Get Ready For Readers
Before you have company over to your home, what do you do? Most people clean up the house a bit and make sure clean towels are hanging in the guest bathroom. You might take a few minutes to plan the food you’ll serve.
Taking time to prepare your house for guests helps them feel welcome. It’s one way of showing that you care. Likewise, getting your blog ready for readers welcomes them and encourages them to stick around.
Let’s look at seven steps you will need to take before you start inviting people to your blog through marketing.
An About Page
This page tells readers who you are and what your blog is about. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the about page is all about you. It’s not.
Your about page is your chance to show your ideal reader why your blog is a great fit for them. It’s an opportunity to share how you can meet the needs of your target audience. This means you should share who you blog for. Tell potential visitors who your readers are. This will help them decide if they’re in the right spot or not.
You should also:
> Share a couple of fun facts about yourself to make it personable.
> Include your name and a picture of you.
> Link to a couple of your most popular posts to encourage readers to check out some more of your work.
> Be honest and be yourself.
> Include a call to action (CTA) at the end. What should your reader do next? We’ll cover CTAs in more detail later.
You can write your about page in first or third person (using “I” or your name). Either is acceptable. Just make sure you pick one and stick to it. Don’t jump back and forth between the two.
Once you have your about page drafted, read it aloud. Does it sound like something you would say, or does it sound boring and dry?
Rework it a bit until you can read it easily and hear yourself actually saying the words on the page. Then ask a friend to read it for you. Can they think of anything you should add or take out?
You need a way for your readers to get in touch with you. A contact page is an easy solution.
If you have the Jetpack plugin installed, you can use it to create a basic contact page. Otherwise, you can install a contact form plugin such as Contact Form 7. Make sure you configure the plugin to send responses to your primary email address, then test it.
If desired, you can also list an email address for readers to use directly. Sometimes this can lead to unsolicited spam, though.
While blogging is a fun and creative outlet, it’s bound by certain laws. You must have certain information available on your blog for your readers.
Reminder: Laws change over time and are based on location. This chapter is for your information and is not legal advice. If you have questions, always seek advice from a qualified professional.
In the following sections, I cover four legal aspects of your blog:
In fall of 2017, Google started awarding small boosts in ranking to sites using SSL. SSL encrypts data and helps keep your users’ information secure. Sites with SSL use an HTTPS: at the start of the url instead of HTTP:.
If you are selling products on your site and collecting payments directly (not through PayPal or Stripe), you need to have the encryption. It’s your due diligence to protect your customers.
Most hosting companies provide free SSL certificates. I recommend checking with your hosting company to find out. If you can get one, it’s worth using it. It is easy to figure out with FastComet, and there are plenty of video tutorials on YouTube to help you with this step.
Do you collect any information from your readers? If you plan on setting up an email list, you will. If you use social share buttons, those can track user information as well.
You are required to disclose certain information to your readers. If you are compensated in any way (through money, free product, or another arrangement) for a post, you need to disclose that.
If you are using affiliate links and you receive a commission when your readers purchase through your link, you need to disclose that. Affiliate links are when you partner with another company or brand and promote their products to your audience. You earn a commission for any sales coming from your links. I cover how to make money as an affiliate in chapter eight.
There are very specific rules for disclosure. Here’s a hint: If you are wondering if you should disclose, you probably should.
If you read blogs, you may know what a simple disclosure statement looks like. It typically says, “This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.”
Where you place your disclosure matters from a legal standpoint. You must have the disclosure before the links. Your readers should not have to scroll all the way to the bottom of a post or page to discover this information. That’s why many bloggers have a disclosure statement at the top of each post.
You also must meet disclosure guidelines for the companies you are an affiliate for. For instance, Amazon has a very specific blurb that must be on your website. Instead of putting this on every post that uses Amazon affiliate links, I have this information on a separate disclosure page.
That page specifies additional information about the companies I partner with. It spells out clearly that I may receive income from purchases made through my links.
The Law and Copyrights
There’s one more area of legal topics you need to know about as a blogger. Copyrights.
You do not have the right to share anything you’d like on your blog. If someone else owns the rights to the image or content you share, they can sue you for using it without permission.
Do not ever find a random picture on Google (or another blog) and include it in a post of your own. That’s a surefire recipe for a lawsuit. Or, at the minimum, a takedown notice requiring you to remove the content.
Here are some tips to always staying on the right side of copyright laws:
1. If you want to include an image from another blog post in a round-up, ask permission. A round-up post is where you write a single post that links to a collection of related articles written by other bloggers. Round-ups are a great way to build relationships with bloggers in your niche. You can also check to see if there’s a policy about sharing on the other website(s). Many have detailed instructions covering what you can and cannot use.
2. Don’t ever plagiarize. Create original content instead of stealing it from others.
3. If someone inspired you, give them credit and a link back to their site.
4. Don’t use songs you don’t have permission to use in any video content.
5. Use your own images or images that are clearly available for use commercially. Read the fine print of every image you want to use.
6. Don’t change images (adding filters, editing it, etc.) unless you have permission to do so.
Did you survive the legal section? I know it’s a lot of information, but you will want to get your blog started the right way. Email lists are another way to do that. Email lists are gold.
You see, social media networks are always changing their algorithms. The people who like your page on Facebook might not actually see any of the content you post. It’s the same with all the other networks. You don’t own them, and you don’t have any say in changes that happen.
What you do own, however, is your email list. It’s your direct line to your readers. And it’s extremely valuable. Don’t ever take your list for granted or use the email addresses you’ve been entrusted with for shady purposes.
Before you can start collecting email addresses, there are a couple of things you’ll need:
1. An email service provider.
2. A form for your readers to use to enter their email address.
Let’s start with the first one.
Email Service Providers (ESPs)
In order to comply with the CAN-SPAM act, you can’t mass email people your blog’s newsletters from your personal email address. There are legal requirements you must meet, including providing an option for unsubscribing, displaying your business address, and identifying your business as the sender. You also need permission to send emails to people. Having them opt in to your email newsletter is how they give you that permission.
There are plenty of ESPs out there. Here are five of the most popular for bloggers:
> Mad Mimi
Some email service providers are free up to a certain number of subscribers, and others start as a paid service. If you are bootstrapping your blog, select a free provider to start.
I started with MailChimp, because it was free. However, I quickly moved to a paid ConvertKit plan because the features I wanted were not included in the free MailChimp plan at the time.
I love ConvertKit and have been using their service for over two years. Even though my list is small enough that I would still qualify for free plans with some providers, I love the quality of ConvertKit. For me, it’s worth paying a small fee every month.
However, there are bloggers who love MailerLite. And AWeber. And Mad Mimi. And MailChimp. And other ESPs. You can find plenty of detailed reviews on all of these (and more) online. If you find one you’re interested in, learn all you can. Here are some of the available features to keep in mind as you read reviews and shop around:
Multiple Opt-In Offers
If you plan to offer multiple freebies (covered below) to your readers, you need to make sure your plan makes it easy to do so, without requiring you to build a complete new list for each.
Ease of Use
Some ESPs are intuitive. They’re drag and drop, and you don’t have to worry about your design skills when you sit down to email your list. Others take a bit more effort. However, once you learn how to do it, you should be able to keep doing it going forward.
There’s a learning curve regardless of the ESP you select. You must decide how much time you’re willing to devote to learning the system.
If you talk about multiple topics on your blog, some people may want to hear about one topic and not another. Or you might want to send a follow-up email to everyone who downloaded a certain opt-in from you, but not to anyone else.
This is segmenting your list. You break your whole list into separate groups based on criteria of your choice. Some bloggers don’t want to segment their list. And that’s okay. I rarely segment mine. But if you want to, make sure your ESP makes it easy for you.
When you subscribe to a freebie, it often triggers a series of emails from a blogger. These are meant to provide engagement and education. They range from a single email to a sequence of twenty or more.
These emails are sent to everyone who subscribes, but the blogger isn’t sitting there manually hitting send at the right time. That’d be too hard to do! Instead, email service providers allow you to automate this process with autoresponders. Autoresponders happen automatically when triggered. They allow you to set it and forget it when it comes to many of your emails.
Always look at the price you will need to pay and learn what’s included in that price. For instance, ConvertKit has a couple of pricing tiers available. The number of people on your list dictates which tier you are in. So, if your list size increases past the threshold of your current tier, you’ll start paying the higher amount.
Some providers are free until you reach a certain subscriber count. Others offer a basic free plan, but you can’t use all the features.
Don’t feel obligated to pay for a service you can’t afford just because other bloggers are using it. Free is a great place to start, as long as the free plan provides all the features you need.
Remember, you can always upgrade or switch later. When I switched from MailChimp to ConvertKit, I was worried it’d be a hassle. It was not. There were great step-by-step tutorials, and the entire process took about ten minutes.
If you don’t look at data about your emails, you won’t know if your current strategy works. At a minimum you need to know what percentage of your emails are being opened, and which links are getting clicks. This will help you tailor your emails to give your readers more of what they want. You can use this information to look for patterns. Are there certain subject lines you use that get more opens than others?
You will also want to know who isn’t opening your emails. After not reading any of your emails for a while, a subscriber becomes a cold subscriber.
If you are in a higher pricing tier and many of your subscribers are cold, you want to have the ability to drop them from your list. That way you aren’t paying for someone who doesn’t want to hear from you anymore.
Problems happen. When they happen, you need to know what support options you are entitled to. Some companies offer great support for all users. Others offer better options to paid users.
Make sure you know what you can do when you run into trouble. Check out the documentation available for users. You need access to the directions for how to do common tasks with your service.
Availability of Forms
Without forms, no one will ever get on your email list. You need a form to capture their name and email address.
Some ESPs make it easy to add forms to WordPress. They integrate well. Others do not. If your service doesn’t integrate with your form, you’ll need to manually add people to your list. And that’s a task a busy blogger can sometimes forget to do.
Before signing up with a provider, find out what works for collecting email address with that service. Ask other bloggers, look for reviews, or read the documentation. You should put a couple of sign-up forms on your blog. I currently have forms on my:
> Home page
> About page
> Blog posts
By having multiple forms available, you give readers multiple chances to sign up without making them search. Most readers are busy and won’t bother to search. By making it easy for them, you’ll get more subscribers.
A freebie entices a reader to hand over their email address. It’s a small gift you give in exchange for their information. Here are some common freebies:
> A short, free course
> An ebook
> A printable workbook, worksheet, or checklist
> A sample of your paid product (like five free stock photos or a single lesson from your paid course)
> Video content
Take some time to brainstorm potential freebies. You want your freebie to meet these four criteria:
1. Relevant to your content (don’t use a meal planner freebie if you never talk about meal planning)
2. Useful and solves a problem for your reader
3. Easy to access and utilize
4. High quality
Think about what kind of freebie you want to offer. Spend some time brainstorming. Then, pick one and go with it. You will learn more going through the process of creating your first freebie than you can by simply reading about it. Making the freebie will help you get a sense of the process. It might be difficult the first time, but each new offer you create will be easier.
In the next section, I will explain how to create a simple downloadable freebie.
How to Create a Freebie
The program I use to create the freebie depends on the kind I’m trying to make. If it’s mainly a text-based document, like an ebook, I use Word. I already know how to use it, and I can add borders and pictures. When the document looks good, I save it as a PDF.
If I’m making an image-heavy freebie, such as a resource guide, I use an online tool called Canva. While there are paid options available, the free version of Canva has worked well for me so far.
In Canva, I select the “Presentation” template. After I find one I like, it takes a little time to switch out the pre-loaded content for my own materials. I like Canva because I don’t have to worry about design. The templates keep it simple. There’s also a PDF option when saving.
Once your freebie is done, get another person to look at it. I typically ask my husband or one of my sisters to proof it for me. I use their recommendations for content and design to make any changes, then I save it as a PDF again.
How to Get Your Freebie to Your Readers
When your freebie is ready, you need to put it to use. The exact steps you follow depend on your ESP. Be sure to check their documentation.
Here’s a quick overview of the process.
1. Create a form for your freebie (include a screenshot so people know what they’ll get).
2. Upload your freebie to the incentive email your readers receive after signing up.
3. Embed your form on your website.
That’s it! When people see the form promoting your offer, they can decide if they want it or not. If they do, they enter their email address and hit enter. The email arrives automatically, delivering the freebie to them.
A Few Posts
Before sending people to your blog, you need to have a couple of posts published. This way they will have something to read once they get there.
If you have multiple categories on your blog, consider writing one in each category before launching. This gives your readers a better idea the type of content they’ll find.
It also helps if you have several weeks’ worth of content scheduled. This way you can focus on launching and marketing, without having to worry about publishing on time. I will walk you through exactly how to create and schedule a blog post in the next chapter.
Images for Sharing
Visual content gets shared on social media. If you don’t add these elements to your blog posts, you won’t see many shares.
For every blog post, you need a minimum of two images. The first is the cover image. This is typically a wide rectangular shape, like a banner, and it’s perfect for sharing on Facebook and Twitter. The second is a Pinnable image. These are long rectangles with easy to read text.
You can add more images if you enjoy it and have time. Some bloggers optimize one photo at the dimensions for Twitter, and one for Facebook.
I use Canva and PicMonkey to prepare images for my posts. If I’m working on my smartphone, the Canva app is perfect for creating images on the go. If I’m on my computer, I use Canva for cover images and PicMonkey to create pins.
Some bloggers use PowerPoint to create a template for pictures. Others use Photoshop. I recommend trying a couple of programs and sticking with one that’s easy for you to use. It’s best to start with a template and customize it to fit your content.
Another option is to hire a designer to create images for you. I’ve done this when I was short on time and had a little extra money.
You need to use high quality photos for your images. Ideally, you’d take these yourself. But if that isn’t a possibility, you can use stock photos. There are some stock photos you pay for, and others you can use freely.
As mentioned earlier, always verify the copyright on images. You can get in serious trouble (and fined) for using photos without permission.
To locate free stock images, I typically use the following sites:
There are also plenty of photographers who offer free stock photos as a bonus to people who sign up for their newsletters. Here are a couple of suggestions for you:
> Haute Stock
> Dabbles & Babbles
You want readers to see your images and know they are from you. You do this by branding your images.
Branding can be as simple as adding your domain to your images. You might also have a couple of colors you use exclusively. Or a specific font combination.
On your blog, you will want your brand to include a logo. You can use this logo on your social media images, or you can include your blog’s name and URL.
It is important to understand that branding can become a stopping point for bloggers. They so badly want to nail the branding they completely stop doing anything else until it’s perfect.
Don’t let the fear of less-than-perfect branding keep you from making progress with your dream of running a profitable blog. Pick something to start with and use it for a while, then tweak what isn’t working or change it up completely.
A Quick Way for Users to Share Content
It’s frustrating as a reader to discover a great post and want to share it, but to have no easy options available. Yes, your readers can copy and paste the link. However, that’s an extra step many people won’t bother with.
Make it easy for your readers to share by having the Pinterest PinIt Button and Jetpack plugins (or something similar) mentioned in chapter two installed and activated. Then configure the plugins for social shares.
Doing this allows readers to easily Pin content, give it a Tweet, or a share it on Facebook. And if you make it easy for your readers to share, they’re more likely to do so.
There are several styles of share buttons available. You can pick buttons that float along with your content as readers scroll, or buttons that are static. The style you use depends on your personal preference, and most importantly, on your readers’ preferences.
Set Up Social Accounts for Your Blog
Now is the time to set up social accounts for your blog. Sign up for them on any platform you currently use or think you may use in the future. This way you can get a similar username across all networks.
However, just because you sign up for an account doesn’t mean you need to use it right now. Social media quickly becomes a time suck. And if you’re trying to jump into every platform simultaneously, it will overwhelm you.
Pick one or two to focus on right now. I recommend starting with Pinterest and Facebook, but if your audience isn’t on those platforms, pick the ones where they are. You need to be where your ideal reader is.
Once you get a solid social media plan in place for your first one or two, and are feeling comfortable, consider adding another one. You’ll get much more traction this way than if you just dabble in all of them.
Chapter six goes into more detail on social media marketing and provides information on how to set up the accounts.
1. Create an about page for your blog.
2. Create a contact page for your blog.
3. Create a disclosure page for your blog.
5. Select an email service provider to use (I recommend MailerLite for a free option, and ConvertKit as a paid one).
6. Brainstorm and create a freebie, then connect it to your ESP.
7. Decide how to brand your images.
8. Ensure your social share buttons are configured and enabled.
You are making great progress on your blog. Now it’s time to learn how to craft blog posts that your ideal readers can’t wait to share. Chapter five is all about creating content for your blog.