Monday, April 20, 2015

3 steps to start a successful blog for free - PLUS 17 bonus steps to actually make it happen


Step 1: Pick a topic to write about

Step 2: Setup a blog

Step 3: Setup an email list

That's it! So easy! No, not really, read on to learn how to do this for real.

Now for the actual steps to getting started :)

tldr; Click Here to sign Up for Instant Access to the Checklist with All 17 Steps


Choose a more specific audience

You may already have an idea of what you want your blog to be about. Now is the time to refine your idea and make sure it is very specific. It is important to start with a small audience that you can make the best content for.

Your first 5 blog posts should cover your narrow topic in depth. These posts must be better than anything that is currently available on the internet. This is a huge task and being extremely specific about your audience and topic will make it easier.

In many cases the easiest audience to pick is yourself. There are many people who share your interests and can learn from what you know. Write your blog for yourself a year ago or five years ago. What would you have liked to know, or what could you have learned and benefited from.
 

Discover what your specific audience wants to read

Once you pick a very specific audience it's time to learn what type of content they want. There are many formats you can use to deliver your content. Does your audience prefer reading, listening or watching? Do they like to spend an hour, five minutes or a glance consuming your content? Find out what your audience is currently reading, listening to and watching. Then make sure your blog will be inline with your audience's current habits

Learn the language and words your audience likes to use

While you are studying the types of content your audience is currently consuming take note of the vocabulary they use. What phrases are repeated over and over. What types of words does your audience say more often. Take note of the trends and incorporate them into your blog.

Pick a blog name that fits with what your audience searches

When you choose your blog's name make sure it is inline with the language your audience already uses. This will ensure your blog sounds familiar and gives your audience confidence that you are writing for them. 

Setup an email account with gmail

I use gmail for all my free blogs. You can choose whatever platform you are most comfortable with, just make sure the email address you choose is the same as your blog name or something that is related.
Visit mail.google.com to setup a gmail account

Fill out the form and accept the user agreement

Setup a blog on blogger

Blogger is free and run by Google. The security patches and updates are handled by the best team. Blogger also scales well and is ready to handle any traffic the world sends to it. Blogger includes some great SEO features by default to help your blog rank well in search. There are default mobile themes, which starting April 21st will boost your search rankings. 

Visit blogger.com to get started. Click on the New Blog button near the top.

Create a logo in Google drive

The key for the logo is that it doesn't have to be perfect. No one ever said, "Gee, this site has an amazing logo, I'm going to buy anything they sell." The logo is there to set the tone and quickly show what your site is about. Make it simple and show your personality. If you aren't confident designing your own logo then I have a couple guidelines that might help.

Make your logo simple. Choose two shapes from the default shape pallet. Draw the shapes on the canvas.

Watch my 5 minute Website Logo Method Video

Choose three colors from the default color pallet and play around with the border color and body color of the two shapes. Don't add anything else to the canvas. Adjust the shapes and colors until you have something that looks good enough.

Visit drive.google.com and select New -> More -> Google Drawings

On the Google Drawings page go to File -> Page Setup... and select 1024 pixels by 1024 pixels

Start playing around with the default shapes and colors

When you have something that is good enough export it as a png

Go to File -> Make a copy to create a new Drawing.
Change the new drawings page setup so that it is 700 pixels by 85 pixels

This is the header image for your blog. Add your blog's title and adjust your blog's icon. When you are satisfied download it as a png file.

Edit the blog’s theme to simple and add the logo

Blogger has some great default themes. Since I am not good at design and I am setting this blog up for free I choose the simple theme with the white background. A clean white design with a simple logo looks good enough and I can leave it that way for a long time.

On your blogger.com visit your blog and then Template from the lefthand menu. Choose the Simple theme with the white background.

Choose Layout from the lefthand menu then click edit for the Header. Upload your banner image you created earlier.

Create a survey in Google drive

In the beginning stages of your blog it is important to connect with your audience. These first visitors will become your tribe and you'll want to make sure you learn as much about them as you can. To make it easy for visitors to contact me I use Google Forms to create a very simple web form that anyone can fill out and send to me.

Visit drive.google.com and create a new Google Form

Edit the form so that it has one question with a paragraph text answer

Add the survey to your blog

The Google Form has an option for embedding it into a webpage. I click the embed option, copy the HTML and paste it into a contact me page on my Blogger site.

When you are done editing the Google Form click Send Form. Click the Embed button...

Then copy the HTML code that is provided for the Google Form

Create a new page in Blogger, select the HTML option and paste the Google Form code

Preview your new Blogger page to make sure the Google Form appears correctly

Add the Google Form to your Blog's top menu by selecting Layout from the lefthand menu and then adding a new widget, Pages.

Choose the pages you want to appear in the menu bar

Visit your blog to see the new menu bar

Setup Mailchimp

There are many great email list tools, I use Mailchimp because it is free for lists smaller than 2,000 subscribers. If I get to that many subscribers then I will be making enough money to purchase a subscription. 
Visit mailchimp.com and click Sign Up Free

After filling out the sign up forms, create a new list for your blog

After you have created a new list, select the new list then choose Signup Forms -> Embedded Forms

Copy the HTML for the form so you can add it to a new About page on your blog

Add an about page

It is important that visitors be able to quickly learn if your blog is for them. An about page should tell visitors in a few sentences the purpose of your blog and what solutions it provides. It is also a great idea to put the email subscription form on your about page.

Create a new page on your blog and call it About.

Add Mailchimp signup form to the About page

Add the email subscription form to your about page.

Copy the Mailchimp embed HTML

On the About blog page choose the HTML option then copy the Mailchimp code

Preview your About page to make sure the Mailchimp code is displayed

Your new About page and email sign up form are ready

Add Google analytics

Successful blogs measure everything. Start measuring everything right now for free. Google analytics has tons of features and will be useful for you now and in the future, even if your site becomes very popular.

Visit analytics.google.com and sign up

Add your new blog and copy the Tracking ID that Google Analytics provides

In blogger choose Settings from the lefthand menu and then scroll to the bottom and paste the Tracking ID in the Analytics Web Property ID field.

Add Google webmaster tools

Webmaster Tools has a few features that Analytics doesn't, namely it keeps track of what search phrases your visitors are using to find your blog. Turn on Webmaster Tools now because it takes a few weeks for Google to collect enough data to show you.

Visit www.google.com/webmaster/tools or search google for Webmaster Tools and follow the link

Add your blogger URL to Webmaster Tools

Post 5 stellar blog posts to get you started

Learn to take and edit great blog photos
Take some time to create 5 amazing blog posts that are better than everything currently available to your audience. This step will take time and a lot of hard work. There is no click bait article that will make this easier or faster. Put in the work to create 5 awesome articles and you will be rewarded.

Once your posts are written use these photo tips to add stunning photos to the top of each blog post. 

Promote your blog

There are dozens of ways to promote your blog some of them are free and many of them cost money. The methods are often specific to your audience. The best advice is to try it. Learn for yourself what works and what doesn't. I know that some of the methods I've used that didn't work for me will work for others in different situations. Try it.


Whew! That's a lot of steps. To help you get organized I created a checklist of all the steps that you can use to check the tasks you complete.