My aim here is to give you a one-page guide, for everything you need: Choose a blog platform to get started. Write about things that no-one else can. Rank high on search engines. Make money blogging for beginners in your niches. Find inspiring examples of blogging as a business, lead generation, and additional revenue from existing traffic.
I'll detail exactly how to set it all up, outlined like a colouring book, for all you need to start or improve your own.
Following everything here will help you to; start filling in the blanks for structuring your content, share your unique and valuable experience with the world, and get paid!
These principles all apply to every other kind of website, too. So, you'll have a more in-depth understanding of how a good website, and, most important; the content, should be organised — to guide and satisfy.
You can skim, or read every detail. The best I can suggest is that the quality of your results, will match the depth of your understanding. If I've done my job here, in writing clearly enough, both should be good.
This is a long one, so it is going to test your attention-span — but this is a basic qualifier for good writing, and does improve with practice.
If you can spend half the time that many do nowadays are on social media, on your blog, you'll ace it!
There are pros & cons to long-form writing, verses shorter connected multi-post series. In this instance, I've gone for the one-page complete guide to blogging — to become one know-it-all reference link, a page you can print and read offline, or have in a second window to follow, as you build your blog.
The return for your investment in focus, is almost unlimited, ongoing rewards potential. It is more akin to building a house, than renting a hotel room — as you own the resulting property, and the utility it will continue to provide, for all your years, and even to be inherited.
We're aiming to satisfy readers, search engines, and employers — where many professional services roles now need content marketing initiatives, to demonstrate the brand and team's expertise.
The same principles apply for a brand's own websites, as they do for guest posts on related industry authority websites, with backlinks.
A blog post is, essentially, a modern-day essay; graded by search engines — in their ranking, by peers — in their linking to you, and by readers — in their engagement and responses.
Understanding blogging, is to understand the standards and conventions for structured writing — enriched with media and data — all organised to be a searchable reference, including source citation links for facts, original data, and attribution authority.
The quality, depth, and presentation of original, experience-based content is the key to success in blogging. Search engines will then offer your answers and solutions to a new audience, thereby connecting you to other like-minds — people looking for what you already know, do, and share — that you can now present to the world.
This is now known as the online creator economy, due to the significant value it presents — to authors and audiences.
The rewards, for authors, are a permanent presentation of relevant topical experience.
The links you then have to share, you can use many times — to give one high-quality answer to all that may need it.
It's work that will continue to repay you, for as long as it remains relevant, maintained, and needed.
The sum of all published blogs becomes your topical authority — an online persona for your specialist subjects.
In a world with no shortage of problems, it's a great opportunity to build your name and reputation for finding, testing, and sharing solutions.
I practice what I preach, and obsess over the details for my websites — to share the most valuable insights, otherwise lost in emails, and buried in timelines. So, I hope that you'll find it a good example for the setup, design, structure, and types of content you can publish, too.
This particular post type is a comprehensive how-to guide. It is intended to be a model example of a post that offers free value and opportunity for the reader — to be content worth your while consuming, as you spend your valuable time and available attention, in continuing.
Posts should give inspiration, and save effort from researching the same — with years of experience condensed into a step-plan of tried, tested, and recommended decisions — among otherwise abundant options, were the reader not to find your one-page complete guide.
It's typical, in ranking points, for long-form to be favoured — meaning anywhere from 600 to 6,000 words, as the needs may justify. I like to think of this like the “Bluffer's Guide” series of books — all you need to know on a subject, within one convenient resource.
To earn a living from blogging, you should expect to write at least 100 posts to achieve meaningful, consistent, daily ranking on search engines. This is necessary for the analytics and feedback to provide statistically significant information to improve upon.
To create 100 posts over 12 months, you need to average 2 posts, or 1,200 to 12,000 words, a week, and 60,000 to 600,000 words — depending on the depth of the subject. A post is often 4-8h research, writing, and illustrating with imagery or data.
Your posts should ideally average three to six original images, too, and for extra ranking points, include a table, chart, or graph or two. So that's 300+ images, and 100+ tables and charts.
It is a lot of work to make an attention-worthy blog, that can be monetised — but it's a marathon, not a sprint, and you ultimately own your work, no matter how long it takes.
If your reader then also bookmarks or remembers your site for when they need it, or goes on to try your suggestions, it is worth the effort.
If you can make time to blog, then you're definitely winning at life, as you can now own what you create, and the credit due for originating.
Introduction to blogging
Blogging is akin to creating your own Wiki or knowledgebase, as a person, persona, subject-obsessive, or brand — all interlinked by keywords, categories (subjects), and tags (topics).
I like to think of blogging as digital gardening — you plot out what you want to grow, then seed, plant, nurture, prune, sometimes collaborate, and invite family and friends to share.
At its most basic, it's just nice to have a place to share your experiences, and showcase your interests.
Having a blog is like getting to write all those books you think you have in you, but can't spend years writing, editing, and publishing to permanent print, before anyone could read.
Write in no particular order, as and when you can, and continue editing any chapter, whenever you see an opportunity to improve. Plus, you get faster feedback on what's of interest, and what else people might want to know.
I also find it more motivating, as it focuses the mind when trying to learn or master any subject. It gives me a higher purpose, and standards obligation, in any endeavour — documenting the journey, so others can also learn, iterate, and join the discussion.
One of the best ways to find those with similar interests, is to share yours — blogs, like forum posts, are a great conversation starter, and magnet for like-minds.
Technically, posting on social media is also blogging, or microblogging. Blog being short for web log, as-in logging your thoughts on the web. Almost everyone is at it now, on their preferred platform, but social media timelines are forgotten quickly, whereas blogs can be found for years to come.
Blogging sounds kind-of nerdy, and perhaps a little egocentric. Although, nowadays, it is more common through social media posting.
Most organisations and personal brands have websites. The blog can then offer more value to more people. It can, however, often be the least maintained part of many websites — when the time to document isn't afforded, or the long-term organic growth value isn't appreciated.
Social media has been great at giving almost everyone with a computer, a non-technical way to share, and form new communities. Although, this can be at the cost of a continual necessity to post, negating substance and depth, and unlimited distractions from the concentration needed for a deeper subject.
Yet, in its aim to capture the value of user-generated content (UGC), to monetise with paid-advertising, selling behavioural data, and now training AI — it dilutes content across distinct platforms, and buries knowledge in ever-scrolling timelines.
A website blog, however, you can structure and grow infinitely, as a Wiki of wisdom, that you own, can share with the world, and even monetise directly — with select advertising partners, affiliate links, downloads, memberships, products, services, referrals, and leads.
In demonstrating your skill, experience, and capabilities, the CV still holds recognisable value — but, can never offer the breadth and depth of your work in the way a portfolio website blog can.
Many are now using LinkedIn, and other social media accounts, as their leading personal profile page — with some also adding related posts, but most consuming more than producing.
Each platform can provide engagement opportunities from connections, posts, and comments. However, the platform owns the content, reserves rights through changing terms, and presents risk challenges of blocking, trolling, spam, shadow-bans, impersonation, plagiarism, censorship, deplatforming bans — often beyond your control or reasonable rights respectfully to disagree.
Social media, for all it has enabled, is not without costs and risks. Also termed a digital walled-garden, only other “members” of such a platform, may access your content — and with no control over the advertising associations the platforms may choose to present alongside, with their mysterious algos for promotion.
The private membership aspects, and segments, can equally now be applied to blogs — hence offering newsletter subscriptions for content that is kept for those open to sharing their contact details for email broadcasts, and potential offers.
Authenticity is the key, and challenge, in presenting many people as one, under a corporate brand.
Clients and consumers are looking for allies — to support brands that understand their needs, and take responsibility for mastering and sharing reliable returns for their investments of time and money.
One influential fan can be worth hundreds of followers.
The most aware brands now understand that recognising and presenting their team's diverse abilities and insights is what projects true authority, dedication, and belief — in offering significant value, before asking for the rewards of attention and commitment.
A winning strategy now involves giving away the know-how, to secure confidence and trust in capability — to sell the unique and personal implementation or delivery.
Don't tell — show.
For products, the standard marketing P's, of Packaging, Positioning, Price, Presentation, all help to capture existing residual demand.
For services, and brand loyalty to thrive, we need to add Persuasion, Personality, Publishing, and Proof to the marketing mix.
We submit our unique offers to the world, the people to judge our integrity for; dedication to serving their needs, empathy for enriching their work, and availability for being their most reliable allies.
It's the stories and experiences we offer that capture attention — and give the imagination meaningful journeys we can relate to.
What's the difference between a blog and a website?
Generally, your website will be a collection of pages, each with a specific function to serve, in meeting standard-expectations.
Your blog, however, is a section, dedicated to journaling stories, perspectives, guides, reviews, news, announcements, and anything else that gives more than it asks for. All composed in a way that can also be repurposed for other media, including being the basis for scripts and interviews.
Modern marketing is now giving significant and reliable value many times more, before asking for anything in return. Blogging does this.
As an aside, in explaining as we do, I feel it is useful to explain what an open loop is, and how it relates to blogging.
An open loop is like a cliffhanger, it promises answers, but keeps you hanging, or reading, to get them.
At the beginning of this post, I suggest what you can learn, and several benefits from learning. Now, if you relate to these, and your imagination gives you ideas on what you might achieve from this learning, the loop is opened.
The only way to close the loop is to keep reading, until you're either satisfied, or not convinced it is worth your time.
The payoff isn't at the end, but peppered throughout.
You can't just skip to the end to satisfy the wondering because you'll miss out on all the detail — that which gives the results of knowledge, and closes the loop to secure the potential value being promised.
Often, an open loop is a simple as asking your audience a question.
Wouldn't you like to have a platform, you own, for significant ongoing rewards for all you know and share?
Excellent! We continue…
Blog software platforms and setup
With WordPress powering the majority of content websites, it has become a uniquely capable platform, continually improving due to the vast ecosystem of designers, developers, and integrations — continually evolving and innovating, in confidence, due to its community-spirited free open-source foundations.
This is the paid, hosted version. It's a premium service, but a reputation for having one of the fastest hosting networks on the planet, and you'd expect the creators of the platform to provide very knowledgable support and management of updates.
If you only want one or two websites, and have the budget, (it is competitively priced for what you get), or are an enterprise customer needing hosting to be independent of your development team, then I highly recommend it.
This is the open-source development community for the core platform, documentation, plugins, themes, and community support.
This is what I use, and self-host with Cloudron, Hetzner, Cloudflare, and iDrive e2 for backups — details on my Partners page.
I'll write up more on self-hosting and WordPress development, soon, since it's become such an essential platform to know for many.
I've worked with more than enough software platforms over the decades, to be happy with my personal choice, and continued investment, in WordPress — and open-source, in general, for all its security oversight, and community advantages.
I've worked with WordPress for almost as long as it has existed. I've worked with many other platforms, too — but, I've always come back — due to the freedom to experiment and evolve — knowing that there's almost always a solution, or someone that can collaborate on one.
If you're serious about your website and blog being an integral asset to your personal or business brand, the one thing you'll get from WordPress, that no other platform can offer, is so much potential.
You can add features like an ecommerce store, with WooCommerce, create courses, membership features, publish rich data, add bookings, and have multiple sites, with unlimited users — and economies of scale for costs, as everything you do is reusable.
Ghost was founded and created by former WordPress developers — on the principles of only doing blogging, and doing it very well.
There are no plugins with Ghost, only themes, so it's a much simpler system, and easy to get started with, or base a business on.
If you later need additional features, you can use other similarly specialist separate application —or, as I prefer, migrate to WordPress, since the data structure and content is almost the same.
You can use their hosted version, or, being open-source, self-host, too.
Medium.com is the half-way house between social media, and blogs. Everyone is publishing under the same domain, with Author profiles.
You can use it for a personal or business brand blog. There's no setup or styling to consider — just write, and if you're popular, you can also get paid a share of reader subscriptions for any content you choose to be reserved for a paying audience.
Some people start with Medium, some also post here to reach their specific audience. If you want to just try out blogging, for no cost, to see if you enjoy it enough to stick with it, Medium's not a bad place to start. Just be aware, that you don't own the platform, so you are also submitting to their evolving terms and audience engagement.
Micro.Blog is a new kid on the blogging block. It's halfway between Ghost, for being a simple paid hosted subscription, and Medium for being vanilla in design, so the focus is on the content.
They have strong ethics for creator content ownership, in being a gateway to the fediverse, where your content can be federated across multiple hosts, to protect from being lost, should any become unavailable or have conflicts with your expectations.
I'll mention social media because it is a form of blogging, but address more on that in other areas of this post. The main thing to consider is that you don't own your social media platforms and accounts — and publishing on them is subject to their terms, conditions, and algos for visibility.
When you have your own blog website, you can write and create for that, first, and then publish snippets of the content onto other platforms, with links back to your blog.
Plus, a link in your biography to your website, gives your followers a place to find all your content and offerings, searchable, without limitations, and displayed as-intended.
Other blog platforms
- Squarespace is worth a notable mention. Popular with creators, like photographers and artists. If you're already with Squarespace, or have the budget and some burning reason to prefer it, all the principles here still apply.
- Ecommerce platforms, like Shopify, Magento, Prestacart, etc, will all have a basic blog section and CMS. Given the maturity of WooCommerce now, and then single application to work with, integrating content and products, if starting anew, WooCommerce is a credible and scaleable option.
My preference and recommendation remains WordPress. I'm not going to oversell this, as there will always be room for alternative opinions, and competition is good for progress.
What WordPress does, though, is competition within the platform for each component, plugin, feature, and theme. This is what has given me a library of hundreds of plugins for each specific need, that has been far quicker to try, test, and curate, than developing any of these features myself, or with developers, on any other platform.
I'm pinning my flag on WordPress, and, based on 20 years watching all platforms evolve, betting my reputation that it will continue to be relevant and omnipresent in another 20 years.
That's not to say you have to start with WordPress. Although, if you expect your blog to become a serious business, there's a good chance you'll at some point want to migrate, for the deep range of features, customisation, and helpers it opens up for you.
Choosing a niche for your blog
Personal, persona, brand, or subject-specific niche?
You may just want a named personal website, like this — or you may want an online persona, for your particular speciality or interest.
If it is for work, then that will be your brand's blog, or you can create a brand just for and as a blog, that could later also become a business.
How many blogs should I start?
You can have multiple blogs, but take it from a professional at managing multiple websites — it is not easy. Although, I do intend to cover this subject, and my tools for managing many websites, in another post.
It is best to start with just one website, before trying to spread yourself over multiple niches. This way you are committed to the content.
What you can do, and I will be doing here with my blog, is use categories to write about multiple niches, and I put my name to my writing.
If you're not confident that you want to attach your name to your content, then a pseudonym persona is equally good.
Then, later, if you find you have written about a lot on one specific category, but want to migrate that to become a brand in its own right, you can create a new blog.
Style your new blog for that niche, migrate the content over, and just turn the existing page links into what's called “301 redirects” to those same pages, now hosted on that new domain name.
With this one-blog strategy:
- You don't lose time trying to build, and manage, multiple blogs at once
- All the effort that goes into content will be just as effective on your first blog, it's the content that counts
- You won't lose any traffic later from redirecting traffic for the subset of pages migrated to the new blog.
Solopreneur or team?
If you are looking at blogging as an income, or business, you will also want to lead by example in your posts, to then recruit additional authors, either; in your team, company, or community, or recruiting online from the various marketplaces for such skilled creators, or from connections you'll build from your blogging adventures.
Staying motivated to write
The absolute most important thing is, your blog should be on subjects you are passionate about, personally experienced with, and want to put in the time to composing and sharing.
There are no deadlines or penalties for how often you post — but — those things you do, and lose time doing because you're in a happy state of flow, those are the things you're more likely to finish and publish, consistently.
It is only worth starting something that you'll enjoy continuing — because what you own, ends up owning you.
It should be enjoyable, then it will surely grow on you, inspire you — and entertain your audience.
Enthusiasm is attractive, and that's motivating.
What are you the go-to person for?
If you're not certain, have a think about what your family, friends, colleagues, or community see you as the go-to person on a subject. Those questions you get asked because your friends know you as the person that would know. That's your first niche!
Write for a small audience to reach a bigger one
Every audience is just a collection of individuals, with their thoughts, feelings, hopes, and wonders. Audiences gather because they all have something in common, so write for people that you have something in common with, too.
If you can answer something completely for just one person, then you can answer it for many more with the same needs and ideas. In fact, it's much easier to write and create with an audience of one in mind. It gives you purpose and focus to put everything you have into giving that person all you know, and they might need, to add genuine value to their day.
I'll link below to some great niche website blogs, that I'm certain will give you inspiration, and many also have interesting and encouraging free newsletters worth subscribing to, and social profiles worth following.
Choosing a domain name
My rules for choosing domain names:
- If you will only every be relevant to a region, then you can use that country domain
- If you want a global audience, try to get a .com
- If you really can't get a .com you like, then .net, .org, .ai, .io are all OK, and shorter is better
- Whatever you choose, make sure it's easy to say out loud, without needing to spell it for the user
- Avoid numbers, hyphens, difficult words or tongue-twisters
- Creative spellings can be OK, though, depending on the brand
- Cloudflare is the cheapest registrar I know of, at present, and has other useful features I'll detail in other articles
Choosing a theme
Less is more, especially for web design with already limited screen space — and this is a good thing for focus.
You really want the styling to be little more than choosing a colour pallet and font from a standard theme.
The real styling happens in the content, which will follow your chosen pallet, and font, with an imagery style relevant to the topics discussed.
For WordPress, I like the Kadence theme — it's simple, fast, maintained, and supported.
Other designers and developers may have their preferences, or try to match a theme to a client project. I prefer to just stick to one simple theme, and add the features needed, from the hundreds of plugins I've tested and settled on with over the years.
If you like this website, then it's WordPress + Kadence + just over 100 plugins. I'll detail all of those in future posts, too.
The more you can align with conventions for presentation, the easier it is for your reader to immerse themselves in the content.
We've been through the era of wacky, look-at-me, trying-too-hard, different or clever web design. That itch has been scratched and earned plenty of people a lot of money in the making. We don't need to do that, though, as all a blog reader is concerned with is the substance of the content, and finding more of the same.
Again, I aim to practice, as I preach, in this blog, other projects, and client sites. If I've designed everything well, you shouldn't even notice the design, so it does need a little explaining.
At this point, it's a good time to also recommend the grammar check tool I rely on: LanguageTool. It runs as a browser extension, so can check as I type in the WordPress Gutenberg editor. I'll write a review on it another time, but needless to say, I compare and try everything when it comes to my tools of the trade, and I'm still happiest with this one.
All your blog articles are going to have the same structural principles. This is an outline of those, that you should compose first, before starting to write the content.
- Title. (Heading 1 tag (H1), usually set by your platform, and you must only have one of these on the page.)
This may seem obvious, but start with something you'd want to click on to learn more. You can change it later, but ideally, it should be a specific offer of both, knowledge, and the benefit of this knowledge. Why should I read this?
- Categories. Is this a how-to guide, review, resource, comparison, or inspiration?
- Author. Putting your name and avatar to your work is good for you, and the work.
- First published, and Last updated. Show when you brought this information to market, and how recently you checked it was still relevant and true.
- Introduction. One to three paragraphs is ideal. I often go over this on bigger subjects, that's OK, as long as it's still introductory, and just explaining why your reader may wish to read on. The first 20-30 words of this can then be used as the Excerpt text for your article tiles in lists, searches, and related articles areas. If you don't populate this, it will usually be auto-selected for you. I try to specify it in the Excerpt field, but be sure to remember to update that, if you later update it within the article.
- Big image. This will be the image in your article tiles, and should be something pleasing to the eye. It shows your attention to the kind of style and inspiration that you'll continue to offer in the rest of the article, and other pages. I also like to use products, people, or places images here, as a further opportunity to help the reader get into a visual thinking mindset, rather than intimidating walls of text.
- Table of Contents. This block is usually automated from the Headings used, throughout. It further details what your reader can expect, and is a clickable navigation for the rest of the page.
- Heading 2 (H2). This will be the highest heading level you will use for all other headings. You can then use further subheadings (H3, H4, H5, H6) to next information under each relevant higher level. These headings should each approximate to the kinds of things your audience will be searching for, or asking. Search engines place weight on these for ranking, and your readers need these to navigate the page.
- Content. The ideal is one to three paragraphs per heading, depending on the depth of the subject. You can go to more, but try to challenge yourself to subdivide it where possible, for reader comfort and self-pacing. Intersperse with images, videos (these don't have to be your own), graphs, charts, tables, lists, notices, callouts, etc.
- Sponsored content. If you're adding advertising slots, start and end them with a line break and SPONSOR or AD above this slot. This clarifies that this content is paying in some way to be here, and may control the contents of this area, and whatever it may lead to will be under their terms, and relationship, not yours. For inspiration on what is respectable, have a look at how any other blogs you like, that do this respectfully, and add genuine value.
- Conclusions, recommendations, and personal preferences.
- Share buttons. If you've added value to one person's day, they may want to reciprocate with their network, in thanks for your efforts.
- Tags (topics). These are like Categories (subjects), but more specific. For example. I might have a Categories of Guide, Software, Security. Then Tags for Password Manager, VPN, Bitwarden, IVPN.net, and other specific things that I might mention in this, and other articles, but across multiple Categories. They are just another way of grouping and filtering searches for other articles with the same Tags, from a quick click.
- Author avatar and short biography, plus links to their social media, websites, forums, and other places to see their work or contact. This, again, also helps search engines to establish the authority of the article, from the credentials and following of the creator.
- Related Articles. If you liked this, here's some other content from the same category. Try to make sure they are truly related, and not just whatever is automatically put here.
- Comments. You should be able to make it so that all comments are approved before publishing. It's a great way to have an open debate on the article, answer other questions, and show social proof of engagement and courtesy in responding. Plus, it's free and unique content that search engines can also recognise and rank based upon its relevance to queries.
Luckily for us all, much of this is structured for us by our blog platform. However, the content quality and utility is up to you.
Start with a Title, set relevant Categories, then outline all your headings, before filling in the blanks, and checking all the above is present and working.
You might even start 10, 20, 30 article titles, to plan out your category coverage. Then outline headings in each, as the inspiration arises. Dip in and out of writing a bit of each — when they are on your mind, or you spot something online that adds value — until one captures your attention, to the point you just have to finish it.
Don't worry about word counts, just write until you're happy that your answer covers all that it needs to.
If there are actions for the reader to take, you might then use that as breakpoints to separate out into a series of articles, like this introduction to Ghost.
Again, the more standard, and simple your website structure, the more invisible it should be, match expectations for what is where, and allow your branding and content to shine through. Avoid animations, gimmicks, annoyances, or clutter.
1. Callout bar
Occasionally, the very top of the site can be used as a callout banner space, to draw attention to an offer or announcement. This should be dismissible, for those not interested, and likely not the only place you'll be promoting this message.
2. Contact bar
If the main reason people visit your website, is to find your contact details, you can put your phone number and social media icon links up here. Otherwise, you don't need it. Less is more. A phone number in the footer is recommended, though, as it also adds authenticity to the website, and phone calls are still a good way to do business.
3. Logo and main navigation bar
Left logos are most common (or right, in right-to-left (RTL) languages) but centre can work — depending on your brand prominence needs, and what else you may or may not want on this row. For side logos, it is then easy to fit two or three main links to popular pages or sections, a search icon link, and now, it is conventional to have one or two differentiated call-to-action buttons in the top-right. Likely your top navigation bar buttons will be one or two of; Contact, Subscribe, Login, Demo, Pricing, Basket, Checkout, or similar. It shows that you know what people are likely most interested in, and you're making it easy for them to find.
4. Categories menu bar
For your categories' navigation bar, you can just pick the top few main interest subjects, or add levels of navigation, once you have a lot of content to drill-down into.
This will contain your hero image, Page or Post title, metadata on your post (Author, Date, Categories), followed by your excellent writing.
6. The “what next?” area
- Your share button links, specifically labelled as share buttons, so as not to be confused with links to your social page links.
- Your biography and links to related pages for authentication of your online presence and publishing elsewhere.
- Any call to action, often a newsletter subscribe box, or perhaps a product, service, or contact invitation.
- Related articles, that really should be related, too.
7. Your footer
- Identifying yourself, again with your logo, primary contact details, regulatory registration numbers, and affiliated body or awards badges.
- Links to pages that are often sought, but not so often to justify space in the header navigation.
- Links to all the legal pages, privacy settings, and any other expectations. There's quite a lot expected of businesses., and anyone collecting personal data nowadays. Aim to have these legal pages in place before going live. They are part of the price of entry for participation in online publishing, and invitations to do business.
These are your common courtesy info pages, that will evolve with you, and the section pages for holding lists and forms, like your Shop, Articles, Checkout, Contact Form, etc.
People read about pages! It might very well be the first creative page you write, and I'm sure you'll come back to it a few times to be happy it says enough, and remains accurate.
If someone's found your content, and considering working with you — or just friends & family checking it out — they'll likely check out your About page. It's an opportunity for both writer and reader to find something in common — for a warmer, more personal introduction.
Here, you get to be the friend that your audience just hasn't met — yet. Your commonalities can only be known if you share them, so say what interests, motivates, and challenges you — where you're from, how you got to here, and where you're going. All the usual things we like to ask about others when we first meet.
Since, you can't hear your reader asking, you have to offer these first. Then they might know more about you, if every you are introduced — and you'll know they took an interest in the story of you, to show effort in earning the opportunity to tell their story, too.
These things all apply to business brands, too. This is all part of giving your brand a collective personality, that attracts those that would like to associate themselves with your values.
Websites open us up to the World, so it is wise to set expectations, accordingly, for what you do and don't offer.
These for your standard contract terms for exchanging information you publish, details you gather, and regulations you respect.
Contract law, also dictates that they must be fair, and reasonable.
Contracts are not enforceable, until affirmed by a court — but they do guide parties, and their advisers, on what a court will have to consider, in any judgement of claims for breach.
Bear in mind that previous versions of websites can be stored on archive.org, so you can't just change terms to cover past events.
A little time up front, here, should help everyone enjoy a confident interaction, evidence for the understandings expected.
I'll write a dedicated post on these at some point, with sources for templates. You're free to copy any of these from my websites if you need. Obviously, with the disclaimer that you should do your research, for your specific needs, and read what you publish (not everyone does). It's better to say something about any specific differences you may have, than say nothing, and that later be used against you.
You don't need a contact form, an email address will suffice. However, they are somewhat expected for those browsing without access to their email — perhaps on a work computer.
Blog posts can be as short and sweet as the kinds of text, video, and photo galleries you might post on social media, or they can be full essays — like this.
These longer, in-depth posts being the kind of content that is most likely to rank highly on search engines. If you're the person who made the most effort online to explain something, that you couldn't otherwise find a complete, satisfying, or easy to follow answer, you will get found.
Search engine optimisation is quite simply presenting the structured data for answers to questions, in a way that the search engine can understand, and rank accordingly. If you have the absolute best, most detailed, reasoned, evidenced, and trustworthy experience in offering the answer to common questions, you can quite literally win the internet, with a prized page-one ranking for your web page for related searches.
The more people that click your page link on the search engine results page (SERP), the more the search engines will rank you higher. Their measure of success being when someone then reads your page on a given subject (measured by the time before clicking Back), or the reader clicks onwards to the further sought data and information.
The search engine's service and offering will then send more of their users — because, ultimately, they exist and optimise to satisfy searches, reliably — so that their users return again when they want to search for something else.
Effectively, your posts are marked or graded, as if they were essays. All that writing you've done in education, or work, now has a further purpose, and greater potential — to offer your endeavours to a world of those with similar interests.
Have fun, too. Share the interesting info, that you've found on your travels. Find and reference a little history. Include personal experience stories and anecdotes, and have an opinion! Just be sure to make it clear what is fact, what is experience, and what is opinion. As they say in crypto-land; trust, but verify. Link what you say, to the sources of those facts, ideas, or alternative commentaries. Unless you are famous for your authority, presume to earn it through primary-source evidence references, and genuine experience.
Posts and pages will be one of these distinct types; navigational, informational, transactional, or commercial — and then some more recognisable subtypes within.
As a general rule, in content marketing, and other types of marketing, it is expected to see 80% giving for 20% asks.
A ratio of 80% information posts and navigation pages, to 20% commercial and transactional posts, feels natural and respectful — giving value four times before asking for something.
For ecommerce product landing pages, 80% of the space on the page should be informational, and 20% transactional — to enable an informed customer to be confident with their buying decision.
These will be the main sections of your website, for pages, eg:
Home, Guides, Reviews, Learn, Contact, Privacy.
Then the categories, and tags pages, where your short description of those helps cluster content with topical relevance, eg:
Categories: Software Apps, Writing, Security, Health, Travel.
Tags: Windows, macOS, WordPress, Bitwarden, Posture, London.
These informational posts are used to establish your topical authority, demonstrate your research into a subject, and save your audience from doing the same. They are your gift to the world, in payment for the attention you ask of the audience, and further encouraging likes, subscribes, and comments.
In writing analysis-type articles, follow scientific writing standards: Hypothesis, experiments, measurements, conditions, control data, variables, conclusions, and further research recommendations.
Share your experiences, stories, and collections. What, when, where, why. How did it feel? What did it look like? Would you do it again?
News, announcements, reports, commentary, previews, and reactions are all often created and published during, or as soon as possible after the event, as possible.
Should your brand or blog become a trusted authority on a subject or area, then there's a good chance these can appear in search engine News sections.
Events are effectively live content, through presentation or performance. They need planning far in advance, organising, inviting, and delivering. We put on events for attention in demonstrating authority or competence, education, payment — and further content in imagery, videos, audio, interviews, stories, and feedback.
Pillar posts, as they are now known, are transactional, commercial, or topical authority posts — offering experienced testing, comparison, review, and recommendations. If the blog is suggesting or associated with products or services, these will contain affiliate links, and calls to action for subscriptions, products, or services.
Pillar posts can also be referred to as money posts.
You should aim for at least four information posts to be the foundations for each pillar post. Of course, an information post could link to multiple pillar posts, as relevant, from the content of each.
These help people in the middle of their decision-making process, to understand options, comparing the results or rewards of each.
How-to and explainer guides. You've done the more in-depth research, learning, and testing, so your reader doesn't have to. You can now walk them through the steps to understanding and achieving the same desirable result.
These are ideal for the Google Discover section, that shows tiles of interesting content you can learn from.
These are your ‘verses', or ‘vs' posts. Usually comparing two or three similar options.
Reviewing products, services, places, and experiences. You must have specific personal experience of the thing — looking out for gotchas, pricing, deals, and uses. Can you recommend how people, with similar or different needs to your own, might feel about making the same investment, with their time and money?
Topical authority posts
Although you'll create many topical authority posts, as hubs for content clusters of related solutions. There will be the big main subjects that your website offers your authority for, and these may deserve your longest, most detailed post on that topic, as this post is for blogging.
You're not offering and asking for anything with a call to action. For these longest posts, you are asking for a substantial amount of time in reading, viewing, or listening. This attention is at a cost to your audience, in return for earning their trust to follow your work — with a more in-depth understanding of the value of this investment.
Post categories (your specialist subjects)
Your category tree forms the bases for both menu navigation, and search filtering for these areas of interest.
For a blog, it can make sense for the post types to form the top-level, and relevant subjects for the next level, for example:
- Features (industry analysis, articles, case studies)
- Interviews (or Podcasts)
- Guides (topical subcategory-specific posts)
- Mixing & Effects
- Reviews (or demos)
- Learn (or mini-courses)
- News (journalism, events, announcements, press releases)
Post can belong to multiple categories, and will always adopt the parent categories if the child branches selected.
Post tags (the topics you discuss)
These can be more specific, similar to #hashtags, which you'll now know more from social media, but that have been in use with computer communications since before the internet. Eg:
#Fender, #Pearl, #Marketing, #Ministry of Sound, #Stretching, #Classical, #UK, #France, #Beginners, #Newsletters, #etc.
Copyright and fair-use
You can use images, video, and audio that are published to promote something, as long as you credit the source, and link to the thing being promoted. For example, the first image on this post.
You can't use media that is the thing being sold, without a licence, that specifies your type of usage. Stock imagery, video, and audio, cover this under their subscriptions.
It is advantageous, in search engine ranking, to use original media. This is then protected under the copyright of your website, as first publisher, and you should expect the same courtesies in return for anyone else then using.
Copytrack.com offers a service and WordPress plugin to track your images, and processes for getting paid, should that happen, without your permission.
Your website platform should do all the resizing and optimising for each image usage, it just needs the best quality to start with. If it doesn't, you should consider a more modern platform that does, as these things are all automatable, nowadays.
Unique images have value in search engine ranking points, and add value to the reader experience, in both finding information they can't find anywhere else online.
Plus, using your self-created imagery shows your personal experience and eye for presenting what you're explaining.
Screenshots will often be unique. If you're working with product photography, where you don't have access to the thing to photograph, perhaps put a transparent cut-out on a colour gradient background. Infographics, and charts are typically images (unless interactive embeddings are used).
This also gives you ranking opportunities in the image search section of search engines, plus visuals for social platforms, like Pinterest.
As they say; an image is worth a thousand words — or points if you're competitive.
The ideal dimensions to upload blog post images, are resized to be within 2000 pixels on the longest dimension. This will be the maximum size and quality your viewer can then see on clicking to zoom.
If you have great photos, or designs for wallpaper, then 4K resolution is 3840 x 2160 pixels, and smaller screens can resize.
Use .jpg for photos, and .png for graphics with sharp lines, blocks of colour, and transparent backgrounds.
Make sure you rename your images with a file name that describes what they are, the size variant, and a date, if relevant. For example, I might use:
If you can create videos, great! If you are thinking about it, writing blog posts is also a great way to start, as you can then later use them as a sort-of script or, at least, content plan, for recording a video on the same.
You can also just embed videos made by others that already explain or show what you're writing about. YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other platform links can all be pasted into your blog articles, and will become embedded content, which is allowed for in those platform's fair-use terms.
It adds value to an article if you can show as well as tell, and search engines will also reward you for including such rich and useful visualisation.
The same principles apply to audio. You can use links from SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple, Tide, and any other audio streaming platform.
You can also self-host your audio files, and most blog platforms or browsers will automatically embed a player for these links.
Again, these add value to readers, and search engine ranking.
Downloads are everything else: PDF documents, brochures, reports, white papers, pitch-decks, training slides, template files, settings files, software app installers, or bundles of files, usually as a .zip archive.
The website navigation you start with doesn't need to be the last time you ever change it.
Try to stick with just the need-to-know pages and most wanted categories on the top of the page. The rest people will discover through search and related links.
Definitely don't try to be clever or unique with navigation, it's not the place to express creative web design. Logo, colours, font, done!
It should be, boringly, obvious how to find the answers to your audience's most likely questions and needs.
Generally, you have a choice of one, two, or three header bars:
- Contact bar
- Logo bar
- Menu bar
I've seen variations on these, but you can't go too far wrong by sticking to this structure. Even then, often just two, and sometimes only one header bar is needed, with rollovers for submenus. Eg:
You have a lot more space to work with in your footer, and as mostly text, it doesn't add much to the size or speed of page loading.
The most important content here is to cover all your identification, contact, information, and legal courtesies.
Some sites you'll also find include a bunch of “vs” page links to their competitor comparison pages. You could try the similar, but don't try for over-saturated search terms to start with, unless one of the comparisons is your product. Eg:
This needs to be created separately, as it only has one area to work with. Generally, it will follow the same tree-structure you might use for folders and documents.
Just don't forget to check when updating your main site navigation, or footer, that you do the same for the mobile menu.
The Author can be a person or an organisation. It may depend on a brand's preferences for this. Although, there is an increasing preference for real people, as we get better at filtering our corporate-speak and AI.
Either way, the author will be a factor in a search engine's assessment of authority on a given subject.
In the case of qualified professionals, it may be advantageous to highlight accreditations with experience — unless the organisation is the credible authority, in which case accreditations and awards.
Nowadays, with AI writing becoming prevalent, readers, and search engines, both have a clear preference for a human perspective.
Your personal or organisation's experience is valuable, and accountable to your reputation. Therefore, it is advantageous and respectful to put the “author” into “authority”, give credit where credit is due, and be responsible for our work.
Authentication of authors is added though links to their social media profiles, websites, and an email address.
You may have notices more posts now finish with the author's name, brief biography, and links. This is why.
Blog post ideas
What to write chooses you
You don't choose what to write — what you learn, do, and know, that people want to read, will choose you — and it all starts with a search.
We're all searching for things many times a day. I'm certain that more often than not, you have to visit multiple pages, forums, and websites to find the answers to some of those questions.
If you did find something hard to find, and you now know the answers — that is the perfect example of a blog post where you can add genuine value to the world — solve something better than anyone else has before.
Your extended research, testing, and comparing notes across multiple sources, solving, documenting, and mastering is just what everyone else with the same search would love to have found. Search engines know this, and will rank you accordingly.
It's easy to think the world has answered and solved everything, and there are countless results for broad search terms — but that's not the point of blogging. Think of every blog post as a one-page essay of answers, to all possible questions on a specific subject.
We're not trying to rank the whole website home page, or categories, for searches on the general subject — yet. That's too saturated and competitive, for now, and only happens as a result of hundreds of connected related blog posts all winning the internet for their answers.
Blog posts should be hyper specific — offering the best, most useful, answer on the internet — for a very specific need.
Equally, you can always be unique, with an alternative angle, more in-depth research, or up-to-date experience, original evidence, real life case studies, richer data, more visual presentation, and more detailed solution, than anything else already ranking.
Yes, there's lots of competition, but you should already know that from your searches.
Our blogs are most valuable when they fill in the gaps. When we do this, there is no competition, you become one of one.
Keyword research for SEO
This can be a deeper subject, for another post, but the simplest — and often most effective — research you can do, is on the search results page for any given search you think you can write a better post for.
This is also known as gap analysis.
When you are the only person who took the time to compose a complete answer to a need, there is no competition.
There are many tools for keyword research, and a few I'll recommend in a dedicated article.
The main one that you will want, is the free Google Search Console, as that will show you all the search terms that you are already ranking for, and how many people then see, and click, your link.
Later, as you get some results, and want to optimise your posts, then you can look at paid keyword research tools. Since we're talking about SEO, there will be a ton of results and options.
The best I can suggest, for now, is to search for high-ranking blogs (suggesting they know what they are talking about) and their articles on “keyword research”, “topical authority”, “domain rank”, and “keyword golden ratio”.
Mostly, the strategy can be simpler than that, though. Search for highly competitive search terms, and study the content, structure, and rich data within those. Then search for more obscure things, where you can't find any good blog results. Apply the principles of the former, to create pages that answer the latter.
If you've done your research, writing, and content building right — to be the best page on the internet for this specific subject — it should have taken you as much time as is necessary to offer the best answer. This can be anywhere from a day, to sometimes a week or more, to create and publish.
The value you give freely, and respectfully for your reader's time, invites one of the most powerful of instincts — reciprocation.
Calls to action
You've given your all to solving a problem, and satisfying a need. People will want to know if there's anything else you can offer them, or they can do for you in return — be that paying with their further attention, or clicking through links to your related recommendations.
It's a reasonable expectation for readers to consider your relevant offers, woven respectfully into your content, in the relevant places throughout, and at the end.
It is useful to link related words and terms to sources of further information, or delivery of offerings. You should do these naturally, regardless of whether they are internal links, external websites and pages, or affiliate links.
Internal links are convenient to show where else on your website more detail on a term or concept can be discovered. To save re-explaining in every article on a subject, just link to the dedicated page on it. For example; when talking about Markdown, it's a specific enough topic, and interest of mine, to deserve a page of its own — then for every other mention of the concept, we have an internal page to link to.
External links are helpful for facts and references. Linking to the things being discussed, or information being quoted, then it is courteous, and adds credibility, to link to the source website or page. Search engines appreciate this, too, as they establish your topical authority from the sites you associate your work with.
Affiliate links are just adding a referral identifier to normal links. This is a way for your reader to give you a tip, or gratuity, for introducing them to something, or providing the decision-making information that helped them to decide to buy or engage with your recommendation.
Due to their value, there are spammer tactics used in many ways to try to game affiliate programs, but that doesn't mean they are unethical.
You must simply explain that you use affiliate links, and that you may be paid a commission or reward from the service, if the visitor clicks on them, and goes on to make a purchase.
It does take some time to enrol in various website affiliate programs, and then use these links, rather than plain unidentified links — so, this is a time-cost you must balance, relative to your likely traffic, and clicks.
It's rare to generate sufficient income to be living or complete business model, although many websites are set up specifically targetting, claiming all the affiliate commission they possibly can. Mostly these are more like databases of products and services, gathering unique reviews and comparisons. This is a relatively saturated and competitive market.
Far better to focus on the quality of your content, write about things you truly use and recommend. Just use affiliate links to claim your fair reward for those that are then happy to click those links, knowing you may receive a commission.
Some of the biggest “advice” or “comparison” websites you may know, make their primary income from affiliate links. So, just bear in mind that their inclusion of every product or service in a sector, is to maximise their referral commission revenue, at the cost of your being overwhelmed by options and choice.
Personally, I'm focused on only writing about the things I use, enjoy so much, and believe can help certain others. It does take some time to document and demonstrate these things, so I feel it is a fair return, for these introductions. However, you can avoid these connections and referrals being identified, if you use a browser extension, such as uBlock Origin.
If you're using a technical, lesser-known, or new term, like blogging, or an acronym, like SEO, it is helpful to the user to create a link to Wikipedia, an online dictionary, or the source of that term.
If you have some presentation, or time-saving value to offer, then you can host and link to PDFs, and .zip archive files for your visitors to download. The most common of these being application settings and media packs — often something photographers, videographers, and music producers might share.
These can also be referred to as lead magnets, where you are offering a digital gift, and asking for a visitor's email address in to subscribe to your email newsletter. Just make sure you respect the usual unsubscribe courtesies.
Subscribe, follow, and share
You might just ask for people to subscribe to your newsletter for the convenience of receiving an email when you have new content that might interest them.
If you've offered true value to a reader, often they'll appreciate this additional option to be notified and reminded of your resources.
Content marketing, and content-market fit, is the new standard for offering people abundant information to qualify your products and services before considering any purchase.
To make your offering stand out, the storytelling aspect of your website shows your investment and commitment to what you have to offer, so the additional time in composing articles, becomes an asset for building your brand reputation and loyalty.
It's reasonable to write blogs on a subject, and then include links and tiles for the product or service purchase pages, effectively your ads, within your content.
As you offer yourself to the world as passionate about your sector, it's helpful to curate the best of your offerings to showcase within a related article.
Even if you don't sell products or services yourself, directly, you can still offer the direct to purchase link or tile, for your recommended outlet for that, that will have an affiliate link for recognising your referral.
Ads can be textual, or visual display adverts. They should be clearly identified as ads, and only be in places where they add potential value to the reader for discovering these things from your inclusion of them in your content.
You can sell advertising space within your content that will pay you just for it being seen, without even being clicked. These are generally bought and sold per 1,000 page views, also known as CRM (Cost per Mille (French for a thousand, don't ask me why)).
Good blog website examples
The best way to learn, is often by example and association.
Here are some blog websites I've spotted on my travels that appear to have studied all of the above, and more, to create what appear to be highly passionate, detailed, and authoritative ranking sites.
They are each popular enough that they're certainly generating more revenue from their blogs than most executive salaries.
(No affiliation, or sponsored links, just a random selection.)
Shotkit by Mark Condon is a great example of a freelance profession (in his case, photography) extended to a blog. His work being the authority on the products and services discussed.
Monetised by ads and affiliate links.
Photography is quite a saturated niche, and highly competitive, due to the many veterans in this area, that are often in the decade-plus for their aged domains, and have abundant high-quality original content.
This isn't a niche suggestion, but it is an excellent example of how to structure a blog, and posts, to rank highly in such a competitive niche.
Effectively, a blog, but as a service for legal document templates.
Digital products usually have a 97% gross profit margin. So, if you maintain a collection of templates for your speciality, perhaps you could be writing about that, and monetising what you already created.
Succulents and Sunshine
A great example of a healthy hobby turned into a blog business.
Monetised by affiliate links, partner stores, and digital downloads.
Expatica is undoubtedly a blog as a business, with a team of writers.
The same skills, applied to the magazine business, would have had a much harder time remaining in business with the costs of print and distribution. However, these smart journalists have made their low-cost business model an almost indestructible success, as a blog.
Monetised by ads and affiliate links. Expats are having to learn how to do everything anew in a different country, so have many questions for their search engine, and Expatica's content model is simply to understand, research, and answer those. It's a competitive, but evergreen, niche.
Expatica follows the classic standard guide posts format, and is a good example of how anyone, with a similar interest and expertise, could compose similar.
This is from someone mad about sports, games, and playing by the rules. And, what gets lots of searches online? The rules!
Monetised by Ads and affiliate links.
Again, a very simple and effective design, with some nice brand design thought in the graphics, but nothing crazy. This is a great hobby blog, that is likely earning more than a good salary, or three.
This is a bit of a random example, more to show you that enthusiasm can beat web design. As basic as this website is, with many crimes against website layout, it works well enough to work for its creator.
Sailing Britican ranks highly on search engines, purely due to the volume of content that answers common sailing search questions.
Monetised with an ecommerce shop for downloads, products, and experiences. This is undoubtedly a blog that added a shop, rather than a shop that added a blog. A much lower cost and risk strategy.
Finding more good blog examples
You can find many more examples, just by searching for your specialist subject search terms, to see what independent blogs rank on page one. Then add “blog” to your search, to see those ranking.
Claiming your space in the blogosphere
It is possible to rank highly in any niche, although less saturated ones will be easier, you just have to always come back to the same questions of yourself:
- What makes you truly unique?
- What do you now know or have, that was really difficult to find or create?
- What do you write lots about, anyway? In emails, on forums, on social media.
There you go, tell me you don't want a blog, now?
How long does it take to create a blog?
Let's assume this is a hobby, since businesses will either have an agency or in-house developers for this.
You don't need a limited company for a blog, just bear in mind that once it is earning more than a few hundred pounds or dollars per month, it's probably wise to reinvest than in setting one up. A subject for another post, another day.
I would say with 4h a night, every other night, and one day on weekends, you could be looking at one to two months designing your site; name logo, colours, font, theme, layout, categories, tags, legal pages, info pages, etc.
All depending on how confident you are, but just open a few tabs of examples you'd like to follow, and make yours the best bits of each.
It will evolve, so don't worry too much about your first version, just bounce around the areas that catch your interest, until you get to a point that there's nothing obvious missing — except content.
Then, over another month, just write out a few dozen article titles — categorise and tag them, and add in all the SEO keywords and search terms you want to include in your content. This should all help you then find inspiration for the first article you're compelled to start, and finish.
You can go live with one post, or hold off until you have maybe six to twelve, if you're concerned about perfecting, or people finding it as an early work in progress.
The most important step will be creating an account with Google Search Console, and adding your website asap after going live. It's here that you will then learn what Google thinks of it all for ranking keywords and position. From here-on, this will be your scorecard, grade-point average, and guiding light on what's working, and what needs work.
Follow those that are two steps ahead of you on X.com, find their websites and subscribe to their newsletters. The rest, is all a matter of just enjoying the journey, tending to your digital garden, as and when you have the time and urge, and getting feedback from other bloggers, and peers interested in the things you are.
Phew, that was an epic post!
(over 10,000 words, in about a week of evenings — a real dissertation)
You'll know you're writing about the right things, though, when it doesn't feel like work, and is a pleasure to brain-dump and share so much of what you've learned, and want others to benefit from, too.
I genuinely believe that blogging is an important personal asset that anyone, and possible everyone, should own.
It certainly has all the upside potential for your career and income — far beyond giving your time away to social media, that is effectively just capturing your energy to post, and monetising it all for themselves.
If you think that it could earn you more than a buy-to-let property, or multiple — and with no significant cash deposit, no mortgage, minimal maintenance costs, no significant risks — it is quite an achievable, and improvable, intellectual property asset!
Anyone I've met with for business, and life needs, will know that I often then compose follow-up emails with links for the things discussed. My vast trove of bookmarks are my “network”, in a sense.
It's not so much who you know, but which websites were created to offer the best possible solutions and ideas to your challenges.
These are some of my favourite bloggers and newsletters to follow: