In Born to Blog, Mark Schaefer and I proposed a new way to rapidly prototype a new business blog. We called it the “Minimum Viable Blog” (MVB) modeling the concept after the Lean Startup movement’s Minimum Viable Product.
The MVB is designed to rapidly launch a blog prototype to see if people want and support your content.
If you are about to launch a new blog, consider launching a Minimum Viable Blog first. I invite you to pick-up a copy of Born to Blog to dig into the MVB concept.
In the meantime, here are 10 steps for getting your Minimum Viable Blog up and running quickly.
1. Decent Hosting: Find a host that gives you a solid Apache-based server that is accessible via cPanel. cPanel makes it easy to set-up email accounts, create subdirectories, and install WordPress with a click. I recommend BlueHost .
2. Default Theme: Use the Twenty-Eleven default theme that ships with WordPress. It’s a good looking theme that is guaranteed to work with WordPress. Use cPanel to install your blog and the theme will be already installed and ready to go.
Warning: It’s easy to get bogged down with theme testing and tweaking. Avoid the temptation, this blog might not be viable. Place your logo and move on to the next step.
If you absolutely can’t stomach the default theme provided by WordPress, head over to Studiopress and quickly select a basic theme from their directory. I use Studiopress for 99% of my blog installations and they can be set-up within 15 minutes.
3. Core Keywords: A new blog relies on Google search its first wave of visitors. Your initial visitors will find their way to your blog via keyword searches so make sure you’ve selected the right ones. Use Google’s free Keyword research tool to find keywords your readers would use to research your niche. Divide your keywords into 3 groups: Long-Term, Medium-Term, and Short-Term.
Keywords that describe your niche that have high search volume and high competition. It’s unlikely you will rank well for these terms but over a year, you can work your way to a first-page listing through careful content creation.
Keywords that have low-medium search volume and moderate competition. Your direct competition is probably competing for these keywords as well. There is a very good chance you can get ranked highly for these keywords within 30-60 days with light-optimizing of your blog post titles and subheadlines.
These keywords are easy wins. They include your brand or business name, geographical searches (i.e. Monroe Michigan Dentist) and product names.
4. Quick Start Content: Write 12 blog posts. Set a goal to publish 3 blog posts as week. Each post should be between 500 – 700 words long. Create a 30-day calendar. Pencil in each blog post. This is your content blueprint. If you can’t fill this calendar or have trouble finding time to complete the 12 posts then you may not have a viable blog.
5. Core Content: Create long-form content around 2-3 Medium-Term keywords. This content should be 700-1000 words long. This content is meaty, how-to and/or curated resources that your readers will refer to again and again. This content should be “evergreen” meaning that it will be relevant in the future without revisions.
Add a section in your sidebar that says “Topics”, “Resources”, or “Explore” and provides links to each content page. Your readers and Google will love this relevant and tightly-focused content.
6. Add Social Share Icons: Pick one social media platform. Since this is a MVB it’s unlikely that you have a robust audience on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Pick one platform that you can update everyday and place that icon under the title of each of your blog posts. Digg Digg is a WordPress plugin that does this for you with minimum hassle.
7. Add Admin Pages: Add a About Us page and a Contact Us page.
The About Us Page should answer three questions:
- What the reader will find on the blog
- Why your blog is different
- Why you are passionate about the blog’s topic.
(Note that the About Us page focuses on the reader’s goal first and shows how you will assist them)
The Contact Us page should offer a simple web form to gather questions and thoughts.
Use the Contact 7 Wordpress plugin to create and embed this form on the page. Also add your mailing address and/or phone information as well.
8. Add Core Plugins: Add the SEO for WordPress Plugin: This plugin offered by Yoast.com will handle your SEO chores. Next add and activate the Google Analyticator plugin. This plugin will install Google Analytics on your blog so you can track visitor activity on your blog. This is a critical step that you should do immediately after installing your blog.
9. Add a Blog Updates Via Email: Blog Update signups are a good sign that your blog content is interesting and relevant. Usually your email service provider (i.e. Aweber, Constant Contact, Mailchimp) will have comprehensive tutorials for placing an opt-in form in your sidebar.
(PS Mastermind Members look in the video tutorials for a step-by-step video on installing an opt-in form using Aweber or Mailchimp)
10. Create a “Lead Magnet”: A Lead Magnet is a special report, video, audio, or infographic that is offered to your readers in exchange for their email addresses. Use your lead magnet to identify readers who want additional information about your expertise. You should see your Lead Magnet requests go up as your blog traffic increases.
Use the same instructions you used for creating a blog update opt-in form to create a Lead Magnet opt-in form. Place the Lead Magnet opt-in form at the top of your sidebar for maximum visibility.
What to Look For
Is Google sending readers to your blog? If not, make sure that you are targeting good medium and short-term keywords.
Also I’ve discovered that search results improve when I stick to a consistent publishing schedule. The 12 blog post goal helps but you need to stick with a schedule that puts out a high-quality post at least once a week after the initial month.
Blog Update Subscribers:
Your core reader base will sign-up for blog updates. Essentially these subscribers have given you permission to their inbox showing that they like and expect to see more of your content. Low subscribers here means that: your opt-in form isn’t attractive or convincing, your opt-in form isn’t visible, or your blog posts aren’t hitting the mark.
Lead Magnet Subscribers:
This is the key metric. Lead Magnet subscribers are most likely to purchase, enroll, or sign-up for future products and services.
Focus on promoting a high-quality and ultra-relevant lead magnet to keep your sign-up rate high. As a rule, I like to see at least 2% of my visitors signing-up for my lead magnets. Your sign-up rate will vary based on your audience and offer.
Speed and Experimentation
Give your MVB 60-days to prove its viability.
Resist the urge to jump to quick conclusions. Systematically test new blog types, blog update promotional text, and lead magnet offers. Review your Google Analytics report to discover new keywords and other websites that have linked to your blog.
Once you’ve proved the viability of your MVB, boost your investment. You might have a winner or discover that your idea doesn’t work but the good news is that you didn’t spend months wasting precious time and money.
Ready to get started? Does the MVB make sense for your project?