Close
Close

Content Isn’t King… Here’s What Is!

Over the years I’ve heard many debates in the blogosphere about what is ‘king’.

‘Blogging is King’ was something many argued almost 10 years ago as it began to rise in popularity.

‘Content is King’ was the catch cry for many years… then it became ‘Community is King’ for a while as community management became the big thing.

‘Twitter is King’ was something I heard a number of bloggers crying (as they gave up their blogs to get onto Twitter), ‘Facebook is King’ was the cry a few years later when setting up pages there was the cool thing to do. YouTube was king for a while, and more recently some have argued for Instagram, Pinterest and other social networks being King.

Lately there’s a new ‘king’ every day. Infographics, podcasting, hangouts, webinars, apps… you name it!

The arguments for all of these things being ‘king’ are good… but they all kind of miss the point in my opinion. You see I think something else is king…

Usefulness
Yep – in my books ‘Usefulness is King’.

Creating content is just one way of being useful.

Building community is another.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and G+ are just ways of delivering usefulness.

Infographics, videos, podcasts and even blogging… all just different mediums for being useful.

Over the last decade that I’ve been doing business online a multitude of trends have come and many have gone but those who remain and have build valuable enterprises are those who understand that they’re in the business of being useful.

I’m often asked if I’ll be blogging in 10 years time… if the medium will still exist?

I don’t know the answer to that – blogging may well fall by the wayside at some point (although I don’t see it disappearing any time soon).

What I do know is that usefulness will never die as a strategy for building a business (online or offline).

How to be useful?

So how should we be useful as bloggers and online entrepreneurs?

Ultimately for me it comes down to understanding people’s needs and creating content, community and experiences based upon meeting those needs and solving their problems.

There are many ways to do this.

Here’s a slide from a recent talk I gave to business bloggers which begins to unpack a few ways blogs can be useful (and it scrapes the surface).

How to be useful
My blogs tend to focus most upon ‘education’ and ‘advice’ (with a sprinkle of inspiration and community) but other blogs are equally as useful by taking different approaches.

How Is Your Blog Useful?

So my question today is – ‘is your blog being useful’?

This is something I ask myself semi-regularly as I review what I do. If the answer is no – it’s time to refocus!

How to Build a Blog that Has Lasting Impact Upon Its Readers

If you want to have a blog that makes a difference in the lives of those who read it, I would highly recommend getting clarity around these three simple (yet powerful) questions:

  • Who are your readers?
  • What do they need?
  • How will they change as a result of reading your blog?

Mid-last year I wrote very briefly about these questions and suggested that they might be a great way to come up with a purpose statement for a blog.

Since that time I’ve had conversations with four ProBlogger readers who took these questions and applied them to their own blogs – and in doing so saw marked improvements in their blogging.

So today I want to emphasise them again.

Lets tackle the first two together and then look at the third.

Who Are Your Readers? And What Do They Need?

Understanding who reads your blog (or at least who you want to read your blog) and what their needs are is so important because it will inform:

  • what kind of content you should create (topics, style of writing etc)
  • how to attract readers to your blog
  • how you can engage with your readers and build community on your blog
  • how you monetise your blog (if this is a goal for you)

Understanding your reader also informs things like design, what social media networks you should be engaging in, what subscription methods you should use, how frequently you should publish, and much more.

I’ve previously published an exercise in building a reader profile or persona to help you get clarity around this.

Ultimately – knowing who is reading enables you to take a big step towards producing a useful blog.

Without this clarity you’ll be stumbling around in the dark!

How will your reader change as a result of reading your blog?

Over the years I’d focused very heavily upon understanding readers needs, but it has only been the last year that I’ve taken things to the next step and doing thinking about how to ‘change‘ readers.

Knowing who is reading is one thing, but if you want to build a blog that is epic, your blog needs to leave an impact upon people.

I recently spoke about this idea at a conference and shared the following slide. While I didn’t spend a heap of time unpacking the idea, this was the most tweeted quote of the talk I gave.

Blog impact change

Blogs that change people are blogs that those people will keep returning to.

Blogs that change people are blogs that build trust and relationship with their readership.

Blogs that change people are blogs that their readers share with their networks.

I’ve always know this – it’s not really rocket science – but for some reason I never actually identified the change I wanted to bring to my readers!

As a result, some of my blog posts hit the mark with readers – but many did not.

Why leave it to chance as to what change we want to bring to our readers? Why not define where they are and where we want to take them?

Name the Change and Then Break It Down

Lets take a look at my main blog, Digital Photography School, as an example.

My answers to the above three questions are not really that complicated:

  • My readers are camera-owners
  • My readers are not using their cameras to their full potential
  • My readers will gain creative control over their cameras as a result of reading dPS

Creative control

I know if dPS can give camera owners creative control over their cameras,  they will start taking images that help create amazing memories for their families, start capturing magical moments in the trips they take, and that they’ll start creating art and ways to express themselves creatively.

These are tangible benefits and outcomes of reading our site and enhance the lives of our readers.

So once we’ve defined the change we want to bring to readers, then we can begin to make more informed decisions about the content we create by simply breaking that down.

What does having creative control over a camera look like? There are many parts of bringing about that change. Some would include:

Creative control broken down

Obviously this is just a few of the things a camera owner needs to grasp, but you can see here that we’ve already identified a number of topics to explore that help to bring about the overarching goal of the site.

By doing this exercise, we end up with a content and community strategy that is much more intentional that simply sitting at the keyboard each day and asking what we feel like writing about.

By being intentional, we’re creating content that moves people through a process and takes them to an outcome that changes their life in some tangible way.

So What Change do You Want to Bring?

My challenge today is to answer the three questions above, and then to begin to break down the change that you’re wanting to bring.

  • Who are your readers?
  • What do they need?
  • How will they change as a result of reading your blog?

Theme Week: 5 Things to Do With Your Blog Posts After You’ve Hit Publish

FINDING READERS

This week on ProBlogger we’re starting a new theme week that examines five different things to do when you’ve finished writing a blog post (other than hitting publish).

If you’re anything like me – you put a lot of time into the writing of blog posts. You ponder the topic, pour your heart and soul into writing, obsess over choosing the right headline, put a lot of effort into polishing the post up to look its best, and read and reread it many times over to make sure everything is just right.

But what happens next?

For many of us the next logical step is to hit publish… and to start work on the next blog post.

While turning your mind to your next post comes naturally, this week we’d like to suggest five things bloggers can do after hitting publish to make sure that the posts we put time and effort into creating have the maximum impact.

Without these ‘next steps’, your posts could go largely unread – or at the very least not live up to their full potential in helping you to reach your blogging goals.

Each day this week we’ll present a ‘next step’ so keep tuning in! We’ll also update this page with links to each step – so make sure you bookmark this page and keep checking back.

Day 1: Socialise Your post for Maximum Effect
Day 2: Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
Day 3: How to Repurpose Your Content and Why You Should Do It
Day 4: How to Keep Readers on Your Blog
Day 5: How to Extend Your Ideas with Future Blog Posts
Day 6: Which Tip Will You Put into Practice?

Finding Readers: From Seed to Sequoia – Growing Your Blog One Reader At a Time

From Seed to Sequoia

Today we welcome DJ from SteamFeed to our Finding Readers series. This post is chock-full of things you can do today to build your traffic – and have fun while you’re doing it! 

My guess is a portion of you won’t like this article. Growing your blog one reader at a time sounds lame, I know. We live in a world of instant gratification. It seems like any task nowadays can be completed successfully in just 15 minutes or 5 easy steps. Building a blog, a real blog, doesn’t work that way. Sorry for the hard truth but your Facebook friends weren’t going to tell you, especially Aunt Ruth.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

Yes, I pulled out that ridiculous saying because of how insanely simple, yet helpful, advice it is. Your blog will not be an overnight success. Building your blog’s foundation requires some significant work if you want it to stand the test of time.

If you implement and follow these concepts today I promise that within 12 months you’ll see the readership of your blog increase significantly. I know this because I’m writing from experience. We took SteamFeed from a brand new blog to 100,000 views/month in just one year, and we haven’t dropped below that mark since.

 SteamFeed-pageviews

In this article we’ll focus not only growing your readership but retaining them as well.

Relationships

Building your network is vital. Im not talking about your likes and followers here. I’m talking about real people who engage with you in regards to your blog on a regular basis (these could be people whom consistently share your blog posts, leave thoughtful comments, or maybe they respond to you when you ask a question in your newsletter).

These are the people you need more of. Nurture them. Ignore them, and they’ll eventually move on and your blog will stay as stagnant as the day you published your first “hello world” article.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Visit the profile page of a new reader once a day and learn something about them. Use this information to build your relationship with them. Remember that real relationships, people who will buy from you someday, are built over time when you’ve earned their trust.

Organization

When you’re first starting out finding new readers can be difficult, so when you do come across them make sure you get organized to keep track of them. Try the following:

  • Follow them on social networks. Create lists, circles, or groups.
  • Use your gmail as a CRM
  • Go old school and bust out your excel sheet

Make sure you’re checking in with them from time to time. If you learn something about them that you believe they find value in then make note of that. If they’re a blogger themselves make sure you share their content, if appropriate, and/or comment on their content. Do what you can to give value in that relationship.

note: At some point it simply won’t be possible or viable to keep track of every single reader. However, if you’ve built your foundation correctly then the organic growth will come naturally. This doesn’t mean you give up on the relationships you’ve nurtured but it may mean you need to be more picky in the future with the ones you maintain.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: The more organized you are, the easier it will be to retain your readers. Whatever system you go with keep it simple and practical.

Consistency

The truth is the more you post the faster your blog will grow. However, and this is a big however, if you post so frequently that the quality of your posts are just regurgitated boring rubbish you’ll do damage to your readership instead of growing it. Don’t post just to post. If it takes you an extra day or two to really create something of value, then hold off and do it right.

Also, posting consistently gives you a certain amount of credibility. It gives the reader a sense of security that they’re not going to start enjoying your content then all of a sudden you disappear on them. It’s sort of like when you start getting into a new TV show then it gets cancelled after the first season. Nobody likes that.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Set a schedule for yourself. Now stick to it. It won’t be easy but being disciplined about writing is important. If you flake for a week or two your readers will take notice.

Email

Email capture can be an incredibly powerful tool if used correctly (we use OptinMonster). Creating a powerful email list is one of the best ways to nurture those relationships you’ve worked so hard to gain. Whatever program you decide to use just get started on one because collecting emails from day one just makes sense. Also, add a newsletter to your once-a-month to-do list. Take the time to make the newsletter personal, but make sure it’s chock full of awesome for your readers.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: 1. Grow your email list by creating a high quality ebook and offering it for free to your subscribers. 2. If appropriate, ask questions in your newsletter and see who responds. Create separate lists for these people to better track them. From time to time you can send them a first look at a new website design, added features, contest giveaways, or a preview of your latest ebook.

Images

I can’t stress enough the importance of a great image. There is so much content on the internet right now that you need something eye-popping and vibrant to catch people’s attention. I personally love using PicMonkey, Canva, and Photoshop to help me add that little something extra to my articles.

People Love To Share Beautiful Content!

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Make sure you have the right to use someone’s image if you didn’t create it yourself, and definitely give proper credit to them. If you really like an image and you’re not sure if you’re allowed to use it, then try getting in touch with the owner of the image and tell them how much you like it and what you plan on doing with it. You never know where that connection may lead.

Guest Blogging

This is what I’m doing right now. I know that ProBlogger has a great community and a strong readership. I also know it produces high quality content that I love to read and I want my blog to be associated with that. I’m also hoping a number of people who read this article will check out SteamFeed and become a reader of my site as well. People love great content. They just don’t always know how to find it.

Magic Formula: Create a way for people to find you. Create great content so they stay. Repeat.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Don’t guest blog for just any old site. You should really focus on writing for sites that are in your niche. This is most likely where your readers will be too, and this is where your area of expertise is most likely in anyway. Also, make sure the site is credible. If they’ll just accept anyone to post on their site then you may want to think twice about associating yourself with them.

Marketing

Start with a great headline for your blog posts. It’s worth your time to put some extra thought into it.

On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece. -CopyBlogger

Did you just spend hours creating the perfect blog post? Now be honest. How long did you spend marketing that blog post? If you’re going to take the time to create an amazing piece of content then get out there and let the world know about it. You don’t want it to just sit there and become irrelevant over time.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Try syndicating your content to sites like Huffington Post, Social Media Today, and Business2Community. This will help get some eyeballs to your blog.

Top 3 Takeaways

1. Focus on the quality of your content and your relationships above all else.

2. Have a plan and stay organized to effectively and efficiently grow your blog.

3. Growing your blog will take time. If you’re in it for the long run then make your decisions based on long term vision.

How to Convince Someone to Be Interviewed on Your Blog

NewImageThis question was submitted recently via the ProBlogger Facebook page.

How do I get an established blogger like yourself to do an interview with me? or How can I get an established blogger like yourself to do a guest post for me on my blog? – from Sandra Tillman

Good questions. I think you’re much more likely to get a popular blogger to do an interview with you than to write a guest post for you.

I can only speak for myself really but writing a guest post for someone else’s blog is low on my list of priorities when I already have a blog to create content for.

The exception might be if I had something I was launching or wanted to get some attention for – but even then unless your blog has a sizeable audience and/or and audience that is right on target for the type of reader I want to reach – I’m not likely to take you up on that offer.

It’s simply that there’s just not the time in the day to offer that.

An interview on the other hand may be more achievable – particularly if you make it easy for the blogger you’re approaching to do.

It might be hard to get a full-on interview with a popular blogger unless you have a big audience, profile, or some way in with them, but you might pull it if if you’re willing to make it short and easy to complete.

In my own early days when I didn’t have much profile I used to do it by doing ‘one question interviews’. I would send the blogger a single question and ask them to write something in response – big or small.

Sometimes they’d send back a paragraph or two, other times it might only be a sentence. I’d often ask 3-4 bloggers the same single question and then put their responses together to create a longer post.

The beauty of doing this kind of approach is that you’re able to make it easy for the blogger to do but you also get a little benefit from having them on your blog (which makes it easier to get the next interview).

Keep in mind though that many bloggers get a lot of interview requests. I’m not the biggest blogger going around, but on a typical day I get asked to be interviewed 2-3 times. Couple this with requests to write articles, be in Twitter chats, appear in webinars, be interviewed by media, and the top bloggers must be getting approached many many times a day!

5 quick tips on how I’d go about approaching bloggers for an interview:

1. Introduce yourself

Be personal, quickly introduce yourself, and explain why you’d like to interview the blogger. As you do so, think about the benefits not only to you but also to your readers and to the blogger. For example – do you have a relevant audience to them?

2. Outline how the interview will be used

If you’re planning on using the interview in some way that people have to pay for then say this up front. I’ve had a number of people ask me for interviews that I’ve later found out were used in books, behind paywalls, or as incentives to sign up for newsletters.

While I am not against using interviews in this way, you’ll want to be clear about your intentions with the person you’re approaching.

3. Outline how you’ll conduct the interview

Tell the person how you want to conduct the interview and how much time they’d need to dedicate. If it is a written interview via email tell them how many questions. If it’s a recorded audio/video interview tell them how long it’ll take and what technology you’d like to use.

4. show you know them and make it relevant

Before you approach someone do a little research into who they are and what they do. Showing them this in some way by making your approach personal will show them that you’re not just copying and pasting interview requests into emails. It’ll show them that you’re going to some effort rather than just wanting them to essentially create content for you.

5. Followup

If the person agrees and you do interview them, make sure you use it! I’ve had times where I’ve put aside considerable time to respond to questions for interviews and then never seen the content used in any way – frustrating!!!

When you do publish it – shoot the blogger a note of thanks with the link. You might even find that they share it to their network!

One Last Tip

Big bloggers may not be the best starting place – in fact, they may not be the best interviewee at all.

I say this for two reasons:

1. if you’re new, it’s hard to land a popular blogger. You might have more luck landing a small- to medium-sized blogger. Once you’ve done a few of these you then have something of a portfolio to be able to show others that you approach later (this might help you land the big interview).

2. the other reason you might want to approach smaller bloggers is that they might just make a more interesting interview subject. Everyone’s heard the big blogger’s story in countless other interviews, so why not try to unearth something fresh and new from someone that is up and coming?

What Would You Add?

Have you ever landed a big interview for your blog? How did it happen for you? What tips would you give?

3 Important Questions To Ask About Posts in Your Blog Archives

Image via Flickr user theunquietlibrarian.

Image via Flickr user theunquietlibrarian.

Here’s a quick exercise that I encourage you to do every now and then.

Identify a post in your archives (preferably something that is a year or more older) and then ask yourself these three questions:

Can I update it?

Many times the posts in your archives can do with a refresh. While you might not want to do this with every post – if you have an older post that gets traffic from search engines it can be well worth doing!

It might be that you can add newer or up to date information, fix broken links, add some further reading to other articles you’ve since written, correct errors etc.

Can I Promote it Again?

Many of the posts in your archives could probably be promoted in some fresh way. The key is to find ‘evergreen’ content that hasn’t dated (or to update older posts with fresh information).

Late last year I wrote a post about how every day I try to find at least one post in my archives at Digital Photography School that I share on social media.

Can I Do a Followup Post?

The posts in your archives can be a great source of inspiration for future posts on your blog.

There are many ways to extend a post without simply rewriting the content you’ve already published. These might include:

    • Writing a post that explores an opposing view
    • Create a discussion post that asks readers for their thoughts, opinions and experiences on the topic
    • Write a post that gives an example, case study or tells a story on the topic
    • Repurpose this content in some way. For example as a slide share, infographic, podcast, webinar, report?

In each case above you not only are creating an extra post but you also can link back to the previous post to give readers a more holistic perspective on the topic. By doing so you also potentially are taking your readers on a bit of a journey through your archives and creating some momentum with your content over time.

Beginner Week – Resource Roundup: 10 Links you Can’t Live Without

Theme WeekBeginner Week has been jam-packed with tales from the trenches  - from how to set up a blog, to a newbie success story, Darren’s Beginner Dos and Don’ts; and 31 mistakes established bloggers made way back in the early days of their blog.

Today we’re back with even more goodies to take away: our 10 most popular (and useful!) posts for beginner bloggers. Get ready to Pin, bookmark, save to Evernote, or however you keep interesting posts for future reference – you won’t want to leave this one behind!

1. Five First-Year Posts that Led to Over 6 Million Views: Darren tells the story of the five posts on Digital Photography School that managed to attract a huge readership in its first year, and why he thinks they were so successful at driving traffic.

2. Webinar: 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Blogging: For Darren’s 10th blogging anniversary, he celebrated by sharing a recording and slides about what he would loved to have known when first starting out.

3. Crawl Before You Walk: 6 Step-by-Step Instructions for Starting Your Own Blog: A guest contributor leaves nothing to chance and explains the six things you NEED to know.

4. Recommended Blogging Resources: Things Darren uses in everyday blogging that you might find useful.

5. Guest Post: 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started: A guest contributor narrows early blogging down into 10 useful and productive key items for success.

6. How I Make Money Blogging: Darren lays all his cards on the table and explains exactly how it works behind the scenes.

7. 9 First-step Goals for New Bloggers: So much to do, so little time. The nine goals Darren believes beginners should aim for if they’re looking for a bit of direction. Then the sky is the limit!

8. What My  Wife Has Taught Me About Blogging After Just Three Months: Darren’s wife Vanessa’s blog was an instant hit – and it made Darren pause and reflect on what she had done differently to his blogger beginnings that made it such a success.

9. How Much Content Should I Have Ready to Go When I Launch a Blog?Darren sits down with a group of bloggers yet to start a blog and explains how much content should be published on a brand-new blog, versus how much content he actually had when starting. A great lesson to learn!

10. What Mistakes Did You Make When You First Started Blogging? What Would You Do Differently?: A reader asks Darren to share his top three mistakes made in the early days. The comments from other bloggers about their beginner blogger mistakes are also eye-opening.

Over to you – what resources did you find as a beginner that you found super-useful? (I always find new things at Amy Lynn Andrews‘ site. It’s a goldmine!)

Don’t forget, we also have 50% off ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging right here! Use the code BEGINNERWEEK.

Beginner Week: My 43 DOs and 25 DON’Ts of Blogging

Theme WeekEleven and a half years ago when I hit publish on my first ever blog post, I had little idea what I was doing and what was going to unfold for me over the coming decade.

As I prepared for a recent mini ProBlogger event event in Perth, I created a little list of some of the ‘dos and don’ts’ of blogging that I wish I’d known back in 2002 when I started. As it’s Beginner Week here on ProBlogger, I thought it might be appropriate to share them here on the blog today:

Note: these are MY dos and don’ts, and reflect my own style of blogging. I am not putting them forward as ‘rules’ that apply to all. I’d love to see your dos and don’ts in comments below.

My 43 DOs of Blogging

  1. Do create a blog that is meaningful to you
  2. Do set yourself some goals and objectives for your blog
  3. Do ‘write’ something every day (note that I didn’t say ‘publish’)
  4. Do as much as you can to get in your readers shoes and understand who they are
  5. Do use surveys and polls to help you understand your reader
  6. Do create content that meets your readers’ needs, answers their questions, and solves their problems
  7. Do write in an engaging voice
  8. Do start an email newsletter
  9. Do pay attention to the design of your blog – first impressions count!
  10. Do communicate clearly what your blog is about into your design
  11. Do spend time ‘off’ your blog engaging in the places where your potential readers gather
  12. Do go to the effort of registering your own domain
  13. Do create visual content
  14. Do model the kind of community that you want your blog to have
  15. Do install analytics and track the results of what you do
  16. Do find some blogging buddies who you can bounce ideas off and have mutual support with
  17. Do make sure you have ‘real life’ friends too – they’ll ground you
  18. Do become hyper-aware of problems (yours and other people’s), and obsessed with solving them
  19. Do create something to sell from your blog
  20. Do think beyond what you’ll write today – develop an editorial calendar
  21. Do set aside time to learn the skills you lack
  22. Do set aside time to brainstorm topics to write about
  23. Do read other people’s blogs – you’ll learn a lot from them
  24. Do share your opinion – it is what often differentiates you
  25. Do share stories – your own and other people’s
  26. Do back up your blog!
  27. Do blog with passion
  28. Do look for ‘win/win/win’ relationships with brands where you, the brand and your reader benefit
  29. Do show your personality – be yourself
  30. Do pay attention to what is energising you and do more of it
  31. Do pay attention to what is energising your readers and do more of it
  32. Do spend time refining and perfecting post headlines
  33. Do think about what ‘action’ you’re calling readers to take in your content
  34. Do make peace with the fact that there will always be more that you can do
  35. Do learn how to prioritise and focus upon activities that take you closer to your goals
  36. Do pay attention to your archives – update and promote them regularly
  37. Do push through bloggers block
  38. Do spend time analysing what types of content are being ‘shared’ in your niche – publish this kind of content semi-regularly
  39. Do use social proof
  40. Do take breaks from blogging – weekends and vacations are important!
  41. Do ask your readers a lot of questions and listen to what they say
  42. Do treat your blog as a business today… if you want it to be one tomorrow
  43. Do create content that Informs, Inspires and Interacts

My 25 DON’Ts of Blogging

  1. Don’t be afraid to hit publish
  2. Don’t feel you have to publish something every day
  3. Don’t publish when angry (or drunk)
  4. Don’t become a comment spammer on other people’s blogs
  5. Don’t publish just for the sake of publishing content
  6. Don’t use other people’s stuff without permission and credit
  7. Don’t focus so much about the readers you don’t have – have a big impact upon the ones you do have
  8. Don’t stretch yourself too thin (too many posts, too much SM) – do what you do really well
  9. Don’t become too promotional
  10. Don’t hit publish without one last proof read
  11. Don’t write purely for search engines
  12. Don’t sell out
  13. Don’t engage in every type of social media – analyse where your readers are and do those mediums well
  14. Don’t look for a ‘blueprint’ for successful blogging – forge your own path
  15. Don’t publish large chunks of text – break it up and make it scannable
  16. Don’t hide your mistakes – be transparent
  17. Don’t feed the trolls – be polite, kind, and firm
  18. Don’t let the negative things people say about you sink in – it’ll pull you down
  19. Don’t let the hyped praise people give you sink in – it’ll over-inflate your ego
  20. Don’t expect to get rich quick
  21. Don’t compare yourself to others – compare yourself to you when you started
  22. Don’t spend all your time ‘learning’ about blogging at the expense of actually blogging
  23. Don’t think there’s just one way to monetize your blog
  24. Don’t become so obsessed with blogging that you forget to have a real life
  25. Don’t give up too quickly – building a blog takes time

Of course I’m scraping the surface in this list but I hope for those of you starting out it gives you a few starting points. Also keep in mind that these are not ‘rules’ and that the do’s don’t guarantee success and the ‘don’ts’ don’t guarantee failure. In fact I’ve written many of the don’ts as a result of my own mistakes but things turned out ok in the end for me despite those failures.

If you’d like to go deeper on some of these themes check out the recording and slides of my webinar – 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Blogging.

Also don’t forget we are having a 50% off sale on the ProBlogger Guide to Your First Week of Blogging during Beginner Week. Simply enter the code BEGINNERWEEK at the checkout.

Beginner Week: Bite the Bullet and Start Your Blog with this Seven-Point Checklist

Theme WeekWelcome to ProBlogger’s second theme week – where we take a topic you’re interested in and drill right down to bring you all the information we can find to be of use to you. This week we are focusing on newbies – what do all beginner bloggers want to know? What are the first points of reference we should use, and where do we go from there? Today, please welcome Ali Luke from Zen Optimise, who has put together a handy checklist of things you should do in your first week of blogging to get yourself off the ground. There is also a fantastic deal on Darren’s “ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging“, full of hints, tips and practical exercises for the beginner blogger. Even if you’ve had your blog for a while, it’s a great refresher of what really works in getting your site some traction. You can find all the content for this week’s theme at the bottom of this post.

Without further ado – here’s Ali.

Have you been reading ProBlogger for weeks, or even months, so you can learn everything you need to know before setting up your blog?

You might be wasting your time.

That’s not to say that the content on ProBlogger isn’t hugely valuable: of course it is. As a new blogger five years ago, I devoured a large chunk of the archives – and even today, I still get inspired (and pick up a few new tips) from posts here.

But I also know how easy it is to fall into the trap of reading post after post, struggling to make sense of it all, and wondering how you’ll ever take in all the information out there.

“Be Prepared” Can Go Too Far 

While it’s great to do some research before diving in and starting a blog, it’s easy to end up reading post after post after post … without taking any action.

Until you get your blog up and running, you won’t really know what you need to know. You might be reading about topics that you’ll never need to concern yourself with – or you might be missing out on information that’s going to be crucial.

Launching your blog can feel like a huge step. You want to get every detail right; you want it to be perfect right from the start.

The problem is, if that perfect ideal keeps you stuck, you’ll never have a blog at all. And a real, imperfect blog will outperform an imaginary perfect one in every way imaginable…

Start Your Blog This Week: Your Checklist

It’s time to bite the bullet. No, you probably don’t feel ready. Yes, there’s a lot you still don’t know. But you will learn so much faster from actually blogging than from simply reading about it.

Here’s what you need to do. If you tackle one task each day, you’ll have your blog up and running next week:

Day 1: Set a Clear Goal

What do you want your blog to do for you? “Make money” is a popular answer – but how?

Is your blog going to support your existing business and bring in new customers?

Do you have a service to offer, like design, writing, or coding?

Is it going to be market research – and a platform – for a book that you plan to launch?

Are you going to bring in lots of traffic and sell advertising space?

Will you review products as an affiliate, taking commission on sales?

All of these are perfectly valid strategies, but you need to be clear about what you’ll be doing right from the start.

Of course, your blog doesn’t have to be a money-making tool. Perhaps your motivation for blogging is to get your writing out there to the world, or to build up a strong reputation in your field.

Further reading:

Top 10 Blog Monetization Strategies, Ranked In Order (Blog Marketing Academy)

To do: 

Write your goal down, and keep it somewhere visible. You want to have your goal in mind over the next few days.

Day 2: Choose a Platform

There are so many different blogging platforms out there, and there’s a good chance you’ve heard of (and maybe tried out) a fair few of them. I’ll name a handful of them: WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, Tumblr, Squarespace…

Let’s make this decision easy. Your best option is almost certainly WordPress.

It’s used by most of the top blogs (including ProBlogger) and it’s a hugely flexible and powerful platform.

Ideally, you’ll want to go with self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) where you install your blog on your own web space. If you can’t afford hosting, though, you can use WordPress.com – this is still a powerful blogging platform, but it has certain limitations.

Further Reading:

Self Hosted WordPress.org vs. Free WordPress.com (WPBeginner)

To do:

Decide whether you’re using WordPress.org (self-hosted, recommended) or WordPress.com (hosted, a good second choice).

The rest of these instructions assuming you’re using WordPress.org; if you using WordPress.com or a site like Blogger, you won’t need hosting, and you can choose not to buy a domain name. (If you don’t buy your own domain name, you’ll have one like yourname.wordpress.com.)

Day 3: Decide on Your Domain Name

Your domain name (sometimes called your URL or your web address) is what users type in to visit your site. ProBlogger’s domain name is problogger.net.

To get a domain name, you need to register it with a domain name registrar – a site like GoDaddy (well known) or Namecheap (popular for its high-quality customer service).

Domain names aren’t especially expensive to register, and will normally cost you around somewhere around $12 per year. Prices vary between domain name registrars, and some suffixes (the .com or .net etc) cost more than others.

When you’re choosing your domain name, aim to:

Keep it fairly short. Long domain names are hard to remember and type.

Keep it to two words or fewer if possible.

Make it match the name of your website. If Darren called this site “ProBlogging Tips” but had the domain name “ProBlogger” it would be confusing for readers.

Avoid using hyphens if you can: if another website has the same domain without a hyphen, readers may end up there by mistake.

Use a .com suffix if it’s available. If you really want a particular name and the .com is taken, you can use .net. If your readers are mainly from your own country, you can use your country’s domain (e.g. .co.uk for the UK or .ca for Canada).

Further reading:

Five Best Domain Name Registrars (Lifehacker.com)

To do:

Come up with several possible domain names. Use WHOis.net to see which ones are available. (Simply typing them into your browser won’t necessarily tell you if they’re available or not, as sometimes domains are registered without hosting so no site will show up.)

If you’re self-hosting WordPress and thus buying hosting, you may want to register the domain name through your host – this can make life slightly simpler.

Day 4: Buy Hosting

Many bloggers find “hosting” a tricky concept to get their heads around. Here’s how it works.

For your website to be online, all the files for it need to be kept on a computer that’s always connected to the internet. (It’s technically possible for you to host your website on your own computer – but there are a huge number of reasons why you probably wouldn’t want to do this, including security issues, and the cost of keeping your computer switched on all day and all night, all the time.)

Web host companies provide space for your site on their servers (huge computers), which are permanently connected to the internet. These servers also have special software that allows you to install WordPress on your site. You pay a monthly or annual fee for this, usually around $7 – $15 per month.

There are loads of web hosts out there; personally, I use Dreamhost for all my own websites – but I’ve included links to other suggestions in the further reading.

Further reading:

How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting? (WPBeginner)

To do:

Choose your host and sign up for an account. Don’t spend hours agonising over the choice – you can always switch hosts in the future if you decide they weren’t the best option for you.

Day 5: Install WordPress

Assuming you’ve chosen a WordPress-friendly host, you’ll probably have a simple and easy way to install WordPress – often with a “one-click installation” option.

Follow your host’s instructions, and get WordPress installed on your site. During the installation process, you’ll be prompted to enter:

The name of your site.

The username for an administrative account.

A password.

Your email address.

The only bit you can’t change later is the admin username. Avoid using “admin” as that’s way too easy for hackers to guess!

To login to your site, go to www.yoursitename.com/wp-login. You’ll automatically be directed to your dashboard – the “behind the scenes” view of your WordPress site – after logging in.

You’ll also have the option to make your site invisible to search engines. This can be reassuring while you’re developing your blog, but if you switch this on, don’t forget to switch it off again later! (You can do so in your WordPress dashboard under Settings Reading.

Further reading:

Secure Your WordPress Blog Without Touching Any Code (ProBlogger)

To do:

Get WordPress installed. It will probably be easier than you think! If you have time to spare, poke around in the WordPress dashboard to get a sense of all the different options and functions.

Day 6: Choose Your Theme

The look and feel of your blog is determined by its theme (sometimes called the template). You can switch your WordPress theme without losing any of your content – your posts, pages, sidebar widgets and so on are stored separately.

To change themes:

Go to your WordPress dashboard (www.yoursitename.com/wp-admin).

Click on Appearance  Themes

Choose a theme you like and click Preview to see how your site will look in that theme.

Click Activate to switch your site over to the new theme.

There are thousands of WordPress themes available online, so if you don’t find anything you like in the current themes section, look around. Free themes tend to be more limited in functionality and design; premium (paid for) ones often have lots of new options.

Further reading:

How to Pick a WordPress Theme That Doesn’t Suck (StuffedWeb)

To do:

Select a “good enough” theme – it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you’re creating a website for an existing business, consider using a premium theme that’s tailored to your industry. (E.g. there are restaurant themes, band themes, guest house themes…)

Day 7: Write Your About Page

Once you’ve got your theme up and running, there are still a lot of tasks ahead. New bloggers often wonder what to prioritise. Getting their sidebar spruced up? Posting lots of content? Adding their “Services” page? Including an option for readers to get posts by email?

All of those are important – but one of the very first things you should do is get your About page in place.

New readers will very often look for and click on “About” (or “About me” or “About us”) to find out who you are and what they can expect from your blog. If the page doesn’t exist, or if it’s badly put together, they might shrug and go on their way (and never return).

A good About page needs to:

Tell the reader what your blog (or company) is about and how it can help them. It’s often a good idea to put this information up front, perhaps after a few words introducing yourself (“Hi, I’m Bob Jones, and I blog here about…”)

Introduce you so that the reader feels a sense of connection. You can do this in a straightforward way, or with humour, with a list of interesting facts about you, with your credentials and experience, with an inspiring story … whatever fits with the tone and brand of your blog.

Include a photo of you. This isn’t an absolute rule, but it helps readers come to trust you – and if you’re selling them products or services, or promoting affiliate products, this is important.

Be updated regularly. Your blogging mission might change; facts about you and your life might change. If your About page is clearly years out of date, your blog is going to look cobwebby at best … and abandoned at worst.

Get the basics of your page in place, then, once you’ve been blogging for a couple of weeks, update it and:

Link to two or three of your best posts. This is a great way to draw readers further into your blog.

Let readers know how to subscribe to your blog by email. Even if you’ve got a big email sign-up box in your sidebar, readers may not notice it.

Further reading:

Are You Making These 7 Mistakes with Your About Page? (Copyblogger)

To do: 

Write your About page. You might find it easiest to split it into two sections, “About the Blog” and “About Me”. If you can, ask a friend or colleague to look over it and give you feedback – they may have ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of.

And that’s it! Your blog isn’t only online, it’s looking good, and it’s ready for you to publish your first post. This is just the start of an exciting journey – and I wish you all the best with it.

Ali Luke is Head of Content at Zen Optimise, where she leads small group courses on blogging and writing for the web. Once you’ve got your blog set up, check out 7 Rules for Creating Highly Successful Posts for powerful tips plus handy further reading suggestions.

Beginner Theme Week Posts on ProBlogger

New Blogger Katie180′s Success Story
We Asked Veteran Bloggers to Reflect on Mistakes Made in Their Early Days
Darren’s 43 Dos and 25 Don’ts of Blogging
Resource Roundup – 1o Links New Bloggers Can’t Live Without