How to Start a Blog (That People Will Actually Read)

If you’re reading these words, chances are you’re connected to the Internet (unless you’re reading this from your Pocket).

And as every human being who has* roamed the realms* of the Interwebs, you thought about starting a blog at some point.

Which means that you have asked one (or more) of these questions:

  1. How to start a blog?
  2. What to blog about?
  3. How to get people to read my blog?

Well, turns out there’s a good answer for every single one of these questions. Read on to find out what it is.

1. Identify Your Target Audience Needs and Aspirations

While blogging about your impressive rubber duck collection will certainly turn a few heads, it probably won’t help you reach potential buyers for your new eBook (unless it’s about collecting rubber ducks I suppose).

You already have some idea about your target audience in your head, now you just need to learn more about them.

How do you do this?

There are two places that can help you:

Twitter & your competition.

Set up TweetDeck for the keywords that are relevant to your industry and monitor what are people talking about or what are they struggling with.

Set Up TweetDeck

You can even set it up in a way that will alert you when somebody in your industry needs help (by including the + “?” in Content field)..

-OR-

when there are active discussions taking place around the keyword you’re monitoring (by setting* Engagement* settings to “at least 2 replies”).

Set Alerts For Discussions

Then think about all the blog posts your competition is writing.

There are tons of comments in there and this is a potential gold mine for feedback from your target audience.

All you have to do is listen.

Read the comments

This will be instrumental in helping you to figure out what content to write and* how* to write it.

2. Design and build your blog

You can do everything yourself with WordPress on a default template and use one-click-installs from one of the secure, reliable and fast hosting providers ( in the cloud or not) .

Default WordPress Theme

Or you can buy a custom WordPress theme that best suits your use case.

The whole thing will probably take you an hour or two to set up and shouldn’t cost more than 25$.

If you don’t have the time or patience to learn how to do it yourself, you can always get a designer and/or a developer (depending on the customisation required) to do it for you.Hire Developer on elanceYou’re also going to need a domain name.

Did you know that anyone can can get a **.COM domain name for $1? **

That’s right.

Type ‘GoDaddy’ in Google and click on one of the GoDaddy ads. You’re welcome.GoDaddy 1 dollar domain

If you need more advice about choosing the right domain name, FirstSiteGuide has put together a good guide on this very topic, you should check it out.

Then there are hosted options like Medium and Svbtle.

You have no control over the design aspects, which is not really a problem, since they are so well designed.

They’re easy to use and have awesome WYSIWYG editors.

The catch?

You can’t install any custom plugins.

This will hurt you if you’re looking to get them emails. No plugins = no pop-ups, no sidebars, no newsletter subscription boxes.

In return you get exposure to their readers, provided that you add your posts in the relevant “publications” or collections.

Medium Publications

One platform that tries to combine the good from both worlds is Ghost.

It’s quickly becoming a new standard for those who want a good design and user experience out-of-the-box, but don’t want to give up the flexibility and customisation that plugins provide.

The writing experience in Ghost is so much better than WordPress.

You get to see the preview of your post side by side with the screen you type on.

Ghost Post Preview

But as we all remember, design without content is just decorations. So you need to …

4. Create free content with tons of value

Simply hitting that Publish button will leave you competing with over 3,270,168 blog posts published every 24 hours.

You have to provide tons of value to really stand out.

How do you do that?

You write posts that are designed to provide value ( this means no essays ).

How-to articles, life hacks and step-by-step guides are one category of content that will provide immense value for your readers.How To article example

Another category is expert roundups and interviews – you ask industry experts a question or two (sometimes three).

Then you sum up the results and present it as a blog post.

Expert Roundups

Some of the experts will even share the post on their social media (you should do it too).

Readers see familiar names and faces and they click on the link, starting to read your blog. WIN.

And finally the TOPs. Top resources to learn web design, top websites to get free creative commons zero photos, anything that works for your audience.

TOP Blog Post Example

You can take it one step further and use..

The SkyScraper Technique by Brian Dean

Don’t write about things you think your target audience will like. Why take this unnecessary risk, when you can write about something you know they will love.

Here’s how:

  1. Find a very popular blog post;
  2. Create something similar that is x3 better;
  3. Distribute it to the right****people.

brian-dean-skyscraper

Now let’s jump into each step a little more in-depth.

Step #1 Find a very popular blog post

The best part about this technique is that you don’t have to guess what to write about and whether your audience will like it or not.

If you know the name of your competitors (you really should) then this step will be super easy for you.

Just go to buzzsumo.com and enter the blog URL.

Buzzsumo

You will get a list of the most shared articles from this blog.

There’s only so much results you can get on a free version, but if you “sort” the results by shares in Facebook or Twitter and not the default “total shares” – you can get at least two times more articles. WIN!

Sort by Shares in Twitter

Step #2 Create something similar that is x3 better

How do you make sure that your post is x3 better than the original?

Simple.

You make it longer, more in-depth, up-to-date and visually appealing.

If the original article is “Top 20 Vegan Snacks Ideas”, you write a post about 50 or even a 100 ideas.

It might take you 3 litres of coffee to write, but in the end you will have something that is definitely better than anything else out there.

Both NYT research and BuzzSumo analysis of 100 Million articles confirmed that longer articles (1000+ words) get shared and emailed more!Shares-by-Content-Length

Sometimes this alone will do the trick.

Other times you have to make it more in-depth, by including weekly meal plans, recipes, or whatever makes sense in your case.

And of course you have to keep it up to date.

If the original article relies on stats from 2009, you have to update that with the latest stats whenever possible.

Example of Old Stats

That’s a very basic example, but you get the idea.

Keep pushing and make it better designed.

Some very popular articles out there are really, really old and were written before tools like Canva were available.

Canva

Now everyone (even I, someone who’s afraid of Photoshop more than fire) can design beautiful creatives for their blog posts.

STEP #3 Distribute it to the right people

This is similar to any outreach campaign when you just send an email blast to anyone even remotely relevant.

But there’s one important distinction.

You send it out to people who have already linked to similar content.

Here’s how you find them:

  1. Export the list of all websites that link to original article using tools like Open Site Explorer.

request csv

  1. Filter the sites like directories, forums and archives (that doesn’t make sense to contact). Ideally, after cleaning up the list you’ll have north of 100 websites to contact.
  2. Get the emails of the website admins by reaching out to them on social networks and just straight up asking them about it OR use tools like “BuzzStream” to find emails from websites automatically.Ask for email on Twitter

Next thing you know, you have a decent amount of emails, so now all you have to do is email them and ask for their feedback (or a link maybe) for the article.

Here’s the email template you can use:

**Subject: **Quick question about****%website-name%****

Hey %first-name%,

I was poking around %website-name% today and came across your article: %article-title%.

Great stuff!

I noticed that you mentioned %original-article%. I also love that article.

In fact, it inspired me to create a more thorough and updated version:
%your-article%.

I’d be tickled pink if you’d consider mentioning it on your page.

Either way, keep up the awesome work with %website-name%!

%your-name%

Pro Tip: You can use BuzzSumo to find out the influencers (measured by average number of retweets) who shared similar piece of content.

view sharers buzzsumo

Then reach out to these influencers, and who knows, maybe they will promote your content.

A good way to increase your chances is to contact them in advance and ask for a quote to include in the post.

5. Establishing Social Media Presence

Now that you have content, you need to get some returning visitors.

This is done with a combination of establishing social media presence and building an email list.

You know at least a dozen social media networks, right?

And you think (rightly so) that there are a lot of people in all these networks that could be interested in what you have to say.

The trick is to pick a few networks, join communities that are relevant to you and give before you take.

G+ communities

This means commenting, sharing other people content, helping people with questions.

Just get your name a little familiar to mods and admins.

Then when the time comes, it will be so much easier for you to just post your own posts in groups, ask for guest posts, etc.

Building an email list

Fact: building an email list is the single most important thing you could do to grow your blog.

Why?

Just see for yourself.

Sharing a post to 1600 followers:

Link Clicks Twitter

vs.

sharing a post with a list of 800 email subscribers.

Total Clicks Email

Four link clicks vs. almost a hundred link clicks. I think you can guess what’s more effective at driving traffic..

So how do you start collecting emails?

If you’re using WordPress or Ghost, one free plugin to definitely use is SumoMe.

sumome

It let’s you collect emails through in all sorts of places, including exit pop-ups, smart bars and more.

It’s free. It’s awesome. Use it.

One tip for effectively using SumoMe (which worked extremely well for me), is using content upgrade through their Leads app.

Leads App

I’m going to show you what this is right now.

See the big green box and link to extra content just below this paragraph?

Feeling Lazy? Grab this complimentary spreadsheet packed with actionable advice on starting a blog, writing kick-ass content and launching the whole thing into space existence! GIMME!

That’s what content upgrade is.

A simple checklist or .pdf of the blog post to give away.

Anything that will provide extra value to the reader is a content upgrade.

6. Build partnerships with fellow bloggers

By now you know the importance of collecting emails from your readers.

Guess what, your fellow bloggers have email lists of their own and they’ve been collecting them for months or even years.

email list

So what you have to do is connect with them and offer them in-kind trade.

You will market to their email list, and they will market to yours.

It’s an easy way to reach a completely new audience.

If you’re just starting out, you might be wondering:

“Yes, that’s all very nice, but how exactly should I do that?“

You can start building your relationship by offering them a guest post on a topic that is relevant to their specific audience.

Here’s the exact copy of an email that Noah Kagan is using to successfully connect with other bloggers.

**Subject:** Increasing **%target_blog_name%** blog by 1,000 page views

%name%,

HUGE fan of %target_blog_name%

I’ve been writing some posts that are getting 1,000 / page-views each.

Here’s some social proof: %link_to_your_post%

Love to write a guest post relating to %subject_of_guest_post% which is very relevant to your audience.

Mind if I send it over today?

Be amazing

– Noah

## 7. How to Launch Your Blog

Launching a new blog is an art in itself.

Today I’m going to show you how real pros launch a blog.

I’m going to use Groove (startup that provides online help desk software) as an example.

groove logo

They did something remarkable and share-worthy. Now they are bathing in fame and glory, while other bloggers are singing the praises of them.

Thousands of shares, tons of traffic, good standings with Google, all the good stuff you’re aiming for.

So how did they do it?

The Groove Hustle

Picture the ideal scenario for your launch.

What is the outcome you’re looking for? Lots of comments, even more social shares and tons of readers, right?

So how do you get the gears moving and launch that blog successfully?

Let’s start with the comments.

Why do people comment on blogs?

  • Because they really liked the post.
  • Because someone is wrong on the internet.
  • And most importantly, because they are somehow involved personally with this post.

Remember all the times you saw someone comment “Thanks for mentioning me in this article, Dave.” ?

Thanks for including me

That’s the most obvious move. Mentioning other people, their quotes, relevant articles or products.

Groove took it one step further.

They contacted the top influencers in their industry and asked them to pitch in and provide feedback for their blog post (which was just a draft at that point).

Now a passive reader would let this slide.

A smart reader, like yourself, instantly wonders:

“Wait a second, how did Groove convince these influencers to comment and give feedback and stuff? I bet they’re getting dozen similar requests every day.“

Smart folks at Groove thought about this too.

So they created a great story to go with the pitch.

Like an amusement park has some theme, their blog also had one.

It’s their journey towards $100,000 in recurring monthly revenue.

They made a fancy graph showing where they are now, with progress, so it was pretty visual.

Groove 100k

They also worked to establish a going relationship with these influencers.

Shared their content on social media and started discussions on their blogs.

The engagement strategy they used, as presented on their blog is pretty ingenious:

engagement checklist

Combined, these efforts piqued the interest of these fine gentlemen we call influencers.

They were happy to be a part of this, so they provided all kinds of feedback, commented on the original article once it went live, also shared it on social media.

But that wasn’t it.

Once they started commenting, these influencers noticed that there’s a bunch of other replies coming from great people and they started discussing this post and blog launch.

influencers comment

And you know what happens when top superstars (think Beyonce and Jay-Z level), hang out in the same Disqus thread.

The post is going to be shared.

Groove 2k shares

Everyone wants to show that they’re in the know about this new blog where all the cool kids hang out.

And that’s exactly what you need.

Imagine it’s your very first blog post and people are already going crazy about it..

Over to You

Once you have established your first blog, read these 21 tips on how to build your email list.

**P.S. **Didn’t find what you were looking for in this post? Read the Firstsiteguide guide to starting your own blog from scratch.

Yuri is a Content Crafter at Sellfy. He’s focused on inbound marketing, copywriting, CRO and growth.