So You Want to Start a Blog People Will Actually Read
Hot Jobs on The Muse
There are a lot of blogs out there—and we mean a lot. In 2021, it is estimated that there are 600 million blogs on the web today. Now that's a lot of blogs.
But it's not meant to discourage you. With a massive number of blogs comes an equally massive pool of readers out there. Personally, I read up to five different blogs every day.
The trick is to get people to find and read your blog among the many that exist. But how do you build an audience? What do you write about? How do you grow?
To find out, I talked to AmyAnn Cadwell, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Good Trade, a blog focused on social good. She started the blog in 2015 as a side project and slowly grew it to her full-time job. Read on for her tips on creating a successful blog that people want to read.
First, Find Your Mission
The first step is to figure out what you want your blog to focus on. The key? Making sure it's something you're personally passionate about.
AmyAnn started her blog while she was in graduate school for social entrepreneurship as an outlet for what she was learning.
“I felt like social impact was quite academic and not accessible to the everyday consumer," AmyAnn said. “There wasn't a good resource for how to find out what brands are socially responsible."
She created The Good Trade to change that. It was a passion project, she said, and her mission to share socially responsible and fair trade brands is what drives The Good Trade and its content.
So, if you're looking to start your own blog think about what's important to you. What do you know a lot about, or want to learn a lot about? Or maybe it's a mix of both. Do you want to share travel tips, industry news, or musings on a favorite topic? Pick something you find yourself thinking about constantly and start there.
Then, Be Consistent
When picking a topic, you'll also want to make sure you have enough content to write regularly. AmyAnn's advice? Pick a time and frequency that you'll post, and stick to it. That way, your readers will come to depend on new content at certain times each week.
“Show up and do the work," she said. “Be very committed to being consistent."
Of course, you also want to be realistic. If you're blogging on the side, you may not be able to publish aa post every day. Start with two or three times a week, and if that's still too much, go down to once a week.
It's also a good idea to create an editorial calendar for yourself, something as simple as a calendar with post ideas on the days you'd like to publish. This way, you have a visual reminder and can hold yourself accountable.
And while it's important to stay consistent, keep in mind that quality is always more important than quantity. Don't publish something just to stick to your calendar, and make sure it has value to your reader. Think: What would your audience, or your ideal audience want to see?
Now that you've come up with your mission and created a reasonable posting schedule, it's time for the fun part: coming up with the content.
In the beginning, it can be easy to find inspiration everywhere. You probably have tons of ideas floating around in your head and can't wait to get them out and into the world. But a few months (or years) down the line, they may start to fizzle out.
It's pretty normal when you're writing on one main topic, to start to feel pigeon-holed. If that happens, try turning to your audience and asking them what they want to hear about. Use social media to reach out and create an open a dialogue with your readers.
“We tried to ask a lot of questions of our readers before we even had an established base," AmyAnn says.
Now, a good chunk of The Good Trade's content is from reader submissions or questions. Once you start that conversation, there's a constant flow of ideas, and people feel like you're really listening to them.
Learn to Grow
Content is king, but distribution is queen.
All that content you've written? It needs to be distributed so people actually see it. (Especially in the beginning, when readers probably aren't going directly to your domain.)
The good news is we're all pretty familiar with the main player in the distribution space: social media. In fact, The Good Trade's first big break was amplified on Facebook. After a small industry publication picked up a post on fair trade fashion brands, readers started sharing it on Facebook, and the blog's traffic quickly skyrocketed.
In short: Use social media to your advantage. Share everything you publish on your blog on the social media channels you're active on. Not sure where to start? Facebook and LinkedIn are great choices, and Instagram Stories' function to link posts is helpful, too.
And don't forget about a newsletter. As soon as you start your blog, create a sign-up form and start growing your email list. “A newsletter is where a lot of your most committed readership lives," AmyAnn said.
The Good Trade started with a biweekly newsletter, but it's driven so much traffic to the site, that AmyAnn plans to move it to a weekly cadence and launch a daily one.
I asked AmyAnn her top three pieces of advice for a new blogger. So, if you take away anything, let it be this:
1. Do a great job on every piece.
2. Start a newsletter early on.
3. Be reader first.
Building a blog takes time and undoubtedly a lot of effort. But by consistently working at it, and writing about what you love, and engaging with your readers, you're bound to find a loyal audience that connects with your content.