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If you are reading today’s post, you’re probably one of many pondering whether or not starting a blog is a good idea for you. There are many reasons for starting a blog, but I won’t go into those details today. Today, I’m going to talk about 5 critical steps you need to do, and do right, before hitting publish on that first post. It’s tempting to get started right away, and you should, but bear these 5 tips in mind before sharing your content with the world.
1. Find your niche and stick with it
Before you start a blog, make sure you have identified a niche that will drive interest and traffic regularly. One mistake some bloggers make is they start writing their blog posts before they have done this step, and they end up writing about anything under the sun. I guess this is ok if you aren’t looking to build a solid audience. If you’re starting a casual blog where you write about whatever you want, that’s fine and dandy, but if you are like most bloggers, earning income and building traffic is critical. Here’s where identifying your niche immediately is important in driving traffic to your blog.
How do you find your niche?
Research other blogs. What makes them tick? How are they soliciting feedback? How are they drawing in readers? I’m definitely NOT saying plagiarize! Researching other blogs can give you good ideas on how you can structure your own blog’s content.
Write about what you know? Do you know a lot about cooking or education? Chances are, you’ll have a lot to say about something you are good at versus writing about cars if you know NOTHING about cars. Write about what you know. Write about your personal experiences. Find ways to make your content and expertise valuable to your readers. Remember, you are writing for your readers first…then yourself.
Do Google searches for topics and keywords that rank high. I know, I know, everyone says keyword research and SEO are both important in driving traffic. This is a true statement. Before you decide on your niche, do research on what other people are searching for in your niche, and cater your blog’s content to addressing those topics.
My rule of thumb: If you have to scratch your head day in and day out to find a suitable post topic, you’ve picked the wrong niche. I can think of tons of topics on blogging I can write about, and I feel like the sky’s the limit for new topics. Another piece of advice is don’t pick a niche that everyone and their mothers write about. If you do, you’ll just be posting into a flooded market. If you want to start a parenting blog, pick topics few parents write about. Make them unique, valuable, and even controversial (whether to or not to vaccinate a child is a great controversial topic, for example, if you are a parenting blogger). If you’re making someone’s skin boil just reading your post title, chances are, they’ll read your post (and probably comment too!)
2. Build a list of potential blog post titles/topics
Hey, when I first started my blog, I had no idea where to start writing. What I found very helpful was to start (and then add to) a list of potential titles and topics I want to write about in future blog posts. Since I regularly have writer’s blog, a list helps me to not have to dig up new titles every time I’m ready to write. The list is readily available for me and I can pick and choose from it to write my next masterpiece of a blog post. Since I write about blogging, I actually published a list of 100 blog post ideas. Every time I write a post from that list, I add the link to the list, which helps keep readers on my site longer. Pretty cool, huh?
3. Plan your blog’s design ahead of time
Ugh, this was a long and painful process for me. I already have OCD, so having to make sure every inch of my blog was perfectly designed really set my OCD into high gear….but….take my advice and plan ahead. I didn’t, the first few times, and it was a long process to get things where I wanted them.
Blog theme advice: I hope you are using WordPress because it is the best. WordPress can be customized to just about any blogger’s liking. There are thousands of themes for just about any blog type imaginable. A great place to get a solid theme for your WordPress blog is ThemeIsle.
Keep the sidebar neat: Have you ever visited a blog where the entire sidebar was so cluttered you couldn’t find anything? Heck, it doesn’t have to be just blogs that have this problem, but any website for that matter. Keep your sidebar clean, and by clean I don’t mean blank. Put worthwhile information in the sidebar (short bio, social media follow links, blog subscribe button, popular posts, etc) and leave out non-essential information. I know it’s tempting to fill up the sidebar with every widget imaginable, but just remember that the more you add to the sidebar, the slower loading time your site will have. If you are curious as to how fast your site is running right now, WP Engine has a free speed test.
Make it unique: Make your blog’s design unique to you and your blog’s niche. Definitely don’t use the default theme! Just because the template is popular, doesn’t mean it’ll set you apart from other bloggers. Remember, your content is what’s driving readers to your site. So, don’t let them down when they get there. Give them a piece of who you are and what they are getting when they come visit your site. Make subscribing to your blog irresistible.
Your homepage should show your most recent blog posts. There are several ways to organize your homepage. You can either have a static page and direct your traffic to your blog using your site’s menu, or you can have your content be the first thing readers see when they come to your page. My suggestion is to put your content on display right away and to not make your readers hunt for it. Your great content is the reason they’re here, so why hide it? I make it a rule to always put my most recent content on the homepage – no matter what options my theme may give me. Keep in mind this may not be the best option if you run a business (and your blog is one piece of your entire website).
4. Choose the right title and domain name
Nothing was more difficult for me starting my blog than choosing my blog’s title and domain name. Go Ask Your Daddy wasn’t the first title, nor was it my first niche. When I started blogging at the end of 2015, my blog’s title was The Buzzer Beater Blog. I had originally decided to start a sports blog, but quickly found I didn’t have enough to talk about on a regular basis. So, I changed to Go Ask Your Daddy. It fits because I’m a daddy of 4, it suggests I have the answer, and I liked it!
Domain names are cheap most of the time, but you’ll want to make sure you pick the right one the first time. The best domain names are the same as your blog’s title. Do searches on what’s available (at any web host’s site) before deciding on a title. You want to make sure the domain name you want is available before committing to a title. I highly recommend Namecheap.com for domain name purchase. You can register your domain for as little as $.88.
5. Join Blogging Groups
Oh, how I love all of my Facebook blogging groups! I have learned so much about blogging and met so many fantastic bloggers. Just as with any profession, networking is key to gaining opportunities. The great thing about blogging groups is that they are full of like-minded bloggers looking to share content, boost traffic, meet others, and learn new techniques. I currently manage my own group, Blogger Share and Promo Group, but am a member in other groups, such as: Grow Your Blog, Bloggers for Bloggers, Bloggers Supporting Each Other, and Bloggers Finally Getting Noticed, among others.
Ready to start your blog? I can help!
Not only do I love blogging, but I love helping people like you start a blog too. Although blogging is a ton of work, it can be fun, rewarding, and fulfilling. I have certainly learned tons about it in my short 2 years of blogging. I have tons more to learn, but that’s okay. Learning is how we improve in anything and blogging isn’t any different.