Are you currently a student wanting to start a blog but stuck on how to do so? This is the blog post for you! Click more to find out how students can start a money making blog on a budget.
Hello everyone! Welcome to my second blog post in my Student Travel And Blogging Series. If you’re new here, I spent six months studying in Italy in 2017 as an Erasmus student and I decided to share my experience with you all! When I first moved to Italy, my mom advised me to start a blog. I was hesitant because of what people might think of me and my blog. What a stupid reason, right?
Last year, I left my home country Malta once again and moved to Germany. That is when yourstrulyrebecca was born! I stopped caring about other people’s opinions and followed my heart. Over the last year, I learned a lot about blogging and that is what I am going to talk about today.
I touched upon my top tips on starting a blog in my The Tools I Use To Run My Blog blog post. However, in this post, I am going in a bit more detail and focus on how and why students should start a blog. Starting a blog doesn’t have to be expensive. Students are on a budget and I completely understand that! I was once on a super tight budget myself ( & still am!).
✗ Nail down your niche:
What is a niche? A quick Google search gave me the following:
denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.
So, how does this apply to blogging? A niche is important because it is a topic that you’re going to be writing about. Let’s say you are into budgeting and want to start a blog giving budget tips for students. Then, budgeting is your niche! Same with travel. If you’re into travel and want to share with us your travel experiences, then travel is your niche.
What I did to help me figure out my niche is write down on a piece of paper everything that I love. For example, I wrote down travel, blogging tips etc etc. Then from that list, I narrowed down the topics I want to write on.
When I first started this blog in September 2018, I did a lot of research on tips for first-time bloggers. All the articles I read mentioned how you should only write about one topic/niche and stick to it. That’s what I did for a long time but then I felt the need to expand my horizons! What I am trying to say is you don’t need to write only about one niche. You can write about multiple niches but make sure you know what you’re talking about in each one.
Now, my niches include travel, lifestyle and blogging tips!
✗ Decide on your blog name:
You need to have a name for your blog. What is your blog going to be about? Are you going to blog just about travel? Lifestyle? Budgeting tips? My top tip is that once you have your niche figured out, pick a name that is rich in keywords that pertain to that particular niche. For example, if you’re writing about travel, try to include the word travel in your name! You don’t have to do this. As you can see, my URL (YoursTrulyRebecca) is very generic.
When I first started out my blog, I used to write solely about travel and I don’t have any travel keywords in my blog name. That is completely fine! Pick a name that you like and what you’re 100% certain of and stick with it!
TIP: go on social media such as Instagram, FB and Pinterest and check if that particular name you picked is available! I talk about more on this below.
✗ Host your website:
Now you have your niche and blog name, it is time to actually start your blog! You have two options. The first option is you can start off on a free platform like Blogger. The only catch is that you don’t actually own your blog. While it is free, you don’t have control over your blog, meaning if something goes wrong with Blogger, your website can shut down. I’ve heard nightmare stories of people losing their blogs on Blogger.
Your second and best option is WordPress. Starting a blog on WordPress does not have to be expensive. If you’re looking for a cheap option that works AND has amazing customer service, then I highly recommend SiteGround. You can chat with them day and night if you have any queries and they’ll answer you promptly. Once I literally broke my site and sent them a message on their live chat and the issue was fixed in a matter of 5 minutes!
With just €3.95/month, you can start your own blog! I know that at the end of the day, this is an expense, but you have a full guarantee that this website is your own, you have stellar customer service and you will be able to make this money back when you monetize your blog (more on that below!)
I am a firm believer that you have to invest in what you love if you want it to grow. Once you select your plan (I used the StartUp plan), SiteGround will guide you through the rest of the steps and you’ll have your own domain in no time at all!
There are of course other web hosting companies out there but let me give you my top reasons why SiteGround is my favourite:
- There are real people answering your questions all day every day and not robots
- SiteGround offers free site transfers. If you started on Blogger but you now want to move to WordPress, SiteGround will do it for you for free. All you have to do is simply follow their steps and all your content will move from Blogger to WordPress. How amazing is that?!
- Hack protection. With the plan you purchase, SiteGround offers protection against hackers.
- It loads faster than other web hosting companies. You need a fast loading website in order to attract new readers. If your website is slow to load, people are going to click away!
- They automatically install any WordPress updates for you so you don’t have to do any extra work.
All in all, I highly recommend giving SiteGround a shot. I’ve been a customer of theirs for a year and I love it! Don’t be overwhelmed by the thought of creating your own domain and installing WordPress on your own. Tip: save your WordPress login info somewhere safe. I tried memorizing it several times and always ended up forgetting them! If you have a better memory span than I do, then ignore this step
As mentioned above, SiteGround makes it incredibely easy. It took me only 30 minutes to:
✼ Sign up for my domain
✼ Install WordPress
✼ Move my entire website from Blogger to WordPress
Simply follow the steps and you’re good to go!
✗ Make your website look pretty:
Now that your blog is live (congrats 🎉!) it is time to make your website look all nice and professional. When I first started out, I used a free theme from WordPress for months. Check them out here and here. What I love about these themes is how responsive they are. However, as time went on, I felt the need to invest in my own theme and make it look how I wanted it to look. While WordPress offers an array of themes, neither one of them felt like it represented my brand for me.
So, I went on the hunt for affordable and pretty, girly themes and I found AngieMakes.Angie offers a selection of girly themes that 1) are pretty to look at 2) are very user-friendly! The one I bought was the Gentry theme.
I know that $70 may be a bit too much and that is completely fine! You don’t have to buy a theme the minute you set up your website. I didn’t do that either and opted for the free themes and then decided to invest when the time felt right for me. Remember, you’re in no rush here. Do what’s right for you (and your wallet!)
✗ Write a killer About Me Page:
Believe it or not, About Me pages are important! This is a spot in your blog where you write in more detail about who you are, what your interests are and what your blog stands for. To write one, go to the WordPress dashboard, click on PAGES > ADD NEW and start writing! I designed mine with Photoshop. Check it out here!
✗ Set up your social media:
Now that the technical part of blogging is over (that wasn’t too bad, right?), you can go ahead and set up your social media. Social media is important to share your blog and attract readers! The main three I use are Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
When setting up your social media, I recommend using your blog name. Unfortunately, yourstrulyrebecca was taken on Instagram so I opted to just use my name and add more letters to it. Using your own blog name helps readers make the connection between your site and your social media. It is not the end of the world if that particular username is not available.
Another tip I have is to include keywords in your name and descriptions. For example, on Pinterest, behind my name, I added Travel, Lifestyle Blogger, Blogging Tips. That helps me to rank higher in Pinterest search and also if someone is searching ‘travel blogger’ on Pinterest, my profile pops up! I also did the same with Instagram 👇🏼 Furthermore, I also added keywords in my descriptions! That also helps with people finding my profile when searching.
DO YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN INSTAGRAM HIGHLIGHTS? CLICK HERE! THERE ARE FREEBIES INCLUDED.
✗ Publish your first post:
By now you should have your domain up and running and your website looking all professional and pretty. The next step is to publish your first blog post! How exciting! Don’t let the WordPress dashboard overwhelm you. It is very easy to use.
To publish your first post, simply go to your dashboard, hover over POSTS on the left-hand side and select ADD NEW and you can begin writing your first ever blog post! You can make it about anything you want. Maybe about a recent trip you took or you can dedicate your first blog post to writing a bit about yourself and letting the world know who you are and what your brand/blog stands for.
✗ Optimize your blog for SEO:
Before you hit on that publish button, there are a couple of things you need to make sure are in check in order for your blog to rank high in Google and be read by other people! Let’s start with the basics.
What is SEO? SEO is Search Engine Optimization.
In a nutshell, this means making your blog Google friendly. This includes adding relevant keywords that people use on Google to search so they can easily find your blog and read it. The more readers you have, the higher it ranks! You can optimize your blog for free with the YOAST SEO plugin.
To install it or any other plugin, simply go to PLUGINS > ADD NEW > TYPE IN YOAST SEO. THEN CLICK ON INSTALL AND ACTIVATE.
Once Yoast is activated, if you scroll down on your post, you will a box with SEO related information. I recommend keeping a close eye on this information while you’re writing your blog post because it helps a lot with SEO and making sure your blog is SEO friendly.
Yoast comes with a premium feature. However, I haven’t felt the need to purchase the premium feature yet! I use the free one and has worked just fine for me. So if you’re on a budget but want to make sure your blog is getting traffic, then opt for the free version like me!
✗ Let’s talk about photos:
Fact: you do not need to buy an expensive camera to start a blog. When I first started, I just used my iPhone! As a student, I couldn’t afford to buy those fancy DSLR or DLSR (I always get confused) cameras and when I left my job to move to Germany, I certainly couldn’t afford to drop thousands on a camera. Therefore, I just used my phone and it did the job just fine!
If you want to give your photos an extra pop, I recommend downloading Lightroom. It is my number one app for editing photos. You can choose to create your own presets (filters) or buy them. I created mine to match my brand but I’ve seen preset bundles sell for €4 on Etsy! Check out the before and after when applying my preset. What a difference it makes!
It takes some time to perfect your preset but you’ll get there, trust me! I use it for my Instagram but I found that adding the preset to my blog helps a lot too! Lightroom is free to download on your phone, however, you’d need to purchase it to be able to use it on your laptop.
I also make use of stock photos for my blog. The ones I use the most are pretty flat lays for my pins! I get all of my stock photos from Unsplash. You can find a ton of photos and most importantly, it’s FREE!
Another tool I use for photos on my blog is the gallery on WordPress. I use this when I want to place two or more images next to each other or create a slider with 2 or more images. It is very easy to use! Simply click on Add Media, select your images, click on Create A New Gallery and change the settings according to what you want.
I always make sure that the Size is always the same and add the number of images I uploaded under Columns. If I want images to be next to each other, I select Masonry and if I want a slider I select Slider (Auto Start) under Display. When you’re done, click on Insert Gallery and tada!
If you want to create your own collage, I recommend Collage Maker. It is free and very easy to use!
✗ Share your blog with the world:
You have written your first post, made sure it is SEO friendly, added a couple of nice pictures and you’ve hit publish. What do you do next? You share your hard work with everyone! Scroll up to see how you can set up your social media for free.
For a long time, I refused to share my blog on Facebook because I was anxious about what my close friends and family are going to think of it. However, as time went on, I grew more confident and sure in my work and got over this weird hump of feeling embarrassed! I now share my content on Facebook without having anxiety about it.
One thing that also helped me grow my blog is creating my own Facebook group. Yes, creating your own group helps a ton! Give it a try! And while you’re at it, feel free to join my FB group where we talk about blogging, share our latest blog posts and there are threads posted on there daily! Everyone is welcome ❤️
I want to briefly talk about Pinterest. The majority of my traffic (about 90%-95%) comes from Pinterest. The majority of bloggers agree that Pinterest is an amazing tool to help you grow your blog and they’re not wrong. So, what makes Pinterest so special?
Pinterest, unlike any other social media, is a search engine tool like Google. Users go on Pinterest to search for information just like they do on Google. Bloggers use Pinterest to share their content and attract readers. It is very easy to use Pinterest as a blogger, however, you need to have patience because traffic doesn’t come overnight.
Firstly, you need to sign up for a Pinterest Business Account. It is free and very easy to use. Click here to sign up! After you have your business account all set up, make sure you add keywords to your name and descriptions. I touched up on this above!
For each blog post I post, I always create at least three pins. I use Photoshop but if you want a quick, easy and FREE option checkout Canva! They have templates you can use for any social media account as well CVs, checklists and the list goes on!
I add my three pins to my blog posts. One in the middle and the other two at the very bottom. This gives my readers an option to pin the one they like the most. A number of bloggers suggest designing the same pins all the time. I found that doesn’t help me. What I like to do is change up my pins every now and then but add the gold foil in my text which is a part of my brand! Check out my favourite pin designs I made.
As you can see, they are different but similar at the same time!
Furthermore, every week I pick a couple of posts I want to promote and create new pins for them. Pinterest loves when users add new content. When Pinterest sees you’re creating new content and users are engaging with your content, it will prioritise your pins meaning that more and more people will see it which is what you want for your blog!
Another tip I have is looking up keywords to add to your pins and pin descriptions. Simply use the Pinterest search bar to find your keywords! Let’s say you want to write a blog post about Thanksgiving recipes. Go to Pinterest, type in Thanksgiving recipes and take note of the keywords.
There is a LOT more tips when it comes to Pinterest. Would anyone be interested in a blog post dedicated just to Pinterest? Let me know in the comment section below!
It is important that you are active on Pinterest every day and pin every day. You can pin manually which is what I did for a year and a half. A month ago, I switched to Tailwind. It is not free but it is an expense that you might consider if you want your blog to grow! I’ve seen a LOT of improvement in my traffic with Tailwind.
If you’re still a little unsure about it, they have a free plan where you can schedule 100 pins. You can use that to start it and see if you like it or not!
✗ Monetize your blog:
Now you have your blog and social media set up, it is time to talk about earning money from your blog. Yes, it is possible to make money from blogging. No more ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Before we get started, please keep in mind that making money from your blog takes T I M E so don’t get discouraged when you don’t see dollar signs immediately!
I blog because I love it. Blogging keeps me going every day and gives me a sense of purpose. Here are my two top ways you can make money from blogging:
♡ Google AdSense:
AdSense is a program run by Google whereby ads are showed on your content and you make money through clicks and impressions. I signed up for AdSense last year and love it! However, recently they introduced a program called Automatic Ads where they increase the number of Ads on your website. Prior to this, I only had one Ad showing in the sidebar, now they’re all over my website. I am still not sure how I feel about all of this but for now, this is how I make money from my blog.
There are a ton of affiliate programs out there for bloggers. If you’re a travel blogger for example, consider trying Booking’s affiliate program. Check out this article about the top 25 affiliate programs for travel bloggers and this article about the top affiliate programs for other kinds of bloggers. I am still new to affiliate programs and I will report back to you when I join more programs and start making money from them!
There are other ways to monetize your blog. You can sell physical products. For example, one of my fav bloggers, LilyLike has her own stationery business and uses her blog to promote them! Another way where you can make money from your blog is to create your own course.
✗ Why should you start a blog?
Before I conclude this post, I want to talk about my top reasons why students should start a blog. Apart from the financial aspect of blogging, blogging improves your life in ways that you probably didn’t think about!
Firstly, blogging helps you develop valuable branding skills. Your blog is your brand and you want it to stand out and attract readers. From blogging, you can learn a lot about branding! Secondly, it is a place where you can talk about what you love. If you love travelling (me too), it is a space where you can write about your adventures and share them with the world.
Furthermore, blogging helps you connect with other bloggers and make new friends along the way! I met a lot of people through my blog and I am happy to call those bloggers my friends! Connecting with other bloggers not only helps your blog, you can also learn from them and apply those new skills to your brand.
Blogging also helps you with your writing skills. My writing skills have improved SO much ever since I started blogging. Before, I struggled to convey what I was thinking in English (English is not my native language). Now, I can do it without a problem whatsoever! As a student, writing skills are very important.
When you start sharing your blog, you also learn a lot of marketing skills. Marketing is very important in today’s world and having skills in marketing will help a ton with your blogging career! I never touched a marketing textbook in my life and this past year, I learned so much about the ins and outs of marketing and how I can use it for my blog.
And lastly, blogging helps to keep that creative wheel turning. If you’re anything like me, I get bored easily. I’m the kind of person where I have to challenge myself every day or else I’ll get bored. When I used to work a 9-5 job, the routine was the same every day and I did the same thing daily. I ended up quitting that job!
With blogging, I brainstorm every day and come up with new content. My mind is always on the go on what I can write about, how I can design my blog, what strategies I can use to promote my website and so on. I am being creative every day and I love it!
✗ HOW MUCH DO I SPEND ON MY BLOG MONTHLY?
I did some math and I wanted to show you how much money goes in my blog per month.
☆ SiteGround = $3.95
☆ Tailwind = $15
TOTAL = $18.95 monthly.
I only spend less than $20 per month to run my blog! Every couple of months, I buy a new theme but I make sure to save up for that. $20 is not much at all and considering that you can get that money back from ads, affiliates etc, starting a blog is not expensive at all!
And that brings an end to this post! I hope you found it helpful and gave you the motivation to start your own blog. Blogging changed my life. Now I am doing something that I love and getting paid for it! How amazing is that?! Share your new blog with us in the comments below so we can check it out, share it and help increase your traffic and SEO! If there is anything I missed or you want to add a tip of your own, let me know in the comments below!
As always, don’t forget to follow me on my social media (linked below) and subscribe to my newsletter! Don’t forget to pin the below images to your Pinterest boards.
Until the next one.
Yours Truly, Rebecca.