Your blog is an integral part of your overall online marketing strategy. A blog:
- Shows you as an expert in your field;
- Adds searchable content to your website (Google loves new content);
- Gives you built-in social media content; and
- Generally drives traffic to your website.
If you don’t have a blog, you’re missing out on all these benefits! Start with these six essential decisions before you get going.
If you do have a blog, then let’s maximize its potential, mmmkay? Use these six pointers to refine your approach to blogging.
1. What will you write about?
Whether you’re just starting a blog or you’ve been at it for a while, coming up with ideas for your posts can be challenging.
Nearly every blog post will fall into one of these areas:
News: Anything news related. Examples include: holiday hours and closures, new features/services, milestones, or achievements.
Products: The products, features and services that you’d like to promote as part of your overall marketing strategy.
People: Highlight your team members with a short profile. Perhaps they won a contest or graduated from a course, just got married, or won team member of the quarter. Or, you could highlight a client and the work you did for them (with their permission, of course).
Special Events: Events that you’re hosting online or in a physical location. This could include announcements or recaps of events.
Education: Most blog posts fall into this category. This is your original content that informs and educates your ideal clients about your industry, the work you do, etc. There’s a wide range of possibilities here. Start with the three questions that people ask you most when you’re out at a networking event, or when people first start to work with you. Why are they working with you? What don’t they know?
Curated: Other sites’ content that is relevant to education, news or information that would be useful to your ideal clients and customers. This type of post can be a “round-up” of articles or tools you found online, why you liked it, how you’ll use the information, etc. Include a short blurb of your thoughts and a link back to the original article or site. (This is also a great way to promote your post by sending a link to the post with a note to the person, product or service you’re talking about.)
So, a great place to start brainstorming ideas for your blog is this: think about these six areas of your business, and come up with three ideas in each area. (Click here to download a free worksheet to help you take notes. No email required.)
2. What categories will your posts fall into?
Once a reader gets to your blog, they’ll likely want to read more from you. Keeping your posts organized helps them to find other content that interests them.
The best organized blogs have either a navigation bar or a sidebar (sometimes both) with the list of categories on their blog.
My advice here: keep it simple! Readers will be overwhelmed if there are too many categories to choose from on your blog. Generally speaking, you want to limit your selections to three to five (at the very most) top-line categories. Then, within each category you can absolutely cover more ground with sub-topics.
But for the main categories—those that will show in your sidebar, chunk down all your ideas into a few main categories.
Here on the INSIGHTS blog, I categorize posts into five areas: Branding, Marketing, Media, Publishing and Work+Life. Pretty straightforward (and, also strategically keyed to the main services I provide). Here are some more examples of keeping it simple:
- Eva Lin blogs about two things: personal finance and travel on theescapelife.com.
- Nesha Woolery talks about organizing a design business, marketing, freelancing and planning on her blog at neshawoolery.com.
- Interior designer Mary Ann Pickett shares about Design, Style, Travel and Entertaining on her blog, ClassicCasualHome.com.
Limiting your categories also helps you focus your post ideas and writing!
3. How often will you post?
This element looks like it’s about frequency—how often will you post—once a day, once a week, twice a month, etc. But, it’s really about consistency.
You have to be honest about one to figure out the other.
Posting to your blog consistently matters more than the frequency. Why? Because it builds trust in your readers (and Google, by the way). If they know they’re going to hear from you x times a month, and you’re delivering valuable content, they’re going wait and watch for your posts! How cool is that?
Think about it like starting a friendship. Are you more likely to form a true, long-term friendship with someone you speak to and hang out with regularly, or someone you might see every other month, or every six months, or every other year?
If you’re only posting every once in a while, sporadically, and they’re not hearing from you consistently, then you’re losing out on building that relationship with your readers.
So, be honest about how consistently you will be able to post. Then, commit to a frequency. I don’t care if you start with once a month on the second Tuesday, or every Friday—just commit and be consistent.
There was a time with my lifestyle blog that I wanted to post every day—nearly killed me—and then it was down to every week. It was still a lot of pressure at the time. I stopped posting and sending an e-newsletter all together.
So, last year when I started this new blog, I committed to every other week. I got a system going and started using Asana for my editorial calendar. (I took this inexpensive course called Asana for Bloggers that got me up and running in no time.) Now I have a frequency I can commit to and deliver. And, I’ve stayed on track (with very few exceptions) for coming up on a year.
4. When will you write it?
There are lots of time management tools and productivity tips out there to help with this aspect of writing your blog. But let’s keep it simple and start with a plain ol’ calendar and a commitment.
Translate your posting frequency from #3 above to a writing and publishing workflow that includes these elements:
- Brainstorming topics
- Sourcing photos
- Creating graphics (or hiring that out)
- Promoting on social media
Let’s say you committed to post every Monday. Maybe you set aside time every Friday to brainstorm, research, source photos and create graphics. Then you write it on Saturday morning, edit it on Sunday morning and post and promote on Monday.
Or you do it all on a Thursday.
Or you spread out for a whole week.
Experiment with a schedule that fits your life, your work, and your other commitments.
But, do make schedule and write it down like any other appointment in your calendar. If it’s not written down, you’re less likely to do it. That’s just human nature.
5. What’s the point?
If you’re using your blog as a source of content marketing (and I hope you are), nearly every post should end with a specific call to action. The post is driving the reader to a certain conclusion or action.
It could be that you’re asking them to sign up for a workshop you’re giving (like I’ll do at the end of this post). Or, simply ask them to subscribe to your blog so they’ll never miss a post. Or perhaps you’ve got a “content upgrade” that they can download once they give you their email address.
Be sure to include this aspect in your brainstorming and writing activities with each post. Ask yourself, Does this post lend itself to an upgrade? It could be a worksheet, a checklist … anything that dives deeper into the subject of your post.
Having this clear direction at the end of a post is essential. If there’s no other specific action for a particular post, the default call to action should ask the reader to subscribe to the blog via email. (And then include a sign-up form for your email list. Here’s an example from a recent post of mine.)
6. To date or not to date?
By default, blog posts are dated. You can see when the author wrote and posted the article.
However, most blogging programs (I use WordPress) allow you turn the “date” field on or off for your posts.
My opinion is this: If you’re building a blog as a resource of great information about evergreen topics, don’t date your posts. Someone might find this very blog post two years after I post, and it would still be relevant and topical. If it has a date on it, the reader might think, “Hmmm. She’s not very active or up to date” when in fact the information is still valid and useful.
I purposefully haven’t dated my posts. Once I have a good depth of topics (about 50 solid articles), I can essentially recycle the content. It will not expire or look “old” and I can update it as needed. And then, I’ll use the time I would have used for creating new content to pursue other projects.
If your blog is meant to be a chronicle, or has time-sensitive information in it, then by all means, do date your posts.
So there you are—six super important things to think about whether you’re just starting blog or you’ve been writing for a while.
Just one last thing. I know that sometimes it’s not easy to come up with ideas or to finish a post. That’s why I created The Spark! List. It’s got 8 sure-fire ways to wake up your creative spirit so you can keep your blog going strong! Click below to get your hands on it. It’s free and you can get instant results!
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