Due to the nature of my multiple projects, I get many questions from readers and bloggers which I try to address in as much detail as I can. Some questions are asked so often that it makes sense to answer them in an article.
Three of the more frequent questions:
- How much does it cost to make a blog (a website)?
- Does blogging cost money
- Is it possible to start a blog and make some money for free?
I am addressing all the questions in this step by step guide. You’ll see that I am sticking to a minimum budget and I do think that some things are worth paying for if you are determined to succeed.
It can be quite overwhelming when you are determined create your blog.
Table of Contents
- Which Content Management System Should I Choose?
- How Much Does It Cost to Host Your Own Blog: Domain and Hosting Costs
- How to Make a Blog Look Professional (And How Much Does it Cost)?
- What Are the Best WordPress Plugins (And How Much Do They Cost)?
- What Are the Minimum Content Marketing Expenses?
- Total: How Much Does a Blog Cost?
Which Content Management System Should I Choose?
Despite what a beginner blogger may think, there are quite a few content management systems out there, including Squarespace, Drupal and many newer blogging platforms allowing you to manage blogging sites. I’ve tried most of them and my choice is WordPress.
It’s free, it went through many years of security updates, and WordPress dashboard makes content management a breeze. It’s a good option for both beginners who want to learn how to start a blog and experienced writers who want to make money blogging.
So this whole blog cost guide is built around WordPress.
Total cost: Free
How Much Does It Cost to Host Your Own Blog: Domain and Hosting Costs
What I definitely don’t recommend is hosting your site for free. Yes, they come with the free domain name but free blogs come at a huge price of insecurity and not quite “owning it”. I’ve seen so many desperate bloggers who had their work of several years shut down due to some bogus reasons that I’d stay away from any free hosting no matter how tempting the offer might sound.
A paid hosting allows for more customization, flexibility and reliability. Plus you don’t need to be tech-savvy these days to host your site. Most good hosting services make installing WordPress a breeze, so anyone could handle that. Paid hosting services also offer 24/7 customer support and trust me, you’ll need this.
As someone who had (and witnessed) WordPress-run sites being hosted as regularly as once a year and handled the consequences, I highly recommend focusing on the WordPress hosting service security.
I’ve had a few of my sites hosted with WP Engine and I have never had a single one of them hacked. I still plan to move my other sites there but changing a host is a nightmare…
Speaking of changing your hosting service, yes, like I said, that’s no fun and in most cases results in lost visits, leads and income. That being said, try to make a good choice from the first try. I know it’s tough, so do your homework and try not to save too much. Believe in yourself: Your site is likely to pay for itself soon enough if you do everything right when starting out.
Total hosting cost: $35 a month (First two months are free)
Total domain costs: $5-$10 a year (+ domain privacy if you choose to buy that)
How to Make a Blog Look Professional (And How Much Does it Cost)?
Here’s one hard truth: I’ve never seen a professionally looking blog that would use a free WordPress theme. Yes, you are lucky if you are good with CSS and you can code everything yourself.
I am not that lucky, so after trying a theme after theme, I went with a premium one.
I browsed around and after asking some friends for advice, went with Genesis Framework and its child theme Kickstart Pro
For the past ~10 years I’ve had to deal with (optimize and customize) dozens of WordPress themes (usually with help of my tech team). But for my blog revival experiment I made myself a promise I wouldn’t turn to them for any help: I must do everything myself.
To my surprise the Kickstart Pro theme was so flexible and easy to set up that I managed to do everything myself and actually enjoyed the process. They have a handy backend full of tips, resources and video guides and I eagerly went through them, step by step, until I liked what I saw.
Total cost: $99.95 one-time
What Are the Best WordPress Plugins (And How Much Do They Cost)?
This is the evergreen question: I’ve changed my answer many times throughout my blog managing experience and I am sure I’ll have more favorites in the future too… For my blog revival experiment, I carefully picked my plugins to make sure I am not using too many (I’ve done that mistake a few times).
So here are my WordPress plugins I cannot really do without these days:
WP-SpamShield: Anti-Spam (Free)
I’ve tried an enormous amount of plugins that protect the site from spam comments… with no to little luck. And trust me, an oldie blog like this one is in every spam database that exists, so I am getting a ton of spam comments.
WP-SpamShield plugin seems to be doing a better job than the others. At least I am not spending hours of my life weekly killing spam…
Yoast SEO: Optimize Your Blog for Search Engines
There are a few more SEO WordPress plugins. I am using Yoast SEO because it is very robust.
Don’t play with the settings too much though: I’ve seen users blocking all their links with nofollow meta tag by using the plugin settings.
Internal Link Building: Link to Your Old Articles from Content
It’s not that crucial for new blogs (where you can easily handle linking to your old content manually) but for older sites this one is totally a must.
If I see any of my older articles get a few search organic referrals a week, I’ll use the plugin to link to that article internally, and more often than not I’ll see it gradually growing in traffic in a few weeks.
I love having a clickable table of contents on top of my first subheading. I think it improves engagement and makes content much easier to navigate. If you prefer short-form content or don’t use subheadings much, this one may be skipped.
Three more WordPress Plugins
These are necessary for me but they may be skipped depending on your needs and the chosen theme:
- MyBlogU WordPress Plugin: If you use MyBlogU, this plugin makes it much easier to keep an eye on useful notifications and content opportunities
- Fancier Author Box: Many themes will have this built in. Otherwise, use it. Building your blog is much easier if your readers know the author of each article.
- Simple Follow Me Social Buttons Widget: You can handle these without plugins or your theme might already have them. I just find this plugin time-saving, so I am sticking to it.
What Are the Minimum Content Marketing Expenses?
These are more optional at the start (Many new bloggers would want to wait until their blogs start earning some money to cover additional expenses). But it can be a long wait! “Build and they will come” won’t work in most cases.
It’s not enough to know how create a website. You need blog traffic. The blogosphere is an extremely busy place these days. Getting noticed is tough. Search engine optimization is the first step, but you can learn and implement it for free, especially is you are using WordPress.
Here are the most essential marketing expenses I’d invest into (even if I were on a very tight budget):
- Viral Content Buzz PRO ($20 per month): VCB extends your social media content exposure to users outside of your own following. It’s a great way to see some organic social media growth and get that content social sharing going. You can also use content for free if you can afford the time to earn credits.
- Social media ads: Once I see some good organic growth (usually thanks to Viral Content Buzz), I add some social media ads to help the growth. Usually the budget is as low as $10
Total: $30 a month (Min)
Total: How Much Does a Blog Cost?
Starting a blog costs $60 a month (If you are really willing to do everything right) + ~10 a year + ~$99 one time… Here’s your budget.
|How Much Does a Blog Cost?|
|Content Management System||FREE|
|Content marketing||Viral Content Buzz PRO||$20/m|
|Social media ads||$10/m|
|TOTAL blog cost||Initial blog costs||$110|
|Monthly blog management expenses||$60|
As for the time investment, the following is the bare minimum:
- ~3 days to set everything up (Maybe 5 if you are new)
- ~3-4 hours to research, write and promote one solid article (on average)
- ~1-2 hours a day to engage on social media, reply to comments and network in niche communities (forums, communities, Quora, Facebook / Linkedin groups, etc.)
Obviously, the more time you spend, especially at the start, the more results (and the faster) you’ll see…
Here are more tools I use.