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So you want to start a blog. That’s great. Blogging is awesome. This is my second blog, so clearly I can’t get enough of it. But, whereas, with my first blog, Diary of an ExSloth, I just dove into the world of blogging haphazardly, with Hacking Digital, I actually wanted to start a successful blog this time around.
There are basic things about blogging and being a blogger that I didn’t learn until well into my second year of blogging, and my blog’s growth suffered because of it. If you want to start a successful blog, whether it’s a food blog or a business blog, there are quite a few things you should consider before launching.
9 Steps to help you Start a Successful Blog
1. Define your audience and purpose
What are you going to blog about? Who are you trying to help with your posts? Who will read your blog? Understanding who your readers are and defining your blog’s purpose are two of the most important things you’ll ever do in your time as a blogger. Without a purpose or knowing who you’re writing for, you run the risk of saying a lot of nothing to no one. And that’s not exactly the best way to start a successful blog.
Tip: Regina of byRegina.com wrote an awesome post a while back about defining your ideal reader and it’s definitely worth checking out before you tackle anything else to do with blogging.
2. Name your blog
You can’t start a successful blog without a good name, right? A lot of people think that this is step number 1, but it actually isn’t easy to come up with a suitable name for your blog unless you know what you’re going to blog about and who for. A notable exception to this rule, of course, is if you’re using your name as your blog title. And even then, you’ll most likely need a tagline to further define what your space is about.
Tip: Take as much time as you need with this step. Really think about it before you commit to a name because, while the technical side of changing your name is pretty simple, a full rename and rebrand is a big undertaking.
3. Decide on a blogging platform
I’m not going to go into too much detail here because the topic of choosing a blogging platform deserves a post or two all of its own. But this is another huge step on your quest to start a successful blog so it needed to be mentioned. My advice is to do your research and find a platform that you’re comfortable using. You want to be able to focus on actually blogging, not stuck figuring out how to do every little thing. That being said, you need to make sure the platform you choose will be able to do the things you want.
Tip: If you decide to go with self-hosted WordPress and have the budget, I highly recommend my current host, SiteGround*. They’ve got amazing customer service and awesome hosting plans customized for WordPress.
4. Buy a domain
This is one of the few areas I think bloggers actually need to spend money if they want to start a successful blog. Why? Well, not only are URLs ending in .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com unprofessional, but they’re not very memorable. When someone stumbles upon your blog for the first time, they look at your logo and blog name, but hardly ever the actual url. So when choosing a domain, make sure the url matches your blog name and ends in something easy like .com, .ca, .co.uk etc..
Tip: If you decided to go with self-hosting, look for a hosting service* that includes a free domain name on signup so you can save on domain fees in the first year.
5. Get the right tools
Now that you’ve got the biggest tool out of the way, your blogging platform, it’s time to think about all the other tools you’ll need to make this blogging thing a reality. Over the last three years of blogging, I’ve learned that I can’t run my blog on my own. It’s a lot of work, there are a lot of moving pieces and trying to keep track of everything on my own is a recipe for disaster. But since hiring an assistant isn’t in my plans at the moment, I rely on tools to make my blogging life easier.
Tip: Here’s a list of my 9 must-have free blogging tools.
6. Get active on social media
Your blog is not an island. Your audience will most likely be hanging out in other places online and it’s always a good idea to go where they are. Do some research and figure out where your ideal readers are likely to be. Pick two or three platforms to focus your energy on, sign up and start generating interest on social media.
Since you haven’t actually started blogging yet, share content from others in your niche. Not only is this is a good way to introduce yourself to potential readers but when you finally start sharing your own content, they’ll want to read it because they’ll already know you and trust your opinion.
7. Create Content and an Editorial Calendar
You can’t start a successful blog without content (or at least content ideas) and an editorial calendar. So now that you have all that done, it’s time to start thinking of what you’re actually going to write. Brainstorm some topics and see how many post ideas you can come up with. The goal is to have blog content laid out for the foreseeable future so you don’t end up scrambling for something to write about after launching.
Tip: Content is king in the blogging world, but consistency is queen. Without consistent quality content, your blog will go nowhere fast so keep that in mind when filling in your editorial calendar.
Blog design is probably the number one thing new bloggers spend way too much time worrying about. In reality, it’s one of the last things you should think about when you’re just starting out. Of course, you don’t want an ugly blog that nobody can look at. That’s definitely not the way to gain readers. But there’s also no need to go all out designing every little detail.
When you’re just starting out, aim for a simple design that will showcase your awesome content. Then, as your blog grows and your brand evolves, you can start tweaking the design to suit.
Tip: If you’re on a budget check and can’t afford a designer, check out the Genesis Framework*. They have great designs that are functional and easily customized.
9. Start Blogging
And finally, it’s time to hit ‘publish’ on that first post. But not really.A blog with just one post is highly forgettable, regardless of the design or the name or how great that one blog post was. If you want to start a successful blog, you actually need to publish 3 – 5 posts before you even launch. That way you already have content for new readers to check out when they arrive.
Bonus: Build your list
Most people don’t even think about setting up a mailing list when they launch their blog. It’s one of those intimidating tasks that everyone puts off for ‘later’ but is absolutely necessary if you want to start a successful blog. Melyssa Griffin is the queen of list building for bloggers so I’ll let her tell you why it’s important. Just note that it is.
Bonus part 2: Set a launch date and just do it
Many bloggers, myself included, spend so long planning to start a successful blog that they either never get around to actually launching or take way too long to do so. Don’t hold yourself back by waiting for everything to be perfect. Sometimes you just have to take the leap.
What about you?
- Are you a blogger or toying with the idea of starting a blog?
- What other things did you or do you plan to do before launching your blog?