It's easy to start a blog, but it's not easy to make a successful one. A certain amount of planning is required, since great blogs don't happen by accident. Before you sign up for a blogging service or buy a domain name, you need to ask yourself these questions:
What is your focus?
Before you do anything else, you need to know what your blog will be about. If you want people other than your mother to read it, you need a topic that is interesting, and fills a niche. Brainstorm a list of your hobbies and interests, and choose the topic that you have the most to say about.
This topic needs to be narrowed down even more. Let's pretend that your favourite hobby is cooking. A blog based on cooking is incredibly vague. You need to choose a niche within the field of cooking, so that readers have a reason to read your blog, rather than another cooking blog. For example, you could write with a vegan, gluten free, or locally grown focus.
Who is your audience?
After choosing your niche, you need to figure out who you're writing this for. This is important because it helps you tailor your content for your target audience. Your target audience is not "everyone", much as you might like it to be. Companies that have tried to target everyone have failed, since in effect, they've targeted no one. Don't follow in their footsteps.
Decide if you are writing for cash-strapped college students, busy working moms, or high income seniors, to name three examples. Knowing your audience allows you to write posts that they want to read. If your reader feels like you're talking to them, they'll keep coming back for more.
Why are you doing this?
There are many reasons to start a blog, and some are more valid than others. If you want to start a blog to make money, you should probably turn back now. When it comes to blogs, a small minority of people make a lot of money, and everyone else makes very little, if anything.
If you want to blog to improve your writing skills, share your knowledge with others, or have a little fun, you can proceed to the next question.
How will your blog be different?
There are already more than 152,000,000 blogs on the internet. If you can't find a way to make your blog stand out from the crowd, you don't stand a chance. Your niche is only a small part of the puzzle. No matter how focused your niche is, somebody else already has a blog about it.
One thing that will set your blog apart is you, the writer. Your writing style is unique to you, and you can use it to attract readers. A sarcastic tone or humorous anecdotes can make a mundane topic much more interesting, and readers will keep coming back.
How will you attract readers?
Many new bloggers struggle to find readers. Some people will stumble across your blog through a search engine, but you can't rely on that for your traffic. One of the easiest ways to get more readers is to do a guest post on another blog like yours. Contact the owner of a blog that you like, and offer to write a free post for them, as long as you can link back to your site. This exposes your blog to all of their readers.
If you have a social media account, occasionally use that to promote your new blog. It's important to only do this occasionally, otherwise, you'll be spamming your friends.
Once you've answered all of these five questions, you are ready to start your blog. Remember, keep your target audience and your goals for the blog in mind if you want to be successful.
Photo by Owen W. Brown: Image Source