Are you starting a blog? Looking to improve and optimize your chances of success? Do you need inspiration to get your project to the next level? Below is a list of 71 simple but effective actions that you can take today to build a great blog. These are the things I have learned about and done on my own projects with great success over the years.
I hope that you do enjoy this advice and that you take some action after reading this in order to improve your site. If you actually do the work, if you actually take some or all of the steps below, the results will be significant. If you do find these tips useful please do share this post with your network. For more advice make sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
Get a domain name
Forget yourname.wordpress.com or yourname.blogspot.com. Get your domain for branding, user-friendliness, search engine optimization and a professional image. See how to choose a domain name.
Think of a memorable name
You can try to go with your full name, but if you are not a household brand like Seth Godin it won’t work as well. It takes years to build a brand. Think of a memorable name for your site instead. Alternatively you can create a name out of relevant keywords as that may help rank you faster in search results. These are the three main approaches for deciding a name.
Install self-hosted WordPress
Know your audience
The first thing you should do is to find out who your readers are. Who is your target market? Then write for them. You can’t write for everyone, so don’t even bother. While fostering true debate and the free exchange of ideas is terrific, you’ll want to get a feel for who your core demographic is and what they care about. Are they liberal or more conservative? Urban or rural? Country or rock-and-roll? You get the general idea.
Don’t be just another WordPress site
Think of a catchy tagline that describes what you do and how you are different. This tagline positions you and acts like a creative filter for what you should or should not do. Include it on your site and let it brand you.
Focus on a niche topic
It is much easier to attract visitors if you have a very focused topic. You brand yourself as an expert within that field and your readers know what to expect from you. Unfortunately, you can’t be an expert on everything. And if you attempt to write about every idea or issue that pops into your head at any given moment, your site will come off as schizophrenic and lack direction. Choose one area of interest that you’re truly passionate about and explore it in-depth. If you do not love your topic and the content you put up then why would readers? Make sure your passion shows through in your writing and you are sure to have a lot of readers hanging on your every word. Passion is a great way to connect with readers and really give them something of quality to read.
Keep to the topic
I hate reading a site that jumps all over the place. Is your site about kids? Pets? Cars? Technology? What is your content about? If I can’t figure out your niche in a few seconds then I am likely to move on. A niche topic is an important part of your project. Keeping your posts consistently about your niche is a big part of keeping readers. If you want to branch out into other topics then create a new project. Otherwise stick to what you are good at and keep readers focused.
Make your site look pretty
The look and feel of your site plays a big role in making visitors stay longer, exploring your content deeper and becoming loyal fans. Get a great design that makes your site pretty. Aesthetics are important, and you’ll find yourself judging other people and other websites based on appearance alone. While you try not to be superficial, it’s simply a part of human nature and you can’t really help it. Your site doesn’t have to look like a million bucks right off the bat, so use a nice looking theme and focus on great content over shiny graphics and layout. You’ll have plenty of time to fiddle with your site’s look later.
After you get quality content you should start focusing in on visual appeal. How your site looks is often the first indication to readers of the quality of your content. If your site looks hokey, old, too bright, too busy or just messed up then it reflects the care you put into your work. No one will hang around a badly designed page. Instead invest your time making your design visually appealing and it will definitely help your traffic.
Be SEO friendly
Search engines can send you a lot of traffic. Learn the basics, know your keywords, write interesting headlines, and focus on creating thrilling content that helps people solve their problems. Help search engines send you traffic by changing your permalinks to include your post keywords in your URL’s. See more search engine tips here.
Choose your plugins carefully
It’s easy to lose focus on what your site is actually about and supposed to be doing if there’s too much visual information and tools clogging the page. When you work with a CMS like WordPress or Drupal, it’s easy to keep slapping on plugins for everything from a Feed Manager to a World Clock and everything in between. Just go with the essentials and keep it simple.
Publish a new article
Publishing an article is the best way for you to reach a new or larger audience. Produce the best article that you can, share your experience and know-how. Teach people. Entertain people. Everyone loves a how to post. From “how to house break your dog” to “how to build a solar powered laptop” people love to learn how to do new things. If you have a good experience in something or have a hobby that you like to share information about then a guide is a great way to interest readers and create content that will last. You can also offer images to go along with the guide so that they can follow along easily. Cooking sites are pretty much formed around this idea.
Write catchy how-to and top-list headline
You need to make your headlines irresistible in order to attract attention. Try by writing “how to” and “top list” type of headlines. They work best for getting the attention from readers and are very shareable. See how to write clickable headlines.
Include links to internal pages in your article
Always make sure to link to at least one older article of yours in the new post your are writing. Internal linking makes your content more sticky, it increases page views and introduces your visitors to your article archives.
Include a Related Posts list at the end of your articles
Allow your visitors to easily discover relevant articles from your archives. This brings you more subscribers, more page views and longer time spent on site. Use a plugin like this.
Create a content calendar
In other words, publish regularly and often. Don’t skimp on quality, because it matters. Just know that if you want to create a following, you need people to know that there will be new content on your site on a consistent and regular basis, so pace yourself. People love it when a blogger is on top of things. If you update once a week, three times a week or every day, they will get used to it. Keep your site updated as much as you can and keep to a schedule.
To succeed in blogging you must have a goal, and you must stay focused on reaching it. Work constantly towards it for a longer period of time without losing the focus and you will make real progress.
Make your site harder to break into
Keep your site safe and secure. Do not use the generic admin username. Create your own unique username and delete the default admin username. Have a strong password. See more tips on keeping your site safe.
Consider a premium theme
Premium themes build on top of WordPress and give you even more possibilities for customization without needing to do much coding. I use Genesis theme myself.
Be consistent in your branding
Use the same avatar, same nickname, same logo wherever you are spending your time online. Make it all consistent with your site to get the best branding effect.
Brand your site with a great header section
Spend some time on creating a great header section. Create a nice logo and have a user friendly navigation. It is the most prominent position on your site and the first thing visitors see.
Move your RSS feed to Feedburner
Start a mailing list
Email is another channel for you to reach more people and in many cases it is the channel that gets you the best opening rates and response. Mail Chimp is a very popular option.
Let your visitors subscribe via email
For many e-mail is the preferred way to subscribe to content, so make sure not to neglect them. Allow people to subscribe to your content through service such a Feeburner (see above) or through a mailing list of your own (again see above).
Allow visitors to subscribe to comments
Allow your visitors to subscribe to comments on your site and get notified when a new comment has been posted. It makes them return back to your post and comment again. Use a plugin like this.
Automate your comments moderation
Don’t waste your time moderating your reader comments, let a spam filter do it for you. Once in a while it might let a spam comment go through, but it is easy for you to delete that instead of having manually to approve each comment.
Boost your comments area
Boost your comments area even further by moving from the default WordPress comments to a different commenting system such as Disqus. It gives your visitors a better commenting experience with social media integration and other options.
Sign up for Google Analytics
Build a sitemap
Build the XML sitemap to allow the search engines to easily find and index your archives. This is how.
Make your content scannable and immersive
Majority of Internet users do not read word by word, they scan the text and like eye catching graphics and multimedia. Make your articles scannable by using sub-headings, short paragraphs, bulleted lists, adding nice images and so on. See how to do that here.
Declutter your site
Do you have too many social media buttons? Do you have too many widgets in your sidebar? Think of the usability and user-friendliness and remove the unnecessary elements of your design.
Backup (just in case)
In case someone hacks into your site, you may lose all your articles and comments that you have built. Make sure to avoid that and do a regular backup of your content. Use a plugin like this.
Verify your URL in Google Webmaster Tools
Develop your own style
There are many sites out there and you need to make yours stand out from the crowd. Develop your own unique style and voice, and write creative and interesting articles and you’ll get more readers and followers than you know what to do with.
Another way to keep readers interested is to use humor. Everyone loves to laugh. If you can make your posts funny in some way then you will keep readers coming back for more. Tell stories, tell jokes, and share funny images. Use sarcasm and poke fun at established rules. Make light of hard to deal with things and make sure that you make people laugh.
Include at least one picture in each article
Adding images is the simplest way to grab the attention of your readers, make them explore your content deeper, make your articles easier to read and make your site look better overall. Make sure to add high quality images to all posts that you are publishing.
Brand your images
Brand your post images to make them even more eye catching. Include the headline of your article on the image. Include your logo.
Get on Pinterest
If you actually do follow the two steps above and have great imagery in your content, do join Pinterest. Pinterest is a social network based on imagery and can help drive a lot of traffic to your site. Advice on how you can use Pinterest.
Get on Instagram too while you’re at it
Be self disciplined
To succeed in blogging, you must be disciplined, write posts regularly, promote your content regularly and work consistently over a longer period of time even when you are not seeing the big results.
Register for Stumbleupon
Join Stumbleupon, start sharing the articles you are reading and start connecting to stumblers interested in the topic you are writing about. This is how you can use Stumbleupon to drive traffic to your site.
Have a marketing routine
Have a marketing routine that you go through every time after you have published a new piece of content in order to drive traffic to it. This is my routine.
Remove broken links
Search engines do not like broken links, your visitors do not like them either, make sure to remove all the broken links from your site. Use this plugin.
Know how you are going to monetize
Monetizing your content is important and you have every right to make a few bucks off of it. Just keep the ads to a minimum and don’t push the popups and what not in the faces of your readership. If you are planning on making money from your site, know early on how you are going to do it. You don’t necessary need to start the monetization plan right away but just have it in mind so you can position yourself for when you are ready.
Comment on another site
An important aspect of the social web is that’s it’s, well, social. Interacting with not only your readers but also other sites and webmasters is a great way to get feedback. Backlinking is a crucial component of driving unique views on your site, so comment on other well known and highly trafficked sites and leave a link in your comment back to your own site. Part of your daily marketing could be to comment on 5 new sites a day. Just read a good article you agree with? Just read an article you do not agree with? Comment on it, share your opinion and experience. The comments you write should not be comment SPAM. Read the full post, go through the comments, and then write at-least 3-5 sentences adding the discussion. This will help you build relationship with the other blogger but also drive traffic to your site. See how you can write effective comments.
Respond to a reader comment
Make your readers feel like they’re participating in a discussion rather than just reading a post. Many bloggers ignore or turn off comments because of spam. However that is a bad way to run a site that wants to connect with readers. Instead make sure you have a spam filter set up and respond to your comments with insightful writing. Make your readers feels special. You can also offer prizes and give away to entice readers to comment and share your content with friends. Read through the reader comments on your site and respond if there is something interesting, or if someone has a question or an insightful thought.
Write a guest post on a popular site
Guest post are the single best way to get people to your site without having to spend money on advertising. They allow you to reach new audiences, get new readers, and help rank for specific keywords. Spending time writing a quality guest post will permit you get quality back links to your site which will help you get more traffic in the long run from search engines. When looking for places to guest post try and get out of your niche. Use your experience from what you write about on your site and relate it to another topic. You will reach a much larger audience. Contact the most popular site in your niche, send them a great article you have just written for them and let them publish it in exchange for exposure to their audience. See how to do powerful guest posting.
Need inspiration for the next post? Just read
Read as much as you can, read anything you can get your hands on and get inspiration and ideas for your future articles. Here’s how you can read mindfully.
Take notes and put them into an idea doc
Take notes of ideas you get while doing other things. You might read or hear something, and unless you take note of the idea you might not remember it and never get it into the real world. It is also helpful if you have a writer’s block and you can just dig into your idea doc. This is how I do it.
Repurpose your content
Make your content work better for you. Use that great text based post and make it into a video or an infographic or even a podcast in order to reach a different audience.
Update your old content
Learn to reuse your older content. Revisit the articles in your archives, update and upgrade them and get them back into the visitor spotlight.
Take the stairs, bike to work, run in the weekends. Live an active life and it will improve your energy levels and will keep you and your mind sharp.
Think outside the “text-is-king” box
It is not all about article of blocks of text. Can you say something by using pictures? Can you say something by pasting a tweet into your article? What about video or podcasting? Or even infographics? Don’t think that content means text only. Adding videos and infographics is a great way to interest readers and keep them coming back. It can be a video you made or one you imported from YouTube or the like. Making a video of your own is easy. There are many free video makers online and nearly every laptop that is sold these days comes with a web cam and microphone. If you are talented you can create your own infographics using Photoshop or a similar program. If art and design is not your thing then simply link or post an infographic that you find interesting. Adding elements like those to your content makes it more interesting for your readers also.
Connect with another blogger
Reach out and establish new contacts with other bloggers. You can exchange experiences, write guest posts for each other and so on.
Learn a new skill
Be open-minded and be on the lookout for new things that can help you improve, learn, build and develop new skills. These can only help you improve your own projects.
Make it easy for people to contact you
In case someone wants to get in touch with you, you must make sure it is easy for people to do so. Have a contact page with your details and a contact form. Contact form is one of the elements you need to make a new site awesome.
Have a media kit ready for advertisers
If you are looking for advertisers, make sure to have a media kit ready to send them where you inform them about your site, your traffic numbers and other details.
Make a video
Even if your site is in a very saturated niche, you can differentiate yourself by basically making videos of all the information that everyone else is competing for with text articles only. See how you can boost your YouTube presence.
Don’t be passive, promote your content
Get out there. Find your target audience. Connect with them. Show that you are the expert. Promote your content wherever you can, whenever you can. If you don’t do this not many people will know about you.
Thank your visitor
If someone comments on your posts, or shares your article on Stumbleupon or tweets it, make sure to thank them for the support.
Write an ebook, give it away of free
Ebooks are great for attracting attention and getting visitors, subscribers and links to your site. So put your best tips on one topic and give it away for free, do not even ask for an email address.
Promote a comment from a reader into a full post
If you find a very insightful comment on your site, publish it as your next post. Style it, give the credit to the reader and share your thoughts on the subject.
Do not make assumptions about your readers
Simplify your writing, explain obvious things. You might know all about the subject but there are thousands of people who have never heard about it and to whom your article might introduce the topic. Don’t make assumption about them.
After you get the content up to par then you need to work on the flow. Can your readers easily get from one post to another? Do you have links that take readers deeper and deeper into your archives, encouraging them to stay longer? Is it easy to scroll through your page? If you have multi part posts is it easy to find each part? Can readers look up specific topics or keywords? By making it easy for readers to use your site and allowing them to naturally flow form one section into another you will keep your readers longer and also increase your traffic to older posts.
Unclutter your workspace
Clean up, throw out useless things, unclutter your workspace to help you focus, keep you inspired and make you more productive.
Need sponsors? Go out and grab them
If you’re having trouble attracting sponsors, get out there to the relevant companies, get in touch with them and explain how you will help them spread the word about their product and sell more.
Going on a holiday? Don’t let your site die
Plan in advance, write some good posts before you go on a holiday and schedule them to be published while you are away. This way you keep your site active while you are away.
Start connecting to people on Twitter
Go to Twitter, search for people in your target group, get in touch, connect to them and win them over one by one. See how to get your first 500 Twitter followers.
Add the Tweet button to your articles
“Tweet this” button brings you instant results with Twitter being the live platform that it is and spreads your content to new people as one tweet goes to many (all depending on how many people follow the person obviously). This is the Tweet button.
Get Twitter cards for your site
Twitter cards make links from your site more prominent in Twitter timelines and give your profile more exposure by adding the thumbnail, the headline, description and author information to all your links.
Get Google authorship for your profile
Google Authorship helps you get your profile image next to the articles you have written in Google’s search results. That may give you more clicks compared to authors who don’t have this enabled. Authorship may also be able to help you rank better. This is how you can integrate Google authorship to your own site.
Read a book
Don’t just spend your time online, you can also get inspired offline. Pick up a book, read it and let it inspire your online work. Reading a book will give you a different and fresh perspective on topics you work with online.
Don’t be a quitter,
Blogging takes a lot of hard-work and it can take a long time before you start seeing the results. So do not quit after just a while. It is a marathon, not a sprint.
Throw away the television
Cannot find the time to write for your site? Stop watching TV, stop wasting your valuable time. Be productive and start creating that next post which will introduce your site to many new users. These are the other time wasters you should eliminate.
Follow the probloggers, and learn from them
Follow probloggers, see how they produce their articles, when they publish them, how they style them, how they tweet. Don’t necessarily only listen to what they say, but analyze how they say it and why they do what they do.
Don’t just consume content, produce content
Don’t just read sites whole day long, it is important to take time and work on your own articles. Be a producer, not a consumer.
Write an ebook, sell it
Publishing an ebook is the easiest method for a blogger to monetize his site without using the banner ads. So write a great book on a topic you know a lot about and sell it via your site.
Commit to your goals
Writing down your goals and commit to them in writing. Then focus on achieving these written goals. Keep track of your daily effort. If you know your goals, if you do the work, things will change. Here’s how you can set your goals.
A site is first and foremost a diary of sorts. The human element is so important. By sharing stories about your life and making connections in this way you make readers feel like you are a real person and not a machine just cranking out content. Forming connections with your readers is a great way to help them to want to continue reading and coming back.
Stop planning, go do it
Stop reading and planning, get out there now, publish the best post you can and go promote it to your target group. The key to success is directed action. Take these necessary steps today to achieve success.
I did a presentation inspired by this post in front of a crowd of newbie bloggers. The presentation was filmed so I wanted to share with you the video and the presentation slides so you can get all these blogging tips in a visual format as well: