But, we also know a sizable percentage of blogs fail and fold before their first birthday.
So, starting a blog isn’t all that tough. But, starting a blog right can make all the difference if you’re looking for long-term success.
To launch a blog right, I believe there are a number of factors to consider. Below, are 13 key steps to keep in mind as you plan your blog launch (either personally, or professionally):
1–Develop clear, measurable, reasonable and timely goals for your blog. An important–and sometimes overlooked–step. Make sure you know what you want out of your blog. Be realistic though–don’t expect too much. And, make sure it aligns with your business and organizational goals–or else you’re sabotaging it from the get-go.
2–Create an effective blog architecture based on best practices and specific needs. Check out other blogs in your industry–and those outside your industry. What do they do well? How do they organize their blogs? Learn from others and apply those concepts to your specific situation.
3–Choose the right platform. Make sure you’re considering all the alternatives: WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Posterous, SquareSpace, just for starters. If you’re just starting and don’t need anything fancy, maybe you go with Blogger or even SquareSpace. If you’re a little more advanced, maybe WordPress is the right fit. Or, if you’re looking to post remotely, Posterous might make more sense. Whatever the case, make sure you’re selecting the tool that best meets your needs and will be the best fit for your organization from a culture perspective, too.
4–Design your blog. Yes, you want to take your brand standards into account. But, you don’t want them to drive everything. Create a few different layouts for your blog and build the blog (and choose a theme, if you’re using a tool like WordPress) based on the final design. Let your design drive the build, not the other way around.
5–Create initial content for the blog. Develop content for initial blog posts and other areas of the blog like your “About”, “Contact” and other key sections/pages. Consider a “welcome post” but also have some meatier posts that demonstrate your thinking and what readers might expect from the blog down the road.
6-Build your blog and select a theme/template. Once you’ve got a design nailed down, select a theme or template that most closely matches that. This is the most technical piece of the blog launch, so if necessary, it might make sense to work with a qualified developer or coder.
7-Test, test, test. Once your blog is built, make sure you allocate ample time (a week or so) to test functionality and features. Test email subscription buttons, comment functionality and other features your readers will be using regularly. Work out as many kinks as you can before going live.
8–Develop a communications launch plan. You’d have a communications launch plan for a new Web site, right? No different for your blog. Think about your internal audiences as well as your external ones. Be sure to give folks opportunity to provide feedback (and tweak as needed along the way). And, use this initial push as an opportunity to identify people who might be guest bloggers or contributors down the line.
9–Develop a content strategy. The single most critical factor to the success of your blog long term is an effective content strategy. So, make sure you’re taking enough time to create one that works for you and your organization. Consider all your possible content sources. Think about who might be posting and when. And think about how you can aggregate content in absence of developing unique content. All of this–and much more–should go into your content strategy.
10--Don’t forget SEO. Another oft-overlooked detail, but not one to be trifled with. For starters, make sure you download the All-in-One SEO pack–fantastic tool Adam Singer turned me on to early on. Also, make sure you’re tagging your posts and images with targeted keywords (another to-do many bloggers forget).
11–Set up your Google Analytics account. Don’t forget this key step. And, while you’re setting it up, take a few moments to learn more about Analytics so you can harness the data you’ll soon compile to create an even better blog for your readers.
12–Build community. The last thing to think about before you launch is a strategy for building community around your blog. How will you share content? How will you involve your readers? How quickly do you plan to respond to comments? Do you plan to have guest bloggers? If yes, how often and what will they write about? What’s your back-link strategy? All questions that go into your approach for building a strong blog community.
13–Launch. It’s time to flip the switch. Let your baby out into the real world. Enjoy the moment, but pay close attention to initial feedback, respond and tweak your approach sooner rather than later.
Note: Photo courtesy of NASA on the Commons via FlickR Creative Commons.