How to start a successful blog

Due to the success of ResultsBy Fitness Blog, we’ve had a lot of friends and colleagues of ours ask how to go about starting a blog. After helping a few of them get started with varying results, I would have to say that these are a few most important things to keep in mind when starting a blog:

Get your feet wet. I compare becoming a blogger to learning a new language. There is a very specific culture that you have to understand (though, not necessarily follow) in order to be successful. Once you start reading blogs regularly, and more importantly, commenting, you’ll better understand the ethos of the blogging culture, you’ll have an easier time fitting in and becoming part of the conversation.

Worry more about being good than getting traffic. While the blogosphere isn’t exactly a meritocracy, it’s very difficult to be popular without being good.  Start slow, and build a depth of quality posts before you start aiming for link exchanges. If you’re good, people will recognize you. Be passionate about what you write, stay personal and draw in the reader, so they can identify and feel as if you’re writing just for them.  The key is to stay interested yourself, if you’re interested, then will your readers be.

Write for your audience. The obvious thing to keep in mind is that you need to start a blog with a purpose. If you’re just writing about yourself, then “success” is fairly irrelevant. If you’re writing about your business, your industry, your band, or your upcoming film, you need to decide from the outset the type of content you are going to write about, how often you’re going to write and the voice you’re going to take. If those things are inconsistent or incongruent, you’ll lose your reader, you’ll lose recommendations and your blog will be less successful. Audiences want some level of predictability. If you write about advertising almost exclusively and then start writing about your cat, people will get confused and annoyed. Confused and annoyed readers do not stay around long.  Take Tim’s blog for example…we always write with you, the reader, in mind.  Tim started this blog because he wanted to vertually help people with their fitness goals. And he does just that, day after day.  Of course we have since added a few other topics, only because we’re listening to you, and responding to your questions and needs.  Our main goal was to create an online community that is wanting to live a healthier lifestyle.

Connect with your readers through an about page. One of the best ways to make a lasting impact is to connect on a personal level with your readers. That means letting them know who you are and what your background is. You don’t necessarily need an author pic to relate to your readers, but you should find some way to allow readers to connect with you on a personal as well as a professional level to develop some rapport.

Don’t get seen naked: Never launch a blog with fewer than 5 posts. In the blogosphere you typically get just one shot at impressing a visitor or fellow blogger. Too many new bloggers throw up two posts and then start working on promotion. In the world of blogging, you are selling yourself and your writing. If you can’t give people a fully dressed picture of what your blog is all about and what type of writing will be on it, then why should they throw a link your way, or subscribe to your RSS feed? When someone links to you or subscribes they’re giving a vote of confidence that your site is worthwhile, so give them something to grab on to, and let them know your space won’t be “just another abandoned blog.”

Make sure a link to your RSS feed is available above the fold. It should be obvious to anyone launching a blog, but its amazing how many new bloggers do not make a link to their RSS feed readily available. New bloggers often don’t want to devote space on their site to an RSS feed when they could squeeze in a bit more AdSense. While this thinking is understandable, it is simply wrong. The returns of having subscribers are much more valuable because subscribers drive long-term traffic organically, while an additional AdSense block provides at best a marginal short-term gain. We haven’t even started to advertise, because that is not our goal.

Finishing touches:
Ask friends for feedback on your site. Ask some of your webmaster friends to review/critique your site a few days before its official launch. The blogging world is largely comprised people who consider themselves somewhat entrepreneurial, and as a result, bloggers tend to respect (and want to help) people who are out there trying to start up their own site. By asking other bloggers to give you feedback, you put them in the role of expert and create in them a sense of ownership in your site (which means they will be more likely to give you a hand when you need it). Not surprisingly, this technique usually does provide some valuable feedback from people who have experience, if not expertise, in running a blog. But in addition, by putting your peers in the position of expert, you dramatically increase the chance that they will follow your launch and drop you a link once you get off the ground.

Patience. Blogging success does not happen overnight. Be prepared to stay dedicated to promoting your blog for the long haul. Eventually, your hard work should pay off with increased traffic and a significant growth in popularity of your blog. The key is to not give up and to stay true to what you’re writing and why.

Good luck!