Blogging can be a great way to make money online, but the vast majority of people who set out to have a money-making blog are unsuccessful. One of the main problems for many bloggers is the lack of a clear set of blogging goals to build their blog into something special.
Being a successful blogger requires a lot more than simply writing and publishing blog posts. The early days, weeks, and months are especially challenging for new blogs. Those that can make it past the initial challenges will usually find that it gets a lot easier, but unfortunately many people quit during their first year of blogging. Establishing blogging goals for your first year will help you stay motivated and focused.
In this article we’ll take a look at the things you should be focused on during your first year of blogging. These blogging goals will set you up for long-term success.
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Clearly Identify Who You Are Writing For
This one may sound obvious, but many bloggers overlook its importance. It’s critical that you have a clear definition of who you are writing for. All bloggers think about the topics that they want to blog about, but fewer give enough thought to their ideal reader.
You may have heard this referred to as an avatar. Your blog’s avatar is a fictional person (or it could be a real person) that defines the typical reader for your blog. You can define things like sex, age, income, hobbies, marital status, career, and so on.
As you are deciding on the posts that you should write for your blog you can think about this person and what would interest him or her. And when you’re writing your posts be sure that it would appeal to your avatar. This will help to keep your blogging focused and extremely relevant for the right readers.
In some cases your avatar could even be yourself at a certain time in the past. For example, if you’ve lost 50 pounds and you want to start a weight loss blog, your avatar could be yourself from 2 years ago.
Find Your Unique Angle
There are millions of blogs online, and more are being added every day. There is no shortage of content, so your blog will need to stand out in some way in order for people to care about it. Don’t try to be like every other blog. Try to be unique.
There are a number of different ways that you can stand out. If you have previous experience or expertise on the topic you can use that to brand yourself as an expert in that niche.
For example, if you are an award-winning guitarist and you’re starting a blog for people who want to learn to play the guitar, be sure to make your credentials immediately obvious to new visitors.
Brand yourself as an expert on the topic. You’ll stand out from other bloggers who may not have the same expertise as you. But keep in mind, you don't have to be a renowned expert at what you're blogging about.
What if You're Not an Expert?
But don’t worry, if you’re not an expert, there are plenty of other ways to stand out. For example, personal finance blogging is a crowded niche, but many finance bloggers are not experts with impressive industry credentials. Some, like Bobby Hoyt of Millennial Money Man, have shared their own debt payoff stories and used that experience to help them stand out.
You can even document your own journey as a way to stand out. For example, if you don’t already have a debt payoff success story, your top blogging goal could be to document your progress every month in your own quest to pay off debt. You can do the same thing with a weight loss journey, learning to cook, or anything else you can think of.
Even without expertise, normal people can relate to your situation. Use it to your advantage and help your blog to stand out.
Establish Your Visual Standards
Your blog doesn’t need to have a custom design that costs thousands of dollars. But if you want to make money, it should at least look good. I’m sure we’ve all come across blogs that look bad, and first impressions are pretty powerful.
During your first year of blogging, one of your blogging goals should be working to establish a visual standard that you will use for you blog’s branding. This includes things like:
- A logo
- Your blog theme
- The graphics you use on your blog and social media
- The formatting and layout of your posts and images
- How ads will be displayed if you use them
Creating a Logo
When you first start blogging you may want to get it up quickly and not give a whole lot of thought to these things, and that’s fine. But as you try to grow your blog, it will be a lot easier if you have a memorable, recognizable brand.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a logo. A professional logo design can be very expensive, but there are cheaper alternatives. You can buy a logo template (ballpark $30) at sites like GraphicRiver and Creative Market. You can also get a logo designed for cheap at Fiverr.
Themes for Your Blog
As far as the blog theme is concerned, there are some quality free WordPress themes out there. Personally, I like to use premium themes because I can get support from the theme developer if needed. Plenty of amazing themes are available for less than $100. My favorites are from StudioPress Themes.
The images on your blog are also important. You don’t have to be a photographer or graphic designer (thanks to sites like Pixabay, Unsplash, and Pexels). But one of your most important blogging goals should be to keep a consistent visual style. This can involve featured images that appear at the top of your posts, as well as images that you use on Pinterest and social networks.
Even the formatting of your posts should be consistent. Develop habits for how you use subheaders to break up the text. Also think about how you’ll make important text stand out. Some bloggers simply use bold text, while others may use some sort of box or highlighted text.
Publish Pillar Posts or Cornerstone Content
During your first year of blogging, additional blogging goals to think about are what kinds of articles that will be extremely helpful and relevant to your audience. Think about the articles that you want to be the most popular on your site. These are often called “pillar posts” or “cornerstone content”.
These are the types of posts that you will promote heavily on your blog. You may link to them on your homepage, in your sidebar, or frequently link to them inside the content of your other blog posts.
Pillar Posts Should Be Evergreen
Pillar posts are the main content you build your blog around. Ideally, they should be timeless concepts rather than trendy topics that won’t be relevant a year from now. As one of your ongoing blogging goals, it’s a good idea to update these occasionally (at least once per year) to keep them fresh and relevant.
It’s important to have at least a few pillar posts (3-5 is a good goal for your first year) on your blog for a few reasons:
- They tend to rank well in Google searches
- Pillar posts help to establish the identity of your blog
- They are extremely useful for your readers
- They can often be monetized with affiliate links (or your own products if/when you have them)
- Pillar posts give you important content that you can push to new visitors
Examples of Pillar Posts
There are all kinds of possibilities for pillar posts, but in many cases they are long, detailed articles. Jason’s post The Ultimate List of Money Saving Tips for 2018 So You Can Save More Money on Everything is a great example.
But let’s take a look at some examples from other niches as well, so you can see that it’s possible regardless of your blog’s niche:
- Making Money – Ways to Make Money: 125+ Side Hustle Ideas for Your Spare Time
- Running – A Beginner’s Guide to Marathon Training
- Family Entertainment – 101 Fun Family Activities
- Wellness – Comprehensive Guide to Essential Oils
Connect with Other Bloggers in Your Niche
Networking is one of the most important blogging goals you should have, but it’s often overlooked. Be sure you’re making time to connect with other bloggers.
There are a lot of benefits to building a strong blogging network, including:
- More inbound links to your blog
- Guest post opportunities
- More social media shares
- More comments on your posts
- Friendly advice and feedback when you need it
Although I just listed several reasons why your network is important, don’t get distracted by these things to the point that you forget to truly connect with people. In order to be effective with networking you need to care about the others you are getting to know, and give more than you get.
How to Build Your Blogging Network
There are several different things you can do if you want to build your own network of bloggers.
- Consistently leave comments on posts by the bloggers that you want to connect with
- Share their posts via social media, and tag them
- Participate in Facebook groups where other bloggers in your niche hang out
- Interview others to be published at your blog
- Send cold emails through a blogger’s contact form just to introduce yourself
When you’re networking don’t focus on the biggest, most popular bloggers. They are extremely busy and they get tons of people contacting them each day. Instead, focus on smaller bloggers or those who are just a step or two ahead of you.
As you’re reaching out to other bloggers you’ll probably connect a little better with some than others. Those that you connect well with are likely to become great parts of your network. Look for ways to help them acheive their blogging goals and you’ll make an impression.
Build Your Tribe
While networking with other bloggers is important, don’t forget about readers who are not bloggers. Your tribe will be your most loyal readers and fans. They will subscribe to your email list, share posts on social media, leave comments, and generally support your work.
Some people in your tribe may also be bloggers in your network. But your tribe should also include some other non-blogging fans as well.
Here are some key blogging goals you can use to work towards building your tribe:
- Keep your blog posts on topic rather than covering a whole bunch of different topics that may or may not interest readers.
- Show your personality in your writing and also in your bio on the blog.
- Write emails (that are sent to your list) like you’re writing to a friend.
- Respond to all comments on your posts.
- Thank people who share your posts on social media.
Basically, you want to show that you’re a real person that readers can relate to, and prove that you value them.
Establish a Regular and Sustainable Posting Schedule
Most successful bloggers typically publish posts on a regular schedule. There is no set number of times you need to publish per week or per month, but the most important thing is to avoid long gaps between posts (especially you if display the date of publication on your posts). If visitors notice that you published frequently a few months ago but now it’s been a month since your last post, they’ll probably assume your blog is no longer active and they’re not likely to come back.
Having a regular posting schedule helps you to know how many posts you need to write, helps to give your blog readers something new on a regular basis, and gives you a standard that you can follow.
The frequency of your posts will depend on a lot of factors, including how much time you have available. In general, I think two posts per week is a good place to start for most bloggers.
Keep in mind that writing new posts is only one of the many things you’ll need to do as a blogger. You’ll also need time for promoting your posts, connecting with other bloggers and your readers, and managing other aspects of the business.
This blog post checklist can help to remind you of everything you need to do with each post, and help you to save time.
Get Started with Your Email List
Growing an email list should be one of your top blogging goals. Although your list won’t grow very quickly when your blog is brand new and you don’t have much traffic, it’s still worth starting early because it’s the best way to encourage visitors to come back to your blog in the future.
Your email list is important because it gives you added stability and security. The top two sources of traffic for most bloggers are Google and Pinterest (in either order). Traffic from both of those sources can drop at any time with an algorithm change. Your email list is more within your own control. You will be able to communicate with those people in the future regardless of what happens with Google or Pinterest.
Ways to Grow Your Email List
There are a lot of different ways to grow your email list, and I can’t cover the topic in detail here, but the key is to make it easy for visitors to subscribe and to give them some incentive. Many bloggers use popups, header bars, or optin forms in other highly-visible locations. Most also use some sort of lead magnet as a bribe to get visitors to subscribe (like a free e-book, email course, or some other bonus).
How many subscribers you are able to get will depend on a lot of factors, including the amount of traffic that comes to your blog. But in general, getting 500-1,000 subscribers in your first year is a pretty good goal for new bloggers.
Decide on a Monetization Method
One of the downsides to blogging is that it can take quite a while before you start to make real money. Of course, there are exceptions. But most successful bloggers didn’t make much of anything for at least six months, if not longer.
During the first year it’s not important that you make a lot of money (unless you really need the money). But it is important that you establish a foundation for your blog that will allow you to make money going forward.
A lot of people who start a blog know that they want to make money, but they have no idea how they will actually do it.
Common Ways to Monetize Your Blog
There are a few common ways to monetize a blog. You don’t need to start making money right away. But it’s a good idea to develop blogging goals for monetization during your first year so that you have some direction for your blog.
The most common ways to make money with blogs include:
- Display ads (including AdSense and other networks like Mediavine or AdThrive)
- Affiliate marketing (getting a commission for promoting someone else’s products)- Here's a great course to show you how
- Selling your own products (physical or digital)
- Sponsored content
- Offering services
The monetization method you choose may impact other decisions about your blog. For example, if one of your blogging goals is to monetize your blog in the future by selling a course, you should start branding yourself as an expert on that topic now. Write posts related to the topic now, then when you launch the course you’ll have an easier time selling it.
Ideally, your blog will make money in a few different ways. Affiliate marketing is a good option for just about any blog, so I recommend combining that with at least one other monetization method.
While the first year of blogging can be very trying, it’s important to build a solid foundation that allows your blog to flourish in the future. Having blogging goals for your first year can also help you to stay motivated and on task. If you’re just starting out with your blog, be sure to consider the different blogging goals covered in this article, and you’ll be on the right path.
Marc is a personal finance blogger at VitalDollar.com. He’s been blogging full-time since 2008 with past blogs in niches like web design, photography, and travel.