If you’re trying to turn your blog into a meaningful business, then you’ll want to look like a pro blogger from Day 1.
The goal is simple: to offer your visitors the best possible first impression.
Here are seven ways to make this happen.
#1. Purchase your own domain.
If your blog does not have your own domain name, then you are never going to be a successful blogger. Ten years ago, a blogger could get away with having a .wordpress or .blogspot in their domain name. Those days are long gone.
Back then, many new bloggers could not figure out how to install WordPress on their own domain name. This is what led to an avalanche of bloggers choosing to go with a free host on the .wordpress or .blogspot domain.
Today, virtually every hosting company has a 1-click install option for WordPress. After you choose your domain name you literally click a button and everything is set up.
The vast majority of blogs using free hosting sub domains are low quality blogs, and Google’s algorithm has made the adjustment to this. Unless you are a big brand like Seth Godin, you will need your own domain name to make your content rank well on Google.
#2. Structure your content so that it can be sponsored.
Many blogs tend to include personal stories about life. There’s nothing wrong with that, but to be a professional blogger, you’ve got to extend beyond yourself. Maybe your family is the most important aspect of your life. To look like a pro blogger, you’ve got to move from generalities to specifics.
Let’s say the kids make a mess in the house. You write up a blog post about how you cleaned it up. It’s sort of funny, sort of serious, and you offer a lesson learned at the end of it – like when it’s quiet, you know the kids are getting into trouble.
That is great, but blog posts like that are a dime a dozen. By adding specificity to it, a sponsor might want to get involved with your blogging efforts.
What products did you use to clean up the mess?
Why are you loyal to that brand of product?
What does it do that competitive products are unable to do?
When you write using specifics, then the brands which are involved in your post might take notice of you. They might see that your stories are authentic, funny, and reach out to their core consumer.
Even if you don’t have sponsored posts yet, then you should write like your posts have been sponsored. This will make you look like a pro blogger a position yourself for a nice sponsor payout.
#3. Don’t settle for a selfie in the bio or “about me” page.
Being a pro blogger means thinking differently in all aspects of your blog. Just one little touch of amateurism can offer a new visitor the wrong impression. Since blogging is personal, many visitors want to know about the blog’s author before they actually commit to reading the a blog on a consistent basis.
This is where the power of a professional photograph can really give your blog a boost. Selfies have their place on social media and personal journal blogs, but they don’t leave the same first impression that a professional image can create.
The good news is that today even a smartphone can be used to take professional picture. All you need to do is ask your spouse or a friend to take the picture. Here are a few tips for taking a great picture to use for your blog.
- Take at Least 50 Pictures – The key to getting a great photo is taking a load of pics from different angles. I had my wife take 137 pictures of me over a ten minute period. This included variations of angles, smiles, and even outfits. Even professional photographers will take up to 20 shots for each pic they are trying to get.
- Make Sure Your Lighting is Right – Natural light works best for photos. Find a nice spot in your house with windows and place a chair in front of the light for you to sit. If you do not have enough natural light, then buy some inexpensive lighting on Amazon to use.
- Show Your Teeth When You Smile – As I have mentioned many times, the open mouth smile has the biggest positive impact on how your readers will perceive you.
- Dress to Impress – If you want your visitors to believe you are competent, then you need to dress sharp for you picture.
Here is are two good examples of profile bio pics.
Your picture is easily one of the five most important elements of your blog. You want to invest some time in taking the perfect photo for your blog.
#4. Stay away from the free WordPress themes
The content of your blog will always be the most important component you have to keep visitors around. Just behind that in importance is how a visitor can navigate through your blog and how aesthetically pleasing it is to them. Unfortunately, many of the free themes that are out there for blogs today just don’t make the grade.
There are three options for making your blog’s theme look great and run fast.
- You can modify your free theme extensively. Sometimes a free theme can be modified so that it becomes very useful to visitors. This will take time, and you will need to know how to adjust the code.
- You can hire a professional designer. This is the most expensive option of the three. A professional designer will customize the user experience, incorporate easy navigation, and put in the colors, fonts, and spacing that will make your blog stand out from the crowd.
- You can purchase a premium theme. Premium themes offer your blog a lot of variety and many different looks with a minimal amount of customization.
I recommend paying the $40 to $60 for a premium theme. Dollar for dollar, this is going to be the best investment you will ever make in your blog.
Here are a few tips when choosing a premium theme…
- Use Theme Forest to Find Your Theme – Theme Forest has the largest inventory of premium themes. It is a great marketplace that brings theme developers together with bloggers. They have a reputable rating system that will keep you from buying a bad theme.
- Only Buy Themes with a Rating of at Least 4.5 out of 5 Stars – In addition to the rating, you will want to make sure that over 500 people have rated the themes. This will insure that you are buying a mature theme, which has been used by hundreds of blogs. The newer themes, with under 500 certified ratings, will have bugs that still need to get worked out.
- Look at the Comments Section to See How Quickly the Developer Answers Questions – The best themes usually have very responsive developers. In Theme Forest, you can see all of the comments made by users of the theme. The majority of comments are questions to the developer about how to use different components of the them. If they are not answering questions within at least two weeks after the comment is made, then move on to another theme.
#5. Add a favicon.
So what is a favicon?
The favicon is the small icon which appears next to the URL of your blog. It’s often overlooked and may be thought of as unnecessary, but paying attention to the small details is what professionals do. A favicon is also an easy way to keep your branding relevant to a visitor because it will appear whenever they search through their browsing history and pull up their favorites in a smart phone.
It just makes your site look better, and it only takes 15 minutes to set one up.
Here is a three minute tutorial that walks you through exactly how to create a favicon and set it up on your WordPress blog.
#6. Make yourself accessible
What sets pro bloggers apart from amateurs is their availability. Having great content posted on a regular basis can attract a crowd, but personal availability is what will actually grow your brand. There are several ways that you can make yourself available every day – or even around the clock – depending on how you people can contact you.
Here are some of the best options that are available right now that will help you look like pro.
- Place a Contact Button in Your Main Navigation. You want to make it as easy as possible to contact you. This is a must. There is no debate on this one.
- Add a Call-to-Action for Asking You a Question in Your Bio. Your bio below your posts is going to get read by new visitors that were impressed by a particular post. At the end of my bio, my call-to-action reads, “feel free to send Brandon a message here.” This simple statement leads to great one-on-one engagement with my audience. The email conversations from this call-to-action have led to over $200,000 in new revenue.
- Be Responsive on Your Social Channels. I respond promptly to everyone that sends me a message on my social channels. If you are going to list your Twitter account on your blog, then you need to respond to messages within a 24 hour period.
I treat every message that I receive like a valuable lead because that is what they really are. Over 25% of the people I have conversations with via email and social end up buying my online course.
#7. Make sure your site is loading fast.
This is one of the most common problems that newbie bloggers struggle with. There are three core ways to make sure your blog runs fast.
- Do not cut corners on hosting. Use a big name hosting company like 1and1 or GoDaddy for your host, and do not choose the cheapest possible shared hosting option. For $9 a month, you can get the top tiered shared hosting plan from 1and1. This will make your blog run like it is on a dedicated server up to about 20,000 daily page views.
- Choose a top rated premium theme. As I mentioned before, you need to choose theme with a proven track record.
- Never activate more than 15 plugins. New bloggers tend to go crazy with WordPress plugins. I personally use less than ten on all of my blogs. Plugins can bring a blog to its knees, and they are also easy back doors for hackers.
On top of looking like an amateur, a slow loading blog will insure that your posts will never rank on Google.
Here is a great infographic that breaks down exactly how to monitor and improve the speed of your blog.