In this article…
- What Is a Blog?
- Benefits of Writing a Blog
- How to Start a Blog
- Tips for Starting a Blog
- Best Practices for Creating Content for Your Blog
- Strategies to Promote Your Blog
It’s always exciting to think about starting a blog and sharing your thoughts and ideas with others. However, it can also be a little intimidating if you’re planning to launch a blog for your business for the first time. Fortunately, the process of starting a blog isn’t rocket science. There is a step by step process you can follow to take your blog from idea to execution. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about starting and launching your own blog.
What Is a Blog?
A blog is an informational website with information appearing as posts in reverse chronological order. While a business can have a blog on their company website, a blog is different than a website because it needs frequent updates. For example, a company may use its blog to post updates about industry news and developments or about the latest product releases.
The elements that define a blog include:
- Categories and tags
- Author bylines
- Publish dates
- Reader comments
Benefits of Writing a Blog
Blogging on a consistent basis is an easy way to enhance your marketing efforts, drive traffic to your website, and attract more potential customers. Through a blog, your business can:
- Boost search engine optimization. The search engines love fresh, valuable content. A blog allows you to consistently create new content for the search engines to index and give you the chance to use your most important keywords to increase visibility in the search engines.
- Develop relationships with potential customers. Creating a blog allows you to connect with visitors on your site. They can hear about your company, products, and industry in a more personal way and—typically—a more informal tone. Through a blog, your current and potential customers can leave comments and feedback, allowing you to build rapport, trust and gain insight into what they’re looking for.
- Establish yourself as an industry leader. By sharing valuable information within your industry, you can become a “go-to” resource for useful, informative content.
- Generate leads. Your search-engine-optimized blog is also a great way to bring in leads for your business. You can ask readers to subscribe to receive your content via email or use a call to action to encourage them to sign up for another reason, such as receiving an eBook, white paper, or even for a product discount.
Image via Flickr by ifwmukesh
How to Start a Blog
Here are the steps you can follow to create a blog:
1. Select a Niche
Before beginning a blog, you first have to find the right niche for your business. While a lot of people worry that by narrowing their blog to a specific niche will make it harder to find content, the reality is that it makes it easier to become the best, most knowledgeable resource for the specific topic. It also makes it easier to know who you’re talking to and you can then modify the tone, language, and content accordingly.
For example, if you have an e-commerce store selling decorative pillows and you have a DIY home decor site, you’ll want to use language that’s simple and easy to understand. If you sell project management software and you have a blog targeting project managers, providing them with tips as well as the latest research, it’s acceptable to use a more formal tone as well as industry jargon.
2. Choose a Blogging Platform
When it comes to choosing a blogging platform, you basically have two options: free and self-hosted. Of the many free blogging platforms, the most popular are WordPress.com, Tumblr, and Blogger. While these free options can sound appealing, the downside is that they, essentially, own your name or brand. Their name is in the domain. You’ll be subject to their rules and restrictions. They may place their own ads on your blog.
If you’re serious about creating a blog for your business, it’s better to use a self-hosted platform. While there are several different options, the most popular is WordPress.org. The benefits of WordPress.org over many competitors is that the platform is:
- Flexible and adaptable. Because it has many themes and easy access to source files, WordPress is extremely adaptable, regardless of how your company changes. Companies of all sizes use it, from large multi-national organizations to e-commerce stores to small businesses.
- Extends functionality easily. The WordPress plugin directory has hundreds of plugins that extend the functionality of websites, allowing companies to add special features, without spending enormous amounts of time and money on expensive customizations.
- Ranks well. WordPress sites are constantly being updated, which helps them to rank high on search engines. The platform also has a variety of tools and plugins to help users optimize their sites for SEO.
3. Choose a Domain Name
Your domain is the web address that people will use to find you on the internet. They may type it into the address bar directly if they know your URL or they may find you through the search engines. For the most part, it’s best to go with a .com address, although there are sites that are successfully using .net. Still, anything other than a .com can make it more difficult for users to find you.
The domain you choose should be short, easy to say, and easy to spell. Avoid using hyphens, since people may not realize they’re part of your URL and have trouble finding you. The obvious choice for a domain is your company name, although you may also want to consider purchasing a domain with the keywords you’re targeting as well. You could redirect the keyword domain to point to your company’s website or even the blog on the website. Before purchasing, double-check to make sure the name is available on social media.
4. Choose a Web Host
When you’re starting a blog, choosing a reliable web host is one of the most important decisions you’ll be making. Your host will make sure that your site is up and running at all times and will affect page load times. This impacts not only usability but also your search engine ranking. Research different hosting platforms and decide which will best meet your needs. Some you may want to consider are:
- A2 Hosting
- InMotion Hosting
- Complete Internet Solutions
5. Select the Right Theme
Start searching for a theme as soon as WordPress is installed on your hosting platform. Look for a theme that looks good but will also meet your unique content needs. There are over 3,000 themes, so don’t get overwhelmed. Here are a few tips to help you find the right one for your business:
- Read the description. Themes typically come with a description of their features and functionality. Review the different descriptions to get an idea of the functionality you need for your own blog.
- Check for responsiveness. It’s important to have a blog that can be easily read on both a desktop and mobile device, which is why you need to check for responsiveness. In fact, Google prioritizes mobile page load speed as a metric when determining search ranking.
- Check the rating. You can get a better idea of how good a theme is by looking at the star ratings under theme details.
- Preview the theme. Finally, to determine whether a theme has the look and feel you want for your blog, preview the theme. This will help you get a better idea of the layout and how customizable it is.
Make sure that when you’re working on design, you include social share buttons to make it easy for people to share your content. A social share plugin for WordPress is often the easiest solution, as it will add your share buttons to every blog post and show the data for how often different posts have been shared online.
6. Create a Content Plan
When you’re starting a new blog, you often have a large number of topics in mind. For this reason, it’s easy to just start writing whatever comes to mind on any given day. However, as time passes and you go through those top-of-mind topics, you will find that:
- It gets harder to think of unique content ideas.
- You need to plan your content in advance to effectively promote the posts.
An editorial calendar can simplify the content creation process. Using a calendar, you can plan out a month’s worth—or more—of content at one time, from ideation to promotion. By having a plan in advance, you will be able to write more easily, because you’ll know the topic each time you sit down to work. You’ll also have the proper time to promote your content because you’ll know what topics you’re writing on in the future.
7. Launch Your Blog
There are a number of ways you can launch your blog content:
- Submit your blog to the search engine. Sign in to your Google account and submit your blog’s URL in the Webmaster Tools. You may want to also submit your site to Bing.
- Be active on social networks. Identify the top social networks for your audience. Choose the top one(s) that best fit your needs and start engaging with people on the platforms. Make sure the link to your blog is in the bio and also promoted on your social media headers.
- Comment on other blogs. Commenting on other blogs is a great way to develop relationships with other bloggers who have similar audiences. Make sure that with each comment, you’re delivering value and contributing to the conversation online.
- Guest blogging. Guest blogging is a great way to build an online presence as an expert in your niche, while also driving traffic back to your own site.
- Advertising. Depending on how quickly you want to drive traffic to your site, you may want to consider paying for ads on Google AdWords or Facebook. This can be a great way to gain exposure in the beginning as you’re building organic traffic.
Tips for Starting a Blog
Here are some tips you can use to get started blogging for your company:
Use SEO to Drive Traffic
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of writing your content in a way that will be ranked in the search engines. SEO optimization includes making sure that you’ve used the keywords that you want your content to rank for, adding title tags and meta data, and using relevant links to other authoritative sites.
In order to use SEO to drive traffic for your blog, start by choosing the keywords that you most want to target. Do your research in order to find keywords that are popular with people but which you will also be able to rank for. Try using the Google Keyword Planner or another keyword research tool to identify the best keywords for your blog.
Build Links From External Sites
Links from external sources, particularly high-ranking sites, are one of the strongest indicators to Google that you produce high-quality content and that your site should be well-ranked. While it isn’t necessarily difficult, it is a lot of work and requires you to build relationships and do a fair amount of networking.
One of the easiest ways to encourage others to link to your website when you’re first getting started is to create content specifically for the people you want to link to you. Once you have created that high-quality content, you can then reach out to them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or even just their own blog and let them know you created content you think they’ll like. Because you created the content with them in mind to begin with, there’s a strong possibility that they’ll share it with their own audiences and—hopefully—link to it.
Focus on Quality Over Quantity
Focus on creating high-quality content over large numbers of posts each week. In fact, if you create one great piece of content, one post per month should be plenty. Another option is to use a blog writing service to produce high-quality, engaging posts for you on a regular basis.
Use Internal Linking
Internal links are important when you’re starting a blog. They help Google to navigate your site, which can improve your search engine ranking. In addition, when you have a specific blog post that ranks well in the search engines, any internal links from that page to your other pages help to boost the ranking of the linked pages. They also help readers get around on your blog, making it easy for them to find older, related content that they may not have found otherwise.
Create High-Quality Images
Creating high-quality written content for your blog isn’t enough, though. You also need to create amazing images to increase the number of shares and encourage people to link to your content. Images make it easier for people to read your content. It also keeps them on the page longer and helps them to better process what you’re giving them.
There are a variety of tools you can use to create great images, including Canva, Relay That, and Unsplash. Depending on the topic you’re writing about, screenshots, charts, and infographics can be extremely useful. They help readers better understand the data you’re sharing and process it more quickly. Plus, it can add visual appeal to your blog posts.
Format Your Content for Readers
It’s also important to format your blog post in a way that it’s easy for readers to skim. As you’re writing:
- Divide long text by using headers and subheads.
- Use numbered lists and bullets to highlight key information.
- Use Italics and bolding to emphasize important information you want the reader to see.
- Add quotes or called out text to grab the reader’s attention.
- Use quality images to break up the next.
Also, be intentional about using short paragraphs—no more than 100 words—and even short sentences. You should also add a subheader every 300 words or so to make it easy for readers to skim your content. As an alternative to this, you could break up long sections of text with images or block quotes.
Use subheaders to detail exactly what the following section will be about. You could also use subheaders to entice your readers to read the section. A combination of these two strategies is the best approach.
Add Calls to Action
Every post should have a call to action (CTA) of some kind. A CTA refers to any action that you want your customers to take. It could be reading another blog post, subscribing to your newsletter, or visiting your online store. Each post you write should have some kind of CTA, even if it’s as simple as commenting or sharing the post with others. While you don’t need to sell something in each post, there should always be a “next step.”
Build an Email List
Because you’re driving traffic to your website through your blog, your blog should be a big source of traffic. For that reason, creating and building an email list should be a top priority from the moment you create your blog, even if you have only one post.
Sign up for an email marketing platform if you don’t have one already. If you need something robust, you may want to try something like Infusionsoft. If you just need a simple way to manage your subscribers, MailChimp, Aweber, ConvertKit, or GetResponse can be great options.
You can use a simple inline form from your email service provider (ESP), or you could connect the ESP with an exit-intent and popup tool like Sumo or Optin Monster. You could also use a tool like LeadPages to create strong landing pages for your offers and connect them to your blog with a simple link or button.
Create a Strong About Page
In the world of blogging, people follow those they know, like, and trust. For this reason, it’s important to create an About page and tell the story of your company. Talk about how you started, how far you have come, what your values are, and what your mission is. Include pictures of you and your team so visitors can see the faces behind the brand.
Use Videos to Increase Engagement
One of the most important metrics for SEO, one that Google evaluates when they determine where to rank your pages in the search engine, is the time your visitors spend on a page. An easy way to increase the time on page is to add great video content.
Very few people are using videos within their blog content, so it’s a great way to increase visitor engagement with your content and stand apart from your competitors. Nor does it require fancy video equipment either. You can use simple tools like a smartphone, external mic, and tripod to produce great content for a blog.
Monitor Page Load Times
Load times are also something that Google considers when it’s ranking your pages in the search engine. Because web users have short attention spans and don’t like slow-loading content, Google will penalize sites with slow page load times.
Use tools like Pingdom or GTmextrix to test your page load times. If you find that your site is loading slowly—or to keep it running fast if you’re already in great shape—you can:
- Optimize your images. Optimizing images means resizing and/or compressing them so that they load quickly. TinyPNG, TinyJPG, and Optimole are great options for shrinking the size of your images without compromising user experience. Regardless of your website’s page load times, get in the habit of always optimizing your images.
- Use a caching plugin. A caching plugin can increase the speed of your blog by serving website visitors static HTML instead of PHP for each page load.
- Choose a faster host. If your site is slow, you may want to consider evaluating whether your hosting service may causing the delays. Consider exploring other hosts with a reputation for having fast page load speeds.
Have a Plan for Maintenance
Maintenance is an important step that can prevent future problems like hacking or lost content. Maintenance includes things like:
- Backing up your site, and testing to ensure the backups work
- Updating plugins and any software that could care vulnerabilities for hacking
- Optimizing your database
- Checking for any links that may have broken
Routine maintenance now can prevent big problems with your blog—and website—later.
Keep Security in Mind
Keep your website updated to reduce the risk of having your website hacked for an old vulnerability. Also, make sure you’re using a security plugin or another type of security solution. Pay close attention to any notifications that you’re being sent to make sure you update each time one is released by the developer. Some good options you may want to consider are Wordfence, iThemes Security, or Sucuri Security.
Best Practices for Creating Content for Your Blog
Once you’ve done the work of setting up your blog and getting the right design elements in place, your framework will be complete. That means it’s time to actually start putting out content into the world. In the world of blogging, any content that website visitors would see as useful falls under the category of “content.” It needs to be something of value to get your readers to engage with the content and return for more.
After seeing up your blog, the next step is to figure out what content you should be producing, along with any best practices you should be following. Ultimately, your content should accomplish three things:
- Speak to a specific audience and provide them value.
- Be easily accessible and presented in a way that’s visually appealing and of high quality.
- Be focused on helping your audience, not selling to them.
As a blog owner, it’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to come up with ideas for what you should be creating for your audience. Here are a number of best practices you should consider as you create content on your site:
Do Keyword Research
Before you begin researching, begin by making a list of relevant topics based on what you know about your business and what you intend to talk about on your blog. You should come up with between five and 10 topics that are most important. Once you have those main topics, you can use them to come up with specific keywords under each of those main topics.
Next, take a look at Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to see what keywords people are using to find your website. To find other related keywords, you can use the Google Keyword Planner or just type in a keyword into Google and then look at the related keywords that Google provides at the bottom of the search results page.
When you’re finished, you should have a combination of head terms, the short phrases that people search for in the search engines, and long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are phrases that contain three or more words. While people use head terms more often, they can be more competitive and therefore more difficult to rank for. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, can be easier to rank for even though they are searched for less often.
Use Your Competitor’s Keywords
Use a tool like Serpstat, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to evaluate your competitors’ websites and see the primary keywords they’re ranking for. Also make note of the keywords that you’re trying to rank for that your competitors are also ranking for.
Once you have identified a keyword that is also relevant to your business, you can see the post that the competitor is using and ranking for and write one that’s more in-depth, such as a 10X post that covers all of the information a user could want on that specific topic.
Focus on user intent
User intent is one of the most critical factors in your ability to rank well in the search engines. Your content needs to address the problem that the user intended to solve when they entered a specific keyword in the search engine. The easiest way to identify what the user intent is for a keyword is to simply enter the keyword into the search engine and see what kind of results come up.
Source Topics From Your Audience
Randomly picking topics and hoping that it will resonate well with your audience is a lot like gambling. Sure, it may pay off. But it could just as easily fall short. But if you know what your audience wants to hear about, it’s a guaranteed win.
There are a few strategies you can use to get ideas for topics from your audience:
- Send out a survey to your email list.
- Reach out to them on social media or via email.
- Read the comments people are leaving on your blog or your competitor’s blog.
- Look for forums in your industry and see what questions people are asking.
- Use Buzzsumo to see common questions around a topic.
Get Inspiration From Unrelated Niches
Consuming content from within your niche and using it for inspiration for your own blog is beneficial because it keeps you informed about trends in your industry. However, it can also make it difficult to think outside the box and come up with new ideas.
The best way to come up with great new ideas, though, is to have lots of ideas. Read lots of different content and watch lots of videos. Consume information both in and outside of your niche.
Use Quora to Find What People Want to Learn
Quora is a great place to go on the internet to find out what people really want to learn about. The great thing about this is that for each question, you can create a useful blog post answering the question.
To execute on this strategy, just go to Quora and follow several topics related to your blog’s niche. Then start paying attention to the questions that people are asking. By doing this:
- You know the issue is important to someone.
- You see the exact verbiage that the Quora user is using to ask the question (information you can use when crafting a headline and identifying keywords to use in the post).
- You can answer the question within Quora and provide a link back to the blog, easily promoting your new content while providing useful information for the person who originally asked it.
Publish Data-Driven Content
Blog posts that are data-driven are a great way to stand out and encourage people to share your content. For example, this study that Backlinko did on search engine ranking factors received thousands of shares on social media.
Include a Number in Your Headline
It seems like such a small thing, but Ian Cleary of RazorSocial found that when he included a number in the headlines for his blog posts, he doubled the number of shares. While the content needs to be good and follow through on the promise that it delivers in the headline, adding numbers can help grab the reader’s attention and compel them to click on the post to learn more.
Embed Infographics to Get More Shares
Infographics have been shown to be the most socially shared form of content. Slideshare discovered that infographics have a greater potential to go viral than other documents that the tools hosts. When you’ve decided on a topic that is data-driven, do your research. Find the numbers you need to tell a comprehensive story and also provide your readers with actionable advice.
Look at other work that your company has done, along with other infographics they have produced. Use a tool like Canva or another design tool to create an infographic that’s visually appealing and lays out the information in an easy to understand format. Don’t forget to add a call to action as well. Encourage people to share the infographic on social media.
Strategies to Promote Your Blog
Your blog is set up, it looks visually appealing, and you’ve got great content. Yet, clearly those are only part of the puzzle. While you should always be focused on optimizing your content for search, you should also be actively promoting as well, particularly in the early stages before SEO starts to drive traffic your way.
Here are six strategies to help you promote your blog:
Share your content on social media
You’ve gone through the effort of creating great content, so it’s also important to share it to as many places as possible. While it’s import to focus on sharing your content where your audience spends most of their time, there are a large number of social networks to consider, such as:
While your audience may spend most of their time on only one, sharing your message on all of these is easy to do and lets you draw additional interest to your blog.
Also, get in the habit of sharing your blog post the moment that you’ve published it. The more immediate likes, retweets, and general shares you get, the more credibility your post will have.
Use Outreach to Promote Your Blog
Another way to promote your blog content is to share your posts with people who have shared or written similar content. To find people who have shared similar content, look at the main keywords you used throughout your post and any hashtags you used when sharing it to social media. Search on social media for those hashtags and keywords, find people who have shared similar content, and reach out to them with your related content.
To find people who have written similar content, do a search on Google for the keyword(s) you’re using in the post and look for the top search results. Read the related posts and leave a comment talking about what you liked, agreed with, or disagreed with. If possible, add value or additional thoughts that the author may not have considered, then provide a link back to your own comment. This strategy isn’t spam if you’re actually trying to provide value.
Mention Influencers in Your Post
An easy way to get people to share your blog posts is by writing well-researched content and then giving credit to the people who came up with the ideas you’re building off of. After you’ve quoted an influencer or mentioned their research or study, reach out to them and let them know that you referenced their work in your recent post. Tell them you would be honored if they would take a look. When this strategy is done effectively, it can have a big impact on the number of people your content reaches.
This is a great strategy to use on an ongoing basis to grow your blog. Guest posts can build your personal credibility, which ties directly back to your own blog and the valuable content that you provide there.
Newsletters are a great and extremely simple way to promote your blog content. Your newsletter doesn’t have to be extremely long or have fancy graphics. Just a quick intro and a link to the post is an extremely effective way to promote your new blog content.
Use Remarketing to Re-Engage Your Audience
This strategy is slightly more complex, as you need to have some knowledge of remarketing campaigns— or, at least, a willingness to learn. Remarketing, also known as retargeting, is a strategy of showing ads to people who’ve already visited your website. You essentially follow people around the internet on Facebook and Google partner sites, a strategy that can help you reach 84% of people who’ve already visited your site. This is a great way to encourage people to go back and read more of your content, building trust and encouraging them to learn more. Tools like Adroll or Marketing360 can help you get started.