Every blogger has to start somewhere. Maybe you’ve already started your blog. Maybe you’re just waiting for the right time. Whatever the case, there is a treasure trove of advice out there that will help you make the best blog possible. The only problem: there might be too much advice. It can be tough to make sense of it all.
A newbie blogger’s needs are different than those of a seasoned blogger. SEO strategies and social media presence are all important down the road, but at the beginning they’re not at the top of the priority list. Newbie bloggers need a simple, concise list of ideas and services when they start out. So here it is: the ultimate newbie blogger checklist. It will help any new blogger get off to a fast start.
1. A niche
Thinking about starting a tech blog? I’m sorry to inform you that you might be biting off more than you can chew. There are so many general tech blogs out there, and they all have staffs that pump out large volumes of posts daily. Just take ”The Verge” for example. They produce four or five posts — per hour. That’s far too much for one person, or even two people, to reproduce. Add in their years of experience in the field, and it’s impossible to compete with them.
It’s better, then, to find a specific niche you enjoy. Maybe you’re all about smartphones. That’s a good start. Blogging only about smart phones will give you a focused audience. It’s also easier to develop expertise in a niche subject. Master smartphones, and you’ll find plenty of readers for your blog. Try to master all of tech, though, and you’ll spread yourself too thin. It’s all about finding a niche.
2. A platform
There was a time when choosing your blogging platform was a serious decision. Should you go with Blogger? WordPress? TypePad? What about a lesser-known platform such as Drupal? There were, and continue to be, many choices for new bloggers. Thankfully, choices have become a bit easier.
WordPress is now the preferred platform for a great majority of bloggers. It’s free, which appeals to everyone. It’s also frequently updated, so you’ll always have the latest security upgrades and bug fixes. There are hundreds of plug-ins and themes as well, allowing you to create a truly custom experience. Platforms such as TypePad and Blogger do have some advantages, but WordPress will provide bloggers the best overall experience.
3. A web host
Many new bloggers overlook this step, and they regret it down the line. Web hosts are hugely important for any blogger, but especially a new one. After all, they control access to your website. Your data is stored in their data centers, and not all data centers are created equal. ABB data centers might provide services more aimed at larger business, while another host might cater specifically to new and growing websites. Pick the wrong host, and your data is in the wrong hands. That can mean significant downtime, which can ruin a blog.
The problem with choosing a host is that there are so many options. Many blogs advertise various hosting services, and a quick google search will yield dozens of results. Thankfully, Christofer Gustavsson recently wrote a post on how to choose a web host. It’s a wonderful guide for newbies.
4. A theme and design
Your sense of style tells your readers a lot about you. Don’t put any thought into the design and people might not think it’s worth coming back. Try to cram too much into a little space and people will be turned off. Choosing a design and theme is a delicate balance. Thankfully, there are some easy options.
You can find plenty of free WordPress themes by searching around, but they’re free for a reason. Since the design of your blog is important, you probably want to invest the money in a premium, customizable theme. Many newbie and veteran bloggers enjoy Thesis by DIYthemes. It’s more of a design template than a theme. That is, you can do pretty much anything you want with it. That makes life easier for the newbie blogger.
This seems obvious, but it can often go overlooked. Every day I see dozens of blogs, and so many of them are updated once a week, or once every two weeks. That’s simply not enough for a blog — especially a new blog. A new blog needs constant new content if it wants to succeed. This means at least one post per day, if not more. Don’t go too overboard, since you don’t want to set a pace you can’t maintain. But if you want to blog, you should be posting every day.
This goes back to your niche. Does your niche have enough material to allow you to post every day? Chances are it does, even if it doesn’t look that way at first. For a quick experiment, set up Google Alerts for a few keywords related to your niche. You’ll instantly see tons of material. And that’s just one day’s worth. There’s plenty out there, allowing you to create quality content every day.
6. Friends and social media
The blogging world can be a lonely place. If you don’t have many readers, it’s just you and your words. Wouldn’t it be nice to know a few other people doing the same thing? Thankfully, many people in the blogging world are friendly — and willing to help newbies. It doesn’t take a lot to find them, either.
While you can go to someone’s blog and contact them via a contact form or email, today it’s much easier. Every blogger has a Facebook, a Twitter, and a Google+ profile. Make sure you create them for your blog, too. Interact with fellow bloggers on Twitter and Google+. Show them what you’ve got. Chances are you’ll grow friendly with them. That will make blogging life a little less lonely. It can also open up countless opportunities.
7. Incoming links
In order to build an authority, blogs need links pointing to their sites. Unfortunately, you can’t just wait around and hope that people find your great content. The internet just doesn’t work that way. Even if it did, it would take months, maybe even years, to develop those links. After getting everything above in order, bloggers need to actively build links to their blogs.
In the old days this means emailing other bloggers and creating link exchanges. But that practice has died. The new way to build links to your blog is to guest post on other blogs — just like I’m doing right now! You’ll see a link to my site at the bottom of this post. Google indexes that link, and it gives my site more authority. There are plenty of guest posting opportunities out there. Just google search some keywords in your niche and find blogs that accept guest posts. Email the blogger, give him or her your best pitch, and then create some killer content. That will help you build up backlinks and authority, which will help people find your blog.
There is time for everything else in time. Yes, you’ll eventually add advertising, and maybe some affiliate links, to your blog. But after you finish the checklist above, it’s time to exercise some patience. It takes times for things to build. Keep plugging away: writing content, making friends, and building links. In time they’ll all come back to reward you. And that’s the big payoff.