I was approached by a company that was starting up a new blog similar to this one.
My first reaction, knowing the niche was already crowded with such blogs, most by charlatans, was how would they move into a crowded niche and not only compete but overtake the competition for a bigger piece of the “starting a blog” audience. It is possible, with careful and dedicated planning.
Unfortunately, they hadn’t planned, nor did they look at the competition to see what was needed to compete and excel.
Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail!
At first, the “blue sky” wishes of the blog owner seemed impossible… when it comes to such thinking, it’s okay to have a big goal for your blog, but planning how to get there is still needed for success.
As an experienced blogger who has worked with many startups, as well as top iconic publications, I thought I was hired not only as a writer and proofreader (the company was not American and English was their second language, needing everything proofed before it went live on the blog) but also to help this blog establish itself and grow.
That was the plan… at first.
As a blog that teaches other people how to blog, it had certain challenges a blog on fashion, politics or music would not face. Still, the process held lessons for all those trying to start a blog.
My first question to the blog owner was for his action plan starting with choosing a domain name all the way through to hitting the button that would publish the first blog post.
Quickly, it became clear there was no plan except for a nebulous goal to “be the premier blog for people who wanted to start a blog.”
I suggested that while content was being prepared for the blog, we needed to start building our social media platforms and followers on the promise that the blog would not only provide guides on how to start a blog, but also video guides, interviews with top bloggers and articles instructing people on everything from WordPress widgets and social media tips and tricks to monetizing a blog.
The owner agreed and I started out running the social media platforms for the blog while coming up with the needed articles and videos.
At the same time, the owner brought on board several other people to work on this massive push to launch and be at the top “within six months.”
When I hear such a statement, my blood grows cold.
Established with a growing following in six months is one thing… but to be the “top blog” on blogging? It wasn’t possible without an advertising budget and SEO expertise.
The only hope for being on an even playing level with some of the competitors was to use social media in an aggressive manner.
The blog, to which people would be pointed, had to be spectacular. It had to have what no other competitor had.
Unfortunately, not only did it not have the “WOW!” factor, it didn’t even have the necessary functions many blogs require for success.
It Has to Start with Good Planning
Having watched several blogs go from idea to success (and not success), here are some lessons I learned to be important stepping stones when starting your blog and growing it to success:
1. The Right Domain Name
What does the name, “Build Your Own Blog” bring up to you when you see it? A blog meant to help you do plumbing at home?
The wrong name will doom your efforts.
Many experts argue that you should have a .com top level domain (TLD), rather than .net or the other levels and country domains available. While the world is used to .com, some of the new domains, such as .us, .me or .is, for example, offer some unique and memorable names. Imagine having a domain such as “blog.me,” “bloggingsuccess.is” or “learntoblogwith.us.” Probably more memorable than most .com domains and easier to get for yourself (new TLDs can even be more specific, either by country, city or niche, such as .dance, .music, etc.).
The mistake made by my client was to choose a domain that didn’t even mention blogging in it.
In fact, the name gave no clue to what the blog was about. The owner may have been concerned with getting a .com name, rather than starting with a strong name and working with an extension option.
2. The Best Hosting Solution
My client was going to use affiliate sales (people click through a link to another site and your blog gets a percentage of the sale) from a web hosting company. The big problem with my client was his web hosting company was not the best choice among other hosting providers (although not the worst). Pushing a bad resource will destroy your blog trust factor very quickly.
While all blogs usually monetize themselves in one manner or another, you should believe firmly in the products or services offered on your blog. Word of mouth (sharing and “likes,” in internet word of mouth) can be the best way to get people to use your blog’s services and advice. If you have no trust as an authority in your niche, then you can’t truly succeed in growing your audience.
3. Get Your Blog House in Order
The biggest mistake made by my former client was launching before the blog was ready.
Unlike Build Your Own Blog, which focuses on blogging as a whole, he chose to create a blogging guide for as many niches as possible, wanting to launch a new “how to blog” guide for a new niche every month. Real estate, music, fashion and other niches would have a separate guide, a separate video, six to ten interviews with bloggers from each niche and very long articles, all meant to tie together into one niche, rather than one grand “how to blog” site.
When all of your content is set and your best foot has been put forward, then, and only then should you publish your blog for all to see.
By placing only two niche guides, videos and interviews on his blog when it went live, any visitor looking for information to start a blog was faced with a choice of two niches. If one of them wasn’t what the searcher was looking for, they left and found another blog, never to return to his blog again. A waste of time and effort!
The belief that more is better can be confusing and limiting. In this case, one guide on how to start a blog would have sufficed across all niches. Sometimes the KISS Method (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is the best way for blog visitors to comprehend what the blog is about.
The quantity of content does not make up for quality and it is the quality of your content that will be the most effective for your blog, both in searches and in audience satisfaction.
4. Push Your Assets!
If you earn money from the ads on your blog, then push those ads to your audience. Mention them, ask people to patronize them and even create your own ads to place either within your content or on a sidebar. If you’ve written a book or a whitepaper and want people to buy or download them, place an ad on your blog.
Oddly enough, my former client tried to use “top bloggers” as interviews to legitimize his blog but failed because those bloggers were hardly “top” bloggers.
And even though he was affiliated with a hosting company, all of the bloggers featured were amateurs who used free hosting. This was mentioned in their interviews.
Talk about a credibility crisis.
Another great way to “push your assets” is to build an email list.
If you are making your blog an income-generating business, then building an email list is of the utmost importance. Email marketing has a huge response rate for opt-in customers/clients. Some blogs use pop-ups to encourage people to subscribe while others use visible sidebars to gain subscribers. People who opt-in for more information are true fans and people you need to nurture as they fit into your “1,000 True Fan Rule.”
Make it as easy as possible for people to sign up.
If you need more help with creating an email list, check out Matthew’s comprehensive article called Why Smart Bloggers Build Their Email List–Here’s How to Get Started
5. Define Who Does What
As people were added to the staff of the failed blog, each one was handed the password to the social media accounts and allowed to post whatever and whenever they wished.
This is a HUGE mistake for blogs run by more than one person.
If you have several people working on your blog, make sure everyone has a well-defined role.
The biggest Twitter blunders have come from the biggest brand names in the world who had incompetent social media managers. Imagine two, three or four people running loose, posting things on your blog social media sites. Eventually there will be internal arguments about what should be posted or someone will post something damaging to the blog or one of the advertisers.
You also have to hold people accountable for their parts in making your blog a success. Written content should be proofread, include original content and if you quote another blog, it’s proper to link to that blog.
In one embarrassing piece of video content, created as a video guide on blogging, the videographer is sitting in front of an unmade bed in a filthy dorm room. No matter what, keep up a professional front, unless you’re a humor blog, then the unmade bed and messy room may be part of the joke.
Keep in mind that you can go back and correct typos, update statistics as they change, update links, add or remove material when needed because everything is digital. Even a messy dorm room can be hidden by hanging a bedsheet behind you or just showing a logo with a voiceover. Always shoot for the best quality as you will be remembered by the last thing you published and haunted by something less than professional.
Remember that YOU are the final word. Make sure everyone gets your approval to post something before your blog reputation is damaged beyond repair!
6. Be Consistent and Uniform
A problem with lots of blogs (like my former client) is uniformity to the design of the blog. Having inconsistencies like your featured images being different sizes, or calling your blog something different every now and then (is it “HowToBlog.com,” “HowToBlog” or “How To Blog”?) makes you look disorganized and untrustworthy.
Dates you post should be consistent so people can expect something new on a regular basis. Always do it on the same day(s) of the week. If need be, create a publishing calendar for yourself (which you can share with your audience and subscribers). Organization is a key factor, as is quick and decisive action.
Don’t Be Impatient!
This is one of the worst things one can do when starting a blog.
Impatience will trip you up and one mistake can set you back to the beginning. It can take years, even with dedicated promotion, for a monetized blog to turn into a salary-level enterprise. You should be looking at your passion for blogging as a selfless act of sharing with other likeminded individuals to start.
You have to build a quality following.
Don’t buy useless Twitter followers from someone promising 5,000 followers for a sum of money. They are false accounts and may get you suspended from your account, which will waste the proper efforts you have put into your social media accounts.
My former client was very impatient. He gave us six months and in the end, he wasn’t happy that articles weren’t getting huge share numbers, there weren’t thousands of followers and, oddly enough, that the biggest blogs on the internet weren’t spotlighting his blog. Of course, there was no reason they would when his new blog, still unfinished, wasn’t as newsworthy as the bigger blogs of the niche.
Unfortunately, the conundrum of not advancing quickly made the blog owner quick to change his mind on content two, three and four times, reversing decisions, looking for a magic mix of words that would drive huge numbers and fame to his blog.
You can’t judge your blog’s success by other, similar blogs.
Some have been propelled into the limelight by something that went viral they published and others by years of hard work. One, however, can’t exist without the other. It starts and continues with hard work, no matter how many followers you have. You can never just coast. You may have the luck of a viral piece of content, but for the almost 200 million blogs estimated to be on the web, few find overnight success.
There are many reasons people start blogging and the main reason must be for the love of blogging, the passion you have for your subject and the understanding that the future is what you make it.
Your dream must be to inform and entertain others. If you make money at it, then that’s a huge perk but there are always trips and stumbles along the way.
For example, the well-known Hollywood blogger named Perez Hilton has built his blog into the top celebrity gossip and news blog in the world. Yet in the process his blog has also been named the most hated website in Hollywood. He’s had lawsuits, death threats and other pressures many people couldn’t handle (or wouldn’t want to.)
It’s reported that Hilton has amassed a $30 million fortune from his blog and seems to not mind the problems… all the way to the bank!
His blog journey doesn’t happen that often but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen for you, too!
Top image ©GL Stock Images
Speider Schneider is a digital content specialist who writes for global blogs about social media, digital design, augmented reality, NFC, QR codes, digital marketing and humorous looks at the internet and those involved with it. His work experience and clients include: Warner Bros., LucasFilms, Disney/Pixar,Dreamworks, ESPN, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, American Greetings, MAD Magazine, Hallmark Cards, Harley-Davidson and assorted blogs and print publications. You can follow him on Google+.