Monday, December 16, 2013

Blogging 101: How to Start Your Own Successful Blog

Lately, I've been asked by numerous people how they can start a blog of their own, and start earning money. Instead of emailing each person individually, I decided what better way to relay this information than through a blog post? This way, my readers can benefit as well.

Before I go on, I want each and every one of you to know that there is a lot of time and effort involved in creating a successful blog. If you're looking to start your own blog because you feel you'll be able to earn hundreds of dollars within a couple of months, you're mistaken. It simply does not work that way. It literally took me three years before I earned my first $100 from ads on Freelance Lady alone (of course, I earned money other ways by utilizing my blog, but we'll get into that later) and to raise my blog value to $3,000.

So, now that we've gotten the "get rich quick" expectations out of the way, go ahead and read on if you're ready to put in the time and work required.

Choose a niche.

A "niche" is the topic of your blog--it's what your content will revolve around. For example, my niche here on Freelance Lady is work-at-home jobs and freelance work.

To decide on a niche, you'll need to consider what you enjoy doing, what you can write about, and what topics you know a great deal about. Many people make the mistake of asking, "What do the people want?" This is not the best way to choose your blog's topic. I mean, of course you want a blog that people actually want to read, but if you make a blog about a topic that the people enjoy but you don't, then this increases the likelihood that you will simply abandon your blog. Choose a topic that you're passionate about.

Before you settle on a topic, you'll also need to remember that there are subjects that aren't very popular. For example, it's unlikely that you'll gather tons of readers if all you do is write about what happens in your daily life--unless, of course, you're an established celebrity. However, on very rare occasions, this does work for some, as long as they have something to offer their readers. For example, there are many "mommy bloggers" out there who write about their family life and have hundreds of followers, but at the same time, they also have something to offer their readers (i.e., giveaways, freebies, discounts, coupons, etc.).

What's my motivation? Well, first of all, I actually like what I write about. I've been researching legitimate online jobs since I was 17 years old and I enjoy every second of it. Secondly, I am highly motivated by helping others, and if I can help others make money from the comfort of their own home, then I'll keep doing it.

Notice that not one of those reasons are for money. Of course, I like to make money, but that is NOT why I blog. You need to know how to blog for the right reasons. If you're blogging for instant traffic and/or fame, you'll be disappointed. Starting out, I barely averaged 10 page views per month. Even a year later, I average a little more than 600 per month---and I didn't even expect that many page views. Today, I average around......

Successful Blogging 101


Consider your competition.

When Freelance Lady was in the works, I did quite a bit of research on my "competitors." I wanted to know about how many other blogs there were in my niche, and what they were giving to their audience. I realized that there weren't nearly as many websites about work-at-home freelance jobs than there were about other topics--such as couponing, recipes, and so on--so I stuck with it. If you're competitive, maybe you'll have no problem choosing a niche up against millions of other blogs, but if you're like me, you might want to go with something more specific. For example, if your niche is "cook," you're going to be up against millions of bloggers. However, if you make your niche more specific, by choosing something such as "cooking with potatoes," "cooking with fruit," or even "dessert cooking," you'll have a better chance of rising to the top.

Give your blog a name.

This part can be a little tricky. Let's go back and say that you're creating a blog about dessert cooking. Chances are, there is already a blog called "Dessert Cooking," so you're going to have to get a little creative. Sometimes people choose to implement their name into the blog title? Maybe, "Sabrina's Desserts," or "Sabrina Cooks Dessert." Perhaps you want something a little more original. If that's the case, you can do a little word play, such as "Desert Dessert," and use a desert theme for your blog. The possibilities are virtually endless. Try to choose at least 3-4 possible names, just in case one of them is already taken.

Once you have your list of names, do a little research to see if the name is available. If it is, you'll also want to check to see if the domain name is taken. The domain is the address to your website. So, if you wanted "desertdessert.com," you would type it in and you would see that the domain is not available.

You don't have to purchase a domain yet. However, I do stress the importance of your own domain (yoursite.com) compared to a subdomain (yoursite.blogger.com), but we'll discuss that in the next section.

Give your blog a home.

So, you've chosen a niche, researched your competitors, and made sure your blog name is available. Now, you're going to need a place to host your blog so that other people can see it. Blogging platforms such as Blogger and WordPress are ideal, unless you're familiar with coding blogs and websites. If you don't have coding experience, you'll definitely want to use one of the aforementioned options, as they allow you to edit, design, and post to your blog with ease. You'll also receive a free subdomain--this is NOT your own .com domain name. See below:

Subdomain
yourwebsite.blogger.com
Your Own Domain
yourwebsite.com

I urge you to purchase your own domain instead of using a subdomain. Having your own .com can mean the difference between a person viewing your website as professional or amateur. Subdomains are not nearly as attractive from a business standpoint.

Through Blogger, you can purchase a domain name with Google for only $10 per year. Now, I understand that not everyone has the money to spend on a domain name, but even if you don't purchase one right now, you should certainly make it a priority to get one as soon as you can. It should also be noted that if you name your blog and do not purchase a .com domain name, chances are that someone else may purchase it first.

Learn the basics of SEO.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is highly important to the success of your blog. I recommend reading SEO for Idiots: The 10 Basics of Blogging Search Engine Optimization and The Beginner's Guide to SEO. This will teach you how search engines work, and by knowing how search engines work, you can optimize your website so that it is found during web searches. The better SEO skills you have, the higher the chances of your website appearing high in search results. And that is what you want! Search engine optimization is critical to the success of your blog.

Start blogging.

Once you know at least the basics of SEO, you can start blogging. Pump out high-quality, relevant content every single day. Of course, it's okay to miss a day here and there, but you should try to remain consistent. The best way to keep it up is by setting a schedule or getting into a routine. For example, everyday at 10:00 a.m., you could write a blog post or two. On weekends, you can write multiple times a day. If you only have one day a week to dedicate to blogging, you could use that day to write 5-7 posts and publish them later. One of the many great things about blogger is they have a scheduling tool that allows you to write posts ahead of time, and schedule when they'll be published.

Be accurate, and be reliable. Don't post something just because you read it on your friend's Facebook page. Always fact check. Always cite sources.

PROOFREAD! Please, please, please proofread and use spellcheck. It's terrible to see dozens of typos and grammatical errors in posts. Many people don't take this lightly. In fact, I've been known to exit out of blogs due to the lack of proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Oh, and don't forget to implement at least a 5% related keyword density rate (you'll know what this is if you read the beginner's guide to SEO) into your posts.

Some other great tips for blogging are to learn how to write in a conversational tone and learn the five steps to an engaging blog post.

Take pictures--and lots of them.

People love to see pictures, especially when they relate to the content they enjoy reading. For example, if you're writing a blog post about desserts, it is almost blogger sabotage if you don't provide photos for your readers to indulge in. So, keep a camera handy, and anytime you see something that relates to your blog, snap a photo of it. These photos will help you keep your content fresh and appealing.

If you're not the best photographer, you may want to consider downloading an image-editing program such as Gimp (totally free), or if you're using your phone to take photos, use an app such as Aviary.

Choose a visually appealing design.

It doesn't have to be anything fancy, and you don't have to pay hundreds of dollars to the best graphic designer you know. Blogger and WordPress have built-in themes that you can customize to your own liking, and these will do just fine. Of course, once your blog starts earning a steady income, it wouldn't hurt to invest some of it into your blog's design. After all, we humans have rather short attention spans, and if you can capture the attention of people with the look of your blog, then go for it.

Your blog should be easy to navigate with clear categories and archives. A cluttered page may cause readers to race off to the next site. Simple templates that are easy on the eye will instill confidence into your readers; they'll know that the author actually cares about what they see. Exude an organized, professional outward appearance and let it pay off.

For some free blog templates, check out the following blogs:

Join blogging circles and groups.

Before you join every blogging group that you come across, realize that there are literally thousands of them. You should only join a few, so that you can remain active in them all. For example, if you're doing a food related blog, you could join the Food Bloggers Network on Facebook. If you're a mom and are creating content that other moms may be able to relate to, you could submit your blog to Top Mommy Blogs or Mom Bloggers Club. Other websites where you can list your blog and become active include  Picket Fence Blogs and Blog Nation. You may even wish to sign up with other writing websites where you can link to your blog, and even earn a little cash at the same time. Sites such as Yahoo! Voices and HubPages will allow you to write to earn residual income, get involved with the community, while also linking to your blog.

Promote your blog.

If you're familiar with the internet, it shouldn't even need to be said that Facebook and Twitter are musts for bloggers. These sites are incredibly popular, so you can promote your blog by joining groups on Facebook, or using related hashtags on Twitter. You can also network with other bloggers this way, by liking their Facebook pages, or following them on Twitter.
You should create a Facebook page (apart from your personal page) just for your blog. Get people to "Like" the page by posting a link to it on your blog, and by inviting family and friends and people within your Facebook groups. Freelance Lady's Facebook page has 60 "Likes" as of December 16, 2013!

Oh, and remember when I told you to research your competitors earlier? Well, once your blog is established (at least 3 months old, high-quality content, with 10 or more posts), you can start to get into contact with these blog owners in order to build high-quality backlinks (links to your website from other high-rated websites with similar content). You can even offer to write a guest post for promotion.

Note: Other sites, such as Pinterest and Instagram, may be helpful, especially if pictures are very important to your blog (i.e., a craft related blog, or a blog dedicated to food). You can post your photos and link them to your blog posts for more views and followers.

Monetize your blog.

Ah, finally. The moment you've been waiting for. So, what's the best way to monetize your blog? In my personal opinion, I believe the simple answer is Google AdSense. With AdSense, you can post ads relevant to the content on your blog. When people click on these ads, you receive a certain amount of money. Learn more about how Google AdSense works.

Now, there are other ways to monetize your blog. You can sign up for Buy Blog Reviews and write posts on your blog for other people, or you could sign up with Fiverr and post a link to other people's websites for $5 each--or something of that nature. Unfortunately, this is not the best way to monetize your blog, as sometimes, the content you're asked to write about or the links you're asked to post aren't related to your niche. This can scare your readers away.

The best thing to do is to use Google AdSense and AdWords to get the most out of your blog.

Final Words of Advice


Make a few investments.

Branding is incredibly important, if not the most important part of a blog's success. There are literally thousands upon thousands of blogs out there, and chances are, you're among hundreds in your niche. You must find a way to set yourself apart from the crowd. The best way to do this is to purchase your own memorable and relevant .com domain. Sure, it costs real money, but it is a profitable investment. Secondly, you should invest in a high-quality, easy to navigate template to match the voice and niche of your blog. While you can settle for a free one at first, it's wise to invest in a better one later. Finally, you'll need a defined logo. Eventually, this logo will become the centerpiece for business cards, letterheads, and emails. Now, you don't have to spend as if the end is near. Simplicity is key.

Track your success.

Google Analytics can help you see how your blog is doing. Not only will this help you to create more detailed traffic goals, but it also acts as a great motivator when the traffic does start pouring in. Sometimes seeing is believing.

Treat your blog like a business.

This is quite possibly the best piece of advice that I was ever given by a fellow blogger. Let's face it. You're creating a brand. You're trying to make money off of it. It is your business. Make investments. Work hard. Don't slack. Don't give up. If something goes wrong, fix it and move on. Don't get discouraged. Stay positive. Oh, and just because you're trying to maintain a professional image does not mean that you can't have fun with it.

Oh, and stop criticizing yourself so much.

 

More Resources for New Bloggers

29 Tips, Tutorials, and Resources for New Bloggers
An excellent list of resources to help you get started on your blogging journey.

The Ultimate Guide to Blogging: How to Start a Blog That's Epic
An incredibly comprehensive, up-to-date guide on starting your own blog.

Choosing Raw - My Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers
Well-written list of tips on getting started.

Blogging With Amy - How to Start a Blog or Website
Interesting tips for new bloggers or webmasters.

SEO for Idiots: The 10 Basics of Blogging Search Engine Optimization
Awesome tips for search engine optimization. You'll need this.

Mommy Bloggers Guide
Tips, tricks, hints, and everything else you need for getting started on your mommy blog.

Playing Mom - How to Be a Successful Mommy Blogger
Hilarious, three-part guide on how to be successful in the world of mommy blogging.


Becoming a successful blogger takes hard work and dedication. Unfortunately, many people believe that it's a cut and dry process, which is simply not the case. You can't expect the traffic to come rushing in with minimal work. Knowing and accepting the work required will mean the difference in a successful or unsuccessful blogging business.

Do you have any tips you can offer readers? Let us know in the comments!




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