Business of Blogging is a series we’ve got going on the blog that skims what’s covered in our Business of Blogging workshops we hold online and at select yoga retreats. Today, we’re talking about how to start a blog and build readership.
How to Start a Blog
When I was first starting out with YBC, no one read my blog. Well, except for my mom. I didn't care much, because it was one of those things where I just had a million ideas and I wanted to get them all down on paper. I knew I had good ideas (I had this visual in my head of various cut outs that I just couldn't wait to produce) and I knew the ideas might be really helpful to people and that eventually they'd come. So I wrote and wrote and wrote. And for months, no one really came. Every once in a blue moon, I'd get a comment, but I just kept writing. At the time, the blog wasn't really for anyone else. It was for me, a place where I could get all my ideas down.
After years of organic growth and a couple viral posts (thank you, Pinterest and BuzzFeed!), things have changed.
Currently, YBC welcomes about 180,000 readers per month. The top ten countries that visit the site are the US, Canada, The UK, Germany, Australia, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, Mexico and India. The average time people spend on the site is about 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and we have a 9% bounce rate (this means that of all the people who come to YBC, only 9% click out right away).
We wanted to make a place for the YBC community to hang out and chat, so we recently created the YBC Yoga Forum. I am blown away by the community feel there, the knowledge that people are kind enough to share, and the conversations that are going on. Come join, if you haven't already.
I have big dreams for YBC. This is just the beginning. But here's how we got to where we are now.
Decide what you’ll write about
The best advice I can give when it comes to starting a blog is to figure out what you’ll write about. Make it something you love so much and would write about even if no one read. Choose something that you live, breathe, and dream about - something you feel so passionately about.
If monetization is in the back of your mind (and that’s totally fine! We all have bills to pay!), you’ll really want to focus on what makes your blog stand out from the rest because the problem these days is that bloggers are a dime a dozen. Avoid copying what others in your blog's niche are doing. Instead, do your own thing. This will make your blog stand out. Figure out what makes you the expert in your blog’s niche. What can you bring to the table that isn’t already there? Why should people want to read your blog? What can your blog offer that isn't already out there? Really get clear on this before you even start your first post. Doing so will give you a solid direction so that your blog stays on track.
Keep it clean
When you build your website (by either hiring a designer or using a free, user-friendly hosting site like blogger), don’t get too crazy with design. Some tips:
avoid dark colored backgrounds (too hard on the eyes)
avoid neon or bright colored lettering (too hard on the eyes)
avoid making your website so wide that people need to scroll side to side in order to read your posts
avoid blinking graphics
avoid music playing in the background
Instead, keep it as user-friendly as you can while still getting all the content and necessary info to your readers.
Decide how often you’ll post
I recommend posting at least two times per week because as you gain readership, people will be checking your blog for posts and if you’re not consistent, there’s no reason for them to keep coming back. Commit to how often you’ll post and follow through. If you’re a new blogger, you might want to tell people right in your posts to check back every Monday and Wednesday for new content.
Plan and write. And write. And write some more.
Take a blank piece of paper and begin brainstorming the type of content you’ll share. How are you an expert in blog’s niche? Who do you know who might be able to share their expertise on your blog? What resources can you tap into to get great content? What trends are happening right now within your blog’s niche and how can you talk about them and put a new spin on things? Figure out what you have to share, how it will be helpful to people, and get it all down on paper. A few suggestions:
how to’s and tutorials
lists (10 ways to….)
problem and solution posts
infographics (I’d recommend doing this only if you’re familiar with photoshop or another photo editing program)
your take on a current event related to your blog’s niche
Include excellent photos
I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but as readers, we do. I recommend including original photos in your posts. If you have a great camera, even better (I started with a Canon rebel and now have a Canon 6D and a few different lenses). But if cameras aren’t in the budget, many phones take pretty decent photos and will do just fine.
Related: How to take excellent (yoga) photos.
Before you publish
Before you hit publish, do the following:
- re-read for grammar. For the most part, people are forgiving if something slips through here or there but it's nice to double check before you hit publish.
- consider SEO. Quick run down - SEO is Search Engine Optimization which sounds really scary but basically it's just the process that affects which websites come up when people do a search. If you're lost already, let me break it down. When someone googles "gentle morning yoga" - whatever blog posts come up as a result on the first page of google are the ones that are best optimized. This generally means that within the post, the author has written exactly what you've typed into the search throughout the post, but in an authentic way. Whew. So basically, as you write, you'll want to use phrases that people would google in order to find your website. Just be careful about this, though, because the algorithms change all the time and if you do too much repetition or you're not writing in a normal, conversational voice, you'll be caught. No bueno. A confession: I rarely, rarely go back through and plump up a post for SEO. Instead, I've focused on building a readership that cares about yoga stuff and knows I write often and will continue to come back. I'm essentially counting on that because ain't nobody got time for going through a post and SEO-ing the heck out of it!
After you’ve published your post, be sure to promote it to people who would be interested in reading it. My recommendation? Avoid promoting to people you’re not trying to reach. An example: In the three or so years I’ve been working on YBC, I’ve shared maybe five or six posts on my personal facebook page. Why? Because the majority of my facebook friends don’t care about yoga, and therefore they’re not my target audience.
So if you're a DIY blog, create a facebook page for your blog, invite your craft-loving friends to “like” it, and ask them (once!) to invite their craft-loving friends, and let it grow organically. Why once? Because you don’t want to be that person who is constantly self-promoting. It’s tough because when you’re growing a blog you do have to hustle if you’re really trying to get it out there and if you're trying to pay the bills with it, but there is a way to do it that attracts the right people for your niche and that’s not in-your-face and annoying to others. It will be a slow process. Very slow. But believe me, you really only want people who are going to add to the blog’s community rather than hate-read it.
You can also promote on instagram (do it with a beautiful picture rather than a picture with text all over it), and on pinterest (do it with a picture with text on it - vertical photos always perform better), and on twitter (use a picture - any picture) and invite people to check it out, but don’t be pushy.
Use hashtags within your blog’s niche where applicable, tag the people you referenced within the post or the brands of the products you’ve used and if you’re lucky, they’ll share with their followers.
Engage in your blog's community
In my opinion, the best blogs are the ones with a meaningful community. Create the population of the community through the content you share on the blog, but then participate in the community by answering comments on the blog and social media accounts. Answer questions in a timely fashion, offer recommendations when you can, and above all, be kind. Even when there are negative comments (and there likely will be).
Keep at it
If you’re a new blogger, it’s likely you’ll be doing a lot of work and not seeing many (any?) readers at first. This is usually pretty normal. Keep on publishing great content, and stick with it and readers will come. And if they don’t, you can book a blog consulting session with me where I’ll be happy to help you out.
Any questions on this? Do you have any burning questions for the Business of Blogging series?
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