Last Update November 18th, 2015.
Thinking that you’d like to start a blog this year? This post is for you.
Today I’m going to show you some really important things you need to know about starting (or running) a blog this year.
If you follow these tips you’ll save a lot of time.
NOTE: This post on starting a blog contains some affiliate links. If you purchase a service through one of my links I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for the support! It means a lot.
The quick steps involved in starting a blog
First up, if you don’t have a blog yet and are wondering about the best way to get started there are a few quick steps you’ll want to follow. To get started:
- Set short and long term goals.
- Get a domain name and blog host from BlueHost and install WordPress as your blogging platform.
- Choose a theme and decide on branding elements like logos and colors.
- Add an opt-in form to start collecting email subscribers.
- Begin producing strategic content that helps people.
The content below will go into much deeper detail about how to start a blog and what is different about starting a blog this year.
What’s different about starting a blog this year?
Some things never change when it comes to blogging.
Other things, however, change quite regularly and it can be really confusing if you’re new or just looking to get started.
I constantly get asked questions like:
“Where do I start a blog?”
“Should I use WordPress or Blogger or Tumblr?”
“Do I need Aweber or will Feedburner suffice for my mailing list?”
“Should I update my blog daily?”
“How should I monetize my blog?”
“Etc. ad infinitum.”
These types of questions are timeless but the answers often change from year to year. And even if the answers don’t change it is sometimes necessary to remind bloggers that the answers haven’t changed! That is: keep doing what you’re doing.
Let’s do some of that now.
So you’re starting a blog? What do you need to know?
Here are some of the most important things you’ll want to pay attention if you want to make this blogging thing work for you:
1. A self-hosted WordPress blog is still your best bet
We harp on about this a lot but best thing you can do about blog hosting is to set up your own WordPress.org blog on your own host. I am still of the firm belief that free blogs like Tumblr and Blogger (and even WordPress.com) do not give you the control, ownership and branding options that you need.
Here’s a quick graphic I shared over on Google+ about the difference between a free WordPress blog and a WordPress blog that you host for yourself. Even here you’ll notice that the differences are huge.
As I’ve said before, the one prediction I have for people using a free blog host is that one day you will want to migrate it to your own host. And that can be a really annoying process. It’s much better to set yourself up the right way from the beginning.
I recommend BlueHost for all new bloggers (get a Blog Tyrant special discount rate of $3.49 per month on a 12-month starter plan). This tutorial will take you through the setup process – step by step. It should take around 5 minutes to get completely set up!
2. Visual content will only get bigger
If you aren’t taking your own photos yet it might be time to get started.
At a minimum, you want to be part of a quality stock photo site that allows you to use photos on your site with an attribution license. I use Dreamstime and Gratisography for a lot of my photos but I also take my own.
Visual content has been growing for years and it appears to be speeding up, not slowing down. We now have retina display tablets and our smartphones are getting bigger. Social networking sites like Facebook and Google+ are favoring images over text – never mind sites like Pinterest which are totally based around photos!
If you’re not working with visual content yet it’s time to start.
3. Growing a mailing list is still the most important thing
If you asked a big blogger for advice about the most important thing to do in 2004 they would have probably told you to grow a mailing list.
Ten years later and nothing has changed.
Your email list is a means to get into people’s inboxes whenever you like. That can lead to increased traffic to your new blog posts as well as more sales when you launch a product or promote an affiliate product.
But the main reason that you want to grow an email list is because you just can’t trust Google for traffic. And you can’t trust social networking sites that constantly change their policies. It’s only the mailing list that gives you a constant source of traffic, should something go wrong.
I recommend Aweber for all bloggers but there are many other options out there.
4. It’s time to get smart about competition analysis
I reckon about 90% of bloggers that I talk to do zero research when it comes to writing new posts, creating new blogs or coming up with products.
No one is thinking about the competition!
This is a big mistake in my opinion. Almost every post that you write has been written before. Every blog that you think of is already out there. Most products have things that are pretty much the same.
It’s really important to use a quality program like Market Samurai to do some research into the competition. A quick look around and you’ll be able to see what keywords people are targeting, how many back links they have for their main posts and where those back links are coming from.
This is invaluable information as it helps you decide whether or not you can compete in certain niches and keywords. If someone has links coming from Harvard, Wikipedia and NASA then it is unlikely you’ll be able to outrank them in a hurry.
5. Long content still works
Long content has been working for years. One of the first posts I ever wrote on this site was several thousand words on how I sold a blog for $20,000. That post went viral and got the attention of a lot of bloggers.
It put Blog Tyrant on the radar.
If I’d just written a little 500 word update on the topic nothing would have happened. The whole thing would have fizzled out into nothing.
Unfortunately that is what happens to a lot of bloggers.
Forget about short little updates and start working on longer content that solves problems and provides so much value that people can’t help but share it with their friends.
6. It’s time to spend money on promotion
For some reason bloggers hate the idea of spending money on advertising. It’s a real shame.
One thing you’ll start to see more and more in 2014 is that the bigger bloggers (and other internet entrepreneurs) will start to pay to promote their posts and products a lot more.
There is so much noise online. Just think about the niche you are in – how many competitors are there that are doing better than you?
Well, one way to bypass their domination is to spend a little bit of money promoting your best work to a targeted group of people who are likely to be interested in your stuff.
A screenshot from my Facebook newsfeed – a simple sponsored post.
The great thing about advertising on social networks like Facebook is that it’s low cost and there is a chance that people will share it of their own free will, once they’ve seen your advert. Here is a simple sponsored post that appeared in my newsfeed while I was writing this post. Easy to make and very effective.
You don’t need much. Set aside $25 for a test and see how you go.
7. Make big connections early
Something that a lot of new bloggers fail to recognize is that your success is often largely dependent on the alliances that you form.
If you are going to start a new blog in 2014 it’s a good idea to start making connections with the big blogs and bloggers in your niche as soon as you can. I’m not talking about spamming them with guest post requests either – I’m talking about making genuine friends that can support each other for the long term.
Start by finding the big players on Twitter and sharing their stuff. Mention it on your site and let them know about it. It’s a nice little introduction.
8. Google+ will grow to the point of necessity
Many people already argue that Google+ is essential.
At least from an SEO point of view, people are already seeing results from integrating Google+ with your blog. When you get authorship set up you get your photo in search and it seems like you also get slightly higher rankings. This is still up for debate.
Here’s one thing you need to consider. As Google+ grows (it’s already the second biggest social network) you’re going to have more people being logged in when they do searches. If you are in their Circles there is a greater chance that your posts will show up on their results. This means more traffic and potentially more shares.
Here’s a graphic I made recently about how Google+ can help improve your blog’s rankings in 2014.
It’s time to get on it.
9. Responsive blog designs are a must
Mobiles and tablets are now a primary source of web traffic. If your theme doesn’t respond to the smaller screens there is a good chance you will be losing valuable traffic as people click away to find something easier to navigate.
In the next two weeks you will see this site change into a responsive design. More importantly, you will see me launch a brand new site that will help you out a lot when it comes to your responsive WordPress themes in 2014.
The only thing I’ll say now is that you should be on the mailing list to make sure you don’t miss out on this one. It’s going to be big.
10. Outsourcing will make you prolific
Ever since I chatted to Chris Ducker on Skype last year I’ve been more and more looking to outsourcing as a way to get things done.
I’ve been doing it for years, but it wasn’t until talking to Chris that I realized that the process could be streamlined with the use of a virtual assistant – someone who can manage all of your tasks that you would normally control yourself.
There are a few reasons as to why this will be even more important in 2014.
Firstly, it helps you create more content and frees up time for you to focus on the tasks that really grow your blog. Secondly, it gives work to someone who really needs it and, hopefully, is a lot better at that task than you are. Note: We had a big debate about this on my Fiverr post.
Over are the days where you do everything on your blog from the writing to the photoshopping to the HTML editing and outreach. It’s time to get help with it all.
11. Your health will become a priority
The science is in.
Sitting still for long periods of time is a lot worse for your health than first thought. In fact, researchers are now showing that sitting still can lead to early death as well as a whole host of bad diseases.
The bad news is that going for a run or to the gym at the end of the day does not undo the damage. This means we need to start moving regularly, working while standing up and taking regular short breaks to stretch the muscles and get the blood flowing.
Now that we know how bad it really is it’s time to do something about it.
12. Security threats will increase
Internet security is already a major issue. A really stressful issue at that.
Companies, small businesses and organizations all around the world are falling prey to nasty intruders on an increased basis. No one is safe.
So what can you do?
- Keep backups
Try to keep backups of your websites, blogs and important documents both on and offline. There are many plugins to help you do this.
- Use a good security plugin
I’m no expert on this but there are several security plugins and services around like Sucuri and Bulletproof Security. These can help lockdown your blog.
- Research regularly
Here’s an old post I wrote on the topic. Try to keep up to date with the trends as they change.
I don’t want to freak you out but I do want you to think more about keeping your blogs, emails and computers safe into 2014.
13. Personal branding will become more important
As we mentioned above, Google+ is on the rise. And something you need to know about Google+ is that it is really about the personal brand of the author. Google wants to make each individual a useful participant in their search engine (and thus the internet).
Taking from this lead, in 2014 we need to focus more on our personal brands.
Now, this is a really contentious issue for some people. I once got a really sour email from a reader when I talked about personal branding as they thought it was disingenuous and a sign of a sell out. I understand where they come from but, to be honest, also understand that it’s a necessary evil in today’s online world. Personally I think the selling out part is up to each individual. You can choose to be an honest person of integrity and thus make your personal brand a trustworthy one.
In 2014 I think bloggers will need to get their faces out there more. Spend less time building a website and more time building the person behind the website. This increases trust and allows you to create new projects that aren’t locked in to just one stale brand name.
14. Diversification of income will be key
This is another one of those tips that have been around for a while but become more and more relevant with every passing year.
If you start a blog in 2014 you should expect your income streams to change. That can be a really scary thing if you aren’t prepared.
For example, if you rely on Google Adwords from organic search traffic and your blog suddenly get’s pinged in some update you might wind up with zero income for a while. The same goes with an affiliate product that you might be promoting with natural traffic vs paid traffic. That can dry up in an instant.
Try to think about diversifying your income streams so that you aren’t up the creek should one dry up. The best bet is a strong mailing list that you can use to launch your own products and affiliate promotions.
15. Buying blogs will get more popular
Flippa is already killing it. But in 2014 I think they will kill it even more (not sure what that means) because more and more people are going to be buying blogs to skip the initial stages of a blog’s life.
You see, when you first start a blog you have to do a lot of groundwork that takes time. Research, pillar articles, networking, logo creation, social media accounts set up, etc. It is a very time consuming process.
So what I’ve noticed is that a lot of people are skipping all this and buying blogs that are already pretty well established. I saw a four-month-old blog sell for $120,000 the other day.
This is not a bad strategy if you want to get straight in to things and you have a few thousand to spare. There is, however, a LOT to consider before you buy a blog so please do not rush into it. If you’d like to learn more about this idea please leave a comment and I’ll consider doing an article on it.
16. You’ll need to start planning for 2015
I’ve always tried to emphasize the idea that you need to have short term and long term projects on the go.
It’s a terrible feeling being a self-employed and realizing that you’ve spent so much time working on a long term project that you have no short term money coming in to pay the bills.
Similarly, it’s an even worse feeling realizing that you spent so much time working on paying the bills that you’ve forgotten to launch those long term projects that are your main source of passion/interest.
So one thing I wanted to tell you about blogging in 2014 is that you really want to start thinking about blogging in 2015. That means planning, researching and developing ideas now instead of later.
Keep working on the short term stuff but make sure your long term stuff still happens.
17. SEO will change (but not really)
I’m a little bit over SEO. I don’t have the patience required to be any good at all the little things that make a difference.
But something I’ve been noticing is that blogging SEO is changing, but only in some ways. It’s almost like a car in that the design, colors and minor features change each year but the core remains the same. In this case the core is back links and the features are things like freshness, authorship and so on.
The best ranking sites are still the ones with back links. I was going to write “the BEST back links” but decided against it as there are a bunch of blogs in my niche that rank with a huge volume of crappy back links.
A screenshot of a blog in my niche that has around 70,000 back links since July 2013 and is ranking number one for some really competitive terms. Legit?
The key here is to know your limits and know your niche. If you have a niche where the rankings are dominated by fresh results then you need to start working on getting fresh content, and so on. You don’t want to be throwing thousands of dubious links at your main blog if you don’t know what you’re doing.
The major thing to remember here, however, is that 2014 will see more competition for organic links because more and more people are moving away from the old “link building” methods of the past in favor of a “quality content” approach to SEO. To get those back links you’re going to have to get noticed first.
18. Tumblr, Ghost and Medium will teach us things
At the very top of this blog post on the things you need to know to start a blog in 2014 I mentioned that I still think a self-hosted WordPress blog is the best bet for serious, professional bloggers.
Well, that doesn’t mean that we should totally ignore the other platforms.
I’m not saying that you need to go out and sign up for everything else right now, but I am saying that we should learn a few things from the new kids on the block like Tumblr, Ghost and Medium which are innovative, sexy and coming up with some really big wins.
Take the Tumblr “Follow” button that slides out of the right hand corner as you scroll down the page. That feature is very hard to ignore and has played a big part in Tumblr being so “viral” amongst users of that platform. It has since been copied by a lot of non-Tumblr bloggers who have found it converts quite well.
One of the main lessons I think these new platforms are teaching us is that people want simplicity. Simplicity of design and layout, and simplicity of subscription and updates.
I’m going to be keeping an eye on these types of blogs in 2014 to see what they do to get even bigger. I might even muck around with a few to see if I can adopt any features over here.
19. I, personally, will not be waiting around
This last point is more of a personal goal/ambition for any new blogs that I start in 2014, as well as the current blogs that I run.
For me, 2014 is going to be about putting things out there and not waiting.
I have a tendency to want things to be perfect; launch dates, syncing of projects, image design, article structure, etc. Well, I think that has resulted in a lot of lost opportunities for me because instead of getting things out there I’m mucking around behind the scenes on issues that only I care about.
So, my mantra is going to be something like this:
Don’t spend 95% of your time tweaking the last 5% of your projects. – Click to Tweet this.
I’m sure a lot of people will argue that it is that 5% that makes the difference but I’m not so sure anymore. Be prepared to see a lot more stuff from me in 2014 and expect it to be only half-polished.
Calling out for prediction posts…
Okay, so I thought I’d try something a little bit different here and call out a few people that I’d love to hear from on this topic.
If you’d like to hear from them as well perhaps shoot them a Tweet and let them know about it. I’ve made their names link to their Twitter accounts for ease.
- Chris Ducker – Outsourcing, virtual assistants and owning web companies.
- Rand Fishkin – Search Engine Optimization, people management (he’s good at that) and/or start ups.
- Brian Clark – Copywriting and product development in a 2014 digital environment.
- James Chartrand – Blog design and branding (she’s just done a big new design herself).
- Pat Flynn – Podcasting and managing the idea of “being everywhere”.
- Amy Porterfield – Facebook and social media strategy in general. Always has cool things to say.
It would be really cool to see a post from one or more of these internet-giants about what they think 2014 will bring for their area of expertise.
What else do you need to know to start a blog?
I’d really like to know what you guys think about starting (or running) a blog this year. Do you think there will be any big changes? Do you disagree with any of the points I’ve made above? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think the year ahead has in store for blogs and blogging.