Many people ask what you need to get started in order to make a profitable blog. The answer is nothing, provided that your only goal is to spend no money at all. Now, if you want higher returns and if you have the money to spend, the answer to “what you need to get started” might several hundred dollars to invest in tools that could make your climb to the top faster and smoother.

One of the most important things you will need to get started is some form of keyword research tool or database. Currently, there are dozens of these products on the market, which range in price from free to around $500. The most popular tool on the market is probably WordTracker, which offers a limited trial version for free—or a fully-functional version for $7.50/day or $45/mo. This will allow you to find out which keywords are most profitable and have a reasonable demand (aggregate search)/supply (aggregate site) rating.

Other than a keyphrase tool, the answers to the “what you need to get started” question will usually depend on the project. For instance, if you're hosting a blog and you want to monetize it with Adsense, you may want to add a thumnail generator to your “what you need to get started” list. A thumnail generator will create code that, when inserted in your blog, will generate scraped-thumnail pictures from related searches on Google images—and will place them next to your contextual ads, increasing the click-thru rate.

In contrast, if you're planning to sell your own products, you may want to add an autoresponder to your “what you need to get started” list. An autoresponder will allow you to greatly improve your conversion rate by allow you to put all follow-up emails on autopilot, rather than doing them personally or strictly using your salespage.

So what exactly do you need to to get started? Nothing. You can create a profitable blog without paying a cent, but if you want to take advantage of automating tools to further improve your profitability and efficiency, you will have to purchase at least a few tools.