Picture this scenario: you’ve just decided you’re going to start a site. You may have even purchased your domain and setup WordPress. You write an article talking about your aims for the site or something you think your future audience is going to want to read. Then you hit the publish button, and wait for the traffic to flood in. After all, that’s what you should be doing, right?
If you want to follow the same process as millions of other people before you then yes, you can do that. Alternatively, you could learn from my mistakes and implement as many of my following six recommendations as you can, and launch your new site in style. There are millions of people who have followed the above process, but you’ll find the majority are no longer active. For the 100+ million blogs that are said to be active online, you can bet your life savings that there are a lot more that have been started and then left to rot in the dark corners of the internet.
1. Make Sure You’re Writing About the Right Thing
By “the right thing” I simply mean a topic you’re passionate about. You’ll hear most successful bloggers telling you to write about what you love and the advice isn’t anything new, but it’s still not always followed. To find out if you’ve chosen the right niche for your site, I like to ask myself (or encourage others to ask themselves) two questions:
- Could you generate enough ideas to write 100 articles on the subject?
- Would you accept the possibility that after 12 months of blogging, you could have made no money and have no audience?
The last is a little extreme as anyone who writes consistently for a year is going to have some form of success, but that was my situation. In my first year of blogging I didn’t receive one comment, had 6 feed subscribers, and wrote purely for search engines.
I had little clue as to what I was doing, but I loved my topic, and now that blog is a thriving success. I also managed to build one of the biggest personal development blogs in the world in just 12 months and I think a huge part of that success was writing about what I love.
If you answered yes to both questions, then you’re off to a good start.
2. Agree Now You’ll Remain Consistent
Now we have one important topic out of the way, I’m going to introduce you to another: blogging consistency. There are very few core, fundamental keys to blogging, but consistency is definitely one of them. Look at any blog on the Technorati Top 100 and you’ll find they’ve been around for at least 2 years.
Copyblogger? Problogger? Zen Habits? Steve Pavlina? These are all sites that have posted content consistently for years and there’s no doubt that’s one of the reasons they are where they are today. Sign an agreement with yourself right now that you’ll remain consistent with your blogging for at least X months. I recommend 6 or 12, before throwing in the towel. The reason most blogs “fail” is simply because the author stops updating them.
I know, because I’ve let a number of sites die through lack of consistency. Yet, the ones I kept working on always, eventually, became successful. You can’t consistently post bad content that nobody wants to read and hope to be a success, but you can aim to provide genuine value to people on a regular basis.
Unless your passion dies, do not stop within the timeframe of your agreement. It took me 7 months to build PluginID up to 500 subscribers, and just another 5 before it had 4,000. The hardest part of blogging is the initial hurdle; so decide now that you’re going to keep at it.
3. Have a Nice Design in Place
I say nice design because I accept that most new bloggers simply don’t have the time or the funds to have a unique, professional design in place. The most successful bloggers aren’t the ones with the best design. Your content does the talking, but at least stand out from the crowd a little.
Many of the free themes you find online have been used by thousands of other websites and they’re just going to make it look like you don’t care about your website. Try to steer clear of ‘popular theme’ lists as these generally have the most users.
I’m not saying free designs are bad, but I am saying that if you use one, at least tweak it so that you aren’t like the 1,000 other blogs who use the theme. If you can spare $20-$30, then I recommend checking out ThemeForest or ElegantThemes and trying out some of their themes.
Even though some of them are used on a lot of sites, there really are some amazing designs to be found that make up for their slight lack of individuality. A design won’t make or break you, but don’t let it hold you back.
4. Make Subscribing Obvious
Once you’ve set-up Feedburner so you can track the number of subscribers to your feed, make it easy for people to access your content. Many bloggers, myself included, fall into the trap of thinking that they’ll improve the site once it becomes successful and they start seeing a return.
I realised the mistake in this logic when my site was suddenly hit by a wave of 1,000+ targeted visitors and my design was cluttered, and subscribing was hard. I vowed never to be in the position again where I’m losing quality leads because of a 10-minute job.
Have clear links to your RSS feed and email subscription box (Feedburner can give you the code for this) from the start so that you can build your audience as quickly as possible. If you’re in the mindset where you’re waiting for success rather than working proactively then that success will take longer to come.
5. Set-Up Your Permalinks
Your permalinks are simply the URL’s of your articles. For example, on my site by default, the post links looked something like . This doesn’t tell search engines what your page is about, and it doesn’t give users a clue either.
Instead, if you go to Settings >> Permalinks, you can make those URL’s far more attractive. I simply use /%postname%/ as I feel it’s the best for SEO and allows me to keep the links short, but go with what you feel is best for you.
Now, when I write an article, I can have a structure like http://www.viperchill.com/write-an-ebook/. The reason I recommend you doing this now is so that if your site picks up any links to the old post style and you change, then it’s going to be a pain to redirect them over in a search engine friendly way.
6. Prepare Other Content
I have a friend who built up his blog very quickly, but had to slowly let it die because of his commitments at university. What’s worse is that he constantly announces that new articles are coming, but has to backtrack because of studying and exams.
Make it easier on yourself, and better for your readers, by preparing a number of articles before launch. You don’t have to use them all if you have the time to write fresh ones, but if you want to keep to a consistent schedule, then they’ll save you when life’s typical interruptions come into play.
I don’t leave any full articles in my WordPress Dashboard, but I do have a number of drafts that I could clean up in 20 minutes and push to go live. Start your blog with a bang by having some great content ready in the works.
A post by Glen.