This is an ultimate guide on how to build a profitable sales funnel from scratch in WordPress.
I will give you all the vital details that other guides don't bother, without the need to spend a thousand dollars.
This post is an overview and there are several other detailed posts that will walk you the individual steps.
This is a no-BS practical guide. The emphasis is on practical so that you can follow it.
I will show you exactly what tools, hosting, etc. to use. Scroll down if you are not interested in that part.
People don't know how to start a site from scratch and make it profitable.
The information that is out there is too generic, incorrect, outdated, leaves out important details or is outright scam. Very unhelpful when you have no clue.
Having started several WordPress blogs from scratch, I will try to summarize and teach you all the important things that you need to know about the subject. You can also refer to my case study where I have been publishing the actions I have taken on FunnelXpert to get traffic started from zero and to build its sales funnel.
I will show you free and paid resources for the same tool and you can decide which ones you want to use.
This post contains affiliate links. However my primary purpose is not earning affiliate commissions for myself.
Of course I need money to live, and I appreciate if you click my affiliate links... but for me, teaching you how to do it is far more important than my own affiliate commissions.
This system is extremely simple. More complicated methods exist that bring more results. Those are not free, however it is always your choice.
A survey done by Blogging.com a few years ago found that 81% of bloggers never make even $100.
Per ProBlogger, only 4 percent makes more than $10,000 per month.
At the other end of the scale, there are blogs making $150,000 per year or even millions of dollars.
But 85 percent in the "more than $10,000" category have been blogging for more than 4 years.
Many people think that internet marketing and money making niches are the best, however this is not true.
In fact, these are one of the worst converting niches. (Which doesn't mean you can't make money from them.)
If you have a blog about sports gear, your conversion rate and sales are actually much higher.
The reasons why people don’t make money with their website are simple.
It takes especially long to find out what works if your site is new and therefore most newbies do it "blind".
Throwing up a few (or even 50) random affiliate links is not going to make you money.
You could be making money in as little as 60 days, but remember, this depends on how much work you put into it.
Once you have a clear plan, with some investment you can outsource things, get them done faster and start making more money faster.
There is a scale of different websites and the first step is to decide what type of site you want to build.
You need to make up your mind, but you should go with #2 or #3.
We are building an authority site (blog).
An authority site is basically a well-built niche site where you can find everything about the given subject and therefore people consider it to be an authority. People go there for solutions and answers to their questions.
An example for authority sites would be WordPress.org. You can find loads of information about WordPress.
Another example would be WebMD. Many people go there to find answers to their medical needs.
I am building this site also into an authority blog, a go-to place for all information about sales funnels.
And now I am going to share how YOU can make your first sales and be on your way to $5K/month.
ALWAYS go self-hosted. I never thought that someone wouldn't, but I just found too many people in Facebook groups that aren't self-hosted.
When you start an off-internet business, there are usually startup costs. Therefore don't expect to start your online business for free. It just doesn't work that way.
It is, however possible to do it on a low budget. The excuse that hosting and domain cost money is just too lame.
Even if you are really broke, starting your own niche site can be as low as a $20 investment for a domain and hosting (and of course a lot of work on your part).
You have the option to not spend a penny after buying your domain and hosting, but please realize: that is not the fastest way to profits.
There are two ways to go in building a profitable website.
The cheap way and the smart way.
I understand if you are on a tight budget. Even if you aren’t, you can absolutely decide that you don’t want to spend a lot of money on your website, as you are not sure if you will get any return.
I did the same thing when I started my website. My total investment was $8.99 for a domain name and $5.63 for 6 months of hosting.
I did everything at the beginning with free tools and you can do the same.
But be aware that the free way is not the smartest way. Being a freebie-chaser is not smart.
You need to treat your website as a business and once you see where it is going, you need to be willing to invest into it.
This could mean buying a tool or a theme that you need, but this could also mean to buy an online course to increase your ability to make profit. Just consider how much money you spend on drinking coffee every day or on your hobby.
Unfortunately there is the barrier that you just don’t have enough time to do everything yourself...
Once you know what you are doing, it would make sense, for example, to pay someone to write a whole bunch of (more than 20) properly targeted, high quality articles for your site, post them, then see the income roll in – this would bring back the money that you spent on it if you did it correctly.
Similarly, once you know what you are doing, it would make sense to buy traffic to get more engaged visitors, since this will increase your profits if you do it correctly.
But this is not a requirement at the start and it is always your choice when it's the right time to shift.
The right way is to start the cheap way, then phase over to the smart way as you become more confident.
In order to build your own niche website you need a niche... I have a separate post on picking a profitable niche. Human Proof Designs sells niche sites, if you have some money, you can just buy a ready-made site.
People really over-complicate the subject of niche selection. It boils down to just a few basic things.
1. You need to have enough familiarity/passion to keep going and write more posts.
2. There needs to be buying demand in the niche.
3. The niche shouldn’t be overly competitive.
The first mistake many people make is picking a niche that just doesn't have enough profit potential and they don't have enough passion about.
You obviously need some passion to be able to write blog posts and to be able to continue...
Whatever you pick, please do yourself a favor and validate the profit potential in your niche.
Check the average search volume for your main keyword, go to Amazon or ClickBank and see if the products have lots of sales.
Another important thing - don't try to go too wide on your niche.
"Starting a profitable e-commerce business" is too wide. Instead, go for a small segment, like "build a profitable Shopify store" or "Product sourcing for e-commerce from AliExpress".
I know this seems like cutting down your possibilities, however this is in reality the other way around, as it allows you to talk to that specific person and tailor your solutions to him. Less is more.
Many people spend hours looking at things like how many searches per month … Per my most recent experience, it doesn’t matter that much. Why?
You can always expand your blog topic. Just because you have a niche, it doesn't mean that you cannot write about a bordering field and get more traffic from there.
So really the only thought process I had was the following (not necessarily correct):
The only keyword research I did at this point was to enter my main keyword into Google. I used Chrome with the Moz extension and looked at the sites, how many backlinks they had, how many had the keyword in its name.
This was not necessarily the best way to decide, but this is what I did and I can still make money with long-tail keywords.
Of course the ideal would be to have a main keyword that has sites with DA less than 25 on the first page search results.
This may seem out of sequence to you, but I spent about a week researching content before I even knew what the site was going to be called.
I advise that you find out everything about your niche, keep track of all keywords you run into in a spreadsheet and check all keywords in UberSuggest. Take note of the ones that have 10-100 searches.
Bookmark EVERYTHING you find, under different bookmark folders, organized by subject or keyword.
Make a separate bookmark folder for any affiliate programs you find. When you run into a cool product, always look for an affiliate program either on the website, or searching Google for “keyword” affiliate, or referral.
Sign up for any affiliate programs and save your affiliate referral URLs in a spreadsheet.
Sign up for all possible mailing lists to monitor what these sites promote and get ideas. (Don't use your personal email address for this, as you will get a lot of stuff/junk. Open an email account just to sign up for stuff for your internet business.)
Isolate your main keywords. You will use these to finalize your niche and domain name.
Make sure you look at these keywords from the viewpoint of searcher intent, e. g. “buy sport shoes” and “buy a pair of sport shoes” have the same searcher intent and you wouldn’t consider them as different keywords. You wouldn't write a separate post for each.
Once you did this, write 20-30 posts, all based on long-tail keywords, if possible, over 2,000 words each, if not, at least 1,000.
And I am sorry, but you will need deep, engaging content. Either you know how to write or you will need to learn.
Type your next keyword in Google and read everything that comes up on the first two-three pages. Examine the top posts are currently ranking. How many words, how many images, how deep content, etc. Get an idea what content you will need to beat this.
Based on everything you have read, write your own post that contains everything possible on that keyword.
Note: If the first page is loaded with high-DA sites with awesome content, you will probably not be able to beat those. You have the choice to skip that keyword or to write your post anyways and you will use social media to drive traffic.
Now you have a much better idea of what you want to do and it will be less likely that you regret your decision later on.
People can spend days looking for the perfect domain name. You don’t have to.
Why am I saying this? Does Amazon have anything to do with the Amazon river, or Amazons or selling any of the stuff they are selling? No.
My other website is based on expired domains. The affiliate commission I made was from ready-made niche websites. Is there any connection? No.
There is a concept called “idea sex”, and using this, you can relate things to each other that are not so much related. Example: I can relate sales funnels with e-commerce: How to build a sales funnel for a Prestashop store.
I am not saying that you can relate absolutely everything, but you don’t need to stay on your topic either.
Therefore the domain name you are looking for just needs to be on the general subject, and it should not be an exact keyword match, as it is very easy to get penalized by Google's EMD (Exact Match Domain) update. If you want to have the keyword, go for a partial match domain (PMD), like "YourKeyword.com" or "KeywordCentral.com", these are much less scrutinized by the algorithm.
However it is a lot more important to pick a domain that has backlinks, internet history, DA, TF, CF, so that your new site doesn’t spend half a year in the sandbox, but actually starts getting search traffic from Google much sooner.
I just registered an expiring domain with DA: 36, CF: 13 and TF: 19. You can learn more about how to find domains with backlinks.
Let me fill you in on a secret: They all give you very similar service…
But they can charge you up to $10 for domain privacy... which is important, otherwise the minute you register your domain, you will start getting emails, phone calls and text messages from web design, logo making and SEO companies from the US, India and whatever other location you can think of.
I have tried several domain companies and you get the lowest price for the same service, with $8.99 for a .com domain, including all fees, and lifetime free privacy so that your email address and phone don’t get posted on the web as a free prey for spammers… check out the price list for NameSilo. This is both the cheap and the smart plan for your domain. Use my coupon code "funnelx" to get an additional dollar off your first purchase.
Before you purchase your domain, find the DNS server of the hosting you will use and enter it to NameSilo during the purchase, this way your domain will be almost instantly available and you will not have to wait 24-48 hours until it propagates.
I tried many different hosts and I have seen several of them to fail utterly.
I did a very thorough research and I will show you the best hosting choices, which are a great compromise for the best price.
Things like site loading speed directly influence your ranking in Google. You also want to have proper customer service when you need it.
You don't want to fall for a bad $1 host, but on the other hand you don't want to overpay either.
If you want to be really cheap, go for shared NameCheap hosting, $9.88 for the first year, 20GB SSD-Accelerated disk space, up to 3 websites and unlimited bandwidth. (Renewal price $38.88/year.)
You also have the choice of Scala Hosting, you can get started for $11 for the first 6 months of hosting. They have super fast SSD drive servers. I have used them for over a year.
I also use Hostinger, it is an unlimited hosting, I have 3 or 4 blogs with them. They are a big, stable host with millions of users.
You can also try Temok hosting, with them you can get 3 years of hosting for $108, and you don't need to worry about your hosting for 3 years. You get 50 GBs of storage, unlimited websites and awesome customer service.
The speed of your website is a very important factor.
A 1 second decrease in your website speed can cause a 7 percent decrease in your number of visitors.
Fast websites also get ranked better in Google.
There are a few easy things you can do to decrease the speed of your website.
Now that you have picked your domain and your hosting, the next thing you need to decide before you start building your website is what platform you will use. Most people use WordPress for the following reasons:
Before you do anything, install a free SSL certificate. This will give you a 15 percent advantage over all the sites that don’t bother about it and you will look more serious in Google’s eyes and it helps building your authority.
Hostinger gives you a free SSL certificate for life with their hosting. If you are starting your second site with them, you can get a lifetime SSL for $15, which is an awesome deal.
Once you installed your SSL, it’s time to set up WordPress, with selecting a theme, installing all of the needed plugins, Google Search Console and Analytics.
You will need to optimize your images, set up a caching plugin (WP Super Cache) and possibly a CDN. If you use Hostinger, you can skip this, because they have a built-in cache.
All these are also free or have a free tier.
You can read more about this in my Blog Setup Checklist.
The easy way to have a site set up (if you have cash) is to buy a pre-made website. In this case they set it up for you, and you don’t need to worry about any of this stuff.
I use static home page on all my blogs and I use Thrive Themes, this link gives you a very thorough tutorial on what it is.
You can see actual demos of the different themes, just change the name of the theme in the drop-down menu near the top left corner of the screen.
They are easy to set up. In the Thrive Dashboard, you click on the menu (#1) of your Thrive Theme card and than on the Page Templates (#2) link:
Then check the pages you want to generate. If you have the Thrive Architect plugin installed and activated on your website you can select the highlighted checkbox to make all the selected pages editable with the plugin.
By now you should have a memorable branded premium domain, hopefully with some backlinks and it didn't cost you an arm and a leg.
Your domain name determines what your site is about, but you have an opportunity to define it further in your website slogan. This is the little tagline under your website name.
Branding your site is very important. It’s a matter of personal choice whether or not you think a logo is something you want on your blog. But eventually, most bloggers realize they need to have one to help build their blog and their reputation. A logo is also useful once you start developing products and services, as using a logo in your e-book or videos, for example, looks much more credible than just using your domain name.
Your logo has to be coordinated with your blog theme. Make sure you use not only the right color, but the right shade as well. Otherwise, it will look uncoordinated.
Now you will need to add all the content you have researched and written.
The biggest problem with website content today is that it lacks depth. Most blog post are barely scratching the surface of the subject - 5 tips on e-mail marketing will never get you there. The article you are reading digs deeper into the subject than most articles you come across and this is what gives its value.
You may have to re-write many of your blog posts as you go and that is fine. I have re-written and added to the post you are reading 4-5 times and even changed the title. Now I think it is final.
An important part of content creation is keyword research. Each article you write must be based on a long-tail keyword. These, along with correct SEO, can start ranking your website pages much earlier than competitive keywords and you will start getting traffic and subscribers. I made the mistake of not doing so when I started this site, I wrote many of these posts without keyword targeting or targeting higher volume keywords, including the post you are reading right now. Currently I only target keywords that show up in the keyword planner with 10-100 monthly searches, and since I started doing that, organic traffic started to increase.
Another important thing about content writing is the length of your posts. Statistically, in the majority of cases posts that are 2,000-2,500 words long end up in the top 10 most often.
At least some of your content needs to have a "cool" factor. People need to find it worthy for sharing. One single post like that shared in some groups and forums can create more visitors and backlinks than months of guest posting and blog commenting.
Once you added your content, create a site map and submit it to Google from your Search Console account for indexing. Indexing and all the stuff showing up will take about a week.
Now you can add your affiliate links.
Make sure you have lower and higher priced products you offer.
Will people click on your affiliate links? Obviously, some products will convert and some won’t. But as an example, it took me 5 months to dig out all the materials contained in this post and it took me three days to write it. Do you feel that you would click on my affiliate links to show your appreciation in exchange for all the work I did for you for free, all the time and money I am saving you? Your readers will feel the same way if your content is deep, high quality and your recommendations actually make sense.
I don’t use Adsense at all. Affiliate products give you a better return.
A popular way to monetize your site is through the Amazon affiliate program. See the video on how a pro does this. He actually builds such sites and sells them for hundreds of dollars.
You should have a "Start here" kind of page. The post you are reading now is such a page. From this post other posts spread out that detail the concepts briefly mentioned here. Some of those posts are pillar posts, matching the subjects that I described in the Site Identity section above. Pillar posts should collect a whole cluster of regular posts connected with it and this should also show up in your menu.
You don't necessarily have all these set up right at the outset. You can launch your site with one or two ready, then you keep adding more. At the launch of the this site I only have/had the first two in place and I add the links to the pages as I create them.
As your blog posts get buried very easily because of the structure of WordPress, your menu will need to reflect the above structure and make navigation easy.
Each post you create should have a function. You will end up having money pages and feeder pages.
Money pages are your key pages to create product sales and commissions. Ultimate guides, lists, case studies are the best.
Feeder pages have two functions: Sending visitors to your money pages and getting you subscribers. You have to make sure your opt-in forms are strategically placed on your site, as you need to collect subscribers from day one.
Once you learn how to get traffic, the next problem you will run into is conversions.
There are three separate things here:
The key to your website making money is selling higher-end products at the back end of your sales funnel, and a part of that is your mailing list.
Without a sales funnel, you are leaving the majority of your money on the table.
You will need an email automation provider. The one I recommend has a free tier and it is much easier to use than MailChimp. It is called MailerLite, and it is free up to 1,000 subscribers (unlimited emails), and even after that they have a very affordable rate.
This is how you can connect Thrive Leads with MailerLite:
You will also need landing pages and opt-in forms properly placed on your website.
These are quite a challenge, as WordPress on its own is not set up to handle this task efficiently. This is why you will need the the Thrive family, which also has Thrive Architect for creating any kind of landing page of your choice, based on pre-made templates where you just need to rewrite the text and delete any elements you don't want.
The majority of the people that visit you are not ready to buy. You make them ready with your email autoresponder series, which you also need to write.
To start, just prepare a short email series with 7-10 emails, but later on you should build it up to cover an entire year. Subscribers looking at your web pages and affiliate offers is how you get additional traffic to your site and of course sales.
Here's a complete video on how to set up the entire funnel from scratch, saving thousands of dollars:
Now that you set up your site, have some posts with affiliate links, and you have your autoresponder series, you need to get traffic.
There are very simple strategies to get traffic using Facebook groups and SEO.
There are many bloggers that get floods of traffic using Pinterest.
If you do this correctly and daily, you will get tens to hundreds of visitors to your blog posts every day.
At the same time, you need to keep adding blog posts with your long-tail keywords to get more organic traffic – if you have 50 posts and you get 100 visitors per month to each one, that equals 5,000 visitors per month.
Building up your site will take you a couple of months, if you spend a lot of time on it. Otherwise it will drag out.
By that time your posts will start getting some traffic and gradually your will get out of the Google sandbox with correct traffic strategy.
A two-month old site, if your content is high quality and you drive traffic to it with social media, will already start picking up some organic traffic.
The traffic you manually drive to your site, if it has high on-page time and low bounce rate, will increase your ranking, get you search traffic, and at one point your site will start driving the traffic by itself.
However it can take up to a year until your blog posts reach their top traffic potential.
If you write posts like this one, you will never have problems with Google algorithm changes, because your content is so good.
Promoting affiliate offers is not the ultimate way to make money.
Building a huge list and selling them products is the best way.
E-books, online courses, memberships. If you don't know how to make these, hire someone.
But before you do, ask your list what products they want to buy.
After a while when you have a number of posts, you will see lots of keywords in your Search Console.
But many of them are not going to be on the first page.
You can get a boost and increase your traffic with updating your content and some link building.
You can also choose a route where you don't build your own links, you just promote your awesome content in such a way that others link to you... However this may not work out.
Getting more traffic and sales is really just doing more of the above. More long-tail content, more people on your mailing list.
It would make sense to hire writers to speed up your content writing. Actually the smart way would be to get all your keywords researched and all your articles written. This requires an investment, but you will not be limited by the fact that you can only write at a certain speed.
Sooner or later you will see your site become an authority site and your earnings will rise to $5K per month and beyond.
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