Starting a Blog: Be successful from day one.

You guys, I’m going to crack. I thought I could make it to the the New Year, but I can’t. I’m letting out my big secret that I’ve been keeping from y’all because I am weak. You know that project I’ve been teasing you with for over a month? Well I’m coming out with it:

I’m starting another website.

Ok, so I’ve got to keep some secrets under wraps so I’m going to keep hush hush on what the content is going to be (but feel free to guess in the comments below!), but I didn’t think it would be fair to keep teasing you with a secret without throwing any crumbs your way.

When I started blogging here at Mostly Morgan, everything happened on a whim. One day I was reading College Info Geek, as I did regularly freshman year, and I thought to myself, ‘Huh, maybe I could blog, too.’ And within an hour I had a domain bought and hosting was being set up.

My new site, though, had a lot more planning and thought put into it. I don’t want to have the same uphill battle I fought for the first six month here, fighting for readers and engagement, so I’m coming in with a plan.

And I want to share the plan with you.

HOW TO

Starting a successful blog.

Bear with me, we are going beyond in depth here and you’re going to come out with all of the knowledge you need in order to get off on the right foot on your blogging journey.

The Tools You’ll Need

The beauty of blogging is that you really don’t need anything to get started other than a computer and internet. But having a repertoire of great tools can only serve to help you when starting out with a blog. The tools I mention are merely suggestions, and you can certainly be successful without them, but if you’re looking to build an arsenal you may want to start here:

  • A great laptop. I recently was able to upgrade my computer to the Dell XPS 13 and it has been a game changer for me. Before I was using a tablet computer that I loved, but it simply didn’t provide the power I need. My Dell has a 6th Generation Intel Core Processor which makes it incredibly powerful, especially when you consider the size.
  • A camera. There are going to be a lot of people who say you need a top of the line DSLR, but that’s simply not the case. The main thing you want to look for is a camera that allows you to switch lenses, as for the purpose of blogging the glass matters a lot more than the body. If you’re going to be using your camera for other purposes, the perhaps you want to consider a flashy body, but it is absolutely not necessary.
  • An editing program. Content is king, but the visual aspects of your blog are going to be queen. You draw readers in with great photography and graphics, and often times you need to make post-production tweaks to get your desired affect. I use Lightroom and Photshop, and as a student I can get the duo for around ten dollars a month, but a fantastic free option is Gimp. For making graphics, my heart belongs to Canva!

Really, those are the only tools I recommend that you might need to plan ahead for. Like I said, so long as you have a way of accessing the internet you’re set, but the above will make your life a whole lot easier!

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Before You Start

Now this is where the magic happens. If you’re really looking to have a successful launch and avoid those grueling start up months you’re going to want to make sure you don’t skip this step. When I started Mostly Morgan I started with a single blog post, an about me page, and my bucket list. When my new site launches on the first here is what you can expect:

  • Plenty of content. Before you launch you are going to want to write a lot of content so that your readers have something to look at after they read the post that brought them to your site. Personally I’m aiming to have twenty posts live on launch day, and I would recommend starting with no fewer than five.
  • A brand. I’m still tweaking with the Mostly Morgan brand nearly two years into the process. Again, not a mistake I’m going to repeat. You can hire a brand strategist for this, but as someone who is knowledgeable on branding I decided to do it myself. Your brand is what you’re going to be recognized for, make sure that yours is unique and authentic to your goals.
  • Content Upgrades. The number one sign of a successful blog is the size of it’s email list and the quickest way to build an email list is by offering your readers content upgrades. These can be in the form of e-books, checklists, workbooks, or anything else related to your content that you think your readers would trade their email address for.
  • A plan. If you’re looking to monetize (and you should after all the hard work you’re putting in!) then know exactly how you’re going to do that. You can do ads or sponsored posts, but those will always be inferior to selling your own product.
  • An Editorial Calendar. Having an editorial calendar changed my blogging game, I am more productive when I already know what I need to write and photograph for the day and having that ‘assignment’ actually written there on my calendar, taunting me, makes me 100x more likely to actually get the post done than if it were just an idea floating in my head.

Getting Set Up

Setting up your blog is so easy, really it only takes a few minutes of active work and then it’s just a waiting game until the servers are up and hosting is ready for you. I wrote a crazy in depth guide detailing how to start a blog, so I won’t go too far in depth about that here, but I will share a few things that I want for you to keep in mind.

  • Domain names are forever. Okay, so not quite, but they are a pain in the booty to switch and you should really save yourself the hassle and make sure that you absolutely love your domain name before committing.
  • Set up social media accounts and use them a bit before you launch. Remember, we want to have content everywhere, not just your blog.

The Website Necessities

The content you put out is what is really going to draw people in, but once they’re drawn in they are going to be looking for a few things and you want to make sure your site has them all covered.

  • An about me page. Ok, these are no fun to write. It feels a bit awkward writing about yourself and coming up with what people are going to care about is tricky. A few things to get you started:
    • Your name, age, and location.
    • What you do (student, entrepreneur, teacher, etc.)
    • Why you are blogging.
    • What your hobbies are.
  • A contact me page. I get a lot of emails from readers and from companies pitching collaborations and everyone finds me through my contact page. Sure sometimes I fantasize about waking up to an empty email inbox, but in the long term I’m so thankful to have been able to be in contact with everyone I’ve talked to through my blog.
  • A privacy policy. This is just one of those little boring necessary things that every site needs. There are a ton of generators you can use online!

Writing Posts.

So if you want to be a blogger you probably are already pretty keen on writing. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that writing a blog post should usually be a lot different than writing an essay.

For most niches you’ll want to throw out the academic tone and instead replace it with something more personable. You’ll hear a lot about ‘voice’ and that you need to find yours. Basically all that means is that you should write in a way that’s unique to you. I ignore a lot of ‘rules’ and rather choose to write how I’d speak.

You also want to consider location. When I’m living at school, writing in my apartment isn’t always practical (it’s a bit of a zoo there) so I’ll head to my boyfriend’s across the street or stay in my lecture hall after class and get some work done there. If you’re like me and need to get out of the house to get work done, a laptop with a reliable battery is a must. I am crazy about my Dell XPS 13 it lasts all day long even when I can’t get to a charger.

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Qualities of a great post:

  • Length: some people recommend no less than 300 words I’m a bit more intense and if it’s an informative post (like this one!) you can bet that I’ll be writing at least 1000 words, usually a lot more. Long, super informative posts are going to help you so much in terms of building reader trust and getting you ranked with Google.
  • It’s broken up with headings, bullet points, and pictures. Super long posts are intimidating if they are just written as a bunch of paragraphs, people are likely to be scared away by that, but making it easy to read with a lot of visual elements will keep readers interested!
  • It’s got a purpose. I can write a 2000 word post about what I did over the weekend, and a small number of people may read it and be entertained but for the most part nobody is going to get anything from that post. This post, on the other hand, has a clear purpose: to help you successfully set up a blog.
  • Quality graphics. So I already mentioned that pictures are a must, but the quality of those pictures are important. You want to have nice bright photography and you want your graphics to look sharp. Like I said before, I recommend lightroom!

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Promoting Posts

Whew, we are almost there! If you follow my advice and go live with a handful of posts already published you are going to want to get them out into the web in a non spammy way. We are going to focus here on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

  • For Pinterest my main strategy is to pin all content to all relevant boards. Now you don’t want to do this all at once (it can be a bit much), but over the course of a day or two is fine because Pinterest is such a fast platform.
  • My Twitter and Facebook strategy is the same: schedule out content to go live throughout the day, mixing up your own content and the awesome content of others. On Twitter I will also get on and tweet live throughout the day, too.
    • Because Facebook and Twitter are such engaging platforms make sure that you are replying to comments and engaging with others! This is going to help you grow your following quicker than anything else.

 

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  • Oh, how exciting! So you will be running your second website along with Mostly Morgan?

    I can’t wait to see what’s in store. And it does seem like there is a lot of preparation going into it, so that’s awesome. Thanks for sharing the “tricks of the trade!” 🙂

    Peace & Love // Celestralite

    • Yes! I will be running them both! Eventually (by February!) I will be posting MWF here and on TT over at the new one!

  • HonestlyHaley

    So excited to see what you create, Morgan!!:)

    • Thank you so much, Haley! I appreciate it!

  • I have been reading your blog for over a year, truthfully
    you were my inspiration to write my own blog.
    So I (in a way) feel like I owe you the guess. My guess is “how to get
    more traffic to your blog. “

    P.S. I live in Champaign Il.

    • Thank you so much, Douglas! I am so happy to hear that! And you’re right, it’s all about blogging and business!

      That’s awesome! Champaign is great!

  • Katie Baker

    This post is spot on! Thanks! What editorial calendar do you use? I’ve tried using a few through WordPress, but I couldn’t get any to work the way I wanted.

    And I’m super excited to see what your new website will be like!

    Katie – thosebakergirls.com

    • Thank you so much, Katie! And i’m actually very low-tech with my editorial calendar! I just use Google Calendar and then schedule the posts within the ap!

  • SO excited for your new website!
    Also, wonderful tips! So glad you posted this 🙂
    Happy New Year!
    xo, Amanda
    http://www.affordablebyamanda.com

    • Thank you so much, Amanda! I really appreciate you supporting me!

  • These are great tips! I will definitely try to set up an editorial calendar. I always find myself planning to do posts and then letting them slide for a few days, so that is such a great idea!
    Can’t wait to see the new website!!

    ~Alana Robin
    http://www.sophisticationandsparkles.com

    • Thanks so much, Alana! An editorial calendar is so great! It really helps you get everything under control!

  • My goal this yeear is to be more organized with my blog. I’ve heard of editorial calendars but never gave much thought to them, but after reading about the success it’s had for you, I’m most definitely going to try one out. 🙂

    Thank you for all the great advice,

    Alex
    mstigerlilly.com

    • Organization is such a great goal! I hope that your calendar works out for you!

  • My goals for this year is to be more activate outside of my blog, especially my Instagram. I started using it in December. And I realized it’s a great way to interact with other bloggers on a personal level.
    -Kim 🙂
    http://www.simplybeingkim.wordpress.com

    • That is wonderful, I love instagram the most out of all social platforms! It’s great to get that inside peek to people’s lives!

  • Sierra Hodges

    This post was so helpful! I have wanted to start a blog for awhile but needed a push, and these tips gave me enough confidence to pull the trigger! Thank you!

    • How excicting ,Sierra! Please let me know when your blog is live so I can check it out! You can comment here or email me at mtimm2@illinois.edu! I can’t wait to see!

  • Jennifer Benner

    Hey Morgan! I just started a blog for girls with anxiety, depression, or are going through a point of grief in their lives. I love your posts and I just wanted to share my journey with you and your readers as well 🙂

    gadgirls.wordpress.com

    Blessings!

    • 1) love the idea of your blog.
      only two things I’d suggest; add a more interesting tagline that pretty much wraps up how someone going through anxiety, depression, or grief. Maybe something like, “For when your life is falling apart” and some info about YOU Jennifer!!! 🙂 good luck on your blog!

    • What an amazing direction to take your blog! As someone who has been battling with a lot of demons in my head, I really appreciate people willing to write about their journeys and their struggles with it, and people willing to share their advice. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Hailey Morgan Rumbles

    I have a couple questions! Do you think it’s absolutely necessary for new bloggers to have a camera? I’m nervous I would lose it or not be able to get my pictures onto my laptop. What do you do when you edit your pictures? And when you write your posts, do you sit down and just write until you feel like it’s done, or do you write a plan/outline and go by that? Thanks!

    • Do you have an iphone? I know many bloggers who survived with iPhone photos up to a year before investing in an actual camera

      • Hailey Morgan Rumbles

        Yes I do! I think my iPhone would be sufficient – I’ve been looking at blog posts about how to improve your iPhone photo quality!

        • Absolutely, natural lighting + iphone can work wonders

    • Not completely necessary, but I would say if you start to monetize it should be on your investment list! My camera was the first big thing that I bought with my blogging money, and the investment paid for itself very quickly! The higher quality photos you have, the more likely brands will want to work with you, and if you shoot with a DSLR you can also request to be paid more!

      But you absolutely can get great shots with your phone, too! Like Nia said, great lighting is a must! If I’m in a pinch I’ll take pictures with my phone, too! I edit using lightroom usually, but I make my graphics on photoshop!

      And I usually just sit down and write using stream of consciousness, and then go back to edit!

      • Hailey Morgan Rumbles

        Thanks, Morgan!

  • I’ve got so many calendars that an editorial calendar feels like too much pressure, but my blogger buddies swear by them! Kind of like mind-mapping. I didn’t think that would ever help, but turns out it made a huge difference in my writing. Thanks for sharing with us Morgan 🙂

    • Absolutely! It has made such a large difference for me, I can’t recommend using one more! Even if it’s very loose and unstructured, it helps with brainstorming!

  • Savanna Nave

    I love these posts! I have a blog for interior design on blogger and I’m trying to build my business.. With that being said I would really like to switch to my own self- hosted blog. When I started, I saw the word FREE and went for it. Now I’m regretting that decision. Do you have any recommendations on how to do this? Thank you in advance!!

  • Zoey Stephenson

    What a great idea. I wish I saw this earlier and had more content when I first started my blog, but I love the idea of a scheduled time to post and when to. Great ideas thank you so much. I just started a blog about my journey going through 3 consecutive concussions back to back. It’s a raw and emotional journey that many people haven’t talked too much about. Head injuries are just weird 🙂 https://headcasehealingblog.wordpress.com

  • Mariah

    Hi Morgan,

    I have recently decided to start my own blog and found this post extremely helpful. Blogging is something I have always been passionate about but never pursued. I am excited to finally have my basics together and I am taking you advice to heart. Thank you for sharing!

    Best Wishes,
    Mariah

    http://www.thesundayvibes.com

  • Sheri Cata

    Probably my favorite post so far on starting a blog! Im starting up one here really soon focusing on sewing and crafting! It is a hardcore passion of mine and i will for sure reference your blog post on mine as to starting one up when i finally get mine going!!! Ive read hundreds of posts on starting up and being as I have severe adult ADD and ADHD it gets hard to focus on things. Your blog post was by far the best I’ve read and actually followed taking notes along the way!!! Thank you for putting this out there for others such as myself to read and learn from!!!!!

  • Dodo

    Hey Morgan! I’ve tried blogging before and I’ve stayed loyal for a few months, then I kind of ran out of ideas and other things distracted me from the blog.
    Where do you get your inspiration for your blog?
    I’m an artist (I call myself that cuz Im passionate about art and I do them even if the don’t turn out the way I want them to)
    And do you think making my art as products will be nice as an extra in my blog??

  • Rebecca Anton

    Hi Morgan! I just started blogging about teaching, being a wife and mommy, and making changes to see a change. This is by far the most helpful post of the 100’s I have read about starting a blog. Thank you!

  • Katie Gardner

    Such a helpful post! My son was born with hydrocephalus, (water on the brain), and I have been toying with the idea for a few weeks now of starting a blog to help parents of children with hydrocephalus. I wish I would have found someone to help us when we were going through it in the beginning, so I figured that other parents probably want and need the help too. I am hoping to have it started by the end of the month. Thank you for this post. It has given me so many helpful tools and tips that getting started doesn’t seem so daunting!

  • thatkenyanwanderer

    Hey Morgan!
    I just starting blogging and am struggling with this post was so helpful! Thank you for this. I hope I can take my blog to great heights too as it’s always been a dream of mine.

    thatkenyanwanderer.wordpress.com
    Thanks.

  • Claire Oswald

    Thanks so much for this Morgan! Starting a blog is a lot to get my head around and I found your post really helpful! You are a super star… thanks again!

  • Megan Matheson

    Hey Morgan! I’m just starting my blog as in I literally just got my domain purchased yesterday! I’m excited and also a little nervous. My blog is going to be a mommy blog and I’m really pumped to get things going. Any extra tips for newbies would be greatly appreciated!

  • AJMoneyMatters

    Great article Morgan! So much detail and definitely helpful to us beginners who are starting off. Keen to see your new website when it’s released!

  • Chevelle Williams

    Hello there! I just started a blog with all the things I make and sell and talk about them and show my things off! I would love for you to take a look and give me some advice? Thank you so much!
    http://itsmycreativecorner.blogspot.com/

  • Michelle Carlson

    What a great post! I’m getting ready to launch a blog for change in the education that I plan to monetize and found a ton of really great stuff on your site! Thank you! I’ve also shared it wi a couple friends who own sweet little shops here and are also doing the blogging thing.

  • Those are some really great tips.. Especially if content is the king, graphics is the queen.
    Thanks!