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When Should You Launch Your New Blog? [Complete or On the Go?]

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?

Launch day

Image copyright Byron Moore - Fotolia.com

There’s no real right or wrong answer to this question. I asked my followers on Google+ about how they launched their blogs recently and the array of responses was huge.

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.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Thanks Darren for this useful post.

    I’m planning to launch a new blog soon, and this post helps me to put focus and correct vision for the blog.

  2. Dave Rowley says:

    I like the your 10 posts idea–3 published and 7 drafts. I just went with my first post when I started my blog and really struggled to get early posts out, partly because I was trying to work out what my blog was about as well as writing posts. I would also add Google+ as an essential Social Outpost–it seems to boost google rankings for my blog. Great post!

  3. You’re generous. I’m in the process of starting a new blog; it’ll be my third and I’m determined to do this one right!

    I created a list of topics I’m passionate about.
    I narrowed down the focus – determined what my goals are then started researching keywords using Market Samurai; I’ve already purchased 2 domains and I have a list of blog names.
    I’ve drafted 30 articles – that’s overkill, I know, but I work full time and manage two other blogs so I wanted to get this one as ready as possible.
    I chose/purchased my theme and I’m working with a designer on the logo.
    Now I’m just putting together all of the extra code that I’ll need to make the site mine.

    I’ll be launching sometime in January and I plan to be ready.

    We’ll see.

  4. Tim Huntley says:

    Darren,

    One thing that I did was augment my initial bank of blog posts (about 10 like you suggest above) with a few guest posts from several “heavy hitters” in my niche. These weren’t guest posts that were written uniquely for my site, but were dusted off content that I was able to repurpose with no additional work for the original author. However they were happy to give me a boost not only with the content, but with a nod on their social media channels the day I published their post. That endorsement gave me a nice boost and transferred some trust.

    …Tim

  5. Rishi Patel says:

    Great post Darren! I think that both approaches have their merits. Those who are new to blogging should definitely take the time to create a strategy and a stockpile of posts though.

    When I first starting blogging for my business, it was close to impossible for me to keep up with even just a post a week. I wish I’d read the “Why You Should Write 20 Posts Before You Launch Your Blog” post by Aman Basanti before I started! Even a few months later, I’m barely getting to the point that I have a few future posts ready to go. I feel that I would produce much better content if I didn’t have the pressure of a looming deadline.

    Regarding the custom design, I think that is essential for a business blog. If it doesn’t feel like it’s a part of the business’ website, it simply won’t establish that link between the brand and the content. Personal bloggers can get away with a premium theme to start with, but should ideally get a custom design when they have a following.

    Thanks again for another great post!

  6. Bryan says:

    Whether or not you’re a first time blogger is an important factor in deciding when to launch. When you’re new to blogging, there are so many things to learn that you’re more likely to suffer “analysis paralysis” (at least I did). I think it’s better to accept that you won’t get all your “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed, and just start blogging.

    However, if you’re starting a second or third blog, I’ll bet that many of the things that took a lot of thought and effort on your first blog are now reflexive. You can now devote more time and energy to planning and implementation, launch a more highly developed blog in a shorter time span, and hit the ground running.

    That’s my best guess, anyway. I’m still less than four months into my first blog ;-)

  7. Excellent tips. It’s so hard, and intimidating, launching something new and putting yourself out there. A guide like this really helps.

    http://www.thegirlieblog.com

  8. I’d add two things:

    1. Think very carefully about your audience. Who do you target and why would they be interested in you. If you’re unable to be interesting to them, your blog will fade away.

    2. What’s your story. What are you and your blog about. How would you describe the blog in 10 or fewer words. This will keep you focused.

    I decided to launch before having a single post published. Now, after a couple of months, I think it might have been a mistake. There’s potential in the launch and you can never get the same effect by doing a re-launch.

    If I do start a new blog in the future I’ll take it easier and plan ahead.

  9. Farhan Syed says:

    Setting up a newsletter costs around 20$ per month. I’ve seen Leo Babuta of Zen Habits say that he only invested that money in his blog which he earned from it.

    Buying a domain name, buying a webhost and buying an email newsletter service – don’t you think that together they will cost a lot?

  10. Jeanne Pi says:

    Having just launched a brand new site, I can totally relate.

    My statistics at launch:
    - 9 posts (but none in reserve)
    - I paid for icon design, but created my own logo
    - I also did most of my own designs (but hired a freelancer to make some tweaks)
    - I purchased a premium theme (Thesis)

    Even though I don’t have any posts in reserve, I have a ton of blog IDEAS in reserve. This just comes from jotting down ideas as I come across them and putting them aside for later use. I use a free mindmapping program to sort out the categories and list the post ideas under the appropriate categories.

    I also set up accounts at the major social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

    I see the above as enough to go live. Having something up and running gets the adrenaline going. Nothing motivates more than knowing that someone (readers) is expecting you to show up and provide value.

    Now, I wouldn’t put up a site that “looks” unfinished. So, even if you don’t have posts in reserve, at least make the ones you do have stand out. And by all means, make the site look good because visitors DO make instant judgments about a website. First impressions count. Just as a good headline makes you read on, a well-designed website makes the visitor stick around just a little longer . . .

  11. I agree. I loved the launch of SocialTriggers, which contained some few REALLY, REALLY good blog posts – and that was it. No need to have 20+ blog posts, as long as you have quality.

    3 Should be plenty, and then add often – but with quality.

  12. I’m about to launch my new blog which also has BuddyPress installed because I want the users to be more active on there. I wonder if that would be a good move or should I just launch the blog only?

  13. Hi Darren, great tips and something I was chatting about just yesterday to a new business owner planning to start their blog. The only addition I would make is to consider a realistic delivery schedule. So don’t start posting every day only to find out you can’t sustain the pace!

    When I started my blog (The Copy Detective) I settled on a weekly schedule as I thought that would push me, but still be achievable. I know some bloggers only post when they are inspired but I personally find the obligation of a regular content schedule quite motivating.

    Whether you post daily, weekly or monthly, sharing value is the most important focus.

    Oh and remember that you will get better!

  14. Bridget says:

    Perfect timing! Thanks for posting this today. I am currently hunting & gathering info from different departments at work as we are getting ready to dip our toe into the Blog world. I have bookmarked these pages (& printed them out) Found this & your Home Base & Outpost post so helpful. Thank you.

  15. Something I keep hearing from top bloggers is that they jump started their community with a “blogging circle”. So, step 1: find a group of 5-20 bloggers in your niche (of a similar experience level). Step 2: bounce ideas off each other, and step 3: comment on and share each others work.

    If you have that circle in place from day 1, your blog will look lively – so new comers can join the community.


    Michael

  16. Thank you Darren for the enlightening post. To be honest, I always in dilemma on whether to set up email newsletter for my newly set up blog.

    I always have these questions:

    1) What should I do with subscribers?
    2) Do I have the time to give special attention to them?
    3) Will my readers sign up the newsletters and will it sufficient enough to justify the investment that I’m going to make?
    4) Do I need to create special ebook for my suscribers?

    What do you think?

    P/s I will have newsletter by end of this year. That’s my new year wish ;)

  17. Josh Sarz says:

    This is great Darren. It’s really a challenge as to how to start a new blog. Whether it be completely new, or with some draft posts, or just a landing page with an opt-in kinda like what Jon Morrow is doing with boostblogtraffic.

    I guess it’s best to have a few drafts prepared, eh? So as to have some backup posts to publish just in case we get busy, or the dreaded writer’s block comes in.

    Oh, happy holiday season, Darren!

  18. Mike says:

    valid points that make!

  19. Drewry says:

    good points made!

  20. James Greg says:

    I would make a bank of posts to upload with calculated intervals but that would be just general topics and then would send an email to all those that are concerned. I guess sending invitations to unrelated people would not be of much use (or I may be wrong). I wouldn’t expect my blog to be a great success overnight but I guess if it doesn’t come up to my expectations for atleast six months I guess it would need a restart.

  21. Saif Afridi says:

    very nice Darren.according to my view there should be atleast 20 posts before hitting the first one to publish.
    admin
    Celebrities Gossip and Pictrues

  22. All nice if you start a new blog. But what if you want to start kicking new life into an old blog in which you have invested much time and a little bit of money that slowly but certain has died due to the lack of posts? Can you bring it back out of the grave by posting on it again or is it better to start a completely new blog?

  23. Ana says:

    Reading Problogger has taught me the importance of brainstorming – before I committed to starting a new blog I brainstormed around 200 post ideas.
    I’m so glad I did that – life can get hectic and having something planned gives you the opportunity to relax a little bit.

  24. Tim Hyde says:

    I think it depends on your available resources. If you dont have money to invest in a professional template or custom design, then go with a freebie or cheap setup. You’ll soon know if you’re attracting an audience and if its worth re-designing or just minor tweaks. Any online presence needs to be constantly evolving to meet the needs of your customers/readers and the rapidly evolving environment that is online business.

    I totally agree with Darren’s comment about the newsletter. Its a further mechanism for maintaining contact with prospects and building trust to a point where they’ll buy your product or service.

  25. Carsten says:

    Intersting that you differ between plan and reality. Last weekend I have started to prepare a blog project I have thought about for a long time. Basically I agree that some content should be already in before you launch it. But excitement and curiosity was bigger. So my blog is online now without any post yet, but personal info and informational background of the blog is done. Though content is king I always take care for the packing / design first. Once this is done, my mind is free for writing my posts. And that’s what I’m going to do now.

  26. Rivka says:

    In my opinion having a really great logo is a keep start up step. You will need something for a profile pic for all those social media accounts. Something recognizable and professional really sets up your brand for success right away.

  27. I really spent some time working on my blog before launching it… I had two live post and just 5 posts on draft… It’s really good to have posts on draft because writing sometime for me can really be stressful… Thanks for this great post

  28. Angie says:

    Darren, I know you say email lists are really important to start. I have a question about setting up an email list if someone wants to chime in. Pretty please! :) I set up an account with MailChimp already, but then I noticed that my home address will be posted on every email I send out. It’s part of complying with the CAN-SPAM Act. The other option is to set up a PO Box and use that address, which obviously incurs additional cost. Any advice for someone starting out? I want to start building my email list, but I definitely don’t want to be broadcasting my home address and would rather not incur additional costs. Are there any other options? Thanks!

  29. Great Post Darren. I agree with all your points before publishing your blog.

    One thing I would like to differ is to write atleast 10 posts and have another 10 in draft before you publish and make your blog public. The reason being that once you get your first 20 posts going, you will get the rhythm and will try to maintain the frequency.

    Also if you have 10 draft posts, you can spend time in networking and promoting for the first critical few days without worrying about writing new posts.

  30. Ryan McLean says:

    I just launched a new blog and went against all of your advice.
    Free theme, one post, no logo, no drafts ready. The reason being is I know it can sometimes take time to get indexed in Google and I wanted to have a presence for Google to start with.
    I DID do lots of topical research and keyword research and made sure it was going to be a viable option.

  31. Just before I stumbled on this post I was doing a blog post 21 Top Bloggers Exposed. Their First Ever Posts. And when I came to the Problogger, I realise that the 23rd of September was a good day for you. Cause I think you have more than thirty, if not fourty, posts on that same day.

    No wonder why its “theProblogger”

    Sticky blog on the go!!

    Good work: inspiring. Thats the blogtopia (how its supposed to be done)

    We just lazy, I think: to pst one, or two.

    Have more respect now….
    .

  32. Thank you for this post. I’ve had a new blog up for a few weeks but I really haven’t told anyone about it. I wanted to make sure there was enough content for readers. I was going to wait a few more weeks before a formal launch.

  33. Troy Dean says:

    Great article Darren. You have inspired me to inspire my SME clients in the hope they will embrace blogging and reap the rewards.

    In fact the big small biz website in Australia, Flying Solo, have asked me to contribute to their audience too!

    http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/technology/small-business-blogs/creating-blog-content

    Just wanted to give you some kudos and thank you for your thought leading.

    Keep up the great work.

  34. Yvette says:

    In my opinion, you should have no less than 10 posts PUBLISHED! When someone comes across your site for the first time you want them to stay a while.

  35. David says:

    Hi Darren!

    I launched my blog December 15, 2011 with eleven posts on the site. I consider my blog to be a very “on the go” thing.

    Heck! I don’t even have a real direction yet.

    I’m more-or-less doing this on a part-time basis and, at this time, mostly for fun.

    Anyway, good post. Your site is awesome!

  36. Regina says:

    Thank you for an informative article. What is your opinion on a “coming soon” page in which readers have opt in options such as subscribe to RSS, subscribe to newsletter via email, fb, twitter, etc. all in exchange for a free informational download??
    Thank You

  37. Karin says:

    I have to say I love your suggestion about having 3 post published and 7 saved in draft…I usually tell my clients to try to reach a goal of 30 post and work on scheduling one day to create your post and schedule them to make life easy. Also, I love the newsletter part. I use mailchimp design form to collect my email which takes the work out of inputting new emails after receiving them. I also like to create pages to make it appear more like a site and not just a simple blog.

    Thanks for the great tips!

  38. Shamsher Thapa says:

    Hi, Darren.
    I am starting my blog. I have done some research also,but am stuck with one confusion that is, in my Google Adwords Campaign set up can I include Godaddy domain and Hostgator hosting. Yes or no, kindly help me with the information at the earliest.
    Thank You.

  39. Neil Lieb says:

    I think these are all great questions that every new blogger wants to know.
    It comes down to this – youŕe never going to know everything.
    Waiting until everything is ¨just right¨ means you´ll never start.

    There are plenty of good themes /templates out there that will give your blog the character you desire. I´ve worked my way through about 4 different themes and with each change I learned something new about blogging, design, layout, pluggins, etc.

    The advice I was given, was to ¨just start¨. Like you said, if you have 20-30 ideas for posts, you have enough to get started and you´ll learn the rest along the way.

    Iḿ just starting out myself, but I know I have learned so much in the last 6 months just by taking small, consistent actions.

    Best of luck to all!

  40. Najiko says:

    These points have been completely valid for my blog.
    Thanks!