Blogging is a great way to express your thoughts, share your expertise on a subject, or find an audience to connect with. This article will teach you all you need to know about starting and maintaining a great blog with a wide readership.
Find a Blogging Platform
There are infinite platforms that you can use to create and host your blog such as WordPress, Blogger, Freewebs, and Tumblr to name a few. You can start a blog for free on most websites, but in order to get your own domain or more complex themes, you may have to shell out some cash.
Pick a Topic
This is perhaps the most difficult part of starting a blog. The best blogs are specific, niche websites. Pick a passion of yours, and then narrow your focus until you have a niche blog. If you have a passion for food, start a vegan blog, a dessert blog, a healthy eating blog, or a blog where all your recipes are five ingredients are less.
The goal here is to pick a topic that is expansive enough that you can write regular posts about, but narrow enough so that you can create your own unique brand instead of just creating a catchall “recipe blog” that doesn’t distinguish itself from all the other food blogs out there.
Personal blogs, op-ed blogs, and creative fiction blogs have a harder time gaining a wide audience compared to topic blogs. If your goal is to write great material that reaches a wide audience, writing a memoir or journal-style blog may not be the right path. But if your goal is just to flex your creative muscle and try something new, then feel free to blog about whatever you wish!
Write Great Content
The best blogs churn out amazing post after amazing post. Here are some of the qualities of great content:
Lots of lists. Blogs should be easy to read, with lots of bold text, lists, and headings. Blogs are more about condensed information than long-winded articles. Lists are the golden standard of blog article: nothing beats a great list post!
Beautiful, relevant images. Images are even more important in today’s world since a great image can make your post go viral on image sites such as Pinterest or Tumblr. The best post images also have your blog’s name and the title of the article written on it, and you can do this with Photoshop or a basic free image editor.
You can buy stock images from places like BigStockPhoto, or you can use royalty-free images through Flickr. Microsoft also has a free database of stock images. Whatever you do, don’t search Google images and take whatever image you find for your post. These are often copyrighted and can make you liable for legal action. Don’t steal!
Write specific posts. Instead of writing a post about eating healthy in college, write an article about 5 Tips for Eating Healthy in the Dining Hall. Instead of writing an article about the importance of creativity, write 5 Creativity Boosting Tips for Writers. Specificity is interesting. Specificity gets you traffic from Google.
Find an Audience
Create great, unique content. A successful blogger regularly publishes fresh, relevant content. In order to find an audience, you need to find a unique approach on your specific topic and churn out information, resources, and article series that your readers find useful. The only way you’re going to create a readership is if you have this element down pat.
Foster your voice. The best bloggers showcase their personality through their writing, creating a connection with their readers. About 10% of your blog should be focused on fostering that relationship with your readers. Tell your story, share what’s going on with you, or write an op-ed about a subject you’re passionate about. Write in a conversational tone, tell lame jokes, and don’t be afraid that anyone will judge you for who you are. An audience turns into a following when you put a face on your great content.
Use social media. Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit have created endless opportunities for me to find new readers. I have 25,000 subscribers on Tumblr, and they are an integral part of making my blog successful. Pinterest keeps my content fresh and relevant by spreading it around, and Facebook and Twitter are direct lines to my readers where I can interact with them and broadcast new content.
SEO and Keyword Research
If you’re a more advanced blogger, you can begin venturing into the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and keyword research to drive more traffic to your websites. There are tons of websites and books that cover everything you need to know about these topics, so I’ll be brief. Here are three things you need to know about SEO and keyword research:
Know what keywords you’re targeting. Recently, I wrote 30 posts for a 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge I hosted on my blog. The keyword I was after was “clean eating.” My traffic and adsense jumped after those thirty days thanks to visitors coming to my website to read about clean eating.
I’m also writing a blog series called “How to Write a Screenplay” over on Page 85, and that’s also the keyword we’re targeting there. Think about what you search in Google, and think about your content in terms of how would people find my article on Google? What would they search for? Then use those keywords.
Use keyword-rich titles. Every clean eating post began with “Clean Eating Challenge: [Article Name]” which not only helped people realize that this was a blog series, but also improved my Google ranking since I now have 30 articles with “clean eating” in the title.
Use your keywords in the article where it fits, and also use your keywords in the photo description field.
Use small images. Pages load faster when you have smaller images. Google likes websites with images — but they also like websites that load quickly. You can also use a cache plug-in (if you’re using WordPress) to make your website load faster.
You can make money off of your blogging hobby by placing ads on your site through programs like Google Adsense. You can also seek out affiliate programs (such as Amazon Associates) that pay you if someone clicks on a link to a product that’s on your blog. For example, if you’re a health and fitness blog and you write a review of the workout program P90x and you put an affiliate link in the post, you’ll get kickbacks if people buy that product after clicking on your link.
Individual companies have all kinds of different affiliate programs. Modcloth has a give $15 get $15 program where if someone uses your link to buy something, they get $15 off their purchase and you get $15 store credit. Amazon has an affiliate program for getting users to try out Amazon Student.
In order for ads or affiliate programs to be effective, however, you first need to build a loyal readership base. Everything comes back to your ability to create great content that people love and want to share with their friends.
Get Free Perks
I’m a health blogger, so I routinely get sent free vegan breakfast bars, fitness iPhone apps, and other perks by companies who want me to spread the word about their product. Most of these companies find me through my blogs, which is why it’s important that you have a contact page with your email address on it.
But I also approach companies myself and ask for free perks in exchange for exposure. I’ve even hosted giveaways for my readers. That’s a win-win: making my readers happy and getting more hits on my blog, and the company gets a free advertisement.
Good luck and keep blogging!