Last Update 8th October, 2015
Here’s a simple but (hopefully!) comprehensive checklist that you can follow when starting a new blog.
Every week I get at least 5-10 emails from people who want to get started but are still a bit confused about some aspect of the whole process.
So, I decided to put this together based on my own experiences with launching blogs.
I’m going to keep it simple with minimal details just so you can see an overview of the whole picture. You can then use the resources and references for further reading.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything!
NOTE: If you’ve already got a blog there should still be some items on the list that you might have forgotten or not addressed yet and I’ve included an advanced bonus at the end of the post.
How to start a blog: bigger guides and details
Today’s post is going to be short steps that you need to cover when starting a quality blog.
However, if you are looking for some more detailed guidance then please check out my ultimate guide on how to start a blog as it is over 9,000-words long and has a lot of the more subtle aspects that this post won’t cover.
Right, onto the potatoes.
A checklist for starting a quality blog
All blogs are different but there are some elements that (almost) every single one should include. Here’s a checklist that you can follow (I’ve tried to put them in order as best as I can) if you’re trying to setup your blog to give it the best chances of success.
- Make sure you know why you want to start a blog and use this to make a commitment to stick at it for at least a year. As Lisa says, if you don’t absolutely love your niche you’re going to lose interest.
- Develop some concrete goals that have a deadline and a specific outcome (like reaching 10,000 email subscribers within 12 months).
- Research the other blogs in your niche and see what they are doing and how you might be able to improve on their failings. As Slavko says, keep researching regularly so you never stop learning about your market and targets.
- Brainstorm a strategy for your blog with your end-goals and potential products in mind. It doesn’t have to be finialized but it’s good to have some ideas about where you want to end up.
- Check to make sure your brand or domain name isn’t already taken by some other company. This is a very good suggestion from Darius.
- Purchase a domain name and hosting package so that you fully own and control your website and aren’t limited by a free blogging platform’s policies and technologies (Here’s why I recommend BlueHost for new bloggers). A good suggestion by Wellington Chic is to buy the .com and other extensions in case someone else gets in.
- Install WordPress on your domain name as your free blogging software through which you write posts, edit the design/template and build out your website. Here’s a tutorial. (Here’s a tutorial).
- Use a complicated username and a complicated password that involves many different characters, capital letters and numbers.
- Set up an email address using your domain name which you can use to sign up for services related to your blog. An example might be hello (at) blogtyrant (dot) com.
- Choose a responsive theme that fits your purposes which may mean purchasing a premium one or searching through some quality simple themes that have a focus on content.
- Remove the unwanted stuff from your theme like the META login area in your sidebar. This can be cut from your theme’s code by going APPEARANCE > EDITOR > SIDEBAR. Make sure you keep a backup before editing in case you break something.
- Check your typography to make sure your font, font size and spacing is at least 15px and nice and clean. Here’s a good resource for that.
- Give your site a name and tagline that includes the domain name and ideally your target keywords in the header. Change this in SETTINGS > GENERAL.
- Add a security plugin like Limit Login Attempts or BulletProof Security and spend some time reading about how it works.
- Create a sitemap with the plugin XML Sitemaps so that Google can see how your site is structured and updated.
- Add a social sharing plugin like Mashshare so you have some clean and simple icons where people can click to share your articles.
- Register for an Akismet key to help combat spam comments that your blog will inevitably receive.
- Add a plugin like Subscribe to Comments so commenters can receive notices when you reply to their comments.
- Add the Yoast SEO plugin and set up the basics. This can be quite an advanced plugin so don’t waste too much time now you can tweak it as you go.
- Sign up for a service like AWeber where you can store your email subscribers’ addresses, create opt-in forms, analyze stats, etc.
- Create some opt-in forms for your sidebar, bottom of posts, header, etc. using the AWeber form generator and add them to your blog’s code.
- Create a lead-magnet or free eBook that you give away to readers in exchange for them signing up for updates. This should be a very high quality/high value offering that is tight on the topic you want to talk about over the coming months.
- Create an automatic Follow Up email that welcomes subscribers to your blog and lets them know what to expect next as well as delivers the free eBook.
- Build a landing page specifically for promoting this free giveaway and link to it in strategic places like your sidebar and at the end of posts.
- Change your permalink structure to use “post name” as the default so you don’t have dates and categories in your URL.
- Edit your title in your theme code so your post name appears first instead of some ugly alternative.
- Write an About Page that describes who you are and why you and your blog are different to the other ones out there. Don’t be afraid to tell a long, personal story!
- Create a contact page that has an email address where people can reach you, and maybe links to social networking if you prefer to be contacted there.
- Add a high quality photo of yourself to help create brand personalization. If you don’t have a good one I recommend organizing a photoshoot with a photographer. Keep it informal.
- Consider having a logo made for you by a designer on Freelancer or Elance but don’t let this stop you from launching and getting started with your blogging.
- Create a Start Here page or a subscription page that introduces your blog and let’s people know what it’s about and how they can get updates.
- Add some links to your social networking profiles on your About Page and/or in your sidebar so people know where to connect with you off-site.
- Write your first pillar blog post of at least 2,500 words that really sets the tone for your topic and your blog’s style. You want to provide as much value as possible as soon as people land on your site so they know you’re the real deal.
- Add relevant links to that blog post that point to other quality sites and resources to give your post more authority and help you get on the radar of other site owners.
- Add some quality photos to your article that fit in with your brand. Use sites like Gratisography and Dreamstime to find beautiful images that aren’t dodgy stock photos.
- Consider adding lots of other media to these long-form posts like videos, audio, graphics, resource lists, etc. as this increases the value of the post and is a quality ranking factor for Google.
- Think about your categories and tags that you use and try to put each post into only one category and 3-5 tags based around your keywords.
- Sign up for an analytics package like Google Analytics or Clicky so you can track visitors and see where they land and how the behave once on your blog.
- Sign up for Webmaster Tools to give you some interesting insights about how Google sees your blog and how you can improve your search performance.
- Get your photo to appear in comments by associating your email address with a Gravatar account. This works on any blog that has photos enabled in comments.
- Get some genuine feedback from someone who has experience in the field and is not afraid to tell you if something is done badly. Accept as much criticism as they take and be willing to try out their suggestions.
- Publish your first post on a high traffic day like Monday or Wednesday at East Coast US time for maximum chance of exposure.
- Promote your post by sending out emails/tweets to people that you’ve mentioned in your amazing pillar article letting them know that they were featured and even spending a few dollars on Facebook Ads to your get blog out there.
If you follow all of these steps you’ll find that your new blog is set up in a way that will give you a good start and put you in a position to grow and change in the future.
Again, it’s going to be different for everyone depending on your blog’s goals and functions, but these are the basic steps that I pretty much always use to start a new blog that I want to have a nice, longterm future.
An advanced blogging checklist for the pros
Okay, so if you’ve been blogging for a while you’ll probably find all of that stuff a bit boring and basic for your needs. That’s okay.
What I’ve done for you is created an advanced list of nine checks to make on your professional blog. These are items I often refer back to in order to make sure I’m progressing.
Each blog is different and will have individual success-measures but there are some elements that are common to all online businesses. It’s a good idea to be across as many of them as possible.
What have I missed in the checklist?
If there is anything that I’ve missed in the checklist on how to start a blog I’d really appreciate you letting me know. Please leave a comment below and we’ll see if we can create a nice little resource for new bloggers to use when they’re just starting out.
If you think either of these lists might help someone please consider giving it a Tweet or a share on Facebook. I’d really appreciate it.