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How to Start a Blog: Know Your Why

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.


Wondering how to start a blog? What comes as a surprise to many wannabe bloggers is that it has nothing to do with learning how to use WordPress or Blogger. In fact, that's the last step in the process. The absolute first thing that needs to be done is answer this important question:

Why do you want to have a blog?

The following answers are unacceptable:

  • I just want to tell everyone what I think (or know) about ______.
  • Everybody else has one.
  • I want to make a lot of easy money.

Why don't these work? Certainly, if you are blogging simply to express yourself or share your passions without any expectations for results, then your "why" doesn't matter. These are often called hobby blogs. What's interesting is that hobby bloggers can spend a massive amount of time and energy on these sites. But with no real objective other than to share, they can easily be disenchanted and quit due to the drain on their time and, sometimes, money.

Creating a "me too" blog because everyone has one will usually result in the blog being quickly abandoned because blog competition is fierce and it takes a significant investment of time, energy and possibly money to make one a success. Because the blogosphere is getting to be a very crowded space, the possibilities for making piles of easy cash from advertising and sponsorship revenues are slim.

So if you're expecting to build sales, web traffic, a fan base, a competitive edge or a solid alternative income stream, your "why" is the first order of business for your blog.

Top 10 Reasons to Start a Blog

Here are some of the most productive reasons to start a blog, as well as some of the challenges that may be encountered:

  1. Sales. While this is the ultimate goal of any business blogging efforts, to hope that a blog will easily and automatically convert web visitors into buyers is a stretch except for only the lowest investment products and services. "Selling" subscriptions to join an email list, download an ebook or purchase some other low cost digital good are sales that a blog can easily convert.
  2. Demonstrate Expertise. A blog can be a significant public relations venue where the blogger or company can showcase expertise or knowledge through what is written.
  3. Build an Email List. By offering useful free (or even paid) content, a company can encourage people to join their marketing email lists. An email list of opt-in subscribers (who can be potential customers!) can become one of the company's key assets. Although the content itself can often be enough to encourage subscriptions, usually some other incentive such as a free ebook or report can sweeten the offer and encourage opt-ins.
  4. Build a Fan Base. Not all blog readers will become email subscribers or customers. Some are already overwhelmed with too much email. But these same folks may be interested in following the company or the blogger on social media or through their RSS type news feeds. This is another form of opting in and often may be a larger base than strictly email subscribers.
  5. Create an Additional Alternate Income Streams. Blogs can create revenues from advertising or sponsorship sales, as well as product or service sales. Advertising revenues can be realized from the sale of banner or sidebar ads on the blogsite or from PPC (pay per click) type advertising (i.e, Google AdWords).
  6. News Feed. A company's blog can become their official news channel which can be referenced by the public and the press. This can reduce the volume of press releases that need to be distributed. The blog could even include a link to the company's digital media kit, further reducing PR costs.
  7. Communicate with Employees, Community or Customers. Similar to creating a news feed, a blog can be dedicated to communications for employees, customers or a specified community and set for restricted or password protected access to keep information confidential.
  8. Educate Customers. Some products and services may be difficult to purchase or use. A blog can offer helpful information to facilitate the sale or help customers make the most of their purchase.
  9. Thought Leadership. Just as with using a blog to demonstrate expertise, a blog can also be a platform for the posting and discussion of the blogger's or company's mission, vision or philosophy.
  10. Engage Audiences with Comments. Some blogs are started to encourage comments from readers. The goal is to engage readers to establish a relationship with them or to gain valuable feedback. Unfortunately, two things often happen: 1) People are usually too busy to read AND leave a comment. 2) Those that do comment often have the ulterior motive of creating a backlink back to their own site. So they leave useless or self-serving comments that only waste time and resources to read and manage.

Why Your Why Isn't Enough

If you've figured out why you want to blog, congratulations! You're miles ahead of many people who start blogs without a solid purpose in mind. But that's just the first step. You need to figure out if your why is working... or not.

Here's a real life example. In early 2010, I started a blog on promotional giveaways and how to use them. Since there aren't too many blogs on this topic, it sounded like a great idea to encourage potential customers to buy from me because I was provided value added service. So my "why" was to increase sales. My ideal sales funnel looked like this:

Read Blog > Visit My Promotional Shopsite > Buy!

About 45 percent of the traffic to my shopsite was from the blog. So it was working to a degree. It just wasn't converting. Here's what was likely happening:

Surf Web for Product Choices > Read My Blog (for clarification) > Visit My Promotional Shopsite (as suggested in blog post) > Buy from Competitor's Shopsite

I can only speculate, but my guess is that when visiting a competitor's shopsite, these folks had questions about confusing terms or products. They went to Google Search, typed in the phrase or topic in question, found my site, got the info, maybe looked at my shopsite, then bounced back to the initial shopsite(s) they were viewing.

How did I make this assumption? The organic search for my blog was 60 percent of the total traffic. Search keywords that people were using to find me were common promotional product terms, but very specific such as "6 oz. T-shirt." No promo buyers that I know ever enter that specific of a term. And the bounce rate was high, hovering near 80 percent. In essence, I was helping my competitors sell.

Granted, I could also observe that there were issues with my shopsite. But my guess is that it was an issue of price. The mega online promotional distributors can undercut me all day long. And web buyers are often bargain buyers.

So I changed my why to education and building an email list. If they bought from me, fine. If they didn't, I would have other things to sell to them which included my books and joining my email list. But even that wasn't enough of a why. Readers were enjoying the information, but weren't becoming "next step" buyers.

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So four years later, I closed that blog. The investment was too high to maintain it in the form and function it had. I moved this content to a hosted site that still satisfies my whys of education and selling books, but also gave me a new why—and ROI—from advertising revenues.

If I wouldn't have known or questioned my why, I might still be spending a huge chunk of my life chasing an unrealistic goal. This also emphasizes the importance of understanding and analyzing a blog's web traffic.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 13, 2015:

Hi Carrie Lee! Glad sharing my experience was helpful to you. It's great to have a forum like HP where us writers can share with each other. Happy Valentine's Weekend!

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on February 13, 2015:

Thank you for taking the time to unravel the blog world :) Great hub and it is appreciated you sharing a life experience and turning it into guidance. Have a great day! :)

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 02, 2015:

Hi MHiggins! Starting a blog is a big adventure. Glad you found some of the goal tips helpful. Keep us posted on your blogging adventure. Happy Weekend!

Michael Higgins from Michigan on January 02, 2015:

Great hub! It was very informative. I have considered starting a blog and this gives me some proper goals. Thanks for sharing.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on November 08, 2014:

Hi bdegiulio! Glad to hear you're carefully considering your options before jumping into the blogosphere. So many people don't! At least here on HP you're getting a feel for what might be popular niches or topics to pursue which is great experience. Let us know if you do start one! Cheers!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on November 08, 2014:

Hi Heidi, I have thought about starting a blog but I don't think I have the time at the moment to do it justice. You have raised some good questions for me to consider before I ever jump into blog land. I suppose I would want to use the travel theme and share my adventures, much as I do here but I'm not sure that's enough and there already seem to be way too many travel blogs out there. Perhaps I need a more defined niche. Anyway, something to think about beofre I jump in. Thanks for sharing your expertise in this area.

Steven Thompson on October 17, 2014:

Cheers to you too heidithorne! I look forward to reading more of your articles.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on October 16, 2014:

Thank you again for your frank and realistic reply. I knew it is such a great task with so many millions of blogs there. We can't expect anything. But, I hope sincere work armed with talents can still yield some satisfying results.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 16, 2014:

Well, Vekatachari M, for hobby bloggers who don't want to spend money, they are limited to fanbase building tactics such as building a thought leadership presence in relevant social media communities and in a particular topic niche, as well as SEO (if applicable to the topic), to build traffic and fans. Worse is that no activity is guaranteed to produce results.

In the early days of blogging, I think it was much easier for hobby bloggers to make a good side income from programs such as AdSense. But today, the competition is so fierce, that it's less of a possibility. Just to give you an idea of how competitive it is for people's attention, there are hundreds of millions of blogs and a new blog gets launched every few seconds (search Google for current stats).

Again, I wish I could say it was an easy road for both hobby and business bloggers. But it just isn't.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on October 16, 2014:

Thanks for your reply. As you say, it is good for those with an eye on it as a business with significant income. They will have to follow all those steps and put in much effort and investment also on it.

But a layman with an eye to earn some traffic and income with his writing abilities, he can't invest except keep a computer and internet connection and some hours of work.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 16, 2014:

Hello Venkatachari M! Yes, it does address a more business-oriented approach to blogging. You're right, simple or hobby bloggers may not need all of the tools and strategies discussed here. But it all depends on how they personally define success as a blogger. If it's a significant side income they want, they will need to treat it as a business. Wish I could say it was easier!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 16, 2014:

Thanks, whoissthompson, for reading and commenting! Though blogging seems simple, it has a lot of moving parts that often need explaining. Cheers!

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on October 16, 2014:

A very useful one. But it addresses business oriented bloggers. What about simple bloggers who want to build up a good fanbase, educate people and earn a side income through adsense? They don't need all the above tools or tips to follow. They need mainly the ability to convey fluently their thoughts through words in order to be a successful blogger.

Steven Thompson on October 15, 2014:

I love how u explain everything in this hub! Thank u for sharing!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 13, 2014:

Thanks, Pro-Hubber, for stopping by. Hope you found some helpful tips for your blog. Cheers!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 13, 2014:

AudreyHowitt! Yes, it makes so much sense... but the excitement of starting a blog can cloud a person's judgment and that's when things start to go awry. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Pro-Hubber from Florida on September 13, 2014:

I just blog for my interest. is my blog

Audrey Howitt from California on September 12, 2014:

This just makes so much sense!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 10, 2014:

Hello pateluday! Indeed personal stories are very appealing to reading. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a great day!

Uday Patel from Jabalpur, MP, India on September 10, 2014:

Anecdotal accounts act as entertainers which many readers like. Blogging becomes part and parcel of one's life. Even if you are not a good writer your stories will convey to many people. Good blogs offer opportunity to create links to some extent.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 09, 2014:

Hi mySuccess8! Glad you found it helpful. Blogging is a big adventure and worthy of additional thought. Thank you for stopping by and have a beautiful day!

mySuccess8 on September 08, 2014:

You have given me new insights into blogging, well done and thanks!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 23, 2014:

Hi Elizabeth/epbooks! I did the same meld-into-one thing when I started over here on HubPages. Ditched the posts that didn't fit and now it's definitely more cohesive. Like you, I've used them to provide information to my target audience. BTW, I LOVE the new avatar! Thanks for visiting, as always, and have a beautiful weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 23, 2014:

Hi dragonflycolor! I've found blogging to be a great outlet both creatively and professionally, too. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 23, 2014:

Hi ologsinquito! We've all seen the meandering blogs. What a waste of time for both the readers AND the writers. Agreed, the traffic to these blogs is going nowhere. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful weekend!

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on August 22, 2014:

Great hub. I've had a few blogs over the years. I've had different reasons for them, such as previews for my books, or solely topics relating to dogs, but I've since combined a lot of them into one. I used them as a source to generate information.

dragonflycolor on August 22, 2014:

Interesting information here. I love blogging because it's another avenue to writing and building a platform. Thanks so much!

ologsinquito from USA on August 21, 2014:

Very good info. I've seen some blogs that aren't sharply focused and wonder if they're going to get sustained traffic. They probably won't.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 20, 2014:

Hi carter06! You're right. It is essential, but surprisingly often overlooked. Thanks for stopping by and have a beautiful day!

Mary from Cronulla NSW on August 19, 2014:

Good info make a good point to take a look at why we blog..has to be an essential to running a successful blog I would think..thanks for sharing..


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 18, 2014:

Hi there, Homeplace Series! All of us who blog regularly probably should go through the reasons why from time to time. Our goals for blogging can change over time and sometimes corrective action is needed to either get back on track or off it. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a terrific week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 18, 2014:

Hi there, travmaj! Maybe the universe is telling you it's just not the right time if you have difficulty following through. Hope the tips help you gain some clarity for when the time is right. Cheers!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 18, 2014:

Hi AliciaC! Glad you found the tips useful. Hope it's helped some people who are debating whether a blog is right for them. Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 18, 2014:

Yep, FlourishAnyway, sometimes you'll be singin' along with Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" with "... know when to walk away." It was a tough decision for me, but I'm glad I made it and found a much more manageable blog home here on HubPages. Have a beautiful week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 18, 2014:

Hi there, spartucusjones! I think your experience is similar to many others. Blogs are a ton of work! And if the why isn't strong enough, it's easy to walk away (and sometimes people should!). Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 18, 2014:

Happy Monday, billybuc! Well, to reach and teach 1 million, let's start with a goal of 10. We'll be accomplishing quite something even with that. :) Have a wonderful week ahead!

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on August 18, 2014:

Thank you, Heidi. Great reminders. I found myself running through the reasons I blog. I guess that was the point, at least one of them. Thanks, again, for sharing. ;-)

travmaj from australia on August 17, 2014:

Thanks for this - I've thought about a blog so many times but have not followed through. Perhaps just as well, my reasons are not acceptable. I'd soon be in a mess. However, excellent advice and if the time comes I shall certainly refer to your hub. Thank you.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 17, 2014:

Thanks for sharing your experience and the great advice, Heidi. This is a very useful hub.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 17, 2014:

You provided a great personal example. Sometimes you need to cut your losses . Excellent hub, Heidi.

CJ Baker from Parts Unknown on August 17, 2014:

Very practical info here! I have experimented with a blogs in the past but never stuck with it. If I ever attempt it again I will need to consult this Hub again. Your knowledge is invaluable. Thanks for sharing your considerable expertise!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2014:

I'm with you all the way my Marketing Guru! I get, how do we teach a couple million other writers about this? :) I hope you're having a great weekend, Heidi.

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