Launching a successful blog takes a lot of work. There are so many articles and blog posts out there that say that you can set up your own blog “in just minutes.” But the truth is, there is a lot that needs to be done before launching a blog and it takes a lot of time, especially if you’re hoping to make money. The good news is, it’s all completely doable (even if you have no experience)!
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Before launching my blog, I kept a done list of everything that I did for my blog to get it to where it needed to be. I’ve decided to share that list to give you an idea of all that goes into launching a blog and, hopefully, help you catch anything you might have missed while setting up your own blog.
If you’d like to know more about any of these, I’d be happy to answer your questions. They are all things that I’ve done successfully, so I can definitely help you do them, too. Seriously… shoot me an email.
What I Did Before Launching a Blog
1. Write out your why
First things first, if you’re going to start a blog, you need to know why you’re doing it. This is what will keep you going when you get to #26 on this list and you just don’t want to do it anymore. Your “why” is the foundation of your blog and, in large part, determines what your blog ends up being.
2. Research other blogs
If you haven’t already, take a look at some other blogs. Decide what you like and what you don’t like about them. Look at their niches and categories and get a sense of what’s working for them. Chances are, if it’s working for them, it will work for you, too. As you look through other blogs, start to dream about your own blog and what it will look like.
3. Decide on a niche and categories
You’ll need to narrow your blog down to one topic (or a few topics); this is called your niche. Once you’ve settled on a niche, you’ll want to decide on some of the more specific categories you’ll write about. For example, my niche is lifestyle design, but within that niche I have three main categories: personal growth, productivity, and financial freedom.
4. Write a description of your ideal reader
Knowing who you’re actually writing for will help you establish a consistent style and brand. If your ideal reader is a 30-year-old mom, your posts will have a different focus than if your ideal reader is a 19-year-old college student. When you write your posts, think about your ideal reader and write the post for them.
5. Write your blog’s elevator pitch
Once you’ve decided on a niche and an ideal reader, you should have a pretty solid idea of what your blog is about. Try writing an elevator pitch for your blog that you’ll be able to use to tell people about your site when they ask. Being able to explain your blog in just a couple sentences will help you clarify for yourself what it’s about.
6. Decide on a monetization strategy
While your monetization strategy may change, you’ll want to at least have an idea of how you’re going to make money with your blog. There are four main ways to make money with a blog:
- Affiliate marketing
- Sponsored posts
- Your own products
7. Create blog goals
Do a little research to figure out what goals are realistic for the first few months of blogging and then set your own. Your goals can focus on a number of different things, such as content, traffic, monetization, etc.
8. Write 20 sample headlines
Before you get too far in the process or spend any money on your blog, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ll actually have something to write about. Take some time to write out 20 potential blog post headlines. If you can easily think of 20, you’ll know that you’re not going to get to week 5 of blogging and have nothing to write about.
9. Write at least 3 posts for each category
Now that you have some ideas, you’ll want to work on the actual content. I’d suggest that you launch your blog with no less than 3 posts in each category. Again, you may want to do this before you spend any money on hosting or whatnot so that you feel confident about actually being able to sustain a blog.
10. Create a brand/style guide
It’s important to know your brand’s style from the beginning. Decide what you want your blog to look like and pick one or two fonts and colors. You may also want to make some decisions about your style of writing/voice.
11. Create a logo
This is a fun one! I’d suggest using a free tool like Canva to design your own logo. You can always pay someone to create a more professional logo for you later. For now, stick to your own creativity and design your own. I had a blast designing mine and am actually really proud of the outcome.
12. Buy domain and hosting
Hosting is the only expense you need to start a blog. The only money I’ve spent on Jamimico so far is what I paid for hosting with Bluehost. Don’t worry, it’s super easy to set up. If you haven’t purchased your domain and hosting yet, you can sign up through my link and get a free domain. (Hint: This post shares a secret tip for getting the hosting even cheaper.)
13. Install WordPress
Once you’ve purchased hosting, you’ll need to install WordPress. It’s a super simple process and Bluehost will walk you through it. No coding experience needed!
14. Choose a WordPress theme
So many people say not to use a free theme, but I think it’s a great option if you’re just starting out. There are thousands of free themes to choose from. Just be careful to pick a theme with two things: (1) support, in case you get stuck and (2) a paid version, chances are you’ll want to upgrade at some point.
15. Set up an email account with your domain
Bluehost comes with one email address with your domain. You’ll need to set it up on an email platform in order to access your emails. I have Outlook on my computer already, so that’s what I used, but there are a lot of email platforms that will work. (Update: You can also pay a small amount to use Google for your email; I switched to this after a little while.)
16. Set up social media accounts
Decide which social media platforms you’ll be active on and then set up your accounts. I’d recommend using at least Pinterest and one other to start. I started with just Pinterest but have since added Instagram.
17. Set up email list management account
You’ll need to pick an email management platform for contacting your email list. I originally started out with MailChimp, but quickly discovered its limitations. I now pay for ConvertKit and it is soooo worth it! In my very first month using ConvertKit, I nearly doubled my number of subscribers! (Update: ConvertKit now offers a free plan for new users. Definitely worth checking out!)
18. Create welcome email for new subscribers
Once you’ve chosen and set up your email list management platform, work on setting up a welcome email for new subscribers. Most email platforms give you the ability to automate emails, so your subscribers will automatically be sent the welcome email you create when they sign up.
19. Set up “Coming Soon” page with email opt-in
You may want to work on this one before setting up your social media accounts so that people have somewhere to go if they click on your blog link. On this page, you should include an email opt-in form and consider adding an opt-in freebie to encourage people to subscribe. If you can get people to sign up for your email list before you launch your blog, when it comes time to launch, your blog will hit the ground running.
20. Learn how to use Google Analytics
Set up a Google Analytics account and explore it a little. If you’ve been driving traffic to your “Coming Soon” page through social media, you may begin to see some pageviews. Otherwise, you’ll need to wait until your blog launch to actually see results.
21. Analyze competitor’s keywords
Now’s a good time to go back through some blogs that you like and analyze their keywords. You can do this by simply going to the blog and looking around, or you can use a site like Google’s Keyword Planner to find keywords that might be a good fit for your blog.
22. Install an SEO plugin
This is a must. I highly recommend Yoast SEO. It’s free and has been a game-changer for me. Believe me, it will tell you so many things about your blog’s SEO that you would have never figured out on your own.
23. Install other plugins (related posts, opt-in forms, etc.)
While I don’t recommend installing too many plugins (they’ll slow down your site), there are a few that you’ll probably find helpful, such as plugins for related posts, opt-in forms, back-ups, etc.
24. Create categories in WordPress
As part of setting up your blog, you’ll need to take the categories you decided on in #3 and set them up in WordPress. This is fairly easy. One thing to note is that you can set up categories in the “Customize” page, but they won’t translate to the rest of WordPress until you select “Publish” on the “Customize” page. This was so confusing to me at first.
25. Set up menu in WordPress
Setting up your blog’s menu goes hand in hand with creating categories. Once you’ve created the categories, you’ll want to set up the menu on your blog. There are many ways you can do this, so look at other blogs and decide what style fits your blog best.
26. Format posts in WordPress
Now that you have your blog posts written and your blog categories and menu solidified, you should take some time to format your blog posts in WordPress. When you first do this, you may want to play around with the placement of photos, disclaimers, opt-in forms, etc. The way you style your blog posts will likely change as you figure out what works best, but it’s good to have one general format at the start.
27. Decide what your permalink structure will be
This is a little detail that many new bloggers don’t think about. Permalinks are the URL for a specific page or post. For example, the permalink for my last income report is: https://jamimico.com/july-2018-income-report/. You should pick a certain layout for your permalinks before publishing any posts, since it’s difficult to change them after the post has been published. Some bloggers include the category or date in their permalinks, but I would recommend keeping it simple with only the blog post title (or a portion of it).
28. Add metadata for each post
Adding metada is super simple with the Yoast SEO plugin. The plugin will provide a space at the bottom of each blog post to add a meta description, which is what will appear under the page in Google and under each pin on Pinterest (if you’ve set up Rich Pins). This description is part of SEO and helps Google understand what your blog post is about, so be sure to include keywords!
29. Add links (internal and external) to each post
Linking internally plays a huge part in decreasing your bounce rate and encouraging readers to keep reading. Linking externally will boost your blog’s SEO rating by connecting your site with site’s that are already doing well. In both cases, natural links are best.
30. Create a collection of images
You’ll need some images for your blog posts and pins. You can take these photos yourself or you can get them from sites that offer free stock photos. I’m a fan of Pexels and Ivory Mix. Ivory Mix is a paid site, but, if you sign up for their newsletter, they’ll send you a few free photos each month and you can access a library of all the free photos that have been sent in the past.
31. Create at least two pins for each post
So far, Pinterest has been responsible for basically 100% of my blog traffic. I love Pinterest! Before you launch, try to create two different pin styles and then create one pin for each post in each style.
32. Write an “About” page
People who like your blog will immediately look for your about page. If they like it, they’ll stay (and maybe sign up for your email list). Trust me, people will look at your about page. It is massively important, so take the time to make it good. Honestly, I think mine needs some work (I’m gettin’ to it… so many things to do!).
33. Write a “Contact” page
While your contact page won’t be visited nearly as often as your about page, it’s likely that someone will want to contact you, so you need to have it. The only thing you need to include here is your email address (or an email form), but some bloggers also choose to add their social media information.
34. Create disclosure and privacy policies
35. Add copyright to the footer
All WordPress themes are a little different, but, for my theme, I was able to add a copyright via the “Customize” screen. Regardless of whether or not a copyright is on your blog, your writing is automatically copyrighted, but I think the copyright serves as extra legal protection.
36. Add social media links to the blog
Your blog’s theme may have a built-in space for social media links. You can also use various plugins to customize the placement and look of social media icons. I, personally, don’t like to clutter my blog, so the only social media links on Jamimico are Pinterest icons that appear when you hover over each image.
37. Check mobile friendliness
Now that you have your blog set up, you’ll want to look at it from the perspective of a reader. Log out of WordPress and try viewing the site on your phone. Most themes now are already set up to be mobile friendly, but there may be some little things here and there that you want to change.
38. View the site in different browsers
You’ll also want to check the site in different browsers to make sure that the browser doesn’t affect the appearance of your blog. Just because it looks nice in one browser, doesn’t necessarily mean it looks the same in other browsers.
39. Create a content schedule
It’s helpful to have at least a couple blog posts waiting to be published at the time you launch your blog. But even if you decide to publish all of your posts on the day you launch, you’ll want to have some idea of what you’re posting next and when. Creating a content schedule will give you a more strategic setup and increase your ability to make money with your blog early on.
40. Launch the blog!
This is it! Once you’ve completed everything on this list, it’s time to launch. I can’t wait to see the blog you create!
One Last Note
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, I can’t tell you enough how rewarding it is! My blogging journey so far has been one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. If you decide to start your own blog, you’ll be able to create something that’s all yours, while making a little money along the way.
While launching a blog isn’t easy or quick, by any means, it is incredibly fun and rewarding. If you want to learn more about my blogging journey, you can check out my income reports or email me your questions. I’d love to connect with other new bloggers!