Every week thousands of new blogs appear on the internet. While many of them are created by first-time bloggers, I’m willing to bet that the majority come from seasoned veterans who want to try something new. Starting a new blog can be an exciting experience that leads to something big. With blogging experience under your belt you can really dig into a new topic and create the blog you’d dreamed of the first time around.
Of course, even seasoned bloggers need a plan when they start a new blog. Newbie bloggers need an even more detailed plan, one they can fall back on when things take unpredictable turns. If you can create detailed answers to these five questions, I suspect you’ll do well with your new blog.
Do not confuse this question for “What will my blog be about?” or “what’s my unique niche?” Those are not the questions you need to ask. What you need to ask is what you will give your audience. Since it is difficult to give someone a physical object, the only way you can give your audience something is by teaching them something.
A couple of rules for teaching:
If you teach them something new, they’ll come back for more — expecting, of course, that you will continue to teach them. They’ll spread the word to friends and through social media channels. That’s how you build a blog. Teach them something and they’ll reward you for it.
Changing one word in the first question leads to an equally important second question. It’s not enough to decide what you will teach readers. You have to determine how you’re going to do that effectively. You have plenty of options at your disposal, so you have plenty of options here. When determining your teaching method, you should keep in mind just two factors:
1. Your strengths
2. Your topic
Some topics require a certain teaching medium. If you run a DIY blog, you’ll probably have to teach through images, whether that be static photos or videos. You’d have a pretty hard time describing the different types of bathroom faucets and how to install them with just text. On the other hand, if you’re teaching people about powerful messages in popular fiction, you might have a hard time doing so with images. Text is your best friend here.
At some point your knowledge well runs dry. It might take a month, or it might take a few years, but eventually you’ll have taught people everything you know. Then what? Does your blog end? I surely hope not. A new blog should not come with an expiration date. With limitless possibilities, you can shoot higher.
Yes, this means actively learning more about your subject. After all, if you’re going to teach people something, shouldn’t you be an expert on that topic? Experts learn perpetually. They examine a topic from all angles and then share that knowledge with the world. It’s only by totally immersing yourself in a subject that you can transform yourself from a knowledgeable person into an expert.
Tim Ferriss’s book The Four Hour Workweek discusses the idea of turning yourself into an expert. I recommend reading through this book, if for no other reason than Ferris used it himself to become an expert. It’s tough to argue with a guy who follows his own advice.
Otherwise, you should consume everything possible related to your topic. Search Amazon and your local library for in-depth books. Read every blog related to the topic. Join and participate in forums. Subscribe to trade magazines. The information is all out there. If you can find it and hone it, you can continue teaching people things for all of eternity.
Before we dive into this final question, here are a list of items you might see on other similar articles, but will not see here:
You’ll have to address those issues along the way, but they’re not at the heart of your blog. If you don’t know what platform to use, WordPress is always reliable. There are thousands of themes to choose from. There are plenty of hosts, and with a little research you can find a good one. And it doesn’t really matter how often you post, so long as every post is as good as you can make it.
Once you have those relatively easy issues out of the way, you have to determine how you’ll get people to actually read your blog. You do this through referrals. Even today, Google remains the world’s biggest referral agent. But to experience true success you have to branch beyond Google’s referral engine and find readers in any way possible.
SEO. Google does provide referrals, so you should focus some energy on ranking highly for your biggest keywords. Perhaps you’ll eschew the highly competitive keywords, since it might not be worth the effort it takes to rank for them (and sometimes you won’t rank at all, no matter what you do). But you should still go for relevant and relatively high-volume keywords. You should also follow these practices to make life as easy as possible:
There’s plenty more to SEO, but these three tips will suffice for now.
Social Media. Nowadays you will see that while Google might refer more traffic than any other source, social media sources are gaining on them. Do not let this opportunity pass you by. A well-crafted social strategy can lead to significant referrals. Depending on your topic and niche, social media has the potential to do better for you than Google.
A quick personal illustration: I run a popular baseball blog with a few friends. It grew exponentially from 2007 through 2010, and a lot of that had to do with SEO efforts. But we noticed a plateau in 2010. That’s when we started getting behind our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Now social media brings us far more referrals than Google. In fact, Twitter alone will catch Google in terms of site referrals by year’s end. That’s a huge turn of events.
When you’re determine how you’ll use Facebook and Twitter for referrals, make sure you go above and beyond. Answer people’s questions. Interact with other like-minded users. Ask questions. Provide answers. But here’s my biggest bit of advice:
Unless you can refer them to something specific, forget about your blog when using Twitter and Facebook.
If you answer questions just by pointing to articles on your blog, people will see right through you. If you answer them sincerely and without promotional links, they will appreciate you. Of course, if someone asks how to install a bathroom sink and you’ve written an article on that, by all means refer them. But if they ask you a simple question that you happen to answer in an article, forget the link. Answer them directly. Your kindness will go a long way.
Whew. That turned out to be far longer than I’d intended. But that’s for a good reason: new blogs take plenty of effort. It’s up to you to harness that effort and turn it into a successful project. Outline your new blog ahead of time by answering these questions. I guarantee you find more success than if you went at it willy nilly.