Starting a blog is incredibly easy. You sign up for one of the free blogging platforms, pick a background design, and you’re up and running, right? That works just fine if you’re blogging for your friends and family, but if your goal is to build your business or your personal brand, then you have a different set of objective. These five tips will help you get a professional blog off the ground on the right foot.
1. Research The Market
When you start a business, you research your niche and make sure that you have an original position to take. When you start a blog, you do the same thing. You need to have something new to say to those who are eventually going to follow you, which they can’t find anywhere else. If your selling point is your unique perspective, be prepared for it to take some time to demonstrate that as a value. I’d recommend all newbies to read Jeff Goins post on ins and outs of basics of blogging.
You should be able to articulate the blogs that your customers will also be reading, how they are differentiated from each other, and how your blog will be differentiated from them.
2. Decide What Your Blog’s Job Is
What is your blog going to do? Just like any other piece of content on the web, it needs to have a clear purpose that informs what you choose to post and share. A blog for a business might decide, for example, to use its blog to answer frequently asked question, share videos and photos of a product and service being used in real time, or create informational posts about the topic at hand.
Ask yourself why you want to start a blog; this is where it all begins. When a blog is being used to build a personal brand, its job is a little more fluid. Usually, you will be presenting an idealized version of yourself to the world. You will use your blog to talk about the things you’re trying to influence. Here is another good post by Ann Smarty that answers the most commonly asked questions and one of the topics is what you want to achieve with blogging.
Someone promoting a lifestyle brand might share their favorite fashion items and stories from the most recent round of designer shows, while someone who is building a career as a life coach might share organizational tips and their favorite planners.
3. Plan Posts Ahead Of Time
When you’re deciding what your blog’s job is, brainstorm different topics that you want to talk about. Determine how often you want to post. Once a week is considered a bare minimum, and more than once a day generally is overkill.
Once you know how often you’re going to post, start building yourself an editorial calendar. Some blogging tools offer plugins that can help with this, but many people use either a paper or digital calendar. Digital is particularly helpful because you can use the “notes” section of the “event” entry to add links to thinks you want to talk about or images you plan on using.
You can also build drafts of future posts and keep a calendar of what you want to talk about when so you know what to expand on and edit. Here are some good tips from Lory Linn Smith on how to plan and come up with blog topic ideas.
The important thing here is that you should not get caught without anything to say. By building your blog out instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, you’re building good habits that will help you successfully maintain your blog over time.
4. Build Up Content Before You Promote
Creating a new blog is exciting, and you may want to promote it the very second you have anything posted. Resist the temptation. At a bare minimum, you should have a solid About page, any FAQ pages, and four or five posts in place before you start sharing links and encouraging your friends and family to like your page. The WP Millionaire put up a good guide on standard pages all blogs should have.
Why? Because you are competing with everything else on the Internet for your customers’ attention. If you want to make an impact on their awareness, you need to have enough content available for them to look through and understand who you are. A single blog post isn’t enough to make an impression.
5. Have A Comment Section Or Not?
A comment section used to be an absolute given, but in recent years, many popular blogs have chosen to shut down their comments sections, citing abuse and harassment occurring. While this may not be an issue when you have a handful of followers, as the numbers increase, you will need to consider what best to do. Here is a good post by Fizzle that covers the pros and cons of blog comments by listing two different opinions from popular bloggers.
If you rarely get comments, it may not be a problem at all. If you get many comments, and you see industry relevant conversations occurring in the comments, it may be best to take a careful moderation approach, but let comments exist. If you find that you regularly see abusive comments, and they aren’t adding to the conversation, just shutting off the comments might save you time.
Running a blog can be an excellent way to learn about writing for an audience, developing themes and persuasive essay writing. What tips would you offer to someone starting up their first professional blog?
Featured photo credit: marragem via flickr.com