That’s a question I have been asked several times now, so I figured I might as well write a post about it, so people can share it and I don’t have to keep repeating myself
Before I get started, I just want to make one thing clear; This is the way that I do/did it – and that doesn’t mean if you do things differently, that you’re doing it wrong. Everyone has got their own way of getting things done, and some are more successful than others – which is a good thing, since the Internet would be very boring if we were all equally successful.
Step 1. Get yourself the best possible domain name that you can get.
What do I mean by this? Well chances are that you’ve started blogging to make some money online. And you won’t make money from ads or affiliate sales, if nobody visits your blog. What you need to know is that search engines like Google will become the backbone of your little online enterprise. And therefor you will want to ‘accommodate’ those search engines as much as you possible can. If you make sure that they can find you, and know what you’re on about, they will start sending you targeted traffic for free. That’s traffic that converts!
If you buy a domain, try getting a keyword-rich name, something that relates to your blog’s topic. Try to figure what what sort of keywords and phrases (long-tail keywords) your desired audience is using to find stuff on Google. For example, if you want to start a blog about babies, try to see what most people are looking for. One of the quickest ways to do this is use the auto-suggest feature that Google offers. Just type one of the main keywords of your blog into Google, and see what gets suggested.
In the example down below, I’d probably try to get a domain name like babynamescenter.com or babyboysandgirlsnames.com – these two examples both have popular keywords in them, so there shouldn’t be a doubt for Google (or any humans) as to what your blog is about.
A domain name is just one part of the equation. And it too has other factors involved like age, length and TLD (Top Level Domain, like .com or .net) that can influence the position of your blogs ranking in Google’s search results.
I’m not saying that getting free hosting like blogger or wordpress is a bad thing, but I prefer to not have keywords in my link that I don’t need. (Free hosts usually have their own name or address in your site’s link address).
Step 2. A list of WordPress plugins that will help your blog grow big and strong
One of the greatest features that WordPress has to offer must be their plugin system. This makes it super-easy to add new functionality to your blog, without you having to know any difficult programming and coding. You simply find the plugin which does what you want, upload it, activate it, and in some cases – configure in in your WordPress admin panel. If you’re still unfamiliar with the admin panel, have a look at these WordPress tutorial videos. Here’s a list of my all-time favourites:
1. All-in-one-SEO: The name pretty much covers it all. This plugin will help you to make your blog stand out more for Google, helping it to get indexed quicker and more accurate. Basically you can tell Google what your blog is about by adding the right keywords in the right places on your blog.
2. XML Sitemap Generator: This plugin will create a sitemap of your website, taking out all the guesswork for Google. This ensures the Google is aware of ALL the pages that your site has to offer them. Sitemap = more pages indexed.
3. AskApache Search Engine Verify: Not really a necessity plugin, but ideal for newbies and lazy people like me. This plugin makes it a breeze to verify your blog with Google webmaster tools. If you haven’t added your site there yet, stop reading this post now and GO DO IT NOW!
4. WordPress Stats: Simply because its good to collect as much data as possible regarding your traffic. You can analyse the data to see where you can improve your site. (e.g flush out the 404 pages).
5. WP Super Cache: You probably won’t have much use for this plugin when you first start out with your blog, but when you’re starting to get featured on the frontpage of sites like Digg and Reddit, you’ll be glad you have it. It helps your webserver deal with a lot of traffic, by creating static HTML pages of your content on the fly.
6. SEO Search Terms Tagging: Adds keywords that people have used to find you with in the search engines to the footer of your posts, increasing the odds that your post will get ranked even better for that particular keyword later on.
7. Google Analyticator: Like plugin #3 – This plugin makes it easy for newbies and lazy people to get your Google Analytics up and running. Remember kids, the more data you can get, the better. nomnomnom.
8. Enforce WWW Preference: This plugin simply forces your site to have or not have the WWW in front of it. You should make a choice which one of these two you’re going to use, because Google will see your the site with WWW as a different site than the address without the WWW. Change your settings now in your WordPress admin panel > Settings >General. (The plugin was retired, but it still works, so I created a copy on my server for you to download).
Step 3. Tagging, categories, slugs, and robots
Every post you write has the option to add tags. Basically a tag is an extra keyword you can mark your post with, to help the search engines understand better what the main topic of your post is. Use this option – but don’t go overboard. Adding 5-15 tags will do fine. You don’t want Google to think you’re keyword stuffing/spamming.
Use categories. Not just for Google, but also for your visitors. Some people that are just looking for baby names can click on the baby names category, and find all the relevant information they are after. They don’t have to browse through all the other baby related posts about baby poo, baby vomit, baby pee, and baby snots. You don’t want to put them off having a baby in the first place do you ?
A post slug is a little trickier; what it does is make you have your cake and let you eat it too. If you have your permalinks setup something like this “/%postname%/” – you can have a link which is titled “Blogging for beginners” but which looks like this in your addressbar: “http://bobjones.nl/how-do-you-set-up-a-blog-frm-scratch/”. This way you can optimize your URL for the search engines, and optimize your actual title for other humans.
One more important file you’ll need to create is what we call a robots.txt. This is a (or can be a) simple txt file that looks like this: my robots.txt. This file will set the rules for every search engine that visits your site. If you want the world to find you, don’t add anything to the Disallow: list, but If you have stuff to hide, add it to the disallow list. Here’s a more detailed explanation of robots.txt.
Ok, so that sums up the very basics that I feel every new blogger should start with. There are heaps of other things I would like to tell you, but I feel this post is already longer than it should have been. I’ll write a ‘part 2′ sometime soon.
Hope you’ve learned something, and I advise you to bookmark this post for future reference. And feel free to share it on twitter and such with your friends that are thinking of becoming serious bloggers!