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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