Last weekend I hung out with some friends who I haven’t seen in a while. Out of the blue, one of my best friends blurted out that he wanted to start blogging. It caught me by surprise. He had never expressed interest in this before. So, I asked what made him want to launch his blog. Here are the steps for writing a blog and how to add them to your calendar.
Blogging can help you grow as a person. It encourages you to learn new things, help others, and strengthen your communication skills.
When asking why my friend wanted to blog, his response impressed me even more. The friend wanted blogging to be a hobby. He explained that he had a lot of things he wanted to say, mainly about sports, and share those thoughts with others. Eventually, if the blog gained a following, he would explore podcasting. But, for the time being, he was going to give writing a shot.
I was proud of my friend here. Sure. He did a little bit of research. But, he understood that blogging isn’t a way to get rich quick. It’s a way to share your thoughts or story. It’s a tried and true method to promote yourself, business, or products. And, it’s an effective way to build a community.
Knowing that I had been writing online for some time, and we rarely get to see each other, my friend decided this was the perfect time to pick my brain. And, I was more than happy to oblige.
So, what did I tell him? Well, here’s a recap if you also want to start your own blog. And, as a bonus, I’m going to throw in some advice on how to create a content calendar.
Misconceptions about Blogging
Let’s get some misconceptions about blogging out of the way first.
For starters, you don’t have to be a skilled writer, to begin with. You don’t even have to publish the “perfect” piece of content either. Does that mean you should pass-off your garbage? Of course not. But, we’re all human and make mistakes — this is especially true if you don’t have a second set of eyes reviewing your work.
When it comes to blogging, the key is to deliver quality content that’s unique and is valuable to others. For example, if you are a mechanic offering advice on how to maintain a vehicle, readers don’t care if there are grammatical errors. They just want straightforward and helpful information.
Another misconception is that blogging is difficult and expensive. You have to put in some effort when it comes to blogging. But, if you’re familiar with your topic, this should come naturally to you. As you go on and develop your own voice, you’ll get more comfortable with content creation. What may be a challenge for you is finding the time to promote your content.
As for the price, blogging is pretty cheap. A lot of people will tell you it’s free. That’s not precisely true unless you’re using Google’s Blogger. If not, you still need to purchase a domain and web hosting — which even should cost you under $100.
And, while you may be able to turn a profit turn the road with affiliate marketing or sponsored content, that shouldn’t be your end game. It’s going to take time and effort before you make any real money through your blog.
How to Start Your Own Blog
Are you ready to start blogging? If so, hold your horses. You first need to set up your blog. But don’t sweat it. It should take you under a half-hour to create your blog. And it’s a reasonably uncomplicated process that involves the following steps:
Step 1: Choose a blog name and home.
Sometimes this is obvious. If you’re a freelancer, then your blog name would simply be your name. If you own a business, then it could be the name of, well, your company. Stuck? Think of a name that’s related to your topic. For instance, if you focused primarily on dog training, then the name could be something like EZDogTraining.com.
Whatever name you select, it should be as short and descriptive as possible.
If your desired name is taken, consider adding dashes or small words, like EZ-DogTraining.com. You could also use a different extension like .org. However, if you used a site like Instant Domain Search, you can see if your name is available. If not, the site provides a lengthy list of alternative names.
After settling on your domain, register it through sites like GoDaddy or Bluehost. While there, you can also use these sites as a server host. ICYDN, you need a server to get your blog online.
I’d also suggest installing WordPress. It’s a free and popular website and blog creation tool that’s supported by BlueHost and GoDaddy.
Step 2: Customize your blog.
Regardless if you’re using WordPress or another website builder like Squarespace or Wix, you can customize your blog. Choose pick a theme and tinker with it until it appears how you want it to. That means you can change the colors around, add your logo, or create specific pages.
If you’re using WordPress, here’s a handy beginner’s guide on how to customize your site.
Step 3: Start creating and publishing content.
Now that your blog is ready to go, start creating and publishing your content. I’m going to go into this in more detail in the next section. But, for the time being, have fun with this. Experiment with finding your voice. And, don’t obsess with it being “perfect.” Just be consistent and deliver quality content.
Step 4: Promote your blog.
Unlike “Field of Dreams,” visitors aren’t just going to come because you build a blog. You’re going to need to do some shameless self-promotion. Post your content on your social media accounts. Or, create dedicated accounts that are tied into your blog.
You may also want to try out email marketing or joining online communities or forums. As your blog grows, you could also try your hand at content syndication or guest blogging.
Step 5: Grow as needed.
You need to grow with your blog. That could vary from person-to-person. But, you may have to upgrade your hosting plan, download new tools, or hire other people to write or promote your content. It just depends on your needs and availability.
Writing Blog Posts
Circling back to this, here are some pointers for writing a blog post. I’ll try and keep this section on the shorter side.
Plan your post.
Here’s where most of the work related to blogging takes place. Before creating a piece of content, you need to research your audience and topic. Ideally, this should be something that you’re passionate or knowledgeable about. But, if you need some inspiration, use tools like SEMRush or KeywordTool.io. You could also visit blogs that are related to your site or Quora.
Next, create a list of topics and outline them. I use a Google Doc for this. But, you could also create a spreadsheet using Excel or Sheets. One advantage of this is that you quickly turn this into a content calendar by assigning dates to each topic.
Write a compelling headline.
Your headline should quickly explain what your content is about. Most importantly, it should grab the attention of others. Because of this, your headline can make or break your blog post. So, don’t overlook this step.
Experiment with different headlines and see what sticks by analyzing data like page view or social shares. But, because this is so important, I recommend you give this article from a HubSpot a read to help you generate more compelling headlines.
Write your blog post.
Personally, when I have a topic and a loose outline, I just start writing. I can always go back and clean things up. Additionally, to save time, I try to write a blog post in one session so that I don’t have to keep returning to it.
To help you speed this process along, keep the following in mind:
- Formatting is crucial. Think about using subheadings, bullet points, and images to break things up. Also, keep sentence and paragraphs short
- Optimize for SEO. I’m talking about proper Meta Titles and descriptions, keywords, and interlinks.
- Write in your own unique voice.
- Include a clear call-to-action.
- Admit that your post won’t be perfect. Get it over it and do the best you can.
Because this could deserve more time, you may also want to gain even more advice from the good folks over at ProBlogger.
Creating and Sticking to a Content Calendar
Finally, when you have ideas or finished pieces of content, add them to your calendar.
Now, if you’re working solo, this could be a breeze. You could open-up your digital calendar and select the date that you want to publish your content. You could even set a reminder that notifies you to publish that article on an exact date.
Personally, this isn’t a bad method if you are only publishing content a couple of times per week. Maybe that’s because I have a minimalist mindset. And, this technique helps me live a clutter-free life because I’m not relying on too many tools.
Unfortunately, this probably won’t work if you’re publishing daily content or working with others. Instead, I would create a content calendar.
As Abby Miller explains in a previous Calendar article, this is “simply a planner, spreadsheet, or calendar that details the content you’ll be publishing for weeks or months in advance.” Besides giving “you a quick overview of your content schedule, it can also be shared with your team so that they’re aware of deadlines and project details.”
“By creating a content calendar, you’ll be able to plan and maintain a consistent content production schedule, generate new ideas, and encourage teamwork,” adds Abby. “Additionally, a content calendar encourages accountability, use a variety of formats, and see which type of content resonates most with your target audience.”
Best of all? Developing a content calendar can be achieved in just five simple steps, some of which you may have already done:
- Brainstorm content ideas. These should be topics that answer your audience’s questions, matches your persona, or establishes you as an expert.
- Determine your publication channels and frequency. Since we’re focusing on blogging, you should do this daily. But, if that’s not possible, focus on quality over quantity.
- Use a spreadsheet to map everything out. Your spreadsheet should include publication date, author, title, description, publication channels, goals, and keywords. Don’t forget to include the status as well, such as draft, complete, or published.
- Define the workflow. Develop a content strategy that is comprised of goals and guidelines. If working with others, share this information with them. And don’t forget to assign the right tasks to the right people.
- Schedule, publish, promote, track, and tweak your content. Set realistic time frames and review data like visits and engagement. It’s the only way to see what resonated with your audience and what didn’t.
The longer you blog, the easier it will be to add titles to your calendar. For example, you may opt to assign a theme to each month as you notice what your audience is looking for. Let’s say in the summer; visitors want advice on how to keep their business operating while on vacation. During those months, your content would guide how to achieve this.
Additionally, as you create more content, you can repurpose it. For instance, a popular blog post from two years ago contains outdated facts and research. You could update it by including the new information, but the meat and potatoes of the bost remain intact.