How to Start a Successful Blog
Tips for starting a blog that will generate traffic and revenue
Blogs continue to be an effective and inexpensive way to build an audience, reach your target market, and generate revenue online.
On WordPress alone, more than 409 million people read blogs each month, and blogging can help direct a share of that traffic to your website, business, or platform. But starting a blog involves more than just setting up a URL and writing, particularly if your goal is to publish a blog that generates an income or promotes your own business.
The Key Steps for Starting a Successful Blog
The key to success lies in generating enough traffic to create regular readership and revenue. For that, you need more than just engaging content.
Generating revenue with a blog is a business, which means you need a plan and a structure that appeals to a clearly defined audience. You also need a promotional strategy, a plan for how you will make money, and established benchmarks for measuring success.
Take the time to follow these steps, and you’ll be on the right path toward publishing a successful and profitable blog.
Find Your Niche
A successful blog should focus on a topic that you are interested in writing thousands of words on. But it should also have wide appeal and a focus broad enough to ensure that other people will be interested in it too.
For example, if you write exclusively about the daily life of your cat, it’s unlikely that many others will find it as fascinating as you. However, if you’re a cat lover, writing about cat health opens the door to a wider audience, a wealth of potential topics, and great opportunities for readers to share their own tips and experiences.
The key here is to find a market big enough to support your income goals but narrow enough that you can claim the attention of a niche audience.
Research Your Market
Before you begin writing, you need to research your target audience and discover what content they are interested in consuming. Read popular blogs, including those with a general appeal and those related to topics that interest you.
- What site design and comment layout do visitors respond to?
- What questions are readers asking?
- What information is popular in your niche?
- What information is missing?
- What type of content is shared and commented on?
- How does your target market respond to different types of posts?
- How do readers find these blogs?
Treat your blog like a business and use your research to create a consumer profile that will help you understand and connect with your ideal audience.
Anyone with access to the internet can have a blog, but not everyone has the credibility to make a blog meaningful. You don’t have to be a master painter to blog about art, but it helps to gain the trust of your readers if you take the time to explain your interest and spell out your credentials.
You can initially establish your credibility through a simple About page on your website. Later, you can invest the time and resources to expand your reach and appear on other platforms.
Keep in mind that you don't have to be a doctor to write a health blog, a champion bodybuilder to have a fitness blog, or a veterinarian to have a pet blog. It's more important to create content that is useful, interesting, and engaging to your target audience.
Set Clear Goals
Start by outlining what you intend to achieve with your blog.
- Are you trying to direct traffic to your business website?
- Do you want to create a blog that will be a business itself?
- Are you hoping to attract sponsored content?
- Will you make money through affiliate links?
- Are you intending to sell your own products?
Once you know your big-picture goal, establish short-term benchmarks, such as building traffic, generating revenue, increasing your social media following, or adding email subscribers. Establish a timeframe for achieving them so you can measure your success.
Construct a one-year plan, including checkpoints where you evaluate whether you have met your goals and to measure the overall growth of your blog. Some key metrics you'll want to focus on are website traffic, email subscribers, and link clicks, downloads, and revenue.
Learn About SEO
Most readers will find new blogs as a result of an online search to answer a question, find information on a popular topic, or solve a problem. If you want your site to be the one they discover, you need to learn about and make use of search engine optimization, or SEO.
SEO uses targeted keywords to tell search engines what a post is about, allowing your content to show up in results when a potential reader is searching for those keywords. Writing for SEO requires creating readable content that incorporates those keywords naturally.
The keywords you choose to target should be based on the interests of your ideal audience. It will take some research to discover what those keywords are. Once you have a list, this can guide your post topics and help you generate new ideas for what to blog about.
Invest in Design
Professional websites should incorporate professional-looking design, both in their overall layout and in the graphics and photos that appear in each individual post. This requires an investment of either money or time.
If you have a startup budget for your blog, you can pay a professional to design a website layout and templates for your graphics. If you have more time than money, you can go the do-it-yourself route.
There are many low-cost and free website templates that will give you professional quality website design. For graphics, you can use a free program like Canva to design your own templates.
Investing in professional-looking design for your website, whether it is done by someone you hire or not, will add credibility to your blog and help you earn the attention and trust of new visitors.
Create a Back Log
You'll want to create several posts before you launch your blog, rather than publishing a single initial post.
In 2020, there will be more than 31 million bloggers in the United States alone; with so many sites to choose from, readers are rarely interested in slowly watching a new blog grow. Instead, they are more likely to find a single post and want to read others related to that same topic.
If you have multiple posts available from the moment readers find your blog, they are more likely to stick around, keep reading, and get to know you. This makes them more likely to:
- Return to your website in the future
- Trust your expertise
- Sign up for your email list
- Download your freebies
- Buy products from you
- Click on affiliate links
- Follow you on social media
Remember, blogs are not just about written content anymore. People love engaging with images, infographics, audio, and video-based content. Choose the medium that suits you the best, or experiment with a variety of content to discover which attracts the most interest from visitors.
Google isn't the only search engine you want to rank on; Pinterest is a popular visual search engine that can drive lots of traffic to your blog, no matter what your niche or topic is. Unlike other social media platforms, Pinterest isn't for interaction between users; instead, it's a place where you can list your content so new visitors can find, save, and access it.
The graphics you creat for each blog post should follow best practices for Pinterest:
- Vertical rather than horizontal
- Clear and high-resolution
- Accurately represent your article
- Have both an image and text
- Include branding for your website/blog
Once you upload graphics to your posts, edit the information for each one to include a keyword-rich description and verify your site through Pinterest. This will ensure that your description shows up when your image is pinned and allow Pinterest users to find your content through search.
Build Community Outside Your Blog
Once you begin publishing your blog, seek out and participate in online communities.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn are great places to connect with potential readers, but it can be hard to direct traffic from these sites to your blog. Instead, use them as places to establish credibility and build relationships.
You may have more luck directing traffic to your blog if you appear on popular online magazines or trade publications. There are a variety of ways to make appearances like this:
- Submit guest posts to be published on these sites.
- Look for PR opportunities.
- Reach out to established online personalities to collaborate with them and be featured on their site or platform.
- Direct visitors to your website through free products, such as ebooks, online courses, or informational slideshows.
Spend Time On Maintenance
Regularly updating your content and engaging with readers encourages them to return to your blog, helping you generate more traffic and revenue. Always invite others to comment and, when they do, thank them for their thoughts.
Pay attention to what other websites in your niche are writing about. Are they:
- Covering current events?
- Overlooking key topics?
- Creating free products or downloads?
- Collaborating with certain sponsors or using affiliate links?
Look for places that you can fill in missing information or weigh in to attract new traffic. Assess the needs of your readers and add featured content such as post series, free products, webinars, or ebooks to satisfy their interest.
Look at the keywords and websites that are bringing readers to your website and create more content related to those topics. The interests of your readers will also suggest brands you can collaborate with through sponsored posts, affiliate links, or discount codes, all of which will bring more visitors to your site.
Maintaining content shows your commitment to your readers and subscribers. It also keeps you current in search engines, allowing you to attract more traffic and continue to grow your blog.
Wordpress.com. "A Live Look at Activity Across WordPress.com." Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.
Statista. "Number of Bloggers in the United States 2014-2020." Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.
Pinterest Business. "Creative Best Practices: Make Pins That Get Results." Accessed Feb. 21, 2020.