How To Launch A Blog And Make It A Success
In this post you’re going to learn the exact steps that you need to carry out to get your blog back on track and carry out a successful blog relaunch. Even if you’re not redesigning your blog but launching a brand new blog then these steps will still work for you without a doubt.
There are a bunch of different reasons why people decide to start a blog; it could be just for personal satisfaction, to make money or even to build brand awareness but so many people just dive in without properly planning or really even thinking about the direction that they’re going in with their blog.
Note: this guide is written from the perspective that you already have some idea of the niche that you are wanting to blog about.
Now, stop and think about this for a moment.
If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get anywhere? This is important to think about whether you’re planning a blog launch or blog relaunch.
You can’t apart from maybe a fluke piece of content that gets picked up but if you haven’t planned anything out chances are that you won’t even be able to make the most of it because you won’t even know what to do with the traffic that you’re getting.
The long and short of it is that if you don’t plan out your blog then you’re throwing money away.
Establish or re-establish goals
Sorting out your goals is the first and most important step in your blog launch/blog relaunch plan, you need to know what you want to get out of your blog and what you want visitors to do when they get to your website.
Ask yourself this one question – what do I want visitors to do when they get to my blog?
Here are a few potential goals to give you an idea of what I’m talking about –
- Sign up to a mailing list
- Send to a sales funnel
- Sign up for a product free trial
- Purchase your product
- Purchase someone else’s product through an affiliate link
This list isn’t exhaustive by any means but it highlights what sort of goals I’m talking about here.
Write out a list of YOUR potential goals and list them in order of importance, with the most important being at the top.
For example –
Primary goal: Sign up to your mailing list
Secondary goal: Purchase your product
Tertiary goal: Purchase someone else’s product through an affiliate link
Before you finally settle on your goals and prioritise them you need to make sure you have them in the correct order because if you don’t have them in the correct order then your blog probably won’t perform as well as you want it.
You may not want 3 goals, you may just want 1 and that’s cool – chances are your blog will perform better that way because it gives your readers less things to think about and simple is good; there’s nothing stopping you from adding secondary and/or tertiary goals once you’ve gone live with your blog launch or relaunch.
I recommend that you keep it at 3 maximum because otherwise it will end up confusing things and your visitors just won’t know what to do.
IMPORTANT: Primary means that the particular goal should have a larger focus than your secondary goal.
So if having someone signing up to a mailing list is your primary goal then this should outweigh whatever your secondary goal is.
You may be thinking what about following on Twitter and liking my Facebook page? Well they are reasonable goals and I would never say you shouldn’t include links to these pages on your site but what you need to understand is that a mailing list for example puts what you want to say directly in front of your audience – on Twitter or Facebook it’s just far too easy for people to miss your status updates.
This is a huge topic but for the purpose of this post I’m going to go into as much detail as you will need to get your blog launch or blog relaunch into full swing.
As you go a long make some notes on possible content categories and also specific content ideas when you come to start writing. These will allow you to put together a content framework together for your blog as you get further along in the planning.
When you use the Google keyword external tool be sure to select “exact match” so that you can get a more precise search volume from the tool.
Don’t put 100% of your faith in the search volume numbers because there is a lot of talk about how this number isn’t accurate, but it serves well as a guide.
Also, don’t worry about the competition column, this tool was originally designed as a research tool for Adwords customers but it works great for keyword research for organic SEO too.
If you are struggling keywords then there are a few other tools that you can use for free:
Competitor & marketplace research
You need to create a list of competitors and also any blogs that you want to aspire to – don’t limit yourself to 5-10, the more sites on your list the better.
Use the notes you made in the keyword research section for content categories and content ideas and open up some of the keywords in Google and see which websites are ranking for these terms.
Once you have your list, start off by subscribing to each website in your favourite feed reader – this will provide you with a constant stream of content in your particular niche and can be an extremely valuable research tool for planning content.
Now that you’ve got a great list of sites that you’re subscribed to it’s time to really investigate so go through all of the sites in your feed reader and make notes on any recurring topics, events, people, products, services or anything else that is mentioned – this is important to give yourself a gauge of what type of things other bloggers are talking about within your niche and you can use this to help with your content plan.
The final thing you need to do here is pick out the top maybe 3-4 sites that you think are the most successful within your niche, if you have a great understanding of your niche you will probably know which sites are the biggest, but if not then you could go by the size of their audience – see how many RSS subscribers, Twitter Followers, Facebook Fans or Google Plus One’s they have.
You could possibly include average comments per article because engagement is extremely important.
Now go to each of these sites and make notes on how they are monetising their site, how often they update their blog with new content and get an overall view of what is going on over on the blog – you should pay close attention to figuring out what their blogs goals are (such as my examples in the first step of this guide).
Whether you’re doing a blog launch or a blog relaunch you NEED to do this – thanks to the keyword research and competitor research should be very straight forward – together with your knowledge of the niche will make for a great plan.
Note: Don’t skip this part just because you have an existing blog, every blog needs a plan and if you have one already then it may be a case of just modifying it slightly.
You may want to put this into a calendar type format but this is really down to how you work best.
Personally I am way too busy to give myself post deadlines but that’s just me, so whatever works for you – if a straight forward list works best for you then that’s the way to go.
When you’re putting this plan into action then the best way forward is to plan each article out with a few bits of information –
- Rough article title (you can refine this later)
- Type of content
I’ve included type of content because there’s so much more that you can do instead of just a straight forward blog post. Here are some ideas to get you started –
- Regular post
- Pillar post (an epic post, think “ultimate guides”)
- How to guide
- Presentations (E.g. Slideshare)
I recommend you incorporate the type of content into your plan because thinking about that early on means you can prepare and also opens up other avenues for different content that you might not have thought of otherwise.
So get the plan done right and think about the type of content at the start.
I’m not talking about an XML sitemap here, I’m talking about a complete map of the pages and posts on your site.
You could even incorporate your content plan here to make this more complete and show you the big picture of your blog launch/blog relaunch.
If you have an existing blog then this is where you have the opportunity to re-organise your blogs category structure so that it fits more logically with your keyword research and content map from earlier on in this guide.
There’s a bunch of different tools you can use for this.
I usually just prefer to stick to using Microsoft Word personally but here are a few other tools that you could use for this –
- Freemind (Free desktop software)
- Gliffly (Free online service)
- Bubbl.us (Free online service)
- Mind Meister (Free online service)
The creation of wireframes is a typical part of the web design. It is essential to ensure that you have all of the elements that you need to have when you put your blog together.
This doesn’t need to be pretty; it needs to be functional so all you really need is a pen and paper.
To give you an idea of the kind of elements that I’m talking about here are a few suggestions of what you need to include in the wireframe.
- Opt in form
- Social buttons
- Facebook like box
- Popular posts widget
- Comments section
- Widgets (sidebar/footer/header)
These are just to give you a start because there are a lot of different elements that you may want to include.
I’d suggest that you look at a few of your competitors and mock up a wireframe over a screenshot of their site to see how their site really fits together – you don’t have to do this but it will give you a great start.
If you do this then the best place to start is with your most successful competitors but be careful because some websites that are successful don’t convert well at all and haven’t been updated in years so think of it like this; if you go to the website and the layout confuses you or you’re not sure what the site owner wants you to do then don’t use the site as a wireframe comparison.
When you put the wireframe together you need to think about the user experience – if you try to throw too much at your visitors then chances are instead of them completing one of your goals, they will complete none of your goals so keep it simple.
There are a number of different page types that you will need to do wireframes for so that you have all of the bases covered, there may be a few more specific pages such as landing pages or sales pages if you’re selling products or have some other ideas but the following should suit most blogs:
- Home page
- Blog page (displays all blog posts)
- Blog post
- Contact page
- Regular page
Before you map out your wireframe think back to the previous sections in this post, especially the section about prioritising your goals because this is where it all gets pulled together.
Your primary goal needs to be the most prominent goal so give your visitors plenty of opportunity to complete the goal as they navigate through your website. Remember you can’t have your secondary and tertiary goals being as prominent as your primary goal because that would seriously affect the conversion rate of your primary goal.
As I mentioned above you can do a wireframe with just a pen and piece of paper but using an online tool is what I prefer to do and there are a bunch of different tools that you can use.
If you are launching a brand new blog or haven’t launched a blog before then you’re going to need to think about a few things –
- What blogging platform are you going to use? (E.g. – WordPress/Joomla/Drupal)
- What are you going to do about domain registration?
- What are you going to do about web hosting?
NOTE: If you’re no stranger to WordPress and launching blogs then skip ahead to the Choosing a WordPress theme section.
You may have got the idea in your head to use a free blogging platform, something like WordPress.com or Blogger.com – if you just want to play around or you’re going to be blogging just because you want to write then these may be suitable for you but please be aware that you won’t actually own your blog and you’re restricted by the terms and conditions of the blogging platform that you use.
Picking a blogging platform
You’ve got a number of different options, such as Joomla and Drupal but the most popular self-hosted platform is WordPress.org. The other benefit of using WordPress is that there are so many themes and plugins available that you can do almost anything within the realms of your imagination.
Picking a domain registrar
You’re going to need your own domain and it’s important that you pick something without hyphens that’s catchy. Don’t worry too much about a domain that fits in with your keywords because Google’s EMD update killed the SEO benefit that it would offer you.
You may have seen some crazy cheap hosting and domain offers, but don’t get drawn in because the safest thing you can do is to separate your domain registrar from your hosting – so use two separate companies.
I personally stick with Namecheap.com – it’s easy to use and the prices are competitive with a great level of service.
Picking a web host
Even if you’re just starting out, I believe that you need a web host that can offer speed and reliability.
After all, you don’t want your first traffic spike to bring down your site.
That’s why I host with (mt) Media Temple.
Choosing a WordPress theme
Now we’re on to the challenging part, if you have an existing blog you may have a WordPress theme that actually allows you to put your complete wireframe into play – if so then you’re good to go.
If not then read on …
WordPress has a large selection of free themes but I would seriously advise against using any of these because your blog will struggle to stand out and it’s incredibly difficult to match these themes up with your wireframes.
This leaves you with two different options – you can either look through a theme market place like Mojo Themes or Theme Forest for something that will fit your wireframe or you can go down the route of using a theme framework that will allow you to either make a theme of your own with ease or allow you to customise a child theme to suit exactly what you want your blog to look like.
In my opinion you will get the most control and functionality from going with a theme framework although there is a price trade off as some theme frameworks will start off at about $70+ and a single theme from Mojo Themes or Theme Forest will start at around $25.
You actually get more value with theme frameworks because in most cases you can use them on more websites and sometimes get child themes included whereas with theme market places the license limits you to using the theme once unless you purchase it again or shell out a bunch of cash on an extended license.
So which theme framework do you choose?
Well, there are a few different theme frameworks, this includes Genesis, Woo Themes and Elegant Themes – they all have their own “framework” but they don’t give you the customisation options you need (although they do make great themes – it’s not what you need here).
Thesis Theme Framework
One of the most popular and functional theme frameworks available; Thesis is used by an insane number of website owners; not just solo bloggers but is also used for large corporate blogs. Some people have stated that their latest version was rushed into release and is slightly confusing to use in comparison to previous releases but despite that this is an incredibly powerful framework that starts at $87 and has a great support community. I recommend you check out the higher priced packages that give you better value for money and some great looking child themes that you can start customising right away.
Out of all of the theme frameworks this is my favourite simply because of how much value and functionality you get. Now on the down side you only get 12 months of upgrades and support but everything else you get more than makes up for it – also if you want to renew in 12 months’ time then they give you a discount for existing members which is awesome!
Prices start at $80 and for that you also get 5 responsive child themes and the style manager plugin but you get the most value by going for the $197 all access pass.
This gives you access everything the basic package offers and 80 classic themes, 60 child themes, Loop buddy plugin and the new Boombar plugin – there’s also 1 year access to any new themes added within the next year. When you login you’ll also be greeted by older versions of the builder theme and some extra plugins.
The style manager plugin is what allows you to actually change the layout of your child themes (or classic themes if you went for the all access pass. This plugin was recently updated so that it was compatible with the responsive theme’s which is an amazing accomplishment by the iThemes team.
This plugin allows you to customise the CSS without actually having to know anything about CSS – but due to the way the plugin operates you actually see a CSS preview so just using this plugin can be a great learning experience.
This is awesome. Get it.
Getting things together
Now it’s time for you to put everything together, take the theme or theme framework you decided on and put together a blog layout that fits with your wireframe.
At this stage it’s important that you put a coming soon splash page on to your blog with some form of email captcha and build up some buzz on social media before you launch.
This is really straight forward to do and all it takes is the Coming soon plugin by Seedprod – this is the plugin that I throw on all of my sites before I launch them. A personal license starts at $29 and is a VERY worthwhile investment.
There are also some great customisation options and a maintenance mode option for those of you that are doing a blog redesign as opposed to a fresh blog launch.
This is something that you need to do because you wouldn’t leave the door open while you were in a changing room trying on new clothes would you?
Content writing ready for launch
If you’re doing a blog redesign then you may have most of your content ready but either way you need to be prepared for your launch.
The best way to conduct any launch is to have maybe 1-2 months content pre-written so that you can come out swinging.
You should be aiming to publish new content every 2 or 3 days for the first few months which works out at an average of around 20 or so articles.
Ideally you should be writing these articles yourself (or along with any other regular contributors or co-owners of your blog).
I would personally try to avoid using any guest posts or external writers because you’re building your name as an author here when you initially launch and you know exactly what you want from your articles.
If you’re struggling for time then you could outsource the article writing or if you could leverage guest bloggers by either inviting other authors within your niche or if you have an existing blog then chances are you’re receiving guest post requests – there’s no harm in asking those guest bloggers to write something specific for you.
Now you’ve got a rough process to go through when you launch or re-launch your blog, you’ll have highlighted your blogs goals, prepared some keyword research and a content plan – you’ll also have a great theme that does exactly what you want it to do and some great content ready for launch.
So now it’s time for lift off – launch your blog and start promoting it!
Right now I’m closing in on 4,000 words in this article so I’m not going to draw things to a close – I’ll leave you with a few questions that I would love your help on.
if I were to write an eBook about blog design and launching your blog that went into a lot more detail and incorporated information on conversions, setup check lists and other cool stuff, would that be something you would be interested in buying or reading?
Also what other information or questions would you want answering in a guide like this? Knowing this would really help me help you better. I’m happy for you to send suggestions via the contact page or in the comments below.
Plenty of awesome sauce: How to Launch or Re-Launch a Blog and Make It a Success ow.ly/hlEVN
— Adam C (@adamjayc) February 3, 2013