21 Critical Tasks to Perform as Soon as You Start a Blog (+1 Extra)

By: Ramsay | 88 intelligent opinions, add yours

Blogging Tasks

When people start a blog they often think that things will take off as soon as the first post is published. Traffic will flow in, readers will give you their email address and your fame and wealth with blossom and flourish.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.

When you start a blog you need to do a lot of work away from the actual writing of posts. In fact, the writing is really only a fraction of what you need to succeed.

Weird, huh?

In this post I’m going to try and help you with a few things that you should do as soon as you start a blog. They might make all the difference.

Oh, and there’s a bit of news in number 14.

1. Make sure you’re on the right platform

This one might hurt a little bit if you have just set yourself up on Tumblr or Blogger but the fact of the matter remains that if you want to take your blogging seriously you probably should own your website. When you use Tumblr or Blogger or one of those other free platforms you actually don’t totally own and control the asset that you are building.

And that is a real worry.

I have always recommended that my reader use a self-hosted WordPress set up. This is an incredibly powerful blogging platform where you own the server that hosts the files as well as the domain name and blog. And the great news is that with platforms like BlueHost you can set the whole thing up in around five or ten minutes. I’ve done a post on why I recommend BlueHost as well as a tutorial on how to set up a blog.

2. Make sure you’ve found a distinctive angle

One of the most important things you can do for your entire career is find a way to be distinctive. Without this you will just become another one of the millions of boring blogs that are created every single day.

Being distinctive basically means that you have found a way to be remembered. As I’ve said before, you don’t necessarily need to be unique and original but you do need to find a way to present your stuff differently.

Take Mayi Carles as an example. There are probably tens of thousands of handmade, craft blogs out there but her’s is so distinct that you would never forget it. She has her own style, flavor, graphics and way of presenting ideas. She even writes her “and” as a “+” so you generally recognize something she has written!

If your blog currently doesn’t seem all that different to the others out there I encourage you to think long and hard about your brand and how you can make it stand out from the rest. Find that unique angle.

3. Set up Aweber to manage your email subscribers

If your goal is to make money as a blogger you will undoubtedly want to grow your mailing list. It is the mailing list that lets you do things like:

  • Promote your posts
    When you write a new post you can email your subscribers and let them know it’s gone live. Those fans then share and Tweet your work and help you get the word out.
  • Promote new products
    If you launch a new paid product or eBook you have a list of relevant and interested potential customers to promote to. This takes out a lot of promotional work that other companies have to do.
  • Increase reader feedback and depth
    By emailing readers away from the blog you can increase the sense of loyalty that they feel towards your blog. This allows you to get new feedback as well as increase the depth that they will travel into your blog to find old articles or new information.

The sad thing is that a lot of new bloggers just use Feedburner as a poor substitute for this. As much as I love Feedburner as a service for managing RSS feeds, it is by no means comprehensive enough to mange your email subscribers.

For example, with Aweber you can do things like split test emails, set up multiple and separate lists, create sidebar and pop up opt-in forms without any coding, measure the conversion rate of individual forms, etc. This is stuff you just can’t do on Feedburner.

Aweber form builder
A screen shot of the Aweber optin form builder where you can design forms without code.

The other scary thing is that Google look like they are geared up to close down Feedburner forever which could be disasterous if you have been storing your subscribers in there and no where else. Now is the time to make the move if you haven’t already.

4. Clean up your textual layout

Your content is the most important part of your site. Not your photos. Not your graphics. Not your email subscriber form. All of that comes second to your content.

It is, therefore, extremely interesting to see how often people work on their blog design in every other area while leaving the textual part looking drab and hard to read. It’s a real shame. People are there to read – not look at your social media graphics or header images!

The first thing you need to do here is get a good font mixture for your header and body text. As a general rule your header should be sans serif if your content is serif or visa versa. (Tweet this)

Usually people choose Georgia for a serif font and Arial or Verdana for a sans serif font. These are considered “safe” as they are used commonly and people are used to reading them.

Brian Gardner wrote a really simple but intersting post on “sexy fonts” which talks about a great font size and spacing and how it can make a huge difference to how people interact with a site (unfortunately the site he was talking about has now changed their font).

It’s 16px and if you still think that is too big for a font size you could have a read of this extremely popular but controversial post.

5. Make sure you know your brand

Your brand is not just your logo. It’s not just your name. It’s not your website as a whole either.

I always find it quite interesting to see what people think their brand really is. Most of the time it’s a confused idea about a name and a tagline – after that everything sort of just gets tacked on in the hope that it will fit.

David Ogilvy defined a brand as:

“The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.”

It’s a much more comprehensive idea about what you are communicating, not just what you look like. You need to know how your logo, tagline, site design, colors, Tweets, posts, advertising and all that stuff fit together to either enhance or detract from your brand. You need to make sure that everything is on message.

So if you have just started a blog (especially if you’ve done it on a whim) it’s a good idea to take some time and think about what you want your brand to be. Ask yourself questions like:

“What do I want to communicate to people?”

“How do I want people to feel when they interact with me?”

“What keywords summarize my brand?”

“What outcomes am I hoping to achieve with my readers?”

This can help you give you some direction and focus so that you are certain about the type of site that you want to create and the message that you want to give to people when they meet you. And remember, the individual behind that site plays a big role in the brand.

6. Set up Google Authorship

Google+ has been dubbed the “Facebook killer” by many fans. Quite rightly so, I might add.

In case you aren’t across it yet, it is basically Google’s social network on steroids. It seems to me that Google was so worried about Facebook’s dominance that they decided to create a social site that was totally integrated with all their other services. Google Maps, Google Places, YouTube and even email – it’s all now being pushed as a Google+ integration.

And it’s even more important for bloggers because it has re-shaped SEO forever.

Now people who run blogs can set up Google Authorship which is where you get your tiny little profile photo to appear next to your site’s results in Google search. Not only does this increase click through rate due to being more eye-catching, the very act of verifying your Authorship is seeming to boost people’s rankings.

Google Authorship

I’ve done a tutorial on how to set up Google Authorship that includes a quick little video to hopefully make the process a bit easier. I highly encourage you to get on this one right away.

7. Tactically read other blogs in your niche

If you’ve been reading Blog Tyrant for a while you’ll probably be familiar with the famous Why You Shouldn’t Read Blogs post. This is the article where I told all of my blog readers why they should stop reading. It was an interesting exercise!

I sometimes wish I hadn’t written that post because it gets misinterpreted so often (probably due to bad authorship!) and people go away thinking that they should stop reading altogether.

That was not my intention.

In fact, I think it is really important to read blogs when the time is right. And one of the most important times that you can be reading and absorbing is when you are brand new to the game. It is, however, very important to do this tactically and with some method in mind. For example, read blogs in order to:

  • Find out what competitors are doing
    Healthy research into your competitors is a very wise thing to do. All businesses do this. I would encourage you to think of them as “future friends” but you do need to have an idea about what they are up to.
  • Find out how similar blogs made it big
    One of the most important things to do is read other big blogs in your niche and find out what it was that made them so successful. Was it a serious of posts? Was it a particular type of feature that they have? Was it a collaboration with another blog? Read up and see what they did well.
  • Find out how they are failing
    The last interesting bit of reading/research you can do is to see where you think they might be going wrong with their approach. This is the most interesting part of the exercise because it gives you a lot of ideas for posts/products that you can launch on your own blog.

Again, my point is not to stop you from reading altogether – just to stop you wasting time reading when you don’t really need to.

8. Generate some good comment karma

When you first start out it is really difficult to get a lot of comments. In fact, that is one of the biggest complaints that I hear about – no one is commenting.

Well, I think the best place to start in this regard is to generate some good comment karma for yourself. Make a list of all the big blogs in your niche and then go and read and comment on their latest articles. If there aren’t any new articles to comment on then head over to their Facebook Pages or Google+ Profiles and interact that way.

I am also a firm believer in doing this for the smaller blogs that don’t already get a lot of comments. Those small bloggers might one day be the big guys and if you were around helping them out and leaving comments in the beginning you will be remembered. People like Marcus, Liz, Jen, Chris, Rachelle, Diggy, Scott, Cristina and Lisa did that for me. There are a LOT more of those original Tyrant Troops but I couldn’t mention everyone!

There are plenty of people out there who go around to 20 blogs everyday and leave comments like “Nice article.” That is not what we want. If you have a look at some of Marcus’ comments here on Blog Tyrant you will see that some of them are as long as the post itself! While you don’t have to go to those same lengths I can assure you that it made an impression on me and I will support Marcus in his online ventures if he ever asks.

9. Create evergreen articles of at least 3,000 words that solve problems

Evergreen content is content written in such a way that it will remain relevant forever. It is usually aimed at beginner topics.

This type of content does extremely well (if written properly) because it appeals to a large number of people and the type of people it appeals to are usually keen to learn more, subscribe to a list or buy a product.

The problem is that most bloggers forget about evergreen content and write about super-advanced issues or issues that are so personal to the blogger that no one can relate. Rather, what should be happeneing, is that bloggers are using personal experience to make wide-reaching topics more human. Not the other way around.

Let me say that again.

Not cool: Articles about your own life that don’t have relevance to anyone else.
Cool: Articles about everyday topics that are infused with your own life experiences.

The difficult task with evergreen content is find topics that are singular but not so singular that you run out of anything unique to say. And it is quite important to approach that topic in a unique way. The information itself doesn’t have to be unique (e.g. how many new ways are there really to shuffle cards?) but the personality that you inject into the article and the way you approach it must be.

3,000 words might seem like an arbritrary number to a lot of people reading this but I have found that you need around that amount to make a real impact on people. Of course you don’t want to ramble on just to meet a word count but you should think about trying to make the article as complete as possible without totally exhausting it.

I often find myself sharing Gregory Ciotti’s articles out of respect for the time and effort even if the topic isn’t a major interest to me.

10. Tweak your opt-in form placement and design for conversions

If you are using a free theme or a paid theme that is sold en-masse you might want to take a look at how your email forms are setup from both a positioning point of view and a design points of view. Often these themes go for the “good looking” solution instead of the one that converts.

Even a few pixels of bad placement can mean hundreds and thousands of subscribers lost.

The first thing you need to know here is that your blog has “hot spots” where a reader’s eye will naturally fall. These hot spots need to be taken advantage of. The main ones are:

  • Above the fold
    This is the area of the screen that you see when you first load the site and haven’t scrolled yet.
  • The top right of your sidebar
    If your sidebar is on the right the top part is usually a hot area. This is often thought to be a relic of the days where the mouse didn’t have a scroller and people had to position the cursor on the top right to grab the scroll bar with your left finger.

Of course there are a lot of other places to take advantage of like whatever area you call the popup and after each post when people are looking for something to do.

In terms of tweaking the design you need to think about colors, styles, fonts and font sizes. But we’ll get to that in the next part.

11. Create a split test

A split test is the only way to know whether your opt-in forms are performing as well as they could be. Have a look at how well it worked for Obama.

The idea is to create two different forms and then use Aweber’s technology to see which one performs best. It will show one form to 50% of readers and the other to the other 50% and then give you vital stats about which one gets you the most subscribers.

Once you get used to the idea you can split test variations of certain parts of your form. For example, I am currently split testing the sidebar form here on Blog Tyrant to see whether different button color and text makes a difference to sign up rates.

So far I have found that the words “SIGN UP” in all caps doesn’t seem to be too popular compared to almost any other variation.

I would never have been able to figure that out if I didn’t do a split test!

The above video is something I made quite a while ago to show you how to set up a split test with Aweber. Again, this is a major reason to switch to Aweber or at least make sure you are using a plugin like OptinSkin.

12. Set up a Gravatar

Ever wondered how people get their photo next to the comments down below? Well, it’s called a Gravatar and it takes literally two or three minutes to set up.

Pat Flynn
A screen shot of Pat Flynn’s Gravatar. Notice the consistent branding everywhere?

This particular service is great because it links your photo to your email address so anytime you leave a comment with that email you get your photo appearing right next to it.

Surprise, surprise! I’ve written a post on how to set up a gravatar and how to make sure you get the most out of it. Some of them are absolutely dreadful!

13. Know the power of the WordPress behind you

WordPress is much more than a blogging platform. It can be used to transform ordinary sites into e-commerce megastores or magazine style blogging themes. In fact, if you know the right coder you can make your WordPress site do practically anything.

But many bloggers don’t realize the power that lies beneath their simple template design.

I guess the best place to start is to emphasize that the right plugins can completeley transform how your blog functions on both a cosmetic level and an inner (invisible) level.

For example, on a cosmetic level you might use plugins to make your comments stand out or to add a new function to your sidebar. On an inner level you might use a powerful SEO plugin like Yoast in order to change the way Google looks at your blog and hopefully increase your rankings.

So how do you know what WordPress can do? Well, you need to read about it and play with it. Just like the best pilots know how to break down and reassemble their aircraft in order to know its limits, we need to know how WordPress functions and what we can do with it.

14. Create a goal-orientated content strategy

This is one of the most important things you can do when you start a new blog. So important, in fact, that I have written a complete guide to this that will be coming out soon. For that reason I’m not going to go over it all here.

What I will say, however, is that your content is not about getting traffic. It’s not about getting subscribers, even. You need to have a goal for your content that will eventally make you some money. Once you have that you can begin to craft a plan that will help you create content in a way that takes you closer and closer to that goal.

If you are struggling with this and want to know more make sure you subscribe to my list as I’ll be announcing something very soon that will hopefully change the way you think about writing content forever.

15. Begin researching the costs associated with hiring staff

Bloggers hate the idea of having staff. It’s very strange. Every other “real world” business has staff in order to help the main players focus on the main issues but bloggers want to avoid this at all cost.

It’s a big mistake.

Now I’m not saying that you need to hire full time workers that you pay insurance and superannuation to, but I do think it is a good idea if you can start outsourcing some of the more time consuming tasks to competent workers from around the world.

In my blogging business I’ve found that a lot of time gets wasted on “day to day” tasks that I really need to do but really don’t have time for. I’m best at working on business development and writing sexy new content. So it seems like a smart idea to get someone to help me with all the small stuff so that my time is opened up.

I highly recommend everyone head on over to Freelancer.com (aff) and have a look at how it works. Here is a rough overview:

  • Set up a listing
    You set up listings based on individual jobs (like a WordPress design, image creation, etc.) and people then bid on those jobs.
  • Browse the bids
    You then browse the bids and take note of the worker’s history, success rate, location, timezone, etc.
  • Select a worker
    You then select a worker and they pay a 10% security deposit. This feature is unique to Freelancer.com and helps to make sure you get the work done on time.
  • Manage and wait
    You then manage the worker through and problems or questions they have and then wait for the job to be completed. All communication must be done on site so that there is a record in case someone wants to make a complaint.
  • Pay the worker
    Once the job is completed you release the funds to the worker and leave them a feedback score.

Once you have found a good worker you can send them an invite to any new jobs that you post. In this way you can create a very longterm and trusting relationship with a worker who gets all those little annoying things done.

It is tempting to think that, as a new blogger, you can’t really afford to hire anyone yet. I understand. But it is also good to shift your perspective a little bit and think about how much money you can save/make if you stopped working on all the little maintenance taks and started focusing on writing, sharing and creating stuff that people love.

16. Ensure your branding is consistent across all platforms

If you’ve just set up your blog and social networking profiles it is a good idea to make sure they all match your main branding.

Google+ Header Banner
A screen shot of the image used on my Google+ Profile. It’s absolutely enormous, right?

For example, Google+ now gives you this bloody giant header photo to crown your beautiful profile page. A lot of people use this to show something beautiful or fun but it is a good idea to use it to solidify and promote your brand.

The main reason for this is that you want people to recognize you and your stuff whenever they see it. As soon as my ugly mug pops up sitting on that couch in the woods I kind of hope that people know it is a Blog Tyrant area and some long, drivelly content is on it’s way!

17. Make plans for expansion into video

Do you know how many page views YouTube got today? Roughly four billion. Yes… billion.

Video is bigger than ever and it is only getting bigger. There are now more smartphones on Earth than tootbrushes (how good are my facts?!) and as such we’re finding that people are accessing video easier than ever before.

People like Pat Flynn have done extremely well by making the foray into video early on in their career. I started getting into it a few years ago (only recently on Blog Tyrant) on some of my other blogs and noticed some distinct advantages like more interaction, huge streams of new traffic, etc.

There are roughly four types of video that you can make. Here are some examples:

The first is the usual talking head video where you are speaking to a camera. You can do this with a webcam and a computer mic but if you want the sound and video quality to be professional you’ll need to spend a little bit of money. I’m using a Canon Rebel T2i SLR and a RODE Cold Shoe mic for that video although I’m not overly impressed with the mic sound yet.

The second type of video is called a screen capture and this is where you record the computer screen as you see it while you speak into a mic and give directions or a commentary. This is really only good for people who have blogs where computer-based tutorials are relevant. I used BSR Screen Recorder for this one but have also had good experiences with Camtasia.

The third type of video that you can make is a fully animated presentation. Unless you are a digital animator these will be expensive to make but are extremely good for launching products or explaining a service.

The fourth type of video is one where you produce or act in a movie/short film/TV show style presentation. Some YouTube channels have done extremely well with this format – many of them landing more “maintstream” gigs after reaching some internet fame.

Again, you need to make sure that these videos fit in with your content strategy that we talked about above. The goal is to find new readers/subscribers/customers – not just get random traffic.

18. Research guest posting gigs that make a difference

New bloggers tend to think that you need to write all of your content for your own site. This is a huge mistake. Blogs grow by getting content on other sites. That’s how you find new people!

With that in mind it is good to realize that finding the right guest posting gigs can be a real art form and takes a lot of research. For example, some of the things you’ll want to look out for include:

  • Comment counts on regular posts
    How many comments do they get on their regular posts? Is it alive and active?
  • Comment counts on guest posts
    Do the accept guest posts regularly and are they received well by the readers? Some readers really hate guest posts.
  • Subscriber numbers
    How many subscribers will your article go out to? Are the active?
  • Social media numbers
    Do they get a good amount of Tweets and Facebook likes? Again, how many people will see it?
  • SEO value
    This is a post in itself but basically you want to know how much benefit this post will do for your own rankings and target keywords.

One of the most important factors, howevever, is how much input and future help you might be able to get from that site’s owner. These relationships are extrmely important to build and that leads us nicely on to the next point.

19. Make contact with influencers

Put simply, eveything that I have been able to achieve with this site has been thanks to the kindness of my readers and the other bloggers that have helped me out.

That’s it.

If you don’t make friends (and I mean genuinely) with the other guys and girls that are making progress around you then there is a good chance you won’t get anywhere. On a very basic level these people often have huge social media followings and a Tweet or shout out from them can put new life into your site. On a deeper level, these people have been in your shoes and thus can offer a lot of help if you ever need it (and they like you!).

As a new blogger it is important to start slowly. Go to their blog and share some of their main content. Link to it on your blog and talk about it on Twitter. That will get some attention. After that you can start chatting on Twitter and eventually move to email.

I know it’s harsh but please don’t email right away asking for huge promotional favors. As much as I’d love to help everyone out I only just met you and love my readers too much to send out content from a stranger.

20. Subscribe to the tops blogs (for funnel’s sake)

The other day I subscribed to Nerd Fitness after following the site for a very long time. For some reason I didn’t want to sign up to another mailing list and as such I just occasionally visited when I had time to read the geeky brilliance.

But once I signed up I was glad I did because the way Steve does the process is different to me and gave me some really good ideas. And it reminded me of the good old days where I’d sign up to blogs that excited me and learn from the way they did things. It was a great education!

If you find a blog that makes you think “Oh I wish I thought of that!” it’s a good idea to subscribe and follow them for a while to see if you can pick up any tips or hints. I am absolutely not suggesting that you copy them – you’re just looking for inspiration or a bit of guidance.

21. Think about a better permalink and page title structure

These two things can make a big difference to your SEO rankings as well as the readability of your post titles in search engines. If your not sure what they are I’ll give a quick explanation.

  • Permalink structure
    The permalink structure is the shape that your URL takes on single posts and pages. For example, my URL at the top of this page has the root domain (http://blogtyrant.com) and then the post title after it (/21-critical-tasks-etc.). Sometimes I just use a key phrase in place of the post title so that it is really short. Some people add the date and the category too (http://blogtyrant.com/2013-07/blogging/21-critical-etc).
  • Page title
    This is the title structure that is shown in the top information bar or tab. You’ll see on this page it just shows the post title. Some bloggers like to have Post Title | Blog Name or something like that. I’ve chosen to display post titles only single posts and a Blog Name | Description structure on my homepage.

I’ve chosen to use the post name for my default permalink structure. You can change yours by going to SETTINGS > PERMALINKS.

WARNING: CHANGING THIS WILL RUIN YOUR OLD URLS!

Please read this post to see what will happen if you’ve already written and published posts and then decide to change permalink style. If you’ve got some good links to those posts you might have to just do your URLs manually as you write each post.

To change your title structure you’ll need to tweak a bit of code so follow this tutorial. If you’re not sure about it just leave it alone for now – it can wait.

22. Use a keyword tool to research your topics and titles (reader submitted)

Yesterday I went on Facebook and asked people to answer the question, “What was the biggest change to your blog/blogging that you wish you had made earlier?“.

There were some phenomenally good answers but I said I would only pick one and that was submitted by Kevin Grunert. And yes, I promise it is only a coincidence that he is from my home state. I’ve never met him!

Kevin said:

“The biggest change for me has been to perform keyword research about the amount of traffic for any given keyword before beginning a blog, and using that keyword research to assist with creating SEO friendly titles for my content.”

This is a really good lesson to learn early on because even a simple change of tense or root keyword in your URL and title can make a huge difference to your traffic and rankings. For example, the title How to Bake a Pie might get thousands less searches than How to Cook a Pie.

Market Samurai is still, in my opinion, the best tool for people to use to do their keyword research in order find out competition, traffic and back link profiles. I’m happy to write a tutorial about it if enough people are interested.

How many have I missed?

This article is over 5,000 words long but without a doubt is missing some valuable points. I’d like to open up the comments now for the Tyrant Troops to answer the following question:

What was the most important change you made to your blog that you wish you had done earlier?

Feel free to discuss anything you want but I’m particularly interested in what answers you guys have to that cracker.

Photo: © Ekaterina Yudina



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88 Comments

  • I mentioned talking to readers on Gtalk yesterday, but I have a few others:

    Make a list of customer questions you can answer (Marcus Sheridan)

    Plant a seed (a little like Derek Halpern’s tactic) so you’re writing an article you can specifically use somewhere to market the site. The reason I say plant a seed is because it’s something you can always go back and keep using to get traction in the future.

    I also think people should be careful about their domain name: short, catchy, no hyphens/numbers, easy-to-spell words.

    It should be broad so they can talk about more things in the future, but in the beginning they should niche down.

    About your 3000 word articles, I think that is the only one I disagree with. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but I think it’s something people would need to test and it would depend on the niche.

    Nice job!

    • Ramsay

      Thanks Jamie!

      Great comment and all great suggestions.

      Good point about testing the niche. Have you found different?

      • I think my most popular ones are based on the topic rather than the word count.

        It’s obviously hard to split-test it without doing a long and short version of each article.

        If I’m teaching something specific I wouldn’t want to dilute it with an extra few thousand words.

        I’m actually a fan of long and short articles. I just think they should be chosen wisely based on how much I have to say about a particular thing.

    • Jamie,
      I totally agree about the word count – I don’t think it really matters. The thing is – sometimes I don’t want to crawl through a large article and just read something here and there. Sometimes I even skip an article because it overwhelms me :-)

      • Ramsay

        Hey Monja.

        I know what you’re getting at but, strangely, the stats show that the longer articles work better almost always. Neil Patel wrote a post about it somewhere but I can’t remember where.

        Not saying that everything has to be long just for the sake of it – but I think we should prioritise long, quality articles over lots of little ones.

  • Hi Ramsay,

    I can’t help myself reading this post again and again.Mine is a young growing blog and I think I had more to do from the tips you give here in this post.

    Thanks for such an enormous helpful post.

    Regards

    Mayor

  • Awesome! I’m doing a ‘number 8′ on your ‘number 9′.

    I have always found branding to be the most annoying and difficult aspect of starting and maintaining a blog and I still haven’t perfected it.

    I mean, I have the site name, the logo and the idea which seems to be working so far but I can’t help but think that it needs to be narrower.

    Did you find your brand quickly or were you continually tweaking it as you went along? Is it detrimental to do this or is it the natural progression that all successful bloggers go through?

    • Ramsay

      Jamie that is such a big (and great) question!

      We spent like four whole semesters on that stuff at Uni…

      Brands are all different. For me, the idea was totally different at the beginning to what it is now. And I’m constantly changing.

      Take a look at Coke or Apple or KFC. What they were 50 years ago is completely different to now. They change what they’re doing based on trends like healthy eating or new knowledge. But, that said, there is always some connecting tissue that never changes.

      Hope that helps.

      Also – in terms of narrower – that might be a targeting and positioning issue vs a branding one.

  • I just posted a number of questions on seomoz just last night about many of the items you addressed above and then I start my day with your message. What a treat – thank you for the awesome list! Going to print it out and cross them off one by one as I get them accomplished! Thanks again.

    • Ramsay

      Make sure you listen to what that crew at SEOmoz say! They are way smarter than I am.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Thanks Matthew.

  • Hi Ramsay

    Great post as usual – a must-have check list for all bloggers I say.

    But there’s a 23 for me – the ABOUT page. For some reason, it’s the most neglected page on many blogs/websites. I mean you would think that people would like to promote their themselves and their intentions for blogging. But you still end up seeing ‘about me’ pages with just the social icons, or the name & address. Some are just blank.

    Even though readers can find more about me on social networking profiles, I would still like to use the ABOUT ME page to introduce myself and thank them for dropping in. It’s the power of a personal conversation that draws me in :)

    • Ramsay

      Dude that shouldn’t be number 23 it should be number one! Great pick up – shame I missed it.

    • I totally agree with that Srujani. I’m personally very big on “About” pages as I like to know a little bit about the person I’m reading as well as the story behind a site. Everyone likes a good story don’t they?

      I try to maintain a fairly good (I think) about page on my site. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong but I also have a miniature timeline (with screenshots) that outlines the progression of my site from a tiddly thing on Blogger, to what it is now.

      @Ramsay – I wish I had joined “the army” sooner as your tips would have saved me so much time in mistakes.

  • Hi Ramsey this is an excellent post full of serious content that will get new bloggers on the right path to success.

    As for outsourcing, many new bloggers don’t realise that outsourcing is a great way to go otherwise you will get bog downed as there are soooooo many tasks to do as a blogger and you will soon lose productivity time.

    We occasionally use people to do some small product creation as it works out cheaper in time and money.

    If someone is planning to set up a blog to make money and want to make a business out of it then they should think like a business and offline businesses do just that. If there are jobs that need doing and you cannot do it or have the time to do them then you need to get someone else in to do it.

    I think that a blogger should think like a property developer. A developer rarely does all the work himself but will have a trustworthy team surrounding him. At first that might not be possible with funds being low but as you rightly say, it should be planned, thought about and worked at.

    Excellent post Ramsey.

    • Ramsay

      Thanks Andi.

      Appreciate the detailed comment. I totally agree – treat it like a regular business.

      No big deal but it’s Ramsay with an “a” by the way. ;-)

      • Oh yeah sorry about that, have done that a few times haven’t I? It is noted, if I do it again feel free to slap me =D

  • Wow,another awesome and informative post, Ramsay :) thank you.

    You mentioned plugins and later you mentioned comments … I found my comments improved not only when i commented more on other blogs (regularly) but also when I installed CommentLuv on my own blog. I’m not sure if a plugin like this has any detrimental side effects, but for the time being i’m really happy with it.

    • Ramsay

      Is that the sidebar one where you reward regular comment-leavers?

      • I’ve seen that one, and wondered about adding it, but no this one’s slightly different. CommentLuv automatically links to the Comment-givers latest blog post – if they tick the appropriate box after commenting.

        • Ramsay

          Oh yeah I’ve seen that around the place. Seem like a good idea.

  • Great post, was it really 5,000 words long?!
    Great advice as usual. My current blog is only just 2 weeks old, but I think(hope)I have most bases covered.

    Just on the subject of outsourcing – I agree bloggers should let go off the everyday tasks and focus on creating good content. Though I have personally found it very hard to get consistent and reliable people in the past. My tips would be – don’t always opt for the cheapest bid and read the reviews thoroughly before choosing.

    • Ramsay

      Thanks Celia!

      Yeah I agree about the outsourcing tips. It took me a good three or four years before I found a coder that I’m happy with. Normally you get one or two good jobs from them but then they start to invent delay after delay.

      Thanks again.

  • Wooo…I just read those 5000 words. And I think, it was really cool. I just subscribed to your blog and got to know about this post though email.
    When I was about to start my blog, I chose the prose child theme from studiopress. I thought I would be able to get a great design just like those big blogs. I was not a designer nor I knew a single code. I was completely dis satisfied with my blog’s look. I kept on buying themes.And try them on my website. And was paying more attention on researching on wp themes, than creating content. I know I was crazy, a lot new bloggers do the same mistake.
    But I finally saw some really simple blogs including the blogtyrant, which were doing really well. And were also kind of beautiful, though they were not using some fancy stuff.
    Finally, I chose a theme and strictly sticked with it. And I am really happy.
    Now after wasting almost 5 months. I have started focusing and creating content, which I should have done earlier.
    Lesson learnt. Focus on your content and don’t get excited by a cool blog design.
    very nice article Ramsay, thanks a lot. I too believe in all this tasks. :)

    • Ramsay

      I think this is a really common issue. Design is important, sure, but not at the cost of producing good content.

      I think this is the perfect example of where it is better to pay an expert to help you out.

      Thanks for the comment Kartikeye.

  • Hi Ramsay,

    Kudos for the 5000 words. If I write 500 I have to have a lie down afterwards. :)

    It’s all good sage advice and I wouldn’t disagree with any of it. Although, depending on the type of blog, I’m not entirely convinced all of your points are ‘critical’ from the start. There’s so much ‘stuff’ that the new blogger can get bogged down with it’s no wonder many hit a wall early on and give up.

    For business type blogs I can see the importance of branding, out-sourcing, and strategy planning early on, but for those bloggers not initially concerned with income streams my advice would be to just ‘get it out there’, warts an all!

    Nothing is going to happen overnight, so concentrate initially on getting content on your site but remain aware of all the other ‘stuff’ as you go. Too much too soon and you’ll risk burning out early.

    Having said that :)

    Loads a great info in your post which I’ll definitely be taking pointers from and seeing how I can apply it to my latest blog.

    Thanks mate.

    • Ramsay

      Dave that joke about having a lie down made me laugh. Thanks for that!

  • Paul Odtaa

    On Gravatars go to Fiverr spend $5 for a simplified cartoon of your photo. Have a colourful background – you stand out.

    Mine makes me look 10 years younger.

    • Ramsay

      It’s really quite amazing what you can do on Fiverr these days. Don’t know how they make money.

  • Wow, wow and wow!

    Seriously that’s why your the blog tyrant, truly epic post for newbies, plodders and gurus alike.

    Ramsay you have excelled yourself into the stratosphere.

    Thank you and that trip must have had a profound effect on you.

    Rob

    • Ramsay

      Thanks Rob. I really, really appreciate that.

  • Thanks. Your article is brilliant. But i still feel that only good content is not important. Now-a-days many ranking manipulation tools are there which easily manipulates rankings. One site is stealing my content and posting it into his own and yet he is ranking higher than me. With the amount of competition in every niche how can a new blogger start his blog.

    • Ramsay

      Hi Kamlesh.

      Yes, I know that can be frustrating. However, I honestly believe that the honest sites win out in the end. It’s a long term game.

  • Hey Ramsay,

    It looks like I discovered your blog at exactly the right time! I’ve just put my site together properly and then this post pops up in my E-mail. I’ve got a few of your points covered, but I’m still working my way down the list. This, and probably a great deal of your website is going to be invaluable to me. Thanks so much and keep up the good work.

    Do you mind if I ask a quick question? I’ve just popped a Facebook comments section over the default WP one. Would you advise against this? It seems like a good way to simplify things for readers, but may also cause confusion.

    • Ramsay

      Hi Steven.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      The Facebook comments is an interesting one I know a few big bloggers are still unsure about. The positive side is that it’s good for exposure because when a person leaves a comment I think their friends see it.

      The downside is that Facebook changes things so often that you just don’t know if it’s always going to be the same. All those comments on your site are actually going to FB and not to your asset so it seems like a bit of a risk.

      Not sure if that helps.

      • Hmm, well there seems to be a fairly even balance between the pros and the cons. But what you say about the content going to Facebook seems to tip the scale against the fb plugin I reckon. Sounds bad for SEO. E-mail sign-ups have worked this long right? We have Facebook integration, that’ll do. The plugin was kinda ugly anyway.

  • I created an Avatar, using my face and changing/adding things, changing colors, background etc. in Paintbrush.
    Avatar wants to crop two elements on the left and right side which I really want to keep ( my pen name, and the quill ). I resized and got it better, but still not perfect; but you can see some of both elements.
    Now….if it does not show up here, how do I get it to do so???

    Trenda McNair

    • Ramsay

      Hi Trenda.

      I think the avatar is too small to show all of that stuff. Just go with something distinctive that people will remember and associate with your brand.

  • Hi Ramsay,

    I noticed you don’t have a RSS feeder link. Is there a reason for this. I must have missed it. I look forward to your emails as there always seems to be something very relevant for myself in it. I would find it easier if it came to my reader instead of my email. I find things get lost in my email whereas in my reader they don’t.

    Thanks for this blog post today!!

    • Ramsay

      Hi Averil.

      The main reason is because I think Feedburner is about to die, Google Reader is closing down and I’d just rather I had most people subscribe by email so I don’t lose them.

      Perhaps I’ll find a better feed alternative like Feedblitz soon but I’ve just been a bit busy/lazy so far! :-)

      • Because Google is on its way out I was recommended Feedly and so far I love them. You can use your google reader to log in. The plans are to make the transition smoothly when google reader does shut down. They say it won’t miss a beat.

        • Ramsay

          Oh that is interesting. Yes, I must get on it soon.

          Thanks for the tip.

  • Hi Ramsay,

    I’m three weeks in, so this post is priceless. It’s a whole new world.

    One thing I’ve worked out, which may be helpful to other newbies, is to have a work schedule, and, without being slavish, stick to it. It’s so easy to get sucked into one area of work, (say, tweaking a button design), that really is down the scale in priority. I now prioritize content writing, marketing activities, and learning time, before the cosmetic tweaking and other “busy work”.

    Best,
    MichaelJ

  • I am totally agree with your point “Set up Google Authorship”.that’s a very interesting feature. Now, after reading your post, I am ready to implement it. Marketing is so often about the little things that give one an edge and a boost to credibility. This will certainly help. Thanks again for your great work!

  • Great post. I just implemented #4 (changed the headers in my posts to a serif font) Most of the rest I’m doing.

    I would add setting up Google Analytics and using a good plugin to handle it for you (Google Analytics by Yoast is the one I use). There is tons of data you can get from Google Analytics including (something I just figured out) how to track individual clicks to links.

    I was curious if anyone ever clicked on the links in a box I put at the bottom of all my posts so with one line of code, I am able to track those outbound clicks. Thanks again for the great post

    • Ramsay

      Alan I really can’t believe I forgot to add the analytics tip! Thanks so much for commenting and good work on the tracking.

  • Now that’s what I call a killer post – full of relevant and very very practical information.

    Thanks for the shout out Ramsay.

    I am still getting my head around google+ and will spend some time re reading the other excellent post you wrote on google authorship.

    Lots to savour in this post for newbies [welcome to the blogger who is only 2 weeks old - the blog not the writer - obviously!] and for people who have been blogging for years.

    Hope all is going well for you Ramsay. Sun shining here in Dublin after snow all last week – and it’s bloody Spring!

    Going to save this post and print it out to help me fine tune my site and blog – launching the new site real soon.

  • Hi Ramsay.

    Im new here but i gotta say, that’s one lovely, long ass post. How long did this take you? :)

    Id suggest adding checking theme and plugin compatibility.

    The two top seo plugins sometimes have compatibility issues with the theme as well.

    Backend stuff like backup setup (cache or site speed optimisation)

    Also, make sure about your hosting, if it could run your plugins because it’s a pain to move if you chose the wrong host especially for beginners

    Making sure its connected to wmt as early as possible would help you identify early crawl errors and other duplicate problems

    Jetpack for wordpress stats is also helpful

    Not pretty stuff but i think these will help in the long run and pretty important for starters :)

    Sharing this on my twitter buffer. Great work!

    • Ramsay

      Hey Dennis.

      Great tips!

      This post took me about four hours to write.

      Thanks again.

  • This post’s timing, for me, is fabulous. There’s so much incredibly helpful and relevant information here that I may explode with happiness. Particularly the Google Authorship material, which would otherwise have been a mystery to me for a very long time. Thank you, Ramsay, for giving us this level of useful detail. As a new blogger making my way in the world, may I just say… two thumbs up!!

    • Ramsay

      Glad it was so helpful Susan. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  • Hey Ramsay – this is a very information-rich article. Thanks so much! And yes, please do a tutorial on Market Samurai and some similar software for doing keyword research.

    • Ramsay

      Thanks Damien. Will see what I can come up with.

  • Thanks for the shout out in the article. i’ve been so freakin’ busy…..and before I forget again…

    Build a web site that’s “responsive.” This means the web site scales to fit the width of most devices. I’m in the middle of a wordpress theme change because my theme was great – but was created before all of the mobile devices became commonplace. About 30% of my traffic is mobile so I had to make a change. And at this point, I’m going to bed and I will finish the new theme updating in the morning.

    • Ramsay

      Responsive design is one of those things I hate about the web – necessary but painful and expensive. I can’t help but think a better solution might be coming along before too long.

  • Thank you for the mention and the offer to help! That means a lot.

    A checklist like this is a great way to keep up the quality and prevent you from forgetting important things.

    Following what you said in #17, I’ve started making videos, and it can be a complex process. As a result, I’ve started making checklists. At first, it was just one pre-production checklist, to make sure I didn’t forget something critical, like clipping on my lavalier microphone to my shirt. Then it spread to me making checklists for scriptwriting, video editing, and even video SEO. I include everything, even small, seemingly trivial stuff like what font size I use in the watermark on my videos. This helps me maintain quality and consistency across my videos.

    In the beginning, I wondered if checklists would stifle my creativity with routine. The opposite happened: now that I’m free from worrying about overlooking details, I can focus on “the big picture” and think up bigger ideas.

    You could say that creating checklists is a way of “programming” yourself to avoid errors and automate best practices. Developing and testing your own blogging “system” will allow you to beat competitors who just try one tactic after another.

    • Ramsay

      Love it Marcus.

      Thanks again for all your continued support. I really appreciate it.

  • Hey Ramsay Bro. Great content. for me too, I feel the content should dominate the other textual layout. I love your sharing on google+ and then Pat’s pic as gravatar reference is awesome. Keep blogging always.

  • Hi there,
    the preparation for my first blog is almost done and when I read your post- I think I’ m on a good way :-) Just today I was thinking about how to add this little picture next to the google search results, thank for the video!
    Chris

  • Hey ramsay can you share you expertise about google penguin in your blog.

  • I skimmed through your article and found it really great. I have been coming across information advising against free blog lately. Presently, I’m using blogger.com but as I read through your content, I feel like starting off with wordpress but the problem is there for me. I have gone very far with blogger. All the same your blog is a great one.

  • Took me a full 3 hours to set up Google Authorship!! but I do see it’s value. Excellent article that I will spread around.

  • hi thank you for the post. i just started my blogging and
    i will definately keep this post tips in my to do list. by the way, i am using fatcow hosting.. but you recommend Bluehost for blogger .. is there any special reason.

    thank you
    regards

    • Ramsay

      Hi Krisit.

      I recommended Blue Host for new bloggers just because I have used them for many years and found their service to be really good. As far as blog hosting goes they are cheap, reliable and have good support.

      Other than that there is no special reason.

  • #1 is so true. I recently moved from Weebly to a self-hosted WordPress site. Painful, but worth it because of all the added functionality WordPress provides vs Weebly. To everyone starting a site or blog, make the right choice so you don’t ‘outgrow’ your platform!

  • Awesome, awesome article!!!
    So glad I finally found the time to read it.

    There are many things mentioned here that not only allow for better UX and strengthening of your brand, but grant the opportunity for future growth.

    1. Having a distinctive voice, or approaching your niche from a certain angle is crucial, since it imposes uniqueness- something valued a lot when the web is in question. I recommend achieving this not only by being unique in the sense of being easy to recognize, but being unique in the way you link one topic to another, or find random affinities- interlinking two subject sharing the same audience. This is very powerful simply because of the fact that there is not that much content written in this vein.

    2. The David Ogilvy quote is spot on. We have to start building our brand vision early on, and then just add to that foundation. By the way read his book “Confessions of an advertising man” if you have the time, it’s awesome!

    3. What you said about keeping the brand recognizable across all platforms is a sign of professionalism. It creates affability among current and potential readers that is hard to explain. I have to pay more attention to this one.

    4. Evergreen content is the core of every site that deals with content creation. My best tactic is to try and recognize a need in my niche and then answer it. I also make sure that there is not that much of an offer to any given demand, or if there is any I try to see flaws in it and improve upon them. When in situations where this is not the case, I usually decide to abandon the topic and divert my attention elsewhere. If you cannot do it better, or in a unique “adding-value” way, then do not do it at all.

    5. Constantly creating and refining the content strategy is probably what grew my blog so far. That’s how I came up with different sections on my site as interviews, reviews, different topics to talk about and interlink. This, while adding a great deal of value, adds myriad of opportunities to monetize as well.

    6. Having plans for expansion into video is a very lucrative approach. And the way you’ve done it can serve as an example. But I will add another thing- why just video? Sure, I’m still not at a stage where I can think that broadly, but why not inphographics, podcasts, e-magazines, applications? Thinking broadly may both satisfy user demands and serve as an excellent platform for expansion of the brand in the near future.

    I love when I see articles with the UX vertical in mind. And this, besides giving tons of useful advice, generates a lot of ideas in terms of improving your content, your offer, your brand- the core of UX right there. Awesome article man!

    • Ramsay

      Dude thanks for the extra blog post! Still rockin the comments section Slavko. I really appreciate it.

  • Thanks for a great article with some really useful tips. I’ve been running by blog for a good two years now, and although it’s popular (ish), I think it’s starting to hit a plateau. So implementing some of the techniques will hopefully breath some life into RefuGeeks.

    I’ve obviously subscribed so keep the great tips coming! :)

    • Ramsay

      Hey Kev.

      Plateaus are annoying. They say that they happen usually before 1000 subscribers and before you get to 10,000. Best suggestion is to cross into different media and focus more on guest posts for a while.

  • Wow ! What a post !
    I think I’ve found the best post in that category. Beginners are gonna love it.

    Ramsay, you’re especially right with #2. An unique angle is capital. Because of this very important choice, I have now a blog with 25K uniques visitors a month.

    If any beginner is reading this : study the competition and make something different (and useful of course).

    All the best from France Ramsay :)
    Alex

    • Ramsay

      Well done Alex!

      Like the big opt-in form on the homepage.

  • Don’t forget:
    - Create Sitemap (not extremely critical but still)
    - Install Analytics
    - Setup Favicon
    - Setup Privacy Policy / Disclaimers
    - Run website through Optimizer to find ways to increase speed

    P.S. Don’t forget to update your 2012 Blog Tyrant footer info to 2013

  • At the beginning to learn blog, i was less interest but now a days i feel much eager in blogging. frankly your tips would help me to go high. and please write about some page decoration in blogging. recently i have made a blog if you say how to decorate it with its related topics i would be grateful. thank you
    amazingcoxsbazar.wordpress.com