As you know, this month marks one year since I launched my blog. In the past few months, I've gotten a few emails from folks interested in starting blogs for their local areas. Responding to such emails takes quite a bit of time because there is a LOT to learn, so I've decided to give some practical, basic, and most important, honest advice about how to get started in a new series of five posts. I hope my fellow bloggers will feel encouraged and welcome to jump in and fill out the advice I share in the comment section.
To get started, today I'm going to simply talk about the steps I took. Then, over the next few days, I'll be spending some time discussing the steps I think you should take as you plan your blog.
One of my resolutions for 2009 was to start a blog. I knew I wanted it to be about couponing and I knew I wanted it to be a quality site with well-written content. So here are some of the things I did BEFORE launching my site.
1. Read up on other sites! Spend some time reviewing other bargain blogs – read lots of 'em too. Which ones are you drawn to, and why? Which ones do you feel are less effective? What kind of topics do you see covered? Can you identify any topics that aren't currently being fully explored?
2. Consider your blogging service. I use TypePad; it was the first service I looked at, and it seemed like a good fit at the time. I'd also read a positive review about it in a "learn to blog" book. However, I also pay a $14.95 fee and there are some features I'm less than keen on about it. Needless to say, next month I'll be making the switch to WordPress and I've had to hire professional services to help with the migration. Many bloggers use Google-based Blogger, mainly because it's free and easy to use. I run my 26 Pounds 26 Miles blog from Blogger. However, if you want to fully customize your site and enjoy more freedom in how your site looks and feels, you might consider moving to WordPress. I'm losing count of how many former Blogger bloggers have migrated to WordPress. Something to think about. Email other bloggers and see what they have to say. It's easier to start with the service you want than have to switch later.
3. Think long and hard about your brand FIRST. Oh please whatever you do, do not just come up with a cute or witty name, slap up a site, and go for it. Remember, those early posts are PIVOTAL. You want to have your best foot forward. You wouldn't show up the first day on the job wearing sweats would you? Spend some time thinking about your name. Make it memorable, easy, and make it clear what you're about. Again, there are LOTS of bargain bloggers out there and this one is going to take some time. When I initially thought of this blog, I thought it would be fun to come up with a cute name like "Angela Clips Coupons" but in the end, I ditched cuteness for professionalism. I also pitched my friends a few blog name ideas and The Coupon Project was favored time and again. I also chose my name because it was important to me to have a gender-neutral title. In thinking about your name, think about your blog. What will you strive to do better or different? This is challenging given the sheer volume of other blogs out there. Do your homework.
4. Seek out other bloggers. Not knowing what I was fully doing, I decided to contact more successful bloggers. I found these bloggers to be so encouraging and helpful as I began to start out. I've also reached out to local bloggers for guidance. I had thought all these other bloggers were my competition, boy was I wrong! I'll say it once and I'll say it again, you NEED other bloggers to learn and to grow your own blog's traffic. This is a community you must learn to become a part of. (And it's a great one, too!).
5. Read up on blogging. I went to the library and read for a few weeks before typing my first post. However, most of the books at my library turned out to be way out-dated…and they were only a couple years old! A couple of my FAVORITE blogs on blogging are ProBlogger and BlogCoach. BlogCoach (written by Angie of Baby Cheapskate) has done an excellent job of addressing common and pressing questions bloggers have, and keeps you informed of newer techniques. Check these sites out BEFORE you get started and you'll have a leg up.
What's next in this series?
Part 2: planning your posts and managing your time
Part 3: traffic building strategies and networking
Part 4: setting up your business and earning some income
Part 5: the pros and cons of running a bargain blog
Please let me know what specific questions you have. I've still got a LOT to learn, but as with couponing, I'm happy to have you along for the journey!