Setting up a blog that makes money is essential if you want to eventually earn a full-time income from it.
Disclaimer: Posts may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. For more info, read our disclosure policy.
Make sure your blog can actually earn by checking how you’ve set it up and if you’re a total beginner, you can start by creating a website with Lyrical Host. Their customer service is second to none. They’re great value for money. And you get a 10% discount if you use our code BLISS18.
So, anyway. How can you make sure that your website can actually earn money? Well, a few questions: Can you actually monetise it? Is it self-sustaining? Does it attract traffic without you having to work hard at it every single day?
If you’ve decided that the best way for you to escape the daily grind is to create a blog, then you absolutely need to know how to set up a blog to make money.
This post is for totally new sites who need a bit of help making sure that their websites have everything they need to succeed at making money online.
If you’re serious about your online business and have some budget allocated towards premium tech and / or courses that will accelerate your growth, then invest in one of the tools listed below.
But if you’re curious about making money online and would like to start a blog or launch a website but don’t even know if it’s really for you (so you don’t want to spend money which is a totally valid concern), then you’ll want to head on over to our quick (but jam-packed full of tips) post on how to launch a money-making website for free!
So, let’s talk about your blogging goals.
You want to know how to start a blog to make money.
Of course, you want to write about what you’re passionate about.
And you want people to read what you’re passionate about…all whilst you’re earning money.
All great goals. All doable. You just need to know how to do it.
Now that that’s clear, we can look at the list of resources that we use and highly recommend, especially if you’re just starting out (although it’s never too late to join the party).
Luckily, there’s not much you need for blogging and the things you do need don’t necessarily have to cost a fortune. I mean they could, but you don’t have to invest in any of those resources in the beginning.
So, what tools do bloggers use exactly? What equipment do I need to be a blogger?
Read on to find out what’s on our list. Enjoy!
Setting up a blog that makes money
#1: Full Package
If you’re a total newbie (with no coding know-how, no experience with creating blogs, choosing a platform, template, hosting, writing, marketing etc.) but you’re dead serious about making it as a blogger, I recommend joining Wealthy Affiliate.
We were introduced to Wealthy Affiliate via their free training that will get y0u from no website to at least one fully functioning website and help you understand the basics of SEO, content creation and affiliate marketing – all powerful ways to monetise your future blog.
You can stay as a free member forever but to really take full advantage of the powerful features available, you’ll need to upgrade to Premium. This costs $19 for the first month to get you a proper taste of all that you will be enjoying. From the second month onwards, you’ll be paying a $49 / month membership fee.
Is it pricey?
Which is why I said you should only invest in the upgrade only if you’re dead serious.
To invoke my favourite mentor, Jim Rohn, upgrade to Premium only if you’re willing to say this about blogging, “This is my mountain and I will climb it. Soon, you’ll see me waving from top. Or dead on the side, ’cause I ain’t comin’ back.“
Otherwise, you’ll just be wasting your time and money chasing a unicorn.
Anyway, if you do go for the Premium package, your membership fee includes:
- Two kinds of training that will teach you how to succeed in affiliate marketing using blog-type websites,
- Access to their extensive training library as well as their more experienced members,
- Free hosting for 25 websites,
- A free SSL certificate for each website,
- The ability to get domain names directly from WA,
- An unlimited number of emails for each domain,
- Free access to Jaaxy, the most powerful keyword research tool available and which usually requires a separate fee of $49 per month.
You won’t need to jump from one service provider to another.
And you get an instant community of people who want you to succeed and will help you get to where you want to be.
I highly recommend it.
In fact, if you do go for it, don’t forget to say hi to me and send me a message any time you get stuck. I’ll gladly help you out. 🙂
Setting up a blog that makes money
You’ll always see ads about some sort of online business where you won’t need your own website.
And whilst that’s certainly possible, we encourage you to work on your own website anyway.
A website is like real estate.
It’s incredibly valuable the more you work on it.
You can pretty much do what you want with it without the restrictions that social media companies place on each account.
You have a lot more control.
And unless your website is an 8chan clone, you won’t have to worry about being banned for whatever reason.
Also, nearly all affiliate marketing companies we’ve encountered ask for your website and what kind of website you have before approving you as an affiliate.
So, if you really want to make it as an online entrepreneur and especially a professional blogger, you’ll need a professional-looking website that you can monetise.
Tech #1: Platform
The first thing you need to do is make sure that you use a proper platform that won’t limit your ability to monetise your site.
In other words, not Blogger.
You can monetise these sites certainly but they have strict limits that simply don’t exist when you’re using WordPress.org.
You need to use WordPress.org, which is free and easy to download. You just go to their website and choose your format (Mac or Windows), download and hit install.
If you join Wealthy Affiliate, they’ll even have videos and posts that will walk you through it.
You’ll also have access to people who can answer any questions you may have regarding the technical aspects of the installation.
Believe us, that access is extremely important when you’re just starting out.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – So far, the best side-by-side comparison of these two (rightly) confusing platforms. Which one is better? Read this post to find out. HINT: Go with WordPress.org.
WordPress vs. Blogger – Another detailed comparison of the most popular blogging platforms available. Which one is better? Read this post to find out. HINT: Go with WordPress.org.
Tech #2: Domain Name
One of the easiest ways to make your website look professional and more credible is to have your own domain name that preferably ends with a .com.
For example, we chose our domain name because that’s what our site intends to help people with – live a blissful life.
If you look at top companies, they also have their own domains and their websites immediately seem more professional.
If you had to choose between cnn.com or cnn.wordpress.com, which would you pick?
You’d go with cnn.com, right? The other just doesn’t seem as credible.
Now, there are many domain registrars to choose from but for ethical and financial reasons, we’re with Namecheap.
They get the job done and we absolutely love them.
Eventually, we’ll also start using Wealthy Affiliate’s SiteDomain, but for now, we’re quite content with and highly recommend Namecheap.
In fact, we love it so much that we bought about 6 domains from them.
Tech #3: Email
Hand in hand with your own domain name is also your own branded email.
Again, which seems more professional: an email from email@example.com or from firstname.lastname@example.org?
Imagine you receive an email asking if you wanted to collaborate. What’s the first thing you do to check that it’s legit?
Check the email address, right?
If it says email@example.com, you go and Google liveablissfullife.com and see what it’s all about.
You can’t do that with a Gmail email address.
In fact, it’s almost always a red flag for spammers. So, when people cold message me and their email address is Gmail (or another email provider), their email either ends up in my spam folder without me ever seeing the message in the first place.
Sometimes, when the message does go to my inbox, I look at the message and then instantly dismiss it.
So, let me reiterate. For improved credibility and maximised earning power, you need a business email address.
With Wealthy Affiliate, you can set up unlimited emails per domain name.
We used to pay about £9 for one email with Namecheap so this is great value for money.
Another thing that we like with Wealthy Affiliate is that you have three options:
1. Create an inbox, which you can access online. We don’t really like it because it’s webmail and, in our honest opinion, it needs an overhaul.
2. Set an email forward so that all emails automatically go to one centralised email. We tried that and forwarded our newly created emails to a Gmail account. It would’ve been great except for the fact that we couldn’t find a way to tag emails going to a specific inbox.
3. Create an inbox and then add this account to your email provider of choice – in our case, Gmail. It’s awesome and not at all as complicated as it sounds. They even have a video training available so you won’t feel like you’re grasping at straws trying to understand how to set it up.
Now, what are your options if you’re not a Wealthy Affiliate Premium member and you don’t want to be?
Well, we mentioned Namecheap but their email is actually webmail so its interface is not very good. Also involves a lot of logging in and out as we had two accounts.
I really didn’t like it.
G-Suite is another top-class option that we would’ve gone for if we hadn’t found Wealthy Affiliate. So far we haven’t needed it. But it’s an option that we’re keeping open in the future if we ever needed to switch.
Tech #4: Hosting
Whilst WordPress.org itself is free, you do need to pay for hosting so you can deploy your site and make it available to the rest of the world.
As we mentioned, if you’re going with Wealthy Affiliate, you get free hosting for 25 websites.
We used to pay about £66 for premium hosting with WPEngine for two websites, just for comparison’s sake.
Now, if you don’t want to sign up for Wealthy Affiliate and you, therefore, just need hosting, we do highly recommend WPEngine.
Yes, the price is steep but you get Genesis Framework for free and 30+ Genesis child themes, complete with hosting and theme support.
Seriously, have you checked how much Genesis themes cost?
They’re pretty pricey (for good reason, these themes are an absolute dream to work with).
WPEngine support is also unbelievable. Probably the best we’ve dealt with.
They really make you feel like you’re valued as a customer and that your problems can and will be dealt with swiftly.
They also don’t make you feel stupid, which is very easy to feel when you’re in tech and you’re asking for tech support.
Now, if you think both Wealthy Affiliate and WPEngine are too steep for your budget (and when you’re starting out, it certainly seems like it), you might be looking for the cheaper options.
Word of advice, avoid Bluehost or GoDaddy.
Yes, they’re commonly recommended but honestly, I’m in a lot of blogger groups on Facebook and the really experienced bloggers with mega traffic discourage new bloggers.
Like seriously discourage them.
Many of the hosting problems posted in these groups come from new bloggers who have these as hosts. Ad their problems are resolved almost as soon as they switch.
These two come highly recommended by bloggers who actually make a living out of their blogs as they both offer excellent hosting service and equally important, excellent tech support and customer service as well.
They also don’t break the bank.
But I prefer Lyrical Host and this video will tell you why.
Want a review from a user instead of a video from the hosting company? You can ask Google for recommendations and you’ll find your answer.
HINT: Most posts talk about having moved to Lyrical Host.
Tech #5: Theme
There are absolutely thousands of available themes in the WordPress repository and there are many more that are premium themes (meaning you have to pay for them) so we know how overwhelming it can all be.
Some people might say that it doesn’t matter what theme you use as you can change themes anyway and they seem to make it work for them.
I personally don’t like to change themes often as it can take so much time. I’m a perfectionist and everything needs to be on point and honestly, I can lose myself for days in that rabbit hole if I’m not careful.
In other words, changing themes too often can detract your focus from other more important aspects of the business.
So, make sure that you choose a theme that is responsive, lightweight, fast and beautiful.
Does a unicorn like that exist?
A few names that keep popping up in my blogging groups are Astra, Bluchic, Divi and Genesis.
Whatever you choose, you want a theme that is made by a known developer so you never have to worry about security issues like that Pipdig debacle.
Tech #6: Writing & proofreading
If you have a blog, your writing needs to be on point.
This emphasis on solid writing is one of the many reasons that deter interested people from starting a blog. A major reason (or excuse?) is that they’re not very good writers.
But actually, your writing doesn’t have to be perfect – unless you offer proofreading and editing services as well. In that case, you do want it to be perfect or you lose credibility.
Blogging is all about being informal. You write the way you talk and we don’t worry overly much about grammar when we’re talking, do we?
That said, you do need to be able to get the basics right and at least show that you’ve run your post in a spellchecker.
But not any old spellchecker.
If you’re writing in Microsoft Word, then you’ll be familiar with its spellcheck function, which is good but not quite good enough for someone who’ll be writing for the entire world.
What I used to do in my days as an academic was to use Word’s spellchecker and then print the document off and attack it with a red pen. I’d proofread and edit at least 10 times before submission.
Nothing beats a human combing through your document before publication.
But now that I’m a blogger, I don’t have the time to proofread and edit 10x before hitting publish. I have a tight deadline and I need to work on other things like marketing, writing eBooks, collaborating etc.
Not to mention the fact that I’m also a wife and a full-time mum.
My plate’s super full. So, what do I do?
I employ my secret weapon: Grammarly.
What is Grammarly?
It’s a contextually aware writing assistant that catches a lot more than just grammar mistakes. It’s especially excellent with punctuation.
It points out those tricky words that often get switched around (and are the bane of every writer’s existence): there/their/they’re, it’s/its etc.
It still works if you tend to write directly on your website’s backend (in other words, you don’t need to write in Word first before transferring to WordPress so a massive time-saver).
Another thing I don’t tend to focus on is the placement of commas. I personally think that it’s just not as important in blog writing as it is in academic writing or other more formal types of writing.
Grammarly is excellent at pointing these things out to me and when it does, I tend to agree with it (not always, mind, but often enough).
Finally (and this is especially important in blogging), it checks your document for plagiarism. Trust me, the last thing you want is another blogger filing a DCMA against you for stealing their writing.
Think of the damage that can do to your reputation.
If you’re interested in trying it out, they actually have a basic (read: FREE) package that you can sign up for. Just remember that it doesn’t include the plagiarism checker.
So, what does the basic free package include?
- Accurate suggestions
- Checks match your writing goals
- Includes a readability metric
- Easy to use across browsers and devices
- Integrates seamlessly into Word
- Saves your recently reviewed documents, acting as a basic backup option
- Lets you have the last word
- Supports American, British, Canadian, and Australian English
Pretty impressive stuff, right?
And for most people, that’s more than enough.
But, as I said, if you don’t already have a plagiarism checker, you really should invest in one if you plan to be writing and publishing for a long time. So, in comparison, what does the premium package offer you?
Well, on top of everything in the free plan, you also get the following:
- Advanced style suggestions covering word usage and sentence structure
- Tone and formality-level checker
- Wordiness and ineffective vocabulary filter
- Built-in plagiarism checker
- Inconsistent style checker
- Human proofreading available (extra cost)
See what I mean?
I honestly believe that it’s an indispensable tool and I highly recommend it.
Tech #7: Plugins
Ah, the beautiful but very confusing world of plugins.
Brief intro: plugins add functionality to your WordPress site. When you install WordPress, you get the bare essentials to get it running. Mind you, WordPress bare essentials are already pretty good.
So, what do you need plugins for?
Imagine two websites. One is for a company that provides training for students on certain dates. The other is for a site that offers people the chance to buy personalised books for their children.
They’re both using WordPress.
The training company needs to add a calendar that will show all the training sessions they offer and the dates these sessions are available. The other site doesn’t need a calendar at all. What it needs is the ability to list products that people can order from the comfort of their own homes – an e-commerce functionality.
So the first company downloads Booking Calendar whilst the second gets WooCommerce.
Same platform, different functions.
A word of caution: You only get the plugin you really need as some plugins can considerably slow your site speed.
Plugin #1: Yoast SEO or All in One SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) has become like the state of nirvana – everybody wants it but not everybody gets it.
We won’t go into too much detail here about SEO because this blog isn’t for teaching you how to blog successfully.
Suffice it to say that you need to set up your site for SEO success and you do that by installing an SEO-specific plugin.
Enter Yoast SEO or All in One Seo.
We’re using both in separate websites and can’t really decide which we prefer. Both work just as well as the other.
If you want a more detailed comparison, Savii published a relatively recent review (which incidentally mentioned The SEO Framework as a Yoast alternative).
You want your site to load fast so huge images are a big no-no.
As you can guess,
Smush smushes (lol) images and compresses them to the right size.
We recommend installing it as soon as your site is up and before you upload photos for the simple reason that you can’t bulk compress unless you upgrade to premium.
It’s annoying to have to manually compress each image because you don’t want to spend on yet another WordPress plugin.
As you can see, we started our blogging journey with Smush installed because, you know, we didn’t want to pay but actually, this is one service you won’t want to scrimp on.
Tastefully chosen images make a blog more beautiful and help it attract more readers so you want to include them in your posts.
But, these images can drastically slow your site down and as I said, you want your website to be fast.
Shortpixel is so much better at compressing and optimising images – especially when you use Shortpixel Adaptive Images plugin (instead of the Shortpixel Image Optimizer).
Just FYI (because it can be so confusing), Adaptive Images is better when your audience is international or scattered across the world.
When your audience is local, go with Image Optimizer.
One of the most important plugins you need to add to your site is a social media plugin, which will allow you to include social media buttons to your posts.
This simply means that if your readers encounter something they particularly like, then they can hit one button and share your post to their own audiences.
Now, we used to love USM Premium (for the reasons above) but it really slowed our site down so when our licence expired, we asked other bloggers for recommendations.
We got Shareaholic and Social Pug.
So far, we love Shareaholic and quite content with what it does despite the fact that we’re on the free plan. I can only imagine how much more powerful the plugin would be when we upgrade.
Plugin #4: Pretty Links
If you’re serious about affiliate marketing, then we highly recommend Pretty Links, which will allow you to create your own links from affiliate links so they don’t look like their normal bunched up words and letters.
But also, and more importantly, when you create new links via Pretty Links, you can then choose to nofollow or dofollow them. (eh?!)
We found out about this a little bit late into the game so we’ll need to revisit previous posts and comb through the links we have there.
Why is this important?
Basically, the almighty Google penalises you if you have too many links in your site that should’ve been tagged as ‘nofollow’ but aren’t.
Yeah, we know how you feel.
We also felt that gaping hole in the pit of our stomach when we realised that there is more to this blogging thing than just, well, blogging.
And yeah, get Pretty Links or get comfortable fiddling with code so you can insert the nofollow tag yourself (it’s not that hard).
You can’t use Pretty Links with Amazon affiliate links. It’s considered cloaking and you will be banned from the programme if you use it.
Plugin #5: Genesis Framework Plugins
Because we’re in love with Genesis themes, we use a fair bit of Genesis plugins.
Plugin #6: Tasty Pins
If your target audience is on Pinterest, we highly recommend Tasty Pins, which was originally geared towards the food blogging niche but has now expanded.
This was a relatively late addition to the game so we had to go back to quite a few posts and change them.
It’s packed full of important features but what we mainly use it for is the ability to separate the ALT txt and the pin description. All you have to do is set the pin description once and then every time someone pins from your site, the data are all there.
Another very important thing you can do is actually to add a repin id to help with aggregating Pinterest stats.
Sometimes, when the same pins are pinned onto Pinterest by different people, they get different IDs and are treated like different pins. This lessens your authority somewhat so aggregating them can really help.
A year in and I’ve just discovered another powerful feature: You can upload hidden pins and set their pin titles, descriptions and ALT texts instead of fiddling with code.
I don’t know why it took me so long to find out but I’m blown away!
I can’t believe I spent so much time manually coding each hidden pin when I had a reliable plugin that actually took care of it.
Setting up a blog that makes money
#3: Courses & eBooks
If you’re not too keen on signing up for a monthly membership, which is what you’ll need to do with Wealthy Affiliate, there are a number of courses and eBooks that you can get where you only pay one-off fees.
These are courses we’ve done ourselves so we know how good they really are.
In my opinion, these are the best courses for new bloggers who are determined to make a real go at it.
Jim Rohn kept saying that you don’t start with inspiration. You start with education. And it’s true.
When you blog, you don’t just write, hit publish and then be done with it.
You also have to be a graphic designer, a digital marketer, an SEO expert, a copywriter and on and on.
You’ll need it if you want your blog to eventually make a full-time income.
Courses & eBooks #1: Blog By Number
Blog By Number is the course that we recommend for total beginners. If you’re toying with the idea that you want a blog but don’t know if you should have one, or what you should write about, who you should write to and not to mention how you actually deploy the site, this is the course for you.
If you’re not interested in Wealthy Affiliate for one reason or another, then this training is the best if you’re just starting out.
Suzi will go through every little detail and explain all the little things that only beginners ask so you don’t feel totally overwhelmed.
Yeah, blogger overwhelm.
It’s a thing.
Courses & eBooks #2: Easy on Page SEO
Debbie Gartner, the author, actually recommends that you start this on month 3 and to focus on Pinterest (or other more niche-appropriate social media) in the beginning because SEO traffic can take a while.
Your domain and your website need to age.
Google pretty much ignores your site for the first six months so if you want traffic, it makes sense to go with either Pinterest or social media because it’s easier to get traffic from these sources.
But, if you’re like a prolific writer like me, you’d really need to start here I think.
You need to know how to write posts that would actually get seen and that means posts that show up on a search engine’s first page.
In other words, you need to know SEO.
I mean, when I first started, I had absolutely no idea and just typed whatever took my fancy. I didn’t make anything SEO-friendly and then I waited 11 months before I bought this course.
Result: I now have over 100 posts to redo because none of them is SEO-optimised.
So, get this book and if you’re going to invest in a course in the very beginning, make sure you invest in this one.
Courses & eBooks #4: P.I.Q. Strategy
If you want to get traffic quickly, then this is the best way to get it.
Obviously, this is niche-specific but this is true for most bloggers.
Now, the confusing thing is that even though you create an account like you would in Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest is actually a search engine.
It’s not a form of social media.
It’s a search engine., which means you also need to do some SEO and keyword optimisation.
You can figure how that works all on your own or you could just get the P.I.Q. Strategy Guide, a really cheap eBook that will tell you exactly how to keyword research.
In other words, you can skip the discovering bit and dive right into the action part.
I honestly think that anyone who wants to use Pinterest as a traffic driver needs to read this guide.
Courses & eBooks #5: Pinteresting Strategies
A manual, non-Tailwind strategy, Pinteresting Strategies significantly increased our Pinterest monthly views from about 19,000 (it was on a steady decline) to 360,000 and more importantly, our blog traffic from 0 to 20,000 pageviews – in one month!
It works a lot better when combined with the PIQ Strategy Guide in the previous section.
This is highly recommended and we can’t rave about it enough.
The strategy really makes sense and will show you just why you don’t need to spend on yet another blogging tool (unless you want to) in order to succeed at Pinterest marketing.
Courses & eBooks #6: Niche Post Conversion Strategies
Created by PotPieGirl, the same blogger behind the P.I.Q. Strategy Guide, Niche Post Conversion Strategies shows you what it takes to make actual CONVERSIONS.
Anybody can stick a link in a post but getting people to click on that link is “a whole ‘nother story”.
In fact, before I read this eBook, I’d spend 6 months on probation as an Amazon Associate.
Never got a single sale. In 6 months.
After I read this book and implemented PotPieGirl’s recommendations, I made the sales required in a single month.
Courses & eBooks #7: The Email Marketing Fairy
Terrified of email marketing?
Yeah, so were we.
Thankfully, Kate Doster breaks it down for you in The Email Marketing Fairy and actually gives you 8 series that contain email templates as well as subject ideas, which you can tailor to your needs.
Good-bye, terror and hello, confidence!
Setting up a blog that makes money resource list
I know this is a really long post and it’s jam-packed full of information so if you want a cheatsheet, here is our list:
Full package: Wealthy Affiliate
Domain Name: Namecheap
Business Email: Wealthy Affiliate, Namecheap or G-Suite
Hosting: Wealthy Affiliate, WPEngine or Lyrical Host
Theme: Genesis (go with those from StudioPress)
Writing & Proofreading: Grammarly
SEO Plugin: Yoast SEO or All in One SEO
Image Compression Plugin: Shortpixel
Social Media Sharing Plugin: Shareaholic
Link Management Plugin: Pretty Links
Theme-specific Plugins: Genesis eNews Extended, Genesis Connect for WooCommerce, Genesis Simple Sidebars and Genesis Simple Menus
Pinterest Plugin: Tasty Pins
Blog setup course: Blog By Number
SEO eBook: Easy On-Page SEO
Pinterest SEO eBook: P.I.Q. Strategy Guide
Pinterest Pinning Strategy Course: Pinteresting Strategies
Affiliate Marketing Course: Niche Post Conversion Strategies
Email List eBook: The Email Marketing Fairy
Final thoughts on setting up a blog that makes money
We need to emphasise here that blogging is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme although we do have some ideas if you need to make money fast.
Yes, yes, we do hear about bloggers earning 6-figure incomes from their blog and that’s true, you can see their income reports.
But that doesn’t happen overnight.
Unless of course, you’re starting a new blog but you yourself have years of blogging experience under your belt and you somehow managed to secure an aged domain that’s been around for years.
Or something like that.
It does take time to build trust, not just with people, but with search engines who serve your site to people.
Keep going and don’t give up and you will get there (unless you realise that this isn’t for you, in which case, giving up may be the perfect solution).
So, what do you think? Where are you now in your blogging journey? Have you used any of these resources and how did you get on? Let us know in comments below. We want to hear from you!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been completely revamped and updated for relevance and comprehensiveness.