The first step is always the hardest. In anything you want to do. Running. Coding. Cooking. Blogging.
In this chapter, I want to make sure you are well equipped for your first step when you’re ready to dive into blogging.
Pick a domain name
There is one very important thing you need to do before you can create your blog. You need to choose a domain name.
You can notice 3 patterns for domain names. People have their own name/surname combination like I do with flaviocopes.com. Some people like to have a fantasy name or their nickname. Totally fine, too.
If it’s cool and you can create a brand out of it, it’s great. Like codinghorror.com. Other people like to have a more general brand, like css-tricks.com.
The good aspect of this is that people know the content of the blog just by looking at the domain. The downside is that you are kind of forced to stick to that topic forever.
This is kind of controversial, but I think your own name, or brand name with no direct attachment to anything specific, is the best and most future-proof way to create a domain name.
With one caveat: if you use your own name, you’ll never be able to sell the site to someone else, or transform it into something “more” than just yourself with some guest posts here and there. But there are notable exceptions as well, like raywenderlich.com.
If you create a specific domain name that reminds people of a technology or hobby in particular, on the plus side you’ll be able to sell it when it’s successful to a bigger brand.
The whole project would have sunk because the day I stopped my work on Go, the site would just end its life with that very specific domain.
Since I use my own name for the domain, whatever I want to write about 10 or 20 years from now will be perfectly fine.
If you already have a domain, maybe used in old projects, and you think it can work fine, that’s even better.
There’s something called domain authority that is really important. Because that’s how Google determines your site’s value, and it’s fundamental in how Google ranks web pages in its results.
One factor in domain authority is the domain’s age. Older is more stable and more trustworthy to Google.
And when you’re creating your domain, try to get the longest expiration date you can. That’s a factor, too. Google basically detects your seriousness with the project. If your domain expires in 3 years and a competitor’s in 3 days, maybe your domain is better in the long term.
I mean, we can’t really know how the Google algorithms work, but we can try and make sure we tick all the checkboxes.
That can make the difference between a site that’s never visited, and one that gets 10 visitors a day. Or one that gets a few hundred visits a day to one that gets tens of thousands.
Choose a blogging software (don’t build it!)
I personally use Hugo to power my blog. It is built using Go, it is very fast, and has some limitations on the things you can do. This means I can avoid distractions and I can focus on the writing.
I see many people, especially developers, who start creating their own blogging software from scratch.
I think that this a bad idea.
Because the moment you start is the time that you have the most energy. There will not be another moment in the lifetime of your blog where you’ll have the same enthusiasm and drive to work on it.
And if you channel this energy towards something so futile, in this case, like building the software, then when it’s time to actually write the content you’ll have very little time, very little energy, and very little drive to craft great content.
Plus, you’ll have to work on bugs, handle updates, and more, on your own. It’s much easier to let others work on maintaining popular software used by thousands of people rather than reinventing the wheel.
Choose a minimalistic stock design
The second mistake, I think, is to work on the design before working on the content.
Just as developers like to build their own software, design-oriented people want to create their own design. It’s logical, I get it. But in this scenario, at the beginning, it’s just a distraction.
My suggestion is: pick a stock theme, the simplest you can find.
The more minimal the theme is, the better.
Remember to keep the focus on the content. Not on the blog engine, not on the theme, not on plugins…on the content.
I have a couple blogs built using the default Ghost theme, which look very professional. In the niche they are built in no one knows what Ghost is – let alone do they know that it’s the default theme.
Also, no one cares. Except you.
You can work on the design later on. There’s always time for that.
Create the first 3 posts
Right after you have your blog idea, write the first 3 posts. You can write them in a normal plain text editor, and move them later to the blog platform you chose.
I like to use Bear (https://bear.app) to create my drafts. It autosaves, it is beautiful and intuitive to use. But it does not really matter. The thing I want you to focus on is those 3 posts.
Why exactly 3 posts?
Because now that you are so pumped to create your blog, it’s the easiest time to write 3 great posts. If you create only one, maybe the second will be deferred until tomorrow, then to the day after.. and you’ll be left with a blog with a single post.
Two posts… kinda the same. 3 posts seem like a good number to me.
Once you have those 3 posts, it’s time to publish them. My advice, in this case, is not to publish them all together at the same time. Instead, you should schedule them.
Schedule the first 3 posts in advance
I’ve had several people ask me how can I be so consistent with my blogging. The best suggestion I have is to create a habit. Habits are a very hip and popular topic nowadays, with many books published on the subject.
I’m not an expert, but I noticed that once a habit is established, it’s really hard to break it.
Use this little hack to force yourself to write blog posts. Once you decide your perfect schedule (twice a week, once a week, twice a month, once a month…) then schedule the 3 posts you wrote so that you make a little buffer.
Suppose you write once a week. Publish the first post immediately, the second next week, the third the following week.
Now, you can relax and have a little party because you can launch the blog. Plus, you already have content written for the next 2 weeks and you can start planning other posts.
All the other posts you will write will be queued after the posts you wrote in the beginning.
Don’t be tempted to add a new post in the middle of your planned schedule: there will be times when you can’t write due to limited time, or you will have a low energy week. The buffer will be helpful to keep a consistent publishing schedule.
One thing that is key here is this: once the schedule gets full enough and you can look back at a long streak of posts, all very consistent in their publishing date, and you will start to feel a little pressure to not break the streak.
Transform this little pressure into a positive push towards staying consistent. If you have a weekly publishing routine, at the end of the year you will have 52 blog posts written, which would be a major accomplishment.
Keep going this way
If you do the things I mentioned in this chapter and you just keep going, you will have 99% more success with your blog than anyone else.
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