This post features a list of simple, effective and essential actions that you should take to launch a great blog that people want to visit. If you actually do the work, if you actually take some or all of the steps below, you will get some amazing quick wins and the results will be significant.
Do the homework before starting: Choose a perfect topic
Planning is critical to the success of your blog. Spend some time on doing the homework and laying the foundations of your blog by exploring the questions below.
- Your blog idea is no good unless you find an audience for it. Get to know the audience that you want to target: what are they looking for, what common problems to they have and what questions do they have?
- Most bloggers just write what they want to write but that is the wrong way to look at it. Look at things from the audience point of view and figure out what you can help people with: what is it that you know well and can do better than other people?
- The above helps you clearly define your topic. You should be as specific as possible: what is the purpose of your blog and why should people visit it?
- The common angle of looking at a topic is no longer of any real interest. Spice things up and develop your own style, tone of voice and concept that can help differentiate you from other sites in the field. Add an angle on an angle. Will you be visiting every country in the world? Will you be developing a new start-up every month and teaching people how to do it too?
- What are your goals with the blog? What do you want to achieve by running it? You want to have a nice hobby? Do you want to make friends? Do you want to get a book deal? Speaking arrangements? Make enough money to be able to quit your job? Know why you are starting a blog in order to figure out the focus and the priorities in order to achieve your goals.
Get my detailed advice on choosing your niche topic.
Pick a memorable name and domain name
The name of your blog and the domain name it is accessible from are two main things people will notice when getting introduced to your site. In most cases these two will be the same – your blog name will also be your domain name. Aim to pick a name you like and are happy with. This will be a lasting decision that will most probably stay with you for a long time. Rebranding and changing domain names can be a difficult and time consuming process, which is not something that’s advisable and that you will be able to do frequently. Take some time and get the name and domain name that you believe in and are happy with. These are the characteristics of a great domain name:
Short, simple, easy to spell, easy to type and pleasing to the eye.
Catchy, easy to pronounce, easy to remember and natural in your mouth.
Appropriate to your topic, reflects on your messaging, but is not so descriptive so it sounds generic.
Should not feature numbers and hyphens
Different from your competitors, unique, distinctive and available
Legally defensible, and not trademarked and copyrighted by another company
Take a look at my complete guide for finding a domain name.
Branding and design: Be usable and make your site look pretty
People don’t have too much patience. You need to make sure you have all the boxes ticked with regards to the usability and design of your site in order to keep them for longer than a couple of seconds. This is why you need to spend some time on the design, branding and the overall user experience.
Credibility is important. Your site must be trustworthy. Many designs look amateur. By being professional you can give yourself a chance to earn trust of your visitors and make them remember you. In many cases people judge websites based on their first visit on appearance alone. While you should try not to be superficial, it’s simply a part of human nature and you can’t really help it.
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. Get a great design that makes your site pretty. Your site doesn’t have to look like a million bucks right off the bat, but do use a nice looking theme that places content in the center, has a prominent navigation and helps you explain what your site is about. You’ll have plenty of time to fiddle with your site’s look later.
Beyond the usability you need to think about the user journey with regards to your blogging goals. Make the design, the prominent areas and all the call-to-actions focused on the goal you are trying to achieve. 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. Think of the usability and user-friendliness and remove the unnecessary elements of your design.
Give people the choice of how they want to hear from you. Make it easy for people to follow you in social media, subscribe to you via email or via messaging tools. Offer something for free when they subscribe. Even better point out how many others are reading your site. The more popular your site is, the more persuasive it becomes automatically as people like to be a part of the crowd and like to follow things that are popular and that other people are following as well.
Optimize your blog’s speed, safety and SEO
First of all make sure to keep your blog safe by following this advice:
- Do not use the generic admin username.
- Create your own unique username and delete the default admin username.
- Have a strong password.
- 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.
See more tips on keeping your site safe.
Search engines can send you a lot of traffic by following this advice:
- Change your permalinks to include your post keywords in your URL’s.
- Build the XML sitemap to allow the search engines to easily find and index your archives. This is how.
- Verify your URL in Webmaster Tools and let Google tell you what to improve on your site. See how you use Webmaster Tools here.
- 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.
See more search engine tips here.
- Get Google Analytics to track and learn more abut your visitors. Analytics offer a wealth of data that can improve your content. See here how you can analyse your Analytics data.
- 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. Akismet plugin saves you a lot of time and protects your posts from spam comments. Activate it, relax and let is do the dirty work. More advice on how to stop spam comments is here.
An optimized and good looking blog is nothing without high quality content and targeted traffic. Those are next on your to-do list.
Publish amazingly good and sticky content
Internet is polluted by bad content. People are tired of it. There is just too much content. Be it mobile apps, YouTube videos or blogs. For you to have any chance of standing out and attracting an audience you do need to offer something different, something better and something special. Go above and beyond the normal article. Create a content strategy that focuses on publishing great content. Great content opens doors, establishes your authority and build you an audience. This is not about doing keyword research and publishing content for robots.
- You need to publish content that makes a difference in the lives of real people.
- Get to the point.
- You need to entertain people.
- Produce the best article that you can, share your experience and know-how.
- Answer common questions people have. Everything that happens to you can be made into great content so do not downgrade your own experience. Tell people about your problems and how you have solved them. If you have a good solution to a common problem, someone would want to read it.
- Create lists of amazing tools and resources.
- Teach people something useful. Everyone loves a how-to guide or a tutorial 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.
For every piece of content that you produce, do your best to make sure that it is the most useful and amazing piece of content on that topic there is. Research what the most socially shared posts on that topic are. Check what the top ranking posts on Google for that topic are. Make something better, more detailed, more useful, easier to understand or easier to implement than the best content that is out there right now. Offer greater detail, something more than the normal. Give more than necessary.
- One of the issues bloggers struggle with is that their content gets outdated and irrelevant shortly after being published. Make your content timeless, the content that will not be outdated and that will be relevant and useful a year after publishing it.
Make your high quality content good looking and immersive too:
- Your headlines must be sharp, they must make people curious and prompt them to click. You need to make your headlines irresistible in order to attract attention. See how to write clickable headlines.
- Make your articles scannable by using sub-headings, short paragraphs and bullet points.
- Adding images is the simplest way to grab the attention of your readers. See where to find images here.
- Mention and link to other sites when you write. When you do read a post that inspires you, link to it. There’s a good chance the author monitors their traffic sources and backlinks and will know about the link and pay you a visit.
- Use that great text based post and turn it into a video or an infographic or even a podcast in order to reach a different audience. Learn to reuse your older content. Revisit the articles in your archives, update and upgrade them and get them back into the visitor spotlight.
More advice on publishing immersive content.
Start attracting traffic and building your audience from day 1
The users have shifted from search to social. They no longer only find information through search engines. A lot of information, including news and recommendations are not distributed and discovered through social channels like Facebook and Twitter. You cannot rely on Google and other search engines for majority of your traffic any longer. You must get a social media presence and start networking, engaging and building your following there from day one.
On day one you will not have any followers which means that you have to be very aggressive in your social media marketing. Follow other people first, search for people talking about your topic and engage with them, be a constantly active resource and build your followers one by one. Go to forums and other communities where people interested in your topic are. Help them, answer their questions and link to your content for further information where it is relevant.
At this point your blog will start getting initial traffic to the first high-quality posts you have published. What do you do next? You ramp your promotion up. You need to 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Another social network for sites that have great imagery. Instagram is very popular and can introduce your work to a new and large audience. See here how.
- 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.
- 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. See how you can write effective comments.
- Go to other big blogs and websites. Submit quality guest posts that can introduce your site to a larger audience. 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. See how to do powerful guest posting.
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. 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. 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.
As long as you keep producing high quality content that solves common problems of real people, the monetization will come in naturally as you start getting traffic. One of the best ways is to integrate affiliate links to useful tools that can help them save time and resolve problems they face. In your content you can teach and instruct people on how best to use the tool. You not only help people with their problems but you also make a commission when they click on your link and buy the product.
Stop planning, go do it
Some newbies fall into the perfectionist trap. They think, plan, dream, design and prepare their projects for a very long time. They sometimes never even go live as there is always something to change, fix and improve before they are ready to go. This is a mistake. You should go live as soon as possible, get feedback from real people, and fix and improve things as you go along. In most cases the plan you have in mind will not survive contact with the real world so it is valuable time that you waste by not getting it out to the real people.
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. You can do it. The success will not happen overnight, but if you start your blog now, follow the advice, learn and improve, and stick to it you can make it.
I did couple of presentations inspired by this post in front of a crowd of newbie bloggers. Presentations were filmed so I wanted to share with you the videos:
Ready to start?
WordPress is the open-source blogging software that is used by majority of biggest bloggers. WordPress.com is a light version of WordPress, while WordPress.org is the full, self-hosted version. I recommend the self-hosted version. See how to install WordPress.org for full customization possibilities and the full freedom to start a blog and make it truly your own.
Blogging is a great activity and a great way of reaching and achieving your dreams. Keep working on it, keep learning and improving and you will see your goals and objectives being achieved in the upcoming months. Happy blogging!