Every so often someone at my small business forum brings up the subject of how to start a blog. Since I’ve been blogging a few years now and can hopefully refer to myself as a somewhat successful blogger, I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
I’ll offer these tips as a series of questions you should be able to answer “yes” to. First though, I’d like to talk about how often you need to post as it’s one of the more common questions thats gets asked about blogging.
How Often do You Need to Post?
Your main focus with a blog should be to produce the best content you’re capable of producing or hire someone to create the best content they can produce. Quality will trump quantity. Unless your blog is a news blog you don’t need to publish every day or several times a day.
It’s hard to deny that posting more will bring more traffic. It generally will. However traffic alone does not a successful blog make. Presumably you’d like visitors that actually do something like read your post and subscribe.
Where quantity is concerned it’s more important to be consistent. Pick a schedule you can reasonably maintain and stick with it whether it’s once a week, twice a week or once every other week.
You can’t let too much time pass between posts or you risk losing your audience, but you really don’t have to publish every day.
More posts will be better only if your quality doesn’t suffer. Aim for publishing the best post you can and over time you can increase how often you publish. If your posts are good people will read them even if they don’t come every day. If your posts are bad it’s irrelevant how often you post.
Questions You Should Answer Yes To
I’m sure there are examples of successful bloggers that would answer “no” to any of the questions below. Truthfully there are no absolute rules you need to follow to be a successful blogger.
However most of us would do well to answer “yes” to each of these questions.
There are plenty of other things you should be doing, but I think you should start with the questions below and honestly be able to answer “yes” to all of them.
Are you passionate about your subject?
Maintaining a blog is not easy. It takes lot of work to come up with new ideas, turn those ideas into something others want to read, and promote your posts so others know they exist.
Blogging will be much easier if you feel passionate about your subject. All bloggers go through periods where writing a post is the last thing in the world they want to do or where the ideas aren’t flowing. Your passion can help sustain you during these times.
If you don’t feel passionate about your topic it will show in your writing. If you’re not interested in your posts why would you expect your readers to be interested in them?
Are others passionate about your subject?
It’s all well and good to be passionate about your subject, but are there others who are also passionate about it? Is there an audience for your subject?
Odds are unless your topic is so narrowly focused there will be people other than yourself interested in it, but you might want to ask around to make sure.
If there are a large number of other blogs on the topic then it’s probably safe to say others are interested in it. If there are no other blogs on the topic it could be an indication no one really cares about the subject.
You might have hit upon something no one else has considered before, but do make sure the audience for your topic is greater than one.
Are you following what goes on in your industry/topic?
Assuming there are people interested in your subject, there are likely others blogging about it. You should be following as many of these other blogs as you can.
They’ll help you know more about what’s going on and what sub-topics people are most interested in. They’ll help you generate ideas and provide a source for you to network and get the word out about your blog.
You don’t have to read every post on every blog about your topic, but you should at least glance at the post titles and get a feel for what others are talking about and also what they aren’t talking about.
Can you commit to a consistent schedule?
As I mentioned above you don’t have to post every day, but you do need to post consistently. Ideally you’ll post with a strategy in mind. If you only post once every few months there’s little reason for anyone to subscribe.
People subscribe to blogs less for what you’ve written and more for what they think you’ll write in the future. They subscribe because they don’t want to miss out on your next post.
When you show your blog is consistently active it gives people a reason to subscribe so they won’t miss what you write in the future. They know you’ll be around tomorrow.
Do you have something to say and can you say it in an interesting way?
While it’s important to know what others are saying about your topic, you can’t just repeat what everyone else is doing. You need to give people a reason to specifically read your blog.
Can you approach the topic in an original way or offer a unique perspective? Can you create content significantly better than others on the topic are creating? What is it that you bring to the topic? Can you develop a blogging voice?
You can’t bore your readers. You don’t need to be (insert your favorite author here), but you do need to find a way to make your blog interesting enough for your audience to stick around. You need to deliver content that’s entertaining, useful, informative, engaging, or generally interesting.
Do you have a thick skin?
No matter how wonderful your blog is there will be people telling you how awful it is. While criticism is important to listen to, you do need to be able to separate genuine criticism from those trying to get a reaction out of you.
Most blogs attract trolls at some point. It’s better to laugh them off than get mad and respond.
Genuine and honest critiques can also hurt sometimes so you need to be able to take in the advice offered and let your feelings about it go. Listen to critiques objectively and use them to make your blog better.
Remember though, that it’s your blog and ultimately you should decide how to make it better. You don’t have to change something just because one commenter suggests you do.
Would you read your blog if you didn’t write it?
This is one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself. I first heard the advice at either SEOmoz or CopyBlogger, though I can’t remember which. This questions pulls in most everything above.
If you weren’t the author of your blog would you read it? Would you subscribe to it? This isn’t an easy question to answer and you need to be brutally honest with yourself. You’ll need a thick skin to deal with your own critique.
A few years ago I asked myself this very question and had to honestly answer that I wouldn’t have read my own blog at the time.
I took a few months away and came back with a new direction and a greater focus. I spent the time away thinking about what I wanted to read in a blog and thought about why I read the ones I read.
It takes more work to create a blog I want to read, but today I can honestly say I would read this blog even if it wasn’t mine. If you don’t want to read your blog, it’s unlikely anyone else will want to read it either.
Is there a way to generate revenue from your topic?
This question naturally depends on the goals you have for your blog. You can certainly blog without any desire for making money. Your blog can be an outlet for your creativity or it can be a cathartic release or it can be any number of things that never involve money.
I’m assuming though, that part of the reason you’re blogging is a desire to help the bottom line of your business.
Assuming you do want your blog to contribute to your business, you have to think about how it will contribute to your business. There are a variety of ways you can do this.
- Promote the services you offer
- Sell your own products
- Sell other people’s products through affiliate links
- Sell advertising space
Ultimately you’ll sell your own products and/or services or the products and/or services of others or some combination of all of them. Each of the above has different strategies for success and each can be subdivided into more specific categories.
I’ll save those strategies and subcategories for another post. For now simply think about whether or not your subject will lend itself to helping you make money in some way.
That money doesn’t have to be direct revenue. Your blog can sell absolutely nothing and exist solely to provide credibility to potential clients. Your blog might exist mainly as a marketing tool to attract traffic that then is directed to other parts of your site where you do sell something.
The question you need to answer is does your blog somehow help your business in some way.
Note: I’ve recently (in 2015) come across a free PDF on How to Start a Blog that I recommend reading if you’re still unsure about what it takes to get a blog up and running.
Creating and maintaining a successful blog can be one of the best ways to market your business or bring direct revenue to your business. However it isn’t easy.
You won’t have success just by installing WordPress and assuming everything will run on autopilot. It takes a lot of work and effort to stand out from everything else that already exists.
Before starting you should ask yourself the questions above and you should be able to answer yes to each and every one. Even more you should be able to prove to yourself that you can deliver on your “yes” answers. It’s not enough to just say yes.
Don’t be discouraged though if you find you can’t do some of these things as well as you thought at first. It might take you some time to truly figure out how your blog best fits strategically with your business or how to create posts that entertain your readers.
As long as you’re willing to keep at it and strive to to make your blog better, you can reach a level of success.
Perhaps the one question you most need to answer yes to is are you willing to keep working at it until you succeed?
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