Blogging tends to get overlooked by a lot of marketers because it’s seen as a somewhat antiquated and ineffective method of content marketing compared to, say, vlogging or infographics.
But the fact is that blogging is a hugely important part of marketing, and needs to be taken seriously by any business that wants to maximize its sales. Research has shown that businesses that use blogs are thirteen times more likely to see a positive ROI than those that don’t.
It goes without saying, then, that your business needs a blog. But if you’ve never run a blog before (or even interacted with them in any meaningful way) then that can be quite the undertaking. It’s therefore a good idea to get to grips with the basics of starting a blog: what sort of content should you start with? How should you promote that content? And how often should you publish new content?
During the course of this article, we plan to answer all of these questions and more. Read on for the ultimate guide to starting a blog.
What Is A Blog?
A blog is a site – or a subsection of a site – dedicated to a particular topic or theme. A blog is made up of more than one blog post. For instance, a cooking blog would be a website dedicated to written content about cooking, and would consist of many blog posts related to cooking in some way.
10 Steps to Starting a Successful Blog
Let’s get to it: Here are the 10 steps you should follow to start a successful blog.
Figure Out Your Blog’s Main Topic And Purpose
First things first – you’re going to need to establish what, exactly, the theme of your blog is, as well as its purpose, before you can actually go over to starting a blog. This is going to inform all of your content going forward, as well as what your blogging strategy is going to be.
When coming up with your theme/topic, try not to pigeonhole yourself into something too niche and specific. It should be broad enough that you’ll be able to keep producing interesting and relevant content indefinitely – but specific enough that you’re able to act as an authority on whichever topic you choose.
When considering the purpose of your blog, you need to think about what your blog brings to the table that other blogs don’t (or don’t do as well as yours). What’s your company’s overarching purpose? How can your blog support this, and what sort of articles will work towards serving this purpose?
Ultimately, if you’re interested in starting a blog for marketing purposes, your blog is going to exist as an elaborate CTA for whatever product and/or service your company offers. Therefore, each piece of content for your blog is going to want to tie back into your product/service. If you sell women’s clothing, an article on the best fashion tips for staying cool (and cool) in summer might link back to summer dresses or halter tops.
The bottom line is: your blog exists, on some level, to support your company. Make sure this is at the forefront of your mind with any content produced.
Register A Domain Name
You can’t have a blog without having a name for your blog. Ideally, it needs to be simple, punchy, and immediately grab your potential readers.
You also need to be able to register your blog’s name with an appropriate URL – hopefully that has the same name as your blog. Blogging sites like the Huffington Post and Neil Patel’s Blog wouldn’t be nearly as successful, after all, if their URLs differed wildly from the actual name of the blog.
There are two things to do before you come up with a name or think about a URL. Firstly, check whether or not anyone else is using that blog name (or anything similar). Secondly, ensure that your chosen website domain is available. This is easily achieved with most domain hosting services, who can check for you.
Once you’ve decided upon both, you can register the domain. Then it’s time to find a host.
Choose A Hosting Service
You may have registered your domain at myblog.com, but you’re not going to be able to put anything up on there without a hosting service. A hosting service is what allows you to put content on your website; it’s effectively renting space on the internet in order to display your blog. Therefore, choosing a good hosting provider is a key requirement for starting a blog.
Some hosting services are free, but these generally won’t be desirable, as their branding will be all over your content. In this instance, your domain name would become myblog.wordpress.com (if WordPress were hosting your content).
This detracts from your content and, ultimately, makes you look like you’re too cheap to pay for your own hosting. Both of these are a bad look, and make you look unprofessional. It’s therefore a good idea to invest in your own hosting space, and grab that coveted myblog.com domain name instead.
There are plenty of web hosts to choose from out there, and it’s a matter of figuring out how much storage space you need, how reliable the host is (e.g. do they experience outages?), how good their customer service is, how much bandwidth you get, and how secure the host is (if, for instance, someone tries to hack your site or perform a DDoS attack to force your website offline).
Think About Who Your Target Audience Is
When you’re moving towards writing your first blog post (or series of blog posts), you’re going to need to think carefully about who your blog is aimed at.
If you’re writing from a business perspective, then this almost takes care of itself. Your business presumably already has target demographics; it can be taken as read, then, that your blogs will be aimed at the same audience(s).
Even if this is the case, it can pay to put a little more thought into the specifics of your target audience. How old are they? What sort of disposable income do they have? Where do they live, and what do they do for a living? Is it reasonable to assume that they consume other kinds of online media? If so, what kind? How are they likely to spend their free time? What sorts of things are they likely to want to know more about?
By considering these kinds of questions, you can really sharpen the focus of your blog, and put out more content that’s relevant to the people who matter.
Consider Your Branding And Site Design
A blog may revolve around the written word, but that doesn’t mean that the visual elements of it are unimportant. Furthermore, those visual elements need to be unified with your company branding as a whole, featuring the same color palette, logo and font as that which you use on your main company website.
Your blog site also needs to be clean, visually appealing, and easy to navigate. Blogs should be neatly separated into different categories for ease of accessibility, and those categories should be easily found on your homepage.
Something that greatly helps with keeping people on your blog is internal links – that is to say, links to other blog posts embedded within an existing blog post. These should be liberally sprinkled throughout blog posts, making it easy for readers to click on another link, and another, and so on. The more engaged they are (and the easier it is to find/click through to other relevant blogs), the longer they’ll stick around – and the more likely they are to follow your CTAs.
Put Together A Blog Writing And Management Team
By this point, you should have the bare bones of your blog in place, e.g. the domain name, hosting service, and design. But what you don’t have is actual content – without which you obviously cannot start a blog.
The first step toward publishing content is to decide who’s going to be writing that content. This could be you, of course, in which case it’s an easy decision. But what if long-form writing isn’t your thing? In that case, you’re probably going to want someone else to step in when it comes to the actual writing of your blog posts. That person could be internal to your organization, or they can be a freelancer hired externally.
In either case, you’re still going to want to come up with ideas or outlines for the content that you want to put out. For this, you’ll need a content manager – someone who can create the basic structure of any given blog post (or even just a one-sentence idea). These outlines or sketches can then be passed onto the writers, who can flesh them out into fully-formed blogs.
If you’re outsourcing a lot of blogs to a lot of different people, it’s probably a good idea to have a dedicated editor. Not only can they act as a set of fresh eyes to catch typos and factual/grammatical errors, but they can also ensure that your content has a unified voice and tone – very important for a cohesive blog.
It’s also crucial that you have someone handling SEO – that is to say, search engine optimization. SEO means the difference between hitting the top of Google and languishing on the second or third page of search results. In the Google age, ensuring good SEO for all of your blog posts is absolutely essential if you wish to use them for marketing purposes.
To drive organic traffic to your website, you will also have to invest some time and resources into SEO tools. A firm favorite is Semrush – the leading all-in one SEO solution on the market. It makes it incredibly easy to find the right topics and keywords, and write SEO-optimized content.
Finally, your blog team needs to coordinate with your social media manager wherever possible. One of the great things about blogs is that they’re eminently sharable on sites like Facebook or Twitter, and you’re missing a trick if you’re not sharing them as frequently as you can.
Start Uploading Content
Now that you have some content to go up on your blog, it’s time to upload it. That’s the true start of your blog! This can be a little tricky to get to grips with at first, and varies from host to host, but you can generally figure out how to use most publishing platforms with an afternoon of tinkering with it.
When publishing content, it’s vitally important that you keep a backup copy of the text rather than simply relying upon the one you put on your website. Outages happen and content can be lost, so it’s really important that you have a copy elsewhere – whether in the cloud on Google Docs, on your hard drive as a Word doc, or (ideally) both.
Most hosting services also have the ability to let you save a post behind the scenes before publishing. This gives you a chance to look over the document for formatting issues, insert images and links, and preview it for a chance to get a look at how it will display on your blog before it goes live.
When you’re fully happy with how your blog is formatted and presented, you’re good to go. It’s time to publish it and start promoting your content.
Promote Your Content
Even the best blog in the world needs support; nobody is going to read a blog that’s in a functional vacuum, and so it’s your responsibility to expose it to the wider world via promotion on other platforms if you want to make the start of your blog a success.
The easiest way of promoting your blog is how a great deal of content marketing is promoted these days: social media.
Blogs are quickly and easily shared via sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (despite it being ostensibly an image site), LinkedIn, and any other social media sites that you and your business use. What’s more, if your blog catches the eye and leaves an impression, then your followers will share it with their followers, meaning that there’s a good possibility that it will go viral.
Your blogs can also be used as part of any email marketing campaign that you have. A monthly newsletter that rounds up the best new blog posts on your website can be a way of quickly and effectively reaching a large swathe of people who might not otherwise engage with your content.
Decide Upon A Publishing Schedule
It can be tempting, when first starting a blog, to publish as much content as quickly as possible, establishing a huge back-catalog of content for any visitors to check out and creating the impression that your blog is more well-established than it actually is.
This impulse must, in actuality, be tamped down. You shouldn’t walk before you can run, and there’s no point in publishing 30 blogs in your first month if they’re poorly written and not thematically cohesive.
This is where a content manager can be invaluable to your blog. By deciding what blogs need to be written and by when, they can ensure that you’re adding high-quality, relevant blog posts are being added on a regular basis. This goes a long way to ensuring the overall quality of your blog, and means that any visitors to your site are going to come away impressed by what they find.
A more measured publishing schedule makes sharing your content on social media and in mass mails easier, too; both of these mediums are sensitive to an overload of content, and the algorithms that handle both will punish you for trying to spam too many posts/emails in a short period of time.
Moderation, then, is the name of the game. The more measured your addition of new content, the higher quality it will be – and the more eager your reader base will be.
Make Sure You Include CTAs
Your blogs can be of the very best possible quality and may be shared far and wide across every social media platform possible, but none of this matters if you don’t have a CTA.
‘CTA’ stands, of course, for ‘call to action’, and simply means something within your content that’s encouraging your audience (in this case, your readers) to do something. They can be much more sophisticated than simply asking your readers to buy something; they can encourage them to sign up for your mailing list, follow you on social media, or even ask them to leave a comment underneath your blog post to boost engagement.
Similarly, CTAs don’t have to take the same form in your blog posts. The most common (and, admittedly, one of the most effective) CTA to be found in blog posts is the contextual link – an example of which we just provided.
Contextual links are great because they’re unobtrusive (they’re contextual, and so by definition they’re not out of place) and they lead to lower bounces rates on your blog – that is to say, they keep people on your website for longer without exiting after a single click. They can also be used to redirect readers to your company’s landing pages in an organic way.
However, you can try CTAs beyond contextual links. CTAs that ask readers to share your blog or retweet about it are common, as are dynamic banners at the bottom of your blog that change depending on who’s looking at them (someone who’s already subscribed might see a link to a downloadable PDF guide, for instance, while someone who’s not might see a link to subscribe).
Whatever form your CTA(s) take, there is one simple rule: make sure they are present.
Though it may seem very complicated to get started on a blog, the fact of the matter is that there is so much support and automation available these days, that a lot of the busywork has been removed from the process, making it easier than ever to start your own blog. And once it’s up and running, you’ll find that you have a brand-new pool of sharable content that will pay dividends when it comes to drawing in new subscribers and conversions. It’s simply a matter of taking those first few steps and getting it going.