You’ve taken the leap and started a blog to make a little extra income. You chose a template, added your bio, and now all you have to do start writing the content, right?
Before you hit publish on your first post, some important planning needs to take place. If you want your blog to be a long term success it’s time to ask yourself the tough questions. Use this seven point checklist to plan the future of your blog and make the most of every article you publish.
(If you want to jump ahead and get started with your own blog, you can follow complete step by step instructions here: How To Setup A Blog In 10 Minutes Or Less )
1. Define clear goals.
One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is not setting goals. Short and long-term objectives will help keep you motivated when you just don’t want to write.
What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want ad revenue, traffic, social shares or all of the above? Set realistic goals and a time frame in which you can achieve them, starting with one month, six month and one year goals. For example, if your goal is to increase traffic, aim for 50 or 100 visitors the first month. Then, set incremental increases for long-term goals.
2. Decide how much you’ll give in return.
Most people set goals for what they want to achieve, but never give a second thought to what they’re going to give. What are you willing to do to make an extra $100, $1,000 or $2,000 per month from your blog? Is it worth that extra hour of sleep in the morning? That hour of TV at night? Write out exactly what you plan to give to accomplish your goals.
For example, maybe your goal is to commit 1-2 hours every day to writing. Growing that writing muscle is extremely important for maintaining your blog.
Setting aside time for building relationships is another way to give. Spend 30 minutes each day commenting on five other blogs or building relationships through email outreach and social media. This is an easy and measurable way to be sure you’re staying on track.
3. Decide who you’re writing for.
One question you’ll undoubtedly be faced with early on is who are you really writing for — yourself or your audience?
We’ll talk about this more in the near future, but here’s an example of what this decision looks like: You enjoy posting recipes of dinner meals but see your audience clearly enjoys breakfast recipes more. Are you going to respond to what they want, and post more breakfast recipes, or continue posting dinner recipes?
This is really a question of whether your blog is a passion project or a money-making project. If your blog is a passion project, and you want to treat it like a journal, it doesn’t matter what readers want. BUT if you’re treating this as a side business, you have to be willing to listen to your audience.
4. Find your niche.
Once you know who you’re writing for and what you’re hoping to accomplish (I’m going to assume it’s for your audience and to make money), it’s time to decide on your niche.
There are hundreds of new blogs being created every single day. Competition is becoming much more difficult and so is your ability to stand out. When clients ask how how broad to go with their blog, I always tell them it’s better to be good at one thing then average at lots of things. An average blog is not going to get noticed and not going to build a loyal readership. Stick to one niche for now and you can always choose to go a different route later on.
Here are some examples of niches: DIY, recipes, gardening, hair and beauty, social media marketing, travel, etc. If you need more ideas, just check out the Pinterest categories list.
5. Scope out the scene.
To really understand a specific niche, researching the competition and finding where the holes are can be extremely helpful. Evaluating your competition gives insight on how you can stand out and gives you a dose of reality on what’s already out there.
WARNING: this step can turn into a huge time-waster! Set a timer for an hour and only give yourself that much time to do research.
Start with the sources of traffic to your blog. If you’re creating a blog around food or fashion, it will be Pinterest. If the blog is business-focused, it may be LinkedIn, etc. Search for your topic and see who your competitors will be. What are they writing about? What do people like about them? Dislike about them? The comments are a great place to find this information.
Next, use a tool like Buzzsumo to find what content does well in your niche. Just put your competitor’s URL into Buzzsumo and it will give you their most popular posts based on the number of shares.
6. Plan your content categories.
Now it’s time to plan your initial content. No specific posts yet, just the main topics you’ll be writing about. I call these content categories or “buckets” that each of your posts fall into. More than likely they’ll be in the category column of your blog.
Choose 3-5 categories to start with. On one of my blogs I started with marketing, social media, productivity and branding. From there, I added more categories over time.
7. Create a plan to keep yourself motivated.
Yes, it may sound crazy, but I promise it’s the only way to keep going. I’m sure you’ve started a project before and seen how much easier it is to continue with a group vs. working alone. Blogging is no different. Here are a few places you can start.
- Use http://feedly.com/ to subscribe to blogging and writing blogs. They’ll help you continually improve your blogging and you can get active in the comments to build relationships. Fill your RSS feed with any blogs you enjoy reading that help you improve or inspire you. A great blog to start with is http://www.copyblogger.com/.
- Join groups that are dedicated to blogging. You can search Facebook groups or just Google blogging groups. There are dozens of blogging communities, forums and groups that exist for the sole purpose of motivating other bloggers.
- Grab your calendar and set time each day for blogging. If you don’t block the time now, it won’t happen. Make a commitment that you are going to take this seriously.
For more reading see: How To Setup A Blog In 10 Minutes Or Less
Featured image by Jeff Sheldon via Unsplash.