HOw to start a successful blog

How to start a successful blog by
Sue Dunlevie

A friend recently asked me if I would help her begin a blog. Her request inspired me to look at what I have acquired from operating my own blog for the past nine+ years. My initial advice to her was to spend awhile learning and reading. The web is flooded with blogging data and advice. I assume I am like most people who blog. I classify myself as a serious blogger. I am also a big-time consumer of blogs and other media. I follow many blogs in several niches to learn what works. So based on my experience, what should I tell my friend about starting a new blog that’ll get her set up without consuming her? This is where I began my first blog. For me, my own blog is about building a relationship. Two crucial components of any relationship are intent and association. You are able to find dozens of high-quality posts about every aspect of arranging and setting up your blog, but none of it is one-size-fits-all. Each choice – design, colors, blog topic, post length, style—depends on the end goal you have. Conclusions that do not seem like a big deal now may become crucial later. For instance, self-hosting on your own blogging platform,, with your own domain may feel like an unneeded expense, but it is crucial if your goal is to construct a personal brand or a business around your blog and to make money. I started with BlueHost as my hosting provider (they even throw in a free domain name) and I recommend to all my clients that they do also. I’ve had clients come to me using other web hosting companies (which shall go nameless!) and their sites were slow to load and difficult to handle. (If you want step-by-step guidance on how to set up WordPress in just one-click and find out how to put in your plugins, like Yoast or All-In-One SEO (which will handle your search engine optimization), just click here to read my step guide about how to do it or drop me and email and I’ll do it for you). Remember that it is about your audience. Design should fit the blog’s personality. An overly simple design might appear plain and undesirable, or be a minimalist theme that sets the tone for your message and heightens the look of your blog content. Everything matters. Every choice either moves you towards your goal or away from it. You should have all the basic website pages – a Contact page, an About Me page, a Blog page, your first post and at least 2 additional blog posts to consider yourself a true blogger! Personally, I consider and track analytics each month, but that is really more about seeing where my traffic comes from. I seek trends, try out other ideas, and learn from my errors. The point? My technique is deliberate and fits my goals. Incidentally, my figures, as well as my income, have more than tripled since I began in 2010. I consistently follow other bloggers to keep up with the trends and their new ideas and concepts. The most important thing is to be consistent with blogging. 1. BRAINSTORMING BLOG POST IDEAS BASED ON CATEGORIES There is nothing worse than sitting in front of your laptop, attempting to write a new blog post with nothing but a blank screen staring at you. Inspiration just isn’t on your side today. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a list of blog post ideas ready to use? I’ll walk you through a simple exercise that will result in dozens of blog posts ideas you can use over the coming weeks and months, or whenever you need a little extra inspiration. Grab a notebook and pen, and let’s start brainstorming a bunch of future blog posts. [I prefer to do this exercise with pen and paper, but if that’s not your thing, by all means use a word document, spreadsheet or whatever program you prefer for brainstorming topic ideas.] Log In to Your Blog and Make a List of Your Categories Start by making a list of all the categories on your blog. What topics will you be writing about? Keep the list between 4 and 8 categories. Copy these categories down in your notebook, leaving at least 10 lines of space below each category. Come Up With At Least 10 Blog Post Ideas Per Category Now that you have your list of categories, come up with 10 blog post ideas for each category. Just jot down the first things that come to mind. [Remember, you are brainstorming.] The idea is to generate ideas. You’re free to tweak or edit and reject them later. For now, get them on paper and come up with a long list of potential post ideas. Rinse and Repeat As Needed One of the best things about this technique is that you can repeat it whenever you need a new batch of blog post ideas. Give it a try and see if this simple idea doesn’t help you generate a long list of future blog post topics. 2. HOW TO CRAFT GREAT BLOG POST TITLES I’ll let you in on a little secret. The most important part of your blog post is your title. How well you write, how well-researched your content is, or how pretty your images are means nothing if you can’t get readers to click through and start reading your post. And the single most important thing when it comes to getting readers’ attention is your blog post title. It’s also the most important on-page factor when it comes to SEO. So if you’re hoping for lots of free traffic from Google and all your favorite social media sites, you need to get good at crafting great blog post titles. Start With Your Keyword The key with great blog post titles is to strive for a balance between a title the search engines will like and one that your readers will find interesting and engaging enough to make them want to click on it. To get that balance just right, I like to start with a keyword or key phrase that I want to rank for in the search engines. Open up your favorite keyword research tool – like the Google Keyword Planner for example – and play around with it until you come up with the keyword or key phrase you want to rank for. For the sake of illustration let’s say our keyword example is “best blog hosts” and the post will be a review of five of the best hosting companies for WordPress blogs. “best blog hosts” is the keyword we want to rank for in this example. Make It Interesting Now that we have the keyword, it’s time to make it interesting for our readers. There are plenty of different ways to turn our example keyword into an interesting blog post title. Here are a few ideas: • The Three Best Blog Hosts Reviewed – Read This Before You Sign Up • Looking For a New Home for Your Blog? The Best Blog Hosts Reviewed • My Top 5 Best Blog Hosts Revealed – Here’s Who I Recommend • Wondering Who The Best Blog Hosts Are? • Is Your Host One of the Best of The Best Blog Hosts List? Do you see how this works? Start with the keyword and then try to think about why your readers would be looking for this information. Focus on what’s in it for them by sharing content that will help them out. Stay Authentic and Stick With Your Style Last but not least, stay authentic and stick with your own style. This is particularly important if you’re an established blogger. Don’t just copy and paste the blog post titles above. They may not reflect the style and tone of voice of your blog posts. In other words, they may not be you. Balance the need of the search engines to easily find what you’re content is about, the need to keep things interesting for your readers, with your own voice. You may find it helpful to write a few different blog post titles down and then choose the one that resonates most with you (and hopefully with your readers). 3. QUICK POSTS VS. EPIC “PILLAR” POSTS Blog posts come in all shapes and sizes and range widely in both formatting and word length. Heck, some of them have (almost) no words at all, sharing instead and infographic or a video for example. Let’s compare two different posts that are on opposite ends of the content spectrum – quick posts, or short posts, vs. epic pillar posts. While there is no set number to define a quick post or an epic post, in my mind, short posts are anything under 500 words. Some may define it by a lower number. Epic posts on the other hand are long, well-though-out posts that convey a lot of information. They are usually at least 2,000 words long. They also do a lot more research and aren’t something you can quickly sit down and write in an afternoon. Which brings us to the next big difference between quick posts and epic posts – and one that I think distinguishes between the two better than some random word count. A quick post is something you can sit down and write quickly. An epic post on the other hand requires some research and planning. You gather your thoughts, figure out what you want to share and convey and then come up with a plan or an outline. From there you spend some time writing a long post that covers a lot of ground. You may also choose to include several different images or graphics to illustrate your point or embed some videos. You may even go so far as to summarize the main points of your post in an infographic. There’s a lot more work that goes into an epic post and it isn’t something you’ll want to publish once a week. Instead, it’s the rare project you put together to gain authority, links, and hopefully a lot of traffic via social media and the search engines. Quick posts, on the other hand, are something you can write and share quickly. They are shorter and to the point and frankly, easier to read. These are your bread and butter posts. Quick posts are posts that you’ll publish weekly or every other week to keep your readers happy & engaged and your blog fresh. Each type of post has its place in your publishing schedule. So use both types to have a successful blog. 4. DOWN AND DIRTY FORMATTING TIPS TO MAKE YOUR BLOG POSTS SHINE We live in a world where people have very short attention spans. We’re bombarded by so much content every single day, we can’t possibly read and consume it all. The solution we have developed is to scan things quickly and decide if we want to invest the time to read the article, watch the video, or listen to the podcast. Our blog readers are no different. That’s why it is important to format your posts in a way that makes it easy to scan, get a quick idea of what the post is about, and then make a decision about reading it. That’s what formatting is all about. It’s an important step in your blogging process. Add to that the fact that formatting is also an important part of on-page SEO and it is something you should be paying a lot of attention to. Formatting For Your Readers Always start by formatting it for your readers. While search engines are important, they won’t do you any good if you can’t convince people to read your post. Make It Easy To Scan the Content The most important thing you can do for your readers is to make it easy to scan the content. Use headlines, break up text, etc. to make it quick and easy to scan the post and figure out what it’s about. Of course your headlines and your images are a big part of this. Break Up Things in Bulleted and Numbered Lists Break up things, tips, ideas, etc. into lists. Depending on context, those could be bulleted or numbered lists. Lists are easy to get ready, quick to scan, and helps readers consume your content. Keep Your Paragraphs Short Reading online is different from reading a print book or newspaper. It’s much harder on the eyes, and since we’re consuming so much written content on a daily basis and scanning a lot, our attention span when it comes to reading has gone down quite a bit. Make it easy for your readers to read your posts by keeping your paragraphs short. One to three sentences is usually all you want in each. Bold Important Concepts Highlight the most important concepts or key words of your post by bolding them. Not only does this help readers understand that this is an important point, it also helps with scanning before they commit to read your post. 5. FORMATTING FOR THE SEARCH ENGINES Now that your post is pretty and easy to scan and read for humans, let’s talk about formatting for search engines. Use H Tags Using H tags like (H1, H2)etc. show search engines what words on the page are important. Use an H1 tag for your post title. If you’re using blogging software like WordPress, your theme should take care of this for you. But don’t stop there. You can use various other H tags throughout your content. Let’s say your blog post can be slit up into two major sections like this post for example. One section is about formatting for readers, the other for search engines. Those sub headings are H2 tags. Bold Key Words This one is easy. If you haven’t already done so for your readers, find your main keyword and make it bold. This will also show search engines that this particular word or piece of text is important. Don’t overdo it though. Use Alt Tags in Images As you’re adding images, include text in the alt tags that describe the image, but also include your main key word. As with the other tags and formatting tips, this will help with ranking. Use Your Keywords in the Text Last but not least, give your post a quick scan and make sure you’ve used your keyword several times in the main body of your post. Again, it’s important to strike a good balance here. Don’t overdo it, but don’t forget to include it. In a 400+ word article like this, using the keyword about 3 times is a good general rule of thumb. MY PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION FOR YOU How To Make Money On The Internet: A Success Story With Don Purdum 6. INTERLINK YOUR POSTS FOR MORE INTERACTION As your blog starts to grow and you’re adding more and more posts, chances are readers won’t see every single post you write. Why not make it easy for them to find related content by cross linking it where appropriate. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you blog about social media marketing and this particular post talks about using images effectively on Facebook. You can link within that post to an older post where you talk about using images on Twitter, or a more specific post where you explain how to fix things when Facebook doesn’t pull up the right image from your site. Let’s look at another example. Let’s say you’re writing a recipe blog and you’re sharing a new recipe for an amazing BLT tomato salad. You can link to an older post where you share how to cook bacon in the oven. This strategy serves a few different purposes. You’re engaging your readers more with your content. This gives them a chance to get to know you and your log a little better. It also means you’re getting more exposure and your visitor numbers will start to look better. It also helps you with search engines, believe it or not. They keep track of how long readers stay on your site and if they click around to read more. This is an indication of the quality of your content and your blog. In other words, if you can get readers to stick around longer, it will help your blog rank higher in the search engines. Not only does this allow your readers to get to know you better, it also builds credibility and trust which is exactly what you want. Last but not least, the more pages you convince your readers to take a look at, the higher your chances that they’ll comment or share your links on social media. That, in turn, will help you broaden your reach and grow your audience. 7. DON’T BE AFRAID TO LINK TO OTHER SITES Many new bloggers (and even experienced ones) are afraid to link to other sites. They think they will lose readers and bleed out “link juice” and authority to the other site. If you’re linking to crappy, spammy sites, that is definitely the case. But if you’re linking to other quality blogs or various authority sites, these outbound links can be very beneficial. What Is an Outbound Link? An outbound link is simply a link that goes to a site other than your own. If I’m linking from one of my blog posts to an older one, that’s an internal link. If another blog links to me, that’s an incoming link. If I link to someone else’s blog or an article on a university website for example, that’s an outbound or outgoing link. Link to Authority Sites Linking to other websites is good practice; after all that’s what makes the web the web. These links are what connect all the websites and blogs out there. You just want to make sure that the page and site you sent your readers to is a quality site. Check out their content and make sure it’s quality stuff before you link it to any site. Linking Helps With Credibility Linking other helpful blog posts and articles is a nice thing to do for your readers. It helps you build credibility and trust. Readers will come to see you as a great source of information and that will keep them coming back for more. Linking Helps With Search Engines Last but not least, linking out to authority sites will help you gain more credibility and help you rank higher. Give it a try. Find a high authority blog to link to or even better, where it makes sense, link to articles and blog posts from university or government sites. Don’t overdo it, but don’t be afraid to link out here and there and see if that doesn’t help you rise in the search engine rankings. 8. YOU’VE GOT TO PROMOTE YOUR BLOG POSTS You spend a lot of time and effort crafting a few blog posts per week. You take pictures, or buy stock photos and format them. In other words, you put a lot of time, thought, and effort into your blog posts. You hit publish and then move on to working on the next blog post. If that’s you, there’s a very important step you’re missing – promoting your blog and your blog posts. Getting the word out about the awesome post you’ve just published is just as important as writing it in the first place. In fact, you should be spending more time and effort in the promotion of your posts than you do writing them. Here are six different ways to promote your blog posts. The first two or three are essential and something you should do every single time you hit publish. The rest are things you should do regularly but not necessarily for every single post. Social Media The first thing you should do as soon as you publish a new post is share it on your favorite social media sites. Each niche has different sites that work better than others. Figure out where your target market already hangs out and get active there. Be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumbler, or any of the other social media sites. Then start sharing your content each time you publish a post. And don’t forget to go back and share older posts as well. Email I wasn’t kidding when I said a few days ago that list building was important. Here’s another great instance when having an email list comes in handy. Send out an email about the new blog post to your list. Include a link to it in your weekly newsletter. Add a little info about the topic and a link to your autoresponder messages. In other words, share the post with your subscribers. Not only will you entice them to come back to your blog, there’s also a pretty good chance they will start to share it with their circle of influence. Blog Comments Find a few related blogs and make quality comments on them. In the URL field, link to your new blog post. It’s an easy way to get links and traffic back to your site. It may not be the most effective link building strategy, but it’s easy and a great way to get in front of other bloggers and their audience. Guest Blog Posts As you start to build relationships with other bloggers in your niche and related niches, offer to write guest blog posts for them. Pick one of your more popular or profitable blog posts and use it along with your main blog URL in the author resource box – or even better, work the link to your blog post naturally in the content of your guest post. Videos and Life Streaming With Google Hangouts, YouTube, and Facebook Life Streaming it’s never been easier to get into video content. Record a short video of your blog post and share it along with a link to your post. Don’t forget to invite readers to read the post in your video. Webinars and Podcasts Last but not least, consider going on webinars and podcasts to promote your blog and individual blog posts. They are a great way to broaden your reach and get in front of a brand new audience. Of course this isn’t an all-inclusive or even extensive list of things you can do to promote your posts. But it’s a start. Work on these and add other promotional methods as you come across them. 9. SOCIAL MEDIA LOVE – PROMOTE YOUR OWN STUFF Identify Where Your Target Audience Hangs Out Already The first thing you need to do is figure out where your target market hangs out on social media sites. Yes, most of us have a Facebook account, but it’s not the best social media platform for every single niche. Do your research and come up with a short list of platforms where you want to focus your efforts. Establish a Presence and Learn the Ropes Then get active there and start making friends. Figure out the social media platform and pay attention to what other bloggers are doing that seems to be working. Things always change on social media so this will be an ongoing thing. Start learning and start making connections with your target market. Tailor Your Posts and Your Images to These Social Media Platforms Figure out how to best present your content. What images should you use, should they have text on them and what sizes work best? Find out and start tailoring your content to those specs. Try different approaches and see what works best for you, your blog, and your niche. Promote and Interact With all the prep work done, it’s time to start promoting your content. Aim for a mix of interactions, sharing other people’s content, and of course sharing your own. Mix it up and don’t just toot your own horn all the time for the best results. Grow, Rinse, and Repeat As you spend more time on each social media platform and interact with other users, your reach will start to grow. Keep it up and spend a little time each week connecting with new people in your target market. Keep growing and of course rinse and repeat on an ongoing basis so your content is continually promoted. Every few months re-evaluate what you’re doing and see what’s getting you the best results. Do more of that and try new tactics, techniques, and social media platforms as you come across them. 10. THE IMPORTANCE OF BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER BLOGGERS You don’t operate in a vacuum. You need readers and people that help spread the word about your writing. It just makes sense to work with other bloggers. It’s a Quick Way To Get In Front Of Someone Else’s Audience You work hard to grow your audience and get in front of as many people as possible. Other bloggers work just as hard on the same goal and chances are that even if the two of you are in the same niche, you have a somewhat different audience. If you can build a relationship with a fellow blogger, you can each grow your reach and get in front of each other’s audience. You Can Grow Faster Together With the support cross promotion brings allows everyone concerned has the opportunity to grow more quickly. It isn’t just your readership that will grow. Your lists will grow faster, your social media reach will grow faster, and your search engine rankings may improve as you support and help each other. Together you can grow your blogs much faster. Readers Want As Much Content As They Can Get – Help Them Think about yourself as a blog reader. When you’re interested in a topic or getting into a new hobby, you want to read and learn as much as you can. Do you read just one blog? Of course not, you read everything you can find. Your readers are the same. Help them out by pointing them to other great blogs in your niche – and if you have a relationship with those bloggers, they will return the favor. Mastermind to Learn Faster and Get Better Last but not least, let’s talk about how you can become a better blogger by networking with others along the same path. We all figure out different things that help us in our blogging career. By masterminding with other bloggers, you can speed up the learning curve and get ahead much faster. Share what you’re learning, what’s working and what isn’t and grow together towards becoming better and more successful bloggers. 11. WHAT DO YOU WANT THEM TO DO NEXT? CRAFTING A COMPELLING CTA You’ve written a blog post and you’re ready to hit publish. You just know your readers will love it. Before you hit the publish button, take a minute and think about what you want your readers to do when they’re done reading your post. What do you want them to do next? You have quite a few options here. • Maybe you want them to leave you a comment. • Maybe you want them to share your post on Facebook or Twitter. • Maybe you want them to read another post of yours. • You may want them to sign up for your email list. • Maybe you want them to buy something (either your own product or something you’re an affiliate for). The one thing you don’t want to do is leave them hanging at the end. Not only is it not beneficial to you if all they do is “x” out of your blog, you’re also doing your readers a disservice if you leave them hanging. You’re taking them on a journey with your post, now tell them what they should do next. It’s part of your job as a blogger. It’s called a Call to Action (CTA) and usually comes towards the end of your blog post. It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it should be clear and convincing. Sometimes you want to push hard and get a little aggressive, but most of the time, keep it easy and casual. Let’s run through a few CTA examples. Ask Them to Comment What are your favorite ways to end your blog posts? Do you use a particular call to action? Leave me a comment below and let’s talk. Connect on Facebook Got questions about crafting calls to action? Let’s talk about it on our Facebook page. (Link to your Facebook page). Create a Product Recommendation There’s a lot more to be said about crafting a strong call to action. Take a look at this guide to learn more. Invite Them to Join Your List I have a lot more to share on the topic of blogging and would love to email you with more tips and strategies on a regular basis. Just enter your name and email below and we’ll get started right away. As a thank you, I’ll even send you my guide to writing strong blog post titles that will grab your readers’ attention. Calls to action aren’t hard to write and they give your readers clear directions on what to do next. Before you hit publish on your next blog post, make sure you have a clear CTA at the end. It’s amazing what will happen when you start to blog regularly and do some little tweaks here and there to improve your content, expand your reach, and overall become a better blogger. Share with me what you are going to start doing in the comments! Related Posts: 110+ Top Bloggers And Entrepreneurs Share Their Most Successful Social Media Actions 46 Top Entrepreneurs Confess Their Biggest Selling Mistake How To Start A Blog And Make Money - The Ultimate Guide 38 Blogging Experts Share How To Increase Engagement And Social Shares How To Write A Compelling Intro For Your Next Blog Post