Robbie Vitrano started an ad-agency in New Orleans, Trumpet, that took a major part in the city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina. He co-founded Naked Pizza, an international pizza chain that uses simple, wholesome, natural ingredients. And Idea Village, the local watering hole for entrepreneurs and like-minded people in New Orleans.
I had the pleasure to sit down with him at Laurel Street bakery (please excuse the noise in the audio) in New Orleans, to talk about how important branding is for a new company to grow.
Do you know what Twitter, Groupon, and Shopify have in common — Ruby on Rails. It’s a game changer in the way web-base applications are made for developers. It’s also happens to be a by-product when David Heinemeier Hansson was building Basecamp (which is also a by-product). David is a founding partner at 37signals, a best-selling author, a race car driver, coder, hacker, photographer, and a big advocate on working lean, efficient, and remotely.
I believe everyone has a good blog in them. There’s always going to be something new to learn or a challenge to face that others can learn from your story, your experience. It’s up to you to share your knowledge with the world.
I’ve help build over 50 websites ranging from this little blog, to state tourism, to NFL players. I learned a few things about what makes an effective website and how to get one going now.
By the time you finish reading this you will have everything you need to get your own blog up and running in 1 hour.
Get the domain Once you have that theme, get a domain ($12/year). These are getting harder to get every year. 90,000 domains were registered in 2011 alone (21 million total), and most of the time they’re bought by someone squatting on the domain to sell it for more.
If you’re reading this before 1/1/13, you’re in luck — GoDaddy has a promotion for .99¢ domains. Go get yours now. www.godaddy.com.
Step 2: Setup your blog
When creating a blog, there are several types of platforms out there and available. WordPress is one of the best options out there being that it’s an open source platform. Which means there are hundreds of thousands of beautiful themes and cool plug-ins to make your blog match your style. Plus, search engines love content on WordPress and it’s easy to use.
Get a hosting server I recommending getting a hosting server ($4/month) with 1-click installation of WordPress like HostGator or GoDaddy , which will take you through a step-by-step guide. Just remember to write down all your names and passwords as you will need them in the future. Both of these companies have great 24/7 support teams you can call if you need any help with setting it up. Here’s a quick 4 minute video of WordPress and what it does:
Dress it up a little Once you’ve setup your hosting server with WordPress, you can change the default theme (look & feel) to something that fits your style. I recommend getting something really simple to get started for now, you can easily change it later. I used ThemeForest, they have a great selection of professionally designed themes ranging from $0 – $45. Remember, you get what you pay for and $45 is pretty cheap for what they offer.
The third and single-most important step is to have killer content. Take your time writing your story, it’s a scary thing to put your own personal stories out on the web, I know. But it’s a rewarding thing to hear that you helped someone learn from your experiences.
Have a voice
When writing, try to imagine you’re talking to a good friend or family member after a few glasses of wine. How would you give that person step-by-step instructions to completing a challenge you’ve already done? What tips, contacts, or information could you leave them with? If you’re pissing people off, you have a good voice :)
Keep it green
Think about how relevant the information you’re putting out on the web. Try to write as much evergreen content as possible, meaning that it could be useful in the next 5-to-10 years from now. Example: “How to tie a shoe” vs “How to use an iPhone”, someone is always going to be looking to tie a shoe (hopefully).
Write killer headlines, with photos
Have you ever noticed that the majority of headlines on the web start out like this: How to…, 101 ways to…, 3 steps to…. There’s a method behind the madness. If your headline doesn’t attract the reader, no one will read it. And photos are just as important, they can tell a story in a fraction of a second. On Facebook, photos attract 110% more interaction than the average post.
Make a simple goal. 1 article a month — you can grow from there, but for the first year, just shoot for 12 articles. Quality stomps quantity content any day.
Network/promote the article Once your article is finished, think of it as the start, interact with your readers in the comments and try to help promote the article as if it is a new product. Encourage interaction and feedback to get people engaged in your community.
Police your comments
You don’t want some douche bag going out there and criticizing other readers for expressing their feelings. Create an environment where people can come and share positive engaging conversations without being worried of trash talk.
I am notoriously the worst speller on the planet (here’s a $10k f*ck-up), there’s a part of my brain that’s just not programmed to spell properly. That’s why I put together systems to double-check my spelling and grammar. After I write an article, I run it through a checklist to ensure errors are reduced to the minimum:
[ ] Yourself — Read it word-by-word out loud, twice.
[ ] Have Mac read it — On a mac, select the text, right-click it and click Speech/Start Speaking (on PC, select the text and press the Windows logo + U, then Start Narrator).
[ ] Proofreader.com — Online proofreader that can catch misspellings, grammar errors, and word suggestions.
[ ] Have someone else proof it — Get a friend or family member that’s a grammar queen or king, to proof your articles. Pay them to do it, or you can try using Fiverr.com (a website where people will do just about anything for $5, including proofreading).
This might seem like it’s more than 3 steps, but really the rest is just tips. The only thing you need to focus on is writing great content and build on that.
Ideas for new content
– What story or experience do tell often?
– What mistakes have you made and how would you fix them?
– Get a running list on your phone or a pad in your pocket of ideas for your blog.
– Read other blogs that inspire you.
Content Rules by Ann Handley
This book takes a new approach on ways to use renewable contents across multiple media, plus techniques to come up with killer content. Content Rules on Amazon
Tribesby Seth Godin
Quick read, only 160 pages. Humans want to be lead and this is a great book to get you pumped up about starting a community in which people want to go to you, as the go-to-guy. The audiobook on 2x speed is even quicker — I listened to the whole audio book on a 60-mile drive to/from New Orleans. Tribes on Amazon
Right now don’t think of how you can monetize on this blog, just think of how you can contribute to a cause. You’ll know how to capitalize once you get the hang of it.
I’ll review your blog
If you do start blogging, I hope that I’m the first person to hear about it. If you leave a comment about your new blog with a link, I’ll review it and get you my feedback.