Thinking of starting a blog but think you'll fail? You won't--trust me. I've compiled a list of the 10 steps you need to take in order to cultivate a successful blog. But first, let's review what a "successful blog" means to you.
Does being successful mean getting a ton of comments? Views? Followers? All of these stats-related accomplishments are very important, yes, but the most important part of blogging is that you're doing it because you love doing it.
DEFINE YOUR NICHE OR UMBRELLA
This can be a challenge. Is your blog in line with a niche topic or more of an umbrella brand that encompasses a variety of topics under one greater mission or idea? Here at Fashionably Frank, we consider ourselves an umbrella lifestyle brand--we talk about everything under the moon: fashion, travel, marketing, DIY crafts, etc., however we are always dedicated to the every girl and how she experiences leading a balanced life (our mission).
Perhaps your blog is a healthy eating paleo diet blog. Having such a refined niche can make it easier to receive engagement and loyal followers. But, at the end of the day: blog about what you enjoy and don't blog in order to cultivate a following (at least in the beginning). Blogging should be fun!
DISCOVER YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
Once you've defined your niche, you need to ask yourself: who is likely to be among the niche followers and who should I be speaking to on a daily/weekly basis? This may take some poking around and you may have to wait until you gain a bit of a blog following to truly dive into the demographics.
If you're using Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, you are also able to see what type of audience segments are being reached via those profiles' analytics (likely similar to whom you would like to attract to your blog, in the anticipated event that you are posting pieces within/about your niche).
CREATE CONTENT THAT ADDS VALUE
Ask yourself: why are you a fan of your favorite blogs/bloggers? What makes you stick around? You'll probably answer that it's a mix of the blogger's spirit or personality, along with the content of the posts. Content is pretty much the end-all, be-all in blogging. If you don't provide content that relates to this target audience, you're losing.
Always write your editorial calendar for the month with topics relating to your niche and what your audience wants to read. A good way to find topic inspiration is to follow conversations within your niche and observe some of the questions people have about it, then write posts on these questions. I also find a good chunk of inspiration from Pinterest and things others have previously blogged about within my niche, as well as following my favorite bloggers.
USE BEAUTIFUL IMAGERY
I highly recommend that you purchase a nice quality camera (Nikon or Canon, preferably a fancier DSLR with a user-friendly interface that allows you to capture gorgeous photos of food, locations, people, clothes, whatever you may need). It's worth the investment and your audience will thank you later. I currently work with a Canon Rebel T3 and previously used the Nikon D3000.
If you aren't at the stage of beautiful photography that you'd maybe like to be, or perhaps you just like to mix it up, you can borrow images from others on the Internet by always crediting them at the end of your posts. Or, you can take from CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) photo archives--this is a licensing option that allows both personal and commercial use on any medium. It's been a lifesaver for us.
ENGAGE WITH OTHER BLOGGERS
This step is a must-do! Being able to appreciate what fellow bloggers are producing is so vital to your own success and to increasing mutual relationships within the blogging community. I've joined Facebook groups that help me to maximize my own blogging success while helping others' maximize theirs.
Set aside a chunk of time each day when you know you will successfully engage with others--whether this be in Facebook groups, StumbleUpon.com or directly commenting on others' posts. This will increase your relevance in your niche and help you create quality relationships with people who are passionate about the same stuff you are.
LEVERAGE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
If you plan to start a blog and aren't using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, you will likely fall behind the trends and fail to make a mark. This doesn't mean you have to use all the platforms in the world (and you actually shouldn't), but use the platforms that have proven the most success on click-throughs and referrals for your blog.
Each niche will have different social media platforms that work more successfully. For example, if you're trying to reach a tween-teen age group, Snapchat is best. If you're an interior design or food blogger, Instagram and Pinterest are great for the visual aspect. Twitter works great for professionals and those who can give tidbits of education within their niche. Facebook should be a given and every blog should have a Facebook fan page where their followers can stay in-the-know.
If you have a bit of a budget and would like to engage in advertising, social media offers a variety of affordable ad options (particularly Facebook and Instagram which you can send ads to simultaneously).
MANAGE YOUR COMMUNITY
Community management is key. In addition to commenting and following others' blogs, it's really important to reach out to people within your niche on your designated social media platforms. Every day, I strive to set aside time to re-tweet, like and comment articles on Twitter, check hashtags on Instagram and like/follow new people (leaving purposeful and meaningful comments) and pin/follow others on Pinterest.
This engagement factor really helps others discover your blog and all that you have to offer, in addition to being another way that you can make relationships and stay on top of what's currently trending in your niche area re: blogging.
MEASURE AND MAXIMIZE
Once you've begun your social media management and posting on a regular basis, be sure you measure what's working. You can do this by using the analytics on each social media platform and taking notes on what time is best for your account to post/where your followers are coming from/what type of content gets the most engagement, etc.
Using analytics to measure, later setting goals to maximize your Internet presence is an indication of a solid blogging ethic, just like any other form of digital marketing. It also helps you create more content of value and tailor the examples you may use to explain specific phenomenons, recipes, you name it.
COLLABORATE LIKE CRAZY
Guest blogging is a great opportunity for you, and the other blogger to get each other's stuff out there! I've done a series of guest blogging arrangements and each one turned out to be wonderful reciprocation. Of course, be strategic about who you request to guest blog and only accept posts on topics you are truly passionate about/feel would be of value to your readership.
Collaboration can also be done in the form of compensation and product reviews--collaboration with brands, that is. This is an easy way to increase the authority of your blog while getting your name out there. Emma and I are very selective about the products and features we do, and only pick items/places that we truly feel resonate with our audience.
ASK, THEN LISTEN
The most important step of them all: ask, then listen. Once you've developed a large enough tribe, ask them their opinion! Do they want to see more easy, do-it-yourself makeup hacks? Perhaps they prefer travel itineraries and tips. Asking them what content provides them the most value and is the most entertaining is a very valuable way to discover how to best tailor your niche.
This also goes for responding to comments left on your blog posts and social media platforms. Take the time to like and engage with each person who takes time out of their day to appreciate your work. It doesn't happen often when you're first starting out (we know the struggle), which is all the more reason to take it seriously. The reason you write may be partially for selfish reasons, but ultimately you should be writing posts to help others. Others are the fuel behind your greatest masterpiece.
What are your blogging tips? Leave them in the comments!