Essential: A 44-Point Checklist for Starting a Quality Blog

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start a blog checklist

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.

You can also look at my posts on how to start a fashion blog and my predictions for starting a blog as they have some different pointers based on niche-style blogging.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Develop some concrete goals that have a deadline and a specific outcome (like reaching 10,000 email subscribers within 12 months).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. Use a complicated username and a complicated password that involves many different characters, capital letters and numbers.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Add a security plugin like Limit Login Attempts or BulletProof Security and spend some time reading about how it works.
  15. Create a sitemap with the plugin XML Sitemaps so that Google can see how your site is structured and updated.
  16. Add a social sharing plugin like Mashshare so you have some clean and simple icons where people can click to share your articles.
  17. Register for an Akismet key to help combat spam comments that your blog will inevitably receive.
  18. Add a plugin like Subscribe to Comments so commenters can receive notices when you reply to their comments.
  19. 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.
  20. Sign up for a service like AWeber where you can store your email subscribers’ addresses, create opt-in forms, analyze stats, etc.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. Change your permalink structure to use “post name” as the default so you don’t have dates and categories in your URL.
  26. Edit your title in your theme code so your post name appears first instead of some ugly alternative.
  27. 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!
  28. 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.
  29. Consider adding a privacy policy and term and conditions page if you have advice on what it needs to include in your local area.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. 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.
  36. 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.
  37. 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.
  38. 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.
  39. 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.
  40. 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.
  41. 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.
  42. 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.
  43. Publish your first post on a high traffic day like Monday or Wednesday at East Coast US time for maximum chance of exposure.
  44. 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.

Click here to download the PDF (no email required).

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.

Top image Β© Lordjiew | Dreamstime.com.

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66 Comments... Leave yours.

  • Adam Franklin

    Hey Ramsay,

    I’d also recommend looking for other blogs that you can write guest posts for, or blogs you can syndicate your content with. I found that by doing both these things, it helped kick start by blog as it got my articles in front of more readers.

    Cheers!


    1. Ramsay

      Yep, totally agree.

      I wasn’t sure how much stuff to include beyond the set up stage, maybe I should have?


      1. Elena

        I am not sure it is always the best strategy for all. I did guest posting for other blogs, and, perhaps it depends on your industry, for me it did not pay off in dividends, and was not worth the effort. I have found, at times, that instead having guest posts from blogs where you want to be featured, yields better results. Of course, I am not talking about the instances where you end up scoring being featured by one of the big names in your industry. Just more food for thought for me.


        1. Ramsay

          Hi Elena.

          That is interesting. Were you posting in bigger blogs in your niche on similar topics?


          1. Elena

            On some, and one that boasted that they drove really high traffic, although their model was that they had a lot of bloggers from my industry posting on a chosen schedule. I personally found little traffic trickling from there and poor conversion, so, after a while I pulled the plug.

            I also found that, depending on one’s schedule, guest posting might be hard to fit in. I love to right great quality posts for my audience, which takes time. Being a full time mom and a blogger, leaves fewer hours in the day to invest as much time in too many posts. So, sometimes just knowing where you would get most return on your time is important. Everything is a gamble, however.


    2. Prabhakar

      I would not advise bloggers to look for guest posting. It is not a reputable thing unless you can write on a great blog. In addition, it might lead to some SEO issues.


      1. Lisa Frideborg

        How would it affect SEO if the content is fresh and not just copied and pasted?


        1. Prabhakar

          Yes, I said, it ‘might’.
          If the blogger is not discreet and indulges in guest posting just to get backlink(s), with no great stuff, that might be harmful.
          If the blogger has good stuff but posts it on a website that gets all types of guest posts, that might also hurt.
          If the blogger pastes his own blog’s content on others’ sites, that might be wrong and deleterious however good the content may be.
          Hope, you agree. My idea was to caution against guest posting as an easy way to get popular.


          1. Lisa Frideborg

            Valid points. I don’t guest post willy nilly – I prefer to have people come to me and guest post and I always make sure the content posted is in line with my brand and the high quality I strive fore.


    3. Akash Yadav

      Hey Adam!

      I do agree with your statement and above all thanks Ramsay for this great and must checklist for starting a blog.

      As always enjoyed reading here and Ya! thanks for increasing my blog’s traffic.


  • Santanu

    Hi Ramsey,

    Such a exhaustive guide for a beginner. But out these 44 if I would like to choose top 5 steps for a beginner, I think they will be

    1) Decide the niche you are expert
    2) Start a blog with WordPress only
    3) Try to write unique articles on a regular basis
    4) keep a note of all on-page and off-page SEO factors
    5) Share your post with others in social media

    After few weeks of doing these steps, if someone started applying your 44 point-checklist, then the blog will definitely turn out one’s expectation. Really enjoyed reading these tis to start a quality blog.


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks mate. I agree with that summary I think, although I’m not huge on the social media sharing these days.


  • Darius

    Awesome Checklist! I really like number 5. Maybe its because its a good suggestion from me…lol. Number 1 to me is the most important. I let some blogs sit in the past due to losing interest.

    Cheers


    1. Ramsay

      Ha ha. Thanks for sharing!


  • Elena

    Liked your bonus PDF file. Some great reminders there.

    So, the question of the day is, if Monday and Wednesday are the best days to post, what’s going on with you that you are posting on Sunday night? πŸ™‚


    1. Ramsay

      It’s Monday here in Oz and I’m waaaay to tired to stay up for US time today. Got some ads scheduled though. πŸ™‚


  • Elena

    Ramsay, so, with millions of new blogs emerging every day (and perhaps this could be a post in itself), how do you ensure that you always stay on top? I know that the regular answers: provide great content, etc.; but really, it was easier to succeed as a blogger when blogging was a new thing, where now it takes a lot more work and planning…and sometimes some dumb luck.


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Elena.

      I hear this one a lot, but I’m not sure it’s true. In the old days there were probably about the same number of blogs proportionate to the amount of people browsing the net. Both are growing.

      But, also, now we have way more advanced methods for promoting/finding blog. Google wasn’t as good, no PPC, no advertising, mailing lists, remarketing, etc. So in many ways it’s easier than before.

      I think the hard part is making something distinctive. I think it’s harder to stand out but not necessarily harder to be found.


  • Lisa Frideborg

    Thanks for this guide and the PDF – both very useful. I’ve been blogging for many years now but been flying by the seat of my pants for most of them, so it is nice to finally get some structured thinking into it and you are my go-to guy for that, Ramsay.

    Is there any particular time on a Monday or Wednesday that works best? Most of my readership is located in the US. And does anybody know WHY Wednesdays in particular generate more traffic? Mondays I can sort of understand…

    Oh, and landing pages confuse the heck out of me. Have you written an idiot’s guide about how to set one up?

    Thanks again and have a great week! Lisa


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Lisa.

      I think it’s best to test what days work for you. All blogs are different but Wednesday usually is a high traffic day – I think because people at work are struggling mid-week.

      I have this post, let me know if it helps: http://www.blogtyrant.com/great-landing-pages/


      1. Lisa Frideborg

        Brilliant, thanks! Btw, I did move my blog from WP.com to WP.org… took more like two days than one hour for this noob though. I’m glad you ‘made me’ do it… SO much better!!


        1. Lisa Frideborg

          OK, I had a look at your landing pages post and feel in overwhelm. I think I need a ‘landing pages for dummies’ version… Something to just take me through how to make one step for step and where to place it. *feeling blonder than usual* πŸ˜›


          1. Ramsay

            Consider it in the line up!


  • Wayne Gerald

    Thank you for taking your time for writing all this about starting a blog. I’m so grateful. You’re helping out a lot of people you’ll never know, and they’ll have you to thank for it.

    Blogging can seem thankless sometimes, because you never know the full, positive, ripple effect you’ll cause in changing lives for the better.

    Again, a HUGE thanks for what you do.


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks so much, Wayne. That really means a lot to me.


  • Timothy Torrents

    Really awesome post, I bookmarked it and I’ll be back to check it out later when I have some more time. I definitely have a lot of work to do!


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks mate.


  • Neil

    Hi Ramsay

    Great checklist. I would like to add “Use a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache”. Most beginners will start on shared hosts, so it is very essential to use a caching plugin. Site speed is a big factor these days.

    Neil


    1. Ramsay

      Oh I had that in there! Wonder where it went. Thanks mate.


      1. Lisa Frideborg

        I have no idea what it does but I just added that plugin haha! Thanks Neil.


        1. Ramsay

          It’s a cache that serves up a “pre-loaded” version of your site to visitors to save on load time so the server doesn’t call up the website for each load. Might be worth having a bit of a read up on it.


          1. Lisa Frideborg

            Thanks… but isn’t it enough that I know this is what it does…? πŸ˜€


      2. Neil

        πŸ™‚


  • Ramsay

    @Lisa, not really because they have a big impact on how your site performs and operates. It can affect other plugins, etc.


    1. Lisa Frideborg

      OK, boss. Will read up!


      1. Ramsay

        Ha ha. Only a suggestion. πŸ™‚


  • Slavko Desik

    Hey man, this is very useful! Been three years into this and still have some tasks to check off the list. Huge thanks for the mention as well πŸ™‚

    Oh, and the Pdf file is useful as well. Very strategic approach- asking questions about our site can reveal some areas where it needs work the most, that we are not always aware of.


    1. Ramsay

      Hey how’d that massive post go?


  • Renard Moreau

    [ Smiles ] Yes, I agree that we should use responsive themes.

    The nice part is: most of the WordPress themes are responsive.


    1. Ramsay

      New ones, yes.


  • Jennifer

    Another great post. This gives me quite a bit of things to complete for my new blog.


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks!


  • Cathy Mayhue

    Very informative read Ramsay! Great tips, out of these creating a ‘lead magnet’ would be the toughest and time taking job, I fee.


    1. Ramsay

      Yeah it does take a while to plan it and make it all happen but it is well worth it.


  • Lexie Clement

    Hey Ramsay, I’m pretty new to all this-basically just set up my blog over the weekend-and I was wondering, do you have any suggestions for writing that ‘pillar post’ and how to feature others in the post in a genuine and relevant way?


    1. Ramsay

      Hey Lexie.

      Have a look at my big guide on starting a blog. I have a resources section and mention lots of people as I go through each paragraph. That works well. http://www.blogtyrant.com/how-to-start-a-blog/


      1. Lexie Clement

        Thanks for replying. I’ll have a look!


  • Aliakbar

    Thank you so Much Ramsay for sharing in depth guide for Setting Up WP.
    Since 6 months i am Blogging and learned a lot for Customizing and tweaking WP but still after reading this post, I felt that So much more informative things i cloud know and this will help in SEO.

    I am new to this Blog, and I am so much glad now after reading your So informative articles.!

    Keep it Up:)
    And may the blessings of Almighty be always upon you πŸ™‚


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks mate! Appreciate the comment.


  • Robert

    Ramsay, what a perfect guide for those getting started! I just wrote an article on this for those wanting to start a simple travel blog (diary) for those wanting to share their photos and stories with family and friends. Will definitely add this link to my post! Thanks


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks Robert! Really appreciate that. Let me know and I’ll share it.


  • chris

    I intentionally waited a few days because I’ve been mulling over the idea of starting a new (second) blog in a different niche. I wanted to have that new site in mind when I read the post. Your post really is spot on. The only comment I’d say is regarding speed tests. Run the site through gtmetrix.com – don’t run the home page, run a blog post page. Look at the report and focus on the YSlow grade and tab. Also look at the timeline. This will tell you exactly why your site loads at the speed it does and what you can do about it.

    I run on a shared server and before a site overhaul a few weeks ago, I was consistently in the 1.4 second load time. I’m now around 1.9-2.1 second load time but I’ve also got two new plug-ins and one is in beta-test mode.


    1. Ramsay

      Excellent comment. I was about to call the police and report a missing person! πŸ˜‰

      For some reason I prefer Pingdom Tools but I think GT is a bit more comprehensive. Not sure if you can choose server location. Might go check.


  • Donna Merrill

    Hi Ramsay,

    It is my first visit here. I met you from Sue Anne’s blog post where we are both on. Thank you for making this check list a pdf form.

    There are so many new people coming into blogging land with no direction at all. Here you have gathered the most frequently asked questions for them all in one place. This will surely help newbies as well as seasoned bloggers.

    What I think is crucial that new bloggers don’t do is put up that “About Me” section and do it well. Also have an opt-in to whatever they are offering. It is so important for bloggers to start their list building right from the beginning.

    Thanks for this and it is great connecting with you,

    -Donna


    1. Ramsay

      Nice to meet you Donna! Hope to see you around here a lot!


  • Sarah

    Hey Ramsay, love the article. Found you from Moz and am finding your site really helpful! Started blogging recently to develop my marketing skills, though my blog has three categories, personal growth, digital marketing and song writing….my thought process was to capture three different audiences to expand reach…am I totally barking up the wrong tree? =)


    1. Ramsay

      Hey Sarah.

      I think if you are trying to grow a personal brand it is possible to do it like that. But, for example, if your goal is to sell a song writing course then you effectively are building an audience where on 1/3 is interested in that topic.

      Thoughts?


      1. Sarah

        Thanks Ramsay, yeah I get your point. Appreciate your insight =)


  • Vikas Singh Gusain

    Hey Ramsay,

    This information is very helpful with us and I completely agree of these points. I create a website on wordpress, But I bought another theme for your website which is very different from my project and now I ‘m doing him use, so can you tell me it’s beneficial or not, because you kept telling here point no 10 β€˜Choose a Responsive Theme’.

    Thank s


    1. Ramsay

      I’m not really sure what you mean sorry.


  • Mi Muba

    Hi Ramsay

    The most amazing aspect of this post is its being to-the-point; no lengthy sermons, no scaring remarks and no guarantees for success. Just the mentioning of what is most essential to start a blog.

    Top 5 helps to build a blog on strong foundation as without vision and clear objectives one can even do something great with his blog but will not be able to achieve any tangible success like big money or boost to his business.

    Thanks a lot for sharing this very valuable tutorial.


    1. Ramsay

      Thank you for commenting. Appreciate it.


  • Debajyoti Banerjee

    Excellent list Ramsay πŸ™‚ You have not missed a single one. Next thing is to start posting quality blog content at regular interval and start content marketing to attract and engage users and make them loyal to come back and visit you frequently. Publishing interviews of other reputed bloggers is a good tactic too.


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for sharing!


  • Bradley Anderson

    Excellent post, and very timely, as I am just starting a new blog. Thanks for the huge list of tips!


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