A Blog is a Startup

There are a lot of similarities between a successful blogger and a successful startup. With startups you build lots of products, test what gets adopted, build new features, test those features on your user base, and then measure how the features are utilized. Keep in mind this is an analogy and choosing a good analogy is like balancing a muffin on a fork.

Consumer startups, typically, utilize a strategy below to build large businesses.

  1. Build a product
  2. Drive Traffic
  3. Build Features
  4. Monetize

Although not all startups are the same and some may swap around some of the steps, this is the general strategy. This same strategy can be used for building and monetizing a “successful” blog.

Posting an Article (Build a Product)

The first and the most important step is generating content. Jeff Atwood, of Coding Horror, says the most important thing with blogging is pick a blogging schedule and stick to it. Before you even attempt to get to the goal of making money from a blog. You need to create a bunch of content and have all the valuable content indexed.

This is similar to building products in the startup world. Startups build many different products, or forms of the same product, before deciding on a final direction. Startups develop little prototypes and test the crap out of them, iterate them, push them to product, and test the crap out of them again.

The difference in a blog versus a startup product is each product iteration (post) is saved in the form of an easily consumed article. This is a huge benefit to the product. Unlike startup land, if your product (blog post) is too early, you can still benefit from it in the future.

Drive Traffic

Writing something no one reads is boring, lame, and lonely. Don’t do that. Take a startup mantra to heart. Do Things and Tell People. Shopify has this mantra on it’s walls.

Each post you write is an opportunity to share with people what you are thinking about. Share it with the world. Building a blog following is even easier with social media. Exploit all your different networks. Facebook, Twitter, HackerNews, StumpleUpon, and Reddit are all channels you can benefit from. Your blog may even be dedicated to something specific. If this is the case find the right aggregation site and post each article after it is written.

Get the word out about each post.

Build Features

Successful products keep features people love and get rid of features people don’t use or want. The analogy gets a little weak here. DO NOT delete old content. Every piece of content you generate (just like product features) is useful to someone. Unlike a product, the article will only be found by people who want it. A big green button in the middle of a software product can be distracting to many users if they don’t use the feature. But your blog can still benefit from the content you have previously generated.

As you continue to write articles, people will start commenting on articles. Listen to your users. These articles are features users like. Any time your articles are commented on, from people you have never heard from before, build a relationship with them. Write more articles similar to the subject you wrote about in your commented articles. These subjects are articles people want to read. Write more and keep the conversation going. For every person who comments there are more people thinking the same thing.

Monetize Product

Please notice monetization comes last. Once great content is generated, and the blogger has a strong readership, only then should they focus on revenues.

Learn from consumer startups. Consumer startups, at least initially, aren’t focused on revenues. I recently saw Ev Williams, founder of Twitter and Blogger, speak and he stated how if you have enough eyes on your product, you don’t need to worry about revenues. This isn’t always the case, startups like Pinterest were testing monetization strategies very early on, but I digress.

As you continue to generate content your analytics will tell you which of your posts continue getting attention from search engines. Take action on your analytics. The articles which are frequented by search engine users are your features people are looking for. These are the features you want to monetize.

Use these articles to get more users or create revenue. Test different monetization strategies using your most frequented articles. Once you identify methods which work (ads, referral links, subscription popups, etc.) keep them up on your most visited pages. Don’t put subscription popups on every page. There is nothing worse than searching for information and getting a popup in your face as soon as you go to a new site. This isn’t 1997. If you do this, please also include a background midi and at least 5 spinning gifs. This way I can get away from your site as fast as possible.

Monetization can be important for you, but remember why people are visiting your site; To read content. Don’t focus on revenues until you build something people love. The single most important thing to focus on is generating great content.

Originally published at bretthard.in.

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