You know you really need to start blogging. Or maybe you have started blogging but it feels a bit forced and unorganized. Can you relate?
Starting and maintaining a blog is a big undertaking, but a worthwhile one when done right. A good blog has the potential to drive a ton of traffic and sales or leads. And a great blog will drive even more.
With that said, the last thing you want to do is commit to blogging and then only give it 50%. A half-hearted approach will ensure that you do little more than waste your time. So if you are going to do it, do it right!
Here is our time-tested advice to help you successfully launch your blog and keep it running smoothly.
Understand Your Audience
Before you start to write or even conjure up ideas to write about, the first step is to know who you are writing for.
What are their needs? What are the issues they face on a daily basis? What information would be helpful for them? Understanding your audience helps you form a framework for your posts and your overall plan. The most successful blogs provide valuable information that keeps readers attention and keeps them coming back for more.
When trying to understand your audience, here are some things to consider:
- What is their average age
- What do they do for a living
- Who are their clients/customers
- What are the challenges they face
- How can you help them solve those challenges
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Creating a Plan
For most people, the most difficult part of a sitting down and writing a post is getting started with the right idea. Once you commit to blogging regularly, maintaining a collection of ideas should be an ongoing process. Start by creating a content calendar full of topics that your audience will value learning about. Here is a template for a basic content calendar.
The template outlines the following:
- Frequency: How often do you plan on writing? Be realistic with your goals while also pushing yourself.
- Topics: What are the areas that you have expertise in? Is there old content such as slide decks, old blog posts, or white papers that you can repurpose? Do your research. We suggest you browse other blogs posts on similar topics and read the comments. What questions are they asking after reading other posts? Where are the knowledge gaps in your field?
- Keyword Research: Use keyword tools such as Moz Keyword Explorer, Google Trends, Google Search Suggest or Answer The Public to uncover the most commonly searched phrases related to your topic. Include these phrases in your post to add context and improve your chances of ranking.
- Call To Action: You have your audience’s attention, what do you want them to do next? Don’t expect them to hunt around your site for an email sign-up or content upgrade. Make it as easy as possible for readers to take action with bright colored buttons, content upgrades, and lead magnets.
- Distribution: How are you going to get the word out? If you write a valuable blog, people will find it in search because search engines reward great content. But don’t count on this. Instead, promote it on your social channels and leverage relationships in your network to spread the word about your amazing new posts.
- Results: We will talk about this in more detail shortly, but it’s essential to develop a system for understanding which posts are generating the most interaction and results. Taking the time to evaluate what is working, and what isn’t, will guide future work as well as allow you to track your growth.
The most important element of any content calendar is your dedication to stick to it. Sure you can move things around here and there, but don't let it fall by the wayside.
The Right Kind of Content
By creating a framework for your posts, it will be easier to get started each time you sit down to write.
The basic framework for a post should include:
- An Attention-grabbing Headline: Catchy headline often include ’how to” or “lists”. Make sure not to over promise and don’t give it all away.
- Image: Pick high-quality images that fit your brand and make sure you compress them using a tool like Optimizilla.com so that your blogs load quickly.
- Body: While there isn’t an exact keyword count to aim for, your goal should be to answer the needs of your audience and provide valuable information in a dense format. Avoid writing lofty and verbose blogs that provide little value. Readers will return for information that is useful and informative, so don’t be afraid to include media like videos, graphics, animations, etc
- Call to Action: Think about what kind of call to action is best suited to a particular blog. An email sign-up, a link to follow you on Twitter a download of a whitepaper? CTAs should match where readers are in the sales funnel.
- Results: We will talk about this in more detail shortly. Taking the time to evaluate what is working will guide future work as well as allow you to track your growth.
Lastly, remember that your purpose is to create value for your reader. Be unique and find your own voice.
It's all in the Execution
This is where the rubber meets the road! Follow your calendar and be consistent. Not a lot to say here, except DO IT!
And if you aren’t going to do it on your own, find someone who will keep you accountable. Maybe enlist a colleague or your boss to hold you to your publishing schedule, or tell your audience what blogs you have coming down the line and when. Then you will have to get them published on time or risk looking flakey. Bottom line: accountability is key.
Get the Word Out
Now that you have created an amazing post, it’s time to get it out in the world. The top channels are social media and email. Quality blog posts is a big reason your followers are there. We don’t believe you should have to pay to promote all your posts, but if you see a particular post is gaining extra attention through shares and comments, that would be the time to put some money behind the post. If your audience is reacting positively, use the momentum to gain new followers. Another option for expanding the reach of your posts is content syndication.
Measure Performance and Iterate
It’s a good idea to understand what posts are gaining the most attention and interaction, and why. Reviewing the stats helps to understand what is working. Are there topics that resonate more with your audience. Take popular themes and go deeper with them. Update your content calendar based on results.
Here is a link to a sample custom report for Google Analytics. Create a segment that includes the pages on your blog. This report is pulling data for pages that contain “/blog” in the URL. If your blog lives at a different URL, you can update the filter in the report by clicking on “Edit” in the upper right.
As your blog builds and grows, remember to review past posts. Often times you don’t need to reinvent the wheel when you have old content that can be improved.
We hope this was helpful in guiding your blogging journey and look forward to reading your next post!
Originally from Pittsburgh, Lori has been working in search engine marketing since 2001. Lori is the published author of The Definitive Guide to Google AdWords and is a leader in the paid search field. When not at work, Lori spends time with her family and can often be found hiking and skiing the Highland Bowl.