How to Start A (Successful) Blog: Everything You Need to Develop Your Idea + Get Writing
Starting a blog is an exciting process -- it’s an opportunity to create something entirely new, to bring your vision to life! But while it is fun and creative, it’s also not a process that you should jump into blindly.
To give your blog the best chance at thriving in the increasingly saturated world of online writing, you’ll need to take some time to develop your idea and create a content strategy that will actually get readers’ eyes on your work.
So how do you do it?
Glad you asked. We’ll be walking you through how to develop an idea and start writing amazing content that drives traffic to your site step by step. Here’s the highlight reel:
- Why you should start a blog
- Developing the idea for your blog
- Using competitive analysis to refine your idea
- Getting the logistics sorted out
- Defining your blog’s style + voice
Why create a blog?
People start blogs for a wide variety of reasons. Whether you’re creating a blog to boost traffic to your business’s website or launching one as a side hustle you’re actually excited to work on, you can generate quite a bit of buzz with a strategically planned blog.
No matter who you are -- a business, an influencer, a professional, an individual -- blogs are an effective way to build your brand, drive traffic to your site, and boost your site’s SEO.
Different blogs may have different goals, but planned and managed effectively, they can all have an added perk: putting some money in your pocket!
Cool… so how exactly do blogs generate revenue?
There are lots of ways you can make money blogging, but a few of the most common ways that blogs turn traffic into $$$ are through driving conversions, generating ad revenue, and using affiliate links.
If you’re creating a blog to drive potential customers to your website -- whether it’s a shop you set up yourself, your Patreon, or an Etsy page -- your ultimate goal in drumming up some traffic is probably to drive conversions.
The conversion funnel refers to the journey a customer takes to do what you want them to do -- buy your product, follow your page, watch your video, download your PDF, whatever your goal may be. Carefully crafted blog content can play a big role in moving potential customers towards conversion.
Generating Ad Revenue
High-performing blog posts can get thousands of views a day, which means companies who are selling products or services your audience may want to buy are very interested in partnering up to spread the word about their business. Blogs can make money advertising in a few different ways, including:
- Banner ads
- Sponsored posts
- Paid reviews
- Promotions + giveaways
Using Affiliate Links
Affiliate programs are pretty common -- it’s basically a partnership which allows bloggers to earn commission for any leads they send to a partner brand that ultimately turn into conversions. The exact terms of these kinds of partnership vary, but it’s ultimately an easy way to turn your blog into a profit. All you have to do is set up your link in a successful post and sit back while commission money rolls in.
Step 1: Developing a Million-Dollar Blog Idea
Whatever your goal in starting a blog is -- whether it’s to quit your day job and become a digital nomad, to set up another steady stream of income, or just to share your thoughts with others -- you’ll boost your chances of success by coming up with a unique blog idea.
If your main goal in starting your blog is having fun, then coming up with a blog idea is simple: just write about whatever interests you! If your traffic spikes and you uncover some monetization opportunities down the road, that’s just an added bonus.
If you eventually want to monetize your blog, it pays to put in some work up front to understand your audience and choose a topic that has potential from the very beginning.
Before you get started, be sure to ask yourself these questions:
- What am I passionate about? Even if you plan to monetize your blog, you’re going to spend a lot of time researching, thinking about, and writing about this topic, so it should be something you won’t get tired of seeing day in and day out. Plus, boredom is obvious in a piece of writing -- if you don’t like your topic, neither will your readers.
- What’s my angle? There are millions of blogs out there already -- what sets yours apart? How can you leverage your experience to create something unique? Can you approach your topic from a unique angle? For example, it will be hard to make a splash if your plan is simply to start a cooking blog. How about cooking on a college budget? Better. But what about cooking for athletes on a college budget? Now, that could be a winner. It’s specific, but there’s tons of great content to be written on the subject.
- Can I make money with this? Some topics are easier to monetize than others. If monetization is your goal, consider whether or not there are companies out there who would want exposure to your audience. Are there other blogs out there finding success in your niche? Could you expand your topic into an ebook, an online course, merchandise, or other products? If you can come up with 3 solid ideas off the top of your head, chances are you’ve got a pretty good topic on your hands.
Step 2: Getting to Know Your Competition
Like we mentioned earlier, there are a LOT of blogs out there already. Part of carving out a niche for your blog getting to know other blogs that are already out there on your topic. We’re getting the lay of the land, so to speak.
Start out by looking for other blogs in your niche -- be as specific as possible. Hopefully, there isn’t a ton of competition on your exact topic (if there is, this could be an indication that your topic needs to be a little more specific). After that, zoom out a little bit and see what blogs under the broader umbrella of your topic are doing.
The best way to organize your research is to make a spreadsheet.
It can be super simple, or you can get fancy with it, but we recommend recording 3 things for each blog:
- URL, of course. You’ll want this listed in case you want to revisit a particular blog in the future.
- 1 thing you like about the blog. It could be the design of the site, the categories they’ve picked out, the style of the writing, anything. But pick out at least one positive aspect of the blog.
- 1 critique of the blog. Once again, it could be anything.
Comparing this information across 10 or more blogs, you should start to see trends emerge. What’s the standard in the industry in terms of design? What kind of issues are people talking about? All of this information helps give you a more complete picture of the niche and helps you find opportunities to do something unique within it.
Step 3: Things You Need to Do You Start Your Blog
This is where we really get into the nitty-gritty of the blog planning process. Up to this point, we’ve mainly been brainstorming ideas and thinking about them in a pretty abstract way. Now, we’re going to dive in, do some research, and really work out the details.
Finding Your Audience
Before we get too far, we want to make sure that there’s a community out there that’s as passionate about your topic as you are. That’s your audience.
One way to identify if there’s an audience for your topic is to see if there are any communities on your topic out there. Here are a few places to start:
- Forums + chat rooms
- Facebook groups
- Twitter/Instagram pages
- TikTok hashtags
Preliminary Keyword Research
You’ll also want to do a little bit of preliminary keyword research. When we’re talking about keywords, we mean words or phrases someone might type into a search engine to land on your page.
There are lots of keyword research tools out there, and most of them have a cost associated with them. KWFinder is free when you sign up for a Mangools account. The MozBar extension for Chrome also allows you to research a certain number of keywords per month with a free account.
Getting started, you should identify some big keywords you want to go after -- these are broad keywords that get lots of traffic but might also be pretty competitive. These can help you zero in on a niche topic for your blog.
You’ll also want to identify some low-hanging fruit -- related keywords that aren’t as competitive that you have a good chance of winning right out of the gate. Hang onto some of these -- we’ll revisit them when it comes to planning your blog content.
If your topic has keywords that pull a lot of traffic but aren’t super competitive, you’ve hit the content strategy jackpot 😎
Google Trends can also be a handy tool -- it gives you a general idea of whether searches on a particular topic are increasing or decreasing over time. The caveat here is to be mindful of ultra-trendy topics -- you want the topic you choose for your blog to have some staying power. If it’s trending upward over the last week, it may or may not be a good choice, but if it’s been trending upward over the last 3 months, the last year, the last 3 years? Your future is bright.
Tip: With Google Trends, start broad. Use the Related Topics and Related Queries to zero in on keywords that align with your niche. You’ll have trouble starting with a very specific keyword (e.g. cooking on a college budget) here because Google Trends is all about what’s trending, not about every keyword that’s out there.
Choosing a Blog Name + Domain
When you launch a blog, your URL is often synonymous with your blog name, so choosing the two go hand in hand. You want something that’s memorable and unique, but also fitting to your topic and target audience.
Your blog name may also be limited by what domains are available. Use a free tool like Instant Domain Search to quickly identify appropriate (and available!) options.
Creating a Content Calendar
In other words, come up with some topics you want to cover on your blog. Remember those low-hanging fruit keywords we identified during our preliminary keyword research? That’s where we want to start.
Step 4: Establishing Your Blog’s Identity
At this point, you should have lots of ideas swirling around your head for content. To keep things on track, it’s helpful to spend some time establishing a style guide for your blog. Be sure to establish:
- One sentence summary of your blog’s brand/identity. In general terms, what’s your blog about?
- Target audience. Who are you writing for?
- What makes it interesting? How is your blog different from the other blogs out there?
- What is your goal? What are you trying to accomplish with your blog?
- Writing dos and don’ts. What should your writing focus on? What should your writing avoid? Define those things from the beginning so you can present a consistent voice.
Starting a successful blog takes time and energy to get right, but having these pieces sorted out gives you a great starting point. Are you ready to turn your blog idea into a reality? Or do you need some help fleshing things out first? Boylston is here to help. Get in touch today to take the first step!