How to start a successful blog

I’ve previously discussed on my personal blog, why I blog and why you should too , in which I discuss some of the benefits I have experienced since taking up my regular blogging habit.

I wanted to dig deeper into this and broadly discuss why and how to start a blog.

lets start with why!

Taking advice from Simon Sinek’s great book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action

in business, it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters WHY you do it.

It’s vitally important to understand why you want to blog. You will need to drill down into the specific reasons why you want to spend a considerable amount of time, effort and resources starting and maintaining a blog.

If your primary goal and purpose of your blog is to improve your SEO or make sales or even money. You’re probably going to be better off standing under a red lamp-post somewhere downtown.

You blog should not be just another platform for you to blast out easily ignored and empty sales based propaganda!

Once you boil it down, the purpose of a successful business is to help customers solve a problem. Therefore your blog is just an extension and a platform to help you to do that.

The primary purpose of your blog, is help your customers solve problems, you may have services and products to solve those problems which is great.

Your blog should contain well-written informative posts that help your reader solve an issue at the heart of their problem. You can also inform them that you have a solution to help solve their problem.

If you need help finding your WHY then I recommend you read Simon Sinek’s follow up book Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team

Importance of Community

Your potential customers and consumers are gradually becoming more immune to traditional advertising, marketing and Public Relation strategies.

For many businesses customer loyalty seems to be an attribute of a bygone era. Even businesses which previously enjoyed high levels of customer loyalty, such as Banking, Insurance and other Financial Services companies are discovering that the internet and the influx of disruptive start-up companies are having detrimental effects on customer loyalty.

It is not uncommon for most people to have more than two bank accounts, with separate banks, resulting in customers being more inclined to shop around for financial products.

Gone are the days, where a customer would have a Bank Account, Mortgage, Credit Cards, Loans and Investment packages with all the same bank.

Irrespective of industry or type of business, the one thing that is common is that all businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to attract, convert and retain customers.

Where these businesses failed, is that they never really put much effort into building communities. Despite bombarding people for years with marketing messages, advertising campaigns and slogans about how they were building and keeping communities together. The banks never built any communities or invested in making people really feel passionate about their choice of bank.

The banks thought, that if they told people for long enough people would believe that they really needed them and for the most part this strategy  seemed to work until it stopped!

The banking system is now living proof that you can’t forcefully build communities by telling people they are part of community!

Communities are built by people who share common goals, objectives and passions!

Your blog, is a means to start building a community.  It’s one of your channels to connect with and serve your audience.

 

Getting social with media

In his book, The 4 Billion Dollar Tweet: A Guide for Getting Leaders Off the Social Sidelines, Ryan Holmes highlights an example how one flippant tweet from Donald Trump wiped out nearly $4 Billion market capitalisation from Boeing virtually overnight, just due to aircraft manufacturer being totally unprepared and not having a definitive social media strategy.

This highlights more than ever, that one of the key skills members of C-Suite of the future will need and master the ability to effectively communicate via all forms of Social Media. This includes regularly blogging, presentations, social media updates

In many instances a well-managed blog  forms the cornerstone or hub for all your Social Media interactions. The mechanism to stimulate and maintain your customer engagement.

The problem is that so many companies just don’t know how to use their blog effectively, they give it a go for a couple of months posting diabolically poor content, often just littered with over the top Sales content, irrelevant new staff appointments or even just another attempt at embellishing their product catalogue!

If you ask anyone, how often do they use google to search to find out if any companies have hired any new Business Development Managers, Financial Controllers or staff of any kind. The vast majority of the answers will be “No, never” .  Yet so many companies actually deem this as a news worthy item to feature on their blog.

Here’s the truth, if you’re not interested in searching for information on new hires, you can bet your last dollar that nobody else will be. In most cases the only people who are going to be interested in new hire announcement are your competitors and your new hires mother!

The reality is the vast majority of people who are going to read and utilise your blog are interested in one thing and one thing only. Themselves!  They are looking for information to help them achieve what they want to achieve.

That really don’t want to know anything about you. They certainly don’t want to be sold too and they really don’t care all that much about your company and it’s products. The only thing they are interested in solving their problems.

Choose a Platform and get moving

One of the most common issues, I deal with when speaking to organisations about implementing a blog is that they spend way too much time worrying and debating choice of platform.

Spending weeks or even months carrying out analysis of the different platforms available.   Ultimately it’s all wasted effort.

Your customers don’t care about your platform or even if you’ve chosen the best platform. All they care about,  is how you will help to solve their problem.

Each platform available will have it’s own specific strengths and weaknesses.  In my experience no platform is 100% perfect.

Perusing any forums or discussion boards of bloggers, web developers and web designers you’ll undoubtedly stumble across any number of Holy Wars, where each tribe discusses the merits, virtues and devotion to their platform of choice.

They are so passionate about their choice of software, that they are willing to almost go to the ends of the earth to tell other people to use it!

Take a step back and think about that. Customers are willing to sell your product for you,For Free!

This should also be your first clue to the power of communities!  These people are not employed by the vendors of platforms, they are not paid by the vendors. They are just people who feel very strongly about a product because they feel they a members of community all centred around a product!

The best platform of choice is the one you can learn and get up to speed quickly, and also which one has the most support available.

I’ve written before , Why you should use WordPress for your blog , and I would be the first to admit this is also a strong personal preference of mine.  However, it is based on the fact that I have been using WordPress to build a number of different websites and blogs over the years and have found it to be more than adequate.

 

Plan, Plan, Plan

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

At the end of the day, your choice of platform or even your technical wizardry skills in web development or even design will most likely have very little impact on the success of your blog!

What is going to have the most is how well do you know your customer, because understanding your customers needs, wants and desires will help you in curating content and information they will be searching when it comes to

Spending time to learn how to define a content marketing strategy and planning out your content for your blog, weeks or even months ahead will help you focus on your customer.

The key point about planning, is don’t just plan, execute!

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.

The secret of a successful blog, is ensuring you do something everyday! Regardless of how small or how big that something is, just do it everyday.

You need to make and ensure your blog is a daily habit.

Remember to schedule at least 30 minutes a day to work on your blog.

The activities you should be doing everyday are :

  • Working on new content
  • Reviewing your analytics
  • Reviewing updating, editing and freshening existing content
  • Reviewing heat maps
  • Researching for content

Taking time to schedule any one of those items into your daily routine is vital!

You’re going to Suck

Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.

A common issue many companies have when it comes to establishing a blog, is the fear that they don’t know how to do it, or that they will alienate their customers. The truth is these are nothing more than excuses.

You have to develop the mindset that you are going to suck at blogging, the up shot is that the more you do it, the better you’re going to get and the more customers will appreciate you.

I started my first personal blog, garywoodfine.com , I had very little idea of what I wanted to achieve, and if I am to be brutally honest I really didn’t have a plan!

Yet, in under 3 years I have not only been able to generate over 10 000 visitors a month to my blog, but I have also been able to generate revenue and gradually build my business.

For further inspiration I suggest reading The $100 Startup: Fire Your Boss, Do What You Love and Work Better To Live More , it contains 100’s of stories of how people like you were able to start successful businesses without much capital or knowledge.  In most cases, they just started!

Always Be Experimenting

Over the years I have learned and continue to learn everyday. Everyday is a school day on the internet!

I have learned both what not to do but more importantly what actually works. This can only be achieved by continual experimentation.

A successful blog doesn’t happen over night, in truth a successful blog is an accumulation of hours, days, months and years of effort.

I have experimented with all manner of aspects of blog including

  • Writing style
  • Content Layout
  • Method of Writing
  • Traffic Generation
  • Images and styles
  • Web Design
  • Promotion
  • Content
  • monetization strategies
  • Audience Targeting

The key point here is that, you will never know everything you need to know until you actively make some effort to learn. The only way to truly learn something is to experiment.

Even if an experiment goes wrong, at the very least you’ll learn what doesn’t work.

In order to conduct effective experiments and to measure the effects of your experiments you need to collect data. You need to obsess over data, but only good data. You need to determine the best data for your needs.

In fact, right now as you read this, I am collecting data. I am watching every move you make. In fact I am recording your session, and I will be replaying it again later. To determine, if you actually read this sentence or not. If you did read it, and you actually want to say hello, shake your mouse now and say Hi!

How am I doing this? Easy, I use a tool called Lucky Orange it helps you to watch visitors use your site, then optimize your checkout process, blog posts the right way.

In fact, I have posted before about Lucky Orange and How to increase conversions using heatmaps and I can’t stress enough how important having a tool like this in your arsenal at your disposal.

Don’t worry about making mistakes, this is why, all blogging platforms have edit capabilities. You can go ahead and edit your content removing the error. There are very few errors that you cannot recover from in blogging. The only real error you can make, is not making an error.

Just like your mother told you “Mistakes happen, nobody died let’s just clear it up and move on” . (Well at least my mother did – and I thank her for that!)

Add value, don’t sell

Undoubtedly the biggest mistake I’ve noticed most organisations make when it comes to their blog, is that they attempt to try use it as yet another tool to talk about themselves, company and products. Nobody is interested in reading about this drivel.

I have mentioned this before in this post, but I will repeat it until it sinks in.

People aren't interested in you or your products or your company.

Understanding this concept and accepting it, is the key to success with your blog.

You need to appreciate the fact that your prospects are searching for solutions to their problems.

They’re not searching a unique methodology or unique shared-service models or any Business Speak ( BS ) , you may be tempted to bloat your company website with. A key point here to remember is that if you think you’re using too much BS you probably are, so go ahead and remove it.

At Stupidly Pathetic consulting we are driven by a core focus on leveraging the synergies of contiguous value streams ……………. (yawn)

Nobody reads this sh*t! Don't write it!

For the most part, customers don’t care how you solve problems, they want the problem solved!. So your key focus of your blog, must be aimed at solving problems. Don’t talk about how you solve problems just provide a solutions.

Don’t just talk about yourself

Probably one of the worst bits of advice I have ever read on the internet, is advising people not to use affiliate links, sell advertising or mention other blogs in your blogs. I cannot stress enough just how bad this advice is.

After all, the primary purpose of the internet and one of it’s key drivers of success has been focused primarily on just how easy it is for people to share and consume information. People make use of the internet all day everyday to obtain information.

That is your primary purpose of your blog, is to provide people with information in order to empower them.

If you have found a tool, product, information or even a simple widget that has helped improve your life, then why not share it. If you have the opportunity to make money from it and help people to improve their lives then it’s a win-win situation.

The caveat to this though, I would say is that if you are recommending or talking about a product then you should have at least used it or have purchased it yourself. You’ve tested it and you’re more than happy with it.

Don’t worry about diverting traffic away from your site, in all likelihood it’s going to come back to you in droves if you do it correctly.

If you’re willing to talk about and refer people to other products, then you increase the chances of somebody else doing it to you!

Summary

Starting a blog is not about doing so to improve your SEO or make sales or money.  You start a blog as a means to better serve your audience, build a strong community and help others succeed.  In turn this helps create success for you!

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Gary Woodfine

Helps businesses by improving their technical proficiencies and eliminating waste from the software development pipelines.

A unique background as business owner, marketing, software development and business development ensures that he can offer the optimum business consultancy services across a wide spectrum of business challenges.
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