How to build a successful blog from conception to delivery

How to build a successful blog from conception to delivery

In earlier posts I have been exploring how my blog has grown in popularity. It has now been live for 1 month (at least that’s how long I have been actively posting), and during that time is has gone from a ranking on Alexa of around 4.5 million over three months to #882,795 at the time of writing. Prior to starting to write posts, I spent a couple weeks looking at the design, plugins and generally setting up the site in a way I was comfortable with. I still regard it as a work in progress – something I am continually improving as I increase my own knowledge in this area. I consider this last point important.

I see all too often clients who want to get everything absolutely right before engaging with the market. While I understand this, (the importance of presenting your brand in a polished way), I think there are times when you seriously need to look at prioritsing your projects or at the very least learning to run them in in parallel – otherwise you can spend your life planning without actually delivering anything.

Although I’m slightly drifting off the point of this post, (don’t worry this is only a temporary detour), I have to say I consider this incredibly misguided. The best example I have of this is a prospective client that I talked to about their email marketing strategy. They said that they had put this on hold until NEXT YEAR while they redeveloped their website. I was shocked. In an environment such as this, the worst US jobless figures for 25 years, 651,000 out of work in February 2009 alone, it is important to get your message out into the market and engage your customers and prospects. They chose instead to rely on what I call the ‘field of dreams mentality’ of web site management – build it and they will come.

From my perspective they should be running the two projects in tandem. Developing and building their email marketing capability, to deliver for the here and now, while looking at delivering their website next year. The benefits of this approach to my mind are obvious. By the time the site launches, hopefully their email marketing strategy would have developed to such an extent that they can use this to drive traffic to their site.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. I wanted to share with everyone how I think I have managed to drive the rank of my site so high on Alexa in such a short period of time – and don’t worry, there are no hidden requests anywhere in this post to sign up for a newsletter, or for you to part with your hard earned cash. Rather, I just like to share knowledge and continue to learn myself. I often find to get something back you need to give in the first place.

Background to the Site

I’m not going to dwell on this area too long as you can find out more about my background and who I am by looking at my About Steve Newman page. I simply wanted to touch on the point that as I already owned the domain I decided to put it to good use. I know from an SEO perspective its actually better to use a domain title relevant to the topic of your site or blog, but I thought what the heck, as I’ve got this domain, let’s use it. At the very least I thought I might pick up traffic for people doing searches for ‘Steve Newman Ptarmigan Media’ (Ptarmigan Media is the company that I work for) on Google – and sure enough this has been the case.

In terms of content, as I’m a passionate follower of all things ‘interweb and technology related’ I decided to focus on Digital Marketing. As I have worked in the financial space – and that’s the vertical that the majority of Ptarmigan Media’s clients’ fall into, for quite some time (15 years all told), I thought I would particularly focus on digital marketing for financial services.

By keeping the potential topic so broad – digital marketing, I felt I could touch on all areas and any new technological developments in any vertical. I would however seek to relate these new developments back to the financial services vertical. I often find this is the biggest obstacle to the adoption of new services or technology – how they can be used effectively in other areas. This is an issue I am currently exploring in my posts on how financial services companies could make use of Twitter. In this respect my blog is unique enough to serve a particular niche, but hopefully also broad enough to be interesting to a wider audience – people who may also be able to relate some of the experiences and scenarios I talk about back to their own situations.

Post Frequency

At the time of writing I have published 56 posts (this will be the 57th). I have received a number of comments from colleagues and readers that this is a lot. I personally don’t think so. I doubt I actually post on at least 10% of the issues I’m currently thinking about. Of course not all topics are worthy of writing about. My main criteria for posting about a topic is that it:

Positioning content at the correct level

I try as far as possible to write about topics in an all inclusive way as possible. This can be tricky as you may be trying to write about something highly technical for a sophisticated audience. At the same time however, I want less knowledgeable / less experienced audiences to also be able to access the information. I try and cater for both groups by writing as clearly as possible and linking back to other relevant articles, both on my own blog, or on other sites for explanations around terminology or technology. Of course this also helps drive other traffic to the site as it can be highly SEO friendly – particularly if the other site links back to yours.

Plug-ins and Software

As I have a background in digital marketing I know how important SEO is. Getting this right and using the correct SEO friendly software can make a difference between the success or failure of a site. I therefore did some research and found that WordPress hosted on its own environment was the best blog software available particularly from an SEO and plugin perspective. I therefore purchased a blog hosting package (these are easily located on Google) and installed the following plug-ins:

  • Add to Any: Share / Save/ Bookmark Button – important for social networking.
  • Add to Any: Subscribe Button – encourages people to sign up for RSS feeds etc.
  • Akismet – Prevents SPAM from being posted as comments.
  • All in One SEO – This makes your site and posts incredibly search engine friendly.
  • Complete Site Stats – Web analytics. Important for knowing what people are looking at, what are they interested in.
  • Contact Form 7 – So people can contact me.
  • FD Feedburner Plugin – So people can subscribe to RSS via Feedburner.
  • Feedstats - Realtime analytics.
  • GD Linkin Badge – So people can learn more about me and make contact. I have received a lot of enquiries this way.
  • Google Analytics for WordPress – As above – so you can see where traffic is coming from and optimise your promotion efforts in that direction.
  • Google XML Sitemaps – Very important from an SEO perspective.
  • Nuconomy Insights – Web 2.0 analytics. Enables you to track how many people follow you on RSS or interact with videos etc.
  • OneClick Installer - Useful for managing plugins.
  • Redirection - allows you to rename posts and redirect traffic to its new location. Important from an SEO perspective
  • SEO Friendly Images – Allows search engines to index pictures. Important from an SEO perspective
  • Smart Youtube – Allows you to incorporate video. Important from a user experience perspective.
  • Statpress – Realtime analytics
  • Theme Switcher Reloaded – Allows people to choose their own look and feel
  • Twitme – Publishes your latest posts to Twitter with links back to the blog. A very important source of traffic and a great way to find ‘like minded individuals’. Just be sure to give your posts descriptive, (yet short) titles. People can then make an informed choice to ‘follow’ you or click through on your post.
  • WPhone – Lightweight admin interface for your iPhone. Allows you to edit and update posts on the go.
  • WPtouch iPhone Theme – Repurposes your blog for the iPhone. Great from a usability perspective.
  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – This makes your site and posts incredibly search engine friendly – allows people to easily refer back to older articles you may have written around a particular topic or subject.

The Tagging and Categorisation of Articles

The tagging and categorisation of articles are incredibly important from a search perspective. Google and other search spiders index your site continually. Tagging and categorisation allow posts to be grouped together. Because the relevance of these articles is high, (at least in relation to the tag or category), Google give these potential results a very high ‘quality score‘. This helps ensure these results are displayed highly when people search on keywords related to the tags or categories you have allocated to posts.

When tagging content, try as far as possible to cater to both English and American English spelling. This can be important for words such as ‘behavioural’ and ‘behavioral’ from a search engine results perspective.

Unique Content

One last point; Google will rank articles higher in its search results if the quality is unique. Although it is tempting to pull content from other sites or blogs, it is not advisable from a search perspective. Google recognises that the copy may not be original, and will downgrade the quality score it allocates to it.

Of course, it is also not advisable to go plagiarising someone else work. It is of course acceptable however to refer to other people posts, particularly if you are highlighting particular points they may have made, or just downright disagree with what they’ve said. I’ve used this technique a number of times and it has helped position my blog in the centre of an interconnected network of similarly related blogs and financial services new sites.

As always, if anyone has any hints and tips of their own, please leave a comment – I would like to hear from you.

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