I’m regularly asked this question by PreBloggers: “How much work should I do on my blog before I launch it?”
- How many posts should it already have live?
- How many posts should I have in reserve and ready to go?
- Should I have a customized or premium theme, or just start with a default one?
- Should I invest in a logo before I launch?
The list of questions goes on, but they all boil down to the same thing: how complete should a blog be before it’s launched?
Some spent considerable time (and money) in preparing for their launch, while others launch very much “on the fly,” and made improvements as they went.
Do what I say … not as I do
I remember writing a post on this at some point in the past, and creating a list of important things to do before launching a blog. However the reality is that with the blog I launched after writing that post, I managed to do almost the exact opposite—I launched it almost completely on the fly.
I guess there’s an “ideal” launch scenario, and then there’s the reality. The ideal is to give your next blog launch careful consideration and plan out a great strategy. The reality is that when you’re launching a new blog, you’re often really excited about it and want to get it out quick while you have momentum and energy.
The other element of this is that sometimes the strategy and planning can almost kill the idea. As Shareef Jackson called it on Google+, “analysis paralysis” can kick in.
Here’s what I’d aim for (the “ideal” blog launch)
So with the admission that I don’t always put a heap of planning and strategy into the launch of a new blog, here’s what I “ideally” would aim for when launching a new blog. I’ll attempt to note the importance of each point.
Brainstorm post topics
I think this one is really important—essential, even. I would generally do a brainstorming exercise before I even commit to the idea of starting a blog to see if the topic is a viable one. If I can’t come up with a list of 20 or so post topics in a five- or ten-minute brainstorm, that indicates to me that it’s just not a blog topic that will be sustainable.
Having a list of brainstormed post topics is also so helpful after you’ve launched because finding a topic to write about is often the big stumbling block for many bloggers, and leads to the dreaded “bloggers block.”
Write ten blog posts (three published and seven drafts)
I really like to have at least a few posts already published before I launch.
Some bloggers like to have more than three (when I was working with b5media we used to have ten already published), while others think that one published post is enough. My theory is that if you at least have a few published posts, you’re showcasing the type of content that you’ll be publishing in future to those first readers who come to check you out.
These posts should be typical of the types of posts you’re going to be writing in the future in terms of topic and style. Evergreen content is good too, as it’s this content that will be useful to people today but also in months and years to come (some call this “cornerstone” content).
Also I think it’s important to at least have a few posts written up as drafts that you’ll be able to roll out in the first week or so of your blog. Having some in reserve to draw on in this way is good because it gives you a little more time in that important first week or so to do other activities like promote your blog, write guest posts on other sites, and so on.
Have a unique(ish) design
There’s a variety of approaches that you can take with design.
At one end of the spectrum, you can go with the free, default template that comes with your blogging platform.
At the other end is a custom design, where you get a designer to come up with something completely unique for you (though of course this can be expensive).
In the middle is the use of a premium theme: you pay a smaller amount for a design that is professionally designed, and customizable but not completely unique.
I have tried all three approaches with my own blogs over the years.
Ideally, I would love to advise a custom design for your new blog, but the reality is that most of us don’t have the budget for this for a brand new blog—particularly when you’re sometimes not even sure if the blog will be something that works out in the long term.
As a result, I tend to advise people to look at the premium theme option, but to customize it where they can by tweaking the colors, layout, and even adding a unique logo.
As someone who is “design-challenged” myself, I know that this can be a little daunting. You might like to have a go at it yourself, or perhaps engage the services of someone to help you get set up.
Don’t worry if the design isn’t perfect when you start—while your design does create an impression, you can always put more time and resources into improving it later. All of my blogs have evolved in their designs over time, and most started with what I considered to be temporary designs.
Set up an email newsletter
Today my biggest source of traffic and income generation on my photography blog is the emails that we send to our community. Fortunately, on that blog I began gathering email addresses of readers from day one. However on other blogs, I’ve not set newsletters up until much later. In doing so, I feel like those blogs could have been much bigger if I’d taken that step earlier.
I’ve written extensively on the why and how I use email newsletters here, so won’t rehash it all except to say that setting this up would be on my list of new blog essentials.
Set up social outposts
High on my list of priorities for a new blog would also be setting up social media outposts.
My approach to social media as it relates to my blogs is that my blog is my home base, and around it I try to set up outposts, which are places where I have a presence as a way of supporting my home base. I’ve written more on home bases and outposts here.
The outposts will vary from blog to blog, depending upon who I am trying to reach and what social media networks they use, but in many cases this would be about setting up a Twitter account, Facebook page, LinkedIn Group, Youtube Page, and so on.
I may not be highly active from day one on these accounts, but at least reserving an account and promoting it a little when I am active can pay off if I do it early on.
What would you add?
What do you like to have done before you launch a new blog? I’d love to hear your own suggestions and stories below.