The whole process of starting a new blog is a really exciting time—you’re filled with ideas, motivation, and a whole bunch of get-to-work energy.
But, when you sit down to begin, you realize there’s a lot to work on. From setting up a mailing list and crafting helpful content, to ensuring you are optimized for search engines and readability. This can all be a bit overwhelming. But, what you do next is vital to ensure your blog’s long term success.
In this post we’re going over all the tasks you should think about before you start a blog, and once you’re up and running, to ensure that you move forward in a deliberate and effective fashion.
1. Have a solid strategy
The first and most important thing you can do is ensure that you have a strategy for the next few months. This will help keep your content and marketing on track as you grow.
Unfortunately, a lot of new bloggers start a blog and then write lots of posts without a strategy in hopes that something will stick. This rarely works and leads to a frustration and wasted time and energy. Remember, it isn’t easy crafting all those beautiful articles!
While you don’t need to have a full corporate marketing plan developed, it is important to have a few key goals written down to be a more efficient blogger.
So what should a strategy contain?
- Your end-goals for each visitor
Start by figuring out what it is that you want each visitor to your blog to do before they leave your site. It might be signing up for a mailing list, purchasing a product, or something else.
- A basic content plan
Your articles should never be stand alone pieces, but rather form a comprehensive web of topics that are all related to your end-goals. For example, start with a 5,000-word “Ultimate guide to X” article and then make your next few articles deeper studies of sub-topics within that.
- A simple means of promotion
Try to come up with some ideas for how your will promote the blog. For example, you might create graphics and videos and then send a little paid traffic to them for added engagement.
When you create a strategy you will find that your writing and promotion time is spent much more effectively and you will have concrete measurements to track your growth.
2. Set up a mailing list from day one
Another mistake many new bloggers make is to wait until their blog is more established before adding an opt-in form that collects email subscribers.
This is a big mistake because as you grow, your mailing list becomes one of your primary methods of promoting new content. Simply put; the more email subscribers you have, the more they will help you attract other email subscribers.
A large and engaged mailing list also helps to protect you against Google algorithm changes which could—one day—take away a large portion of your traffic.
What is a mailing list?
Basically, a mailing list is a place for people to subscribe to your blog to receive email notifications each time you publish a new article.
Many bloggers also offer a free download or bonus content (like a newsletter, or training course) when you sign up.
So, how do you get the most out of a mailing list?
Make it easy to find on mobiles and desktop
Once you’ve signed up for a mailing list provider such as, Constant Contact, you can then add a form to your site that will collect email addresses.
It’s important that the form match your page design to establish a fully integrated look.You’ll also want to make sure that you install it in prominent positions like the top of your sidebar and above the fold. This ensures that people don’t miss it when reading your content.
Set up a landing page to promote it
One thing that can produce excellent results is a landing page that is devoted to promoting your mailing list and its benefits.
For example, let’s say you give away a free eBook to everyone who signs up for your mailing list. You can then have a landing page that tells them what they’ll get when they sign up, what the process will be, and how long it will take.
Split test to see if you can get better numbers
Once you’ve had your opt-in form installed and active on your blog for a while you can perform A/B tests to see whether your form is performing as well as it could be.
This is basically where you run two versions of the same form but change one detail slightly. For example, you might have a green button instead of a red one. Often this can lead to dramatically better sign up rates.
You can even take this type of testing further by seeing which versions of your newsletters get the best open rates by changing the subject lines, links, and more. This is a great way to learn about what converts best for your blog.
3. Make sure your blog looks good to Google
The next thing you’ll want to do is make sure that your new blog looks good to Google.
What we are talking about here is the art of blogging SEO (search engine optimization) which essentially involves certain on and off-site activities that encourage Google to rank you higher in their search engines for your relevant keywords.
Over time, these practices can bring you an extraordinary amount of traffic as Google ranks you higher and as you produce more content for your blog. Remember, each page ranks individually so very little traffic will actually come through your homepage since most of it will come from individual posts.
So, how do you make sure your blog looks good to Google?
- Make sure your content is original
Google heavily penalizes blogs that either steal content or just re-hash the ideas and articles found on other blogs without adding anything new. Make sure you are writing (or paying someone to write) new stuff.
- Make sure your content solves problems
Google only sends their customers (people searching) to websites that solve problems. If you can create a new tool or provide perspective for an existing problem, you are more likely to rank on Google because it is perceived as something useful.
- Make sure your blog loads quickly
A fast loading blog is now a big ranking factor for Google. Use a site link Pingdom Tools to see how fast your blog is loading and if it is taking more than one or two seconds then do things like reduce image size, install a caching plugin, and ask your host if there are any adjustments that can be made on their end.
- Install the Yoast SEO plugin
The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress is a fantastic way to learn about on-site SEO. It uses a “traffic light system” that helps you choose the right keywords, and more by showing you a big green light when you’re doing something right. Yoast is an essential plugin for all WordPress users.
- Use a variety of different formats
Google likes to see a blog that uses a variety of different content styles to help users. Long form articles that are a mixture of text, photos, infographics, videos, and tools that help solve a problem are useful to Google. This type of content is also more likely to attract links from other sites that may help your site rank higher.
- Get set up on Webmaster Tools and Analytics
You’ll also want to head over to Webmaster Tools and make sure this program and Google Analytics are installed on your blog. It’s important to do this from day one because Google will provide suggestions on how to improve your appearance in its search engine based on how their robots crawl your site.
In the beginning, it can be really tempting to spend all of your time worrying about SEO instead of blogging. Try to keep SEO in the back of your mind, but, realize the best blogs are the ones that find new and inventive ways to help people.
4. Set your theme up for maximum readability and conversions
At this point you might want to spend a little bit of time ensuring that your blog’s design is perfectly crafted for readability and that it will perform well.
The main things you want to do here are:
- Avoid clutter
Many bloggers think that it’s important to fill up every part of the blog’s design with an image, link, content, quote, or menus Think of your blog more as a high-end magazine with a few photos, good content, and a lot of clean space.
- Use a large font
A font of at least 16px is important because it increases readability of your text, especially in older readers.
- Be consistent
It’s important to craft each blog post consistently to create recognizable work. This means avoiding stock photos and cheap graphics, and using the same color scheme throughout.
Take a look at some successful, content-based blogs and websites to get inspiration. For example, the New Yorker has a heavy focus on long form content and also uses a subscription model.
Once you find something that you like, you can head over to Google Fonts and search for a font combination that is similar.
You can also use the WordPress theme search to find a theme that works for you. For example, you can search for a white theme with a single column and see if you can find a minimal design that removes clutter.
You’ll also want to head over to the Google mobile test and make sure they think it looks good enough for readers to use on mobile devices. This is extremely important for readability because over 50% of your potential traffic comes from mobile devices.
5. Network and promote
The last thing to mention is perhaps the most important and overlooked aspect of starting a new blog—how to get the word out.
A majority of new bloggers will write a lot of great content, but then get uninspired when they realize that no one is reading it. So, how can we change that?
- Link to other blogs
One very important technique is the idea of mentioning other bloggers in your niche. This actually helps to make your article seem thoroughly researched, and also puts you on the radar of those other bloggers when they see that you’ve linked to them.
- Let them know you’ve linked to them
The next step is to send them a tweet to let them know that you mentioned them. Don’t ask them to promote it at this stage; it’s enough that they start to get to know your blog while it is in its new stages.
- Develop relationships by sharing content
Another good thing to do is start sharing content of blogs in your niche by writing a short summary and then reposting it to Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Again, this is aimed at getting you on the radar of other bloggers.
- Look for guest posting opportunities
Once you have some excellent content on your blog, you can start looking for guest posting opportunities. These are harder to come by, but it’s still an extremely beneficial way of getting new traffic. If you already have an existing relationship, it’s much easier to pitch. You can also try sites like LifeHack that use lots of different writers.
- Comment on other blogs
Another way you can add value and promote your blog at the same time is by leaving valuable and insightful comments on other blogs. If you can get these near the top it’s likely that the author and other readers will appreciate the work and visit your site. This can lead to a lot of new activity, or even partnerships.
- Spend money on advertising
A blog is a lot like any other business and you need to advertise it if you want people to know about it. Even if you only spend $50 a month, you’ll get a trickle of extra traffic and pick up a lot of knowledge about how to design your ads.
What have I missed?
I’d really love to know if you think I’ve missed anything important. What do you think bloggers should absolutely do when they first set up their new blog?
Please leave a comment below and let me know!
Serial web entrepreneur and blog seller, Ramsay, founded BlogTyrant.com as a place to share experiments and strategies in blogging and Internet marketing to help you build a successful online business from your couch.