Posted 17th August 2011.
In my series of articles on How to Win Business with your Blog you'll have seen just how powerful a blog can be in winning you clients. And you've learned some of the key strategies to make blogging work for you.
But there's often a big gap between information, ideas, good intentions – and actual implementation.
Often it's tricky to know where to start, and you may be worried about running down a dead end or just wasting your time.
So here are my recommendations on key resources to help get you up and running quickly.
Getting Your Blog Up and Running
Firstly, I recommend that rather than hosting your blog on a free platform like blogger.com or wordpress.com, you host it on your own domain. It's not that tricky, and it means that the assets you build (for example, the links in to your site) are yours, rather than helping out the blogging platform. And you're not subject to the whims and policy changes of the platform providers.
To do this, you'll need to register a domain (or use one you already have – such as running it at www.mysite.com/blog) and then get hosting for the domain.
For domain registration I personally use godaddy.com as my primary registrar. They're easy to use with good customer support. And because they're big, no matter what you're trying to do (for example configure google apps) there'll be instructions on how to do it on godaddy.
My primary sites (including this one of course) are hosted on Lightningbase for high performance at great value. I can thoroughly recommend them. I also host other sites on Siteground which is a good, low cost alternative.
You can boost the performance of any site using a content delivery network. Cloudflare is a free one I use. It's a bit technical to set up but worth it.
Without question, the platform I'd recommend for your blog (and your website generally) is WordPress.
Sure, there are other free platforms like Drupal and Joomla. And other proprietary systems to run your blog.
But WordPress works. It's got by far the most available themes (to make your site look good) and plugins (to give it functionality like doing backups, adding social media icons, optimising the site for search engines, etc.). And almost everything is free.
It's well supported by website hosting companies, so you can install it and have it running with one press of a button.
And there's no shortage of people who can help you – either with advice, or to do the whole thing for you.
So head over to www.wordpress.org to check it out.
Themes and Plugins for WordPress
Your site needs to look professional – and the best basis for that it to tweak a WordPress premium theme.
On ianbrodie.com I use the Expert Marketer theme from Themeforest.
Studiopress is the home of some very high quality WordPress premium themes – many designed specifically as showcase sites for consultants and freelancers. My other favorites are the Executive Theme, Enterprise Theme, Agency Theme and Freelance Theme.
Optimizepress is the theme I use to run my membership sites. It's specially pre-configured to handle sales pages, “squeeze pages”, product launches and membership sites. Thoroughly recommended – this theme has saved my literally days of configuration.
For high converting landing pages on my own site where I don't want to send people to a different site, I use LeadPages. It's such a huge timesaver – you just select the basic template for optin forms or webinar registrations or sales pages, make a few adjustments to text and images and you've got a high converting page up and running in less than 5-10 minutes.
For optin forms on your normal blog pages and posts, I recommend Thrive leads. It has a “what you see is what you get” editor and templates that lets you create great looking optin forms for your sidebar, after blog posts etc.
If you've got a premium theme it probably has built in search engine optimisation features. But if not, you'll need the All in One SEO Plugin or Yoast's SEO plugin. I also recommend W3 Total Cache to boost the performance of your site. For all my sites I use Contact Form 7 as a way of creating quick, easy contact forms for people to get in touch with me.
I also use Tweetily to randomly tweet out links to my old blog posts.
For my social sharing icons I use the Social Warfare plugin – it's one of the few that properly counts Tweets these days.
For my podcasts I use the Blubrry Powerpress plugin. And I use Akismet to trap spam comments.
Most important of all: you need to take regular backups of your site in case of problems. There's a free database backup plugin for wordpress. This backs up your blog posts and pages. Many web hosting companies – especially the premium ones like Siteground – have a backup solution included in the hosting.
For Landing pages I use Thrive Architect. Thrive Architect is very marketing focused with lots of options for optin forms, testimonials, etc. And it has some great “out of the box” templates you can reuse.
I highlighted the importance of Email Marketing for nurturing relationships with potential clients.
Personally, I use Active Campaign. It provides advanced email marketing with excellent integration with CRM systems, accounting systems and a whole host of others. And unlike Infusionsoft or Ontraport it starts off at the same pricing level as simple systems like Aweber or Mailchimp.
You can read my review of Active Campaign here.
For more basic options if you don't need the advanced automation, I recommend GetResponse.
That's it – these tools and services should be really helpfully to you. But most important of all – just get going. You'll learn as you go along.
Tom Peters recently said “No single thing in the last 15 years has been as important to my professional life as blogging…and it's the best damn marketing tool I've ever had by an order of magnitude”.
* Some of these links are affiliate links. In other words, if you eventually sign up and buy these products via my link I'll get a commission. This has in no way influenced my recommendation. I use all these products myself as my primary tools (as you can see from the site and my emails).