I get a lot of emails from LWB readers asking me how to get started with blogging.
My answer is usually the same: take action. The blogosphere is a pretty forgiving place for the beginner blogger — today’s false steps and screw-ups are forgotten by tomorrow. But for the blogger, those false steps and screw-ups offer valuable learning opportunities.
However, observing how other people have successfully achieved what you hope to achieve can sometimes be as valuable an experience as what you learn from your failures, which brings me neatly to the subject of this post.
Today I want to give you an in-depth insider peek at my latest blog project because I am certain that many bloggers (beginner and intermediate alike) can learn a great deal from both what I have done so far and what I plan to do in the future. If you want to know how I took a brand new blog from initial concept to launch and beyond, read on.
An Entrepreneur’s Curse
In my experience, the more successful you become, the more ideas you have. That can both a blessing and a curse, as your future success is defined less by whether or not you have good ideas, but by which ideas you choose to execute on.
I have no problem in coming up with ideas these days. Here’s a few I have on the back burner at the moment:
- A guide to using Twitter for bloggers
- A blog and book on dealing with insomnia
- A LWB podcast
- A LWB YouTube video clip series
- A “making money online” FAQ site
- A Paleo Diet blog: “80 Percent Paleo”
- A WordPress plugins review blog
- A freelance blogging Facebook group
- A food and recipes blog for bachelors: BachelorEats.com (I still have the domain name)
The above list is just the tip of the iceberg. Collectively speaking, I have spent hours fleshing out these ideas and deliberating whether to execute on them. Some of these ideas are over a year old and have remained on the back burner, subordinating over and over again to fresher ideas that I felt held more promise.
The unusual thing about my latest blogging project, Healthy Enough, is that it went from the idea stage to launch in a matter of days. How did Healthy Enough as an idea set itself apart from all of the “competition” and why did I feel compelled to start on it immediately?
The Birth of a Blog
If you are a regular LWB reader you may recall that I had a go at the P90X program a few months ago. Unfortunately my progress was halted mid-way through by a shoulder injury and all of my hard work essentially came to naught.
In the end all that I was left with was a blog: P90X Journal. However, with my journey coming to an end the updates on that blog also came to an abrupt halt.
It wasn’t until several weeks later that my thoughts came back to health and fitness. My weight was approaching 210lbs, which is the point at which I stop my eat-what-I-like regime and start dieting. On a whim I opened up an old copy of Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body and re-read the chapters on his Slow-Carb Diet.
After just a few minutes I could think of nothing other than two things:
- I was going to give the Slow-Carb Diet a go
- I was going to launch a health and fitness blog for normal people
The concept for Healthy Enough came to me almost fully formed: a health and fitness blog for people who were more interested in maintaining a healthy weight, enjoying their food and exercising for fun rather than compromising their quality of life to attain a body that would turn heads.
I loved this idea for two reasons:
- I was seriously passionate about it — I knew that the blog’s content could be written for me as much as anyone else
- I felt that the idea hadn’t been fully explored by anyone else in the blogosphere
It was mainly the passion I had for the idea that led to me jumping on it so quickly. Although I have become pretty good at holding back and letting ideas “breathe” for a while before taking action, I couldn’t want to get started on this. I felt that it was a great idea from the word go and my feelings on that front haven’t changed since.
In short, I was good to go.
What Happened Next?
One of the most important things I have realized from over two years blogging is that in order to resonate with your readers, you need to ask yourself who you are speaking to and how you should speak to them. Therefore, my first step in planning Healthy Enough was to provide answers to those two questions.
Defining My Target Reader
First, I knew that I needed to define my target reader, which I did within Evernote:
Seems super-specific, right? I consider this vital to the process. When I’m writing for the blog I want to have the picture of my target reader crystal clear in my head. In my experience this produces fantastic results in terms of people resonating with your content and makes the writing process far easier.
It is important to note that although my target reader is very specific, writing purely for him does not necessarily lead to the exclusion of others.
Let me explain what I mean. Imagine that the engagement of your readers is coded from red (high), to yellow (moderate), to green (low). You can split potential visitors to your blog into three groups thus:
- Red: your target reader.
- Yellow: people who share one or more of the key characteristics of your target reader.
- Green: people who share none of the key characteristics of your target reader.
In terms of 100% of people on the Internet, the groups (and according level of engagement) might split up into percentages like this:
Less than a quarter of your potential visitors being moderately or highly engaged may seem like a low number, but here’s what happens if you try to create a blog for everyone:
I know which pie chart I prefer.
You may be wondering what drove me to create my particular target reader. My thinking was to create a person that represented (a) me and (b) a large bulk of people out there who would be interested in my topic. If you know me and you examine the target reader, you will see many similarities. However, certain things are different (such as the nationality and age of the reader) to allow me to target a greater group of people than I would if I made the target reader entirely like me.
In doing so I think that I have the best of both worlds: I am writing both for myself and for a relatively large section of the population.
Creating Style and Content Strategies
Once I knew who I was writing for I needed to figure out what I was going to write.
This to me means two things: coming up with a style strategy and a content strategy. They are joined at the hip.
Here’s what I came up with:
The blogging style side of things was easy to come up with — it’s me all over. You see a lot of it here on LWB, but I hold back on some elements because it isn’t really appropriate to the subject matter. But on Healthy Enough I feel comfortable in letting loose with all manners of immature jokes and references because I know that my target reader will find them just as amusing as I do. And that is of course the key — to engage with your target reader.
In terms of the content strategy, I knew that it would be very important for me to set myself apart from the myriad number of health and fitness blogs already in existence. Although it isn’t actually stated in my Evernote notes, I had already decided that I would write in-depth articles of 2,000-3,000 words and even beyond, which immediately separates me from over 90% of the content out there.
After that, I knew that there were three different types of articles that I wanted to write (stated above). In the blog’s short lifetime I have already written two of the three types:
- Why Yo Yo Dieting Isn’t Unhealthy (And Can in Fact Be Good for You)
- How to Lose Weight (Without Dieting)
Personal case studies will follow in due course.
A lot of “expert” bloggers will tell you that you need to make a launch a big deal because you never get the opportunity to launch again. However, I take a much more relaxed approach.
Healthy Enough was launched with no fanfare and just one post: Welcome to Healthy Enough. I followed that up with 10 Ways You Know You Should Be a Healthy Enough Reader to quickly establish who the blog is for.
I consider this a pretty good way to launch a blog: introduce it and tell the readers who its for. Most people will tell you that the next step should be to publish some truly epic content. While that is true, I don’t like the implication that not all of your content should be epic. I made a decision very early on with Healthy Enough that I would only publish truly epic content (or content that directly supported the epic content) and I believe that many bloggers could benefit from adopting such an attitude.
It’s the same approach I decided to take with Leaving Work Behind just a few weeks ago and I haven’t looked back since. When it comes to my own blogs, I will only ever publish content if I am positive that it is (a) amongst the best work that I can do and (b) unique in some way.
There’s another benefit to not making the launch a big deal: it helps you to avoid a great deal of anxiety. A lot of beginner bloggers put their launch on a pedestal and dream of what could be, only to be let down by reality. My advice is to relieve yourself of the stress and simply start writing. The posts that you write aren’t going anywhere — they’ll be as epic tomorrow as they were today. You can always draw people’s attention back to them in the future (or even re-publish them).
I don’t think a blog’s “real” launch should take place when you hit Publish on that first post. No — I have a different approach. More on that shortly.
Promoting My Blog
I haven’t done a great deal to promote my blog yet.
I announced it to my email and social media subscribers and have started reaching out to a few health and fitness bloggers, but nothing of any real note. Although I am aware that a blog’s growth is often directly linked to how much effort you put into the promotion of content as opposed to its production, I am always drawn back to the passion I have for content creation.
At the end of the day I am not particularly marketing-minded and I don’t pretend to be. I believe in the concept of creating a strong brand and great content and getting to know people within your niche then waiting for the magic to happen. It’s not the most forceful or effective way of promoting your blog, but I’m comfortable with it and it gives me plenty of time to work on great content.
I hope and believe that the quality of the content I produce for Healthy Enough will be enough to give the blog the kickstart it needs once I decide to open the doors formally. Speaking of which…
Plans for the Future
Although I am not a huge fan of marketing, I do have a strategy in mind for promoting the blog when I feel it is ready. My criteria for “ready” are as follows:
- A sizeable back catalogue of existing content
- A bespoke design
- A manifesto
When my blog has a striking design, a manifesto (that also acts as an email signup incentive) that clearly outlines what the site’s all about and a load of existing content for new visitors to explore, I know that it will be ready for a “hard” launch. Until then I will just keep beavering away.
But when the blog does reach critical mass, my strategy will be simple: reach out to as many bloggers as I can in an effort to either (a) guest post on their site and/or (b) get them to share my manifesto.
By that time I hope I will have a number of established contacts within the health and fitness niche — people who will only be too happy to give me a helping hand in formally launching my blog. Furthermore, I will have benefitted from a “dry run” period in which I will have honed the finer points of my blog and really crystallized the message of my blog (and how it should be presented).
If I time the launch well and get my ducks in a row, this formal launch should elevate my blog above the 95% of blogs out there and into the 5% (the metaphorical sweet spot where you can start to make money from your blog).
Oh — did I not mention that I intend to make money from this blog? While that is my intention at the end of the day, I am currently having far too much fun creating content to even think about it. I think that is something that a lot of beginner (and established) bloggers miss out on — in my opinion, before anything else, blogging should be fun. Not just for your own benefit but for the benefit of your readers. If you enjoy writing your posts, it will shine through.
In reality, firm money-making plans are a way off yet — probably comfortably into 2014. However, I am confident that the Healthy Enough brand is one that can sustain a profitable business in the long run.
So What Next?
Well, I’ve already revealed my rough future plans to you. At this point my primary focus is on creating content for the site — a minimum of one post per week. I also have a friend helping me with the design, which I hope to update sooner rather than later. This is not something I am in a rush with as I want to get it right. In time I have much bigger plans for the blog, but I am taking things one step at a time.
Beyond content creation I will continue to reach out to bloggers in my niche in the hope that some will respond so that I can start building relationships. My experience with LWB has demonstrated to me that relationships are key. The more people you get to know within your niche, the greater a chance you have of opportunities coming your way in time. It’s not necessarily something that can be forced, but it should certainly be encouraged.
So that’s it for now! I will of course be furnishing you with further updates on Healthy Enough as the blog develops. In time I hope to be able to show you how I developed a successful blog from the ground up. If you have any questions or comments then please do not hesitate to leave them below!