I got a question emailed to me today from a reader asking exactly what he needed to learn about in order to become a successful blogger. Well that isn’t the easiest question to answer in a simple email as there is SO MUCH that goes into becoming a blogger that many people don’t realise. Instead, I thought it would make a good topic for a post.
“What do I need to learn to become a successful blogger?” is a question that I think many aspiring bloggers want the answer to when first starting out, I know I was eager to learn before I launched my first site. Whilst some topics are obvious that you need to learn about, others are not so until you come to need them further down the line.
This particular question got me thinking quite a bit about which things you specifically need to learn about sooner rather than later. I therefore came up with 12 things that every blogger really NEEDS to know about when starting out online. Obviously this list could have been much longer, but I tried to keep it relatively short so as not to overwhelm any newbies. Learn about these and you will have a good solid foundation to build a successful site upon.
1. SEO, SEO, SEO
SEO, or as it is properly know – Search Engine Optimization – is a subject that you must learn about. I decided to place this first on the list as I feel that it is THE most important thing any blogger or website owner should learn about (I can’t stress that enough).
What is Search Engine Optimization? Well basically, it is the term given to understanding and implementing the way in which search engines to help benefit your website. The vast majority of website traffic that a site receives will come from the search engines, so by making the most of them you can make sure that lots of people find your site.
SEO can be divided into two separate sections;
- On-page SEO,
- Off-page SEO,
On-page SEO refers to the techniques that you can use ON your website to boost traffic and web rankings (such as; keyword placement, using Alt tags, meta descriptions, etc.), whereas Off-page SEO refers to the techniques used, you guessed it, OFF your site (such as; social media, guest blogging, link baiting, etc.).
Both are very important, but I would definitely put more emphasis on learning about On-page SEO techniques. This will help you to understand how the World Wide Web works and, more importantly, how you can create content and structure your site to make the maximum impact online.
If you only take one thing from this entire list, make sure your set time aside to learn about SEO. It WILL help you in the long run!
Nobody can become a blogger without first knowing how to write. Whilst this may seem absurdly obvious, there is a lot more to writing than simply stringing a few sentences together.
Writing is something that certainly develops over time. Just think about when you first learned how to write as a 3-4 year old and compare it to how you write now. Well the same can be said when you first start out blogging. We all know how to write, but there is a big difference between writing every now and then, and writing 1000+ words several times a week (maybe even daily).
You need to be prepared to make mistakes along the way. Your first blog posts will probably take a good while to write, yet they will be nowhere near as good as the ones you write a year, two years, ten years down the line. You need to be prepared to learn your craft, develop as a writer and find your voice/writing style. The only way to do this is to write on a regular basis, so get stuck in.
You also need to make sure that you brush up on your spelling and grammar. Too often I see posts littered with mistakes. People do notice them and they can have a bigger effect on your audience than you would imagine. You are publishing posts under your name so take pride in your work and try to make them as good as you possibly can.
3. Content Creation
Yes, writing and content creation are two very different things. You could be an excellent writer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can create good quality content for your website.
Quality website content needs to, not only attract readers, but engage them as well. You need to learn how to construct posts that entice people to keep reading to the end of an article, to leave comments and to click on your other pages. Again, this comes with practice and you will get better at it over time.
Content creation actually covers a whole host of different areas, such as;
- On-page SEO (yes that again!),
- Creating engaging titles,
- Engaging introductions,
- Internal linking,
- External linking,
- Call to action,
To learn more about content creation, check out our in-depth guide to creating quality blog posts.
4. Niche Blogging & Understanding Your Target Market
There is one thing that all successful blogs have in common – they are all run like a normal business.
Blogging is a business, so you should treat it like that. If you want to create a successful blog then you have to approach it in a professional way. That means taking time to research the niche subject that you want to focus on and not just jump in two footed because you enjoy it. If you can find a gap in the market that no one is yet covering, or alternatively find something that is already being covered and do it better, then you may be onto a winner.
Understanding your target market/target audience is also extremely important. If you know who you are aiming for, or what types of people are actually visiting your site, you can better tailor your content to suit them.
5. Domain, Hosting & WordPress
If you want to start a blog online, you will have to, at some point, learn how to set one up. Many new bloggers find this process daunting, but when you actually learn what goes into setting up a site online you will find that it isn’t that bad. In fact it is quite straight forward.
Essentially all you need is 3 things;
- Domain name (i.e. www.YourDomainName.com)
- Web hosting (where your website files are stored online)
- WordPress (the framework that you build your site on)
I’m not going to go into detail about these things in this post as you can find more information in our Domain Name Registration, Beginners Guide To Web Hosting and Getting Started With WordPress guides.
6. HTML & CSS
Now here is a subject that many people dread learning about when starting out. Thankfully, most bloggers only need a basic understanding of HTML and CSS to get them on their way.
The vast majority of your time will be spent creating and editing your website in WordPress, but occasionally you may need to edit little bits of code here and there. This is where a basic knowledge of HTML & CSS comes in.
Check out this fantastic site that you can visit to learn more about HTML & CSS.
7. Social Media
We are all familiar with social media as we all use it every day to chat with our friends and family. Despite that, do you actually know how social media works? You may be nodding, yet I very much doubt you do.
Social media is dead easy to understand when you are using it yourself. Perhaps you only use one or two networks (i.e. Twitter and Facebook) and only tend to communicate with a handful of people regularly. Things change, however, when you approach social media for your website. Not only do you need to be familiar with more networks (i.e. Google+, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, etc.), but you need to know how each works differently.
You also need to realise that different social networks are better at different things. Twitter, for example, is great for talking to people directly, whereas Google+ is better for sharing images and videos with people. Again, this may seem obvious but it has big implications for how you use them for your business. There are only so many hours in the day after all.
8. Social Media Marketing
There is a big difference between social media and social media marketing. Social media is a great way to interact with existing fans of your website. Social media marketing though is fantastic for finding new fans and helping to spread the word about your blog around the world.
You will need to learn about;
- The marketing rules & regulations of each social network,
- #Hashtag trends that you can tap into,
- Groups/pages/communities that you can join,
- Advertising policies,
- Setting up dedicated pages for your blog,
- URL shorteners,
There are literally billions of people using social media every day. You just need to learn how to tap into a tiny fraction of that in order to build a community around your site.
Yes, networking and I’m not talking about social networking this time. There is a famous phrase – “It’s not what you know, but who you know that matters.” that is particularly important for bloggers to remember.
Blogging, as an industry, is one great big community. Not only is that built up of regular readers, but also by other bloggers as well. You need to get out there and start making connections with other blog owners. This doesn’t just apply to other bloggers in your niche, but bloggers who run sites in other industries as well. Why is this important? Well not only is it good to learn from one another, but you can help to promote each other’s sites. Why would you want to promote other people’s sites though? Well because you can tap into each other’s audience of course.
I have met some fantastic bloggers online from around the world through running this site, some of which I now work with on other projects. I have been able to learn so much from them and get help when I needed it. After all, it’s good to know people who are in a similar situation to you.
10. Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools
A couple of incredibly important tools to learn about are Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. Both of these greatly help you to understand how your site is performing and can identify areas in which you can improve. Only by understanding this can your site grow and develop over time.
Again, I’m not going to go into detail about these tools in this post, as there is far too much to cover. You can, however, check out both our Beginners Guide To Google Analytics and Beginners Guide To Google Webmaster Tools for more info on using them.
Photoshop, or an equivalent image manipulator (like GIMP or Paint.NET) is a vital tool for you to use and learn about. Every blog and website needs images and graphics, so being able to edit them properly is extremely important.
WordPress allows you to upload and edit images within your site itself, but that is very limited. Whilst it may take slightly longer, it is much better to edit your images before you upload them to your site. Not only does this mean you can keep image file sizes down, but doing so can help keep your site running quickly. Site speed is vitally important, so making the effort to optimize your images in Photoshop beforehand is well worth the effort.
Lastly, I want to cover branding as this is often a subject that many new blogs fail to do properly. In order to create a successful blog, you must create a brand identity that people will be able to recognise. This can be as simple as designing a logo or using the same pallet of colours across your entire site. Whatever it is, it needs to be distinctive so that it helps you stand out from the crowd.
It is also important that you use the same branding for your site everywhere. Make sure that you use the same logo/colours/tag line on your website, social media profiles, emails, newsletters, etc. Everywhere that people can find you. That way, people will start to notice you more online and you will begin to build up a community of readers.
Learn To Become A Successful Blogger
Like I said at the beginning of this post, this list could have been much bigger. I haven’t even mentioned things like; advertising, affiliate marketing, product creation, etc. All of those are important, but when first starting out you can probably forget about them for now.
If you focus on the 12 things that I have listed above, you will develop a solid foundation on which to build and grow your site over time. If you get the fundamentals right, everything else will follow.
Do you agree with our list? What other things would you add for new bloggers to learn about? What did you find helpful when first starting out? We want to hear from you so please leave a comment below.