The links below are affiliate links; click them for more information.
How to set up a popular blog
If you would like to get serious about running your own website, with plans for it to have as big a readership as possible, then I would highly recommend you follow these steps:
- Sign up for web hosting and domain name registration through Dreamhost. There are cheaper options available out there, but Dreamhost have practically no down time ever, incredible customer service, and their servers can withstand immense traffic without crashing. When my site was just a few months old, one of my blog posts went viral on stumbleupon, sending me over 100,000 visitors in a very short time, but my host handled it great! (Very few hosts can say this, and my previous one was crippled in a similar situation) Test it out for a two week free trial before you decide to stick with them.
- Within the very user friendly Dreamhost interface, go to the one click WordPress installation. WordPress is by far the most superior platform to run a blog from, and it can be used entirely for free when you have your own server. Note that there is also a free wordpress.com alternative, but if you want to run a site with a lot of design options and interesting features and with your own unique domain name, it really must be self-hosted.
Next, install the Thesis theme. This premium theme is definitely worth the money as it lets you customise the look of the site without needing to do any programming, and it is also extremely friendly for search engines, which could ultimately send you much more traffic as you write about things people search for. Otherwise you can search around for a free (pre-made) theme that you like the look of, and install that. With a free theme, install the All in one SEO plug-in.
- Download a free copy of Market Samurai and go through their (also free) video course to understand how search engines work and how to use their software to work with search engines on your blog. Market Samurai analyses the competition for particular search terms and allows you to see how you can improve phrasing of titles, how many searches a particular phrase gets, how many links other sites have going to them etc. so that more people ultimately end up on your site. You can use some of these features for free on other sites, but Market Samurai presents them in a much better interface (for free for many of them). After trying it out for free, I bought the full version for a bunch of extra essential features. I never write my posts for search engines, but I like to go back through posts every month to tweak the titles etc. to make sure they appear higher in searches for something I feel answers the question the person is searching.
- While many people discover my site through Google searches, quite a lot do it too through social networking. Create a Facebook page for your site, and sign up on twitter. Share other people‘s content and write interesting posts from these two accounts and link to them on your site. Others will follow you as you interact with them and write about interesting things, and these two sources can ultimately send you many new readers.
- Start an e-mail list through Aweber and add the sign-up form to your site (see mine in the top-right). You can engage with people on a completely different level with email subscriptions. There is a good reason that pretty much all successful blogs have an email list associated with them! Have it ready from the start so you can grow it better.
- After logging into your fresh WordPress page, install some useful plugins by going to Plug-ins, Add new and searching. A few that I recommend include:
- Add Post Footer [Add a message at the end of your posts automatically to show commenting policy, your e-mail sign up form etc.],
- Buy me a beer [I went into the files of this plugin and replaced the beer image with an Orange Juice; useful for if you'd like the site to run on donations],
- Dagon Design Form Mailer [A handy e-mail submission form that includes a Captcha code so you don't get automatic spam]
- Date Exclusion [When you have many posts, this plugin will hide the date for older ones so people don't judge them as outdated as they arrive from search engines etc.]
- Disqus Commenting System [Some love it, some hate it, but it's an improvement over the default WordPress commenting system in many ways]
- Exclude Pages from navigation [This adds in a tick box on the right of a page you've created so it isn't included in navigation. Handy if you want to add a thank-you page for email sign ups or add a page that can only be accessed if that person has the URL]
- Google Analyticator [Google Analytics is an excellent tool for finding out what link sent your readers to your site, how long they stayed there, how many came in a particular day etc. This plugin allows the data to be sent to your Google account]
8. The hardest part of all, is writing something unique, interesting and helpful, and doing so consistently. If you have it in you and know what you have to say is worth sharing, then having an excellent platform set up to do it from, as described in the above points, will make sure your message gets spread much easier!
Earning from a location independent living
1. Earning incredibly high commissions as an affiliate
One of the simplest ways many bloggers earn money is as an affiliate on products that others have created.
For example, if you write about travel or languages, then you can create a special link to my Language Hacking Guide and put it somewhere on your site (perhaps with the banner image), and each time someone clicks that link and then buys it, you get 50% commission
from the full price sale.
[Note: For obvious reasons you cannot use your own affiliate link to buy the guide yourself]
A couple of my site’s readers are earning several hundred dollars a month just for putting a simple link on their sites.
Also, look around the rest of these resources posts (this one and the travel/business one), checking out the links and you will see many products that I have used or read and am very enthusiastic to share with the world. Normally I don’t actually use affiliate links anywhere on my blog because I have my own product that gives me the vast majority of my earnings, but I will attempt to earn a little bit more on these resources pages and am honest about that.
The rare times I promote something paid, it’s only because I’ve used it myself and genuinely recommend it. Do not promote things you do not know or care about just because of its generous commissions. Your readers will see through any superficial promotions you do.
If you use them yourself, look through the website for affiliate information to create your own links to share on your blog.
You can also act as an affiliate for Amazon etc., however the commissions for physical products are tiny (5% or so)! I added some Amazon links into my language learning resources, but to be honest the only real earnings (of several hundred dollars total over a few months) I’ve ever made were from two posts I wrote about the Kindle e-book reading device.
2. Selling YOUR products/work directly
Once you have set up the blog and write about something interesting and start growing your audience, if you see that your advice is appreciated and you would like to earn from it, then you can write a book, record audio/video or create other files of value and sell them via your blog. You do not need a publisher this way.
Earning this way is much less intrusive on a website than random and irrelevant advertising images, and something you can be much more proud of and possibly earn a full living from.
Doing this is surprisingly easy! Just sign-up with e-junkie:
It’s actually incredible how this works: You pay $5/month no matter how many copies of the product you sell . That $5 covers the entire automatic system that takes payment via paypal (or credit card / bank transfer via paypal) and ensures that the person is given the files to download immediately. It’s very easy to set up!
3. Skype based consultations
If the skill you have can be presented on Skype, then you can do it professionally, earning at a distance. There are many ways you can do this. I have friends who teach languages, one who coaches people on giving up smoking, others who coach people who have basic social and confidence problems, others who give website/SEO advice and review websites etc. all by Skype.
I myself give travel advice, language learning advice, and blogging and location-independent advice (related to things talked about on this page).
As you can see I’ve included references from those who I have had sessions with before. I also use the e-junkie system described above to take payments for this; after a payment the person is given a timetable of my availability and a special email form that I prioritise so that I can see precisely what they want to talk about.