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The process of starting a blog is mixed with both excitement and uncertainty. You’ve committed to a new adventure, but at the same time, there is so much to learn and discover. The Internet is full of misinformation on how to have a successful launch or how to make x amount from blogging. As a blog designer, I always try to manage expectations. In this interview with Graham Bensinger, Shaquille O’Neal says, “if it’s too good to be true, don’t do it.”
Monetizing and growing your blog takes time, intention, and lots of hard work After working with several different bloggers on various launches and relaunches, I’ve come up with my five best practices for starting a blog.
Establish a Focus + Plan of Action for Your First 3 + 6 Months
Launching a blog without a focus and business plan is a recipe for disaster. Often when people start on a whim, they make one if not all three of these mistakes:
- Content is too broad and lacks focus: The audience is confused about how the blog can help them, and therefore, do not build a personal attachment.
- No intention: The audience does not buy into your expertise.
- Commitment does not have the long term stamina: Here’s a blog post, then let’s not publish one for another month.
Everything works better with a plan. When drafting your blog idea, it is important that you have long and short-term goals, content, niche, and audience in mind. You will evolve, but the plan will help guide you and be a successful self-reflection tool. Remember, you aren’t currently blogging now. You are embarking on a public project where you need to offer something of value to your potential audience.
Useful Posts + Resources:
- Blog Content Planner
- Finding Your Focus
- Writing a Blogging Business Plan
- Understanding Your Blogging Niche
- Identifying Your Target Audience
Select Smart Investments + Create a Financial Plan
The content of your blog is the most significant sales tool for growing your readership. If you deliver high-quality, innovative content, your readers will come back for more, and your readership will grow based on your reputation.
When prioritizing your investments, focus on those tools that will help enhance your content. For lifestyle publishers, I recommend a DSLR Camera, Lightroom, and Grammarly. Your photographs will not help you grow your blog audience as well as your followers on social media. If you are a content creator who is not generating his/her images, I would recommend you invest in Blog Post templates and Photoshop to create your post graphics for your blog and social media.
Your content is only as great as the website experience. If your site is slow, or your website design does not showcase your content in the best fashion, you will be hindering your growth. I recommend self-hosted WordPress with Bluehost hosting for most beginning bloggers. WordPress will allow you to evolve as your brand grows, and Bluehost hosting is the most affordable with best customer support for beginning bloggers.
For your blog design, it is completely up to you. Some people opt for premium premade theme to help their launch and others aim for a completely custom design. It depends on your business plan. The advantage of working with a professional to setup your blog design is that he/she can answer any questions and help provide you with guidance during your launch.
I recommend MailChimp over Convertkit for most new blogs and publishers, and definitely for lifestyle publishers. MailChimp is a more visual platform, and your first 2000 subscribers are free. Setting up templates, sign-up forms, and RSS campaigns is incredibly easy with MailChimp. When you do reach that point where you have over 2000 subscribers, you might want to look into changing platforms, but it depends on your content.
- How to Start a WordPress Blog
- Why Hosting Matters
- Picking the Best Blog Theme for Your Content
- Why WordPress
- Business Expenses
- How I Prepared Financially for My Freelance Career
Create 3-10 Published Posts for Your Launch
When you start your blog – probably with a lovely Facebook announcement – to all of your friends and family members, this launch will be the first and only time you reach a broad audience based on your network. It will also be the first impression they have of your content, so it is important to give them something that is worthwhile. This network will help you grow your referral base (and grow your audience) to other people outside of your network. I tell each of my clients to have 3-10 blog posts ready to go, and most find the sweet spot is around 5-7.
Once you do launch, you will be able to promote these past posts (building up a queue in Coschedule and Tailwind) of these posts. You will then be able to differentiate your social media content with the launch posts and the new posts you generate after the launch.
If you want certain functionality or pages at the time of the launch, you need to have these ready. Don’t launch anything with a “coming soon” page. They won’t come back. Create and set up all relevant pages and categories for your content.
- How to Complete a WordPress Blog Post
- WordPress Pages or Categories: Best Practices
- Best Practices for Creating Support Pages
- Writing your About Page
- Services Page: A Case Study
Launch with Blog Posts in Your Queue
Whenever starting a new blog or blog series, I always recommend that the person has four posts in the queue. This practice ensures that you develop an idea more thoroughly before you publish for the first time. I’ve seen countless bloggers start a series, maybe post 1-2 blog posts before they drop the series altogether. I’m guilty of this practice, too!
When you launch with posts in your queue, you are starting out ahead; instead of behind. You can then set a system in place where you are continuing to add to your queue without it being last minute. Plus, you develop a consistent publishing routine. I can’t emphasize this enough. Consistency is the biggest contributor to brand legitimacy and growing your audience. It helps build your reputation as a professional and expert.
- My Blog Post Writing Process
- Blogging Less, Blogging Better: How to Grow Your Blog
- How Identifying My Purpose Helped Me Grow My Blog
Build Buzz Before Your Launch
As I mentioned earlier, everything about the blogging process is likely new to you – using WordPress Dashboard and social media. About a month before you start, create a Coming Soon Landing Page that includes possibly a content upgrade for subscribing and links to your social media profiles. To drive people to those pages, create your social media profiles with the same profile picture and background image. As when you have a blog, you should approach your profiles differently. For generating buzz, here’s what I recommend:
- Instagram: Share previews of your published and upcoming posts. Try to post every day or every other day. Make sure you are following people in a similar niche and narrow down your relevant Instagram hashtags.
- Pinterest: You will want to optimize and set up your boards to follow the best practices outlined in this post. Delete any boards and pins that are not relevant to your content. You won’t be able to pin your images from your blog yet, but you can use tools like Tailwind to build up a queue of relevant posts from other people. After you launch your blog, make sure you pin all of the images from your blog to Pinterest!
- Twitter: Use IFTTT to set up a recipe where your Instagram posts automatically publish to Twitter, by doing this you will ensure that your Instagram images show up as images on Twitter and not links! Connect with relevant people in your target niche, and share sneak previews of upcoming content.
- Facebook: Setup your Facebook page, and share it with your followers. You might want to include 2-3 sneak peek posts so that followers have something to engage with before you launch.
During this month before you begin, you want to establish a routine for regularly promoting your content. As I mentioned before, two of my favorite tools are TailwindApp and Coschedule. They save me time, and their platforms are incredibly easy to use.
With those five tips in mind, you are sure to have a successful launch. Blogging takes a lot of effort, and sometimes putting yourself out there is not the most comfortable thing. It’s not an easy process, but it can be very rewarding.
What are your tips for starting a blog? I’d love to hear them!