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7 Business Decisions to Make Before You Start a Blog

By:     Topics: Blogging

It happens to almost every blogger.

You start a blog, share it with your friends, and it gains momentum. It gets a couple thousand visits, a couple hundred subscribers, and yet you still haven’t made enough to cover the $100 hosting bill. This is when you start to think, “Ok, how can I monetize this?”

You email out affiliate offers, put up ads, and maybe even throw up a store. Nobody opens. Nobody clicks. Nobody buys. Your blog crumbles.

But you did everything right, right? Yep, once you got started. You just didn’t lay a foundation beforehand. Here are seven foundational business decisions to make before you write a single word for your blog.

Who is your audience?

The first step to creating anything – whether it’s a blog, a business, or a deck – is knowing your audience. Who’s going to use it, how are they going to use it, and why are they going to use it?

Too many people start blogs based on a topic rather than for an audience. If you have a clearly defined audience, every post you write and product you recommend will be relevant to them.

One way to nail down your audience is to create an avatar for your ideal reader. What is their gender? Age? Interests? Hobbies? Struggles? Dreams? Give your avatar a name.

Every decision here on out, from what you sell to the typography that you use, will be based on this avatar.

What is your objective?

Once you have your audience, you need to figure out what you want them to do.

What’s the point of your blog and how does it help you build a business? Maybe it’s to:

  1. Build a list of engaged, loyal subscribers so you can have an eager list of buyers once you have something to sell.
  2. Position yourself as the ideal creative professional for their next project so you can have a steady stream of freelance clients.
  3. Establish yourself as a trusted authority in your field so you can book speaking engagements and consulting gigs.

Everything from the placement of your opt-in boxes to the scope of your content needs to be based on the primary objective of your blog.

What are the top 10 sites in your niche?

Before you have direct access to your audience, the best way to learn about them is through other people who cater to them.

Find the top 10 blogs in your niche. Read their about pages. Subscribe to their newsletters. Interact in their comments. Learn as much as you can about their your audience and how they use the blog to cater to those people.

Use this list as inspiration for everything from the content you create to the color of your navigation menu.

What are the primary keywords for your niche?

Another reason to make a list of the top blogs in your niche is so you can see the keywords that they’re using to get traffic. Here are a couple ways to do that:

  1. Meta Keywords – “View Source” on Homepage > Find <meta name=“keywords” content=“…”>. The keywords that they believe are important to rank for will be listed in content=“…”.
  2. SEMRush.com – SEMRush is a keyword research tool that’ll show you the keywords that send the most amount of traffic to any site you search.

Once you have a solid list of keywords, integrate them into everything from your meta data to every piece of marketing material that you create. Then plan on writing a blog post for each.

What typography are you going to use?

Rafal Tomal, the Lead Designer for Copyblogger Media, makes a case that choosing the typography should be the first step in the visual design process.

In that post, Rafal explains:

The reason why I start with the typography first is that I don’t want the layout to influence how the typography should look. Sometimes you may start designing the layout and then you realize that you can’t use big headings or you need smaller font sizes in some particular places.

I think the typography should influence the entire website style.

It’s like building the engine first and then the body of the car. The content is the engine of most websites.

When making typography decisions here are some general rules:

  1. Use a max of 2-3 fonts for your entire blog. One for your logo, one for your headlines, and one for everything else
  2. Use high-contrast colors. Black text on a white background is best. Dark grey on a light grey background is hard to read, especially on mobile screens.
  3. Use a baseline grid to establish line-heights. Here’s a wonderful explanation of baseline grids and how to use one.
  4. Use web-safe fonts. Since Google released Google web fonts, we have access to over 500 new fonts that can be viewed in almost any browser.

Once again, design rules are set to be broken but only after you understand the reasons for these blog design rules.

What color scheme are you going to use?

There’s a reason why most social networks are blue and luxury brands are silver and gold. Colors add context to the message that you’re trying to communicate.

Here’s a brilliant infographic on the psychology of colors.

Once you choose a primary color, you need to nail down a color scheme. I use a combination of ColourLovers and Color Scheme Generator to choose and fine-tune color schemes for every site I build.

What are you going to sell?

You can’t make money from your blog without selling something.

To make money with ads, you need to sell ad space. (Even with AdSense you need to convince Google that you’ve created a resource that’s valuable to their advertisers.)

To make money with affiliate marketing, you need to sell people on the benefits to the product.

To make money with a product, you need to have a product to sell.

The blog needs to be a part of your business strategy, not the other way around.

The Final Word

But what if I already started?

If you want to start monetizing your blog, focus on the audience and how you can help them. Then gradually make changes to your strategy, your content, and your design.

Once you have a well-defined audience – keeping in mind that you’re going to lose some through this process – sell something to them. If you provide a problem-solving offer to a niche audience, they’re going to be happy to hear about it.

Is there anything else that you did from a strategic level before you wrote a single word on your blog? If so, where are you now as a result of that decision?

Photo by: Justin in SD

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Leave a Comment / Read Comments

  • Making Money

    I agree, it is very important to find your target market and know what these people are interested in.

    • Nicholas Tart

      In one sentence, MM, who is your target market? Did you come up with it right now or did you know it by heart? I’ve found that most people agree that it’s important but very few have one themselves.

    • http://earn-online-quest.blogspot.com/ greg

      You should let seo work you. The content should be targeted as well as the title.
      And you are right about “is very important to find your target market”

  • Ileana

    I understand that when a website starts it will take awhile to build an audience. How long does it take generally though to get to a point where it can even be profitable?

    • Nicholas Tart

      I’m sure you understand, Ileana, that the answer to the question depends on an infinite number of factors. With my first blog, JuniorBiz.com, it took 2 years to reach 10K monthly uniques. With my latest one, 14clicks.com, it took about 6 months to reach 10K monthly visitors. Now, I can send one email and both would be profitable. I just haven’t yet.

  • http://www.melakashop.com warren

    Wow….this is something i’m should be learning. I TRIED every possible way to improve my blog..but i had neglected the targeted audience..plus i’m not good in choosing the keyword for my tourism blog. I’m glad to find out my missing foundations after reading this post, Thank you Nick ;)

    • Nicholas Tart

      Glad I could help, Warren. I’ve made these mistakes too. With my main blog, 14clicks.com, the audience is all over the place. So if I recommend using an invoicing system, it would only be relevant to a percentage of them. I’m better off cutting out the majority to niche the audience.

  • http://www.tatafonaija.blogspot.com meshackhart kalada

    thanks so informative, with a blog like mine that talks about celebrity gossip,news etc,what do i sell to them,i need a pop up to build my list pls what do i use.thanks

    • Nicholas Tart

      Michael’s product, Popup Domination, is one of the best popup management tools on the net. As far as what to sell, what are they asking for?

      • http://www.tatafonaija.blogspot.com meshackhart kalada

        they just like visiting my blog for celebrity news and gossip,you could check it out http://www.tatafonaija.blospot.com

        • Nicholas Tart

          If you’re entertaining and not teaching, the only way you’re ever going to monetize your blog is if you sell ads or knick-knacks. As far as I know, PerezHilton.com is the top celebrity gossip blog. Look at what they do to monetize it to get ideas.

  • http://www.EliteOnlineTraffic.com Paulo

    I love this site. It offers well researched content, I make a habit of checking it on a weekly basis.

    Very good info!

    Keep up the good work.

    Paulo
    EliteOnlineTraffic.com

    • Nicholas Tart

      Thanks, Paulo. What can you use help with specifically?

  • Good

    Great… this just wonderful. i have been making plans on how i can start my own blog. with this its really a good and excellent guide for me to follow. thanks.

  • deji yusuf

    I must say, this is the best blog post I have ever seen on online biz recently! When I tell people; you need sell somthing to make money online, they feel like I am saying rubbish. A blog is just a powerful online marketing medium to boost you biz.

    • Nicholas Tart

      I appreciate that, Deji! I know what you mean. “How to make money blogging” is searched 40,500 times every month. Unfortunately, the questions that people ask are different the questions they should be asking. That’s one reason I felt it was important to write this post.

  • http://www.delcarmendecor.com Alejandra Zuluaga

    Hi Nicolas, I´ve been following your blog for years, I love how you make your posts, full of valuable information yet easy to read and digest.

    I want to be you!! haha

    In my case I started with a store and now want to make a blog in order to promote my products and a whole lifestyle, I´ve been struggling to choose subjects and give a structure to the blog: Your point is excellent, I have to keep my mind focused on my avatar.

    Thank you ; )

    • Nicholas Tart

      Hey Alejandra! You should know that this is Michael Dunlop’s blog. I’m just happy to be here. It’s good that you started a business to promote a lifestyle rather than just to sell a few clothes. That’ll make it more meaningful for you and your customers. Do you have any questions or anything specific that I can help you with?

  • http://www.TalkingGolfOnline.com Troy Vayanos

    Some really great information Nicholas. I particular like the part about reviewing current top blogs in my niche and seeing what keywords they rank for.

    Valuable stuff.

    Cheers

  • Sune

    Thanks Nick, you’ve included some great and useful links in your post – I’m making use of them right now… And somehow I didn’t even know that Google released Google web fonts!

  • David K

    Finding a target market and meeting their need. Business 101! So many people establish a presence online using the “if I build it they will come” mentality, and completely forget the most important part. Build something they want! Thank you for your insights, great article.

  • http://www.mobileapptycoon.com Thomas @ Mobile App Tycoon

    These are definitely great things to think about before starting a blog. However, don’t fall for analysis paralysis and worry about every little detail before launching your blog. Just get it to a point where it’s “good enough” and start pumping out the content. Don’t sweat the small stuff – you can always fix things later once you have some traffic.

    Thomas

    • Nicholas Tart

      This isn’t the small stuff, Thomas. That’s like saying, “Don’t worry about drawing up a blueprint for the house you’re going to build. Just start by nailing some 2×4’s into the dirt and see what you get.” I recognize that sometimes people get overwhelmed before they ever get started. But what’s more overwhelming is putting a year of work into your blog before you realize that it’s not going to work. And that you could’ve set yourself up for success by spending an hour thinking about those 7 questions before you ever got started. Thanks for taking the adversarial role :).

  • http://NotMyHoliday.com Surminga

    There are numerous factors to take into account before starting to blog – the main in my opinion is do i have the patience and passion to build and run this blog indefinitely for a long period or am I likely to fall out of love or get bored and give up……

  • http://www.tekpee.com Patrick Giwa III

    An interesting post and site in general. I am new to this blogging space and my blog (www.tekpee.com) is slowly picking up although I would like it to do way better than its doing now. Please I need a step by step walk through on SEO because I think that is where I am lacking now.

  • http://rafaltomal.com Rafal Tomal

    Thanks Nicholas for linking to my blog post! :)

    • Nicholas Tart

      Sure thing, Rafal! Despite how saturated the web is with web design blogs, I’ve yet to find one that I enjoy reading quite like yours (even after just a few posts). I read each post a few times. I’ll be following it closely :).

  • http://HousesPropiedades.blogspot.com Fernando

    I’m starting a new brand blog right away and these are the best advices ;)

  • http://www.AlphaBodyBlog.com Justin Devonshire

    Hi Nicholas,

    My name is Justin Devonshire. I’d like to first say that I’ve been reading this site for a couple of years, and you’ve been the most influencial contributor to this site of all, next to Michael himself.

    I’ve dablled in blogging on and off, in addition to running offline fitness businesses, however now, I have just started setting up my latest blog – this is going to be the ONE to make me a passive income.

    I’ve been devouring your recent posts and have even compiled them into a Word document so I can modify them into step-by-step daily systems (for example, my comment-leaving system, interviewee attaining system etc. based on your articles.)

    Anyway, to answer your question of other things I’ve considered before starting, I would say the short, mid and long term goals.
    I’ve always used Michael Gerber’s strategy of creating ‘Personal’ goals (i.e. I will earn $XXX in XX time) as well as ‘Impersonal’ goals (i.e. I will earn that money by helping 100, 000 people change thier bodies and improve thier confidence).

    I understand these goals and strategies will change over time, but I find this goal setting to be motivational, exciting, and having direct targets to aim for make the destination a lot clearer.

    I also, have another goal-setting question I asked myself before starting my latest blog. The questions I asked were:

    1. How Will I Help My Avatar on a Personal Level?

    In other words, how can your product or information help the typical customer (more money, better physique etc)

    Then I asked:

    2. How Can My Tribe Help the Wider Society?

    This is less to do with a specific blog post or product, but more about thinking what it is you are REALLY trying to achieve.

    My new product is aimed at helping young, unconfident men develop a better body to boost thier confidence and help them in social situations.

    However, my overall MISSION and movement that I intend for my blog is to help men all over the world gain the confidence to help the world become a better place. By growing confidence, more people can start up businesses, take charge of thier lives and inspire other people to help others in return.

    What would you say your BIG purpose and service to the wider society is, as a blog marketing expert Nicholas?

    Again, thanks for all the advice so far, I’ll be officially launching my blog soon and I will be sure to keep you updated as to how your advice helps me succeed.

    Justin

    • Nicholas Tart

      Hey Justin, thanks so much for your comment! It’s really encouraging to hear. I’m a huge proponent of setting goals too. (Gerber’s book is on my list, BTW.) I set 38 different monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. Just finished them up for the third quarter the other day. Sounds like you’ve done a great job of focusing on the details while maintaining a broad, purposeful mission. I’d like to do the same, build a resource/community, except for young entrepreneurs. Definitely let me know when it’s launched and if you have any other questions. I always like to write my posts here based on questions I get from the comments.

      • http://www.AlphaBodyBlog.com Justin Devonshire

        Thanks Nicholas.

        I have a squeeze page as my static pasge as the moment, giving away a free report. This is whilst I am busy getting my pillar articles up ‘behind the scenes’!

        I will definately let you know when I have more questions. What would you say is your utmost speciality within blogging / marketing if you had to narrow it down? Traffic generation / systems / conversions etc?

        P.S – I don’t know why that reply came out in such a eye-destroying lump of text. I included paragraph breaks when typing it…?

        • Nicholas Tart

          Yeah, not sure why Michael has the “lump of text” comment setting. Maybe to decrease the height of the pages with lots of comments… I’m trying to figure that out, Justin. I’m fascinated by it all, but if I had to choose, it’d be along the lines of “building a business from a blog.” Still working on narrowing that down.

  • Gino Orlandi

    What are you interested in? This would be my first question. I find it very hard to blog about things I have no passion for or know nothing about. Stick to what you know, at least at first.

  • http://mycreativeedge.com SV

    Great read. I stumbled upon your website just recently, but actually I have found a ton of information for young bloggers like me.

    Great website.

    cheers, SV

  • PhantasticPhotog

    Great advice from someone half my age. Kids these days… ;-)

    Thanks, you’re a wealth of great info!

    PLK

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