Five steps to start your own blog

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If you've been thinking about blogging, start by finding a topic that is important to you. After that, decide who your audience is and what you will be writing about. Then let loose! Here's the five-step guide to get you started with your own blog.

1. Find a topic you are passionate about
You may be hesitant to blog because you don’t think you have anything meaningful to say. That's probably not true. Find a niche. A general fashion blog may get lost in the hubbub of the Internet, but you may have a better chance of generating attention and an audience -- if that's your goal -- if you blog about the couture culture of a certain city.

Be creative but genuine. You don’t want to settle for a topic that you will quickly lose interest in. Blogs give you a lot of flexibility, too, so you aren't required to blog about the subject for the rest of your life. Pick something you are interested in now.

2. Decide on the blog’s purpose
Now that you have decided on your topic, figure out if you are going to try to turn a profit from your blog, use it to get a message out, or simply blog for your own enjoyment.

“Very few bloggers end up being Perez Hilton and making money from advertising and product reviews,” says Joan Barrett, the owner of The Content Factory, a Pittsburgh-based online marketing company.

That is not to say making money off a blog is impossible, but that it is not a guarantee. Blogs are created for all kinds of reasons. Sgt. Neil Gussman started a blog back in August 2007 when he re-enlisted in the Army at the age of 54. He says he started the blog as an alternative to emailing his friends and family to keep them up to date on what life was like for a very old soldier.

“I was in the National Guard, so I would write when I was on duty,” he says. “In 2009, that meant every day for a year because I deployed to Iraq.” Gussman has since kept up with his blog.

3. Determine your blogging platform
Are you going to incorporate your blog into a preexisting website? Would you rather use a separate site like WordPress or BlogSpot, or purchase a domain with a unique URL? You may want to look into the free options if you are just starting out, but do weigh the pros and cons of each. If you do decide to make a website exclusively for it, make sure you lock in the URL that will convey the blog's purpose.

4. Create content
What good is a blog if it sits empty or neglected for weeks on end? You need to keep your blog fresh with updates for Google to notice it. Bryan Alaspa, the social media lead at the Chicago-based marketing and PR firm K Squared Communications, says you should update a minimum of once a week, but aim for daily posts.

5. Spread the word
Include a link to your blog in the profiles of your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media accounts. Twitter is especially helpful to promote and advertise when you add new content to your blog. Accept that fact that you aren’t going to generate astronomical amount of traffic immediately.

“Be prepared to write for just yourself for a long time,” says Alaspa. “I tell people that six months to a year is a good estimate for how long it will take to get decent blog traffic. Now, some companies might have a hugely popular website and will get thousands of hits a day right off the bat, but most companies cannot do that.”