A blog can get overwhelming pretty quickly. If you don’t have a basic strategy and idea of how you’re going to implement it, your blog will probably go down in flames faster than Kenny Mayne lasted on Dancing with the Stars.
The main objective to overcome is deciding what to write about. This may sound simple and obvious, but if you really want to attract consistent readers and steadily grow traffic, you need to offer them something that’s fairly consistent they know they can count on. Especially if you are doing your blog for business reasons. It all comes down to the branding of your blog; the more specific you are, the better you’ve branded it (and the better niche group you’ll find as readers).
Some questions to ask to help you decide what to write about:
- What makes you want to blog in the first place? What’s driving you to dive into the blogosphere? Is it curiosity? Is it a business reason? Is it cuz you like to write? Is it cuz everyone else is doing it? Knowing and remembering your answer to this question will prove to be tremendously helpful as you continue blogging.
- What is your goal with your blog? Every blog needs a point. Usually, the fewer the points the better. What are you trying to accomplish with this thing? Some people use blogs as thought-starters for a book. Others look at them as an online diary. Some bloggers see blogs as a web-based newspaper column, where you’re not necessarily writing about yourself, but it’s your spin on things that people appreciate. Lots of corporate blogs are hoping to give a voice to their business and interact more with their customers. Don’t start a blog without knowing your goal – it will save you all kinds of frustration.
- Do you want to earn some money with your blog? This is really a subset of the goals question, but it’s important to know what you want to do here as it affects your design and your content. The web provides lots of ways to generate income, and blogging makes it even easier. There are really two different ways to earn income online: 1) Your blog is business-based, and it attracts new readers and customers that would not have been attracted to your business otherwise. You get income because they buy your product or service. My other blog SupplementalScience.com falls into this category. 2) You allow your blog to have sponsored advertisers. This can range from banner ads to pay-per-click content to having various affiliate programs, like Amazon.com. Most “full-time bloggers” are doing it this way. I’ve noticed that anyone who takes this route needs lots of sidebar space on the blog (probably a 3-column layout will work best) and they need to be really good at driving consistent traffic. Here are couple blogs to see as examples.
- What few topics are you passionate enough about and informed of enough to write about consistently (4-5 times a week)? A key to blogging success is consistently updating it. And not with just fluff, either. To do that, you need to be passionate, interested and relatively informed on what you’re writing about. Be sure this is clear in your head before you start blogging.
- What can you talk about that will be interesting to other people? Similarly to the above point, most of us want people to actually read what we have to say. That won’t happen if a) what you’re writing about isn’t interesting, or b) more importantly, how you write it is boring and hard-to-follow. I’ll cover more layout and pure writing techniques in another lesson in this series.
Now, with all those questions on the table, I can tell you I did not completely follow my own advice.
First, if you read my very first post Initiative, you can see I struggled so much with picking a topic that it delayed starting a blog in the first place. My main obstacle was to throw caution to the wind and just do it and see what happens. So it seems like I didn’t have a plan. But I did.
My plan was and is to a) become familiar with current web marketing and communication techniques by doing them, b) formulate my own personal philosophy of marketing and business, realizing it would evolve all along the way, c) share my thoughts on personal passions and interests such as my faith, sports, politics and life in general and d) pass along some cool stuff I find as I’m surfing the web.
In many ways, my blog is the overflow of who and what I am. Most would see that as too broad a topic, and in many ways it is, but I actually now see it as a very, very narrow niche that occassionally attracts people outside of that niche. And that’s really good marketing.
Here’s what I mean: the bullseye of my target audience is a married male Christian marketer who likes sports (especially as it pertains to the Chiefs, Cowboys or Kentucky Wildcats), is interested in nutrition and blogging, somewhat intrigued by politics, appreciates good conversational writing and enjoys a good laugh here and there. Because that’s who I am and what I write about.
But I bet none of you are all of those things, so does that mean I’m screwing up on my target?
I don’t think so. Many of you are several of these things, and that’s why you’re reading. We all have a few things in common. And thanks to the web, it’s pretty easy for us to find each other and talk about it. And just because you’re not the bullseye of the target doesn’t mean you’re not at least on the radar.
Back on the topic of goals and purpose, of the various topics I cover, I definitely write about marketing the most. My primary goal for this blog is to develop my marketing skills and experience for myself the power and convenience of Web 2.0 features. And that’s working.
OK, enough of my rambling. With all that being said, and with my own admittance that I did not properly answer my own questions above, here are 11 tips I would pass on to anyone starting a blog who wants it to become relatively substantial:
- Be committed to posting at least 4 times a week. I would strongly encourage you to hit 6 times a week or more when possible. If you want people to come back, you got to give them something to come back for.
- Write at least 10 of your posts before you go live and save them so you have something to post when you can’t think of anything to write.
- Post at least 2 short posts (2 paragraphs or less) to every long one. This post is extremely long, so make that the exception. Readers don’t want to spend all day on your site.
- Search for blogging tips from other bloggers. They’re everywhere. ProBlogger is a great one.
- Be persistant. I guarantee you your traffic won’t be where you want it after a few months. But it’s exponential in growth, so stick with it.
- Look for ways to become a better writer.
- When it’s live, email it to everyone you know.
- Don’t forget your main purpose for the blog. You’ll be tempted to use it for reasons beyond that, but if you do that too much, your purpose won’t be obvious.
- Be the expert of whatever you’re writing about, at least most of the time.
- Don’t forget to live life. Blogging can be addicting, but you need to live life, and maybe talk about some of this stuff face-to-face with someone. Plus, it’ll give you more stuff to write about later.
- Use WordPress – they’re great and free.