Monday, January 28, 2019

Blogging 101: How To Start a Successful Blog

Starting a blog is pretty simple. Starting a successful blog, however, is a little trickier. Let's dive in to the basics of starting a blog and what you can do to drive traffic to your blog and increase your blog's readership.

* This post contains affiliate links. If you use one or more of my links to make a purchase, I may be compensated. Please view my full disclosure.

Knowing what you want out of a blog is the first step to creating one. Think about what you want out of your blog. Fame? Money? Most people who set out to create a blog do it for one of the following reasons:
  • They want a personal outlet to write about what they know or enjoy.
  • They want to share their knowledge with the world.
  • They want to earn money.
  • They want fame and/or notoriety.
  • All of the above.
All of these are legitimate reasons to want to start a blog. Know why you're doing it and what you expect to get out of it and then you can create goals and develop a blog game plan — which leads us to the first step in starting a blog.

Set practical goals.

Goals are great. Dreaming big is wonderful. But you have to be practical. A blog isn't going to become famous over night. While I encourage you to set large long-term goals, the first step is to create short-term practical goals. These goals will help you stay focused and will allow you to grow your blog one step at a time. It makes goals more attainable.

Believe it or not, there is a lot of time and effort that goes into creating a successful blog.

And...if you want to make money, you're going to have to give something to your readers. Whether you're providing entertainment, information, a product, a service, freebies, or whatever, your readers will expect something. So, what can you give them? Think on it. This will help you come up with a niche — which brings us to the next course of business...

Choose a niche.

A "niche" is the topic of your blog--it's what your content will revolve around.

My niche here on Freelance Lady is broad — I narrow it down to lifestyle but it really encompasses a lot of different topics. Because the blog is essentially about my life and the things I love, I still consider it to fall into the lifestyle category. I write about all things relevant to my life including fashion, home decor, blogging, and food. Your blog, however, can be as narrowed down as you'd like.

To decide on a niche, you'll need to consider what you know, what you love, and what you can write about. Many people make the mistake of asking, "What do the people want?" which is a relevant question of course, but first you need to know what you can provide to your readers. 

I think the best advice when choosing a niche is to choose something that you know but also something that you love. When you're passionate about something, it rarely gets boring and if you're bored of your blog, then there's a chance that you may not put your "all" into it.

Before you settle on a topic, remember that there are subjects that aren't very popular. For example, it's unlikely that you'll gather tons of readers just by writing about your day to day life (unless you have a very unique, exciting life and/or are already an established celebrity/influencer). While Freelance Lady is a lifestyle blog, I don't write mainly about my boring life — I write about the things that I love.

Consider your competition.

Once you've settled on a niche for your blog, do some research on your competitors. Try to find out how many other blogs there are within the niche. Next, find the top blogs in your niche. Visit the blogs and see what they're offering their readers. Take in the design and layout of the website and maybe even explore their social media pages to see what they're talking about. This will help you when you start your journey to increasing your blog's readership.

For example, if your niche is simply "food," you're going to be up against millions of bloggers. If you have a narrow niche, such as "dessert cooking" then you'll have less competition. But if you choose an even more narrow topic such as "recipes using potatoes," then you'll have much less competition. 

Of course, you can always compete with the big guys. There's nothing wrong with that. But you'll want to give something to your readers that no one else is providing. You'll have to find a way to "stand out from the crowd," if you will. That's why researching your competition is so important.

Give your blog a name.

It's time to give your blog a title. Let's go back and say that you're creating a blog about "potato recipes." Chances are, there is already a blog called "Potato Recipes" so you're going to have to get a little creative. Many times, people choose to implement their name into the blog title. Maybe, "Patty's Potato Recipes" or "Steven's Savory Spuds."

Alliteration, rhymes, puns, and even adding suffixes such as -ster or -ify are fun ways to come up with your own original blog name.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 "," you would type it in and you would see that the domain is available. You don't have to purchase a domain yet (although it will be highly recommended in the future) but it's still wise to make sure you're not taking a name from an already established website/company/brand.

After you've checked on the domain name, check to make sure it's not trademarked or copyrighted.

Set up your social media accounts for your blog.

Social media will likely play an integral part in your blog's success, so you'll want to set up accounts for your blog on all relevant platforms. I highly recommend at least the following four:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
Head on over to the websites/apps and see if the social media names are available.

If you find that the names are available, then set up an email address for your blog's name as soon as possible so that you can use it to create accounts on those social media platforms. Make an email that's relevant to your blog. For example, if you chose "Steven's Savory Spuds," your email might be You can have a top level domain email address later if you choose to buy a domain, which brings us to our next point...

Give your blog a home.

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:


Your Own Domain

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 Optimizationand 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. The same goes for WordPress which seems to be one of the more popular blogging websites out there today.

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 PicMonkey. PicMonkey is around $7.99 per month and is totally worth it. I edit all of my blog's pictures with PicMonkey and make Pinterest-worthy images using the program as well. If you do most of you work from your phone, I highly recommend the the PicMonkey mobile app.

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.

Branding is very important so when you have the chance to invest, choose a design that's unique to your blog. I personally prefer Designer Blogs. They have both WordPress and Blogger themes available. Their premade blog templates are only $15, are absolutely gorgeous and 100% customizeable. They also offer custom design. This is more expensive than their premade templates, but worth it if you have the money to invest. They'll even install everything for you.

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

Designer Blogs (My Personal Favorite)

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. User-generated content websites like HubPages will allow you to write to earn residual income, get involved with the community, while also linking to your blog.

I also recommend sharing your work on Reddit if possible. Don't just go dropping links — if you come across someone asking a question that your website answers in depth, then go ahead and share it.

Promote your blog.

As mentioned earlier, you'll want to set up social media accounts for your blog. Social media websites will be important to your blog's success. Pinterest and Instagram are musts for blogs that have a heavy focus on photography and other imagery. 

Facebook and Twitter are great for networking and promoting posts to your audience. On Facebook, you can join blogging groups and on Twitter, you can use relevant hashtags to promote your content. Network with other bloggers by liking their Facebook pages, or following them on Twitter. Stay up to date with them and comment, share, and like.

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 over 1,000 "Likes" as of January 2019.

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.

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 sponsored content websites (where you get paid to share content on your blog). You can sign up with Fiverr and offer to share or promote content that's relevant to your niche.

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. Check out my Successful Blogging 101 post where I share some tips on how to treat your blog like a business.

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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