yours. With social media, unfortunately, you don’t have complete control over what’s going on. But with an email list, you have control and your readers’ undivided attention! You don’t have to worry about algorithms not displaying your content to readers, and this is because they are your email subscribers. You aren’t fighting with anyone else to have them see your content.
- You can earn an income with your email list. I believe that email newsletters are the best way to promote products and services. Your email subscribers signed up to hear what you have to write about, so you clearly have their full attention. Your email list, over any other promotional strategy, will almost always lead to more income and sales. In fact, research has shown that for every $1 you spend on your list, you can have a $36 return on that investment.
- Your email subscribers are loyal to you. If someone is allowing you to show up in their inbox whenever you want, then they probably trust what you have to say and enjoy listening to you.
- Email is a great way to deliver other forms of content. With Convertkit, I am also able to easily create free email courses and resources that are automatically sent to my subscribers. Once a reader signs up, Convertkit sends out all the information they need in whatever time frame I choose to deliver the content.
3. I added affiliate marketing to my blog
I waited a few years to start affiliate marketing because I thought you had to have a huge following or be lucky in order to make money blogging with affiliate marketing.
But, I was completely wrong.
I earn most of my monthly income with affiliate marketing, and it’s also my favorite way to monetize a blog.
I enjoy affiliate marketing because it is quite easy to share products and services on your blog. After all, you are already writing about different subjects related to your topic, so I’m sure you’re writing about products and services that will naturally fit with your blog’s niche.
Plus, affiliate marketing can be a somewhat passive income source because you can create a blog post and possibly earn money from that same blog post for years. In fact, there are many blog posts that still earn me income over 5 years later. See, even though a blog post may be older, I am still constantly driving traffic to it and readers are still purchasing through the affiliate links in that article.
So, what is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a blog monetization method where you share a link to a product or service with your readers and earn income when followers make a purchase through your special link.
You might earn a percentage of the sale or a flat rate for each person who signs up or makes a purchase through your affiliate link.
Here are some quick tips so that you can make affiliate income on your blog:
- Write about your real opinion on products and companies. You should always be honest with your reviews. If there is something you don’t like about a product, either don’t be an affiliate for the company or do mention the negatives in your review. Whenever I write a review or talk about a product, I try to do research on negative reviews to see what real users think.
- Ask for a raise. If you are doing well with a particular affiliate program, ask for a commission increase.
- Build a relationship with your affiliate manager. Your affiliate manager can give your readers valuable coupons, increase your commissions, offer bonuses, and more.
- Don’t go overboard. There is no need to include an affiliate link 100 times in your content. You can simply include your affiliate links at the beginning, middle, and end, and readers will notice them. Perhaps bold it or find another way for it to stand out as well, like with a call-to-action box.
You can learn more about affiliate marketing strategies in my course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
4. I write content well in advance
When I first started this blog, I was writing content and publishing it either the same day or the next day.
It was so stressful writing and publishing blog posts this way.
It was tiring because I knew I had to publish content to grow my blog, but it was exhausting writing a post every single day.
Eventually, I remembered reading about a blogger who said that she liked to be around 6 months or more ahead in content.
Ever since then, I have always strived to be around 1-2 months ahead of schedule. Currently, I am several months ahead in content and it feels amazing! I’ve also reduced the number of posts I publish each week so I can keep up with a realistic schedule that works for me – this has also helped me get ahead.
There are many benefits to writing content in advance, such as:
- Not feeling like you’re running out of blog post ideas.
- No rushing the day or week before to try and figure out something good to write about.
- You only have to write when you’re in the mood to write. When I’m in the writing mood, I write much faster and enjoy the writing process.
- Having a huge amount of content written and done, of course!
I tend to batch write content, which means I may write a lot of content one week, and then I can go several weeks or even months without writing anything.
This way, I can focus on other areas of my blogging business and have a better work-life balance.
5. I write about topics that I’m interested in
Whenever I write something on Making Sense of Cents, I always make sure that I am interested in the topic. After all, if I’m not interested in it, then my readers probably aren’t either.
While this seems like an obvious thing to do, I know of quite a few bloggers that do not enjoy what they are writing about.
This just sounds like writing and blogging would feel like a chore.
Instead, I try to keep things interesting because it makes what I do even more enjoyable.
Plus, the blog posts that you write and share with your audience are very important to running a successful blog. Your blog posts are what attract readers to your website, have them subscribe to your newsletter, and bring in income.
Here is my advice on how to write high-quality and interesting blog posts:
- Find a topic to write about. Figure out exactly what it is that you’d like to write about and why you think the content is important. Being passionate about a subject will give you the motivation to write content that people will want to read. Just think about it: If you don’t enjoy writing your content, then why should you expect someone else to want to read it?
- Ask your audience what they want you to write about. I receive many questions from readers, and I often like to turn them into full blog posts. I do this because it’s usually difficult to answer a question in a short email. Plus, if one person has the question, then there are probably many others who want to ask the same thing.
- Spend time researching your posts. If a topic that you are writing about needs to be researched, make sure you are thorough. This may include looking up statistics, researching the topic from reputable sources, and more.
- Be personal. For blogs where you are sharing your personal story, then be personal! Share your story and write like a real person talking to a friend.
- Write longer content that is helpful. Sure, some great content may only be a few hundred words, but to be as helpful as possible, long content is usually the best. That’s because you can be much more thorough in how you discuss a topic. The blog posts that I write are usually over 2,000 words, and this article is over 4,500 words. Now, you don’t want to just write a lot of fluff content in order to get more words in – you want to actually be helpful!
- Proofread and reread your blog posts before you publish them. I used to read my blog posts 10 times or more before I would publish them. Thankfully, now I have an editor. I simply email my blog posts to her, and I no longer drive myself crazy with editing, haha.
- Keep a list of topics to write about. This one is especially helpful for me. I have a very long list on my laptop of things that I would like to write about. This way, I can choose what is best for me that day and always have content ideas.
The point is that you have to write good, thoughtful content that you’re excited to share with your readers.
6. I enjoy talking to readers and helping them
I have been blogging for many years, and one of the things I enjoy so much about blogging is helping my readers.
I like responding to comments, messages, and emails, and helping readers as much as I can.
I believe this has helped me over the years because it keeps me motivated to write helpful content, engage with readers, be more personable, and more.
Blogging can be so personal, and I share a lot of my life with my readers. So it’s only natural that I’d want to get to know and help them on a personal level.
7. I am always learning
Blogging is a never ending learning process.
And, in this section, I’m talking about learning how to grow your blog by either taking courses or learning more through different types of resources. I also can’t forget learning through trial and error.
I have learned a LOT over the years through trial and error, and while it may take a little longer, I do think that it is a great way to start for anyone on a budget.
Blogging is constantly evolving, and things are always changing. What I was doing 10 years ago when I started this blog most likely wouldn’t help me today.
The way you share your blog, SEO, writing content, plugins, and so much more have all changed over the years. You might try a strategy that works for another blogger and find it doesn’t work for you. That will eventually lead you to something that does work, but it would never happen if you weren’t willing to try and possibly fail.
If you’re looking for strategies to try, there are so many resources online – other blog posts, courses, podcasts, ebooks, and more. I am constantly paying attention to what’s out there and learning more because that’s how I’ve been successful so far.
Blogging is one business where you have to be ready to try new things. As I said, it’s constantly evolving, and that’s what keeps it excited, but you have to be willing to learn.
8. I see the value in making connections and helping others
Networking and making friends with other bloggers is so very helpful.
Networking as a blogger can mean something like:
- Attending blogging conferences and meetups
- Sharing other blogger’s content on social media
- Commenting on other blogger’s content and social media posts
- Making friends with bloggers
Some bloggers don’t do any of these things and see other bloggers only as competition. I don’t believe this is the correct way to approach blogging, and you can hold yourself back if you approach it like that.
Networking is important because it can help you enjoy blogging (friends are nice to have, right?!), you can learn new things about blogging from your network (such as how to make money blogging and how to grow a blog), make valuable connections, and more.
If it weren’t for networking, I never would have made my first $100 blogging. I actually made my first dollars blogging because another blogger introduced me to an advertiser who then placed an advertisement on Making Sense of Cents. If I never would have had her as a friend, I never would have had this connection!
I have learned a lot about blogging from the blogging community, and it has helped me improve Making Sense of Cents greatly.
9. I put in the time
Sadly, there are some people who don’t fully understand blogging, create a blog, and then are upset when they don’t see a bunch of money roll in after their first week.
In fact, the average new blogger will quit only 6 months in because they’re not seeing the results that they want.
However, 6 months is nowhere near enough time to build a successful blog.
It is, however, enough time to build the foundation for a successful blog.
It actually took me 6 months to make my first $100. If I would have quit back then, that would have been a huge mistake for me.
I have spent many hours blogging, and during the first year I barely made any money, but putting in that work is what laid the groundwork for where my site is today. And remember, I’ve earned over $5,000,000 since starting.
It is not easy to start a blog – it will be completely brand new to you and will take a lot of time. It is not a get-rich-quick scheme!
As a blogger, you will have to do things such as:
- Create a blog and design it
- Start social media accounts
- Write interesting content
- Share your blog to grow your readership
- Find ways to make money with your blog
And so much more.
Even when I was just a new blogger and had no plans of making money blogging, I was still spending well over 10 hours a week on Making Sense of Cents.
When I was working my full-time day job and earning an income from my blog, I was working around 40-50 hours a week on my blog on top of my day job!
Now that I blog full-time, my hours vary. Some months I hardly work, and there are other months that I may work 100 hours a week.
It’s not easy, and there’s always something that needs to be done.
But I absolutely love blogging, which makes the hard work a little less tough.
10. I realize that sharing your blog is important
Many people write blog posts and hope that the traffic will come – but that simply isn’t the case!
Some people say that you should spend 20% of your time writing content and 80% sharing your blog and trying to grow it.
While I don’t think there’s an exact science to it, I do think it’s important to remember that you need to spend a lot of time sharing your content and your blog.
You could have written the best thing in the world, but if you don’t share it then no one will ever be able to find it.
As a blogger, you need to find ways to attract a readership to your blog and get people to read your blog posts.
No, you don’t need millions and millions of page views to earn a good living from your blog. In fact, I know some bloggers who receive 500,000 monthly page views yet make less money than those with 50,000 monthly page views.
Every website is different, but once you learn what your audience wants, you can start to really make money blogging, regardless of how many page views you receive.
Some ways to grow your page views and find new readers include:
- Write high-quality and interesting blog posts. Your blog posts should always be high-quality and helpful so that your readers will want to continually come back and read more.
- Be active on social media. Social media can be a great way to grow a blog, such as through TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.
- Publish new blog posts consistently and regularly. For most blogs, you should publish content at least once a week. Readers may forget about you if you go for weeks or months at a time without a blog post.
- Guest post on other blogs. Guest posting is when you write a blog post for another blog. This can be a great way for new readers to find you.
- Brainstorm better titles for your blog posts. The first thing potential readers will see before they click to read a blog post is the title that you have chosen. Due to that, choosing an eye-catching title is so very important! Here’s a free tool I like to use: CoSchedule’s Headline tool.
- Learn SEO strategies. SEO (search engine optimization) is important for most blogs out there. If you’re not sure what it is, an easy way to explain it is to think about when you search for something on Google. You’re more likely to click on one of the first websites that your search brings you to. This is due to SEO, and it can be a great way for readers to find your blog.
The above is a very brief summary of how to grow a blog, and I realize that. It would be very difficult to list everything that you need to know, and there are full courses on each of the subjects above.
Below, I have listed some of my favorite blogging courses and resources so that you can learn more:
- Pinterest Traffic Avalanche – If you want to learn more about Pinterest, then this is one of the best courses to take. With Pinterest Traffic Avalanche, you will learn how to get 10,000 to over 100,000 free monthly visitors to your blog with Pinterest.
- Six-Figure Course Creator – This is more of an advanced and complete blogging course, but it has many actionable strategies that you can apply to your blog right away. This course will teach you how to earn over $100,000 from your blog and make it your full-time career.
- Blog By Number – Blog By Number is a very popular course for new bloggers, and the creator of this course actually has over 99,000 enrolled students. Here, you will learn how to set up a blog, how to increase your traffic, how to write blog posts, how to make money blogging, and more.
- Traffic Transformation: 21 Strategies I Used to Increase My Monthly Page Views from 17,000 to 400,000+ in 10 Months – Traffic Transformation has sold over 2,500 guides, and the author has seen over 23 million page views already. She teaches all of her best tips on how she gets page views to her blog, which is super helpful!
- Stupid Simple SEO – If you want to learn about SEO, this is the best overall SEO course. I have personally gone through it several times so that I can improve my SEO strategies and have learned a lot.
- Easy On-Page SEO – This is an easy-to-follow approach to learning on-page SEO so your articles can rank on Google. I have read this ebook twice, and it is very helpful.
- Easy Backlinks for SEO – This ebook will show you 31 different ways to build backlinks, which is necessary for SEO. I have also read this and highly recommend it.
- How To Get 50,000 Pageviews per Month With Keyword Research – This ebook shares the steps for keyword research so that you can get SEO traffic to your website.
As you can see, there are many helpful blogging resources. I realize that’s a long list. Simply start with one or two and go from there – you won’t regret it!
Do you have questions about how to build a successful blog?
If you have more questions about starting a blog, I have written many, many blog posts on this topic.
I have a very helpful article that will help answer many of your questions, such as:
- Is it too late to start a blog?
- How do I come up with a blog name?
- How do I design the layout of a blog?
- How many views do I need to make money with my blog?
- How many blog posts should I have before launching?
- How long will it take for my blog to make money?
- How do blogs make money?
- How do bloggers actually get paid? Who pays them?
Simply head to What Is A Blog, How Do Blogs Make Money, & More to learn more.
Another helpful article is How To Earn Money Blogging: Your Top Questions Answered for answers to questions such as:
- What processes do you have to complete with each new blog post?
- What is affiliate marketing?
- What are sponsored posts?
- What is display advertising?
- How do I create my own product to sell to my readers?
- Do I pay taxes on the money I make from my blog?
- How do you think of ideas for new blog posts?
Are you interested in starting a blog? Do you already have a blog?
How To Start A Blog Free Email Course
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In this free course, I show you how to create a blog easily, from the technical side all the way to earning your first income and attracting readers. Join now!