Blogging is so easy! Anyone can do it, and everyone who tries will find immediate success!
For my very first blog post on my official website, I decided to write about blogging. I may have started off on the wrong foot, however, because the first two sentences are lies.
First of all, blogging is not easy. I have dabbled in the blogosphere for several years, and I have hit many of the stumbling blocks common to writers in general and to bloggers in particular. For me, blogging was always a hobby, a way to channel my creative energy into something to share with the world, but unfortunately it was never something I stuck with for very long. Unlike me, successful bloggers need to be dedicated.
Secondly, while many people are able to draw vast audiences to their blog and make a good living with it, that’s not as simple as you might think. It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight.
It is true that just about anyone can make a blog, but it helps if you are a skilled writer, and authoritative on your chosen topic. And even if you’re the best writer in the world, success won’t happen right away. You’ll need to post frequently to build a library of content and to establish trust with your target audience. Then, you’ll really have to hustle to expand your reach. It could take many months or even years to achieve the results you’re looking for.
So, how do you start a blog?
Starting a blog is easily said, but not so easily done. In fact, it can be daunting! As you may have noticed, this is my first blog post, so trust me when I say, I know exactly what it’s like to struggle with starting a blog. I have a few blog ideas in mind….but where do I go from there?
That’s why I’ve established this list of seven things to do before you even start writing. These are the steps I took before starting this blog. Hopefully, in turn, this list will help you narrow your focus and provide actionable items for you to get the ball rolling.
Determine your purpose.
Why do you want to write a blog? No, seriously; this is a question you must answer. Most bloggers want to inform and entertain. But are you looking to make money as a blogger? Build a career? Become famous? Or do you just want to have fun, maybe share some knowledge with a small, private audience?
Your objective will dictate all the decisions you make about your blog, from where to host your blog, to how often you post, to how you market your brand.
Choose a topic.
Obviously the topic of your blog should be something you are passionate about. If the topic doesn’t interest you, there’s no way you’re going to want to write about it week in and week out. So grab a piece of scrap paper and jot down all the things that interest you. Consider your lifestyle and activities. Think about things you love to talk about with friends and family. The items on this list don’t have to be too specific.
When you’re satisfied with your brainstorming session, it’s time to narrow down your list. Cross off topics you don’t want to invest in. There are some things you do just for fun; you don’t want to spend so much time on them that they aren’t enjoyable anymore!
Next, get rid of items that are maybe too prevalent. For example, there are thousands of blogs about weddings, DIY, and cooking — the market is so saturated that any blog about those topics would be just a teardrop in the ocean. That’s not to say you can’t choose a popular topic, just understand that you might have a hard time competing in those areas, especially if you’re looking to monetize your blog. Furthermore, it might be helpful to be more specific with these broader topics. Focus your blog on country weddings, DIY for the garage, or cooking for two, for example.
Cross off topics you don’t feel totally authoritative about. It’s okay to not have all the answers about your chosen blog topic! Just be sure to recognize that if you choose a topic that’s not your strong suit, you’ll have to do a lot of research and will have to list sources and attributions in your blog posts. Research is time-consuming and not suited for everyone.
Soon you’ll have your list narrowed down to one or two topics. If you want to pursue two topics in the same blog, it’s helpful if they complement each other, such as movie reviews coupled with celebrity gossip. If the topics aren’t related, you can create separate categories within the same blog, or create two distinct blogs. For the beginner, it might be less overwhelming to just focus on a single topic.
As your blogl grows and evolves, your topic of interest might change. That’s totally fine! You can always rebrand later. The important thing for right now is that you have a starting point.
Envision your audience.
This is particularly important if you want to monetize your blog down the road, because it will direct your marketing strategy. But it is also helpful to do even if you are blogging for fun. Knowing in advance who your audience is will help you to keep your writing consistent. It will also dictate your style, tone, and content.
Your target audience will depend on your topic. Basically, it boils down to: Who do you want to read your blog? Is it teenagers? Stay-at-home moms? Contractors? You could even go nuts and invent a “persona”, an imaginary person who would enjoy your blog.
For instance, if you want to blog about RPG video games, you might envision a younger person reading your blog, maybe someone in their teens or early twenties. This person is really on top of trends, enjoys YouTube and Twitch, and prefers to communicate via text message or social networks like Discord. They like books and movies with a lot of action. When they are looking for information, they want it immediately, and won’t sift through a lot of verbiage to get answers.
With this persona in mind, you’ll know that your writing has to be hip and concise. Get to the point right away, and maybe use bullet point lists to expound on your message. Marketing to an audience of this type would definitely involve social media.
This is just an example of how imagining your audience will affect your writing and marketing strategies.
Come up with a title.
This one is a little trickier, and it may be some time before you feel you’ve got it right. I’m sure you’ve seen blog titles that are clever and memorable. But even if you’re not one for wordplay, simply try to keep it short and sweet and to the point.
Think about your topic and keywords, as well as your writing style and personality. Jot down ideas as they come to you, and maybe you can recombine them in different ways. This step is just a matter of brainstorming, and letting your ideas percolate. Work on it for a little while, then go do something else for a bit. When you return to it, your mind will be refreshed and you might see things in a new light.
Finally, when you think you’ve got a workable idea, give it a quick Google search to make sure someone else doesn’t already have that title in use.
Plan content ideas.
This step, like the one above it, is all about brainstorming and letting the ideas flow. Think about what subtopics you’d like to write about. Ask yourself how you can branch off of those ideas. What ideas will be featured in your blog’s main posts? Which subtopics can you provide more detail about? What questions does your reader have that you can answer?
Consider all the popular blog formats, and think of ways you can incorporate those: lists, reviews, “How To” guides, etc.
Once you have a healthy list of ideas, you can rearrange them and create a schedule for writing and publishing. I used Google Sheets to create my content list and schedule, but there is also software available online to help with your content strategy. Having a schedule will keep you on task and help prevent writer’s block.
Choose a blog platform.
If you already own your own domain, hooray! Whichever web host you decide to use will certainly allow you to have a blog page. (For example, I’m using WordPress.)
Otherwise, you’ll want to find a platform dedicated to blogs. I did a simple Google search for “best free blogging platform” and found dozens of results. Do a little research of your own to find one you’re happy with.
I’ve used Google’s Blogger before and was very happy with how easy it was to use; it’s perfect for beginners or for users who want to avoid web design. I’ve also used Wix and WordPress, but have found those to have a steeper learning curve. There are many, many options available. Your choice will depend on your skill level with computers and web design, as well as your long-term goals for your blog.
Never stop learning! There are so many resources available to us in this modern age. You can read blogs about writing blogs (just like this one), but you can also find free classes and webinars online about blogging, content creation, and marketing. As your blog grows, you might want to learn more about SEO and monetizing options.
Visit your local library and ask the librarian to help you find the business section. (Seriously, librarians love to help.) There you will find books and other resources on every subject you could ever want to explore: marketing, web design, writing, and more.
Or do something as simple as brushing up on grammar and punctuation. There are tons of books and websites on that subject. Use your smartphone for word-a-day apps to expand your vocabulary, or proofreading apps to sharpen your editing skills. Listen to podcasts about blogging, copywriting, social media, and digital marketing.
Anything that piques your interest: dive in and learn more. There’s no such thing as having too much knowledge. You’ll be amazed at how many tidbits you can take away to help you on your blogging journey.
I promise I’m not asking you to do more than I’m willing to do myself. I’ve recently been using HubSpot Academy, which offers free online courses about business, writing, digital marketing, and more. Check it out here.
Once you’ve gone through this list, taken into consideration your audience, and made a content plan, FINALLY you’re ready to start writing! Be sure to check back later for tips on how to write and format a blog post.
Blogging is not for everyone. Whether it’s a simple pastime or a career, it requires a lot of hard work and planning. Nevertheless, it is so rewarding to have something you wrote published for all the world to see! If you love to write and have a topic you want to share, go for it!
I wish you all the best on your blogging journey. Happy writing!
By Emily Domedion
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org