5 BIG questions about blogging—answered

How do you get started? What should you write about? How do you make money? Learn the answers to these questions and more.

As I teach and speak, I start to see certain themes in the questions I’m asked. Here are the most common questions I am asked about blogging—and some answers:

How do I get started with blogging?

• Start with your strategy. What are you trying to do and why? What does “success” look like to you? Money? Community? Actions? New friends?
• Write the headlines of the first 25 blog posts headlines you would like to compose. Compare this with your strategy. Does it fit? Is there a common theme you can stick to for the long term?
• As far as technology, I recommend using WordPress. It works and it can expand with your needs over time. Leave the tech stuff to the tech people. Spend your time on content.
• Write consistently. It may take months for you to find your voice and your rhythm. You have to just do it.
• Commit. Carve out time on your schedule to work on this every week. To be successful, it can’t be an after-thought.
• Don’t be discouraged at first. It takes time to find success. Last month, I had the same number of page views as my first 18 months of blogging all put together. Be patient.

How often should I blog?

Depends on your strategy (a common theme). At a minimum, shoot for one new post per month. But here’s an easy regimen to follow if you want to shoot for one great blog post per week:

• Can you write a 500-word essay on a topic that interests you? Sure you can. In analog terms, that’s one-page double-spaced. In the old days, you could probably crank that out 10 minutes before class, right? There’s post No. 1.
• Now, find an interesting article in your field. Summarize it, comment on it, provide a proper link and attribution. There’s post No. 2.
• Find a success story or a customer to celebrate. Explain why these people are special to you. That’s post No. 3.
• Walk down to customer service. Ask them what the biggest customer question is. Answer it. That’s blog post No. 4.

Don’t forget to leverage existing content such as videos, presentations, and speeches. Deputize other resources to help you. Get guest posts from sales, PR, customers, suppliers, community members. It adds to the content diversity and helps build your community.

What do I write about?

In addition to some of the tips above, here are five fail-safe ideas when you get struck for a topic:

1. When you don’t know what to write about, Google “what should I write about.” You’ll be amazed at the creative prompts.
2. Go to a relevant LinkedIn group for your industry. Scan the questions in a forum. Pick an interesting one. Answer it. Great blog post.
3. Carefully look at the comments and questions that come in from your community. I would say I get 25 percent of my ideas from community comments or my own comments on other blogger posts.
4. Look at your Google Analytics for the keywords people are using to find your blog. These offer insights into the topics people are interested in. For example, I recently had a keyword of “beginning blogging,” so I thought it was time to write an article like this one.
5. Collect ideas all the time—something you read or view, an idea in a meeting, a comment from a customer. Just write the headline for the idea in your blog as soon as possible. That way when it’s time to blog, you’ll have a list of topics to riff on.

How do I promote traffic to my blog?

Depends on your strategy (naturally). Are you even sure traffic is the right goal?

There are two camps on this: the keyword camp and the creative content camp.

The keyword camp would have you stuff keywords into your content as much as possible—especially headlines and early paragraphs—to attract search engine love.

The creative camp would say people will come to your blog, and eventually the search engines will, too, if you create fantastic content.

I am firmly in the creative camp. I’m aware of keywords, but I’m not wedded to them. My goal is to build community, make new friends, and have some fun along the way. I would die if I had to force keywords into every sentence, or even every post. Who wants to read that?

There have been tons of blog posts written about this subject, but here are seven things (other than content) that have helped me grow a great community:

1. Be active in other relevant blog communities;
2. Earn the right to do some guest posts;
3. Surround myself with awesome people on Twitter (who may be interested in my content);
4. Make the content easy to share;
5. Respect and support the people who honor you by reading your blog and commenting;
6. Blog consistently so people expect new content.
7. If you write something truly stellar, ask your friends to help get the word out.

How do I make money from my blog?

There are six ways I know of to make money from your blog:

1. Advertising. This will not work for 99 percent of all bloggers because the traffic simply is not great enough.
2. Affiliate links (such as links to books on Amazon). Every time somebody clicks and buys, you get a small payout. This, too, will not work for 99 percent of all bloggers because—you guessed it—the traffic has to be huge to make any significant money.
3. Repurposing your blog content. Many bloggers have assembled blog posts to create books, e-books and other content they can sell in a number of ways.
4. Sponsored posts. Link-hungry SEO promoters are eager to pay people to add links or even entire pieces of content to a blog. Once you do that, you turn your blog into an ad. People do it. I won’t. Ever.
5. Selling adjacent products. I have no plans to monetize my blog directly, but I’m hoping that people who love the free content will support me by buying adjacent products on my website such as my Social Media From Scratch video tutorials, books, or instant coaching services.
6. Indirect sales. This is the strategy behind my blog. I want to create great content that will make people want to hire me as a consultant, come to their office to teach a class, or give a speech to their association. My blog is basically my marketing strategy.

Mark Schaefer is the author of “Return On Influence” and blogs at grow, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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