If you’re like me, then you have a blog that you absolutely adore. For now it’s a hobby, but secretly, you hope it catches. You hope billions of people take your words as scripture, and you hope to leave a legacy in this cluttered cyberspace.
When I started my blog, Black Millennial Musings, I knew it would be successful. I felt that I finally got it right. And so far, so good. After only two months, I’ve reached 11,000 page views from 7,000 people. My WordPress followers are nearing 600, and I’m beginning partnerships with start-up media houses.
But the minor successes I’ve seen have less to do with prowess, and more to do with failure. I launched a blog in 2012, and though it had a modest following, it didn’t connect. It was sloppy and poorly executed. I deleted it after a year.
I published on other outlets to find my voice, and eventually, Black Millennial Musings came to be. And, as it stands now, I’d be remiss in my sanity if I were to ever let it go.
A number of fellow bloggers asked me for some tips for their start-up blogs. As the requests grew in number, I decided to write this post.
1. Know your mission.
Before you start posting, ask yourself why you’re blogging. Are you traveling the world? Are you an avid follower of Russian politics? Are you a foodie who loves cats?
Whatever your interests are, make sure they’re clear. Then make sure your blog follows suit.
2. Know your audience.
Millionsandmillionsandmillions of people read blogs every day. You’re not going to capture all of them. If you’re trying to gain viewership from everyone in this diverse and disparate group, your blog will appear frenzied and disorganized. This is why my first blog failed. One day I was blogging about politics, the next day about Harry Potter. Some of my pieces were purely objective, while others were fiercely opinionated. I couldn’t capture an audience because my blog, in its entirety, didn’t really interest anyone… only my weirdly eclectic self.
3. Know how to write.
Never mind basic grammar. Know how to write in a compelling way. Whether your tone is incredibly poetic or objectively straightforward, make sure your unique narrative appeals to common sense.
4. Stay focused.
Make sure your blog stays in line with your mission. If you’re blogging about music, don’t dive into the geopolitics of the Syrian conflict…unless, of course, music is involved. Very few people want to hear your ramble.
5. No need to reinvent the wheel.
Unless you have a dedicated following, publish on a blog hosting site like WordPress or Tumblr. These sites have millions of members, which make sharing your blog so much easier. They also have simple interfaces that allow you to publish quickly. No need to hyperventilate over designing layouts and coding; these sites already do the nitty-gritty for you. And, if your blog does grow, you can pay to have them handle the logistics (domain name, customization, etc.) for relatively low cost.
Personally, I recommend WordPress.
6. Know when to publish.
For start-up blogs, there’s peak hours of publishing. During the lunch hour, when people are scrolling through Facebook. During happy hour, when people are at home relaxing. I’ve found that most of my traffic comes during these times.
Also, don’t be scared of publishing on a weekend morning. I’ve found that a lot of people are home looking for blogs to read.
7. Collaborate. Don’t compete.
Ok, I get it… journalism is historically competitive. But this territorial nature really shouldn’t exist among start-up bloggers. There’s no need to clamor for readers when your readers are reading 40 blogs at a time. Think about yourself… how many times were you surfing online and you had 30 tabs open?
Never distance yourself from other bloggers. Instead work with them. Find commonalities and create partnerships. Both blogs will succeed.
8. Publish on multiple sites to boost your viewership.
Do you see what I’m doing here? *smirks*
9. Promote. Promote. Promote.
So, you’re blogging, and you want it to catch. You have a dedicated circle of friends, but you want your readers to extend beyond that. Well guess what? You can pay for promotion…at virtually no cost. Facebook and Twitter have cheap promotional tools. You set your budget, plug in your target parameters, and voila!… your blog is visible to thousands of people.
For February, I ran a test to see how effective these marketing tools were. On a meager budget of $5 for 7 days, I gained 134 FB likes.
10. If a topic is time sensitive, drop everything and BLOG!…
…within reason of course. If you’re in a meeting with your boss, and you find out that Jennifer Lawrence tripped at Starbucks, blogging can wait. BUT, there are topics that are time sensitive, and you should blog about them within a decent timeframe. Award shows, political uprisings, Miley Cyrus…these are subjects that dominate news cycles, and will definitely give you some traffic.
BONUS: Blogging is not the end-all-be-all. It can lead to great things.
Take this how you wish.