Whether you’re a business owner or a writer, a blog is an excellent platform that will help you reach out to your audience. By publishing content that resonates with your target market, you can drive lots of traffic to your blog. As a result, you can drum up your influence in your industry and gain the respect of your peers.
While blogging in principle is easy, the reality of blogging is quite the opposite. It’s not just about writing content – it’s also promoting, outreach, and measuring its performance to see where you stack up against the competition.
While you can ignore the other tasks and just write for your pleasure, you will not be able to unleash the full potential of your blog. If you’re just aiming to broadcast your thoughts and feelings on your blog, then you’re probably not challenging yourself enough.
The limits of your blog are determined by the goal you have in mind for it. For business owners, you can build a vibrant community of your brand advocates. For bloggers, you can create a nice stream of income to help complement your full-time job, if not surpass it in the future!
Once you have decided on a goal to target with your blog, it’s time to plan for it! In today’s day and age, you need to have a strategy in place first before rolling out your blog. You need to set up all the tools and resources to prepare your blog to achieve success. Below are the foundations of what makes a killer blog in 2017.
In general, below are guidelines that will help you come up with the best and most appropriate domain name for your blog:
- Easy to remember – Use actual words in the domain name so people can understand it. Also, having a memorable domain name allows people to type its URL in their browsers.
- Short – about memorability, a shorter domain will be much easier to remember compared to longer ones. At the same time, short domain names are mostly taken up so make sure that you secure a short and available domain name ASAP.
- Extension – The .com domain extension is the most common and popular, so it’s best if your domain ends with this. There are times, however, when you have to use other extensions (.net, .org, .biz, .info, etc.) because your chosen domain name for the .com has already been taken.
- Double-check your domain – Read your preferred domain name out loud and write it down to make sure that it doesn’t have a double meaning or innuendo. You don’t want your site to be remembered for being inappropriate.
If you are still having problems brainstorming for a domain name, then these domain name generators should help.
For purchasing a domain, I’d suggest that you go with NameCheap. It’s simple and easy to create your account and purchase your domain there. Not to mention, in case you didn’t notice from the name, it’s pretty cheap as well ($10.69/year for .com extensions)
For hosting, you can also go with NameCheap‘s shared hosting solutions ($9.88/year). You can also host up to a maximum of three domain in the hosting if you plan on creating other blogs.
Shared hosting is the most basic hosting type since you will be sharing the hosting with other sites. While it’s the most affordable, it can also be the most problematic. If one of your neighboring sites is getting lots of traffic, most of the resources of the server go to that site. As a result, your site may load slower than usual.
Regardless, shared hosting is a great place to start since you’re still building up your traffic. Once you’ve outgrown this hosting type, you can go to more advanced ones like cloud-based or dedicated servers if your site drums of thousands of traffic. For more information about the different types of web hosting servers, click here.
When it comes to blogging platforms, WordPress is the best way to go for a couple of reasons:
- Customization – WordPress is at your mercy when it comes to tweaking your blog to achieve your desired look and feel. Granted, you will need to learn coding and CSS to make the right changes, but the rewards more than make up for the challenge.
- Plugins – WordPress lets you choose from thousands of free plugins straight from your dashboard. You can also purchase premium plugins to help supercharge your blog. To see some of the best plugins for your WordPress blog, click here.
- Support – Due to the 75 million WordPress users all over the world and counting, you might run into problems with the tools you are using. In this case, there are 75 million who can provide the answers to your questions. You can even search from the WordPress support page to find the exact documentation for your problems.
Without sounding bias, there are other blogging platforms that you ought to consider using if WordPress is not for you.
- Ghost – If you only want to write and not bother with the bells and whistles and come with blogging, then this minimalist platform is for you.
- Weebly – WordPress can be difficult to use for the design- and code-challenge. Therefore, Weebly provides you with a drag and drop feature to help you build blog pages without any design experience easily.
- Squarespace – Similar to WordPress, Squarespace offers robust features and design templates to users. What makes this platform different is you don’t have to purchase a hosting service. All your content will be saved within Squarespace.
Theme and Design
Assuming that you chose WordPress, there are hundreds of themes to choose from for your blog.
To make sure that you will pick the best theme for your blog, below are factors that you need to consider:
- Ease of use – All themes are different from each other, and it is your responsibility to find a theme that you are most comfortable using. Test out a couple of themes to start off and compare each one to determine the easiest one for you.
- Responsive – Choose a design that will adjust to the screen resolution of the user’s device. You don’t want a theme that stubbornly maintain its desktop design when accessed on a tablet or mobile phone. This will cause visitors to leave your blog right away.
- Lightweight – As much as possible, do not choose feature-rich plugins. Not only would they load slower, but you will be left with features you probably won’t be using in the long run. Lightweight themes will improve your site speed so you can provide a better user experience.
- Trustworthy – Upon your research of WordPress themes, you will stumble upon unknown or obscure developers. It is best to avoid them and choose well-established developers with good reviews from its handful of themes.
To start off, check out the free beautiful themes featured here.
Free vs. Paid Themes?
You can start with free themes in the meantime. While they catch a lot of flak for not having enough customer support or not updated to keep your blog secure, the fact remains that these themes are good enough to help you get started. Not to mention, free themes found in your dashboard pass through a rigid quality check from the WordPress team to ensure that the theme meets all standard requirements.
However, if you have the budget for a paid WordPress theme, I suggest that you choose the Genesis Framework. It’s arguably the most lightweight among plugins and has a responsive design. For almost $60, you can use the framework and its child theme on all your blogs.
If you want more features from your blog theme, you can get the Divi Theme (which is what Your Escape from 9to5 uses as well).
As a blogger, you need to get your pages to rank in search results so you can drive organic traffic to your blog. This process known as search engine optimization (SEO) is important if you want your blogs to generate an online presence from the start.
Organic traffic is one of the most affordable ways to build a readership since you will drive people who are interested in your topic to your blog. Since they already are inclined to the content you are publishing, it will be much easier to turn them into subscribers or loyal readers.
If you are new to SEO, then you need to learn how to search for target keyword for each of your pages, in particular, long tail keywords. I have detailed the steps on how you should research your keywords in this RankPay post, but below are key takeaways that you need to learn about keyword research.
- Long tail keywords = low hanging fruits – Search phrases made up of less than five words are too specific that they have low search volume. This may sound like a bad thing, but it plays to your advantage. By targeting this keyword types for your blog, you get the most relevant audience looking for this information. Also, there will be less competition for you, making it easier for your pages to rank.
- Invest in paid SEO tools soon – While you can manually search for long tail keywords yourself, it’ll be much easier if you can subscribe for an SEO tool like SEMrush and Ahrefs that will make the keyword research process much easier.
Months ago, I wrote a post on this blog on how to write killer blog posts.
The real challenge now is maintaining that level of quality on a consistent basis.
Often, bloggers can churn out high-quality content for their readers in a period. After all, their blog will lay dormant with no new content on sight.
Imagine if a newspaper decides not to publish anything within the next coming days. They then release a string of editions for days, only to fizzle out and print out nothing for another couple of days.
As one of its subscribers, you’d probably be turned off by its erratic publishing dates and move on to a different newspaper that publishes on time.
The same concept applies to your blog. By not publishing anything for long stretches, you alienate your readers as they will look for your competitors for content.
Therefore, you need to establish an editorial calendar to prepare content for your blog in advance. By preparing for topics and outlines for each in the future, you can focus on creating and publishing content at consistent times.
To give you a better understanding of editorial calendars, please read this post at CoSchedule that explains why your blog needs one.
In case you’re not familiar, CoSchedule also offers a content marketing tool that lets you schedule your posts in advance and helps you automate their social media publishing. The tool is perfect if you are managing multiple writers in your blog.
No matter how good your content is, it won’t attract traffic by itself. You need to find a way to get your content across your audience by hook or crook.
By promoting your content to the right people, you can expect to establish a solid readership with an audience who will help spread your message for you.
Below are ways that will help you put your blog content in front of your target readers.
- Niche submission sites – While submission sites may have been a thing of the past, there are still sites where you can sign up for free to submit your blog content and be seen by hundreds and thousands of users.
- Blogger outreach – Instead of promoting your blog by submitting them to different sites, you can expedite the process by going straight to relevant bloggers influencers in your niche. Sending them an email and pitching them your article, when done correctly, will help you build valuable relationships with powerful people in your online space.
- Social media – Sine a lot of people use social media; it is best that you promote your content here. However, given the number of social media platforms nowadays, it’s become difficult to pinpoint where you must share your content. Ideally, you can start with Facebook and Twitter and scale from there. Actual tactics for marketing your content on these channels can be read here at KISSmetrics.
When it comes to managing you social media marketing, it will help if you are using a tool to oversee all your activities from different social media sites in a single place. Hootsuite not only allows you a robust dashboard where you can segregate your Facebook and Twitter feeds, among others but also schedule your posts in advance.
Once you have consistently applied the tips mentioned in this post over time, you must track and measure your blog’s performance during that period. Analyzing data about your blog’s traffic can be nerve-wracking for those who are not good with numbers and periods. However, the process shouldn’t be that difficult as long as you have clear objectives in mind.
Below are some of the more important blog metrics you should measure:
- Traffic sources – Find out the sites that referred the most traffic to your blog.
- Bounce Rate – The higher the percentage, the more problematic your blog is. Possible causes include slow loading speed, content neither relevant nor engaging enough to visitors, and others.
- Content – Determine the piece of content that drove the most blog traffic over a period.
- Goals – If you created custom goals using your analytics tool, you could figure out the conversion rate of the pages you are tracking and determine ways on how to improve them.
In general, the goal of measuring your blog’s progress is to find the means on how to improve visitor retention and content performance. As much as possible, you want visitors to stay longer on your blog and read your content, if not perform your calls to action. If this is not the case, then you need to find a fix to your problems to help make your blog perform better.
For analyzing your website, Google Analytics will provide you all the data you need. You can compare dates and see how much you have improved or regressed. This will provide you a perspective on the things you’re doing correctly (or incorrectly) and give you ideas on how to make your blog even better.
Repeat! (And Conclusion)
By reading this post, you should have an excellent idea on how to make your blog work this year. Once you have the data of your blog over a period, you need to determine actionable items that will help improve its progress for the next couple of months. By consistently applying yourself to the blog, you will eventually refine your strategy and reap the rewards of your effort.
Blogging requires lots of planning and hard work, but if you want to achieve your goal, then you need to follow the tips mentioned above so you can make the most out of your blog. It is easy to fail and chalk this one up as a loss, but what’s the fun in losing and not meeting your goals?
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