A reader sent me some questions about starting a blog. I'm answering them here in case they're of value to anyone else.
I’m looking to start writing a blog to help me cope with a recent personal crisis, and was hoping I could ask you some questions.
I’d prefer my blog to be anonymous – is that feasible? Especially when replying to comments?
It's definitely possible to blog anonymously. Depending on how you choose to approach things, you might need to pay a little bit extra to keep your personal information off your hosting records, for instance.
Honestly, I'd recommend disabling comments. Comment moderation is far more trouble than it's worth. Instead, make it easy for people to contact you, which you can do anonymously by setting up an email address especially for your blog.
Are there any resources you can recommend for the whole process?
Check out Ali Abdaal's video about the basics of building a website in 2021.
My biggest piece of advice is to put the writing first. When you're starting out, don't worry about anything that is not the writing. It will take many weeks or months of trial and error until you settle into the routine/style/tone that works for you, so focus on making the writing as good as you can before you concern yourself with anything else.
That means that Substack is a good starting platform for most people.
While certainly not an important aspect, how would one monetise an anonymous blog – can you get ads etc? I notice your LoG blog doesn’t have ads – is that important to you?
There are really three approaches to making money through blogging:
- Your blog is a promotional tool for your business, e.g. public speakers whose blogs act as a marketing tool to get people to book speaking gigs with them, authors who blog to encourage readers to buy their books, etc.
- You explicitly monetise all the eyeballs you get onto your blog by making a commission on products you recommend (affiliate marketing), selling ad space, or getting paid to do sponsored content. As a reader of blogs, I don't like it when bloggers do this, because it makes me trust the content less, so I choose not to do it to my own readers. No shade to bloggers who do this, though, everybody's got to make their bread. It is possible to sell ads and do affiliate marketing as an anonymous blogger, yes, but I'm not sure it's worth it. Last time I looked into this, I read that 1,000 visitors translates to about $1 through Google Adsense, for instance.
- Patronage or membership models, where people pay you outright for your content, or just to support you.
To be perfectly honest, it's extremely hard to make any reasonable amounts of money from tactic 2 or 3, and tactic 1 needs a whole separate business behind the blog. Don't start a blog because you're dreaming of fame and fortune :)
You mentioned that your main goal in starting a blog is an emotional one. Personally, I have found blogging a brilliant tool to help me process my own thoughts and feelings. It allows me to connect with (and help) other people who might be going through the same things I am, and it provides me with an invaluable sense of purpose.
I do make some money from this blog through strategies 1 and 3, but I would continue blogging even if I didn't.
Is there an ideal length or structure for a blog?
It depends what your goals are. If your blog is a business, there is a ton of data on ideal article lengths and publishing schedules (e.g. apparently posting at least once a week makes a huge difference). If you care about that stuff, just have a Google, you'll uncover loads.
If you don't care about that stuff, and the blog is mostly for you and other people going through what you're going through, just write what you want to write. There are no rules for writing.
It can be helpful to find a blog that's doing what you hope to be doing, and just imitate them until you figure out your own way.
How would I get it “noticed”?
- Write the best articles you can.
- Ask your readers to share your articles with other people who might get value from them.
- Post links to communities that might find your content useful (but be a good citizen of those communities, not a spammer). Reddit, for instance, will let you join discussions amongst groups going through what you're going through, and also remain anonymous.
- Consider taking an online course in search engine optimisation.
- Build an email database.
- Do collabs with other bloggers.
- Be helpful. Be kind. Ask for help when you need it.
- Most of all, be patient & consistent. It takes time.
Personally, I have not found social media to be worth it, but it does work for some people.
I hope that helps.
Wishing you luck!