How to Start a Blog: Know Your Why
Wondering how to start a blog? What comes as a surprise to many wannabe bloggers is that it has nothing to do with learning how to use WordPress or Blogger. In fact, that's the last step in the process. The absolute first thing that needs to be done is answer this important question:
Why do you want to have a blog?
The following answers are unacceptable:
- I just want to tell everyone what I think (or know) about ______.
- Everybody else has one.
- I want to make a lot of easy money.
Why don't these work? Certainly, if you are blogging simply to express yourself or share your passions without any expectations for results, then your "why" doesn't matter. These are often called hobby blogs. What's interesting is that hobby bloggers can spend a massive amount of time and energy on these sites. But with no real objective other than to share, they can easily be disenchanted and quit due to the drain on their time and, sometimes, money.
Creating a "me too" blog because everyone has one will usually result in the blog being quickly abandoned because blog competition is fierce and it takes a significant investment of time, energy and possibly money to make one a success. Because the blogosphere is getting to be a very crowded space, the possibilities for making piles of easy cash from advertising and sponsorship revenues are slim.
So if you're expecting to build sales, web traffic, a fan base, a competitive edge or a solid alternative income stream, your "why" is the first order of business for your blog.
Why do YOU blog?
Top 10 Reasons to Start a Blog
Here are some of the most productive reasons to start a blog, as well as some of the challenges that may be encountered:
- Sales. While this is the ultimate goal of any business blogging efforts, to hope that a blog will easily and automatically convert web visitors into buyers is a stretch except for only the lowest investment products and services. "Selling" subscriptions to join an email list, download an ebook or purchase some other low cost digital good are sales that a blog can easily convert.
- Demonstrate Expertise. A blog can be a significant public relations venue where the blogger or company can showcase expertise or knowledge through what is written.
- Build an Email List. By offering useful free (or even paid) content, a company can encourage people to join their marketing email lists. An email list of opt-in subscribers (who can be potential customers!) can become one of the company's key assets. Although the content itself can often be enough to encourage subscriptions, usually some other incentive such as a free ebook or report can sweeten the offer and encourage opt-ins.
- Build a Fan Base. Not all blog readers will become email subscribers or customers. Some are already overwhelmed with too much email. But these same folks may be interested in following the company or the blogger on social media or through their RSS type news feeds. This is another form of opting in and often may be a larger base than strictly email subscribers.
- Create an Additional Alternate Income Streams. Blogs can create revenues from advertising or sponsorship sales, as well as product or service sales. Advertising revenues can be realized from the sale of banner or sidebar ads on the blogsite or from PPC (pay per click) type advertising (i.e, Google AdWords).
- News Feed. A company's blog can become their official news channel which can be referenced by the public and the press. This can reduce the volume of press releases that need to be distributed. The blog could even include a link to the company's digital media kit, further reducing PR costs.
- Communicate with Employees, Community or Customers. Similar to creating a news feed, a blog can be dedicated to communications for employees, customers or a specified community and set for restricted or password protected access to keep information confidential.
- Educate Customers. Some products and services may be difficult to purchase or use. A blog can offer helpful information to facilitate the sale or help customers make the most of their purchase.
- Thought Leadership. Just as with using a blog to demonstrate expertise, a blog can also be a platform for the posting and discussion of the blogger's or company's mission, vision or philosophy.
- Engage Audiences with Comments. Some blogs are started to encourage comments from readers. The goal is to engage readers to establish a relationship with them or to gain valuable feedback. Unfortunately, two things often happen: 1) People are usually too busy to read AND leave a comment. 2) Those that do comment often have the ulterior motive of creating a backlink back to their own site. So they leave useless or self-serving comments that only waste time and resources to read and manage.
Why Your Why Isn't Enough
If you've figured out why you want to blog, congratulations! You're miles ahead of many people who start blogs without a solid purpose in mind. But that's just the first step. You need to figure out if your why is working... or not.
Here's a real life example. In early 2010, I started a blog on promotional giveaways and how to use them. Since there aren't too many blogs on this topic, it sounded like a great idea to encourage potential customers to buy from me because I was provided value added service. So my "why" was to increase sales. My ideal sales funnel looked like this:
Read Blog > Visit My Promotional Shopsite > Buy!
About 45 percent of the traffic to my shopsite was from the blog. So it was working to a degree. It just wasn't converting. Here's what was likely happening:
Surf Web for Product Choices > Read My Blog (for clarification) > Visit My Promotional Shopsite (as suggested in blog post) > Buy from Competitor's Shopsite
I can only speculate, but my guess is that when visiting a competitor's shopsite, these folks had questions about confusing terms or products. They went to Google Search, typed in the phrase or topic in question, found my site, got the info, maybe looked at my shopsite, then bounced back to the initial shopsite(s) they were viewing.
How did I make this assumption? The organic search for my blog was 60 percent of the total traffic. Search keywords that people were using to find me were common promotional product terms, but very specific such as "6 oz. T-shirt." No promo buyers that I know ever enter that specific of a term. And the bounce rate was high, hovering near 80 percent. In essence, I was helping my competitors sell.
Granted, I could also observe that there were issues with my shopsite. But my guess is that it was an issue of price. The mega online promotional distributors can undercut me all day long. And web buyers are often bargain buyers.
So I changed my why to education and building an email list. If they bought from me, fine. If they didn't, I would have other things to sell to them which included my books and joining my email list. But even that wasn't enough of a why. Readers were enjoying the information, but weren't becoming "next step" buyers.
So four years later, I closed that blog. The investment was too high to maintain it in the form and function it had. I moved this content to a hosted site that still satisfies my whys of education and selling books, but also gave me a new why—and ROI—from advertising revenues.
If I wouldn't have known or questioned my why, I might still be spending a huge chunk of my life chasing an unrealistic goal. This also emphasizes the importance of understanding and analyzing a blog's web traffic.
Disclaimer: The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.
© 2014 Heidi Thorne