Are you ready to start blogging for your business, but overwhelmed with the task, from choosing the platform to creating your blogging strategy? If so, you are not alone. Many businesses large and small have no idea where to start when it comes to blogging. In this post, I’m going to show you how to start a blog for your business in six steps.
1. Define your blogging goals.
The first step you should take with any online marketing strategy – including blogging – is to define your goals. What do you expect to get out of blogging for your business?
If you don’t know the answer to this question, then you could be setting yourself up for failure right from the start. Businesses usually have one or more of the following goals when it comes to blogging.
Blogging can help you establish you as an individual or your business as an authority in your niche or industry. The idea is that people will read your blog, see that you know what you are talking about, and trust that your business can help them out.
Blogging can give you something to share. If you go about tweeting links to your sales pages on a daily basis, your followers are going to get turned off. On the other hand, if you share great content from your blog, they will have a reason to click through to your website.
Blogging can give you more visibility in search. Instead of just ranking for the main keywords for your business, your products, and your services, you can rank for detailed topics in which your customers would be interested.
All of these blogging goals can ultimately lead to the most important thing for your business: more visibility, more leads, and more sales. So long as you have your target audience (potential customers) in mind when blogging, you will be set to achieve your blogging goals.
For more on blogging goals, be sure to read Shareaholic’s post on how to set blogging goals. Specifically check out point #3 on setting SMART goals for your blog.
2. Research your competitors’ blogs.
The next step is to research your competitors. Your competitors can give you insights into what works and what doesn’t, and most importantly, what your target audience expects.
For starters, you can find out if businesses similar to yours are blogging at all. You can do this by going to your competitor’s website and looking for their blog or typing their name and blog into search. You can also type in the keywords customers would use to find your competitors and blog to find all your potential competitors with blogs.
For example, a Google search for “colorado springs air conditioning repair blog” (without the quotes) would result in the following.
Excluding the ads and results for Yelp and the BBB, you have 11 companies. All but one of these companies have a blog. If you own an air conditioning repair business, you may think you need a blog just from these results.
From here, you will want to do a little more digging, even on the least updated blogs. In particular, you will want to see whether the blogs are regularly updated, how often there are new posts, what topics they cover, who writes them, and how much engagement they receive. This analysis will help you with the upcoming steps.
For more on competitive research, be sure to read Social Media Examiner’s post to researching the competition to improve your blog.
3. Choose your platform.
The blogging platform or software you choose will depend on a variety of factors. These factors include how much time you want to spend setting up and maintaining your blog versus the amount of customization and functionality you want it to have.
There are different types of blogging platforms and software from which to choose. First, there are hosted solutions. Notable hosted solutions include WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumblr, and Medium. These are all sites you can go to, create an account, and start blogging in a matter of minutes.
With exception to Medium, you can change the design (theme) for your blog to any themes offered by each platform or by third-party marketplaces like ThemeForest. You can also use your own domain name instead of the URLs generated by the platform. This option will allow you to use yourblog.com or yourbusiness.com/blog in place of yourblog.wordpress.com.
The best part of hosted solutions is that you don’t have to maintain the blogging software itself. You don’t have to worry about updates or security beyond not allowing your account to be compromised. The downside of hosted services is the inability to customize your design and functionality beyond what the service itself allows.
Second, there are self-hosted solutions. Notable self-hosted solutions include content management systems like WordPress (software), Joomla, and Drupal. These are all software you have installed on your own web hosting account. The major benefit of a CMS is you can create and manage your main business website and blog using the same solution.
There are rarely limitations that you can’t overcome with any of these solutions. If you can’t find a theme, plugin, or add-on to help you customize your blog’s design and functionality, you can always turn to a developer to get the job done for you.
The downside of self-hosted solutions like these is the maintenance. You will either need to maintain your blogging platform’s updates, security, and backups or find a web hosting company or service that will.
Third, there are social media blogs. LinkedIn Publisher is currently the biggest player in this arena, although you can also have blogs on sites like Quora. These types of blogs are the most limited in terms of customization of design and functionality, not to mention you must publish posts under one user account. But LinkedIn Publisher has the advantage of automatic notifications to all of your first-degree connections when you publish a post, so individuals with large networks will benefit.
If you want to choose your blogging platform by popularity and flexibility, the self-hosted version of WordPress is right for you. It is the most widely used CMS and blogging platform on the internet (and it’s what I use for this blog).
Alternatively, you can choose to start with the hosted WordPress.com platform and plan to move to the self-hosted version down the road. The downside to doing this is that while you will be able to transfer your content from one version to the other, you will likely have to change your URLs. This means you will lose any links or social shares to your content.
For more blogging platforms beyond the common ones mentioned above, be sure to read Mashable’s post with 16 platforms that won’t distract you from writing.
4. Decide what topics to cover.
If you have defined your goals and done a little competitor research, you likely have an idea of what topics to cover on your blog. For those that need additional inspiration for coming up with topics, here is what to do.
Start by thinking about who you want to read your blog. For most businesses, the people you want reading your blog are your potential and current customers. Therefore, you need to think about what would interest those people.
You don’t have to get down to specific post titles right away. Instead, start with a broader view. If you have an online marketing agency, you know your customers are going to be interested in content marketing, search marketing, and social media marketing.
From here, you can break down each major category into subcategories. Search marketing, for example, can be broken down into link building, keyword research, on-site optimization, organic search marketing, paid search marketing, Google AdWords, Google news, Google updates, Google tools, SEO tools, and so on.
Once you have your subcategories, you can start diving into various keyword research and topic generator tools to get more ideas that you can blog about in order to drive organic search traffic to your website. You can start with the always popular Google AdWords Keyword Planner, which will give you up to 800 related keyword phrases for each of your subcategories.
You can then take your list of 800 ideas, choose the ones you are interested in blogging about first, and enter them into title generators like the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator. This tool will generate hundreds of titles for each of your ideas.
Alternatively, you can use tools like BuzzSumo to see what titles do the best with social sharing for each of your best ideas.
Using this approach, you can deconstruct the best titles and find ways to make your content even better, as well as get some new topical inspiration.
It’s best to start blogging with at least a dozen or more specific titles in mind. Then continue to generate more ideas – the goal is to have so many great ideas of what to blog about that you never feel like you can’t blog.
For more on generating great blogging ideas, see this post on evergreen topic ideas.
5. Determine who will blog and how often.
Based on your competitive research, you should have a good idea on whether you need to blog once a month, once a week, once a day, or more. Based on the amount of content you need to have to engage your audience, you will need to determine who will blog for your business.
Whether you are a one-person operation or a small business, you and your employees do not have to be the only contributors. There are three approaches you can take to increase the number of people writing for your blog outside of yourself and your employees.
You can start by inviting guests to contribute content to your blog. The best way to find guest contributors is to reach out to people who are known to write on similar sites in your niche or industry. They likely have a strong enough reputation to drive more traffic to your blog. In exchange for the content they contribute, they will want to have their own author byline to promote themselves and their businesses.
If you don’t want to go the route of guest contributors, then the other option is to hire one or more freelance writers. You can either have them write with their own author bylines or ghostwrite content that you can publish under your name, or under your employees’ names.
The best way to find freelance writers is to find those that contribute to the top publications in your niche or industry. Or, you can post ads on sites like the ProBlogger Job Board for as little as $50 for 30 days.
For more on getting the best content from guest contributors and freelance writers, be sure to see the post on how to create great editorial guidelines for your blog.
6. Draft your blogging plan.
Once you have figured out your topics, how often to blog, and who will blog for you, you are ready to create your overall blogging plan. Your blogging plan should be a structured guide to how you want to proceed with your blogging strategy.
It needs to outline your blogging goals in a specific manner, so you know what you want to achieve within a specific timeframe. Specific goals could include 25,000 visitors per month, a 5% conversion rate from readers to customers, an increase in search visibility from 25 keywords to 100, or similar.
It needs to include your processes for coming up with topic ideas, assigning content to the appropriate writer, editing content, publishing content, and promoting content.
It needs to include the exact dates that you want to publish content, also known as your editorial calendar.
Your blogging plan should be so detailed that you could turn it over to your content manager, and they would know exactly what you want to accomplish and how you want it to be accomplished.
For the key templates you need to create a specific blogging plan, check out Content Marketing Institute’s free collection that cover editorial calendars to success metrics.
While these are not simple steps, they are the steps you need to take to start blogging the right way for your business. If you get off to the right start, your blogging will bring you the results you want for many years to come.