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29 January 2009

Blogging Tips : 3 Factors to Consider Before Starting a Blog

Maintaining Blogging Momentum

As I’ve pondered how to write about maintaining momentum (this is part 2 of a series) on a blog many of the suggestions that I have have boiled down to one thing - thinking ahead.

While I know many bloggers like to blog spontaneously and to go with the flow, I’ve found that planning a blog (both before you start it and in an ongoing way) can save a lot of heart ache later on.

Following are three of the issues you might like to consider ahead of time and before you start blogging that will help you later when it comes to maintaining momentum on your blog:

1. Topic breadth

Will the topic you’re considering starting a blog about be lend itself to being an ongoing project?

As I mentioned in my series introduction, there are two extremes when it comes to topic breadth that often lead to the death of a blog. The first is choosing a topic that is so broad that it becomes overwhelming and the second is choosing one that is so narrow that after just a few posts the blogger runs out of things to say.

One simple way to test whether a topic is wide enough is to search for news on it using tools like Google News or Topix.net. Look particularly for the frequency of news on the topic. This will give you an indication of whether there are stories breaking on the topic that you can bounce off on your blog.

Another test is to simply brainstorm what posts you could write on the topic. Simply put down on paper as long a list of post titles as you can as quickly as possible. If after 10 minutes you only have a handful of potential post ideas you might want to either widen your topic or find another one.

2. Energy Levels

Does the topic excite you? Are you motivated enough to write about it for the long term?

I made the mistake 12 or so months ago of starting a series of blogs on topics that I knew very little about and that I didn’t have sufficient interest in to sustain over the long haul.

While I did have some interest in the topics I was really kidding myself that I could write on the topics for long without slipping into a zombie like blogging state. In the last few months I finally ended these sub standard blogging efforts - they simply fizzled out due to a lack of interest.

Ask yourself what your passion and energy levels are for the topic you’re considering blogging about. Be brutally honest about this because as I found, we can sometimes fool ourselves into thinking we are interested in a topic when we are not.

Here are a few questions you might like to ask:

  • Can you honestly see yourself writing on the topic in 2 or more years time?
  • Is the topic one that you’re proud to be covering?
  • Do you want to be known as an expert on this topic?

I’m not saying that you can’t start blogs on topics that you don’t want to be known for or that you’re not interested in - but these questions will help you to work out what your motivations are which is an important step in the process of building a sustainable blog.

If you’re not interested in your topic your potential readers will sense this and the chances of success will fall.

Successful blogs are almost always long term efforts and most do not really begin to see significant ’success’ for 12 or more months. They take a significant investment of time and energy and I guess all I’m saying is that it’s worth considering if the topic is something that you want to invest your life into for such a significant amount of time.

3. Time Audit

How much time do you have? Do you have time for this blog?

Different blogs will demand different levels of time from their blogger depending upon a combination of numerous factors:

• Topic - some topics are more dynamic than others in terms of how often they lend themselves to being updated, what type of posts they might stimulate and what potential traffic levels they might bring in (all factors that contribute to how much attention you’ll need to give the blog).

• Age of blog
- I’ve noticed that my older blogs take more time to maintain. This happens for a number of reasons including the number of posts that people can leave comments on, the blog’s increasing Search Engine ranking, and an increasing profile etc. When you start a blog it might seem quick and easy to maintain but it will only become more involved and time consuming over time.

• Blogger’s Style - the style of blogging that you do obviously has an impact upon the time it takes to maintain. For example if you write a lot of longer original posts it takes significant time to write them. If you write in an engaging way that invites feedback the time needed to maintain comments sections increases.

Before you start a new blog do a time audit on your life. What spare time do you have currently? Is there any way you can free up more time for blogging? What upcoming life events do you have and how will these impact your spare time?

Doing a time audit is especially important if you’re considering starting multiple blogs at once. Many bloggers set themselves up for problems by simply starting to many blogs too quickly.

My recommendation is to start one blog at a time. Once you’ve set up a blog and have maintained it for a month or so do another time audit to assess whether you can realistically sustain another one. In this way you’ll only ever start as many blogs as you can maintain and you’ll give each new blog a real chance to survive rather than over stretching yourself and ending up doing multiple blogs poorly.

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