Starting a new blog can be exhilarating, terrifying, and exhausting all at once. There are so many things to do to get your blog up and running, to build your audience and brand, and to grow your income from it. However, before you even start setting up your blog, there are a few things you should know about what it takes to be successful in this industry. After 6 years of trial and error in the blogging world, here are 15 things to know before starting a blog.
15 Useful Things to Know Before Starting A Blog
1. Blogging is not a “get rich quick” scheme.
If you’re into instant gratification (like I am), I’m here to break it to you that you probably won’t find it through blogging. All blogs are a long game, and no blog is profitable after one day. Some blogs aren’t even profitable after one year! But don’t let that discourage you. If you’re ready to put in the effort, the thought, the money, and the time it takes to cultivate an audience, then you WILL succeed.
2. You need to spend money to make money.
Blogging is one of those businesses that requires a relatively small upfront investment. This is GREAT because it makes this career accessible to almost anyone. With that said, the old business adage still comes into play – you need to spend money to make money.
You can seriously bootstrap your blogging efforts, but you need to understand that there are times when making a monetary investment is necessary for the growth of your business. For example, buying a domain name on GoDaddy and self hosting my website on SiteGround from the beginning made it MUCH easier to build traffic and monetize quickly.
3. Observe, but don’t compare.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” In blogging terms, comparison is actually the thief of success. By wasting time and energy comparing your blog, your brand, and your content to others, you’ll kill your productivity and feel absolutely miserable forever.
With that said, it is important to observe what your competitors are doing well, then apply those principles to your own site. Don’t flat-out copy people, but you can figure out conceptually how to implement those kinds of strategies using your own content and your own spin.
4. Readers make the best writers.
In order to continuously improve your writing and develop your own voice, it’s really important to read. Reading is the ultimate teacher of writing, and it’s critical that you read other blogs, articles, and books to get a feel for style and effective communication. After a while, you’ll quickly be able to identify what you think are good articles versus crap ones.
I use the Pocket app to download offline versions of articles, posts, etc. that I want to save and read later. By doing this, I make sure I spend at least a little bit of time each day reading content. Some of it is “helpful” content, on growing an audience or building a business. But some of it is human interest stories, news sound bites, and short fiction. By reading tons of different writing styles, I’ve learned exactly what resonates with me and what doesn’t, and how I can tailor my own writing to that theme. Which brings me to my next point…
5. Do everything you can to stand out.
I recently read a fantastic article on Medium on how to write phenomenal blog posts in a very saturated market. Give it a read, it’s a refreshingly honest look at what it takes to write in a way that stands out.
It’s true, there are millions of blogs out there on basically every topic imaginable, but there are few that make it to monetization level and even fewer that can replace a full-time income.
If you want my advice: Have a voice and an opinion. Be confident. Bring your unique experiences and expertise to the table. Because NO ONE can be you, and that’s the best way to stand out from the crowd.
Also, make sure you proofread every post.
6. Take breaks often.
Like any job, you need to make sure you practice some self-care and take breaks from your work. (I say this as I’ve been sitting in a cafe in Munich for 8 hours straight working on this blog…but you know what I mean…) It’s SO easy to get burnout from running your own business, even if it’s something you love doing.
Whether you go out for a walk, meet a friend for coffee, or meditate for 15 minutes, breaks are essential to a healthy and thriving blogging career. When you take care of yourself, you’ll be fresh and ready to rock your blog on any day of the week.
7. You need to constantly be ready to pivot.
With algorithm changes that happen seemingly every single day, you need to be watching your analytics and social media stats regularly to ensure that you aren’t left for dead because of them. Watch the media news closely, join blogging Facebook groups, and be ready to pivot your strategy if you find that you are losing traction due to platform or algorithm changes.
8. Don’t spread yourself too thin (especially on social media).
It seems like these days there are a million different platforms you could join to promote your content. Of course, there are the big fish like Facebook and Instagram. However, there are also smaller or more niche yet impactful websites that can also drive significant traffic, like Quora and Reddit. But don’t get sucked into trying to manage EVERY platform that exists.
The fact of the matter is that if you try to do everything, you won’t succeed at anything. Pick your platforms wisely based on your target audience, your business goals, and the time to impact ratio of building an audience on that platform. Of course, you don’t want to have just ONE external platform (see #7 if you already forgot why), but you also don’t want to try and rock at everything. You probably won’t.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but don’t break up your eggs between too many baskets, either. It’s all a balancing act.
9. Ignore the haters.
Once your blog is big enough, or if you post a controversial enough post, people WILL leave hate comments. I swear some people just sit in their houses all day and troll comment threads on the Internet. Don’t give these people the dignity of responding.
Now, sometimes you’ll get people who simply disagree with what you’ve written. It’s totally a good idea to respond to those people and engage in a healthy conversation. However, if someone is flat-out mean, threatening, or abusive, delete their comment and move on. Don’t let it fester. These people are not worth your energy or time.
10. Testing is the key to growth.
Do you want to continue growing your site forever and ever? Okay, good. I mean, you’ve read this far anyway, so you might as well continue, right? Anyway, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
The best-kept (or worst-kept) secret of the blogging world is this: you must test, and test, and test again.
Test different content types. Experiment with different pin designs. A/B test your marketing messages with different audiences. The more you test and gather real data, the more you will know about your audience and your brand.
To do this effectively, your analytics platforms (Google Analytics, Pinterest Analytics, Facebook/Instagram Analytics, etc.) will be your best friends forever. Use them and love them.
11. Grow your network.
In addition to cultivating your reader base, you’ll really want to develop a blogger network, too. These people will share strategies with you, help you share your content, and in general serve as wonderful friends that live around the world. Some of my friends that I’ve met through blogging have stayed friends for several years, and I’m glad that the Internet connected us in this way.
Some of the best ways I’ve found to grow your blogging network are attending conferences, joining niche-specific Facebook groups, and offering to guest post on fellow bloggers’ websites.
12. Focus on high-impact activities.
As you start down the blogging rabbit hole, you’ll quickly realize that certain platforms and content types help you achieve your goals and desired results much more quickly than others. Focus on these high-impact activities, and de-prioritize other things.
If you find you’re getting a TON of traffic from Pinterest but ZERO from Twitter, don’t invest time in Twitter. If you have a bunch of engagement on Instagram but zero on Flipboard, forget Flipboard. Constantly observe how much time you’re spending on certain activities and how much those activities are contributing to your end goals.
And speaking of goals…
13. Set reasonable and measurable goals.
You probably have a pretty good idea of what your end goals are for your site and your career, and that’s great. But a more important exercise is to break up that end goal into reasonable, measurable steps. This way, you can celebrate when you’ve hit a milestone, and your goals won’t seem so far away. You can also categorize your goals into different groups, like “Revenue” or “Traffic.”
14. Consistency is key.
Like I mentioned before, trying to do too much at once WILL SURELY result in burnout. And sometimes, burnout can be really hard to recover from. Instead, focus on pacing yourself and biting off only what you can chew, especially at first. If that means only being able to put out one post per week, so be it. I know successful bloggers who only put out one post per month. Doing less with consistency is going to look much more favorable than cramming and then burning out and letting your site die for months at a time.
One thing that really helps me with consistency is keeping an editorial calendar. CoSchedule is a fantastic tool made especially for bloggers that you can use to build out an editorial calendar. If you’re on a budget, you can also use good ol’ Google Calendar, too.
15. Know your audience.
As a blogger, your audience is everything. Your readers hold the power to keep you in business. So, do them the courtesy of getting to know them, responding to their emails, and putting out content that interests them.
Having a deep audience and consumer understanding requires a twofold approach: understanding macro consumer trends and getting to know your particular audience’s preferences.
Macro consumer data is pretty easy to find with a few Google searches – for my travel blog, I’d type in “American millennial travel trends.” This search alone brings up over 10 MILLION results, providing more than enough information for me to learn about what my target audience is looking for.
Secondly, listen to and reward the power readers who constantly engage with and comment on your posts, either on social media or on your website. These are clearly people who your content has strongly resonated with, so cultivate these relationships and use them to your advantage to learn more about what your actual audience is looking for.
Get your audience on the phone. Write them an email. Send them a letter in the mail (yes, I actually did this). Do anything you can to understand these people, what motivates them, and what their aspirations are.