Your Guide to Starting Your First Successful Blog
Let’s face the fact. To build and run a successful – perhaps a profitable blog, goes beyond a simple blog setup.
It takes a great deal of consistent efforts, know-hows, time and passion.
In this article, I’m going to cover the basic tips to create your first successful blog that will shave quite a bit of your learning curve, bearing in mind that no blog can achieve its success overnight.
1. Determine Your Goal
Everything begins with a goal in mind. Why do you want to start a blog? Is it for fun or to make a living? Everyone uses the internet for a reason. Your goal, as crystal clear as it can be, is the key to creating your first successful blog.
Tip: Don’t ever thought of starting a blog without a clearly written goal.
2. Pick a Niche
It’s important to choose a niche where your passion lies. Blogging isn’t going to be fun in the long run if what you are writing is something you aren’t passionate about.
Tip: If you’re not tech-savvy, managing a tech blog is a no-go.
3. Research Your Niche
Once you determine your niche, google it and see what others are blogging about in your niche and ask yourself, “how can I be different?”. Here you need to discover your UPS – unique selling point.
Tip: Forget IM niche or Make Money Online niche. There can never be another John Chow or Darren Rowse.
4. Choose a Keyword-rich Domain
Let’s just say you’ve chosen to blog about “dog training”. Naturally, it’s best to have the word “dog” as keyword on your domain url. Unless you are left with little option, go for .com with no dashes. Be creative.
Unless you are blogging for fun and on a shoe string budget, it’s advisable to self-host your blog for absolute control. Sure, wordpress.com or blogspot is free but there is only so much you can do with them. Decide wisely and decide early.
To buy hosting, I highly recommend HostGator and if you use the Coupon HEART you get 20% off!
Tip: WordPress.org certainly outperforms any other available blogging platforms. No doubt about it.
Post Install Tips
6. Change Permalink
Permalink is an extension to your url that points to your article. For some reasons, by default, your permalink isn’t optimized for search engine yet many tend to overlook it. Not only an optimized permalink improve readability, more importantly it has its SEO benefit.
Tip: Customize it using /%postname%/. Go to Setting > Permalink > Custom Structure.
7. Update Ping Services
One of the great features of WordPress is its own built-in pinging tool that sorta automatically notify search engines (or blog directories) whenever your blog is updated. Pinging helps to get your post index faster and spread as far and wide around the web as possible.
Tip: Go to Setting > Writing > Update it with this complete list of ping services.
8. Optimize Blog Title
Perhaps, this is the most important part of your blog that shouldn’t be taken for granted at all costs. Going back to the above example, for obvious reason, the keyword “dog training’ should be in the title. Your ranking on search engines hinges upon the choice of your title.
Tip: Your blog title is what the search engines see and one that will either break or make your blog.
9. Create a Sitemap
Basically a sitemap tells the search engines how, when and what to index your site. If your new blog is yet to be indexed by Google, submit your sitemap via Google Webmasters Tools (see #20) using your existing Google account, or create an account if you don’t have one.
Tip: Google XML Sitemaps (see #16 ) will generate a compatible sitemap of your WordPress blog which is supported by all the major search engine.
10. Setup an “About Me” page
Show the world who you are. Regardless what your blogging goal is, hiding behind the veil of internet isn’t doing much to improve your credibility as a blogger.
Tip: Use your real photo. Don’t hide. It’s easier to trust someone who doesn’t put a mask on his face if you know what I mean.
Blog Design Tips
11. First Impression Counts.
If your budget allows, go for premium. Sure, some of free templates have aesthetic values that make a good first impression but due to lack technical support, especially for non-techy users, many opt for premium themes.
Tip: ThemeForest is perhaps the most affordable place to buy premium WordPress themes.
12. Avoid Clutter
Nothing is more amateurish than a cluttered blog full of ads and “busy” sidebar. Don’t add anything that adds no value to your readers. Remember, your user’s experience stands above and beyond your own fancy preference.
Tip: Avoid widgets at all cost.
13. Use Images
Pictures speak a thousand words. It’s magic formula to engage your visitors. Obviously, your choice of images must be relevant to the subject in question.
Tip: Whenever you use images, give credit when credit is due.
14. Check Site Loading Time
Nothing annoys your first time visitors than waiting for your page to load in what seems to be an endless wait. With a short attention span, the rule of the thumb is that you’ve only got 10 seconds to impress your readers.
Tip: Probably this coolest ever website load time tester may be of interest to you.
15. Logo Design.
Blogosphere is a super competitive playing field. You need to make your blog stand out from the competition. Either by picking the right design that “make the first memorable impression” or if design work isn’t your forte, outsource it to professional designer.
Tip: Need some inspiration? Check out 15 examples of simple yet successful logo designs.
16. Install Only Essential Plugins
What sets apart WordPress from other blogging platforms is the plethora of plugins developed to serve the large community of WordPress users and due to its vast variety of plugins, it’s advisable to differentiate, in the context of your blogging needs, which plugins are considered luxuries you can live without and which are deemed necessary.
Tip: For the sake simplicity, I’ve prepared a list of 10 essential plugins that you ought to install when you first setup your blog.
17. Setup Feedburner Account
Nothing simplify the process of subscription to your blog than using Feedburner. With just one click, your readers can subscribe or join your mailing list with ease. Perhaps for non-techy visitors.
Tip: Offer email subscription as an alternative to RSS subscription. It’s a no-brainer. Setting it up is as easy as 1-2-3.
18. Automate Daily Backup
Having survived the agony and frustration of being hacked not too long ago, I can’t stress enough the importance of automating the daily backup of your blog. I couldn’t imagine what the final outcome was if I didn’t back up my entire blog then. As the say, prevention is better than cure so backing up is certainly high on my priority list.
Tip: Use WP Backup Plugin to send the daily backup of your blog to your email and archive it for safe keeping, lest the unexpected does happen with no prior warning whatsoever.
19. Claim Your Blog on Technorati.
You might be wondering why you need to claim your blog on Technorati, you’ll be surprise that being listed on Technorati not only send a bunch of targeted traffic to your blog, more importantly you stand to gain one-way back link all for the cost of nothing.
Tip: Still clueless? Here’s how to claim your with Technorati.
20. Google Webmaster / Analytic
Using Google Webmasters Tools, you can submit the structure of your site (aka sitemap) to improve search engine crawls, learn which search queries drive traffic to your site and track who you link to and who links to you. It’s one of the most essential Search Engine Optimization tool for any blogmaster.
Tip: While you are it, don’t forget to track your blog with Google Analytic too. A free stats tracking tool by the good ol’ Google. Used in combination Google Webmaster, they are both the essential SEO tools for any blog who relies heavily on Google.
21. Write with Readers in Mind.
Your readers come first in everything you do with your blog. They are the very reason why your blog exists in the first place. Identity the need of your audience via feedback and provide the kind of contents they want to read and not what you want to write.
Tip: When your blog is new, the initial 10 articles must be of the best quality. Give your 120% efforts as they are your best “silent salesmen”. You don’t first launch your blog with sub-standard poorly written articles.
Here are 17 Writing Tips For Bloggers Who Think They Can’t Write!
22. Craft Catchy Headline
If you’ve got only 10 seconds to impress, your headline is definite one of the most important keys to impress and engage your prospective readers. Be creative and be as impressive as possible.
Tip: Brian Clark has a sure-fire headline formula that will always work.
23. Use List.
Trust me. People loves list. Period.
Tip: Hope you love this article…. 😉
24. Proofread 3x
A while ago I wrote an article touching on the importance of proofreading. Whether you do have a habit of proofreading your copy prior to pushing the “published” button, says a lot about you a blogger.
Tip: Once you’re done writing your first draft. Leave your computer. Do something else and come back later to proofread your copy 3x.
25. Read More and Read Often.
Reading expands your knowledge and gives you a different angle and perspective of what you’ve already known. Besides, it helps to keep on track on what’s happening in your niche too.
Tip: When the inevitable of writer’s block happens, reading is nothing sort of a brainstorming process in which new ideas are born.
26. Link to Others
The habit of linking out has its own boomerang effect. Not only you’ll get the attention of the bloggers whom you link to, in some cases, when trackback is in place, we’ll get tons of traffic when you least expect it.
A case in point is how Stanley Tang generated 1,052 unique visitors to his blog in 72 hour using the power of trackback. A simple yet workable strategy.
Tip: Be proactive and generous.Don’t be afraid to link to others first as long as the articles are relevant to your readers. Didn’t I say “giving is receiving”?
27. Guest Posting
As and when the opportunity arises, guest posting is a fantastic way for marketing your blog and raise your profile as a blogger. Guest posting as part of your initial promotional effort is highly recommended. To be effective, however, a little research of what the preference of your host’s audience is advisable before you pull the gun.
Tip: Josh Klein guest posted on Problogger where he touched upon the very subject of guest posting. I recommend it if you’re intent on doing guest post to promote your blog.
The phenomenal growth of Twitter is amazing. It has become the main stream platform to promote your online presence. If you aren’t into it yet, well, you are probably missing one of the most effective promotional medias you can leverage on.
29. Blog Commenting
Gone are the days are “If I build it, they will come”. Blog commenting is perhaps the most effective way of networking with other bloggers, especially so if you are a new kid on block. In fact, blog commenting has been my primary source of direct traffic in my first 3 months of my blog. Make sure to be CommentLuv enabled. Installing CommentLuv is crucial.
Tip: Leave relevant and meaningful comments that adds to the conversation. General comments such as, “Great post. I agree with you!” is frowned upon as an obvious attempts to get backlinks.
30. Blog Carnival
Blog carnival is simply an event where several articles of the same topic are submitted and put together in a single post. It’s a great way to promote your blog and connect with other bloggers who participate in the carnival.
Tip: Pick your best article and submit it to Blog Carnival – probably on weekly basis.
Link Building Tips
31. Dofollow Commenting
To many, blog commenting isn’t just about getting traffic and building relationship. Commenting on dofollow blogs has become the legit way of link building while some even go to the extent of leaving, what we often refer to as spammy comments.
Tip: Here’s the ultimate list of dofollow blogs for your link building campaign. Be good and remember, dofollow is a privilege that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
32. Article Marketing
For my niche sites, article marketing has always been my preferred method of link building. It isn’t as time-consuming as blog commenting. Here’s you write an article (or some articles) related to your niche where each comes with a resource box linking to your main blog. Whenever anyone uses your article, you will get one way back link and as more people are using it, your back link will just explode like magic.
A link bait post is a link worthy article with viral appeal that excites people to comment, talk about, recommend and link to. Hopefully this article will count as one…..
Tip: Find what your audience want and provide them a solution.
34. Forum Signature.
Yet another great way of link building is participating in dofollow forums where you are allowed to leave urls in your signature. Though it’s time consuming, many are leveraging upon it to either increase their in bound links (and promote affiliate programs)
35. Create Mini Blogs
This last tip pretty much ties up with the tip #5. Once you have established your main blog, create either blogspot or wordpress.com or both. Write a couple of articles related to your niche and the trick is to link to your main blog using the right anchor text within each article.
Tip: I leave it to your own imagination.
So folks, I reckon this is one of the longest articles I’ve ever written for Retire @ 21. If you’ve find the guide useful and informative, I’d appreciate if you take the time to share it in your community for the greater benefit of others who have just entered into the unknown world of blogging.
This article is not meant to be a one-fit-for-all answers to building a successful blog but I believe if you follow those tip to a T, you are going to be one step closer to be successful in blogging.
Just remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your blog.
Image Credit: csitscenter
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