In 2001, a Chinese hacking group penetrated Brian Kreb’s home network. At the time, he was a reporter for the Washington Post, and following this breach, he became obsessed with learning more about computer and Internet security. Then, he decided to share it with his readers.
“I read most everything on the subject that I could get my hands on at the time. It’s an obsession that hasn’t let up,” Kreb said.
Kreb eventually took his passion for security and launched his blog KrebsonSecurity. Today, it is regarded as one of the top in-depth investigative security resources online.
Kreb’s success didn’t happen overnight, it took consistency, engagement, and expertise to gain a large following. Today, the same ingredients apply to building a successful blog, but it’s going to take more than a catchy name and a few posts.
“Blogging used to be a way [to share] opinions, but now they are considered an educational tool and medium of acquiring better real estate in Google,” said Lexi Montgomery, CEO and Creative Director of The Darling Company.
While the passion for his industry is there, building a successful blog takes planning. I asked digital marketing experts about some of the first steps to take before buying a domain name and launching a blog.
Get a Plan
It’s easy to become excited about launching a brand or personal blog, but before you start clicking away, make sure you have a solid and sustainable workflow in place.
Elizabeth Short, VP Digital Marketing for Meridian Group, said that for any client developing a “Communication Work Plan” for their business or personal blog, it must include: the objective of the blog, target audience, list of potential partners, SEO strategy, content calendar, a review of current blogs in the industry, and how they are going to push out the content.
“You definitely need to define your goals and target audience before you design your blog and begin writing,” Short said. “Answer these questions: What do you want to express through the blog? What kinds of people are you trying to attract to the blog? Do you have enough ideas and content to produce new posts for the next 6 months? Is your content timely and relevant to your target audience? Are you trying to sell something or just entertain?”
Domain Name Matters
Positioning your brand or personal blog to appeal to your audience also means choosing the right domain name as it can impact SEO and attracting customers.
“If you have a standalone blog that’s not integrated within a website, having a relevant domain name that’s reflective of the purpose of the blog will help people more easily identify with the content,” said Short. “A specific domain name will make it easier to find in the search engines and easier for people to remember.”
Anne A. Ward, O’Reilly author of The SEO Battlefield and CEO of CircleClick Media said that your domain name needs to be easy to type on a phone and verbally communicate, and consider a premium top level domain as part of your branding to set you apart from the noise.
Get to Know You
Just like a painter’s canvas, a blog can be an expression of one’s personality, company culture, and passion.
“A blog can help position yourself intentionally and directly approach each user,” Montgomery said. “You can incorporate all of your morals and values into one post, and once you’ve got 50-60 posts your audience can really ‘feel’ like they know you on a personal level – even if you’re talking about trivial matters.
“It’s easy to watch YouTube, or read an article, but blogs are generally more trustworthy and the user can really get a feel for your overall brand. They allow you to share your first-hand experience (street smarts) and build an audience all over the world.”
Build Your Community
Being in the healthcare business, means you could have a wide range of patients walk through your door. Part of your initial blogging strategy will be to determine your target audience, choose a unique angle to attract more followers, and build a community.
“A blog can define your personal brand by helping you express your expertise and passion,” Short said. “If you know your target audience, they should be attracted to the content you are producing as well as enjoy the uniqueness of your personal message and tone.”
John Leo Weber, VP of Marketing at ProjectManager, said a way to increase traffic is to start building a community that is passionate about your topic.
“If you create a community that is fanatic about your product or brand, those people will spread your content and become a growth engine for you. The key to developing your audience is to actively engage. It does no good to just post on social media. You need to talk to your community as well as listen to your community. Ask them questions, share their content, tell them thank you for being loyal. Social media needs to be social.”
Be Consistent and Visible
Part of the challenge of building a successful blog is being consistent with content and customer engagement.
“If you start a blog then post on it regularly,” said Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls. “People do not realize they do more damage than good and dilute their brand when they come out of the blocks strong then within a short time period taper off and lose interest. Use your platform to build your following and be a brand people can depend on.”
The easiest way to start getting the word out is to post links on social media, but you must continue to engage with people.
“Being invisible online is a very bad strategy,” said Arnof-Fenn. “You do not need to be on every social media site, but be strong on the ones you are on. You must exist online today to be taken seriously.”
Those Pesky Algorithms
Figuring out the ebb and flow of search engine algorithms can be overwhelming. However, until you can afford to have an SEO professional on board, there are steps you can take to increase your online rankings.
Weber said because the barrier to entry for blogging is so much lower, it’s going to take more strategy to get above the crowd.
“Today, it is easier than ever to publish your own website or blog, thanks to the growing popularity of content management systems like WordPress and Wix. You no longer need to be an experienced web developer to put up your own website. This however creates a problem with the volume of content being added to the web — as the barrier to entry lowers, the amount of content increases, thus making it more difficult for individuals and brands to publish unique content that will be good enough to be found in such a crowded marketplace,” said Weber.
“Getting your content to perform well online comes down to a numbers game. Due to the complexity of Google’s ranking algorithms, combined with the insane speed of the modern news cycle, it is nearly impossible to predict how well a specific piece of content will perform. There have been times where I’ve spent months on a massive piece of complex content, only to receive lackluster rankings, shares, and traffic. Other times, I've spent 15 minutes writing a short informational piece that I just wanted to get out the door, only to see it become one of the highest ranking and highest trafficked pieces of content on the website.”
What you can do to help boost your rankings right from the beginning? Montgomery said to get high quality backlinks and push out relevant content on a regular basis.
“A blog is really helpful in improving the search engine friendliness of your overall website because each post adds fresh and relevant content,” said Short.
Your blog posts can be more search engine friendly by using keywords, including a photo with a caption, alt tag and keyword rich name, a catchy headline, a minimum of 300 words, and, if using, WordPress install the Yoast plugin to focus your metadata, Short said.
Also, start tracking your blog weekly and monthly through Google Analytics to see what is connecting with your audience.
Blog Faux Pas
For newbies, you don’t want to start down this path and end up committing blogging faux pas that turn off your audience.
Montgomery said some of the blogging fails include: writing about unfamiliar topics, trying to sound like an expert in a topic if you aren’t one, using a fake personality, tricking your audience or talking about fake experiences.
“A blog is nothing more than a medium to have a conversation with another person. It has a very intimate feel, and builds a level of trust advertising cannot build,” said Montgomery.
People are looking for trustworthy outlets for helpful and relevant information, like TechCo, personal blogs such as KrebsonSecurity or premium domain services like .ME. For beginners, building a blog is an opportunity to build one’s brand as a trustworthy and authentic place to gather information, learn more about a specific topic or be inspired.
“Writing a good blog is like making ART,” said Montgomery. “Authority, Relevancy, and Trust should be your top priorities.”
Keep on Truckin'
Weber reminds the beginners to not get discouraged if each post doesn’t draw the amount of traffic you had hoped, just keep on delivering quality content.
“You really must develop thick skin and not get discouraged that some stories have little or no traffic,” Weber said. “It is important to keep writing, and soon enough you will publish a ‘unicorn' piece of content — a blog or page that far exceeds any expectations you could have had.”
Read more about building your brand online on TechCo
This article was brought to you in partnership with .ME, the premium top-level domain for professionals focused on building their online reputation. Learn more at www.domain.me. Download this free guide on How to Start a Blog.