Starting a blog or a niche site can be overwhelming, and this overwhelm can lead to paralysis, to putting off an idea because it’s difficult to take that first step when you feel like there are a thousand more still left to go. Building a blog, or a niche site does not have to be difficult and if you have the correct strategy you can get up an running in only 1 hour and just 18 steps (trust me they are not difficult).
I’m deliberately describing both blogs and niche sites here as my strategy for them is the same. It used to be that blogs where one thing and niche sites were static websites. Those days are long past and now it is easy to rank high with a blog, and use it as a static site that is easily updated with new posts and articles.
What follows is the process I go through whenever I build a site. I use a number of paid services but I’ll also include free options where I can as just about all of this can be done for free as well. This is a long post because you deserve the full process!
Step One-Web Hosting and Domain Names
For my blog and for my niche sites I recommend shelling out some money and hosting your site on a paid server. This not only allows you to retain full rights and access to your website, but it allows you to scale up if traffic increases substantially and offer a wider range of monetization strategies. There are of course free options like (Blogger and WordPress.com) but these carry subdomains that will make your site look less professional. The two hosting companies I use and recommend are:
Host Gator (you can get $9.94 off a package if you use the code TWHOSTGATOR or 25% off with TBCHOSTGATOR)
Dream Host (use the promotion code DREAM695 to reduce the price to just $6.95/month)
I won’t go through this process as the hosting companies have it pretty much covered.
I do get a small commission if you sign up using my codes or though the links. Thanks for your support if you choose to. I made the promo codes so they have the maximum discount possible so that we all benefit.
You can also buy your domain names from the same place you get your hosting from. There are cheaper places to buy domain names but I can’t be bothered to save the extra $2/year so I just usually keep everything in one place. Sometimes I use GoDaddy as they are cheaper, but I would not relay on them for hosting.
Step Two- Setting up the Blog
Free and Powerful. Or in another word, WordPress.org. This free blogging AND content management system (CMS) has leveled the playing field between large corporations that have the money to pay programmers and well, the rest of us who just want to work from home or the cafe. You can install WordPress.org in just one click through the two hosting companies I listed above. It is easy and quick. Please note that there is a difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Both are free, but the former is for self-hosted blogs (the kind I’m advocating here) and the later is the free hosting based on the same software. We will be using WordPress.com later in our Niche Site evolution to help build the authority of our main site. But more on that in another post.
Once you have installed WordPress go to your admin page, to the left sidebar, and optimize it as follows:
Go to Settings and click General
1) Change Tagline to a SEO Friendly Tag that will show up in search engines. This describes what your site is about and should contain your main keyword phrase.
Go to Posts and click Categories
2) Create a new category called “News”.
Go to General and click Writing
3) Change the default Post Category to “News.” This way if you forget to assign a category to your articles it does not show up on the ugly and unprofessional category of “Uncategorized.”
Go to Settings and click Permalink
4) Change to “Custom Structure” /%postname%/ This makes your URL address look pretty and helps Google know what they are easier.
Step Three- Choose a Theme
The theme of your website (how it looks and and is set up) is very easy to install and change at any time. There are thousands of themes available for WordPress.org some of which are free and some of which are “premium.” You have to pay for the later but you can get a more professional design with additional functionality built in and cleaner coding that makes it easier for Google to read.
I want to make it clear that you do not have to spend any money at all for your Theme. One great example of a free theme is SimpleFolio. It has a clean design and is easy to manipulate to make it look original. However, I can’t speak to the coding of it as I have not used it personally. This one can’t be found in the WordPress directory so you’ll have to download it yourself.
As you can probably tell, the TBC runs on the Genesis Framework. I chose this Theme because it is incredibly powerful when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and there are a lot of skins (designs based on the underlying Theme coding) to choose from and more that come out on a regular basis. As I run the TBC, Todd’s Wanderings, and my growing army of niche sites it made sense to buy the Pro Plus Package. It is expensive upfront, but now I have access to all the premium themes I want for life and can use them on any new site that I choose. For me this is a good option as I am comfortable changing the code to suit my needs. But for others you might want to stick with the free theme or a single premium theme that you like and requires less coding knowledge.
If you are looking for something stylish than I can also recommend Woo Themes. I love their clean designs and easy interface. You can buy a single use license or a developers license that allows you to use with as many niche sites as you can create.
Steps Four-Eighteen- Adding the Plugins
As you have noticed to this point I am not going into detail about any one step. Instead I’m trying to give the essential steps in the process and suggestions on what I use. The beauty of WordPress is the ability to customize and add functionality to it easily through third party software call Plugins. The following is my essential list of WordPress plugins. All of them are free! I use more for my main blog as it requires additional bells and whistles. I’m not going to describe all of these as I can see you are getting sleepy. So here is the list and you can read up on them:
A. Activate Akismet (prevents spam)
B. Fast Secure Contact Form (let’s people contact you easily without publishing your e-mail address)
C. Genesis Featured Widget Amplified (available only if you bought Genesis Framework, this is a powerful widget that let’s you organize your posts on the homepage)
D. GetClicky (great plugin from getclicky.com to help you keep track of your visitors and where they are coming from)
E. Pingler (notifies Google and other directories of updates to your site so you get indexed first)
F. Redirection (allows you to change the link url for affiliate links so they look pretty and trustworthy. I have used this throughout my post here)
G. Extended Comment Options (tricks out your comments sections)
H. Google XML Sitemaps (helps Google index your full site)
I. Quick Adsense (makes it easy to insert adsense)
J. Whydowork Adsense (same as above but with different options)
K. W3 Total Cache (speeds up your site by caching pages. This can be tough to configure but well worth it)
L. Favicon Generator (allows you at add a favicon next to your web url)
M. Widget Logic (allows you to control which widgets get shown on which pages. Great for advertising!)
N. WordPress Hashcash (helps reduce spam)
O. All in One SEO Pack (essential for helping Google understand what your site is about. This is not necessary if you have Genesis as the functionality is built into the theme).
Content and Monetization
Sorry, but you are going to have to wait for these strategies in another post as this one is far to long. Basically, my content strategy is to write everything myself, and dish out the most useful information on Tokyo that I can. For monetization I’m relying on Adsense and assuming (so dangerous!) that people searching for Things to Do in Tokyo will also be interested in advertising that targets their trip to Tokyo. I will also be adding hotel reviews and tour options in the future.
The whole process above took me only 1 hour in total. Add another 1 hour to make a custom banner for the top.
It took me 1 hour to write each of my articles on my site so far. I have three live so that’s another 3 hours. This makes 5 hours of work to get the site up an running. HOWEVER, it took many many more hours to research these steps, test out and decide on content strategies and map out my site. Lucky you, as you get to benefit from my hours of slaving over the internet
I have actually learned something very important about myself, I can’t do anything low quality. I hate the idea of creating information and having others read it unless it is truly useful to them. This means that I will be trying to make my site as much of an authority site as possible, which is a slight shift from a niche site but fits with my overall strategic theme of building up a Japan site for the future. The good news is that Google will love this. The downside is that it takes more time as I will be adding at least 10 more articles to the site over the course of the next few weeks.
By the Numbers
If you have gotten this far you get a reward and that’s an update on where my site stands with only three articles posted.
After pursuing my link-building strategy in a half ass way (more on this later), and exactly 1 month after going live with the site I am now on the 2nd page of Google and the first page of Bing for my main keyword phrase! My site is not getting much organic traffic but has somehow become popular on Stumble Upon and just got 200 visitors yesterday (the average previously was just 2!).
Money wise I have earned a total of .94 cents. Yes, this has been deposited in a high interest bearing account! But I’m not worried about this. I’m now moving full steam ahead with my link building strategies and hopefully I’ll get to the top of Google soon. I don’t want to write about my linking strategies until I have some proven success, or a massive failure. I want this process to be useful for you as much as possible.
I’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below and help me get my energy back after this very long post. Thanks for sticking with me!