5 things to do before you launch your blog

Start blogging the right way

Are you planning on launching a blog?

Do you know you should be creating regular articles but don’t know where to start?

With content marketing becoming increasingly popular year after year, more and more companies are turning to blogging to drive traffic and increase sales.

And it’s working.

But the realities are that getting started with blogging is not as easy as it sounds.

Yes you can set up a blog very quickly and start posting content to it, but that content won’t be good for anyone – especially your business.

Below I have identified 5 key steps that you must take to help get your blog started in the right direction.

#1 – Why are you blogging?

This is the most important question to answer before you start anything else.

It’s also the most common reason why blogs with great content still don’t create any results.

Bloggers and companies will often focus on the ‘how’ instead of the why. They will get everything set up and ready to go, knowing who’s going to be creating the articles, when they are going out and where they are going to be promoted.

But without knowing the ‘why’ all of that planning is useless as your blog doesn’t have a purpose or direction.

Here’s an example statement that should come from answering this question:

To create articles that will inform, educate and inspire marketers and web masters on how to get the most out of their website.

You guessed it – that’s mine. This statement reminds me about the topics I can and can’t post about to keep things relevant to my audience.

So I would create articles about social media, marketing and running your website, but I wouldn’t create an article teaching people how to build their website from scratch.

Task 1: Create your ‘why’. Keep it short, identify who you’re creating content for, and what they should get from it.

#2 – Network, Network, Network

If you network before you start blogging, you can get people interested in your content before you have created it.

By building up a network of connections before you launch your blog, your first article won’t be lost in the black hole that can be the internet.

You can build connections by reading industry blogs and leaving a comment, connecting with them on social networks and join a discussion they have started.

If you continue to develop your relationship with them, they will start to promote your content to their networks.

Task 2: Leave comments on blogs & send private messages to some of your followers on social media. Start a conversation with them and build those relationships.

#3 – Get your foundations in place.

Without the appropriate foundations for your blog, it will struggle to gain momentum.

Where will your blog be hosted?

The first thing to figure out is where you’re going to host your blog.

As most of you are aware, I love WordPress (self hosted) and I would always recommend it over a different content management system.

But whether you decide to go with WordPress or not, make sure that you own your blog.

That means you have to ensure it’s hosted alongside your website, not on a third party platform.

Free blogging websites like blogger or wordpress.com are out the question as you don’t own them. If those companies decide to pull their services, you will lose all the content that you have created.

On top of that, you also won’t get any search engine benefits by having your blog on a different domain.

Claim your social usernames

Once you have decided which platform you are going to build your blog upon, you need to secure usernames for the different social networks.

Jump onto Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and any other popular social network you can think of and grab a username for your blog. You don’t have to use all of these networks, but reserving the usernames gives you the ability to keep the same username across the different networks.

It also gives you the option of trying out those networks at a future date without having to fight someone for the username.

Set up your email lists

The final thing you must complete for your foundations is setting up your email campaign lists.

This means creating an account with an email provider like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Aweber or your personal favourite, and setting it up.

By adding a signup form to your website, you allow your readers to subscribe to regular emails from you.

As a company, this is one of the best places to market new products and provide information for your readers, as ‘just a blogger’ it’s a great tool to get your content in-front of your readers, and drive traffic back to your website.

Email lists are a vital part of content marketing, so use this pre-launch period to get one set up and ready to go.

Task 3:
A) Decide which platform your blog will be hosted on and set it up.
B) Secure your usernames across the different social networking websites.
C) Integrate email signup boxes with your website.

#4 – Create some articles

We all have those moments when we are snowed under with work.

We don’t know our left from our right as we have so much to do.

In those moments, your blog will be one of the first things to drop off – especially if you are only just getting going and haven’t yet realised the benefits you blog brings to your company.

There is one thing we can do to help with rainy days like this, and that’s create content in advance.

If you have a minimum of 5 articles sitting as drafts on your blog platform, when you reach those moments where you simply don’t have the time to create a new article, you can fall back on one of those.

This safety net can really take the pressure off when deadlines for other projects are approaching and your readers are waiting for your next piece of content.

Just remember, if you use one of those articles, you need to replace it when you get a little bit of time.

Task 4: Create 5 articles and save them as draft posts.

#5 – Create a giant list of topics

The more articles you create, the harder it’s going to be to start thinking of topics.

So let’s start solving this problem before it becomes one.

You need to create a big list of possible topics that you can discuss – I can tell your mind was blown with that solution.

This list can contain anything from answering questions with a ‘how to’ article, or a topic title that you can write about more specifically later.

There a number of ways to generate this list:

Hold a brain storming meeting

This would be a meeting with people from your marketing and sales teams, your development team and your support teams.

If you are all of those people, you can still go through this process.

First you need to identify the main categories for your blog. What are the main areas you’re going to be talking about and creating content on?

Then you need to identify key topics for each of those areas. What are your clients struggling with? What areas could you educate them on? Which topics lead to most sales? What is new in the industry?

If you can answer each of those for each of your main categories, you will quickly create a big list of potential topics.

Look at past articles

This process requires you to have some articles already created, all you need to do is look at the last five, then identify possible follow up articles for that original topic.

So if your article was “How add X to your website” – where X is your topic.

Potential follow up articles could be:

  • Why X is so good
  • X or Y, which is better?
  • 10 common mistakes with X
  • 5 examples of companies using X well

As you can see, that one article can generate at least 4 more related articles. Each of those new articles could go through this process again and generate more!

Look at elsewhere for inspiration

Another place to find great blog ideas is in the places where you least expect to find them.

Yes – I do realise how that sounds but stay with me.

If you read a book or article on a completely different topic, go for a walk or watch some TV you could suddenly find yourself inspired with a new article.

That’s exactly how I came up with this one:

1 important lesson from The Big Bang Theory - I bet you can’t guess what I was watching at the time.

Taking your mind away from generating an idea can be the best thing for your head to clear itself and come up with great content.

Just make sure you keep something near you that you can jot ideas down on (I use my phone).

Task 5: Start creating your big list of topics.

Summary

These aren’t small tasks and some of them will take some time. But by completing this before you launch your blog you will start off on the right foot.

You should end up with an audience who is expecting your content, the foundations ready and in place, articles pre-made that will give you a safety net, a big list of potential topics, but most importantly, you will know why you are creating content.

If you already have a blog up and running, what did you do to prepare your blog? Or did you dive straight in? Let me know in the comments below.

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  • https://plus.google.com/105076725141939280120/about Stephan Hovnanian

    Great article Sam! My blog, http://www.websighthangouts.com/blog, was created because my company website didn’t have a good fit for the type of information I wanted to convey, namely, tips from professional web designers and online marketers on how to get the most out of your web presence. I’m supplementing Google+ hangouts with the blog posts, but the posts are easier to write, as I’m calling on my past experiences with support, design issues, etc. to create my content. I also look at the (year long) editorial calendar I created for my hangouts and try to find sub-topics that I can create a quick “pro tip” about.

    You’re already following my blog, but I thought I’d put this down for your readers as an example of how you have to think it through. To be honest, some of your ideas hadn’t even occurred to me, like coming up with draft posts. Very timely advice, since I’m currently swamped and don’t have time to blog. Thanks as always!

    • http://www.stuffedweb.com/ Sam Scholfield

      Hey Stephan! I’m glad I managed to find a new idea for you! I personally find draft posts very useful, not only for when your swamped, but when your ill, tired, or away on holiday they come in very handy.

      It’s great that your looking for sub topics from your main hangouts, that keeps everything your posting relevant and helps give your blog direction – good job :)
      -Sam

  • https://plus.google.com/105076725141939280120/about Stephan Hovnanian

    I’d also add another thing to “Claim your social usernames.” Make sure you have a Google+ Page set up (or if you’re just blogging personally, a Google+ profile), and set up Authorship, Webmaster Tools, and Analytics (Sam has posts on all these here on his site). Reason being, the minute you publish a post, you can +1 it on Google+ and it will be instantly indexed. If you share the post from your Business Page, then re-share it from your personal profile, the blog gets more “authority” in Google’s eyes. So even if you don’t plan to use Google+ as a social networking tool, be sure to at least complete the basic steps so you can get the most out of the inherent SEO benefits.

    • http://www.stuffedweb.com/ Sam Scholfield

      That is a very good point! Google+ is a must have for anyone creating content online even if you don’t interact on the network very much. Thank you for pointing it out Stephan!
      - Sam

  • nowthatstrailer

    Some great ideas. Can you take a look at my blog and give me feedback?

    http://www.nowthatstrailer.com/