This is a step by step tutorial in which I wanted to gather all the elements that are necessary to help you start a WordPress blog. I’ll treat everything from conceptualization to monetizing, including strategy, implementation and optimization.
Do you have an expertise – in travel or any other field – and would like to share your knowledge with the world? Do you wish to give more visibility to your company? Do you want to make money working while travelling? Do you have a strong opinion on everything and you like to share it, but you find yourself without friends on social networks? This article is for you!
At the end of this tutorial, you will have a blog of your own to be proud of! And you’ll be amazed when you’ll realize that it only costed you a few tens of dollars!
Remember to bookmark this article to consult it as many times as you like.
Some of the products I present in this article include affiliate links that allow us to earn a small commission on each sale at no additional cost to our readers.
True to my word, I strive to offer my readers the best possible content, and the products I recommend don’t deviate from this mindset. Your support is sincerely appreciated.
So here’s the plan:
- Chapter 1 – Why should you believe me?
- Chapter 2 – What are the benefits of blogging?
- Chapter 3 – The various solutions for creating a blog
- Chapter 4 – Choose a niche and create personas
- Chapter 5 – Establish a business strategy
- Chapter 6 – Choose a blog name and a domain name
- Chapter 7 – Pick a reliable and efficient web hosting provider
- Chapter 8 – Starting your blog with WordPress
- Chapter 9 – Choose a theme for your blog
- Chapter 10 – Install essential plugins
- Chapter 11 – Configure your blog
- Chapter 12 – Write your first articles
- Chapter 13 – Increase your traffic
- Chapter 14 – Monetize your platform
Chapter 1 – Why should you believe me?
Obviously, I wouldn’t have any credibility to write about this if I didn’t have a lot of experience in the area of the web.
1.1. My experience with websites
Thanks to my 15 years of experience in computer science and my MBA degree in e-Business, I was able to acquire the entrepreneurial spirit and technical knowledge necessary to successfully complete this kind of project. For many years, my personal interests led me to engage in activities aimed at generating passive income on the Internet.
For this purpose, I had developed a well-established business model consisting of acquiring, transforming, managing and reselling websites built with WordPress. In the loop, I paid freelance writers to publish articles. I used SEO and social networks to generate traffic that I monetized through advertising networks and affiliation.
In order to host my sites, I had acquired a physical server (a bomb!) that drew more bandwidth than any other server in the data center where it was collocated. It should be said that all my websites combined several million page views per month!
Thus, the Wonderlusters blog embodies the achievement of all my years of website management. Today, I can’t hide from you my satisfaction regarding all the compliments I’ve received for this blog regarding the quality of the articles. And the statistics confirm it, with a bounce rate of less than 50%, a session length exceeding 5 minutes, and 3 page views per visitor on average.
And to be completely honest with you, it only took me a small evening to conceptualize and start this site.
Do I have your full attention?
Chapter 2 – What are the benefits of blogging?
In November 2017, when Jessica and I decided to go on a family trip around the world, we decided to create a blog to document our 14 months journey across 50 countries. But you don’t have to pretend to be on a trip around the world to start blogging. There are plenty of reasons to do so and I’ll share 12 of them with you.
2.1. You will be transformed
You’ll become a better thinker. Writing is the process of putting your thoughts, ideas and reflections on paper. It will encourage you to stop and learn new things to complete your learning and to structure them in a concise way.
You’ll become a better communicator. A blog is a great communicative tool. Writing will not force you to be better at communicating, you will become one naturally by practicing it. Articulating your thoughts through writing is a great way to express what you know and experience, which will help you become more familiar with the subject you are writing about.
You will live a more intentional life. When you write about your life and your thoughts, you will begin to think more intentionally about who you are, who you are becoming, and who you want to be.
You’ll become a better person. In a search for purpose, you will deeply question your values and perceptions that surround them. This exercise will strengthen your opinions… or put them into perspective. By the same token, you will become a better person.
2.2. You will transform the others
You’ll be an inspiration. Blogging not only transforms your life, but potentially the lives of others as well. It is an act of giving, an altruistic act in which your time and energy is invested to share some of your knowledge for free, thus inspiring your readers.
You will establish your expertise. Your blog will be your business card. Sharing your experience on subjects that are valuable to your audience will eventually establish you as an authoritative figure. You will attract recognition and respect, which will boost both your professional and personal reputations.
You’ll develop new relationships. Your platform will push you to exchange with people who share the same interests as you. Your network of contacts and circle of friends will grow, you will support each other and celebrate successes together.
You will have a platform to recommend. The joy in its fullness is only achieved when it is shared. The blog serves just that purpose. By sharing the experiences that have been most beneficial to you (a product, a destination, a lifestyle), you inspire others to follow your footsteps.
2.3. Your future will be transformed
You will create new opportunities. You could be offered to share your experience in the media or in conferences. You could be approached by strangers who will recognize you in the middle of a crowd. You could be offered an invitation to a good meal to discuss your favorite topic. The opportunities will be many and varied.
You will have the chance to monetize your blog. To combine business with fun, you could earn an income. It will be modest at first, but it will also be passive and recurring. Your reward will be worth your efforts and perseverance. As your readership grows, so will your income. With the right strategy, you could even live off your blog!
You could become an influencer. Thanks to your friendly personality, you could be offered to test products related to your field of expertise. In tourism, for example, this could mean hotel accommodations, activities or guided tours as part of promotional operations. More and more bloggers are getting paid to experiment and write about their passions.
Blogging costs (almost) nothing. For just a few bucks a month, your writing will stay online and continue to inspire your readers for as long as you want. Get started today!
Chapter 3 – The various solutions for creating a blog
There was a time when you had to hire a computer specialist and pay thousands of dollars to have a site to your liking. But nowadays, thanks to web site creation tools, starting a blog has become easy, fast, economical and within everyone’s reach.
But as with automobiles, there are solutions for every taste and every budget: beautiful and ugly, powerful and slow, expensive and cheap, with or without options, with or without service.
For a newcomer, it is easy to be seduced by the first vendor who has serious arguments. But as I am naturally empathetic, I will accompany you to the showroom to advise you on the model I have chosen.
3.1. Development by an IT professional
No, I wouldn’t recommend the overpriced, luxurious and sporty Bentley, which will cost you a kidney with every oil change, not to mention the cost of insurance.
I’m talking about professional website developers who deliver a full package, including hosting, domain name, design, SEO, community management, maintenance and support. They will charge you between $2000 and $10,000 at the beginning, plus a lump amount every month. And at that price, nothing guarantees you satisfaction and you will not receive any maintenance manual. You will therefore pay a steep hourly premium every time you request new improvements.
Naturally, I do not doubt the quality of some service providers. But nowadays, it is no longer obvious to justify such investments unless you have an immediate professional target or very specific needs. For the common blogger, there are other alternatives.
3.2. The free platforms
I also warn you not to touch the low-cost models. They are turnkey solutions that are extremely attractive in appearance… but only in appearance.
In this category we find Wix, Blogger and WordPress.com. These platforms cost nothing (literally), but they are also worthless. Well, I’m exaggerating a bit. If you’re both poor and totally clueless with a computer, this is exactly what you need. And even then, I would question your need to blog. But if you’ve already reached this paragraph, it’s because you have all the abilities to avoid choosing one of these free platforms.
These platforms are indeed extremely restrictive. You won’t have your own domain name (example: myblog.wordpress.com). You won’t be able to customize it (limited choice of themes) or set it up to your liking (for performance). You won’t be able to monetize it but ads will appear across your posts, which means that someone else will make money on your back with the traffic you will generate for them. And above all, you won’t own your blog and your site could be suspended at any moment.
It is true that by paying a little extra every month, some of these restrictions will disappear. But you still won’t have all the flexibility you need, and this “little” extra will already cost more than the solution I’m about to show you.
3.3. The WordPress.org platform
This sedan has all the advantages of the Bentley without the drawbacks. It is beautiful, powerful, fully equipped, easy to maintain and extremely economical. It’s no coincidence that 35% of site owners across the world have adopted it!
WordPress.org is the ideal solution for a newbie blogger with a long-term vision.
Unlike its dot.com sibling, WordPress.org offers almost unlimited flexibility for your blog project. In fact, a host of features provided by free plugins will allow you to customize your blog at will.
The only catch is that you must have a server to host it, perform your backups, secure it and maintain it yourself. But don’t worry, I’ll explain how to do all that. And after a few minutes and a few clicks, you’ll be able to start playing with this gem.
The WordPress.org platform is free and will remain so for eternity. But in order to use it, a small upfront investment will be required, which includes :
- A domain name (free for the first year, then about $10 US per year);
- A hosting provider (starting at around US$ 4 a month);
- A professional theme (an initial fee starting at US$ 30);
- And one or two plugins (optional).
Some people will think they can save money by getting their hands dirty with WordPress.com, before switching to WordPress.org. This is a big mistake to avoid because migrating to the new platform will be tedious and/or costly if you have to hire a professional to do it for you.
By choosing WordPress.org, you start from the very beginning of your project to “capitalize” on your name: develop your reputation, your brand awareness and your SEO around a name that does not show that you are on a free platform. Most importantly, WordPress.org gives you total control over your blog and you own the rights to everything, including the right to monetize it!
If by now you have no more doubts about your ability to run a blog, then keep reading! I’ll explain everything you need to know to start a blog, laying a solid foundation that will help you be successful in the long run.
Chapter 4 – Choose a niche and create personas
Thanks to the internet, our habits are changing every day, which causes the web to grow exponentially. But the web remains a junkyard where tons and tons of information piles up, which are meant to be forgotten as soon as they are produced. This is the destiny awaiting most of the blogs that are created every day, across all fields! Don’t be surprised to learn that 95% of blogs disappear without even reaching 5 years of existence.
4.1. The criteria for making the right decision
But don’t be discouraged! The good news is that with the right strategy, you can successfully differentiate your blog, and its potential will remain infinite. The key to differentiation will be the value proposition that you bring to your readers in comparison to other blogs. To achieve this, you must start by choosing a niche market. This is a critical step towards creating the right content – a content that appeals to the audience you want to target and which is likely to consume your content.
In order to identify a niche for your future blog, ask yourself questions such as :
- What do I love about sharing or teaching others?
- What are my skills, strengths, interests?
- What knowledge do I possess that others would like to have?
- On what topics do I not find as much information as I would like?
- Can I write about it for a long time?
The niche should not be too broad to avoid having to compete with the larger players, nor too narrow to better display your expertise.
Your goal is to create personas that will serve as targets in your choice of subjects to write about. A persona has the characteristics of an individual who embodies your typical target audience. This exercise is very important to help you structure your content and ensure that it meets the needs of your target audience.
4.2. The example of the Wonderlusters
For the Wonderlusters blog, it was while planning my family’s trip around the world that I noticed how little information was available on the web for those looking to travel the way we do.
For this reason, I decided to create THE website that would gather all the information I wanted to have available to me when I was planning my own trip. My main persona was easy to determine, since it matched the person I knew the most in the world: myself! Here are some characteristics of my main persona:
- Professionally accomplished man in his thirties;
- Travel and photography enthusiast;
- Seeking to optimize the travel arrangements;
- Maximizing experiences, pleasure and comfort;
- While minimizing cost and effort.
I could have muddied the waters by simply writing about the generic topic of Travel. But in order to set “the Wonderlusters” apart from the rest, I used my personal philosophy of “achieving more for less,” as well as my planning and financial management skills to focus my writings on a virtually untapped niche within the travel niche, namely “the operational and budgetary optimization of travel”.
And since these are principles that are applicable to everyone, I decided to expand my reach around the world by choosing to blog in both French and English.
Chapter 5 – Establish a business strategy
Many bloggers try to sell dreams about how to make a living from home, just by being diligent about writing articles. But if you don’t set a long-term strategy, you’ll sooner or later realize that you’ll quickly get bored of posting articles, which will reduce your chances of success.
5.1. Propel your business
Before setting goals, you need to establish a vision and a mission for your blog.
Okay, let’s be realistic for a moment. You probably think that vision and mission statements are only relevant for businesses, and as a blogger, you don’t need them.
Make no mistake, a blog is a business and here is your business model:
- You’re the boss;
- Your readers are your customers;
- Your connections are your key partners;
- Your expertise is your key resource;
- Your articles are your products;
- Google and social networks are your distribution channels;
- Your value proposition is to create quality and engaging content for your niche market.
And as in any business, it is not efficient to shoot everywhere in the hope that, with the probabilities, a target will be hit. Keeping a blog requires a considerable investment in time and/or money. So, pair a good strategy with a sound work plan, get a motivation fueled by your passions, and you’ll have the recipe for success.
But before you build your success, you need to define it.
5.2. The vision statement
A blog’s vision statement is your North Star. It is your guiding light from day one, the core reason why you chose your niche and target market for your blog and your business. It’s what keeps you blogging and growing your business every day. It is the statement that defines what you want your blog to become and the impact you want to have on your visitors/customers. Your blog’s vision statement should also be a source of inspiration to motivate yourself.
You probably already have your vision statement in mind but have not yet formulated it. Your blog’s vision statement should reflect your personal values, beliefs and passions.
To establish a vision statement, ask yourself these questions:
- What drives you in life?
- How would you like to contribute to making the world a better place?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
The vision of the Wonderlusters is clear. It is also implied in our slogan since the start of our blog: “Wander often, wonder always“. The verb “to wonder” has different meanings: that of being amazed by new experiences, and that of being in touch with the reality that surrounds us. The more we travel, the more we acquire new perspectives that transform us through the renewal of our intelligence.
The vision statement translates as follows: “To be a catalyst of inspiration and outreach to the world for travelers“.
5.3. The mission statement
A business’s mission statement is a complement to its vision. It will allow you to identify the goals of your blog. To help you determine it, ask yourself these questions:
- What problem does your blog solve within its market niche?
- What is your target audience?
- What added value do you bring to your target market?
Here is the formula for developing a mission statement:
Your blog’s mission statement = (help, inspire, guide, support, teach, educate, etc.) + (your target audience) + (what is the expected outcome) + (how you will bring value).
In creating the Wonderlusters blog, I wanted to record my family’s travel experiences, along with unforgettable memories for our children. So I built a mission statement that became the driving force that motivated me to consistently produce high quality content.
Our mission statement is as follows: “To inspire and assist travellers in optimizing their future travel experiences, both organizationally and financially, by providing them with all the tools and information they need to do it on their own“.
The main difference between a vision statement (future status) and a mission statement (current status) is that a vision statement is what you plan to accomplish, and a mission statement is how you plan to get there.
Obviously, your vision and mission are not set in stone. They may change over time, as you will be called upon to adapt them, according to the new realities you will encounter during the life of your blog.
Chapter 6 – Choose a blog name and a domain name
The domain name of a blog is its web address. You have to ask yourself why decide on the name of the blog and its domain name simultaneously? Well simply because the name of your blog will be determined by the availability of its future domain name.
6.1. The criteria for deciding on a blog name
It is important to choose the right name for your blog because it will convey your (brand) image. Although you may be able to change a lot of things on your blog over time, its name is one of the things you absolutely don’t ever want to change.
Here are some important criteria to consider in your search:
- Choose a .com domain name;
- It should reflect the niche of your blog;
- It should support your vision and mission statements;
- It shouldn’t be too long;
- It should be easy to remember;
- It should be easy to spell;
- It should be easy to pronounce;
- It should not contain hyphens or numbers.
A dictionary of synonyms will be very useful. Don’t be too generic or you risk diluting your identity. Don’t be too specific or you may not be taken seriously.
Think carefully before making a decision.
6.2. The example of the Wonderlusters
This task is likely to be more complex than you might think, because in reality you will find that all the domain names you initially considered will already be registered. This may discourage you, but you will need to be patient and creative before you come across the domain name that will satisfy you. It is not a coincidence that “thewonderlusters.com” has a “the” in front and an “s” at the end ?.
When I decided on the name for this blog, if I didn’t have a long term vision and if I just wanted to satisfy my first goal of documenting our family’s world tour, I could have simply chosen a domain like “afamilyaroundtheworld.travel”.
Knowing that we would return to a sedentary life after our trip, that the boys might not want to travel with us as teenagers, that we wanted to reach a worldwide readership, I would have shot myself in the foot with such a name!
Today, many people (and even long-time friends) call us by the Wonderlusters’ nickname. This name has become our trademark.
To search for the availability of domain names, go to Instant Domain Search.
But pay attention! Don’t rush to buy your domain name! In the next step of this tutorial, you will be able to subscribe to a web hosting package that offers a domain name for free.
Chapter 7 – Pick a reliable and efficient web hosting provider
The fun begins now! In less than 10 minutes, you could officially become a blogger!
The host is where your WordPress files will be stored. At this stage, it is not necessary to go into the details of the different types of servers and it is not relevant to know the physical location of your server.
To begin with, we will settle for servers with shared resources because they provide peace of mind while being economical and easy to configure.
Hosting packages cost as little as US$4 per month. As your blog grows, it will be easy to upgrade to more powerful solutions.
7.2. Choose Bluehost for its reputation and benefits
Hosting your site will likely be your biggest expense. So it’s best to make an informed choice. That’s why I recommend Bluehost.
There are a bunch of competitors in the market but there are also plenty of reasons why other bloggers have chosen Bluehost.
First of all, Bluehost is one of the very select group of 3 hosts recommended by WordPress.
Furthermore, you will get all these benefits by choosing Bluehost:
- The domain name is free for the first year;
- An automated installation of WordPress in minutes;
- An excellent technical support;
- A very competitive offer;
- A satisfaction guarantee or your money back;
- A 99.99% reliability rate.
In a past life, I’ve had to test several hosting companies. Since I had problems with many of them, I ended up trusting Bluehost. When time came to build the Wonderlusters site and choose a hosting provider, I made a point of reading the comparisons of the main hosting providers on the market and I wasn’t surprised to find that Bluehost often came back among the choices made by bloggers. Over time, Bluehost has maintained the reliability and performance that has built its reputation and that ranks it among the best.
7.3. Performance is a key parameter
Performance seems to be an obvious criterion, but most people forget it. A slow site will not encourage people to stay, let alone to come back. Moreover, Google hates very slow sites and penalizes them.
Choosing a fast host is absolutely critical to the success of your blog, as a slow site will suffer from :
- A poor ranking in search engines;
- A higher bounce rate from visitors;
- Fewer page views;
- A low conversion rate;
- Lower profits.
To be honest, I have some difficulty with articles that compare hosting providers and suggest that performance is the number one criterion when selecting a hosting provider. Indeed, they are right to do so because performance is extremely important, but it all depends on the context.
First of all, a host can be very well ranked on one site and very poorly ranked on another. This is where we realize that these comparators only exist to favor the hosting providers that offer the highest commissions.
Moreover, as long as you don’t have a site that generates several hundred thousand page views per month, it is pointless to try to optimize the speed of your site to the hundredth of a second. And the reality is that if you manage to achieve traffic of this magnitude, your site will probably already generate enough money to afford a dedicated server that will boost your site to the Moon. Because let’s face it, a basic shared hosting that costs only 5$ per month, no matter the company, will not be the fastest.
For your information, statistics show that the average page load time is 10.3 seconds on desktop computers and 27.3 seconds on mobile phones. So if you have a site that loads in less than 3 seconds, you would already rank among the top performing sites.
The good news is that it is possible to achieve very fast loading times with basic hosting at Bluehost. By the way, the Wonderlusters site is hosted on a shared server with a Bluehost basic plan and it loads extremely fast. Here is the evidence:
See for yourself as you navigate from one post to another. Despite the many photos on the site, you’ll get the impression that the site loads almost instantly. Isn’t that wonderful?
Keep reading and I’ll explain my recipe that makes it happen.
7.4. Subscribe to Bluehost in 4 steps
Follow these easy steps in the registration process and after a few clicks, you will finally have your blog!
Click on this link to register with Bluehost.
I would otherwise recommend that you subscribe to Siteground, which also has an excellent reputation as a hosting provider, in addition to also being one of the 3 hosting providers recommended by WordPress.
Step 1: Click on the “Get Started” button.
Step 2: Select a hosting plan.
Start with the smallest plan at US$3.95 per month. This is sufficient, until your site gains traction.
But if, like me, you have a solid strategy, select the US$5.95 plan.
Step 3: Pick a your domain name
As I mentioned earlier and for a strategic reason, this exercise should be done beforehand. So, all you have to do is enter your domain name here and click “Next”.
Step 4: Follow the instructions to create your account.
Choose your package options. I recommend a 36-month plan if you have a long-term vision. It’s also cheaper on a monthly basis.
You don’t need anything else, so make sure you uncheck all the boxes. Follow the instructions to finalize the subscription.
Chapter 8 – Starting your blog with WordPress
8.1. Install WordPress in one click
Specify the name of your website and a description. This information can also be edited using WordPress.
You can now choose a free theme. At this point, the choice of the theme does not matter if your later intention is to have a custom theme, as I will explain in the next chapter.
After choosing your theme, WordPress will automatically install.
There you go! You’re officially a blogger!
8.2. Preview of WordPress
To enter WordPress, you can do so from the Bluehost portal. But the easiest way is to go to http://yourdomainname.com/wp-admin and enter your WordPress login information.
You will stumble upon the WordPress dashboard:
On the menu bar on the left side of the console, you will see :
- Posts – this is where you will write and publish your posts.
- Pages – in addition to the articles, you will publish static pages, e.g. “Contact”, “About”.
- Comments – to approve, reject and reply to comments on your posts.
- Appearance – this section allows you to graphically customize your blog, for example by installing and configuring a new theme.
- Plugins – to install and update plugins (additional features of your blog).
- Settings – allows you to customize your blog.
Chapter 9 – Choose a theme for your blog
9.1. Your theme should reflect your vision
One of the most exciting things is to choose a theme for your blog. It’s one thing that will make you proud (or not) of your new accomplishment, one that will get you praise on your good taste (or not), or one that will set you apart from your competitors (or not).
The appearance of your site will be implemented by a WordPress theme which will determine the layout of the website components, including colors, fonts and formatting.
Be aware that changing a theme on an existing site is a delicate operation because you might have to parameterize the entire site all over again. I therefore recommend that you choose your theme strategically from the start, and this is where the vision you have previously defined comes into play.
Remember, your vision statement has been your guideline from day one, the profound reason why you chose your niche and target market for your blog and business. It is therefore essential that your site reflects your vision.
It’s not sufficient that your theme is beautiful. Because your image and reputation are more than just your favorite color. Your site must reflect the target where you want to take it. It must accompany the message you want to convey to your target audience. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you want your audience to feel when they see your site?
- What tone will you use to convey your message?
One brand can’t satisfy everyone. Get out of the mould and bring out your authenticity and uniqueness.
9.2. Criteria for choosing the right theme
Indeed, there are some free themes. But as is often the case, free comes with disadvantages. If you opt for this solution, you will suffer consequences:
- Your site may look like many other sites;
- You won’t be able to customize your site as much as you’d like;
- The basic functionality of your theme will be limited;
- Your theme will not be regularly updated, which will lead to compatibility problems with WordPress and especially to security issues;
- You won’t have support in case of a bug.
It is worth paying for a theme that will be user-friendly, customizable, fast, secure and optimized for SEO. This gives peace of mind and a support from an entire community! It won’t cost you more than 100$ and it will save you headaches and many lost hours, thus saving you money.
Think of the theme as a product of consumption. Like all products on the market, you can’t go wrong by selecting a very popular theme. The popularity of your theme will ensure that your theme provider will continue to supply you with updates. This will therefore ensure the sustainability of your blog so long as your theme remains updated.
Keep the following criteria in mind when searching for the perfect theme:
- The rating, user comments and the number of downloads are good indicators of quality;
- The number of downloads for the theme is significant;
- The visual is neat and corresponds to the look you want your blog to have;
- The visual is highly customizable in terms of layout, colors, fonts, text, etc. ;
- The theme is easy to customize;
- The theme is “responsive”, i.e. it adapts to tablets and mobile devices;
- The theme offers features that meet the needs of your blog (for example, an online appointment scheduling tool);
- The theme is compatible with the most popular plugins (WooCommerce for e-commerce, WPML for a multilingual site, Elementor, Visual Composer, WP Bakery as site builders);
- The theme is light and powerful;
- The theme is pre-optimized for SEO;
- Make sure customer support is offered with the theme!
It is better to pay $60 for a complete, robust and reliable theme than $20 for a theme that is less flexible and that will require additional customization work.
9.3. The major theme providers
To help you in your research, here are 3 very reputable theme providers:
StudioPress builds SEO-optimized themes that are superbly coded and load quickly. They come with lots of Genesis plugins and impressive documentation. These themes are recommended by very influential webmasters like Yoast and Matt Cutts.
Elegant Themes enjoys a solid reputation for their creative and unique WordPress themes. More than 650,000 WordPress users trust them. Their Divi theme is also one of the most popular and appreciated WordPress themes.
Envato (formerly known as ThemeForest), is one of the largest WordPress theme platforms. Their themes are top quality and the most popular is Avada, which has remained at the top of the best-selling theme charts for many years.
9.4. Install your new theme
Now that you’ve bought your theme, all you have to do is install it on your site.
The themes usually come with installation instructions, but here are the steps you’ll probably need to follow:
- Download the .zip file (do not unzip the file);
- Sign in to WordPress;
- Click Appearance > Themes > Upload;
- Upload the .zip file you just downloaded, then follow the instructions of your theme provider to customize it!
9.5. Optimize the user experience by customizing your theme
Once you have installed your theme, you need to think about the user experience, trying to make the site as ergonomic and user-friendly as possible. Take the time to validate each customization parameter of your theme and their effect on the rendering of your site.
For inspiration, browse through the pages of your favorite blogs and note how their information is organized and try to reproduce it on your site.
Think about having an aesthetically clean and easy to navigate layout. Too much detail kills the detail. Personally, I prefer sleek looking websites because it helps to keep the focus on the content, rather than on the container. Also, the site loads faster when it is less flashy.
Configure your menus. One of the most important things to configure first is your menu bar to help your readers navigate through the content. In your dashboard, click Appearance > Menus to customize it.
If you’re good with graphics, create your own logo. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you can hire a freelance graphic designer for this purpose. You can find excellent designers on Fiverr or Upwork at a minimal cost. Make sure you hire a freelancer who already has good reviews and a portfolio with designs that match what you are looking for.
Chapter 10 – Install essential plugins
You’ll soon realize that your theme doesn’t do everything you want it to. The plugins allow you to add new features to your site. You can see them as extensions of your site.
When it comes to plugins, there’s a plethora of choices! Most of them are free, some are paid. And I’ll try to debunk all that by introducing you to the essential ones.
10.1. Yoast SEO (free with paid version)
Yoast SEO is a must. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This plugin will help you optimize your site and the writing of your articles by giving you guidelines for improvement, so that Google will rank you better. The free version is good enough.
10.2. WP Rocket (paid)
WP Rocket is the plugin you need to optimize the loading speed of your site. It caches your site, optimizes your CSS, JS, images and your database. In a few clicks, your site will become ultra performant!
For a free alternative, try Swift Performance!
10.3. Wordfence (free of charge)
Wordfence is a security plugin that provides a safety filter to protect your website from hacks and malware.
10.4. MailChimp (free with paid version)
Thanks to Mailchimp, you will be able to collect emails from your readers in order to send them newsletters. This is a preferred tool for marketers. The free version allows you to collect up to 2000 emails.
10.5. Grow by Mediavine (Social Pug) (free with paid version)
Grow by Mediavine is a social network sharing plugin. It has been designed to not affect the performance of your site.
10.6. UpdraftPlus Backup (free of charge)
UpdraftPlus Backup because it is ALWAYS necessary to make backups of your site!
10.7. Optimole (free with paid version)
Use Optimole if you’re going to include a lot of photos in your posts. This plugin will compress them as you upload them.
A piece of advice: don’t use too many plugins. Installing too many plugins will reduce the speed of your website. Install them only if you consider them essential, and favor those that have the least impact on performance.
Chapter 11 – Configure your blog
11.1. SSL Certificate
Security is an important criterion for Google. If you want your site to rank higher in search results, you need to add a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, which secures communications between your browser and the web server.
It’s technical, but don’t worry about it. Bluehost offers the SSL certificate for free when you subscribe to a hosting plan. Simply activate it from your Bluehost customer portal. And practically, your HTTP will become HTTPS, S for “Secure”.
11.2. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a tool that Google provides for free. It will allow you to analyze your traffic in order to take informed strategic decisions. It will provide you with a bunch of statistics, such as the number of visitors, the number of page views, the most visited pages, the demographics of your audience, their interests, the time they spend on your site, etc…
Register your site on Google Analytics and follow the setup instructions. It’ s your gateway to the amazing world of analytics..
11.3. Cloudflare CDN
As mentioned before, performance is a critical parameter for the success of your blog. A fast site brings :
- A better ranking in search engines;
- Happier visitors;
- A lower bounce rate;
- More page views;
- A higher conversion rate;
- Higher profits!
Cloudflare CDN acts as an interface between your visitors and your server in order to boost the performance of your site while securing it at the same time. This is achieved by reducing the load on your hosting provider and distributing it across Cloudflare’s servers located around the world.
Subscribe to Clouflare for free and configure it to work with WP Rocket. After a few adjustments, test your site’s speed with GT Metrix. I’m confident that you’ll be able to get an ultra-fast website just like the Wonderlusters website!
Chapter 12 – Write your first articles
Now that your theme and plugins are installed and your blog is set up, it’s time to get down to business.
Keep your vision and mission in sight. Focus on your goals. You are now in possession of a real low cost revenue generator with great potential!
12.1. High-quality content, period.
In traditional sales, it is said that “the customer is king”. In digital marketing, we say that “content is king”. On the Internet, the offer is so large that to stand out, it is essential to create quality content on an ongoing basis.
As a blogger, your value proposition is to generate quality content. Because with quality comes honor:
- Your readers will stay longer on your site;
- Your readers will subscribe to your site;
- Your articles will get more exposure;
- Other sites will link to your page;
- Your authority with Google will increase;
- Your articles will rank higher in the search results;
- Your traffic will increase;
- Your notoriety will increase;
- Your revenues will increase.
As we believe we have the smartest and most exceptional kids in the world, we also tend to believe that our content is of the highest quality. Objectively, we all know that this is not true. So, what is a quality article?
Here are a few suggestions to help you:
Favor long articles. In general, the longer an article is, the better it will be ranked. Since you cover the topic extensively, it gives substance to your message and people are more likely to share. The average time on the page increases, as does the average time on the site. Both of these data are benchmarks for Google.
Stay practical. When an article helps to solve a problem, it becomes useful and valuable. Eventually, it can become a reference. Over time, you just need to update it in order to adapt or improve its content.
Prefer quality over quantity. Tons of articles won’t make a difference if they’re not interesting or relevant. It’ s better to have one article that people read on a regular basis than 10 articles that will scare readers away forever.
Write original and engaging content. Don’t copy other people’s content and be different. Talk about yourself, your experience and your projects. Involve your audience.
Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Ask yourself what you’d like to read for them. Write with the purpose of meeting the needs of your target audience.
Be inspired by the most popular blogs. There’ s a reason they’ve been successful.
Writing quality content is a difficult and time-consuming task, but success never comes easily.
12.2. Everybody loves the visuals
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. As a travel blogger, I can only agree.
When it comes to building an audience and gaining organic readers, regardless of your area of expertise, image diffusion is extremely important.
An image is a communication medium that can shift the perception of your content from bland to exciting. If an image is well integrated into your text, it will help support your idea and strengthen your argument. Use it to produce visually appealing and engaging content.
Publish high quality images with each new publication. The images you choose to place on top of your articles are very important because they will serve as an eye-catcher when your article is shared on social media. Choose it strategically!
However, you can’t just take any image from the Internet and put it on your blog. If you’re comfortable taking pictures or editing photos, you’re in luck! But not everyone is.
In fact, some companies charge you a fee to use their images. When you take images from the Internet, check to see if you are legally allowed to use them on your blog. In many cases, if you are using a free image, you still need to attribute ownership of the image and its source.
If you are looking to purchase images, you can use vendors such as Shutterstock or Canva.
If you want to promote free and good quality images that you can use without crediting the owner of the image, then check Unsplash or Pixabay.
Last but not least, if your looking for free amazing high-definition travel photos, you’re in luck today because it turns out that we have 15,000 photos you can download free of charge for your personal and commercial use!
12.3. Work less but better
Are you running out of time? Knowledge? Expertise? You don’t have the budget of a multinational company? I got you covered!
Freelancers of all backgrounds and expertise are just waiting to offer their services. You can contract real professionals at a reduced cost to help you with tasks as diverse as these:
- Logo design;
- WordPress theme design;
- Wordpress plugin development;
- Performance optimization;
- Website maintenance;
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO);
- Copywriting of articles;
- Content translation;
- Social network management.
Here are some examples of rates you might encounter:
- An editor from the Philippines at $3 an hour;
- A SEO specialist from Bangladesh at $4 an hour;
- A graphic designer from Malaysia at $5 an hour.
The perfect fit is just a few clicks away! I recommend 3 networks that I have tested myself and which are among the largest job markets in the world.
With Upwork and Freelancer, the procedure is simple and somewhat traditional: you post your job requirement, the freelancers submit their application, you review the candidate’s curriculum and choose the right person.
Fiverr works a little differently than the first two. You browse through the service offerings that start at $5 and it is up to you to contract the services of the individuals that meet your needs.
Once the work is completed, pay via PayPal, credit card or bank account. The site retains a small percentage of the fees charged as commission.
Chapter 13 – Increase your traffic
Your blog is the showcase of your business. But no one will visit you if you remain invisible. Now that you have the best articles to offer and everything is in place to receive your first visitors, all you have to do is announce it to the world!
It’s time to focus on traffic acquisition.
13.1. SEO best practices
Before you even start writing, familiarize yourself with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The goal is for Google to send you as much traffic as possible, with as little effort as possible.
Here are the good SEO practices summarized in a few points:
- Find specific and uncompetitive “keywords” on which to base your articles. For example, a keyword such as “sunny destination” will certainly give you very little visibility, unlike “trip to Mexico in January”.
- Include your primary keyword in the title, description and URL of your article. Use the recommendations that the Yoast SEO plugin will provide you with.
- Write titles and descriptions that will make people want to read more.
- Prioritize your content with H1, H2, H3, etc. tags which will tell Google the key elements of your page, as well as the keywords you want to emphasize. H1 should be restricted to your title only, so start with H2.
- Build internal links between articles on your site. This will help Google learn about your blog’s structure and niche, and will encourage your audience to stay on your blog.
- Write long articles. Google will consider them as highly valuable content. 1000 words is a minimum. The longer the better. My longest article is 14500 words.
- Use the right words with a rich vocabulary and synonyms. Google knows how to interpret them.
- Rename your images before uploading them: “DSCF1234.jpg” will not have as much impact in Google Image as “sunset-in-tulum.jpg”. Also make sure to fill in the alt and description tags.
- Optimize your images by compressing them. Less content to download = faster loading.
- Don’t repeat the same information too often, as this will damage your SEO by creating duplicate content.
But the most rewarding SEO practice to build your reputation and authority with Google is backlink. A backlink strategy consists of building a network of links that point to your site. These links are particularly difficult to obtain because they require that a third party site talks about you with an optimized link to your site and that it is taken into consideration by Google.
You got it. SEO is an art in itself and you will find a lot of information on the subject on the Internet. But it’s better to learn from the best! Leading blogs such as Yoast and Backlinko are great resources to help you rank your articles among the top search engine results.
Above all, don’t try to cheat the rules. Google’s algorithm is becoming more complex all the time, but it always tends to deliver the most useful content to Internet users. So make it a priority to create quality content for your readers. Over time, links will automatically flow in and Google will naturally reward you.
Using social media is one of the most effective ways to reach the people who are likely to be interested in reading your blog. For most new bloggers, this is the primary source of traffic. It’s also the way most people interact with bloggers today.
Allow your readers to ask questions and leave comments. Interacting with them is a key element in ensuring the healthy growth of your community. It encourages them to continue interacting, which at the same time helps increase the visibility of your blog.
You can waste a lot of time building up a community on each social network. To focus your efforts effectively, choose your communication channels strategically.
Among existing platforms, you might consider Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
13.3. Grow your mailing list
As in real life, the first contact with a person is very important. If you make a good impression, people will want to learn more about you. The same is true with a blog.
If a new visitor finds your content interesting, he or she is likely to read more and spend several minutes on your site. Internet visitors like him/her are valuable because they will potentially become avid readers or diehard fans.
That’s why it’s important to build a mailing list as soon as possible. When a visitor signs up for your newsletter, you convert traffic into subscribers. Unlike someone who will leave your site and never come back, a subscriber is someone you can reach out to in the future. They are also more likely to buy the products you recommend.
Many bloggers don’t find it useful to build a mailing list in the first place, but almost all of them end up doing so after realizing the value it provides. Unlike search engine or social media acquisition, the traffic you get from a mailing list relies on you alone. Make it a priority!
To encourage people to subscribe to your newsletter, offer them some sort of incentive. A free download is often a good idea.
When communicating with your subscribers, be honest. Focus on relevant information and don’t recommend anything that is not useful to your readers. Above all, don’t be pushy.
Involve them by asking them to comment on your products and services. You’ll get to know them better, which will help you meet their needs more accurately in the future.
So start collecting emails right away! The leaders in email marketing are MailChimp, Constant Contact, AWeber et ConvertKit.
Mailchimp is free up to a maximum of 2000 subscribers. However, the free version also has limited functionality. If this is enough to get you started in most cases, I still recommend that you do the exercise of comparing the other solutions. Because remember that what you save now, you may pay later!
Chapter 14 – Monetize your platform
14.1. The reasons to monetize a blog
Unfortunately for the vast majority of bloggers, lack of motivation quickly takes over and they abandon their business after a few years. As I mentioned earlier, this is mainly caused by a lack of vision. Over time, opportunities change, and so do priorities. That’s why the goal of monetization must absolutely be embedded in the initial vision.
When I speak of monetization, I am not referring to using your blog to promote your consulting services in a virtual mode. For that purpose, there is Upwork and Freelancer, which I introduced you earlier. The only advantage of this type of work is that it is more flexible than a traditional job, that is to say a fixed schedule.
Rather, I’m talking about passive income that you could generate, using your blog as a real leverage. By this, I mean that each of your posts will be potential sources of recurring and everlasting income.
You now realize why every intention, every decision and every action must be oriented towards the vision you have determined even before the organic creation of your blog.
There are many ways to monetize a blog. For a beginner, it can be difficult to find your way around. That’s why I’m going to introduce you to the main monetization strategies.
14.2. Advertising display
Companies pay for advertising space on blogs. An advertisement can be placed in sidebars, headers or footers. This monetization strategy is the easiest to implement, but it only really pays off if your site generates a high volume of traffic, or if your market niche is extremely lucrative – such as insurance, mortgage or pharmaceuticals.
There are three competing remuneration systems:
- Those who pay on a Pay Per Click (PPC) basis, i.e. every time a visitor clicks on a banner. Here you can find the popular Google Adsense, Media.net or Infolinks.
- Those who pay on a Cost Per Thousand (CPM) basis, i.e. for each thousand impressions. In this category we find Media.net et Propeller Ads.
- Those that allow you to offer an advertising space on your blog for a fixed period of time, at the price you decide. BuySellAds is the reference in this category.
14.3. Affiliate marketing
You can earn a revenue by promoting products that fit your niche, at no extra cost to your readers, and often by offering a special discount to your community.
The principle of affiliation is simple. Each time a visitor clicks on an affiliate link and completes a purchase, you earn a small commission.
It’s a simple way to start monetizing your blog without having to create your own product. In addition, depending on the program, cookies are generated so that you can get a commission if the user returns to your site to complete their purchases, up to 90 days after they click on your link.
Choose affiliate programs with high commissions, a solid reputation, high conversion rates and a low abandonment rate.
In every niche, there are endless opportunities to earn affiliate income. Affiliate networks bring together several affiliate programs in a single platform. Here are the most popular networks:
- Impact (ADP, Airbnb, 1-800 Flowers, Avon, Credit Karma Tax, Envato Market, Getty Images, Gravity Forms, HostGator, InMotion, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Namecheap, Shutterstock, Squarespace, StackPath CDN, Target, Turo, Uber, Uber Eats, etc.);
- ShareASale (WP Engine, StudioPress, WP Rocket, etc.);
- CJ Affiliate (Overstock, GoDaddy, Zappos, Walgreen, Verizon Wireless, TJ Maxx, Sears, Samsung, Priceline, Old Navy, Nike, Newegg, Michael Kors, Intuit, Hotels.com, HelloFresh, GNC, FedEx Office, AT&T, American Express, etc.);
- Rakuten Marketing (Walmart, Macy’s, Udemy, Hulu, etc.);
- FlexOffers (Apple Music, DirectTV, Sketchers, Barnes & Noble, GameStop, SkyScanner, etc.).
The online retailers :
- AliExpress – 3% on electronics, 7-9% on the rest;
- Amazon – up to 10%, depending on the category;
- Ebay – up to 6%, depending on the category;
- Etsy – 5%;
- Newegg – 0.5-1%;
- Overstock – up to 6%;
- Target – 4% on most categories;
- Walmart – 4% on most categories.
I’m going to say a few words about online retailers, such as the popular Amazon. Let’s say you’re blogging about cosmetics and you’ve written an article promoting a body lotion with supernatural powers. A reader who reads your article clicks on your affiliate link, which sends her to the product on Amazon. She decides not to buy the lotion, but she still proceeds to the checkout with a $2,000 Prada bag in her shopping cart. Knowing that Amazon pays 10% commission on luxury products, BAM! You make $200, just like that!
Many companies run their own individual affiliate programs and are not part of an affiliate network. Just search the websites of retailers to see if they offer this type of program.
14.4. Workshops and training
Your expertise comes at a price and you can capitalize on it.
Conferences – once you are recognized as an expert in your community, you may be invited to participate in conferences or workshops.
Trainings – create your own product! An online training course in which you share your expertise is a great way to monetize your blog.
Mentoring – develop interpersonal connections with your audience to provide one-on-one mentoring to those who need it and are willing to pay you to get their projects moving quickly.
14.5. Sponsored articles
Some companies could benefit from your influence to promote their products if your audience is part of their target audience. They might ask you to write a sponsored article in exchange for money, material goods or services.
For those who manage to reach a large number of subscribers, some market niches can be very lucrative. For example, in the travel industry, it is possible to work with private companies, brands and tourism boards. In order to encourage people to visit their country, some tourism boards might be willing to provide travel “influencers” with accommodation, activities and sometimes even airfare. Some companies may also sponsor them by inviting them on all-expenses-paid trips to launch their products.
If you managed to read this article to the end without quitting, congratulations! I am sure you are seriously considering entering the wonderful world of blogging.
To summarize, here is a checklist to help you complete your new project:
- Choose a market niche and create personas;
- Define a strategy with a vision and a mission statement;
- Decide on a blog name and a domain name;
- Subscribe to a hosting plan with Bluehost;
- Install Wordpress from Bluehost;
- Choose and install a theme that reflects your vision;
- Customize your theme, while optimizing the user experience;
- Install the essential plugins;
- Configure your blog for security and performance;
- Produce quality content by following SEO best practices;
- Promote your content in social networks;
- Build a mailing list;
- Determine your monetization strategy and implement it;
Above all, work efficiently, keep persevering and stay motivated.
Remember that success does not come overnight. It will take time and you must be patient. As with most success stories, you must remain determined and dedicated to your vision and mission statements. This involves a lot of work, but in the end, good work is always well rewarded.
Feel free to ask me any questions in comments or via the contact form. I will be extremely pleased to help you!
Keep reading our great travel stories by browsing through all our destinations!
Browse through 15,000 of our most beautiful travel photos sorted by destination and download them for free!
I would also like to take this opportunity to share with you the summary of our exceptional world tour as a family!
To learn some techniques to improve your travel planning skills, have a look at our our travel tips:
- How to book flights at the lowest price ?
- How to enjoy free hotels nights with credit cards ? (for Canadians)
- How to make the most of your travel points? (for Canadians)
- Which credit card to carry when traveling ? (for Canadians)
- How to travel with carry-ons only ? Our lightweight travel gear list
- How to build an itinerary for a world tour ?
- How to estimate a budget for a trip around the world ?
- How to enhance your photos with Lightroom?
- How to start a travel blog ?