Starting a Blog in the New Year
If you are working on your 2018 planning now, make sure it includes starting a new blog, or upgrading your current blog.
Before you begin, it’s important to understand why you should be blogging and what to expect before you start. First off, you should know that it is both easier to do than you probably think, and harder. It’s easier than you think because the technical side of setting up a blog has become simplified with easy-to-use website builders and pre-designed templates. It’s harder than you anticipate because producing regular content can be tough.
But before getting into that, let’s look at why you should set up a blog. Here are five of the top reasons, but there are so many more:
- Attract a new audience
- Establish yourself as an authority in your industry or niche
- Increase engagement and build a community
- Get feedback on your ideas and learn how to make your business better
- Improve your SEO
Getting started in blogging can be like starting to train for a half-marathon. You can’t just get up from your desk and go outside to run. Running with any efficiency (and pain-free) will require the right clothing and footwear. You need to think about sleep and nutrition. You also need a training schedule that includes giving yourself the time, and plotting out the routes that will allow you to put in the required miles.
Just at it takes planning and commitment before you can start to train for a half-marathon, it takes planning and commitment to set up a successful blogging program. The good thing is doesn’t have to be technically difficult.
Basically you have two options:
- Hosted blogging using one of the many blogging platforms that are available
- Self hosted blogging
There are some downsides to this option, though.
- Removing the platform name from your web address (url) is an upgrade
- You have less design options, and adding new functions is harder
- There are restrictions. This means it is harder to earn money from your blog
- You have little control over anything except the content
The second option, self-hosted blogging, solves most of these issues. This requires a domain registration, and usually a monthly hosting fee. But with self-hosted blogging you get the freedom to add the features and functionality that you need. Most hosting providers like iPage will offer pre-designed web page and and blog templates (including WordPress options) that allow you to get up and running, fast. If you select a design template, you can still customize with your brand colors, images, delete or modify as you want to make it your own.
The self-hosting option could take longer to set-up, but you gain access to a complete set of tools that allow you to put your unique mark on your blog. You’ll still be up and running quickly and you don’t have to learn any coding .
The analogy we talked about earlier was training for a half-marathon, where setting up the technical part of your blog is akin to preparing for training. Writing your blog is similar to actually going out on those training runs. Not surprisingly, this is the hardest part. Sometimes you won’t feel like it because you are tired or you’re having a bad day. But you still have to do your training runs if you want to perform well in your race.
If you want to get the benefits from blogging you have to blog consistently – regardless of the other things that are going on in your life or your business. That begs the question: What is consistent? The answer depends on your business. For some it will mean several times a week but for many small or medium-sized businesses, once a week, or twice a month may be right.
But how do you create a steady stream of quality content for that many blogs? Here are some writing tips:
- Create a content calendar – Plan ahead for the month, quarter, or the year. This is a great way to generate ideas for content, and will help to keep you on schedule.
- Offer value – don’t just use your blog as a sales tool. Understand who your audience is and consider their needs or pain points to create content they will actually want to read.
- Read – read as much as you can in your industry or niche and note down good ideas for blogs as they come into your head. Be sure to check out competitive blogs for ideas that may resonate with your audience as well.
- Allocate the time – writing a good blog can take time, so make sure you allocate enough time every week.
- Measure performance – publishing a blog does not mean the work is over. Keep an eye on the performance or analytics of your posts to help you understand the topics that resonate the most with your audience.
Training for a half-marathon has a tangible reward – crossing the finishing line on race day. When blogging there is not just a single reward at the end of your preparation. And you certainly can’t lay off the ‘training’ for long. Building your audience and gaining their trust requires ongoing work to keep your blog current with new and valuable content. The good news is that you can experience a ‘win’ every time you publish a blog.
Editor’s note: This blog was originally published on December 29, 2014, it has been updated for relevancy and accuracy.