These days my blog, Zen Habits, no longer has the problems of finding its identity and finding an audience … but there was a time not too long ago when Zen Habits was just a baby going through the inevitable growing pains.
And yes, I remember struggling to find new readers — to just let people know I was even there. The early days of a blog are the toughest, by far.
But they don’t have to be. When a blog is still young, just as in childhood, it can be freer, carefree, and fun. Everything is a learning experience. Best yet, a young blog has endless potential — it can be anything (except perhaps President of the United States).
So if you’re the owner of a young blog, here are seven things I recommend you do, based on my experiences:
- Create amazingly useful content. This is the most important thing you can do the first month or two of your blog’s existence. The next item (branding) is also important to think about as you start, but in terms of how you spend your time, writing amazing and useful content should be 95% of what you do. Your design, ads, technical stuff … all that can be worked on later. Right now, write your butt off. Create tip-packed posts that will knock the reader’s socks off. Read more: What Makes Great Blogwriting?
- Create a great brand. When you first create your blog, you should think a bit about the brand you’re going to create. When you create a brand, you are sending an unspoken message. What unspoken message do you want to send? Start by defining your target audience, then by figuring out what desires you will tap into. Then craft an unspoken message that will be true to yourself while tapping into those desires. Use that unspoken message to craft your brand (the title of your blog) as well as everything else you do, from blog design to post topics to the tone you write with and more. Read more: Branding 101: How to Promote Your Blog Like the Big Guys Do.
- Network with other bloggers. When you first start out, you might not know many other bloggers. Rectify that situation by commenting on other blogs in your niche, and sending friendly emails to other bloggers whose blogs you enjoy. Offer to collaborate with them, to do guest posts for them (see next item) and in general be helpful and friendly. Develop a relationship with other bloggers — it’ll pay off in the long run.
- Write guest posts. One of the absolute best ways to promote your blog and your brand, and to find new readers, is to write guest posts on other blogs with readers who are among your target audience. Of course, it’s hard to get a guest post slot on big blogs when you’re just a little guy. So start with blogs that are just a little bigger than you — if you have 10 readers, go for a blog with 100-200 readers. If you have 100 readers, go for a blog with 300-500 readers, and so on. Before you start doing guest posts, however, be sure to have 10-12 solid, powerful, insanely useful posts on your blog. You want your new readers to come to your blog and be struck by a great first impression. Every guest post you write should be as amazingly useful and tip-packed as the ones on your blog (see first item).
- Experiment and have fun. Once you’re a blogging powerhouse, you have thousands of readers’ expectations to live up to. You have to put up great content every day, and each word is scrutinized. So take advantage of your youth as a blog — have a blast! Experiment, try out different writing techniques, imitate other blogs, try humor and rants and moving personal essays. Try to write a post that will become popular in the social media. Find your voice as a writer. Seek inspiration and write whatever you’re inspired to write.
- Get out there, often. Now is the time to start becoming more visible, and to spread your brand as much as possible. Comment on many other blogs, participate in blog carnivals, send links to other bloggers and see if they’ll share them with their readers, participate in contests. Be visible.
- Seek out your potential. You can be anything you want to be when you’re just starting out. Figure out what that will be. Aspire to great heights, and seek to raise your level of blogging each step of the way. Find your path to greatness as a blogger. Try new paths, and find what fits you. Follow your passion, your inspiration, and above all, enjoy the journey!
For more great tips on blogwriting, see my blog for writers and bloggers: Write To Done.