Yesterday was a general introduction on setting up your blog style website. By now you have set yourself in the correct frame of mind – you know who you are going to talk to, and you are preparing to write on a consistent basis (I’ll get to pace and content tomorrow). You should also be ready to set up with either self hosted WordPress or Squarespace (there are other alternatives, but those two are the best for what we want to do). Now I would like to share with you some important points about setting up your site.
First off, I mentioned this before – it’s better to get started now, than wait until everything is perfect. If you have a schedule that allows you to set things up before you start posting, then that is fine, but don’t put off starting this just because every piece isn’t in place to begin with.
Before you begin installing your website and setting things up visually, it’s important to take a quick side journey and explore keywords/phrases. Most of the traffic on the internet is driven by keyphrases – that is, someone visits a search engine and searches for a topic like ‘property management.’ In this case, ‘property management’ is a keyphrase – so is ‘property management tips,’ and ‘managing property.’ Perhaps another time I’ll do a quick analysis of some property management keywords, but for now it’s just important to understand what is going on.
The idea situation is that you have built content around specific keyphrases that you know people are going to be searching for. It’s not critical to make every piece of content built around these keyphrases, but it does help to know which ones you should consider using. Here’s why (for example): the term ‘property management’ get’s searched on Google 2.2 million times every month. If you have a lot of content built around this phrase and manage to get ranked high in Google, you can be sure to get a fair chunk of that traffic (to be realistic though, targeting ‘property management’ is foolish, as the competition is incredibly high).
Let’s take it back to our current situation though – remember who you want to speak to. Now, start thinking about what they are going to be interested in that would make them a good visitor to your site. For example (if you manage an apartment complex), someone looking for apartment living ideas, or perhaps locally related apartment topics like “apartments that allow pets.” Now you can think about creating content built around that subject or related topics. I would encourage you to sit down and make a list of topics your target is likely to be interested in – if you want to get some search numbers, you can use the Google Keyword tool (but don’t take these literally, they are simply a guideline).
The reason it’s important to know what subjects you are going to write about – other than for planning your content – is that when you set up your blog, you need to establish categories and tags. If you aren’t familiar with these, check out the wordpress support to gain a basic understanding. Essentially these will be used to both guide your reader, and the search engines in understanding your site and what you have to offer.
When it comes to how your website looks visually, you have I think two basic options (of which there are many variations). If you are building a site specifically for the purpose of this blog (and you aren’t adding a blog/news section to an existing site), then you could either use a standard blog style layout or a magazine style layout. The blog style layout is similar to how you find this blog – when you reach this blog, you see each blog post listed in the main area, and then on the right some helpful links (ads, newsletter subscription, blog navigation, etc). A magazine style layout is less linear, with a more visual picture style front page featuring different categories and potentially a rotating main topic. The Bigger Pockets Blog which I often find articles to reference on Mondays, uses a magazine style template. The choice is yours, but I recommend one of these.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is think about the user experience. If you have an understanding of SEO, or a view on how it should be done – whatever you do, think about the user experience first. If you are planning on something with your website that is made primarily to improve your position with the search engines but does nothing for your readers – don’t do it. Think about how your content is laid out, how it is organized, and how easy it is for people to get around your website, and find the interesting content they came for.