Starting a blog can be an intimidating process if you’ve never done it before. It’s not hard, but there are a number of things that need to be considered and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
I’ve created this blog launch checklist in order to provide a detailed list of steps that should be taken when you’re starting a blog. Many of these steps would be easy to miss, but the checklist provides a roadmap that you can follow to make sure you’re not forgetting about anything important.
If you’re just looking for the technical details of setting up a blog, please see my article How to Start a Blog, which shows how to set up web hosting and install WordPress.
Blog Launch Checklist
1. Choose a Niche
The first step is to decide what niche you want your blog to cover. If your goal is to make money with the blog, you need to choose a niche rather than just writing about whatever topics are of interest to you at the moment.
Some popular topics for blogs include things like business, finance, travel, family and parenting, food and cooking, beauty, fashion, health, and fitness. Within each of those major topics, you could choose to focus on a specific niche (like gluten-free recipes instead of the larger topic of food).
When it comes to choosing a niche, I recommend that you consider your interests, your experience, and the potential to make money. Ideally, the niche that you choose will combine all three. You don’t need to be an expert in the topics that you want your blog to cover, but it helps if you have some degree of experience so you’re not a complete beginner.
2. Identify Other Blogs in Your Niche
Once you’ve decided on the niche for your blog, it’s time to start doing some research. You’ll want to find some other blogs that cover the same or similar topics. Simply do some Google searches for keywords and phrases that people might use to find content on the most important topics that your blog will cover, or do a Google search for “best food blogs” (replace “food” with your own niche).
Create a spreadsheet to keep track of the other blogs in your niche. By observing these blogs, you can learn things like the topics that seem to generate the most interest, the types of posts that they publish, the style of design that they use, the ways they make money, the social networks that they use, and more.
Networking is a big part of growing a successful blog, so this list of other blogs in your niche can also help you to find other bloggers that you can start to network with.
3. Define Your Avatar
Your avatar is a fictional persona of your ideal reader. It’s similar to your target audience, except for the fact that a target audience is usually general and represents a large audience, while your avatar is a specific person.
Creating an avatar brings your ideal reader to life. Once you know your avatar, you’ll be able to make important decisions with him or her in mind. Defining your avatar can help you to determine the types of content you should publish, the topics that you should cover, the tone or personality of your blog, the colors and design style that you use, the social networks that you use, and much more.
To define your avatar, you’ll include details like gender, age, hometown, family situation, occupation, income, hobbies, hopes and dreams, pains and fears, etc. You can even give your avatar a name to help him or her feel more real to you.
4. Choose Your Blog Name and Domain Name
Your domain name is what readers will enter to visit your site (for example, VitalDollar.com). Ideally, your blog name and the domain name will match (Vital Dollar and VitalDollar.com), otherwise, people may have a hard time remembering your domain name.
Finding an available .com domain name that you like can be a challenge because so many of them are already registered, but you should try to find one. If you go with .net, .org, or something else, many visitors will enter .com out of habit and you may lose traffic.
This list of domain name ideas can be extremely helpful if you’re struggling to find a name.
5. Understand Your Why
Why do you want to start a blog? Growing a blog can be a challenge and you’re sure to get frustrated at times. Knowing exactly why you want to grow a blog can help you to find the motivation and patience to stick with it until you see some results.
To be honest, the first year of blogging can be pretty tough. You’ll need to put in a lot of work before you start to see the results, and there will be times when it feels like you’re not making progress. That’s why most new bloggers give up pretty quickly.
If you give up on blogging quickly, you’ll never have success. Understanding your “why” will help to ensure that you don’t give up.
6. Determine How You Will Make Your Blog Stand Out
There are millions and millions of blogs online, and more are being launched every single day. In order to have success, you’ll need to create a blog that stands out in some way. This is especially true if you’re blogging in a very popular, competitive niche.
Don’t worry, there are a lot of different ways that you can stand out, including:
- Sharing your personal story or journey
- Focusing on a very specific niche rather than taking a general approach
- Writing with a unique perspective or voice
- Demonstrating your expertise on the topic
- Using design and visual elements
7. Purchase Your Domain Name and Hosting
Now that the planning stage is done, it’s time to move forward with actually launching your blog. Although there are some free blogging platforms out there, I don’t recommend going that route. If your goals involve making money with your blog, you’re going to want more control than you can get with a free blog.
You can get a domain name and hosting for well under $100 for the first year, so this is a very small investment to start a business. I recommend Bluehost for new bloggers and if you go through this link, their prices start at $2.95 per month.
Bluehost will also give you the domain name for free for the first year.
8. Install WordPress
WordPress is a free content management system (CMS) that you’ll use to power your blog. WordPress is free, easy to use, and extremely popular. It’s also very easy to install, even if you have no tech skills.
Please see How to Start a Blog for step-by-step instructions that will help you to get your blog set up in just a few minutes.
9. Install an SSL Certificate
An SSL certificate will help to protect your website and the people visiting the site. Most web hosts, including Bluehost, offer a free SSL certificate. Installing the SSL certificate is something you should do as soon as you get WordPress installed.
Your host should have instructions that show you how to install the SSL certificate, but most hosts will actually do it for you if you submit a support ticket and ask for help.
10. Choose a WordPress Theme for Your Blog
A WordPress theme is basically a template that will control the design and layout of your blog. WordPress comes with a default theme pre-installed, and there are also thousands of other themes that you can choose (some are free and others must be purchased).
If you have a little bit of money that you can spend (less than $100), choosing a premium theme is a good choice. Not only will premium themes look better than most free themes, but they’ll also give you more customization options and several other benefits. One of the biggest reasons to choose a premium theme, especially as a new blogger, is because you’ll get access to customer support reps who can help you with theme-related questions. Getting support for a free theme is usually pretty difficult and you’re very likely to need help at some point.
11. Customize the Design of Your Theme
Most themes will give you some options to customize the design. You may be able to change the colors, fonts, and layout, typically without the need to touch any code.
Take some time to customize your theme to give your blog the best appearance.
12. Get a Logo Designed
While it’s not 100% necessary for a new blog, getting a logo designed is a good idea if you have a little bit of room in the budget. You don’t need to spend thousands or even hundreds of dollars to get a decent logo.
I’ve hired designers on Fiverr to create logos for as little as $5, and the results have been surprisingly good considering the low cost.
Having a logo can help your blog to look more complete, will make it easier to grow your brand recognition, and will also help with making your blog stand out.
13. Create a Favicon
A favicon is a very small image that shows up in the browser tab when someone is viewing your site. Many sites simply use a small version of their logo as a favicon.
First, you’ll need to create a square image. Google prefers your favicon to be in increments of 48 pixels, so an ideal size would be something like 192 px x 192 px.
Once your image is ready, from the WordPress dashboard go to Appearance > Customize > Site Identity and you’ll be able to upload your “site icon”.
14. Change the Permalinks to “Post Name”
One of the default WordPress settings that you should change controls the URLs or permalinks for your posts and pages. From the WordPress dashboard, go to Settings > Permalinks. On this page, select the permalink structure called “post name”.
Changing this setting will help the URLs of your blog posts to be better for search engine optimization.
15. Create an Email Address at Your Domain Name
If you want to look more professional, you should set up an email address at your domain name rather than using Gmail or some other email.
You’ll need to set up your email address through your web hosting dashboard. The details of how you’ll do it will depend on the host that you’re using, but it’s always very simple. If you don’t see an option to create an email address in your hosting dashboard, you can submit a support ticket to the web host and ask for help.
16. Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free program that will provide you with detailed stats and analytics related to your website’s visitors. With the data that you get from Analytics, you’ll be able to improve your blog and grow it faster.
The easiest way to set up Google Analytics on your blog is to use the Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin by MonsterInsights. This free plugin will allow you to add Analytics to your site without the need to touch your theme’s code.
17. Sign up for Google Search Console
Google Analytics gets a lot of attention, but Google Search Console is another free resource that is equally valuable.
Search Console will provide you with information related to your website, where you’re ranking in Google searches, and what keywords are sending traffic to your site. At first, you won’t have much data since you’ll be getting very little traffic, but as your blog grows, this data will become extremely valuable.
Google also uses Search Console to send messages to you if there is an issue with your site (like if your text is too small to read on a mobile device or if your site has been given some sort of penalty).
Read Google’s instructions for getting started with Search Console.
18. Install the Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin
Yoast SEO is a free WordPress plugin that can help with several details related to search engine optimization.
Fortunately, it’s also very easy to set up. When you install and activate the plugin, there is a setup wizard that will lead you through the simple process.
19. Set Up Your Gravatar
WordPress links with Gravatar to show your image in places like the author bio box and the comments at the end of posts (not all themes integrate with Gravatar, but most do). If your blog has an author bio section at the end of posts, you don’t want a blank gray box to show up instead of your picture, so you’ll need to set up a Gravatar account. Even if you don’t have an author bio on your blog, it’s still a good idea to set up Gravatar in case you write guest posts for other blogs or even leave comments.
Setting up a Gravatar is very simple. You can use a photo of yourself, your logo, or some image that you want to represent you. Your Gravatar will be linked by email, so be sure that you set up the Gravatar account with the same email address that is linked to your WordPress user profile.
20. Create Your About Page
The About page is an important part of your website/blog because most people who arrive at this page will be very interested in you and your blog.
Your About page should provide some details about yourself and your blog, but you don’t want it to be a boring bio that simply states facts. Instead, use your About page to connect with your visitors and show them why they should care. It shouldn’t be all about you, but rather about your reader and how you can help them.
21. Create a Contact Page
Some of your visitors will want to get in touch with you, and the most effective way to do that is to set up a contact page. Generally, the contact page will include a simple contact form that the visitor can use to send an email to you. Your theme may have the capability to set up a contact form, or you can use a free WordPress plugin like WPForms Lite.
23. Establish Goals for Your First Year of Blogging
Goals help to keep you focused on what matters to you. Without goals, it’s easy to go through the motions, but you probably won’t get the results that you want.
When you launch your blog, you should take the time to establish a few specific and measurable goals for your first year. You might have a goal to attract a certain number of visitors, to make a specific amount of money, or something else.
You may want to make some goals for different time frames, like 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year.
24. Set Up an Email List
An email list is an important part of growing a blog. The subscribers on your email list will be your most loyal followers who are interested in regular communication from you.
There are a lot of different providers that will allow you to manage an email list, but my recommendation is ConvertKit. They offer a free plan that allows you to manage up to 1,000 subscribers before you need to start paying.
25. Add Optin Forms to Your Website
Once you have an email list set up, the next step is to make it possible for visitors to subscribe to your list. ConvertKit makes it easy to create optin forms that can be added anywhere on your site. You can add forms within page or post content, at the end of posts, in your sidebar, or even through a pop-up.
26. Choose Your Monetization Strategy
You probably won’t start making money with your blog right away, but it’s a good idea to think about how you plan to make money.
There are many different ways to make money with a blog and the most common options include advertising, affiliate programs, publishing sponsored content, offering a service, and selling a product (usually a digital product). The best approach is to use a combination of a few different methods so you’re not 100% reliant on any one source of income.
Take a look at other blogs in your niche to see how they are making money and get some ideas for your own blog. Also, consider your long-term plans and how these different monetization methods would fit into your plans.
27. Set Up Your Social Media Profiles
Social media and blogging go hand-in-hand. For many new bloggers, social networks prove to be the best source of traffic early on.
It’s a good idea to set up profiles at all of the major social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest) even if you don’t plan to use them all. Register with your blog name so you’ll have that username under your control and no one else can register it.
Being active on social networks takes time, so it’s a good idea to pick one or two platforms that you want to focus on, and don’t worry about the others. Think about your avatar and the social networks that he or she would be using. It doesn’t have to be one of the platforms mentioned earlier. It could be LinkedIn or one of the many niche-specific platforms that would be great for connecting with your target audience.
28. Decide on the Categories for Your Blog Posts
Think about the structure of your blog. What topics do you want to cover? Come up with about four or five main categories, and then you can also have other sub-categories if you want to drill down even more.
Determining your categories will help you to decide what content you want to write and how to set up the navigation on your site. Think about the user experience and how you can make it as easy as possible for visitors to find the content that interests them.
29. Brainstorm Blog Post Ideas
You should always have a list of blog post ideas on hand so you’re never wondering what to write. When you’re starting your new blog, aim to create a list of 100 blog post ideas. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not that difficult. When you have a big list of ideas, you can choose the best ones.
Here are some ways that you can come up with ideas:
- Browse the headlines of other blogs in your niche to see what they are writing about. You don’t need to write about the same exact things, but it can spark some ideas.
- Use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs (you can get a 7-day trial for just $7) to see what keywords are sending traffic to other blogs in your niche.
- Use Ahrefs to see which posts are getting the most search traffic at other blogs.
- Check Google’s “people also ask” and related searches for some of the keywords that you’re targeting.
- Use AnswerThePublic.com to get ideas.
- Browse forums and see what questions people are asking.
- Think about your own experience or expertise. What strengths or experience do you have that you can use with your blog content?
I recommend creating a spreadsheet where you can store all of your blog post ideas, and then add to it any time you have a new idea.
30. Write 3-5 Blog Posts Before You Launch
While it’s not 100% mandatory, it’s helpful if you can launch your blog with a few posts rather than just a single post. When visitors arrive at your blog, they will have more content that they can read, rather than seeing only one post.
If possible, have 3-5 posts written by the time you launch.
31. Publish Your First Posts
Once your initial posts are written, it’s time to publish and officially launch your blog! Be sure to thoroughly proofread your posts, or get someone else to read it for you if you have a hard time proofreading your own writing.
32. Start Networking with Other Bloggers in Your Niche
Every successful blogger is well-connected, so establishing your own network is one of the most important things you can do as a blogger. Don’t wait for others to come to you. Make an effort to reach out and start getting to know other bloggers. Some ideas include:
- Leave comments at other blogs
- Share other bloggers’ content through your social profiles and tag them
- Link to other bloggers within your blog posts and contact them when it is published to let them know about the link
- Use Facebook Groups or forums where other bloggers in your niche hang out
- Write guest posts for other blogs
- Ask other bloggers to do an interview to be published at your blog
Don’t view other bloggers in your niche as competitors. There are a lot of ways that you can help each other.
33. Find and Join Some Relevant Facebooks Groups
Facebook Groups can be very valuable for bloggers. There are two main ways that Facebook Groups can help you: traffic and networking.
There are many groups for bloggers where you can post links to your blog content and ask other group members to share the content (and you’ll share content from other group members). These groups aren’t going to lead to floods of traffic, but when you’re just getting started, any traffic is good and you’ll need to get some momentum somewhere.
Other groups may not send any traffic to your blog, but they can be great for networking and connecting with other bloggers. Depending on the niche that you’re in, there may be Facebook Groups especially for bloggers in your niche (for example, travel bloggers).
Do a little bit of searching to see what groups you can find that might be useful for you.