Having been involved in a number of blogs over the years, I was really looking forward to the opportunity of launching the RPR blog. We opted to use a blog in replace of a company Website because we wanted to encourage discussion, feedback, and opinions–providing a forum where anyone can ask RPR related questions and receive an answer that all visitors would benefit from seeing. That being said, the blog launch was filled with planning and strategic choices. Today I wanted to share that process, and give my opinion of what makes a stand-out blog.
In the beginning…
Before you can start blogging, it’s important to ask yourself the tactical questions that will ultimately help shape your web presence. What topics will you focus on? Who is your target audience? Who will carry out the writing on the blog?
Once you can answer those foundation type questions, start to address items like domain name, platform, and hosting. In the case of the RPR Blog, it was clear the Realtors Property Resource application would exist in the root domain. And our domain is NARRPR.com. So we decided to install our blog to a subdomain.
In terms of blogging platforms, the best solutions seem to be open source. Although I must admit when thinking about the RPR blog, it’s was obvious to us that WordPress was the best solution. It’s a powerful self-hosted publishing platform with a user-friendly administrative interface. WordPress also has a thriving community for support and driving innovation.
Time to make it look good!
Hopefully you have access to someone who can take your branding, niche and target demographic and meld that into a design that works with one of the available theme frameworks for your platform of choice. In our case, WordPress has tons of awesome theme designers such as StudioPress, Woo Themes, iThemes, DIY Themes and others. In the case of RPR blog, after selecting a theme framework I worked closely with Neil Pinchin, Art Director for RPR, on the look and feel. He selected new colors and created graphics to represent the RPR brand identity. Now if you get to this stage, but don’t have good support at least make sure you don’t make these 11 common mistakes.
If you choose WordPress.org, you have selected to host your blog. So you must address the question of where? You have lots of choices and I would start by asking your peers where they host? Ask about their experiences with up-time and support. WordPress has created a recommended list of a few website hosts.
Many of the best blogging platforms are easy to install, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call in a pro for help with the many customizations. Since we selected WordPress, we had access to the WordPress plug-in library which includes over 8 thousand different plug-ins. Each adds a set of functionality to your blog, some are very minor and some provide major functionality. Some will require little to no customization and others will require detailed configuration. I recommend you take some time to see what’s out there before you get too far along in the process. Here are the most popular plug-ins and another list of 45 useful plug-ins.
Now before you’re ready to open the doors you need to build up a base of content. It’s never a good idea to launch with just one post, instead my recommendation would be to launch with at least 5 posts. If you’re having trouble getting started, check out this 10-Step copywriting tutorial from CopyBlogger or these 30 post ideas from my personal blog, MyTechOpinion. On the RPR blog we launched with a few posts, videos and a comprehensive lists of FAQ’s.
5 Tips for Launch Day
- Create a Social Media Release: It’s like a press release but supports commenting, videos, photos, logos, podcast, and of course sharing buttons.
- Create an email announcement: Notify your sphere and key influencers in your space. I’m a huge fan of MailChimp, they have a plug-in for WordPress and can assist with bulk emailing and setting up a re-occuring newsletter.
- Share on Twitter (& Facebook): This has become a critical part of launching a blog. News moves fastest on Twitter. If you don’t have much of a following, reach out to those that do. Be creative. Also think about creating a hashtag to channel your content.
- Submit to directories: A few popular directories include: Blogged, Technorati, BOTW, Bloggeries, & Blogarama
- Listen & respond: Watch for comments on the blog and your outposts like Twitter and Facebook. Make sure you respond.