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So you want to start a blog?
Nowadays anyone can create a blog in a few simple steps. Blogging is an incredible marketing tool and can even become a great source of income. However, if you would like to build a successful and profitable blog, you need to set yourself on the right path.
Here are ten things you should know before you jump into blogging.
Blogging takes time and effort
Before getting started, ask yourself why you want to start a blog. If your goal is just to make money online, honestly blogging might not be the best choice for you. There are hundreds of ways of making money online and blogging is one of the harder ones.
It requires a lot of hard work and takes a long time to grow your audience. It is pretty disappointing if you publish your first post and nobody reads it, but you need to undergo these awkward moments. Do not expect the results immediately.
Successful bloggers are patient enough to keep working on their blogs for a long time. It's tough, but they know it's worth it.
Blogging is not free
WordPress.com, Blogger, Medium and Tumblr, these blogging platforms are all free and very easy to use. However, as long as you go for a free blog you do not own your blog, which means there are some limitations and lack of control.
If you want a cool web address, more design flexibility, larger storage or more monetization opportunities, a self-hosted WordPress blog is still the best bet. You can start a self-hosted blog by buying a hosting, domain name and installing WordPress. All of it will cost you around $50-150/year. Jamie Spencer wrote a comprehensive guide on how to start a blog including choosing a domain name, hosting and installing WordPress.
Once started, you might need to spend more money on other things to get more traffic and increase engagement. Below are some of the investments you can make for your blog.
- Design customization
- Custom development
- Ads, marketing promotions
- Better web hosting
- Hiring other writers
- A/B testing
Identify your niche
It is crucial to decide what you write about and stay focused on that niche. There are already a lot of blogs. You'll have to figure out how to make your blog stand out from the crowd. Choose a topic you are passionate about and do not expand it too broadly.
Define your target audience. Get a clear answer to the following question. Who is going to read your blog? Identify their needs, interests and concerns. It will help you come up with good topics to write about.
Content is King
Content marketers and pro bloggers are often faced with an argument 'Quality vs Quantity'. Quantity matters to increase and maintain your traffic, but you should still focus on quality over quantity.
If your readers get value from the information in your articles, they will engage and become your regular audience. On the other hand, nobody will like your blog if you publish shallow and uninformative articles.
It is not enough to write a great post and wait for people to find it. While your blog is new, nobody will find your articles through search engines. Then how can you get traffic? You need to be proactive.
One of the best ways to get noticed is to use social media to promote your posts. You can even buy traffic by creating ads on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
It is OK to share the same content more than once, which is one of the easiest ways to drive more traffic. But just be careful not to be a spammer. Kissmetric mentions great tips about how to increase your traffic through social media.
Learn basic HTML
Thanks to the powerful blogging platforms, HTML and CSS knowledge is no longer necessary for everyone. It is possible to customize themes and plugins without having a look at any code.
Still, a basic understanding of HTML (and CSS if possible) can surely help professional bloggers and non-tech marketers. Once you are familiar with these skills, you will be able to edit the appearance of your articles by hand or even fix simple errors on the blog.
Learn basic SEO
Learning basic search engine optimization (SEO) is a fundamental and very effective way to drive traffic to your blog. Traffic from search engines is the key to growth. SEO is very complicated but even knowing a few tips can make a huge difference in the long run.
Moz offers great articles about SEO, you can check their beginner's guide here.
Learn about copyright issues
What do you do when someone steals your content without permission? It can happen to anyone at any time.
You should learn how to protect your articles and images. At the same time it is critical to educate yourself to prevent becoming a "content thief" unintentionally.
Here is a useful article on WordPress.com about how to reduce the risk of content theft.
Good design is a must
The blog design can influence how readers perceive your content. It can seriously make or break the first impression. If your blog is ugly and hard to read, then sure nobody will read it.
Google's algorithms are prioritizing mobile-friendly sites. Research by Smart Insights reveals that people are now spending more time on mobile devices. Make your blog mobile-friendly and responsive to ensure you create a pleasurable reading experience for your audience and reap low-hanging SEO fruits.
Always be yourself. By being authentic and real, you can build trust with your audience. People buy from people they trust. It takes years to build trust and just a matter of minutes to ruin it. Be open and interact with your readers. Be the first one to admit mistakes and apologize.
Today, anyone can start a blog. However, it's not for everyone. Most of the new bloggers give up too early.
At first writing might be painful and will take a lot of time to finish just one article. But if you keep writing content you are passionate about; you will gradually get used to it.
I hope you find this article helpful to prepare yourself before taking the first step starting a blog.