Want to start a blog in 2015? You might like to read this first…
At the end of last year I did a post about the things you’d need to know before starting a blog in the year to come. It was a lot of fun predicting what I thought the next 12 months would look like for bloggers.
So, I thought we’d make it a bit of an annual tradition – this year involving freebies, rewards and encouragement for bloggers who want to make 2015 awesome.
Here are the 15 things I think you need to know before you go and start a blog in 2015. If you already have a blog, make sure you still see whether you can make any big changes.
NOTE: This post contains some affiliate links which means I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase a product through one of my links. Feel free not to click them if this bothers you – otherwise thank you for your support!
15 predictions to read before you start a blog in 2015
Okay so let’s get into the juicy stuff.
As always, if you think I’ve missed anything important or gotten something wrong please leave a comment at the end and set me straight. I always learn a lot when you leave comments so feel free to go nuts!
Oh, and I decided not to read back on last year’s predictions in order to see whether things have changed. Some things never change in blogging, others change a lot.
1. You still can’t beat a .com and WordPress setup
If you’re new to blogging or want to start a new blog this is the most important place to begin.
Recently my buddy John asked me on Facebook whether or not it was necessary to have a .com with all these new domain name extensions coming out (you can get .guru now, for example).
My answer was simple – you still need a .com and self hosted blog if you want to rank.
But it’s not only that, WordPress is still the most popular blogging software in the world and lot of it comes back to the sheer flexibility and all the customizations that you can make. Thousands of free plugins, themes and options.
It’s a beautifully simple platform that beginners can use right away, and it’s a powerful monster that the world’s biggest websites use to cater to their needs. So we can grow and change with it.
Check out the rest of this massive infographic on how to start a blog that I’ve posted to Pinterest. Everyone loves Pinterest, right?
If you’re thinking about starting a blog then check out my blog hosting review or this ultimate guide on how to start a blog as they will give you some important details on why I’m still recommending that people avoid free hosting setups.
I recommend BlueHost for all new bloggers (get a year free domain name registration when you buy a hosting package). This tutorial will take you through the setup process – step by step. It should take around 10 minutes to get completely set up!
2. Speed will become even more critical
A few of the predictions in this post are going to be about blogging SEO because it is still our biggest source of traffic. It’s important to know that when you start a blog.
A quick loading website has always been important. Even a second or two of lag can cost your business thousands of dollars. So how can you speed things up?
- Consider a VPS server
A quality VPS server will always speed up your website. It’s slightly more expensive than shared hosting but the benefits are huge if your website is starting to get a lot of traffic. I’ve used KnownHost (aff) on a few projects for years now and their support and uptime is the best I’ve ever experienced.
- Learn how to shrink stuff
Photos, images, graphics, CSS, themes… all of these things should be as small as possible. Every byte that you can save will reduce your loading time. Check out this post on WordPress speed for more ideas.
- Find a good caching solution
Caching is where your server stores a version of your blog and displays that instead of calling the server to load a new version every time someone visits. These can be complicated to implement but can make a huge difference.
And as people get more and more familiar with the net and internet download speeds get better, we are going to see speed become even more critical because people simply won’t wait around for your slow blog.
Most importantly, a fast loading site is now a major indicator for Google rankings. If you want to get to the top of those results you really need to make sure you’re site is loading quicker than 1.5 seconds.
3. Link building for SEO will take a new direction
While we are talking about SEO it’s a good idea to mention link building – the bread and butter of any blogging SEO work.
Last year we saw a lot of interesting things happen in the SEO world – Glen from ViperChill made some big waves – and a lot of people made a lot of money. I asked one of the world’s top SEO gurus to weigh in on this:
In 2015, one of my weirdest predictions for SEO is that practitioners will mostly stop spending money directly on links (a longtime practice that, even though Google’s despised and prohibited in their TOS, continues) and start spending that money on advertising that leads to links. This will be enabled by the growth of native advertising, content syndication networks, and increasingly sophisticated targeting. – Rand Fishkin, Moz.
This is a really important prediction, in my opinion, because it indicates that bloggers and online marketers will need to be more creative about how they do their SEO work. Some of the old stuff will work, but there is a lot more going on now.
4. Guest posting will work just as well as ever
Recently there has been a lot of talk about guest posting being dead after Google’s Matt Cutts declared that the links weren’t so good for SEO more.
Guest posting will still work just as well as it ever has. And if you are about to start a blog it is vital that you know that guest posting is still one of the absolute best ways to get your name out there and grow traffic.
In fact, if you can, it’s a good idea to do two or three guest posts for every article that you post on your own blog. The more you can get out there the more subscribers, traffic and fans you’ll get.
So what should you look out for?
- Don’t overdo the anchor text
Please don’t make all your links in your guest posts rich anchor text that go back to your blog. That’s a good way to let Google know that they aren’t natural.
- Don’t blog on dodgy sites
Make sure you’re only putting your content up on websites and blogs that are high quality with a good community going on. If every post is a guest post it’s probably not going to be that beneficial.
- Think long term
You want your guest posts to rank forever. You usually do them on high authority sites. That means make it damn good and make sure it fits into your blogs long term strategy.
In the end the best guest posting situation is where you build a real friendship with another blog owner and collaborate and work together over the years. Chris Ducker and Pat Flynn do this extremely well and are a good example for us all.
5. Google+ will lose popularity
Google was pushing Google+ really hard for a while (you can find me here). You needed a Google+ account to do practically anything on Google, and old YouTube accounts had to be brought over to some form of G+ account.
It was frustrating for a lot of people.
And while I still really like Google+ and feel like it can be extremely useful, when Google took authorship photos out of search results I began to get the feeling that maybe this social network was losing its juice.
This leads me to my next point.
6. Owning your assets will remain integral, but might be harder
A few years ago people told me to remove my comments and use Facebook comments instead.
Then last year everyone was saying that I should do it with Google+ comments because it would drive more traffic now that G+ was getting so big.
To be honest, I always feel like it’s a mistake to take something that you own and that is present on your website and put it on some other company’s platform.
But sometimes it’s hard, as my friend Kristi told me:
In 2015, I predict that more blogs will follow the trend of sites like Copyblogger and shut down their comments. The fact is that no matter how many spam guards you put up, moderating comments can take a huge amount of time that could be spent crafting quality content. It’s not bad if you have a smaller blog or you have the ability to hire someone (I have a VA moderating mine). But for everyone else, it can be a huge hassle.
Closing comments is not that simple though. Many blogs will notice a drop in traffic, as people will not have a reason to come to your website other than to read your articles, which they can do in their RSS reader. The calls to action at the end of posts will suffer as well if no one has to scroll by them to get to the discussion. And blog owners will have to field comments across multiple platforms that would have normally been appended to the blog posts themselves. – Kristi Hines, Freelance Writer.
Kristi is an absolute gun when it comes to different social networking platforms – you can see her everywhere – and she is 100% right about this. Think carefully before removing comment threads – especially if you have a hint that the alternative might not be a relevant/helpful platform for your blog’s niche.
7. People will gather around a few big sites
One of the trends that I’ve been noticing that I think will continue in 2015 is that people will continue to gather around a few big blogs.
In the old days it felt like things were more ‘spread out’. Now, however, I think people are more likely to gather around one or two communities that they really love.
Steve Kamb is the owner of Nerd Fitness and one of the most amazing communities online that has now gone offline too.
For example, Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness has a wonderful website, membership site and forum that gives readers everything they could possibly need. His fans are massively loyal and really don’t have any need to go around and look at other bodybuilding or fitness sites. Take a look at what they’re doing now!
While this isn’t going to apply for everyone, I do think it’s a good reason to keep trying to build up a community around quality content and a solid mailing list.
And that leads me to my next point.
8. Email will still be the best place to connect (and sell)
Blogs are great.
Emailing is even better.
Combine those two platforms by getting more email subscribers from a quality blog and you are on to a winner.
If someone gives you their email address is means that they want to hear from you, and if you send good stuff to them they will share it, promote it, and eventually buy whatever it is that you’re selling.
And the great thing about email marketing is that the same stuff is working today as what worked a few years ago. If you are going to start a blog in 2015 I’d highly recommend you also:
- Sign up to a service like AWeber
I’ve been using AWeber for ages now but there are others out there like Get Response and Mail Chimp. This is where you store your email subscribers and send out newsletters and analyze your stats.
- Create a free eBook and give it away for free
Bloggers have been doing this for ages. It’s called a lead magnet. Basically you are offering a free giveaway to everyone who signs up to your mailing list. Here is how I automatically send a free eBook to all new subscribers.
- Regularly send your list high quality, targeted stuff
Then you want to send your list high quality material that provides huge benefits and solves a lot of their problems. Make sure it’s targeted to your niche and always on-message and you’ll slowly develop a loyal following.
One thing to note is that bloggers usually hate selling. But it’s okay. We all need to make money and as long as you’re providing value there is nothing wrong with it. I hope that in 2015 more bloggers will become comfortable with promoting their own products.
9. You’ll need to get good at the business of blogging… to ignore it
A few weeks ago I published an article called Why You’re Not a Writer.
This talked about how we bloggers sometimes get swamped with all the other tasks that have to happen when you run a blog.
I’m talking about SEO work, networking, record keeping, server admin, content writing, image editing… the list is endless.
But if you really want to run a successful blog you need to find what you’re good at and focus in on that. If you’re a writer then you need to writer. If you’re an entrepreneur then you need to work on new ideas.
10. Mobile responsive themes are no longer optional
If you do a Google search on your smart phone now you’ll see the following little bit of helpful text:
What this means is that Google is now prioritising mobile responsive sites over websites that are just built for desktop computers and laptops.
If you are going to start a blog then you really want to make sure that you pick a mobile responsive theme straight out of the gate.
The good news is that the new default theme for WordPress is absolutely beautiful, simple to use and looks fantastic on mobiles. If you’d like to browse through a few other themes you can check out this post on the best WordPress responsive themes or check out the awesomeness over at StudioPress (aff).
11. Data, research and stats will become simpler and more integral
One of the best things new bloggers can do early on is become familiar with a service like SEMRush which does a full analysis on things like your competitions backlinks, their best advertising methods and so on.
This data is so valuable.
I’ll be giving away two free PRO accounts for one year (valued at $69 per month). See above.
The reason I wanted to include this in my predictions post is because I now feel like blogging has become more professional than ever. And when you use data and research what you are essentially doing is taking away the guess work from your outcomes.
At a minimum you want to have a good analytics package like Clicky installed on your blog so you can see where you traffic is coming from and how it behaves.
I ignored this stuff for a long time (I hate maths…) and I feel like it really set me back. For anyone that wants to start a blog I now rate this as one of the most important things you can get good at.
12. You’ll need something more unique than a ‘membership site’
If you’re new to blogging you’ll soon stumble upon a membership site.
This is basically where a blogger creates a premium backend than you have to pay to access.
These membership sites have been doing really well for bloggers for a few years now, but lately I’ve been hearing that some people are struggling to sell tickets.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the model is no longer working. It just means that you need to try and find some new ways to be distinctive if you want to make money with this method.
As with all things on the net, once people have seen a lot of it they start to get skeptical and a bit bored.
13. As data speeds improve, video and audio will get bigger
Two years I hardly got any traffic from India – 95% of it came from the USA.
This year India is my second biggest source and it has nothing to do with my content targeting that country – it’s because of data speeds.
While I was there this year I noticed that so many more places had cable and the mobile data packs were much more affordable and accessible.
This is a global phenomena. It’s incredible.
And as our net gets better around the world you’re going to see more and more people streaming videos on their phones, and listening to podcasts on the go.
To capitalize on this you’ll want to shoot more video content and have specially branded logos and introductions that help to separate you from the rest. Splasheo is the company I used for my video intro, and they agreed to give away two free intros as part of this post’s freebies.
Please get started on alternative content forms as early as you can.
14. You’ll want advice from a few choice experts
In fact, I am currently only subscribed by email to exactly three bloggers.
But if you are about to start a blog there are a few people that I highly recommend you read for at least your first year. These guys and girls are absolutely brilliant at their chosen niches and have proven themselves trustworthy over a long period of time.
- Blogging and entrepreneurship
When it comes to this stuff the main people to read are Neil Patel, Pat Flynn and Jeff Goins. Transparent articles with a lot of personal experience backing them.
- Copywriting and conversions
If you want to learn how to write good text you need Copyblogger. If you want to learn how to make more sales then check out Social Triggers.
All you need is a balance between Rand’s White Board Fridays and Glen’s brilliant Google experiments. Also make yourself familiar with Google’s guidelines.
- Staying sane
Working for yourself is hard. I highly recommend you stop in for a bit of Zen Habits every now and then to make sure you are being healthy. Leo knows his stuff.
I actually also think this point (and the point about communities) applies to news and information sites. For example, as news gets trashier and more centered around ripping stories off the front page of Reddit, I think quality content operations like the New York Times, The New Yorker and WIRED will really take off.
15. Personalization will become the new professionalism
A few years ago everyone wanted to look like a big professional company.
Fancy websites, photos, graphics – it all needed to look big-budget.
But lately I’ve been noticing that a lot of people have been going back the other way. It seems like amongst all the corporate staleness people are becoming more interested in the small, personal experience.
What this means for those of us who have blogs or want to start a blog is that it’s really important to be professional but also personal. Include photos of yourself, stories and other unique things on your blog. Make a human connection.
To be honest, I think this makes for a lot better writing anyway.
So what’s happening on Blog Tyrant in 2015?
A few months ago I found myself sitting at my keyboard with tears in my eyes as I read a comment that a man named Paul had left on my site.
Every now and then something like this happens to remind you that the work you do has a real and perhaps important impact on a real-life human being out there. And boy does it put a fire under my butt.
In 2015 I’m going to be doubling down on the Blog Tyrant brand by carrying out more experiments, making more connections and sharing as much useful information with you as I can. I’m going to remind myself that over 100,000 people read this blog every month and so I better take that as seriously as it deserves.
If there’s anything I can do for you or write about please tell me.
What should people know before they start a blog in 2015? Let us know…
Do you have any tips or thoughts on what might be going on with blogs and bloggers in 2015? I’d be really interested to hear whether you disagree with anything in this post, or if you think I might have missed out on anything important. Leave me a comment.
Remember, if you want to go into the draw to get one of those freebies please share this post on social media or on your blog and leave me a comment below about which thing you’d prefer if you’re randomly selected.