The First 3 Weeks

The 13 Week Challenge

I already talked about what the 13 Week Challenge is about in high level – using modern techniques that are all above board, search engine friendly (not going to get a site dropped or even banned) and yet taking a newly registered site from zero to a comfortable level of traffic within 90 days.

This challenge runs for 13 weeks – 20 September (the day that the URL was registered and WordPress installed) until 20 December, when I will look back over the previous 90 days to judge whether the challenge has been a success or not (more tomorrow on that).

The Plan

A lot of what will take place in the blog can’t be planned in detail right from the start. A lot of what happens towards the end of the challenge, for instance, will, if all goes to plan, be mainly reacting to events such as comments and maintaining a level of quality posts. More than anything preparing the blog for what will happen after the challenge is over (it will still be running, just discussing the techniques in hindsight, new techniques etc).

Week 1

However, as I wrote last week I intend to lay careful foundations to this blog. Rushing in and trying to get interested traffic and teasing in the search engines to a site that only has a couple of pages won’t be beneficial. If, by magic, the search engines stumble over the site then that’s fine

But week 1 isn’t about making the site look good or about getting in hundreds of visitors, it’s about introducing the site to the world. Week 1 will, therefore, be a lot of talking to myself. I’ll be writing posts that introduce the site so that search engines that start to see the posts notice that the site is being added to most days.

Week 2

A lot of writing will be taking place in week 1. With probably little spare time to write daily posts (I have a full time job, plus family commitments most evenings) I will struggle. However, with a bit of time to spare over the weekend I was able to prepare in advance a few posts – a good technique for when you get stuck. This week is also when I’ll start to make the site look “pretty”.

And then for the rest of the week continue with much more writing to start to build a reasonable amount of content on the site. None of the articles for the first 2 weeks are going to be aimed specifically at search engines. They won’t be heavily search engine optimised and will be just general musings. This is intentional. For a brand new site we don’t want to “frighten” off the search engines in the early days by obviously being targeted at them.

Week 3

Now’s the time that the project will really start to take effect and we’ll start trying to get people visiting the site, search engines listing the site and so on. But it starts with implementing a load of useful tools to the site. Tools that make commenting more useful and appealing to other bloggers. Tools that help you see what is going on with your traffic and so on.

This is the week in which we’ll first start to try to tease people over from other websites onto the challenge website. At last, we’ll hopefully start to get some readers. But probably not that many yet!

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Avoiding The Mistakes Of The New Blogger

There’s plenty of dangers when setting up a new blog and getting it right is not exactly easy. What can you do to improve your blog from day 1?

Write, write, write…

And then write some more! Daily posts are probably sufficient, whilst weekly posts (and less!) are far from attractive to both readers and search engines. By writing often when readers arrive on your site they will find plenty to read and stay there longer and might decide to come back.

Whilst search engines will see the updates, recognise your blog as being fresh and up to date and start to visit more often.

Write enough.

Whilst we want to write often, we want the posts to be interesting and sufficient in detail. Search engines also like pages with plenty of content. Rules of thumb vary with some people suggesting 400+ words, other suggesting 500+ or even 600+.

Personally the exact figure doesn’t really matter. If you are worried look at your blog and see which posts rank best and if there’s a theme relating to your word count.

But don’t over-write

People reading your blog will be using a mixture of screens. Many will be on narrow mobile devices with narrow screens. If your blog is written in paragraphs of thousands of words each paragraph will stretch down many screens, making it hard to read. So hit that [RETURN] button frequently!

Help people follow you

If someone reads your blog and wants to read more, how can they find out what you are writing and when to come back? Operate a mailing list, run a stand alone Twitter feed and make sure that RSS Feeds are enabled. All make sure that people can come back when they want to and when they know you have made an update. So keep their options open to them and provide them with the tools they want.

Make it look good

With so many quality free themes available why not spend the time that is needed to find one that works for you and looks great? Don’t rush into it, spend the time it takes to ind something suitable and invest in the required time and effort.

But don’t over-do it.

Daft, pretentious blog titles that promise too much and fail to deliver are going to put people off quickly. Be honest with any readers that turn up and deliver on your promises.

Make sure that you are writing for your readers. In the early days it’s them and them alone that you are writing for. Forget search engines for the first few weeks and just deliver what your potential readership might want to read about.

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Setting Up The Site.

So the idea has been started and the domain name registered. I know that I’m going to put the effort into this site over the next few months, so ho do we really get started?

Step 1 Register the URL

This step turned out to be harder than I thought. I made a mistake when I first started the project and must have mis-typed my chosen domain name when I checked it was available. Really pleased with myself, I thought my first choice domain name was available.

I’ve no idea what had happened but when I went to register the domain name that evening it was already taken and hosted. A quick check and yes, it had existed for years. So then I spent a while thinking of alternative domain names and finally settled on the current URL.

Once that was decided it was simply a matter of go to my website host, tell them the domain name and register it.

Step 2 – Hosting

I’d already decided to use WordPress (self hosted) for the blog. Ive used this so many times before that I am comfortable with the set-up and since I last installed a blog my hosts have even implemented “single click” installation. It failed to work.

Eventually, after getting the settings right and giving it a couple of hours to allow everything to fully propagate I was able to install WordPress and start to customise it. The default installation, which is via options during installation, includes a plugin that I found many years ago and was pleased to see it installed as default.

Step 3 – Getting Going

That’s basically it then so far. There are loads of plugins I want to install, themes that I want to try out and much more. However, for now I believe laying the foundations of the site is what is important. It doesn’t matter how fancy the site looks if there’s no content for people to read. It also doesn’t bode well if the security of the site isn’t there and I start letting people find it.

Most of the security is handled by default with the latest WordPress, but there are also some tricks, plugins and other bits and pieces that are useful to know about, but I’ll come back to the aspects of setting up the security of a blog in here at a later date.

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First Week Review

The first week of this new blog’s life comes to an end! This time 7 days ago I was registering the domain and putting into place a few basic settings. It’s been a bit of an annoying week, but we’re heading in the right direction.

The biggest issue

The biggest problem is not a usual one, thankfully. I’ve had a lot of issues with hosting problems. It looks like the site is now stable (how long for?) so hopefully the issues are finally sorted. Even after the suspect plugin was disabled I was still reporting to my hosts that the site was down. Fingers crossed, they have sorted the server issue and we’re there.

No traffic

But that’s to be expected! I’m only laying the foundations at this point of a blog that the search engines will hopefully take a long term interest in. Although the site is about getting everything done in 90 days (13 weeks) that’s just going to be the start of it. I’ll keep it going next year as a start up help blog.

Getting listed on Google

The first major hurdle to cross and we’ve done it! Very quickly the home screen of the blog was listed in Google search results, but that was it. No return visits from the search engine. This is pretty well normal. You have to wait about a week and see if the robot appears again. If / when it does it’s looking to see if the content has changed much. If it has then you are worth a visit again soon. If not, then it might come a visiting in a week, or it could be a couple of weeks. So talking to yourself is essential.

And more pages listed!

3results

Finally tonight I’ve seen on Google that I’ve gone from 1 to 3 pages listed in the results! This is a major hurdle to have achieve. It means that Google has come back and bothered to list more content. Hopefully, the next visit will be a bit quicker and I’ll start to see loads of pages listed soon.

The ultimate “aim” here is that Google will be listing pages very quickly after they are added. Yes, that really can happen.

Thinking about design

I’ve started testing out a few different themes and, for now at least, I think I quite like Portfolio Press by Devin Price. It isn’t Adsense optimised, but that’s easy to sort. It looks nice and seems to have a home screen that can be very heavily image orientated (obviously an image that I’ve missed). However, it also has a mobile version and in today’s phone based world this is essential. I wouldn’t use a theme that was mobile friendly – either a mobile version or responsive.

 

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A Few Frustrating Days

I’ve been experiencing a few quite frustrating days on this blog. As I’m trying to get the site up and running and traffic coming in, it’s constantly down.

Is it a plugin?

My hosts, Fasthosts.co.uk, tell me there are SQL errors in a plugin. However, I’m just not able to connect to the site at all for long periods of time. I’ve (finally) managed to disable the plugin in question and we’ll see what happens. It looks like it might not have installed properly and failed to create some of the SQL tables that it requires as we are also seeing SQL errors in the server logs.

Or friendly URLs?

There was also a suggestion that it was something to do with the friendly URLs, but they came as default through the one click installation that they provided.

No-one really seems to know what the problem is

For now, they are looking at the site. If you’re reading this then obviously the site is, for now at least, back up and running.

However, if you’ve previously tried to visit and failed I can only appologise and say my hosts have been informed and I’m waiting on them to resolve it.

image

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Installing Google Adsense To WordPress

A lot has changed since I last started a blog from scratch and I have to say this is one area in which a huge change has happened, much to a blogger’s benefit.

In previous blogs I’ve had to go to

  • the Adsense Website,
  • define what the advert is going to look like,
  • grab the code
  • edit the WordPress theme to put the snippets of code in the correct places
  • test the site to see if the advert looks right and appears where I wanted it

Very difficult really.

The Modern Day Installing Google Adsense To WordPress

These days installing Google Adsense to a WordPress site is so much easier! Let’s even take a step back on the above list. First, simply go to the Adsense website and if you haven’t already done so then you need to sign up for an account.

Now, within your WordPress Admin, go to Plugins and search for “Google Adsense”. Yes, there’s now a simple to use plugin. Follow the prompts to install that.

Activate the new plugin then hit Settings. It will lead you through a quick verification and then you are almost done.

Final step – click Manage Adds on the Settings page. This will analyse your website and work out where Adsense blocks could be fitted and suggest 3 places and relevant sizes of adverts. Don’t agree with one of Google’s choices? Simple click the + icon where one is shown (these are other suggestions) and then either accept the default size and shape or choose your own.

You will get an error message because you now have 4 (or more?) Adsense blocks on the page. Just click the X on those blocks you are happy to do away with until you are back down to just the allowed three adsense blocks.

And that’s it!

And that really is it! Job is done. If you browse your site you will see the adsense blocks displaying. If you change your theme then you will need to have the site analysed again and once more decide where to place the adds, but it is very easy to do.

Now all that you need to do is to make sure that you are posting high quality useful content and drawing in those readers. Some of them will be interested in the adverts and that’s when you start to turn the blog into a profit.

Unfortunately it’s not always that simple in actual fact. I later realised that the format hadn’t carried across to every page. The home page was fine, inner pages were using the default. You just need to check all pages in your blog.

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It A Slow Start

Starting a new blog is a slow start. There’s a huge temptation to rush in and try everything under the sun, but you have to hold back, be patient and build quietly and slowly.

Posting is Slow

I’ve got plenty of posts written and prepared that I could fire off right now. Hit send and a load are ready to go. Likewise, there’s loads more inside my head ready to be typed up, formatted and posted. Just a few days old and this blog could easily be displaying hundreds of posts.

But that’s not the way I see this working. Yes, the entire project is about getting a blog site going quickly with a lot of traffic, but that doesn’t mean rushing every stage. I’m taking my time here. Post a new blog, watch for Google to index the post* and then we’re ready to post the next one.

How Slow?

I’m working towards, at first at least, a level of around 3 to 4 posts every week. Once established that can alter. A good week will see more, a busy week will see less. But at first I see that as a “nice” level of activity. Enough to keep the search engines returning, but not so much as to look desperate.

And Traffic is, well not there.

But that is to be expected. This being the third post the site is not exactly a high ranking site (probably bottom of the pile on Google’s terms) and none of the posts are targeting any keywords.

Building Foundations

At the moment it’s all about building the foundations of a good site. Get a reputation within Google of posting regularly whilst building a stock of content. Later on (and I’ll describe the plan for the first 3 weeks in a day or two) I will start to build in links from other sites into this site. I don’t want at that point for visitors (and even editors on other websites checking links) to come here and find just a single “Hello World” type post.

Once I start trying to build the traffic into this site the site has to be ready for the traffic. By that point I’ll have left a good description of what this challenge is about / what it is trying to do and be starting to leave a good account of how to start up your own blog.

The Future

Obviously the intention is that this blog is, within the 13 weeks, getting plenty of hits. All from scratch. I won’t sit back at that point and delight in my own success (or failure) but keep it going describing blog / website marketing techniques.

I’ll also pull together some of the more important posts that will help others when setting up their own websites so that if you are also setting out on a new blogging adventure you might be able to copy some of the tricks I’ve tried here.

* ideally you wait for Google to visit the site before adding a new post, but in the first few weeks the visits can be 7 days apart. So wait for Google to get that very first opening post, then post the 2nd post and follow up every couple of days with a new post until you see regular Google visits. Once Google is visiting after every post you know you are in favour!

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Judging The Success of the 13-Week Challenge

Is it a success?

It would be easy for me to turn around on 20 December 2015 and simply say “Yes, it’s been a success.” if before then I don’t put down in writing some measures of success right at the start. I could cheat, change the rules and measures and simply accept whatever is happening.

What Measures can I Use?

There are many ways I could measure the success of the site:

  • How many comments are left each day?
  • How many pages are listed in Google?
  • Number of subscribers to a mailing list.
  • Have I enjoyed it?
  • How many target keywords does the site rank well on?
  • How many page hits on average are there?
  • The daily Adsense revenue.
  • The affiliate revenue.
  • The lifetime Adsense revenue.

Which One Will I Use?

I think that most people wanting to quickly build a brand new blog will be building it for the purpose of building an income. Therefore, I think that monitoring Adsense revenue will be the chosen measure of success. I don’t intend to flog this blog heavily with Affiliate Selling, so that would not be a measure of the success.

The number of visitors coming back to the site could be seen as a good measure, but since that figure determines the Adsense income (more readers = more people to click on the adverts) then I think that Adsense covers all grounds. However, between then and now I will be carefully watching the traffic and working on that.

So, What Will Be “Successful”

I’m going to simply target £1,000 in Adsense revenue. It’s a nice, round figure that would be more than just basic traffic.

Given that over the course of the project the first few weeks are about laying the foundations of the site, I’m not expecting any traffic to hit the site for weeks. So that does sort of hinder the earning potential within the short period allowed. But, if I’m spending a couple of hours per day on the site for 90 days, then it’s an average of just over £5.50 / hour, so for an income earned whilst sat in front on the TV not too bad I supposed.

Day to Day “Success”

Day to day success will simply be measured by watching traffic. Once I start trying to build traffic does it arrive? Does it grow? When there are spikes in the traffic that’s a good sign that something has been done correctly and needs repeating / continuing.

Most days though, even after those first few weeks, I’m expecting very little to happen that’s exciting in terms of traffic. It will all be simply about applying semi-technical tricks and tips to get everything up and running.

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Welcome to the 13-Week Challenge!

Welcome!

I have owned many blogs and websites in the past, some very successful and others a complete waste of time. Some have, for a short time, provided a full monthly income until bad SEO practices caught up with them.

Recently the idea of starting a new blog has been getting to me. I wanted to see what new tools have appeared in the few years since I last started a brand new blog and I’ve been reading up on many “experts”. Some say that it is certainly possible to start a brand new blog from scratch and within 90 days get it up and running with genuine traffic arriving at the blog even an income stream from the blog.

What is the Challenge?

It’s easy enough to tell people that it’s possible, but who actually gives hard evidence? Who is brave enough to provide the incontrovertible facts that yes, that blog didn’t exist before and now, 90 days later, it has achieve what we are claiming?

I’ve not seen anyone prove it and so I think it’s time I gave it a go. The people behind these statements say that it is possible with only a couple of hours’ work per day. I won’t be able to spare that much time every day due to work and family commitments so straight away we’re hitting a problem with the theory, but I can still give it a good go!

Let’s Start the 13-Week Challenge!

So the challenge starts today. The site has been registered, WordPress installed and a basic theme applied. And this, therefore, is the first post. 13 weeks today I will review the site, the process and most importantly the traffic stats and see what has happened. 13 weeks today being 20th December 2015, the Sunday before Christmas and a full 90 days will have elapsed. I’ll take a look that day at what has happened up to the end of the previous day.

What Will I Be Doing?

Over the course of the 90 days I will be posting to this blog with the intention of ultimately creating a resource that shows whether it was successful, the methods employed and how much I feel each of them contributed to the success, or otherwise, of the challenge.

Once the 90 days are over the blog will continue in the same vain – discussing different ways of promoting new, and existing, blogs (and websites). But hopefully there will be hard evidence, undeniable and conclusive facts, that what I am writing about does work.

It’s all well and good saying that something is possible, but proving it is another thing altogether!

The Plan

I’ll discuss the early plan in detail tomorrow, but I believe that although a fast set of actions is required that it is equally important that the correct foundations are laid down. I’ve suffered in the past from being too hasty and using dubious (to be kind) techniques to promote sites. Not this time. Slow and steady to build the site and keep everything above board and friendly,

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