This is a guest post from my brainy brother Justin Wise, reposted from October.
Not too long ago, I was at a grocery store picking up some last-minute items for dinner at home. My wife needed broccoli and my son needed almond milk (little guy doesn’t do dairy … at least not well), so daddy went shopping.
I picked up my items and dashed to the checkout line, hoping to make a quick exit. I put everything down on the conveyor belt, then zoned out reading the latest headlines on the Courtney Cox/David Arquette split when, I heard it:
“You’re Iowa Girl Eats’ brother!” The checkout girl was seemingly in awe.
“Yes, yes I am.” I stated matter-of-factly.
She nearly launched out of her checking cubicle with glee, “Omigosh, I LOOOOOOVE her blog! Is she here?!”
“No. She’s not.” I had to inform her of the bad news.
“Oh.” She was less than pleased.
I tried to cheer her up a little bit using a dash of humor, “I guess you could say I’m ‘Iowa Brother Eats!'”
Crickets chirping. Blank stare. Awkward silence. She was clearly not impressed by my humor. I paid for my things, put my head down, and walked ashamedly out the front door…
Truthfully, I am in fact the brother of Iowa Girl Eats. My name is Justin Wise and I write over at JustinWise.net.
When my sister asked me to guest post here on IGE, I was thrilled. Why?
1. Whenever she links to my blog, I get a ton of traffic.
2. She has one of the best online communities that I know of. She takes care of her audience and you all, in turn, take care of her. That’s how blogs are supposed to work. Any chance to get in front of an audience like that and I’ll take it!
Kristin asked me to cover the question of how to start a blog. I’ve started a few different blogs with different purposes, most with a respectable amount of success. That doesn’t make me a pro, but if you’ve been wanting to start a blog yourself, I’d love to walk you through a few easy steps to get you started.
So let’s take a look at how to start a blog.
Beginning a blog is very, very simple. And easy. And, in most cases, free. Starting a blog is not the problem. Maintaining a consistent blog presence is where most people get snagged, but I’ll get into that later. First, the basics.
1. Who Are You Trying to Reach?
Before you write your first post, you need to ask the question, “Who is this blog for?” Knowing your audience will save you countless headaches as you move forward. Kristin’s audience? Foodies. My audience? People with spiritual questions and the like. Knowing this is key. It’s a huge win. If you know who you’re writing for, the rest of the process will go much smoother.
If you’re unclear who you’re writing for, you can narrow it down by asking a few clarifying questions:
Who do I want reading this blog?
If I were to describe the typical reader of this blog, what would they look like? Where would they work? How old are they? Where do the live?
Whose blog do I enjoy reading and why?
If _____ left a comment on my blog, I would jump up and down with joy!
You get the idea.
Once you’ve identified your audience (some people call it a niche), you’ll be able to generate ideas and posts much faster. Think of it as “targeted advertising.” Knowing the direction you want to go before you set out will save you time, heartache and effort. Who are you trying to reach?
2. How are You Going to Maintain It?
As I alluded to earlier, this is where most people fall. Here’s what usually happens with new bloggers:
Blog gets started. Rush.
First post gets published. Rush.
Your mom leaves your first comment. Rush.
You write another post. Rush.
Someone you don’t know comments on your post. RUSH.
Someone retweets your blog post. DOUBLE RUSH.
You write your next post a week later. rush.
You check your stats. No rush.
You get discouraged that no one outside your immediate family is reading. No rush.
You don’t post for a month.
You post about how you never post anymore.
You curse the day you ever started blogging.
Poor defenseless blog is abandoned.
Don’t let this happen to you! The easiest way to keep yourself from being a blogging statistic is by setting up a maintainable process.
Frequency. Post once a week. Every day. Once a quarter. Whatever. Just establish it from the onset and you’ll be better off. That doesn’t mean it can’t change, it just means you’re starting out by setting yourself up for success.
Schedule. Schedule the time that you will blog throughout the week. Is it one hour on Sundays? 30 minutes each day? One whole day? Whatever it is, set a goal and be accountable to it. Get a process down.
Editorial Calendar. You may not want to start out with this right away, but I’ve found setting up an editorial calendar to be most helpful. Schedule out your topics well in advance and you’ll never have to worry about “blogger’s block” ever again. It’s amazing what being able to see a few days down the road will do for your writing clarity.
Bottom line is that you need to have a process for your blog if you hope to maintain it long-term. If you want to abandon your blog after three posts, ignore this advice. If you want to succeed, take it to heart!
3. What Technology are You Going to Use?
Last, and least, you need to pick out the platform you’re going to use. This is the least important because if you’ve done your job with steps 1 & 2, picking a platform should be easy.
Blogger is good for beginners and people who want a no-hassle blogging experience.
Tumblr is good for those who want to post a lot of rich media: pictures, videos and the like.
TypePad is good for a dependable platform without a lot of frills. Just the facts, ma’am!
WordPress, the system my sister and I both use, is good for those who want to start small but move towards a more robust blogging experience. WordPress.com is a good wading pool in case you want to move to deeper waters with a self-hosted blog using WordPress.org (yes, there is a difference).
Your platform, though important, won’t make or break your blog. It really won’t. If you have a good blog with solid content, it won’t matter (ultimately) what system you’re on. Trust me.
So what do you think? Have you started a blog, only to desert it on the sandy mounds of mediocrity? If so, maybe it’s time to pick it up, dust it off and breathe some life back into it.
If you do have a blog, what’s the biggest blogging challenge you face?