I debuted my alter ego, “The Wisconsinista,” last June after graduating from college. I haven’t looked back since. To be fair, the title of this post is a little misleading – I’ve actually had other blogs through the years that I later deleted them out of embarrassment. It’s harder than it looks to put yourself “out there” on the Internet! The Wisconsinista, however, is here to stay. I have learned so much about running a blog since writing my first post. Now that I have more advanced understanding about what it means to manage one, I want to share my biggest takeaways after my first year blogging! While I’m far from being an expert, I’ve watched enough YouTube videos, researched enough hashtags, and learned enough about WordPress to have some insight on the topic for someone who didn’t major in marketing.
Act Like a Public Figure
No, this doesn’t mean “develop the ego of a celebrity.” When you hit the publish button on your first blog post, you now have something to market. You aren’t just promoting the contents of that blog post; you’re marketing yourself as a trusted resource in your niche. Ethos isn’t earned overnight, but you have to trust in yourself and your writing if you ever hope to earn the trust of others. Make sure that the work you publish is your best and respond to people when they ask you questions about your brand, like travel tips or reading suggestions. As you help more and more people by answering their questions or sharing blog posts with great information, they will gain a respect for you, value your work, and may even trust your expertise enough to purchase a product from you someday!
Hone In On Your Niche and Brand
This is a constant process. I still reevaluate my niche a little bit every day and recommend that same practice for all bloggers. Your niche is the topic(s) you plan to become an expert in, while your brand is the way you market yourself as an expert in that niche. For example, my niche is Wisconsin travel and recreation. This definition is is not always written down explicitly, but is something I keep in mind with everything I create. If a blog post I want to write does not align my niche, I ask myself whether I should ditch the idea or slightly shift my niche. My brand is The Wisconsinista. I promote my brand on social media and then refer people to my blog. My branded social media content helps define me as a Wisconsin travel expert, so my brand’s name, writing, and photos should all help to provide that credibility.
Try to Create a Community, Not a Following
The digital marketing industry thrives off of numbers – I have become very familiar with the words metrics, insights, and analytics during my first year blogging. Despite this, creating a blog whose popularity and acclaim has longevity requires a focus on quality over quantity. Unlike retail websites, who value the quantity of purchases made on their site, a successful blog values readership. Creating a space for people to share and express their passion for your niche topic will help generate meaningful connection and higher engagement. It might be a topic not everyone in the world is interested in (hello, Wisconsin travel), but everyone who is interested in that topic should want to spend time on your site. These northwoods bloggers are some of the best in their business!
Your Content Has Value if You Make it Valuable
Your goal with each organically written post for your blog should be to offer as much value as possible to your readers. This not only helps them, but helps you create a great portfolio that can then be used to monetize your blog. The only way that I have utilized my blog to make money so far is through sponsored posts. Either a brand will reach out to me about a partnership or I will reach out to them with a pitch to help promote a product or service of theirs with a dedicated post. If you have a lengthy portfolio of blog posts and good readership in a niche this company creates products for, your audience and influence is valuable to them. Your value (what you charge) is not only compensation for the hours of work you put into your sponsored post, but also for the months or years you’ve spent growing a targeted audience who trusts you. You can read one of my sponsored posts here.
You Need to Start Now
While you do have to identify some things before you actually start your blog, like its name niche, you should go live as soon as you can. The world becomes more and more saturated with blog content everyday. While your story will always be unique and worth sharing, you can be a bigger fish in a smaller pond the sooner you put your name out there. Your first blog posts may not be your best work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go back and update them later to add keywords, better pictures, or new formatting. Just get started. No matter how much you know about the industry to start, you will learn so much more over time. Remember that there are bloggers are around you on the Internet in varying stages of their career; look to see what makes their blog successful to find inspiration for your own success. There are also online communities and Facebook groups dedicated to helping new bloggers connect and grow. One that I like is Bloggers Supporting Bloggers!