Happy New Year! Since many new blogs get started in the new year, here are five questions you’d better ask yourself before you start.

Shouldn’t be a surprise: some planning and familiarity with blogging is essential before jumping in.

What are your blog goals?

In order to be successful you must have goals. If you don’t have any goals, how can you know if you’re succeeding, if your blog is working?

I suggest going beyond just listing goals and choosing your primary goal. Your primary goal will probably shift over time, and that is alright.

So, why are you going to start this blog?

What is your blog’s focus?

What are you going to write about? You can’t blog effectively on several unrelated topics in the same blog and expect to have many readers. It’s unlikely that many potential readers will share your mix of passions — a blog must focus on only one topic for maximum success.

Conversely, instead of blogging on one wide topic, for example “marketing” or “fishing,” you might chose a niche within that topic, for example “marketing small business in rural areas” or “fly fishing for trout in Montana.” With a tighter niche, it’s more likely you’ll have passionate readers who devour your every post.

Who is your intended audience?

Who you are blogging for? Who do you expect and want to read your blog? What kind of content will they like? You need to know who you are writing for in order to do it most effectively.

Don’t be surprised if you find an entirely unexpected secondary audience drawn to your blog as well, but detemine your intended primary audience and start writing for them.

What are your strengths how can you leverage them in your blogging?

Do you follow cutting edge current events in your topic? Are you really up-to-date on everything that happens, as soon as it happens if not before and really into that? Or maybe some sort of in depth analysis of timeless issues more your style and interest?

Well obviously that’s going to affect what you are going to be writing about. Are you going to be writing about breaking news or how to do things well that don’t change all that often or perhaps something else?

How familiar with the blogosphere are you?

I suggest before anyone starts blogging, they read a lot of blogs for at least two weeks. This is the bare minimum. Take notes, see what you like, what you don’t like about different people’s blogs and blogging styles.

See what you think might work well for you and then be prepared to experiment.

An easy way to find other blogs you may be interested in is to use one of the blog search engines.

If you’re considering starting blogging, by all means jump in and start. Doing just dive in headfirst however, do some planning and research first. Answers these five questions first, and your blog will likely be successful faster.