How to Start a Successful Blog

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If you’re thinking of starting a blog, sorry to be the one to tell you this, but my recommendation is that you don’t do it. Seriously, get the idea out of your mind and think of doing something else. I know, all you could get with a popular blog is wonderful—but do you really have what it takes to start and maintain a successful blog? Probably not…

95% out of all blogs end up dying during the first year of life. Do you get it now? Not only you need to be one of those lucky 5% surviving blogs, but also reach the top of that ranking! And that, my friend, will not be easy. Going with a sports metaphor: one thing is to be a sports fan and another—quite different—is to win an Olympic medal.

Ser blogger no es nada fácil. Conseguir el éxito con tu blog es aún más difícil.
Being a blogger is not easy. Achieve success with your blog is even harder.

If you don’t give up easily (congratulations👏) please keep reading. In this post I’ll give you some tips to help you on the hard road ahead of you to become a successful blogger. It will not be easy, but at least you will have my support (which I guess is better than nothing, right? 😜).

What is a Successful Bog?

Before moving forward, we should probably talk about what “success” means. Truth is, there’s no global definition of what a successful blog is or which features should it have. Bummer! However, IMHO, a successful blog should at least:

  • have tens of thousands of visits each month.
  • appear on the results when people perform searches on Google or similar search engines.
  • provide value to the readers.
  • be mentioned and shared on Internet.
  • generate revenue (directly or indirectly).

As you can see, there is a lot of common sense behind all of it. And I’d like to specially highlight the last statement. As Taco said in his interview some time ago, “if you’re not earning money, it’s a hobby“.

When starting a new blog, your goal shouldn’t be to make money out of it solely. That won’t happen (unless you are the luckiest guy out there). And if you believe it will, then you’ll probably get frustrated soon. What you need to have in mind is how will you monetize your content later. Or even better, how will you transform all the effort that you put to the blog into tangible benefits for your organization or yourself.

So, with the previous list in mind, let’s see what you should focus on.

7 Recommendations to Get off to a Good Start

If you google recommendations for people who want to start a new blog, you’ll find plenty of articles with lists of magic tricks that will drive you nuts 😓. My goal today is to make things easier for you.—I’ll just give you 7 basic recommendations. If you put them in practice, your blog will get off to a good start.

#1. Find a Topic That You Are Passionate About

A blog requires a lot of sacrifice. You’ll need to write regularly about some topics. Therefore, if you choose a topic that does not thrill you or encourage you to write about it, you’ll end up abandoning sooner rather than later. And that means your blog will fall by the wayside.

You shouldn’t choose something super specific either, such as the mating of common blackbirds in autumn season 😄. Many times it is better to take a broader topic, as the field of birds might be, in general. That would allow you to get more chances to write about ideas that motivate you.

Si después de escribir una nueva entrada en tu blog no te sientes así, escogiste el tema incorrecto en tu blog.
If you don’t feel like that after finishing a new post, you picked the wrong topic for your blog.

Take our blog as an example. When we first started, we focused on WordPress solely. But we quickly realized that we were limiting ourselves—if we wanted to discuss more general topics, such as marketing techniques or best practices in web design, we needed a broader perspective. Be as specific as you can, but don’t restrict your possibilities too much. Seeking inspiration for your posts is not easy, so leave the door open to other topics. If you can address more themes and talk about more things, it’ll be easier for you to keep motivated and writing about your passions.

In summary, choose an area you know and love, an area that a lot of people is interested in. If you find it, I’m sure your contributions will help your audience.

#2. Know Your Audience

“I haven’t started my blog yet—how am I supposed to know ‘my audience’?” Well, believe it or not, this question makes perfect sense, even if you haven’t get started yet. There’s plenty of channels you can use to get to know your potential audience.

On the one hand, social networks, forums, and other online communities are a great starting point. Get involved with those first and contact with its members—you’ll get to know the people that participates in those communities and, more importantly, you’ll be able to discover who the influencers are. You’ll also get an idea of the hot topics and which discussions are the most interesting.

On the other hand, there are offline encounters too. I bet there are some meetups in your city attended by people interested in your area of expertise. For instance, when we started our company, we attended Barcelona’s WordPress meetup regularly—this gave us a fantastic opportunity to get to know the WordPress community and let them know about us.

Investiga a tu audiencia y su comportamiento en tu blog. Tomar decisiones con datos es lo mejor que puedes hacer.
Analyze your audience and their behavior. Base your decisions with real data.

Once you have the blog up and running, track some analytics about it so that you can get further insights. Tools like Google Analytics will give you plenty of information about your audience and their behavior. The more you know them, the better—create one or more Buyer Personas and make sure your blog addresses all the pain points they have. The important thing here is to be pro-active and respond to your audience’s needs.

#3. Use an Attractive Design

A lot of people will end up visiting your blog eventually—they’ll take a look around and, if they don’t like what they see, they’ll leave for good. What do I mean by this? Well, first impressions matter, and design plays an important role in it.

Just go ahead and check it out by yourself—search 6 or 7 blogs within a certain topic and look at their appearance. I’m sure they all are “relevant” or “interesting”, but their appearance also talks about them and their authors. Some designs will look fresh and new—others will look old and outdated. Which blogs do you like the most?

I’m not telling you to spend too much time designing the fanciest blog ever, with CSS animations and including the coolest tricks available. But spend some time in looking for the (or at least a) right design 😄. In the WordPress ecosystem there’s a lot of beautiful themes that are perfectly targeted at blogs—use the one that better suits your needs/audience/topic.

If I had to give you one advise only, think about accessibility. Use a pleasant, easy-to-read typeface, big enough for anyone to read it. Don’t use weird color combinations or neglect visually impaired visitors. If you try to get things right from the very beginning, it’s not that complicated, and it really pays off in the long run.

#4. Choose Quality Before Quantity

How often should you publish? That’s probably the million-dollar question. A common answer is “you should publish as often as possible—daily, ideally”. But, can you keep up with this pace?

Sure, the more you publish, the better… but that only holds true if your posts are good enough. In my opinion, it’s better to publish every now and then high-quality posts than mediocre content often. Focus on quality over quantity—and set the pace that works for you.

Es mucho mejor escribir un poco menos de lo que quisieras, pero consiguiendo entradas de más calidad.
Write less, but write better. Focus on quality, not on quantity.

You know what you’re capable of, so I won’t be telling you what you can or should do. I can tell you, though, what we do—we publish two posts per week, in both Spanish and English. That’s more than enough for our current needs. Can we write more posts per week? Sure, but if we want to have time to develop our products and assists our users, the quality of our posts wouldn’t match our standards.

If your audience doesn’t value your content, they won’t visit your site anymore. That’s it. Your responsibility is to offer them what they’re looking for. They want the best of you. Don’t publish more than anybody else—just do it better than anybody else.

#5. Make Yourself Known

Starting a blog and publishing stuff on it doesn’t suffice—people should know you exist. The first steps in this journey are the most complicated, because nobody knows you yet. That’s why promotion is so important at this stage. Therefore, you should apply the 80/20 rule—invest 20% of your time in writing content and the remaining 80% in promoting it. But, how?

Get involved in local meetups, participate in forums, create social profiles in social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest…) and create this “digital identity”, befriend the influencers… Shout out loud that you exist!

Promociona tus contenidos, pero no caigas en la trampa de parecer un spammer.
Promote your content. But, please, don’t become a spammer 😉

I must insist on this—promoting content is not easy, and the results of your promoting actions won’t have an instant effect in your blog. But don’t desist. Persist and you’ll see how things work out eventually.

#6. Be Different

Why should I read your blog instead of anybody else’s? If you don’t know the answer to this simple question, you probably won’t reach your goals. There’s millions of blogs in the Internet discussing thousands of different topics. Yours is just “yet another blog”. If you want to succeed, you must be different from your competitors.

This is easier said than done, I know, but try to be different. Analyze your competitors and think about what makes you different from them—and once you’ve identified what makes you special, work on it. I’m sure you can offer a different perspective in your niche, so do it!

#7. Embrace Perseverance

Perseverance—probably the most important word in this post. Perhaps you’re not the best writer in the world. Maybe you’re not (yet) an expert in your area. Your audience might not always like what you talk about, or your point of view. But all of this doesn’t matter—keep walking, keep writing, keep working on your blog. If you insist and don’t falter, you’ll be better than most people out there.

Poco a poco te convertirás en un gran blogger. Lo importante es perseverar y no dejarlo.
You’ll become a great blogger. Just keep working and don’t falter.

Time will make you better. Believe me—it will. Each time you write a new post, you’ll get slightly faster, slightly better. All journeys begin with one step. And you’ll get to the end if you keep walking.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t give up.

Why You Should Start Your Blog Today

I already told you that running a successful blog is complicated. I even challenged you to have one, because real blogs are not for everybody. But if you insist on having your own, well, good for you! A blog can change your life. You’ll have the chance to get to know new people. You’ll be able to express your opinions. You’ll learn about communication, writing, marketing. You’ll become an expert in your area. You’ll become a story teller. And, if you get really lucky, you might even be able to live out of your blog!

If you want to achieve all these goals, get started right now. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Not later on today. Now. You’ll need time and effort, so the sooner you get started, the better.

In Conclusion

No one can guarantee your own success. If they do, they’re lying. But having the right attitude and mindset is definitely necessary to succeed. Start your blog as soon as possible and make sure you apply all tips I shared today. I hope my advice will show you the right way and prevent you from faltering.

I’d love to hear about your progress, so please make sure to leave a comment and share your experience with us. If I helped you somehow, I’ll be happy to know it. If you think I’m wrong or if I missed something, let me know too! I want to make sure that this guide helps you and other people reach their goals.

Finally, check out our plugin: Nelio Content, a fantastic plugin for bloggers that saves them (and hopefully you) time and helps in your daily tasks. We use it in our own blog and it’s great!

Good luck and keep writing!

Featured image by Eric Froehling.

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Antonio obtained his PhD in Computer Science at UPC. He has several publications in the field of data mining and information retrieval applied to conceptual modeling and health informatics. He specialized in the design, development, and integration of web services and cloud applications. He's an active contributor to the WordPress community and participates in meetups, seminars and WordCamps.

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