Futuristic digital man, recovering PR guy, magic beansman, aspiring know-it-all. Chief Strategy Officer at Northern Army. More...

Five steps to starting a successful blog

I’ve had a lot of colleagues of mine ask how to go about starting a blog. After helping a few of them get started with varying results, I would have to say that these are the five most important things to keep in mind when starting a blog:

Get your feet wet. I equate becoming a blogger to moving to another country. While in this country you can speak whatever language you like, there is a very specific culture that you have to understand (though, not necessarily follow) in order to be successful. Once you start reading blogs regularly, and more importantly, commenting, you’ll better understand the ethos of the blogging culture, you’ll have an easier time fitting in and becoming part of the conversation.

Worry more about being good than getting traffic. While the blogosphere isn’t exactly a meritocracy, it’s very difficult to be popular without being good. Don’t try to get Seth Godin to link to your site before you get your second post up. Start slow, and build a depth of quality posts before you start aiming for link exchanges. If you’re good, people will recognize you.

Start with success in mind. Okay… this one sounds like self-help pop psychology, but it’s important. Social media is simultaneously easy and virtually impossible to measure. Google Analytics is free, and will give you a depth of stats that would make an economist nervous. For the same reason, it’s very difficult to know if your blog is successful unless you know what success is going to look like from the outset. Is 1,000 visitors a month good? Is 100 RSS subscriptions your goal? Are you trying to move a product, get a job, establish yourself as an expert? Decide that from the beginning, and the rest gets easier.

Write for your audience. The obvious thing to keep in mind is that you need to start a blog with a purpose. If you’re just writing about yourself, then “success” is fairly irrelevant. If you’re writing about your business, your industry, your band, or your upcoming film, you need to decide from the outset the type of content you are going to write about, how often you’re going to write and the voice you’re going to take. If those things are inconsistent or incongruent, you’ll lose your reader, you’ll lose recommendations and your blog will be less successful. Audiences want some level of predictability. If you write about advertising almost exclusively and then start writing about your cat, people will get confused and annoyed. Confused and annoyed readers do not stay around long.

Don’t write cheques your ass can’t cash. A former colleague of mine who works in government relations (code for “lobbyist”) put it best when he said to me, “a blog is like a bird feeder. It might seem like a great idea, but if you can’t keep it maintained, you’re doing more harm than good.” If you’re going to leave the blog sitting static for a month at a time, don’t bother starting it. Blog success is based on momentum. Traffic in motion tends to stay in motion, and once it is at rest, it’s hard to get it going again. Call it the first law of blogging physics, if you like.

These have all been said before my much smarter people than me. Anyone else have anything they’d like to add for neophyte bloggers?

23 Comments

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  1. […] The New PR: Five steps to developing a successful blog – Ryan Anderson provides great advice for anyone looking to start a blog. […]

  2. hi, i think your “Five steps to starting a successful blog” is a great bit of info. thank you.

  3. […] Instructions for How to Start a Blog” written by Penelope Trunk. The second article is titled “Five steps to starting a successful blog ” by Ryan […]

  4. […] The New PR – Five steps to starting a successful blog […]

  5. […] Final List, Blogging is harder than you think, 5 Tips on How to Manage Change in Your Life, Five steps to starting a successful blog, HOW TO: Start Blogging, and finally on the lighter side: How To Start Your Very Own Blog In […]

  6. Mica

    Agreed, good tips. Thanks!

  7. Anna

    For someone wanting to blog but not knowing where to start, all of your advice sounds really good. Particularly having the end goal in sight!
    Thanks.

  8. Anonymous

    could you please help me start my PR company,i real need and love this business,please help with every thing you can.my name is MUZI DUBE,live in KZN,in durban.PLEASE

    • Well, you’re on the right track with reading blogs. Learn everything
      you can about the business, start with a small client and build from
      there. If there was any secret more than work hard and never stop
      learning, there would be a lot more successful agencies.

      Best of luck!

  9. stonelove

    could you please help me start my PR company,i real need and love this business,please help with every thing you can.my name is MUZI DUBE,live in KZN,in durban.PLEASE

  10. Well, you're on the right track with reading blogs. Learn everything
    you can about the business, start with a small client and build from
    there. If there was any secret more than work hard and never stop
    learning, there would be a lot more successful agencies.

    Best of luck!

  11. Thanks for the post! Helped me considering I just created a new politics blog. If you check it out let me know what you think!

  12. Thats a awesome post. I got more tips about how to start a successful blog thanks for great idea it would be helpful to me.

  13. Hi Ryan

    'it’s very difficult to be popular without being good.'

    Couldn't agree more with this- true in many paths of life also 🙂

    I'm beginning to think that blogging can be ridiculously good PR for individual self employed people (or small groups of).

    What are your thoughts on SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) using blogging as a tool of promotion for their company?

    For instance I encourage personal trainers to start a blog based on their knowledge of training; since they have an awful lot of engaging content to talk about if they choose to (testimonials, nutrition, motivation, physical conditioning).

    But normal business finds it difficult to approach blogging with any
    There is a fine line between 'trying too hard' and 'being corporate' when choosing the angle at which they filter their content. What are your thoughts on how a corporate events venue based business could use blogging technology to retain/add customers?

    Do you think blogging is limited to a self-employed person or small team who are in the service industry?

    Simon Kincaid

  14. RaiulBaztepo

    Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  15. As a new guy blogging for and startingLifeStartUp(dot)com I really thank you for this post.
    I am finding it hard to write once a week or so because I sit down to post a blog and then write but then beforing posting think "I can write this better another time. ughhh,
    I guess I just need to start allowing my website and posts to grow as I do in this new blogworld of mine. Thanks again!

  16. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  17. […] The New PR: Five steps to starting a successful blog – Ryan Anderson provides great advice for anyone looking to create a blog. […]

  18. I like the idea of starting with success in mind… I mean I have a few different blogs, each focuses on different topics, readers etc… It is so so important to identifying your finish line, I mean put down on paper what you really want from your blog!? Once you have answered this all important question I believe it becomes easier to post regular / informative info…. Keeeeep blogging! http://mjward.co.uk/blog