Thinking of starting a blog? Blogging is a wonderful thing to get involved with and can lead to all sorts of great opportunities. But before you dive right in, it's well worth firstly taking a step back and thinking about a few important things.
Listen up. Starting a blog is pretty easy, but getting it right is a lot more difficult and there are many decisions to make along the way. Here are 12 things you need to know before you even start a blog:
1. Self-Hosted WordPress Blog
You might be wondering about the best option for starting a blog. Do you create a WordPress blog, or would a platform like Blogger suffice? What about something like Squarespace or Wix?
In my opinion, a self-hosted WordPress blog (ie. WordPress.org) is by far and away the best option.
There are a few main reasons for this:
Firstly, a self-hosted WordPress blog gives you complete ownership and control over everything you do. There are millions of themes and plugins for WordPress, while it's also great to know that nobody can come along one day and take down your blog because it 'breaks' some sort of rule. That's a big issue with many platforms!
Once you have installed WordPress (it's free and most hosts let you install it with just a couple of clicks), you can essentially do whatever you like. You'll need to spend a bit of money on hosting and a domain name, but those can be picked up pretty cheaply. You can learn more about WordPress here.
2. Build a Brand
To build a successful blog and stand out in the crowd, you need to work to create a distinctive brand. This means pick a very specific niche and working to develop a brand that really speaks to your audience.
What makes a brand?
Well, it involves many different things like the name, logo, visual imagery, the tone/personality of your writing, the user experience, and so on. Think about great bloggers like Seth Godin. You always know exactly what you're getting when you visit his blog - and that's what you need to do, too.
To be successful, you must stand out from the crowd and speak to your audience. What's your niche? What do you want to be known as? What's the personality of your blog going to be? Will your blog be serious/funny/informative/detailed/factual, etc.?
3. Content is King
You can have the best-looking blog in the world, but it doesn't matter a jot if the content is crap!
To be successful and keep people coming back for more (which is surely what every blogger is looking for), your content must be high quality and deliver on exactly what you've promised.
Make sure each post is well researched and has a clear point. Make it interesting to read by injecting a bit of your own personality into each post - or tell stories to bring it alive.
Remember: content is king, so make sure it's as good as it possibly can be!
4. Blog Regularly
Blogging regularly is really important. If you want your blog to have any kind of impact, you just cannot go weeks or months without making a post!
When you first set up your blog, it's easy, to begin with, great intentions and boast about how you're going to make a new post six times a week. But unless you're Superman/woman, the reality is that sticking to a schedule like that is completely unrealistic.
To give yourself the best possible chance of success, be realistic about how often you're going to post and set a schedule to meet that goal. You might want to plan out your content in advance and then use a post scheduler to post it to your blog on a given day.
5. Visual Content is Key
Visual content is becoming an ever-bigger part of the blogging world. I'm talking about videos, graphics, photos, infographics, etc.
Make sure each and every post you make contains some sort of visual content. It really helps to bring your blog alive and can greatly increase the number of people who click through to your blog - especially from social media.
Not a graphic designer whizz kid? Don't worry! A tool like Canva is free and super simple to use, or you could outsource it to a design professional.
6. Connect With Other Bloggers
It's easy to see other blogs as competitors, but you should actually look at them as your friends. Experience tells me that your success often depends on connecting with other bloggers and making yourself known to the key players in your niche.
Comment on their blogs and join in the conversation. Share their posts on social media. Build a relationship with them and get on their radar! Trust me, it'll really help your chances of success.
7. You MUST Build an Email List
Imagine being able to send 500 people to your new blog post in a matter of minutes, or having the ability to instantly send traffic to an offer you're promoting as an affiliate.
When you have an email list, you have the power to do all this and more!
You've probably heard the expression "the money is in the list" - and I can absolutely and categorically tell you that it's the honest truth. If you're starting a new blog, make sure you start building an email list from day one.
8. Paying for Advertising
There are many great free ways to get traffic to your blog. You can work on SEO and get traffic from Google. You can write guest posts for other blogs, or use social media to share relevant content and get new followers.
But while free methods are great, it's also worth considering paid methods like Facebook advertising. If you do it right, you can achieve your goals much quicker and almost instantly reach out to new people.
A word of warning: Don't throw a load of money at the wall and hope it sticks! Set a small budget (e.g. $20) and test the water to see if it works.
9. Responsive Design is a MUST
Gone are the days when most people browsed the internet on their desktop computer. Nowadays, it's all about smartphones and tablets.
If you're planning to set up a new blog in 2017, please, please, PLEASE make sure it is responsive and easily viewable on mobile devices! It'll make the viewing experience much better for your visitors, and it has certain SEO benefits, too.
10. Be Aware of Increasing Security Threats
When setting up a blog, it's extremely important to take security seriously. Blogs are vulnerable to hackers and other online threats, so it's absolutely vital to take steps to protect your site as much as possible. Trust me, you don't want the hassle of sorting out a hacked blog because it can be a complete and utter pain in the arse!
Firstly, make sure your blog and plugins are always up-to-date and running the latest versions. This includes the WordPress installation, your theme, and each plugin.
Secondly, make sure you install a basic WordPress security plugin to help guard against common threats and get alerted if the worst happens. WordFence, BulletProof Security, and iThemes Security are three of the most popular.
11. You Need to Think About SEO
Where do you go if you're looking for information? In most cases, the answer is Google, so you'd be absolutely CRAZY to ignore it as a traffic source.
If you want to get visitors from Google, you need to think about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I could write a whole book on this subject, but for now, you just need to get the basics right.
Base each blog post around a specific keyword - and be sure to include that keyword a few times in the post. Don't overdo it!
In addition, it's worth installing an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO. This is a free tool that gives you the ability to optimize your blog quickly and easily.
12. Blogging is Hard Work
Finally, it's important to realize that blogging is hard work.
Many people dream of setting up a new blog and achieving instant overnight success, but the reality is that it's bloody hard work and requires consistent effort over years and years. If you're willing to put the effort it, it's well worth it though and literally has the power to change your life.