This is Stage One of Our Starting a pet blog series. It’s all about ensuring that you start out in a way that gives you the best chance of success
Of course you can dive straight in and start your pet blog without any thought at all. And if you are a ‘seat of the pants’ type person, you may be tempted to do just that.
But we think not planning is for chickens. The rest of us need to get on and do it. And if you read this section, you’ll discover some very important reasons to spend a little time planning, before heading to the start line.
It will be well worth the time you invest.
Here are your steps for Stage One, there are 7 in this section. I’ve included everything we do, and noted which of these steps are optional for you
- Gmail (optional)
- List competitors
- List keywords (optional)
- Write 4-6 posts (optional at this point)
- Choose menu and category titles
- Write down 50 title ideas
Let’s start with choosing your domain name
#STEP 1 DOMAIN
A very few years ago the internet was a bit like the frontier. A vast uncharted territory where you could stake your claim on some prime real estate by virtue of just being there.
If you wanted to buy puppiesforsale.com or cats.com ? No problem.
Nowadays it is a little different. We need to be more creative, because it can feel as though all the great domain names are gone.
They haven’t all gone, yet, but you’ll need to think outside the box.
Including keywords in your domain
People used to think that is was critical to include keywords in your domain name, and while this may help people find an authority blog, we did this with thelabradorsite, it certainly isn’t necessary for a personal pet blog.
There are plenty of hugely successful blogs that don’t have keywords in their domain name at all. Blogs with names like Mashable for example.
So at this point you need to think a little about your aims, and about the type of blog you are creating .
You also need to be clear about what you are going to be blogging about
Do you want to be the world’s leading authority on racing pigeons?
If so, you probably should have ‘racing pigeons’ in your title.
But you may well succeed with a name like ‘flyingthere’. Who knows? So don’t sweat it.
Easy to say and remember
Choose a name you like, and that is fairly short and easy for people to remember and type.
Calling a website ‘the alternative canine health and fitness website” is good way to ensure that some people type your web address in wrong and then give up.
Remember, most people are typing on a mobile device these days. Short and sweet is neat
Dot com or dot pet?
A whole plethora of different web domain types have arisen in the last couple of years. I recommend for now that you stick with dot com or your regional address
When you try (and fail) over and over again to find a name that no-one else has purchased it can be very disheartening, but don’t be tempted to fall back on one of the obscure domain types, such as .pet or .dog
The jury is still out on this one, but at the moment all the experts seem to feel that a .com address is still the most likely to succeed
If you are in the UK and you want to use .co.uk that is fine for a local business, if you are a dog walker, cat sitter, or behaviorist for example looking for local clients.
But if you are hoping to grow your site to an international audience, a dot com address is the way to go.
If you have your own business, you can use your company name provided that it isn’t already taken. Otherwise you’ll need to brainstorm some ideas for fun or memorable names around some aspect of your topic area.
#STEP 2 GMAIL
This second step is entirely optional, but I like to have a gmail address for each website and its associated media accounts. And I usually set this up at this point.
I use this dedicated address to register any tools I use for the blog and for social media associated with it.
If for example, you already have a personal Pinterest or Twitter account you may want to keep the accounts for your blog separate and you’ll need a separate email address for them
If everything you do on social media is in your own name and profile, then you can stick with your personal email address for everything.
As always, use strong passwords, and change them regularly (every three months or so – put it in your diary)
#STEP 3 LIST COMPETITORS
If you are starting a blog with an eye to making money, whether through advertising or selling your own products and services, you are going to need some visitors.
And to get visitors you are going to have to compete with other websites.
It’s important therefore that you know who these are and what their strengths and weaknesses are. You’ll need a notebook and pen next to your keyboard for the next part
You’ll need to do a private or incognito google search for some typical search terms that you want your new website to rank for.
Your search must be private otherwise google will skew the results depending on previous searches you have made
If you are a dog trainer in Manchester for example, you’ll need to search for ‘Manchester dog trainers’ and see who comes up in the top ten on page one of Google.
Very few people look further than page one, so unless the front page is all taken up with brands, or big vet sites, for example, the front page is all you will need.
Your top ten competitors
If you want to set up an authority site on an individual type of pet, you must know who you are up against.
If you want to make a site about looking after goldfish, you could type ‘how to care for my goldfish’ and ‘how big a tank does my goldfish need’ and ‘what should I feed my goldfish on’ into a google search box for example
Ignore major food or equipment brands and mega sites like wikipedia or petMD.
You want the top ten goldfish websites or blogs by people who are crazy about goldfish (or whatever pet you are interested in)
Note down the names and web addresses of these top ten sites.
You’ll want to refer back to them in the future, they’ll be useful sources of information for your social media sites, and it will be fascinating to compare your progress with theirs in the future.
#STEP 4 LIST KEYWORDS
People talk a lot about keywords when it comes to building websites.
Let’s be clear, you should not be building a website purely around keywords if you want to enjoy writing it and your readers to enjoy their visits.
But keywords do still matter, so let’s find out why
What are keywords
Keywords are the words that people type into google search boxes when they are looking for something.
They are search terms.
And if many people are searching for a word you don’t include on your website, they won’t find you, even if you have something great to offer them
I knew very little about keywords when I first started building websites except to note that some websites seemed to have an unnatural way of ‘speaking’ to their audience (I later discovered that these were articles written for search engines rather than for readers)
If you are writing for people, in a natural and helpful way, you will include many keywords naturally in your posts.
But that doesn’t mean that your blog won’t benefit from a little planning and help on the keyword front.
Where to put keywords
Without some planning, it is quite easy to inadvertently miss important keywords out of your posts, or to place them where google doesn’t really notice them
Good places to put important keywords are in your article titles and subheadings.
We’ll talk more about that in another article, but for now, let’s show you how to find a few important keywords to include in your first few articles
Where to start with keywords
When you start to think about keywords, its important to recognise the limitations of a new website or pet blog.
There is no way you are going to be able to compete for terms like ‘cat’ or ‘kitten’ for example. Your chances of reaching page one of the search engines for these terms are exactly zero
You need to tackle the easier keywords and the less successful competitors first.
These easy keywords are often referred to as long-tailed keywords because they are not actually a single word at all. They are a whole string of words.
So while you might not be able to rank in google for the words ‘dog’ or ‘dog training’ for example, you might be able to rank for ‘positive-reinforcement dog training in East Anglia’
Or for ‘training a rescue dog’ or for ‘rehabilitating dogs with behavior problems’. And so on.
When you begin a sentence, google automatically fills in suggestions based on what others have looked for.
Type ‘my parrot’ into google and you’ll see some suggestions appear
Such as ‘my parrot is not eating’ and ‘my parrot flew away’
Click on the first suggestion and scroll straight down to the bottom of the page.
There, in blue at the foot of the page, you will find lots more suggestions waiting for you. There may be a box with more ideas above it too, like in the example below
Do a search like this with a few words about your chosen topics.
Write the results down, you’ll find them helpful when you make your article titles
#STEP 5 WRITE SOME POSTS
Chances are, you have several ideas already of posts you’d like to write for your blog.
Creating posts is optional at this point but we always do.
You’ll need to do it sooner or later, and it will help you when it comes to setting up your site design, if you have some posts ready to go and play around with.
Not your best work
This is not about creating a masterpiece. Though its fine if you want to.
These posts are unlikely to be your best work. You’ll be improving constantly over the next weeks and months. So again, don’t sweat it.
If you can think of four or five topics you’d like to write on, this is a good time to cut your writing teeth and make a start.
Vary the blog topics
Aim for 750 to 1000 words and try to cover different aspects of your blog subject in different posts.
So for example, if you are writing a blog about pet snakes you might want one article on some aspect of feeding, one on some aspect of housing or containing your snake
Perhaps another on a particular type or species of snake, and so on.
Write your posts in Word or Scrivener if you have it (more of that later) and keep a copy of everything safely on a flash drive.
#STEP 6 KEY TOPICS FOR MENUS AND CATEGORIES
Most websites benefit from being divided into topics. So, for example, if you are writing about hamsters you might want to divide your website into finding a hamster, feeding a hamster, hamster health, and so on.
Categories are ways of sorting your website neatly into topic areas and making these topic areas easy to find
The main menu you need to consider is the list of clickable words along the navigation bar at the top of your website. These words should also reflect these key topic areas
Why is navigation important
The navigation menu serves two purposes. One is to enable people to find what they want quickly and easily. If they can’t do this they are likely to leave.
The other purpose is to draw visitors deeper into your website and get them looking at more pages
Each item on the menu is a link to a place or webpage within your website
These links can be created in several different ways by linking to
Traditionally menu links often lead to pages but they can just as easily lead to posts, and they can also lead to the category of your choice
Using pages on the menu
We used to always create pages for our menus to link to, but nowadays we more often use hub posts, or categories
A hub post is simply a blog post that links out to lots of other posts on your website.
Using hub posts on the menu
The benefits of the hub post are that is easy to create any kind of content, bullet points links etc, and to insert images and to arrange them, in any way you choose.
These posts can be totally revised and republished to your readers in the future when they are out of date
Using categories on your menu
The benefit of linking your menu item to a category page is that a bit like blog feed, the category page populates itself with the latest posts from that category.
There is no need to update it. And the new material is always at the top.
On the downside, you’ll need to know some html code in order to put much in the way of text or images in the introductory part of the page.
On the Genesis theme you can choose different layouts all from a selection of layouts for your blog category to display when someone clicks the menu link. We explain how to setup and style categories in a separate article
Deciding on key topics
At this point all you need to do is make a decision on what the key topic areas of your blog will be
I suggest you start with no more than for or five topics to begin with and initially plan to use these topics for both the menu links and for your categories
We’ll talk about setting these up further down the process
#STEP 7 FIFTY IDEAS
All that remains now is to brainstorm 50 article ideas for your blog. This is especially important for an authority blog or a blog to promote your pet business.
Fifty might seem a lot but if you can’t come up with fifty ideas now while you’re feeling fresh and enthusiastic, you certainly won’t be able to come up with fifty ideas in six months time when the novelty has worn off.
These fifty ideas will get you off to a great start. And they will stand you in good stead when you’re feeling a bit jaded
You won’t use them all, that’s fine and of course you’ll have lots of new ideas to add them as you go.
Getting blog title ideas
Get a big piece of paper and start brainstorming. Think about each of the different aspects or categories of your blog in turn.
Write each title idea down in your notebook. Plug each title idea you create into Google and get more suggestions at the bottom of the screen.
If you get stuck, visit your ten competitors and see what they are writing about – don’t copy their titles (and certainly don’t copy any of their content) , just get some ideas from a range of different sites.
If this is a personal ‘journal’ blog, documenting life with your pet, then this stage isn’t so crucial but it will still be helpful to you later.
Think about all the different things you might do with your pet. Outings, holidays, grooming, exercising, building a bed or house, adapting your home or garden, visiting friends, introducing to kids or other pets, and so on.
We’ll be talking more about article ideas later, but at this stage finding fifty title ideas should come fairly easily to you. If it doesn’t it may be a sign that you need to rethink the topic of your blog.
Once you have a good selection of blog title ideas, you are ready to move on to Stage Two and get your website up online!