I've been doing this blog thing for about six years now. When I first graduated back in 2009, I started it purely because "anyone in digital marketing was supposed to have a blog." I didn't really have a plan of action, no specific purpose or goals. It shifted from simply keeping friends and family up-to-date with my new life in (then) Chicago to a blog about social marketing and advertising trends to whatever-I-feel-like-writing now.
This blog has been a great asset for me. It's been a place to test my opinions, stay in touch with friends, and even a way to network and advance from a career perspective. It's purpose has definitely changed over the years and will likely continue to change around. That said, if I was to start from scratch today, here's the advice I'd give myself.
Start on Medium
Hosting a website is a bit of a commitment. There's always renewals, keeping everything on your site backed up and making sure it's run smoothly. For the casual blogger who doesn't really know if or how often they want to share thoughts, I think Medium is the best place to start. It's a wonderful platform to share the occasional one-off thought without having to invest as much into keeping the content on your page fresh. You don't have to worry about web hosting or traffic with Medium AND you have the ability to tap into Medium's network effect.
If you find yourself posting frequently on Medium, it may be best to go ahead and build that blog out and own your own space, instead of renting it from a platform.
Don't Worry About Making Money
That may sound weird in a world where there's a great market on blog monetization. However, I think success for most people stems from some sort of authenticity. In my opinion, if you launch a personal blog with the intent of making a lot of money (via promoted posts, ads, or e-books) starting on day one, it won't be as fun. Your writing also won't feel as authentic, especially if you've never really written for a wide audience before.
All that said, I have zero problem with anyone who makes money off their blogs. There are several people out there who do it very well and make a good living with it. Hats off to them. But they likely went through a learning period themselves before they were supplementing their income with their blog.
I haven't made a dime off of this blog via advertising or any sort of sponsored content. However, through sharing my thoughts and using this as a platform to show what I know when I have no other avenue to do so, I've probably made a lot of money through freelance work and career progression that could have been attributed to my work here.
Give Yourself Time to Find Your Unique Voice
This is the harder part because it takes time. It's easy to try and replicate what someone else does, especially if you haven't done much writing in the past.
That's how I started. I wanted to be the next Mashable or Chris Brogan several years back. It was a place to start but wasn't as authentic. I wanted to report on tech and social media but there are HUNDREDS of other places doing that.
I learned that I couldn't just write a post about Facebook's new app update, I had to write what my personal opinion was on it and how it would affect me.
I could write five tips on how to accomplish X. Or, I could write those five tips and include personal stories of how I came to those conclusions.
I notice that I get more traffic when I write something more personal to me than if I try to write a "me too" type of post.
Also, don't stick yourself too far in a niche or be afraid to shift the direction of your blog. Most of us change our likes, interests and hobbies as we go through life. It's only logical for blogs to see a similar progression. If Mumford and Sons can drop the banjo out of their music going forward, your blog can change content directions.
Write for People, Not Metrics
It's easy to get caught in a trap of writing for social shares. "What post will get the most retweets or Facebook likes?" Once you get buried in looking at your analytics, social mentions and other robotic numbers, it's easier to be a slave to the metrics and not to your audience. It's why listicles are such a predominant form of editorial content today.
Remember that people read your blog. Humans that took a few moments of the finite time we all have to hear what you have to say. I had a brief reminder of that at a wedding this weekend. I had a couple of friends (that I hadn't seen in a long time) walk up to me and say "hey, I like what you're writing. Keep it up." I had no idea they were reading but it was a great bit of encouragement. It reminded me that it doesn't matter if I get 10 views a week or 10,000 views a day, I'm writing for humans here, not an algorithm. (Well, I guess technically I could write for Google's algorithm, but I digress...).
Blogging has been a fun part of my online life. Once I quit caring about staying in a narrow lane topic-wise or losing sleep over not blogging enough, it became a lot of fun.
How about yourself? What advice would you give someone starting a blog today?
In case you're curious, here's my first ever blog post "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People."
Also an early one, "How Running Naked Got Me a Job."