Over the last decade blogging has been one of the hottest phenomenons of the Internet world, so we went to one of the hottest bloggers for how-to advice -- The Bargain Babe.
There are now millions of blogs covering a wide array of subjects out there, and it's likely you've either thought about blogging or currently are blogging. But there is more to it than just starting a blog and plopping down at your desk to write.
IBTimes consulted blogging expert Julia Scott, aka The Bargain Babe, at bargainbabe.com, to give us five key steps in starting a successful blog.
1. Pick a Topic
The first step, says Scott, is picking out a topic and overall goals for the blog. The blogger should pick a topic that is familiar and important to them and plan out how the blog will work. Figuring out the overall goals, such who will be the audience, is a good way to figure out how to frame the content.
But the main key has to be passion for the subject.
"If you are not truly passionate about your topic it won't work," Scott said. "If it's just to make money or impress a girl it's not going to work. Passion will be the only thing that will carry you when you're not making money, or getting comments."
The subject could be anything from college basketball to lawn mowing, but the only way to have a shot at success is passion for the topic.
2. Figure Out Your Content System
After picking a topic that is of interest to you, you then have to figure out how to deliver quality content and lots of it. Scott says the phrase "content is king" is a bit misleading, but no blog will be successful without great content.
One of the important things to figure out is, what type of posts do you plan on making? Will it be 20 posts per day, but each post is only about 50 words? Or one really great 1,000-word piece?
Scott says both can be successful, but the key is to establish a rhythm for readers to grow accustomed to. Bloggers should be updating at least once a week, but after that it's up to the person on what he/she can sustain.
"If you are only posting once a week and its 100 words, there's not a whole lot for readers to grab on to," she said.
Scott doesn't advocate one way or the other, but says more posts allow for more misses.
3. Online Networking is Important
So you've got the topic of your blog and have some good quality writing, the next thing for you to do is begin to network online.
Only having great content won't work, says Scott, but instead you must work to develop relationships in an "online water cooler" environment.
Some ways to do that could be commenting on other blogs in your topic field, retweeting blogs you aspire to be like, or asking blogs to guest post. The key is to get your name out there in front of other bloggers to help build up your reputation.
"Blogging is about your ego and bloggers love to see that people are commenting because it means people are reading them," she said. "When you are commenting on a blog you aspire to be like, and do it frequently say once a week, that blogger will know your name. That blogger will take notice."
One important thing is to make sure to leave substantial comments and not be a "dweeb" and write "great post" on each blog post that is written. Writing a substantial comment could show-off your knowledge, writing flair, and more, which could help build up substantial relationships.
Another way is to go to blogging conferences or blog meet-ups so that people can put a face to your name. Bloggers being able to see that you are a real, normal person could make them more likely to help you out in a time of need or give you a chance to write for a blog.
But try not to be overeager -- Scott recommends waiting a few months before approaching your idols.
"Blog for at least 3 months before trying to make yourself known in community," she said. "I get so many new requests from new bloggers -- like, I just started this week. Pitch me after you've been doing it for a few months."
4. Understand the Commitment
If you haven't already figured it out by accomplishing the first three steps, the key to step four is understanding the commitment necessary to developing a successful blog.
It will take a lot of time and money in order to build a brand, and you need to be aware of that going in.
Scott says that no successful blog is started in three months -- that it usually takes closer to a year to build something really great, though there are some exceptions. When you are thinking of your blog you should be thinking in years, not months.
Another thing to understand is the amount of time it takes to do things besides just writing. If you are the owner of the blog you need to deal with Web site maintenance, editing other writers if you have them, and trying to arrange publicity for your blog.
All of that takes a lot of time, which could wear you down if you're not prepared for it going in.
On a typical day Scott says she has to write her own content, edit her writers, respond to interview and advertising requests, do guest posts for additional income, as well as tinkering around with her Web site.
It usually ends up as much more than your typical 9 to 5 for Scott.
5. Know Your Exit Strategy
After completing the first four steps, it's time to figure out what your endgame strategy is. Scott says you need to figure out exactly what you hope to accomplish by running a blog.
It could be landing a book deal, getting a staff position at the local newspaper, or even a magazine column, but the key is that you need to know what you are targeting.
Scott suggests coming up with three exit strategies and then developing a plan to accomplish each. Similar to succeeding in online networking, achieving your preferred exit strategy could come down to personal connections.
Even though we work online, bloggers are very weary of connections for people they only know online," she said. "It's important to start meeting them in person to reassure that I'm a normal person, I'm trustworthy, can hold a conversation -- all of those things that people want to check off their list-are really important to the exit strategy."
"It's unlikely to achieve your exit strategy if you never leave your house."
Potential ways to inch closer to your exit strategy include offering contests with prizes or going on television programs; it just depends on what is in your comfort zone.
Editor's Note: For more information on blogging or on finding the best bargains make sure to check out Julia Scott's Web site, bargainbabe.com.