10 tips for starting a successfully design blog today
Having been blogging for so long, I thought it is time to reflect on the state of design blogging. Specifically, is it still possible to start a design blog today and earn a nice side or full time income?
When I first started, the design scene was young and there was lots of space for different design blogs to develop and grow. From 2008 to now, it has been a short 4 years but I must say the saturation point seems to be reached. If you take a look through the different design blogs, most of the content are very similar. SmashingHub is no exception. I try hard to think of new interesting content but it seems like everything is covered elsewhere.
The scene today is very different from 2008. A few big blogs such as SmashingMagazine has dominated the scene. Some mid size blogs have become less active. Overall, the market has consolidated.
However, if you want to start a new design blog today and make some significant online income, can you still do it? The answer is yes but it will need a lot of creativity and innovation. Here are 10 tips to help you get started.
Tip 1: Focus on a sub niche and become an expert in it
A new blog has no chance to become the authoritative blog on big topics such as wordpress. The topic is too competitive and the existing players are too strong. What you can do is to find a wedge inside this competitive area. The wedge can often be a niche topic. For example instead of blogging about wordpress ecommerce, you can focus on WooCommerce only. When your site starts to get traffic and recognition, then you can slowly expand your niche to other sub niches.
Tip 2: Choose a niche that you have an interest in
It is always a bad idea to blog about something that you have no interest in. You will not know what are the topics that have not been cover well or whether they are emerging trends that need new content. By choosing a niche that you know well and have an interest in, you r content will be more targeted and relevant to the readers.
Tip 3: Learn all the less common keywords in your niche
One of the key traffic generator for any blog is Google. However, getting ranked is not easy in the design scene. What you can do is to learn all the different technical terms used in a sub niche. For example, if your blog is all about WooCommerce, what are the different terms used by people on this platform? You can then focus on getting articles with these keywords ranked. It will be much easier to get traffic using this method as most general design blogs tend not to be aware of such technical keywords.
Tip 4: Build relationships with mid size or smaller blogs
Relationships are important when it comes to getting your new blog off the ground. For example, if I know you personally and left you have a weekly column on smashinghub which links to your new blog, there is a stronger chance that you will develop readers faster. However, relationships are not easy to build. Most new bloggers make the mistake of trying to contact bigger blogs for exposure without first giving them anything substantial. If you want to start a design blog you should spend at least a couple of months trying to know existing design bloggers and add value to their site by either thoughtful comments or guest contribution without asking for anything back.
Tip 5: Try to earn some links by giving things away
A new website need a couple of good links to get the search engine juices flowing through their site. However, don’t use those spamming techniques that will probably land your site in trouble. Instead, think of giving away something that others will want to refer their readers to. A free wordpress theme is a good giveaway or some nice psd icon sets. Make something valuable, give it for free and others will start to link to you.
Tip 6: Write longer articles on niche topics
If you focus on a niche and write long articles, you will be getting long traffic search engine much faster than if you were to write short articles. Search engines depend a lot on words so the more content you have, the more traffic you can potentially get. However, you need to focus on a niche topic. It is not effective to write long articles about general topics such as getting up a wordpress blog as it is too competitive and there are similar content out there.
Tip 7: Leverage on search on social platforms
Search is occurring everywhere, not just on Google. If you can find some social platform such as Dribbble and optimise your content on these sites to rank for searches that are relevant to your blog, you will find it much easier to get traffic that are consistent. If you just rely on daily posting to draw traffic from social platforms, you need to put it quite a bit of work to post daily.
Tip 8: Develop a product to sell
A new blog tend not to have a lot of traffic during the initial months or even years. If you rely solely on ad income, your small traffic will amount to a small ad revenue. However, if you develop a product that is relevant to your niche and sell that instead, your margins will be much higher and you don’t need a lot of traffic to make some sizable income. Products can be as simple as an ebook or as complicated as a wordpress theme. It all depends on what your blogging niche is all about.
Tip 9: Learn to mine your own statistics
Once search engine starts coming in, learn how to read the analytics to know which keywords are bringing you visitors. You can use this information for content planning. Look for keywords which have bought you traffic but isn’t cover comprehensibly in your blog. This is a good opportunity to create content around these keywords and draw in more search traffic.
Tip 10: Plan topics ahead
Sometimes, it is easy to get excited over a new blog without thinking through on whether it can be sustained. An easy way to test yourself is to plan out 3 months worth of topics in an excel spreadsheet. If you have difficulty planning that many topics, it is a good sign that you might not be able to develop this blog well.