If you are planning to begin a blog, there are several decisions that you'll need to make before you can get started. You'll also need to commit time and effort to setting it up, creating content for it, promoting it and maintaining it. Follow these seven steps and you'll be on your way to becoming a successful blogger.
Step 1 - Define the Purpose/Goal
Before you get started, it's important to have a clear vision of why you are starting a blog. The way you will approach getting set up will be different if you are simply wanting to create a place to share your personal thoughts and goals than it will be if you want to create a revenue-generating blog or if you plan to blog to promote a business that you already have.
Step 2 - Choose a Name
Prof KRG suggests selecting a unique name that is on-target with the blog's subject matter so that it is consistent with the site's content and supports your overall brand. It should also make sense to potential readers and be easy to communicate - think simple to spell, say and enter on a keyboard.
Step 3 - Select a Blog Format
Once you are clear on your purpose, you'll need to decide what type of blogging platform and software to use. Moving your blog from one platform to another can be difficult; it is much better if you choose wisely from the beginning.
Three good options that serve different purposes include Blogger, WordPress and attaching the blog to your company's existing website URL.
If you are blogging strictly for personal reasons, a free blogging platform that does not require a purchased domain name or hosting fees like Google's Blogger is likely your best option. Blogger is an easy-to-use, no-cost blogging platform that does not require programming skills to use.
Blogger is tied to your Google account, so you'll first need to first log in to it. From there, go to Blogger.com, and you'll immediately see a "New Blog" button to click. From there, you'll go to a screen where you can enter the title of your blog and give it a name, which will be the phrase of your choice in front of .blogspot.com (unless you purchase and add a custom URL). Once you've done that, you're ready to go.
You can add Google AdWords to your blog, but cannot monetize in other ways, which is an important reason this option is best for personal blogs as opposed to those intended to make money or promote a business. However, if you don't want to expand monetization beyond Google AdWords and you're willing to invest in a custom domain to use with Blogger, you can go with this platform for any type of blog.
WordPress can be a great option for any type of blog, but it's important for you to know the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org before you get started.
- WordPress.com is a good option for personal bloggers who are fine with very limited monetization opportunities, though it does require a little more technical skill to work with than Blogger. With this option, you do not have to pay for external hosting or purchase a domain. There is no fee as long as you keep .wordpress.com in your blog's URL and opt not to upgrade to premium features. However, WordAds is the only advertising program you can participate in.
- WordPress.org is a more flexible option better suited for blogs intended to make money and corporate blogs on free-standing URLs. This option allows you to use WordPress software (which is free) with your own domain name and hosting outside of WordPress.com. You can customize the look with the theme of your choice - free and paid themes are available, and you can also do your own custom template design if desired. You are free to incorporate advertisements into your blog as you see fit. You can find details on learning how to get started at Codex.WordPress.org.
Subdirectory or Subdomain
If you are blogging as a promotional strategy for an existing business, you may want to set up your blog as a subdirectory (companyURL.com/blog) or subdomain (Blog.CompanyURL.com) of your company's website rather than setting up a separate URL for it. According to SearchEngineWatch.com, either of these options is better for search engine optimization (SEO) than establishing a completely separate website with its own domain for a company blog, as they provide "official" presences for the organization and can boost the company site via fresh content, an expanded web presence and more.
Step 4 - Establish Blogging Strategy
Once you have decided what platform to use and you have the actual site set up, you'll need to establish a blogging strategy. This involves setting a posting schedule and deciding what types of content you will be posting. This is essential, regardless of the reason that you are blogging.
- Who - Define your target audience, so that you are aware of who it is that you are trying to reach when making decisions about your blogging strategy.
- What - The best blogs have written and visual content organized around a unifying theme. Choose topics based on what you want to communicate and related topics of interest to your audience. For example, if your blog is about gourmet food, consider including a mixture of original recipes, reviews of new gourmet-related products (food, gadgets, etc.), and interviews with chefs and other industry experts. Come up with a list of topics that make sense for your blog and decide when you will post what, being flexible to allow for new developments.
- When - Decide when to post, opting for times of the day and days of the week that the audience you want to reach is likely to be online and interested in what you have to say, according to the Writtent.com Inbound and Content Marketing Hub. While there is no hard-and-fast rule about what works best, a DashBurst study indicates that blog posts tend to get more page views on Monday mornings than other days and from 8 a.m. to noon than other times, though social sharing of blog posts peaks between 9 and 10 a.m.
- Frequency - On his ProBlogger blog, Darren Rowse describes the process of determining the right posting frequency as a "juggling act" between figuring out what you can sustain and keeping up momentum without leading to reader burnout. Rowse advises new bloggers that "you won't really know what is right for you until you start." He suggests beginning with a schedule of 3- 4 posts per week and adjusting from there.
Step 5 - Attract Readers
While publishing well-written, interesting and informative content is key to attracting readers, this isn't enough to build an extensive readerships. With so much competition (according to Snitchm.com, there were more than 63 million blogs on WordPress.com alone as of April 2013) it's critical that you take proactive steps to attract readers to your blog. Examples of effective strategies include:
- Keywords - Determine the most searched keywords relevant to your blog, ideally choosing ones that have low competition online, and work them into your content in a way that will appeal to readers and search engines.
- Analytics - Use analytic data to get a sense of what topics and keywords perform best and use that information as you develop future posts, as well as get a sense of where most of your readers are coming from (geographic area, referring search engines, direct traffic, etc.).
- Promotion - Draw attention to quality blog posts by sharing them via your social media profiles, as well as through social bookmarking sites like Digg and Reddit. Make it easy for readers to share your content by working social sharing tools into your blog. Also consider exchanging guest posts with other bloggers via a service like Blogger LinkUp.
Step 6 - Begin Monetization
There are a number of ways to earn revenue from a blog. If you are using the no-cost Blogger and WordPress.com options, you'll be limited to Google AdWords and WordAds respectively. However, if you are using another platform, there are multiple monetization options, including other advertising networks, affiliate programs, selling ads directly to advertisers, publishing paid posts and more. You'll want to learn about all of the ways to make money blogging to maximize your earning potential.
Keep in mind that your efforts to make money will largely be based on the size of your readership; the process of attracting readers is ongoing throughout the life of your blog. The more readers you have, the more advertisers will be interested in having a presence on your site and your ads will command a higher rate.
Now that you know what's involved in getting started, you can move on to mastering the basics of effective blogging. Keep in mind that blogging is an ongoing process. Prepare to spend several hours each week writing content as well as updating your blog, promoting it and evaluating its progress. Assuming that earning money is one of your goals, you'll also need to continually be in pursuit of new monetization opportunities. While blogging takes time and energy, the benefits can be well worth the effort.