Launching a blog, from a technical standpoint, is incredibly easy. Really, all you need is an idea for a name, a few blog posts, and a WordPress.com account. That said, launching a good blog with good content and room to grow is much harder. When all you have is a basic WordPress.com page, you’re going to struggle to gain legitimacy and grow. To do that, you need a plan.
Without a good foundation, you’re handicapping yourself. There’s a lot that goes into a blog behind the scenes, particularly if you want it to grow.
Content is crucial to the success or failure of a blog. I recommend each blog post be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 words, though anywhere from 500 to 2,000 is good. You should plan to include 1-4 links, more if you’re making a resource post. Images can vary from post to post; I like one for a header and 1-2 in the content, again depending on the content itself.
You also need to decide how many posts you want to publish per week. A schedule is critical. Maintaining a consistent update schedule is more important than just about anything else when it comes to attracting and retaining readers. For a starting blog, I would recommend 2-3 posts per week, perhaps on a Monday-Thursday or a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. You can always scale up later, but it’s a lot harder to scale back without suffering for it.
Before you launch your blog, write a couple posts to upload immediately. Then take a look at your content schedule and write enough posts to cover about two months, and schedule them out. You can always adjust their publication date later if you have a post you want to work in earlier.
Once your blog is launched, or on the cusp of launching, you need to start building awareness. One of the best ways to do this is to start contributing to other blogs. This is part of why you want to create and schedule a lot of content right out of the gate; so you have time to work on more time-sensitive guest posts.
Guest posting gives you a chance to build brand awareness on other sites, while simultaneously getting your name and content out there and in peoples’ faces. A good link from a guest post on a quality site can go a long way towards kickstarting your blogging career.
Remember how I said you need to have social profiles ready to go? Now that your blog is live, it’s time to start building an audience. Social sharing buttons allow your readers to interact with you on social media. You can post your articles, as well as curated content, to help grow that audience. Link it in with a mailing list to get even more cross promotion.
At this point you can pay for ads on Facebook or Google, but I caution you to be wary. There’s a lot to learn about PPC, and if you jump into it incorrectly you’ll just be throwing away money. Either hire someone to manage your ads for you, or spend the time necessary to learn how to run them yourself. You need to learn targeting, copy optimization and budgeting before you can find success through PPC ads.
PPC ads are one part of a dichotomy with SEO. SEO is slow and organic but free, and it grows over time. PPC is fast and artificial, but it’s immediate. It also costs money, obviously. You need to cater to both sides of the coin in order to make the most out of your blog.
Interacting with your readers is a huge component of getting a blog off the ground. Your readers are everything. They’re your source of traffic, of shares, of revenue, and of testimonials. You can’t afford to irritate, alienate or ignore them.
Start by monitoring your blog comments and responding to them whenever possible. I don’t mean a blanket “thanks for your post” pasted as a reply to everyone, though. The best posts to respond to are the questions, which allow you to start conversations.
At the same time, you should be maintaining these discussions and fostering them on social media. Follow all of the same rules there.
Ever noticed how so many blogs out there offer you a free eBook for signing up for their mailing list? That’s because it gets your email into their system, and they can then message you, add you on Facebook and generally work you into their audience. It’s also added value, if you happen to like what the blog publishes and want more detail. Offering an ebook – or some other form of value – is a great way to build traffic quickly.
Once your blog has been going for a while, you should start paying attention to analytics. Figure out who your readers are and where they’re coming from. Figure out what content works the best and what falls short of the mark. Refine your focus and give your readers what they want, while simultaneously emphasizing the actions that get you more readers. Blogging is about passion as much as it is about adaptation.
Most blogs fail within their first year, and they almost always fail because the owner expected much more immediate results than the results they got. Go into it expecting to lose some money, expecting to see slow growth, and expecting very little else. Keep going, persevere, and it will get better.