First Things First
1. Choose Your Blog System
There are hosted systems, like Blogger, TypePad, and WordPress.com, but I don’t recommend them. Some hosted services are free, but others (like TypePad) can cost as much as hosting your own site. If you’re serious about making money with your blog, you’ll want to have your own domain name. I recommend using free software like Textpattern or WordPress (you can research and demo a number of systems at opensourceCMS). Since I use WordPress, I’ll be talking about how to launch a WordPress blog.
2. Register Your Domain
Don’t put this off; you’ll be amazed at how many of the ingenious names you come up with are already taken. I register my domains with GoDaddy, and that’s as good a place as any to do your research. But don’t register your name yet; many hosts offer one free domain registration. while some may offer free domain names.
3. Find a Host
I’ve already written about this elsewhere. Be sure to get a host with a good affiliate program. I use AN Hosting. They’re inexpensive at only $4.95 per month and offer a generous 500 GB of storage and 5 TB of bandwidth, 24/7 phone support, and a free domain for life. Plus they have all the tools you will need to get going quickly like one click wordpress installations and superb backup tools.
4. Get Statistics
Your web host will offer statistics packages, but you’re better off with one of the free services. I useAddFreeStats and StatCounter to get a quick hit on what’s happening and Google Analytics for an in-depth view.
Getting Started With WordPress
5. Install WordPress
It only takes 5 minutes.
6. Find a Theme
WordPress makes it easy to change the look of your template; just upload and select a WordPress theme. Thousands of free themes are available. Start at the Theme Viewer.
7. Edit Your Theme
Most themes work fine out-of-the-box, but you’ll probably want to make a few minor tweaks. Instructions are usually included with a theme. WordPress is fairly easy to learn, and thedocumentation is excellent.
8. Install Your Statistics Tracking Code
To use stats like Google Analytics, you’ll need to paste a snippet of code into your template.
9. Install Your Plugins
Plugins extend the functionality of your basic WordPress installation. You’ll find more information about plugins at the Codex Plugin List. Here’s a list of plugins that I would consider essential for almost any WordPress blog:
- Admin Drop Down Menu Adds a menu bar to the WordPress admin menu, saving you lots of clicks.
- Ad Rotator Lets you randomly rotate ads or other text from a text file.
- Akismet Spam blocker. Included in the WordPress install, but don’t forget to turn it on.
- Digg Defender Caches pages to buffer hits from sites like Digg, helping your server avoid a meltdown.
- Digg This Adds a Digg button to your dugg posts.
- External Links Opens outbound links in a new window.
- Get Recent Comments Lets you display the most recent comments or trackbacks.
- Related Posts Displays a list of related entries.
- Social Bookmark Creator Adds social bookmark links to your entries.
- the_excerpt Reloaded Gives you more flexibility over how WordPress displays excerpts.
- Ultimate Tag Warrior If you want to use tags, this is the ultimate tagging plugin.
- WordPress Database Backup On-demand backup of your WordPress database. Included with the WordPress install. Don’t forget to use it; it can be a lifesaver.
- WP-Amazon If you’re going to add Amazon items to your blog, this is a great timesaver.
10. Start Posting
Brainstorm a list of possible topics (see 10 + 9 Ways to Find Great Post Ideas for Your Blog) and hit the keyboard. Post at least 25 entries before you begin to promote your site. Here are step by step instructions. If you’re new to posting, use the visual rich editor (enabled on the Options » Writing page in the WordPress admin), which lets you add basic formatting without knowing any HTML. Note: The visual rich editor doesn’t work with Safari.
Writing for the Web
11. Focus on a Niche
If you’re blogging with the intention of making money, focus on a niche. It will boost your search engine rankings, make it easier to target an audience, and make your advertising more effective. There are lots of bloggers that write about anything that catches their interest (I’m one of them), but if you want to make money you’ll be better off splitting your interests into individual blogs.
12. Post Regularly
Whether you plan on posting every day or a couple of times a week, determine a posting schedule and stick with it. When you post regularly, you’ll notice a slow, but steady increase in your traffic and subscriptions.
13. Write Good Titles
The better the title, the more likely a post is to be read. Be sure to read the following articles:
14. Write for the Computer Screen
With few exceptions (the occasional roundup, or how to piece like this one), you’ll want to keep your posts short. Most people will find you through a search engine. They’re looking for specific information and if they don’t find it, they’ll be gone in a second. Literally. When you write for the web:Shorter is better. Keep it short. Be brief.
Here are some other resources on writing for the web:
Marketing Your Site
15. Submit Your Site to the Search Engines
The big search engines, like Google, MSN, and Yahoo!, will find you eventually, but that’s no reason not to submit your new blog. You’ll get most of your traffic from the major search engines, but don’t stop there. And be sure to claim your blog at Technorati. For more information, check these resources:
16. Offer Feeds and Email Subscriptions
WordPress will automatically generate RSS feeds for your posts and comments, but useFeedBurner for your feeds. FeedBurner lets you track your subscribers, offers various tools to control and promote your feeds, and lets you offer email subscriptions. There’s even a Quick Start Guide for WordPress users.
17. Add Social Bookmarking to Your Entries
Remember that Social Bookmark Creator plugin for WordPress? Use it, or something like it, to make it easy for visitors to submit entries to their favorite bookmarking sites.
18. Join Social Bookmarking Services and Submit Your Posts
There are dozens of these services, with new ones popping up all the time (here’s a comprehensive list). If you write a Diggworthy post, submit it yourself (but be selective). And be sure to check the Social Bookmarking popup menu at the bottom of this post and submit it to your favorite sites.
19. Post Comments on Other Sites
Find blogs that share your interests and post meaningful comments there. Include your URL. Each comment is a link back to your site, which helps your search engine ranking. More importantly, if you have something worthwhile to contribute, people will want to visit your site.
20. Participate in Forums
Find forums that share your interests and post actively. Always include your URL in your signature.
21. Link Generously
Include links to other sites in your posts. Include a blogroll or list of links to interesting sites on your blog. Why? High quality links are valuable to your visitors and some of the people you link to will link back to you.
22. Monitor Your Site
Pay attention to your referrer logs. When you see traffic from another blog, website, or forum, pay a visit. Post a comment or forum post. And keep tabs on how effectively you’re promoting your site.UrlTrends lets you monitor several different ranking and link popularity trends at a glance. You can also keep tabs on how much your blog is worth, relatively speaking.
23. Join Advertising Programs
The biggest of these is Google AdSense, but there are a number of competitors. Most of these generate contextual ads (ads based on keywords in your posts) and limit you to displaying ads from only one advertising company on a page. But remember the Ad Rotator plugin for WordPress? You can use it to display ads from only one source at a time, letting you test multiple advertising programs simultaneously.
Here are some advertising programs to consider:
24. Join Affiliate Programs
A good affiliate program can be worth much more than advertising dollars. Start with your web host (put a small notice about your web host somewhere on your site). Then, think about where you spend money on the web. Many sites, like Amazon, have their own affiliate program. But you’ll want to join the big affiliate networks to get quick and easy access and comprehensive reporting for multiple companies. Here are some of the biggies:
25. Consider Asking for Donations
If your content is valuable enough, your readers might be willing to donate, especially if you have minimal advertising on your blog. Two easy ways to accept donations on your site are Amazon Honor System, and PayPal.