When I started blogging a few years ago, I didn’t have a plan. I had a topic (my love of Northeast Ohio) and a blog title (Clue Into Cleveland). Beyond that, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last four years of blogging; however, if I could go back to the beginning and think things through, I would.
I got a do-over of sorts when PR Newswire media relations decided to launch Beyond Bylines in February.
Once we decided to start a media-focused blog in conjunction with PR Newswire for Journalists’ relaunch, our team sat down to hash out the who, what, when, where, why, and how of Beyond Bylines. Then we hashed it out again … and again.
Did we have everything figured out before this blog went live?
Of course not.
There will always be growing pains for a new blog, and you’ll probably change many things in the days (and months and years) after launch. But, whether you’re starting a blog for personal or professional reasons, asking and answering these seven questions will help prepare you.
More than any other question on this list, why you want to start a blog is the most essential.
If it’s a personal blog: Are you doing it because you have something to say but don’t have a place to say it? Do you want to hone your writing skills? Do you like the networking that blogging provides and want to meet new people?
If your organization wants to start a blog: Are you doing it just because everyone else in your industry has a blog? Or do you see value in blogging for lead generation and promoting yourself as a thought leader?
You need a reason beyond ‘everyone is doing it.’
Once you start thinking about this question, you may even come up with multiple answers. Keep these reason(s) in mind as you walk through the following questions.
2) What are you passionate about?
When you first start your blog, the freshness of blogging likely will keep you posting for a month or two. If you plan on blogging beyond that, it helps to write about a topic that interests you.
Try to figure out what topic(s) you are passionate about and why. It’s easier to come up with blog post ideas around something you know, care about, or want to learn more about.
It may be appropriate for you to blog about multiple topics. For instance, if you’re starting a personal lifestyle blog, you may write about travel, fashion, food, and parenting – four topics that are important to your personal lifestyle.
On the other hand, if you’re blogging about a specific industry or place, make sure it’s a niche you care about.
3) What does ‘success’ mean for you?
It’s easy to get caught up in others’ expectations of what a successful blog looks like. Forget about the impossible ideal of being “the best” and focus your attention on realistic goals.
Does success mean:
- reaching a certain number of page views or social media followers (and to what end)?
- driving traffic to another website or product that the blog supports?
- getting the opportunity to do product reviews or become a brand ambassador?
- being recognized as a thought leader in your niche and being invited to speak at industry or blogger events?
Over time, your idea of success is going to change. Your initial goals should be realistic. Once you’ve attained them, set a higher target or consider what other things you want to accomplish with your blog.
4) Who and where is your audience?
When I started blogging, I did it so that I could show friends and family outside of Cleveland why I loved moving here. I didn’t consider who would actually be finding my posts on search and social media. If I had, I would have thought about how to promote my blog to these audiences much sooner.
After the first few months of blogging, I noticed that my traffic was mostly coming from the Cleveland area. Subsequently, I re-focused my efforts on how to reach this audience and explored the hashtags, online communities, and topics Cleveland-based readers care about.
Although this audience type is now my primary target, I still blog about topics that are of interest to people visiting or moving to Cleveland.
Thinking about the interests of your primary and secondary audiences will help you come up with blog post ideas. Plus, knowing where your audience “lives” online (i.e., the social media channels they use most often, the other websites they read, etc.) will help you focus your limited time and resources on the most relevant channels.
5) What makes you unique?
Although there are other bloggers who blog about the same topic, what makes you different is your perspective. Think about the unique opinions, knowledge, and experiences you bring to your blog. They will help you stand out from the crowd.
6) How much time are you able to dedicate to your blog?
There’s more to blogging than writing a post and hitting publish. From designing the blog and planning editorial content to maintaining the site, promoting posts, and monitoring performance, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work.
Be realistic about how much time and energy you can commit to your blog, in light of other life or work responsibilities. This will help you decide how frequently and when you want to publish new blog posts.
7) What are your writing and technical skill levels?
Be honest with this one. Do you struggle with writing? Do you know how to edit photos or shoot video? Do you know about self-hosting a website or have the time and patience to learn coding?
These questions aren’t meant to discourage you from blogging. There are so many options for blogging platforms and styles that it’s easier than ever to find the perfect fit.
For instance, if you don’t like to write, a video blog or podcast may be the easier — and more enjoyable — route for you. Or try a plug-and-play blogging program if you don’t know how or have time to design a full site.
If you do have the time, I encourage you to look up articles and tutorials to develop your writing and technical skills. One of my favorite things about blogging has been what I’ve learned. If you run into an issue, many platforms like WordPress offer support and forums to help you troubleshoot.
This list just scrapes the surface of what to consider. What do you think is the most important question for new bloggers to ask?
As a media relations manager, Amanda Hicken helps journalists and bloggers customize newsfeeds on PR Newswire for Journalists. She also writes at ClueIntoCleveland.com, though she recently came clean about cheating on her blog with Beyond Bylines. Follow her at @ADHicken.