Learning how to blog is an important business skill that can increase page rankings in Google and bring plenty of traffic to your website.
Here's my definition of what a blog is:
A blog is a marketing platform that utilizes quality content, targeted at a specific audience to create social influence, engage readers, build organic search traffic, and generate profits.
It doesn't matter what business you are in, once you have a following of highly engaged readers, and great page rankings bringing in plenty of organic search traffic, you can generate revenue.
But blogging isn't simply sitting down at your desk and writing stuff. In order to succeed you need to have connections, be scientific, knowledgeable, creative, and dynamic. This article shows you how.
1. Find a Niche
The first step to starting a successful blog is identifying and researching your niche. It's simply not possible to dominate broad topics without huge amounts of high quality content. So, in order to get started, you will need to focus on smaller niche markets.
For example, you might decide to start a blog on software. But, there is so much software out there that you could write a post every day for the rest of your life without covering every aspect of software.
It is better to dominate a smaller niche than to compete (but not dominate) in a larger niche.
Instead, for example, you might opt to focus on something like eCommerce software, which is still a large niche with lots of competition. It may even be wiser to drill down to a smaller niche that you have determined can dominated and make money (more about that in the next two steps).
2. Understand the Niche
As you might expect, the audience for a niche like eCommerce software is not necessarily the same as the audience for software. After all, the people interested in eCommerce probably aren't the same ones interested in, say, flight simulation software.
People interested in eCommerce may be entrepreneurs and business people, so it's important you know where they hang out online, and in the real world.
Spend some time thinking about the type of information your target audience would value before you start writing. Creating unfocused content is worse than doing nothing because you put in time and effort to get the same result.
3. Put Together a Business Plan
A blog can be thought of as a business in its own right, and as such, requires its own unique strategic plan. A blogging plan consists of the following sections:
- Niche/Industry research
- Target market research
- Competitive research
- Publishing strategy
- Analysis & refinement
In short, before putting pen to paper, it is a great advantage to answer questions like how big is the overall market, who is the ideal reader, what competitors are already in this niche, and what type of content will work best.
4. Choose a Quality Blogging Platform
If you have yet to start building a blog, check out create a website Google loves for guidance on how to create a quality website quickly and cheaply.
Choosing a good platform is one of the most important aspects of starting properly. A high quality platform, with good Web design and SEO features, gives any blog a fighting chance of success.
Avoid the temptation to skimp on professional design, or high quality Web hosting to save a few bucks. Rather make a successful blog that will generate more than enough profit to pay for the few extra dollars per month quality websites and hosting cost.
5. Learn How to Write (for the Web & your target audience)
Once you know who you are writing for, it is time to learn how to write.
Blogging is different from traditional writing in that people have a very short attention span online. People want information fast. Content needs to be simple and clear. Short paragraphs and simple sentences are generally easier for people to read.
The catch is that you should also try maintain your own unique voice. Writing content that is simple and clear doesn't automatically mean it has to be bland. Here are some things you might want to consider early on:
- Decide on your goals and objectives: What do you want to get out of your online presence? How much is Web traffic worth to you?
- Assess strengths and weaknesses: Are there employees who can write about your niche intelligently? Does anyone in the organization have time to blog? Does anyone have great blogging skills?
- Create a budget: Whether you are creating content in-house, or hiring a blogger to write for you, it's important to understand what it will cost, and relate this to your objectives.
- Create a strategy: By looking at your market, and target audience, and how your company fits in, it is possible to come up with a decent publishing strategy that should deliver the right information to the right people, and achieve your objectives.
- Create carefully: The sooner you start building up a reservoir of great material, the better. But don't create content for the sake of it. Rather create less content, but invest more effort into each piece.
- Consistency: Don't stop. Content publishing need to be consistent and persistent in order to be effective.
- Analyze & refine: Make sure you understand which pages are popular, which lead to conversions, which doesn't work, and the reasons why. Use this information to refine your publishing strategy in order to maximize the ROI (Return On Investment)
Because the quality of your written material needs to be professional in order to be effective, you either need to invest time and resources in training in-house staff, or find a prominent blogger or marketer that can both help develop a strategy, as well as implement it.
6. Make Connections
While the bulk of your traffic is likely to stem from organic searches in Google and other search engines, much of the perceived popularity of your blog will come from the people who talk about it.
Writing the world's best content doesn't automatically mean you will get plenty of traffic and makes tonnes of money. Check out:
Without identifying key players and influencers in your niche and making a concerted effort to connect with them, you face an uphill battle in gaining recognition, authority and trust.
Sending someone and email asking them to link to your pages is not reaching out. You need to incentivize a relationship. Take the first step by linking back to a great article, or talking about another blogger, or commenting on their posts.
Building valuable connections takes time. Don't expect everyone to fall over themselves trying to be your friend, initially. Once your site is popular, you will find that plenty of people make time to be your friend because you are now in a position to benefit them.
7. Learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
I don't think it is necessary for bloggers to become level 5 SEO gurus. But, it pays to be competent at basic search optimization because it will help give your posts a boost up the page rankings, and help you to identify and fix potential problems.
Check out our top 5 weekly SEO tasks for bloggers and entrepreneurs.
Google is always updating and modifying its algorithms and this can lead to problems that really hurt your Web traffic and bottom line if you are not aware of them, or unable to fix them.
8. Grow your Blog
Sitting down once a day and writing an article is great. But, it is unlikely you will be able to grow sufficiently to truly dominate your niche like this.
To grow your blog you need to evangelize it via social media. Write guest posts on respected, high quality sites in the same niche. Encourage other respected bloggers to post articles on your site. Start competitions. Attend events and conferences. Get out and about. Get seen. Be heard.
Blogging, like business, relies as much on who you know as what you know.
It is likely that there are many people out there who have the same knowledge as you. The difference between you and them lies in how well you can create a compelling message and spread it via your network of influencers to become a trusted and recognised part of the landscape.
9. Be Mindful of Costs
Creating content is expensive. You either:
- pay someone to do it for you
- spend time and effort creating it yourself
This kind of simplifies the equation a bit because it doesn't take into account the fact that the material itself must be of very high quality - if it is going to earn money for you or your business.
High quality content, unlike most online material, takes time, experience and skill to create. In this sense I am talking about costs not only in the financial sense, but also in terms of the amount of time and effort that need to be invested in order to start producing great quality content.
Creating content has 'hidden' costs associated with a steep learning curve.
This is actually one of the main reasons many businesses fail to become profitable. Depending on how much you write, your natural ability, and how fast you learn, it can take a few months to a few years to get really good.
Check out Why businesses fail online for more info on this.
In addition, marketing content has a range of associated costs. While organic search traffic via Google and other search engines is technically free, you may incur costs by paying SEO experts to help optimise your Web platform.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the more common costs associated with marketing and promoting content.
If your material is well written with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in mind, then you might generate a good portion of your traffic for free, via organic search. In my opinion,
Organic search traffic offers the highest value to cost ratio.
Backlinks and referrals are also free of cost. Again, the number of backlinks your site generates over time depends entirely on how valuable the information is to human readers.
You can speed up the rate at which your site accumulates backlinks by ensuring that your content is shared in the major social networks. But don't pay for backlinks, other you risk running afoul of Google and being penalized.
This leaves direct advertising - paying for advertising space on other websites - and, PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns like those run on Google's AdWords.
Both forms of advertising can be very expensive, and it is important that you understand exactly how your material will drive conversions, sales, and revenue before starting an advertising campaign.
Advertising costs vary from industry to industry, so it isn't possible to put an exact dollar amount on how much it will cost. But a quick look at your niche keywords in Google AdWords' Keyword Planner will show you their price/bid recommendations (to be taken with a pinch of salt).
10. Generate Revenue
There are a myriad of different ways to make money from a blog. How you choose to do it really depends on what niche your in and what you think is best (after all you know your niche and audience better than anyone).
Some of the most common options are:
- Google ads (AdSense)
- Affiliate ads
- Direct ads (i.e. advertisers pay to place ads onsite)
- Advertorials (i.e. advertisers sponsor an article that mentions/links to them)
- Sell digital goods (i.e. eBooks)
It's up to your imagination as to how best to monetize the traffic your blog generates. But keep in mind:
Web traffic volumes are directly proportional to earnings
With very few exceptions, you can pretty much bank on the fact that the more eyeballs you have on your pages, the more revenue will be generated.
How much can I earn? I hear you ask. Here's a screenshot I took of my Google AdSense earnings for a period of 3 months for a single article I wrote a few years back:
As you can see, that particular post generates a touch over $250 per quarter, or about $1000 per year in AdSense revenue. Not bad, right? Remember it also brings in plenty of traffic that funnels through to various other pages and generates even more revenue. Offhand, I would guess it is directly responsible for earning about twice as much in total.
Talking of funnels, ensuring that you set up and refine multiple sales funnels is absolutely vital to ensuring multiple stable streams of revenue. Check out this sales funnel marketing strategy for bloggers to learn more about how to set them up and use them effectively.
11. Keep Learning
There's a fantastic Irish saying that applies perfectly to the practice of blogging:
If you're not confused, you don't know what's going on.
Blogging is a rapidly evolving discipline that has to take into account changes in Web development design and development technologies, the ever changing landscape of search and SEO, developments within your own niche industry, news and current affairs, and just about everything we humans think is important.
It's something that evolves and changes at an every increasing rate so it is important to keep up to date with new developments.
12. Avoid Common Pitfalls
There are a lot of ways to go wrong when it comes to publishing online content. Here's a list of a few that I have seen cropping up time and time again...
Hiring poor quality
Recognizing that their own companies may not have the requisite skills or time to spend on creating great information, many people outsource to cheap online marketing services that promise to deliver plenty of high quality content with lots of backlinks, etc.
But, you want to see the dreadful quality of writing that your marketing dollars might pay for? Here's a guest blog post request I received from a marketing firm:
How are you? Hope you are doing well...!!!
I am blogger and looking for a blog to post my Content. After seeing your blog, I would like to request you something.
I love to write Technologies articles based on Software/Web Application Development, .NET Development, CMS (Wordpress, Drouple, Joomla), Internet Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, SMO, PPC.
I would like to contribute article for your Blog if you’ll give me the permission. I can give you an original guest post and I assure you that it will be published only in your site.
If you want, you can suggest me the topic also and I will write accordingly."
Is that really the quality of writing that you would like to represent your business online?
Make sure you know who is creating content on your behalf.
Giving up early
Most companies give blogging a try. It doesn't bear fruit, so they give up and never reconsider it. The reason blogging (and content marketing in general) fails so often is because of:
- Poor quality
- Unrealistic expectations
- Limited resources
Unfortunately, many business blogs suffer from all of the above.
Creating mediocre content
People expect a certain level of professionalism in the material they consume - they are used to reading high quality newspapers and magazines that are created by organizations that specialize in publishing.
And, it may seem unfair to expect a local mom and pop store to create the same level of engaging content - but that's just how it is. There's no set formula for content marketing success. High quality writing, being useful, funny, engaging, etc, are all prerequisites, but not guarantees.
I would also add that half-hearted written material is worse than doing nothing because you will achieve the same result and waste time and money in the process.
What tips and advice would you add to this list? Share your blogging experiences on why you have or haven't been successful at blogging.