So, you've decided to start a blog.
You should totally do it — blogging is a fantastic way to build your professional credibility, explore your creativity, and connect with a community of like-minded people. Blogging can lead to book deals, paid work, and open doors you never thought possible.
How do I know? I've been there. In 2006, I started this blog and all of those amazing things have happened to me. As I'm in the process of writing my book, The Message Playbook, I can't help but credit my success to blogging.
I started small. One girl in a room with a computer. I stared at the screen and wondered if anyone would actually read what I wrote. Maybe you're sitting there thinking that now. Let me tell you that you never know what will happen.
For me, in the first year, my blog landed me a magazine column, several paying clients, and the opportunity to meet one of my professional heroes. In two years, a Fortune 200 company read my blog and asked me to come work for them. Soon, I found myself working with large organizations, managing content for some of the world's biggest brands. And now, I'm writing a book, all because I put my thoughts out there.
Let me tell you... you can do this! You're not alone and what you have to say matters. The biggest challenge in blogging is overcoming the inertia of getting started. So, as I'm thinking about what it was like to start my first blog, I'm putting together all of the things I wish I'd known when I wrote my first post. I hope you find it useful.
Start with Passion
People ask me all the time, "I want to blog, but what should I blog about?" The most critical factor to your blog is the amount of passion you have about your topic. And by passion, I mean a gut wrenching desire to learn and discuss your topic. Whether it's fountain pens, poetry, tuxedos, goat farming, or marketing communications, the best thing you can do for your blog is fuel it with passion. Believe me, there will be times that you just don't want to write. Passion will be the difference between having a blog that fizzles and one that stands the test of time.
Write Down Purpose & Goals
The best bloggers think about why they're creating their content and have goals attached to their efforts. Believe me, these are incredibly useful when you are working through a tough case of writer's block.
First, why are you blogging in the first place? There are so many reasons, but which ones have meaning for you?
- Become known a Subject Matter Expert
- Increase business contacts
- Content Marketing
- Develop content for articles, presentations, and books
- Earn money by advertising, affiliate marketing, or selling
- Check off a bucket list item
- Express your ideas and thoughts
- Learn a topic by teaching
- Have an outlet for creativity
- Document experiences for nostalgia
You'll also want to write down 3-5 goals for what you want your blog to achieve.
Goals are different than the purpose that we outlined above — they're specific outcomes that we're working toward, not a general statement of why we're writing.
Use the acronym SMART to help you write your goals. There are many versions of what each letter stands for, but I like this version best:
- Specific (not general or vague)
- Measureable (quantifiable)
- Appropriate (relates back to your purpose)
- Realistic (the scope isn't too big)
- Time-Bound (has a deadline)
Here's an example:
"Use my blog to become a Subject Matter Expert."
This example is vague, we can't quantify that this has happened, the scope isn't defined, and there is no deadline. It's not a SMART goal.
"Adapt posts from my blog to publish at least one article in UX Magazine by the end of the year."
Here, we can check off each of the SMART criteria. This is a much more useful goal than the one above because we know clearly when we've accomplished it.
Think About Your Readers
When you're writing your blog, it's tempting to get sucked into an isolationist mindset. But the best blogs are a conversation — a two way discussion between the author and the reader.
The next step to getting started is answering the question, "Who will be reading my blog?"
To do this, we want to look at a number of different factors, both about the external environment our audience interacts with, and the internal feelings they have.
Demographics (quantitative traits)
Years of experience
Devices used to access content
Psychographics (qualitative traits)
Once we've identified the traits, the next step is creating a short story that describes a persona, or ideal representative. I find it helpful to write out a 2-3 paragraph story of this person. By giving them a name and using vivid detail our audience starts to come to life.
Pick Your Platform
Once you've decided you want to blog, the next step is getting set up on a publishing platform. There are a ton of different tools out there, but the one that I like best and personally use is SquareSpace. I started out on WordPress, but had a number of issues when I wanted to go from being a casual blogger to a professional. Other professional bloggers I know use and like TypePad.
You'll also need a domain name. While there are gobs of services, the one I like best is Hover. Compared to some of the better known brands, which can be complex and cumbersome, Hover is crazy simple and easy for less technical people like me to use.
Create a Content Plan
Finally, you'll want to plan out your content ahead of time. I found it useful to create a resource library using Pocket that I refer back to whenever I needed inspiration. This way, I never ran out of things to post about. To create variety, I first segment out content pillars, which is basically a topic or structure that can last more than ten posts.
For example, let's say you're establishing a blog about personal finances. Depending on what your purpose, audience, style and goals are, you could have a variety of content pillars, such as:
- Tips for managing money
- Stories about inspiring people
- Industry news and updates in plain language
Another way to organize content is by looking at the content purpose rather than the topic. Here's another example:
- Engagement (posts designed to start a conversation)
- Evergreen (posts that can be published at any time)
- Events (posts tied to a specific time-bound occurrence)
As you can imagine, keeping track of all of these details in your head doesn't make a lot of sense. So, I put all of these tools together into an Editorial Calendar that helps you keep track of everything in one place. Editorial Calendars are great and work if you're just a one person show, or if you're a Fortune 100 company.
Lucky for you, I've done the hard work. Here's an editorial calendar template that you can use and share with your team.
I've also put together an online Skillshare Class to help you walk through all of these steps in much more detail. Take it! Start your blog. I can't wait to see what you create!
To your success,