Starting a blog on a powerful foundation is synonymous with making the blog a robust wealth-machine. It requires some astute long-term planning upfront. When you are looking to maintain blogging power on a sustained basis, you have to think about serious issues like blog loading speed, relevance of your brand and content for the long term, and robustness of the hosting and structure of your blog. The last thing you want to be doing is time-wasting daily in tweaking the underlying shaky technology of your blog instead of adding fresh content!
I can ramble on endlessly with all kinds of things you’ll need to start a blog (and there’s loads of information online too), but my idea is to recommend some absolute minimum basics which I have tested over many times for my own sites and for client sites, so that you can be confident of these choices you’ll be making. Don’t get sidetracked by elaborate minutiae when you start a blog. Get going with the least fuss and the smartest choices – and plan to get more savvy with time.
If you’re starting with a new blog, or if you’re revamping an old blog, the process and choices are more or less the same. It’s not a very good idea (or easy) to try and tweak a blog that’s older than a year, because technology changes so quickly that you may find that your older blog could use some of the new hosting solutions, and some of the upgraded tools to look and behave according to the demands of the times. If you’ve got reasonably good re-usable content on an old blog and want to now make it a power blog for affluence, it’s far easier to build a new blog and then bring into it all the content (updated!) that was good in the old blog. So that’s a point to keep in mind.
Step #1: Choosing an ideal domain name
One of the first decisions you have to take when you start a blog is your domain name. Should you use your own name, especially if you are the “brand” of your blog? For one thing, it’s easier sometimes to get your own name as a domain name, so long as your name isn’t a very common one. But there’s one negative to using your own name as your domain name. Tomorrow, if you want to start many other sites, you may like to reserve your own name as a parent brand for all of your blogs. So ideally, try to get a domain name for your blog that reflects your unique niche/benefit (i.e. your difference).
A domain name should ideally have eight characteristics. One, it must sound like a brand than a sentence or a phrase (for example, this blog could have been called “BecomeABillionaireBlogger.com” which sounds like a sentence, whereas “BLOGBILLIONAIRE.COM” sounds more like a brand name). Two, it must be short and easy to pronounce. Three, it should not be someone else’s trademark. Four, it should not mean something vulgar or crass in another language (yes, you have to check this out!). Five, it should preferably be a .COM domain (which is by far more popular and prestigious than any other domain extension). Six, if the word is capable of being mis-spelt, then you must make sure to buy the most popular mis-spellings also as your owned domains and forward these to the correctly spelt domain. For example, I have bought BLOGBILLIONNAIRE.COM also (spelt with two “nn”), which is a mistake people often make when spelling “billionaire” (should have only one “n”). Seven, the domain name must clarify your unique end benefit to the reader (for instance, “OnlineLace.com” says nothing about the unique end benefit to the reader whereas “HandmadeLace.com”, if that’s your speciality, may be coveted as a benefit by lace connoisseurs, who may be your target). Eight, and most important nowadays, the domain name must be short enough to be hashtag-able for Twitter (e.g. #blogbillionaire).
If you can’t get your favorite domain name, because it’s taken (as most words in the dictionary are nowadays), what do you do? It’s okay to slightly modify it with a suffix or prefix (like “LonelyHearts.com” could easily be modified to “ALonelyHeart.com”, “LonelyAtHeart.com” or “ForLonelyHearts.com”). So long as you can preserve the unique benefit and not have to add junk numbers or junk characters as suffixes and prefixes (like “LonelyHearts123.com”), you should be okay to go.
There’s a splendid video from Rand Fishkin, the Head of Moz.com, on how you should go about choosing the best domain name for your blog … watch this:
- 10 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Domain Name by Andrea Rowland (@AndreaRowland70)
- 15 Domain Name Generators & New Domain Extensions Available by Richard Lazazzera (@RichardABLS)
- 5 Tips for Choosing the Best Domain Name by Thomas Lowery (@tal62)
Step #2: Branding your blog for longevity
An incredibly common mistake many entrepreneur-bloggers make, when they think about branding their chosen blog name, is to forget the concept of “longevity”. They look around themselves to see the marketplace as it is today, and then try to fit their branding design to match current circumstances. Many such brands, built on currently trendy ideas (and not “long-term flexible ideas”) very soon find that with evolution and technological changes and time, they have to fight hard to stay relevant.
How can you plan to be “long-living and always-relevant” as a brand when you are not sure how the future may unfold? The answer is simple. Study the look and characteristics of brands that have stood the test of time, and you will note two things. One, the look of the brand (its colors, font, logo style and other physical appearance characteristics) will have always “kept up with the times” … in other words, they will have gone through several “modernisation” changes, and that’s okay. But two, you will also see that the values the brand stands for, as exemplified by its tagline, will have changed relatively less – and more or less stayed the same in meaning and relevance across generations. This is because style changes, but quality never does!
Despite the temptation to design your own branding, it’s always a better investment to assign the job to a specialist logo designer, because there is an art and science to expert branding design that includes plans for longevity. Great logo designers always begin with simple but striking designs that can be adaptive. In fact, the better designers will show you not only a variety of designs, but also many variations of any one design, just so you can see the flexibility built into it.
How the tagline appears alongside the logo is also what a designer may show you, but to craft the words of the tagline, you may have to work at it yourself or get an experienced advertising copywriter to help you. The tagline should not be a “manufacturer’s claim” (i.e. “who I am”). It should be stated as a “consumer benefit” (i.e. “why you should buy me”). For example, let’s say we have a blog related to green energy advice called “EcoSmarts.com”. If its tagline is “Green advice from the country’s highest-rated specialist” that’s a “manufacturer’s claim” (also known as chest-beating!). On the other hand, if its tagline is “Green advice to help you save the earth and your wealth”, that’s much better because it is consumer-benefit related.
Here’s where you should keep the tagline “evergreen” by not saying “our advice will save you up to 5% of energy bills” … because that’s not a claim that can fulfill its promise across years! Stick to the evergreen value of saying “our advice will always be both ecology and economy conscious”.
One last thing about branding. Think also of the audio branding and not just your logo’s visual format. What if you need to use a signature-sound-effect or signature-tune with your logo for podcasts and videos?
When you plan the elements of your brand remember these 12 points to cover, as below:
- Thoughts on Logo Design Longevity and Timelessness by Graham ‘Logo’ Smith (@thelogosmith)
- Evolving With values. The Secret To Brand Longevity by Stephen Abbott (@SJAbbott)
- The World’s Oldest Brands: What are the Secrets to their Longevity? by Ivan Widjaya (@noobpreneur)
Step #3: Choosing the easiest blogging platform
I can think of at least seven really good (and even free!) blogging platforms you can choose to put your blog on: these include WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumbler, Medium, Ghost, Squarespace or Wix. But the issue here is that all of these are hosted on spaces you cannot fully control. The alternative – and by far, the most robust alternative – is to have a self-hosted WordPress platform. First let’s see why self-hosting is the best idea, and then let’s examine why WordPress is the best solution for bloggers.
The biggest negatives of the free platforms are as follows. Unless you pay for your own domain, you may have to accept the domain tacked onto yours, such as “www.example.blogspot.com”. Free blogs generally come across as less professional than self-hosted ones. You have less control over your blog (for instance, people who self-host their blog with the WordPress software can download plugins to expand their blog capabilities, whereas the free sites may not allow such addons). There are also severe limitations to the way your blog will appear, and most often you’ll end up with a cookie cutter site that looks like every other site on the same platform. You may have only a limited amount of bandwidth, video time, and memory space. And finally, free platforms usually limit your advertising options, meaning that it’s harder to make money from your blog (some actually use their advertising on your blog and earn from your popularity).
Contrast this with a self-hosted WordPress blog. A self-hosted blog is one that sits on your own server space rented from a hosting specialist third-party. Sites like HostGator and Bluehost are among some of the popular companies that provide hosting services. You have full control over your blog, including in its layout, search engine optimization, advertising revenue, additional functions, and much more. You can install custom themes to brand your blog. You will also have complete access to your back-end files, which allows you to make any necessary code changes. Using a third-party host usually costs only a few dollars per month, but don’t be tempted to go with the “cheap and best” option because the service provided by the hosting company and the speed of their servers also matters to the quality of your blog.
What is WordPress? It’s best described as the skeleton of a perfect blog site. It’s like a ready-made framework for creating blog pages and blog posts, so once you have this skeleton hosted, you have to just use a “theme” on it (a skin, if you like) with your chosen design, and hey presto, you can start blogging with a just a few things to learn up (for which there are umpteen guides online including a master guide from WordPress itself). Five things that WordPress gives you: one, fabulous usability; two, ability to customize your site at will; three, multiple options for almost every feature; four, outstanding customer support; and five, a framework pre-designed to be SEO friendly.
WordPress is a blogging professional’s dream blogging system, and almost close to 65 million or more blogs are now on a self-hosted WordPress system. Close to 52% of the world’s blogs are on WordPress, according to a survey by Pingdom.
- 3 Big Reasons You Should Be Blogging With WordPress by KeriLynn Engel (@KeriLynnEngel)
- 14 Surprising Statistics About WordPress Usage by Tom Ewer (@tomewer)
- 7 Mistakes Beginner WordPress Users Make by Kevil Muldoon (@KevinMuldoon)
Step #4: Signing up with the fastest hosting service
There is no doubt whatsoever, that the world’s fastest server specially dedicated to hosting WordPress blogs, in a uber-high-speed and uber-secure environment, is WebSynthesis. When you combine Websynthesis hosting with the W3 TotalCache Pro plugin, your website responds like greased lightning – and from Google’s point of view, sites that have high speeds get very precious brownie points on Google search rankings.
Here’s just a sampler of what WebSynthesis promises:
When sites move to Synthesis and our efficient NGINX architecture, they can sustain twice the traffic and consume about 1/8th of the resources. How? The answer is our minimalist hosting stack – specifically configured for WordPress and its unique hosting demands. Even our Starter plans handle a heavy load compared to inefficiently-configured dedicated boxes from other hosts. And that only increases with each step up.
Synthesis is designed so you don’t have to understand acronyms and technical gobbledygook to get world-class performance when your content attracts the attention you’re after. The point is, your site will be up and available more, and your pages will load faster than ever.
Our architecture is designed to maximize security and performance, while providing flexibility for business owners to ultimately make their own real-world decisions. We follow through with proactive monitoring, patching, and constantly evolving innovation to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.
In addition to this add “world-class support”, “amazingly pro-active security” and “realtime alerts” from SiteSensor if your site’s ever down – and you’re all set to be in the company of the world’s best blogs with high ambitions.
How does W3 Total Cache Pro plugin help? It creates static cache pages for each page that is loaded, so it is not being dynamically loaded upon each page load. This drastically reduces page load time. But there’s a sizzling chemistry between WebSynthesis and W3 Total Cache Pro that makes it the world’s fastest solution for blogs. The beauty is that W3 Total Cache Pro comes in-built with your WebSynthesis hosting and all you need is to turn it on with a few lines of code WebSynthesis gives you to put into W3 Total Cache Pro settings. Voila … watch the site speed!
WebSynthesis plans are available upward of $47 a month (for the lowest plan) and W3 Total Cache Pro costs $99 per year, so the solution is by no means of the “low-cost” ilk. But then, if you have great goals for your blog, and are looking at giving yourself the best foundations you can to breeze along without technology worries, what other choice do you have that comes even close?
- WebSynthesis Hosting Review by Eric Binnion (@ebinnion)
- W3 Total Cache Review by Syed Balkhi (@syedbalkhi)
- How to Achieve 100/100 with the Google Page Speed Test Tool by Felix Tarcomnicu (@Felixtarcomnicu)
Step #5: Designing your blog for visual impact
The old days when websites had to be built from scratch are now part of a forgotten past. In fact, we now have ready-built “themes” with ready-to-tweak customization dashboards, so all you need to do is become a quasi-designer yourself, and just add your chosen ‘theme” to your WordPress framework, and then have a merry time experimenting with the customizations of color, backgrounds, layouts, font sizes and what have you. If you don’t have a design bone in your body you may need to hire a designer, but if you are in a design-happy state of mind, there’s nothing as pleasurable as spending a day tinkering with your “theme” to make it one that best fits your image and sense of style.
The same company that has the hosting solution Websynthesis, also produces some of the best WordPress blog themes under the banner of Studiopress. Take a look at some of the designs available – there are fresh ones coming out every now and again, plus you get the complete demo and guides to set up and customize your themes.
Studiopress themes have a framework theme called Genesis which you have to load first and then you have to additionally load a child-theme of your liking. This is one of the ways the company has separated the functionalities from the design elements making it impossible for you to mess up the basic code while you try out your appearance customizations.
What should you look for when you are deciding on a suitable theme for your blog? The first thing would be to find a theme that is almost 90% what you can run with – and just maybe needs some color and font customizations and inclusion of your logo. What image do you need your blog to project – professionalism, friendliness, approachability, serious knowledge? How would you ideally like to break up your content into cogent sections or topics? Think about this when you decide on an almost ready-to-go theme.
The other factors to consider is whether the theme looks good on all browsers (try out the demo site using different browsers) and most importantly, whether the theme is mobile-responsive. All Studiopress themes are fortunately mobile-friendly without your having to do anything, but just make sure you like the way your chosen theme looks on different devices. To check this, again see the demo site of the theme through your phone or tablet and see how it renders. Happy? Get a few friends to validate your choice, and then get down to dressing the theme with your brand colors and other elements of brand image vital to you.
- Best Practices for Genesis Theme Customization by Chris Cree (@ChrisCree)
- Genesis themes – How to customize News, Lifestyle and other WordPress themes by Philip Gledhill (@philip_gledhill)
- 16 of the Best Examples of Beautiful Blog Design by Lindsay Kolowich (@lkolow)
If you’ve got a robust hosting solution, a great blogging platform like WordPress, a great theme framework like Genesis and its child-themes for design, and have great writing skills, and a good bit of reader psychology insights, that’s about 90% of what you’ll need to be a successful blogger. But what about coding skills, you ask?
For those with complete anathema towards coding, there is still the option of using pre-coded WordPress addons called “plugins” to give you functionalities without any programming from your side. But the more plugins you add, the poorer the performance of your site under all that weight of addons. So knowing a bit of coding and then adding some plugins for the really difficult parts is a happy balance.
Where can you get this coding knowledge in a jiffy? The best place, according to me, is the free tutorials from W3 Schools, which has covered the whole lot of coding languages. There are beautiful lessons with examples and actual codes, written for rank beginners. Read up a bit of it just to know what it’s all about.
After that, as you get along with your site, you can use the W3 Schools site as a handy reference just to check on a few coding points that you need to know for some specific tweak to your site. There’s no need to get all immersed in learning the whole nine yards of coding.
For photo editing, my preferred software is Photoshop Elements. If you can get the latest version (about $79 one-time cost at the time of writing this post) you can do almost everything the great designers do with the unabridged full version of the great Photoshop software, albeit in a much easier way. There are many photo editing softwares out there that cost far less and are also free, but with Photoshop Elements, it’s not only possible to do basic editing, but also give your images some polish with some special effects. There are loads of tutorials online that show how.
Images are very important to creating a sense of quality and class in blogs, so it makes sense not to cut corners on your photo-manipulation software. Besides, buying the software as a one-time investment costs far less than recurring fees paid to a photo-retouching freelancer, especially if you’re going to be writing a prolific number of blog posts without let up, and all of them have at least one associated image!
- What Programming Language Skills Do You Require For Blogging? by Harsh Agrawal (@shoutmeloud)
- Photography Tips for Bloggers by The SITS Girls (@SITSGirls)
- Basic Technical Skills Every Pro Blogger Should Have by Michael Kwan (@michaelkwan)
Step #7: Structuring your blog for maximizing SEO
Both from the readers’ point of view, as well as from SEO and Google’s point of view, it’s a great idea to have a clear cascading architecture for your blog/site. From your Home Page you should lead out to pages that are cornerstone pages for the main topics of your page.
What are cornerstone pages? You can think of these as hub pages that show all the related sub-posts or sub-content on a topic … for example, an individual post could be like this one you are now reading. But it is linked to from a hub or cornerstone page like this one. This kind of cornerstone page tells Google at a glance about all relevant posts on the topic that are on your site.
From the cornerstone pages, you can have a link-out to articles/posts on each topic. These posts should also be interlinked to each other in groupings of five-to-six posts around a tightly knit sub-topic.
Building your site to a definite structure, with strong interlinking, helps Google spider and index your site well, and establish in its own mind which area of authority you own and how substantial your hold on the topic is, vertically and horizontally. Many SEO experts stress that it’s not just your individual posts that need to be great to rank in Google, but your overall domination of an area of specialization also adds to the probability that all your posts will rank high. The rising tide raises all boats.
One more very useful idea I’ve used for my own sites and client sites is this: instead of planning your site architecture with boxes and arrows, use the lingo of people to build the site-framework. Name each post or page as you draw your chart, by using researched keyword phrases and their search counts (i.e. the mid-length body keywords – the most popular and least competitive ways in which people are searching for your intended topic). See the example below …
The huge advantage of planning your site using “keywords” for topic breakdowns is that you’ll have a tight keyword focus even as you plan your site, and this in turn will help build domain authority via the very structure of your site. You’ll start thinking in terms of “audience lingo” throughout the planning exercise, and you’ll know what articles to write around popular search terms rather than wasting time on topics unsought! You’ll also have no articles without traffic potential set as a target.
- Intelligent Site Structure For Better SEO by Joost de Valk (@jdevalk)
- How to Choose Keywords to Reach Your Target Audience by Gail Gardner (@GrowMap)
- Why Is Internal Linking Important? by Nick Stamoulis (@NickStamoulis)
Step #8: Creating your first pages and posts
The Home Page of your blog may usually have a more visually powerful look and feel and highlight your specialism and the best features on your entire site. The posts and pages inside the site however will be restricted to the topic you are writing about, and in most blogs people prefer to have an additional vertical sidebar which can house your “Index of Categories and Latest Posts”, a “Search This Site” field, a “Subscribe To our Newsletters” box, a “Follow Me” list of social icons, and maybe a few advertisements for your products or services.
When you compose your blog posts you have to cleverly include three types of features: one, you have to provide good content to the reader, well indexed; two, you have make the page Google-friendly for SEO; and three, you have to deliberately add some features that will help with the outreach/promotion of the post so it can be shared or linked to by others, thus increasing your visibility, reach and Google rankings. How do you fit all this on one post? Well, the post you are reading now has been created to do all these three things described above. See how many additional things have been included apart from strong on-page SEO …
The structure above is not the only way you can design an ideal post, but the lesson to learn here is that you have to think about all that you want your blog post to achieve for you and plan a template that works for you. Building a system that can be replicated, post after post, ensures that post-creation, post-enhancement, post-promotion and post-SEO-value are all planned for in your template. So give it deep thought and see as many examples of strong posts as you can, across the Net, to be inspired by successful structuring ideas bloggers have used.
- Tested And Proven Formula On How To Structure Blog Posts For Maximum Readership by Michael Leander (@michaelleander)
- Why Your Post Style and Structure is Killing Your Blog by Ramsay (@BlogTyrant)
- Anatomy Of An Effective Blog Post by Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt)
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