How to plan your blog content – the easy way
Across the Web, abandoned blogs lie gathering cobwebs.
Thousands of them.
This time next year, will yours be one of them?
Most new bloggers fail after writing only a handful of blog posts.
They thought everyone would read what they’d written and leave lots of admiring comments, but after a month or two, even their own family and friends weren’t interested any more.
They thought it would all be easy and fun and they’d make loads of money by blogging. It wasn’t, and they didn’t.
So they quit.
And some tragic news…
Thousands more bloggers are failing. But they can’t work out where they’re going wrong.
They’ve put in hours and hours of their spare time. They write a blog post every day. Their blog looks stunning. They’ve written an ebook and put adverts on their blog to make money. They’ve promoted it in every way they can. They’ve been patient, but it’s been two years now…
They didn’t need to plan their content. They had tons of ideas. Anyway, planning was the boring bit and writing was the fun part.
Don’t get me wrong.
Blogging is fun. Or rather, successful blogging is fun. But if you focus on the fun, you can only hope for success. If you focus on creating a successful blog, you’ll get more enjoyment and satisfaction out of blogging, long-term.
That’s where planning comes in.
You need to ensure that your blog produces the results you’re hoping for, so take some time to think about it before you go off in the wrong direction.
- Do you know enough about your chosen niche? You don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to know more than your audience. Cobbling together content from other blogs will not solve your problem.
- Do you feel a genuine enthusiasm for your topic? If you’ve earned your living at your specialist subject, but after all these years you’re sick to death with it, you’ll bore your readers too.
- If you hope to earn money from your blog, how will that happen?
- If you have services or products you want to promote, will your subject draw the kind of readers who might want to pay for them?
Who are your audience?
Although any internet user can read your blog, a successful blog is targeted towards a particular group of readers. If you want to create a blog for women, for example, your audience won’t be ‘women’, but one particular group of women. Women are not all alike. Female executives and stay-at-home mothers don’t always want the same things from the blogs they read.
Remember that your blog posts need to be helpful or entertaining to your audience, not all about you and what you’ve been doing – no one out there cares about you, because they don’t know you. They only care how your writing can benefit them.
Deciding how often to post
You know your own strengths, interests and abilities, so skip the delusions and plan a posting schedule that will suit your personality.
A regularly-updated blog is best. The ideal is a post every day, or every week on the same day, but we can’t all manage that.
How much free time do you have? It’s better to stick to one excellent post a month than try to write one OK-ish post a week, or one pretty lame post every day.
You can schedule your posts in advance, so if you have extra time to write several posts, put them in the queue to be listed regularly, in case you have a busy time later.
Planning your keywords and SEO
SEO is Search Engine Optimization – writing your posts in a way that readers enjoy but creating them with a structure that will help the search engines like Google and Bing understand what your posts are about. You need to learn how to do this without spoiling the natural flow of your writing. The search engines use lots of different criteria to judge if your blog is good, including quantity and position of keywords, links to your posts from other websites on the same topic, number of social shares and so on.
Keywords are the most popular words and phrases that readers type into search engines to search for topics. For example, if your blog is about making money working from home, it’s useful to know if more people search for ‘work from home’ or ‘working from home’; if they use ‘earn money at home’ or ‘earn money from home’.
Getting your keywords right will improve your results in the SERPs – Search Engine Results Pages, the answers that come up when you type in words on a search engine.
Which keywords will work best for your blog? How many times should you use them, and in which places in your post are keywords more effective? You’ll need to search for information and advice and learn to get this right.
If you’re happy that your best friend is the only person who reads your blog, you can say, ‘But that’s boring,’ and decide to skip keyword research.
But if you’re going to be a successful blogger, you need to know your keywords and use them properly.
Choosing your blog categories
Once you’ve made certain you have the right niche and you know who your audience is, it’s time to set the categories for your blog posts.
What is, and what isn’t, the kind of subject you intend to cover?
If you’re writing a blog about your personal journey as you fight cancer, you won’t only be writing about your medical treatment but your other activities, with thoughts and memories inspired along the way. So your categories might be Childhood, Money, Home, Health, Religion, Love, Creativity…
If it’s a business blog to increase sales, your blog categories are likely to be the categories of products or services you offer.
If it’s a niche topic such as Self-Development, your categories might be Health & Fitness, Confidence, Relationships, Career…
Resist the urge to create a category called Other, Random Stuff, Thoughts, Musings or Uncategorized. If your post won’t fit under one of your chosen categories, it doesn’t belong on your blog. Stay focused.
Planning your blog posts
Jot down topics for 100 possible blog posts – 300 or more if you can manage it.
Make sure you have plenty of blogging ideas for each of your categories and that your ideas cover subjects related to your keywords.
If you can’t do it, maybe you need to rethink your niche, or blog with a friend who has the knowledge you lack.
For your personal blog, don’t assume it’ll just come to you when you want to write a post. Think about your past experiences in each category.
For your business blog, of course you won’t just write posts which are thinly-disguised advertisements, but actually helpful to your readers. If you sell fire safety equipment, you might write advice on Choosing Fire Extinguishers for Your Home Office, for example, with relevant links to suitable products in your online shop.
Creating your posting schedule
Once you have a list of suitable blog post ideas, and you’ve decided how often you’ll be posting on your blog, make a chart of the dates for the first year.
Decide if there are any special posts you want to cover on particular dates – calendar events such as Valentine’s Day, Grandparents’ Day or Halloween, trade shows and conventions in your niche, sporting events and so on.
Then block in appropriate publication dates for any seasonal topics such as Prepare Your Car for Winter Weather or Summer Crafts For Your Child.
Think about the way you plan to make money from your blog, and ensure that your posts cover relevant topics to promote all the items you wish to sell.
Check your ideas to see if any would be more appropriate for a longer, permanently-useful Cornerstone Page (like this one) instead of a blog post, or if you want to hold any back to create a training course or ebook.
Fill in the rest of your ideas in the remaining spaces, ensuring you cover your categories evenly, so you have a plan for your first year’s blogging. Keep the list of your unused ideas for next year and add more when inspiration strikes.
How will you get readers for your blog?
Blog traffic won’t just come if you write wonderful blog posts. You need to plan the ways you’ll get readers, perhaps by posting links and interesting comments on social media, or by paying for advertising. How often will you Tweet on Twitter? Will you choose one type of social media a day – Reddit on Monday, Facebook on Tuesday etc?
You can upload a small extra program called a plug-in to add social share buttons on your posts, so people can click to share your posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Guest-posting is an effective tactic for increasing traffic – you write posts for other blogs, with a link to your blog. If your writing’s good, people will follow the link to read your other stuff.
Commenting on other blogs in your niche can also give valuable links.
Once you’ve found readers, how will you keep them?
Think about how you’ll encourage your audience to engage with your blog.
By choosing to post on a regular day of the week or month, your readers will know when they can expect to read new content. Don’t let them down.
You can also pay for a brilliant plug-in called CommentLuv which adds a link from your blog to the blog of anyone who leaves a comment – it’s a fantastic way to encourage comments on your blog (which makes your blog more popular with search engines) and help out other bloggers. Some bloggers look for sites with CommentLuv and deliberately leave comments to get those links – if you’re going to do this, make sure your comment is interesting and relevant to the original blog post, so others who see your comment will want to read more of your writing.
Check that your posts are focused on your audience, not yourself. Every blog post should end with a call to action, asking your readers a question they’ll want to answer in the comments section, suggesting the next post they should read or offering them something such as a free ebook in return for their email address.
The free gift you offer to encourage readers to become subscribers is called a ‘lead magnet’, as it draws people towards you, and they become ‘leads’ or potential customers for the goods or services you’re selling.
Once you have their email addresses, you can contact them to tell them about your new blog posts. It’s better to send no more than one email a week, even if you post new stuff every day – people may get annoyed and decide to unsubscribe from your list.
Setting up an auto-responder
An auto-responder service such as AWeber or MailChimp will respond automatically to your subscribers, sending them the emails you decide in the right order, once they’ve signed up to your subscriber list.
You will definitely need this if you’re going to build a successful niche blog. You’ll have to pay for the service monthly, but MailChimp is cheaper and offers a basic service free until you’re ready to upgrade.
They aren’t especially easy to use, but you’ll figure it out with a bit of practice. Sign yourself up as the first subscriber, so you can see how the emails look when your readers receive them.
Signing up with Gravatar
Gravatar follows you around on the internet, adding your photo to your comments on other blogs, so readers start to recognise you. You can add a profile on Gravatar for people to check out. This helps to create the impression that you’re a well-known authority in your field who has always got something helpful to say.
Getting started with your blog
Now it’s time to sort out your blog before you start writing posts – new page coming soon! Until then, start planning your blog posts with these great ideas.