Roadmap to Creating a Successful Blog

Creating a Successful BlogCreating a successful blog  is the goal of many individuals. There are literally hundreds of people that want to become professional bloggers. For most of these people, being successful means having plenty of visitors and making money.

While it’s easy to dismiss this as just another internet pipe dream, you need to understand that there are people making six figure incomes from blogging.

Drawing from my own success and talking with other successful bloggers, I’ve come up with a simple step-by-step plan for being successful.

I’ve used these steps (but not necessarily in the right order) to become a successful blogger myself, but this post only covers what you need to do, without becoming bogged down in the “how to” information. You should also note that for the purpose of this post, being successful means making money. Maintaining a blog as a hobby is another story entirely, and success might mean something completely different.

The Roadmap to Creating a Successful Blog

  • The pre-launch section guides you through selecting the topics covered by your blog, market research, setting up your blogging platform and creating the initial content.
  • The post-launch section is almost exclusively about how to promote your blog. Just to clarify what I mean by “launch”, there is no switch to launch your blog. Your blog will be launched the minute you begin promoting it.

Pre-launch Steps

1. Determine what your target market is. You do this by selecting a topic about which you have a fair amount of knowledge and will hold your interest. Using that as a starting point, do market research to figure out how to make it a money-making enterprise.

This process is just finding an overlap between your interests, what’s popular and what your readers will be interested in spending money on. This is also a good time to create your “idea file.” This is just a list of topic ideas for blog posts. If you find that creating this list is difficult, you need to select a different subject area.

2. In this step, you need to do two things at once: name your blog and register a domain name. This will not be a subdomain, Blogspot or WordPress.com blog. If you want to be taken seriously, then you need to self-host your blog with a hosting provider with your own domain. Find a memorable name that will serve as your brand and has a matching domain name that can be clearly spoken without having to spell it out. Simple and short is better than an odd spelling or a long name.

3. Install WordPress on your hosting account. There is usually a way to get it auto-installed. Use that. Install the All-In-One SEO and Google Sitemaps plug-ins. Configure the permalinks to include both category name and article title for SEO. You want this set up from the beginning. Do it now.

4. Install an attractive blog theme. You can use a free or paid theme and personalize it. There are themes that allow you to customize them from the administrator panel. Optionally, you can have a logo designed for your site. If you really want to do this now, then I recommend you use a site like 99 Designs or a crowd sourcing site. I recommend that you do not spend a lot of time and money on the appearance of your site other than to make it presentable.

5. Set up a mailing list. You need to be registered with a autoresponder service provider so you can capture e-mail addresses from day one. AWeber is one company that has a complete set of features. It’s the service that I use on all of my blogs. MailChimp offers a free low-volume beginner account. Two features to look for are the ability to broadcast e-mails and being able to send your latest blog post to your subscribers.

6. Create your initial content. Take your time to create between 5 and 10 informative and interesting blog post as seed material for your blog. This should be your best writing, because when you are just starting out this will serve as the showcase for your work. There’s no need to time the publication of these posts. No one is reading your blog yet.

7. Create five backup posts as drafts. Enter these posts, but save them as drafts only. That way, if you are pressed for time, you may publish one of these drafts to keep your content fresh.

8. Create standard “legal pages” for your blog: the About page, the terms of service page and privacy page.

Post-launch Steps: Creating a Successful Blog

1. Create a Twitter account. Your handle on Twitter should be either your blog name or your own name. Use a real picture of yourself in your profile. Write a bio for your profile that is relevant to your market. Link your Twitter account to the About page on your blog. Identify other Twitter users in your niche and follow them.

2. Use an automated tweeting software, like Twitterfeed, so you can tweet each of your blog post through your Twitter account.

3. Next create a Facebook account, setting up the profile the same way you did for Twitter. Once that is accomplished you can use the Facebook Twitter application to automatically publish your tweets to Facebook.

4. Continue writing post. This actually isn’t a real step, but a reminder to write and publish posts on your blog regularly. You should produce several posts per week. Establish a schedule such as publishing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon. This will help you get into the rhythm of maintaining your blog, and it will keep both your readers and Google interested in your site.

5. Use social media. Do this through Twitter, Facebook and any other social sites you care to join. Find out who the opinion leaders are in your market. Find a reason to contact them and start a conversation. Do not – I repeat – do not hit them with a sales pitch. Keep it casual and informal. You don’t even need to mention your blog.

6. Search for other blogs in your market. Subscribe to their RSS feeds and use that to become a regular reader and commenter on those sites. This is not an opportunity to spam. Make sure your comments are not promotional but are helpful, informative and relevant. Use the website field on the comment form to link to your blog.

Post-launch Steps: Advanced Blog Marketing

7. Carefully read the posting guidelines for other blogs in your market. Start writing guest posts for those blogs and send them to their owners.

8. Rework and rewrite some of your initial content and submit it to article directories like EzineArticles, using the bio box to link to your blog. Also, you can post them on social blogs like HubPages and Tumblr or use them to create a Squidoo lens. Be sure to link back to your blog pages from these posts. For example, you can link directly to the opt in page for your mailing list.

9. Load a series of short articles to your autoresponder account. Your first message can be just to welcome them and encourage them to follow you on Twitter. The following articles should have interesting content that links back to your initial content pages.

10. While you are building your traffic and your e-mail list, you should begin to plan and write your first information product.

11. Drawing from a subset of the material from your information product, create a high-quality report in PDF format. Use this to reward your existing subscribers and entice more readers to subscribe.

12. Add MeetUp.com to your social marketing repertoire. Start attending meetings relevant to your market niche and start your own meeting groups.

From here on out you are continuing to use social media and relevant blogs, to create great content for your site and continuing to network with people with interests similar to yours. I cannot overstate the importance of personal networking in creating an internet business.

In following these steps, you are also learning some pretty important tactics for building backlinks to your website. This is probably the single most important factor in search engine optimization. Just remember not to get so wrapped up in the tactics of gathering links that you forget the purpose of the entire enterprise: making money. Keeping this goal in front of you will help you maintain the focus you need to be successful.

Twitter: Only twits don’t tweet

[toc]Lady shouting at phone

Not a Twitter user

Introduction

As you progress in your blogging career you will evolve from being just a content writer to becoming a web journalist.  One of the most revolutionary tools in your armoury is that lovely package Twitter, as it provides you with instant access to information and a unique way of communicating with important people.

I recently had to explain the use of Twitter to a group of small business people who were all very negative. I realise I had to demonstrate the benefits the system before they’d believe me.

I was lucky as in my demonstration I managed to find a useful potential supplier’s link for one businessman. During the coffee break he managed to phone up and get an appointment the next. After that they were all hooked.

The the benefits of  Twitter to a blogger are:

you can follow the action

In your niche’is world:  PR announcements, new product releases and gossip spread like wildfire Twitter world.

you can do research

Query a topic, person or business and those tweeting about the subject will probably be useful. Many Tweets will provide useful links to websites.

you need to understand the use of the # symbol

For example protest in the UK against government cuts are labelled #ukuncut. To follow this lead I was provided with instant information on various protests.  I note that #ukuncut  was actually used to organise flash protests at a number of shops.

Two way Twitter conversations

I get the impression that this is often the fastest way to make contact with important people or organisations.

Businesses and organisations use Twitter to release information

In fact it is now probably the leading way of releasing information. All releases will, of course, link back to a web page with detailed information and contact details.

Most bloggers tweet their posts

If you don’t you are losing traffic. You can use  Twitter to the inform what is happening in your niche.

Products like Tweetdeck

Are there to help you monitor specific queries or groups of of Twitter users.

Over to you

do you use Twitter? If so how?

Discuss Your Comments With Disqus

Shout down phone

Overview:

The standard blogging systems have good, built in comment systems.  However many websites are now using the online comment system Disqus.  This article discusses the pros and cons of Disqus and explains why ‘Beginning to Blog’ uses the system.

Let’s Go:  What is Disqus?

Disqus is simply an alternative to a blog site’s own comment system.  For most blogs there is a simple plugin, which when activated will as the name suggests plug in the Disqus system.

There are two big differences to the standard comment system:

A user logs in once and can then automatically comment on any website that has Disqus activated. So for example once signed in you could write a comment on Beginning to Blog, but you can then go to other blogs and comment there, or you can even go to two UK national newspapers, the Independent, and the Daily Telegraph, and automatically make comments there.

A user’s comments and approval of other comments are stored on the Disqus systesm. The user then has a separate, online file of all their comments on all of the Disqus sites they have used.  As Disqus has a great search system this can be useful in checking back on the comments they have made or someone else, possibly impressed by someone’s comments on one site , can follow that person’s comments on other sites.

The login

A user can log into Disqus using their Twitter account, their Facebook account, Yahoo account or their OpenID.  Once the link is established they can comment.

This has the plus point that the gravtar, or image they use, on that account can be drawn in.  It also means that when a person is posting a comment they can also opt for the details of their post to summarised and linked on the Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo system.

The positive advantages of using Disqus

for the user

The biggest advantage is that the user receives emails telling them when there are comments on their comments.  The links in the emails takes the user straight to the comment and so it is quite easy to engage in a discussion or argument with other users of the site.

  • It saves the user registering on lots of different websites.
  • The user can quickly access all comments they have made.
  • On most website users can click on a button to say they like a comment, which can give positive feedback for the writer.
  • The user has a summary of how many posts they made and how many people have rated their comments.

for the website owner

  • Disqus cuts practically all spam.
  • The comments are often linked to on at least one of these services Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo.  This then produces backlinks from highly rated sites, which in turn enhances the rating of the blog or newspaper.
  • It makes their site look professional.
  • It’s very easy to control comments.  Hostile or unacceptable comments are easy to delete.

The downside

  • A person has to actually register before they can comment, which may block some potential commentators.
  • If there is a fault with the Disqus system then there maybe no comments on the site or the site could be slowed down.
  • The website owner has little control of Disqus.  If say Disqus decided to withdraw the free service I would have to balance between paying a subscription or losing my existing comments.  I think this is unlikely.

Why I use Disqus

I think that Disqus will cut spam on my sites, will look more professional, will give me valuable back links. It will also enable me to check the comment history of my commentators.