The Ultimate Guide to Launching a Blog
Why bother reading this?
Launching a successful blog is not as simple as throwing up a couple posts and waiting for the traffic to roll in. Unfortunately the age old wisdom of “If you build it, they will come” does not apply here.
Out of the thousands of blogs that are launched every single month only a handful will ever get any traffic much less make any money.
If you are wanting to blog about your day to day life, or about your kids little league games then by all means just start posting and see what happens.
But if you want to launch a site that can actually go somewhere, and even better make you a lot of money, then read this entire guide and put it into action.
I have reversed engineered the launches of hundreds of extremely popular (and profitable!) blogs as well as taken from my own knowledge on the subject and written a guide that, if you follow, will teach you to not only massively grow your blogs traffic, but to do what so many blogs fail to do…make money!
Lets get started…
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Step 1) Picking Your Niche
This is going to be the most important step in the entire process. If you screw up, picking the wrong niche then everything you do after this is going to be like rolling a boulder up a hill. If you pick right it’s like pushing a boulder down a hill, just needs a big push and it starts to gain its own momentum.
Identifying your sweet spot
The first step is to find your “sweet spot”. This is the point at which the things you love, the things your good at and the things people will pay you for all meet.
I wrote up a great post on how to find your sweet spot right here:
Read that post, and figure out your sweet spot before going any further!
If your still having trouble thinking of niche ideas then take a look at these 3 awesome posts from fellow bloggers:
Is the market big enough?
Now that you have identified your sweet spot lets take a look at the potential market and make sure their is a big enough audience to make it worth your time.
There are a ton of different places you can look.
If there are magazines covering your niche then you can be assured that the market is large enough for you to get a portion of it. You can also use the cover article titles for post ideas!
To check and see if there are any magazines in your niche head over to http://www.amazon.com and look in the magazine section.
I went into the cooking section of the magazines on amazon and as you can see in the left hand column there are tons of magazines listed in all the different cooking sub niches.
Take a look and see if there is a magazine that is in or related to your niche. If there is your on too something!
The next thing you should check is if there are any other blogs in your niche. Now, your probably thinking the less competition you have the better, but your wrong. While it’s true the more competition you have the harder it will be to get noticed, the fact that there are competitors proves that the market and audience exists.
The more competitors in a niche, the larger the market and audience is! The goal is to figure out a unique angle that no one else in the niche is using.
There are several places online that you can find blogs in your niche.
The first is the google blog search at http://www.google.com/blogsearch. Just type in your niche and you’ll see posts from a ton of different blogs in your niche.
Next is http://technorati.com. Is a great blog search tool that allows you to find blogs in your niche. According to their website they are “currently tracking 112.8 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media.”
Finally we have http://www.alltop.com. Alltop was founded by Guy Kawasaki and provides the top headlines from popular topics around the web. It is a great place to find the leaders and authority blogs in your niche.
Forums are another great way to gauge how big your target market is. If there are active forums dedicated to your topic, or similar topics, then those are good signs!
You can search for forums at http://www.findaforum.net.
Question and Answer Sites
Q&A sites are a great place to see how active your niche is. if people are actively asking questions on Q&A sites then it is a good bet its a large market.
The main Q&A site I check is Yahoo Answers (https://answers.yahoo.com). Type in your niche and see if people are asking questions. Also make sure people are responding and check the dates! If no questions have been asked in a year then that niche is very active.
Whew that was a lot of market analyzing! So how did your niche I did come out? Are people talking about it online? Are there other blogs in the niche?
If you have found a niche that has an audience, has competition and you are passionate about then great!
Step one is done! Pat yourself on the back, now the real work begins.
Step 2) Market Research
In order for your blog to gain traction and go anywhere you are going to have to know what is going on in your niche.
Identifying the top Influencers in your niche
You do that is acquainting yourself with all of the top blogs and influencers in your niche. If you want to become one of them you have to figure out what they are talking about, what they care about and what their readers care about.
Remember when you were searching through competitors blogs while picking your niche? You are going to go back and make a spread sheet of all the top blogs.
Open up excel or numbers (if your on a mac) and create a spreadsheet that looks like screen shot below.
Now head over to http://www.google.com/blogsearch and find all of the blogs you can find in your niche.
While you are checking out their sites you want to look for their email, twitter, facebook and google+ pages. Generally you can find these on their contact us page. We will get to why your collecting this in the next section.
You also want to be checking out their blog, take a look at the way its laid out. What are their main categories? How are their menus set up? You’ll want to take notes on what you like and don’t like so that you can apply it to your own blog as you set it up.
Keeping up with your niche
You are going to want to keep up with everything that is happening in your niche. To do this you are going to need to keep track of what all the top bloggers are writing about, talking about and promoting.
To do this you are going to have too check out every blog in your niche daily, and read everything shared on facebook, twitter and google+ by the top bloggers.
That is a TON of work and would take up way to much time. Luckily I have two free tools that I use every day in my business to help me out with keeping up with everything that is going on in my niches.
Keep up with those posts!
The first is Feedly (http://feedly.com). Feedly allows you to hook up to all of the blogs in your niches RSS feeds. Basically this brings every single post over all the blogs instantly into one screen allowing you to browse them all at a glance.
Go to feedly.com and open up the spread sheet you made earlier. Create an account. Now copy and paste each blogs URL into the box in the top right. Then click on the correct blog in the drop down box (usually the one listed with most readers).
Simple as that! Now every post, past and present, will be listed in your Feedly home screen. I head to feedly every morning to check out all the new posts in my niche, it’s what I do as I eat my breakfast.
Be a faithful follower
Now that you have all the posts in your niche taken care of we need a way to monitor what all the top bloggers are talking about in real time.
To do this we are going to follow them on their social media profiles. But it would still be a chore to check all of those accounts everyday, so instead we are going to use a tool named HootSuite.
HootSuite (https://hootsuite.com) is a tool that allows you to monitor all of the activity in all of your social networks all in one place.
To keep things easy and organized I would create a new twitter, facebook and google+ account just for this purpose.
Next open your spreadsheet and follow all of the blogs/authors on your list with your new account.
This is where HootSuite comes in. Head on over too http://www.hootsuite.com and create a new account (it’s free!).
Next you want to add a new stream for twitter, facebook and google+. Now every time any of the blogs and influencers do anything on any of their social networks you can see it all organized on one page!
Check your HootSuite account every day to stay updated on what is going on niche.
Step 3) Building your blog
It’s finally time! You have picked out a niche that you both love and is large enough for you to be profitable. You have also identified and are actively monitoring all of the top blogs and influencers in your niche.
You are ready to start building your authority blog.
Picking your domain name
First thing is first, you need a domain name.
A lot of people like to complicate things with finding an exact match domain name. This means that your domain name is the exact same as a highly searched keyword. This can work, but there is one rule that you need to follow when your doing this.
You need to make sure that your domain name is Brand-able. What does this mean?
It needs to be a name that is memorable. It took me over a week of thinking about it before I came up with the domain The World Is My Office. You need to pick out a domain that stands out from the crowd and will stick in peoples minds.
Once you have some ideas head over to my favorite domain registrar NameCheap.com and see if it is available.
Another thing you want to keep in mind is whether the name has been taken on all the various social media networks out there already. I like to use a site called http://knowem.com.
Knowem.com searches all of the social media sites for you and tells you if the name is already taken or not.
There are a couple things to avoid when you are picking out a domain name.
- Numbers – don’t use them, either written “two” or numeric “2”
- Confusing or difficult to spell words
- Letter Jumbles – look at the potential domain name. Do the letters from one word jumble into the next so it’s hard to tell the words apart?
I am sure there are some successful examples of sites breaking those rules but they are a good idea to follow.
Once you have found and registered your new domain name you are ready to move on to the next step!
Start with the right hosting
At the very basic level a website is just a bunch of files on a web server somewhere. Every time someone types in your domain name into a browser your computer goes and displays the files from that server.
Most people will tell you to start on what is called a shared hosting account. This is a cheap hosting solution where your website files are put onto the same server along with a bunch of other sites which usually results in low site speeds and aggravations.
I used to recommend starting with this solution through either Bluehost or Hostgator, two of the most popular hosting providers. However over the last several months they have both been plagued with huge problems, low site speed, outages and more.
I moved all of my sites to a new web host called WPengine.
Now this web host does cost a little bit more at $29.00 per month. However the customer service (which is non existent with the other cheaper host companies), the site load speed (which is incredible!) and the ease of use makes using WPengine my #1 hosting choice and I highly recommend it.
WordPress is a CMS (content management system) that is completely free and is used by 22% of all websites on the internet. Think of it as the framework for your website, it handles all of the structural stuff while you can just add content and go.
If you went with WPengine like I recommended then wordpress already comes pre-installed.
See wasn’t that easy?
Picking the perfect theme
There are a lot of themes out there for sale and you should keep a couple things in mind while you are deciding on one.
- SEO Friendly – The theme should come SEO friendly. A lot of themes are poorly coded and this results in it being harder for the search engines (google) to crawl their site and will hurt your eventual rankings. Most themes makers will advertise the theme to be “SEO friendly” or something worded similarly.
- Responsive Design – With more and more people browsing the web on their phones and tablets a responsive design is a must. The theme for this site is responsive, change the your windows size or load us on your phone and you’ll see what that means. The site will automatically adapt to the size of the viewing screen so it looks great whether you are on a computer, tablet or phone.
Use the coupon code: freetopremium @ mythemeshop.com for 30% off!
Plugins are software programs that add certain functionalities to your website. There are tens of thousands of them to choose from and that could be an entire guide to itself. The following are the essential plugins that I recommend installing on every site.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – This is the ultimate SEO plugin. It will improve your sites SEO by analyzing pages/posts and recommends fixes to improve your SEO. And this is just the beginning, be sure to read the guide that comes along with it as it has a huge amount of options to help you.
- WP Super Cache – Kind of technical to explain but it makes your site load a heck of a lot faster than without it.
- Contact Form 7 – This is by far the best free contact form creator.
- Hybrid Connect – This is one of the best opt-in form creators that I have found. It comes preloaded with a bunch of different great converting forms as well as built one click optins (for people already logged into facebook).
Setting up your email list
After picking your niche building an email list is your next most important thing. Becoming a subscriber is the ultimate form of commitment one of your readers can make.
It is also the most powerful money making tool you can grow with your website! By growing your email list as large as possible you will be able to send out an email and send a flood of traffic wherever you would like. It will also allow you to bring traffic immediately to any new posts of offers you release.
In order too collect emails and send them out on a large scale you need an email marketing platform. Aweber is what I personally use and is one of the top email marketing platforms out there.
Setting up Aweber
Click the signup button.
You can start for just $1 your first month.
Be sure to read awebers getting started guide, their is a ton of useful info in there!
So how do you get people to sign up for your email list?
Coming up with an enticing giveaway
The most common way to get people to sign up for your email list is to giveaway something valuable in exchange for the visitors email. As you can see here on The World Is My Office I offer a 7 part course on how to create an online business and escape the 9 to 5.
When people sign up to the course they are automatically added to my email list. This allows me to inform them on new developments with The World Is My Office including new posts, interviews and product releases.
So what kind of giveaway can you offer visitors of your website that they would value enough to give away their email address?
If you are having trouble coming up with ideas here is a great post with a ton of ideas for giveaways.
Settled on giving away an ebook? This post show you exactly how too create an ebook in 1 day.
Having your email opt-in giveaways setup on day 1 of your blog should be one of your top priorities. Grow that list!
Setting up your social profiles
Social Networks are an incredible way too bring traffic loading into your site, but they can also be a huge time waster as well.
With so many options to chose from and dozens of new social media networks coming out every year it gets confusing on which ones you should focus on and which ones you shouldn’t waste your time with.
This all comes down to identifying who your target audience is and where they are hanging out online.
One of my favorite bloggers, Ramsay Taplin at Blog Tyrant, wrote an incredible guide to utilizing social media with your blog. I tried to write a guide myself in this section to top it but I just couldn’t. So instead I am just going to give you a link over to his 6,528 Word Guide to Social Media.
Check it out, it will answer every question you will ever have about social media with your blog.
And thats it! Your blog is fully setup! Pat yourself on the back, I know that was a bunch of work.
Next up we need to fill this brand new blog with content.
Step 4) All about content
When you are first starting your blog it can be tough too come up with posts ideas. And even when you do it is even harder to get people to share those posts with their audiences.
So how do you write content that your visitors will love while at the same time enticing as many influencers to share your content as you can?
There are two different ways to do it.
An expert interview is when you bring an expert or influencer in your niche onto your site and interview him. This could be via Skype, where you record the video chat or you could send him or her a list of questions and have them answer them and you put it up on your site in the form of a written post.
These interviews always draw a huge amount of attention for two reasons.
- Your audience loves interviews of successful people in a niche they are interested in. By its nature it is a highly shareable type of post and has the potential to go viral.
- The expert you interviewed has a large audience (or else he wouldn’t be a leader in your niche!) and when you release the interview on your blog 99% of the time he will let his audience know about it. That will send a wave of extremely targeted traffic to your site that you can turn into your own followers!
As long as your pick an expert in your niche that fits with your sites audience you are effectively stealing that experts followers with his or her permission. How awesome is that?!
Approaching the experts
Ok, so you have found the perfect expert to approach but you have no idea how to approach him to ask for an interview.
Keep in mind these experts receive dozens (or more) emails a day asking for interviews, guest posts (we’ll get to that in a minute) and a hundred other things. Most of them they will completely ignore so you need to stand out from the crowd when you approach them.
If you come right out and say, “I want to do an interview” one of two things will happen.
- You won’t ever here anything back from them. This is the most likely response because you are a completely unknown and don’t want to waste their time.
- They will ask how big an audience/followers do you have and since your a brand new blog you don’t have any. They will decline because they don’t want to bother doing an interview when no one but their own followers will see it.
So what is a brand new blogger like you to do? How do you get the attention of these giants in your industry?
You should be following all of the experts in your niche on facebook and twitter like I told you too do earlier. Now it’s time to start leveraging that.
Here are a couple suggested ways to approach experts.
- Start retweeting posts and articles that they tweet about. Be sure to include their twitter username in the tweet so that they see it. A lot of times experts will send you a tweet saying thanks for sharing my post and that gives you the opportunity to start up a conversation with them. (example: Absolutely loved @worldismyoffice newest post “insert post link here”)
- Leave comments on their posts. Any good blogger will respond to all of the comments on his new posts. But don’t just leave a short little comment praising the article. Bring up some ideas, suggestions, or even disagree. You have to stand out from the crowd and get their attention!
- Approach them on facebook or google+ with a comment or question about one of their recent posts. This is a great way to start up a conversation with them.
All three of these ways are great to start a conversation with experts so that when you do eventually pitch an interview you are not a complete stranger. The odds of them saying yes go up dramatically than just sending a cold email to their inbox.
Wondering what questions to ask the expert? Social Media Examiner has a great post about how to get the most out of expert interviews. Check it out here: 11 Ways to Improve Your Blog posts With Interviews.
The second type of content that you should write when your first starting out is called a round-up post.
These are posts where you take a certain topic, lets say for example “how to launch a kick ass blog” and link to a bunch of bloggers in your niche’s posts about the subject.
It is very simple to write, just pick a topic and then go around to all the different blogs in your niche and find great posts that address the topic.
Why should you bother creating a round-up post? There are two reasons.
- You are bringing a TON of incredibly useful content to your readers by becoming the hub of information in your niche on a certain topic.
- Because you are linking to all of these different blogs the bloggers are very likely to share your new post with their followers. This can get you a bunch of extremely targeted visitors with you doing very little work.
An excellent example of a successful round up post was done by Stuart Walker at NicheHacks.com when his site was new. He went around and collected all of the best blog posts about “Starting a blog thats epic”.
After he posted it he went around and contacted all of the different bloggers he mentioned in his post and got them to let their followers know about it. This got him hundreds of social shares and 77 comments! On a new blog that is HUGE!
You can see his round-up post here: How to Start a Blog That’s Epic
Getting other bloggers you link to in your round-up post is easy. Simply send them a tweet after your post goes live telling them you featured them in your new post.
Example: @worldismyoffice just featured you in my new post “insert post url here”
They will take a look at it and there is a good chance they will turn around and share it with their audience.
Simple as that.
Deciding what to write about
Ok you have posted a couple of round-up posts, you have done an interview, now what the heck do you write about?
The first month of posts on our new blog are critical. They will make or break you, because if visitors come and don’t see the content they want on there, odds are, they will never come back again.
So how do you figure out exactly what content visitors in your niche love?
By analyzing your competition! I am going to show you how to figure out which of your competitions posts have been the most popular. Then it is as simple as writing a better post (maybe even a round-up post!) and releasing it to the world.
So lets start analyzing!
Open up your trusty spreadsheet that you made earlier and load the webpage quicksprout.com.
Enter the competitors site in the box and press search.
Then click on the social media analysis.
Scroll down and take a look at the page level results. Sort the results by total shares and then take a look at the URL’s. Be sure to skip over the “forums” or shorter URL’s. You want to make sure you are only looking at actual blog posts and not other pages.
As you can see from the screenshot above we can immediately see that his tutorials are very high shared on twitter and google+.
Next I would go to all the highest shared URL’s and read their articles taking notes on anything that I saw that I could improve. Then go down to the comments section and take a look at the questions and responses people left.
Are there any that you can answer in your own post on the subject?
Now just write your new better and more epic post on the subject!
Send that content viral
So you have found content on a blog in your niche that has already been shared on social networks a ton. You have written a superior and more epic post on the subject and just published it. Now lets send it viral!
To get as many social shares as possible we are are going to identify who has shared the originally and then get them to share our new post.
Head over too https://bitly.com. This is a URL shortener that people use when posting links on twitter.
Create a free account and login. Then copy and paste the link of your competitors blog post into the url shortener.
Close the window that just popped up and then click on “view stats”.
Scroll down to the bottom of the stats page to the ‘Who Shared a Bitlinks to This Content”
Click on the top sharers and see where their clicks came from. Not only that but you can also see the exact tweet that the clicks came from.
As you can see this tweet Dave sent out sent 20 visitors to the post. Now all you have to do is contact this influencer and let him or her know about your newer better post. When doing this myself I have seen over 80% of the influencer sharing the new post with their followers.
Repeat this step for all of the top influencers for the post.
Step 5) Bring on the traffic
You have picked your niche, setup your authority blog and written some awesome highly shareable posts. Now lets start sending some traffic to your blog!
I am not going to be talking about paid traffic such as running ads in this guide. I will be covering that in a future post. Instead I am going to show you how to start driving free traffic to your blog right away.
The key to this driving highly targeted free traffic to your blog is to find where your online your audience is and start participating.
There are four different ways to do this.
All of the top blogs in your niche are busting at the seams with extremely targeted visitors that would absolutely love your site. So how do you siphon some of those visitors to your own site?
You can do this through what is called a guest post. Basically you write a post and it is published on another blog in your niche. In exchange you get too put a link (or several) back to your blog.
There are a bunch of benefits to guest blogging.
- To gain high quality traffic: This is one of the main reasons I guest post. Guest blogging is going to be one of your best traffic sources. The traffic that comes to your site from a guest post is highly targeted and will subscribe and engage must more than normal traffic.
- To gain lots of subscribers: This is one of the high points of guest blogging, there is no point in driving traffic to your site if they don’t stick. Without becoming a subscriber of yours the more than likely will never come back. With a guest post from a week known blog you will bring in around 300-500 visitors of which you can expect around 100 new subscribers. This is a much higher conversion rate than almost any other type of traffic.
- To gain exposure: By posting a guest post on a high profile blog in your niche you are gaining massive exposure. In effect your site is getting the “stamp of approval” by a market leader in your niche.
So how do you get started guest posting on top blogs in your niche?
Bamidele Onibalus from http://www.writersincharge.com has written the most incredible guide to guest blogging that I have ever read.
Take a look at it right here: The Ultimate Guide to Guest Blogging.
Get out there and start guest blogging!
There is a forum topic for absolutely every niche out there. When you were picking your niche out there you should have used the site http://www.findaforum.net to find all of the forums in your niche.
Now it is time to start using those forums. You want to add a link in your signature (on the forum) that points to your best piece of content.
There are a couple guidelines to follow as you participate.
- Do not advertise! You do not just to want blatantly promote your website and posts, this will get you banned from the forum. Only post a link to your blog when it is applicable to the actual thread.
- Post incredible content that will inform and educate people reading the thread. Don’t post responses just to post a response.
Follow those two guidelines while you participate in forums and you will drive a ton of traffic very targeted traffic to your blog.
Remember the feedly account we set up earlier to keep track of all of the new posts that are released in your niche? Time to use it to drive traffic to your site!
Check your feedly account every day, and whenever a brand new post is released try and be one of the first people to leave a comment. By being one of the first commenters you will get the most amount of views to your comment (most people won’t read past the first couple comments).
However don’t just post a short, general comment. You need to actually read the post and leave a decent size comment with your opinion (even if you don’t agree with a post!).
Make this a daily habit with new blog posts in your niche and you will drive a steady flow of targeted visitors to your blog day after day.
Step 6) Monetizing your blog
It takes a ton of hard work too build up your blogs audience and readership and odds are you started this blog to actually make some money.
So now that you have built up your blogs traffic its time to start bringing in some cash!
The following are the most common ways to monetize your blog.
Direct Advertising Sales (Banner & Text Ads)
If you asked a random person how blogs make money they would probably say banner ads. While they would be right in a general sense there are a couple reasons that a blog owner would put up banner or text ads.
They could be promoting their own product through banner ads. Or they could be promoting a product or service of an affiliate or advertiser. A lot of blogs sell text links as well, though this has become less and less common due too Googles new policy on selling links.
Ads can be sold directly to advertisers by charging either a fixed fee or charge per thousand impressions (referred to as CPM). For example an ad with the cost of $5 CPM would cost $500 per hundred thousand impressions.
Selling ads is a great way to bring in a stable income every single month. You can find ads related to your niche on http://buysellads.com.
BuySellAds is a blog advertising marketplace that takes a 25% cut of all your advertising sales however it is a great way to find people who are looking to advertise on your blog when you are just starting out. Hopefully when you get bigger advertisers will start approaching you!
To help organize and automate your direct advertising banners on your blog check out the wordpress plugin OIOpublisher
An alternative to selling ads on your site you can display ads from an advertising network. Google Adsense is by far the most popular advertising network however there are several other players in the field such as Chitka, Kontera and Burst Media.
Advertising networks normally pay on a per click or a CPM (cost per thousand impression) basis. Because of this your income is going to fluctuate from month to month. Thats why I prefer directly selling ads.
One option I recommend is to fill all of the advertising space on your website that you are unable to sell through direct advertising.
Becoming an Affiliate
A ton of online shop and product creators have an affiliate program. In exchange for you promoting their product or products they give you a commission on any sales.
Don’t under estimate the potential from affiliate sales, on my other websites the vast majority of my income comes from affiliate sales.
To find relevant products for your niche my first stop would be to clickbank.com. This is an affiliate marketplace that covers a ton of different niches.
I highly suggest you use the PrettyLinks Pro wordpress plugin to mask your affiliate links and track how many times a link has been clicked.
Your Own Products
The goal of launching your own authority blog is to become an authority right? So the perks of becoming an authority allow you to release your very own products. By doing this you can make a huge amount of money.
The best types of products to create are ebooks, membership sites, courses, software, and t-shirts.
Blanking when it comes too ideas for a product? Email your list! Ask them what their biggest problems and sticking points in your niche is and build a product around that.
Your blog is an incredible place too market your own services for the niche. I know many bloggers who have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars through their blogs for freelancing and consulting services.
There are a ton of people in internet marketing who make great money through speaking gigs and one-on-one coaching as well.
Are there any services that you could provide to your audience?
I know it has been a long journey and congratulations on making it to the end! I set out to write the ultimate authority guide on launching a blog and I hope that you have learned from it.
The next step is to actually take action. Go out and start your blog, follow this guide and build the next big authority site in your niche!
Have any questions or comments? Want opinions on the next site your building? Leave a comment below and lets talk about it!