How to Start a Successful Blog that Scales with your Life | Holly Wade | Skillshare

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How to Start a Successful Blog that Scales with your Life

teacher avatar Holly Wade, Entrepreneur, Blogger + Creator

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (26m)
    • 1. Outlining the Class

      1:37
    • 2. Why We Blog + The Future of Blogging

      2:17
    • 3. Finding the Right Blog Topic

      4:21
    • 4. Planning a Strategy for your Blog

      4:31
    • 5. Blog Promotional Channels

      8:04
    • 6. Setting up your Blog Accounts

      3:25
    • 7. Ongoing Success in Blogging

      1:33
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About This Class

More and more blogs make their debut online every year, and yours could be next! In this course, we'll discuss why blogging can not only be a great hobby but turn into an excellent business for experienced bloggers. As an introduction to blogging, this course will help you understand business terms like target audiences and why they're important to creating a successful blog that can grow over time, scaling with your life.

The lessons in this course will go over:

  • Choosing your blog topic and name
  • Developing a plan to set your blog up for success
  • Creating content that fits specific promotional channels
  • Setting up the physical blog
  • Finding a foundation for ongoing success in the blog world

Although this course only provides the overview of starting your new blog, you can also learn more about advancing your blog in my other courses: How to Build and Email List for Bloggers and Monetization for Bloggers.

Meet Your Teacher

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Holly Wade

Entrepreneur, Blogger + Creator

Teacher

Holly Wade is a Southern California writer, blogger, baker and crafter. She is the founder and editor of Club Crafted, a DIY, food and lifestyle blog that shares tutorials and recipes for creating a happy, handmade life. As an all-around crafter, Holly is dedicated to sharing her ideas with others and spreading creativity through a variety of colorful craft ideas.

In addition to her creative pursuits, Holly is a freelance writer and marketer. She earned a degree in Journalism and Marketing and enjoys using her degree to grow her small creative business.

See full profile

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Transcripts

1. Outlining the Class: Hi there. Welcome to How to Start a Successful Blog, where we'll talk about all of the steps that you can take to find a topic you're passionate about, develop a new blog, and find success in the content world. Whether it's just for fun or maybe as a business one day. I'll be your host Holly Wade, and I am a DIY food and lifestyle blogger. I started my blog Club Crafted in 2016 to share the colorful DIY and dessert projects that I already loved to create. I had a personal blog for several years prior to that, and then followed blogs since they started gaining popularity around 2008. So I always had a love of blogging and writing and sharing my ideas. Starting my DIY blog allowed me to reach a niche audience at a time when the market was already very competitive, and I'm eager to share what I learned about blogging and running my blog as a business. Here I am almost three years later and I have been able to monetize my blog and earn a large chunk of my income from it. I'm not going to lie, it took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but it's my hobby and it's my passion and I found a way to make it fit into my life so that I can love what I do every day. I talk more about monetization strategies in my other course, Monetization for Bloggers, make money blogging on any subject, but here we're going to go over developing a blog, growing it to reach your desired audience in a way that scales with your life so that you can set your new blog up for financial success. I hope this will be a helpful overview for anyone looking to start a blog, and I'm happy to answer any questions that you have. First up, let's talk about the blogging industry itself. 2. Why We Blog + The Future of Blogging: Anyone who has a desire to share their ideas, their work, or their passions with others, can benefit from blogging. The amount of blogs online continue to grow year over year. In 2014, the number of bloggers was about 27.4 million, and is expected to continue to grow to 31.7 million bit 2020. Unlike a standalone social influencer, bloggers own the content that they create on their websites. We don't have to fear that one day a social network will disappear and take our influence with it. When blogging is partnered with e-mail marketing, social media and other promotional channels, bloggers can find success and begin to run their websites, like a business, including making money from them. That said, this is not a way to achieve overnight success. Starting a blog is a big undertaking, if you're serious about turning it into part of your life. But you can also blog just for fun. Ultimately, blogging for most of us, is really about having an outlet for the things that we're passionate about, and building a successful blog wouldn't be possible if we didn't love what we blog about. When it comes to choosing your blog topic, which we'll talk about in the next lesson. You want to make sure that you're choosing something you love enough to talk about again, and again, and again. It's why we blog. A business like blogging and content creation is constantly changing, so we can't exactly predict the future. That said, we do know that it's growing, we know that people read blogs, follow blogs, love blogs and even though the practice will evolve, it's still going uphill and tells us that it's still a good time to start a blog. Assuming you have a plan these days, a more saturated market means that you have to work a little bit harder to be seen by your audience. In the earlier days of blogging, you could get away with the build it and they will come mentality. But sadly, that's just no longer the case. All of the algorithms across different networks make it a little more difficult to reach your audience, encourage engagement, and develop a repeat readers. Which is why it's even more important to find your niche, and develop high-quality content within that niche, and of course, engage with your readers through channels like e-mail and social media. Now, let's move on to developing a topic that you love so that you can start your blog. 3. Finding the Right Blog Topic: The first step to starting a blog, is choosing a topic that you're passionate about. You want to find the balance between something too general and something too specific. Although you do need to find your niche and therefore, specialize in a topic, you don't want to pick something that's going to be so specific that you run out of ideas right away. Here's how I recommend narrowing down your blog topics: Make a list of all the topics that you're passionate about. No matter how specific or how general, they doesn't really need to be any rhyme or reason at first. See if any of those topics pair together. Maybe you have travel and food as two of your topics. You could merge the two together, to allow for more content ideas and share food guides when traveling, create internationally inspired recipes, or show the details of your most recent destinations and what you ate. Similarly, if you're interested in health and wellness, as well as marketing and business, you could create a blog that talks about marketing for health and wellness businesses. This will help you reach a very specific niche. Narrow down the one topic or multiple complementing topics you want to write about. Then make a list of possible blog ideas, or titles for those overview topics. This list is going to help you understand exactly what you're going to be writing about on a weekly or monthly basis. If you find that the list only has three ideas, then you might want to revisit the drawing board. On the other hand, if you find that you have a million and one ideas, well that might be great. It's probably because your topic is just a little bit too broad. What can you do to narrow it down? Maybe narrowing it down has to do with the style of your photography, or the style of your writing. Repeat these steps as many times, as you need to find a topic or set of topics that you feel you could write about for years to come. For my own blog co-crafted, I started with the topics of DIY and food. Together that covers a lot of potential ideas, probably too many. Ultimately, I narrowed it down to colorful, novelty, goofy types of DIY and recipes, focusing primarily on desserts and 30 minute projects for the average person. This allows me to make what I love, but have a unique style that helps set me apart from the millions of other DIY and food bloggers online. Do you feel comfortable with your topic? Do you feel knowledgeable about it? Choosing to blog on a certain topic, sets you up to be subject matter expert, whether you like it or not. As time goes by and your new blog gains following, many people may turn to you as a leader on that subject. I can tell you I get a lot of e-mails and blog comments asking DIY questions about the projects that I've created as well as general advice. Because I've been making and making my whole life, I usually know how to answer them. Once you've chosen your blog topic, make sure you're prepared to learn and grow with your topic. Because ultimately you're going to be teaching others one day. It all comes back around to loving what you blog about. Based on the topics you choose, then you can take the time to choose a name for your blog. In most cases, the name of your blog will also become the domain name for your website. Keep in mind how easy it is to remember. It's also best to keep the name relatively short so that's easy to type in your browser. If you're going with the attention of one day turning it into a business, you'll definitely want to choose an easy to remember name that people will also know how to spell. Some other things to consider are the catchness of the name and how unique it is. Do a search of the names that you like to make sure they're not already in use and don't choose anything that's going to be too similar to another branding, even if your blog is on a completely different topic. This will help you avoid any potential conflicts in the future. You should also choose a name that is unique to you, so that you'll show up in the search results online. If your name is a Mundane word, a lot of other websites could come up before yours and limit how much traffic you receive. Although very clear naming conventions could be great and easier remember, such as calling your health and wellness blog the health blog, it could actually make it harder for people to search for your blog, because a lot of other websites may come up before yours, especially those that are more well-established. But all in all, just remember that your blog name is forever, at least in most cases. Take your time to make sure the name and corresponding topics feel like the right fit for you. Next, let's go with developing a strategy that will set your blog up for success from the very beginning. 4. Planning a Strategy for your Blog: If you're serious about blogging, you should start out with a plan. Just like you would for a business. Yes, it's going to involve research, but it will be worth the work that you put in the front. That means looking into things like your brand's color scheme, and the logo, your desired posting schedule or your promotional channels, your target audience, and your targeted keywords, as well as so much more. I'll break down each into a quick overview to help you understand how and why to incorporate them into your plan. First, branding is the identity of your blog and business. On the surface, it's your color scheme, patterns, logo design, and so on but it's also about a lot more than that. It's about what your brand stands for. You might think, "It's just a food blog," and that's all there is to it but in fact, there's so much more beneath the surface and you need to have that figured out before you start writing. What does your brand mean to others? What service are you providing your readers? Why do you want others to read your work? Think about the brand new readers will see when they visit your website but also think about how you want them to feel when they do. One of the keys to successful blog is consistency. Blogging irradically will make it difficult for you to develop repeat readers. Even if it's just once a week or twice per month, make sure you stick to a schedule. Personally, I think the golden rule is at least once per week. Just pick a day and stick to it. Sometimes of course, the life is going to get in the way. I know it has for me plenty of times but I try to stick to a posting schedule as best as I can and I think that you should too. Ultimately, the more content you put out, the better. I'm going to do a complete lesson on blog promotion channels on my next lesson but as a brief overview, I'm referring to how you're going to promote your blog outside of the website itself. Will you be active on social media? Which platforms will you pay for advertising? Where will you send out e-mails? What will they be about? Stay tuned in the next lesson and we're going to talk a little bit more about this. As with any business, your blog will have target audience. Who your target audience is, maybe dictated by the topic itself or your tone of voice, your opinions, or even how you choose to promote your blog. As an example, my target audience is young women, approximately 21-35, with an interest in hand-made projects. I chose this market because I started my blog at the age of 25 and therefore, I could and still can identify with that age group. The projects I share are generally most interesting to women under 40. Some are even focused towards college-age women and all are intended for people who just love color and goofy ideas, which is generally a younger audience. Will other people read my blog? Of course, but I'm targeting a specific group of people and I reach them through a consistent style of photography and certain types of projects and ultimately I find that my target audience is most active on Instagram and Pinterest. So it's where I promote my blog most often. Identify your target audience and think about who they are, be as specific as possible, and even come up with your ideal reader persona if that helps you understand how you're going to speak to them through your blog. Search engine optimization is a beast of a subject, so I'm only going to give a brief description on how to use it for your new blog. Take time to research what types of keywords you'll target when writing your posts. Ideally, you want them to be consistent throughout your blog but I often target keywords on a post by post basis to help with search results. There are long tail keywords and short tail keywords. Meaning a keyword of two words is short. A keyword of more like five words is long. You can determine the keywords you want to target by looking back at your original list of post ideas. For more on SEO, I highly recommend searching for another course here on Skillshare because it is a big and very important topic for blogging. Now in any business, you're going to have competitors but when it comes to blogging, don't just think of them as competitors. Think of them as potential partners. Do a search and find other bloggers who may share the same audience as yours. It's good to know who they are, and it's also great to reach out to them and introduce yourself. Getting to know other people in your niche could actually help you in the long run and even lead to advice. All of these pieces are going to add out to a plan for your blog that you can reference again and again as you create your content and interact with your readers. Like I said, consistency is key. You need to know what you're doing before you start. Now let's start that deeper dive into promotional channels. 5. Blog Promotional Channels: Now I'm going to quickly dive into your promotional channels for your new blog. There are two ways that you must put on your blog if you really want to set yourself up for success: e-mail and social media. The number one mistake first time bloggers make is not starting an e-mail list, or at least not right away. Many of the most successful bloggers that I know, waited years before collecting e-mails from the readers, and regretted waiting so long. Do yourself a favor, and start early. E-mails is an extremely influential way to communicate with your readers. For a deeper dive into e-mail marketing, I highly recommend checking out my other course: How to build an e-mail list for bloggers. Unlike a social media post that can easily get lost in a sea of content, in e-mails delivered directly to your readers, and it's a little bit harder to ignore because ultimately there are less e-mails in their inbox than there are posts on their social media feed. Although we do get a lot of spam and sales emails, the majority of people filter out unwanted emails, and focus solely on the content that they really want, which could be your e-mails. You can use a variety of plug-ins or apps for your website to gather e-mails from the very beginning, and use a free solution like Mailchimp to keep your readers updated on the latest content from your website. How often you send e-mails is entirely subjective, but once per month is probably the minimum in order to keep your readers aware of your brand. Ideally, you should not send more than two emails per week, or it may become a little bit too much for some readers to handle. Personally, I find that I received significantly higher click-through to my website from my e-mails rather than my social media profiles, despite my social following being a lot larger. But as I mentioned earlier in the course, your blog content is forever yours, but same as your e-mail list. It's a way to interact with your customers, even if your website goes down or your social media platforms disappear. I can't stress enough how valuable an e-mail list will be for you in the long run. Of course, people engage with different promotional methods differently. The reason is they follow you on Instagram, or probably a lot different than why they follow you on Twitter or why they sign up for your e-mail list. For example, my Instagram followers may like my colorful pictures, but very few of them are actually going to click-through to my website or try out one of my DIY ideas. That's why I use Instagram as a communication and relationship building tool rather than as a source of traffic. Alternatively, Pinterest is the main source of traffic to my website because people use Pinterest as a search engine rather than a social media platform. They use it to find ideas that they want to try or save for later, and that's exactly how my content fits in for them. Based on your target audience and its demographics, certain social media websites maybe a better fit for your blog than others. Although I'd recommend making a profile on pretty much every major social media platform. Just to cover your bases, you'll most likely only focus on two platforms that best fit your audience. Here's a breakdown that may help you identify where your ideal audience is. Facebook is still the largest social network with two billion users worldwide. It's pretty likely that almost everyone you know has a Facebook account including your 18-year-old cousin or your 80-year-old grandma, but it's most largely used by users 18-49. That means if you're trying to reach a Gen Zrs, you're not going to find them on Facebook. Although users over 50 are less common on Facebook, it is probably the only social network you will be able to reach them. Facebook is all about media sharing, connecting with people, and even selling. You can use a Facebook page for your blog to share blurbs about your life, links to new content, photos to your work or ask fans questions that initiate conversations. Instagram is also a huge social network that is all about media sharing, and creating a cohesive brand and feed. You'll find 18 and 29-year-olds on Instagram more than any other demographic, and it's most used on mobile device because it's on my Facebook, there are a lot of similarities in the way these websites run, and how users see posts. The algorithm feature does make it more difficult for your post to be seen by your own followers as well as new followers, which is why encouraging engagement is the key to success. Unlike Facebook, you cannot insert links directly in the Instagram posts, which I find reduces click through to your website. Instead it's a great tool for selling, interacting with your audience, and gaining brand awareness. For best results on Instagram, you'll want to create a cohesive feed, have a compelling bio, and consistently interact with others on the platform. Now, Pinterest is my personal favorite social media platform because it's not really a social network at all. Think of Pinterest more like Google, and less like Facebook. Users corellate their ideas into boards for future use and use it as a search tool for finding a specific topic such as recipes, how to use and decor ideas. It's also growing sales tool for any product-based businesses. The majority of Pinterest users are women, and about 36 percent of 18-29 year-olds use the platform, compared to 34 percent of 30-49 year-olds. Pinterest is ideal for creative topics as well as informational posts with a high search vector. The key to success on Pinterest is it's sharing consistent, high-quality photos, and using search friendly entitles. Twitter is known for its short blur style posts. Like the other platforms, it's most used by 18-29 year-olds, and has a pretty evenly split male and female audience. Many users check Twitter for news, and deals, and retweet brands and small businesses often. It's also become a way for companies to provide customer service through social media. Unlike platforms like Facebook, you will find a lot of Gen Zrs on Twitter. Twitter is perhaps the last social network that maintains a chronological feed. The key to success on Twitter is posting an optimal times, and consistent posting everyday. YouTube is the second largest social media platform with about one billion active users, and it's still growing. Video continues to gain popularity, and YouTube is the number one way to share and watch videos online. The majority of users are under 45, and it's an ideal way to reach Gen Zrs online. It also has the largest male audience of all the networks. On average, users spend about 40 minutes a day on YouTube, which is more than any other platform. Ultimately, if you have desire to create video content, YouTube is where you need to share it, and you can embed your videos into your corresponding blog posts on your website. From there, of course, you can also share your videos on the other platforms too. Although Instagram's stepped up as Snapchats main competitor when it released its stories feature. Snapchat is still a large network for Gens Zrs and younger millennials. Almost 40 percent of teenagers considered Snapchat their favorite network, and the average user spends 25 minutes per day on the platform. Snapchat is ideal for sharing behind the scenes of your blog content, snippets about your topics, and generally showing a candid view of your life. The platform is all about goofiness, quick glimpses, and personal content rather than sales pitches. In addition, there's LinkedIn, which I mostly recommend for highly intellectual content or business to business content because it is after all, a network of professionals. To sum it up, your millennial audience is most likely on Facebook or Instagram, whereas your Gen Z audience is probably on Instagram and Snapchat. Now, although social media is not really the ideal way to connect with users over 50, Facebook is probably your best bet. Pinterest is best for creative topics, and reaching people 25-45. These days video content is highly encouraged, and YouTube is really the only way to go. My recommendation is to pick two platforms that feel like the best fit for your brand, and focus most of your attention on them. After all, if you're a one-person show which most of us are, you simply can't do it all. However, having an account on all the different platforms is still a good idea, and try to post at least occasionally on all of them, just to keep them active. All of this goes back to creating a plan for your blog. Once you feel like you have a grasp on your topic, your audience, and how exactly you're going to promote your content, you're ready to actually make the blog. 6. Setting up your Blog Accounts: Okay, the time has come to actually set up your blog. There are many ways to go about this, and many platforms that allow you to create a blog with a custom domain name. First, you'll need to purchase that domain. Remember, the one that's fairly short and easy to remember with your blog name in it hopefully. You can purchase a domain through services like GoDaddy, Namecheap, Bluehost, HostGator, and Google as well as others. Depending on the platform you'd like to host your website through, you may also purchase the hosting package through the same service that you purchased the domain name for easy setup. My personal choice is WordPress.org, which allows you to set up a completely custom website and blog with your own domain and hosting. I find it easy to maintain and love being able to customize it, but it can be a little bit more advanced technologically if you're not familiar with it already. Other blog services include Tumblr, WordPress.com, Blogger, and Wix. Now if you start on one service and wish to move in another time, it is possible, but just know that it can be really difficult, so I recommend doing your research before picking one and hopefully you're able to stick with it. Here's how I set up my website in less than an hour. I purchased my domain name through GoDaddy, then chose the WordPress hosting service. With a simple click of a button, a new hosting account was created for me with a URL to log into the back end of my website from the domain that I chose. You may need to take additional steps to connect a hosting to your domain and make sure everything is running properly. But support teams are generally very helpful no matter what program you're using. From there, I could choose a theme from WordPress' library or I could upload one that I purchased through a third party. Then I can download a free plugins, upload my logo, customize my fonts, and start posting. This is exactly the steps that I followed to set up my multiple websites and blogs, and I thought it very helpful for beginners. Once your physical account is set up, you need a few essential pages on your blog. An about page and a contact page with either an email address or a contact form so that people can get a hold of you. In addition, if you feel like you're ready to start working with brands right off the bat, you should make something like a partnerships page, with information about the types of paid sponsorships you might offer and how you'd like to work with brands. Make sure the navigation on your new website is clear so that it's easy to find everything that people might be looking for on your website. Now, at this point, the time has come and you're ready to publish your first blog post. As I mentioned earlier in the course, consistency will be the key to your long-term success. But you are just starting out, so it's okay to fumble a little and find your voice with each and every post. All of this change over time and our styles are going to mature and gain more experience and things are going to change and that's completely okay. Finally, you should set up a Google Analytics account and connect it to your new blog in order to monitor your analytics and note what content performs well. That way you can provide more of that type of content to your readers in the future. After you've had some experience, you should also consider using Google's keyword research tool, as well as a product for SEO like SEMrush to see what keywords are performing well. These types of analytical accounts will be able to tell you what's working, what isn't, and help you understand your audience better so that you can continue offering them high-quality content. Do you feel ready? 7. Ongoing Success in Blogging: As you can probably tell, every blog is different. Truly, there is no guidebook to making it in this business, so I highly recommend just trying everything, and adjusting your strategy based on what works. With any Internet-based business, change is inevitable, and you have to change with it whether that means embracing a new social media platform, trying new topics, or taking the time to understand how search algorithms work. It's not always fun, it is work, but it's the fun kind of work. Honestly, if it feels like too much work, you may just not love it enough. Just know that there will be ups and downs as with any career. With blogging, the best you can do is work hard and adapt. Don't underestimate the power of networking both in-person and online. Put yourself out there in front of potential readers in any way that you can. You can only get out what you put in. You can't just sit back and let the followers role in, get out and find them. Engage with them, and let your amazing content speak for itself. Hey, even if you don't make millions, at least you can love it, which is a lot more than most people can say about their careers. Thank you so much for taking the time to watch this course. If you're interested in taking the next steps in your blogging career, I highly recommend both my, how to build an e-mail list for bloggers course, as well as my, monetization for bloggers course. Of course, please remember to share your new blog URL as the project for this course, and I would love to check them all out.