You have tried purchasing a premium WordPress theme, right? Googling a keyword or checking out the rather small collections of individual designer teams? It can be really frustrating, as you can never be sure that you have checked out all (or enough) of the available options in order to make an informed decision. In addition,…Details
On this page, you’ll learn about all the necessary steps that can make the difference between failure and success for bloggers. If you scroll down, you’ll find a rich library of resources digging even deeper into the work behind starting a successful blog. Are you interested in a specific topic, you can use the search field to the right to explore the site’s resources.
From Idea To Your First Posts
Starting a successful blog begins long before you publish your first posts. It all starts with an idea that might or might not be good enough. An idea should always be tested before you try to turn it to reality to avoid early failure.
Let’s work with an example to make it easier to understand the process behind turning an idea into something with chances for success. Let’s say that you are couples counselor and wants to start a site covering the topic of couples counseling.
The Research Phase
The first step in your journey should be to Google the term couples counseling and other closely related terms to get the list of your future competitors. You should write down the domain names of the results on the first two pages on SERP and use them later on to position your new site in terms of topic and domain name.
Additionally, you should check out the sites behind the first-page results that are relevant to your idea and pay attention to the following:
- Design and highlights
- Covered topics
- Type of posts or pages with most social interactions
- Social media presence
When you are ready with the research, you should know, whether there’s something more or alternative you could offer to your target group that gives you chances for success.
As a couples counselor, you have direct access to members of your potential target group. You should use this to ask them, what they need and what they are looking for in terms of online resources.
The Strategic Planning Phase
The next step for you is to work on the strategy around the site. This includes the following decisions:
- Choose your blogging platform
You can either code your site yourself or use one of the hosted or self-hosted CMS (content management systems), targeting people with little or no coding skills. You can, of course, also pay to a web developer to do the job for you but this isn’t an option I usually recommend to private site owners due to high price and low flexibility.
There are many hosted CMS options out there, offering a variety of functionality bundles: WordPress, TypePad, SquareSpace, Tumblr, Blogger, and Medium, just to mention a few of the most popular ones. A hosted option is, though, only relevant to hobby-bloggers due to technical limitations and negative SEO implications.
If you want to learn more about starting a free hosted blog, here’s a post guiding you through the 5-min setup process on WordPress.com.
If you want to start a professional blog or site, you must consider the self-hosted options. The most popular self-hosted CMS are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. They are the biggest open source CMS projects – thus free to use but professional grade software. According to W3Tech, 58 % of all websites with a recognizable CMS use WordPress. Joomla is behind 7.2 % of the websites with recognizable CMS, while the same value for Drupal is 4.8 %.
The choice of CMS is quite important as it will set your opportunities and limitations as a blogger on a technical level. While they’re all made to be used by non-programmers, the bundle of features, the flexibility of the CMS, and the ease of use differ a lot.
As mentioned, the most popular platform is WordPress and one of the reasons is the great community behind it, providing bloggers and businesses with regular updates, unlimited support, new features, and millions of plugins.
This is also the CMS, used to build this site.
- Work on a budget
Decide whether and how much to invest in your site. This is quite an important part of starting a successful blog, as practice shows that most beginners get badly surprised by the amount they end up spending.
The biggest issue is that there are literally no limits to how much you can spend, as you can always use more on, for example, hosting, plugins, advertising, etc.
Budget posts should therefore, at the very least, include:
- Domain and added services
- WordPress theme
There’re free and pro options for hosting and building a site and different hosting options, depending on your needs.
There are also free and pro WordPress themes and plugins to choose among. Free ones you can find here. Professional grade ones you can find many places online, including ThemeForest that offers a big collection you can choose from.
Whether you choose to use a free or paid theme is up to you. What you should be aware of though, is that free themes don’t come with a guarantee of quality, updates, and support. You should therefore check yourself what kind of support you can hope for.
Pro themes come with a varying support package, so keep your eyes open when buying. Regular updates and support in relation to issues are musts for security and performance reasons.
In addition, you should plan a budget for resources such as images or other media. Alternatively, you can learn to find free sources of images and media.
Last but not least, you’ll likely end up spending a lot of money on optimization for speed, such as signing up for a CDN. The reason is that, as your site grows, it’ll become heavy and slow, which is an enormous issue and affects negatively bounce rate, user experience, and SEO.
- Decide whether it will be a hobby or a business
If you plan to run your blog as a business, you must approach the whole project with a lot of dedication and invest a lot of time and money in it. You must work on a launch plan and a continuous publishing schedule. You must also start working on your revenue strategies, such as services, partnerships, and advertising. Last but not least, you must work on ensuring the stability and performance of your site, independent of, for example, power or server crashes.
If you plan to run your blog as a hobby, you can accept a bit shaky performance and irregular publishing that fits your own schedule. You cannot, however, expect that such an approach will bring you revenue.
- Lone blogger or a part of a team
Especially as a hobby-blogger, you don’t need partners. You should, however, be aware that things go much smoother when you have a whole team of authors. Among the reasons are:
- more published post
- broader acquaintance group serving as your first followers
- more value due to more points of view and professional backgrounds
On the other hand, it can sometimes be difficult to work together, if you have too different ideas about how the blog should develop.
You can, theoretically, make this decision later on in the process, as long as the structure and functionality of your site allows for it.
- Choose your topic
Even though you have your idea, to start a successful blog, you need to approach the issue more strategically. Your topic should not only reflect your initial idea but also the result of your research. This means that you should position yourself in a niche that is still not occupied or provides you with an opportunity to deliver more value to readers than competitors.
Be aware that it’s highly recommended to keep your site focused around a well defined topic to meet the SEO requirement for topical authority. The topic should, however, be broad enough to allow for eventual future upgrade of your site’s services.
- Choose your domain
Choosing a domain name is one of the most important strategic tasks when you try to start a successful blog. The reason is that your domain name plays a role in terms of SEO, branding, and user experience.
For SEO purposes, it’s important to choose a name that reflects the core of your site. If you’re trying to promote your brand, you should use it as your domain. If you place more importance on your services, for example, SEO consultancy, this is what your domain should include.
For branding purposes, you should use your brand in the domain name. You can, however, also choose to use your brand as a part of your domain name, together with your core service, for example, DianaTravel.
For user experience purposes, you should choose an easy to remember and type domain name.
Be aware that your domain name shouldn’t be long, maximum 20 characters. This isn’t an applying restriction but a best-practice guideline. Additional guidelines you can find in this post on choosing a domain name.
The Purchase Phase
At this stage, you’ll actually have to purchase domain, hosting, eventual additional services, WordPress theme, and plugins.
- Purchase a domain
You can often find bundle offers for domain and hosting, but my recommendation is to buy them separately. You’ll be best off purchasing a domain directly from an accredited registrar as you’ll get access to your DNS settings and other applicable controls, important in relation to moving your website, using CDN, etc.
You can purchase a domain name for a certain period of time and then renew it when the period is over. For SEO purposes, it’s best to buy your domain name for a longer period at a time, for example 5 years.
- Purchase hosting
There are probably millions of hosting providers out there, some more reliable than others, and some – scammers. Be sure to do your research before making a choice and read all the reviews you can find.
If you still don’t know what to choose, you can go for some of the biggest providers as GoDaddy, MochaHost, One or InMotion Hosting. Be though aware that they also have their issues, especially in terms of customer service and consistency of quality. MochaHost is without a doubt the cheapest option and fine for beginner-bloggers.
- Dedicated IP
It’s not all sites that need a dedicated IP and you can skip it, as long as you don’t plan to install a SSL or use the dedicated IP for other purposes. There’re both pluses and downsides to having a dedicated IP.
Some of the downsides you must be aware of, are the possibility to get an IP that’s blacklisted and the fact that dedicated IPs make it easier for hackers to attack your site.
A dedicated IP makes, on the other hand, your site more trustworthy.
SSL stands for security sockets layer and basically means that you encrypt data storage and transfers on your site. Installing a SSL on your site isn’t essential, as long as you don’t collect sensitive data, such as personal data or credit card payments. It does also make your site slower.
However, Google has announced that installing SSL will give your site a small SEO boost.
You can learn more about the types of SSL certificates and the different resellers here and install the SSL you choose on your server, if you have access to cPanel or a similar control panel.
- Domain privacy
Domain privacy is a service replacing the data used to register a domain name with generic data. It costs 4-9 USD/year can be purchased from the same registrar you got your domain name from.
If you register a domain with your company’s data, you shouldn’t use domain privacy. Hiding your business identity doesn’t create trust.
If you register a domain with your personal data, you seriously should consider using domain privacy. This is important as otherwise your address, telephone number, full name, and email address are made publicly accessible via WhoIs lookup service.
- Theme and plugins
Choose the theme and plugins you want in order to get the functionality you need for your site. It’s important that you find a theme that has everything or almost everything you need, as each plugin you install, slows down your site and increases the risk of plugin incompatibility.
Be aware that paying for a theme and plugins is no guarantee that you won’t experience plugin incompatibility!
Start Your Blog
When you have everything in place, you’re ready to install WordPress on your server and start working on your site.
It takes long time to create a complete site or at least create the basics for a successful blog. During that time, your site will likely look quite messy and won’t help you in any way to attract and retain site visitors.
Luckily, you can easily hide the mess and in the same time add the right message to address future site visitors. You should simply install a Coming Soon plugin and set it correctly. It’s recommended to install a plugin, giving you the opportunity to collect emails, so that you can start building your site visitor base already at this early stage.
If you’re working on a site, you should have all most important pages and functions in place before you open it to the public.
If you’re working on a blog, you should have your eventual pages and all functionality in place before publishing it. However, it might be a good idea to have your blog published together with your first post.
Marketing: The Secret Of Success
Truth is that you can have great content but no success at all. The way you promote your content makes the real difference between a regular and successful blog.
Promotion should ideally begin when you’re on the planning stage. Try to involve members of the target group in all stages: from forming the idea to creating and testing content. The more you manage to engage them, the more you can expect to keep them as loyal site visitors.
Next step in your marketing plan should be opening and maintaining social media profiles that you can use as channels for post promotion and feedback collection. Continue engaging people by asking questions, asking for their opinion, or ask them to get involved in content creation.
The next step marks that you have reached a stage, where your site has enough high quality content (min. 20-30 long posts). At this stage, you can start trying to get the attention of influencers. This isn’t in any way an easy task but it’s truly worth the effort.
The last resource of marketing is, of course, advertising. Whether and how much you’ll advertise your site, depends on your business strategy and your budget. For personal blogs, I’d say this is over the top. If you, however, offer a service or earn enough to justify the advertising expenses, you should go for it.
Now you should be able to start a successful blog. It’s all about planning, research, and the right decisions.
If you, however, still have some unanswered questions or would like to know, how to maintain a successful blog – yes, this is also an intricate task – don’t hesitate to get in touch or subscribe for more tips and tricks for success. You can easily subscribe to our monthly newsletter, add us to your RSS feed on your smartphone, follow us on social media or contact us directly. See how at the bottom of the page.