We are all aware of just how fast the Internet grows. The American search engine giant, Google, reports that more than 1 trillion websites were indexed in 2008. Twenty years ago Google only indexed 15,000 new URLs per year. In a stunning report from Mashable last summer we found out that 150,000 new URLs are created daily. While it is nearly impossible to figure out the exact number of web pages out there, it is clear that mammoth is the right word to use to describe the internet in 2012.
Out of the 150,000 URLs created daily, there is a high chance many of them are blogs. The blogging industry has evolved a lot in the past 10 years. In 2000 blogs were rare and didn’t exist on the same scale they do now. Very few actually believed that blogging could become it’s own industry with rules, guidelines, competition and involving a fairly decent amount of money.
One of the largest issues of the industry is the reduced number of people who can access those available funds. Big companies always prefer to advertise on big, serious and successful blogs than on smaller, personal ones. Launching a blog doesn’t automatically make you successful and you need to take some steps and put in a serious amount of work to even reach the state where you can fight for good money. By reaching those heights, however, not only will your financial success be guaranteed, but also a tremendous reputation in the industry is an added advantage.
What’s the topic?
One of the most difficult tasks is to choose a niche. And I think that if you can’t find a topic within few minutes, just off the top of your head, you are headed for problems. In my opinion blogging should not be done for money, but for something you are passionate about. Having a personal blog where you tell people what kind of cereals you ate in the morning might be fun for your mom and neighbors, but it will not attract interest from the companies. Very few bloggers without a specific topic are worldwide or even nationally successful. A targeted topic such as design, IT or sports would probably work best.
Image by Charles Jeffrey Danoff.
More importantly than choosing a topic is being passionate about it. You can’t write about something you don’t personally enjoy. The alternative would be to hire people to write, but let’s face it, how probable is it for your investment to pay off? Probably very low. I would only start to hire people to write on my blog after it is already quite successful and has a chance to survive in the crowded industry. Spending lots of money for a blog in the beginning is not something I would recommend.
The domain name should also be relevant to the topic you discuss and if you need some tips about how to choose the best possible domain name (which can and will be a hassle, believe me), you can read Tips for Registering Domain Names. Don’t make it too long and keep it easy to remember.
While this is a small step and might seem unimportant, using a reliable hosting company is something you should look for if you want to have a successful blog. Keep in mind that downtime will not make you more popular. There are not too many things more annoying than trying to access a web page that is down. This will make your readers less interested if you show a lack of professionalism in this regard.
Know your competitors
Carefully studying the others in the industry, especially the direct competitors, is something I would start doing right away. You need to get a feel of how the successful blogs manage out there if you want to own one of them. Knowing who it is you are up against can’t do any harm now, can it?
It would be a good idea to follow their activity for a period of time and pay attention to how they do everything, from the length and structure of their posts, publishing times and the way they interact with their followers. Even you interacting with them – and this way creating a network – might help you later on. Although pretty much everyone fights for the limited amount of money available in online advertising, bloggers help each other and are usually part of the same network (look at the Smashing Magazine Network – blogs that would normally compete with each other are driven by same umbrella community.).
Interacting with the followers can bring you much more than just good debates. I often get article ideas from your comments here on 1WD, which I appreciate a lot. But this way I consider I give you something back for your involvement with the community. So make sure you keep your users engaged and write articles that create debates and encourage further discussions.
Blogs are mainly created to share information – but so are newspapers, television websites and online magazines. And they all need to look good. Without forgetting your main goal (writing) you need to think of a good design. Now you might not be a web designer and might not be able to develop a theme for yourself; no problem. There are lots of marketplaces on the internet where you can purchase a premium theme which is bug-free and supports the latest version of WordPress (I assume there is no question about what CMS to use – if there is, forget about it now and go for WordPress). If nothing suits you (although I think this is quite impossible), you can hire a designer, but this will probably eat lots of your financial resources.
Suggested Reading - Choosing a WordPress Theme: Free or Premium?
Image by Moriel.
The need for a good design is big and you can see it all over the place. Blogs and online magazines opt for redesigns quite often – and even spend thousands of dollars on new visual concepts, identities and layouts. So if the big players use fine tuned designs to their advantage, it must be something worth trying, right?
Content is King, SEO is the Court Jester
Ok, quite far from the truth, but it works well for a subtitle. You can read a great piece of advice on this from Michael Giaimo.
The bottom line of his article is that while SEO is important, it still is less important than the content. Before starting to think about high page rank and clicks on Google make sure the content will keep the visitors returning. There is no need in investing money in advanced SEO strategies if the users will leave your page immediately after reading the first article title.
SEO is not to be neglected and I am aware of this – and so should you. The only thing I am saying is that there is something else you should think of before going for a SEO specialist. It is maybe debatable and I would like to hear your opinion on this in the end.
Have a strategy
There would be no football without a goal. There is no successful business without a strategy. A blog is a business like any other and it should be treated as one. Think of how many posts you want to publish a day/week, the length of the articles, the images you will use, the style and so on. In the end this is what will describe and categorize your blog.
Having some spare articles to publish if needed is something that I did many times in my blogging days. When posting often it does happen that you are not available for a day or two and there you go, your followers get nothing from you. Write some articles in advance and always schedule them. Here at 1WD we have articles scheduled for almost a week in advance, which gives us a huge advantage over competitors who don’t adopt this style.
It is also a great idea to keep a posting schedule, as readers will create a habit around your blog. Another reason for having posts scheduled in advance – users expecting content will always get it, regardless of your availability at the moment.
Run a social media launch campaign
Start creating a Facebook and Twitter page before launching the blog – this might help you raise some awareness over the launch and make people excited. You also need to make sure you maintain the social media accounts, nothing looks worse than a company with an inactive Facebook page. I know starting form zero followers is tough; and probably the first 100 are the toughest to get. But keep in mind all pages start from zero and yet they can reach millions. Time is your best friend in blogging. You need to wait in order to be successful, as this can only be achieved through hard work over a longer period.
Blogging is a tough business. Make sure you know what lies ahead of you. Countless hours of work, lack of proper sleep during many nights, motivation issues and frustration are coming and going in the industry; but it is quite impossible to reach success without passing through these stages.
Image by guil.
Don’t create a blog only for money. Money should be the final prize and achievement, your passion for the topic should be the main reason you invest time and financial resources on it. Readers can feel when a blogger is not passionate about the subjects he is covering and they will not return. You don’t want to be one of the unlucky bloggers. Think twice before launching a blog and think even more about its topic, your motivation and willingness to commit to your cause.
Until next time… do you have a personal blog? How well do you think you maintain it and why? Do you set some rules for yourself and some guidelines for the blog? Do you pay people to write there, turning a blog into a small business of itself?
Christian Vasile is an enthuziastic Romanian web designer currently living in Denmark. He is passionate for the industry and writes about design, usability, coding and freelancing and is a regular publisher here at 1WD. You can follow him on Twitter at @christianvasile or visit his web portfolio by clicking on the link above.