So everyone is blogging these days and it seems to be the rave. “Hmm . . .” you think to yourself. “Maybe I should blog.” You read somewhere bloggers are earning a lot of money these days, plus you can clearly see a handful gaining celebrity status, both off and online. If you are convinced you want to start a blog or you are a blogger looking to brush up on the basics, this article is for you.
Here are 10 tips on getting started that you should know:
1. Understand your purpose and why you blog: Why do you want a blog? What’s your purpose? Are you blogging for money i.e. to increase or supplement your income? If you are blogging for money, get another job. It can easily take 3-5years before money begins flowing from blogging.
Are you blogging because you are passionate about your subject matter and seek to influence your niche area? If so, blogging is a great marketing tool for you to position yourself as an expert in your topic/niche area; attract monetary rewards, which eventually flow both through your actual blog site, speaking and consulting opportunities and book publishing, among others.
2. Understand your target market: All blogs are not created equal and do no attract the same audience or volume of audience. For example, there is a fine distinction with going to Walmart vs. visiting a Fred Segal. At Walmart, don’t be surprised if you get cursed out, just because someone was having a bad day or witness an all out cloth ripping and hair pulling fight, within and outside the store premises, depending on the day. In addition, expect to see at Walmart, a large customer base, much lower price points and products that most likely will lose their value over time. In contrast, if you go to a Fred Segal, expect higher price points, a staff that holds customer service and quality dearly and overall presents a sophisticated , drama free environment and experience to you.
This analogy is no different with blogs. There are blogs that attract the Fred Segal kind of customers and still others that attract the kinds of persons you would see hanging outside or within Walmart. If you have the Walmart kind of blog in mind, expect that at the slightest opportunity, some of your readers will be and do throw a fight, if you say something they disagree with or fellow commenters do. It sometimes makes for great comedy but as your blog grows, can you manage all of that fighting and bickering among adults? Plus, what’s your blog’s goal anyway? Either way, know the kind of target audience you want. If you tend to do celebrity gossip, expect an audience that is very vocal and at times out of control with their comments. Know your audience, tailor your content accordingly.
3. Do your time audit: The most important factor to think through is the amount of time required to blog. Blogging is very time consuming. Thousands of blogs are abandoned daily because what most new bloggers find, after hyping that they are the next big blog since slice bread, is that it takes tremendous discipline and time to create original and fresh content, daily or three times a week, at a minimal. You must do the time audit before you begin blogging. To start a blog, maintain it and stand apart from others, content is key and king. Blogging is a BIG time consuming machine/beast that must constantly be fed fresh new content. Make sure you are sufficiently passionate about the subject area before you begin blogging.
4. Do your research on the topic area: Personally for me, it is the scariest thing and nothing short of ridiculous to see a sea of blogs all carry the same story or cut and paste the same press release; day in and day out. Beyond being just plain boring, imagine if you went shopping at your local mall. Assume your favorite store is Macy’s. You check out Macy’s offerings and you decide to visit other stores just before you return to Macy’s to decide on your purchase. As you visit these stores, you realize everything is the same as what you saw at Macy’s. The same colors, same fabrics, same cut, same styling, same ads. Everything is the same! Would you buy your clothing from the stores you do not know or would you return to Macy’s to purchase your item? Of course you would return to Macy’s. The blogging world is no different. If you start a new blog or change your existing blog to be a cut and paste blog with no voice, no personality and distinction, you will be forgotten and soon get washed into the sea of forgetfulness.
Research your topic thoroughly to make sure you know who your competitors are and how to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. What are your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses? Use several basic tools to help you conduct keyword research online. Tools like Google’s Keyword and Google Alerts helps you monitor the discussions surrounding a topic area you are interested in.
5. Pick the right name: For legal and marketing reasons, choose a good name and one that does not infringe on the intellectual property rights of another. For example, if you are a new blogger and you chose Marc Jacobs or even a name like Ladybrille as your domain name/ url address, you would and could get sued because both names are registered trademarks and you would be infringing on the trademarks of these companies. The same holds for other bloggers and companies with registered trademarks. So, come up with your own unique name and make sure it is flexible and can stand the test of time. For example, let’s say you decided you wanted to blog about African makeup because you realize there is a huge market and most African or African inspired fashion blogs are only talking fashion apparel, you could use a domain name with the url www.makeupafrica.com. But, realize that the name confines you to makeup. A name like Ladybrille, for example, is a lot more flexible and is not limited to Africa or what have you. It can be used for publishing, apparel, cosmetics, shoes and so much more. So, be creative and come up with a name that is unique yet all encompassing for an expansion into other areas. Click here for more on “How to Choose the Right Name For Your Business.”
6. Pick the right Platform: Think of your blog as your home. You can rent your house or outright own it. Either way, you need someone to agree to sell or rent you a house. For blogging, your options for a “home” are blogger, wordpress, tumblr, typepad, among others. Blogger and wordpress are great platforms to begin using without any programming experience. Choose what works best for you. WordPress is an excellent platform because of its flexible content management system and numerous plugins.
7. Pimp Your Blog & Also Get Your Social Network in Place: Blogging is competitive, make no mistake about it. These days, you cannot get by with just having a blog. Your blog must be aesthetically pleasing. It’s like buying your newly built home with no paint on the exterior or interior and absolutely no interior design. Would you want to stay in such a bland and hollow house? Of course not. Your blogging real estate home is no different. Your guests (readers) should feel good and enjoy their experience when they visit you. Pimp your blog and pay attention to color psychology, functionality and easy navigation.
8. Get an Editorial Calendar: Bloggers who wake up daily and think they can just throw up content are not and will not be in it for the long haul. Bogging is, again, very time consuming. You have to have a calendar of topics each week, or monthly that you want to cover. As a freelance journalist and one who has also held editorial positions at a newspaper and magazine, an editorial calendar is germane to an efficiently run publication. It helps editors and the magazine plan ahead, budget time, resources and money, among other things. Use your editorial calendar to help plan and organize your stories but be flexible for breaking news or must cover news.
9. Measure your website metrics: Knowing your target audience, you should be able to guage whether you are attracting that target audience and how that target audience is interacting with your content and your blog. Facebook fan page is great way of measuring how your readers interact with your content, who your readers are, the countries of origin, among other things. Google analytics is also a great tool to use. Use these tools to gather information, see where you need to improve and what your readers like the most etc. so you can give them more of what they like.
10. Engage your audience: Gossip or Gossip prone sites tend to have very vocal and active audiences who leave tons of comments. Non-gossip sites especially news, technology and business sites, in contrast, tend to have audiences that prefer to engage through the “Like,” “retweet” or “google +” buttons, among other methods. Either way, call your audience to action by providing a means where they can easily engage. Place appropriate applications/plugins to permit them to engage how they deem fit with your content.
Part II of this series will cover the business and legal side of blogging: hiring writers, contracts, dealing with content aggregators and intellectual property laws.
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