The first time I posted a blog was 4th November, 2010. I wrote ‘How to smartly choose a career’ because it was one of the questions I was asked, very frequently. No one noticed my first blogpost. With a hurt ego & in desperation, I had to finally call up a few friends & relatives and requested them to please for heaven’s sake have a look. Today after posting hundreds of Blogposts (with some of them even having 2.5 million plus unique views)- I so want to share my secret of ‘ How to start a Blog’ & ‘How to make it very popular’. It is a long post, but I promise you – it contains all that you need to know to ‘How to become a Star Blogger’. Read on…
I get greater than 50% of my Training & Speaking Assignments from people who notice me first on my Blog. Enough Reason for you to begin blogging about your special expertise? The point I am trying to make is – if you are serious about conducting your work or business online, blogging is one of the most imperative tools at your disposal.
Anyone can post status updates on Facebook or selfies on Instagram. It is easy. But when you start posting quality Blogs- you ascribe depth to your personality / brand. And then when you just keep on blogging for years and years, you convince people about the fact – that you are one serious person in your work domain. Trust me- they will keep on coming back to you because of your thought leadership in your domain.
I must confess here – initially I always thought I am a Motivational Speaker first and my blog is just something I will manage alongside, that I am a speaker first. But I was very wrong. Blogging cannot be treated as secondary.
Over the years, blogging on Motivation, Living life better, Relationships, Careers, English & Communication, Productivity, Management etc. made me realize how much I love writing, not because it’s good for my profession but because of the immense potential of the written word to leave an impact. E.g. I regularly receive so many messages and emails from people that they have finally made meditations an integral part of their lives after reading the post ‘How to Meditate & increase Mindfulness- Everything you need to know’. Eureka! Job Done!
Blogging is super powerful. Sometimes, clients have loved my blog posts so much that they have asked me to convert a single blog post into a full-fledged event (e.g. 10 Ways of Screwing your Life between 20s & 30s).
This post is broadly divided into 2 sections – (I) how to start a blog, and (II) how to make your blog popular. Before we launch into either, I want to first answer two very important questions – What is a blog, and why should you think of starting a blog.
What is a Blog
A blog, which is a truncation of the word ‘weblog’, has evolved in its meaning over the years. Initially when the web 2.0 started, it was more like an online personal diary. As the name web log suggests, it was more like a log of thoughts or activities, except, on the web.
But now, a blog has evolved into being a superb way to build a brand around you, a platform to provide detailed information to your readers, audiences, or clients about the topic of your and their common interest. You can use a blog to convince your target customers of your expertise. This can lead to lots of work & business for you.
Apart from the written blogs that we are talking about here, vlogs (or, video blogs) on a YouTube channel are also an extension of a blog. Microblogging websites like twitter, Facebook notes are also blogs, LinkedIn Pulse is also a blogging platform where professionals tend to talk about the corporate paraphernalia, podcasts are quite famous these days (audio blogs), not to mention Instagram posts which are photo blogs.
Technically, anything you can use to share your expertise with the world – be it comedy or tragedy, skill or information – is all blog. And you can pick a platform of your choice, depending on the extent of resources you have at your disposal. Right now -I will be focusing squarely on text based blogs (like this one).
Why start a blog
Because, your blog is one of the mediums by which you will be sending out your message to the world – be it your travel vlogs and blogs, your experiments in the kitchen, your knowledge about gadgets, your viewpoint of the human psyche, your perspectives on love, sex and relationships, your understanding of motivation, your business ideas, your understanding of the financial world or fitness world or a billion other ideas on which you could blog – unless it resonates with your core belief – your zeal to blog will soon die out.
So ask yourself this question before you start blogging – ‘Why are you blogging?’
a) You have a skill that your target audience can benefit from
b) Your expertise in your field is either unmatched or you are really working towards building it that way
c) The way you reach out to your audiences is unique; a perspective your fellow bloggers have not yet managed to bring out
d) There is a way to monetize it or earn some value out of it
Now we move to the first part, how to start a blog.
Part I – How to start a blog
There are two broad approaches to getting your blog off the ground –
1. Free hosting on a popular blogging website; your blog URL would have the host’s name in it as well (e.g. xyz(dot)wordpress(dot)com or abc(dot)blogspot(dot)com)
2. Paying (a minimal fee) for a host and creating a blog; you can have your own name on your blog. It’s very similar to having your website (e.g. akashgautam.com)
Although the first one is practically a child’s play to set up (all you need to do is sign up on, say, wordpress.com and you are done), if you are serious about building your blog as a brand, I would seriously recommend going for the second option (more about this later). Especially when we discuss part II i.e. how to make your blog popular, you would realize just how important it is to own your URL and host, from a business perspective.
Here are the steps to create a blog:
1. Decide why you want to blog and what you want to blog about (already answered)
2. Choose a blogging platform (WordPress or any else)
3. Decide your blog’s name
4. Choose a hosting provider
5. Create your blog, choose design, theme, plugins etc.
6. Set up essential pages
7. Start writing!
Step 1: Why you want to blog (Already covered)
Step 2: Choosing a blogging platform
Choosing a platform for your blog, or the Content management system (CMS) is an important decision because it determines the ease you will experience during blogging.
There are various platforms available online – WordPress, Blogger, Medium, Facebook, YouTube, etc. are some of the most well-known ones. We have aggregators too – famous websites who have their own niche of content and allow guest bloggers to post relevant content. For e.g. Lifehack.org is one of the best blogs out there on topics like motivation, productivity, relationships etc. – contributors from all over the world with different perspectives on similar problems.
Another famous platform is medium.com. On medium, you can make your own account and just like that – you have your own blog (the first approach). It’s that SIMPLE. It’s minimalistic, focuses on the written word, and has good reach. If you are not keen on going through the rigmarole of technicalities while setting up a blog, I would say – Medium is a GREAT idea! Of course, you won’t get a custom URL that’s in your name.
Now, I am a WordPress person. Have always been. Most of the blogging experts also recommend WordPress as the best long term, sustainable solution to your blogging needs, especially if you want to make money and build a business using your blog.
There is a reason it hosts 91% of the blogs in the entire world – it is beginner friendly, user friendly, has no monthly fees for having your own ‘.com’, and you can customize it the way you want. Other platforms have not yet been able to match the extreme user friendliness of WordPress (WP). And that’s why they power more than 90% of the websites in the world!
WP has two distinct blogging platforms that you should know about –
And here’s the difference between the two –
(To know more about these differences, read Ryan Robinson’s blogpost)
However, I would state again that if you want full control of your blog, it is better to go with .org (that’s what my blog is hosted on too).
Step 3: Deciding your blog’s name
Your blog’s name is like your office address. It is where your potential clients will come find you. Be sure to choose a name that you want people to know you by. Mostly it is the brand name that you will be promoting once you start blogging. Now, on a .com blog, you won’t get to use a custom URL. The domain name of the .com host will be attached to your blog URL but you can surpass this if you choose a .org host.
You will also need to check whether the name of your choice is available or not. A simple domain name search can help you with this.
When selecting a name, you need to look at your niche, the audience you will be catering to, the topic your content will revolve around and so on. If you are confused, you can use domain name generators available online to look at suggestions before taking the final call.
Step 4: Choosing a hosting provider
This is a little technical so give it a patient read.
If you have chosen the first approach, you can skip this step altogether. Simply creating an account on WP.com will do the job. But if you have selected the second one, this step is important.
A host is like the location of your business, or your office. When someone visits using the address (the URL), it is where they can see everything. It is the company that puts up your website on the internet and keeps all your files safe. Most hosting websites charge their users annually. The charges range from $3-$100 depending on the services you end up using. The most commonly used hosting servers are –
Out of these, Bluehost is the most frequently recommended host by most expert bloggers. Installing a host server is also quite easy. Most of them offer a one click WP install option. Once you have created your account on bluehost and made the requisite payment, you can simply click on the ‘Install WordPress’ option and get going. To understand the steps in more detail, read Neil Patel’s article on how to set up a blog.
Note that if you have already paid the host (in this case, bluehost), then you don’t need to pay anything extra for your desired URL name. How incredible is that! Now your blog hosting is done. Next step – giving it your touch!
Step 5: Setting up your blog theme, selecting plugins etc.
For a .com blog, the options are quite limited when it comes to flexibility and control. You can’t use customized themes and available plugins are few. Mostly, you will have to do with whatever WP has to offer. But with .org blog – the world is your oyster.
When choosing a design or theme for your blog, do remember that it should be
- should not make it difficult for your readers to navigate and search for content
- should not be cluttered (too many things on your blog – NOT a great idea)
Google awards blogs and links that are not only relevant to the search results but are also more readable and user friendly. The WP panel has many themes you can choose from. And you will find thousands of more themes online which are either free or have minimal charges. Some of them are customizable, some – not so much. With a .org blog, you can choose whatever floats your boat. Just, when choosing, do make sure you look for the following –
– SEO friendliness: In layman’s terms SEO or search engine optimization refers to google reading your content to look for relevance. Themes with simpler codes are easily read by Google. Themes with bulky codes – not so much. Look for themes that are lighter in size.
– Responsiveness: Check if the theme is a responsive one i.e. it works well on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. Also check whether it’s compatible with majority of browsers like chrome, firefox, opera, IE etc.
– Plug-in support: Plugins or ‘add-ons’ are a very important part of your blog. WP has some wonderful plugins which will make your life really easy. They have plugins for SEO, email marketing, spam filtering, galleries, videos and much more.Here’s a list of the best plugins for your WordPress blog that you may consider using.
I would personally recommend that you definitely use Yoast SEO. It is the easiest way to do SEO for your blog posts without losing sleep over technical words like focus keywords, meta-tags etc. In the part II of this post, I will explain why SEO is so crucial to making your blog popular.
Step 6: Setting up essential pages – v imp from Branding perspective
Now that your blog is up and running, it’s time to decorate it with your personal information. On your blog home page, your updates and posts will be displayed. Along with these, it is important that you inform your customers about you. Create pages like ‘About Me’, ‘Contact Me’, ‘Gallery’ etc. so that your readers can look at your work in a glimpse.
These pages are easy to create. All you need to do is, go to your dashboard, click on ‘Pages’, go to ‘Add New’ and get cracking! Easy peasy. Depending on your business need, you can set up as many such pages as you want.
I would recommend that you take a look at few famous blogs from your field and do your own research as to what your experts or competitors are doing. Spend 10 mins on my Blog and you’ll decipher all about setting up essential pages. E.g. positioning ‘About Author’ at the end of every blogpost helps me brand myself to the reader. And every time that reader reads more from me in future blogposts, the branding only gets denser.
Once you have all the pages you need, add them to the main menu of your blog, or your widgets section. What goes where will depend on the theme you have chosen. I would recommend that you spend some time exploring your dashboard because it’s really easy to figure out. Plus, WP has a very comprehensive help guide for its users.
This brings us to the end of Part I of the post i.e. setting up your blog. Now that it’s up and running, let’s move on to the next part i.e. how to make your blog popular.
Part II – How to make your blog Popular
This section will briefly outline the things you can do to make your blog popular among your target audience, steps to increase the reach of your blog, marketing tips for blogs, social media tips etc.
Step 7: Writing a blog post
This step belongs to part II of the segment because here I am going to talk about your checklist for writing a blog post and how it connects to marketing your blog post.
I have never believed in shoving my content down anyone’s throat. A more sustainable and graceful approach is to build a strong base of loyal audience who believes in my content and its impact. And from the very first day, that’s what I have striven to create. Be it my social media, or my email lists, or my blog traffic.
One of the best ways to do that is to build your expertise (thought leadership) around relevant content. Only a relevant blog post (something that provides valuable information, entertainment, or makes your target audience feel good) has higher chances of becoming popular. So, what do you do to ensure your blog post is popular, while writing the blog?
1. It solves some real problem in your reader’s lives. Keeping a very classy title with a good CTC (Call to Click) helps a lot in here.
Making a Bold promise in the title or by adding a superlative (extreme appeal) word helps. E.g. check the stats of my posts ‘How to become a Three Times better English Speaker than you are now’. But then the caveat is you need to back that bold promise with some very solid content which is original too.
2. Make sure it’s SEO appropriate. If you have started using Yoast, if the SEO light is green, it means you have done a good job. On the Yoast plugin itself, they give you an accurate non-technical checklist for getting your SEO right. Just follow that and the batti (light) will mostly turn green.
This means, you choose a keyword for a particular blogpost and ensure it’s a part of your title, the first paragraph of your blog post, variations of that keyword appear at least thrice in your blog post, you choose appropriate tags (not more than 10 in number; that confuses Google), and you fill all the relevant boxes in the Yoast plugin.
If you want to understand in more details, how to do search engine optimize your blog content and your images, do read this excellent blog post by Hubspot.
3. Maintain good readability: shorter paragraphs, bullet points, appropriate images that go with the text (with proper credits to the owners of the images), links to relevant content, correct spelling and grammar, smooth and simple language.
4. Feature image: Choose a feature image as per your theme set dimensions. There’s an excellent website called canva.com that allows you to design images for free. I use it extensively and it has proved to be very useful. Do give it a try. It will put an end to most of your designing woes.
5. Signature in the end: If you have noticed my blog posts, there is a custom signature at the end where I have added a brief bio for my readers (as described above). The primary purpose is to inform Google about the relevant links that anyone visiting my blog post may find use of. Like an email signature, it not only adds a face to the text, but also keeps the writer attached to the blog on every page.
A quick recap of the checklist for any blog post–
– Title with focus keyword
– Text with main keyword occurring at least twice and related keywords occurring 3-4 times
– SEO friendly images (image titles, captions, and descriptions should have related keywords)
– Good readability – shorter paras, bullet points, sub-headings
– SEO via Yoast
– Relevant category and tags
This was all about writing the blog post. Now, what to do once you have written it –
There are two ways to approach the basic marketing of your blog post –
1. Social media marketing
2. Digital marketing
1. Social Media Marketing:
You are a generation of millennials so I don’t really need to tell you the platforms that you can use to market your blog. Let me just do a quick recap, and you can add in comments if I am missing out on anything.
Facebook (of course!) – Create your own business page if you haven’t already and use it to reach out to your audiences about new content or old content being repositioned in different ways. You can post them as text only, image series, quick videos made of a series of images, links to your blog etc.
Facebook is one of the most widely used social media platforms to direct traffic to your personal website. Typically, video and curated content work best on a platform like FB. Bad news- The new FB pages (which got created since 2017) are as good as a mortuary. Very difficult to grow them for myriad reasons. Luckily, I started my Page when there were not many people doing such stuff – the lucky reason why I have close to 200,000 believers on my Fb Page.
Instagram – it is one of the fastest growing tools of social media that you can use. Admittedly, you can’t post links on individual posts but with the advent of Instagram stories, you can definitely capture a larger share of mind of your audiences. And, similar to Facebook, the hashtags of Instagram are a great way of getting found by relevant audiences. Instagram has proved more useful for high resolution images, short videos, GIFs, quotes, short stories etc.
Twitter – the 140 character platform still continues to engage people in real time and has it ardent follower base.
LinkedIn – If your niche has anything to do with the corporate world, small businesses, entrepreneurship, leadership, management etc. LinkedIn should be your choice of platform for promotion.
Broadly, these four platforms are winning the social media race, at least in the Indian scenario. It is important to note that no one particular platform will fit your strategy. The way you market your blog and your brand will change from platform to platform. For e.g. on Facebook, a more personal touch to the communication works well, whereas on Instagram and Twitter, a more celebrity like approach tends to be useful. LinkedIn has a totally different, more professional voice to it.
As you move from platform to platform, your communication strategies will change.
2. Digital Marketing
One could argue that social is a part of digital and that’s fine. Right now, I just want to briefly give you an idea as to what falls under the digital aspects of marketing your blog and how you can benefit from it.
While social media is a push strategy where you push your content to your followers, digital is more of a pull strategy where your customers come to you – whether organically or through targeted advertisements.
Email marketing, SEO, Google ads are some of the methods marketers employ. For e.g. building a subscriber base and then emailing them about your content, your upcoming products or services or events etc. is one of the most basic ways to directing traffic to your blog. I have greater than 50,000 people who themselves subscribed to my blog content in last 7 years. With an email open rate of 15%+, a good part of my job of making my blog popular happens easily (when they SHARE the posts).
SEO can be seen as a system of asking questions and getting answers. When someone searches for ‘Motivational Speaker in India’, I want Google to show them my website and blog. That’s why I put so much effort into my digital marketing strategies. When your target audience asks a question, you want Google to throw you as an answer to their problems. For that, SEO is important.
Google ads are also another way of getting found by your audience; the difference being that for SEO you need not pay anything to google but for ads, you need to have an adwords account and sponsor your content.
Advertisements – To do or not to do
If you have noticed, you can sponsor your content on all of the above mentioned social media platforms as well. It’s a dilemma most marketers face: the decision between growing organically or choosing to sponsor their content on google, Facebook, Instagram etc.
This is more of a judgement call, depending upon the stage your business currently is in and the objective behind your blog or a particular blog post. If you want to know more about whether to advertise your blog or not, you may want to give this blog a read: The Uncensored Guide to Promoting a Blog Post.
Other methods to promote your blog
The methods listed above were just a quick checklist on what all you need to consider while creating a blog, writing a blog post, and promoting it online. There is much more you can do with your blog once you get into that groove.
– Networking: You can start networking with other bloggers and invite or solicit guest posts. Guest Posts work wonders. At least for me. Exchanging links is a crucial way of increasing your outreach. Interview celebrities and post those interviews on you blog. The celebrity himself/ herself will amplify your blog address then.
– Third party blogs: If you remember, we talked about aggregator blogs like Lifehack.org, medium.org etc. You can start writing for them to direct some of their traffic to your website.
Blogging is not easy. It requires constant dedication and commitment to content creation. Build your foundation slowly but strongly. Learn everything you can about blogging with hunger. There is much more than this blog post, many more nuances. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop a comment below.
And lastly – just start. The sooner you begin, the more time you will have to build your expertise and convince people of it. It ain’t very difficult buddy. Just do it. It is fun once when the habit gets formed. But do not dump your Blog after writing just 10-12 posts (just because no one is reading them). Be adamant. Keep Blogging. And after a few years- automatically Google ji will list you among the top & most popular blogs in India (in your domain).
99% people leave it mid-way. That 1% who hangs on for years- make the real kill. Dazzle the world with your tenacity of brilliance. Lakhs are waiting for you. Crores maybe 🙂
Now, Go blog!