I have been blogging for quite some time, but I have been fairly fortunate in that I have always been the writer, and very rarely have I ever had to track things like site statistics, bounce rate, and the myriad of other statistics that can help a person build a blog from mediocre to amazing.
Over the last year or so, I have really changed my focused, and have launched a few blogs, and have learned so many things that I hope will help you in launching or building your own blogs.
I have watched as many people said they were going to build a fantastic new site, and they were going to develop it themselves, only to watch three months later, the site still isn’t completely functional. Don’t go re-invent the wheel. Slap up WordPress and learn how to optimize it. Look at custom permalinks, and SEO plugins. Find a theme that works well for you, especially one that puts the content before the sidebars, and get things up and running quickly.
If you sit on an idea for too long, you might loose the passion and inspiration to follow it through to the end, or get distracted by other things. Your content management system, whichever one you enjoy, should never be in your way. It should be quick and easy. I recommend WordPress only because I understand it the best. If you enjoy another system, that’s totally fine.
This is the biggest part of getting a blog started. For many blogs these days, it seems like it is the first few posts that will really set the tone for the site. You should sit down and brainstorm your first few posts. Out of your first dozen posts, you should try to make sure that around six are what I call pillar articles. They are the best articles you could come up with, and will really be focused, interesting and show your passion for the subject.
After that point, depending on your posting schedule, you should be creating one amazing pillar article as often as you can. I usually am only able to do one article in every ten, but feel free to beat that ratio. Some blogs I have seen seem to only publish their best articles and their users come to expect that from them. If they started adding commentary and posts covering other topics that weren’t one hundred percent original, they could end up hurting their brand, so I think content concerns deserve the most time and attention.
Planning and practice are key here.
Getting links to your blog is important, but I don’t think it is the most important thing in the world. It can help you get noticed, it can help promote your blog, but one thing I’ve noticed is that a fair amount of my blog’s early traffic comes from people following trackbacks. These are links I have placed to other blogs, highlighting their post, and adding to the discussion.
If you are the first to trackback an article, you can sometimes get huge traffic advantages from that, and it will allow people to get introduced with your blog. It sometimes feels a little weird because it is almost like “forcing” your competitors to advertise for you right after they finished discussing a subject, but if you are smart about how you do it, and actually add to the conversation correctly, you will be making a smart move towards getting your blog out of the starting gates.
Search engine optimization is something I hate to even bring up, but in building a blog, you should keep this in the forefront of your mind, so that you don’t have to revisit it too much in the future. The dividends for building with SEO in mind can be huge, but not always very fast. Learn the basics if you don’t know them, and try not to focus on this too much unless you are at the point where you are looking for that one percent advantage over a competitor.
It is more important though that you optimize the way search engines see your site, and your content than just trying to rank well for a certain keyword. You never know where the long tail of the Internet will take you.
When starting a blog, after writing some initial pillar articles, I go pretty crazy on promotion. With so much going on in the blogosphere, and people seemingly reaching their saturation point, it can be very hard to get any attention or focus on what you are writing.
Promotion should take up a vast majority of your time. Don’t get me wrong though, you have to have something good to promote, otherwise you won’t get very far, and I think that speaks to where I’ve positioned promotion on this list.
Work on the fundamentals before going out there and pushing your content to Digg, Reddit and other services. I should also mention that social media sites that are focused in more on the niche you are covering are always wise. Digg has a large technology audience, as well as a lot of boys interested in videos of people doing something dumb, or girls doing something they think is “hot”. If you don’t have content that appeals to that demographic, try finding a social media site that fits better. It might not give you as much traffic, but a front page, even on the smaller sites, can still be a huge success.
While this should be the most important thing, I wanted to put it last because I have noticed that in the initial stages of a blog’s life, this part is the hardest. Unless you get on the front page of a major social media site, or get some really powerful links pointing your way, even if you have the best content in the world, it can be hard to get people interested in your message, and thus your blog.
In some of my more recent work, I’ve talked to people that didn’t know who I was, or what I have done before, and I found without my personal brand helping me gain their trust, it was very difficult to get them to send me back any sort of e-mail or start any conversation.
My suggestion in this respect is to highlight them in some way, shape or form. If they cover a similar niche, and you talk about what they are writing about and add your personal thoughts and feelings to it, sometimes it helps open a dialogue and feels more like you are willing to give something, rather than them feeling like you just want to “take” of their time.
Getting your blog started can be difficult. Keeping it going can be even more so, but if you take things slowly, work out plans and execute them, you should be fine. I know I didn’t go into too many specifics here, but every time you start a new blog, there are so many variables, that I could write about it forever. If you have any specific questions you’d like answered regarding starting a blog, please let me know in the comments below.