Want to become a blogger? If you’re asking how to start a blog in Canada, this is the article for you. Most elements of starting a blog are the same regardless of where you live, but some things such as business best practices and taxes are specific to your location.
This guide will still hold plenty of value even if you don’t live in Canada, however it is mostly geared towards budding bloggers in the great north.
Let’s kick things off with the 6 simple steps it takes to start a blog. This might seem like a lot at first, but once you understand how it all fits together you’ll realize you can easily do this in a weekend.
- Choose a niche / audience to serve.
- Pick a blogging platform and plan your site.
- Set up your website on sturdy web hosting.
- Publish high quality content.
- Promote your content across multiple channels.
- Monetize that blog!
Once those steps are accomplished, you just repeat steps 4 through 6 with as much dedication as possible. There’s a bit more to it than that overall, but I’ll cover the details in the rest of the article!
Note: I’m an affiliate marketer and this article contains some affiliate links to products or services I believe you may find useful. If you click on them and make a purchase, I may receive a commission.
Starting a Blog in Canada
Blogging as a source of income isn’t for everyone, especially these days because it is becoming more competitive. In my experience, the best bloggers will fill ALL of the following criteria:
- They love writing, learning, and writing about what they learn
- They enjoy (or at least are open to) meeting new people online
- They’re willing to learn to market their content across multiple platforms
- They don’t expect to make money right away
- They choose an easy to monetize topic that they’re passionate about
That may be a tall order, but blogging is a pretty specific trade. It’s extremely writing heavy, so people who enjoy that have a natural advantage. But there are also a number of technical skills required to make money as a blogger.
Of course, you can work around these barriers by outsourcing any aspects of blogging you find difficult. But since most beginner bloggers don’t have huge budgets, I’m writing this blog post based on the assumption that you only have $200-$300 to spend on startup costs.
It’s possible to start a blog with less than $100 to invest, but I recommend getting certain premium tools which will accelerate your progress if you put just a little money and time into them.
Top Recommended Blogging Tools
I’ll mention most of these at some point later on, but I wanted to compile this list in an easy to find place near the top of the article. Note: you can absolutely get started with mostly or entirely free tools (other than paying for a domain and web hosting).
However, paying for a premium WordPress theme and one or two other tools is a good idea if you can afford it. Premium themes and plugins receive much better support than free ones, meaning you won’t have to waste hours troubleshooting problems on your own.
Best Blog Software and Services
- WordPress.org (free website building software)
- Divi by Elegant Themes (easy to use WordPress theme with drag-and-drop builder)
- Marketer’s Delight (conversion optimized, more technical WordPress theme)
- Qubely (WordPress block library plugin that pairs well with Marketer’s Delight)
- Web Hosting Canada (best Canadian web hosting company)
- GrooveFunnels (free sales funnel builder, can be used to sell anything online using funnels and stores)
Best Automation and Conversion Software
- Aweber (free email marketing platform. The premium version includes push notifications as well)
- ConvertBox (best popup builder / on-site messaging system. Integrates easily with WordPress, GrooveFunnels, and Aweber)
- Designrr (ebook creation software for easily making beautiful lead magnets)
- Conversion.ai – AI Copywriting software for writing blog posts FAST with minimal typing.
Other Useful Software and Services
- Frase.io (content research and optimization software for SEO)
- Grammarly (helps improve spelling, grammar, and other writing errors)
- Deskera (all in one financial and business management software)
- SocialBee (social media management platform)
- PLR.me (Private Label Rights website, great for sourcing lead magnets)
- ClickUp (free productivity and teamwork software with kanban boards and more)
- Human Proof Designs (will build your site, write your content, and do SEO for you)
- Kimp.io (unlimited graphic design service, perfect for on-site branding and images)
- The Authority Site System (top blogging/SEO course for beginners)
- MissingLettr (automatic social media promotion through paid community)
Why Start a Blog in 2021?
If you want to make money blogging, that’s great. But you should be aware that in most cases (especially for beginners) a blog is a long term investment. That means you’ll have to put a significant amount of time and/or money into it before you start seeing any consistent income back. So if you’re looking for fast cash, this isn’t the route for you.
You SHOULD consider becoming a Canadian blogger if you’re interested in building a long term business asset which can be entirely outsourced. I started learning WordPress and SEO almost 2 years ago and started this website at about the same time, and it’s already profitable enough that I could outsource it all. I don’t because it’s my personal blog, but as I’m beginning to build other websites I’m outsourcing more and more aspects of them.
Top Recommended Blogging Platform
In order to start a blog, you need a domain name and a content management system (CMS) or website/blogging platform of some sort.
While there are many, many options from WordPress to Wix to Squarespace and even Tumblr, a self-hosted WordPress.org blog is the best way to go in my opinion. It is much better for things like search engine optimization, flexibility, and functionality, and it’s also more cost effective when you’re getting started. Decent web hosting can cost as little as $5/month, or even less if you buy a year or more in advance and get it on sale.
I also really prefer the WordPress user experience. It’s easy to customize even as a beginner because of the wide range of plugins, and the core tools are extremely user friendly.
Best Web Hosting For Canadians
If you’re Canadian and you’re targeting North America, I recommend getting your hosting from Web Hosting Canada (you can sign up at that link). WHC has been my web host for two years and I have no complaints; they do a great job. If you’d like more information on them, visit their site or check out my Web Hosting Canada review on YouTube. For simplicity’s sake, you can also get your domain name from WHC (many of their packages include a free domain name).
I know a lot of Canadian marketers recommend Hostpapa because they have higher affiliate payouts, but trust me; WHC is the way to go. They use superior software (a cutting edge web server called LiteSpeed rather than the antiquated Apache used by others), and generally provide more value for your dollar.
Best WordPress Blog Themes
While WordPress itself and many of its themes and plugins are free, you may find it advantageous to pick up some premium tools sooner rather than later. If you can afford to spend a couple hundred dollars, buying Divi from Elegant Themes is a good way to get started. Divi is a powerful and easy to use framework with a visual builder, and it comes packaged with two premium plugins called Monarch and Bloom that will help kickstart your marketing.
Another good option is Marketer’s Delight. Marketer’s Delight is a fast, lightweight theme and cheaper than Divi, but it is also more technical to use. If you don’t mind rolling up your sleeves and learning a bit of code, MD could be the best option for you. If you want things to be as easy as possible though, I recommend Divi.
And that’s just about it for themes and beginner tools. While there are many other awesome, more advanced tools you could buy (listed above), it doesn’t really make sense to invest in them until you’re sure that blogging is for you.
Blog Posts and Design
One of the reasons I recommend Divi is that the visual builder makes it super easy to design almost anything you want OR import a premade layout. You get a ton of free layouts with the purchase of your Elegant Themes license, and there are many more professionally designed layouts and templates available from third party sellers.
I invested in the Divi Life Lifetime All-Access Pass, which includes a ton of child themes, plugins, layouts, and more. If you have a flair for design and you want to get creative, you’ll be able to build to your heart’s content. If you’d prefer to get started as quickly as possible, a Divi Life template can really jumpstart your website.
How to Start a Blog That Will Make Money in Canada
The first step is choosing a topic or niche, and deciding how your blog will be monetized. There are three basic ways that you can make money from blogging; affiliate marketing (promoting other peoples’ products), selling ad space, and selling your own products or services.
Selling from your own site adds an extra layer of complexity, and generating income from ads requires a lot of traffic, so I usually recommend starting with affiliate marketing using the tried and tested affiliate marketing strategies explained in that article.
How to Choose a Blogging Niche
In order to choose a niche, I recommend making three lists. You can write them next to each other on a sheet of paper or put them in side-by-side columns of a spreadsheet.
- The first list is your passions. The activities you enjoy practicing the most. This could be anything from horseback riding to programming to craft making.
- The second list is your skills. What are you best at? What job skills, interpersonal skills, emotional skills, and other proficiencies do you command? There can (and hopefully will) be lots of common items on the first two lists.
- The third list is your dreams, or goals. How much do you want your blog to earn? What other markers of success would you like it to create? Do you want a social media following as well? Be as specific as you like.
I recommend spending at least ten minutes on each list, which means you can complete the entire exercise in half an hour. Once you’re satisfied with the lists, it’s time to connect the dots between them. Connecting the first two columns is obvious; you want to choose a niche that you’re passionate about and have some proficiency in when possible. Adding the third list means ensuring that the niche you select can support your goals.
For example, if your goal is to earn $100,000 per year blogging, you’ll need to make sure you pick a niche that is both accessible and profitable. On the other hand if you want to blog as a hobby and just need it to bring in some part-time income, most niches will be available to you. This means analyzing the money making potential of the topic.
To get an idea of how much income a blog can generate, take a look at Flippa.com. Go to the main page and search for blogs or content sites that sold recently. There will be a long list of websites and how much the buyers paid for them. You can click on any that catch your interest in order to get a detailed breakdown of how much the blog was earning and how.
How to Choose a Domain Name / Brand Name
Choosing names for your blogs really comes down to personal preference. On one hand, it can be ideal to pick one that contains one of your main target keywords. On the other hand, if you do a great job with your SEO and branding, giving your website a unique name can be ideal. After all, “Google.com” didn’t mean anything 40 years ago! Other considerations are whether the blogs are standalone or part of a network. If you’re creating multiple connected blogs you may want to use the same brand keyword in the URL of each one.
At the end of the day, the best practice for picking a domain name is likely to create a unique brand name that is relevant to your niche. So a dog training website could be called “nomorebarking.com” or “puppyobedienceonline.com”. I didn’t check, so there’s a decent chance those domains are already in use, but you should get the idea.
How to Create Content / Write High Quality Blog Articles
Writing high quality articles is one of the cornerstone activities of blogging, which is why I think it’s such a great business plan for people who are passionate about content creation. While written content is still the bedrock of most blogs, having awesome infographics and relevant YouTube videos to go with your blog posts is becoming more and more important.
The best way to learn what good blog writing looks like is to read articles that actually rank in your niche. You’ll want to create a style unique to yourself that combines information and entertainment with your original tone and voice. If you’re not an experienced writer this can be difficult, but don’t be afraid to take imperfect action and fail forwards. On the other hand, if you want some one-on-one help, I do offer writing coach services.
Where to Get Images and Other Media
There are a massive variety of sources of images, icons, and other graphics available online. Some such as a Pixabay are free; others such as Scopio and Jumpstory come at a premium price. I use premium images and graphics as often as possible because I find that most good free images are extremely overused. It doesn’t look very professional if your reader has seen a picture a dozen times before – but it’s better than nothing.
Another option is to outsource your design needs entirely. The easiest way to do this is with a service like Kimp.io, which is a design agency that offers unlimited monthly subscriptions. If you’re on a more limited budget, you can always hire a designer from OnlineJobs.ph. This is a freelance marketplace where you can hire skilled workers from the Philippines at a wide variety of pay rates.
If you want to go the freelancer route but can’t be bothered to deal with the hiring process, I recommend checking out iWorker. iWorker is an agency that connects overseas freelancers with business owners. They can source just about any kind of digital work quickly and easily, which makes them worth the slightly higher prices.
How to Learn SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process through which websites are built and optimized to show up on the front page of search results. While there are a lot of different ideas about how SEO works and lots of software you can use to make it easier, the truth is that the sweet science of search optimization boils down to following repeatable steps. Not all of the steps are easy to follow, but you gain proficiency with time and practice.
There are a lot of steps to advanced SEO, though, and a lot of low-quality training and courses out there. If you want to get serious about blogging right away, I really recommend taking a premium authority blogging course such as The Authority Site System. TASS is one of the best SEO courses I’ve ever taken, and I’ve taken a lot of SEO courses.
The only real alternative to a great course like TASS is to learn everything yourself through reading articles, watching videos, and trial and error. This may massively increases the time and effort it takes for your blog to start ranking.
Setting Up Social Media – From Facebook to Pinterest
There’s quite a bit of debate in the blogging community about the value of social media. Some folks say it’s worth having an account on every platform from Instagram to Twitter to Linkedin, just for the extra signals and presence. Others assert that having inactive social media accounts can be potentially harmful.
Whoever you believe, I think it’s important that you have some presence on social media. I also think it’s important that you don’t spread yourself too thin. Do some platform research and find out whose users are most likely to connect with your content.
To me, the most important social platforms for bloggers are Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter in that order. Pinterest seems to provide the strongest signals, and is also a search engine. Facebook has the biggest audience and the most ways of sharing your content, and Twitter is a great place to get easy shares and potentially go viral.
How to Make Money Blogging (Monetize Your Blog)
Ahh, here’s the good stuff. This is the part I imagine most people are skipping to, hoping that they can magically fast track to making money. Sorry! It doesn’t work like that. Like with most things, in blogging you really have to crawl before you can walk before you can run. But once you understand how to use the tools and create good content and you’re getting some traffic, there are a number of ways you can make the most out of each visit to your site.
Conversion Optimization – Win the Visitor’s Focus
You’ve probably heard that the average human now has a smaller attention span than a goldfish, or something ridiculous like that. Whether or not it’s true, data does show that web visitors get distracted and leave websites for a variety of reasons.
Using images, infographics, and other mixed media such as videos or even GIFs helps to break up the content and make it more digestible. Adding short, colorful sections such as “Pro Tip” boxes or section overviews can have the same effect.
Another important factor in conversion optimization is copywriting. If you have no experience with sales or copywriting, I recommend reading some of Amazon’s top selling copywriting books. There are a lot of them, and I don’t particularly have a favorite. You should also read some recent articles on high ranking blogs to get the latest and greatest copywriting tips.
The good news is that learning copywriting is not difficult, and you can gain a base proficiency fairly quickly. Focus on learning, implementing, and practicing frameworks such as AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action) first and worry about the Jedi mind tricks later.
Email Marketing and Push Notifications
Building an email list is generally thought of as being among a blogger’s most important tasks. Email marketing is “owned” traffic, meaning you can essentially reach out to it anytime you need to. If you’re in a pinch and need to make some sales fast, having an engaged email list is one of the best resources imaginable.
I love SEO and getting traffic from Google search is great, but you can’t email search engines any time you please and ask for more attention. With email marketing, you can. The same is true of push notifications, messenger bots (although these have platform specific rules), and other forms of owned traffic like online communities or forums.
Many people have built their entire online business around emailing their subscribers, so don’t believe anyone who tells you email marketing is outdated. It’s one of the most tried and true methods of making bottom-of-the-funnel sales, and it’s still around for a reason.
Affiliate Marketing + Best Affiliate Networks
There are many affiliate programs that are easily accessible to new and experienced affiliate marketers. However, not all of them are worth your time. In my opinion the three best affiliate platforms to get started with are Shareasale, CJaffiliate, and Clickbank. Between those three you will almost definitely find some solid offers you like enough to promote. If not, you may want to choose the products first and then figure out how to join their affiliate programs.
The only problem with affiliate marketing is that, until you have a well-rounded offer stack, your sales may come and go in waves. In 2020 my blog earned as little as $30 dollars some months, and as much as $3000 other months. I expect it to average out and become more predictable over time, but it’s still very young as blogs go and has lots of growing to do.
Advertising and Adsense
Google adsense is one of the most popular advertising systems for bloggers, but there are many others that may be more suitable depending on your niche. I’m personally not a fan of ads as a form of monetization because I find most ads extremely disruptive to user experience. However, if you have a lot of traffic and no other viable method of monetization, ads can make a lot of sense. Alternatives to Adsense include RevContent, Mediavine, and many others.
Selling Digital Products / eCommerce
Depending on the niche your company is in, selling digital, physical, or informational products may be good options. Digital products are by far the most profitable because they don’t require stock or maintenance and can be sold an infinite number of times. They are also usually fairly easy to sell to your regular readers and email subscribers.
If someone opts in for a lead magnet you offer and spends a couple of months reading emails you send, they may well be willing to spend $10-$20 on a book you write or a video course. From there you can create a buyer list and focus on nurturing your relationship with them and moving them up your value ladder to more expensive products.
If you have a solid skill you can sell online, providing services is a cost effective way to monetize your site.
Selling services is a bit of a sleeper because not everyone thinks of doing this. Not everyone has the skills for it, either. However, if you sell services you need even less traffic to make money than with affiliate marketing. For example, I didn’t add an SEO services page to my website for the first 1.5 years I had it. A couple months ago, I added an SEO page targeting my local area. One of the first people to visit that page from Google hired me!
There are a number of local services you can potentially rank for, and even some long-tail keyword services you might be able to rank quickly for nationally or globally. This is generally easier the more narrow your focus. I started my blog as a general digital marketing and writing blog, so it took longer to gain authority than if I had just written about one aspect of marketing.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Here are some frequently asked questions I hear often in blogging communities, as well as brief answers for each of them.
How much money do bloggers make in Canada?
It depends on the niche, the blogger, and how well they monetize. The truth is you can make quite a bit of money blogging in Canada. My blog is my “side hustle”, and although it complements my business it’s relatively new. It earns anywhere from $40 to $1000+ per month, so you can see how a full time blogger could make good money.
How do I start a free blog in Canada?
Starting a free blog is not the path I recommend, but if you must there are several platforms available. WordPress.com, Blogger.com, and Medium.com will all give you a free account and a place for your posts to live and be read.
Do bloggers need a business license in Canada?
I am not a lawyer and this does not represent any form of personal advice, but I think having a business license is important. I registered my business before I started trying to earn any money through it, and I think that’s good practice.