Starting a blog is not for everyone. There are lots of reasons not to blog, including having the time to keep a blog up to date, having something to say, and the fact that blogging is becoming an increasingly crowded space making it far tougher to stand out than it may have been in the past. Why would I start a post about successful blogging with all these cautions against blogging? Mostly to make sure that if you are going to start a blog, you are getting into it without a false expectation that it can solve all your problems or how much work it will be.
Assuming you have the right idea in mind, the question I get asked most often is how you can make your blog as successful as possible. Here are some tips for new bloggers on what you may want to focus on in your first 90 days of blogging:
DAYS 1 TO 15:
1. Find a good niche. Think hard about what you want to write about. It has to be something you are passionate about and interested in, otherwise it won’t work. The more specific you can get, the better. You can also broaden it later, but in the beginning you need to find a subject that you can own.
2. Choose a name and URL. This is a tough thing, but just as many companies these days do, you should let available URLs drive how you name your blog. If you can’t get the URL, don’t use the name. And make sure you plan to put your blog on a specific URL, whether you are using Typepad or Blogspot or any other service. Trust me on this, you’ll eventually wish you built your blog on your own URL, whether you think so today or not.
3. Grab a template and launch quickly. The biggest paralysis new bloggers have is wanting to get their new blog just right. In the first few weeks of your blog, the most important thing is to find your voice – so forget about design just launch it with a ready made template. Chances are remote that search engines will list it that quickly, and you’ll have a few weeks to get it right.
4. Add Google Analytics. Google has a free tool called Google Analytics which gives you some great metrics on your blog all for free. It requires you to do a bit of tricky cutting and pasting to add certain code to your blog, but it is totally worth it to do it early so you’ll have metrics from the first days of your blog to compare to and see how far you have come.
5. Create an editorial calendar. Some football coaches head into games scripting out their first 10 plays as part of their gameplan. You should do the same. Figure out the topics for your first ten posts, and then write them steadily. Not only does this get you thinking ahead, it also gives you a sense of how many posts per week you can realistically write.
DAYS 15 TO 30:
6. Reevaluate your blog title. At this point, you will likely have several blog posts to look at and a better sense of what you enjoy writing about. It’s the perfect time to check the title of your blog and theme that you set earlier and make sure it still accurately describes what you want to write about. If it doesn’t, now is the perfect time to fix it.
7. Design your blog brand. Now that you have your theme and several posts, you can design your blog. At this stage, you may just want to add a logo to an existing template or do something more custom. Either way, by having your blog brand set and several posts in your archive, you can really see what your design will look like.
8. Get your blog listed. It’s also time in these two weeks to get your blog listed on all the search engines by submitting it. You should also claim it on Technorati, and submit it to any other sites in your particular industry or area of focus. Remember, you don’t need to focus on promotion right now, this is just about getting your site listed.
9. Set up your feeds. Many bloggers today (including me) are using Feedburner to syndicate their RSS feeds and offer email subscriptions to their blog. Whether you choose to use Feedburner or not, setting up your feeds and making them available to readers will be important as you start to grow your blog.
10. Learn the art of headlining. In blog posts, titles make a big difference. Particularly because many readers will be accessing your content through RSS and the title may be the only thing you see. To deal with this truth, you need to think like a copywriter and treat your blog post titles like headlines. Learning to write good blog post titles will be a major skill you will use all the time.
DAYS 30 TO 60:
11. Set your targets. You’ll probably be getting close to finishing your first ten posts by now, or at least worrying about what you’ll write about next. Based on what you’ve been able to do in the first month, set a target for yourself of how many posts you will try to write per week. My target is three and I usually stick to it.
12. Learn the 25 styles. More than a year ago, I wrote a presentation designed to answer the common question from bloggers of what to write about. To help you fight "bloggers block" – view the presentation and learn the techniques. They will help you figure out what to write about, as they have helped me.
13. Contact your influencers. Now that you have a month of blogging experience, it’s also time to start asking for advice and introducing yourself to those who inspire you. Create a list of bloggers that you look up to and then religiously email one person from that list after you do a post. Ideally it will be someone who would be interested in your post and likely to respond to it.
14. Actively share your posts. In addition to emailing them to your influencers, you should start finding appropriate social networks and sites on which to share your blog posts. This could mean submitting them to Digg, or posting them onto del.icio.us with keyword tags. Essentially, you want to try a few tools to get your blog posts out there tagged and saved.
15. Integrate your blog into your profiles. At the point when you start your blog, you are probably already using other social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn. After the first month when you have some good activity on your blog, you can add the URL to your profiles and make sure that your network knows you have a blog.
DAYS 60 TO 90:
In these days, your main focus should be on content and connections. Try to create the best blog posts you can. Those that have insights, a strong point of view, and are highly shareable. If you can really succeed at having this great content, people will pass it along and your blog will have the greatest chance of getting passed along too. At this stage you should also make sure that you are using all of your social networks to also spread the word about your blog and your posts. The reason I don’t have specific lessons at this stage is that you’re starting to get into the point where you will probably be finding your own way and techniques that work for you. The best advice I can offer at this stage and moving ahead beyond 90 days is to try and stay as consistent as possible, and continue to create the best content you can, and share it with people in your network most likely to help you spread the word.
Good luck with your blog! And if you have a blog where you used these suggestions to help you launch, please leave a comment and let other readers know how these suggestions worked for you.