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Creating a compelling blog, one that is not drowned out in the Internet’s sea of noise, is an exceedingly difficult task. According to Statista, there were approximately 178 million blogs worldwide in 2011. Over the course of a few short years, that number has risen dramatically. The total number of blogs on Tumblr alone surpassed 320 million this January, and the number continues to grow at an exponential rate. While it is true the demand for blogging content is on the rise (as the number of habitual blog readers is also steadily increasing), there is still an enormous amount of competition. This level of competition makes creating a blog as a serious Internet business, or, as a significant source of income, a seemingly impossible endeavor. Thankfully, this is not the case. It so happens that there is a severe shortage of consistent, quality content in the blogosphere. In fact, the majority of bloggers, a staggering 66%, do not post content daily.
There is plenty of opportunity to bloggers willing to produce content carefully and consistently.
How do you go about creating powerfully interesting blog posts? How do you write content that awes your reader and compels them to return to your blog again and again? While there is no definitive way to capture and sustain the interest of your reader, using tried-and-true strategies can help lay a strong foundation for a professional blog.
Find your niche
In order to generate any sort of revenue from your blog, you will need to garner a sizeable readership. To garner a readership, you’ll need to start thinking about what a reader could possibly want or need. For example, you may find that you rarely encounter reading material that explains how to create a winning stock portfolio on a shoestring budget. Or, perhaps you notice there is a dearth of blogs that communicate theoretical physics in an interesting way, aimed at readers without advanced science degrees. Maybe you become aware that while there are dozens of blogs that purport to teach you how to program, there aren’t many blogs that offer lessons in Lua. Observations like the ones listed can help you create a list of possible niches your blog could fit into. Because, chances are, if you can find a void, you can find an audience to fill it.
If you’re having trouble coming up with what your niche should be, ask yourself questions like:
- What topics are difficult to find meaningful information about?
- What information could I share that would be useful to others?
- What skills do I possess that I could share/teach to others?
- What content could I produce that could address a problem faced by readers?
- What am I passionate about? How could I contribute to a dialogue about it in a significant way?
- What are people excited about at the moment? What trends are interesting to me?
Once you have your list of possible topics, use tools like Google’s keyword planner to gain insight about the traffic being generated from certain keywords. This can help you gauge the possible interest your blog topic could produce, and may help you refine it.
Build a cohesive brand with quality content
After settling on a blog topic, you’ll want to start thinking about your blog’s brand. Your brand is created by crafting a cohesive “personality.” You must first choose a tone. For example, will your blog be serious or playful?
You can reflect the tone of your website by choosing certain fonts, colors, and designs. This also involves choosing a name, a catchy tagline and an appealing color palette. According to Adobe, 39% of people report that they will stop engaging with your website if it is unattractive, so it is of the utmost importance to utilize effective web design and integrate it into your brand. You’ll also need to focus on your brand’s voice. How you choose to write will need to be in line with the tone of your design. Your written articles and posts will once again need to reflect your blog’s unique perspective, personality, and purpose.
Regardless of the specific image and voice you choose to adopt, your site will need to look and feel polished and professional. Delivering quality, meaningful content will help you build authority and foster loyalty. So, although optimizing your keywords and strategically backlinking is important, publishing quality posts regularly takes precedence. Releasing sporadic quality articles or shotgunning unpolished posts will not build your brand or help your page rank. As David Sinick, blogger, author and SEO expert, has said, "There are tons of different factors that go into ranking well, but the biggest is high-quality content.”
Engage your readers
Since blogging is more of a dialogue than a soliloquy, you will also need to plan which communities you will become a part of. This involves reaching out to other bloggers, offering to write content on their sites and promoting your brand in the comments of your own site and others. During the planning stages, you’ll want to decide which blogging platform you will use to most effectively engage with your readers, if you decide to use any at all. You may find that there is a large community on WordPress that is very interested in your blog topic, for example (which is quite often the case given the ubiquity of WordPress). There are always other options, no matter how ubiquitous one platform may be. Adding a third-party commenting system, like Disqus, may get you more connected to the people you want to interact with your blog, if you don’t want to limit yourself to Tumblr or WordPress’s built-in communities.
Post content at least once a week
One of the biggest mistakes new bloggers make is posting sporadically. Posting content every week (or, ideally, every day) will not only assist in boosting your pagerank, it will also provide an incentive for existing readers to return regularly. Luring in your readers with fabulous content is the first step. Sustaining their interest is a more difficult process, and it is an ongoing effort on your part. While brooding over pieces over the course of days or weeks may be your preference, the most surefire way to make money from your blogging efforts is to publish as often as you can. At the very least, you should set a schedule for your content so readers know when to check back for new content if you truly find posting daily to be too laborious. Most importantly, setting a schedule for your posts will add legitimacy to your blog, which will build your brand credibility and loyalty, and will pay dividends down the road.
Set a timeline for goals
You’ve chosen a niche, registered domain, and designed a website to your liking. You’ve started engaging with the community directly through commenting and guest posts and have garnered a readership that consumes your regularly scheduled content. You may ask yourself how this translates into making money. This is where your short-term and long-term goals will help guide you.
Here’s a boilerplate for your blogging goals:
- Garner 500 unique visitors
- Capture 20 subscribers
- Reach 30 Facebook Likes on a single article
- Publish 100 articles
- Write guest material on 10 other blogs
- Reach 100,000 unique visitors
From the goals you create, you can make your own timeline. Taking from the boilerplate list above, I can create a timeline for the first few weeks of my blog. For example, in the first month I could set the following milestones:
- Publish 8-10 articles
- Query 3 other blogs for guest posts
- Repost my content on at least four other platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr)
- Increase returning visitor numbers by at least 10%
From here you can start building a timeline that stretches your blog’s first year. Try to keep your goals realistic. It’s easy to set unreachable, faraway goals, but these goals will be deleterious to your progress as they may serve only to discourage you. For example, a very realistic goal may be 500 to 1000 email subscribers. Getting one million followers on Twitter in twelve months will prove somewhat difficult, on the other hand, if not impossible. Another goal may be a handful of long-form content published on your site as well as 3-5 published guest posts. Also, it’s good to understand that you may have not made any real income from your blog one year on. This is very common. It takes an average of 6 to 12 months for startups to break even, so this shouldn’t alarm you. Setting financial goals for your first year should therefore be modest, and you should focus on reinvestment at this stage rather than making money hand over fist.
Explore monetization strategies
Setting goals and creating timelines should be used to steadily ramp up your website’s engagement with readers and other bloggers. Building your audience is the core of monetizing your blog. There are several ways to leverage your audience to generate income. Which strategy you choose is entirely up to you.
You may consider the following strategies:
- Traditional ads
This may be the most straightforward strategy. Either you sell your website’s space for a fee or profit directly from ad views or clicks.
? Partner with Google Ads
? Partner with a third party
? Sell space on your blog independently
- Sponsored content
You have most likely encountered sponsored content before. This is content that looks and feels like some that might appear on your site, but is different in that its main purpose is to endorse or promote a specific product or service.
- Affiliate marketing
This strategy allows you to earn commission when you promote someone’s product. For example, if you are within Amazon’s affiliate marketing network, you’ll receive a small chunk of change for referring users to Amazon product pages.
- Paid membership
With this strategy, you offer premium articles, videos or images at an extra cost to members.
? Premium membership allows unfettered access
? Some articles may require direct purchase
You can ask your readers to fund your blog directly.
Successful methods for creating and curating content will act as the skeleton for your blog, forming a strong base for your brand. After building the skeleton, you will be able to flesh out your blog with your specific perspective, unique content, advice or ideas. Whatever the purpose of your blog may be, you will need to follow some basic steps, and study some core principles endorsed by effective bloggers to ensure it prospers.
Choosing a niche with a target audience in mind, building your brand with polished and professional content, and engaging your community are strategies that can help your blog blossom into a profitable business. Once you’ve built your audience through creating and curating quality content, you’ll want to set goals for yourself that translate into further engagement and brand building. After that, you can explore monetization strategies, such as affiliate marketing or paid membership, that will allow you to capitalize on your hard work. In addition to this, you must continue researching blogging trends, studying search engine optimization and honing your writing skills to ensure your blog’s success.