Some people start their blog off and have it in their heads that they can do things very cheaply. The truth is you can do things cheaply. There are tons of good free or cheap tools. You can get by with a decently earning blog on a free theme, with free plugins, and use your low price hosting to good effect for a time until it starts to cap your growth. Or you can go with cheap options.
The problem is you might be hurting your overall site image or maybe you are getting reduced conversions that a few design changes could fix. It is best to remove this idea that blogging requires no investment. You can start cheaply, just expect expenses to go up a bit when you are improving your business.
Though it is also good to get an idea of what to invest in as there are a lot of things being offered. The only truth I’ve discovered is that investment is ideal and eventually required for proper blog operation to grow it bigger than some tiny tucked away Adsense page.
What are the core things to focus on first?
1. Domain & Web Hosting
The first thing you need if you are serious about establishing yourself and your site is a self-hosted blog. With a self-hosted blog, you actually own your blog and your content.
A lot of people start on a free service like WordPress.com or Blogger. Starting on those services you don’t have complete ownership over your blog and as such you do not have full control over your blog.
To be clear, I have been in contact with a few bloggers who start and stay on a Blogger, Blogspot, blog. These people are usually less tech-savvy and feel intimidated with WordPress. They may even make a pretty penny with their Adsense plugged in, but they would be making more with their own site where they could add other monetization options they can’t fully explore with a Blogger site.
With the self-hosted option you have total control over your blog and you can customize and monetize in any way you want. Just be sure to work within legal requirements like informing people of affiliate use and you are golden.
The first investment is getting your own domain and web hosting. A domain is the address of your site. My site’s domain is:
If you don’t get a custom domain your domain name on any free site would look something like:
The other domain is shorter and overall looks cleaner and less spammy. I usually buy all my domains from Namecheap. Though Porkbun is also an option as well as LCN. Though LCN has a more challenging interface to work with that might frustrate people brand new to blogging. It is usually advised to have your domain and hosting separated for an additional layer of security.
As far as web hosts go I have been really impressed with Siteground. I highly recommend it for someone doing starter sites. WordPress.org itself lists Siteground among its recommended hosts. There are other host options though the top pick among bloggers is Siteground for starting. Blogger speed enthusiasts have a preference for Cloudways, but I digress.
2. A Premium WordPress Theme
The second investment is getting a proper WordPress theme. Some of the free themes are good for starting like Generatepress or Astra. Both themes can look really good with some page builders and custom landing pages. They also boast some really quick load speeds.
A theme is good for looks, speed, and SEO. Having a theme that performs well in these areas has a big impact on your site.
If your site looks awful, people won’t take it seriously. If your site is slow, people may like the content though abandon it because they don’t want to wait on the slow wait times.
The complete feature list you want for a theme is:
- Mobile-friendly or even mobile-first
- Flexible and customizable
- Secure and no security flaws
- WooCommerce ready
- Light and fast load
- SEO potential
- Check reviews for feedback
Only purchase a high-value premium theme if your goal is to turn your blog into a business. If you are just wanting to test and play a bit then you are ok with a free theme for a while. Start with Generatepress or Astra.
For my websites, I use the Genesis Framework and a child theme I bought that is a bit out of date and I’m learning to code myself. Generally, my sites load under a second out of the box and with minor optimization.
In terms of further customization you have a ton of options. Many stores sell custom child themes or you can go with custom Elementor pages or custom landing pages. I advise to keep everything simple and stripped to maintain good site speeds though if it looks good and speeds aren’t affected, go for it.
Another theme you will see promoted highly is Divi. I don’t personally promote Divi though not because it is terrible, that depends on too many factors. It is clean enough and fast enough when done right, and customizable enough that it can work alright.
Divi speeds out of the box usually hover at best at .9 seconds for me and my basic plugin kit. Genesis framework without much tinkering I hit .54 seconds with the same plugin kit (mobile speeds). Both speeds fall into being acceptable and fast. These speeds were on a budget discount host.
The issue some people face is if they ever decide they want to change themes they have a rough time and will need a short code cleaner plugin. Then to use the theme in general they might need help every step of the way.
I’ve taken the time to figure out how to best use Divi for myself, I started on Divi. It irritates a lot of other people and they build their site in a way where it ends up slow and clunky to where they often need help or advice.
It isn’t a bad theme, it just needs a lot of learning to get it useable and is apparently challenging for a non-techy person.
3. Legal Pages
Legal pages are required for a professional blog. If you want to protect your blog and the content on your blog, you need your pages. If you are just booting up a brand new site and need quick coverage you can use the free Automatic Legal pages Plugin with good success just to start.
You will still want to customize your pages so they are specifically tailored for your site. I’m still in the process of building and figuring out this site.
In my own legal pages, I will need to inform you that my site has it set where all IP addresses are anonymized and not set to collect a lot of data.
It is also your legal right to be informed of affiliate link use.
Legal pages are protection for you and your site.
At some point, it makes sense to find a lawyer that specializes in such things and having them fine-tune the legal pages. Another option is to find legal page templates from a lawyer that offers them and you trust to have everything covered. The second option is cheaper though you want to be sure not to miss something.
4. Keyword Research Tool
The reason a lot of bloggers fail is that they can’t get people to their site. They can’t get site visitors because they don’t know how to gain Google’s attention. Some people can leverage Pinterest for a while, but if their Pinterest account has any problems their traffic dies until it is corrected.
The bedrock of this process for reliable traffic is the keywords you are targeting. You can’t create content nobody is looking for and nobody cares about it. I mean you can, it is just a terrible strategy for a site you want to grow big.
You will want and need a keyword research tool. If you are just starting out you will do ok with KeySearch. You get 5 free searches per day with the option of more if you pay.
If you have the budget you should go right to using SEMrush. They have many premium tools and many serious bloggers I know are using it. As soon as I have it in my budget it will be the next investment I make personally.
If you are happy with just the keyword tool then stick to KeySearch as it is cheaper and effective.
5. Email Marketing Tool
When your blog is working well and getting consistent traffic, it would be in your best interest to figure out your email marketing strategy. When you get emails for your site you are building a way to message out to your fans and give them site updates, freebies, or any announcement you think will delight them.
Email marketing is how you build your site audience and keep a link to them. It is advised to have a system in place from the first day you launch so you can be sure to get any and every email from a site fan.
This email list is important for the overall success of your blog and is important to nurture.
In the old days, MailChimp was the preferred starter email marketing tool. Then ConvertKit began to offer a free version of their product so now bloggers usually start off and stay using ConvertKit.
6. SEO Course
SEO is probably the second area where I see bloggers failing aside from needing site speed help. I’ll observe a new blogger making new blog posts and getting a pretty good chunk of traffic from social media promotions. This works well for a time until Pinterest stops working as something goes wrong with the account.
Usually, the site just suffers a couple of weeks of lower traffic and it returns to normal after the account flags have been cleared. It helps to not be totally dependent on social media and that means working to rank on Google search.
SEO is a complicated art form. You will have a rough time trying to learn and apply that stuff by yourself. Just for the time and effort saving factors, it helps to invest in courses that can guide you and are being updated on a semi-regular basis.
7. Pinterest Course
Pinterest is another arena you will want to master. If someone were to come to me asking how to blog at this point, I’d tell them to spend a month or two building a Pinterest account first as well as creating about 40 articles of their blog content.
Then when they actually launch their blog their Pinterest is already partly established and they will have some good evergreen content to plug in and promote on a loop with Tailwind.
A good Pinterest course will explain to you how to pin effectively and how to approach your Pinterest strategically. Pinterest is the faster way to initially grow your blog as it takes time before Google starts to rank you.
Pinterest does take a bit before you start seeing the effort pay off. Expect a delay of 6 months or so before your account starts performing well.
8. Affiliate Marketing Course
Once everything is up and running you will have pretty good traffic and from that traffic you will start to need to think about how to do affiliates properly and how to convert that traffic into people who consistently make happy with your purchase leads.
It isn’t as simple as just writing some nonsense and people magically buy everything. There is a subtle strategy to appealing to readers, building trust, and of course not steering them the wrong way.
A good course of this type will pay for itself within one month or less once your traffic is solid. Though if you have no marketing background or any idea how to make affiliate links attractive, you need a course.
You can have a functional blog without investing much in anything. You will however greatly slow your blogging progress and have a potential loss of income from not knowing how to handle your traffic the best way possible.
Most bloggers I know set a fund aside for startup costs where they invest about $600-$1,000 for their new site. The things I’ve purchased felt well worth it as I’m saving valuable time getting my blogging education beefed up.
I hoped you found this information useful. Good luck with your blog or blogs!