With millions of blogs out there and hundreds that are already famous, is it possible to start a new blog that can succeed? How can you stand out from the crowd and be sure that readers will pick your blog? You can give yourself the best chance for that if you start planning before you even write your first post.
Here are 4 steps you need to do before you start that can help you create a successful blog.
1. Discover Your Niche
If you want to have the best chance at creating a blog that has reach and influence, you should develop a finely tuned niche. You can blog without a niche, but you will find it far more difficult to drive traffic. A niche helps you target your audience and craft content that speaks directly to their goals and interests – and the smaller the target, the greater the impact. You will have less competition creating a highly visible blog. You can use long tail search engine optimization techniques to find drive traffic and engage with highly targeted forums, groups, and events.
Whether you are still trying to find a great niche or think you have it locked down, I’m going to give you a few words of advice. Make sure your niche is something you can shine in without a whole lot of trouble. For example, perhaps you’ve decided to be a frugal blogger. Wonderful! We can’t have too many of those, I’m always looking for ways to save money.
But that’s the catch: we already have TONS of frugal bloggers out there.
What you need to do is narrow it more tightly. What is the one thing you really enjoy or like that can be addressed with frugal blogging? For example, a less cluttered area would be “frugal blogging for dairy-free products.” If you happen to be dairy-free, this would be a perfect fit, and your content will be highly sought and valued.
If you are struggling to determine your niche, find your passion or something unique about you, and focus on an area of that idea that is a unique concept. You may need to spend some time brainstorming and researching what’s out there already to see where you can be competitive.
2. Self-Hosting: Yes or No?
Self-hosting is when you pay for a unique domain name (URL) and subscribe to web hosting services to house your blog’s files. The other option is to use a service like Blogger or WordPress.com, where all the backend is taken care of for you at no cost.
Self-hosting is definitely the way to go if you want a blog that is professional and are interested in eventually doing advertising, getting sponsorship, and writing reviews. It only costs around $10-15 per year to register a domain name and you can get hosting for as little as $5-10 per month. Keep in mind that you will need to also be responsible for setting up your blog, theming, updates, security, spam control, and backups. All these things can be done with the proper plugins or if you hire a web designer or developer to do regular maintenance.
I know these items sound overwhelming, but some simple training will get you started and before long, they will become second nature. Many web hosts will give you an option to set up a WordPress blog automatically, and give you a selection of free themes to go with it, plus some basic plugins activated.
(Note: I always recommend using WordPress, as it is the most-used, most supported, and easiest blog software available, in my opinion.)
However, if you’re not sure that blogging will take off for you or are still nervous, you may not want to self-host, at least until you get used to the work involved. In that case, I recommend using the services of WordPress.com, so that if you decide to self-host in the future, the switch will be easy and flawless. Be aware that if you do host on WordPress or Blogger, it will affect your domain name: www.yourblogname.wordpress.com. Your URL will be longer and more difficult to remember. It also will mean that while you will have better maintenance support, you will also be limited in terms of plugins, themes, flexibility, and will need to abide by any rules they have in place, whether or not you agree with them.
If you’ve made the decision to self-host, there are some great resources on web hosting, including excellent bargains for a number on hosting services. Check out the great deals on our bargains page!
3. Do Your Research
To create an authoritative blog, you will need to find content that will not only feed your target audience and relate to your niche, you will also need to make sure that those sources are trustworthy. When researching any topic, search engines naturally are your first tool but finding reliable resources is not so easy. Some tricks can help you with this:
Avoid Wikipedia. Remember that anyone can edit the information there so it is frequently biased and can be inaccurate. If you use it for general data, make sure that you fact-check that with more reliable sources.
Snopes.comis a resource that dispels myths and debunks urban legends. This is a great stop for checking up on anything that sounds fishy or too good to be true.
Use Google Scholar. This neat tool will help you find peer-reviewed articles, legal documents, and other articles that have some authority to them. There is a downside, however. If you are researching a controversial topic, new developments, or cutting edge research, you may only get the side of the story from established, traditional sources.
Check your sources in depth. Many “news” organizations that you find online aren’t really unbiased news, but are actually pushing some kind of agenda. When you find information from a site, click around the content you find there. Some red flags that I’ve run into include posting very old news as if it’s a recent development, articles based on information that is taken out of context, and inconsistent data. For example, if the site touts itself as a holistic health site, a contentious article on guns or taxes is out of place and a clue that there is probably a political agenda behind the site.
Your domain name is an important consideration when setting up a blog, for a number of reasons. When choosing a name, keep this in mind:
SEO: A blog name can drive search engine traffic, so if it’s possible, you’ll want to get your niche into the name. It won’t be easy unless you have a very rare topic, but you can combine things like who you are, what you do, or where you live with your topic. You can’t get GlutenFreeMom, but you may be able to get GlutenFreeInCA. Think outside the box for combinations that will drive SEO. My blog, Mom-Blog, frequently is the first or second result on Google for “mom blog.”
Memorability: The blog name should stand out and be catchy so people remember you easily and what you’re all about. “MusingsOfAHousewife” or “OperaSingerInTheKitchen” really tell you what those sites are about, are easy to remember, and are intriguing to the right audience.
Take a little time to sit down and hash out ideas, then run them through Godaddy.com to see if they are available.
Things I’d avoid in selecting a URL name include:
Words with multiple spellings. If someone remembers the wrong spelling for your blog and gets to the wrong site, they won’t visit you.
If you do use such words, find the URL with the most popular spelling, such as “mama” rather than “momma.”
Using a dash or hyphen. My blog has a hyphen in, and when I’m on speaking, it’s very difficult to communicate that symbol.
Using anything other than “.com.” If the name you want has been taken in the “.com” version, you’re only going to get confusion if you go for “.net” or one of the other options. I’d say about 90% or more of the bloggers I know use “.com.” The ones who don’t cause me considerable confusion because they are that rare.
If you want to create a really stand out blog, take the time to explore these four steps before you start blogging. They put your blog in a position for success!
Gina Badalaty is the owner of Embracing Imperfect, a blog devoted to encouraging and assisting moms of children with special needs and restricted diets. Gina has been blogging about parenting, raising children with disabilities, and allergy-free living for over 12 years. She’s blogs at Mamavation.com, and has blogged for major brands like Silk and Glutino. She also works as a copywriter and brand ambassador. She loves engaging on social media, travel and cooking gluten-free.