Have you been postponing the launch of your blog for the longest time?
You thought you would be done three months ago but you underestimated all the work that goes into just getting your blog ready.
Or maybe you’ve already started blogging but you’re extremely lost. You know you’re missing a few critical pieces and you’re plain unhappy with the results you’ve been getting.
What was supposed to be a fun and exciting project is now sucking the life out of you. It’s exhausting, depressing and discouraging. You’re not sure if it’s even worth the effort.
When you decide to start a blog it’s hard to decide what’s important and what’s not.
It’s difficult to stay focused. There are so many things to do and learn, and all those shiny objects (“gurus” telling you what to do, tools, random tactics)
I know exactly how that feels.
It took me 6 long months to get my blog launched and another month or so before I figured out how to promote myself and get eyeballs on my brand new baby.
A lot of that initial stalling and inertia was because I didn’t have a plan for how I wanted to start my blog. I didn’t know how much was enough to get started.
Learning different tools and strategies are great, but without a plan they’re all useless.
A lot of what goes into starting a blog that attracts an audience, subscribers and makes money in due time is foundation and a road map.Learning different tools and strategies are great, but without a plan they're all useless.Click To Tweet
There are 15 main elements involved in starting a blog with less distraction, more focus. This is a long post, so click on what you need first.
Need help with the starter aspects of starting a blog? Grab the Blog Zero Cheat sheet below with 5 quick hacks to make naming your site effortless, a checklist to see if your domain will run into legal issues in future essential plugins cheatsheet as well as a step-by-step tutorial to get your hosting set-up.
If you’re looking for Part 1 of this series on niches, click here.
- Determine your launch plan
- Determine your niche
- Define your ideal reade
- Define your brand
- Name your site
- Get your Domain + Hosting
- Select a theme
- Pick your plugins
- Branding your site
- Legalese of starting a blog
- Determine your content categories
- Curate content ideas
- Capture content ideas
- Write your first few posts
- Basic SEO
- Make your posts shareable
- Prepare to grow your Email List
- Email service provider
- Opt-in freebie
- Landing page
- Welcome email
- Boost site to capture traffic
- Pick your social media platform
- Intentional Traffic + promotion
- Decide on your income streams
#1 Your launch plan
Why would you bother with a launch plan when your blog is in shambles?
And here’s why this is so important. Having a launch plan will put you in the right frame of mind for what you need to finish before you get your blog “out there”.
It will give you a direction and it’s your best bet at finishing your blog rather than it languishing in never to be seen land.
There are 2 ways you can go about launching your blog:
Plan A (LOTW)
You launch with a landing page, an opt-in freebie, a thank you page and a welcome email series.
Launch Plan B (3×5 Framework)
Launch plan A is what I recommend, but it might not be for everyone. If you prefer to send readers to your blog first, here’s what you minimally need to launch.
Remember that you do not need to have everything ‘figured’ out and ready to go from Day 1. Done is better than perfect.
- 3 Pages
- Your ‘About me’ page – Use the ‘About Me’ Page template in the workbook
- A contact me page using a free plugin like Contact Form 7
- Resources Page
- 3-5 Posts
- 5 Emails in a welcome email series
- Opt-in freebie + Landing Page to promote your opt-in
There’s no right or wrong answer as to which you should choose. Going with Plan A though allows you to start growing your email list while you’re still working on the backend of your site.
#2 Determine your niche
In part 1 of this series, I covered niches in detail. Have a look at it here.
There are 10 specific criteria before you decide that you have a winning niche.
#3 Define your ideal reader
Why is knowing your ideal reader so important? That’s because you can’t cater to everyone. Content that tries to attract everyone, attracts no one.Content that tries to attract everyone, attracts no one.Click To Tweet
By defining who exactly your ideal reader is, you’ll be able to:
- Talk to your audience at the right level
- Not waste your effort writing for people who will never enjoy or gel with your content. And that’s ok!
- Not scratch your head thinking about what content to create because you know what your audience needs
What are some of the things you should be looking for when defining you ideal reader?
You obviously need a demographic:
- Male or female?
- Age range
- Single or married?
- Kids or no kid
But beyond the basics, you need to dig into his/her fears, aspirations, frustrations and motivations. These will help you understand at a deeper level the type of person you want to attract and influence. This will also help you create a persona. A persona brings your target audience to life by making her/him “real”.
You stop writing for Kat, a stay-at-home mom with 2 kids.
But you start writing for Kat, a mom with 2 kids who is toying with the idea of starting a home-based VA business. She has been out of workforce for almost ten years and fears she has lost touch with what potential clients may need. She’s clueless about what she should charge and what if any overhead costs she should bear before starting out.
#4 Define your brand
Are you wondering why I’m not covering domain, hosting, theme selection and naming your site first?
That’s because defining your brand will impact on several of those factors.
And your brand is more than the visual aspects and the color theme.
The mistake several of us make is not thinking about the feelings we want our brand to evoke in our ideal reader. That, beyond everything else should impact on our name, theme and color palette.
Your brand is the impact you have on your ideal reader.
A question that helped me a lot in defining my brand is this:
“If you were a blogging personality, who would you be?”
There should be one or two people that immediately come to mind.
So think of who in the online space you most resonate with. What about them do you want for your brand? What aspects of their brand do you want to incorporate for your own blog and business? And how do you see yourself as a reflection of them?
Do you know what you believe in? What you stand for? What your strengths and weaknesses are?
#5 Naming your site
Now that you have your value proposition or niche figured out, what do you name your blog?
There’s no right answer.
It really depends on your vision for your business.
- Think about the niche you’re serving
- The tone associated with your brand (serious, laid back, humorous?)
- What problems will you be solving?
- How important is an identity tied to your name?
Here are some ways around it:
Name or Name + other word
You could use your own name like I’ve done for my site MeeraKothand.Com or Meera & Co.
You could also use a combination of your name with another word such as HelloMerri or HeyMeera. Another example of this in action is byregina.
•Great for creating a strong brand presence
•More flexibility as your business grows and you want to expand into other areas.
•Not easy to remember if your name is difficult to pronounce or spell
Use your Target audience in the name
A really good example of this is my buddy McKinzie Bean’s site Momsmakecents. She helps mothers earn a living from home and her site name reflects that.
Solopreneur diaries is another example by my blogging buddy Tonia Kendrick.
Your name + what you do
This works great especially if you’re offering a service based business. Here are some examples:
Meera’s copy school, Jess Designs, Emily writes or Bel’s coaching and consultancy.
What you do + 1 other word
My friend Cath has her author website at Iconic Copy. It gives an inkling to the service she offers and is also unique. Here are some examples: Spark Photography, Shutter designs.
Out of the box
These are completely out of the box names that have nothing to do with your blog or business. E.g. Apple, Nike.
Usually a mash up of 2 to 3 words is best. Here are some tools you can use to create words.
Do the name test to see if the name you picked is good to go
- The name is available as a domain. Use NAMECHEAP.COM to search for available domains
- The name is available across the social media platforms you intend to use. Head to NAMECHK to check on this.
- There is no other business with a similar or related name. Use Google to do a quick search.
- The name is not a registered trademark. Head to TMSEARCH.USPTO.GOV
- Your brand or product does not have another brand’s name in it. E.g Facebook, Twitter etc when you’re not affiliated with the company.
#6 Domain + Hosting
If you just started blogging, you’re probably going to be nudged into signing up with Bluehost.
They offer a great referral commission and you can’t blame other bloggers for recommending them.
I also started my blog with Bluehost but had a poor experience.
I also found a better option – Siteground.
Here’s why I love Siteground:
- Customer Service is amazing
- They give free SSLs which is a security certificate used on sites and Google is starting to put a higher emphasis on sites that use these certs.
- Their uptime is fantastic (and so is their speed)
- They handle your transfers for free (more on this later)
- You get amazing 24/7 support
I explain more about my experience in this post: Bluehost vs Siteground: The best hosting option for beginner bloggers
1. Navigate to Siteground and click ‘Sign up
2. Choose a plan
If you’re starting a new blog or are relatively new to blogging, start with the StartUp Plan. You can easily upgrade once your traffic and revenue picks up.
3. Choose a domain name
**It’s easier to register your domain with Siteground. But if you do register your domain with an external registrar like Namecheap, there’s just one additional step.
Go into settings, or manage domains depending on who you registered the domain with. Locate the name server settings, and change them to:
4. Fill in your details
You don’t need to add Domain Privacy and HackAlerting if you don’t want to. The cost works up to less than $50 for an entire year.
5. Install WordPress
You should now have access to your Siteground dashboard. The only step remaining is to install WordPress.
I’ll walk you through how you can do this but here’s the easy way.
Hop on Live Chat and request the Siteground team to do the WordPress installs for you.
6. Go to http://www.YOURDOMAIN.com/wp-admin
Once they send you your log in emails, navigate to http://www.YOURDOMAIN.com/wp-admin
7. Log in to WordPress
Now that you have your password, you can log into WordPress and you’ll see your WordPress dashboard. It’ll look scary and overwhelming but you’ll get the hang of it soon.
Migrating from a different host
If you are migrating to Siteground from a different host, like I did…
A. Follow Steps #1-4 from above but choose ‘I have an existing domain’ if it’s the same one you want to transfer over.
B. Hop on Live Chat and they will advise you on what you should do next to initiate the migration.
You will have to submit a Website Transfer Request, key in the cPanel details of your previous host as well as the password.
Siteground will then proceed with the migration and keep you updated once it’s done.
You should make sure that you have a recent back-up of your site via your BackupBuddy or any other back-up plugin. Do not delete your current hosting till the entire migration and DNS Name servers have been pointed to Siteground!
C. Get your old host to update your DNS Name Servers
I asked the Bluehost customer service rep to update the DNS for me and point it to Siteground.
You can also do this yourself by navigating to your old host’s cPanel and clicking nameservers.
D. If you got a domain through Bluehost…
You need to do a domain transfer. You can request for a domain transfer within your Siteground dashboard. This will initiate the Siteground team to do the necessary transfer for you.
If you prefer to do the WordPress installation yourself, here’s how you do it.
Go to cPanel within your Siteground dashboard
Click the WordPress installer.
Click the blue button
Fill in the details and choose your domain from the drop-down
Create an admin username and password. This will become your WordPress log in details
You now officially have your self-hosted blog
As you can see, there’s nothing very fancy here when you first log in to WordPress. WordPress uses a generic theme by default. But it gives you access to thousands of themes to pick from which is what we discuss next!
#7 Select a theme
I have blogging friends who started with a free theme and moved on to a paid one. What I hear from most of them is that over the long run, a free theme starts to cost you more in terms of the problems it gives.
Lack of widget areas, site speed and security concerns are just a few of the issues that come with free themes.
Invest in a paid, mobile responsive theme. You can get one from as little as $30. This will give you a lot of the designer elements you are looking for in a site.
All the themes I have listed here have extensive support and resources on how to go about setting them up as per the demo site. But, if you’d like to make it easier for you, you could get someone to install it for you as per the demo site. You get no extra bells and whistles but your theme set-up exactly as per what it looked like and what you fall in love with it for you to buy it.
Thankfully, there are a slew of paid themes that are mobile responsive and at affordable prices. Think about the words that you used to describe your brand. What theme would suit the words that you picked as well?
Here are a few of my favourite options:
- Pretty Darn Cute Designs
- Studio press is another one I love.
- Elegant Themes and Thrive are other options that have simple to use, drag and drop builders at an affordable price.
#8 Pick your plugins
There are whole range of plugins for wordpress but here are the essential ones that you need
A list building plugin for opt-in forms (Pick one)
Here are some options:
- Popup ally (Free version available)
- Thrive leads (*My favorite + what I use)
- Content Upgrade Pro
- Bloom Plugin by Elegant Themes
A landing page tool
Site speed and performance
- W3 Total Cache: A caching plugin which helps with site-speed. (Free)
- WP Smush: Reduces image file sizes and boosts page’s SEO ranking (Free)
- Akismet – Anti-spam plugin (Free)
WordPress backup (Pick one)
Social sharing (Pick one)
Need this in a handy toolkit with worksheets, grab your Blog Zero Tool kit below!
#9 Branding your site
A word of caution before we proceed to this section.
This is where more of us get stuck and we spend months trying to get things to look right.
But it’s important not to get too caught up in the branding process.
A lot of the initial months are about exploring who you are as a blogger, your brand voice and what you like. Don’t spend excessive money on logo design or site design.
#10 Get the legal stuff out of the way
This is not the most fun aspect of setting up and launching your blog, but it’s something that you need to get out of the way. You need the following on your site:
- A disclosure policy
- Comment Policy (optional)
Content is a big topic. Quality content does not have to be viral. Your content can still achieve its goals without ever going viral.
There are quite a few moving pieces to the content puzzle, but the main one is to define your content categories.
Think of your content in terms of buckets. Each content category is a bucket and you can have 3-5 content buckets.
If you are struggling to nail down your content buckets, head back to the core purpose or value proposition of your blog that you came up with in the first chapter. What categories would support that purpose?
Another helpful question to ask is this: 3-5 years later, what would you want your body of work to look like? What topics would you like to be associated with?
Besides defining your content categories, you need to know how to curate content ideas, get down to writing your first few posts and basic SEO
#12 Plan to grow your Email List
You don’t need to wait to launch your blog to grow your email list. If I could go back I would install a ‘coming soon’ or landing page with an opt-in freebie and start promoting my site while working on it in the backend.
Here are the critical elements you need to take care of to start growing your email list right.
- An email service provider
- An opt-in freebie
- A thank you page
- A landing page
- Welcome email
- Welcome email series
- If you’re launching your blog first, you need to optimize your site with sign-up forms in the right locations.
#13 Social Media
Social media can be very overwhelming for new bloggers especially when there are so many platforms to focus on. There are lots of different opinions about which one and where to focus on. You may hear different influencers recommending different things.
I recommend focusing on Pinterest + 1 other platform of your choice (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook)
The other platform you choose depends very much on your goals. I focused on Twitter a lot in the beginning because I wanted to connect with influencers and guest blogging was a huge part of my strategy. If you want to monetize your site using sponsored posts or you have a very visual niche like home decor, fashion or lifestyle, then Instagram might be a better fit for you.
#14 Intentional Traffic + Promotion
I mention intentional traffic sources, because not all traffic is good traffic.
You ultimately want to convert traffic to subscribers. You want readers coming to your site to stick around and engage with your content. While a lot of that has to do with the quality of your content and your site, some traffic sources are known to be not as ‘sticky’ as the rest.
Unless you’re focusing solely on ads as a monetization strategy, be picky about which sources of traffic you focus on, For instance, traffic from stumble upon does not convert as well for me as traffic from Facebook or Pinterest.
- How are you going to grow your audience?
- Determine what will be your ‘home base’.
- What medium(s) will you use to build trust and give value?
#15 Monetizing your site
You need to prepare your blog to make money and the 14 steps ahead will help you do that.
You need to nurture and grow your email list. You will hit your 1K faster if you have a list and if you have been nurturing that audience.
You need to determine your pillars of income. When your audience is still small, you can’t put all your weight in just 1 income stream and pray that it works out for you month after month. It’s best to have atlas 2-3 income streams
If you’re releasing a product, you need people to be able to associate you with that topic. This means writing authority blog posts on the topic.
You need to have a relevant opt-in to what you’re going to be selling. You want to attract the right people on your list. People who need that particular problem solved and who naturally see your product or service as the next thing they need.
Start by looking at what others in a similar niche as yours doing to monetize their site? There are several ways to make money from your site. The most popular ways are:
This is my favorite method of monetizing a new blog because you don’t necessarily need a huge amount of traffic to make money.
I don’t personally use ads but know many successful bloggers that do. You can use a company like Media.Net
The type of ads they serve on your site is tied to the content on your site. You also have control over the placement and type of ads shown. The ads are also mobile responsive.
They have clear program guidelines and are quick to approve applications (usually within two days).
Here’s a link to a video that explains what contextual ads are and also about their association with the Yahoo! Bing network.
If you’re keen on hosting ads on your site, signing up through this link will get you a bonus of 10% on top of your regular earnings for three months.
- Sponsored Posts
Have a niche audience and a brand that you know will fit in well? Don’t let your stats or small numbers put you off. Use the Social Blue Book to get a ballpark figure of how much you can charge, get your media kit it tow and go for it.
This post highlights some of these ways.
Start a blog with a plan
Starting a blog does not have to take forever or suck the life out of you. Follow through on the steps to set the foundational pieces in place.
Looking for specific resources on launching your blog, sign up for the Blog Zero Tool Kit below.