Because we’ve been around and blogging for FOREVER (like, going on nine years, guys, which is basically 100 in internet years), we got a lot of people asking us for advice. How do I start a blog? How do I monetize? How do I get a following? How do I brand myself? How do I even get a URL?
And we always try to respond. Because, back when we started, we got some INCREDIBLE advice from the girls at Go Fug Yourself and it really did help us. Big time. So we like to pay it back as much as we can. (Karma is awesome and all.)
And we thought, hey, instead of replying back to individual questions, why don’t we put together a full guide on this? And share alllll that we’ve learned as a resource for those who want to get started in the online world? After nine years, we’ve learned A LOT!
So, behold our guide to having an awesome blog or website, plus our biggest tips and lessons learned. Because the best ideas are shared — and the great thing about the internet is that there’s room for all of us.
How to Have a Successful Blog
1. Know yourself, your mission and your goals. Before you even think about a website name or design, this is the one piece you want to be crystal clear on — because it will the force and life blood of your site. What are you passionate about doing and accomplishing? What message do you want to get out? How do you want it to make people feel? Do you want to monetize at all? Do you want to change the world? Be authentic and get down to the why behind your site.
2. Think about your audience. Who are you helping? What are you helping them with? (This should be something you’re uniquely qualified to help them with, so that’s also a consideration.) Where do they live? What do they do? What social platforms do they engage on? Really, really define this. You don’t need a huge demographic, but you do need a focus.
3. Create your brand. Is your brand about you personally or is it larger than you? Do you want your real name out there? Your face? Your family? Do you want to be the face and main topic of your brand, or do you envision your blog as an entity that could exist without you if someone else took up the torch? Think about how comfortable you are with being visible (because, hey, it’s the internet and there will be trolls) and build from there. Pick a name that sums up what you want to do or who you are if you’re going the personal direction. Think about what your brand feels like. How do people respond to the name? Is it unique (be sure to Google your ideas to make sure it’s not already being used or trademarked)? Does it say exactly what you want it to?
4. Set up an editorial calendar. You’ve probably heard that content is king, and it’s true. Good, authentic writing that’s been edited and clean (with very few misspellings and grammatical errors) is SO important for credibility. You also want to engage with your readers regularly. That can be every day, once a week, twice a week — do what works for your schedule, but do it reliably so that your readers know when it’s coming and can get excited for it. And, because life happens, plan ahead and work ahead on posts. (We like to have posts written at least one week out, ideally two here at FBG. And our editorial calendar goes out by about four to six months for planned posts!) Also, think about art. Will you take your own photos? Use a stock service (we like and use Bigstock)? Do you wan to add text or edit them at all (we like PicMonkey for that)? Consider all of this on your editorial calendar.
5. Do the tech-y stuff. Getting a website up and running doesn’t take a web developer (although, OMG, we ADORE our web developer), especially at first. Create an account in WordPress and pick a free theme you like or buy one (there are tons of great ones). Make sure your design matches your brand and is easy to navigate. It should also be mobile friendly and responsive. Also, make sure you have a blog-only email address. We mean, what happens if a brand wants to contact you to be an influencer? Or a reader wants to send you an awesome note or suggestion? Make it easy for them!
6. Create a social media plan. Social media is a fab way to tell people about your new posts and just connect. Heck, you could forgo traditional “blogging” altogether and only use one or two social media platforms if that’s how you liked to deliver your content — it’s becoming more and more common to do just that. Consider using Hootsuite or Meet Edgar to schedule social media posts ahead of time — it can be a HUGE time saver and keep you active online without requiring you to be a slave to your laptop or phone. On your social though, always remember your branding and your mission — the content there is as important as an article or post in saying who you are. Also, it’s awesome to connect with other people and brands and sites online — and a really great way to network and grow. But, like anything, make sure it’s organic, authentic and provides value to your followers.
7. Be professional and ethical. If you want other people to take you and your message seriously, you gotta be serious about what you’re doing on the backend. That means doing things like installing Google Analytics on your site so that you can monitor traffic, keeping up on FTC guidelines for anything you do that’s sponsored (as a general rule: over-disclose anything that’s paid or is an affiliate link), responding to comments and emails in a way that represents you and your brand and using spell check. And, if you want to monetize, only work with brands that truly vibe with you and your mission. It’s not worth sacrificing a rep you’ve worked hard to build just to get an extra paycheck.
8. Believe. Your voice is worth being heard and there is only one you. So speak your truth, girl (or dude!).
Other Blogging Tips & Pieces of Wisdom
- Play nicely with others. We’re all in this together. Don’t burn bridges, but …
- Don’t be afraid to say no. Or negotiate. Know your value. And develop a media kit that says who you are, who you reach, what you do, and what you charge for everything from sponsored blog posts to sponsored social media updates to banner ads to product endorsement.
- Redefine failure. You won’t succeed at everything, and that’s okay. Learn from your mistakes.
- Learn as much as you can … but don’t let it stop you from starting. There’s no way to be perfect here. (And, hell, this is just what worked for us. You’re unique and can do things your way, too!)
- Don’t feel like you have to do everything. It makes sense to have social media accounts started in your blog name for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest, but engage on the ones that feel most authentic to you and have the best traction with your readers.
- Keep evolving. The awesome and (sometimes terrifying) part of the online world is that it’s always changing. There’s always new technology, a new social media platform or a new trend. Change with it, but don’t feel like you have to jump on EVERY new thing, either.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. You know the comparison trap? Same dealio.
- Watch your numbers grow and celebrate along the way. Track your traffic and social media numbers so that you can see your site growing and celebrate the heck out of that.
- Connect with your mission before you do anything. Before you write a post, before you write an email, before you accept an offer … make sure it’s all on point with what you really want to do and what feels right to you.
- Have fun! We mean, this is a lot of work, but how great of a gig is it to do something you believe in? THE BEST.
Do you have a question for us? Nothing is off limits, so send your undying questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You just might see them posted here or addressed in our podcast in the future! —Jenn