The blue pill tips

Use subheadings smartly

Here’s something you should already know about me: I’m a huge fan of long-form content that’s filled to the brim with information. The only problem is, I know many visitors don’t really read entire posts from start to finish. This is true if they don’t find the exact information they need quickly enough. To boost reader retention, I make it a point to use as many subheadings as possible when creating long posts. Most readers, after all, skim through a post to look for anything that catches their attention. How many subheadings should you aim for? Yoast recommends adding a subheading for every 300 words in your article. I suggest sticking to this rule whenever you can to maximize your content’s scannability. Just don’t stress over exceeding this limit on occasion — your readers can probably forgive you for that.

Learn to do keyword research right

One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of new bloggers make is to take keyword research for granted. Remember, your keyword strategy alone can make or break your content marketing. It can rake in hundreds of visitors to your post or waste your resources with content no one will read. Despite this, some bloggers tend to skip keyword research when writing articles. If not, they do some form of h If you don’t even know what keyword research means, this post will set you off in the right direction. But if you are familiar with the subject but aren’t getting the results you want, read this guide. In a nutshell, effective keyword research today means finding keywords that are:

  • Classified as Long-Tail Keywords — The difference between a broad keyword and long-tail keyword is that the latter contains three or more terms. Long-tail keywords are generally less competitive, more targeted, and usually more profitable than broad keywords.
  • Use the Right Keyword Research Tool — Free keyword research tools are great for generating content ideas for your blog. But if you’re doing SEO, pick a tool that can accurately gauge metrics like difficulty, volume, and estimated traffic cost.
  • Pay Attention to User Intent — Despite having promising metrics, a long-tail keyword may not be a perfect fit for your goals. You also need to determine the user intent behind a keyword, which could be informational, transactional, or navigational. Another thing to note is to list down several keyword ideas that are relevant to your content topic. By targeting related keywords on a single page, you can generate traffic from all users who search for those keywords. For Master Blogging, I shoot for around 10 keywords per article, but I never force keywords where they don’t belong. As a pro tip, I use Trello to form keyword checklists to keep track of those keywords while writing. SEMrush is my go-to keyword research tool, but there are great alternatives out there like Serpstat and KWFinder. For more keyword research tools, check out this post and the infographic below.

Integrate a contact form into your blog

Every blog should have a functional contact form from day one, regardless if you’re ready for lead generation. The steps involved here will depend on your blogging platform of choice. For popular platforms like Wix and WordPress, the solution requires the integration of an extension. WordPress, for example, supports a slew of contact form plugins that are free to use. The most popular one would be Contact Form 7 with over five million active installations. To use Contact Form 7, create a new form by clicking ‘Contact’ and ‘Add New’ from your dashboard. The plugin lets you construct your contact form by editing the pre-made template, which already includes the codes you need. After building your contact form, you can add it to any page or post using an auto-generated shortcode. You can find this on the ‘Contact Forms’ section of the plugin’s menu.

Have a lead generation strategy ready ASAP

Reluctant to employ monetization strategies right off the bat? You should at least have a lead generation strategy in place. All you need is a single piece of amazing content to get the traffic going and earn your audience’s trust. After this, think of a user-oriented value proposition and pair it with a well-designed opt-in form. First off, a value proposition is essentially an explanation of why your audience should consider taking action. This means it should highlight the benefits of your offer and tackle the pain points of your readers. You can learn a lot by observing the value propositions used by big-name marketers for lead generation. Here’s an example by Brian Dean of Backlinko: Wait a minute, I could barely customize my site’s theme — how am I going to build a functional opt-in form? Don’t panic. In the digital marketing world, there are drag-and-drop tools for most anything.

If you can, monetize from day one

First of all, I firmly believe that building quality content should be your top priority when starting a blog. As long as you can provide enriching experiences to your audience with your blog content, monetization opportunities will surely come. Still, I’m not discouraging you to grab opportunities to make money when they present themselves as soon as you start. If you want to ask for donations, sell homemade products, or promote an offline business, do so. It may be unlikely, but quality traffic can stumble upon your site as soon as it launches. This is especially true if you utilize social media to gain instant traffic from day one.

Set up a backup plugin

As a serious blogger, you should see your blog as an investment. And, just like any other investment, it must be protected. The reality is, running vulnerability checks, frequent updates, and installing security plugins aren’t always enough. Remember, even websites with substantial cybersecurity measures can still get hacked. That’s why yearly cybersecurity incident reports never have a shortage of successful attack records. To give your blog a last line of defense, make it a habit to create backups of your blog files. This can be done with automatic backup software like Dropmysite or with the built-in backup tool of your hosting service. I explained the process of manually backing up your WordPress site in this post. Go ahead and click the link, but just bookmark it for now — we still have a lot to discuss.

Install security plugins

Apart from timely updates, do you know what else can keep your WordPress blog safe? That’s right — WordPress security plugins. Wordfence is a popular WordPress security plugin with a comprehensive toolset. Its main features are Web Application Firewall that blocks malicious traffic and malware scanner to maintain your WordPress installation’s integrity. Wordfence also has login security features to protect your blog against brute force attacks. You can enable two-factor authentication, CAPTCHA, or both. Got your Wordfence security plugin all set? There’s just one more thing you need to remember before you go about your day. Whatever you do, don’t set the traffic logging feature to “All Traffic.” Enabling traffic logging for every user on your site is known to significantly reduce performance. This effect is more noticeable for sites on a shared hosting plan.

Install WordPress updates smartly

From a security standpoint, it’s always a good idea to install the latest updates — including updates for themes and plugins. Software updates, after all, usually contain patches that fix vulnerabilities detected in previous versions. Experienced WordPress users, however, will wait for feedback from other users before updating anything. Sometimes, updates will bring about introduce problematic issues — especially if the developers packed the update with new features. As a safety net, install WP Rollback to revert plugins to their previous versions whenever necessary. It also works on themes, which is a huge plus for users who constantly tinker with their site’s appearance. When you’re ready to install updates, hover over ‘Dashboard’ and click ‘Updates’ from your WordPress admin area. A small number should indicate how many updates are available for your WordPress installation. You will then be taken to a page where you can update all your plugins and themes in bulk. If you want to update the WordPress CMS itself, just click the blue ‘Update’ button at the top of the page.

Run a vulnerability check on your WordPress Blog

As much as I love WordPress, it’s not exactly the most secure CMS in the world. Security company Sucuri revealed that 90 percent of all cleanup requests in 2018 is for WordPress websites. As frightening as it sounds, it’s not totally surprising. After all, WordPress is known to support countless third-party plugins and themes — the primary attack vectors of security vulnerabilities. With this in mind, running a vulnerability scan on your WordPress site whenever you install new stuff makes perfect sense. WPScan is one of the fastest WordPress vulnerability scanners available right now. It can be used via the web interface or as a plugin that can be launched from your dashboard. With a free WPScan account, you can check the integrity of up to one WordPress website. You can even schedule monthly scans to ensure the security of your blog as it continues to evolve.

Create a child theme

If you’re working on a WordPress site, you don’t just recklessly edit your theme after installation. Sure, WordPress themes can be modified immediately after being installed and activated. Doing so means you’re modifying the “parent theme,” which also means you’ll be messing with the theme’s core files. This can make mistakes very risky since they can render your whole blog out of order. Not to mention that updating the parent theme may effectively revert the customizations you’ve made. Creating a child theme for your customizations will allow you to avoid these issues altogether. It inherits all the functions of the parent theme while allowing you to safely customize its appearance and features. You can learn the steps of creating a child theme from this WordPress Codex article. Alternatively, you can use a plugin like Child Theme Generator to skip the technical aspects of the process.