You’re going to do it.
You want to launch your first blog.
But you find yourself bouncing from ‘I can totally do this’ to ‘Maybe I shouldn’t. I’m taking so long to start. How am I going to maintain it?’.
And the tech part of it and all these questions you have don’t make it any easier right?
I’ve been there….
Launching can be one of the most stressful periods.
You’re filled with loads of self-doubt. And there’s just so much to learn.
I’ve compiled some of the most common questions on every launcher’s mind. Click to what you need help with the most.
- #1 Self Hosted vs Free blogging platforms? What’s the right way?
- #2 What should I blog about? How do I pick a niche?
- #3 What should I name my blog?
- #4 Which host should I choose?
- #5 Do I really need a paid theme? Can I just go with a free one?
- #6 What plugins do I need?
- #7 What social media platforms do I start with?
- #8 Do I need an email list? And how do I start one?
- #9 How do I (a) grow my email list and (b) promote my blog while my website is in launch mode?
- #10 How many posts and pages should I launch my blog with?
- #11 What email service provider do I start with?
- #12 How do I grow my audience and nurture trust?
- #13 How do I make money
#1 Self Hosted vs Free blogging platforms? What’s the right way?
Think of it as a landlord and tenant relationship.
When you rent a place, you can bring in your stuff and plan your space but you don’t have permission to drill holes or make structural changes to that space right?
The same with using Blogger or WordPress.com. They are perfect if you want a hobby blog and don’t intend to make money from it…but if you’re ready to go pro, wordpress.org (or self-hosted) is the way to go.
Free Blogging Platforms
- Quick and easy to start
- Gives you a space to learn about blogging
- No initial start-up fee
- You will have www.sample.wordpress.com or www.sample.blogpsot.com tagged to your site
- Does not look professional for doing business
- There are limitations in the way you get to design your space
- Limited bandwidth and memory space
- You have full control over your blog’s design and layout
- You can monetize your blog in any way you want
- You have complete branding control with access to make coding tweaks
- Website looks professional and is best for business
- Requires an initial investment of hosting and domain name
- Learning curve is steep and can be intimidating to new bloggers
#2 What should I blog about? How do I pick a niche?
Ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Who do want to serve?
- Who do you enjoy spending time with or whose struggle do you relate to?
- What are your interests?
- What do you love reading or researching on?
- Is there something that people come to you for? E.g. Writing, design, relationship advice, business advice, organization tips
- What solutions are people searching for?
You don’t have to be an expert.
You don’t need 5 years of blogging experience.
You only need to be a few steps ahead of your target audience and help them bridge the gap to that place you are at now.
You also need to have the passion and interest to research and learn more about the topics in your niche.
Don’t ask yourself:
- What’s profitable?
- What topic is trending or ‘hot’ right now?
Those aren’t the right questions when you’re starting out.
Blogging is time intensive. If you’re not passionate about your topic, you’re going to burn-out and abandon your blog sooner than later.
Mix and Match
Now that have some demographics and topics you are interested in, it’s time to mix and match.
Pair a demographic with a topic you are interested in. E.g Finance planning for single mums, DIY craft projects for pre-school teachers, DIY music lessons for parents on a budget, Food blog focused on recipes for time starved female entrepreneurs.
You get the idea…
If your concern is that you’ll be neglecting several groups of people, don’t be. A good niche-down coupled with the right strategies will give you the opportunity to stand out in your niche or market.
If all else fails, be the demographic you want to serve.
What struggles have you recently overcome?
What are you struggling with right now?
You’re building authority through this method.
The biggest mistake I made when I started, was to wait too long in selecting a name and a niche. Pick one that you feel is best and stick with it.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing these 6 blogging myths about niches. In this guest post for Krista Rae, I talk about what these myths are and how they prevent you from taking action with your blog.
#3 What should I name my blog?
There’s no right answer.
It really depends on your vision for your business.
- Think about the niche you’re serving
- The tone associated with your brand (serious, laid back, humorous?)
- What problems will you be solving?
- How important is an identity tied to your name?
Using your own name
- Great for creating a strong brand presence with your voice
- Great if you want to create a platform for your writing, fashion line or consulting
- If you have a strong ‘why’, you’re well on your way to creating a solid community and connecting with your audience
- Not easy to remember if your name is difficult to pronounce or spell
- Need to be comfortable with being visible (video, photo, periscope, IG), because your brand is YOU and you need to up your visibility to connect with your audience
- Need to work hard at putting across what you do and what your blog/business stands for
- Need a strong ‘why’ to communicate your brand story
A mash up of 2 to 3 words is best. Here are some tools you can use to create words.
Once you have a name, head over to http://namechk.com to see if the domain is available. Namechk also scans availability across social media platforms.
#4 Which host should I choose?
If you’ve decided on going the self-hosted route, my recommendation for a hosting company is Siteground.
In this post, I talk about why new bloggers should go with Siteground and stay away from the popular hosting option being promoted widely by several popular bloggers.
#5 Do I really need a paid theme? Can I just go with a free one?
I have blogging friends who started with a free theme and moved on to a paid one. What I hear from most of them is that over the long run, a free theme starts to cost you more in terms of the problems it gives. Lack of widget areas, site speed and security concerns are just a few of the issues that come with free themes. My friend Mary Fernandez has an article 7 warning signs your free WordPress theme is sabotaging your blog that gives you a full picture of what issues you could face with a free theme. Thankfully, there are a slew of paid themes that are mobile responsive and at affordable prices. I’m on Genesis and Restored 316 which is amazing for feminine themes. Studio press is another I love. Elegant Themes and Thrive are other options that have simple to use, drag and drop builders at an affordable price.
#6 What plugins do I need?
You feel like a kid in a candy store right? Or for me it would be like putting me in a store like Typo or something that sells planners and diaries. You want to add every single plugin because one or the other seems to promise to make your blog that much better. I don’t have any reference sources to back me up on this, but I was told that you should have less than 20 plugins. The more plugins you add, the more it drags down your site speed and site performance. Here’s what you need for starters:
Yoast SEO: Helpful plugin that allows you to edit post meta data and other SEO options. It’s easy to use and highly recommended.
A list building plugin for opt-in forms
Here are some options:
Site speed and performance
- W3 Total Cache: A caching plugin which helps with site-speed.
- WP Smush: Reduces image file sizes and boosts page’s SEO ranking
- Akismet – Anti-spam plugin
#7 What social media platforms do I start with?
The key question is: What social media platform is your audience using? And how do you know this when you have no audience to begin with in the first place? It’s a lot of guessing involved right? The easiest way is to think up of a few bigger blogs that are similar to yours and serve a similar target audience. Once you have this, go to Similarweb.com. It’s a free tool to use. Enter the URL of the website. You’re going to get some useful data on the traffic stats of the site as well as where the major social media referral traffic is from. This is how it shows up below. So, for this website that I tested, most of their social traffic is from Facebook. This information will give you a better picture of what social media platforms to begin with. If you want to get even more specific about who this ideal reader you are writing for is, I have a monster post that I wrote for Smart blogger: How to profile your ideal reader with (perfectly legal) surveillance.
#8 Do I need an email list? And how do I start one?
If you’re building your blog and intend to make one money from it, yes you definitely need to grow your email list. According to a report by Venture Beat, email has the highest ROI.
Image source: Campaign monitor
Stats aside, email subscribers are your tribe. If you nurture your tribe and you give them value they are are going to be your biggest supporters. Here’s how you start an email list:
- Sign up with an email service provider
- Create an opt-in freebie for your audience
- Create a landing page for your opt-in freebie
- Have a welcome email series ready to welcome your new subscribers
- Promote your opt-in freebie on your site via your opt-in forms and on the social media platforms you picked from above.
- Start emailing your list regularly. Here are a bunch of ideas on what to email your list.
- Grow your email list
#9 How do I (a) grow my email list and (b) promote my blog while my website is in launch mode?
I had this question from a subscriber and it’s an excellent idea to grow your list while your website is in launch mode. You can create a ‘coming soon’ page using a landing page tool such as Thrive landing pages. Then make that page your front page. Here’s how you do it within WordPress. Head to Appearance > Customize Choose ‘Static Front Page’. Choose ‘Static Page’ and choose which page you want to show as your front page. You also don’t need to wait till your blog goes live for you to start promoting it. Once you have your opt-in freebie and landing page, have signed up with an email service provider and set-up your welcome email series, start getting active in Facebook groups. Promote your opt-in freebie and participate in promo days by giving your landing page link. Start to comment on your favourite blogs to increase your visibility . You want your name to be recognizable when you start pitching guest posts which is another method of promoting your blog. Remember to include the link to your landing page in your author bio. Most hosts do not require that you have your blog live when you pitch them.
#10 What email service provider do I start with?
What vision do you have for your email list? Do you foresee yourself having free email courses? Do you want the ability to tag subscribers based on what they are interested in? Do you want to create specific opt-out links? You may not use of all the features immediately but it’s good to have an email service provider that can grow with you and your business. The one I recommend and use is Convertkit and I launched my blog and started with Convertkit from Day 1 despite earning $0 at that time
#11 How many posts and pages should I launch my blog with?
There isn’t a fixed answer for this but what you want is for people to click around on your site for some time. You need an ‘About’ page and a ‘contact me’ page at the minimum. It would also be good to go live with 3-5 cornerstone blog posts. Cornerstone blog posts are posts that you would feature on a ‘start here’ page. These are the type of posts that will drive traffic to your site long after they have been published. They also play an important role in telling your audience the type of content you produce and what your brand and values stand for. It’s best to decide what your blog categories are before you begin to write these posts.
#12 How do I grow my audience and nurture trust?
I started growing my audience through guest posting. You can also grow your audience through hosting a Facebook group or on other social media. Some platforms work better for certain niches.
It doesn’t matter what platform you choose to grow your audience.
The key thing is to get that audience on your email list. Most launchers focus extensively on social media promotion without thinking about how to get their new found social media followers on their email list.
Remember that you shouldn’t be relying heavily on social media to build trust and nurture your audience. If Periscope closes shop or Facebook decides to change its algorithm, the huge audiences you have built on these platforms vanishes in an instant. You need to get this audience back to your home base. And you don’t own anything other than your blog and email list now do you? Your blog is a medium. It’s transient. You can use it for communicaion. You can have banners across to make announcements. But you don’t have their undivided attention. Email is the only one that gives you this undivided attention.
There are 3 ways you can build authority.
- You can Be the authority (If you already have experience)
- Build Authority (If you’re trying to lose weight or build a business or get to one point to another, you can build authority by documenting your journey and showing results
- You can Borrow Authority by interviewing influencers or citing their work in your posts.
#13 How do I make money?
Don’t fall into the trap of believing any of these 13 silly ideas about launching your blog and online business.
The quickest way to make money of your blog is to offer a service. My friend Miranda Nahmias is a designer and offers VA services. Krista Dickson, another blogging buddy of mine offers Pinterest management and blog coaching services.
Affiliate income is another stream of income that you can have from day 1. Have a well stocked Resources page with your affiliate links. Use a plugin like Prettylink to tidy up your affiliate links so that they they don’t look spammy and long. Invest in some good blogging eBooks and courses.
Launch to success
Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.
It’s a long process of constant experimentation, failures and wins – especially if it’s your first blog. And launching is just half the battle.
The real fun and learning starts once you’ve launched your blog. You will learn so much more by actively doing than by consuming tonnes of material without really implementing anything. Information overload is a launchers’ biggest enemy.
The only way around this?
Set a launch date. Work through each part of what you need to finish before moving on to the next.
6 months from now you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.