Five of the All-Time Biggest Blogging Questions Answered

As I teach and speak, I start to see certain themes in the questions I’m asked.  Here are the most common questions I am asked about blogging and some answers!

How do I get started with blogging?

  • Start with your strategy. What are you trying to do and why? What does “success” look like to you? Money? Community? Actions? New friends?
  • Write out the first 25 blog posts headlines you think you would like to compose. Compare this with your strategy. Does it fit? Is there a common theme you can stick to for the long term?
  • As far as technology, I recommend using WordPress. It works and it can expand with your needs over time. Leave the tech stuff to the tech people. Spend your time on CONTENT.
  • Write consistently. It may take months for you to find your voice and your rhythm. You have to just do it.
  • Commit. Carve out time on your schedule to work on this every week. To be successful, it can’t be an after-thought.
  • Don’t be discouraged at first. It takes time to find success. Last month, I had the same number of page views as my first 18 months of blogging all put together.  Be patient.

How often should I blog?

Depends on your strategy (a common theme!)  At a minimum, shoot for one new post per month. But here’s an easy regimen to follow if you want to shoot for one great blog post per week:

  • Can you write a 500-word essay on a topic that interests you? Sure you can. In analog terms that is one-page double-spaced. In the old days, you could probably crank that out 10 minutes before class, right?  There’s post number one.
  • Now, find a a really interesting article in your field. Summarize it, comment on it, provide a proper link and attribution. There’s post number two.
  • Find a success story or a customer to love on. Celebrate why these people are special to you. That’s post number three.
  • Walk down to customer service. Ask them what the biggest customer question is. Answer it. That’s blog post number four.

Don’t forget to leverage existing content like videos, presentations and speeches. Deputize other resources to help you. Get guest posts from sales, PR, customers, suppliers, community members. It adds to the content diversity and helps build your community.

What do I write about?

In addition to some of the tips above, here are five fail-safe ideas when you get stuck for a topic:

  1. When you don’t know what to write about, google “what should I write about.” You’ll be amazed at the creative prompts that are out there.
  2. Go to a relevant LinkedIn group for your industry.  Scan through the questions being asked in a forum. Pick an interesting one. Answer it. Great blog post!
  3. Carefully look at the comments and questions that come in from your community. I would say I get 25% of my ideas from community comments or my own comments on other blogger posts.
  4. Look at your Google Analytics for the keywords people are using to find your blog. These offer insights into the topics people are interested in. For example, I recently had a keyword of “beginning blogging” so I thought it was time to write an article like this one.
  5. Collect ideas all the time — something you read or view, an idea in a meeting, a comment from a customer. Just write the headline for the idea in your blog as soon as possible. That way when it is time to blog you’ll have a list of topics to riff on.

How do I promote traffic to my blog?

Depends on your strategy (naturally!). Are you even sure traffic is the right goal?

There are two camps on this — the keyword camp and the creative content camp.

The keyword camp would have you stuff keywords into your content as much as possible — especially headlines and early paragraphs — to attract search engine love.

The creative camp would say people will come to your blog, and eventually the search engines will too, if you really put an effort into fantastic content.

I am firmly in the creative camp. I’m aware of keywords but I’m not wedded to them. My goal is to build community, make new friends and have some fun along the way and I would die if I had to force keywords in every sentence, or even every post. Who wants to read that?

There have been tons of blog posts written about this subject but here are seven things (other than content) that have helped me grow a great community:

  1. be active in other relevant blog communities;
  2. earn the right to do some guest posts
  3. surround myself with awesome people on Twitter (who may be interested in my content;
  4. make the content easy to share;
  5. respect and support the people who honor you by reading your blog and commenting;
  6. blog consistently so people expect new content.
  7. if you write something truly stellar, ask your friends to help get the word out.

How do I make money from my blog?

There are six ways I know of to make money from your blog:

1) Advertising. This will not work for 99% of all bloggers because the traffic simply is not great enough.

2) Affiliate links (for example links to books on Amazon). Every time somebody clicks and buys, you get a small pay-out. This also will not work for 99% of all bloggers because (you guessed it) the traffic has to be huge to make any significant money.

3) Re-purposing your blog content. Many bloggers have assembled blog posts to create books, e-books and other content they can sell in a number of ways.

4) Sponsored posts. Link-hungry SEO promoters are eager to pay people to add links or even entire pieces of content to a blog. Once you do that, you turn your blog into an ad. People do it.  I won’t. Ever.

5) Selling adjacent products. I have no plans to monetize my blog directly, but I’m hoping that people who love the free content will support me by buying adjacent products on my website such as my Social Media From Scratch video tutorials, books, or instant coaching services.

6) Indirect sales.  This is the strategy behind my blog. I want to create great content that will make people want to hire me as a consultant, come to their office to teach a class, or give a speech to their association.  My blog is basically my marketing strategy.

OK, so there are some answers for you. I’m sure I missed a lot, and as usual, you will provide some more great ideas in the comment section. Your turn!

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  • Great Summary about Bloggin Mark. Thank you and have a wonderfull Labor Day without work 😉

    Kind regards from Germany

    Hansjörg

  • The answers I’ve been looking for! Thanks, Mark, you’ve given me good ideas for finding inspiration when I don’t know what to write about 🙂 And happy Labor Day!

  • Hi Mark, This is a solid primer for getting started with blogging. I get questions from my friends all the time on this topic and I will definitely send them here.

    I especially like how you outlined the ways to make money. A lot of people think it’s easy, that you just put some ads on the site and you’re done. But there are other, more effective ways. Like you, I don’t monetize my blog but instead it has established me as a tech writer, which is worth far more to me than any revenue I could get from ads.

    I also like how you described getting started writing content. Most people can write a page on a topic they know well so that shouldn’t be a barrier to starting a blog.

    You may be helping quite a few people to launch a blog with this one, Mark.

  • That would be great, wouldn’t it?  Content is power on the social web and I can’t imagine a better way to establish this influence than through a blog. It’s such a flexible and easy-to-use platform.  Thanks so much for your support Carolyn!

  • Many thanks for taking the time to comment Gisele. I’m happy this was helpful to you.

  • Thank you for your kind support and loyal readership Hansjörg!

  • Anonymous

    I love how content on your blog helps me for different reasons at different times in my career. We’ve been friends for two years now, and I’ve been blogging for just about that long, as well, and what I needed to hear about beginning blogging back then I found through various posts you wrote, and yet there is information in today’s post that helps me as I continue to define, to grow, and to expand my blog. Thank you for continuing to share your insight, knowledge and industry expertise – and know that indirectly I’m directly sending people your way all the time!

  • Wow Mark, this is awesome! I’ve just shared it in all my social media platforms! I so agree with this: ”
    It may take months for you to find your voice and your rhythm.”  So I guess it’s not a bad thing that it takes a while to build up traffic and readership!
    Great stuff Mark!
    Lori

  • Here’s something funny. I kept reading your word “define” as “decline.”  I was about to pick up the phone ask you why you were in decline Arminda!   So relieved that it was just a spec on my glasses. : )   Thanks for your kind comments! 

  • Patience is definitely a virtue in this space!  It does take a long time to get in the rhythm of blogging, at least it did for me!  Many thanks for taking the time to comment today Lori! 

  • Awesome… Awesome post especially for those just starting out…

    I also want to reiterate the money that can be made by re-purposing your blog content.

    Thanks Mark!

  • Mark, fantastic post!
    I just spoke on Social Media 101 at a conference in Puerto Rico. I had to take a few steps back to really think about the social space and how I would begin again, in 2012, to prepare for it.

    Your post really covers so much of what’s needed for new bloggers. Thanks for sharing your insight. I will definitely encourage the attendees I’m now in touch with to check it out.

    It was fun meeting you at Explore too. Great job.

  • Wonderful Dave.  Congratulations on your successes and thanks for connecting!

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment Ryan.

  • As you may know, I’ve been blogging for many years, and your answers remind me what still needs to be done! 

    I am appreciative, and grateful to have you as my “marketing mentor” 

    Thank you Mark for your answers to many questions that come to mind… 

  • Anonymous

    Im desperate to not stalk you Mark, but this is a top notch post! Ive shared it, and will favourite it to. I think this is one that I’ll come back to a few times!

  • Aleksandra Walsh

    Thanks for the great article Mark. Very timely for myself and for my Realtor husband. I am currently designing and writing a new website for his business and I have been strongly encouraging him to include a Blog on his site. I will pass on your words of wisdom to get him excited about Blogging on his favorite topic – Real Estate!

    Looking forward to reading more great stuff from you.

    Sunny skies to you!

  • Thanks for a great post Mark.  Very timely for me as I am currently designing and writing my Realtor husband’s new website.  I’ve strongly encouraged him to include a Blog on his site with little success.  I think your article will do the trick and get him sharing what he knows about his favourite topic – Real Estate.

    Looking forward to many other great reads from you.

    Sunny skies!

  • You made my day. Glad to have been a help Dr. Rae.

  • All blog stalking welcome!  : ) 

  • Yes, blogging can be exceptionally helpful to a realtor. My friend here in Knoxville Suzy Trotta does an exceptional job on both her blog and Twitter account. You could learn a lot from her if you’re just starting out.

  • My pleasure Mark…  

  • Your first few tips are easily the most important:

    Start with your strategy. What are you trying to do and why? What does
    “success” look like to you? Money? Community? Actions? New friends?

    That is your roadmap and without it you are likely to drive around aimlessly and without focus. It is hard to find success when you don’t know what you are doing or what it is.

  • Thanks for the reminder about it taking time, and keep in mind the goal of my blog.  Every little bit helps.

  • A great list of tips, Mark, thanks for this. I wish I had something like that as a beginner.

    Interesting thing is, AS a beginner, you’re usually not typing anything into google or linked with people who’ll deliver content like this to you  — lol.

    And it’s interesting timing, because Danny Iny + Sean Platt just released “How To Build A Blog” — like… today.

    http://www.amazon.com/Awesome-Content-Community-Digital-ebook/dp/B007WTJO5Y/

  • I enjoyed the “what should I write about” and simply googling it!

  • Hey, it works!  Why make it complicated?  : ) 

  • Had not heard about that book but I’ll check it out! Thanks Jason!

  • Thanks for adding your comment today.

  • Boy that is so true.  Thanks for that great comment Jack.

  • Hey Mark, it’s like old home week in the comments (except it’s not old home). Hey to Jack, Jason, Gisele, Lori + Carolyn. Love it! Great tips and tricks. Putting them into action is the big challenge.

    So, just to be different, I am going to ask you a question.
     
    What does engagement mean to you?

  • Great Blog Post but the only point I have to disagree is the
    camp one! Yes there are two camps the keyword one and the creative one but if
    you are crazy enough you can touch the best of both the world and achieve the
    desired targets!

    Even search engine didn’t like the idea of stuffing keywords
    in the content and love creativity…. I am in to digital marketing and I have
    some great examples like SEOmoz, Distilled and SEER who have their own
    readership and they write amazing content on daily basis and still be able to
    get search engine love!

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  • Thanks Mark!
    A question.
    Would you point to a few specific landsmarks in your blogging journey that stand out for you, and maybe us? Something that turned your trials into triumphs in blogging.
    My first year in blogging was mashed up with the SoSlam weekend. That proved to be a tipping point for me in so many areas. The post here will be revisited again, as other here have already stated.
    For me, the greatest post I’ve read by you in this last year, was “Why are the social media elite ignoring us?” That got me to look farther into twiitter, blogging, social media platforms and digital content in general. It specifically got me in touch with you and what you represent that I and so many more appreciate.
    This post is a great marker for me too. So thanks for setting such a really clear and reachable bar. 

  • To be honest, real “engagement” rarely occurs in blog comments. Sometimes it does, but more typically, blog comments are a chronology of observations. However, it is these connections that LEAD to real engagement!  The people who are active on my blog have become some of my best friends, customers and business partners. We connect and engage in numerous ways that lead to powerful personal and business benefits. What an exciting and amazing time we live in, huh?

  • This is a very wise and valid comment and you rightfully point out that I was providing extreme examples. I also think both camps have probably moderated over time!  A year ago a customer complained  to me that she was miserable with her blogging because the dictate from the SEO advisor was to put a keyword in every fourth sentence. That type of advice would make anybody unhappy … especially the readers! : ) 

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom today Moosa!

  • I think my biggest breakthrough was when I stopped trying to create “targeted messaging” for a “targeted audience.”  When I began to relax on my blog, have some fun, and find my true voice, an amazing thing happened: Instead of me finding my target audience, my audience found me. And that is powerful. So, like you, many people read the blog for me and what I represent as a personal brand instead of another blog full of the same old stuff. Dig deep, be brave, be yourself. That is the heart of originality.

    Thanks for your very kind words and the great question! 

  •  …and sometimes all you need to do is write one blog post that is organically seen by someone with a gazillion followers and then that blog post becomes the most-visited post in your blogging history. This happened to me the other day; I’m drafting a post about it.

  • As others have eloquently said, great post–simple, to the point, and useful. I especially appreciate the succinct breakdown of how to monetize a blog, including your thoughts on what you will and won’t do–makes perfect sense! It helps to prevent focus scatter. Thanks!

  • Great Article
    Google are constantly restricting their policy regarding content so blogging becomes more and more important.
    Another way o promote blogs is creating quality landing pages
    http://www.Pagewiz.com

  • Many thanks for taking the time to comment Donn. I’m glad this post resonated with you.

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  • Amy

    Great post. I like the road map for coming up with topics. Simple but relevant! I expect to refer back to this again. Thank you.

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  • Thanks for the great tips, Mark. I’ve been inspired to blog when I launch my website update in the next few months. I’ve started a list of topics/headers, and actually found myself writing one of them this morning in the bathroom! The words and tone can’t be forced, so when the content flows, get it down, even in the bathroom!

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  • D. Holcomb

    Great tips! Just what I needed to read right now. I’m a newbie blogger, feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the process. Putting my work “out there” is both exciting and scary, too. I like your point about relaxing and having fun. Care to expand on this subject with tips for humor and fiction bloggers?

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