If you’re taking the time to start or maintain a blog, you probably want it to be good. You certainly don’t want to invest your time, energy and effort into creating something that’s mediocre or outright bad.
But blogging isn’t easy, in fact, it is incredibly difficult, requiring seemingly endless amounts of creativity, dedication and patience. This says nothing about the disparate areas of knowledge you have to have including design, writing and promotion just to find and keep an audience.
But quick fixes are very appealing. Everyone wants to know what one thing they can do or series of steps that they can follow to make their blog a big success. However, if it were so easy, every blog would be a success and it there wouldn’t be millions of abandoned sites littered all over the Web.
In short, while there are some great, easy tips that can help, none of them will make you a great blogger on their own.
However, there is a series of steps you can follow to become a better blogger. Unfortunately, none of the steps are easy and no blogger does all of them perfectly.
But, if you want to know the truth, here are the steps you need to follow to build a good blog and become a great blogger. Just don’t assume any of them can be done in a weekend, let alone an hour.
1. Pick a Great Topic and a Great Name
This is both the easiest and the most difficult task on this list. Before you put word one onto screen, before you set up your first hosting account and before you start telling others your plan, you need to decide what it is you’re going to write about, how you’re going to position it and what you’re going to call it.
The best topics are ones that are small enough to not be saturated with competition but large enough to attract an audience and to write about regularly for a long time. The best ones are also positioned in such a way that you can easily branch out and cover related topics as the subject grows.
As far as names go, it should be short, memorable, easy-to-spell, relevant to the topic and available as a .com. This is a tall order that requires spending a lot of time on sites that help you choose your domain, but with a little creativity and some flexibility, you can likely find a name that works for you.
Remember, every minute you spend in this area is hours saved later in promotion. A good topic and name gives you a platform to launch from, a bad one has you starting in a hole, often a deep one.
2. Design a Great Site
If you think now it’s time to jump in and write some great content, you’re only partially right. You need to write a few things, but only enough to build your site’s design. It’s either that or use dummy copy.
First impressions of a site are important so you need to have a good design. Ideally, it should be clean, attractive, easy to navigate and unique to your site.
Templates and themes are great, but only with lots of customization to make the site truly feel like your own. If you go with a stock theme, it’s going to look like hundreds or thousands of other sites and that will make it difficult for you to stand apart from the crowd.
In short, a good, unique theme gives visitors a good first impression and makes you appear more professional than those who don’t have one.
3. Write/Produce Lots of Great Content
Now that you have a great idea, name and site, you need to fill it up with a lot of great content.
It’s important to have at least some content available before launch, enough to let readers know that you’re serious and give them more than a couple of posts to read, but it’s more important to keep creating new content constantly over the weeks and months that follow your launch.
While there’s no such thing as an ideal blogging schedule, generally, the more you can update your site the better. Most say at least weekly though there are very few successful blogs that don’t update at least a few times per week routinely. Most update daily or more.
However, you have to keep putting out the type of content your readers want. Whether it’s long form, short form, video, audio, etc. and this can be very daunting, especially as your audience grows and becomes more diverse.
4. Promote, Promote, Promote
Blog promotion is critical but very difficult to do. Much of it is about SEO and helping the search engines find your content, but that involves getting inbound links to your site, writing SEO-friendly content and making sure that your site is structured in a way that search engines can crawl.
Then there’s the issue of social media. Which services do you want to promote on? Twitter? Facebook? Google Plus? LinkedIn? The list goes on and every community has their own rules, traditions and attitudes when it comes to promotion.
You have to not only find the best way to promote your site, but then spend the time to do it properly. SEO, social media, personal promotion, etc. all take a lot of time to do and a lot of experimentation to get right.
Finally, at some point, you’re going to have to monetize your site. Failure to do so actually hurts your site by making the time you spend on it a drain. By making your site a source of revenue, it ensures that you always have the time and the energy to put into it.
But how do you monetize? There is no one right answer to that as every site, topic and community is different. For some, advertising is the way to go. For others, sponsorship, consulting, memberships, etc. may make more sense.
How do you balance your need to earn revenue from your site with the need to keep your community happy? How do you turn a profit without “selling out?” How do you maximize your revenue while still making your site a labor of love?
These are tough questions with no easy answers, but they are ones you have to answer to build and grow a great site.
So, in the end, that’s what it comes down to, five very difficult and almost-impossible steps that lie on the path to becoming a great blogger.
In a way, these aren’t merely easy steps or just mere hurdles to overcome, they are challenges akin to what a hero has to push and outwit his way past in a movie. All of these topics, literally, have whole books written on them.
Blogging, if you’re doing it right, will test your breadth of knowledge, determination, patience and wisdom. It’s not something to take lightly if you want to do it well.
Of course, even with all of the elements in place and even after doing all of the steps required, there’s still an element of luck that comes into play. Many great sites don’t go anywhere and many objectively bad ones become popular. What is and is not appreciated and becomes popular is often just the luck of the draw.
Still, your odds are much better if you do have a great blog. So, while having one can’t promise you success, it can’t hurt either. So it’s best to start out with the idea you’re going to build a great site because, even if you fail, you at least want to have something you’re proud of.