Recently, I’ve received numerous e-mails from women who want advice on how to start a blog or what to do in order to grow their existing blog. I’m by no means an expert on what makes a blog work because no one is more surprised (pleasantly so) by the success of CHS than I am. But here are a few tips that might be of help to those of you who are thinking about starting a blog.
What Will It Be?. The first thing any potential blogger has to decide is “What will my blog be about?”
Some people treat their blogs like a personal diary, writing about whatever goes on in their lives and sharing photos and stories with relatives and friends. Others have a catchy idea that they want to capitalize on (Suri’s Burn Book, Texts from Hillary). And still others have a hobby or interest that they want to write about (fashion, cooking, photography, etc.).
My advice is to choose the topic that you would want to write about even if you knew no one would ever read it. Choosing a topic or focus that you find interesting is the only way to guarantee that you’ll keep blogging.
What Are My Goals?. Last week, I met with the friend-of-a-friend who wanted advice on starting a blog. When I asked her what her goals for the site were, she replied, “To make money.”
The truth is that you can monetize a junk website that does nothing but aggregate key words and drive Google searches. So if you care about content, making money should never be your primary goal.
Instead, think about how many readers you’d like to have by the end of six months, 12 months and 24 months. How many comments would you like to average per post? How many Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest followers would you like to have? Are there any conferences or events you’d like to be invited to attend? Tangible goals like these are achievable and serve as a benchmark for how successful your blog has and could become.
Protect Your Brand. If you do decide to monetize your site or start accepting free things, don’t jump on every opportunity that comes your way. You wouldn’t believe some of the nonsensical product tie-ins I have seen. Just because someone wants to send you something for free, doesn’t mean that that product/service/business is right for your blog.
I turn down more opportunities than I accept–way more–and blogs that care about their product do too. If I accepted every opportunity, you’d be reading about faux-fur ski caps and the heated seats in the new Ford Taurus. So you have to learn when to say no.
Start Quietly. I worked on CHS for several weeks before I shared it with anyone. I chose this path because I didn’t know if I could keep it up, or if I would even like doing it, and I wanted to work out the kinks before I started telling people that I was blogging.
The real benefit of this decision was that when I did start telling people, there were dozens of posts in the archive. This gave them enough content to read so that they could decide whether they liked the site or not.
Be Consistent. Whether you decide to post once per week or 15 times per week, you need to be consistent. Nothing is more annoying to a reader than someone who goes for long stretches without posting only to post once and then disappear again.
To start off, I recommend two posts per week on a set schedule. It’s enough to satisfy most readers, and you can always increase it later if you decide that you’d like to post more.
The Internet Never Forgets. Your blog is your little corner of the Internet. You decide how it will look and what it will say. But you need to remember that the Internwebs are vast and open to all, so you need to be careful about what you share on your site. You can never be truly anonymous and you should never write anything on the Web and hope that no one will find it.
The history of the blogosphere is littered with the mangled bodies of bloggers who wrote things that they thought their boss, boyfriend, parent, etc. would never see. So if you’re putting it out there, it’s prudent to assume that everyone you know will be reading it.
Don’t be THAT blogger. Along the same lines as the Internet Never Forgets, I feel that I should caution you against being that blogger.
Don’t be that blogger who lies to people about how much traffic your site gets. Don’t be that blogger who posts nothing but press releases or reviews of the things you were sent for free. Don’t be that blogger who attends every event under the sun, but only posts once a month. And don’t be that blogger who never interacts with readers in the comments, responds to e-mail or replies on Twitter.
The Golden Rule. If you don’t like your blog and think that it’s interesting, no one else will either. Produce content you want to read, and you will go far. Nothing makes me happier than when I look back at a week’s worth of posts and think, “Wow, this was a strong week.”