Late last night I received and email from someone from Hungary. The subject of the email was: Twitter, blogs, online fame or how should i do? Basically, this guy named Attila (yes, like Attila the Hun) was asking me how to be successful online and where to start.
I feel honored that Attila came to me thinking I am a famous online figure. Compared to other guys like John Chow (he’s a total douche) and Shoemoney, I’m still a noobie though.
Attila is a gamer. He used to be an editor on some well-known site in Hungary but the site kinda died after seeing increased competition from better sites and online communities. Now Attila wants to do stuff online but he doesn’t know where to start. It seems he has huge ambitions too as he’s already looking into hiring writers and developers.
So how would I go about this? Very simple, very inexpensive!
Choose A Topic
Ideally, you shouldn’t have to look for a topic. You should know what you want to talk about online. You have to be passionate about it and be quite knowledgeable. You are an expert at baking marijuana cakes? Talk about it! You know everything about shoes? Write about it!
There are no limits to what you can talk about. If you are passionate about it, chances are there are plenty of other people like you, and these people can be your audience.
Get A Good Domain Name
First thing I would do is buy a good domain name related to your topic. When buying a domain name, it’s always good to opt for the .com extension. Avoid the .net and .info as they are often seen as spam by search engines. Also avoid numbers and hyphens in your domain name. For example, www.Worst-Domain-1.info is as bad as it can get.
A domain name is about $10/year and it is very crucial as it is going to be your branding for the years to come.
Try to insert some of your main keywords in your domain name. For example, my iPhone blog domain name is www.iPhoneDownloadBlog.com. Those are 3 important keywords. Now when you look for “iPhone blog” on Google, I show up number 2-3, depending on the days.
Get Good Hosting
Good and reliable hosting is hard to come by. I personally use DreamHost. The service costs me about $130/year for unlimited sites hosted and tons of bandwidth and RAM (more than I can use). Their customer service is not outstanding but it usually is fast and good enough.
When looking for a hosting company, it’s important you choose one in your country. For example, in the case of Attila, he should look for a hosting company in Hungary. Now if he wants his site to be global and reach people all over the world, then I would go for a hosting company in the US.
The localization of your hosting company is important because search engines (which get you most of your traffic) look at where your site is hosted and give a lot of importance to this when displaying search results. If you are searching for something in Google Hungary, Google will mostly give you results from sites hosted in Hungary. If you’re in the US, Google will mostly give you search results with websites hosted in the US. You get the idea…
Set Up A Blog
The best way to start an online venture is to create a WordPress blog. WordPress is a free software that you can easily install automatically (depending on your hosting company). WordPress is highly customizable and simple, and it is used by the largest sites out there such as TechCrunch and Mashable (that’s clearly a sign).
I always recommend people to start a blog because it is inexpensive, and low maintenance.
Don’t Invest Too Much
A big mistake people often do when starting something online is that they want to invest too much time and money into it. Some people want to have a great looking site, with awesome features, and tons of useless crap. I say DON’T! Go with the simple basic stuff at first. You won’t have readers or visitors for a while, so why waste time and money on something no one will notice.
Besides, it’s good not to invest in your site at first because chances are you will blog for a week or so and you will give up. Sorry but that’s the reality. I think 99% of people who start a blog give it up within just a few weeks.
Don’t Expect Too Much
This point is related to the paragraph above. When you start a blog, don’t expect to get tons of visitors. People who start a website always think that they are going to drive thousands of visits overnight. Reality is that it will take you months if not years to get decent amount of traffic.
My iPhone blog gets between 15,000 – 20,000 visitors per day, just after a year of being online. This is really rare and it is the result of hard work. I was lucky to write a few good articles that got me some attention but don’t expect to get similar results as quickly as I did.
Content Is King
As I just said above, I was lucky to write a few articles that got me lots of attention and visits, and that is the whole point of blogging. Content is king! People will come to your site for your good content. People will return to your site for the same reason. People could leave your site and never come back for that exact same reason too.
Write compelling and unique content. Google and other search engines like unique content. Don’t copy/paste other people’s articles. Don’t become a news site! Get your own voice! My iPhone blog is everything but a news blog. All other blogs out there (except a few) are just about iPhone news.
Why would people come to your blog to read the exact same things as they can read on 2,000 other sites? People come to my iPhone blog because they know I am an Apple hater and that I like to talk about hacking the iPhone. That’s my voice. I don’t always rant about Apple or write about hacking, but it is my main topic and it is what I am known for.
Getting your name and content out is great. There are many ways to do this. You can use sites like Digg, Facebook, etc… Personally, I am social on one and one place only: Twitter. I am on Twitter all day, sharing content, talking to people, and helping other people out. By doing so, I am now being seen as an expert in everything related to the iPhone. People come to me to ask my advice. People recommend me to their friends. I even have famous people like Dog the Bounty Hunter and Alyssa Milano recommend me or share my content!
Another thing to do is to connect with other bloggers. Go to their sites, leave comments, touch base with them. If they notice you, they might start talking about you too. It’s not because they are “competition” that you can’t work with them. I share stuff from other iPhone blogs several times a day. I am not just out there to advertise myself. I advertise myself as an expert that can get people the best information, even if that means sending people to my competition’s websites.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is easy. No matter what these SEO experts are trying to tell you, SEO is dead simple. The problem is that it’s very time consuming. Learning, understanding and applying the basics of SEO is very simple and you can self-educate you. Subscribe to a few SEO blogs (like SEO Book, SEOmoz) and get familiar with the terms and all the tricks and tips.
Here is a great SEO guide for beginners. Read everything and learn. Once you know more about SEO, you can apply it to your articles to get extra love from search engines.
Blogging is a great way to start sharing your expertise with others and can hopefully lead to generate substantial income. But it’s not easy and it takes time. Most people who start a blog today will give it up tomorrow but it can be very rewarding to those of us who understand it takes time to create a follower base and be seen as an expert. Good luck.