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You must have already read many articles and guides to create a blog. Your blogger friends must have told you about making money fast and easy via blogging. Well, everything you read or learned about building a blog is going to change as they only told you the half story. They didn’t explain the practical case study or what exactly they did to build a professional blog. We should not blame them as many people don’t share their secret weapons.
A professional blog is different from a regular blog as it generates revenue and the blogger can make living out of such blog. The blogger can live a good life and also support his/her family with the income from the blog itself.
Have you ever thought that how come your non-developer, non-programmer friend is running a professional looking blog? Why your favorite blogger’s website look so engaging and powerful than yours? Let’s find the answers.
I will make sure that your time spent on this page will count as productive and will help you understand the full game.
Starting a blog is very easy but creating a professional blog takes time, money, effort and experience .
My name is Sanjeev Mishra and I am blogging since 2008. Started WP Optimus in 2011 with a single goal to provide tips and expertise to get the best out of WordPress CMS.
Primary goal for this article is to help you create a professional blog from Day 1. A blog which looks great and performs really well. If you will follow these steps and keep blogging for couple of months, you will find yourself in the pool of top bloggers and see people recommending your blog.
WordPress is the best platform for serious and professional blogging! period. If anyone suggests another platform, ask them to create a blog with all the options mentioned on this page and compare the cost + time. Well, I am going to share some unique features of WordPress later in this step by step guide.
#1 Hosting Server
Self Hosted WordPress gives you freedom to customize the blog completely. For self hosted WordPress, first thing you need is a hosting account. That means, you need a server to host your files including WordPress core files, images, videos, database etc.
Hosting is the foundation of any website when it comes to speed, performance and conversion.
I recommend Siteground.
Why Siteground? There are too many hosting providers in market and believe me, this is one of the most populated industry right now. Everybody is starting a hosting company either from zero or by becoming a re-seller. I am using Siteground for hosting many of my sites and the performance of this host is amazing. Siteground ranked as the best WordPress Hosting Provider of 2017 in our performance survey (link below).
With Siteground account, you get free SSL certificate. As you must have read, HTTPS is now a part of Google’s SEO algorithm that means, sites with HTTPS going to rank higher. For HTTPS, you need to pay extra ~$50/yr. on other hosts but you get this free on Siteground.
Other hosting recommendations,
Another well established and cost-effective hosting solution is Bluehost. You get all the required scripts and options to choose between shared hosting, VPS and dedicated hosting plans.
The best-managed hosting provider designed to exclusively host WordPress site is WP Engine. Plans are costlier than other mentioned hosting providers but you get complete peace of mind in terms of hosting. It is not just hosting solution but a full-fledged back-end which hosts, protects and manages your files. As I told you, it is a complete peace of mind for WP users.
Even if you choose other hosting solution, you can easily migrate to WP Engine at anytime. Just ask their team and they will do the needful. If you have enough money in pocket, you can go for it else select the other mentioned options.
Hostgator is a big player in the industry and recommended by many other WordPress users and bloggers. It is known for its competitive pricing and mouth-watering offers. You can expect good offers from the host and the service is also good.
#2 WordPress Installation
WordPress comes with famous 5 minutes install process. cPanel of Siteground and other recommended hosting providers comes loaded with WordPress install script. You don’t even need to upload the WordPress core files.
Using the script, you can install WordPress in just few clicks. Isn’t it cool and easy. Once the installation is done, you will receive administrative login details via an email. You WordPress site is ready to go.
#3 Personalize the Design
WordPress allows you to change the design as per your need. A doctor’s blog should be a reflection of his work whereas a traveler’s blog should look different. In WordPress, you can change the look of your blog completely using Themes. More than 20,000 free and almost 15,000 premium WordPress themes are available to choose. Not all are good and even you may feel bad after paying for few too.
That’s why I am recommending some themes by providing their pros and cons with you.
A professional blog is not only about content but looks and presentation too. Divi is my one of the favorite WordPress theme in premium theme market. It comes with a beautiful design and a clutter-free page builder known as Divi Builder. This page builder will help you publish nice looking pages by just drag-and-drop of elements such as contact form, testimonials, pricing table, carousel etc.
For a non-programmer, this is a great solution as no one will believe that you have published that kind of design rich page.
The only problem with Divi is that if you have published a page created using the Divi Builder, it populates the design rich content using shortcodes. So if you decide not to use Divi theme in future, the content area will need a complete cleanup as only shortcodes will be appearing on front.
#3.2 Beaver Builder
My favorite page builder. Beaver Builder solves the problem which was there in Divi Builder. You can easily publish nice page layouts with great elements and even switching the theme will not impact the content. Apart from that, the blog posts index page or archive or single post also looks cools and professional using Beaver Builder. These example websites built using Beaver Builder will help you understand what can be done with this awesome plugin.
Beaver Themer is another product from the same team and it allows you to have different look on different pages.
#3.3 StudioPress Themes
StudioPress is like the king of good times in WordPress ecosystem. Genesis framework from StudioPress is one of the most popular framework in WordPress and many bloggers use child themes built on Genesis. StudioPress themes are also very SEO friendly and easy to customize.
For personal blogs and websites, I would recommend going for StudioPress.
Another good player in theme industry is MyThemeShop. I personally like their themes because they are very much on niche and specific. Checkout their 90+ WordPress themes and see if you like a design that suits your choice.
If you are planning to build an eCommerce site using WordPress and WooCommerce, take a look at YITH Themes (beautiful designs and features).
#4 Add More Power to Blog
Plugins are to add feature in WordPress without writing any code. Many of you must not be aware of programming languages, so I am and that’s why I use ready plugins to fulfill my needs. Here are some plugins to take your blog to the next level as without these plugins, the blog will not sustain for long.
- Yoast SEO – Everything that you need for on-page SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- Google Analytics Dashboard – Install Google Analytics for tracking the incoming traffic and real-time visitors and show that on dashboard itself.
- WP Fastest Cache or W3 Total Cache – Improves page load time and reduces load on the hosting server
- Contact Form 7 – Adds contact form on the website with good amount of control
- Aweber – Getting subscribers and collecting email IDs is the most important thing. I recommend Aweber for the same and send auto-responding emails to sell affiliate products.
- Shortcodes Ultimate – Insert buttons, headlines, beautiful toggle, tables etc. inside the content area without writing any code. Very helpful plugin for non-programmers.
- Syntax Highlighter – If you are planning to paste some codes in the content area, this plugin is must. It highlights the code in proper syntax which becomes easier to read and copy
- Jetpack – A powerful collection of plugins for different purposes. I like the related posts extension and Photon (free CDN) from Jetpack. It also allows you to connect your self hosted WordPress to WordPress.com. There are many benefits of connecting these two, I will put more light on that later.
#5 Protect from Accidental Loss
When you are going to put so much effort and time on your blog and looking forward to make money out of it, protection of this site becomes eminent. It is important to take regular backup of the complete site including core files, plugins, theme and database. In case of any attack or mishap on your blog, if you have taken backup there, it can easily be restored.
Siteground is already offering daily backup, why should I install plugins for that?
Well, as I said, Siteground is a great host and yes, they offer daily backup of the complete site without any extra charges. But some of the below mentioned plugins scan the files for any vulnerability and keep backup of plugins, themes separately. So, if any particular plugin is causing issues, you can restore older version of that plugin only rather than restoring the complete site.
A backup solution launched by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com and self hosted WordPress. VaultPress takes daily backup of the WordPress core files, plugins, themes and database. You can initiate the request to restore either the complete site or a particular plugin/theme at any point of time. Think of a scenario where you made certain changes in a plugin and that is causing issues on the site, in that case you can choose to restore the site on the day where there were no changes done.
Another backup solution designed for WordPress CMS users.
#5.1 Security of Live Website
Sucuri is the solution for online security of your website. If you are concerned about DDoS attacks or malware, Sucuri is the most recommended solution for this purpose. Purchase the yearly plan at $199/yr and they will help you with the online security.
If WordPress itself is Secure then Why Sucuri?
WordPress team keeps releasing updates and they are very concerned about the security. But in WordPress, you get the features via plugins and design via themes. Plugins hosted on WordPress.org goes through review checks by official team but if you have installed plugins downloaded from third-party website, you may get some malware. In such cases, the website may get hacked and you may find unwanted things happening on the site or in worst case, you may lose the data.
That’s why Sucuri plays an important role in scanning and protecting the site. We are using Sucuri on WP Optimus and it has protected us from long time.
iThemes Security Pro is another tool to secure your WordPress website from DDoS and other types of attacks. Unlike Sucuri, it is a one-time purchase as a WordPress plugin and secures your website.
#6 Spread the Word via Marketing
Marketing is as important as the product itself or in some cases, even more. You need to take care of marketing even before starting the blog. Setup few things to make your blog posts visible from the day one.
Easy Social Share Button – To allow visitors sharing your posts on social media platforms, you can use social sharing button extension available in Jetpack. But if you like to embed beautiful buttons with more options, install this free plugin. For more options like float left/right, more sharing platforms including WhatsApp and Telegram, buy the Pro version of this plugin.
OneSignal – For live notification on Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox browsers on desktop or Smartphones, install this plugin. Your subscribers will receive instant notification on their devices.
MailPoet – Send regular newsletters to all your site’s subscribers. This plugin is helpful when you are asking your visitors to register to your blog. For example, if you are selling a product, the buyers may become a member of your site. In that case, you can send newsletter for free to all those users using this plugin.
Optinmonster – Get opt-ins including pop up, flying box etc. and ask visitors to subscribe. Either you can directly place the opt-in box in sidebar or in a floating way on the website or a popup will appear when the visitor is exiting from the site or closing the browser. This service will help you increase the email subscription conversion by more than 70%.
#7 Be Prepared to Make Money
Some people blog for pleasure and some for money. If you mix these two, believe me you will feel good as well as make money out of your blog. While setting up the blog, make it ready to cash-in as well. Here are few great plugins to help you make money from your blog.
Thirsty Affiliates – It doesn’t look good to show your affiliate URL everywhere. Link cloaking is where you redirect to the affiliate URL by showing a simple URL from your domain. This way you can hide the affiliate link inside your own URL. This plugin helps you do that and manage the affiliate links.
Affiliate Ads in Sidebar – I would recommend to become affiliate of some products from your niche or directly put links to your own products in the sidebar. Use plugin like WP125 to easily showcase 125 x 125 px size small banners.
#8 Automate Almost Everything
You will sleep at a particular time but your blog and it’s visitors will keep coming and will be available to visit. Money never sleeps and so the traffic. You should automate few things so that you can focus on other works too. That’s how smart people blog.
Apart from the post scheduling feature in WordPress to automate the publishing part, here are few plugins to automate other things on the blog.
Revive Old Post – Social media sharing is now a part of Google ranking. You may keep sharing new blog posts but what about the older ones. This plugin will keep sharing your old blog posts on different social sharing sites on regular basis.
OnlyWire – It allows you to share a post on multiple website on single click. You can also setup and automate it to share when you publish a new article. It saves time and effort of doing this thing manually.
Google Webmaster Tool – Submit the sitemap URL generated from Yoast SEO plugin to Google Webmaster Tool. It helps in crawling and indexing your blog on Google search engine.
#9 Tools & Websites to Make Life Easy
Here are some free and premium tools to help you publish posts and do other maintenance work on the site.
Calypso – Post publishing desktop application from WordPress.com. Add, edit and delete posts on multiple blogs connected using WordPress.com account, from a single application.
TweetDeck – Manage multiple Twitter handle under one application and schedule tweets.
Canva – Create beautiful images, layouts and banners for your blog posts.
Pixabay – Get royalty free images for your blog.
#10 Strategy to Rank for Keywords
Time to make your site ready to rank good on search engine. You are going to write blog posts to get relevant visitors. Traffic from Search engine is the best quality traffic in terms of conversion and loyalty. We call it organic traffic. Before starting your blog post, you should spend some time on research for the keywords that you are targeting. Listed below are few tools that I use daily before starting a new blog post.
Google Keyword Planner – It is a free tool from Google to get an estimate for the traffic on a particular keyword. For example, if you are planing to write a blog post on “solution for hair fall problem”, you can get to see how many people are searching for this keyword and what all other keywords related to this one are also good to cover.
SEMRush – If you are very serious about SEO and ranking for your blog, I would recommend using SEMRush. I use it for all my blogs and it helps in predicting the traffic, seeing the competition and knowing about the opportunities for a particular keyword. I can also track who are my close competitors and what they are doing to gain traffic.
#11 Start Writing Good Content
Time to say “Hello World” and rock the world.
Now your WordPress blog setup is done and a professional blog is ready to go live. Before writing the first blog post, take a paper and note down all the categories that you are going to cover in upcoming days and weeks. Try to create a layout or structure for your blog posts e.g. you are going to write 20 articles in next 60 days and those articles should go in 5 different categories from the niche of the blog. you will use 15 – 20 tags for these 60 articles.
This type of planning will keep you focused and productive as well as it will keep your blog in a defined structure.
Wish you all the best and happy blogging.