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How To Start A Blog And Make It Successful

How To Start A Blog And Make It Successful


Thousands of new blogs are launched every day by aspiring bloggers and people who want a place to share their thoughts online. Yet few of these blogs are actively updated a few months later and even less go on to become successful.

There are a number of reasons for this.

Many bloggers have an unrealistic idea of what it takes to build a successful blog. You may look at a popular blog and think “I can do that!”…and you can. However, you need to understand that it takes a lot of work to develop a blog to a point where it is successful.

It could take you several months of updating your blog three times a week before you get any financial return and even longer before it is generating a full time income for you. Do not be under any illusions that your blog will become successful right away. You may spend several hours writing an article and then it receives no views, comments, or shares. That will be true for most of your articles until you establish a readership.

You therefore need to be completely focused on your blog in order to make it a success. Unless you have a large budget to hire others to write for you, you are going to have to make sacrifices in your personal life in order to make your blog successful. Be prepared to work on your blog when you would rather be watching television, going to the cinema, or hanging out with friends.

If you are willing to persevere and work hard on your blog, it will become successful. I have no doubt about that. And while there are a lot of things to learn about blogging, there is really no aspect of blogging that is difficult.

I first started using WordPress to build websites in 2006 and later launched my first serious blog, BloggingTips.com, in 2007. I have been actively blogging ever since and it continues to be my main source of income from working online. BloggingTips was later sold in 2010 for $60,000 in order for me to focus on a new blog I was launching entitled WPMods.com (that focused on WordPress). In 2012, I sold WPMods.com for $80,000 as I was planning on traveling South America and wanted to free up my time.

I have experienced all of the highs and lows that blogging has to offer. I have made mistakes, got lucky with some high traffic articles, and had to deal with authors who failed to deliver. Though I have become a more competent blogger because of it all.

Today, I would like to share my experience of blogging for seven years and show you how to develop a blog and make it successful. I hope you find the article useful 🙂

1. Choose a Topic You Are Passionate About

Many bloggers focus their first blog on a topic that they have no interest in because they believe it will make them more money. This is a big mistake.

You need to be passionate about the subject your blog focuses on. If you launch a blog about something that you do not care about, you will lose interest very quickly and inevitably stop updating it. This is particularly true if you are writing the majority of the content for your blog.

Think about the websites and blogs that you read on a weekly basis. This will give you an indication of the topic you should focus on. For example, I could start a blog on MMA, mobile phones, gadgets, and traveling; as those are topics that I enjoy reading about myself. If I started a blog about shopping or ice hockey, I would lose interest in the blog quickly; even if I knew there was money to be made.

In short: Follow your passion.

Follow Your Passion

Do not start a blog on a subject that you have no passion for. You will lose interest in the blog very quickly.

2. Think About Your Long Term Business Model

When a good idea strikes, it is tempting to buy a domain name, launch your blog, and start publishing articles. Though it pays to be patient.

You will have a better change of making your blog successful if you do a lot of research beforehand.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are your competitors?
  • How do your competitors make money?
  • How will your blog make money?
  • How long will it take you to monetize your blog?
  • What will your blog do differently to stand out?
  • What problems do you envision for your blog after launching?

Think about all of these issues before you launch your blog so that you do not face any unexpected problems.

3. Choose a Great Domain Name

Finding a good domain name can be a pain, however it is an essential part of branding your blog. COM remains the best domain name extension, but if you find a great domain that uses something different, it may be worth opting for that instead.

Domain name generators such as Panabee or Wordoid can be used to help you find a domain. Before you register a domain, check that the appropriate social media account usernames are available for your domain using a service such as KnowEm or BrandChecker.

Once you have decided on a suitable domain name, you should register it using a service such as NameCheap or Hover (GoDaddy is ok if you can handle their pushy sales tactics).

4. Choose a Reliable Blog Host

It is important to host your blog with a company that is reliable and offers fast response times. A cheap shared hosting account at $4.99 per month might be fine for the first few months, however you should upgrade to better hosting solution once you start getting traffic.

Check out Joyce’s WordPress Hosting Review for a comparison of dedicated WordPress hosting companies.

5. Use a Professional Design

Whether you like it or not, visitors will make a judgement about your blog within seconds of it loading. You only get one chance to make a good first impression; which is why it is so important to use a professional blog design.

I recommend using a clean design such as Divi. Be sure to include a search bar, a list of recent posts, and an archive page. This will help visitors find your content easily.

Try and avoid cluttering up your blog design with too many banners. While it may be worth adding banners later to help monetize your blog, in the beginning, your main aim is to establish a readership.

Divi WordPress Theme

Your blog design influences how visitors perceive you and your blog.

6. Speed Up Your Blog

A slow loading blog design will frustrate readers and increase the likelihood of them clicking the back button on their browser before your page even loads. It is therefore vital that you optimize your blog so that pages load quickly. Search engines also rank fast loading websites higher, therefore optimizing your blog design will help your blog gain more search engine traffic.

There are a number of ways in which you can speed up your blog:

  • Choose a web host with fast response times
  • Optimize your images
  • Remove any WordPress plugins that affect performance
  • Reduce the number of saved post revisions
  • Use a caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache
  • Use a Content Delivery Network

For more information on how to optimize WordPress ,please read my article “Optimize Your WordPress Website Using These Simple Tips“.

7. Optimize Your Blog for Search Engines

The core version of WordPress has some good SEO features such as the ability to use pretty permalinks and the option to change your article page slug; however you can optimize your blog further.

I recommend installing an SEO WordPress plugin such as WordPress SEO or All in One SEO Pack. Adding a sitemap will also help search engines index your content.

A large percentage of your traffic will come from search engines, so optimizing your blog for search engines should be made a priority.

8. Know Your Subject

You are going to be writing about one or two key topics on a weekly basis. It therefore pays to be knowledgable about what you are writing about. If you are blogging about something you are passionate about, you should already have knowledge about the topic, but do not assume that this means you are an expert.

To run a successful blog, you need to research your articles thoroughly and be able to support your viewpoint with facts and figures.

Therefore you should actively:

  • Stay up to date with the latest news in your niche
  • Subscribe to good blogs in your niche
  • Read books about your topic

The long term goal is to become an authority on your subject and be the one who is leading the discussion.

9. Write Great Content

In 1996, Bill Gates famously published an article entitled “Content is King“. He rightly believed that, like television, the big money was in content.

Blogs live and die by their content. If you want to develop a successful blog, you will need to focus on publishing high quality content on a regular basis. It is therefore in your interest to improve your craft.

  • Spend time improving your writing skills
  • Proofread your articles to ensure that there are no grammatical errors or spelling mistakes
  • Be honest in your writing and give your opinion on issues you feel strongly about
  • Be original – Do not try and imitate someone else and attempt to be something you are not
  • Learn from the best – Follow other bloggers and look at what they do well and adapt it into your own writing style

The key is to give value to readers. You can do this through reviews, tutorials, news, and views. If you can help a reader in some way, they will be grateful and more likely to subscribe to your future articles.

Be sure to maintain a high standard on your blog. If a post is not ready, do not publish it. It is always better to come back to an article the following day and work on it some more.

You should also spend time writing linkbait articles and in-depth featured articles. These articles will have a better chance of being shared by visitors and being linked from other blogs; which in turn will rank them high in search engines and generate more traffic to your blog.

Content is King

High quality content is at the heart of every great blog.

10. Publish Articles on a Consistent Basis

Readers get used to the frequency in which you publish articles on your blog. It is therefore in your best interests to choose a posting frequency and stick to it.

A common mistake that beginners make is to publish too often when a blog is first launched. Their enthusiasm for their new blog gets the better of them and they post once or even twice per day. Ultimately, it can be difficult to maintain this posting frequency when you are also trying to promote your new blog. Posting frequency, and the quality of posts being published, are usually affected because of it.

Rather than publish articles every day for two weeks and then not publish any more articles for a few weeks, it is better to stick to a posting schedule that can be easily maintained in the future e.g. three times a week. If you find that you have too many articles scheduled for publication, you could increase posting frequency to four or five times a week.

Whether you publish once a day or once a week, I recommend sticking to the same posting frequency so that readers become accustomed to when more articles will be published.

11. Develop a Following on Social Media

After search engines, social media services will probably be your largest source of traffic. It is therefore important to leverage social media on your blog and make it easy for visitors to share your articles.

There are a lot of social media services available, however I believe that for most blogs the most relevant services to be active on are Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. You should create an account for these services and use a plugin such as Social Networks Auto-Poster to automatically update your accounts with your latest posts.

Make a point of displaying links to your social media profiles prominently in your sidebar to encourage readers to follow you. If you can generate a large following on social media, you will be in a position to increase sharing of your articles and generate more traffic to your blog.

12. Build an Email List

A targeted email list can be the catalyst that drives your blog into the big time. When someone signs up to your blog’s email newsletter, they are giving you a strong vote of confidence and advising you that they are happy for you to contact them directly. That is why an email subscriber is worth more than a social media follower.

Visitors will subscribe to your email list if they enjoy your content, however you can increase email sign up rates significantly by baiting them with an offer such as a free eBook.

Once you have developed a targeted email list, you can drive traffic to key articles and promote related products and services to them.

13. Engage with Your Readers

Blogging is not a one way street. A big part of being a successful blogger is connecting with your readers. You should actively try and engage with your readers in comments, social media, your email list, and of course, through your writing. You can also use podcasts and video to speak directly to your audience.

This will help you grow a loyal readership that spreads the word about your blog. It also makes readers more responsive to any products and services you promote in the future.

14. Market Your Blog

Nothing is more discouraging than writing high quality articles every week and not seeing your readership grow. The reality is that a professional blog design and consistently publishing good content every day will not guarantee you a successful blog. You need to market your blog in order to gain readers.

There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Network with other bloggers
  • Guest blogging on blogs within your niche
  • Commenting on related blogs and forums
  • Be active on social media
  • Competitions

When you are interacting on social media and commenting on blogs and forums, do not make the mistake of promoting you and your blog. If your comments are not marked as spam, they will probably just be ignored. You will paint yourself in a better light if you contribute to the discussion rather than just spamming. People will want to visit your blog and find out more about you if you contribute something original.

Market Your Blog

There are many ways in which you can market a blog.

15. Set Yourself Goals and Work Towards Them

Checking stats too frequently can be counterproductive, however it is important to analyze your blog on a monthly basis and review traffic, readership, social media followers, and income.

Set yourself a target every month so that you have something to work towards. Whether you reach that goal or not is not always important. What is important is that you look at what areas of your blog can be improved and then work towards addressing them.

16. Develop a Thick Skin

A blog allows you to share your views with the world. If comments are enabled, others can share their views with you. These views may conflict with yours.

In order to develop a successful blog, you need to develop a thick skin and not take criticism to heart. Banning commenters who disagree with you is a sure fire way of alienating your readers (and the likelihood of being compared to Hitler!).

While I recommend that you delete hateful comments, it is in your interest to have an open commenting policy that allows readers to share their views (however, be mindful that hot topics such as religion and politics can upset people).

17. Monetize Your Blog

Ideally, you should plan how you will monetize your blog before it is launched. This will help you gear your blog towards the business model you are adopting.

While affiliate products can be promoted through your articles from the start of your blog’s life, most monetization strategies should only be implemented once you have established a readership. When you do have sufficient readers, you will be in a position to market your own products and services to them. You will also be able to make money through sponsored reviews, paid posts, premium content, and more.

Banner space can be sold to advertisers or used to promote your own products or affiliate products. Just be careful not to oversaturate your design with advertisements as it may drive readers away.

ZenHabits

ZenHabits has a minimalist design with no advertisements. The blog makes money through book sales and online courses.

18. Bring in People to Help Maintain Your Blog

Many blogs are maintained by one person. They are responsible for writing articles, responding to emails, fixing technical errors, marketing their blog, and much more.

Yet there is only so much that one person can do.

If you want to take your blog to the next level, you should invest a percentage of blog profits back into your blog. Authors can be hired to help increase posting frequency or reduce your own writing responsibilities. You could also hire an assistant to handle all emails and hire a whole team to develop a product for you.

Once your blog is taking up all of your time, it is better to start bringing in people to help you maintain your blog. This will allow you to focus on other tasks and scale the growth of your blog more intelligently.

19. Do Not Become Complacent

I know of many blogs in which the owner has taken their foot of the pedal once they have taken it to a certain level. It can be tempting to work less frequently on a blog if it generates money on auto pilot, however it can also be detrimental to its future.

You should not take your readers for granted. I have seen many successful blogs lose readers because they stopped focusing on high quality content. If you want your blog to continue growing, you need to stay focused and ensure your articles are fresh and innovative.

20. Take Time Off to Enjoy Life

A hectic blogging schedule and a focus on making your blog successful at all costs can have a negative effect on you and your blog. Many bloggers burnout by working too many hours and not taking time off to relax.

If your blog is to be a success in the long term, you need to incorporate leisure time into your schedule. Working too much will reduce the quality of your articles, burn you out, and discourage you from blogging altogether.

Try and keep a healthy balance between work and play. Exercise, sleep well, stay healthy, and make a point of reducing your workload if you are feeling stressed. This will help you stay enthusiastic about your blog and make you a happier blogger 🙂

Kevin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Blogging has allowed me to travel the world with nothing more than a 40 litre bag and a 12″ laptop! Remember that life is for living!

I hope you have enjoyed this look at how to make a blog successful.

What is your number one tip for developing a successful blog? Please share with us in the comment area below 🙂

Article thumbnail image by Lunarus / shutterstock.com



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