Lots of businesses set up blogs without any planning behind the effort. But starting a blog for your business isn’t a task to be taken on without forethought.
And this is why many business blogs never deliver any noticeable results: They rank for random keywords that never bring any sales or leads. They have no engagement and no community.
Moreover, a business blog is usually an island: Someone is writing content for them and publishing it randomly when they have time. No other team members know what is going on with the blog or why.
If you are planning to add blogging to your digital marketing strategy, do it right from the very start.
Here’s the checklist:
1. Know Your Why
Clearly understand your primary reason for starting a business blog in the first place. Write it down, keep it visible, share it with your marketing team and refer to it often.
This goal clarity will provide the motivation your team needs to keep working on your blog consistently.
Write down why you are setting up a blog. For any marketing project, whether it’s online or not, I believe in starting with the big picture.
Your why is highly likely to affect your success. For example, if you are blogging for SEO and to increase leads or sales, you need to plan your content around your target audience’s struggles. If you are starting a blog to get cited and build connections with journalists, you need to keep your niche content amplifiers in mind: What is it that can peak their curiosity and encourage them to write about your business.
Clearly define whether the main purpose of your blog will be to educate, entertain, and/or inspire.
Whether your blog will raise awareness, solve a problem, or address a desire, knowing the site’s purpose will guide the content creation and design process in order to best highlight your topic.
2. Choose a Niche Within Your Niche
Unless your niche isn’t very competitive and you know a lot about it, then don’t ever dive head first into trying to cover everything. I made this mistake a few too many times with my own projects.
Trying to target every aspect of an industry is very hard when it’s just you, and without a multi-thousand dollar budget for content writers each month, you aren’t going to be able to cater to all the news and your blog will be deemed as quantity over quality.
Most likely, you are about to blog about stuff that other people are already blogging about. And those other people do it much better. They have community and you don’t. They are known and you are not. There is a ton of great content about everything. Why would someone want to read your blog? What makes it special? What is different? Unless you bring something unique and valuable to the Internet, you’ll most likely be unnoticed.
Target a smaller niche within your niche that your blog can specialize in, and you’ll be able to build up a proper name for yourself from there.
Write down what you want your blog to be about. This step is closely related to your mission statement: what you want your blog to do. It might be obvious and it might seem like you don’t need to write it down, but this is important to help establish direction and help build the larger picture.
Keyword research will be a great help in this process as it is a great way to discover angles that are not yet covered to death but are in demand from your audience. SE Ranking provides all kinds of keyword research tools that will help you with that task.
Some of those tools will be pretty familiar to you, e.g. filtering keyword lists by “keyword difficulty” (i.e. organic competition). But other tools are absolutely unique. These include keyword grouping, keyword mind maps, and a content idea finder.
SE tanking integrates with SharpSpring, so you may already have access to those tools!
3. Have Your First Article Written
This is a big step. This will help you find the right person to create your blog’s content.
From my own experience, and from talking to others, it seems that the largest barrier to blogging is the creation of the initial post.
You may already have a lot of talent within your current team but these people are too shy to volunteer. Talented writers tend to be introverts.
Encourage cross-team submissions of articles on your chosen blog topic. Make it clear that blog writers will have a clear authorship on the blog, so their effort will be recognized.
You will always have a chance to hire a writer if you cannot find a good one in-house. But keep in mind that your existing team knows your existing customers best, so they will relate to their needs and align their content to their personas much easier than anyone from outside.
Plus including your company into your business blogging plan will get them more motivated and excited. Working on a common goal will unite your team, remove any existing organization silos and foster employee advocacy.
Start with your existing team: You’ll be surprised how much writing talent you already have.
Google Docs is a great way to manage your content submissions. Simply instruct your employees to write content in Google Docs and send you links when it is ready. It is free and looks exactly like Word, so your team members will not have any problem with figuring it out.
It helps if you create a list of resources on how to create compelling content, how to stand out and how to brainstorm more content topics. You can keep adding resources to that knowledge base for you team to improve their writing skills.
4. Setup Your Blog CMS
This is hopefully something you will be able to outsource for. WordPress is the default option here, and while there are quite a few WordPress alternatives out there, I’d still stick with WordPress.
I may lack experience in using other CMSs, so I am biased. Talk to your developers: They may have some arguments for using other platforms. I like WordPress because it is easy and has lots of documentation allowing businesses to solve any problems even if they don’t have budgets to hire in-house developers.
You can start with the default WordPress theme and you can worry about changing it later. At this point you are just setting things up: Launching your project is a different topic.
Set-up your Google Analytics, Search Console, and essential WordPress plugins. All of these are one-time tasks.
5. Create Your Lead Generation Channels
Taking this step is important because you need to keep your conversion in mind when planning your blogging strategy. Failing to set up sitewide and contextual CTAs is one of the most common blogging mistakes.
Each of your articles should clearly take your audience through your sales channel, in a most non-intrusive and non-promotional way.
Place an email “opt-in” on your site so you can start building your subscriber base from day one.
You can get creative as well! Set up surveys, booking forms, download forms, etc. to diversify your CTAs from page to page. WP Forms can help you set up all kinds of web forms.
Email subscribers are far more likely to purchase products than any other individual forms of connection. Some people have created lucrative businesses with an email list alone!
Get involved with your social network and let people know you are starting a blog. This is useful for creating an initial readership base. Most likely, your friends will assist you in seeding your content into their respective communities. Word of mouth is key.
Make sure you let people know when you have new content. Encourage people to sign up for your email list, subscribe via RSS feed, and follow you on the respective social media channels.
I recommend you sign up for Viral Content Bee, a blogging community where you leverage the network of influential bloggers to co-promote your content and the content of others within “tribes”.
It’s a great community and can really help augment your blogging efforts, especially when first starting out.
5. Start Building Relationships with Other Bloggers
Opt in to their mailing list, and comment/share their posts. If something they write sparks a post of your own, cite their article and link back to it in your post.
These relationships will be a source of motivation and insight, help you reach a wider audience, and increase your overall chance of becoming a successful blogger.
Something that I wish I’d done more when I was first starting out, was interacting with communities. Building out a persona and reputation within forums and places like Reddit, can create a whole new source of traffic and following.
I highly suggest working just as hard to post on discussion boards and sharing communities as you do for your blog – You’ll quickly see your referral traffic spike.
BONUS TIP: Persevere
For a time, it may feel like all your efforts are leading nowhere. It’s also seriously disheartening to publish an epic post and never receive any indication that anyone even read it.
When you feel like giving up, stick with it for at least another month. Successful bloggers often report that their turning point happened right around the time they were preparing to shut down their blog.
Blogging is an important part of an SEO strategy for businesses of all sizes, thanks to its ability to drive traffic through search queries with informational intent. Expect gradual growth, so have patience and don’t give up!
- Identify your target micro-market or niche. You cannot be all things to all people, but you can be a Godsend to a few. These people will come to love you and your brand.
- Understand the readers you are writing for: Understand them intimately, their motivations, what upsets them and what excites them
- Have your CTAs set up. This is a great way to capture the email addresses of people who visit
- Have your sign-up incentive ready to roll. This is the reason people will give you their email addresses, so it had better be good, this step includes a sign up page/box.
Have a series of free, super-value products available to grow your readers’ love for you. You need to earn your readers’ love; you need to dispense favors before your readers will come to trust you enough to start paying you money to provide them with services or favors.