In previous Blogging Tips Tuesday posts I have covered several topics I have been asked to give more information about, generally for the blogger who already has their site up and running. However, I know there are many of you out there looking to start a blog and perhaps aren’t sure where to start and what have in place. So, today I’m going to discuss 5 of the most important things that have led to my blogging success that I wish I had in place from the beginning.
1. A Self-Hosted Domain Name – One of the most important things in a blog is your identity and niche, or what your core subject is that you plan to write about. Do you want a blog that centers around one topic or many? Do you want to use your real identity or a pen name? Do you want your blog to include what is going on in your life? These are all important questions to ask yourself when coming up with a domain and blog name. I always suggest picking a blog name that you can also use as a self-hosted domain name and that is one you want to stick with for the long run. While a few bloggers may be able to pull off using a different domain from their blog name, it can be a very confusing to do early on when you don’t have an established reader base.
If you are planning on blogging seriously, I also recommend to go ahead and buy your domain name and have it be self-hosted. Yes, there are free alternatives, but being self-hosted generally means more stability and you having control on how your site works. This is also a must for some ad and affiliate networks if you plan to go for the monetizing route, not to mention companies that may be wanting to work with you but need to see that you are serious about your blog and aren’t going to fold overnight. When you are just starting out, it is very feasible to buy a domain for 10 bucks or less and have hosting be $5 or so a month, generally dependent on how much hosting time you purchase at once. Host Gator and Go Daddy are two of the most popular networks to use and I currently use Host Gator as my site host.
2. Wordpress and an Attractive Theme – Many bloggers start out with free Blogger, which is fine, but I really suggest using WordPress from the beginning. Any successful blogger I’ve talked with has always suggested using WordPress over Blogger because there is a lot more control, customization and plugins and widgets you can use, not to mention stability. Starting with WordPress from the beginning will save you a lot of time, frustration and likely money when you will probably come across the day you decide you do want to make the switch to WordPress. I actually found WordPress pretty easy to use once I got used to it.
Also, make sure your blog is attractive and easy to read and find items. Most people won’t come back to a site if it’s very hard to surf through the menus, or even find them, or if the colors are harsh, font is difficult to read or the flow doesn’t work. We all make typos and grammar/spelling mistakes, but take the time to proofread your content for these errors and clarity. It’ll make you look more professional for companies and your readers will appreciate it. Having a nice design also helps set you apart from other blogs and build your identity. If you don’t have the time, or are like me and afraid of screwing something up, there are several blog designers out there that only charge as little as $30-$50 to make your blog look great! There are also some themes out there that you can buy and look great “out of the box”, such as the one I use, Genesis Framework by StudioPress with Social Eyes Theme, and can also be tweaked to your taste.
3. Core/Foundational Content – Once you have your niche and identity figured out, you want to write and setup what is commonly referred to as core, foundation or column/pillar content. This is content that is pretty much timeless for your blog and isn’t going to expire in the immediate future. I suggest having at least 5-10 posts, depending on your desired topic, setup before you start advertising your blog. This is so you have content that will make new visitors see the quality and value in your blog and want to return instead of seeing it’s only 1-day old with 1 post. This is also a helpful foundation to build the content of your blog off of. For example, as a deal blog, often posts I make in the morning are no longer valid in the evening, and sometimes even the next hour. Within my post, I can often link to a foundation post of my blog, such as where to find more coupons, so that even though the content of that particular post may no longer apply, I still have content that visitor can see and interact with.
I suggest planning out a basic structure for your blog of a few topics you want to write about and writing at least one foundation post for each topic, preferably about how it has helped you and/or how you implement it into your own life. This will help give your blog personality and a voice, which I mention next, to set you apart from other blogs and also help your readers have a more personal relationship with you, which equals trust, respect and return visits. Remember, choose only topics you feel like you have time to dedicate to and write about as you feel comfortable. You can always add more later as you get a feel for what your audience wants more of.
4. Your Own Unique Voice – Odds are that when you start a blog, there’s another one with the same topic out there. In fact, it’s quite possible there are hundreds with your same subject of choice! That means it can be tough to poke your head up higher than the others and be noticed. One of the best ways to do this is to have your own unique voice, making your blog one-of-a-kind by implementing your personality. I’m not saying you need to give out your whole life history, unless, of course, that’s what you want to do. But don’t be shy about putting your quirks into your posts, or having a unique format, etc. With so many blogs out there posting the same things, readers really enjoy something that is different from the norm.
5. Social Media Networks and Other Ways to Follow Your Blog (Specifically Facebook) – While you will eventually be able to get a good portion, if not most of, your traffic from search engines, you definitely want to build up your followers and subscribers on Facebook, Twitter, RSS/Email, etc. For example, my two top traffic sources are Google and Facebook by far, which is why I recommend Facebook so highly. However, make sure you treat all social media and other follower resources equally. You never know when a server may go down or something accidentally gets deleted, or there is something that causes you to get banned (as happens sometimes on Facebook). You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, incase it’s not there tomorrow. Also, offering a variety of networks to be followed on is always a good idea because not everyone uses Facebook or Twitter (shocking I know :p) or like having email sent everyday or knows how RSS feeds work.
Do you have any other tips you consider must-haves when starting a blog? Do you have a topic you’d like me to discuss? Please leave a comment below or send me an email! As always, I wish you happy, successful blogging!