This guest post is by Tea, The Word Chef.
Admit it: the last time you had important company over was the last time you really cleaned your house.
Whether it was a visit from your mother, or a group of friends for a dinner party, you paid extra close attention to making things presentable for your guests.
And if you’re even a bit neurotic (like me), you caught yourself worrying about the littlest things. Like that spot on the carpet, or the dust on the baseboards. You spent an extra three hours slaving away on your hands and knees to get everything looking just right.
My sister and I like to laugh about this, but it’s true: inviting people over is a sure way to move “spring cleaning” to the top of your To Do list.
Guess what? Your blog is the virtual equivalent of your home or office (or in my case, my home office!). It’s where you entertain good friends and new acquaintances.
And unless you take the care that you would with your real-world entertaining, you may end up with a lukewarm blog that doesn’t make much of an impression.
A checklist for creating a totally awesome blog
1. Put together the guest list
Who will you invite to your blog?
A diverse guest list can certainly make for an entertaining dinner party, but unless your goal is to incite drama between opposite sides of the political aisle, you should invite like-minded people who have many things in common.
In business terms, this is your target market.
But don’t just describe this group of people in terms of demographics and psychographics. Go beyond that and actually put together a short list with real names. Start with your current clients. Who do you love to work with? What traits do they have in common?
Get to know these folks inside and out. What do they care about most? What gets them out of bed in the morning? The better you’re able to identify real people with real challenges, the more you’ll be able to find more of them (and for them to find you) and meet their needs.
Every event—even informal ones—need a theme to be remarkable.
Your blog is no different. Your underlying message and mission should inform how you position your blog and what metaphor or premise will tie it all together. This is how you express your brand.
The other consideration is your target market. You wouldn’t put together something in an Old West genre if your prospective clients are more of the Black Tie crowd. Consider what would appeal to them first.
Having a theme also helps you choose and define the graphic elements, the color scheme and even your fonts.
3. If the budget allows, hire some help
I’m the first to admit that when it comes to my business, I tend to hold the purse strings pretty tightly. But no, even I can’t manage everything myself.
Figure out what it is you love to do. And then always do that.
The rest should go on a list. Use that list to find the right team members to work with, and slowly farm those tasks out to more experienced and better equipped professionals. Your hourly rate is much better spent on creating work that brings you money.
And when you hire an expert, you’ll definitely get things done more quickly. They can usually get the same job done in about one-third the time you might spend…leaving your brain precious time and space to be creative.
4. Plan the menu
What do your guests like to eat? Or conversely, do they have any food allergies?
Again, this goes back to your guest list and your theme. Will you be creating a four-course organic sit-down? Or hosting a potluck? Either way, you need to plan out what you’ll be serving, and when.
For your blog, think about what content your guests are hungry for. Not necessarily what you think they need to eat. But what they want to eat. Are they comparison shopping? Do they need tutorials?
If you’re a talented host, you can usually sneak in some healthy bites. But keep the majority of what you’re offering on the tastier side.
For instance, I know that having done the requisite amount of market research is fundamental to any marketing success. But most of my readers’ eyes glaze over when they see those two words together (market + research = boring). What they really want is a magic bullet. And since I have yet to discover one, I usually end up serving them something fun to read that gives them ideas on how to be more creative or write better copy. But I always point out that doing your research gets you way better results.
5. Clean house
It’s important to de-clutter your virtual dining room. There’s psychological evidence that shows we can’t make decisions when we’re presented with too many options.
All those flash ads you’ve got rotating on the side bar could be keeping your visitors from finding (and clicking) the subscribe button! Pare down to absolute necessities. And if you’ve got a product or two that you’re pitching, move them to their own landing page (or at least use the layout for those pages minus the sidebar).
And keep your links up to date, too. Broken links happen. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fix ’em.
6. Set a beautiful table
It’s totally true—we eat with our eyes first. And the better your blog looks, the better you look.
Quality photographs and images, appropriate amounts of white space, and the right color scheme can go a long way toward enticing your guests to eat what you’re serving. (If you’re not great with design, see #3 above.)
7. Welcome visitors with a drink and appetizers
We all love a little refreshment while we’re waiting for the main course. Make sure you’ve got a variety of bite-size morsels your guests can sample.
It can mean the difference between a one-time visit and the decision to become a paying customer. Start with an actual welcome video. And then point people to your yummy samples, tools, resources. When you offer these freely, they’ll endear you to your readers and help build a bond with them.
8. Keep guests entertained—and talking
You don’t need to be a stand-up comedian. But you should let your hair down just a little and share some of that sparkling personality with the world.
Tell some personal stories. Use different types of media (again, like video) to engage your audience. And encourage your visitors to interact with each other.
Lively comments or even a forum might be just what your site needs to keep the party going. And doing this also creates a village-effect, or tribe—something we all know helps us build our businesses.
9. Serve up a satisfying meal
You planned the menu, shopped for the missing ingredients, and possibly even hired a professional to help you pull off the dinner party.
Don’t forget to actually serve the food! That 5-course meal is your flagship content. It’s the big reason you started this whole thing in the first place. Don’t neglect it. And don’t just throw together leftovers in a haphazard way. It’ll come out more like a casserole than a satisfying meal.
10. Remember dessert
The best host always brings a little extra something to the end of the evening. Something the guests might not expect.
Sure—they’ll presume you’re going to have some cake or pie. But if you pull out all the stops and bring out something totally delicious, beautiful and unexpected, you can’t fail to knock their socks off.
You want to do the same thing with your blog (and its extensions in social media and email). Offer up things we don’t often get when we visit or subscribe to a blog. You could tweet your thanks to a commenter, or send a new Facebook fan a personal direct message. And if you really want to make someone feel special, send them “home” with a free eBook or other goodie, no strings attached.
It’s about giving
Putting together a spectacular blog is very much like pulling off a fantastic dinner party. It’s about bringing people together, nurturing relationships, and most of all—giving.
You have a vision for how you want your blog to be received. And I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be reading this if you were the type to just phone it in.
If you want to be an popular blogger, you can’t wait for the world to pay attention to you the way an elderly relative waits to be served dinner. You have to be focused and energized…and really on top of the details. You have to entertain your readers like a top-notch event planner whose finger is on the pulse of every moving part.
Because, let’s face it. Your ideas are your main course. They’re what you’re hoping your guests will wolf down like there’s no tomorrow, then ask for seconds and thirds.
You can’t just jot them down and expect them to be eaten. Writing isn’t only putting words on a page, any more than hosting a great party is just sending out the invitations on time. It’s about the energy and passion you bring to the event, your desire to serve and make connections. And it means tapping your creativity and your logistical self in order to pull off the most talked-about affair of the year.
So spend time thinking about all the details instead of just giving your blog a “lick and a promise.”
And spend time searching for and building on, your “secret sauce” and delectable flavors. And definitely spend time working with others—professionals, when necessary—to ensure that nothing is overlooked or half-baked.
Your blog is more than just a bunch of words and phrases on the interwebs. It’s more than just one in 200 billion other blogs out there. It’s your home. Where you’ll entertain guests, offer your tribe respite from the world, and grow your family of ideas into a full village of world-changing actions.
And you are the impetus to make all that happen.
So get started! Your guests are waiting.
Tea, aka The Word Chef, helps solopreneurs and DIY marketers make more money by teaching them how to find and share their secret sauce online. Get herand follow her on Twitter @TeaSilvestre.