In today’s digital world, blogging is the middle child of social media: often overlooked, typically underestimated, but very, very important nonetheless. If you have a blog, but don’t have a blog strategy to go with it, then it might be time to re-evaluate its purpose and the role it plays in bringing in new business to your company. Or maybe you’ve been meaning to start a blog for your business for a while now, but you aren’t sure where to start.
Either way, you’re going to want to follow these ten steps to create and shape the blog you’ve been envisioning all along.
1. Determine your objective.
Before you can start writing (that’s the very last step, believe it or not), you’ll want to start by determining the purpose of your blog. It sounds silly, but it’s probably the most important aspect of the entire planning stage. Ask yourself: why am I creating this blog? Who for? And what do I want my readers to get out of it? Determining this “so what” factor will allow you to hone in on your purpose when you go to write any post in the future.
2. Establish your niche.
Once you know the “so what” of your blog, you’ll want to discover what your niche is. The two are related, but at the end of the day, they’re very different. Your objective is the fuel and your niche is the fire. In other words, your objective will be your raison d’être and your niche is the area that you’re actually working in.
Start big, then gradually narrow it down. For example: If you want to write about food, go further and ask yourself what kind of food you want to write about (because if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that you can’t write about epic burgers as well as low calorie meals). Then narrow it down even further. If you realized you want to write about vegetarian food, decide what kind of vegetarian food: easy recipes, on-the-go meals, vegetarian junk food, etc. At first, it may feel like you’re missing out on a huge audience, but establishing your niche actually allows more people to fall in love with your content because you'll earn a positive reputation as an expert in that area.
3. Narrow down your audience and study them.
Next, you’ll want to figure out who your audience is. This will take brainstorming, yes, but also extensive research because you’ll want to determine their likes, dislikes and habits, which will ultimately shape the way they find and view your content.
Are they business women? Stay at home moms? Single dads? New entrepreneurs? Aspiring YouTubers? There are a million and one audience types out there and it’s up to you to determine the best fit for the kind of content you’re creating.
Not only will you want to find out what kind of content this group likes, but also where they look for it online (i.e. what channels and what devices).
4. Research your competition to discover industry standards
If you’re completely new to the blogging game, it’s a great idea to start with competitor research for A) insights on what topics they’re covering and B) to see where and how they post their content.
Try this: Research your top five competitors in the industry and see whether or not they have a blog. If they do, find their most shared or engaged blog post. Analyze what’s different about this post. Then, if you can, find out what channels they’re posting to. Lastly, take a look at the length, voice, and organization of the post. Having these insights will allow you to have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t for the industry you’re in.
Use these insights as guidelines, but don’t let them completely overtake your strategy. The point is to be original and creative, too.
5. Create a content calendar and posting schedule
Now that you understand why and who you’re creating your blog for, the next step is to figure out when and how often you’re going to be writing posts. This step is important because blindly posting about topics here and there will not only have you feeling disorganized, but it will also leave more room for error in the process. Planning ahead may seem time consuming, but having a content calendar and a library of ready-to-go posts will save you more time than you might think down the road.
Figure out how often you’re going to need to post to stay relevant and active enough for your target audience. Can you get away with posting once every two weeks? Or will your audience expect new content every week based on what your competitors are doing?
Try using Google Sheets to map out your content at least one month in advance. Have your imagery ready and your SEO strategy in place (see below). When you’re ready to publish content on a specific topic, your post will be ready to go as a draft and you’ll know exactly when and where to share it.
6. Map out your SEO and analytics plan
So you have all this killer content ready to go, but you don’t know how to get it in front of your audience. If you haven’t thought about how you’re going to get your blog to show up on Google, now is a good time to start.
Our favourite SEO tool is called Yoast SEO. What is it? It’s a Wordpress plugin that integrates seamlessly into the backend of your blog. As you’re writing up a storm in Wordpress, Yoast will tell you step-by-step what to do to improve your blog post so that it ranks better on Google. Once you’ve made all the necessary changes, Yoast will either give you a red, orange, or green light, which will tell you that your post is either Google friendly, or not ideal for search engines at all.
Once you have enough published content, you can also start tracking analytics through Google to see what’s working and what needs more attention.
7. Find a way to capture subscribers
Next, you’ll want to find a way to capture subscribers to your website so you can send a monthly (or weekly) blog update to these individuals.
Start by adding a subscribe pop-up or footer to your website. Link this to your MailChimp (or other email communication website) account. This will ensure that when someone subscribes to your website, those email addresses will be stored in your MailChimp database for future use.
The purpose of this is to capture the attention of those who are already interested in your blog, but may not make the time to check back weekly for new posts.
8. Source out amazing imagery
Your writing might be impressive, but if your imagery is terrible (in terms of quality or type), then the integrity of your blog posts will definitely be compromised.
Use high quality stock photo websites such as Unsplash to source out professional imagery for your posts. Or better yet, take your own! The more original your content is, the better. However, it’s up to you to determine what’s worth your time and what’s better off being outsourced.
9. Determine your workflow
Even if you’re only going to have one person writing and editing your blog posts, having a proper workflow in place is crucial for having an effective blog strategy.
You’ll want to have a workflow map that includes:
- Who creates what posts
- What topics you’ll cover
- What platform you’ll use to brainstorm ideas
- How you’ll conduct research
- What tools you’ll use to create graphics
- What tools you’ll use to edit
These are all important questions you’ll want to know the answers to so no details are missed along the way.
10. Stay in the know
Even if you think you know it all, you probably don’t. Staying up to date with podcasts, competitor blogs, and other industry news will ensure that the content you’re putting out there is timely, up-to-date, and relative to what your audience is looking for.
If you want to be a thought (or blog) leader in your industry, you’ll have to ensure your staying on top of the latest and greatest. After all, your audience isn’t going to want to spend their time reading yesterday’s news.
And now it's time to start writing! Having all these strategies in place will ensure that your thoughts are well articulated, your content is getting the attention it deserves, and your processes are as smooth as possible.