Davida and I are so excited to be writing our very first Project Report for SHEuncovered. In these reports we will cover 5 main topics: social media, branding and marketing, monetization, tech, and goals in relation to the growth of SHEuncovered.com. We plan to do these reports on a monthly basis so that you can follow along on the progress of our blogging “project.” If you have no idea what we’re talking about, check out this page to learn more about “the project”.
This first report is special, in that we wanted to cover our pre-launch strategy BEFORE SHEuncovered or “SHE” was even born. It was not our original plan to start 2 more websites on top of our food blogs. The plan was for Davida and I to collaborate and to start a website that would be a hub for all things blogging related. We spent hours on Skype brainstorming the premise of TBP, 1, 3, and 5 year goals were discussed, and even had our business plan drawn out. It wasn’t until Davida and I were together in real life on a run around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis MN, that it hit us. The Blogger Project needed an actual project.
Experiment, noun– a test, trial, or tentative procedure: an act or operation for the purpose of discovering something unknown or testing a principle, supposition, etc.
You know how experiments go, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. That is why Davida and I are treating SHE as more of an experiment instead of a tested method. Davida and I are experts (we use this term loosely) in food blogging. Lifestyle/DIY blogging is VERY different, which is why we chose this type of blog instead of food blog. It wouldn’t be an experiment if we were seasoned DIYers now would it?
SHEuncovered was conceived on a Tuesday afternoon and just 3 weeks later, we had the the logo and website designed, live, and ready to rock. Those 3 weeks were crazy because there are so many things that need to be done to a blog before the launch date arrives. These things include content calendars, social media strategies, building your social media platforms, creating a brand guide to be used on imagery, and so much more…
Before we get technical, lets take a look at the timeline of events starting wayyyyy back at the beginning.
July 2014: TBP idea is born.
Sept 17, 2014: SHE idea is born
Sept 18, 2014: Initial email is sent to our designer about SHE
Oct 17, 2014: SHE launch
This timeline really simplifies the process of creating the blog because we actually put a lot of work upfront into SHEuncovered. Taking a step back and looking at our own experiences with starting blogs, there were a few things we knew we wanted to do from the getgo that would have helped our food blogs tremendously.
2. Content Calendar
3. Social Media Strategy
Davida and I both know from experience that branding is hugely important for any kind of blog. The one piece of advice that I give to novice bloggers is know your brand and be your brand. This includes having solid branding from the get go. I look back on my food blog, FitFoodieFinds.com, and wonder how much faster things would have grown if I would have had a legit logo design and professional looking website from the start. It took me almost 2 years to decide I wanted to work with a designer.
SHEuncovered is a bit different. Davida and I wanted to take our experience and put them to the test. We decided that investing in logo and web design from the start would be in our best interest. Why? When new eyeballs come to your website, the first thing they see is the design and usability of your site. Say you have an AMAZING DIY post, but your site is hard to navigate and just ugly, those eyeballs will most likely never return.
But before we even got to the layout of the site, we wanted to outline exactly what SHE was all about. We sat down and talked about the mentality we wanted it to embody, keywords that defined our brand . In essence, we wanted to work out the inner ideals of SHE so that its outward expression (i.e. the blog design and visuals) could be fully representative of this.
Once we had the keywords defined and our vision outlined, we then approached our designer and transmitted all of this information to her. Julie is to thank for making SHE look as sophisticated, happy and elegant as we wanted it to be.
Even if you don’t stick to it 100%, it is so important that you have some sort of direction for your blog to keep you on track. As soon as we had our branding down, we had one epic brainstorm session where we planned the content for SHE for 3 months out. Getting our content calendar completed was a 2 step process.
Step 1: Narrowing down the categories we wanted to cover. Since SHE covers encompasses many topics, we decided to categorize them under 6 overarching themes that we would cover over a 2 week schedule. The categories we chose were: Fashion, Beauty, Design, Food, DIY and Lifestyle.
Since we decided we would post 3 days a week, this meant we would touch on each of these twice a month, or within our 2 week schedule. This helped to make sure our content was balanced and with each of us switching off topics, Davida and I could take turns with each category.
Step 2: Once we had our structure in place, we went through each category and scheduled post ideas for 3 months out. We used CoSchedule to organize this. Coschedule is synced to our WordPress dashboard so we can write, assign tasks and writers and schedule the post and social media from within one calendar. Without it i’m not certain that Davida and I would be able to stay on track.
Of course things change, and we didn’t necessarily stick to the calendar all the time but going in with a plan kept us accountable and organized making content creation so much easier.
Social Media Strategy
One of the first things we did when we picked our domain was to make sure the same social account names were available. Sometimes there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part try to keep your social channel names consistent with your blog name.
Before SHE launched, we signed up for all of the following social channels: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, YouTube. We also made sure we had our email newsletter set-up with MailChimp that way we could start building our email list.
Even before the blog was live, we were being active on most of our channels. Because we didn’t have content of our own, we were sharing other people’s content that we liked and started following bloggers and digital influencers just to get our name out there. Knowing that we would be creating visual-based content we focused most of our attention on Pinterest with some on Instagram.
In our experience, Pinterest is the #1 traffic driver for most blogs so our goal for SHE was to create content that had the potential to go viral on Pinterest. We kept that in mind before as we branded our site.
Clearly there was a lot of strategy that went into the branding side of SHEuncovered, but a blog can’t be a blog without, well? A blog. So not surprisingly, much of the prep-work during the prelaunch stage was technology-based.
We knew from our experiences with FFF and THM that we wanted to use WordPress.ORG as our blogging platform with hosting purchased through Bluehost. We then went to our designer and asked for suggestions on themes that might work well for a women’s lifestyle blog. Her comfort level was with custom designing Genesis Child Themes which was how we landed on using the Foodie Theme for SHE. Even though SHE is not at all a food blog, we knew we wanted each category page to be laid out similar to the recipe pages on our food blogs. Thankfully Julie is a goddess and completely tailored SHE to the design we were looking for.
We actually filmed and tracked the entire process of starting SHE, which is what became the basis of our How To Start a Blog tutorial. In that tutorial we walk you through everything from buying the domain, to web hosting, to picking a theme. Once all of this was done, we sent off our information to our designer who then took over polishing the layout of the blog. We wanted the layout to be complete before we published any content.
For obvious reasons, we did not turn out any kind of profit on SHEuncovered. While, we hoped that one day we would start monetizing SHE, we knew from our own experiences that you need to invest a little to get a little. Here’s a breakdown of what was spent:
Web Hosting with Bluehost (included domain name): $140
Hiring a Designer (included theme): $600
Coschedule: $10 per month ($120 per year)
TOTAL SPENT: $860
TOTAL EARNED: $0
Our main goals during the prelaunch phase were to set in stone what the message of SHEuncovered was all about, plan the next few months of content and get the site up, designed and then live. Check, check, check.
On October 18, 2014, one week AHEAD of schedule, SHEuncovered was ready to go and we cannot even begin to tell you what a relief it was to have a plan set in place from day 1. It’s made everything from conception, to hitting publish for the first time, all the way until now completely seamless.
With each project report, we are setting a goal to achieve by the following report. In this case, we set the goal to start pumping out content (sticking to our 3 days a week and more if we could), being active on social media with a focus on Pinterest as well as 1 post a day on Instagram and Facebook.
You’ll have to wait until the next report to see how it went!
What questions are you facing in starting your blog? Is there anything that surprised you about this process?