Everything had to be built by hand and businesses needed to work with an online marketing agency that would charge them tens of thousands of dollars to build the site. If you wanted a professional-looking site, that was your only option.
Things have gotten a lot cheaper over the years.
Now it’s possible to get a polished site for less than $100. About $10 to buy the domain, $30–60 for a good template, and $5–10/month to host it. It’ll look so good that people won’t even realize that you built it yourself. It’ll look like some high-flying marketing agency built it for you.
Not only has it gotten cheaper, it’s also gotten a lot easier.
I’ve broken down the 9 simple steps to create your website from scratch. You’ll easily be able to run through these steps over the next 120 minutes.
Step 1: Pick a Name and Find a Domain
These are not two separate steps, unfortunately.
I really wish I could sit down, pick any name that I want for my business, and be able to create the site that I want around that name. Now that the internet is a couple of decades old, we all have to face the reality that most of the good domains have been taken.
Here’s how a naming session always seems to go for me:
In a moment of inspiration, we think of an amazing name.
We hold on to this name for months, maybe even years.
It’s time to start the business, so we go to purchase the domain.
The domain is taken.
We try a dozen small variations of our original idea, all taken.
No biggie, we thought of one brilliant name, we’ll think of another one.
Backup idea #2 = taken.
Backup idea #3 = taken.
Backup idea #4 = taken.
Despair sets in.
We start considering names that we don’t actually like, hoping that anything is available.
We come up with 2 or 3 options that we don’t like at all.
Then we spend a week trying to come up with a name that’s both available and a name that we can live with.
Finally, we find one.
Websites have also become so embedded in our day-to-day lives that it’s better to change the name of the business to match an available domain than it is to pick a poor quality domain. Through this process, I almost always end up with a completely different name than I originally intended.
This is why I consider the “naming my business” and “buying the domain” steps for creating a business to be the same step. I try to only lock myself into a name once I have the domain.
The good news is that the rest of these steps are a breeze once you have your domain purchased. It’s the first and hardest step.
Step 2: Register Your Domain
Real quick, let’s sort out the difference between a domain registrar and a web host.
A domain registrar is a company that specializes in buying (registering) domains.
A web host, on the other hand, specializes in running servers that host websites.
Every web host will desperately try to get you to also registrar a domain through them. The reason is that it’s a great upsell for them. They’ve spent most of their resources building out a hosting service, then they offer domain registration as a convenience, increase the price a bit, and collect a nice chunk of extra profit from you.
My philosophy is to buy things from businesses that specialize in that exact thing. Prices will be better and so will quality. That’s why I also use a domain registrar for buying domains and a web host for hosting. I never mix up the two.
Most guides on creating a website will push you into using WordPress. It’s the most popular and flexible website builder. And that’s usually a good recommendation.
But there are a few situations where I recommend different options.
Simple Portfolio or “Business Card” Sites
Many businesses need a simple website that tells people a few things:
Who the business is for
What the business does
Sometimes a portfolio that shows off some work
This kind of site gives the basic info for the business, nothing more. If this is what you need, Squarespace is your best option for creating your website. It’s incredibly simple to use and will give you a professional site at a very low price. It’s perfect for small businesses.
Squarespace will try to convince you that they can handle everything. That’s not true.
They’ve created the simplest and easiest website builder out there. Truly, it’s a joy to use.
However, they completely lack all the advanced features that an online business needs. The ecommerce functionality is extremely limited, and I don’t know any serious online marketer that uses Squarespace for a content site. If your business an online business, Squarespace isn’t a legitimate option. You’ll hit the limits of its features too fast.
If you know that you want an ecommerce store from the beginning, start on Shopify and skip Squarespace. And if you know you want a blog or are planning on doing lots of content, start on WordPress.
Squarespace makes the most sense when you just need a clean, professional-looking site that gives some basic info on your business. It’s perfect for small businesses, freelancers, and artists.
Here’s another way to think about it: If you’re building a business that doesn’t live and die on its website, it just needs a website in case anyone looks for it, like a business card, then go with Squarespace. But if you’re website is your business, use one of the more tailored platforms.
The best option, by far, is Shopify. There used to be more competition in the ecommerce tool space but Shopify got too far ahead. Now they’re really the only option and they have an incredible reputation. You won’t regret using them for an ecommerce site.
WordPress left all those other platforms in the dust about a decade ago. They’re not even legitimate options at this point. Pick WordPress — there isn’t a single situation where you’ll regret it.
When I originally started with this online thing, Drupal sites were still pretty common. I partnered up with an engineer friend of mine and we did a lot of freelance work migrating sites from Drupal to WordPress. Even back then, WordPress was a clear winner.
Now when I come across a site on any of these other tools, it’s kind of exciting. It’s like finding an ancient artifact. “This still exists!? How fascinating!”
Don’t use any of these other tools, stick to WordPress.
If you’re not sure or have another vision for your site outside the categories above, use WordPress. It’s the most flexible platform out there. It will do ecommerce, it’ll do simple portfolios, it’ll do massive content sites, it’ll do Fortune 500 marketing sites, it’ll do it all.
You might have to customize it more than other platforms in some situations but you can make WordPress do whatever you want it to. And just about anyone in online marketing knows their way around WordPress so you’ll be able to find plenty of people to help you when the time comes.
Whether you want to build your site by hand or you have an online marketing agency to do it for you, you should still build on top of WordPress. It’ll shortcut a lot of the programming work and give you the ability to edit basic items on your site without having to edit any code. I’ve managed marketing sites of venture-backed tech startups that employed dozens of engineers — we still had our marketing site built on top of WordPress. It’s the standard choice.
Step 4: Get a Host for Your Website
For the rest of this guide, I’m going to assume that you’ve picked WordPress to build your site. If you want an ecommerce site, skip the rest of this guide and follow our guide on creating an ecommerce site.
WordPress is the tool that you’ll use to build your website. But you also need a host that will store your site and make it available to anyone who visits.
Just about every website host has a 1-click install of WordPress. It’s usually under a section called Tools, Website, Software, or Content Management Systems (CMS). It’ll look something like this:
If you have trouble finding it, contact support at your host and they’ll be able to walk you through it.
Step 6: Point Your Domain to Your Host
Let’s do a quick recap.
You bought your domain using a domain registrar.
You signed up for a hosting plan.
You installed WordPress on your host.
Now you’re going to connect all that stuff together by pointing your domain to your host. Then when people go to your domain, they’ll end up on your site.
There are a few technical settings you need to apply. This involves configuring a few nameserver settings on your domain registrar for your domain. Your host will give you the correct settings; you’re looking for their nameserver settings.
If you get stuck, contact your host and they’ll give you all the info you need.
Once you have the nameserver info from your host, go into your domain registrar and configure those settings for the domain that you want to point at your site. Once you’re done, it’ll look something like this:
Step 7: Install a WordPress Theme
Think of WordPress as the guts of your site, it’s all the pumping that makes your site work.
WordPress uses themes to determine how your site looks. This makes it really easy to change how your site looks without having to rebuild your site from scratch. Swap out your old theme for a new one and ta-da! Your site will look completely different.
These days, I purchase all my themes from StudioPress.
You betcha. ThemeForest has a marketplace of WordPress themes. There are literally tens of thousands of themes to pick from. They’re usually in the $30–60 price range. When looking for theme, I rank them by the most popular or the highest rating. Then I pick one I personally like.
After you’ve purchased a theme, go to the WordPress Theme settings and upload your theme. The Theme settings are under Appearance in the WordPress sidebar menu. You’ll have to click through “Add new” and “Upload Theme” in order to see this option to upload:
Go ahead and upload the .zip file you received when you purchased your theme.
After it’s uploaded, you’ll also have to click “activate” on the theme in WordPress to make it go live.
Step 8: Add Content
Now the fun part — it’s time to create the individual pages of your site.
You’ll do this within WordPress.
WordPress has two types of content: pages and posts.
Think of posts as blog posts that are published under a “blog” section of a site. If you’re not planning on having a blog, then you can skip posts entirely.
Pages are the more permanent pages on your website. Like your About or Contact Us pages. When you’re first creating your site, you want to get a batch of pages live so your site feels real.
Every website has a few standard pages you should create:
Homepage – Your WordPress theme usually has settings for this page.
About page – Tell your story and why you’ve started your business.
Product or services pages – For the main services or products that you’re offering, it’s a good idea to create a dedicated page for each.
Blog – If you’re building a blog, make sure all your posts get listed here.
This list will get you started. You can always add more later.
Step 9: You’re Done!
At this point, you have a fully functioning site that looks great.
I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot of extra configuration you can do to your site: you can add WordPress plugins that upgrade your site, build out a blog, add an email list, grow traffic, the list is endless.
You don’t have to do any of this extra stuff — it’s all optional. It depends on your priorities and goals.
When you’re ready, these guides will walk you through the extra stuff that’s worth considering:
WordPress is the most popular content management system. Period. If you have a WordPress site — which you should if your site is a content site — you know how many plugins are available on this platform. There are thousands, literally thousands. I did a search today to see how many WordPress plugins there are. The number? 54,681. It can be a bit overwhelming. With so many plugins to choose from, how can you know which ones are the best?
What you do know is that you want to add a calendar feature to your website. Being able to simply add dates and times is crucial for some businesses. Not every calendar plugin is the same. Some of you will need more advanced calendar features than others. You may need a calendar to keep track of tasks — pretty basic. Or, you may need a more advanced calendar for managing events, bookings, and integrating with ecommerce platforms.
I took the time to find the best WordPress calendar plugins available. So regardless of your situation, you can use this guide to find the one that best suits your needs.
1. The Events Calendar
As the name implies, The Events Calendar WordPress plugin is ideal for any site that’s managing events. There are so many different uses for this feature.
It’s great for musicians who want to showcase their upcoming performances, as well as venue owners who need to display shows coming to their location. If you have a restaurant, church, or nonprofit organization, this plugin is perfect for you. If you’re an author and traveling to promote your book, or speaking at any seminars and conferences, you can benefit from the events calendar. As you can see from these examples, the possibilities are nearly limitless.
Here’s how the plugin looks once you implement it:
In addition to this month view option, you can also organize the calendar by day or list of events.
The microformats will help boost your SEO, and the plugin offers caching support as well as debug mode. It’s compatible with Google Maps, Google Calendar, and iCal as well. So events can be exported and added to other platforms.
Users who are looking at the calendar even have the option to browse for certain events. They won’t have to scroll to find something specific.
One of the reasons why The Events Calendar is so popular is because it’s easy to use right out of the box. You’ll be able to figure out how to navigate and use everything in minutes.
You can install this plugin for free, but it does have a few paid options as well. The premium upgrades are very affordable — they cost $89, $149, and $299 per year for personal, business, and agency use, respectively.
2. Booking Calendar
The Booking Calendar is one of the first booking systems ever developed for WordPress. It was originally released back in 2009. Over the last decade, it’s been installed on WordPress sites more than one million times.
It’s safe to say that this plugin has gone through its fair share of updates and changes over the past ten years, which has helped it keep its spot as one of the best WordPress calendar plugins in 2019.
This plugin makes it easy for website visitors to view the availability of something, such as an apartment, hotel, or service, and book directly from the calendar.
Here’s how it works: Let’s say you own a carpet cleaning business. Rather than taking appointments over the phone, which can be inefficient, it’s easy for you to add a user-friendly calendar to your WordPress site. Website visitors can select the day and time for an appointment and fill out form fields to book the cleaning. This is much more user-friendly than requiring them to pick up the phone and going back and forth about possible dates. I know I’d much rather book online. If you make me pick up a phone, I’m a lot less likely to follow through with the booking.
As you can see, the functionality of this plugin can be applied to so many different websites and businesses. From the backend, it’s easy for the admin to view, manage, and customize all of the bookings. Booking Calendar lets you set limits to avoid double bookings. Dates and times will automatically become unavailable once your limits have been reached. This calendar plugin can manage an entire year in advance.
The administrative features give you the option to approve or deny bookings as well. You can set it up so you receive email notifications when something gets added to your calendar. That way you can plan your schedule accordingly, and won’t have to keep manually checking WordPress to see if anything has been changed.
3. Simple Calendar – Google Calendar Plugin
I don’t mean to be redundant, but the Simple Calendar – Google Calendar Plugin is as simple as it gets. The reason why it made my list is because it’s so easy for anyone to use, even if you don’t have any technical experience.
This plugin has more limited features compared to other calendars, but sometimes too many elements add unnecessary complexity. For those of you who don’t need all of the extras and frills, the Simple Calendar – Google Calendar Plugin is perfect.
Once you install the plugin, you’ll be able to display any event from a Google Calendar, which means you won’t need to re-create any events manually in WordPress.
You can use tags to customize your events without having to do any coding.
It’s easy to integrate this plugin with other tools to turn your calendar into a format that’s easy to distribute as a newsletter. This feature allows you to share the calendar with your email subscribers without requiring them to to visit your website.
Like most options, this plugin lets you view calendars in a monthly grid or a list view. The advanced settings will automatically adjust for time zones, as well as the date and time formats, depending on where your site visitors are located.
I’d recommend this plugin to anyone who doesn’t needed too many advanced features in a WordPress calendar. For lack of a better word, I’d describe this plugin the same way it does — simple.
The design of this calendar is what makes this plugin stand apart from other options. If you want a sleek and beautifully designed calendar that fits with your pages and themes, this will be a top choice for you to consider. With this plugin you can customize the look to match with the trending color schemes on your website.
There’s a lot to like about it as well. It’s easy for users to search for events or navigate from month to month. It readily handles events lasting for multiple days, months at a time, or even all year. And, you can highlight featured events that you want to promote more and jump off of the page. Each event has a title, date, time, address, and photo. You can also add a description of the event, as well as an additional image showing the location.
People can even get directions to the location directly from the event listing on your website. All they need to do is type their address into Google Maps, which is integrated on the screen.
EventON lets users buy tickets to events with Woocommerce support. But you’ll need to pay extra for that add on.
EventON is arguably the best WordPress calendar plugin for managing and promoting events on your website. It’s not free, but there is a demo for you to try if you’re interested. All of the premium features are purchased separately, so you can customize the plugin to meet your needs.
5. All-in-One Event Calendar
All-in-One Event Calendar is another one of my favorite WordPress plugins. I like it because it’s so easy to use within WordPress. Just look at how simple this new event page is to configure.
Everything is so straightforward. All you need to do is fill out the form fields, add the dates and times, and you’re good to go. There are settings for the location details, contact information, as well as a section for purchasing tickets. The plugin automatically helps optimize your events for SEO purposes. You can embed Google Maps into each event as well, so it’s one less step for people who need directions. They can do this directly from your website.
You can sync All-in-One Event Calendar with other platforms, including:
Site visitors can view the calendar by month, week, day, or poster board and it’s easy to filter events. I especially like the color coding feature for grouping events in certain categories. For example, let’s say you own a restaurant. You can add different colors for things like karaoke, trivia, or happy hour, so it’s easy for people to find what they’re looking for. (For me, that’d be a hard no on karaoke, and a hearty yes on trivia and happy hour.)
The basic version of All-in-One Event Calendar is free. The pro version starts at $9 per month, but there are more advanced options for $29 and $99. But I think the majority of sites will have their needs met with the free version or the $9 pro version at most.
6. My Calendar
My Calendar is likely the best option for adding multiple calendars on your WordPress website, or if you have multiple sites that need to display the same calendar. My Calendar is multi-site friendly, so you can add calendars to a network of sites that you’re managing directly from a single WordPress install. So you can essentially share events within the network by fetching them from a remote database. Unlike other plugins that we’ve seen so far, My Calendar has a mini-calendar view, which is ideal for a compact display on your site or sites.
Once an event has been created, you can automatically have it posted to Twitter, set up email notifications whenever a new event is scheduled, and you can easily schedule and manage recurring events.
You’ll also have the option to create custom templates for your calendars. If you’re a designer or developer, this plugin will give you lots of flexibility to create custom calendars for your WordPress site.
There you have it. These are the top six WordPress calendar plugins of 2019.
Use this guide to determine which plugin is the best for your website. Not all of these plugins offer the same options and functionality. So you’ll want to make sure that you find one that covers your needs.
At the same time, you don’t want to get a WordPress calendar plugin that’s too complex. If you need something that’s simple, you can find an option that’s more on the basic side. Like I said earlier, one of my business mantras is: No unnecessary complications. Keep it simple. Whizbang features you don’t need can slow you down, instead of speeding you up.
There are tons of other WordPress calendar plugins, but in my experience, these are the best ones.
You wouldn’t buy a brick and mortar business without getting a lock for the front door, right? I imagine you’d probably even get an alarm system and install some cameras.
These security measures are taken to prevent break-ins, from losing money, sustaining property damage, or putting sensitive information at risk.
Your internet business is at risk for these very same things. It may even be at greater risk — the Internet makes it possible for cybercriminals to break into your website without having to leave their couch: On average, 18.5 million websites are infected with malware at any given time. The average website gets attacked 44 times per day. Of the roughly 90,000 websites that get hacked each day, 83% of them are using WordPress.
That’s why you need to take as many precautions as possible when it comes to properly securing your website.
Don’t have the “it won’t happen to me” mentality. Nobody is immune to vicious attacks. Even retail giants like Target have had data breaches that affected more than 41 million customers. That one security breach cost the company over $18 million in settlements. Something like this can be extremely damaging to your company’s online reputation.
I could go on and on all day about why your website needs to be secure, but I think I’ve made my point.
So how can you do install the security you need?
To start, WordPress has some built-in security features. It’s also crucial for you to choose a secure web hosting company — with a host like WP Engine a lot of the security features are built into your hosting plan. Beyond these steps, you can take additional measures to beef up your protections with a WordPress security plugin.
There are so many different security plugins available for your website. How can you know which one is the best WordPress security plugin?
Rather than taking weeks to go through and research all of them, you can just review the ones that I’ve listed in this guide. I’ve identified the top five WordPress security plugins of 2019. Use this information to increase your WordPress security and add credibility to your website.
1. Wordfence Security — Firewall & Malware Scan
With over two million active installs, Wordfence Security — Firewall & Malware Scan is one of the most popular WordPress security plugins available. It fights spam, malware, and other threats in real time. Unlike other plugins, Wordfence Security offers a dashboard that’s extremely user friendly. You don’t have to be a tech wizard, have a background in IT, or study cybersecurity to use this plugin.
One of my favorite parts of this plugin is the ability to see data about your overall website traffic trends. These reports will show you any attempted hacks on your site. You’ll be able to tell if traffic is coming from humans, Google crawlers, or potentially malicious bots.
Another great feature of this plugin is the country blocking option. You can block attacks that come from specific geographic regions known for high rates of cybercrime.
The free version of Wordfence Security offers plenty of features that will keep your website safe. They definitely give you more out of the box than other free security plugins. You’ll get firewall blocks and brute force attack protection.
Premium pricing starts at $99 per year. The premium version comes with added features like two-factor authentication, direct customer support assistance, and real-time IP blacklisting. The real-time IP blacklist feature blocks requests from any IP address that has attacked another WordPress website that is also using Wordfence Security. When it comes to the safety and security of your website, that’s a pretty good deal in my opinion.
2. Sucuri Security — Auditing, Malware Scanner and Security Hardening
The name of this plugin alone shows all of the extensive security features it offers. When you install Sucuri Security, you’ll benefit from things like:
Firewall integrity monitoring
Post-hack security procedures
All of these features, except for the website firewall, come with the free version of Sucuri Security. If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to protect your WordPress website, Sucuri Security is a top choice. For most sites, you don’t necessarily need the website firewall offered in the premium version.
In the event of a hack or attack, Sucuri Security offers actionable steps to help you proceed with repairing any damage. Now, some of you might not love the idea of hearing something like this. But in all reality, it’s nearly impossible for any website to be 100% impenetrable. There is always the chance of something going wrong. When something goes wrong, you’ll instantly receive a notification about it so you can act immediately.
Sucuri Security is upfront about that. They aren’t going to sit there and promise that the plugin is 100% effective. Rather than making false promises, this plugin has added a feature to assist you if your site is compromised in any way. I really like that.
The security hardening provided by Sucuri Security is exceptional. It’s easy to go through and check the status of the different elements of your website to add additional security.
If you have questions, problems, or run into any trouble when you’re using the Sucuri Security plugin, you can reach the customer service team via live chat or email.
3. iThemes Security
Formerly known as Better WP Security, the iThemes Security plugin is another popular choice for WordPress users. Unlike the other plugins we’ve looked at so far, iThemes Security doesn’t offer as many free benefits, so it’s in your best interest to upgrade to the pro version if you’re going to install this plugin. The free version comes with basic security, but you won’t have access to the pro features, such as:
Scheduled malware scans
User action logs
WordPress security keys
Importing and exporting capabilities
Password security and expiration
As you can see from this list, it’s definitely worth upgrading to iThemes Security Pro, which starts at $52 per year.
With iThemes Security, users will automatically be banned after attempting too many invalid logins, which will help prevent a brute force attack on your site.
There is also a scanning feature that will identify any potential vulnerabilities for an attack. Once those areas have been identified, the plugin shows you how to repair the problems in a matter of seconds. iThemes Security even helps strengthen the security of your server. The plugin forces SSL for admin pages, posts, and other pages on supporting servers. The plugin will hide the most common WordPress security vulnerabilities that are usually targeted by hackers. You’ll receive a notification via email anytime there is a problem or potential security threat on your WordPress site.
This plugin fully integrates with your WordPress dashboard as well, which is a nice touch. It doesn’t feel like it’s intrusive, and you don’t need to navigate to any third-party platforms to add security to your site. iThemes Security also offers extensive video tutorials, which I found to be extremely helpful.
4. All In One WP Security & Firewall
All In One WP Security & Firewall is packed with free features. The interface is extremely easy to use, and you don’t need to be a technology or security expert to figure things out.
One of the reasons why this plugin made my list is because of the visual elements on the dashboard. You can get reports with graphs that explain all of the metrics related to your website’s security. Furthermore, the plugin tells you which actions you can take to improve the security of your WordPress website.
Each security feature is segmented into three categories:
You have the ability to apply certain firewall rules progressively in a way that won’t hinder the functionality of your website. As a result, the speed of your website won’t be slowed at all.
The plugin scans your WordPress website for vulnerabilities. After these vulnerabilities have been checked, the plugin will assist you in implementing changes to enhance your security. Everything is measured by a grading system. The grades are based on different levels of security for each element on your website.
Another top feature offered by All In One WP Security & Firewall is spam security for your comments section. Getting lots of comments on your blog posts or other website pages can be extremely beneficial for SEO purposes, but not if those comments are spam. Instead of manually checking all of your comments and deleting spam on your own, this plugin can do the work for you. It automatically detects IP addresses that are known for producing spam and blocks them from commenting. If certain addresses have exceeded a specific number of spam comments, they will even be blocked from accessing your site altogether.
I haven’t even mentioned the best part of all. This plugin is free. That’s right, 100% free. Unlike free versions of other plugins, All In One WP Security & Firewall doesn’t withhold top features and pitch upsells. It’s completely free to all WordPress users.
5. BulletProof Security
The BulletProof Security WordPress plugin isn’t necessarily as popular as some of the other plugins out there, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it as a top choice for your website.
It claims that in the last seven years, none of the 45,000 websites that installed BulletProof Security Pro have been hacked. Impressive, though this number has some contingencies and doesn’t account for things like server hacks.
This plugin is extremely easy to install and get up and running in just a couple of clicks. The free version of BulletProof Security gives you access to features like:
I really like BulletProof Security’s maintenance mode. It will keep your site secure while you’re going through front-end as well as back-end updates and maintenance, times when your site would normally be more vulnerable to hacks or breaches.
While the installation and setup wizard is easy for anyone to do, overall I’d say this security plugin is geared more toward advanced WordPress developers. BulletProof Security allows you to customize so many different security settings. So, I’d say start with that version before you decide if you want to upgrade. That will at least give you a feel of the interface and navigation. If you go with the paid version, BulletProof Security offers a 30-day guarantee, so there’s no risk there either.
What’s the best WordPress security plugin?
It’s tough to name one as the definitive best, but I’ve been able to narrow down the top five for you to consider in 2019. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
Some of these plugins have more advanced features than others, which aren’t always necessary for all websites. Some plugins are easier for beginners, while others are better for advanced developers.
Do you want a free WordPress security plugin? Or do you want a pro version with annual charges?
All of this needs to be taken into consideration when you’re picking the best security plugin for your website. I’m confident you’ll find what you need on the list above.
You might think your website is fast — but how fast is fast enough? You may be surprised that 47% of Internet users expect web pages to load in two seconds or less and they mean it: 40% of people will abandon websites that don’t load within three seconds.
That’s right. A second could cost you 40% of your website traffic.
To put that number into perspective, we’ll go through a hypothetical example. Let’s say your website has 1,000 unique visitors per week. You have a 5% conversion rate (which is generous, considering the average global conversion rate for an ecommerce website is 2.86%), and your average order value is $100.
This translates to $5,000 per week and $260,000 per year. Not bad, right?
But if your website took longer than 3 seconds to load, you’d lose 40% of that traffic, and you’d actually earn $104,000 less than that.
Let’s look at the other way. Imagine you have that same website: 1,000 unique visitors per week, a 5% conversion rate, but your load time is 3 seconds. If you improved your load time, you might capture 40% more visitors. If everything stayed the same, you’d suddenly have 1,667 visitors (since you’d originally had that many but 40% jumped ship when they didn’t want to wait). If they still convert at 5%, then that means you’re making an additional $3,335 in sales per week, or $173,420 a year in sales you were losing because your load time was too slow.
Depending on your volume, slow loading times could be costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. Here’s something else to consider: of the 40% of visitors who abandon your site, 80% of those people won’t return.
Fortunately, there’s a way for you to speed up your website loading times. What’s the solution? Caching.
What is caching?
Let’s start with the basics. A request to your server is required each time someone visits a page on your site. The server sends those results to the user’s web browser.
On the user’s end, they see your website as the final product. Your website is complete with things like headers, menus, images, videos, blog content, and everything else that makes your site unique.
The server needs to process each request before delivering the final page to the user. Depending on the complexity of your website, sometimes this can take a long time.
That’s where caching comes into the equation. Caching stores recently viewed content, such as a web page, so server requests won’t be as in depth.
Without a WordPress caching plugin, requests for every element of your website need to be made to the server each time someone visits your site, even if they’ve seen the content before.
A caching plugin will:
Speed up your website
Increase the user experience
Reduce the strain on your server
Lower your TTFB (time to first byte)
Caching plugins will generate a static HTML page of your site, which will be saved on your server. Whenever someone visits your site, the plugin will display the lighter HTML version as opposed to the heavy PHP scripts.
There are tons of caching plugins out there that claim to speed up your website. How can you possibly know which one to install? Truthfully, it’s nearly impossible to determine which plugin is the fastest. Depending on the website content, what works for one site may not work as well for another. With that said, there are definitely certain caching plugins that stand above the rest. I took the time to identify the best WordPress cache plugins for you to consider.
1. W3 Total Cache
With more than one million active installs, W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular WordPress cache plugins on the market.
W3 Total Cache is an open-source plugin, which is completely free to use. A free install gives you access to all of the features, and you won’t be pitched any upsells after the fact.
I included this on my list of best WordPress cache plugins because it offers minifications that save bandwidth, HTTP compression, as well as feed optimization.
This plugin works for both mobile and desktop versions of your website. W3 Total Cache integrates with your website’s CDN. It’s also helpful for sites with SSL certificates, making it a top choice for ecommerce websites.
You should keep in mind that W3 Total Cache can be a bit complex to use. Even though it’s a popular choice, it may not be the best option for WordPress beginners. There are 16 pages in the settings section of this plugin, for example. However, you won’t have to manually configure all of these options. The default settings work well right out of the box. So unless you’re a developer who has lots of experience with these options, I’d recommend sticking to the defaults.
If you want that type of added customization, there is a separate setting for each type of caching. You can have different settings for things like:
The list goes on and on. It’s tough to find this type of in-depth customization for free on other WordPress cache plugins.
2. WP Rocket
WP Rocket has the simplest design of all cache plugins for WordPress. You won’t have any problems installing this plugin and getting it set up quickly. The overall simplicity of WP Rocket is what makes it one of the best WordPress cache plugins, which is why it’s great for beginners.
With that said, WP Rocket also has advanced settings that can be customized by developers or site owners who have a bit more technical knowledge.
Pricing starts at $49 per year for one website. WP Rocket also has a developer plan that’s $249 annually for unlimited sites.
I know what some of you are thinking, Why should I pay for this when there are so many free WordPress cache plugins available?
Overall, WP Rocket is one of the best WordPress cache plugins for beginners and experienced developers alike.
3. WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache has more than two million active installations. I’m not saying you should always follow what other people are doing, but numbers this high are usually a pretty good indication of quality.
This plugin is completely free as well. So it’s a great option if you’re hesitant about spending money on a WordPress plugin.
WP Super Cache creates static HTML files and displays them instead of heavier PHP scripts. The plugin offers three different modes of caching:
Most of you can get away with using simple mode. You’ll need a custom permalink, but this option is much easier to configure and doesn’t require you to change your .htaccess file. The majority of web pages will still be dynamic in simple caching mode.
As you might have guessed, expert mode is a bit more complex. Unless you’re experienced with coding and web development, I would not recommend this setting to you. It requires an Apache mod_rewrite module as well as modifications to your .htaccess file. If you don’t know what you’re doing, improper modifications of these files can be detrimental to your website.
WP-cache caching mode is used to cache content for known website visitors. This is ideal for those of you who have users who are logged in, leave comments, or need to be shown custom content.
If you don’t want to things to get too complicated, you can always just stick with simple mode, but the fact that WP Super Cache has so many other options makes it one of the best WordPress caching plugins.
4. Hyper Cache
Hyper Cache was designed with WordPress blogs in mind. It will work on every blog, without any complex configurations. Hyper Cache optimizes your bandwidth and ultimately boosts the page loading speed of your WordPress blog.
You can install Hyper Cache with ease and the process is very fast. I’d say this is one of the best WordPress cache plugins for users who are beginners and don’t want to manage tons of different cache settings. With this plugin, you can implement the “set it and forget it” mentality. So once you have it installed, you don’t have to do much of anything after the initial configuration.
You’ll notice that some of the settings may have some odd names that you’re unfamiliar with but Hyper Cache comes provides recommendations and detailed information about which should be activated and how each setting impacts your website.
Like some of the other options on our list, Hyper Cache is free. It offers CDN support and has mobile-friendly caching as well. It’s a great tool to have for those of you who have blogs with lots of comments.
Something that I found interesting about Hyper Cache is the way that this plugin completes website backups. The cache folders aren’t included in your backups, meaning the backup files will be smaller and save you space.
While this plugin should be a top consideration for WordPress bloggers, I wouldn’t recommend it for more complex sites, such as ecommerce platforms. If you fall into that category, you’d be better off with a more advanced plugin from this list.
5. Comet Cache
Comet Cache has a quick and easy installation process. Once installed, you’ll find that the navigation on the dashboard is extremely user friendly.
I like this plugin because it’s so informative. You’ll find tons of resources that will tell you everything there is to know about caching. This will help you configure the settings to optimize the performance of your own WordPress site.
You’ll have plenty of different options for caching with Comet Cache:
If you’re looking for simple customization, this plugin is definitely one that you should consider. The ability to cache users who are logged in makes Comet Cache a top option for membership websites.
Comet Cache has both free and paid versions. Most of you can probably get away with the free WordPress plugin, but the paid upgrades offer better features. If you upgrade your plugin, you’ll have the option for automatic and intelligent cache clearing. Basically, this feature allows you to configure all of your settings from the beginning, and then have a “hands-free” approach moving forward.
Installing a WordPress cache plugin will boost your website speed and improve the user experience. Now that we’ve established why caching plugins are important, the question becomes, Which is the best WordPress cache plugin?
It depends what you’re looking for. Some plugins are designed for ecommerce websites, while others are intended for WordPress blogs. Some cache plugins are made for beginners, while others have more complex settings for advanced developers.
Do you want a free WordPress cache plugin? Or are you looking for a paid version?
Based on all of this information, I narrowed down my list to the top five options to consider. There is something for everyone on this list, based on the type of website you have, your technical experience, and the type of settings you want to apply. Use this guide as a reference to help you find the best WordPress cache plugin for your website.
It’s a simple question, yet I see so many sites with complex solutions.
Take a moment to put yourself into the shoes of a user navigating your website. For one reason or another, they have decided they want to reach you. This person shouldn’t be forced to find your phone number, dial, wait on hold, and potentially get a voicemail depending on your business hours. That’s just too many steps and not very efficient.
Here’s another scenario. The visitor has to look up your email address, navigate to their email platform, then copy and paste your email address before typing a message.
I’ll give you one more example, just for good measure. In order to contact you, the website visitor has to search you on social media, and then send a direct message or leave a comment on your page.
Should you have options for people to contact you via phone, email, and social media? Absolutely.
But you can simplify this process by allowing people to contact you directly from your website. The solution: contact forms.
A simple contact form can help you increase conversions and improve your customer experience. Each additional step a visitor has to take to perform an action reduces the chances that they’ll complete that action.
By setting up a contact form on your website, people can reach you without having to take extra steps or navigating to third-party platforms. There’s a high likelihood that they won’t finish a multi-step process. They might get distracted, or give up — it’s not worth all that work to them.
Adding a form plugin to your WordPress site will make it much easier for visitors to get in contact with you. You can also use these plugins for other forms.
So what’s the best form plugin for WordPress? I’ve identified the top options worth consideration.
1. Ninja Forms
When it comes to simplicity, the Ninja Forms plugin is definitely toward the top of the rankings. Unlike other plugins on the market, Ninja Forms integrates nicely into your WordPress dashboard and makes it easy for you to create a form in minutes.
Ninja Forms is great for beginners but has enough add-on options for advanced WordPress users as well. That’s why more than one million sites are actively using this plugin.
You can sync the forms up with your . So all of the responses can be managed through services that you’re already using. Ninja Forms supports the majority of the most popular email tools:
Ninja Forms even has features that allow you to collect payments through Stripe, PayPal Express, and Elavon.
Another reason why this is one of the best form plugins for WordPress is the ability to collect, export, and analyze any data submitted in the forms. Ninja Forms integrates with CRM software such as Salesforce, Zoho, and Batchbook. You can also send data to productivity and team tools like Trello, Slack, and Zapier.
The basic version of Ninja Forms is free, but add-ons can be purchased separately. They also have plans starting at $99 per year.
WPForms is arguably one of the most beginner-friendly form plugins available for WordPress. That’s because it offers a drag and drop form builder that’s as straightforward as it gets.
The simplicity behind the drag and drop builder makes it easy for anyone, regardless of their technical background, to create a form in just a few minutes. WPForms also has plenty of pre-built templates to get you started in the right direction.
You can create forms with conditional logic. This means that certain elements of the form (such as fields, sections or buttons) will be changed based on options a user selects.
For example, a website visitor who is filling out a form about a previous purchase could have different form options than someone who has a question about one of your products that hasn’t been purchased yet.
WPForms also lets website visitors submit files. Let’s say someone has a problem with something they bought from you. You can give them an option to upload a picture to improve the communication about the issue.
This plugin can also integrate with email marketing software as well as productivity tools.
WPForms can be embedded anywhere on your website.
Pricing for WPForms starts at just $39 per year, which is pretty affordable considering all of the benefits you’ll get.
3. Gravity Forms
Gravity Forms offers a clean navigation for building and managing forms on WordPress. You can consider using this plugin if you’re a beginner, but Gravity Forms offers lots of options for advanced WordPress users as well.
Other form plugins require you to add on the conditional logic feature, but that option comes standard with Gravity Forms.
Another feature I like is the ability for visitors to save and continue a form for later. This is great for those of you who plan on adding longer or more complex forms to your website. Sometimes those won’t be completed in one sitting, and you don’t want to force people to re-submit information or abandon the process altogether.
Gravity Forms lets you limit the number of submissions through one particular form. They also give you the ability to schedule forms.
Something else that sets this plugin apart from the competition is its calculations feature. Gravity Forms can automatically perform advanced calculations based on the form fields submitted by a visitor. So if you had a real estate website, you could set this up to calculate an estimated mortgage payment based on things like the purchase price, down payment, interest rate, and mortgage period.
Gravity Forms starts at just $59 per year for a basic license. If you’re a developer or have an agency, you can purchase an elite license for just $259 annually, which is valid for an unlimited number of sites.
A reason why HappyForms is considered one of the best form plugins for WordPress is because it’s 100% free.
According to its website, the average cost of a WordPress form plugin is $186 per year. So for those of you who are looking for a free form plugin, this will be a top choice for you to consider.
HappyForms lets you completely customize your forms with different types of form fields.
Multiple choice options
All of these can be added to one form. The drop-down menus and multiple choice options are very user-friendly. It’s easier for someone to make a selection from a list as opposed to manually typing a response. This will also help you stay organized when you’re sorting through data and submissions from these fields.
It’s easy for you to manage all of your messages from one place. HappyForms lets you filter the messages based on your preferences, so you can respond in a logical way. For example, you may prioritize a certain type of request over another, as opposed to responding in the order the forms were submitted in.
HappyForms also has ReCaptcha and Honeypot built-in, so you won’t have to worry about getting spam messages.
Overall, this is one of the best free form plugins for WordPress on the market.
5. Caldera Forms
Caldera Forms also has a free option. If you want to upgrade to a pro version, pricing starts at $15 per month. They also have individual add-ons available for purchase.
With that said, if you’re just looking for a basic form plugin, you can probably get away with the free version.
This plugin is another option that includes a drag and drop builder, which is great for those of you who aren’t too tech-savvy and want to create forms as fast as possible.
Caldera Forms has advanced calculations, drop down menus, and conditional logic. There’s also a built-in spam filtering tool, so you won’t have to waste your time reviewing spam submissions.
I dig the auto-responders, which ensures that your website visitors always get a quick reply.
For those of you who run a blog and accept guest posts, users can submit posts directly through the form fields with Caldera Forms, too.
FormCraft is unique because it specializes in designs. We’ve all been to websites that have generic forms that just aren’t very appealing. You don’t want your website visitors to have that feeling when they’re on your site.
This WordPress plugin also has a drag and drop builder, making it easier for anyone to create a from as fast as possible.
FormCraft also has a wide range of templates based on the type of form that you’re trying to build. This is very helpful for those of you who will be embedding multiple forms on your WordPress site. For example, a form to sign up for your email newsletter should be distinguishable from your contact form.
Another top benefit from FormCraft is its popup forms. A user action can trigger a form to appear on the page, as opposed to embedding it somewhere on a landing page that might be overlooked.
You can create multi-page forms with FormCraft as well, although this is one of the many paid add-on features. The basic package starts at $49 per year. Add-ons range from $19 to $29 each.
7. Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 is another WordPress plugin that’s completely free. They won’t try to upsell you with any premium features or add-ons. With over 5 million active installations, this is one of the most popular free WordPress plugins you’ll find.
What I found interesting about Contact Form 7 is that they have exceptional customer support for a free plugin. You’ll have access to an extensive FAQ page, support forums, and documents explaining how to do things.
Some of the top features of Contact Form 7 include:
Drop down menus
File submission fields
You’ll be able to embed the forms anywhere on your website. It’s a top option for anyone who doesn’t want to buy a form plugin.
I like weForms because it’s extremely sleek and responsive. It has a drag and drop builder, which makes it easy for beginners to create a form. There are also tons of pre-built templates that will save you time compared to creating a form from scratch.
The shortcode allows you to embed forms within your posts, as well as anywhere else on your site. With weForms, you can build forms that have entry and time restrictions and over 33 types of form fields for you to choose.
The versatility of weForms makes it one of the best form plugins for WordPress.
It syncs with some of the most popular email marketing solutions on the market. It provides anti-spam protection, and let you create forms with conditional logic. In addition to contact forms, it’s great for:
Volunteer application forms
Event registration forms
Error reporting forms
Internal company requests
Patient intake forms
At just $29 per year, Quform is an affordable WordPress form plugin. This plugin is extremely responsive and mobile-friendly.
You’ll have the option to create multi-page forms, with complex layouts, and reCAPTCHA with the drag and drop builder.
The plugin comes with lots of different form themes as well. You can set up conditions that will automatically display elements for specific replies through your website forms. With Quform, users can attach files to their submission.
For those of who you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a plugin, but want to upgrade from a free WordPress form plugin, you’ll definitely want to checkout Quform.
This plugin is unique because it lets you create forms that are GDPR compliant. So for those of you who have lots of European visitors navigating to your website, you’ll want to consider Formidable Forms.
You can create simple contact forms as well as complex multi-page forms with this plugin. It comes standard with top features like advanced calculations, file uploads, and conditional logic.
Formidable Forms is also one of my favorite plugins for analyzing data that’s been submitted in your website forms. You can view information in graphs, which is always helpful for identifying trends.
This plugin lets you take the information that you collect through forms and use it to build directories, listings, or any other data-driven application.
The drag-and-drop builder paired with front-end WordPress editing makes Formidable Forms impressive. Pricing ranges from $49 to $399 per year, depending on your needs. But I’d say the majority of you won’t need one of the higher-cost plans.
Traditionally, website forms are used as a contact method. It’s a great way for your website visitors to reach you directly without having to leave or site or go through extra steps.
But as you can see, these forms can be used for so much more. That’s why it’s crucial for you to have a WordPress plugin that can help you create the forms you need.
So what’s the best form plugin for WordPress?
It depends on what you’re looking for. Some websites need to build complex, multi-page forms, with conditional logic and file submissions. Other sites may just need a simple form with a few fields.
How do you want to create your forms? If you want something that’s easy and user-friendly, you’ll want to look for a plugin that has drag and drop builders.
Price is also something that you need to keep in mind when you’re searching for a form plugin. Some are free, while others vary in price range depending on features, plans, and add-ons.
Based on all of this information, I’m sure you can find what you’re looking for on the list that I’ve come up with above. These are the best form plugins for WordPress, and I made sure to include something for everyone.
In addition to missing out on website traffic and sales, you also lost your databases and website content.
You start scrambling through your Google Drive and folders on your computer to salvage anything you can find. Then you have to manually rebuild your website from scratch.
This hypothetical example might be a bit on the extreme side, but it’s not completely implausible. Things happen. Your website could become the victim of user errors, vicious attacks, or malware.
In the event of an issue like this, regardless of the scale, you need to make sure you get your site back up and running as soon as possible. Failure to do so will crush your SEO ranking, and damage your relationship with customers and website visitors. On top of rebuilding your website, you’ll also need to run campaigns to improve your online reputation.
But there’s a way for you to avoid this catastrophic scenario in the first place — backup plugins.
While a backup plugin won’t prevent an attack or crash, it can restore all of your WordPress website content if you ever have any problems.
So what’s the best WordPress backup plugin?
There are tons of options to choose from. The last thing you want is to install a backup plugin as a fail-safe and have it cause more problems. That’s why I narrowed down the list to the five best WordPress backup plugins for you to consider. Use this guide as a reference to help you find the right one for your website.
For those of you who are looking for backups, migrations, and security features all in one plugin, VaultPress will likely be your best bet. It’s built by the same team that builds WordPress itself, Autommatic.
We use VaultPress on Quick Sprout and have since 2011.
Once you install this plugin, you can easily set up automated backups. Everything is stored in a digital off-site vault. In addition to backups, you can use VaultPress for site migrations, file repairs, and restores.
VaultPress also has a calendar view option, making it easy to locate, view, and restore content from previous backups. But the dashboard of VaultPress is different from what you’re used to with other WordPress plugins. This minor navigation flaw doesn’t affect the performance and usage of the plugin itself.
I also like the built-in security features. The file scanning and spam defense will help you identify and eliminate malware, spammers, viruses, and other security vulnerabilities. The added security reduces the chances that you’ll actually have to use the restore functions due to an outside threat, but it’s nice to have the backups available just to be safe.
Pricing plans for VaultPress start at $39 per year, so it’s a cost-effective way to back up your WordPress website.
The BackupBuddy WordPress plugin has been around for nearly a decade. Other backup plugins on the market only backup your database, but BackupBuddy covers the entire WordPress installation.
All of these components will be backed up with this plugin. The files are backed up and stored off-site in a location that’s safe and secure. Each time a backup is completed, you can download a zip file to have another copy on your hard drive. You can also send backups to remote storage locations such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and BackupBuddy Stash.
If you ever have a problem and need to recover content, BackupBuddy makes it easy to quickly restore your entire WordPress site.
While this plugin can back up nearly every element of your WordPress site, that doesn’t mean you have to do so. For one reason or another, you may only want to backup certain components, like a database or specific files. You can completely customize the backups to fit your needs.
Another reason why BackupBuddy is a top choice is because you can schedule automatic backups, so you won’t have to remember to do this manually.
BackupBuddy is extremely helpful when it comes to user error as well. If you accidentally delete a post, you can restore the content in just a few clicks.
If you ever need to change domains or hosts for your WordPress site, the BackupBuddy plugin will help you do so with ease. The WordPress migration tool makes this plugin a popular choice for developers who create custom websites for clients on a temporary domain before moving the site over to a domain that’s live.
BackupBuddy also runs malware scans, which can potentially identify any problems before they happen.
All of these features make BackupBuddy one of the best WordPress backup plugins available.
Over two million active websites have installed UpdraftPlus as a WordPress backup.
UpdraftPlus gets my vote of confidence because it’s so easy to use. Even if you don’t have much technical experience, the interface is very straightforward. The simplicity allows you to backup and restore content in just a click or two.
The free version of UpdraftPlus lets you run full backups, manual backups, and scheduled backups. You can also back up and restore your plugins, themes, and database with the free version.
Automatic backup options range anywhere from hourly to monthly. If you want to manually manage UpdraftPlus, you’ll clearly see the restore, clone, and migrate options in addition to the backup buttons. You can access all of your current backups directly from the dashboard. It’s easy for you to restore or delete older versions that you no longer need.
Like other backup plugins, UpdraftPlus gives you remote storage options to places such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and many more.
UpdraftPlus is fast. So it uses up fewer server resources. This is a great feature for those of you who are using shared web hosting services.
It’s comforting knowing that there are free WordPress backup plugins out there with so much functionality. With that said, you can upgrade to a premium plan that’s extremely affordable, starting at $42 per year to get these additional features and reports:
Backs up non WP files and databases to multiple remote destinations
The incremental backup feature is one of the best reasons to upgrade this plugin. Instead of having to back up your entire site when you make a change, such as adding an image, this option only backs up those new files.
If you have any issues with this plugin, the customer support team is exceptional.
You can tell that UpdraftPlus is a reliable plugin just by the sheer number of active installs on other websites. The plugin wouldn’t be so popular if all of those people had problems.
With over one million active installations, Duplicator is another popular choice. As the name implies, the primary function of this plugin is to migrate, move, or clone a WordPress website between domains. This can be accomplished without any downtime, which can’t be said for other plugins out there. You can also use Duplicator to transfer your WordPress website between hosts.
This plugin lets you duplicate a live website to a staging area, or duplicate your staging area to a live site. Duplicator allows you to execute a full migration in WordPress without having to import and export SQL scripts.
This plugin is a great option, but I can’t say I’d recommend it to beginners. It’s definitely better for those of you who have some technical knowledge. Don’t get me wrong; you don’t need to be a coding expert, but you should have a basic understanding of how things work before you attempt to use the Duplicator plugin on your website.
It’s great for developers who are tired of manually configuring themes and sets of plugins each time they build a new site. You can just do this once and bundle it with Duplicator, then just use that as your template by migrating it over to different locations for each client.
Here’s how it works: All of your website content, plugins, themes, and database get bundled into a zip file, which is referred to as a “package” by Duplicator.
In addition to these features, you can also benefit from scheduled backups by upgrading to Duplicator Pro. The pricing is pretty affordable; it starts at $79 per year.
Backups can be stored locally, or in remote locations. You can also set up email notifications for updates on the status of your backups.
I’d say this WordPress plugin is more suitable for developers who have the need for migrations and things of that nature. So if that’s what you’re looking for, Duplicator can fulfill the requirements. It’s great for developers who are tired of manually configuring themes and sets of plugins each time they build a new site. You can do this once and bundle it with Duplicator, then just use that as your template by migrating it over to a different locations for each client.
But if you just want a basic backup plugin, you’ll probably be better off with one of the other choices on our list.
5. WP Time Capsule
WP Time Capsule seamlessly integrates with your cloud storage applications. This WordPress backup plugin is definitely one of the easiest options available. So unlike other options that we’ve seen, even a novice user can handle all of the features. Once the plugin is installed and set up, it’s pretty hands-off moving forward.
After you install this plugin, the first thing you’ll need to do is connect it with one of the cloud storage locations:
Once that happens, the plugin will automatically start creating your first backup.
Next, you just simply have to set your backup schedule and the WP Time Capsule plugin will take care of the rest.
Another great feature of the WP Time Capsule is the calendar view option. This is extremely helpful if you want to restore content from a specific date.
As you can see, this is very straightforward. All you have to do is click on the date, and decide if you want to view or restore files from your selection.
Since WP Time Capsule backs up your site incrementally, you won’t have multiple copies of files. This means less disk space will be used. WP Time Capsule doesn’t create zip files either, so fewer server resources are used compared to other backup methods.
If you want a backup plugin that’s simple, straightforward, user-friendly, and easy to use, WP Time Capsule is a top choice to consider.
What’s the best WordPress backup plugin?
I narrowed down the top five options for you to consider. Each of these plugins is slightly different from the others, so what’s best for your site will depend on what you’re looking for.
For those of you who want to go with a popular choice for WordPress backups, then you should take a closer look at BackupBuddy and UpdraftPlus.
If you’re a developer, a bit more tech-savvy, and plan to use a backup plugin for cloning, migrations, and moving content between servers, you’ll want to consider Duplicator.
Maybe you just want a simple backup plugin that’s easy to use, has automatic backups, and stores content in your personal remote storage accounts. In this case, you’ll want to go with WP Time Capsule.
If you want added security functionality in addition to WordPress backups, VaultPress has what you’re looking for.
When it comes to creating your own blog, you have two options. There are pre-built platforms like Medium, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc. These can be considered blogging platforms, and with them you can get started right away. There are obviously cons to these, but one pro is that these platforms come with built-in audiences. I’ll also refer to these as blog sites.
Then there is blog software, like WordPress.org. I’d also group website builders like Wix here as well. Again, there are pros and cons to these: you’ll need to do a little more work at the outset and you’ll build your own audience from scratch, but you’ll own and control your site completely. With a blog platform, you’ll be beholden to the platform’s choices, settings, changes, and algorithms.
A quick summary of my recommendation: If you plan to make money from your blog, build your own site with WordPress.org. A good second option is Wix. If you’re not trying to make money from your site, then you should use a blogging platform (Medium, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook) and make content where your audience is already consuming that type of content.
In this guide, I’ll break down both ways to set up your blog in this post and help you pick which blog site, software, or platform is best for you. Let’s get to it.
Best Blogging Platform for Your Own Website
Best Overall — WordPress.org
I’d recommend going this route to anyone serious about building a blog that makes money. You’ll build and own your own site with complete control. (If you’re a beginner, this is still very doable for you.)
Website Builder — Wix
If you want to have to your own site, but don’t want to build it, then I’d recommend you go with a website builder. It’s a drag-and-drop editor that’ll get you up and running quickly, and you’ll still be building your blog on your own website, not on someone else’s platform.
Best Blog Sites (If You Don’t Want to Build a Website)
Traditional Blogging Platform — Medium
If you’re not creating your own site and your blog is a classic blog — long form posts about a topic that’s meaningful to you — I like Medium. It has a built-in audience that’s interested in reading and an interface that’s seamless.
Best Blog for Business — LinkedIn
Blogging about business or hoping to be a thought-leader in a certain industry? You could go with Medium, but a more rabid and useful audience might be waiting for you on LinkedIn. I know, it might not seem like a blogging platform, but LinkedIn users are really engaged and content hungry.
Best for a Creative Blog — Instagram
If you’re doing anything with images, art, creativity, or lifestyle, you’ll probably find your audience on Instagram. There are already so many people there and it’s easy for new followers to discover you through hashtags, comments, and the other people you and they are following.
Largest Audience — Facebook
Lastly, the biggest audience is on Facebook. There are millions of people there, and though organic reach on the platform isn’t what it once was, it’s still a massive platform. It’s also a great spot for building a community page element to your blog.
Which blogging platform or blog site should you choose?
The first question I have for you is: Do you want to make money with your blog?
If your answer is yes, you want to build your own site. No question.
If you don’t want to make money, skip ahead to the blog sites — your choice will be based on the type of content you’ll write and the audience you’re after.
There’s no better option than building your own blog on WordPress. You’ll own your blog and website and you’ll have true flexibility. There is no argument here. It’s the default content option and runs 30% of the internet for a reason.
You can also build your blog using Wix. It’s an all-in-one drag-and-drop website builder. It’s an easy option if you’re looking to have your blog on your own site, rather than on a blog platform or service like Medium or another form of social media. The downside is you’ll be paying a subscription fee and you’ll be locked into Wix’s themes and tools. So, you’ll trade some convenience for some flexibility.
If you’re not trying to make money, then definitely consider the free blog sites.
They are great if you aren’t trying to create an income: They have built-in audiences and you won’t have to pay anything. My recommendation of which one to choose is based on the outcome that you’re trying to achieve — what is your blog like and who do you hope will read it?
Medium is the best all-around traditional blogging platform. It’s where the majority of readers who’re looking to read classic blog-style posts are right now.
Deciding to blog on WordPress vs Medium isn’t an either-or choice. You can also publish your site and re-publish some posts on Medium to take advantage of its benefits, just like you would any syndication deal. You can thoughtfully approach this, but there are some technical how-tos we’ll get into below. You’ll need to import your posts to Medium properly and set the canonical tag, so you’re not penalized by Google (at worst) or simply out-ranked by the Medium version of the post (at best). Overall, though, I prefer to see each channel as a separate channel and create and publish unique content for that channel.
If you’re blogging about business, or something related, like management, then I’d say to build your blog on LinkedIn. There’s a pre-existing community of people there talking about those topics and ready to read your posts too. You’ll be able to build business followers, which is different than a “connection.”
The audience on LinkedIn is premium: 45% of LinkedIn article readers are in upper-level positions: managers, VPs, Directors, and C-level. If you’re building thought leadership, brand value, or community, rather than trying to make money, I recommend going to where your audience is rather than trying to woo them over to where you are. Build content for them where they already are and they’ll love you for it.
If you’re a creative — especially in a visual field, then your blog should really be an Instagram account. You can post images of your work and use the caption field for your written post. If you’re not used to this idea, it might seem kind of zany: That’s not a real blog. But it is. People read Instagram captions of the accounts they follow like they’d read a blog — and your visual work will be well highlighted in your feed and the general feed.
And, of course, Facebook is the juggernaut in the room. It has the largest audience of any of these platforms. Creating a Facebook page might be all you need to build a blog — post on Facebook like you would on your blog and build your audience right there on your page. The comments and interaction on Facebook are even better than a traditional blog. You can really focus on building true fans on Facebook.
There’s another warning due here. If you build your blog on a single platform that you do not own, well, then you’ve built your blog on a single platform you do not own. That means you’re beholden to another person’s business and their algorithm for your business. What’s good for their business and algorithm may not be what’s good for yours. That’s why I say if you’re here to make money, you should own your site. You’ll have more control.
Best Blogging Platform For Your Own Website
Best Overall Platform for Blogging — WordPress.org
WordPress is the hands-down king of websites with content. It’s the default choice here. If you’re building a blog on your own site, that means you’re building with WordPress. (Quick Sprout is on WordPress.)
To build your own site, you’ll need to buy a domain name, get web hosting, and set up your WordPress account. It’s all pretty simple. There’s more information on our post The Best Web Hosting for Small Business and on The Best Web Hosting for WordPress, which is about selecting a managed host that’s designed for WordPress. It’s more expensive but also super premium. If you have the coin, go for it. If you’re budget minded, you can skip it.
You’ll pick a theme, apply it, and honestly you’ll be just about done. We have some recommendations on SEO WordPress plugins you’ll want to add. The backend of WordPress is pretty intuitive, and if you get lost there are so many tutorials out there to help.
Like I said before, the choice between WordPress and Medium isn’t either/or. You can build your own blog and then use Medium selectively as a syndication tool. It’s worth thinking about if you want to grow your audience, but ultimately build your own site.
Make sure your content has a long enough life on your own blog so it is solidified as the primary source in Google’s eyes. Two weeks is enough time.
Use Medium’s Import tool to publish the content. It’s as simple as plugging in your original URL, updating any wonky formatting, and clicking publish. The import tool will automatically set the canonical URL to your original post on your website. It’s very important to have the canonical in there. This applies to any type of syndication: you want to have a canonical in place so Google knows where the original article is located. Otherwise, at worst, you could get penalized; at best, the bigger site will outrank you.
I wouldn’t auto-post all of your content to Medium. It’s weird. Why have a duplicate of your site living on their site? It doesn’t make sense for your readers, or you long term.
You should thoughtfully approach each channel. Content on that channel is its own form. What someone wants to read on each platform depends a lot on the platform itself — What is the UX like? Why are they there? What types of interactions does the platform encourage?
I like Wix for blogging because it’s one-and-done. If you want to go the easy route for owning your own blog, this is it. The templates are great looking and you can customize them with a drag-and-drop editor. The blog manager is simple and intuitive, and you’ll get analytics and SEO built right in. It’s simple to add the basic features you might want on your blog: social tools, likes, comments, hashtags, categories, and a subscriber forms. All of the SEO features you need are easy to access too: alt tags for your images, internal links, SEO titles and descriptions (that are different from you post title), and nofollow tags for external links. Wix blogs have an automatic email subscribe feature and a social media bar beneath each article for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and more.
To build a blog on Wix, you’ll sign into your account and pick a template. There’s a Blog template category, which is a great place to start.
Once you have your template selected, I suggest updating the font, colors, and logo to personalize your template and help it stand out from the rest.
Writing a post is as simple as clicking Create a Post, writing and adding images. You can save drafts, or even give other contributors writing privileges for you site. This is all just as easy from a mobile device as from a desktop — no app required.
Make sure that you update your SEO settings for every post: this is what’s presented in the search results page and is critical for ranking in organic search.
The resulting post will have an automatic read-time count, like a Medium post right next to the author’s name, which I also like a lot. I also like the ability to live-chat with your readers in the Wix app. If you build a real community in your blog or are open to answering reader questions in real time — say about an online course you’re offering or a webinar that’s coming up — then it’s a cool feature.
Best Blog Sites (That’s Not Your Own Site)
Traditional Blogging Platform — Medium
It’s hard to pin down how many users Medium has — they focus on sharing how much time is spent on the platform reading instead. I dig it. The platform, was founded by Twitter co-founder and former CEO Evan Williams as a response to the hyper-short limits of Twitter, hence the name Medium. At one point, there was some distinction between even longer blog platforms, but that’s dissipated by now.
In 2017, Medium had 60 million unique visitors. From personal experience, I know that when I read on Medium, I read with curiosity and intent. I’m ready to put in some time reading, and the read times on each article get me to commit to sticking it out for the whole thing.
Posting with Medium is super simple. There’s a clean, very white WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. Basically, as you type, you see what the post will look like when it’s published. There are a lot of tips and tricks to format your post that are a little hidden in the simplicity of the interface.
Publishing on Medium is so effortless. Formatting content and uploading images takes basically zero time. It’s really the best web-based publishing experience I’ve had to date.
Don’t stop at this point though. Instead of just a profile, I recommend creating a Medium Publication. This gives you the option to add other writers and editors to your blog. More importantly, it gives you a lot more options for controlling what is essentially your blog homepage. Take a look at the difference between Patagonia’s basic profile and REI’s publication.
One is a simple chronological feed and the other is a designed page with useful menu options. When you create a publication like REI has you also unlock the ability to send a newsletter to all of your followers.
If you are syndicating your actual blog, use the Import feature. This is essential for SEO.
To start a bulleted list, simply type an asterisk or a dash.
There are two types of quotes. Use a block quote by clicking the quote icon once. Click it again for a pull quote.
Drop caps add a little editorial weight. To make the first letter of your paragraph larger, and give it that designed look, highlight the letter. The option will appear.
Use TK to leave yourself notes. This is an old journalism trick — there are no words with TK in them in the English language. If you’re writing something that needs a placeholder, use TK and Medium will alert you if you try to publish with one still in place.
There are 590 million LinkedIn users, 154 million of them in the US. And a lot of them are active: 44% are monthly active users. LinkedIn used to be basically a resume hosting platform. In a lot of ways it was like a job-hunting dating app: you’d go on if you were looking to hire or looking to get hired but not much else. In the last few years that has changed dramatically.
If you’re building a business blog, the audience on LinkedIn is premium: 45% of LinkedIn article readers are in upper-level positions (managers, VPs, Directors, C-level).
Hardcore LinkedIn users know that there’s a certain warm professionalism that underlies many exchanges on the platform. In short, LinkedIn offers a kind of stability, civility and real value that’s sorely needed on some social platforms.
Publishing doesn’t make you a LinkedIn Influencer, unfortunately. That’s a hand-selected group of people that rotates throughout the year “to include only the most engaged, prolific, and thoughtful contributors and to ensure that their expertise matches our members’ interests,” according to LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a social network. Your influence grows in proportion to the size of your network. The more posts you publish, the more connection requests and followers you’ll attract. Writing consistently not only expands your network, it also reinforces the message about the depth and breadth of your knowledge of the subjects that you write about.
An article isn’t a post and vice versa. A post is a smaller update you’d share with your feed and connections. Think quick anecdote or pro tip. They’re limited to 1,300 characters, which is about 5 lines. Articles are longer and more in-depth. They’re something that the broader LinkedIn audience would be interested in reading. A person who reads your article can also follow you from there, so they’ll be alerted when you publish your next article. Any articles you publish will appear in the Articles section of your LinkedIn profile.
Want to improve? Check out LinkedIn’s own course on getting better at blogging on the platform, Writing to be Heard on LinkedIn. Because when they own the platform, what’s good for them is successful content that people want to read and engage with!
Be clear about who you are and what you’ll be talking about it. Stick to that topic and don’t stray. And post regularly. Even posting once or twice a month — consistently over time — will add up. Twice a month is 48 times a year. In five years, you’ll have nearly 250 posts. That’s huge.
You can share a draft with a colleague or friend for feedback.
Use the stats related to your posts as a tool: create more of what’s working, less of what’s not.
Instagram is primarily visual — the feed is all the images or videos, and very little of the captions. You can use the caption field for your text, and users like a long caption. You’ll be capped at 2,200 characters or about 300 words.
Instagram is perfect if what you’re sharing is visual: a lifestyle, art, dance. Or if there’s some way to share it visually like in a how to mini-video.
In fact, in a lot of ways, Instagram has killed the entire genre of lifestyle blogging.
It’s become a lot harder for upstart “bloggers” in the crowded yet lucrative fashion, beauty, wellness, and lifestyle spaces to build a following centered around their own blog. At the same time, social media platforms have given influencers more and more tools—including e-commerce, groups, and direct messaging—to keep them (and their followers) from going elsewhere online.
A good part of my career has been working for some of the folks in this list.
In fact, I was personally responsible for setting annual revenue goals and hitting those goals while I was the Senior Director of Growth and Product at I Will Teach You To Be Rich. In that case specifically, I’m extremely familiar with revenue totals and what drove that revenue.
Not to mention the affiliate commissions that were paid out to some of the people on this list, numbers that were shared in confidence after a few too many drinks, and second-hand rumors that I picked up along the way.
Unfortunately, I’ve got sad news.
I’m not going to share any of that insider knowledge. Sorry.
Some folks don’t mind publishing their revenue numbers but others keep it extremely private. If I shared that kind of info on how their blogs make money, I’d shatter the trust they placed in me. I take that trust very seriously.
For this post, I’m only going to be sharing revenue numbers that have been shared publicly.
Now here’s what I can do for you.
With the background that I have in this space, there are some common rules of thumb for figuring out revenue. They’re not perfect rules but they do tend to get the right number of digits. And after a while, you get a general sense for people’s revenue based on the size of their audience.
For most folks on this list, I’ll give a guess based on their public audience size and any hints that they’ve released publicly about their revenue. I’ll clearly label at is as a guess and you should take it with a grain of salt.
If you poke around the site a bit, it’s pretty obvious that the blog makes most of its money from infoproducts.
Ramit is absolutely at the top of his game when it comes to infoproducts and I consider this site one of the best to learn from if you’re considering monetizing your own blog with infoproducts. Make sure to sign up for his email list — you’ll start getting the launch funnels and you’ll be able to see how it all works.
There are also a few products available for purchase from the products page. That’s a great source for inspiration to see what an amazing infoproduct sales page looks like.
Marie has been blogging for a while now. She also put in a lot of work into her YouTube channel.
He content has a great reputation and her copy is world class. I assume most of her revenue comes from infoproducts, particularly her flagship program B-School. It’s been a while since I followed Marie closely but for a period, she launched B-School once per year.
She’s an amazing person to study if you want to learn how to produce high-quality positive content. She’s also brilliant at balancing valuable content with going for the sale in an authentic way.
What I love most about Steve’s business is how he’s chosen a specific segment of the market and differentiated himself from other fitness blogs. The fitness space is crazy competitive but by branding his entire business around fitness for nerds, he clearly separates himself from that competition. Even in the most competitive categories, there are still opportunities to target a niche with your blog and make real money with it.
Revenue = At least $2–3 million per year, maybe more
Amy’s About page states that she’s built a multi-million dollar business, something that I absolutely believe based on her audience size.
I’m assuming that the vast majority of her revenue is from her infoproducts, but it looks like she does some affiliate promotion too. Her affiliate page is pretty classy and well done. It’s a great example of how to promote products in an authentic and non-pushy way.
In this post, Jon states that he’s doing over $100K per month in affiliate revenue which is pretty impressive.
He also has several of infoproducts available for purchase on his site. I bet these do about $30–50K per year on their own. I’m not sure what Jon’s email funnels look like but if he’s pushing launch funnels aggressively, he could easily have another few million in revenue from infoproducts on top of his affiliate revenue.
Problogger has been around since 2004. That’s an eternity in online marketing. It’s one of the original “how to blog” blogs. Darren also owns Digital Photography School which has 8X as much traffic and revenue as Problogger.
Darren did do a income report on the first half of 2016. At that time, 46% of his revenue from both sites came from affiliates, 31% came from infoproducts, and the rest from a smattering of different categories.
Seth Godin had plenty of success before his blog: he’s written 18 books, built and sold a company to Yahoo, and then was a VP at Yahoo. And his blog has cemented him as the leading marketing thought leader. If you were trying to come up with an ideal example of a thought leader, you’d have a hard time finding a better example than Seth Godin.
Seth’s blog is the original, longest running, and possibly highest value blog in marketing. He’s posted every day for like 20 years or something.
For a long time, he never montized it. Unless you consider featuring his books occasionally to count as monetization. Recently, he has done a few infoproducts including the altMBA and The Marketing Seminar. I went through The Marketing Seminar myself and quite a few people were in the community, so it sold well. Seth’s site says that over 5,000 people took the course in total. At $800 per sale, that’s about $4 million in total spread over several years. Plus all the revenue from altMBA.
I worked for Neil when he was a co-founder of KISSmetrics. He’s the one that originally hired me. Also worked with him on some other projects after that. I’m not going to even hazard a revenue guess here since I don’t want to reveal anything that Neil would prefer to keep private.
In this article, Selena reported that she made $1.6 million in 2017. I assume the majority of her revenue comes from infoproducts that she launches to her email list periodically. Considering the stage of her business, she’s built out a pretty impressive infoproduct portfolio along with some higher ticket mastermind offers.
Sam gives a few hints on what he makes with his site. First, he does give the revenue of his infoproduct ebook which is $36,000 per year.
Funny enough, he chooses not to include his Adsense revenue or affiliate revenue as “passive” income within any of his passive income reports. Most folks in the industry would consider these revenue sources to be passive.
Sam does break down some hypothetical revenue amounts of blogs of different sizes here. One example includes a personal finance blog that’s generating about one million visitors per month. I remember Sam stating somewhere along the line that he has about that much traffic. The traffic estimation tools like Ahrefs also put his site in the range. So, the example that he gives should be close to his actuals. Using his projections as a guide and knowing that he has plenty of affiliate links along with Adsense on his site, a $1 million per year estimate should be close.
He launches infoproducts to his email list a couple of times per year. I believe he has a course on SEO and one on YouTube. With his traffic volume, each of these launches should be doing upper six figures, possibly $1 million per launch.
This is a great example of a business that’s focused really heavily on generating traffic, turning that traffic into email subscribers, then monetizing via a few infoproduct launches per year. It can seem magical to have a business with ridiculous profit margins at this stage. Most of us would love to have a $1 million per year business with a super small team and a handful of moving pieces.
James used to publish his annual revenue in his annual state of the blog posts but stopped as his blog became more well known. Here’s his 2019 state of the blog. His last reported income was $187,862 in 2014. He does mention multiple times that he’s now running a seven-figure business, so his current revenue is at least $1 million per year.
He does have a book by the same name. Looking through his site, the majority of his revenue comes from affiliates, ads, and sponsorships.
His email list is extremely small for the size of his blog — it’s only 21,725 subscribers. And with a small email list, any infoproduct launch is going to be limited to five figures. He does have an infoproduct on creating your own financial plan for $499. If he focused on conversion to email and got good at infoproducts, he could add another $1–2 million in revenue to his business.
Tim has a massive blog that’s been around for a long time. He started it before he even launched his first book, The 4 Hour Workweek.
Currently, I assume that the majority of Tim’s income comes from his podcast sponsorships. I have seen ads on his blog in the past but it doesn’t look like there are any right now. I don’t think he’s ever done an infoproduct or pursued affiliate ads aggressively.
According to this form, his podcast sponsorships go for $36K per slot. At 4–5 slots per episode, that’s $144,000 per episode at least. Tim averages about six podcasts per month, which would produce $864,000 per month or $10,368,000 per year.
The reason I’m not going to even guess is that I don’t have any experience buying or selling podcast sponsorships which I assume are his main source of income right now. Also, sites with Tim’s reach tend to start breaking standard revenue rules. Having one of the largest and highest rated podcasts can give you a lot of leverage, allowing you to charge more than normal on each sponsorship slot.
Timothy has been around for a while now, predominantly selling infoproducts on how to invest in penny stocks. According to this interview with Nathan Latka, Timothy was on track to do $25–27 million in revenue in 2016, $20 million of which came from infoproducts.
Timothy is a great person to follow if you want to see how an infoproduct business looks at scale.
Revenue = Did $11 million per year in 2015, could be as high as $50–70 million per year now
Dr. Axe is a massive site with a huge audience. According to this press release, it has 17 million visitors per month, which is insane. They also push products pretty hard via their email list. It’s obvious that they know what their doing. Their revenue is a mix of infoproducts, affiliates, and supplements.
Supplements are a great category with nice margins. I only have a little experience in the health and fitness category but the advice I always get from the health and fitness experts is to go hard on supplements.
I did hear that they have a solid paid marketing engine going for their funnels. If that’s true, they could be doing easily $50–70 million per year by now.
I consider Dr. Axe to be a great example of what a health and fitness blog looks like when taken to its absolute height. If you’re considering a health and fitness blog, I’d study Dr. Axe closely
According to this article from the New Yorker, Peter pulled in about $400,000 per year as of 2016. Ahrefs reports that Peter’s traffic has been static since the 2016 period. If that’s true, I would expect his current revenue to be around $400,000. Sounds like the majority of the revenue, possibly even all of it, comes from affiliates.
Jordan Harbinger didn’t reveal exact revenue but did say that it’s multiple seven figures per year. Based on the fact that the revenue is mostly infoproducts and the overall size of the audience, my guess is that Art of Charm does $5–10 million per year in revenue.
Not sure if Pat decided to stop but it doesn’t look like he’s posted any new income reports since 2017. Regardless, I highly recommend reading through the first few years of income reports from Pat. That’ll give you a strong sense for what it takes to start making money with a blog.
The majority of Pat’s revenue comes from affiliate offers and his own infoproducts, about 50/50 between the two. He also has a few books published, How to Be Better at Almost Everything and Will it Fly? Other than the months he received the advance from the publisher, I bet these books have a negligible direct impact on revenue.
To get a sense for how blogs really make money, I highly recommend you read through the monthly income reports from the last 12 months for Entrepreneur on Fire. You’ll get an excellent feel for what a seven-figure blog looks like. I also recommend you read through the income reports from 2012 and 2013, which will show you what revenue looks like at the beginning and how it changes over time on the path to $1 million per year.
Navid is in the online marketing space and offers infoproducts on virtual summits. According to his About page, he’s earned over a $1 million dollars in “a few years.” Safe to say he’s easily doing six figures off his blog. Hence my guess above.
Revenue = At least $100,000, possibly $1+ million per year
Tim Urban got crazy popular and his blog posts were being shared all over the place for a while.
This is probably an example of what most people dream of when they start a blog. They plan to write a bunch of stuff, a rabid fan base will appear out of nowhere, they’ll offer some t-shirts, posters, and a Patreon account to make tons of passive income. They’ll finish by riding into the sunset of eternal blogging glory.
For Tim Urban, that’s basically what happened. And he absolutely deserves it. His content is phenomenal. It’s so good that people have been angry because he hasn’t posted in a while. Very few of us can write content that good. I can promise you no one gets upset when I stop blogging. So for us mortals, we should look to some of the other examples on this list for how to monetize our blogs.
I know that I gave a really broad range on the revenue here. Blogs like this are really tough to guess. Tim clearly has a massive, adoring audience. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s swimming in gold. Although he might be. Blogs with massive audiences like this sometimes make a ton of money, and sometimes they make very little. It also looks like his main source of revenue is his ecommerce store. Unlike consulting, speaking, infoproducts, or affiliates, the margins on ecommerce products are much smaller. It’s entirely possible that he’s making a ton of top-line revenue but only enough profit to live a decent lifestyle.
That’s pretty common with ecommerce entrepreneurs. They claim that they’re making millions of dollars with their business but only take home $50–100K per year. Once you factor in costs of goods sold and overhead, there isn’t a ton left over. I have no idea if Tim Urban falls into this bucket. I simply don’t know.
Ready to build you own blog?
I know the list above is full of people making serious money.
Here’s the crazy part.
For every blogger making a million dollars, there are thousands that make enough money to quit their job and work on their blog full time.
The list is too long to keep track of — I wouldn’t be able to put it together.
It is absolutely reasonable to start a blog with the goal of quitting your job and being your own boss. So many people have already done it you’d be walking a well-traveled path at this point.
I also believe that there’s still a ton of opportunity to be made blogging. I see new up-and-coming bloggers every year. It’s still possible to start a blog today and have it support you. I put together a 12-step guide on how to start a blog here. It’ll walk you through the whole process.
I was coming to the end of my undergraduate degree in international affairs and the thought of getting a job at the state department or in journalism sounded like a horrible idea.
So I learned how to start a blog and built one on international affairs with the hopes of eventually monetizing it and supporting myself.
That didn’t really work out as planned. Hah.
But it did lead to a career in online marketing and now I do work on blogs to avoid having a real job.
Whether you’re trying to avoid a job entirely or trying to quit your current job, starting a blog is a reliable path to supporting yourself and your family. It takes a lot of work and some time but it is a well-traveled path at this point. It’s not nearly as crazy as it was when I started.
I’m going to walk you through the 12 steps to start a blog, which are particularly useful for beginners who have never done this before.
Before we begin, let’s cover how website technology works. There are a few things you’ll need to sign up for so it’s good to see how they all connect before starting.
First, there’s the domain. This is the URL of the website. Think of it as the address for your business. You’ll need to buy your domain.
Second, the domain registrar. This is the company that you’ll use to buy your domain and hold it for you. They don’t host your site or anything — they just store your domain and point web traffic to your site which will be on your web host.
Third, the web host. This is the company that hosts your site. Your site will be on its servers.
Fourth, the tool to build your site. Very few sites are built by hand using raw HTML and CSS these days. Almost all of them are built using a tool. The tool handles a lot of heavy lifting and makes building a site substantially easier, especially if you have no idea how to code. This is how you’ll configure your site and publish your blog posts. For blogging, these tools are called content management systems (CMS) and the only real option is WordPress. Once you’ve installed WordPress on your host, you’ll be able to start building your site.
To recap, you’ll buy a domain using a domain registrar, install WordPress on your host, then start building your site.
Now let’s dive into the step-by-step process.
Step 1: Pick a Category
The most important decision to make when starting a blog is which category you’re going to write about.
Why pick a category at all? Why not write about anything that interests you?
When it comes to building an audience, increasing traffic, and monetizing your blog, you’ll get a lot further a lot faster if you stick to a specific category.
Think of it like this: Let’s say you stumble on a blog of mine. You find an amazing post about how to turn email subscribers into fully passive income. You love it and subscribe to my email list. Then I send you an email about how to organize your closet. How would you react? Maybe you’d love it if you also really love organization. But most people would be turned off. They want more content about email lists and making passive income.
Jumping categories can be really jarring for any audience. Google also greatly prefers blogs that are focused on a single topic, which will help you with SEO a lot.
Whatever you do, pick a category and stick to it. If you want to try another category, start a new blog.
Here are a few popular categories that always do well:
My recommendation is to pick one of the categories above and niche it down one more time. Personal finance for people making over $100,000 per year is a good example. Or fitness for people over 60 is another.
Categories get tough when they’re super consumer focused and have extremely large audiences. Celebrity blogs are a great example. There’s tons of competition in this space but also very limited money compared to other blogging categories. It’s a brutal combo. All the work without any of the payoff. Recipe blogs are another example of a brutal category. World-class competition and very few ways to monetize. Try to avoid categories like these.
One of my favorite category types is B2B. This includes categories like how to do marketing, build products, HR, customer service, manage a team, or improve your sales skills. The volume in these categories is always lower than the popular categories that I listed above. But the quality of traffic is always incredible. Businesses are always willing to spend more than consumers to solve their problems; they have access to a lot more cash. The downside is that you need to have experience and skills in these areas before being able to blog about them. They’re not nearly as easy to break into.
Hobbies can also do okay, but they’re typically more difficult to monetize. That said, I’ve come across entrepreneurs who have built six and even seven figure businesses in hobby spaces like horse riding or learning the guitar. It’s doable. It’s just more difficult because people aren’t willing to spend as much on their hobbies.
Step 2: Find a Domain
Find a domain that’s somewhat related to the category you picked and is also available for purchase.
I highly recommend you keep searching until you find a domain that’s available. While it is possible to buy a domain from someone who already has it, that’s an advanced option and can get expensive fast.
Low quality domains will usually go for a few thousand dollars. Highly quality domains that are two words can easily go for $10,000 to $50,000. I’ve even been in discussions to purchase domains for over $100,000 and the really hot ones can break seven figures. Not to mention all the hassle that comes from finding the person who owns the domain, negotiating with them, and transferring the domain if you can get an agreement.
Your best bet is to keep going until you find a domain that you like and can purchase directly from a domain registrar for about $10.
If this is your first blog and you’re not completely sure what you want to blog about, I recommend that you use your personal name.
The reason is that changing your domain later will mean that you have to start over from scratch. There are a lot of mistakes in blogging that can be corrected later; having the wrong domain isn’t one of them.
Let’s say you pick a domain like fitnessfordoctors.com. Then after six months, you realize you’d rather be doing personal finance blogging for doctors. You’d need to get a new domain and start over from scratch.
Personal domains are much more flexible — it’s just a name after all. So if you jump categories after a few months, it’s not a big deal. Take down any old content that’s not relevant with your new direction, start posting new content, and you’re good to go.
That said, personal domains have two major downsides:
Scalability – It’s much more difficult to recruit other writers or grow your blog beyond your personal identity later on.
Sellability – Personal blogs, even if they’re generating serious cash, are much harder to sell. Prospective buyers want a site that isn’t dependent on a single person.
These are pretty advanced problems to have though. So if this is your first blog, the benefits of using your name as the domain greatly outweigh the costs that only show up down the road.
Step 3: Get a host for your blog
Every site needs a web host. This is the company that stores your site on its servers and makes it available for anyone who visits your site.
For your first blog, you want a host that is popular, trusted, easy to use, reliable, and reasonably priced. No need for anything fancy.
SiteGround fits this need perfectly. The best part is that its plans start at $4/month. That’s a steal considering how many positive reviews it gets.
For the vast majority of folks starting blogs, SiteGround is going to be the best bet for hosting their blog.
Best WordPress Host for Advanced Bloggers = WP Engine
In my last few jobs, I managed blogs with hundreds of thousands or millions of visitors per month. They had thousands of posts on them. We always used WP Engine for sites of that size.
WP Engine comes with a lot of extra hosting features for security and scalability. For sites of that size, you end up having to do a lot more maintenance in order to keep the site healthy. WP Engine handles all that stuff for you. Their support team is also world-class. They do a great job.
But there’s a major downside: it’s more expensive. The lowest plans start at $35/month. This is 7X the price of other hosts.
If this is your first blog, I wouldn’t go with WP Engine.
Step 4: Point your domain to your host
Now you have a domain and a host for your site.
The next step is to point your domain to your host so that people end up at your site when they go to the URL of your domain.
Every host has slightly different settings you’ll need to configure at your domain registrar. They definitely have a support doc on with the details on what to do.
Because of how popular WordPress is, most web hosts offer a one-click install for WordPress. It’s super easy. Log into your web host, find the install WordPress opton, click it, then follow the instructions. This is what you’ll need to do if you signed up for SiteGround.
And if you’ve decided to go with WP Engine, it comes pre-installed since WP Engine is a hosting company for WordPress specifically.
Step 6: Pick a WordPress Theme
WordPress is the foundation of your site. There’s an easy way to change how WordPress looks without having to code anything yourself.
WordPress uses “themes,” little packages of code that can be swapped in and out. Whenever you change your theme, your site will also change. The best part is that your blog post content won’t change. This makes it very easy to evolve your site over time without having to rebuild your entire site from scratch.
For now, you’ll need to pick your first WordPress theme.
The number of themes out there make me dizzy. There are… a lot.
When picking a theme for any of my sites, I go straight to StudioPress. The themes are a bit more expensive at $130. (Most themes go for $20–50.) In my opinion, the higher price is well worth it. StudioPress was purchased by WP Engine and WP Engine now includes all the StudioPress themes as part of its hosting package. It’s a nice freebie if you are already planning on hosting your site with WP Engine.
After you purchase your theme, log into your WordPress site, go to the Theme section which is under Appearance in the WordPress sidebar menu. Then follow the instructions for adding the theme. You’ll have to upload the theme files to WordPress and activate the theme from within WordPress. You can find the upload option by going to Themes > Add New, a button towards the top. Then you’ll see this option to upload:
You’ll be able to manage any themes you’ve uploaded to your WordPress site from your Themes section:
Step 7: Install Your WordPress Plugins
Once of the best parts about WordPress is that it’s infinitely customizable. Since it’s open-source, you can change it to do whatever you want.
WordPress plugins are little batches of software you can install within WordPress to get extra functionality. This is how you’ll add a bunch of extra features to your site without having to code anything yourself.
Be careful here and try not to go overboard.
Some bloggers will install dozens or even hundreds of plugins on their site. That can cause a bunch of problems later on. Not only can plugins cause unexpected conflicts with each other, they become a security liability since it’s unlikely that every plugin owner will maintain the plugin over time. They also become a huge headache to manage. When you have that many plugins, you’re never sure which plugin is causing a particular problem.
I like to keep my plugins limited to 5–10 amazing plugins. Here are a few of my favorites:
Akismet – Required for every blog, it automatically filters a ton of comment spam which is a problem for every blogger. This is one of the few plugins that I happily pay to upgrade.
Yoast SEO – The most highly recommended SEO plugin, it handles a bunch of SEO tasks automatically for you and also makes on-page SEO tasks a lot easier.
Contact Form 7 – The most popular contact form out there. Set up a contact page on your site and then use this plugin to create a contact form that will email you any time someone fills out the form. Super easy.
TinyMCE Advanced – A bunch of improvements to the WordPress editor that makes writing in WordPress a lot easier. These days, I usually skip this one. I write all my posts in Google Docs and then format them in WordPress using its default HTML editor.
MailChimp for WordPress – More on this below. It’s easiest way to connect your WordPress site to a MailChimp account, create an email sign up form, and start collecting email subscribers.
WordPress Popular Posts – Easiest way to add a list of your most popular posts to your blog sidebar. The list will update automatically.
There is a plugin for just about anything you could want to do with your WordPress site. Use the plugin page within your WordPress site to search for anything that you need.
When you’ve found a plugin you want, install and activate it from within WordPress.
Step 8: Install Google Analytics
Google analytics is a free website analytics tool from Google. Even though it’s free, it’s still the best analytics tool out there.
Analytics is just a fancy word for website data.
Yes, analytics can get pretty complicated and overwhelming.
Which is why we’re going to ignore the majority of what’s in Google Analytics for now.
All you need to do is create a Google Analytics account and install it on your blog. There are two reasons for this.
First, Google Analytics stores your data over time. When you’re ready to dive in later, you’ll be thankful that you’ve been collecting data since the beginning.
Second, it’s exhilarating to watch people visit your site in the beginning. I remember the first time Google Analytics recorded a visitor on my first blog. I thought it was a mistake. “Someone visited my site? Really? Why would they do that? Who are they? Did they like it?”
Seeing those first visitors come in will give you a huge motivation boost. Even if you only check Google Analytics to see your total traffic, it’s well worth the time it takes to set up.
It’s also pretty easy to set up.
Step 9: Set up your email list
Sooner or later, you’ll hear a stat like this:
“Email marketing has 22X the ROI of any other marketing channel!”
Technically, this is true.
The response from email will always dominate any other channel that you try pushing a campaign to. But you have to acquire those emails in the first — they’ve already been filtered for the most receptive people. In other words, email by its nature is more responsive, so the comparison ROI stats are kind of dumb. They’re stating the obvious.
It’s kind of like going to a strawberry field, picking the best strawberries in the entire field, putting them in a gift basket, then declaring the the gift basket strawberries are 12 times as delicious as normal strawberries. Of course they’re more delicious — you picked the best ones already!
That’s how email lists work. They’re a gift basket of the best strawberries.
Every marketing engine I’ve built for companies has relied on emails at its core.
Think of your email list as a giant laser ray you can focus on any offer you want. Selling consulting? Pitch your list. Publishing a new blog post? Pitch your list. A podcast just interviewed you? Pitch your list.
Of all the marketing channels that have come and gone over the years, nothing compares to the power of a high quality email list.
Even if you’re not sure what to send your email subscribers, that’s okay!
Using MailChimp, you can start collecting emails on your blog so that the list is ready for you as soon as you need. It takes time to build a decent size list so your future self will be extremely grateful if you set it up now.
You only need two things:
A MailChimp account
An opt-in to sign up on your sidebar
MailChimp has a free account for up to 2,000 email subscribers, which will cover your blog for awhile.
There’s also a super easy WordPress plugin for MailChimp. Once you install it on your WordPress blog, it’ll connect to your MailChimp account and give you an easy way to add an email signup form to your blog sidebar.
Even a super basic opt-in in your blog sidebar like this is enough to get you started:
Don’t even worry about sending any emails yet unless you want to. The main thing is that you’re collecting email subscribers from the beginning. Email lists can be a gold mine once you have a few thousand subscribers, and the money really rolls in once you have 10,000 subscribers and above.
Step 10: Get into your posting groove
Writing blog posts isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. More like a multi-day backpacking trip.
The best bloggers settle into a consistent writing pace they can maintain for a few years. That’s right, years.
Here are a few posting frequency rules of thumb:
At the bare minimum, find a way to post once per week. This needs to be a substantial post, too: 2,000 words at least. I recommend you start here.
Serious bloggers will post 2–3 times per week.
Larger sites quickly get to 5–7 posts per week. This..
That list is very extensive and is a great resource for syndicating your content on other websites.
Again, it’s not easy to market your blog by organically syndicating your content, but it’s proven to be a good strategy for many bloggers.
Let’s get into the strategies.
Scoop.it is something you may have seen on LinkedIn or Twitter. It’s a content curating tool that people use to build communities usually through social media.
Folks that use Scoop.it pull content together that is useful for a target audience. Scoop.it puts this content together in an online newspaper format making it easy for the audience to see the main page and pick and choose the articles that look most interesting.
The idea of Scoop.it is to curate content from all over the web, but the secret is that people are simply looking for useful, interesting and entertaining content.
Here is how to use Scoop.it to syndicate your content for an audience to read.
Step 1 – Choose A Popular Topic From Your Blog
Start with a popular topic in your blog. If you’re a doctor, the topic might be articles about eating right or about a specific illness.
Step 2 – Curate Your Best Content For The Topic
Look at your analytics and add the best articles to the Scoop.it. Do this each week to create weekly Scoop.it collections of your best articles for your popular topics.
Step 3 – Share Your Scoop.it With Your Social Communities
Once complete, share your Scoop.it collections with your social media audiences. Share it multiple times. Integrate with Buffer, which we mentioned earlier. This will make it easier for you to schedule updates to share your curated content on Scoop.it multiple times each week.
Step 4 – Create More Topics
Once you’ve done it for one topic expand with more topics. You can do this with existing articles from your archives. Add new articles as possible and supplement with other articles from around the web.
When you use other articles from around the web, reach out to those that you include and encourage them to share your collection. They’ll be sharing their content and yours when they do.
Step 5 – Create Email Newsletters
Use your Scoop.it to create email newsletters. This is the type of content that email subscribers love to get weekly. It’s a great way to keep those people engaged with your email program and you can mix in your marketing updates to keep the calls to action coming.
Hacker News is part of the Y Combinator incubator. Folks from the tech and online marketing worlds submit the collection of articles. They form another strong community of people coming together to curate and share interesting articles and content from around the web.
Hacker News has a similar community as Inbound.org, but perhaps skews a little more toward tech and development. If your blog aligns well with this type of community there is potential to have your articles do well on the site.
Here are some steps to try your hand at Hacker News.
Step 1 – Comment On Popular Posts
Commenting is one of the best ways to build your profile on Hacker News. It’s difficult to come in right away and share articles. People might click if the title is intriguing, but people also look at your profile to see who you are.
Commenting on popular posts will build your reputation. You’ll be paying it forward before you start submitting your own content.
Give first. Share second.
Step 2 – Share Content From Around The Web
You can see the most popular content on Hacker News at any time by looking at the Best section. You’ll notice that many of the topics are tech-related. They have a unique perspective that the community on Hacker News shares.
Here is what the community seems to like the best:
Personal stories of success and pain (see: Why I turned down $5 million VC funding)
Hacks, interesting ways to build news skills (see: How to get goo at chess, fast)
Shocking tech news (see: Google account vulnerability)
Virtual reality and machines (see: high frequency dating)
Use these four criteria to start finding articles and content from around the web. Share the ones that have likely not been shared before on the site (see: Guidelines).
Step 3 – Share Your Own Content
As you build your profile with comments and solid shares from around the web you’ll be able to start adding your own content.
If you want to have the best chance of succeeding in the community then create content based on the four criteria above. Those will give you the best chance of having something that does well and sends traffic back to your blog.
Like the previous items mentioned here, Reddit is a place where all kinds of content can be shared with a large community of online users.
Here is how to have Reddit success, the front page of the Internet. This is going to be similar to the other communities on here including Hacker News.
Step 1 – Build Your Profile By Commenting On Niche-Relevant Topics
Just like on Hacker News, building your profile on Reddit can really help you to gain respect. The Reddit community appreciates people that take the time to add to the community. It’s a sarcastic community that appreciates witty, clever comments.
Short, snappy comments that are clever are appreciated. So are personal stories that you can tell in the comments to build on a popular piece of content that was shared.
Add these types of comments and you’ll receive upvotes for your contributions, which will build your profile for later on when you want to share your own content.
Step 2 – Share The Type Of Content That Your Niche Reddit Audience Loves
Here is the type of content Reddit seems to like the most in a general sense:
Clever, shocking or awkward memes (see: grandma holding a gun)
Amazing stories of science (see: street pipes burst from below the street)
Shocking historical facts (see: today I learned the government profits from student loans)
There are many other types of content that do well, but these are three good content types to target. But on Reddit you’re not targeting the general Reddit audience. Start by starting your target niche. There are tons of different categories.
Share content from around the web that fits those criteria and share it in your niche.
Step 3 – Share Your Own Content
Finally, as you build your reputation as a strong contributor to the community you can start sharing your own content. Publish content that fits the criteria for successful posts and you’ll have the highest chance for success.
Slashdot is a community that submits and shares a variety of different blog posts, articles and other types of content from around the web. When you publish a new post, submit it on Slashdot. Make adjustments to your post if necessary to fit the guidelines for submission.
Submit your blog feed to Alltop. Find the niche that best fits your blog. Your most recent post will appear at the top of the feed and you’ll have instant access to the thousands of users on Alltop that are looking for great content like yours.
Search for your blog’s URL on bloglovin’ and follow it. This will get your blog on the list for other followers to follow.
Syndicating your content is another great way to market your blog.
We’ve given you a few strategies you can use to syndicate your content around the web. Some others involve building small communities, which we discussed in other posts. That is a recurring theme in blog marketing and it will serve you well as you work to market your blog and its posts.