This post features a list of simple but effective actions that you can take to launch a great blog that people want to visit. The world of blogging is constantly changing. I’ve tried to collect all the ideas for you to future-proof your site and give you a guide for the year. 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 your homework before starting
There is just too much content. Be it apps, videos or blogs. For you to have any chance of standing out and attracting an audience you do need to offer something different or something better. Do the homework before starting by ticking these boxes:
- Figure out what you can help people with, what is it that you can do better or different than anyone else
- Know the audience that you want to target and what you can help them with
- Clearly define your topic – be as specific as possible
- Develop your own style that can differentiate you from other sites in the field
- Get full advice on choosing your niche topic.
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. Credibility is important. Your site must be trustworthy. Many designs look amateur. By being professional you can give yourself a chance to earn trust. 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.
Start 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.
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. One of the ways you can do this is to list in your sidebar one of those buttons that shows how many people follow you on Twitter or like you on Facebook or subscribe to you. Another one is to make sure that the social media share buttons on your blog get some clicks so they don’t all just have 0’s in the counter.
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.
Publish amazing content
Publishing a great article is the best first step towards reaching a new and larger audience. 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. Internet is polluted by bad content. People are tired of it. Great content opens doors and establishes audiences.
- 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.
- Get to the point. Produce the best article that you can, share your experience and know-how.
- 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.
- More advice on publishing immersive content.
Never lack inspiration
- 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. 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 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.
- A great way to gain valuable information for your followers is to do some interviews with them. Ask industry experts if they would be willing to give you an hour of their time for an interview. Give them details regarding your topic of interest and a list of interview questions. Therefore, you both will be prepared. You may have to ask a hundred people before you get one “yes,” but be persistent.
- 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. Learn to reuse your older content. Revisit the articles in your archives, update and upgrade them and get them back into the visitor spotlight.
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. 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.
- 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.
A lot of us have heard stories about some very successful bloggers. Someone who ends up having a lucrative book contract, someone who sells tons of books through self publishing or stories about people who travel the world thanks to their sites. You have to understand that blogging is not going to get you rich quick. You have to manage your expectations in order not to be disappointed. Big things are possible and you should dream about reaching them but do not expect it to happen to you overnight.
Blogging is not easy and not all the blogs become hits. Not all the talented writers get an audience. Sometimes even the most promising project fails. There are many reasons for why this happens, but most bloggers and other entrepreneurs blame themselves for not succeeding. Writing is a difficult path to take in terms of earning money and making a living with one’s work. Only a few bloggers actually end up with a successful site, only a few budding writers actually end up publishing and selling any books, even less people actually become popular and rich from doing it.
Having a low barrier to enter and a high barrier to succeed results in a lot of people starting blogs and giving up shortly after because they are not prepared to do the work and put in the effort that is needed to succeed. Many stop even before publishing their first piece of content. Just being a prolific Twitter or Facebook user will never allow you to shape public opinion. Instead you need to be the one that is creating the story that other people are consuming, talking about and sharing.
Failures are hidden deep beneath all the positive buzz and the success stories that are drawing people in. We never hear much about all the failures – most sites become inactive within few weeks of the launch, most never get any readers, not to talk about making money. For anyone wanting to start blogging this is important point to realize.
Failing is normal. Everyone fails all the time. Everyone fails much more than they succeed. Most books are failures, most sites are flops, but this should definitely not discourage you from trying. Understand this and make sure you have realistic expectations when starting in order to give yourself good chances of success. Move past your failures and don’t let them hold you back. Don’t be scared because of a failure. Don’t let failure stop you from trying to do more in the future. Keep believing in yourself, in your skills and your ideas. Instead of giving up and blaming yourself learn from your failures.
Be self disciplined
The people that eventually do succeed, they always learn something from their failures. Make sure to learn from your failure so you don’t repeat the same mistakes. How do you keep track of your learnings? The best way is to keep a note of all the learnings you have had. This way you can open the document any time you are working on a project and use it as a checklist in order to make sure you tick the boxes you might not have been able to do in your former projects. If you do this a few times it will become natural and you will memorize all the steps you need to take. Then it will become a much easier and efficient process.
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. 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. Don’t stop and start. Keep going. To succeed in blogging you must have a goal, and you must stay focused on reaching it. Write 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. Work constantly towards it for a longer period of time without losing the focus and you will make real progress. 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.
Don’t be impatient
Something that goes hand in hand with unrealistic expectations is impatience. If you have huge expectations and expect results to come quickly you are bound to be disappointed. Your first post will suck. You will not have any visitors. You must put in the time and the effort in order to learn, improve and get experience. These will enable you to become better. Blogging is a marathon, it is not a sprint.
If you are working hard to make your site successful, there might be chances that you won’t get good results soon or you might face few ups and downs. But that’s the part of blogging, you need to keep patience, analyze the problems and keep moving ahead. The day that you lose patience you won’t able to work with same passion.
If you don’t have anyone commenting on your site at all, it can be a long and lonely process that requires a lot of commitment, patience and persistence on your end. I will also go as far as saying that not everyone is a blogger. Not everyone can write just because they are told they write well, or have good ideas. I am not saying this because of the substance of the blogger, but rather because aside from good quality content, blogging also requires many intangible characteristics to succeed. The day I received my first legitimate comment from a guest was a key milestone for me. It is then when I realized that loneliness can vanish immediately when you have guests interacting with you and amongst each other through your site, thus developing a community.
Optimize your blog’s speed, safety and SEO
- 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.
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.
Do you have too many social media buttons? Do you have too many widgets in your sidebar? 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. Do the same with your work space. Clean up, throw out useless things, unclutter your workspace to help you focus, keep you inspired and make you more productive.
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. Matt Cutts, the SEO guru of Google, said that WordPress solves majority of your SEO issues.
- 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.
Automate your blogging where it makes sense
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.
- 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.
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.
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. 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:
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!