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While chatting with a friend about my business, I was asked how I got started online. The more I explained the more I realized that to build an online business there is a checklist new entreprenuers should review and actually work through when launching a blog. Here is my best advice on the 10 Things To Think About When Building A Website Or Blog.
Start A Blog With A Plan – 10 things that help you organize it.
1. Pick a niche you feel passionate about.
I’ve heard both sides of the argument on this. Yes, many people are very successful doing “whatever sells”. I’m happy for them. However, I’ve got to wonder how happy they are doing “whatever sells”. Sure, its great to have money coming in. We all have to pay our bills. But personally, I lean towards the argument that picking a niche you are passionate about, are comfortable with and are interested in gives you an edge over “whatever sells”. I look at myself. I’ve been in the IT world for a long time. I’ve taught, built, learned, created, sweated over and been woken up in the dead of night to fix “computer stuff”. It’s kinda second nature now. I tell others that there is always something new to learn and my best skill is the ability to learn something new. Plus, I think I’m pretty darn good at helping others to learn. So yeah, I love to tinker with computer “stuff” as my friends and family say. Its beyond a job; its kind of a hobby. That makes it easy to talk about.
You should feel that way about the niche for your blog. It will never feel like work; no matter how many hours you spend on it.
2. Do research on the niche you select to find out what others are interested in.
When I heard this I went “huh?” So I thought about it. I realized I could talk about stuff I liked that others might be interested in OR I could talk about stuff that others were definitely interested in that I liked. Plus, those types of posts bring clients to my sites. The bottom line is this; I can’t know what potential clients are interested without understanding what they are asking about. So, how to research topic ideas? It pays to check out social media and use keyword research tools like Mangools. (Although Google Keyword Planner is the free equivalent, Mangools is one of those tools I’m willing to pay for because it has additional features I like and its not too expensive compared to others out there). It also helps to check out discussion groups on Reddit that focused on my niche topic. Keywords I find with Mangools and discussions on Reddit help me see what others are saying and searching for. That shows what other’s are looking to do, fix or find.
3. Make a list of topics you would put on your blog.
Once I started to understand what others were searching for, sharing about, or trying to do, it gave me lots of ideas about what I could blog about that would be of real interest. I started a “cheat sheet” of one line topics to focus on. Then as I blogged I would pick out a topic of interest and do further research on it. Some topics, because it was a passion niche for me required little to no research. I just had the background to begin with to start blogging about. Other topics were fun to research because hey I was already interested in my niche for my blog.
4. Determine your goals for your blog.
Not sure if you have goals? OK stop right here because you need to set a few. I for one knew my blog would become my future career if possible. I’d worked for enough companies; watched them want overtime with no pay and furloughs when times got rough that I knew I wanted to be my own boss. My goals were clear. Build a business I loved. Replace my old income. Do a job to help others. Do something I was interested in. Have a little personal freedom.
Having clear goals makes the hard work and potentially long hours starting your website/blog much easier.
5. Decide on a budget for your blog.
Wait, I need a budget? Yes, yes you do. No matter your goals you want a budget. While blogs and websites are much cheaper then other internet businesses, there is a definitive cost and if you don’t plan ahead those costs rapidly grow out of control. I discuss that in my post about the 5 Rules For Websites And Blogs. Having a great site costs more then the minimum $3 or 4/month charged by a hosting provider. In fact I really dis-like all these sites that toot their horn on how to start a blog for $3/4 a month. Really? You’ve got to be kidding. If this is going to be a business put on your business smarts and plan a budget. Many internet marketers don’t mention the “hidden” costs beyond the hosting fee. I learned the hard way and then learned right way. But enough of that.
So to start you need a hosting provider. Your hosting provider is kinda important because well, you rely on them. One of my current providers is A2Hosting ; I’ve had a good experience with them and recommend them to my friends and colleagues. But if you haven’t discovered it yet, you’ll also need services like email.
More importantly, you’ll use a “content management system” (CMS) like WordPress and all the related plugins or services that make your blog operate like an online business. That’s if you’re in business to make money.
Using WordPress is a no brainer. It’s free and a popular CMS that even non-techies can use.
WordPress is your foundation, the infrastructure where your blog resides. However, you’ll also need plugin’s to add the features and capabilities to serve and engage with your audience. Those plugins are necessary unless you’re planning on coding or programming your site. Plugins are small software add-ons that let you manage features, resources, services, and more on your blog. Most likely you’ll need to purchase a theme to customized the your site’s look. The theme is how you decide to “decorate”, “style” or customize your blog. If you don’t know what a theme is, check out 5 Traits Of A Good WordPress Theme because it describes what to look for in a theme. Remember, having a site is more then just a hosting provider, and thats exactly why the budget is so important.
Think of it this way. You have an apartment or a house. That’s your website or blog. Now you fill that apartment or house with your stuff. Thats your site’s content. But wait, you still need electricity to run the lights in your house. You pay for water, cable and other services for your house. Maybe you hire a guy to paint your house or mow your yard. Its the same deal with your website or blog. A budget lets you plan for all the things you need to make your website or blog really amazing and keep your costs in control.
6. Plan on how you would promote your blog.
Ten years ago it was much easier. To advertise on Google, Bing. You name it. Now, to get on the first page of Google it takes good SEO, expensive ads, and/or well written content. It also helps if your site has been around awhile. So many bloggers, marketers and businesses have turned to social media as their primary method of getting readers, customers and potential buyers. Facebook is huge and advertisers have flocked to it like bee’s to honey. Instagram and twitter reach just as many millions of users. Pinterest is the social media equivalent to Google and Bing advertising in picture format. My recommendation. Don’t try to master them all at once. Start with one and grow your audience. Use the one your most comfortable with. Then with time add the others in to diversify.
7. Pick where you will host your blog.
I’m assuming you’re going to build your own site or maybe hire someone to do it. That’s why your here reading this. So while I can tell you I recommend A2Hosting there’s a good dozen that are out there that are available. Most of these hosting companies have 3 different service plans and all work with WordPress as well as other less popular content management systems like Drupal or Joomla. (I mean less popular only on the basis of the number of sites using them). While I think I’ve had decent luck with hosting you can always check out the reviews that talk about each one. I’m not going to be one of those sites that promotes everyone. I promote what I know.
8. Learn how to build your blog. Hiring someone else just places control of your blog and budget in their hands.
I highly recommend this. You can if you feel uncomfortable building a site hire someone. A little short term discomfort is well worth the long term gain. You’ll learn so much more and in the long run be able to manage and control your site better then if someone built it and handed it to you. Plus, I know when I started that money is tight, so paying someone to build your site can be expensive. Anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for someone you hire to as high as $2500 if you go with your hosting company’s developers. With as many WordPress sites that are out there, you can do it.
If you feel you need a step by step approach check out my Web Blog Builders Outline. I wrote it because I found it frustrating to have to spend a good portion of my day just trying to find what I was looking for rather building my site and my business. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to learn how to build and manage your site then to hire a $2500 developer and face future costs every time you need to update your site.
9. Join online forums for support.
This is really useful. It helps to not re-invent the wheel. Online forums are great for finding solutions to common problems both of a technical nature as well as in regards to simply running your own business. It does take time to search, post a question and wait to see if anyone answers it. But if you’ve got time then its very useful. I’ve used forums and support for the plugins, themes I buy as well as WordPress.org’s forum, private business facebook groups and more public groups like Reddit.
10. Help others – You will be helping yourself.
Some think this is an odd item to list on a “plan” for your business. But I say no. In my past corporate life, I found working on a team, helping others made me understand what I was doing better. It’s one thing to figure out something; its a whole different skillset to teach it to others. If you do join a forum and I’m positive you will for the benefits it provides, the interactions you will get from helping others will point you in new directions for your blog. It may even open doors for your business that you never planned for or knew about. So get out there. Ask for help and give it. Either way you will benefit.
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