New blogs are popping up all the time. New writers, new authors, new businesses and new ideas find a friendly space and set up shop. Authors are encouraged to use author blogging to help build their careers.
There are lots great reasons for authors to blog, and I think most writers understand that right away.
But when you get started, you face a sort of dilemma: your blog exists to host visitors, but when will it be ready to start inviting people to come over for a visit?
Well, you wouldn’t throw a party for special and important guests if you don’t have any furniture yet, would you? So you don’t want to start marketing your blog and trying to build an audience if you aren’t ready for visitors.
Even though you can start a blog any time you want and post your first article in minutes, both you and your readers will enjoy it a lot more if you’ve put some basics in place first.
First impressions count for a lot, and your typical web surfer is pretty quick to come to a conclusion about your new site. That’s why it’s a good idea to be ready before you try to get traffic to your sparkling new articles.
So here’s a list you can bookmark and refer back to that will help you if you’re just warming up a brand new blog.
You don’t have to treat these items as absolute requirements, but the more of them you have in place before throwing open your doors, the more confident you can be that you’ll show your best side to new visitors. You’ll encourage comments, send readers to your “archive” to read more, and sign them up as subscribers. It’s all good.
Top 10 Tasks to Get Your Blog Ready for Prime Time
6-10 Posts—This one should be easy, since you want to have a collection of at least 6 to 10 articles already on your blog. These should all address fundamental ideas, definitions, or principles of whatever your blog topic is. Presented properly, these are what we call foundation content, evergreen content, or pillar content.
Title & byline—You probably thought of a title for your blog when you first decided to set it up. But do you have a good tagline? This brief statement, often found in the header of a blog, helps orient new visitors right away to what kind of approach they’ll find in your articles.
Plugins—This blog runs on WordPress, and while the software is outstanding, you still need to install a few crucial plugins to keep things running well. For instance, the first plugin I install on new blogs is the Akismet comment spam eliminator.
Subscriptions—It takes a lot of work to get people to visit your blog. It would be a shame if they just came and, even if they liked your articles, simply left again. Blog subscriptions allow people to stay in touch with your content without having to remember to keep checking back. This is essential to building your audience.
Opt-in—You could consider this another subscription, but it’s very different. You want to sign up with an email provider, a company like AWeber or someone else, and put an opt-in signup box on your blog right from the beginning. No matter what goal you have for your blog, an email list is likely to be critical to helping you achieve it.
Customization—There are hundreds of cool themes available for WordPress blogs, many of them free. Once you find one you like, whether free or a premium theme, you want to make it your own. At the minimum, you can create a graphic, or hire someone to create one for you, and add it to your theme to give you a custom header. It will be the beginning of your blog’s branding, and you won’t look like every other new blog out there.
Submit to Google—When you have a new site it’s very important to get noticed and indexed by Google and other search engines. After all, this is how many of your yet-to-arrive visitors are going to find you. Whether you submit a sitemap or get links from more mature sites, or both, you’ll want make sure you’re getting noticed.
Create basic pages—One of the great things about WordPress is the way it allows you to create static pages as well as posts. For instance, you need to have an About page and a Contact page at the minimum, but you might also want to have a page for each of your books, for a media kit or to offer services.
Copyright—I don’t know of many bloggers who copyright their blog, but I believe it will become increasingly important to content creators. The process is a bit complex because blogs are completely different kind of publication than existed when copyright was invented, but you can still do it. If nothing else, make sure you have a copyright notice on your blog, like the one in the footer at the bottom of this page.
Policies—You may or may not be ready to put your privacy, comment or other policies in writing yet, but it’s a good idea to give them some thought. If you plan to stimulate discussion, it might be good to have a comment policy in place right from the start.
Looking over this list, I think you can see that a blog that’s been prepared for visitors, even if you’ve only done half of these 10 items, will be a more welcoming and richer environment for them when they arrive.
Time to start finding those readers and inviting them over.
Joel Friedlander is a self-published author, an award-winning book designer, and an accomplished blogger. He's the founder of the Self-Publishing Roadmap online training course, and a frequent speaker at industry events where he talks to writers about how the new tools of publishing can help them reach and inspire their readers.