These days blogs are as ubiquitous as new flavors of soda, gratuitous acts of violence on “Game of Thrones,” and Republican presidential candidates.
Okay, so maybe they’re not as common as that last one, but they’re getting pretty close.
Nevertheless, if you’d like to join the parade, there is still plenty of room to march. If you plan to create a blog, their ubiquity actually takes the pressure off. Rather than standing on your head trying to stand out (which is incredibly difficult when there is so much competition), you can instead focus on fitting in, using the accumulated knowledge and experience of others as a guide to help you carve out a spot in a crowded but still accessible field.
Before you begin your journey through the blogosphere, however, there are some serious questions you should address first. The answers you give will shape important choices as you move forward, and if these questions aren’t asked and answered, you’ll almost assuredly wander off the beaten path and get yourself into trouble. You’ll soon find yourself stumbling along hopelessly lost, tripping over skunks and stepping on bears’ tails as you thrash about in the impenetrable underbrush of the deep dark forest of blogland.
Obviously you don’t want that to happen. So without further ado, here are eight questions you should ask yourself before you start blogging:
Question #1: What is your purpose?
To make money? To express your thoughts and opinions? To promote your business and build your brand? To spice up your already-existing website with more interesting content? To create a more personal connection with your customers or subscribers? To give you an outlet to indulge your creative instincts? Some combination of the above?
Naturally, if you know for sure you want to create a blog, you already have some idea where you want to go with it. But you need to be extremely precise and clear about your aims, because they will play a role in all of the choices you make going forward.
Question #2: Do you want your blog to stand alone or support another site?
The answer here is pretty simple. If you’re blogging in support of a product or service you’re selling—if advertising, public relations, and search engine performance are the motivations for your blog, in other words—you should include it in a subdirectory, a special section on your main website. But if your reasons for creating a blog are distinct and self-contained (the blog is about the blog), a separate site is the better choice. That’s the best way to find your target audience—and to increase the chances they’ll find you and be receptive to your ideas once they do.
Question #3: How do you want it to look?
Infographics and images matter. Color choices matter. Readability matters. Logical organization of material matters. A lack of clutter matters. The overall aesthetics of presentation matter. Your blog should offer visitors a pleasant and harmonious sensory experience, and that requires more than just cleverly chosen words sensibly strung together. Great design choices will make your readers more receptive to the message behind your written presentation—the effect is mostly subliminal, but that makes it all the more powerful.
Of course, this presumes you’ll make design choices that actually complement and reinforce your message, and this is one area where an experienced content marketing agency can offer quality services and assistance to help you get up and running, and to keep your momentum for the long-term.
Question #4: What’s your “niche within a niche” going to be?
Once you know what you want to write about in general, you might want to narrow your scope a bit. Find some aspect of your subject matter, or the product or service you’re selling, that you feel has been overlooked, underpublicized, underrated, misunderstood, or taken for granted, or that your readers might find especially compelling or informative. New angles on old material will differentiate you from your competitors and allow you to create a blog voice that is original, relevant, and ready to impart important knowledge that varies from the usual.
Question #5: What kind of posting schedule do you want to maintain?
There are two keys here. First, you don’t want to post too infrequently. Out of sight means out of mind, that’s the way it goes in the blogosphere (and also in romance, but that’s not pertinent right now). Anyway, generally speaking there is no such thing as posting too often, unless each post is an epic novel that takes weeks to translate from the original Latin.
Second, regardless of how frequently you post, you should be as reliable and consistent with it as possible. You want visitors to know they’ll be treated to fresh content every time they show up. No matter how brilliant, creative, or compelling the writing might be, inactive and inconsistent blogs will quickly become forgotten blogs, and the virtual landfills are littered with the rotting carcasses of these poor misadventures.
Question #6: How will you speak to your readers?
The voice you assume should exude authority, confidence, and good humor. You should be modest in your tone but straightforward and direct in your presentation of the facts and your interpretations of them. Above all, you should be respectful to both your intended audience and those who might disagree with you or be skeptical of your claims.
Preaching to the converted is easy (and absurdly common when it comes to blogs), but you don’t need to do that to keep them on your side. It is better to imagine you are speaking to a general audience that may or may not be sympathetic, and you should always put your best foot forward as you attempt to win over the uncertain or undecided.
When addressing comments on your blog page or social media sites—that’s a fantastic way to initiate productive conversations—you should avoid arguments while supplementing your presentation with additional facts. And you should always thank everyone for their participation regardless of how they’ve responded to your efforts.
Question #7: Who are your writers going to be?
Maybe you want to write everything yourself. But if you can’t keep up with the workload, you might want to consider bringing guest bloggers, freelance writers, or an entire content marketing team onboard to help you out or even to do all the writing for you. If you go this route, the main thing is to be as specific and detailed as possible in your instructions to the folks you work with. They have to know exactly what you want if they are to produce written material that enlightens and persuades and accurately translates your vision.
Question #8: How are you going to market your blog and let people know it’s out there?
All bloggers want to be read, and they need to be read if they’re in it for marketing purposes. To build a consistent readership or client base, you’ll have to be as determined and imaginative as your ambition demands.
Even if you succeed beyond your wildest dreams, you’ll still need to maintain what you’ve accomplished, and that means you’ll never be able to stop and rest on your laurels.
Great marketing strategies are multi-pronged and usually involve extensive social media activity and networking, email list building, the cultivation of relationships with other bloggers, websites, and direct personal communication. Any way to let people know what you’re doing and where they can find you is recommended and likely to be helpful.
Planning, creating, and maintaining a blog can be an exhaustive process, and getting it right can take quite a bit of work. That is why many prospective bloggers choose to outsource some or most of the work whenever possible, but you can still accomplish a lot as a one-man or one-woman show. Keep doing your research, plan carefully, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you get stumped.
Oh, and stock up on coffee. You’re definitely going to need it!