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4 Key Criteria to Build Your Dream Blog

This guest post is by Matthew Setter of The Dreamers Manifesto.

Have you wanted to start a blog, a website or an online business, but you’re not sure where to begin? Are you already putting in the hard yards to build one or the other or both, but you’re not sure if it’s going where you want it to go?

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Building blogs and online businesses is very exciting, but it’s a very challenging endeavor as well. Whilst the excitement helps, some days it’s never enough to prepare you for just what it takes to be successful, as always there’s so much to do.

Here’s a common list:

  • the epic content that you have to write, both for your blog and for the guest posts for other peoples blogs
  • the work to build a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, StumbleUpon, and Reddit—amongst others
  • the SEO research that you have to perform, from keyword research and analysis to implementing SEO in your post titles, excerpts, links, images, headers, and meta data
  • reviewing your site statistics and analytics on a regular basis, so that you know how you’re going
  • establishing and building a growing mailing list of people who want to be more actively involved with your community
  • the time you need to take reaching out to fellow bloggers and networking with people so they even know you exist
  • searching for and getting in touch with affiliates and partners (i.e., checking email).

Even reading this list can leave you feeling a bit exhausted. Whatever happened to “build it and they will come”? Well, I’m sorry to say it, but as exciting as it is to do all this—you have to work to build your dreams and make them come true.

But I’m not going to dissuade you—heck no! Today, I’m going to share four key pointers that will help you build your dream blog sooner than you’d anticipated with less time and effort wasted.

1. Have a dream

The first and most fundamental thing you need is to have a dream. This is something dear to my heart, it’s something very important. You need to know what you’re setting out to achieve. Whether that’s a legacy, an achievement, a journey, to continue a tradition, to gain satisfaction, to leave your job, or whatever. No matter what you do, you need to know why.

Without the why, you may soon find yourself questioning your motivation and your resolve as you have to write yet another post, make a tweak or design change to your blog, search for affiliates, comment in forums, and do solid keyword research.

When you have a clear dream, a clear why, then you are better prepared to handle these times of question and doubt. Without it, you may end up like the majority of blogs with a handful (or less) of posts that eventually get left to wither and die on the scrapheap of the internet super-highway.

2. Have clear goals

After you have your dream firmly formed in your mind, you need to step beyond that and set  SMART goals. I stress SMART goals as there’s no time to be general or vague about this. You need to know how you’re going to achieve your dream—your fantastically high-traffic, super-dooper blog using these characteristics:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

Through these criteria, you  set clear goals so that you know what you’re aiming to achieve, you’ll have a clear action plan and targets to strive for. With clear goals, you’ll know why you want to achieve your dream, what you’ll feel like, think like, act like, and so on as and when you get there.

What’s more, you’ll be able to tell that you’re getting there, you’ll know if you’re getting closer, getting further away or just plain stagnating. And lastly, you can enrol people to help you, to keep you honest and accountable to achieve your stated aims.

3. Focus your time and effort

After you’ve established your dream and your vision, and you’ve set a series of targeted, specific, and measurable goals to guide you to building your dream, you need to get to work to do the day-to-day, week-to-week, activities.

But oh my, there’s so many things to do. What’s that, it’s 6pm and it seems like you’ve gotten nothing done today? But how could that be?! You sat down to work at 8am and you’ve been in a flurry of activity ever since.

How is it that day after day, despite finishing days that stretch between ten and 12 hours, you seem to just end up tired and the traffic’s not growing much? For all that activity, where are the results?

Well, I can’t give you a silver bullet solution to ensure that the action you take will manifest itself in the results you desire? But what I can tell you is that just because you’re taking action and are “busy” all day, that doesn’t mean you’re being effective. That’s right, there’s no clear correlation between busyness and productivity.

Don’t kid yourself that just because you’re doing things, you’re achieving.

Look at the key tasks that you need to do, then work out a regular pattern that you can keep to to achieve them. For example, for me, the key tasks that I need to do are:

  • Keyword Research (Google Analytics, Twitter research)
  • Content Research and Creation (Writing, writing, writing)
  • Content Promotion (Social Media, Blog and Post commenting, telling friends and family)
  • Blog Management (Is the design right, is the content linked and described properly)
  • Manage email and correspondence

Now, it’s easy to get lost in the latest gadget, service, technology, product, podcast, screencast, and so on. It’s easy to think you have to check your voicemail and emails every 20 minutes—or worse, respond to them the second that they alert you that they’ve arrived.

It’s easy to think that it’s important to be on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter multiple times every day. After all, everyone seems to say they’re the places to be. But stop attempting to multi-task. You may believe that you’re a computer, that you’re so good that you can do multiple things on the go, but I disagree.

So does Douglas Merrill the former Chief Information Officer at Google. In a 2010 post, entitled Getting organised the Google way, Mr. Merrill said,
“…trying to juggle or multi-task is a complete waste of time, not a display of organisational prowess.”

I am probably not unlike a lot of people with two computers on my desk, a tape machine with an interview I am listening to, two landlines, my mobile phone, a TV in the background, and a radio on low. Then there are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn beeping in every time a status update drops. And depending on what time of day or night it is, I have my four-year-old and partner vying for attention.

“Multi-tasking is a waste of time and effort. It just doesn’t work,” says Mr. Merrill.

“When you multi-task, you’re interfering with your brain’s efforts to put information into short-term memory—a process that is fragile enough to begin with. And if the information doesn’t make it into short-term memory, you won’t be able to recall it later.”

When you cut between so many tasks, frequently, you break your concentration, you break your attention and make it harder to do a few or even one thing well. So I suggest, as does Darren in his book 31 Days to Building a Better Blog, to get an action calendar.

Determine a pattern for how and when you’re going to do the essential tasks. For example, I:

  • check email twice a day; once in the morning, once in the evening
  • review Google Analytics once a week in my regular Monday morning house-keeping session
  • have a plan for post production
  • have regular times each week that I check in on and participate in social media
  • and so on…

4. Take a break

We’re almost there, so it’s only right that the last point is the least intense. You can only work for so many hours—productively—every day. Yes, you can eat super-foods, do meditation, and take power naps; but you’re only really productive for a limited time each day.

What’s more, your blog, whilst being very important to you, is not all of you. Don’t neglect your health, friends, family, relationships, and balance in your life, no matter how much importance you place on your work.

Your brain is similar to your muscles,so perhaps it’s best to sum up it up as my old gym instructor did:

“It’s not when you’re working out that you’re growing, that’s just preparing you for growth. It’s when you’re resting (in this case—sleeping) that your body has the opportunity to act on the investment you’ve made and build up your body’s muscle content.”

So it is with your mind in so many ways. You can sit there and do a lot of work, do research, talk with people, and email, but often, it’s only when you’re away from it all, from all the noise, attention and distractions, that you get your best inspirations, ideas and thoughts.

So remember, take time out, disconnect from it all, and recharge.

Winding up

I hope that this helps you tighten up your approach to successfully building a great blog, whilst maintaining your creativity and perspective. I wish you all the very best in the pursuit of your dream blog. Set goals, be focused and go create your beautiful blog. I hope you’ll tell me about it soon.

Matthew Setter is a passionate goal-setter, writer, educator and solopreneur. He’s also the founder of The Dreamers Manifesto, dedicated to helping you learn how to define and achieve your goals in a fun, engaging and informative way.You can connect with him anytime on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ anytime.

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Comments

  1. Wing says:

    Good advice! I love the part “Without it, you may end up like the majority of blogs with a handful (or less) of posts that eventually get left to wither and die on the scrapheap of the internet super-highway.” I have recently gather up my scraps, repent and doing my best to revive it. In fact, I return to my blog after months because I realise that I truly have passion for it. Not a good way to do it but now I know how much it matters.

    I always have trouble focusing (in fact so much trouble that I could neglect my blog for months) especially with the noise of the TV. Nowadays media has made me with an attention span of a fly, always buzzing around. Now, I trying to set up a dedicated quiet workspace and working time. It is always hard to fight distractions as my mind has a taste for mindless activity like browsing through pages of facebook or watching the TV even if there are nothing on it. Despite looking through ideas to really focus, it has always been easier say than done.

  2. Amalia Ulfah says:

    I’m just trying to maintain my web consistently. And I was quite energized with this piece. Thank you. :)

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Hi Amalia,

      Great to hear that it gave you a renewed sense of energy. Was there one point in particular that helped?

    • Dan says:

      Agreed. It can get quite lonely writing content for a site over and over. I was cheered up by reading your piece on having clear and defined goals. I think my goal from now on is to have clear defined goals I can meet – as it seems that is the only way to see progress.

  3. tushar says:

    This word, HAVE A DREAM is something that keeps on taking me forward. I have a dream to put my blog in a top blog list and once this is achieved, I will be more than happy

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Hey there Tushar,

      I completely agree; whether it was hearing the classic speech from Mr Martin Luther King, or speeches of a similar style and passion by other speakers throughout history, there’s something about focusing on something deep inside you that you want to do more than anything else. They can keep you up late at night and get you up early in the morning.

      Sometimes, when our projects are new, our dream is all that we really have until we see them start to gain traction and experience the success of them. That’s why they’re essential. All the best to you in the pursuit of your dream. What’s the key action that you’re taking to bring the dream to fruition?

  4. Keeping the blogger fit emotionally and physically in order to create his or her dream blog. This is often a forgotten angle in blog building. The article is a very good reminder to all of us. When the why is big enough, the what becomes easy.

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Hey there Chanuka,

      definitely agree with you here. If you lose your fitness, whether emotionally or physically, it becomes increasingly easy to get confused and disenchanted, thereby losing your focus and passion.

  5. Obaid Ullah says:

    We all have dreams but we also need passion to follow those dreams. Everyone dreams of having all those desirable things in life but many are not sincerely passionate about it. When I started my blog it was a feeling of great excitement but after sometime it started weakening but the dream for it becoming popular popped up and I started working on it with full zeal. I think we all should have dreams to have an aim in life.

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Obaid,

      passion is one thing, but it can be easy to lose it quickly. My dad always used a Rubgy League reference that goes something like this: “You can get a big pep speech in the locker room, but when you get hit by a full forward and find yourself lying flat on your back on the ground, the pep speech disappears very quickly”.

      The analogy can apply to many things; it’s one thing to have passion and desire, but you have to have a deeper reason to keep you going when your doubts and challenges set in. Do you have good techniques as well that keep you on track?

  6. Adam Borke says:

    I created a blogger, and this helped!

  7. Drewry says:

    I couldn’t agree more when you said building websites and online businesses, as well as blogs are very exciting, yet challenging. One must do the work necessary, in order to make the website valuable for people to repeatedly come back to, from search engines and social networks.I have a renewed focus nowadays when creating unique content for readers to enjoy viewing. I find myself slowing down and taking time in creating valuable, emotional, as well as informative content for people to understand where I am coming from as a site publisher. With that in mind, I take a more mature approach to the Internet today, in building valuable and meaningful relationships with others, while striving for excellence daily in being of service :-)

    • Lisa says:

      Yes, it is work indeed, was glad to see the 10-12 hour days, at least I know I am not alone in that timeframe.

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Hey Drewry,

      It is really exciting – so many things to do and so much fun. Corbett Bar, from ThinkTraffic.net, says it really well, just like yourself, that the key thing is to write Epic Content that your readers will love and resonate with. Not that the design and other things aren’t that important, but that the content is the absolute King!

  8. Bougie Girl says:

    These tips are very helpful. I find myself getting caught in social media to the point where I forget that blogging is supposed to be my priority. Thanks for posting.

  9. mark taylor says:

    Taking a break stands out for me in this article. As a part time blogger and not making money to speak of, I find myself putting too much emphasis on the time I spend with it. What stimulates good content for future posts is stepping back, experiencing other parts of my life and then returning to the blog with fresh ideas. Thanks for the help pro blogger.
    mark
    Beer Diary…

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Hey Mark,

      Great to hear that you’re still getting in to it. Is there a particular way that you find your best ideas when you’re having a break? Personally a lot of ideas come for me when I’m out walking or running. How about you?

  10. Wes Lee says:

    Thank you for pointing out the importance of taking a break and recharging! An important reminder for anyone who is starting a blog and might be putting in too many hours and neglecting other areas of life.

    Great article!

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Wes,

      Thanks for the feedback. it’s easy for it to become all-consuming, without you even realising it until it has. Friends and family can be great for keeping you balanced when that starts to happen. Is there a particular way you have for keeping yourself balanced and knowing when to have a break?

      • Wes Lee says:

        2 1/2 hours of staring at the computer is my limit. After that, I go outside, take a walk, get a quick smoke, and make a fresh pot of coffee. =)

  11. Justin Mazza says:

    So true what you said here in your post Matthew. The most important one in my opinion is to take a break in between achieving goals.

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Hey Justin,

      thanks kindly. How do you manage your work/life balance?

  12. Thanks for the tips. I think No. 2 is so important for new bloggers. Starting a blog is very difficult and there are so many directions you can take. It gets overwhelming at times. Having clear, concise goals really helps you keep within scope.

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Definitely agree here. Without a clear goal (or set of goals) then how do you know where you’re going or when you’ve gotten there. They also help you step back and get rid of unnecessary things you do that can seem important.

  13. As you rightly said, focussing on time and energy is very imp. These tips will surely help me in being more productive!

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Definitely right. There’s so many distractions that seek to occupy our time, but really, how many of them are actually that important. As Richard Branson said, do the important stuff first and play later – it’s so much more rewarding.

  14. Ling says:

    Couldn’t agree more on #3. Lack of focus will create confusion and results in procrastination.

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Ling, yep, it either results in procrastination, or makes it so much easier to come by.

  15. I have a dream, I have the target but I think I have too many blogs.. ; ))

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Hey there Direktori,

      how many blogs do you have? Are they focussed around your core interests or specialties?

  16. NgPillai says:

    I feel this post should be a must read blog post for all the new bloggers out there to start their blogging career with the right mindset and attitude. Nowadays, most of the people whom intend to venture themselves into online blogging and internet marketing are not to keen to educate themselves. This attitude should be changed in near future.

    Great post..

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Hey NgPillai, thanks for being so positive about the post. I agree – attitude and continuing education are very important. Arguably, how can you truly be of service and build and deliver great products and services if you don’t continue to learn and grow yourself.

  17. Taline says:

    I think the most important part in the process is knowing the “why” and really understanding it. You can get very lost if you don’t take the time to understand the why fully.

    It is a concept I talk about on my real estate blog. I invest in rental properties and I only wish that I was more heavily involved in this prior to having my son. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son who just turned 1 :) I just have a lot less time on my hands now than I did before. I foudn myself asking “Why didn’t I get things more organized, build my site, and purchase more rentals prior to being a parent. I finally got the answer. The reason was that I didn’t have the drive that I have now because I want to make enough passive income to be with my son EVERYDAY not most days.

    My “why” now is my son. He’s my biggest motivation and I can say that I always knew what to do before, I just didn’t necessarily do it consistantly because my “why” was not clearly defined. Great article! :)

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Hey Taline,

      great to hear that you have such a special why. I don’t have children, but adore my two little nephews. It always seems to be the case that when the WHY comes in to clear focus, we can work out the mechanics. But if the WHY’s not clear, then the action is hazy at best as we’re not sure what we’re after. All the best of luck and good fortune to you.

  18. Lark says:

    I choose journey. And, in my world, journey means adventure. So, I’ve completed the first step. Thanks for the post.

  19. Drewry says:

    when it comes to creating a dream blog, my long-term goal is to become a better writer, while focusing on others always in a positive light. I’ve learned that when building a dream blog, it’s always good to put others respectfully on a pedestal in speaking highly of them on your blog, before talking about yourself. And, with that said, it helps me to be more creative in my content creation efforts, because I’ve learned today that writing brings out the best in me :-)

    http://www.drewrynewsnetwork.com/f6/honoring-amazing-accomplishments-tom-terwilliger-2433.html

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Drewry, I agree. As a reader, often times, though this sounds a bit vain and self-centered, we ask “what’s in it for us”, so to read about “how great someone else is” doesn’t really hold that much value. It’s great to hear that you’ve got your focus well established. Here’s to your continuing efforts to refine your writing skills.

  20. Nikhil says:

    Hi Matthew,

    Excellent post! I am gonna use it as my sounding board (there are a few of those around already, but this is exceptional).

    Do visit my blog at nikhilswrite.blogpost.com if you can spare the time.

    Thanks!

    Nikhil Khandekar

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Hi Nikhil, thanks for including this post in your sounding board list. I’ll have a look at your site shortly.

  21. When starting a blog, it helps to have a clear idea of the target audience. All content created for the blog, in effect, should fit into the readership’s interests or niche.

  22. Focussing on your goals is something I found very important being a pro blogger. Along the way, as you work your path towards success, you´ll encounter too many stumbling blocks and discouragements. Unless you keep looking up your goal, it´s easy to raise your hands and quit. Focus on your goals and keep going.

    Also, I like that tip about “taking a break”. I found myself too driven for how many months and wasn´t taking any breaks, until my mind and body became exhausted that blogging became a toil. It´s burnout. I vouce for the need to give yourself a break each day.

    Thanks for this great post. :)

  23. Ring singh says:

    Hi Matthew,

    All the point that you shared above with all of us was astonishing and very effective in nature but “have clear goal” point strikes my head. A very good advice for all bloggers because clarity of goal gives us power to achieve the goal easily.

    A persons or let’s say a blogger who wanders aimlessly without clear goal is a confused persons. What result you can except from such as one who does not know where he is going? A goalless person is like a rudderless ship, no one knows where he will end up. So always have clear goal befor starting as Matthew my friend says in his above post. And gas remember one thing:

    No wind blows in favour of a ship without a destination.

    So always have,
    Definite Aim.
    Definite goal.
    Definite destination.

    • R singh says:

      Hey sorry, my name is not ring sing, it’s actually romy sing. But while typing with my iPod it gets converted in ring. So sorry my name is Romy Sing….

  24. good post. the sad reality however is despite following the “blueprint”, many fall short simply because they don’t have the capability (some learning related, others tech related, etc).

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Sunil, I think Tony Robbins put it well when he said that often people aren’t lazy or lack the ability, but what they lack truly worthwhile goals – or the defining reason WHY.

  25. Thank you for these tips, they have encouraged me a given me a different perspective than how I have been thinking lately.

  26. Ivy Solis says:

    Having the courage to pursue a dream (or dream blog) is the first step, agreed! Most bloggers build their blogs around content however if you can take text optimization into consideration you will ensure you’re blog is reaching your target audience.

  27. Having a dream is so important if you are actually trying to achieve something. When I’m lacking motivation, I always try to remember WHY I’m blogging in the first place and it really helps me get back into it!

  28. You give an enlightenment to improve my blog and reach my dream – where now I have lost my motivation to increase the traffic of my blog. Thanks :)

    • Matthew Setter says:

      Hapryanto, thanks for your feedback. Don’t give up – though at times it sure can be easier said than done. What was the original reason you got in and started your blog?

      • Dear Matthew Setter, thanks for your replied
        I realize in myself that when we are starting blog, we should never think about how much money will we get from blogging but how much we enjoy this activity. Like what is always said by guru “Enjoy your hobbies, money later” and I believe blogging needs more consistencies and patience… Isn’t it ???
        Happy New Year 2012, – now my country celebrate new year comes :)

  29. Hooker says:

    By far the most challenging aspect of growing a blog has been learning SEO techniques. The topic is ever changing and it seems that very few really understand it well.

    There is never enough time in a day!

  30. Dtrevino says:

    This is helpful. I started blogging this past year and could not figure out how I could add a twitter account to my LinkedIn and Facebook. It makes sense to focus on one or two items.

  31. PaulO says:

    Thanks for the direction!

  32. Excellent advice! You give me a step by step direction that I really need.

    Thanks

  33. Praveen says:

    Having a dream, making it come true! All we want is, planning, execution (with quality ;) ), and a desire to reach the goal. In blogging ofcourse a quality content is the one that can help one to reach their goal.

    Nice post, reading it was like getting refreshed :)

  34. Activity and productivity are often confused because it’s so easy to be busy and so hard to be productive.

  35. John says:

    I have my site up for a year, have about 300 articles now, but only 200 pageviews days. what should I do

  36. David says:

    This is a very helpful post! Thanks Matthew (and Darren). Number 1 and Number 2 are what I need to work on and fine tune.

    Thanks again.

  37. Thanks for the useful information. We were planning to add a new blog to our website which is related to deals. Cheers,

  38. Great post. I just finished reading the post and all the comments. Some great pieces of information here which I will certainly use. Thanks

  39. Mr X says:

    I am just getting started blogging, and setting up my own website. I can see from this post, and all of the information here, that I am doing many things wrong, or at least not as good as I can be…

    I look forward to learning, and reading all the great information here…

    Mr X

  40. This was a very helpful and inspiring post. I try to make good informative blog post for our company Carpet Cleaning Orange County and really struggle with coming up with new and fun stuff to read and learn for our clients and potential clients. Thanks again for the inspiration.

  41. Paul says:

    Great advice. Need to remind myself to get back to basics every now and again. This post is one I will refer to again for sure.

  42. One of my resolutions this year was to plan things before I did them and stick to the plan, and that has made me much more productive and successful.

  43. Matthew,

    I enjoyed this post very much. I found it insightful, entertaining, not to mention nicely written. Nothing wrong with that!

    Thanks for adding this to the esteemed ProBlogger collection.

    Peter

  44. yellow letter says:

    Hmm i hope you do not get offended with this question, but how much does a website like yours earn?