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Creating and keeping a successful blog is no small feat. It takes a lot of work and diligence to stay relevant and keep up with trends while also setting your skills and writing apart from all of the other blogs out there. Laying the groundwork for such a blog is one of the only ways to ensure success for all of your efforts and allow you to monetize your site.

Join a Forum

This may not seem important, but it is when you’re first starting out. If you don’t already know what’s out there, you don’t know if what you have to offer is unique and needed in the marketplace. What skills do you have to set you apart? How is what you’re blogging about different from what’s already online? Think of joining forums in the field of your expertise as homework for laying the foundation for your own blog. You’ll meet other bloggers, many of whom you may want to call on in the future to guest blog on your own site, and broaden your audience.

Write Your First Post

Writing your first post can be exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. Don’t worry if nobody reads it, blogging is something that you’ve got to do over and over again to learn the ropes. Not every post is going to be as popular as the next. Trying to plan out how each post will go viral will put too much pressure on yourself. Instead, realize that you’ll win some and you’ll lose some, but consistency is the key. As you continue, you may even discover that older posts you’ve written are still relevant, and can be dusted off, given a new title and resubmitted. If you’ve grown and have a following, older work might even be more popular the second time around.

Create an Email Welcoming New Readers

Once you’ve set up your site and created your first blog, create an email that will automatically go out to all new readers who sign up for your eNewsletter. Your email for new readers should be welcoming and include a few links to some of your posts and to your business website.

Create an Email to Retain Current Followers

The email that you create to current followers should be sent out once a month. It could offer them exclusive new content or special discounts. You’ll want to make sure that you don’t overwhelm your email list with too many emails, or it will become a nuisance for your readers and they will unsubscribe. You’ll want to make your followers feel that they’re getting extra content that is valuable and that it’s worth staying on the email list.

Send Out an eNewsletter

Once you’ve actually got an email list, (maybe 20-30 followers) create an eNewsletter. There are several sites like Constant Contact, Emma, or Mail Chimp that offer up free templates and email management services for up to a certain number of subscribers. Most allow small businesses with 1,000 emails or less. Brand your business with your eNewsletter to reinforce who you are and what you offer. Keep your best content for your eNewsletter, and always include links to all of your social media, website, and any other platforms you manage.

Set Up Your Social Media Sites

If you haven’t already done it, set up social media sites. The basic sites to be on are Facebook and Twitter. If you’re offering up B2B services, consider creating a Linked In profile. You’ll reinforce your branding across all platforms, and they can feed into each other to create more exposure and hopefully get more customers to help grow your business.

Audit Your Audience

It’s extremely important to periodically audit your audience. Run Google analytics on your website, and find out how people are finding you. Facebook also allows you to run analytics that are quite detailed. Find out when your audience is online, what type of posts they respond to the most, and what their demographics are. Email sites like Constant Contact also allow you to run audits. Auditing your audience helps you to better understand who they are and what they want.

Plan Your Next Two Posts

If you’re on your own, managing your blog and just starting out, it’s a really good idea to have some kind of plan for future posts. The further out you can plan, the easier creating your blogs will be. Once you get on a roll, and are able to see how your audience is responding to your content, you’ll know what’s working and what direction you should be heading.

Make Connections with Other Bloggers

Even after you’ve become established, it’s always a good idea to research other bloggers, stay in the forums, and join new forums. Invite other bloggers to guest blog on your site. They’ll bring their own audience with them, and it lends more credibility to your site if you pick the right bloggers.

Run an SEO Audit

Run a search engine optimization audit of your site and posts. See what’s performing well out on the web and what isn’t. Maybe you need to include more metatags or maybe you need to change your titles and bylines. This is very important if you want to make sure your content is searchable and ranking high.

Constantly Shop Around and Explore to Improve Your Own Site

You can always improve. Just like meeting new bloggers, you should be checking out competition and other blogs which might be an asset to your own site. You never know, once you’ve grown you may even be able to incorporate other sites into your own.

Set Up a Marketing and Communication Strategy

Every site and blog needs a marketing and communications strategy. Nobody is going to just find you on their own. If you don’t have the cash to market yourself, utilize every free strategy you can to help get your name out there. Even once you have an established site, you still need to refine your marketing strategies from time to time. Stay ahead of new trends and work to constantly make you, your business, and your content relevant to customer needs.