By @TheMarkDalton

So you are thinking about starting a blog? Blogs are a great way of pumping out fresh new content for your website or personal brand every single day of the week. With content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress and Blogger, it is easier to get going than ever before. 

However, I urge you to keep an open mind about blogging and don’t expect overnight success. People think I managed to land myself perfectly into blogging and was able to make a success of myself really quickly. However, that was not the case. I was blogging for around 10 years plus before got my breakthrough. I started on Blogger with I was 16 and spent years trying to run all kinds of different blogs with no success.

I opened and closed hundreds of blogs in my teens, quite literally hundreds of blogs. I made blogs on tech news, Apple news, politics, Dublin news, gaming, foodie blogs and more. You won’t find any of them now because none of them survived and it was when I started 60 Second Social in 2014 when I found a bit of success that got me noticed by the Irish Tech News team. I was 26 at the time when I started writing for ITN, it took me 10 years to get my break, just keep that in mind all you crazy enthusiastic peeps who are starting out at the moment.

Below we have six points which I would class as ‘must know’ points before you even start on your own blog.

1 A self-hosted WordPress blog is essential

I have written about getting hosting for your WordPress blog before. You can read that post here. If you are serious about blogging then you need to get yourself a self-hosted blog ideally on WordPress.

WordPress is the #1 blogging tool on the market and the power you get from this CMS is well ahead of the competition. Free blogs are never going to give you the control you need to really take ownership of your blog and make it your own.

If you are only starting out and you are experimenting with ideas then I would recommend starting with a free WordPress blog and once you have figured out where you are going you can easily migrate to a self-hosted WordPress blog in the CMS dashboard.

Self-hosting on WordPress will give you more control over plugins, themes, advertising and analytics – all of which are essential components if you are really serious about blogging.

2 Embrace long form content

Now, not every piece of content you write needs to be super long form, however you need to embrace long form and use it to your advantage. Short pieces of content stand less chance of being noticed and potentially going viral.

The average length of the content I am writing at the moment is 1,200 words and some pieces are reaching as high as 2,000 words while nothing has gone far below 800 words. You need to go deep into your subject matter, explain the content to the best of your ability.

If you write content which is consistently lower than 500 words then I can guarantee that many of them are going to fizzle out. On top of that, we have been talking recently about how to grow your personal brand. If you are using a blog to do this then you need to go deep into your subject matter so that you can establish yourself as an authority figure in the market.

Get used to writing long form.

3 Be prepared to spend money

Do you think I run my blog for free? No cost at all? Absolutely not! You are going to need to be ready to get your wallet out and cough up the costs of running a blog. Domain, hosting (I would recommend Blacknight as a host however ultimately its up to you).

It won’t stop there either, if you want to promote your blog then you are going to have to be ready to pay for advertising. There is so much noise online, particularly on Twitter, so if you want to be seen over competitors then you are going to have to invest in Facebook ads.

While you are going to have to spend money, the good news is that you can keep things at a relatively low cost. Facebook ads are pretty cheap at the moment and offer a fantastic ROI. Set aside €15-25 per month for a Facebook ad campaign if you want to keep a tight budget and run an ad campaign inside that budget each month. You will see a huge difference in the number of people liking your page, interacting and traffic to your blog.

4 Think about your security

When you are putting all the hard work into your blog the last thing you need is for all that great content to disappear and never return. Start by keeping backups of your website. You can do this by exporting your WordPress content to a file on your computer once per week. Or you can get a plugin to run backups for you.

Also consider using a good security plugin to help lockdown your blog. One of my personal favourites is Clef. Clef allows you to log into you WordPress blog by scanning a QR code on the login page of your site with the Clef app on your phone.

I don’t want to freak you guys out however lots of companies and blogs are falling prey to intruders regularly. No one is safe and any site has the potential to being hacked. When that site is a blog which you are using for your personal brand development or your business then it is not something you want to use.

Be prepared for the worst.

5 Your personal brand is key

Before you start putting a ton of effort into blogging, think about your personal brand. Your personal brand is how people will perceive you online through your social media channels. Think about the message you are conveying when you are posting on social media and make sure you are happy with how you are developing your brand.

I am by no means telling you to be a different person for the sake of branding. Far from it, I am saying that you need to consider what others may think of how you are portraying your personal brand and make sure you are happy with that.

You can write the best blog content going, but if your personal brand reeks of being an utter arsehole I can promise you people won’t be interested in reading it. There is a good few bloggers I follow on social media who I don’t have a problem with, but I have zero interest in reading their blog posts.

Why? Their personal branding sucks. I’m sure they have decent content but while they spend their time running around on social media with a huge ego thinking they know it all and their opinions are bang on the money – my interest in their content will always be non existent.

Don’t get it confused now. These are really nice people I am referring to. It is entirely possible to be a nice person online and still have a massive personal branding issue from struggling to convey your personal brand to just conveying your brand the wrong way.

If you are struggling with this then don’t change who you are, change your approach! Oh and if you are insist that you are following my “be authentic, be you” advice and are carrying on foolishly online, I can pretty much guarantee you are not portraying an accurate personal branding message of the individual you are.

6 Be patient!

Remember, patience is the key when it comes to blogging. I was patient for 10 years. When I closed all those blogs, that was not a sign of impatience or frustration. That was a trial and error process where I was trying to discover what was working and what was not working.

What platforms were good and what ones sucked, what were people interested in reading and what did they not care about. I worked at blogging for 10 years before breaking through into a larger audience and getting recognition for it.

Are you going to have to wait 10 years? Maybe! I don’t know. You could make it happen in a fraction of the time. You could make it happen in a year, and if you do then fair play to you because it means you went out and absolutely crushed it.

The reality is that many of you will never break through the blogging bubble. The market is so saturated with people trying to be bloggers and trying to shout about their content. Your content could be incredible, sadly in the world of blogging that won’t guarantee you success.

Final thoughts? Don’t hang around!

This is one for me as much as it is for all of you. Don’t wait around anymore. I have made that very mistake over the past few years regarding certain platforms and looked only at the potential pitfalls of those platforms from Snapchat to Slack.

At the start of this year I made a conscious decision not to make those mistakes again and furthermore not to wait around for things to happen. Instead I started becoming a practitioner, something which too many of us are not.

We talk about platforms, we endorse them on our sites and particularly from a digital marketing standpoint, there are people out there telling you that they can grow your company on social yet they don’t have a clue about Instagram, Snapchat, Slack, Pinterest, Periscope and so on. Because they are not practitioners and at the start of the year that is something I decided to change about myself and my approach and I feel much better as a result of it.

This is not a stab at anyone individual or any agency, it is merely an observation which rings true for a large portion of the industry at the moment. If you are going to preach it then make sure you practice it.

I have had a tendency in the past to try and get things perfect before launching something new or to debate the ROI of these platforms with everyone else while others were ahead of the game and took advantage while we all debated. Way too many of us are concerned with getting things right, instead of getting things done.

With all of this in mind, even if you never make it “big” in blogging it can still over you a lot in return. Writing is a great outlet for me, I do it out of passion and desire to build my brand.

So get out there, register your blog, get it setup as you want and then start creating great content for the world to read!

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