Last week I announced that I was taking on a blogging challenge to create a successful blog in three months. Those three months begin on the day of the blog's launch. Right now I'm in what I would call the pre-pre-launch phase, where I'm taking care of basic design, development, and strategy before pre-launch marketing can officially begin (at which point I'll start sharing the new domain publicly).
This is the phase where many bloggers go wrong.
The Pre-pre-launch Phase Explained
I break down everything that happens before a blog's launch date into two groups:
- Pre-launch -- This is the phase where the bulk of the backend work is finished and you're able to actively market the blog. For example, you might offer a limited sneak peek or start building your email list with some kind of promotional "coming soon" page.
- Pre-pre-launch -- This is what happens before that pre-launch phase. You might not have an exact launch date in mind yet. You're putting together a blog business plan or marketing plan. You set up your blog's theme or design. You come up with a content strategy (everything from the general topics you plan to cover to your specific category structure to initial post ideas). This is where you build the foundation of your blog.
This is quite possibly the most important phase in launching a blog. Without a solid foundation, you have nothing to build upon. Yet bloggers routinely skip important planning and strategic decision-making as they rush to make their new blogs public.
If you take your own blog seriously, please don't do that. Respect your readers and yourself enough to put some thought into things.
That's not to say every blog needs a business plan. Not all blogs are launched as a business model or revenue stream. But every blog does need a plan of some kind.
How Long Does This Phase Last?
The pre-pre-launch and pre-launch phases will vary from blog to blog. For example, if you choose a theme that needs no customizations, you might be able to get through the initial development phase quickly. If you have heavy customizations to make (like I do) or you have to wait on a designer to create a custom theme for you, things will obviously take longer.
It also depends on your goals for the blog. For example, the new marketing blog I'm launching is designed to serve as a revenue stream. That involves much more detailed planning than a blog that serves as more of a personal journal.
Another consideration is content creation and how much you need to take care of. For example, I'm handling all of the base site copy during the pre-pre-launch phase along with all strategic decisions about upcoming blog content. I'll draft the first few posts during this phase, but I'll continue to create the launch content well into my pre-launch marketing phase. If you plan to launch with just a post or two, you'll get to launch faster than someone who wants 5 - 10 articles up (my plan for this particular blog).
What's Happening Behind the Scenes?
If you're following along with the challenge, I'll periodically share updates about what I'm working on and how things are shaping up as I work towards my goals with the new blog. Here is what has been done so far:
- The base WordPress installation was set up and I set the domain up on my server.
- The premium theme I'm building the site on was purchased and installed.
- Larger customizations to the theme are complete (although I'm making minor tweaks as I go still).
- The blog business plan (based on the template I linked you to above) was created.
- The base email marketing account was set up.
- Most of the content development plan is finished.
With those behind me, there is still quite a bit to do. Here's what I'll be working on this week:
- Finalize the post category structure and making sure my planned posts all fit well within them (and making sure I have at least one planned post per category).
- Finish setting up the email autoresponders to prepare for pre-launch sign-ups.
- Take care of some specialty formatting on a few key pages.
- Write the base copy for the site -- home page, about page, contact page, and policy pages to start with.
- Draft the first three posts for the blog.
- Handle outreach for a couple of larger planned features.
- Make minor design adjustments as needed (moving around widgets, typography tweaks, etc. -- things that come up when I see how the copy lays out on the page).
- Create a planned freebie to give away to newsletter subscribers (this is the one thing that might or might not be completed this week; while it's something I'd like to offer, it's not something I consider essential, so it will largely come down to how much time I can sink into this launch after client work and work on existing projects).
As you can see, I'm not taking this blog launch lightly. And if your goal is to create a blog that people actually want to read and a blog that works as a revenue stream, you can't afford to take your blog's launch lightly either.
My next progress update on the three-month blogging challenge will come as soon as I'm through this phase and ready to announce more about the new blog -- its name and address, what will be covered there, and how you can subscribe for updates.