November 7, 2011
Starting a blog from scratch can be intimidating. There are a countless number of established blogs on the web, and you must differentiate yourself to compete. These ten steps can help guide you on your way to penetrating the elite fraternity of professional bloggers, and building a loyal readership.
1. Have a Plan
One of my favorite quotes comes from Lewis Carrol and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by way of the Cheshire Cat – “If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you expect to get there?”
Decide early on what the specific goals of your blog might be. If you don’t outline your goals, you will risk writing meandering content that will lack focus. Write a detailed business plan and content schedule to avoid getting too far off track. Compiling a list of article topics early on can help you avoid the dilemma of writers block every blogger experiences.
2. Be Yourself
Whatever you do, don’t try to be something you’re not. This can be one of the most difficult obstacles for newbies to overcome when launching a blog. After all, you probably decided to go out on your own after reading other blogs and websites. Everyone is influenced to some degree, but to truly be successful, you must find a way to stand out from the pack. Take a break from reading your competitors’ material for a few days before launching to avoid the temptation to imitate and to crystallize your blog concept.
3. Be Unique
Quite often, aspiring bloggers make the decision to begin publishing content because they have a unique opinion and a voice that is unheard. This is the way it’s supposed to be, and Google rewards the concept through high search rankings. Bloggers whose only goal is to make money often write uninspiring content, and find themselves banging their collective heads against the wall to improve their SERPs. Research other blogs in your niche to see what is being talked about, and more importantly, what is not.
4. Show Your Personality
I know many bloggers who are funny, entertaining, and interesting, but don’t let their true colors show in their posts. Think about your audience only so far as determining your voice. Speak from the heart and don’t worry about what people think.
5. Write With a Purpose
Another mistake many bloggers make is to get trapped into the idea that they must post content every single day. If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say it. You never know when a potentially loyal reader will stumble across your content. It is always beneficial to have your best content front and center when new users visit your site. Furthermore, if you post entries that are hollow, or appear to be forced, you risk turning off the users who followed you for your unique perspective.
6. Interact With Your Audience
User generated content is the best kind of content. It’s easy, free, and hands-off. However, it’s not always easy to sit back and let readers write your content for you. In the early stages of blogging, it’s important to respond to every single comment, even if it’s simply to agree with the commenter’s sentiments. Users are more likely to join an existing conversation than to kick one off by logging the first comment.
7. Link to Quality Content
Don’t be afraid to share interesting content from other blogs. A common mistake bloggers make is to be overly stingy with external linking. It’s easy to read a Page Rank 101 guide that admonishes sharing link juice, but you may find that linking to interesting content improves your ranking. Linking to great content adds value to your users and should add value to your blog. Additionally, webmasters might notice incoming links to their sites and decide to link back to you.
8. Write Conversationally
Your written word should sound as if it were flowing from your tongue. Avoid the temptation to break out a thesaurus to use flowery language. Readers can spot unnatural language from a mile away, and if they feel it isn’t genuine, you may lose credibility. Rather, you should use your unique voice and perspective to your advantage.
9. Detail Your Credibility
Chances are you have chosen to blog about something you know a thing or two about. Be sure your readers know this. Tell them why you are writing about your subject matter and don’t be shy when it comes to your qualifications. Readers want to read blogs written by experts, so let them know why they should listen to you. Create an “about” page that serves as a virtual resume listing your relative experience and accomplishments.
10. Utilize Social Media
Add social media links to your site to show new readers that they’re not alone. Facebook likes, fans, and Twitter followers serve as testimonials from like-minded readers on the web. If you are just starting out, ask your friends and existing social network to share and endorse your content. Users are more likely to share content that has already been shared.
Dan is a search engine optimization expert and marketing consultant. In his free time he blogs about baseball and various other topics.