You have just finished installing WordPress and your mint-fresh blog is lying there in all her virgin glory.
“What next should I do, Yeremi?”
Itching to go over to PayPal and withdraw the ton of money you have made just by installing your blog?
Not so fast, friend.
To get your blog from start to awesome, there are some other steps you need to take beyond owning a blog – steps that can turn your blog into a lead attracting magnet.
In this post, I have shared 10 strategic action-steps you should take after installing WordPress to take your blog to phenomenal success.
These action-steps are important, not just for new bloggers, but for long time bloggers who are yet to implement them.
So if you own a blog, do an audit using this post for a benchmark and bring your blog up to par.
One thing is certain, with this strategy followed, your blog will start to get traction needed for the much talked-about conversions.
Now let’s get started, shall we?
1. Invest in a Premium Theme
The benefit of having a premium WordPress theme cannot be over emphasized.
Trust me, you do not want a blog theme that every other person is using – at least not for your main blog.
Why pay $50 – $100 dollars for a premium WordPress theme when you could just use a free theme?
Two reasons readily come to mind:
The first is that because Premium themes are paid for, only a small number of blogs run on them? That means that your blog will to a large extent be unique.
It is important to differentiate your blog and make it stand out; doing that with a free theme used by thousands of other blogs may just not be possible.
The second reason is that premium themes are worth it because for the most part they are typically well coded. Web standards are changing frequently, as well as what our browsers can do. Premium themes are more likely to be designed with current web standards in mind.
Take for instance responsive design that has been topical of late.
In this age where people use a wide plethora of devices to access our blogs, it is important that our blog be able to handle all those different display screens functionally.
2. Engage Your Audience with a Mailing List
One of the most important things you can do with your blog is to get leads for your business. When people give you their email address, they transfer the power to initiate the conversation to you.
That is a great power to wield.
That is why I consider this one of the top things you can do for your blog to get it off on the right footing.
Add an optin form and create a valuable give-away – something truly of value to your audience.
For most first time bloggers, the challenge is usually deciding what to give away since they may not have Adrienne Smith’s advantage of a large audience they can ask.
The ideas below should get you started:
1. Create an eBook that solves a common problem, and give it away in exchange for an email address.
2. Record a downloadable audio interview or presentation.
3. Make a video tutorial that demonstrates how to do something important you have learned.
4. Create a short course delivered by auto-responder.
As Pat Flynn points out, starting a newsletter instead of an eBook giveaway is a better approach to email marketing.
3. Look under the Hood
Having Google Analytics configured for your WordPress Installation gives you clarity on what actions are giving you results.
Such insight is invaluable if your ROI is to be anywhere near high.
Google Analytics takes guess-work completely out of the equation, as you have access to such metrics as the top visited pages on your blog, where visitors are coming from and how they interact with your pages.
This information can help you target low hanging fruits, doing more of what is obviously working.
4. Time to Think About SEO
Having an SEO plan for your WordPress blog is important.
Hopefully, before deciding on a topic area for your blog, you did some keyword research.
As you write your articles, how do you know you are targeting the right keywords – the keywords you set out to target?
Both All in One SEO and Easy WP SEO are useful additions to your plugins list.
All in One SEO plugin will help you optimize your WordPress blog for search engines.
Easy WP SEO is the perfect on page optimization plugin. Using it, writing keyword-optimized blog posts will be a breeze as it shows you the way search engines will view your article right from when you are writing it.
5. Edit the Permalink Structure for Your Posts and Pages
Out of the box, your WordPress URL will look like www.yourdomain.com/?p=12, where 12 is the unique ID of the post.
Not pretty, huh?
Search engines too find that structure unfriendly, as it does not include keywords that giveaway what the post is about.
That is why it is important you change the permalink structure of your blog to an SEO friendly format.
There are different opinions on which is format is the friendliest to search engines, but I have used /%postname%/ since I started blogging.
To change your permalink structure, login to WordPress administration area and go to Settings > Permalinks.
6. Give Spammers a Run for Their Money
Now your house is all set and done, it is time to lock the gates.
Download and activate Akismet plugin for your blog.
Akismet protects your comments section from spam comments that will begin to pile in as soon as you start to get some traffic.
Why is it so important to keep spam comments out?
Spam comments can trivialize your blog and make even the most carefully written articles look trashy.
As a new blog owner, you may be tempted to approve some not so obvious spam comments (“This is the best post I have read this month. I like your writing style!”), but resist the temptation.
They usually send those ones to pass through the gate and have enough comments approved so their new comments will no longer require moderation.
Then the Keyword Warz begin.
When one gets to the comments section of your blog, ideally there should be a conversation by real people, not machine-spawned adverts for Prozac.
Without a spam filter like Akismet, you will have to manually delete spams.
Believe me, there are better ways to spend your afternoons.
Turn on Akismet and let it automatically separate the good guys from the bad guys.
7. Put on Your Jetpack, Its Time to Fly!
What can you do with Jetpack?
No, the question should rather be, ‘What can you not do with Jetpack?’
Jetpack is the plugin of plugins. Some bloggers have called it the Swiss Army knife for WordPress bloggers.
It contains a set of custom features native to the hosted version of WordPress.
It gives you ‘WordPress.com style’ stats free, email subscription capabilities, social sharing buttons, wp.me short links for your posts, easy embeds of videos and slides into your posts…
I hope you get the picture.
This one plugin gives you all that for free!
8. Have a Backup Plan
Having a backup of your entire WordPress site (WordPress files and database) is probably the wisest thing you would ever do for your blog.
Blogging can be fun, but that fun can quickly become a nightmare the morning you open up your site and meet an error screen.
Months of hard-work can be lost if that evil day meets you unprepared.
Luckily, that scenario will never come alive as long as you have Backup Buddy as your buddy-buddy.
With it, you can backup your site manually, on schedule and even ship the backup to a third Party service like Drop Box or Amazon S3.
It is a life saver.
9. Thank First Time Commenters
Having a blog no one comments on can be a real pain.
If you have never been there, you may not understand just how traumatic it can be.
When a person leaves a comment on your blog for the first time, it is like they stepped into a private club and mustered up the courage to say something.
Take away their doubt and make them feel they did something right by thanking them for their comment.
There are two plugins I recommend you use to show appreciation to first time commenters at your blog.
The first, Comment Redirect by Yoast redirects the commenter to a special thank you page. The second, Thank Me Later, is timed and unobtrusive, sending an email after a set number of minutes to thank the commenter for taking time out to join the conversation.
You can use any of the two options above, but be careful not to use both of them as that may annoy instead of surprise.
10. Stop Tweaking and Start Blogging
Now that you have put a solid foundation in place, the time has come for you to earn the ‘blogger’ name.
Don’t just jump in, though.
Succeeding as a blogger takes deliberation and strategic planning.
So what is your content plan?
Come up with 10 post ideas that are sticky and take your time to bleed on your keyboard, writing the best posts possible.
Write all 10 blog post and schedule them before you hit the publish button on the first one.
The benefit of having 10 posts lined up for your blog is that you are free to concentrate on promoting your content for at least two months after your blog goes live.
It will also give you ample time to concentrate on making connections and establishing guest blogging opportunities.