You guys are probably wondering where I have been lately. I received many emails with concerns from readers whether I was ok or not. I am perfectly fine. I was just launching another site successfully. The results I see after two months are great therefore I would like to share my first hand experience with you. In here I will reveal some of the simple steps that you can take when you are launching a new site or blog.
If you did not know which site I was working on it is called WPBeginner – Beginner’s Guide for WordPress. It was launched on July 4th, 2009, Yes the Independence day of USA. Since then the site has collectively received:
7.18 Million Hits
Current Alexa Stats Rank at: 35,847
Technorati Rank: 18,583
These stats above are decent for a site that is just two months old. In this article, I will share some of the steps that I took in order to achieve this. One thing I will tell you is that the monetary investment on this project was $0 in terms of advertising. The cost of running this site is our normal hosting bills, the domain cost and such. This is probably the most affordable way to launch and promote a blog.
There was a lot that happened behind the scenes before the site was launched. Such as concept, picking the domain, design, testing, article preparation, future plans, deadline and such.
The concept of this site hit me when I saw Godaddy offering 99 cents .com domains for a short period of time, and I wanted to register a domain because for the least, I will make $8 profit on it if I sell it to someone else. Well when I was researching the niches that I like to pick the domain, WordPress certainly stood out. The reason for that is because when I was in the early phases of Balkhis, I wanted to start a WordPress resource site, but I was too busy with Balkhis and clients, and did not want to lose focus. So I took out a notepad and started jotting down some notes. These were initial plans of what I wanted to be on the site.
Picking the Domain
Picking a domain is a tedious process specially when you are making a resource site. There are a lot of legal issues that you must not ignore when you are going to have a site about a trademark product. Therefore the first thing I did was head over to WordPress.org and started looking at their Privacy policies, trademark policies, anything that I can find. After looking around a bit, I found a page called Domains. In that page WordPress clearly urged users not to use the keyword “wordpress” in the main domain name. The last thing you want to do at a start up phase of a resource site is to get on the bad side of the product company. So now I knew that my choices of domains are limited. I wanted to have WordPress in the domain name, but now I can’t. But WordPress allows for wp, so I went with that.
This was a tedious process because I wanted a perfect name. A name that is brandable, one that is catchy and easy to remember. I certainly did not want to compromise not having the .com extension, so the main goal was to find a name in the domain extension .com because it is the most common one. Most people type that by default, this way I won’t lose any traffic.
I used some of these tools and consulted with my team including Amanda Roberts, David Pegg, and Muhammad Karim and decided to go with wpbeginner.com
Just like before you build a house you need an architect to build a plan, you need a plan before you start any site or blog to avoid troubles in the future. I started working on the plan of this site by asking these questions:
- What features do I want this site to have?
- How the site will be organized?
- What were my motivations behind this site, my goal?
- How will I generate revenue from this site?
- How durable this site will be? What will be my deadlines?
- When will I quit if it doesn’t work out the way I want it to?
After answering all these questions, I had tons of notes and a pretty good idea where I was going with this site. Ofcourse this was not all my effort. It was a combined effort of my friends. You always want to try to get opinions from your friends and family to see what they think (Ask People who have a clue of what you are talking about).
I want to emphasize on the last two questions because some of you might wonder why they are even there. You need to know for how long can you produce fresh content on this. Or for how long do you think this idea will work before you have to add tweaks to it. And certainly the last one, what if you don’t meet your goals. You need to set a deadline and a quit date because there is no use in wasting energy and resources toward something that is not working out and seems to be a dead end.
You should quit if you’re on a dead-end path. You should quit if you’re facing a Cliff. You should quit if the project you’re working on has a Dip that isn’t worth the reward at the end. ~ Seth Godin
Ever heard the saying: First Impression is the Last Impression. Well it is very true with websites. I will tell you that a look of your site can determine user’s perspective of your site. A site that looks good will be trusted more because it reflects professionalism. You need an eye-catching design. Colors that are friendly, colors that are marketable. Some colors are better than others when it comes to Marketing. Zac wrote an excellent article about The Emotions of Color in Marketing. Our color scheme we picked reflected the goals behind our site.
Orange is the combination of the happiness of yellow and the energy and strength of red. It symbolizes creativity, determination, enthusiasm and success. In addition orange indicates affordability.
White is purity, goodness, light and innocence. It is considered perfection. White is generally positive and simple.
Black is elegant, powerful and formal. It can also denote prestige.
It was actually added to Colourlovers by someone. (It was certainly not me or anyone in our team).
The second most important thing after the color is the logo. I want my users to associate WPBeginner with something. A brand perhaps, something that they will remember. When you see a big Y, it automatically makes you think of Yahoo. How about the big G… It makes you think of google. For all it can be for German site, but you will think of Google nonetheless. Therefore I wanted to create something different. Since the site is geared toward beginners, how would it be if its a cool little smily face guy? Sounds simple and easy to remember. If you want to create a best logo, then you should think how would the logo look by itself without any text or anything. If it looks good then it is probably a good option. You should check out these resources for logo designs for inspiration.
I like to think that Best designers don’t copy. They STEAL! What is the point of copying an entire site? How about you steal the elements from the best looking sites and make them work together on yours. The product you get is actually the Best of the Best. So that was the next step in picking the design. We wanted this to look more of a resource site than a blog. So we looked at all examples of sites across various CSS Galleries and picked the designs that are most elegant and functional. We took bits of that for WPBeginner and implemented those aspects in our design.
I won’t go into the nitty gritty of web designs, but we made sure our site has cross browser compatibility and it is functional. Note: the site was created in the local server, but it was put on an online server as a password protected site for us to test. I asked some other web friends that are designers, users with a lot of experience in the industry to check the site. Asked their opinion and have other friends beta test everything. Even though the design was ready, the site wasn’t ready to go live yet and I will cover that in the next section.
What you should get out of this: Design is probably one of the most important aspect of your site in the launch phase. A good design can really give you a tremendous boost in early stage and an edge over your competitor later on. You want to pick a good designer, one who knows all about these aspects that I mentioned above. Do not go for someone that is charging $30 for a custom design because most likely you won’t get a great design.
What is the point of launching a site when you do not have any article. An advice that I took from Merlin Mann was always have at least 5 articles before you even think about going forward with the blog. Since it is a blog ran by a group of us, we assigned tasks and began writing. We had a good amount of resources before we made the site go live. We scheduled a lot of posts to go live on specific times. The reason for that was because I wanted to target audiences of all over the world and provide fresh content. Second reason was because it just looks weird when you have a new site and all articles were published all at once. It is good to space them out.
Do not count your welcome posts as the first five. Most people use their first five posts as a welcome post for the most part. You want to have articles that are helpful to your audience. Try to make them clear and thorough. Our goal was to create a site that helps WordPress users. So why not start out with a step by step guide that you need to setup a WordPress blog. Those were our first posts.
Reserving the Social Media Names
Social Media is the next big thing. Well it is already the big thing now and it will continue to do so. So it is good to reserve your brand name before it gets taken by someone else. So I did that as soon as I registered my domain name. Twitter profile was reserved and Youtube was reserved. For other places, I can probably careless because I am not that focused there yet.
Most people start on this phase, but the pre-launch phase is probably just as important as the launch phase. In this phase, you make your blog available for the world wide web. You begin to promote it, use different advertising techniques, provide support, continue to write articles. I will tell you that with this site, I spent $0 in investment iin terms of advertising. All I spent was time and use the resources surrounding me.
Use of Twitter
Believe it or not, but the main way to get the word out, I used the twitter account. My twitter account @syedbalkhi and asked some of my friends to tweet it out as well. Now I did not focus on promoting the site itself. It was merely a few tweets that I sent out that read:
Check out @wpbeginner if you have any questions related to #WordPress
Now you notice that there is no link in this tweet, so it was easy for others to retweet it without thinking it was a spam promotion. I used the #hashtag for WordPress which will come up when people search for WordPress on twitter. Now obviously I got a custom twitter background and a link to our site on the tweets and the profile of @wpbeginner.
Now soon the word was getting out, but I said to myself, I can’t just stop here and netiher should you. We kept on bringing great articles on the site, but along with tutorials, collection / list posts was also in our priority list. The reason I encouraged the team to keep releasing list posts was because I know that social media loves them. And I wanted the social media love. That is free word of mouth advertising and believe me that is the best one out there. There is no better way of convincing a user to view your site unless a friend of theirs recommend it.
The thing with twitter is that you really have to be careful. There is a very fine line in between spamming and sharing content. But this is how I overcame that. Most people join twitter to gain followers. Well one of the easiest way to gain followers is by simply following more people, RIGHT? well I say NOT. I realized that by having quality followers and actually having the connection with them is actually a lot more important than following 30,000 people and have 32,000 followers without knowing a single person closely. Because when you are in a 30,000 boat, you cannot ask people to retweet you because you really do not know them that well. With me it is a different case because I developed a good connection with these people via twitter by retweeting their stuff and engaging in the conversations, I do not mind asking them to retweet something for me and certainly they do not mind retweeting my tweets. But when you ask someone to retweet for you and you do not know them as well, you tend to come off as a spammer.
You must need to know how to use twitter efficiently. I have written numerous articles regarding twitter but here is one that you should read: 25 Tips to Increase Your Influence and Gain Followers on Twitter. Now if you are not on twitter, then I got two words for you. JOIN Twitter. I know some people would ask for reasons, but if my stats are not enough, check out these 25 reasons to join twitter.
I will say that twitter was marjoly behind the success of this blog. Here is why I say that. One because I got to know a lot of people that I never knew without twitter and a lot of people got to know about WPBeginner that they hadn’t if they were not on twitter. It helped me get noticed. And the only way to get noticed is have a quality article, good friendship relations, and have a good reputation on social media networks because once the article goes viral, you cannot imagine the unlimited possibilities. Let me give you an example:
WPBeginner got featured at Webmonkey (Wired own magazine and it was also featured at Wired.com)
Tweeted by Vitaly Friedman (Smashingmagazine’s Editor), Darren Rowse (Founder of Problogger, b5media, DPS and more), Michael Hyatt (CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers), Jacob Gube (Founder of Six Revisions, Calvin Lee (Founder of Mayhem Studios, a credible designer on twitter), Chetan (Another credible designer behind Cheth Studios).
And ofcourse thousands of other users retweeted and tens of thousands viewed it because these guys together have combined followers count of about 200,000. And Wired has over 6 million user audience.
Use of Other Social Media Networks
Even though twitter was the most important one you must not forget other social media sites such as digg and stumbleupon because they can bring massive traffic. WPBeginner had 3 stories that got popular on digg which certainly brought in huge traffic. Multiple stories on stumbleupon got few stars and collectively social media helped WPBeginner got all the attention. It got mentioned at many sites related to the niche including WordPress.org itself. You want to allocate the use of social media to your benefits. But remember you must not spam them. Do not try to promote your own content. Try to share content. Be active in the community.
Use Your Beautiful Design to your Advantage
Remember how I went in great details above about the design. Well that was because it can really make a good impression on users. But It can also help you get free promotion and traffic from gallery sites and earn you good backlinks. Let me explain how you can do that.
Well there are CSS Galleries that are looking to feature beautiful designs. I have compiled a list of galleries here at Balkhis previously which you can use to submit your new blog. You must make sure that you are actually submitting a quality design. In order to judge that is honestly think to yourself would you add this site in your gallery, if this site was submitted by someone else.
Once you are listed in these galleries, when bloggers are making a list of best of or best designs, they might even pick your site. So that would be free backlinks for you and free traffic.
Submit News to Site
For a design related blog this is an excellent way to promote your articles individually. There are big sites like tutsplus that have an area for user submitted links, and you can submit your own articles. Obviously submit quality resources, so the admin of the other site actually appreciate it and would be glad to add you. As you continue to submit quality content to their news section, you will become more trusted and they will tend to link to you from their posts as well. This was one of the good source for me to gain more subscribers and users for WPBeginner.
1st Web Designer have a list of 40 Promotional Sites to add Your News for Designers
Get other Bloggers to link to you
This really help if you know people in the industry and have good friends. But if you don’t you should follow the guide that I wrote about How to get other bloggers to link to you. You will only get links if you have a quality product. You do not necessarily have to ask for al ink to your homepage. Try to get a link to a specific article. There are blogs that do weekly roundup, or monthly roundup of resources. You can suggest your links to them. Ask to be listed in the sidebar and such, but asking to be linked from the sidebar will not work unless you actually know the owners. Or you are providing something of equal value or $$ to get that link.
Another way to get other bloggers to link to you is by simply writing guest posts. This is what I did for some blogs. This actually shows the audience of that blog that you have interesting stuff, and you will get more users to come to your site.
Use this article that I wrote in the past 13 Ways to Promote Your Blog to Success
The ways above worked out great for my new site and I hope it continues to do well. You can try them as well and let me know how it works for you. Don’t forget to check out WPBeginner.
P.S shameless plug: If you guys want someone to design your blog let me know