How To Start A Blog – Free Step-by-Step Guide

How To Start A Blog - Free Step-by-Step Guide for 2017
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Do you want to discover how to start a blog? Do any of these sound like you?

  • I have no idea how to start a blog
  • I’m stuck and don’t know what to do next with my existing blog
  • I want to know how to grow my existing blog
  • I want to learn how to blog from successful bloggers
  • I want to know how to start a blog step-by-step
  • I don’t want to get ripped off on all the ‘Buy My Products!‘ crap out there

This step-by-step article on how to get started blogging is for you. The best part? It’s free. There is no product to buy, no pitch at the end for a $995 course, or a $99 course, or a $9 e-book. I don’t have any of those. This guide is just how to blog based on my journey, experience, successes, and failures.

I get asked all the time – how do I start a blog? So this is the guide I wrote to do it. It’s got a lot of what worked and didn’t work for me, and there is no sales pitch. It’s the kind of stuff I wish I had when I first started researching how to blog. I would have saved a lot of wasted time and wasted money.

Note: At one point I had an online business journal where I would post once a week what I was doing. Throughout this article, I’ve got the real-time (now old-time) updates of what exactly I worked on each week as I learned how to blog. Sadly it wasn’t a well-kept journal, but what I did write is golden.

Use these links to jump ahead in the How To Start a Blog guide:

Once you’ve read this guide and you’ve learned how to be an awesome blogger, your next step is to get more traffic to your blog.

Introduction On How To Start a Blog – My Story

I launched my blog in March, 2015.  In April 2015 I attended a one-day business conference put on by some well known online business gurus (Pat Flynn and Chris Ducker). It was at this event I came to realize podcasting was still in its infancy. Blogging had been around for over a decade. So did podcasting, but it was still pretty small and relatively unknown.

Coming back home from San Diego, California I decided to go all-in on podcasting. I was going to focus as little as possible on writing for my website and try to become the best podcaster I could be. After all, if the people I admired spent their time speaking for a living, why in the world should I try to write for a living.

Blogging was an afterthought. I got started blogging and continued to blog simply I needed resources on my website to point people at. After all, it’s hard to give guidance on how to get out of debt step-by-step in audio. But written out in a blog gives someone something that’s easy to follow.

Blogging on the side

With the exception of Scott Alan Turner I’ve built all of my businesses on the side while I was working a day-job or running another company during the day. You could even say this business was built partly on the side. For four months in 2015 my work hours were from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

That’s a side job, wouldn’t you agree?

You can’t run a business without making money. Otherwise, you have a charity. And charities survive on donations. I knew I could make money with this website. But I knew there was no purpose building a product when I didn’t have anyone to sell it to, right?

Building a business

I realized I should start thinking about building a product to pay for my growing website. There were many options to pick from:

  • Courses
  • Books
  • Membership site
  • Software product
  • Consulting
  • Coaching

I also had an extensive background in online business and people would email me questions about that topic too. While I enjoy writing about it and helping people, it’s just not what I wanted to focus on.

I’m an author

NOTE: No, you don’t have to write a book to make money blogging. My book took six months out of my schedule. I’ve included it in my story because it’s the six month gap of not blogging that’s important, not the book.

The first thing I did was write a book. Why a book? I heard the same thing over and over again:

A book is the best business card.

You’ve got to have a book to be taken seriously.

The latter is specific to the personal finance industry. But it made sense to me. Once again, all of the people I was trying to emulate were authors. I needed to write a book.

So I did.

While I could have written an eBook, I set a higher bar for myself (I’m like that). I didn’t want to write just a book; I wanted to write the best dang investment book for beginners ever written.

So I did.

99 Minute Millionaire

$11,000 in one month

Once my book launched, I realized how much my website traffic had grown over the past fifteen months.

My first thought was:

Wow, that’s a lot of traffic.

Followed by:

I’m leaving a lot of money on the table.

At the time I was getting over 200,000 page views each month. I had done some specific things along the way to get to that point, but it was a bit shocking.

I also had done a lot of things that other people say or sell you on to get traffic, which got abysmal results.

Would you like to avoid those mistakes? I’ll share them with you.

Once I turned my attention towards affiliate marketing – making small commissions/referrals for services I was already mentioning on my website – my blog instantly started making money.  In my first month of affiliate marketing my blog made over $11,000 in September 2016 – just by changing a few links on my website.

While that is amazing, it’s more amazing all the money I didn’t make because I didn’t pay attention to affiliate marketing sooner. The results are also something many other bloggers who publish their income reports have experienced.

Did I blog full-time?

Absolutely not. I spent the majority of my time producing my show and answering questions people write in. It’s what I still do today. I say that because while I work full-time (or a little less) on my business, I spend very little time blogging.

Which means you can create a successful blog in your spare time.

Lessons I’ve learned on how to start a blog

I’ll share with you all the lessons I’ve learned along the way in this how to blog guide. I’ve included the big mistakes and the very expensive ones so that you won’t have to repeat them. But here are three that stand out:

1. Blogging is not a get-rich-quick business

And it is a business. Yes, you can do it on the side, but I think most people dream of turning it into a career so they can have the freedoms of being your own boss, setting your own hours, and being in charge of your destination.

It takes time to create a successful blog. The stories you hear of fantastic riches made in a few short months are the exception, not the rule. Like the story of Noah Kagan over at Sumo Me and how he started a business in 24-hours and made $1,000 in sales. Well, Noah is an online expert and knows how to build a business that quick.

My first business took me three years to get my first paycheck.

This blog took eighteen months before I monetized it and made over $20,000 in one month.

I’ve also started several businesses that never made a dime or that would barely pay rent.

Becoming a full-time blogger or even a part-time blogger takes just that – time.

But I tell you what – it’s freaking worth it. I’m an early retiree. I wrote 10,000 words of this blog post while I was sitting at a resort in Mexico for six days. In between getting served diet Coke while I sat on the beach (I’m not that much of a Pina Colada or other fruity drink guy) and doing a whole lot of nothing, I didn’t have to show up, wake up, or report in.

And I don’t say that to impress you, but impress upon you that you can achieve what you set out to. There are countless people that live this lifestyle. Not one of us started out any different than where you are now. But you may find a few shortcuts after reading this guide.

2. Blogging takes focus

Back in my corporate days I, along with many of the other IT department, worked 21 hours straight one day. And when I build a side business it’s not uncommon for me to work 8-9 hours at my day job, then another 4-5 at night on my side job.

But I love it.

Are you disciplined enough to write and post something every week?

Two times a week?

Nobody is going to set your deadlines for you, except you. Can you commit? Will you stay with it? Can you commit to continuing to improve yourself?

You can’t succeed if you don’t start. You can’t win if you quit.

3. Blogging is hard work

Writing is easy for me. Is it for you? If it is, that’s great.

Writing is the easy part of blogging. It’s all the other stuff that chews up your time and make you want to pull your hair out. In fact, some weeks writing will consume half or even none of your time. The rest is spent doing all the other stuff.

The good news is you can automate a lot of things. And over time you will learn shortcuts and how to work more efficiently.

Example: I used to custom make every blog image and text. It would involve finding an image, picking a font, laying out the fonts on the image, etc.

What I ended up doing was creating 30 text templates that can be used for any blog title I come up with. Now I can pick a template and drop it on an image. Instead of it taking twenty minutes to create an image, it takes two.

Can anyone make money blogging?

I’ll leave you with this: My wife Katie and I started a business teaching people How To Toilet Train Your Cat.

In our first year, we made $5,000 after expenses.

I just saw a while back a story about a guy who you can hire to go for a walk with you. And people are hiring him!

While I don’t know the topic you want to blog about, who’s to say you can’t make money at it? Start asking yourself how you will make money blogging, not if you can.

What is blogging?

I’m not going to go too in-depth on this. You’re on a blog right now. My blog is a website where I or a member of my team publish articles about personal finance. I’ve also got a few articles on how to blog because I get asked that question a lot.

What are your favorite blogs? You probably have a few favorite websites you like to visit and read. What makes them special? Is there anything you would duplicate that you like? It can be a writing style or how the information is presented.By figuring out what you like and what others are doing well, you can start to craft your style.

The benefits of blogging

I’m a bit biased to running an online business because I’ve been doing it for so long. It boils down to one word:

Freedom

  • I am free to work as much, or as little as I want.
  • I am free to sleep in, or take the day off.
  • I am free to take a vacation anytime for any length.
  • I am free to move to another city (did this), state (did this), or country (maybe someday) and keep running my business.
  • I am free to spend the day with my 3-year olds at the park or taking them to Home Depot.

What should you blog about?

The riches are in the niches.

  • Shoes
  • Running shoes
  • Marathon running shoes
  • Cheapest marathon running shoes
  • Cheapest black marathon running shoes
  • Cheapest black marathon running shoes if you have arch problems

Niche blogging is when you drill down to a very small topic. Most successful blogs either focus on a specific niche or a specific target audience.

If you were to start a blog about shoes, it’s going to be extremely hard to stand out from the crowd.

But if you are a marathon runner and very frugal, you might have a lot to say about cheap sneakers for running a marathon. You’re targeting a much smaller group of people.

There are several reasons niche blogs are successful:

  • Loyal readers – you build a community and following around a very specific topic. Think about the people you are friends with. Don’t you share common interests or a common bond? That’s what you’re trying to recreate online. Be careful you don’t get too specific. Cheapest marathon running shoes for women over sixty with shin splints is a little too narrow.
  • Authority – blogging over and over about a single topic builds you up as the authority on that topic. When someone is seeking out an authority on a topic, they’ll find you.
  • Search engine optimization – Search engines will rank your articles higher because you have so much relevant content to search queries. For example, consider a website that has a single article about cheap marathon running shoes and one that has fifty articles on the topic. Search engines show more relevant websites higher in search results. Result? More traffic.
  • Advertising and sales – A niche blog can serve targeted ads and products to your readers. You can also command higher advertising rates to sponsors.

How should you pick what to blog about?

Hopefully, you already have some ideas about what you would write about as a blogger. But what if you are struggling to come up with a topic? Answer these questions to help you narrow down potential topics.

Is the niche too big?

If you try to write for everybody, you end up writing for nobody.

Photography is a great example of a crowded niche. There are tons of photographers, photography websites, and blogs about photography. Which in one respect is a good thing, because it means there is an opportunity.

But to be competitive, you would need to narrow it down to something much more specific. Pinch of Yum is a great example of a blog that got turned into a business on how to be a food blogger, and how to take pictures of food.

Another blog I came across was how to photograph cars. Every auto dealer needs to take pictures of their inventory. And many classic car enthusiasts want to have memories of their restored beauties.

Is the niche too small?

If you can’t find a single person writing on a topic, the chances are there isn’t any money to be made.

A good example is my friend Jeff who was going to start a podcast on adult parents with mentally challenged children. It was a great topic, and he could have helped a lot of people. But there were few ways to turn it into a viable business. It would have been an uphill battle.

What is the competition like?

You might think you can’t compete with a small business with 50 employees churning out content and optimizing their blog every day.

It can be a little discouraging knowing it’s just you.

But for every Goliath, there is a David.

I hear time and time again:

You’ve got to niche down. Then niche down some more. Then niche down some more until it hurts.

To that, I say – no you don’t. My niche is personal finance. It’s huge. I didn’t focus on any one aspect:

  • Frugality
  • Minimalism
  • Early retirement
  • Investing
  • Debt freedom
  • Extreme couponing

I decided I was going to talk about all that stuff and my cats too. The results speak for themselves.

What I’m getting at is you can go bigger in your niche by using your voice to attract your crowd. Your people.

If you can entertain, inform, and inspire, you can find success.

Is the competition missing something that you can add?

I hopped into the super crowded space of personal finance. Was the competition missing something? Yes – they all want to make money from advertisers and product promotion. My angle was simple – I don’t promote any personal finance product over any other. In other words – I’m not biased or selling products just to make money. And my listeners and readers know they can trust me, which is much more valuable in the long run.

Can you write enough on the topic?

If you picked a topic of shaving cream, there’s only so much you can say about it. Which is fine. You could certainly build the world’s premiere website about shaving cream. But eventually, you’ll wake up one morning with nothing to write.

Do you know enough about the topic?

If you are an expert on something (I am an expert on personal finance) that’s great. If not, you can always document your journey to becoming an expert.

The mistake many people make is passing themselves off as an expert. Without naming names, there is a popular YouTube personality that claims to have all this insight into millionaires. But if you Google the person’s name you get all kinds of articles like ‘Is so-and-so a scam?’

The last thing you want is to be labeled a scammer. Best keep your integrity first and foremost.

When you document your journey, you encourage others to follow along in your footsteps. Over time you transition from beginner to expert.

Is the topic going to keep you interested for years to come?

Do you dream about this topic?

Does it get you out of bed in the morning excited?

No? Find a different topic.

Can you come up with enough ways to make money?

At the end of the day, the blog has to make money. Because it’s going to cost you time to do it, and time is money. Blogs cost money too, and the bigger your blog gets, the more it’s going to cost.

My blog costs $150 a month to run because of the traffic. I know some bloggers that are paying $600 a month. In one of my old online businesses we paid $1,000 a month for high-speed servers. Which is fine as long as your revenue scales up to support your blog. Otherwise, you just have an expensive hobby.

How to set up your blog

Now that you know what to blog about and how you might make money, you need a blog! I’ve got step-by-step instructions on how to setup a blog.

Starlog June 19, 2015

AWS Overkill

When I started the National Registry for Adoption website I wanted the most robust and scalable platform available. Amazon Web Services fills that need nicely.

What I realized is I did not need to launch on Day 1 with a load balancer and redundant database server. Overkill!

I spent a lot of time this week downgrading my AWS services as a cost-cutting measure. I’m saving over $150 a month in server expenses.

Note: If you’re a blogger there is no reason even to consider AWS for hosting. In fact, it’s a terrible idea. AWS isn’t a good platform for blogging because you’re in charge of all your own server patches. AWS is for high-end software-as-a-service and a bunch of other stuff. Just not blogging.

Lesson learned this week

Scale up, not down. Start small, grow big.

There is no need to start your blog/business on the most expensive platform available. BlueHost is great for first timers. Bluehost is what I used for ScoopNoMore ten years ago, and Bluehost is what I started ScottAlanTurner.com on too.

Starlog June 26, 2015

Thesis framework is looking sucky

I’m a code digger. I like digging around in the guts of code to make it do what I want. I built this website using the Thesis framework because other well-known bloggers were using the Thesis framework.

The issue I’m finding is Thesis was a good framework four years ago. Now it’s being eclipsed by other options.

An example struggle I had this week was getting thumbnail images in the WordPress Popular Posts plugin. Thesis 1.8 worked with this plugin. Thesis 2.1 does not.

I ended up coding my own popular posts code for the time being. It’s a terrible option, but after four hours of dinking around with Thesis and asking support, I’ve given up.

This is not the first occurrence of trying to get Thesis to do something trivial and spending hours and hours working through the issues.

I’ve heard a lot about Genesis and will be trying it out on NRFA. If it works well, I’ll be moving ScottAlanTurner.com over to it.

UPDATE: It’s almost 2017, and I never moved to Genesis and never will. It’s another piece of bloatware. Save your money.

 

How to write great blog posts

You can find my very first blog post here about buying tires at Discount Tire. It was more of a rant than a blog post.

What you’ll notice about the post is it’s really, really bad. I came home from having to get some new car tires and just started writing.

It’s pretty easy to spot poorly written blog posts. But what makes a blog post good or even great? There are some agreed upon things when it comes to writing online that help makes good content. Some of these things I would lump into the category of technical and structure and others are in the content itself.

First I’ll share what I know about writing good content.

Originality

I talk about money. Do you know what’s changed in regards to money in the past twenty years?

Nothing.

Save more, spend less, invest, budget, stay out of debt, done.

There is nothing new under the sun.

How am I, then, successful? I am the crazy cat guy, rock-n-roller, tattooed money guy.

In other words – I am original. My message is not. My presentation is.

Which is a great message for you to hear because YOU ARE ORIGINAL TOO. There is only one you. Only one you with your experiences, insight, and history.

  • The way you talk is unique.
  • Your attitude is unique.
  • Your take on things is unique.

People do business with people. – Chris Ducker

If people like you and what you have to say, there you go. It doesn’t mean you should try to be a character. I do find it beneficial to be a performer.

Your writing is how you craft a story, and the story is performance. It can be entertaining, inspiring, educational, conversational, or controversial.

It can also be boring. I rate being entertaining as the most important element (my opinion). You can take the most boring topic (fishing), and if you add a story to it (think Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel), you can captivate your readers.

Value

Unless you’re a fiction writer, you have to add value to your reader’s lives. In other words, what you write needs to be useful and improve their lives somehow.

Being useful doesn’t mean you have to only educate. Late night talk shows aren’t very educational, but the value they add to viewers is through entertainment.

Think about the blogs you like and how they add value to their readers. What are they doing well? How do they do it?

Catchy headlines

The most important part of your blog writing is the headline. Because if nobody clicks to read it, you might not as well have written it.

Creating great headlines is part art, part science, part guessing, and part testing.

Lucky for you I have some great headline testing tools that you can use that grade your headline. Check these out:

And here is a free headline swipe file where you can pick out headlines that have worked for others.

Here is a couple of things that are almost guaranteed to work:

List posts: Some examples of list posts are:

  • 5 Ways To X
  • 9 Crazy Ideas for X
  • 35 Different Strategies To X

You get the idea. People love list posts. They are easy to read and usually, have some valuable content.

How To: People love How To posts as well. There are always people on Google looking for information on how to do something.

Titles are good for search engine optimization

What you use as the title for your content is a factor in search engine optimization. I mentioned marathon shoes earlier. If you named your blog post ‘Shoes,’ forget it. Nobody is going to read it, and it will never show up in search engines.

But ‘Cheap marathon sneakers for women’ is pretty specific.

When other bloggers link to your posts, it impacts your search engine rank as well (in a positive way).

How to write good titles

At the end of the day there is no telling what title will work and won’t. I’ve written what I thought were great titles only to find they were duds, and titles I spent 30 seconds creating were winners.

What some blogger suggest is to spend ten minutes of your writing time creating 10-20 titles as quickly as possible. The side benefit of this is you can use the alternates in your Twitter and Facebook posts.

For example, you might give your post the title of How To Make The Best Chocolate Ice Cream

And when you post your article to Twitter over the next 2-years you can use different variations:

  • I Ate This After Dinner, And It Was Amazing
  • Amazing Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream
  • Finally Something Better Than Ben & Jerry’s
  • You Won’t Believe How Delicious This Is
  • Chocolate Lovers Are Lining Up To Check This Out

It took me less than a minute to write all of those variations. Which are good and bad? The only way to find out is to Tweet them all and see which ones get the best response.

What else should you pay attention to when creating headlines?

Grab attention – In other words don’t be boring.

  • Make a bold claim
  • Use a shocking statistic
  • Get the reader to scratch their head
  • Be weird
  • Get controversial

You could create a headline like ‘Why Every Cat Owner Is A Raging Nut‘ and you’d probably get a fair amount of cat owners to click on the link.

I’m a cat owner, so I’m allowed to say the above.

What about weird? Look no further than the National Inquirer or magazines at the supermarket checkout line for inspiration.

Aliens Ate My Rose Bush might get you a few clicks.

Use keywords – the title of your article is important in search engine rankings. Not only that, where you use the words in the title is also important. These two titles would rank differently:

  • How To Make The Best Chocolate Ice Cream
  • The Best Chocolate Ice Cream And How To Make It

Keep it brief – if you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, it will tell you if your title is too long. Shorter titles are better than long-winded ones, and the entire title will appear in search results.

Simple language

Unless you’re a Ph.D. writing for other PhDs, skip the geek-speak. Use common words and common language. The moment you start using what I call $5 words you make your readers feel dumb. Nobody likes to feel dumb.

The average person doesn’t have an extensive vocabulary (I sure don’t). Write as you talk, and you’ll be fine.

Grab them by the throat

The opening paragraphs of your content are the second most important element behind the headline.

The greatest speeches in the world have strong openings. If you listen to Ted talks you’ll find the most popular talks start with a great story or a fascinating statistic or promise.

It doesn’t take much – you should be able to do it in a few sentences. The goal is to get the reader to keep reading.

Let’s break down one of my recent post intros:

If you are an aspiring freelance professional, you may be wondering how to get freelancing leads without using the services of Upwork, Freelancer or Guru. Since these services can take up to 15% or more of your revenue, building your personal freelancing platform is essential to putting more money in your pocket at the end of the project. This definitive guide will teach you the ins and outs of getting freelance leads without using a job board.

Why it works

  • Identifies a pain point – Aspiring freelancers have a tough time getting leads
  • Identifies another pain point – ‘Services can take up to 15% or more of your revenue.’
  • Makes a promise – ‘This definitive guide will teach you…’

What’s missing?

The opening would be better if the first sentence had a story about struggling to get started freelancing from the author. But since the author is not a freelancer, that wasn’t an option. It could be improved by including a quick story about someone else who did have the problem.

Check out Michael Hyatt’s blog. He’s a master of creating a great openings in only a few sentences.

How long should a blog post be?

Here’s what I’m hearing about blog posts recently – longer blog posts are ranking higher in Google and getting more social shares.

How long?

At least 1,000 words, preferably 2,500.

Don’t freak out – you can still have short posts. But when you think about how to blog if you have the choice between writing three short posts on one topic or one long post, the long post is best.

A good blog post is as long as it needs to be. There is no point in adding a bunch of useless filler to bump up your word count. But if you can’t come up with more than 200 words on a topic, the topic might be too narrow.

How can you make a post longer?

  • Tell a relevant story
  • Compare and contrast
  • Include history
  • Write about predictions of the future
  • Features and benefits (great for product write-ups)
  • Give your opinion
  • Give the opinions of others. This might be an opportunity to reach out to your favorite blogger and see if they want to contribute to your post. No? Include a quote they gave in the past.

Single call-to-action

At the very end of your post provide a single call-to-action. Get your reader to do something. Examples include:

  • Leave a comment
  • Discuss on Facebook
  • Share with friends
  • Leave a review
  • Click here for more information
  • Sign up for a newsletter
  • Get a free download

You don’t want to overload them with fifty things to do. Everyone can handle doing one thing, so pick the one that is most important.

There are some shows that start off asking for the listener to do five different actions in the first 60 seconds. You can’t do that many things can you? Don’t be that guy (or gal).

How often should you post?

How often you write when you get started blogging depends on a lot of things. There is no one-size-fits-all perfect answer. You have to consider:

Your topic – if you are writing about the Kardashians, they are in the news every day. If you’re audience expects to hear the latest about every nuance of Kim and Kanye’s life, you should deliver some nugget of info every day. Sports would be a similar market. There is always something new in the world of sports, even during the off-season.

On the other hand, if you’re writing about Ferarri’s, not a lot of news leaks out too often. It can take years to design and release a new car. In this case, you might write something once a week.

Your schedule – Probably the most important, but if you can’t post every day – or don’t want to – find a schedule that does work for you. As I said, I average 1-2 posts per week, on no particular schedule. That’s what works for me, and I don’t stress out about it. All of my deadlines are self-imposed, and if I miss one, life will go on.

Your audience – If you wrote five articles a day, would your readers have time to read them all? No? Then it’s too much. What about every day of the work-week? If you’re writing for stay-at-home moms, maybe they have time to check your blog every day.

Search engine traffic – The greater the quantity of content on your blog, the more traffic you will build over time. It’s why some bloggers that have been writing for years get hundreds of thousands (or millions) of page views each month. The sheer volume of information on their sites shows up in search queries. Note that isn’t the only path to traffic, but it certainly is one path.

Starting out if you can load up your blog with lots of high-quality content, you can quickly generate some traffic.

Types of blog posts

What type of post should you create? It’s like writing a mini-book and can be daunting. To start with you might pick the type of post, and go from there. If you find yourself writing to many of the same types, either you or your reader might get bored. Switch it up from time to time. Variety is the spice of life.

Pick up any newspaper or magazine, and you’ll find many types of articles. I’ll use Money magazine as an example:

List post

Example: 5 Best Places To Retire This Year

A list post is one of the easiest blog posts to write. No matter what the topic, write a list of something related. The possibilities are endless:

  • 7 things you must know about X
  • 5 best things about X
  • 6 warnings about X
  • 8 best reasons to X
  • 11 secrets to great X

Stuck on coming up with ideas? Google the topic and see what other people have written about it.

Good artists copy, great artists steal.

News

Example: What The New President Means To Your Investments

Use Google News to search for the latest news on your topic. Then create your own write-up on something that’s going on in the world.

Round up posts

Example: Six Experts Share Where Gold Prices Are Heading

A round-up post has the benefit of you don’t have to write a whole lot. You can contact experts or put out a call to experts to get them to contribute to your article, and boom! The article is done.

Here’s an example of an article on Forbes.com I contributed to:

How To Save For A Real Estate Down Payment: 20 Financial Experts Share Their Tips

The benefit to the author is they didn’t have to write as much. The benefit to each of the 20 experts is they were mentioned in Forbes. Win-win.

Reviews

Example: These Apps Make Saving Easy

Product reviews are an excellent way to get your name out there. In fact, it’s one of my secret weapons for getting free organic traffic from Google.

In the past when a new personal finance software product or service was released, I would write an in-depth review (very long) and publish it within 24-48 hours after the product launch.

The result was my page would rank on the first page of Google. While I could have done this a lot more, I stick to products I use or want to review. I don’t do it for the sake of getting search engine traffic because I don’t write about things that don’t interest me.

Another benefit is sometimes the company whose product you’ve reviewed will thank you for the review in a Tweet. That’s free exposure for you to their Twitter followers.

Interviews

Example: Warren Buffet Shares Why He Bought Coke

When you interview someone, you have the opportunity to bring in an expert’s opinion on your subject. What happens is people will associate you with that expert. It’s as if some of the expert’s magic dust has rubbed off on you, and you start being perceived as an expert (if you aren’t already).

It’s being an expert by association.

Interviewing someone is not limited to radio, TV, or podcasts. You can just as easily send someone a list of questions to answer and have them reply via email at their convenience.

Or you can have a conversation via Skype, record it, then transcribe it to text.

Profiles

Example: Warren Buffet’s Investing Strategy

If an expert declines your interview, there is no reason you can’t do a profile piece on them. There are more than likely other interviews out there you can gather information from to create your own profile of someone.

It’s like what the FBI does when they create criminal profiles of wanted fugitives. Trying to figure out a person without having that person to answer your questions.

Instructions

Example: How To Get Your Roth IRA Setup Today

Everyone loves a How To article. People always search for instructions on how to do something.

Document the step-by-step instructions to go from getting started to completion. If an image, diagram, or chart would be beneficial, include that too.

Case Studies

Example: How One Couple Did Their Estate Planning For Cheap

Case studies can take a person, group, business, or idea, and walk through the beginning stages to the result. It’s much more intensive than an instructional post.

Opinions

Example: Four Problems With Today’s Economy

You can find opinion pieces in every newspaper around the world. You take your topic and form an opinion on it. Criticize, praise, defend, challenge – there are all kinds of ways to approach it.

What I find helpful when taking a side on a topic, is explaining the arguments of the opposing side as well. Then I’ll provide academic data (when possible) that destroy the arguments of the other side. In fact, I take quite a bit of joy doing this because as I like to say – nothing destroys an argument like facts.

Research / Reporting

Example: What MIT Graduates Discovered About Our Spending Habits

Research and reporting digs deep into a topic. Where a news article might hit on some highlights, a research report starts with a stance and then attempts to prove or disprove it. You might think of it as a research paper or thesis, without the grade.

I took this approach in several chapters of my book. I made a statement then provided academic research to back up the statement. While I didn’t do any research (other than searching for the research I knew had been done), by quoting Nobel prize winners and smart people in academia, my arguments are harder to ignore.

Debates

Example: Two Wall Street Traders Discuss Where Oil Prices Are Heading

Debates can be fun and entertaining. To debate, you’ll have to take a side then find someone to take the opposing stance. A classic approach to this is ‘He Said, She Said’ when arguing male-female viewpoints on something.

Inspiration

Example: How This Family Went From Broke To Real Estate Moguls

People love to be inspired. You’ll find inspirational quotes are some of the most popular images on Instagram. If you’re a Debby Downer (someone that writes about how life is always bad) you’re going to be seen as too depressing, and you won’t gain a following.

Nobody seeks out content that will make them feel sad.

You either have some inspiring stories from your life, or from family members or people you’ve met. Write down a list of those stories. You might have to dig deep and go way back in the cobwebs of your mind to pull them out.

Each of us has stories to share. Find the ones from your past that can inspire others in some way, and use them.

Rants

Example: How The Government Is Killing Small Business

Rants can be used to get people fired up either to agree or disagree with you. In either case, you ignite a passion in others and get them talking. As they say – any press is good press.

A good rant should be entertaining above all else. Just like inspiration, people love to be entertained. If you can incorporate humor, story, and persuasion into your rant, you can find success.

Rush Limbaugh, the #1 talk radio host in America, basically rants about the government for three hours a day. He’s made a career of tapping into people’s emotions.

AMA – Ask Me Anything

You’ll have to reserve Ask Me Anything for when your audience is built up. You find a lot of big name entrepreneurs hosting these types of discussions on Reddit, Facebook Live, Periscope, or another type of live platform.

It doesn’t mean it has to be live. You solicit questions from your followers on whatever burning questions they are dying to ask you. Be forewarned – the questions may have nothing to do with your topic. The questions might be business related, topic related, or what your favorite food was as a child.

Building community to grow your blog

One of the ways to build a community around your blog is by encouraging people to leave a comment. At the very end of your post include something like:

Do you have any additional tips or tried any of these? What were the results? Please leave a comment below.

I’ve tried the strategy of ‘If you want to leave a comment, please post to my Facebook page.’ I picked this strategy off another popular blog. It was an abysmal failure, and I never got a single comment.

And eventually, this famous blogger decided it was a big fail on their blog too. They reverted to having comments on the blog itself, not trying to push people to Facebook or Twitter.

Do yourself a favor – keep the comments on your blog. I like the Disqus WordPress plugin for comments because:

  1. It’s free
  2. It avoids most spam

The one negative of Disqus is it requires people to log in to leave a comment. However, I find this weeds out the people that aren’t serious about leaving a good comment.

Note: Do not delay in responding to comments. It’s like when someone leaves you a message on your phone. Avoid waiting a week to call them back and pass it off as being too busy. You weren’t busy; you just had other priorities.

Every reader wants to feel like they are #1 in your life. While it’s impossible to be at the beck and call of every commenter, do your best to reply quickly. Even if it’s just to say ‘Thanks for the comment, I’ll get back to you when I have better Internet and am not hiking the Grand Canyon.‘.

What if you don’t get comments?

Most of my blog posts have no comments. It’s normal. Most people are casual readers and aren’t interested in starting a conversation.

You might come across the post from one of your favorite bloggers and see hundreds of comments. If you’re like me, you doubt yourself and ask ‘what gives?’. Those bloggers have been blogging for a long time and might have hundreds of thousands of readers.

Knowing your audience

At some point or another, you’ll hear the answer to all of your questions about blogging is to ask your audience. Don’t have an audience yet? I’ll get to that in a minute.

  • How often should you post? Ask your audience.
  • What language should you use? The same one your audience uses.
  • What does your audience want to hear more? Ask them.
  • What keeps your audience awake at night? Ask them.

I could go on, but it’s the same answer over and over. When in doubt put yourself in the place of your reader. What would they want?

What headline is going to make them want to click and read?

Where do they hang out online? Go to the forums, Facebook groups, message boards, wherever they congregate so you can see what they are discussing. What are the common questions or comments? What matters to them? When you can identify what’s important to your target audience, you’ve got something to build on.

Why was my first book on how to get started investing? One question I kept getting over and over again from people was How do I get started investing? I didn’t have to pick a topic; people told me what they wanted.

What language/words do they use? I’m not talking about English vs. Spanish. But when you send out a newsletter to a group of 20-year olds you can get away with writing ‘What’s up!’ as the intro. To a group of 70-year olds? I think not.

What you will find is that successful blogs tend to use a 6th-grade vocabulary. Start using what I call $5 words (the ones you’ll find on college entrance exams), and you’ll come across as high and mighty.

The water cooler test

What will help your blog to grow organically?  If one or more articles pass the water cooler test.

Have you written something so compelling that a reader would bring it up while they are standing around at the water cooler on their work break?

It’s a bit figurative because not all of your readers (maybe none of them) work in an office or have a water cooler.

Think about something you heard on the radio/TV or read recently, and you brought it up in conversation with someone else. Why did you bring it up?

You’re looking for that one thing that can get people talking about your content. Is it going to happen with every article? No. But it’s something to be aware of so you can at least aim for it in your content.

There are many ways to create content about something that’s worth sharing:

  • News – The latest news headlines always contain some attention-grabbing ideas for what might spread virally.
  • Shocking – Similar to the latest news, but something that stands out because it’s so outrageous or different.
  • Value – What benefits are you providing?

Adding value

Adding value is something else you’ll hear over and over again when it comes to blogging.

  • Your content has to add value.
  • Your social posts have to add value.
  • Your comments should add value.
  • To gain readers, you must add value.

What the heck is adding value?

Honestly, sometimes you write a blog post and whip out some piece of garbage just to meet a self-imposed deadline. There is no value. Or you might not see the value.

You know what? I’ve found value is in the eyes of the reader or listener. I’ve whipped out crap that people have loved and spent hours crafting perfect posts of value that were absolute bombs.

As the saying goes:

Even a blind dog finds a bone once in a while.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Produce a bunch of content
  2. Review what’s worked well
  3. Do more of that

That’s it.

My show on Kim Kardashian which I thought would blow up on social media was a big fat fail. And everyone loved why Roth IRAs are so important, yet I didn’t even prep for that show segment, it was just an answer to a listener question. Go figure.

So I don’t write about the Kardashians anymore. I do write about Roth IRAs still.

The moral of that story is why you can try to create content that adds value, you never know. It’s like trying to create a video that will go viral. If there were a formula for creating viral videos, everyone would have the formula, and ever video would go viral.

Do your best to create valuable content, but don’t sweat it too much or over think it.

What works AND what doesn’t

You’re new to the whole blogging thing. I was there too in the Spring of 2015. The cycle (trap!) you can fall into is this:

  1. Find a successful blog
  2. Read some awesome ideas on how to grow your blog
  3. Sign up for a free PDF download
  4. Get pitched to spend some money on the expert’s course
  5. Follow the steps in the course to get amazing results
  6. No amazing results
  7. Start over at Step 1
  8. Repeat until you are broke or quit blogging

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on courses that promise the world. Oh, and this is nothing unique to me or the world of blogging. I did the same thing years ago when I was trying to learn guitar. The cycle was almost identical:

  1. Find a successful guitar player
  2. Buy their DVD/online course/book
  3. Follow the instructions for 1, 2 or maybe even three months
  4. No amazing results
  5. Start over at Step 1

Have you done this in your life? I find myself doing it over and over when I pick up a new hobby. Over the years I’ve caught myself a little more so that I’m less likely to purchase some course that is going to solve all my problems.

Why you fall for these pitches

  1. You want a shortcut to success
  2. You want to believe the product can solve your problems
  3. Experts are willing to share their ‘secrets‘ with you – for a price

And believe me, they all sound like amazing products:

  • How I grew my website traffic to 1M visitors a month in one year
  • How I grew my list to 10,000 subscribers in 4 months
  • The exact strategies I used to get my pages on the first page of Google
  • Facebook ad strategies that drive millions of visitors to my site
  • How I built multiple 7-figure per year blogs

Do any of these sound familiar or should I keep going?

  • The product launch strategy that takes you step-by-step through creating your first $10,000 webinar
  • The successful step-by-step system to launch an online business that has made students $25,000 a month
  • The Pinterest/Instagram/Twitter/Facebook hacks I use to drive insane amounts of traffic to my website

Is it for real?

Sadly there are a lot (far too many) people out there trying to separate you from your money. They fall into three groups:

Scammers – People who have no expertise whatsoever and throw together products, then claim to be an expert. This is the biggest bunch because anyone can do it.

One-hit-wonders – People that achieved some success in a niche, then decide to package up what they learned and sell it to you. The problem with these products is they take a strategy that may not even apply to what you are doing, or a strategy that is outdated.

For example, if I achieve success in business around selling nail polish to 16-year old girls, how will the same strategy work if you’re trying to sell bicycle tires? Odds are, they won’t.

But guess who makes money on these courses? Not you.

The rest – I couldn’t come up with a way to categorize this group. They are people that are great at marketing and selling expensive products. You’ll find amazing testimonials from the very, very few of their customers that had some amount of success. I’m talking maybe 1%. You’ll hear all about the amazing success but not the 99% of people that bought the product and never achieved the riches they were led to believe was possible.

First, let’s answer – who’s fault is that? Did the customer just not follow the plan? Did they give up too soon? Was it the plan, or the ability to follow the plan?

Backlinking – A case study in how I spent $1,645 for two links to my website

What it is: Links to your website from better sites (called backlinks). Backlinks are important to your website is because it helps your site rank higher in Google. The more quality backlinks you have to your website, the better.

Example: Take two identical websites that have articles on How To Fly A Kite At The Beach. Site A has been linked to by five well-known hobby websites. Site B has not. Site A will likely rank higher in Google because of the backlinks from the hobby website.

Let me give you an example of a $995 course I purchased on creating links to your website. This strategy is called backlinking.

I followed this course to the letter, step-by-step.

The strategy called for creating an Infographic that other websites would be interested in linking to. Why? The strategy said to find content other sites were already sharing. So why wouldn’t they want to link to more of the same if they had done it already?

Made sense to me.

I spent 20-30 hours creating the content for the infographic. Then I paid a designer $250 to create the infographic for me.  You can see this beauty here.  It’s an awesome infographic.

Since I was busy, I paid an experienced contractor to reach out to the hundred or so websites I had identified that would be likely to share the content . After three weeks the contractor managed to secure two backlinks. TWO. And they weren’t even from good quality websites.

So for $1,645 and tons of time, I got two backlinks and a couple of social shares.  In other words – pretty much nothing for my investment.

Was the $995 worth it? Not on your life. I’ve gotten more and better backlinks by not following the strategies in the course.

In fact, I don’t even try to get backlinks anymore. It’s just another one of those things you have to do that I found don’t yield the promised results.

Who’s to blame?

Did the plan fail, or did I fail to execute the plan?

I followed the step-by-step plan exactly. There are all kinds of reasons/excuses you could point to why the plan failed:

  • The content wasn’t good enough
  • I should have contacted two-hundred websites, not just one-hundred
  • Maybe I should have spent six months becoming friends with the one-hundred blog owners before I reached out to them. Right, like I have time to make a hundred new friends. Do you?

Patience and persistence lead to success in business, but seriously. I’ve got one infographic. Should I have spent 40 hours a week for a year trying to get backlinks to my site?

What I do know is I’d like my $995 back.

Guest posting

What it is: Guest posting is when you write a post that gets featured on another (hopefully popular) blog.

You leverage the audience of someone else to try to get exposure for your blog. The other blog owner benefits because they don’t have to create new content.

Does guest posting work?

Yes and no.

You never know if the post you write for another site will be a hit or a dud. I’ll use two examples from my experience.

The first was to a blog that gets 2M visitors per month. My post got me 150 new email sign ups to my list. Was that a hit? I honestly don’t know. I didn’t have any products to sell those people at the time.

Another was to a blog that gets probably 5M visitors per month. My post got me one new signup. One – you read that right. For my hours of work one new subscriber was added to my list. Not a great return on my time.

Guest post strategy

I read about a person that spent an entire year writing something like 300 guest posts. That strategy worked for them because of the sheer volume of content.

In the podcasting world, I know one person that did 150 interviews in a year. He had two staff people he hired who did nothing but get him booked on podcasts for an entire year. His goal was to get people to sign up for his email list so he could contact them later on. When he was finally ready to launch his product his email list generated a $350,000/year business. How did he achieve such success? Focusing in on one thing – being a guest.

Guest posting does work. It’s worked in the past and it still works today. I believe to be successful with guest posting; you have to do a lot of it. One, five, ten guest posts aren’t going to cut it. If you want to use guest posting as a way to generate traffic to your site, here are my suggestions:

  1. Make guest posting your #1 goal for the next 12 months.
  2. Try to guest post at least once a week over that period, preferably more.

Again, my opinion. There are a lot of good articles about how to guest post and where to guest post. Your niche will determine where the opportunity is for you.

Appealing to Influencers

An influencer is a label used to describe someone that’s much higher up on the food chain than you. You might call them A-listers, or the people that have been around for a while that everyone else looks up to and is trying to become.

What it is: Building your brand and business much faster if FAMOUS INFLUENCER NAME HERE helps you out.

Here’s another suggestion you’re going to find:

  1. Identify 10-12 people that can help you grow your business
  2. Follow them on social media
  3. Start sharing their content on social media
  4. Ask them questions by tagging them in your Tweets for Facebook posts
  5. Find a way to help them
  6. Boom – your magically besties (best friends) and now they will do anything for you including sending an email to their entire list about how amazing you are and that everyone should buy your products or visit your blog!

Hey – guess who tried this one out too? Admittedly I gave up on this quick because it was so fake to me I hated it.

So I haven’t done that since shortly after I started blogging.

It can work, and it’s worked for some people. But it can take months to cultivate a friendship online with someone you’re trying to connect to. But what’s the motive? Do you just want to build a friendship to get something out of someone? That’s using someone, and it doesn’t work.

How about being a friend for friend’s sake?

I will help you because you are my friend

I’ve met a lot of people at conferences who have become my friends. We may share a love of music, business, ideas, whatever.

But the relationship started because neither of us wanted to get anything out of the other person. We introduced ourselves, talked, and it grew organically.

Not that it happened to everyone I’ve met. Some people you connect with, and some you don’t. Here’s the thing – I will do anything for my friends. I will delete every email from a stranger (asking me for a business favor).

If you take a genuine interest in someone with the intent of just getting to know someone, you’ll have more success than following some step-by-step plan to getting on someone’s good side so that you can get something out of them.

My take: Forget about what you can get out of someone. Be a friend because you genuinely are interested in someone. If they can help you someday, great. If they can’t – you have a friend so who cares.

Help A Reporter Out (HARO)

What it is: everyday reporters are looking for quotes from experts and non-experts to help them meet writing deadlines. Those quotes come from people just like you.

HARO is a spectacular way to build social proof that you are a credible source of information.

How did I first get quoted in Forbes? HARO.

How to use HARO.

  1. Sign up for free
  2. Be available when requests come out – 4:50 AM, 11:50 AM, 4:50 PM EST. If you want to be considered, you need to check for the requests at that time. Reporters get hundreds of submissions. If you’re isn’t in the first 10-20 they don’t look through the other 180. They have deadlines to meet.
  3. Craft a reply quickly and respond.

You have to know your stuff. There isn’t time to do research. If you haven’t come up with a response to what’s being requested in fifteen minutes or less, there are dozens of people who have. Which means you’re reply is at the bottom of the list and will never be read.

Consistency is key

Once again, if you focus on just HARO, you can get a lot of exposure and potential backlinks to your website. But just being quoted is exciting!

How to format a good HARO pitch

This comes from someone who was quoted over 300 times. It’s the same pitch format I use.

Quick cheat sheet on how to respond to a HARO inquiry:

  1. Subject line: Response to [Exactly what the HARO query was]
  2. 1st paragraph: My name is, from company X, which does Y. I saw your inquiry about [repeat inquiry here] and wanted to reach out, because [establish your credentials on the topic briefly].
  3. [Optional: say something like “Here is a paragraph on the topic you can use directly or draw from.”]
  4. 2nd paragraph: Give your answer in as sound bite-y bits as you can. They should be able to lift 1-2 sentences direct into their piece. If it’s wordy or poorly written, it’s too much work for them.
  5. After 2nd paragraph: My contact info: (include full name, title, company name, URL, Twitter handle, phone #)
  6. Closing (please let me know if I can provide additional info (etc.) plus your signoff
  7. Also include your contact info in your signature at the bottom again.

Courtesy: Crackerjack Marketing

The last thing you should do before you hit send is copy/paste your email into Grammarly for spelling and grammar issues.

Here is an exact request I sent:

Subject line: Response to Unique Stories About DebtHi FIRST NAME,

My name is Scott Alan Turner, a professional blogger and podcaster about personal finance. I saw your inquiry about ‘Unique Stories About Debt ‘ and wanted to reach out, because I used to be a money moron before I became a personal finance expert.

Here is the short version, I’ll be glad to elaborate if you’re interested:

My boss told me he had a friend who was selling their new Porsche and I should buy it.  I knew nothing about sports cars but after seeing the car and falling in love with it I took out a loan and bought it ($800/month car payment).  A year later I had a new boss.  I mentioned to him I was thinking of getting a house.  He said I should buy as much house as the bank would let me, which I did.

$800 car payment + $2,500 mortgage + no savings = bad.

I sold the Porsche shortly after moving into my house, paid cash for a $6,500 truck and quickly started paying down my mortgage and building up my savings.  The decision completely turned my situation around.

My contact info:

Scott Alan Turner
Title: Personal Finance Expert
Website: https://scottalanturner.com
Twitter: @scottalanturner
Phone: XXX.XXX.XXXX
Email: scott@scottalanturner.com

Yes, you can help

Request topics are very broad. One of my friends is a dog trainer and one day I noticed a reporter was looking for quotes from pet sitters for an article. Requests aren’t just for business magazines.

Again, persistence and consistency will be key. When you submit your quote it goes like this:

  1. You contact the reporter
  2. You will never hear anything back from them

???

That’s right! To find out if your quote gets picked up setup a Google news alert for your name or blog. Reporters are busy so don’t bother them! You don’t want to get on their bad list.

Someday, maybe weeks down the road you’ll get this Google News alert to your email inbox that you’ve been quoted on a website or publication. You’ll do a happy dance, and life will go on.

My take: check out HARO because it’s free and easy to do. Set a goal to reply to any relevant requests once a day for the next 90 days and see what results you get. You’ll have to allocate 15 minutes to respond and be ready to respond and soon as the requests come out.

Blog circles

What it is: Getting your blog included in a list of other similar blogs.

Here’s another thing I tried but got nowhere. Many blogs in personal finance have been around for a long time. Some of the bigger sites have ‘Top Personal Finance Blogs’ with links to every site around, ranked by popularity (a combination of Alexa rank, and social followers).

It was more ego to see how my site compared with others. When I first got started, I was a nobody (now I’m slightly more than a nobody) and was ranked in the 500’s. I would check in occasionally to see if I could crack the 400’s.

My take: Waste of time. At this time, I don’t link to anyone else’s site, and I don’t spend precious time trying to get others to link to mine. I focus on content. Google can see through these types of sketchy strategies to try to get sites to rank higher.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

What it is: Writing content that gets ranked high in search results.

SEO is the #1 way I get free, organic traffic to my website.

If I had to start over and pick one thing to focus on, it would be SEO and keyword research. I still do it to this day (though not with every article, because it’s time-consuming).

Before in the section on selecting a niche I gave an example of a broad niche:

shoes

and a very narrow niche:

cheap red sneakers for marathons for people with foot problems

SEO is the science of researching keyword phrases that you know you will be able to rank highly for in search engine results.

You will never rank #1 in Google for shoes.

But you might rank #1 for cheap red sneakers for marathons for people with foot problems.

The good news is before you write a single word about sneakers, you can find out in advance if you should take the time to write that article.

How I do keyword research

I’m not going to re-invent the wheel. I bought a piece of software and watched some instructional videos.

Here is the program I use.

My advice is to watch the video to understand SEO and keyword research. What you’re looking for are called long tail keywords.

Long tail keywords are long phrases that people search for. Long tail keywords are very specific, and can generate good quality traffic to your website – for free.

Let’s look at our example again:

cheap red sneakers for marathons for people with foot problems

If I wrote a 1,500-word article with that title that reviewed every pair of shoes that met those criteria, what would happen?

The article would probably rank pretty high in search engine results.

But how much traffic would it generate?

That’s the great thing! The keyword research tools tell you how much traffic you could get. Maybe only 50 people do that search a month. In that case, it wouldn’t be worth it to write the article (or maybe for you it would, you have to decide). Maybe 1,000 people do, which is even better.

The tool I use is Long Tail Pro which tells me how competitive they keyword is as well.

We’re getting into the weeds, watch the video to see how it works.

Keyword research takes time

To find long tail keywords takes time – a lot of time. I won’t sugar coat it, I’ve spent hours looking up long tail keywords that I thought I could rank in the top 3 search results of Google.

But, I tend to watch an hour or so of TV at night, so I might do keyword research while I’m watching Star Trek or the Walking Dead. So I get to be entertained and work at the same time.

My take: I love SEO and keyword research. I find it challenging. It’s one of those strategies where you are in complete control. It doesn’t involve anyone else but you and the computer, and it’s free/cheap to do.

Creating An Attractive Blog That Attracts Readers

Now that you know how to create great content, what about the presentation of the content? Here are the proven techniques for making your blog readable.

Short paragraphs

People have short attention spans and scan content quickly. It’s much easier to scan an article that is broken up in short paragraphs than one long piece of text.

Keep your paragraphs no more than five sentences long.

Headings to create sections

If you install the free Yoast SEO plugin, it has a feature that grades your post on it’s readability. If you have a section that is longer than 300 words you’ll get a negative score. Yoast will suggest you break up the section with a heading to make the content more readable.

Bulleted lists

A bulleted list makes your content easy to read. If you find yourself writing a sentence that has a lot of commas,

  • stop
  • and
  • create
  • a
  • bulleted
  • list

Use lists to make it easier for readers to scan content.

Text formatting

Use bolds, underlines, italics, ALL CAPS and other formatting to add emphasis to your content. I do this all the time. It brings attention to the important parts of your content. It also makes it look nicer.

If you compare two pieces of identical content side by side where one has extensive formatting, and the other has no formatting, your eyes will immediately perceive the formatted piece as looking better.

Text formatting grabs your reader’s attention.

Pictures, graphs, videos

At a minimum, each piece of content should have a featured image. Why? When someone shares your content on social, it’s been proven content with an image is clicked on more often (like on Facebook) than plain old text.

The longer your content, the more pictures you should try to add.

Important: A secondary benefit is by adding pictures, graphs, and videos, the user spends more time on your page. Search engines use the time spent on a page as one factor in determining how good the content is.

For example, I have some long content where readers might spend five minutes on the page. If the reader only spent five seconds on the page, search engines would not think the content is as good.

Here is a picture of my cats:

how to start a blog - use catchy images

Spicing up your site with graphics

Graphics are so important they get their own section. Check out your favorite blogs that look good. A good looking website is much more eye appealing and can cause a new visitor to hang around.

How often do you stick around an ugly looking website? Probably not very. Ugly websites look unprofessional. For me, they give me an uneasy feeling. If I come across a website that looks like it was designed five years ago, I question:

  • Is the owner still around?
  • Is this a serious business?
  • Are they going to protect my information if I were to business with them?

Unless I have no choice, I’ll move on.

A good graphic can make a blog post come alive. As they say:

A picture is worth 1,000 words.

You’re not limited to photography; you can find artwork and drawings for your blog as well. It doesn’t take a ton of graphics to make a site look nice. With a proper theme and some good blog graphics, you’re all set.

Where can you get custom graphics?

Sometimes you’ll need a custom logo, an infographic, a Pinterest image, or blog image. Here are my recommendations along with some journal entries on my search for good custom graphics.

Social images

Canva is a simple to use that can turn anyone into a graphic designer.

  • No drawing skills?
  • Can’t color coordinate?
  • No ability to match fonts?

No problem!

Canva lets you create images for all the social media sites in the proper sizes, and for your blog. The best part is you don’t need to be a graphic designer to create amazing graphics. Check out this example:

How to start a blog - creating images for your blog

I used Canva extensively early on to create my images, especially the ones for Pinterest.

Images your blog posts MUST have

Every blog post you create should have the following:

  1. Featured image that will display on your blog
  2. Pinterest friendly image
  3. Facebook/Twitter sized image
  4. Instagram

That’s four images to create per post. Canva is your best bet to create the images in the various sizes. In less than five minutes you can have each image size you need.

Stock photography

The images you use for your blog can be found for free on the web. There are dozens of free stock photo sites you can use. Just Google ‘free stock photography.’

While I could give you a big list of sites, I suggest checking out several and see which free stock photo site has images that are in sync with your blog’s look and feel.

Be aware some free stock photo sites still require giving credit to the photographer. Check if there are restrictions on how you can use the photo as well. Some may allow free use for non-commercial purposes, or free only for educational purchases.

Paid stock photography

My preference is to pay $1 for each photo I use. By paying for photos, I know the licensing I’m purchasing and don’t have to worry about copyright issues.

I’ve been using Adobe Stock Photography (formerly Dollar Photo Club) for many years. They have a wide selection of photos to pick from, and they don’t require you to purchase a bunch of credits you might never use.

All of the photos you see on this site (with a few exceptions) come from Adobe Stock Photo.

Starlog May 22, 2015

Logo, logo again.
I’m redoing my logo again. I think this is the fifth time. Every month I change it. I’m obsessed with getting it right. $15 on Fiverr for a new one.

New eLancer for Instagram quotes
The low bidder won on this deal. I came up with another 50 quotes to post to Instagram via Lattergram.me

Some girl from Serbia bid $20 since it was her first Odesk job. I figured what the hey, if she gets it right I get a sweet deal for $20 and she gets a good review. If she gets it wrong, I’m out just $20.

Starlog May 30, 2015

Fiverr Fail – Again

I’m never using Fiverr again. I bet if I posted a job for someone to add a period at the end of a sentence to a Word doc, I might get the project done correctly. Then again it may come back with a comma or exclamation point; I just don’t know.

I’m logo crazy, and I wanted to redo my logo again. I wrote up eight specific things of how I wanted my logo to look. The logo was based on an existing work, so I even had an existing logo to reference. How hard is it to ‘make my logo look like this one, with a few tweaks?’

Apparently, it’s nearly impossible. So the Fiverr dude submits a half-assed logo and I reqeust a bunch of edits because he didn’t follow the instructions. Then he requests to cancel the job. What a freaking waste of my time.

I saved my $15 I guess.

I’m thinking Fiverr stands for Five Errors.

Starlog June 12, 2015

Canva – not too shabby

If you look back at my previous weeks, you will note how many times I tried (and failed) to find someone to create good Instagram quotes. I’m not going to bother to add up the time and money I spent. That in itself would be a waste of my time.

I had heard of Canva and opened it up a couple of times but never used it. But at this point, my Instagram posts weren’t happening because I didn’t have any new quotes to publish.

So I did what any business owner with superhero syndrome does – I decided once again I will just do it myself. Cheaper. Faster. Guaranteed results. Right?

After fumbling around with the Canva interface for 30 minutes, I finally had my first Instagram quote. It cost me $1 to generate. That’s 1/2 as much as I was paying someone for average work.

In 60 minutes I came up with four new quotes. Not the best use of my time but now that I’ve got the process down I can churn out a new Instagram inspirational quote in about 5 minutes. I don’t think that’s too bad since I get what I want.

If I sit down for a couple of hours, I could have all my quotes created for a month. That’s the goal anyway.

How to optimize your image creation

Image selection and creation can take a lot of time. It’s a rabbit hole you can keep going down looking for the perfect image.

As someone who has spent nearly an hour searching for a single image, let me tell you:

Perfection is the enemy of the good.

Give yourself 5-minutes to find an image.

What’s the secret to a great image?

Simple – check out this cheat sheet on what types of images perform best.

How to start a blog - the best colors for repins on pinterest

Now pick through my blog and look at the images I use. Notice something? They follow the rules in that guide. I don’t overthink it. I ask myself one question and one question only when trying to select an image:

Does this image pop?

Meaning – does it pop off the page? Is it catchy? Does it stand out? It’s important to stand out on sites like Instagram and Pinterest.

What gets the most pins on Pinterest? Food pictures. Which ones? The ones that pop off the page.

Sometimes if I get stuck, I’ll pick a food image for my post. I couldn’t care less if it’s unrelated to the topic. While I always try to find a relevant image, if I’m 5-10 minutes into the selection process I start looking for food pics. Here’s a great example:

How to blog sample food blogger image with text

The goal is to stand out, not be perfect or have the image 100% match the blog topic. If that were the case, I would use a picture of a $100 bill for every article on my website.

Time hack for image searching

I have a content schedule where I might have 3-5 topics in my upcoming queue. When I’m in front of the TV, I’ll find every image I need at once.

Think about it – you’ll spend 30 minutes searching for images. That’s precious work time you could be creating content. I’d rather take time away from something less important – watching TV – and do some image searching at the same time.

Time hack for text

You’ve probably seen some sites that use the same text format over and over, only changing the background image.

That’s one way to reduce image creation time. It also creates some super boring images. Plus if you have a text template the background image must always ‘fit.’ The text might cover up something important.

What I did was purchase 100 badges that allowed my to edit the text using Adobe Illustrator. Then I created 30 custom text badges that fit any blog title I expected to use.

All I have to do is pick a background image, and based on the title of the blog post pick one of the text templates I have.

I use Canva to put my custom text (in image format) on top of the background image and create all of the social and blog images necessary.

BOOM!

Once I find a background stock photo, all of the other images can be created in a few minutes. You can get the same logos I use on my website from Creative Market here.

Vintage logo badges for your blog images

How to get technical help with your blog

You will at some point find something you can’t do or worse – you break something. Have no fear; you have several things to consider:

  1. Google it; someone else has had the same issue as you have
  2. Check out WPBeginner for a tutorial. It’s a free resource.
  3. Post your question to one of the WordPress forums and ask for help
  4. Pay for help. I at one point had to hire WPCurve to figure out something I had spent way too many hours on.

Starlog May 15, 2015

WPCurve

The business model behind WPCurve is excellent – ongoing WordPress support for a low monthly fee.

My only issue with the service is I’m frugal! When I started this little venture, I set aside a certain amount of money to run the business. WPCurve (at the time of this writing) changed their pricing model to $99 a month for unlimited small site fixes.

SAT doesn’t have a huge amount of traffic yet. And if it did, would I need little tweaks all the time to justify the price?

I tried the service for a month. Initially, I had a handful of issues I wanted help with-+++++. Well, now that I think about it I had just one issue –

Why the heck won’t my favicon show up in Firefox!!!

After banging my head against the wall for two hours trying to figure it out, I decided it was worth $99 to pay someone to find the problem. WPCurve seemed liked the right guys for the job.

What I wasn’t expecting was a full site analysis of my site speed and WordPress setup. I received several nice emails stating what was good and what could use improving.

As a customer I took advantage of the service and submitted requests to look at:

  • image size
  • WP Caching plugin
  • Site load time

Oh, and they fixed the stupid favicon. It was a problem with not having it set in the Thesis framework. I would have never figured that out. Thanks, WPCurve.

Goodbye WPCurve

But, once the favicon and site was optimized…what next? I’m in content creation mode, and my site is pretty simple. I don’t need the service anymore at the moment.

So I canceled. Someday I’ll probably come back.

Note: It’s almost 2017, and I haven’t had to use the service again. Great if you get stuck though.

 

One key thing you must do from the start

I talked about this in my other post about making money with your blog. The importance of building a list should not be ignored.  Not building a list is one of the big mistakes bloggers make.

I am going to include my journal entries on the subject of list building. They are raw, real, and I tell it like it is.

Starlog May 22, 2015

Last week I listened to a fantastic webinar by Noah Kagen from SumoMe. Not only is he an entertaining presenter, but he also has loads of great information. I don’t have time to get into everything we covered on the webinar, but it gave me a ton of new things to consider and a big direction change for SAT.

Make email my #1 priority

When I first started the blog, one of my goals was to build a massive email list.

Five months into this venture and hardly anything I’ve worked on reflects that goal. I did release an ebook two weeks ago, but it was like pulling teeth. For a long time I put off writing ‘Save $1,000 Off Your Expenses’.

I had all the content written, but I knew formatting it was going to take a while. And I was too cheap to pay someone to do it for me. Instead, I learned Adobe InDesign in about 5 minutes and went to work building my first ebook. Six hours later, it was done. Boom!

I had previously purchased OptIn Monster for their exit popup functionality. Two months later I finally had an ebook to give away to subscribers.

After listening to Noah and all of the great products SumoMe had for converting visitors into subscribers, OptIn Monster got chucked.

I spent a day and a half redoing my site to include:

  • Scroll Box
  • List Builder
  • Smart Bar

(I was already using SumoMe Share for social sharing.)

Why did it take a day and a half to setup? Because I’m a nitpicky web programmer!

You can install all of these apps on your site in less than ten minutes.

But for me, I had to configure them the way I wanted, get the colors right, have the right copy, the correct wording on the buttons, blah, blah, blah.

How to get your first 100 email subscribers

You should read this article on how to get your first 100 email subscribers

The reason I spent a day and a half on the email was trying to work through that blog post and implement every idea listed. There are a lot! And they take time. I still haven’t completed the list, but I have enough to be happy.

One thing that stuck with me on the webinar was Noah said you should be converting 1.5% of your visitors to subscribers.

Sign up for Email1k

This program is from Noah over at OkDork.com.

Each week you get one email with an actionable task to grow your email list. This week was setting up an exit popup for your most popular articles.

Check, that’s done. Took 5 minutes. Now I wait for the results.

According to the email, the popup should have a 2% conversion rate.

Starlog May 30, 2015

A real eye-opener

I’m not sure if I got this tip from someone else or if I just decided on it myself.

I’ve got AWeber (my email program) setup to email me whenever a new subscriber is added to my email list.

Within 24-hours I send a personal email to each new subscriber. Pretty easy for now since I’m getting 1-2 per day. I always ask them if I can help them.

Something I picked up from Noah Kagan in his emails – he writes ‘I read every email.’ Guess what someone wrote back today?

Nice to know you actually read every email.

I could be on to something here.

SumoMe doesn’t suck after all

It turns out I have been getting subscribers over the past week.

Just not confirmed subscribers.

AWeber doesn’t send emails letting me know someone didn’t double opt-in.

Oops. SumoMe Smart Bar does suck. It’s not converting anything.

Neither is Scroll Box. I’m testing a new box for Scroll Box to see if that improves the conversions.

My List Builder popup is killing it – 10% conversion rate. So I changed the Scroll Box to use the same message.

Starlog June 26, 2016

Integrity is more important than money

On my show this week I talked about LegalZoom and how I don’t recommend it. I also mentioned I could have become a LegalZoom affiliate to earn money, but I chose not too.

The web abounds with comparisons between AWeber and MailChimp. I started ScottAlanTurner.com using AWeber because several other big-name bloggers were using them as well. I didn’t bother with research because if BIG NAME PERSON is using AWeber, it must be good, right?

Guess what? AWeber has an affiliate program! Here again is another product I will not be recommending and will not be earning money from. If it works for you – great. I spent two hours changing everything over to MailChimp.

Why I switched to MailChimp

  • HTML opt-in confirmations. A styled confirmation email looks better than a plain text email opt-in confirmation. AWeber does not have HTML opt-in confirmations (I emailed support and asked)
  • Newsletter setup. Ok, it’s been four months, and I’m finally sending out my first newsletter. I knew what I wanted it to look like. I started trying to get my HTML template setup in AWeber. I’ve been coding HTML for almost 20 years. If I can’t figure out an HTML editor in 60 seconds, something is wrong. It was at this point I decided

I’m checking out MailChimp right now and see what I can accomplish.

In 2 hours I:

  • Moved my website from AWeber to MailChimp
  • Created an awesome, clean-looking opt-in confirmation
  • Imported all my contacts
  • Created a beautiful email template for my first newsletter
  • Setup and scheduled my first newsletter

Really, 2 hours?

Ok, so why did it take 2 hours? You might be thinking that’s a long time. I’m super picky. If I had used all the defaults and picked an existing template, it would have taken about 20 minutes.

As a website designer, I have visions of how I want things to look and the defaults never fit my vision. Where you see a WordPress template that looks great, I would see a WordPress template that looks good and find ten things I want to change to make it better. That’s just me.

 

How to blog efficiently and effectively

Sit down and created a list of all the things you want to put into your business. I’ve learned an easy way to plan your business goals is to write them all down on a bunch of sticky notes.

  1. Organize them by category
  2. Prioritize them
  3. Put a date next to them
  4. Add everything to Trello

Done.

You now have a plan. Plan the work, work the plan.

Trello is a handy (and free!) tool I use to organize everything in my business. I would say it’s most like a project management system where you can have

  • team members
  • tasks
  • workflows
  • schedules

I have been using Trello for about as long as I’ve had this blog. I’m in it at least once a day to set my daily todo list or make a note of something I need to come back to later.

I also store all my blog topics in Trello in a board called ‘Blogging Topics.’ Some topics have been hanging around for over a year – that’s just the way it goes. You can’t get to everything in a timely fashion, and other things will drop in at a higher priority.

Asana is another similar product which I tried recently. It’s prettier than Trello, but I didn’t see that it had any better functionality. To me, it wasn’t worth spending a day transferring my Trello info over to Asana.

Sign up for Trello; it’s a great tool to keep track of everything. And it’s free.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but how do I get started?

A lot of the same stuff that you and I need to do in our business comes down to this:

  1. Write out the steps to do something.
  2. Do it.

This guide has the steps. There are a lot of steps. You can’t do all the steps in one hour. You can do a little micro-step each day or once a week.

  • Write down what step you need to do today, or this week.
  • Then do it.
  • And repeat.

It’s ok to fail

Starlog July 17, 2015

3x10k BHAGs

Kryptic title for a blog post, eh?

BHAG in the business world stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

A goal so outrageous you would say to yourself – that’s absurd. Crazy. Ridiculous. Can’t possible be done. Can it?

You’re shooting for the stars.

Well, why not?

If you’re not shooting for the stars what are you shooting for? Mediocrity?

3x10k

  • 10,000 email subscribers
  • 10,000 twitter followers
  • 10,000 podcast downloads

In 5 months.

That’s my BHAG for the remainder of 2015. Keep in mind my blog while I’ve thrown it out on the line, I haven’t really advertised it. My friends and most of family still don’t know what I’m up to.

In my mind, I have an unlaunched business. It’s only official when I tell my Facebook friends. That will happen sometime in September. Yeah, it kind of got launched when the SPI podcast came out, but I’m not pushing it yet.

No goals = no results.

I think the podcast portion of the goal is pretty easy. I’m pausing my podcast for the moment while I retool. The re-launch is going to be pretty kickin.

As far as Twitter and email, those are doable but harder. You could say my twitter following and email list are pretty non-existent at the moment. Let’s just call them zero to make it easy. It’s not like I’m trying to grow an email list from 9,300 to 10,000. It’s more like 0 to 10,000.

But the key to the whole thing is the podcast and guest posting. I’m moving heavier into guest posting for the next five months to see what happens.

UPDATE: I didn’t achieve one of those goals.

First I should have had one singular goal, not three big goals. I shutdown my podcast.  That goal couldn’t be reached.

Twitter followers are nice, but it’s more for your ego. Heck, you can buy 10,000 followers if you want.

The email list would have been useful, but I changed my focus in August to 100% work on my show, and that’s what I did.

No really, how do I get started

I should never again receive another email on ‘how do I get started blogging?‘ If I do, I’m just going to delete it, because it’s from someone who will never succeed at blogging. Sorry but that’s the harsh truth. If you can’t take the time to follow some instructions, no amount of help I provide is going to make you successful.

Successful people try, fail, then try again, and fail. Sometimes they have some success, then fail again, but keep moving forward.

Please – you’ve reached the end – go do something.

Plan the work, work the plan.

My final business journal entry says it best:

Starlog July 31, 2015

I don’t have any amazing super tips that are going to make your business explode into the stratosphere this week. I’m reminded of my first online business where it took me three years to get my first paycheck.

Business can be a grind.

Working six months doesn’t entitle you to make any money.

I love it, and it isn’t work. I do wish I could play guitar a little more.

If you haven’t started your blog yet click here to get started. For the other parts in this series on how to get started blogging, check out

Disclaimer: Yes, there are affiliate links in this post. It’s how we feed the hamsters spinning the wheels to keep the lights on around here.

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