How to Create a Free Blog
As I said before, blogging can be a very rewarding activity (and not just from a financial standpoint), but it also has some drawbacks.
Concretely, what awaits you?
- There is no shortage of examples of bloggers who make a good living, but make no mistake, they also work hard.
- It's flexible work: Unless the concept of your blog involves particular constraints (for example, if you give your opinion on Parisian restaurants), you can work from anywhere and (almost) anytime.
- You will constantly learn new things: In recent years, I have had to acquire new knowledge and face multiple challenges (SEO, email marketing, content marketing, etc.). It also allowed me to meet big names in the sector.
- You are your own boss: You have absolute control over the direction of your business. For better or worse, you make the decisions.
- It's a rewarding activity (at least for me): There's something rewarding about writing content knowing that it will (potentially) help thousands of people.
- Success is not guaranteed: Many people boast of making a lot of money from their blog. Warning: this is not the case for everyone.
- It is an activity that can be solitary: Unless the development of your project requires you to call on collaborators, you will most likely work alone, at the risk of sometimes feeling isolated. If you miss social interactions, do not hesitate to integrate a coworking space.
- You will need a minimum of technical knowledge: No need to have an engineering degree, but managing a blog requires some technical knowledge. You must at least have the willingness to learn.
Don't get me wrong: Starting a blog is like starting a business. If you want to succeed, you will have to work harder than your competitors.
- It's a long-term job: I don't know anyone who had the chance to make a living (decently) thanks to his blog in 2 months. In my opinion, it takes 1 year (at least) before we see the first results.
To help you start your own blog, I've put together this 8-step process. Let's discover them together.
- WordPress: the most powerful blog?
- Weebly: to create a blog with ease
- Wix: blogs with impressive designs!
Used on nearly 38% of websites, WordPress(.org) is undoubtedly the most popular CMS on the market. Born in 2003, this PHP platform was specially designed for bloggers: so you are in good hands.
The WordPress platform itself is free. However, you will need to have the application hosted by a hosting service.
There is no shortage of options, but I recommend WordPress hosting (for small budgets) or Hostgator (if you want a high-end service).
A good web host is essential, if only for SEO. If your blog project is serious, I advise you to opt for an advanced hosting solution like Hostgator even if it involves a larger budget.
One of the great things about WordPress is that you can fully customize your site's theme(template) with just a few clicks.
WordPress offers a selection of themes that you can use for free. If you're looking for a more sophisticated template with support, explore WordPress theme sites like Template Monster or ThemeForest.
Support may only be available in English.
WordPress offers all the features you'll need as a blogger: categories, tags, etc. Be careful though, not everything that glitters is gold and WordPress has its share of disadvantages that you should not neglect. Here are its strengths and limitations:
- Exceptional power: WordPress is an advanced solution with (almost) no limits. You can adapt the system to your needs (for example by attaching a database), but this will require technical knowledge or the help of a developer.
- A (potentially) economical solution: Since this is an open source platform, you won't have to pay for the software. If you opt for an affordable web host (such as WordPress hosting), you can have a blog for less than €35 per year if you don't need a premium theme, plugins, or the help of a developer.
- Hosting freedom: If you're not happy with your current web host (if it's too expensive, for example), you can transfer your WordPress blog to another provider.
- WordPress allows you to add plugins to enrich your blog with new features (such as advanced SEO options).
- Variety of themes: WordPress is compatible with countless themes (see for example ThemeForest) that you can install to give a whole new look to your site. Be careful, some themes are of better quality than others.
- WordPress is not so easy to use: True, you can install a template and start your blog almost immediately. However, if you want to change the look of your site or simply update your system, you may need some code knowledge.
- Installation and updates: WordPress must be installed on a server. So far nothing too complicated. But you'll also need to make regular updates, which can be time-consuming and cause some difficulties: you'll need to keep a close eye on all of this.
- No (official) support: WordPress has a large community of active users, but no official support service. If something goes wrong, be prepared to read lengthy threads on the forums or hire a developer.
- Security: Since WordPress is an open source project, some hackers sometimes identify flaws and exploit them to compromise websites. Generally, updating the system neutralizes threats. But if you don't, you expose yourself to a risk of hacking.
Appearing in 2006, the veteran Weebly has established itself as one of the most popular website building tools.
This is one of the most flexible blog editors I've personally had the opportunity to test. You can change the layout of each post individually, for example by adding or removing the sidebar.
It additionally offers solid blog features such as RSS feed, categories, post scheduling, and author profiles.
Let's review its advantages and disadvantages to find out if it is a solution adapted to your needs:
- Ease of Use: Weebly is in my top 3 when it comes to ease of use. Everything is done by dragging and dropping into the editor, which makes the tool particularly intuitive for neophytes.
- Flexible system: Unlike other site builder tools and WordPress, Weebly allows users to add any element to a blog post (image galleries, forms, maps, etc.).
- Dedicated Support: Size advantage over WordPress, support is available via FAQ and email.
- Free plan: If you just want to test Weebly but aren't sure you want to commit to a paid plan, you have the option to sign up for a generous free plan.
- Less power: Weebly is for beginners who have no idea of code (and who do not intend to learn). This prevents you from creating a site directory or linking external databases. Ultimately, this may limit your potential when it comes to standing out from other blogs.
- Blog templates: Weebly offers you several free themes, but without competing with the selection offered by solutions like WordPress or Wix.
- SEO restrictions: Even though Weebly's SEO options defend themselves well, they are not as flexible as WordPress'. For example, with Weebly, you can only use H1 and H2 title tags.
In conclusion, Weebly is a very good platform for beginners who do not need advanced solutions and want to launch their blog quickly.
With over 100 million users conquered, Wix is by far the most popular website builder.
To be honest, I don't find the blogging platform's approach to be as smart as Weebly or WordPress': it lacks flexibility and some features.
Wix is all about its unique approach to web design, which explains its success with artists and creatives who want to start a blog.
Let's say you want to create an online portfolio to showcase your work. As part of your content marketing strategy, you want to add a blog pane.
Wix will probably stand out as the best solution because of its visual qualities.
- Ease of use: another success model for ease of use. You will be able to get started with this tool in 2 or 3 hours.
- Striking templates: From my point of view, Wix's designs are the most successful. More than 50 blog templates are even available for free.
- Dedicated Support: A support team answers your questions 24 hours a day via email or phone.
- Well-thought-out apps: As in WordPress, you can add plugins to your Wix site to enrich your blog's functionality: host events, integrate members-only pages, or galleries with advanced options for photographers.
- Free trial plan: We appreciate the fact that Wix leaves free and unlimited access to the platform. You only upgrade to a paid plan if you're happy and want to use your own domain name.
- SEO options: Wix's SEO options are satisfactory overall, although they have some limitations (e.g. regarding the nomenclature of image files).
- Pricing: You'll have to shell out €8.50 per month to have a Wix-free blog. If you want a .fr domain, you will also need to provide an additional cost.
- Limited technology: While Wix (Code) offers advanced features for developers (such as API integrations), you may need a more robust solution if you're considering a fancy blog (e.g., a site directory).
If your goal is to create a polished-looking website with a blog (e.g. portfolio + blog), I advise you to try Wix.
Wix or WordPress: which one to choose?
Are you hesitating between the two giants of blog creation? Here is a very practical video to understand their differences and choose the best option for your projects:
Hopefully, you already have an idea of what you want to talk about in your blog. Maybe you're passionate about golf or vegan cooking?
If so, follow your instincts and start a blog about your passion (or profession).
If you do not have a specific idea in mind (or on the contrary, if you have too much), you will have to do some research before deciding.
In any case, it is essential to systematically validate this idea. I advise you to apply the following method:
If you are not lucky enough to have a flash of genius and you are stuck, take a piece of paper and a pen and write down all the ideas that come to mind.
Note: I personally like to sit in an armchair, a cup of coffee or tea in hand, with relaxing background music.
You can start by answering the following questions:
- List 5 things you like to do (without reservation) in your free time.
- Write down topics you are already familiar with.
- List 5 topics you would like to know (much) more about.
- List the top 5 sources of information (online or physical) that you consult.
- List 5 things you're good at.
- Check your browsing history to identify the types of items and products you are interested in.
- What types of profiles do you follow on social media?
By following this process, you should have come up with some suggestions. Let's move on to step 2: evaluate these ideas and choose one.
Yes I know... You just want to start your own blog to make a lot of money.
It doesn't matter if you have to write about boring topics such as the history of statistics (no kidding, there seems to be an audience for it).
But be careful, not so fast!
At the risk of sounding paternalistic, I strongly advise you to choose a subject that really interests you (or that you are sure to enjoy).
If you want to succeed, you will have to write a lot of content related to this topic. If you don't like what you're doing, you'll eventually give up and potentially waste dozens of hours of work.
It reminds me of a friend of mine who had found the perfect niche for his blog: inflatable fishing kayaks. The situation was ideal: low competition and (relatively) high traffic on Google.
He started writing a few posts, before realizing pretty quickly that he hated fishing. In the end, he didn't even publish his articles.
As you will have understood, to monetize your blog, you will need traffic. And you might need more visitors than you think.
Unfortunately, there is little reliable data on this point. Consider the following scenario:
- You attract 200 visitors a day.
- Your conversion rate is 1.5%.
- You get €5 per conversion.
With such traffic, you would earn around €450 per month. It's a start, but not enough to change your life, is it?
Unless you settle for a pittance, 5,000 visitors a month won't be enough: you'll have to think bigger. I do not hide from you that it will take time and effort.
It's impossible to be certain that the niche you've chosen is wide enough until you've put it to the test.
To know if you are on the right track, you can rely on certain indicators:
- There are already well-established blogs on the subject.
- You get a lot of results when you search on this topic.
- Google ads appear in search results.
- Test your topic's popularity in Google Trends (is the trend up?).
- Do some preliminary keyword research (for example, you can use Google's keyword planner or Keywords Everywhere).
- Use common sense!
Tip: You can combine different topics/niches on the same blog, but they must be related to each other. If your content is very specific, visitors (such as search engines) will be able to more easily identify you as the reference in the field.
Don't talk about sneakers to post a review of a hotel the next day. Stick to your niche!
There are many ways to monetize your blog (we'll dive deeper into this a little further).
However, not all niches are created equal and some are more lucrative (and generally more competitive) than others.
To find out if your blog topic is profitable, consider the following:
- Search for products related to your niche on Amazon. Are there many?
- Does Google display ads when you search for your niche?
- Determine if there are affiliate programs related to your niche (for example, do the following Google search: "[SUBJECT] + affiliate program").
- Look for potential affiliate programs on sites such as Awin, CJ.com, or OfferVault.
The presence of products sold online, Google ads or products related to affiliate programs is usually a good indicator of the profitability of a niche.
It's no surprise,niches that generate significant traffic and have high revenue potential (such as online betting or financial services) attract many heavy weights in the sector with well-stocked portfolios.
Of course, it's best to go for a highly profitable niche, but you're unlikely to succeed if the competition is too fierce.
Start by identifying your competitors. Use Google to determine who your main opponents are (limit yourself to 5-10 sites).
For example, according to Ahrefs the niche "herbal tea" is not too competitive.
Use your common sense and abandon topics that are subject to crazy competition. Some tips for estimating the level of competition:
- Determine how many (serious) blogs already exist on the subject.
- Establish the number of articles published by each competitor.
- Assess the overall quality of content.
- How often do I publish?
- Are they freelance bloggers or larger online publications?
- Use tools like Moz, SemRush, or Ahrefs to access their SEO information: look at their traffic, links pointing to the site (backlinks), search engine optimization choices, etc.
Your blog must necessarily stand out from the competition, especially if it is a highly competitive market.
Otherwise, why would users (or search engines) care about your site?
I've listed below the most common levers you can use to differentiate your blog. Do not hesitate to combine them:
- Specialize in a sub-theme (for example, vegan diet > > vegan diet for athletes).
- Go to the end of things and offer new information compared to your competitors.
- Always offer up-to-date content.
- Invest in multimedia content: videos, podcasts, professional photos, etc.
- Create an online community (start a forum, give readers the opportunity to leave comments, etc.).
Now that we've chosen a topic for your blog, it's time to come up with a name for it.
This is a personal matter and there is no miracle recipe for choosing the ideal name.
However, let me give you some tips to guide your thinking and find several options before making your choice:
- Choose short names (2 or 3 real words maximum) that will be easier to memorize.
- Choose a name that is related to your site or yourself. You can also simply use your first and last name.
- Its spelling and pronunciation should be clear: avoid double letters or names that call for spelling mistakes like flickr.com or elegantthemes.com.
- If you have an SEO strategy, you can embed a keyword in the domain name. Warning: Google says it's now useless.
- Keep your branding in mind. For example, choose a name that is not too long for a logo.
- Give yourself the opportunity to expand the topics covered on your blog. For example, lemondedestelephonesportables.com is not the best choice if you plan to talk about tablets or other portable devices afterwards.
- Don't forget about social media. Your name must be available on Instagram, Twitter, etc.
- Beware of trademarks! ShopifyNinjas and AdsenseFlippers had to change their names due to rights issues.
- Search for synonyms online.
- Select your best ideas and organize a short survey of those around you.
Perfect, now that you have chosen a name (hoping it is not already taken), you need to register a domain name:
- Affordable and reliable, Hostgator and Namecheap are one of my favorite web hosts.
- Prefer the most common domain name extensions: .com or .net.
- In general, I recommend you avoid numbers, words stay more easily in memory.
- Whenever possible, avoid hyphens in your domain name. They can give the impression of a spam or low-quality site.
- Before registering your domain name, make sure that there is no ambiguity about its meaning or hidden double meaning... Some names certainly mark the spirits, but not really for the right reasons like_penisland.net_(for the island of Pen Island) or_viagrafix.com_(for the graphic design agency Via Grafix which has now changed its name).
- To avoid losing your domain name, select the auto-renewal option.
Some tools can be very useful to help you find a name for your blog like Dot-o-mator.
> Tip: Some bloggers look for expired domain names that still have some SEO value (on ExpiredDomains.net for example). This can be a risky option, as some of them are likely to be sanctioned, for example because of spam. I advise you not to venture there unless you know exactly what you are doing.
A blog is no more and no less than a website (or part of a site) obeying a specific structure, usually organized in reverse chronological order. It consists of different posts (or pages) that, ideally, deal with the same topic.
To create your blog, you will need a website (with a blog publishing system).
> Note: You can use many other solutions such as Tumblr, Blogger, Squarespace, or WordPress.com. For practical reasons, I selected the blog platforms that seemed most suitable to me_._
Templates or themes shape the visual identity of your blog. Focus on elegance and intuitiveness.
When it comes to choosing a template for WordPress, you may feel a little overwhelmed by the thousands of possibilities available to you.
As mentioned earlier, you can use one of the free WordPress templates.
If you're looking for something more stylish or only need minimal support, you can choose a premium theme from another site such as ThemeForest or Elegant Themes. In general, this is where things get complicated.
When choosing a WordPress template, I ask myself the following questions:
- Does the price match the budget I have planned?
- Do I like the overall design?
- Is the design responsive (looks great on mobile devices)?
- Does the seller have a good reputation? Does it offer regular theme updates? Does he answer questions? Does it offer live demonstrations? Etc.
- Are the opinions on this model positive? Most sites that sell templates give users the opportunity to leave a review.
- Is this model popular? How many times has it been sold? The more popular it is, the more likely it is to receive support and updates in the future.
- Does it support the plug-ins I use (e.g. Yoast, WPML, Gravity Forms, etc.)?
- Can it be translated into French?
- Is this an SEO optimized template? Read other users' reviews about it.
Personally, I don't like it when the configuration is too complex.
So I try to avoid themes that offer features I don't need (such as member-only features). They tend to complicate blog maintenance.
Typically, I get a list of 4 or 5 themes relevant to my niche. To determine the lucky winner, I assign each one a score for all the points listed above.
Editing a WordPress template is simple, but maybe not as much as you think.
If you're using a website builder like Wix or Weebly, browse the built-in template library and choose the one that best fits your needs and niche.
All models offered are developed in-house, so you don't have to worry about technical issues or security issues.
All you care about is writing articles about topics you're passionate about. However, you will need to add additional pages to your blog.
- Page "Who am I?": when I come across a site without a presentation page, I find it fishy and I have the impression that it hides something. I imagine this has happened to you before, so don't forget to create a welcoming "Who am I?" page.
- Site map: most platforms create it automatically. Make sure this is the case, it will be useful for SEO. And don't forget to send it to Google Search Console!
If you offer other services in addition to your content (for example, online services), I advise you to create pages to present them. There are no real rules, it all depends on your blog.
If you want to create a successful blog, you will need to produce content that is unique, seductive and engaging for your readers.
Easier said than done, certainly!
Since Content creation should be your No. 1 priority (it's the essence of a blog), you need to anticipate and establish a publishing schedule. Here's how I personally do it:
- Decide how often you want to publish content: once a week, twice a week, once a month, etc.
- Create an annual calendar showing publication slots (weekly, monthly, and so on). Personally, I use a spreadsheet, but a regular or online calendar (such as Google Calendar) does the trick just fine.
- Think of ideas that would appeal to your visitors. To do this, you can brainstorm, do some research or address your potential readers directly.
- Determine the type of content to create for each idea (we'll dive deeper on this later): blog posts, images, videos, etc.
- If you have an SEO strategy (which you most likely will), identify keywords for each content idea.
- Fill the calendar with all your ideas taking into account possible seasonal events. You can use this HubSpot template.
- Review this calendar every 2 to 3 months to adjust it as needed.
It goes without saying that your publications must be written in impeccable French and very pleasant to read without grammar or spelling mistakes.
Don't hesitate to ask a friend for advice or hire a reviewer on platforms such as UpWork or Freelancer.
Note: It is perfectly normal that your articles do not attract crowds right after they are published. Very often, indexing by Google takes a little time. When you make it into the top 10 results for a popular search term, you'll (usually) be rewarded with regular traffic.
Experience has taught me that some content is more successful than others. From my point of view, the following types of content are the most interesting for bloggers:
- Blog post: You can create many types of blog posts. Listicles (articles in list form), answers to readers' questions, tutorials, case studies, profiles or lists of things to do or see, etc.
- Illustrations and infographics: If you have graphic design skills (or artistic talent), imagine visual resources to illustrate the information in your articles. You can also turn to Fiverrfor illustrations and infographics at relatively modest rates.
- Video production can be very time-consuming. Done correctly, however, they can boost your SEO and your online presence.
- Professional photos: Adding photos to your articles can be a great idea. However, make sure of their quality: poor quality images may give a bad image of your site.
- Share data: If you have interesting statistics (from your customers for example), use this data. Readers love them and major publications are likely to share them.
- Focus on the concrete: people love practical examples, which is why case studies and anecdotes from reality attract a lot of attention (for example, telling how Nicolas managed to turn around his financial situation).
- Start a podcast: Many bloggers today seem to be successfully turning to podcasting. I personally find this a lot of work and is of interest only to people who already have a strong readership.
There is no miracle recipe. All I can tell you is that it will take you time and a lot of work. As the dance teacher said in the series Fame:
You have a goal, a dream. You want fame, fame. Well, you have to pay for that. And it is paid here and at home in one currency: your sweat.
In reality, the promotion of your blog will depend on the characteristics of your project and your personality. Use the following tips to increase your traffic:
- SEO: If your goal is to drive significant traffic to your blog, search engine optimization (SEO) should be a key part of your action plan. Optimization for Google (and other search engines) will take time: it's a medium- to long-term strategy. This won't necessarily involve expenses if you take an in-house approach.
- Guest posts: It's not uncommon to see bloggers posting articles on other sites in order to get links and traffic to their site. This is especially effective when published on reputable sites such as the_Huffington Post_. Personally, publishing content on another site always saddens me a little: I am attached to my articles!
- Paid traffic: If you want to boost your traffic in a short period of time (a few hours), you can set up a paid campaign with AdWords, Facebook Ads, etc. However, this represents a certain budget and as soon as you stop paying, the traffic will vanish.
- Social networks: Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter can be good resources to increase the popularity of your blog and attract followers who will become loyal readers. Social media efforts are difficult to measure, but they can be very profitable. I recommend this strategy especially if your blog deals with topics that lend themselves well to the visual such as cooking, jewelry or photography.
- Email marketing: Even though the first mass email was sent years ago (1978), email marketing still offers an interesting return on investment that would be in the order of $38 for every dollar invested. Building an email list seems like a good way to retain your readers. For this, you can use tools like Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, or GetResponse.
- If you partner with businesses or other blogs, get them to add a link to your blog on their site to boost your traffic. The situation must be mutually beneficial.
Creating a successful blog means, at least for most people, creating a profitable blog. Here are some ideas on how you can monetize a blog.
To put it simply, it's about adding ads to your site, such as in magazines or newspapers. I'm sure you see dozens (if not hundreds) of such ads every day, so you can see very well what I'm talking about.
Now let's take a look at the types of ads you can find online:
- Cost per impression: When the advertiser pays you money each time the ad is displayed.
- Cost per click: This is the most common form of compensation on sites. You display an advertisement (for example, a banner) on your website and you get money every time a user clicks on it.
- Cost per action: The advertiser pays you a sum each time a user performs an action (such as filling out a form or creating an account).
If you plan to display ads on your site, you will need a large readership for it to be profitable, the return on investment being quite low.
To find advertisers, you can use an advertising network (AdSense, Amazon, Infolinks, etc.).
You can also contact advertisers directly, in which case you will need to justify a relatively large audience for them to be interested in you.
Note: Ads may confuse readers. Be careful not to overload your pages with too many banners.
If you think a product fits your readers' needs, you can promote items from outside sellers and earn a commission on each sale.
For example, if you have a cooking blog, you can recommend your favorite utensils on Amazon.
The links on this page are affiliate links. Every time a user clicks and makes a purchase, the site owner receives a commission.
Amazon Associates, ShareASale, and AWin are the most popular affiliate networks.
Note: This is the monetization method we chose. Some links on this page are affiliate links through which we can earn a commission if you purchase a product. However, this does not present any additional cost to you. In our opinion, this method is the most balanced: we make revenue from it, without cluttering our site with too many advertisements that distract readers.
You can sell a huge selection of products or services online to supplement your income. This method is especially effective for hobby-related blogs.
If you have a blog about fishing, you can offer an online store to sell fishing gear.
Physical products aren't the only articles you can offer on your blog. For example, you can sell:
- digital products such as songs, artwork or videos.
- consulting services, after all you are (or will become) an expert in your niche. Why not offer your advice to those who need it? Imagine you run a blog dedicated to personal finance. Wouldn't it seem normal to you to help (for a fee) those who are looking to implement a personalized debt consolidation strategy?
- Courses: Again, as an expert, you could develop courses and sell them online. So, you can sell yoga classes online if you have a blog on this theme.
- Subscriptions and memberships are another popular way to monetize blogs. In this approach, paying users have access to premium content, courses or products (for example, exclusive reports, SEO courses or makeup products).
- Another solution to generate income online is to sell an ebook. This method seems to be very popular with bloggers lately. Generally, a free e-book allows you to build a list of emails and then offer other paid ones.
If you have a large reader base, why not organize an online or face-to-face event like a workshop to learn how to make bread? Of course, participation will pay off.
In the same way, you can organize a webinar (an online workshop) for a fee. Webinars are very common in the digital marketing niche.
Some blogs allow trademarks to promote content on their site. They pay you in exchange for the right to publish their content on your blog.
> Note: If you publish sponsored posts, you must clearly state this and set the links to "no follow". Otherwise, you are exposing yourself to serious problems with Google and your readers.
You can ask your readers to contribute to your blog by making a donation. For example, you can use PayPal to set up this system, although I personally find this monetization method a bit curious.
As you can see, creating a blog is not an easy business. To succeed,you'll need to work hard and show stamina (and probably have a bit of luck too).
One thing is certain: the more organized you are, the more likely you are to succeed. So don't neglect your strategy. Here's a step-by-step summary of the process that will guide you in creating and monetizing your blog:
- Choose a topic.
- Find a (nice) name for your blog.
- Identify the most suitable free platform to create your blog: Weebly, Wix or WordPress.
- Choose your blog template (design).
- Plan the content that will feed your blog.
- Promote your blog and drive traffic.
- Monetize your blog to make money.
I hope you now have a better idea of how to start a blog. I also hope that this article has been a source of inspiration and that you will launch your blog very soon.
Do not hesitate to keep us informed of your progress, we will be delighted to have feedback on your experiences.
And most importantly, feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions. I will do my best to help you.