I’ve been thinking for a long time about this article. I doubted whether you need to know the truth about how to prepare your website for Google? I was ready for angry comments and critics since naked truth is not the thing everyone wants to believe. There are lots of web pages where you might figure out how to start a prosperous blog. However, none of them based on the true story.
Most of the authors tell you only speculative theories without any practice. But my goal is to reveal the sacred reality of Google algorithm work. Finally, I’ve made a firm decision to lift the veil of my story a bit. So if you’re ready to learn the basics, I suggest you open a beer or take a cup of coffee, to embark on a journey into the world of white hat SEO.
Each author starts the article about how to launch your first blog with a list of actions. In fact, this approach is fair. However, it’s boring. Nonetheless, before starting your first blog, you need to learn the basics. Therefore, like others, I’ve made a to-do list for you (a lot of lists).
Right here, I want to tell you that I never lie. The only way to prove my words is to show you my statistics. Unfortunately, Google forbids to reveal the figures of your earnings. Nonetheless, I would try to show you some proofs without violation of the Google guidelines. Let’s get it started.
Warning! This article contains a lot of data. If you want to learn the right way how to start your blog from scratch, please read all the information carefully. Otherwise, you might scroll down to the topic you’re interested in, or omit the unnecessary paragraphs. Nonetheless, I suggest you read the entire story since you might miss many interesting details. After all, knowledge of details is the key to success!!!
- You can’t avoid mistakes
- Choose the right platform
- Define your niche, but later try to find your micro niche
- Create the Semantic Core
- Write some content
- Tune up your web server
- Register a domain
- SEO optimization (avoid overoptimization)
To Start A Successful Blog You Will Have To Make Mistakes
You can’t avoid mistakes if you’re just a beginner. That’s why I want to tell you the first naked truth about SEO. Your first experience would be a defeat. Like in any business, you need first to get down in order to get up later.
Tumblr is an excellent platform for a beginner. However, this platform is more for fun than for business. Nonetheless, it was my first blog about everything. Over time, I managed to generate some traffic and even earn some revenue. However, Tumblr is useless from the SEO point of view. However, it’s worth noting that in those times, Tumblr had a bug in its code, which allowed webmasters to increase their PageRank up to 7/10. All you were needed to do to obtain free dofollow backlinks was to like some famous blogger’s post. Eventually, my website won a PageRank equal to 4/10, while some pages possessed a 5/10 and even 6/10 indicator of PageRank. It was amazing but utterly useless.
Choosing the right platform
As I have mentioned above, my first blog has finally gotten many backlinks thanks to a bug on the Tumblr platform. However, such tactic (to increase unnatural backlinks) and my choice of a platform were wrong. As a result, I was starting to compare various platforms where I could launch my first proper blog.
Having completed a tedious study, I’ve discovered the three most popular platforms for bloggers.
Right now I want to warn you. If you’re serious about your blog and you want to generate profit, you’ll have to choose a self-hosted solution. On the contrary, if your goal is to enjoy writing text and you don’t want to earn money, I suggest you use other platforms such as:
Otherwise, continue reading.
Both Joomla and Drupal are too complicated for a beginner. As a result, I suggest you use WordPress instead. If you choose an easy way and you have enough money, I recommend you to pay your attention to WP Egnine. These guys are ready to tune up your web server for using WordPress. WP Engine was my first web hosting since I was trying to find the most steady solution. I was ready that my traffic could increase. Therefore, I wanted to be sure that my website will be available if 10,000 visitors would decide to read my articles.
Over time, I’ve realized that I don’t want to pay $100 for hosting to receive 1,000 visitors a day. I’ve started to use a $5 solution instead. But for now, just keep in mind, if you want to start a serious project from scratch, you should use WordPress as your platform and PHP framework. But also bear in mind, if you’re an experienced PHP or JS coder, you might try using more advanced frameworks such as Symphony and other.
Your niche is your first step to money
If to regard your future web project from the side of revenue, your niche is a more valuable factor than even your experience. Remember this golden rule. Depending on your niche, you need more or less traffic since each theme has its advertiser which is going to pay more or less money for clicks.
My first website was devoted to travel. This subject very depends on a season. In winter tourists prefer to ski in Switzerland, while in the summer everyone dreams about a Caribbean cruise.
So, if you managed to choose a proper niche, in the beginning, you will have strong odds to earn money in the future. Unfortunately, I can’t suggest you any profitable niche since it hugely depends on your interests. I personally worked in such areas as:
- Interesting facts
- Entertainment & News
I can’t tell you for sure which of them is the most profitable. I’ve earned my first money in the travel niche. I’ve discovered my first micro niche in Jewelry. I’ve got my first massive traffic in “interesting facts about.” Finally, I’ve received about 200,000 unique visitors a day in the Entertainment & News niche.
Now it’s time to talk about practice. Your primary goal is to find a micro niche. Once you managed to find a thin niche, you’ve already made the first step to money. Why? — Because there are not too many competitors. The only issue you face on the way, if you use the white hat SEO approach, is competition. You will have to forget about the highly competitive keywords if you’ve just started your way in online business. You will have no chance to survive among the business sharks in the popular niches. As a result, you must focus your attention on a subject which is useful, but unknown for the business sharks (or they are not interested in it). Is it difficult to realize? Well, I’ll give you some examples.
Type in the Google search string several search queries:
- Facts about Barcelona
- Interesting facts about Barcelona
- Interesting facts about Barcelona for an American tourist
It’s evident that your website can’t compete with the business sharks by a keyword “Barcelona” since it’s a high-competitive search query. “Facts about Barcelona” is a mid-competitive query. However, it’s unreal for a new website to compete with others, even by this query. “Interesting facts about Barcelona” is a mid-low-competitive query. You can try to compete for this query. However, if you type in Google “Interesting facts about Barcelona for an American tourist,” you’ll discover on the 1st place a website which even violates the Google’s guidelines (sometimes, you can see a banner which overlaps the main content). This website consists of just 2,500 pages (not articles, include tags, categories, etc.).
Summing up, “Interesting facts about Barcelona for an American tourist” is the so-called long-tail keyword. Your goal is to collect as many long-tail keywords as you only can. As a result, you will get a chance to compete with low-quality websites. And, in the case, if your website is the best of them, you might climb onto the 1st place in the Google SERP.
The Semantic Core
None of the SEO gurus are going to reveal you this secret. In a nutshell, this is how Google works. Instead of evaluating a single page, Google estimates your entire website, more precisely, its structure.
The Semantic Core is an advanced SEO technique. This teaching is sacred, and it costs a lot of money to create such a Semantic Core for your website. However, I don’t want to blow your mind with complicated terminology. Instead, I would give you a hint.
Your goal is to understand what your website is about deeply? I mean not only your niche. You need to write out a list of keywords of your future website. In other words, you need to construct a tree structure of your website before starting to write content!
There is only one way to explain to you how the Semantic Core works, is to show you an example.
Let’s take a look at an online jewelry retailer the Blue Nile. The primary goal of this website is to appear in the 1st place of the Google SEPR by a highly-competitive query “rings.” To do that, the SEO specialist working in the Blue Nile will have to create a vast Semantic Core.
If you take a look at the main menu, you’ll see five items:
– Engagement rings
These items represent the 1st level of our semantic core.
Let’s now take a closer look at the “Engagement rings” item. There are several subcategories of the item such as:
– Setting style
– Build your own ring
– Service & value
These items present the 2nd level of our semantic core.
If you choose a vintage ring in this subcategory, you’ll get a list of such rings. This is our 3rd level.
As a result, the page titled “Petite Twist Diamond Engagement Ring in 14k White Gold” is our 4th level of the semantic core.
So if we now back to our main menu and try to build its structure, it will look like this:
1st – Engagement rings
2nd — Setting style
3rd — Vintage
4th —- Petite Twist Diamond Engagement Ring in 14k White Gold
— Build your own ring
—- Service & value
Summing up, the only way to start a blog correctly is to create its Semantic Core or structure first. All these works you’ll have to do offline.
Create a bunch of articles
Now it’s time to start writing. Bear in mind, all you need at that phase is your offline work. I’ll try to explain the right way to avoid numerous mistakes.
So, when your semantic core is ready, it’s time to write some content according to your structure. I suggest you write at least 20-50 articles offline. Such approach will give you some practice in text writing and protect you against wrong steps. Also, there is now what to publish. Each SEO guru suggests you purchase a domain and tune up hosting, install WordPress, etc. But what are you willing to publish on your website?
A minimum number of articles I suggest you write is 10-15. Otherwise, your tags and categories will be empty. Google won’t be happy after its first visiting your website.
Tune up your web server
Before purchasing your domain, you must set up your web server. This phase is boring and difficult; however, this is the most significant stage to gain success in Google. There are two common ways to cope with this task:
- Tune up your server manually
- Ask someone to do that for you
My way contained three stages:
- I used WPEngine where everything is tuned up, but cost a lot of money
- I moved to Media Temple web hosting, where I’ve got more freedom. But I still had no full access to my resources
- Finally, I moved to Digital Ocean, the place where I eventually obtained freedom
Therefore, if you use WPEngine or another elite WordPress hosting, there is nothing to discuss. Ask their support how to attach your domain name, and move forward. Otherwise, you should pass through a long way to learn how to tune up your web server correctly. I’ll write an article on the subject. But since I promised to explain to you how to create a profitable blog, I’ll write here the basics.
If you are ready to host 100,000 visitors a day, you must be fully armed. Below, there are the most important steps:
- Find the best cloud hosting. I recommend Digital Ocean (as less as $5 a month)
- Use NGINX as a web server instead of Apache
- Use LEMP stack as your setup
- Cache everything you can. I suggest you use PHP FastCGI caching. But you might prefer VARNISH or other solution.
- Block XML-RPC since this backdoor is one of the most dangerous in WordPress
- Read my article to learn how to improve your page speed
Choose your domain name
It’s time to invent a name for your future web project. Yes, this is only the 6th step in our list, not the 1st.
Now, you have the right platform for your blog; you know your microniche; you have a proper structure (the Semantic Core) for your website; you have some data to publish; finally, your server is tuned up. Only now you need to take care of your domain name. I suggest you use GoDaddy for these purposes. However, this point doesn’t matter. So you can use any domain registrant that you want.
Remember several steps to do before purchasing your domain:
- Check your domain in the Wayback Machine!!!
- Type in Google site:yournewdomain.com to be sure that no one used it before
- Use one keyword in your domain name, but never purchase an EMD domain
- Try to buy a domain which name is easy to remember
- Avoid any domain zones except “.com”
Why are these steps too important? Let’s try to figure out.
Check your domain in Wayback Machine & Google
The most common mistake of a freshman is to purchase a domain with history. As a rule, if you have picked up someone’s domain, you’ll inherit all the bad things that happened to it last years. So, never omit this step. Always check your domain in Wayback Machine & Google archives.
Don’t experiment with EMD
Some webmasters believe that if they purchased the domain with two-three keywords in it, they’re on the way to success. It is a wrong strategy. Previously, such approach worked with Google. However, this method is useless and even harmful in 2018.
Your domain is your brand
How do you recommend your domain to your friend or your business partner if its name is my-superb-mega-ultra-hyper-pupular-and-successful-project.com? I suggest you spend enough time to choose a euphonious name.
By the way, the domain name of this blog is doubtful since it’s more oriented to the UK audiences. In the US we call it “skillful” not “skilful.” But I can explain my position. If you type skillfulseo.com in the Wayback Machine Tool, you’ll discover that this domain previously had another owner. But I needed a “fresh” domain, without history. As a result, I was forced to purchase skilfulseo.com. But I recommend you to avoid even such doubtful names.
Use DOT COM
I call you to believe my experience. Though Google claims that the company doesn’t take care of a domain zone, this factor is still matters. I strictly recommend you to acquire “.com” domain names. There are numerous studies on the subject. I don’t want to cover this topic within my article.
It’s time to talk about the practice once again. That’s why you read my blog. So, what do you have now?
- You use WordPress as your platform
- You managed to discover a thin niche for your web project
- Your semantic core is ready
- You have some content to publish on your blog
- Your server is fast and unbreakable (capable of resisting various hacker attacks)
- You have a harmonious and sexy domain for your future project
- Finally, it’s time to optimize your website
SEO is an abbreviation, which means Search Engine Optimization. As you may have guessed, your website is ready for visitors, but not for Google. Even if you don’t use WordPress, I suggest you don’t omit this section since the principles are the same for all the platforms.
Are you ready for action? Let’s get it started
- You must invent attractive headlines for your articles
- You will have to introduce your Semantic Core into the WordPress structure
- Prepare your social profiles to share your content
- Choose a light-weight theme for WordPress or create your own
- Install Yoast SEO Plugin
- Tune up DISQUS, Facebook Commenting System, or use native WordPress system
- Add your web project to FeedBurner
- Install any JSON markup plugin
- Install any plugin for SITEMAP, or use Yoast’s settings
- Tune up your permalinks
- Prepare your blog for monetization (but don’t use AdSense at this stage)
- Forget about your backlink profile
Bear in mind; I can’t cover all the details of your SEO settings since my entire blog is devoted to such a subject. Within this article, I’d like to give you the basics, because all the rest is details.
To get more visitors to your website, it must contain exclusive and useful content. However, without catchy headlines, you have no chance to compete with other webmasters. So, turn on your imagination and make your headlines sexy.
Your Semantic Core & WordPress
WordPress has native tools to implement your Semantic Core. We call them “tags” and “categories.” By combining these two instruments, you’ll be able to reconstruct your website’s structure from offline to online. Each case is individual and hugely depends on your WordPress theme.
Use your social profiles to gain your first traffic
Each of us has at least 100 friends. At the same time, every your friend has siblings, roommates, etc. I suggest you share your blog posts with your friends. Such approach should give you a chance to get your first social traffic and backlinks.
Your WordPress Theme
This step is crucial since a wrong theme might destroy your project. Currently, I don’t have an article on the subject. But I’ll publish it in the foreseeable future. The only thing I could recommend, for now, is to avoid complicated themes. Try to find the light-weight theme or even a sandbox or starter template for WordPress. If you have some experience in HTML, CSS & PHP, I would recommend you to create your own template.
Yoast SEO Plugin
Yoast SEO Plugin this is how the magic happens. This plugin has a lot of settings. But all you need when you start is just having this plugin installed. Yoast SEO will tune up all the necessary settings to assist your website to be visible in the Google SERP. In addition, Yoast SEO Plugin is a useful tool for your content marketing. Later, I’ll write a review of this great SEO tool.
Native and third-party commenting systems
As a beginner, you must avoid various technical issues. Native comment system in WordPress works excellent. However, since you would have to face a lot of spam, it will affect your database speed. Therefore, I would recommend you use such third-party solutions as DISQUS or Facebook comment system. DISQUS is easy to implement. All you need is to register and paste their code in each your page.
This trick is a secret technique, how to ping Google each time you publish a new article. But don’t forget to turn on the feature “Notify interested services when my feed changes” in FeedBurner. By the way, WordPress has its native function which allows the framework to ping search engines. Go to Writing Settings, and scroll down to find “Update Services.”
Use JSON to markup your data
Google adores JSON. The search engine uses this data-interchange format to scan your page’s microdata. I use Markup (JSON-LD) structured in schema.org to turn on my JSON-LD syntax markup.
A sitemap is a list of pages of a website in XML format. Don’t care about how it works, just install some plugin which allows you to create the sitemap. In a nutshell, sitemap allows Google to index all the pages on your website quickly. Don’t forget to submit your sitemap in the Google Webmaster Tools. But I’d recommend you do it two weeks after you launched your website. By the way, if you use Yoast SEO plugin, you just need to turn on its sitemap functionality.
Be careful with your permalinks
I don’t recommend you to use time and date format in your permalink settings. In that case, Goole might not recognize when your website is updated. On the contrary, I suggest you use only post name in your settings.
Use Google AdSense or another monetization system
Google AdSense is the best way to turn your efforts into money. Follow the link to register in the PPC program. However, I don’t recommend you to place Google ad blocks on your web pages before you get at least 1,000 visitors to your website a day.
You don’t need to take care of your backlink profile
Forget all you heard about the backlinks from other SEO blogs. It’s a harmful way, to use such approach. Instead, read my article on the subject. Your goal is quality content, not backlinks.
Now your website is ready, and everything is tuned up. It’s time to talk about how to earn $15K a month. If you were diligent, you managed to cope with this huge manual. And, of course, you need some proof that such approach will work. I know that your primary goal is to earn money. Therefore, It’s time to encourage you and satisfy your interest.
I’ve just described the first steps you need to do to start a blog. Now, it’s time to explain to you how the events might develop in the best scenario.
Depending on your niche, you need more or less traffic to achieve the goal. In my case, I needed to come closer to the point of 200,000 unique visitors a day in the entertainment niche to earn $15,000 a month. For you, it may seem unreal to reach such massive amount of traffic. But as I have described above, your niche is your golden key to a success.
Having spent over five years in various niches, I’ve finally stumbled upon a niche which was unknown before. Everyone knew about this, but no one created a project for such an audience. Of course, I don’t want to share my secret with you. But I bet many of you know my web project. 200,000 unique visitors a day is about 1 million visitors each five days; it’s a massive audience, isn’t it? Unfortunately, this niche is not that much profitable.
For example, in the jewelry niche, you may earn $1,000 a month while having only 1,000 unique visitors on your website. Below, I’ll leave you some graphs that prove my results. I can share with you the data about my traffic. Unfortunately, Google AdSense forbids someone to showcase his revenues. But believe me, with 200,000 unique visitors a day in the entertainment niche, you might earn at least 10,000 USD a month. Any experienced expert will confirm this statement.
Summing up, your goal is to generate as much organic traffic as you can in your niche, and Google AdSense will allow you to earn money.
So what do you need to do to start your first blog and earn some money?
- Do not be afraid to make mistakes
- Use a self-hosted platform
- Use WordPress for your first blog
- You need to find a profitable niche
- You will have to create the Semantic Core of your blog
- You need to publish a lot of content (at least five articles a day, each of at least 500-700 words)
- Your page’s speed must be the highest among all of your competitors. To do that you will have to tune up your web server brilliantly
- Your domain name must be easily recognized and short if possible
- WordPress and all the necessary plugins will take care of your SEO optimization
- You must forget any link building strategies and focus on your website content
- You must believe in yourself and don’t listen to anyone who considers your goals impossible
And finally, it could take at least two-three years to get notable results. Google works slowly. If you are expecting the immediate results, you’re on the wrong way.
If you were lucky to cope with all the tasks I described above, I bet you will be able to earn $15K a month and even more. However, to get such immense organic traffic, you need to know some vital details. My entire SEO blog is devoted to such details. Luckily, there are a lot of useful articles on my website which will assist you, step by step, along the way.
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