Let’s face it…
We’ve all been deceived.
Once upon a time, we looked at blogging and thought, “Oh, I can do that. Writing a few posts a week? Piece of cake.” From the outside, it looks so simple, so easy, so fun, and so we rushed off to start a blog of our own.
But then we get a rude awakening:
This stuff is complicated. Blogging isn’t so much about writing blog posts as juggling dozens of little odds and ends, all of them important, all of them demanding your attention, and all of them requiring you to learn something.
And it’s easy to drop the ball, so to speak, or even all of them. Not because you want to neglect anything, but because it’s too much to keep track of.
What you really need is a checklist of sorts – an itemized breakdown of everything you need to do to transform your blog and dazzle your readers. That way, you can stop trying to handle everything all at once and just go through it one step at a time.
So, that’s what I created for you. Here are 58 things you need to do, along with some links to help you learn how to do them well.
1. Move to self-hosted WordPress, if you haven’t already. Yes, you can build a popular blog on WordPress.com or Blogger.com, but there are lots of reasons to move your blog to your own host, including having more control and looking more professional. (Note from Jon: for newbie bloggers, I recommend Hostgator (aff). If your blog is already gaining some traction, Synthesis is a good premium option.)
2. Are you in the right niche? If you make it too narrow you’ll struggle to build a large audience. Make it too wide, and you’ll find it really hard to stand out.
3. Rework your tagline. Your tagline needs to tell your readers who the blog is for, what it offers them and what makes it special (think unique selling proposition – USP). Clear is always better than clever.
4. Set up Akismet. It’s a plug-in that helps you eliminate comment spam. Most hosts include it by default, but you still need to set it up and get it going.
5. Schedule regular backups. You never know when your blog might get hacked, and the best defense is scheduling regular backups using a plug-in like BackWPup.
6. Create an ideal reader profile. If you know who your target audience is and write every post with them in mind, your results will improve significantly!
7. Develop a basic Editorial Calendar. Jot down the type of posts (list, interview, reader question, personal, epic, etc.) and fill in post ideas. This is fairly simple to do, and it keeps your content regular and flowing.
Improving your blog’s usability
8. Showcase a clutter-free design. Nothing sends your readers running faster than being greeted by a cluttered, tacky or spammy feel. Make a great first impression by with a stunning, clean and professional design and improve your website trust factor instantaneously.
9. Link to the archives. We would all like to believe our readers browse through the archives of our blog, but the reality is, they don’t. You need to remind them. In every new post, try to link to at least three or four old posts, sending your readers back in time to read your best work.
10. Display a list of your most popular posts. Showcase your best work and impress the heck out of first time visitors.
11. Position your opt-in form in a prominent position. People often hide their subscription form and then complain that nobody subscribes. Make it very easy for people to find your sign-up form. Top right on your sidebar or just above your main navigation bar are two good places.
12. Create a contact page. As soon as you start getting traffic, some of your readers will want to get in touch with you, so create a contact page and use a plug-in like Contact Form 7 to make getting in touch with you easy.
13. Show your social media profiles. Encourage visitors to connect with you on social media. This builds trust and deepens the connection.
14. Perfect your About Me page. This is the most frequently visited page of your blog after your home page. It also has the longest shelf life. It’s worth really looking at how others have done it, and then to make yours as professional and well thought out as possible. You certainly don’t want people bouncing off this page. They need to subscribe to updates then and there.
15. Have clear guidelines for guest posting. If you want to attract quality posts from other bloggers, have a section with detailed advice on the requirements and the process.
16. Add a sign up form after every post. Remind your readers that they should sign up to get your latest updates and special offers. People are distracted. They have tons on their minds. If you don’t remind them to sign up and make it very simple, they won’t do so.
Integrating Social Media
17. Display social share buttons. Again… If you don’t make it simple for people to recommend or share your work, chances are absolutely zero that they’ll do so. Make it really easy for them to participate.
18. Focus on and master one social platform. Instead of trying to be everywhere, attempt to do one well. Excellent results on one social network trumps mediocre results on five.
19. Schedule promotions for your own posts. Sign up for a free Hootsuite account and pre-schedule Tweets or Facebook updates.
About your content…
20. Maintain an idea file. Always be on the lookout for new ideas for getting inspired to write. And have someplace where you can easily record them to refer back to later. Use Evernote as an online catch-all for writing ideas.
21. Maintain a decent posting frequency. Posting every day is a silly strategy and you need to follow the 80-20 rule. Spend 20% of your time creating content and 80% promoting it.
22. Conduct surveys. At one point or the other, you’ll be struck by writer’s block. Ask your audience what they want to read about. They might surprise you.
24. Hone in your headline writing skills. You need to make your audience curious, and you always need to spell out the benefit of them reading the post. Make prospective readers and subscribers think: I have to read that, right now!
25. Start every post with an irresistible introduction. Draw your reader down into the rest of the post. Get them from one sentence to the next, working their way through your post. If people aren’t even reading, none of the other good benefits will come.
26. Make your writing screen-friendly. Take a step back and see how your writing looks — visually. Pretty it up by adding sub-headings, bulleted points, numbered lists, images and lots of white space. Make it easy on the eyes.
27. Incorporate effective communication principles in your writing. Clarity, conciseness, and connection: they make the world go round.
29. Tell stories. Captivate your audience instantly.
31. Create link bait. Give people reasons to link to you… Epic posts. Huge list posts. Interviews. Reviews of other (popular!) bloggers’ work and products. One successful link bait post can bring you traffic and subscribers for years.
32. SEO friendly content. Write for humans first, and they’ll make sure that your content ranks well for search engines. Win win.
33. Engage with your community. Aim to increase the number of comments on your posts every time you write one.
34. Have fun with content syndication. Submit your content to various content syndication sites like Alltop. These sites can be good sources of targeted and engaged readers.
35. Be consistent in your guest posting strategy. You don’t have a strategy, you say? How on earth do you plan to grow your list? If you can’t get people to come over to you, it only makes sense to go where they are. Devise a strategy.
Forming strong connections
36. Follow blogs in your niche. Your blog is not an island. You can’t do it alone. You have to find your tribe and become a part of it. Find your people or remain invisible.
37. Comment on other bloggers’ posts. Be strategic about it. Be smart. Know what you want to gain from your efforts. If you said traffic only, you’re in the doghouse. Quality connections are just as important.
38. Reach out to A-list bloggers via email. Keep it short and tell them why you appreciate their work. Ask how you can help them (not the other way around).
39. Follow them on social media. No brainer.
40. Link to them. Duh!
41. Interview them. Ask them to answer a few questions on a topic they’re passionate about. When they’re committed advocates for some cause, it’s hard for them to say no.
42. Ask for a guest post. Only after you’ve developed a meaningful connection with them and know their blog and audience intimately, pitch them a great idea. But be sure to do your homework first.
43. Ask them to share a post published on your own blog. Only after your guest post has done really well, or you have guest posted multiple times. Only when your post is your best work, and will really resonate with their audience. There aren’t any exceptions.
44. Build your email list. First, attract the right kind of traffic to your blog. Then impress them with your savvy, knowledgeability and generosity, and guess what? They’ll subscribe.
45. Offer a subscribe incentive. Give new subscribers free access to an ebook or report they can’t refuse. Make it super useful. Make it a killer. Give them something they’ll want to read (not something you think they should read).
46. Do consultations. The best way to find out what your readers want to buy is to get on the telephone and do some good old-fashioned consulting. Listen to their problems, and then try out different solutions. Soon, you’ll find a common problem and a solution that seems to work for everybody. That’s when you know you have promising product idea.
47. Create a hire me page. You’re running a business, so start acting like you are. Add a hire me page for all to see. Don’t be shy about this. Use your blog to build your business.
48. Get and display testimonials. Back up what you offer by positive feedback from past and present customers.
49. Be careful with advertising. Only display ads on your blog if the income is too good to refuse. If you do, keep the ads relevant to your audience.
50. Consider affiliate marketing. When you’ve reached the point where you actually have a substantial list, it might make sense to recommend quality products that will solve some of your audience’s problems.
51. Venture into creating your own products and running continuity programs. Multiple income streams… The name of the game.
Developing a success mindset
52. Find mentors. Even the self-appointed ones who have no clue that they’ve taken this role work fine.
53. Invest in your online business education. Coaching, classes, courses, training, events, ebooks — whatever works for you. Keep doing it.
54. Shift strategies — evolve. It’s OK to change things as you grow. Your blog isn’t static. It’s constantly evolving, just like you are.
55. Be persistent — and consistent. You don’t have a choice.
56. Celebrate your wins. A few Facebook likes. A couple of retweets. A comment here and there. A guest post invitation by a popular blogger. 70 email subscribers in a day. Orders pouring in. Being completely booked out… You get the drift. Celebrate your positive moments to keep yourself motivated.
57. Thank your advocates and fans. You’re here today because of them. Don’t forget that.
58. Have fun! Be unforgettable.
And that’s a wrap!
I know, it’s a long, long list, but there’s also a bit of a silver lining at the end of the rainbow here. The good news?
You don’t have to juggle forever
Yes, blogging is a lot of work. Yes, it’s complicated. Yes, it’s overwhelming.
But it gets easier.
As you check off the items above, you’ll slowly have less and less to do. One by one, you’ll be snatching balls out of the air and putting them down forever.
Sure, there are a few types of tasks like creating great content and forming strong connections that you’ll always be doing, but you can check off at least half of the items on this list once and for all, never having to worry about them again. Or at least, not for a while.
And the best part?
You now have links to all the resources you need to help you do it. So, get to work, start checking those babies off, and make 2013 the year when you become a blogging superstar!
About the author: Marya Jan is a blogging coach for solopreneurs, small business owners and bloggers looking to grow their business. Find more of her stuff at Writing Happiness. Don’t forget to grab her free ebook “9 New Rules of Blogging – How to Grow Your Business with Little Traffic, No Connections & Limited Hours.”58 Tips for Transforming Your Blog and Dazzling Your Readers by Marya Jan