So “blogging” is on your 2014 New Year’s resolution. Good for you. My goal is to guide you well past the first 28-days and into habituation. Starting blogging is not going to be easy for you. You’ll be all hot and ready at first but you’ll probably never make it — at least not without my help. More people give up on blogging — and writing in general — than give up on going to the gym in order to lose weight and get fit. Blog wasn’t built in a day. Mark my words.
A majority of my revenue is generated from blogger outreach, namely long-tail and deep-dive, outreach that extends all the way into the thousands of bloggers. As part of the client service work on behalf of my clients I have engaged with many thousands of bloggers over the last decade.
Let’s see if I can help you get through the first push-off.
1) What is your agenda for starting a blog? There is no right or wrong answer here. What do you want out of your new commitment (or re-commitment) to blogging? Are you blogging to get the job of your dreams? You can, you know. Are you blogging to ward off boredom as you raise someone from a Zygote? Do you have aspirations of getting free stuff in the mail that you’ll then review on your blog? Fair enough — completely possible, even probable if you can prove your mettle. Are you committed? Agencies don’t sent out Hermès Kelly Bags or let you borrow S-Class sedans to just anyone. You’ll really need to commit to making it into the A-list of your topic or category of choice before you’ll start being treated like royalty. When it comes to even receiving cheap swag or tchotchkes you’ll need to have blogged well and long enough to be a known entity with a passable reputation and Klout score.
Oftentimes, if your aspiration is to be a tech guy or fashionista, you’ll need to underwrite your own gadgets and gear yourself. At least until someone fancies you to be just the right person who has the reputation, voice, access, and reach that resonates with each unique promotion. Good news: once you’re on board, you’ll probably be a go-to guy for as long as you’re positive, responsive, and professional. It’s simple: commit to treating your blog much less than a journal or diary and more like a profession, a job.
That’s not to say you need to become square or reporterly. Objective is not what anyone wants. People want you, they need you. They should, down the road, know and enjoy your wit, your mind, your world, your experience, and even where you are in the world — with your family, kids, friends, city, state, personal passions, hobbies, and all of that. People want the whole package, and that package is you, Mr. or Ms. Blogger.
2) Only start a blog if you love writing and have something to say: Here’s secret number 1 about blogging: blogs don’t write themselves. Secret number 2: blogs, and the associated marketing, promoting, connecting, pitching, connecting, relating, commenting, and responding, and then blogging some more: short pieces, response pieces, shill pieces, longer pieces. Guess what: lots of writing. Don’t worry, passion-player: if you don’t like writing, maybe Video Blogging on YouTube is for you.
Ugly? Maybe SoundCloud or an audio podcast on Stitcher. Terrible, nasally, voice? Well, it’s OK. Nerdy, nasally, awful voices are the new black when it comes to podcasting. There are virtually zero velvety dulcet tones going on anywhere in Podcast-land. Still ugly? Well, maybe ugly means you’re more authentic — go ahead and give YouTube a try. Start a YouTube Channel today! But don’t worry. You can become as much — or more — of a sensation on YouTube as you can on a blog. YouTube is how Justin Beiber was discovered, right? And, YouTube is the second most popular search engine right under Google Search.
And, if you’re really committed, try out all the platforms in order to build your personal brands: YouTube, Soundcloud, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg, Tumblr, as well as your blog. It’s as much about you, Blogger, as it is about each particular, discrete, post you birth into the world-o-sphere.
3) Blogging is a lifetime commitment: Like immunosuppressant drugs after heart transplant surgery, once you start blogging you can never stop — or terrible things will happen. One will kill your body, the other will kill everything you’ve worked so hard to accomplish. To paraphrase the quote about Rome, your Blog wasn’t built in a day, but it burned in one. What takes you months — years — to build can go away in weeks.
4) Nothing’s really going to happen for the first six-months: Once you consummate your marriage (with your blog) you need to realize that not matter what you do, unless you already have a well-developed brand, a multinational company, or are between and A-C-list celebrity, then you’re going to have to work like a banshee and maybe — just maybe — you’ll start getting some SEO and popularity traction by month six. More likely, however, you’ll have your ups-and-downs over the course of a year based mostly on the quality, popularity, trendiness, and luck. If you start seeing more consistent readership and deeper popularity as manifest my consistently-increased social sharing (by people other than you and your best friends) then you’ll start seeing your metrics move more reliably.
Please remember, however, that blogging is primarily about connecting with your goals. If your goals are to attract the attention of an employer or a brand or agency, then metrics aren’t everything; however, if your goal is to make a living through advertising and affiliate marketing, then yes, you’ll surely need to care about traffic and numbers: the more the better. But don’t let raw numbers drive your concept of your success or failure. Remember, all you need to do is attract the attention of employers, colleagues, reporters, agency reps, and brands.
5) Writing is only a quarter of what it takes to be a blogger: Writing takes a lot of work. And you’ll need to do a lot of it. But the blogging is only a quarter of the time you’ll need to put in. In addition to that work, you’ll need to maintain your blog website, you’ll need to sort out site moderation, become somewhat of an expert in WordPress, Drupal, Xoomla, Movable Type, Typepad, Tumblr, Squarespace, Blogger, or whatever you choose (choose WordPress).
You need to jump in, feet-first, into social media, including your own personal Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ profile. Quite possible a Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ professional brand profile page. Maybe Pinterest, even. Quite a few bloggers also maintain newsletters, email lists, and email subscription lists.
Then, you’ll need to meet all the other people in your blogging space. You’ll need to keep track of social media mentions about your blog posts, you’ll need to monitor comments and respond in a timely manner. You’ll need to delete spam and moderate abusive comments.
I am sure I have just scratched the surface. Domain name registration, email monitoring (for that fateful email that’ll get you that Mercedes Benz S550 test drive or your very own Kelly Bag), and all sorts of other technical issues you’ve never though of: down time, a broken template, a corrupted database. You will have become an entrepreneur, publisher, reporter, media-mogul, and technologist all in one fell swoop.
6) Your content is more important than your domain name or punny title: Some of the most important bloggers are using using free or inexpensive blog hosting sites. King of all blogs is Seth Godin and he uses TypePad as his blog hosting site, sethgodin.typepad.com — so, even though I tend to lead with clever domain names and sassy titles, you really don’t need them. Sometimes, if you’re really good at content and are reliable and professional, sites like WordPress.com, Blogger/Blogspot, and Tumblr will oftentimes be able to help promote you online. So, don’t spend most of your time fussing around with tech, domain names, web hosting — write, write, write; blog, blog, blog!
7) Hold off on the advertising and contextual ads for a little while: Ads, advertising, contextual ads, Google AdWords and AdSense ads, and Affiliate links demand huge amounts of traffic to be profitable in any way more profound than a little bit of beer money. And, cluttering up your blogs and websites prematurely — before you’re cooking with gas — can really turn of your nascent readership as well. Drive them away, distract them from your well-written, completely thought-out explorations in text, insight, and brilliant. Put aside the advertising until you have some there there. Woo them deep into your lair, spin them in your web first, and then you can monetize down the road.
“The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.” — James Allen
8) Engage your community both on your blogs and on social media: As I said above, you need to not only write but you surely need to spend quite a lot of time becoming — and being — neighborly. Become a known entity. Maybe extend your blogging experience over blogging some over at The Huffington Post, try guest blogging for your colleagues or friends (but don’t just use your friends to help promote your own site, bloggers hate that). And maybe it’s time to really start treating all of the places you tend to use for recreation into platforms for your business. Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter are powerful tools for branding — much more powerful and effective than RSS, circa 2014. However, that said, tools like Digg Reader and Feedly are still powerful and useful drivers for your readership.
9) Social media has become an essential part of the blogging life: I can’t say this enough. You have been warned.
10) Make sure people can easily contact you: In your insane and irrational attempt to stop each and every piece of spam, you very well may have made it too difficult for us agency and publicity types to get an easy enough hold of you, then we won’t. I need to know your name and an email address that you actually check. Personally, I won’t jump through the hoops if filling out web forms or Captchas, or links to LinkedIn, Facebook, some sort of gatekeeper, or via Twitter. I also use GroupHigh and they scrape blogs on a daily basis in order to discover blog name, blogger name, and email address. If you obfuscate your contact info by replacing your textual email address with a GIF, PNG, or JPG graphic. Suck up a certain number of spam emails — and go through all of your spam in your spambox — and make yourself as available and as accessible as possible, if you want to actually build a connection with the advertising, PR, promotional, publicity, and brand world.
11) Don’t lead with a price sheet or a rate card: I know what you’ve learned from BlogHer and all the other of Podcamps, webinars, conferences, or books you may have read, you can’t go from zero to big bucks in one fell swoop. Surely, there are blogs, properties, and platforms that are interesting enough for people to want to pay you to post content, reviews, and press releases on your blog.
However, many of these people don’t really care about the quality of the post, the quality of your voice, your insights, wit, or creativity — all they care about is textual links for the benefits of SEO. If and when you get pitched by a PR agency, a brand, a company, or publicist and you really like and love the product, say yes, even if it’s for free.
It all depends on your goals, your intention, you end game. Are you interested in building your own brand, getting the job of your dreams? Do you want to build up a reputation in a new field? Do you want to have subject mastery, to be known professionally for something that has heretofore only been a hobby, something you’ve done in your spare time? If you do it for free, as a favor, and in service of building up your reputation, your expertise, and your experience, in service of a longer-game goal, you’ll soon develop a reputation of someone who is generous, kind, passionate, responsive, and friendly — an ally, a brand ambassador, a friend-of-the-company, rather than being an extortionist, a mercenary, a pirate (yeah, maybe that’s not fair, but remember, there is always someone else who is nicer and easier to work with).
Try to be the blogger who is positive, is helpful, and who says yes rather than the blogger who starts at no and then is willing to play hardball over dollars and cents. It really just depends on what you want in the end.
I hope this list has been helpful. Please be aware that this is by no means a definitive list, it just a list that I hobbled together over the course of today as I write for free, working hard, forever, on becoming — and remaining — someone who has a modicum of respect and mastery in the field. Let me know in the comments what you think and I look forward to blogging alongside you as you fulfill your 2014 resolution to blog your heart out. Good luck and break a leg.
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