Blogging has been a part of my professional life for many years. I started off writing for corporate brand blogs and quickly realised I enjoy the creative process of putting content together. But in the last year or so I’ve had to think of blogging from a more strategic perspective because it is actually an incredible marketing tool for businesses and also offers revenue potential. I’ve learned some great lessons along the way (and still learning more) and I wanted to share the ones that really inspired me with anyone who’s curious about blogging, personally or professionally.
Purpose: Answer the simple question ‘What do I want my blog to do?’
The great thing about a blog is that you get to decide what you want it to do. It can help generate revenue or be your personal diary. Once you have identified this, blogging becomes easier because you are focused on achieving your goals.
Success: Decide on how you will determine the success of your blog. Will you look at engagement i.e. the number of comments and shares? Or number of pages visited? Is there a revenue-generating mechanism such as online purchases?
Numbers: When it comes to blogging, thinking about numbers may seem…counter-intuitive or even boring. But ensuring your blog is linked to Google Analytics will be one of the best decisions you ever make. It will let you set measurable goals and teach you so much about your readers’ behavior that you can make well-informed, strategic decisions for your blog.
Quality, not quantity: There is a reason to the order of my lessons. Once you have set your purpose, decided on what success is to you and the numbers you want to achieve it, then planning content becomes a lot easier because you’ll do it with a clear purpose in mind. And yes, it is about quality, not quantity. Churning out multiple posts a week is less effective than a posting a carefully planned, well-written post once a week or even every two weeks.
Content calendar and stick to it: You’re probably beginning to see that careful planning is a recurring theme because it is important for every aspect of making a blog successful. Having a content calendar is not only great for keeping you organised but it also motivates you to meet deadlines. I’m serious – get one of those huge monthly calendar posters or even a whiteboard and fill in your content ideas a month in advance. This is a creative process so don’t underestimate the time and effort it takes to turn a “whiteboard brainstorm squiggle” into a sexy post.
Distribution and promotion: To get an audience for your blog is arguably easier with social media but it is also much more complicated because you are competing for attention in a very saturated ‘content market’. This is why looking at your blog analytics will help you see things like where in the world readers are coming to your blog from, what channels (Facebook, direct visits, Google) and what devices they’re reading your content on. So you have to really consider how to get an audience for your blog:
- Social media is a great way way to supplement the content on your blog and attract readers.
- Sponsored posts on social media is another way to go if you’re willing to invest some money and it’s a great option because you have sophisticated targeting options i.e. by location, interest, age, gender. Simply posting a link won’t get you readers. Think about the way your post is packaged when shared on various platform. Large images and engaging captions are key.
- Another way I particularly like is linking with other bloggers or social media influencers and doing a ‘post swap’, this way you can organically reach a new audience.
High quality images that are not stock photos: While stock photos are always a great option, I think they’re a bit dry and boring. Using your own photos and images makes your blog truly ‘your blog’. High quality, well-composed and engaging images are the key to attracting readers to your blog and keeping them there. It’s a simple fact: everyone likes looking at pretty things. So I can’t stress enough how important it is to think carefully about what kind of images you want to use and how they can enhance your posts. You don’t even need a fancy camera or advanced photo editing skills to achieve great images. Grab your phone, watch a few YouTube tutorials on how to compose and do simple edits to photos, and you’re all set!
Readability: Attention spans are not what they used to be because the way media is consumed has changed so drastically in the last decade. Now you have maybe 5 seconds to grab someone’s attention as he or she is scrolling a newsfeed or browsing the web (believe me that’s already a long time in the digital world!). Even if you do get a reader for your post, if it’s not structured in a way that is easy to read and understand, he or she will be gone before you know it. So think again about the purpose of your blog and research other blogs that are doing similar things. Ask yourself: Is this blog readable? Why or why not? You’ll learn so much by studying how others make blogs engaging.
Be yourself: There’s a reason this piece of advice is towards the end of the post. It’s because you’ve probably already heard it before and it’s pretty self-explanatory: your blog is about you so it’s pretty obvious that your voice is the one people will expect to hear when they read your posts. The planning and strategic thinking lessons are higher up on my list because these are the things that can actually make a blog successful.
Mobile first: Look down at your hands. In one hand you may have a cup of coffee, the TV remote or your dog’s leash and in the other is most likely a mobile device or smartphone. Think about the fact that most readers encounter blogs and other content first on mobile. Whether it’s a news article, a funny animal video, or a photo of a friend’s baby, it’s viewed through a smaller screen. Think about how your blog will look on a mobile or tablet. Is it mobile friendly? Google the phrase “responsive blog template” when you are designing your blog and you’ll see design templates that are designed for all types of screens.
What are some of the lessons you have learned from blogging? Am I missing anything? Do you have any questions? Please share your thoughts, questions and comments below. I’d love to hear from you.