Hi, I’m Kerry Russell, author at The Strategic Blogger and in this tutorial I’m going to help you lay down the foundations of a successful blog, strategically, from start to finish.
And to get the ball rolling I’d like to introduce you to my simple 3 step process designed to help you find a profitable niche market for your online business.
When you’re done, come back here and we can move on to the next step, okay? Okay!
Find Existing Channels of Communication
Now that you've found your niche, I know you’ll be excited to begin laying down the foundations of your business, but hold off just a little longer.
Right now, your time will be much better spent finding any existing channels of communication during this phase of your business start-up.
And just to be totally transparent, when I say existing channels of communication I’m referring to popular niche related blogs, active forums, social media platforms, groups and communities.
Let me explain…
The fastest and easiest way to get exposure and build a readership for your new business is to go where your target audience are already hanging out, and just start talking.
Become a regular face, interact, contribute freely and listen to what YOUR target audience are saying. Find out what they need and give it to them through a combination of free public content, paid services and information products.
To begin with, focus on the market leaders and influencers in your niche. If you don’t know who they are yet, simply go to Google and do a search for your base keyword(s), just like we did in step one.
Open up a spreadsheet to record your findings including…
- The website name
- The authors name
- A link to their website
- Does the site get comments?
- Lots of comments, or just a few?
- Number of social media followers on each platform?
- Are followers actively engaged on social media?
- Direct links to their social media channels
- Do they run an active forum/community you could join?
Next up, open a new tab on your spreadsheet and make a list of popular niche related forums, Facebook pages, Facebook groups and Google+ communities.
To find popular forums just do a Google search for your base keyword(s) followed by the word ‘forum’. Ideally, you're looking for 2 to 3 active forums you can participate in on a regular basis.
Now go to Facebook, search for your base keyword(s) using the built in search engine and look for active Facebook pages and groups.
Then do the same on Google Plus and look for niche related communities to join.
Collecting this information on a spreadsheet like this will help you identify which channels of communication are popular and active with an engaged audience.
Why is that important? Because then you'll know exactly where to go when you begin strategically networking, once we have the foundations of your business in place. 🙂
Find A Suitable Domain Name
Now we can start laying the foundations of your business – yeyy!
To get started you’ll need to find a suitable domain with a .com extension, unless you’re targeting a specific country such as the United Kingdom, in which case you’ll use .co.uk
When brainstorming domain name ideas you basically have two choices. You can use your name, which is great for personal branding…
Or, you can use a descriptive domain name that clearly communicates your blog topic and what you’ll offer. Personally, I prefer the latter one.
If the .com extension of your desired domain name is already taken, don’t be tempted to settle for a .net .org .co or any other extension, because you may find yourself with a lawsuit on your hands due to trademark infringements and other legal issues.
Great domain names are available, but it may take time to find one, just be patient.
Register Your Domain Name & Get Web Hosting
Hopefully, you've now found the ideal domain name for your business and you’re ready to get it registered, and get some web hosting.
If you’re not familiar with web hosting just think of it as storage space. It’s somewhere to keep all your domain names and websites so they are live and visible online.
I register all my domain names with my web hosting provider and I suggest you do the same, unless you have the technical skills to point your domain name to your web hosting account…
BUT make sure you use a reliable web hosting provider because the last thing you need (or want) is your website going down and offline due to server problems, right?
Install WordPress Securely On Your Server
WordPress is by far the best content management system for your new blog.
It’s easy to manage for bloggers of all levels and you can find free & premium themes to use as a starting point for your web design, plus hundreds, if not thousands of WordPress plugins to help improve the functionality of your site.
We’ll talk more about which themes and plugins to use in just a moment. First up, let’s get WordPress installed on your server.
Note: Although 1 click software’s like fantastic are the fastest and easiest way to install WordPress, they also leave your site vulnerable to hackers because the installation setting are easy to guess.
Recommended WordPress Themes & Plugins
Because I’m SO passionate about web design I’m forever tweaking my website and trying out new themes.
On more than one occasion I’ve literally spent several hours searching through the WordPress repository at www.wordpress.org/themes for free themes that meet my website needs, very unsuccessfully!
And I’ve purchased numerous premium themes from StudioPress, Theme Forest, Elegant Themes and Woo Themes, but StudioPress remains my favorite.
Why? Because Genesis Child Themes are highly customizable, affordable, stylish and responsive. Plus, you’ll find an endless stream of trusted Genesis developers if you ever need help customizing your site.
If you do find a free theme that you like and that meets your website needs, go ahead and use it. But just remember that not all free themes are created equally, and premium themes just look much more professional.
When you've found a theme that you're happy with get it installed.
Okay, moving on. Let’s have a quick chat about WordPress plugins.
In my honest opinion plugins are THE reason why WordPress is the leading blogging platform. You’ll find plugins to help improve site functionality, search engine optimization, blog design and a whole bunch more…
BUT you have to use them sparingly or they’ll slow your site down!
Over the years I’ve developed a list of MUST HAVE plugins that I use whenever I build a new website for myself, or for my clients.
Create Your Social Media Profiles
Social media will play a HUGE role in your strategic networking, so it’s important to get your accounts created before you begin publishing content to your blog.
But don’t be tempted to use your personal accounts for business because you want your channels to be niche related with super topical updates.
And for branding purposes you’ll want to secure your business name across all the main social media platforms listed below, even if you don’t plan on actively using them all to begin with.
Note: you may have to abbreviate on platforms like Twitter and Pinterest if your business name exceeds the character limit.
For example, my business name is The Strategic Blogger and I’ve managed to use that name for my Facebook page, but it was too long for Twitter and Pinterest so I registered ‘Strategic Blogs’ instead.
I won’t do a video tutorial showing you how to setup your accounts because it’s quite self-explanatory and you’re probably familiar with most of them anyway.
Just make sure you use the same profile picture for all your social media accounts and add an interesting profile description that makes people want to follow you.
Select and Add Your Blog Categories
Have you ever landed on a blog that has a long list of random categories in their sidebar and each category is made up of 1 or 2 blog posts?
Don’t do that to your readers, it’ll overwhelm them and it looks unprofessional.
Be strategic about the categories you choose. When setup correctly they encourage reader engagement, improve site usability and help search engines and new readers understand what your site is about.
Aim for 5 to 8 categories where the topics are general enough to talk about LOTS of different micro-topics within each one.
And all it takes is some further keyword research to discover EXACTLY what general topics interest your readers the most.
Let’s go do that now…
Again, I’ll use my niche as an example, so I’ll enter my base keyword ‘blogging’ into WordTracker and instantly, I can see 4 to 5 potential blog categories from just one search.
In position 7 we have business blogging. The perfect opportunity to talk about product creation, email marketing, monetization, content creation, or anything else related to building a blogging business.
Better than creating a different category for each micro-topic, I’m sure you’ll agree?
Then we can see ‘guest blogging’ in position 10. Now, that doesn’t mean we have to write a ton of articles talking about guest blogging. It could be used as a page that invites readers to submit a guest blog post.
Note: Categories don’t always need to be in your sidebar. You can use them as pages in your navigation menu instead if that makes more sense!
Sometimes you just have to be creative and think out of the box. 🙂
In position 13 you can see that ‘start blogging’ has been searched for 931 times over the past 30 days. That’ll make a great page or a category that teaches beginner bloggers how to get started.
Finally, blogging tips sits in position 23. On my blog I’ve created a category titled ‘miscellaneous blogging tips’ and that allows me to talk about micro-topics that don't really fit into any other category on my site.
And the 5th category? Well, I knew from past experience that everyone needs blog traffic, right? Right!
If you’re familiar with your niche and you already have an idea of the general topics you want to talk about, make a list and put it to the side. Do your keyword research first, and then add any topics that you know for sure will interest your readers.
Creating Content That Serves Your Target Audience
Ideally, you’ll want to create one post per category. If not, your categories won’t even display in your blog sidebar anyway.
And don’t worry if you don’t know what to write about just yet, your market will tell you exactly what they want to read.
Note: every time you publish new content to your blog you should be sharing it on your social media channels.
At first it may feel like you’re talking to yourself, but don’t let that put you off. It’s important to keep posting quality updates because then, when someone does land on your page or profile they’ll have a reason to follow you. 😉
Building An Email List With Your Blog
Building an email list for your new business is an absolute MUST because it gives you the ability to send traffic to any location of your choice, including your blog, and make repeat sales on demand.
If you’re not quite sure what an email list is, it’s just a database of prospects and customers who have shown interest in your business and what you have to offer.
Typically, you’ll offer something of value to build your list such as a free report, eBook, audio and/or video training course of some kind, in exchange for someone’s name and email address.
To build your email list you’ll need to use an autoresponder service. Personally, I use Aweber. I have used other service providers when doing work for clients, but Aweber remains my favorite, and here’s why…
Now, to build your list in the fastest time possible you’ll need to be strategic about your optin form placements. Ideally, you want to add a web form to the following locations on your site:
- Above the fold across the top of your content area.
- At the bottom of single blog posts
- In the sidebar
- In the footer (optional)
If you don't have the technical skills to add optin forms to your site I suggest you take a look at a plugin called Hybrid Connect and the Magic Action Box I introduced you to in my list of must have plugins.
Strategic Networking for Exposure & Growth
If you've been following the tutorial so far you should have the foundations of your business in place. And now, it’s time to begin strategically networking.
Remember that list of popular blogs, active forums, Facebook pages, groups and Google Plus communities you compiled earlier?
- Create a dedicated email address and sign up for email updates from all the blogs on your list. Read their content, share their best stuff and leave comments. Doing so will not only put you on their radar, it puts you in front of YOUR target audience.
- Join any popular forums you found and be sure to fully complete your user profile. Use the same profile picture you used on social media and don’t forget to add a link back to your blog in your email signature. Then just get involved. Ask questions and help others freely whenever possible.
- Become a fan of any established Facebook pages you found and interact with them as your Facebook page.
- Network in active Facebook groups and Google Plus communities.
- And finally, make sure you connect/interact with market leaders and influencers on Twitter, Google Plus, and any other channels you plan on using to grow your social media reach.
IMPORTANT: Networking can be a TOTAL time suck. If you’re not careful you can very easily spend hours upon hours getting lost in conversation.
Try working in 15 minute time blocks for each channel of communication, or 30 minutes two to three times a week and see how that works for you. 🙂
So What Happens Next?
I’ve shared a LOT of information with you in this tutorial, and as much as I would LOVE to break things down even further, it’s just not possible because there’s only so much I can show you in a single blog post…
But I’ve given you enough information to get your blogging business up and running, so promise me you’ll take action, okay? Okay!
Once you’ve completed ALL the steps I've outlined today, it’s important that you continue publishing quality content to your blog, and sharing it on social media.
80% of your time from this day forward should be spent creating content, networking strategically, increasing your social media reach and growing your email list.
AND you’ll need to start brainstorming ways to make money with your blog. The days of building an audience first and then monetizing are well gone.
Will you offer services, create and sell information products, offer consulting and coaching, or recommend affiliate products within your content?
For more actionable blogging tips and web design tutorials visit The Strategic Blogger. Kerry would love to connect with you there as well.