How we built our blog site!

On November 14, 2017, a critical decision was made. A decision that changed the very nature of our content system. Massive, huge, amazing; this was a big deal.

Well, no not really. I only hype it cause I’ve never built a site from 0-100 and on that day, I decided that I shall. So here’s the context.

Name: The AstroLabs Navigator

Crime committed: Not enough/missing out on organic traffic opportunities.

Sentencing: Shift blog from Medium to a subdomain and build on WordPress.

Now before I get into the how to part, you should know that any initiative taken in our team has to have a strong reasoning behind it. For the blog site, our biggest reasoning was the amount of inbound traffic we were missing out on due to not having a native site for our written content. Inbound marketing is a mega amplifier of how well educated and credible a company is while also being a great channel to reach new audiences.

In this project a key aspect I realised which can be considered for all projects is when you have clear objectives, the subsequent steps are not complicated at all. The immediate next step was sorting out the domain and host server. You cannot do anything without it. Since one of our objectives was to own our content system, it made sense to be a sub domain of our existing site. Thus came blog.astrolabs.com

We did not need to find a new host server since we already have one we use (Blue Host) but I highly highly highly recommend you always stick to a big one. They have backups of backups and much more reliable. I’d look at Blue Host or Host Gator.

The next step is choosing a CMS or a website builder (unless you can code and would like to do that). Our entire site is built on WordPress (with custom plugins and code) so we stuck with that again. I would still recommend WordPress for beginners because it has a short learning curve and wide amount of functionality.

The way WordPress works is you setup an account, which you can easily do through one of the bigger host servers. Then you decide if you want to build everything up yourself or use a pre-built theme with it’s functionalities.

For blog sites, their thousands of amazing and super responsive themes that get you up and running in no time. To look for themes, I used and selected one from https://themeforest.net/

We went with Simple Mag because of it’s look, functionality, and mainly cause it was SEO optimised. A theme that is already mobile responsive and SEO optimised is a big plus because it cleans your content for you and allows you get indexed by Google without needing to get in to the trenches.

SEO

Always keep SEO in mind with your blog, it is the biggest contributor to traffic that you can get in return for the time you spend writing your content and having a blog site.

For a better understanding on how SEO works you can have a look at this article: SEO For Startups with Naguib Toihiri.

Assuming you get a theme that is SEO optimised (highly recommend), the only work you actually have to do is “keyword optimising” and creating more content. Keyword optimisation is finding the keywords your readers would search for and adding them in to your content so you can rank for them. If you’re a true content maven, you’d actually list out the top 20 keywords and phrases searched for and write an article on each. Need some inspiration? “How To’s” are a good place to start, more on this below.

Plugins

Onto the wild world of plugins or as I call it, “the Internet’s way of turning what you built into something better”.

Most of the time when you get a theme built by a reputable theme building company, you get a setup instructions file that gives you a step by step play on how to set the theme up and which plugins to install.

For the sake of being well informed and to brag about your digital accomplishments in front of your bowling buddies, I’ll let you in on what they are. Plugins essentially are extensions to your site that add to your site’s functionality.

Plugins are for anything and everything that can help you have a better performing or looking site. The more common ones are for E-commerce like WooCommerce, or form submission like Gravity Forms. They are plenty you can use, but if you’re looking for what we use here are some:

  1. Gravity Forms – Custom Forms
  2. Akismet Anti-Spam: Anti spam plugin
  3. Custom Permalinks: allows you to create a clean link for people to see and for Google to index.
  4. Medium: Automatically posts your blog posts to your medium account with links to both.
  5. SumoMe: has multiple extensions for site growth, like social sharing.
  6. Yoast SEO: an all in one plugin for SEO optimisation.

Content

Now you followed the steps, added in plugins and have a site! Roll your sleeves cause the work has just begun. Write, write and write some more. Research the topics you’re interested in or an expert in and find out what your readers are searching for. Keyword Planner by Google is highly advised for this part since 95% of the MENA use Google search.

Once you have your topics and keywords, structure them. One column with topics and another with keywords on a google sheet is how I do it. I’m most productive in the mornings right when I get in and don’t split the task (write the draft in one go).

You have a draft, fantastic! Now find 2-3 images that you can use to grab the readers attention and that you can rank for. Something like this:

On a final note, ALWAYS remember content is first and foremost to provide value before it is for sales/marketing purposes. When you write and answer questions you would like answers to, and support it with the marketing factors that push it to the right audience, You are more likely to have the right people showing interest.

Thanks for reading! Here’s a cartoon 🙂

 


Also published on Medium.

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