5 April 2012

How to blog?

Image courtesy - Flickr, Mike Licht

Although this article is targeted towards a novice blogger but most of the points discussed below will be helpful, I hope, to even a professional.

If you want a tutorial on the technicalities of blogging then this article is NOT for you. In fact there will be no one particular tutorial that can answer the question as to "how to blog?" The tutorial will vary from one blogging platform (A blogging platform is an internet service, usually free, that enables you to set up and run your own blog. Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress are some examples of blogging platforms.) to another.

We all can spend only a part of our day working on our blogs. But there are so many things that can be done on a blog. You can work on the design, add some ads, write more posts, write guest posts for other blogs, be active on social media, etc.

The problem is on which of the above paths should you tread in your limited time so as to make a maximum profit? Even if you have the time to work on all of the above mentioned aspects, which of them should you choose first to work with and which of them can be suspended for later? Or more concisely, as I put in the heading, the problem is  - how to blog?

To understand the solution you must first understand one thing. If you are blogging to earn a living then your blog is actually a business. For proof, read at least the first few paragraphs of this article on Copyblogger.

Business knowledge and expertise is absolutely necessary to make money from your blog.

Now according to the book The Personal MBA every business stands on the following five pillars:
  1. Create a product that people need...
  2. Then make it accessible to people ...
  3. At a price customers are willing to pay...
  4. Which satisfies your customers...
  5. And the profits should be enough so that the business may continue operation.
The above list is quite obvious for the following reasons:
  1. A venture that people don't need is a hobby.
  2. A venture about which people are unaware is a flop.
  3. A venture that doesn't sell its products is a nonprofit. 
  4. A venture that doesn't deliver what it promises is a scam. 
  5. A venture that fails to make enough profits will eventually close. 
If any one of the above pillar falls, the whole business falls.

Now, following is the way in which you should blog. Below is a step by step methodology of blogging.

1) Creation

Your first step of blogging should be to write as many posts as you can and every post must be such that it solves some real problems faced by the people. Write articles that people need.

No matter how brilliant your post is, no matter how well researched it is, no matter how much time and effort you have put into it - if it doesn't satisfy readers' need, it will fail. Proof? Read on.

There was an anonymous blogger who called himself the fake Steve Jobs and who blogged about mundane things posing as though it was the Apple CEO speaking. The blog created a buzz in the media with speculations as to his real identity and eventually, The New York Times succeeded in busting the mystery. The man turned out to be Daniel Lyons, a senior editor at Forbes magazine.

The New York Times article sent more than half a million people to his blog - The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. But he earned only about 100 US$  that day! Then he wrote an article in the Newsweek, saying:

I posted 10 or 20 items a day to my site... rarely taking a break. I blogged from cabs, using my BlackBerry. I blogged in the middle of the night, having awakened with an idea...
I never made enough to quit my day job.

According to Copyblogger, Daniel Lyons wasn't able to earn much because his articles didn't solve real problems. His articles were fine to read only to kill spare time but nothing more than that.

Advertising can work on some content web sites, but it usually works best when the reader is coming to the site to figure out a solution to a problem. If an ad presents a relevant solution to that problem, the ad can be effective.

Google generates ads which match the niche of the blog on which they are displayed. Google ads make good money only when someone clicks on them. People will click on ads when they find that an ad can solve their problems. On a blog that has no particular niche (like the one we are discussing), arbitrary ads will be displayed which receive fewer clicks.

2) Marketing


If no one knows about your blog how do you expect to get readers or customers? 

It's true that some popular bloggers have succeeded without much marketing and they hold the view that you only need to create quality content and people will find you themselves. I tend to disagree.

Most of those blogs are old and there was not much competition in the old days. It was easy for people to find you. 

People may find you without any marketing efforts on your part but that may take a lot of time. If you want immediate readers, you will need to work on spreading the word. 

Some common ways of marketing your blog are guest posting on popular blogs in your niche, using social media, using paid advertising services, commenting on popular blogs of your niche, etc.

Darren Rowse suggests in this video that after you have created quality content, find out where your target readers are gathering online. Then go there and get the word out.

He says, for e.g., that after he wrote some posts for his blog Digital Photography School, which as the name suggests is a blog all about photography, he went on to Flickr and contributed positively to the site which got him attention of his prospective readers and drew a lot of traffic back to his blog. 

3) Costs


Most blogs and websites on the internet are usually free to read.  

If you create a blog and charge a 100$ fee for letting people read it without supplying even a shred of free material your blog is condemned to utter failure. (It will be an exception if you are Albert Einstein, but I'm assuming most of you are not him or anyone like him.)

In fact there are lakhs of blogs in the blogosphere that are providing free material yet no one is reading them!

The wise thing to do is to first give away a lot of valuable information for free to build trust with your audience. Only then try to sell them your products. It is an obvious fact that if a blogger is giving away quality information for free, he will give much better quality information for a cost. Those of your readers who'll want this better quality information will happily buy your product. 

Let me give you an example.

I'm reading the blog ProBlogger since more than an year now. Darren Rowse earned my trust through all his wonderful free articles, videos, webinars etc. It is as a result of this trust that I've ordered his paperback book ProBlogger via an online bookstore, just a few days ago.


4) Satisfaction


According to the website Royal Pingdom, before the beginning of 2011, there were 152 million blogs on the internet. If your readers are not satisfied with your blog, they will quickly move on to the next one.

Satisfaction of the readers is not only limited to writing quality posts. If they leave a comment or drop an email you must reply as helpfully as possible. 

5) Profits


The money comes the last in the definition of a business and so is the case with blogging.  Don't expect to get rich in the very first week.

Blogging, like any other business takes time to grow. According to Copyblogger it takes at least six months of efforts to be able to develop quality content for your blog.

But, Jon Morrow the author of the above article said in another article, this doesn't mean that the world needs six months' time to get to know your blog. It's because you need that much time to learn the art of blogging. If you work really hard, you may decrease that learning time. So move, work hard.

There are many ways to earn money from your blog. See the image above, created by Darren Rowse, which lists only some of the ways to make money blogging.  

It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible to use all of the above methods simultaneously. You should experiment with the above methods and see what works best for your blog and then choose on only the successful methods and reject the rest.

External Link -  ProBlogger has a wonderful collection of articles compiled under the head How to Blog? Those articles are written especially for the beginners but, I think, even professional bloggers will find many useful information there.

I hope you found this post useful. Do you agree with the steps that I've mentioned here? How do you blog? Let me know in the comments below. I'm curious.

Disclaimer - Some of the links above are affiliate links. I get a commission if you buy anything from Amazon via the links above while you'll have to bear no extra costs. Even if your final purchase is not from the products listed above, it still counts towards percentages earned.

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