So You Want to Start a Blog?
I remember, somewhere between 2008 and 2010, blogging used to be all the rage. All my technologically inclined friends had a blog. In turn, they were able to influence their not-too-techy friends into getting their own blog too. Some of them managed to make a quick buck out of their blog through the power of Google AdSense. Some did not. And yet, they maintained a blog. Why? Probably just to vent, to rage, and to rant. After all, what quicker way to instantly broadcast your innermost feelings, than to start a blog, right?
Seeing all this, I too started a blog. If I remember right, it was something on Blogspot (remember the time when that website was the most happening thing on the internet? Yep, so very long ago). For the first week or so, I posted a 500-word post every day. Without fail. I was tracking my blog’s ranking on Technorati and Alexa. I was optimizing it for SEO. I installed Google Analytics when it was rolled out. I was doing intuitively doing everything most manuals about blogging teach you to do. Things were looking good, I was feeling proud about my accomplishment.
And yet, by the end of the very first month, the frequency had gone down to a post a week. The quality of posts was deteriorating, and in turn, that was discouraging me from actually posting on my blog. Within two months, my little blog, that very page which I was once treating as my very own personal diary, had joined the hoards of dead blogs out there.
In the ensuing months, numerous attempts were made to resurrect that blog, but once a blog dies, it really does die. If its not life catching up, it is the quality of posts, or the declining (stagnant) number of visitors/comments on your blog. Something or the other always does manage to make you give up on your blog. I’m sure you’ve also been through that phase. I have. Multiple times. It stings, but at least it has taught me one thing:
Blogging is serious business, and it requires immense will and a sense of purpose.
So what’s changed between 2010 and now? It’s the last part of that statement. I have found a sense of purpose to having a blog. Call it jealousy, call it a challenge, but I reckoned that if people out there are making money off their blogs, then why can’t I?
There are numerous examples, from within my friends circle, and from outside, of people who are long past the need to hold down a routine 9-5 desk job to pay for their livelihood. Why? Because their blog (and associated services from it) is minting them enough money. This is the new face of entrepreneurship, and I want a piece of it. The best bit? Unlike traditional businesses, the barriers for entry are pretty low (if not non-existent). There is no need for radical amounts of capital to be expended. Most services are free. And those that are not, well, they only cost a nominal amount.
Now, since you’ve landed on this blog, I’m sure you’re also looking to branch out and make a living off blogging or another form of online business. For you, I have one advice and one advice only. Much like I did, at the very outset, set a challenge for yourself. Anything to keep you fired. Keep you going through those tough days where the post refuses to write itself. Those obnoxious days where you take your blog for granted, and decide to go out drinking with your friends rather than concentrate on that article you have to push out. A sense of purpose is key to a successful blog. It will not just keep you motivated, but also influence every little aspect of your blog (as I will go on to demonstrate in future instalments of this series).
In the September of 2014, we reached the 1 billion websites mark. That makes it roughly one blog or website every 7 human beings. And, that figure takes into consideration even those people who do not even have access to the internet. Astounding? You bet. And yet, us bloggers can just stop and gape at that number. Our blog or website will be one of those 1 billion blogs. So why should anyone actually come to your blog? How does your blog even succeed in such a cluttered space?
That’s where your niche comes into play. It is that tiny little area of expertise you carve out for yourself. That miniscule, and yet highly specific, area you know you are master of. My niche is not blogging. Or setting up a blog. My niche is helping you start a freedom business and live a better life. Much like the sense of purpose, my niche is also going to influence the very DNA of my blog—from the tone and content of posts, to the layout and design decisions. Without this hard coding into the DNA, each element would be disparate and my blog would be a mess. Without a clear sense of purpose and a niche in mind, even your blog can end up like that corporate website that uses Comic Sans font.
Which is why, it becomes doubly imperative to think your blog through before you even set about buying a domain or writing your first post. I know I have. Maybe excessively. But, I also know that a clarity in sense of purpose and niche (or should I call it positioning?) is going to stand me in good stead. I hope it does for you too.