Earning passive income through blogging seems like the perfect side business, no?
Here's how it works. Every article you write is a line you are throwing out into the water that can generate passive income for you in the future. If an article starts to rank on Google (or gets traffic through other sources), then you can start monetizing it.
Blogs are generally monetized through ads or affiliate links placed on the website. That’s just a fancy way of saying you can get paid every time someone visits the blog and views or clicks on an ad or buys a product you are promoting through one of your affiliate links.
It’s really that simple.
So as long as people are visiting your site, you are going to keep earning money. And unlike other businesses, a blogging business has no inventory, no customers, no employees, no physical location and very few operating costs. It has tremendous structural advantages that allow it to be run passively.
If you want to take a week off (or even a month or two off) from the blog, you can. It will keep generating money for you without missing a beat.
If this sounds intriguing to you, you are in the right place. This article is going to show you step-by step how to start a blog, position it for success, and structure it for passive income.
We will cover the following topics:
It’s a lot to cover, so let’s get into it!
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and complete a transaction, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not a recommendation to buy or invest, and it is not financial, investment, legal, or tax advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any investment or other decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
Step 1: Select a Niche
The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want to blog about. The topic you choose is often referred to as a “niche.” Your niche can be anything you find interesting or have some knowledge about (usually both).
Examples of popular niches include fitness, food, personal finance, lifestyle, fashion, travel, technology, gaming, etc.
Some folks recommend that you drill down even further and write about sub-niches. An example of this would be “vegan cooking on a budget,” instead of just “cooking.”
One advantage of doing this is less competition. Writing about highly specialized topics makes it easier for you to rank on Google.
I prefer to define my niche somewhat broadly but write highly specific articles within that broad niche. This way I never run out of topics and don't get bored writing about the same thing everyday.
Note: Think twice before picking a niche like health or finance because these are “YMYL” topics. YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life” (but covers more than just that). It can be more difficult to succeed in YMYL niches because Google wants your site to have “EAT” (which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Expertise). Source
You gain EAT through a number of ways, but newer sites, which have virtually no domain authority with Google can struggle to rank.
So be mindful of that when selecting your niche – there may be greener pastures for a brand new blogger.
Step 2: Set Up Your Website
Once you have settled on your niche, it’s time to set up your website.
Setting up your website consists of 4 things: (i) finding a good website hosting company; (ii) selecting a domain name; (iii) choosing a content management system; and (iv) selecting a theme.
Find a Good Website Hosting Company
Bluehost is great for beginners because they are an affordable option (only $2.95 per month), are easy to use, and offer 24/7 support. It's a very popular option.
Siteground is a more premier option (the one I use) and according to some reports allows faster page loading, but is also going to cost more (you can get discounted pricing of $4.99 per month by using the link below).
Select a Domain Name
Try to select a domain name that has some relationship to your niche. So if you are starting a blog about how to improve your skills as a musician, you can have a domain name like perfectpitchguru.com. It’s not great, I know, but I am just providing it for illustrative purposes.
Tips When Choosing a Doman Name:
Pick a domain that ends with “.com” (especially if you are in the U.S.). These domains are the most common (and coveted) domains and are viewed by most people as more trustworthy. Also, using a .com domain will help you to focus on US traffic, which in turn, helps with monetization.
Pick a domain that has keywords that you are targeting. If you are going to be writing articles about music, you will be focusing on keywords that relate to music. We will get into keywords later, but they are essentially words or phrases that people type into Google when searching for a topic. For example if I type in “how to choose a domain name” into Google, that phrase can be a key word.
When you are writing articles, you will try to include relevant keywords in your articles so that Google knows that your article is responsive to that keyword inquiry. Similarly, Google may rank your article higher if your domain name has that keyword too.
Don’t select a domain name that is too specific. If you want to start your blog by writing about improving your piccolo playing skills, don’t choose piccoloplayingguru.com. The number of people searching for piccolo playing tips may be small and the number of articles you can write on the topic may be similarly limited.
You don’t want to be tapped out after writing 30 posts. But if your domain name is broader (like perfectpitchguru.com), you can talk about any instrument and any topic relating to playing music.
Try to keep your domain name short. With so many domains already taken, this may be hard to do, but try to find one that has less than 20 or so characters. It will make it easier to remember and less prone to typing errors.
Choose a Content Management System
WordPress is going to be your hub whenever you need to add or revise the content of your website. You can add new blog posts, update existing posts, add or revise static pages on your website (like your homepage, etc.) and so much more.
Of course, there are other content management options, but no need to fool around. Just stick with WordPress – it's widely used, perfect for beginners, and will still allow you to grow your website without issues.
Select a Theme
Once you are set up on WordPress, you can select a theme. A theme governs the “look and feel” of your website. I use Astra because it looks clean and is fast (which helps with ranking on Google) and is free. Divi is another popular theme.
Just find one that appeals to you and make sure it is not going to slow your site down too much.
Step 3: Set Up Your Business and Create A Logo
Establish Your Business Entity
If your business is going to be a corporation, LLC, or some other business entity, you should establish that as well. You can hire a lawyer to help you or you can use many of the online resources that can help you set up your business entity.
I like Incorporate because they can get you up and running quickly and easily. They also have some great resources to educate you on what type of entity to choose and which may be the right state to choose for your new entity. If you want to learn more, check them out below.
You should consult with your accountant and lawyer before taking this step, so you understand the tax and legal consequences of setting up this type of organization for your business.
Create a Logo
Creating a logo is not critical but having a logo at the top of your website completes the look and adds a professional touch to your blog. It will also be helpful to have an attractive and memorable logo as your blogging business grows.
If you have an artistic streak, you can try your hand at designing your own logo. I have zero artistic ability and limited technical skills, so I like a simple and easy-to-use option.
Looka will provide you a professional-looking logo at a reasonable price. You can choose from hundreds of logo designs (based on parameters and preferences you select) before settling on the one you like. You can also customize to your heart’s content. Check them out here.
Step 4: Search Analysis: Find Good Blog Post Topics
Search analysis is one of the most important parts of the blogging process (especially if you want to make money with your blog) because if you get this part wrong, no one will visit your website.
We’ll get into monetization in more detail below, but there are two main ways you can make money with your blog: (i) letting advertisers put their ads on your blog; and (ii) putting links if your articles to products that you are promoting and receiving commissions if a visitor to your website clicks on the link and signs-up or buys the product, etc.
If no one visits your blog, no advertisers will want to put ads on your blog, which equals no money to you. The same holds for affiliate marketing. If you put a bunch of links in your articles promoting products but no one visits your site, you are not going to get any commissions from those links.
This is why search analysis is so important.
You need to figure out which blog post topics will bring in traffic to your site from Google search.
Note: there are other ways to bring traffic to your site, such as paid ads on Google and Facebook, but that can get tricky and expensive.
If you want free traffic, getting people to click on your blog posts from Google search is one of the best ways to achieve this. So, how do you get traffic from Google? There are basically three steps:
- Find low competition keywords (or topics)
- Make sure there is enough search volume for that keyword (or topic)
- Write a blog post on that topic that is better than what’s out there
Find Low Competition Keywords
You want to find a topic or keyword that the big players are not going after.
If you Google the term “best checking accounts” you are going to see some very familiar names at the top of the search results. These are sites that have a lot of authority and thus weight in Google’s algorithm, which ultimately decides how results get ranked.
But if you Google “best checking accounts for people with bad credit” you will see results for less familiar websites. That keyword has less competition because the bigger players are ignoring it.
If you dig deep enough, you will find keywords that are truly underserved (e.g., the top result is not on point or is a forum (like Reddit, Quora, etc.). Forum posts are fairly easy to beat out so if you find one on the front page (especially one of the top results), that’s a very good sign.
I use Moz’s chrome extension (it’s free) to see the Domain Authority of websites that show up on a search page. It lets me know at a glance how stiff the competition is.
But finding a low competition keyword or topic is not enough, you need to make sure that the topic has enough search volume to make it worthwhile.
On that note, let’s get into search volume.
Make Sure There is Enough Search Volume For That Keyword
It’s very hard to determine with any real certainty what the search volume for a particular topic is going to be. There are a lot of companies out there that claim to know, but only Google has the complete picture and they are not sharing that info with anybody.
But you can use some of those companies, like Ahrefs, Semrush, Ubersuggest, or a host of others to get an estimate of search volume. I use the Keywords Everywhere extension to get a sense of search volume. It costs $10 to get 100,000 credits (1 credit equals 1 keyword).
There are other methods you can use to try to gauge search volume, such as the autofill function of Google.
I am sure you have started typing in a search on Google and there were autofill options that Google generated for you. Those autofill options are gold. Google is telling you that others may have searched for that term too. You can also write blog posts that are responsive to the “People Also Ask” and “Related Searches” portions of the search results page.
These are all signals from Google that there are other people searching for this type of information, so it’s a sign of decent search volume.
Finally, you can write about topics in your niche that seem to be popping up with regularity on Reddit or Quora.
There is a lot more to search analysis and search volume than I have covered and if you want to learn some of the “behind the paywall” secrets, you can check out incomeschool.com.
These guys are innovators in the space.
I paid the subscription fee when I started out and it has been worth every penny. They have an unconventional approach to search analysis and figuring out search volume that gives you an edge (you are zigging when others are zagging). I highly recommend it.
Step 5: Write Organized and Well-Written Articles
Writing a good blog post begins with the title.
In Google search, the only thing that people can really see about your article is your title, so it needs to concisely convey the topic of discussion and leave the reader wanting to know more. Of course, your article should deliver on the implied promise in the title.
Your title should also contain your primary keyword (near the beginning of the title if possible) to help it rank. Don’t make it too long (less than 60 characters is probably about right). Source
As for the body of the article, you should answer the question or main idea of the article at the beginning (so they know they are in the right place), but tease more detail or extra information of value later on in the article (to keep them reading).
I like to include an outline at the beginning of each article, with links to each subpart so people can jump to whatever section they want. A table of contents widget can work too (you can get that from tools like Elementor)
Your article should be accurate, with solid supporting citations or links, and have a good flow. You should try to answer the obvious questions relating to the topic at hand and try to anticipate related questions and answer them too.
Grammar is important.
I suggest using tools like Grammarly.com and Hemingwayapp.com to check for spelling, grammar and stylistic errors. But despite what your English teacher taught you, don't write long paragraphs when blogging. These days most people are on their phones, so big blocks of text can be off putting (2-3 sentences should be the max per paragraph).
Finally, you don’t need to stuff your article with relevant keywords (and synonyms), but you should use them with enough frequency to signal to Google that your article is about the keyword topic.
Ranking on Google can take some time, especially for new sites. You could have performed perfect search analysis and written the perfect blog post, but it might still take time (I am talking months potentially) for Google to index and start ranking your articles.
I did not start to see any real traffic until about 5 months in and then it shot up from there. So be patient and don’t give up. It can take up to a year before you see any meaningful results.
Step 6: Measure Your Progress
Once you have your blog up and running, you want to track how it’s doing. Google Analytics and Google Search Console are two important tools to help you do that, so you should connect your website to them asap.
Google Analytics shows you various metrics relating to your website, including number of users, number of pageviews, where your traffic is coming from, etc.
Google Search Console tracks how your posts are performing in relation to Google search. It includes the number of impressions and clicks your blog posts are getting, whether your posts are indexed on Google, keywords that you are ranking for, and much more.
Both are must-haves.
Step 7: Monetize Your Blog
Monetization is where all of your hard work starts to pay off.
Generate Ad Revenue
Once your articles start ranking on Google and you have decent traffic, your blog becomes a valuable piece of online real estate and you can start renting it out to advertisers. To start making advertising revenue, Google Adsense is the most popular option and is best for when you are starting out.
Getting accepted to Google Adsense is a nice first step, but I did not really start making any meaningful ad revenue until I joined Ezoic.
So I expect results to continue to improve.
The great thing is that Ezoic is free and they eliminated their 10,000 sessions per month requirement, so you can join much earlier (I joined when I had less than 2,000 pageviews). If you are interested in learning more about Ezoic, check them out here.
Generate Revenue Through Affiliate Marketing
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is another popular way to monetize your blog (and can be used together with display ads). The concept is simple. You are basically a salesperson for a particular product that you want to promote. But instead of knocking on doors or calling people up, you “sell” the product online.
A common method of affiliate marketing is putting affiliate links on your website. As we talked about earlier, this is one of the two primary ways you can make money as a blogger.
When someone comes to a page that has your customized affiliate link and they click on it, you will earn a commission if the person buys the product (or takes some other qualifying action, like signs up, etc.)
How Do You Find Affiliate Programs?
Amazon Associates is one of the most popular affiliate programs out there. They are perfect for beginners because they have easy qualifications, carry almost every product you can imagine and are a highly trusted source for customers wanting to purchase stuff.
Love a particular product that is relevant to your niche and want to write about its benefits? Drop an amazon affiliate link in your article to the product you are recommending and make money every time someone clicks on the link and buys it.
Of course, Amazon is not the only game in town.
There are many other affiliate programs out there. Just Google any product or company you want to promote and add the words “affiliate program” to the end. You’ll find that many of them already have an affiliate program in place. All you have to do is apply. Other great places to find affiliate programs are affiliate program networks like cj.com, flexoffers.com, awin, clickbank, and Rakuten.
Step 8: Structure Your Blog For Passive Income
Ok, you are nearly there.
You know that the properly monetized articles you have written will provide passive income for you without you needing to do much more. But is there a way to make the growth of your blog passive? Of course! Here’s how.
Once you have learned how to write great blog posts, you can begin to outsource some of that work to content mills (iwriter, textbroker, fatjoe, etc.) or hire writers directly on sites like Fiverr, Upwork, or ProBlogger.
Finding a good writer is tough and you will have more misses than hits. But eventually, you should be able to find a stable of writers that can produce solid content for you at a reasonable price.
Each article you add to your blog is another opportunity to increase traffic (and thus revenue), so by outsourcing the writing of new blog posts, you can make the growth of your blog passive.
As you expand, you can also hire virtual assistants to help you load articles and an editor to check them and revise them as necessary, making the process of growing your blog even more passive.
The last thing you should outsource, though, is search analysis. It’s such a crucial part of the process and everything else hinges on it, so you should hold on to that unless you find a real rock star who understands your niche and can do this better than you can.
What you can do in the meantime, though, is do your search analysis for blog post topics in an extended sitting and come up with a bunch of topics to write about.
This is called a blog content plan. If you can come up with 50 or so blog article topics, you can then feed those topics over time to your writers and sit back while they execute on your plan.
Again, a nice way to front load your work, so you can relax while your writers do the heavy lifting of creating the content that will generate passive income for you.
So that’s it – a step by step guide to starting a successful passive income blog.
It’s a lot of work in the beginning but can be worth it if you don’t give up.
If you don’t have the time to do all of this and want to short circuit some of the work associated with starting a blog, you may want to explore buying a blog.
To learn more about this passive income strategy, check out my article on Buying a Blog For Passive Income – What You Need to Know.
If you want more great passive income ideas, check out my ultimate beginner's guide to passive income [25+ strategies that work], where I cover tons of effective strategies that generate passive income.
One of my favorite articles on passive income is my piece on businesses that run themselves. In that article, I cover some great businesses that can generate attractive levels of return without a lot of day to day involvement by the owner (obviously, vending machines are included in the list, but there are many more). Check it out here.