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15 Ways to Do Anything {new series}: How to Set Up a Blog for Kickass Success

It’s a brand-new month and a brand-new week, at that. Naturally, I wanted to do something super-special to kick off the last quarter of 2012 and make it the best ever for you, my dear readers.

So, here’s a spankin’ new series – 15 Ways to Do Anything  in which I’ll be covering 15 simple ways to:

  •  Set up a blog so that it is successful
  • Save money on the upcoming holiday shopping
  • Save time when you don’t seem to have any
  • Get organized for the holidays
  • Decorate your home without busting the bank
  • Involve the kids in holiday celebrations
  • Organize your home office for greater productivity and profitability

…. And lots more!

Yes, this series is going to run through October, November and December. There will be 3 posts each month, sharing 15 ways to do, well, anything!

 Have an idea for the series? Send it to me at prerna (at)themomwrites(dot)com.

First up in the series, is how to set up your blog for rockstar success. This is one of the most commonly asked reader questions and while I’ve addressed in different ways, over the years, here are 15 simple but effective ways to ensure that your blog is set up for kickass success right from the word ‘go’:

 1. Choose the right platform

First things first, begin by choosing the right platform. What’s a platform? It’s the software that’s used to create and then, run your blog. Common platforms include:

Blogspot or Blogger – This is Google’s blog platform. It is what I used when I started The Mom Writes. It is free, relatively easy to use but offers very limited functionalities.

WordPress.com – This is again, a free blogging platform and has way more functionalities than Blogger or Blogspot. I’ve worked with this for a few clients and it is quite easy to get started with it however, if you plan on monetizing your blog with ads, you can’t do that with a wordpress.com blog.

Typepad – I have not worked with this platform personally, but I know several who do and they vouch for it wholeheartedly. However, it is a paid service

WordPress.org – Now this is my favorite. It is what powers The Mom Writes and Social Media Direct, as well as a ton of other blogs on the Internet. WordPress.org is like having your own site but without all the tech headaches. It is super-easy to customize, use, optimize and leverage. WordPress.org is free but you need to get a domain name as well as hosting.

2. Select a domain name that works

Yes, choosing the right domain name works wonders. A domain name is well, the name of your website. For instance, my domain name is themomwrites.com.

Choose a domain name that reflects what your blog is all about but refrain from making it too complicated to remember, too difficult to spell or too complex in meaning.

Resource: I’ve bought my domain names from Bluehost,  simply because I also host with them. You get your first domain for FREE when you get hosting from them.

3. Choose the right hosting provider

Hosting providers or companies are the folks who ‘host’ your site on their server and ensures it runs smoothly without any glitches.

Choosing the right hosting provider is key because it will help you not only set up your WordPress.org blog easily and without any fuss, but also because as your blog and traffic grows, you need your hosting provider to keep up speed, have optimum security standards and give you great customer service.

Resource: Again, I totally recommend Bluehost again for this. Being a WordPress recommended hosting provider, Bluehost makes setting up your blog easy and simple. Also, I’ve dealt with their customer service and can vouch for their promptness, politeness and best of all, patience. Yes, I am a very non-tech person and if they can deal with me, they really know their stuff.

4. Creating a clean, uncluttered theme and design

Okay, once you have your domain name and hosting done and have set up your blog, it is time to get fancy. Or not. Start by choosing a theme – free or paid, that is clean, clutter-free and easy on the eyes.

If you’re just setting up a blog, you may not want to spend on a fancy design, that’s okay. Instead, invest in a solid theme that gives you design options along with other benefits, such as SEO.

 Resource: I’ve used Thesis in the past and loved it. It is great for on-site SEO and is quite easy to customize as well. However, if you want a ‘pretty’ blog that has great looks and features, you have got to check out Genesis. Yes, that is what I use currently and it is awesome. Tons of gorgeous themes to choose from all based on the Genesis framework.

 5. Planning your content strategy

No matter how beautiful your blog is and how creative is its name, if your content strategy is all over the place,  readers aren’t going to linger.

The foundation of a content strategy is to have an editorial calendar to outline what you’ll be sharing and when you’ll do that.

Stay consistent. Don’t blog three days in a row and then, go quiet for a week.

Always write with your reader in mind. What do they want to know? Answer their questions. Share your expertise.

Make sure that you proofread your posts. Check for typos, spelling mistakes or missing punctuation.

Make every post as awesome as you can.

Finally, give your readers a call to action. Tell them what to do with that post. Should they share it? Comment on it?

 6. Plugins for boosting user experience

Should you have decided to opt for WordPress.org self-hosted blogs, you’ll have the ability to optimize your blog’s features further by using plugins.

Plugins are handy little ‘apps’ that help you add more functionality to your site. However, a word of caution: they add time to page loads and installing too many can slow down your site and reduce user experience instead of boosting it.

Here are some of my favorites {freebies all of them!} to help you get started:

What Would Seth Godin Do – This handy little plugin is responsible for the cool little box you see at the top of every post reminding you to download your free eBooks and sign up.

WordPress SEO by Yoast – This nifty plugin will let you optimize every post you write by analyzing the post title, URL, meta description and content. Cool, huh?

LinkWithin – You know how at the bottom of every post, you see posts that are similar. Well, that’s LinkWithin working its magic.

Akismet – Once your blog is a little older, you’ll get quite a bit of spam comments. You don’t want to waste time deleting them manually. Trust me. Instead, install Akismet and you’ll never have to deal with spam again.

 7. Going social with your blog

 Blogging is social. If you haven’t already done so, set up your Facebook page, Twitter profile, Pinterest account and start connecting, engaging and socializing with others online.

Share your content but don’t spam your profiles with links to posts only, please.

 8. Setting up email lists and feeds

Readers to your blog may want to revisit your blog and you, also, want one-time readers to turn into loyal community members. So, make sure you offer them ways to subscribe to your email updates or RSS feeds. RSS feeds can be set up through Google’s Feedburner service while email subscriptions can be set up via Mailchimp. I use both these services and can recommend them completely. Even though Feedburner’s been having some issues lately, I think being supported by Google will ensure it being back on track soon.

9. Creating killer content

Want to ensure that readers come back to your site? Simple. Write awesome content. I did talk about this briefly in the Creating a Content Strategy point above, but here I want to share the importance of content that rocks.

You may be tempted to do what others do and ‘ape’ their style or worse, voice. Don’t. Be you. Be unique. Be different.

Create content that reflects your passions, views, interests, likes and life.  Relate it with how these help your readers.

Resource: Want to know more about creating killer content? Head over to one of my favorite sites, Copyblogger and savor their tutorials.

 10. Building a community of readers

No matter how small or how big your blog is, remember the readers are the ones who make it what it is. A community. So, engage with your community. Interact with them via email. Share updates about your projects on your social networks. Yes, build a community.

 11. Supercharging things with SEO

While SEO or search engine optimization is important, it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of your blogging strategy. It should be a part of it, however, your content must cater to your audience.

Having said that, installing the Yoast SEO plugin will help you optimize your posts quite a bit. And if you’re keen to explore more advanced SEO options, here are some free SEO tools to begin with.

12. Interacting with other bloggers

Like I said, blogging is a social ‘job’. Make an effort to connect with other bloggers. Comment on and share their content. Offer a guest post. Link to them. Engage with them on social networks. Yes, your community shouldn’t just be readers. It should include other bloggers as well.

 13. Tracking your traffic

How do you know if your blog is being read? How do you know if people are even finding your blog? Analytics!

 Install Google Analytics on your blog and keep a track of it on a weekly or monthly basis. Check to see where your traffic is coming from, what are they reading and when are they leaving the site.

Also, if you’re using Mailchimp for email subscriptions, you’ll get weekly updates on the number of subscribes and unsubscribes. Take a look at the reports for the emails you send out to see if there were any that triggered large number of unsubscribes.

 14. Keeping blog clutter at bay

In the early days, especially, you may be tempted to display every badge, award or seal of approval you get as well as links to other blogs that you read. Don’t.

Keep blog clutter to a minimum. Your sidebars should showcase your best content and not random badges and buttons.

Your navigation bar and menu bars should be descriptive of the categories you write in and not be links to other blogs or sites.

Ask an unbiased third person to review your blog and give you an honest critique. I’ll be happy to help should you want one!

 15. Keeping it all together

Finally, keep it all together by having a proper schedule and strategy for your blogging and networking. Even if you don’t have enough time { I started The Mom Writes when my daughter was 9 months old!}, make sure you create an editorial calendar that works for your schedule. Spend your time wisely. Don’t waste that precious hour on Pinterest when you have a post to write and upload. Review your stats regularly.

Keeping it all together in a way that works for YOUR life and its current season will help you set up your blog for success and not overwhelm you as well.

 Recommended Resources for Kickstarting and Growing a Blog Successfully

31 Days to Build a Better Blog by Darren Rowse of Problogger

Blogging Success by Holly Reisem Hanna of Work at Home Woman

Simple Blogging by Rachel Meeks of Small Notebook

How to Create a Blog That Matters by Corbett Barr of Think Traffic

Genesis Framework and Themes

Thesis Theme

Bluehost for domain names and hosting services

Mailchimp for email subscriptions

So, what action are YOU going to take today to set up your blog for success? Share with me in the comments!

 Photo Credit: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos

 

Prerna


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Comments

  1. Wow, Prerna, this is an excellent post!! I don’t think I need to check any of the other links you’ve put up, your post says it all!! P.S. – Can’t wait for your ’15 ways to save time’ post :-)

  2. Prerna, thank you so much for such a detailed instruction for the beginners in the blogging world. I usually keep my excitement about your posts to myself, but not this time. The info you gave is just super useful and the way you put it is just simply inspiring! Thank you tonns!

    • The Mom Writes says:

      Hi Dasha,

      Thank YOU! I am so glad you found this useful. Please do let me know if there is anything else I can help you with, via a post or a tutorial. :-)

      All the best blogging!

  3. I wish I had your post guiding me when I started my blog. It took me almost 10 months to learn the ropes of blogging and do it earnestly and consistently. But I am so glad that you are here to help other bloggers on their way in. In fact I have learnt a lot for the resources you mentioned. Thanks Prerna!!

    • Hi Swapna, thank you for your kind words.. Deeply appreciated..Glad to know you, too, have tried and tested the resources mentioned.. They really are great for taking a blog to the next level.

  4. Thanks Prerna, great article – exactly what I am looking for at the moment! Your tips are really helpful, but I am still terrified about starting up (a blog) even though its something I really want to do. I will be re-reading this article for sure. Thank you!!

    • The Mom Writes says:

      You are most welcome, Krystal.. I’m glad it’s helped you and if there is anything else I can help you out with or answer any questions, please feel free to email me.. My email address is on the Contact page:-)

  5. Hi Prerna.

    Mother of a 6 month old daughter who happened to walk past your blog and found it great!
    I am trying to set up my freelancing career as a medical writer and have started a blog to help me with that. There is a lot of technical jargon that I don’t understand so it is proving to be a really hard job for me.
    In case you have time, please visit my blog and give me your valuable inputs.
    healthydomain.blogspot.in
    Thanks

    • The Mom Writes says:

      Hi Pooja! Thanks so much for stopping by and your warm praise:-) HUmbled! Congratulations on starting a blog and on your freelancing career. It’s early days so the more you’d learn, the better you’d get.. This is what I found out when starting out.. In any case, if there is anything that I can help with, feel free to let me know.

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