Starting a blog is an exciting (and somewhat nerve wracking) experience. The opportunity to share your unique voice with the world is a fun prospect. But, if you expect your blog to be successful (and indeed monetizable) you need to get it right. The act of blogging is many things to many writers. Some view it as a means of keeping their writing skills sharp. Others use it to promote and raise awareness of things that they’re passionate about. Yet more use it as a form of therapy; a cathartic exercise that helps them to order their thoughts and better relate to the world around them.
Whatever blogging means to you and whatever your ultimate goals for your blog may be, you’ll need to know a few things before you get off the starting block. Read on and your blog can be all that you want and need it to be…
Take some time to get to know WordPress
No matter how confident you are in your writing abilities, it’s always worth taking the time to get to know your platform. If you’re serious about blogging it’s likely that you’ll be using WordPress. It’s the world’s most popular blogging platform, and for good reason. It offers great versatility and customizability, especially with its robust suite of plugins.
Take some time to explore these plugins and leverage which ones are right for you. If you have Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind, for example, you may benefit from Yoast which conditions you to write in more crawler-friendly ways. Akismet is a great plugin for keeping those infuriating spam comments at bay while Jetpack is a great analytics tool which you can use to track your blog’s performance.
Your domain name matters
There are certainly some successful blogs out there with .wordpress and .blogspot domain names but they are the exception rather than the rule. If you want people to take you seriously, they need to see that you take yourself seriously. If you’ve invested in a proper .com domain name, this demonstrates to audiences that you take your craft seriously and that you’re in it for the long haul.
What’s more, a succinct and punchy username is a great way to make a first impression on readers and encourage them to click through to your posts/
Go private with your hosting
When starting out in the world of blogging, it’s understandable that you may want to keep your overhead costs to a minimum. That said, you should be wary of false economy. There are many affordable (and free) shared hosting options out there, but few offer the kind of user experience with which you’d want your blog to be associated.
Don’t forget that many of your readers will be consuming your blog on the go through mobile devices. They won’t wait around for long page load times which are unfortunately quite common with shared hosting services.
Know your niche
Before you put pen to paper (digitally speaking), take a moment to consider what you’re writing about and who you’re writing for. It’s essential that you write about something you’re passionate about. That passion will come across in your writing and add sincerity to your blog. This will help you to get dedicated, genuine readers who will provide you with quality interactions. They’ll comment on your posts and share them on social media.
When locking down your niche, the more specialist you can go, the better chance you stand of finding the people who are looking for the kind of content that you’ll provide.
Let’s say, for example, that you want to start a parenting blog. That’s a great start but it’s also an extremely competitive field. If you can narrow it down to a specific aspect of parenting such as behaviour management, diet and nutrition, baby and nursing etc. this will go a long way towards helping you to find your audience.
Consider your reader’s needs
It’s important to write from a place of passion and sincerity. Nonetheless, as important as it is to write about what you want to write about, it’s also important to write content that your audience actually wants to read. Otherwise your blog will become unintentionally self-important and potentially lose readers.
This is why it’s so important to engage with your readers and following. Reads what they’re writing in your comments section. Ask them what they want to read more about on social media and give them public shoutouts in your blog. This will strengthen your relationship with your network of followers and fellow bloggers in your niche which brings us to…
Know how to network to grow your following
Even if you write with a strong understanding of SEO and carefully leveraged keywords, it’s certainly not a case of “if you write it, they will come”. Your networking skills will play a huge part in growing your following and making your blog part of a wider community.
Look for blogger networks and communities within your chosen niche. Take part in Facebook Group discussions, Twitter lists and chat forums (they’re still out there). Know the kinds of people you want to reach and find where they hang out in the digital realm. Attend networking events and conferences if you can. Who says that all networking should take place in the online realm?
Blogging requires planning and motivation
At the start of your blogging journey, writing posts is so much fun it feels effortless. The words seem to flow from your fast-moving fingers like water from a gushing tap. Nonetheless, however fecund you may be in your early days, it’s only a matter of time before that tap starts to run dry.
It may take days, weeks or even months but after a while it’ll become harder and harder to find time to write. You’ll encounter creative block more regularly and there will be some days where you’d rather do anything than log into your WordPress account.
Nonetheless, the secret to blogging (and SEO) success is to keep a steady stream of fresh content flowing into your blog. This means you should be posting every day. Ideally, you should post two or three times a day. Being able to come up with this much content on the fly can be extremely trying which is why a content calendar is so important.
Planning your calendar as far in advance as possible helps to ensure that you’re writing relevant and timely content in line with key dates and events of significance within your chosen niche.
With careful planning you can ensure that you’re never lacking for something to write about. Remember, if your schedule gets really jam packed…
Outsourcing and guest posts are always options
There’s no shortage of talented freelance writers out there who will be happy to post for you as and when they are needed. They can imitate your voice and style or create something that is off-brand and unique.
Guest posts are also a great way for overworked bloggers to lighten their workload. When you’re involved in the blogging community this offers you a wealth of opportunities to allow other bloggers to write guest posts on your blog. This is a mutually beneficial arrangement because it allows other bloggers an opportunity to make their mark on your readership while also exposing your blog to their own following. Not only could it lead to a reduced workload, it can help to organically grow your following.
A successful blogger is always learning, growing and evolving. They’re always looking at their blog’s performance and engaging with their audience to deliver evergreen content that is tailored to their needs. Nonetheless, these 8 tips should help you get off to the strongest possible start!