Your business either doesn’t have a blog and it’s you want to start one, or it’s time to upgrade and consider how your blog can genuinely help function as a tool for business growth. If you’ve already figured that it’s time to launch a blog for your business, you’ve likely already bought into the ‘why’. However, here’s a reminder as to why a blog is essential for any business:
- B2B marketers who start a blog earn 67% more leads than those who don’t
- Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI
- Blogging is cost-effective in that the only thing you really need to spend is time
- Companies who blog receive 97% more links directing to their site
- Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information
Hopefully, those facts alone put any doubters out there to ease. Anyways, blogging is an essential component of inbound marketing since it allows you to quickly distribute helpful information to your followers and new visitors to your site. This, in turn, helps to build credibility, SEO mojo and helps you become more of a thought leader in your industry. Blogging is not only great in the short-term, but it also dominates in the long-term. The longer and more often you blog, the more traffic you will generate over time.
The “cost” of blogging
While the only real cost of blogging is time, you’re likely thinking, “sure, but time is a BIG commitment. ” You’re totally right. Starting and maintaining a blog isn’t a one day task. It takes a lot of planning, resources, and effort to gain a respectable ROI. Thankfully, here is a 10-week planner to help you manage your time, prioritize the essential components, and plan for a successful blog (re)launch. This guide will take you through the essential steps to make the most out of your new blog.
Week 1: Identify your target persona
The first essential step to take in order to start a successful blog is to understand why and for whom you’re producing content. You’re likely thinking, “What do you mean who am I writing for? I’m writing for my potential customers!” This may very well be the case. However, having the right target persona for your blog and products requires a lot of data and research. It simply isn’t enough to just want to help your customers by providing content – you need to know who your potential customers are and what pain-points and challenges they wish to solve.
In order to figure this out, you need to start with a buyer persona – a fictional, generalized understanding of your ideal customer. These help you better understand both your customers and prospective customers. They also make it easier for you to generate content that meets their specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups.
In terms of blogging, having a buyer persona to target content helps you understand what kinds of content you should be writing to attract your target customers.
How do I develop target personas
In order to identify your buyer persona(s), you need information on current customers and prospects. Here are some practical methods to get you started:
- Interview customers both in person or over the phone to learn what they like about your product or service. This is also a great way to figure out their pain points and what kinds of content they may find helpful.
- Interview your sales team. They know your customers best and are a great source of information about your buyer persona.
- Look through your contact database. This is a great way to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content.
- Survey your contact database and ask them key questions about their role, department, challenges, experience, etc.
- Research outside forums related to your products and services.
- Capture important persona information on your contacts and lead forms on your website.
Once you know your target audience, it time to start generating a list of content ideas to post on your blog.
Week 2: Start building a bank of evergreen content when you start a blog
You now know who you’re writing for. The question now is: How do you build and sustain a blog with content for that target audience? Where’s the best place to start? The answer: by building a list of evergreen content.
Evergreen content is any content that remains relevant no matter what week, month, season, or year it is. It’s timeless, high-value, canonical content that will remain interesting to your audience when they interact with it.
Unlike time-sensitive or newsworthy content, which are valuable forms of content to consider adding to your blog, evergreen content is where you should start your content brainstorming efforts. Evergreen content is what will help you rank for keywords and help build authority with search engines over time.
Now that you’ve conducted research pertaining to your buyer persona, it should be easier to think about what evergreen content you should be writing, whether it be right after your launch or later on down the road.
Brainstorming evergreen topics
You need information on current customers and prospects in order to discover your buyer persona. Here are a handful of simple, yet practical methods to get the ball rolling:
- Review your buyer persona’s list of pain points
- Focus on one topic or keyword and brainstorm a list of different pieces related to that same topic
- Conduct keyword research to discover what kinds of keywords people are searching that relate to your primary topics
- Look at other content that you’ve created and repurpose it into blog posts
- Consider doing a negative vs. positive approach. If you already have content on the best practices for a topic in your industry, do another post on the ‘do’s and don’ts’ or ‘how to do X that doesn’t suck’
- Set aside time for a team brainstorm session to bounce ideas around
- Research what your competition is writing about and think of new through-provoking angles to explore
Once you’ve developed a strong topic list, start writing or assigning posts to your team. Bookmark your brainstorm list for later and continue to add to it in the future.
Week 3: Choosing the right CMS for your blog
In order to effectively launch and maintain your blog, you’ll need a rock-solid content management system (CMS). In short, a CMS is a digital system that you’ll use to host your digital content – some examples include WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.
While figuring out your ideal target persona and generating content ideas is the tactical side of launching a blog, the next few weeks are devoted to the equally important technical side of starting a blog.
What should you look for in a CMS?
Ease of use
If you’re less than tech-savvy, choosing a CMS that’s easy to use is critical. Most CMS’s come with templates that you can use or support teams to help you design it. That being said, make sure you choose one that will work nicely with your team’s skillsets.
Key metrics you can track
Does your CMS allow you to track metrics like conversion rates, page views, and the sources of your traffic? Breaking down the success of your blog is insanely important post-launch, so make sure that your CMS allows you to track the success of your efforts.
Roughly 60% of all Google searches occur on a mobile device. This means that it’s 100% essential for your blog to be optimized for any device your user opens content on. A CMS that automatically makes your content mobile-friendly is a must for marketers starting a blog.
Week 4: Design matters when you start a blog
Once you’ve decided on a CMS, it’s time to bring your blog to life! You’ll want to make your blog look awesome, but also optimize it for lead generation and converting visitors into prospects and, ultimately, loyal customers. This likely leads one to wonder – “how do you design a great blog that will be easy to access and also delight visitors?”
It all starts with the right elements and understanding the user interface and user experience. If you or someone at your company knows how to custom create your blog, make sure you check off the essential list of design elements that I touch on in a little bit.
Most CMS’s provide free templates that you can modify and use if your team has little design experience. If you’re interested in the theory behind designing a great blog, you can enhance your skillset by learning user experience design with General Assembly.
Best practices for great blog design
- Main blog pages: The main page should tell visitors about the blog and feature links to the most recent posts. Make sure to include a search feature and/or an archive of past posts so visitors can access both new and old content.
- Color scheme: It’s essential that you make your blog feel coherent. That being said, pick a color scheme and stick with it across the entire site. Try using your brand colors as a base and adding a few accent colors to tie the whole design together.
- Branding: Make sure that your blog design is consistent with the rest of your site branding. While it’s important to distinguish your blog’s look from other pages, your visitors should still feel as though they’re on a related page.
- Blog post templates: Each post should have the same general structure so readers have a steady experience across each post. A simple way to ensure this is by designing a template to use for each new blog post.
- Call-to-action (CTA’s): A blog is a tool designed to convert buyers at the top of the funnel. Thus linking to pieces of content that will nurture your visitors down through the funnel is critical.
Week 5: Focus on your content strategy when starting a blog
Over the past few weeks, you’ve focused your efforts on the logistics of setting up your blog. Whether it be getting started with your CMS to designing and optimizing your blog pages. There’s still plenty more technical room to grow, but let’s take a breather and focus on your content strategy.
Before you launch your blog, it’s essential to step back and think about your internal content strategy – both short-term and long-term. Your team needs to answer a few cornerstone questions about how much time and bandwidth you’re willing to set aside for blogging.
How often should you blog?
How often and when to post will greatly depend on:
- the purpose of your company
- the size of your company
- how large of an audience you’re looking to attract
On that note, the more you blog, the more traffic you’ll attract over time…more traffic means more leads and more customers!
As a team, it’s your job to figure out how much time you’re willing to invest in your blog. As a general rule of thumb, once a day or a few times a week is a great place to start.
What types of content are you going to write and post?
Blogs are extremely versatile when it comes to content matter and post style. You can share infographics, ‘how-to’ posts, list posts, newsjacking posts, slideshares, editorials, etc. Decide which types of formats you want to try and how many resources you can invest in each style of post.
As time passes, analyze which format performs best to tailor your content strategy toward your audience. The more formats you tryout from the beginning, the better your data will be over time.
What are your goals for launch and post-launch?
How much traffic do you want to generate within the first weeks of launch versus six months out from your launch date? How will you track those metrics, and how will you promote your blog in order to hit your goals?
Some of these questions will depend on your current follower base, your CMS and your promotional strategy. Regardless, it’s good to have an internal discussion about these goals well before launch so that your team can align in regards to their expectations.
Setting expectations while planning your content strategy is essential. Does planning ahead mean that your content strategy will not change over time? Not at all. However, laying down groundwork will make you more flexible dow the road and allow you to be more focused on the short-term.
Week 6: Set-up subscriber pathways when starting a blog
Now that your team has set up content strategy goals, let’s think about how you’re actually going to meet said goals. How are you planning to promote your blog? How will your content spread organically?
An effective means to encourage your content’s reach is to encourage subscriptions. In an ideal world, this will lead those who regularly interact with your content to see it, read it, and share it with people they know. Subscribers also help you communicated regularly with the same people. This allows you to nurture them into leads and eventually customers down the road.
Before launching your blog, make sure you set up the following to start getting blog subscriptions right away:
Set up a workflow that automatically sends subscribers emails with your latest posts. Make an email template with links to your posts that curates your scheduled content and send it on to your subscribers. Over time, make sure you’re optimizing the subscriber emails for clickthrough rate and conversions.
How will site visitors sign up for a blog subscription? Set up forms on your main blog page and CTA’s on your blog posts to enable people to sign-up. Subscribers must opt-in o be emailed, so make sure your CTAs and form copy is downright compelling.
Schedule your subscriber emails in advance of sending to allow time for corrections!
How often will subscribers get emails? Daily? Weekly? Each time a new post is published? It’s critical to be clear to your subscribers about how often they’ll receive emails. Pro Tip: The more you email people, the more likely they are to opt-out. Keep the frequency to a minimum! I recommend weekly or monthly depending on how often you post.
You’re legally required to give anybody that you email the option to unsubscribe from your mailing list. That being said, have fun with it. Who knows, you just might save a subscriber from unsubscribing!
Week 7: plan for logistics
Subscriber pathways are only the tip of the iceberg of blog logistics that you need to plan for. How else will you convert visitors into leads from your blog posts or get subscribers to interact with you elsewhere?
Week seven is all about thinking through some of the other logistics of your blog – from encouraging social sharing to planning your launch day.
Here are a handful of logistical elements of blogging logistics that you should consider before launching:
Social sharing buttons
Attract new visitors and encourage people to share your content by adding social sharing icons to your posts.
Think about where you want your visitors to go once they read your blog posts. You likely don’t want them to leave your site, so add CTAs and hyperlinks to other content, offers and site pages. Maybe it’s specific content offers, maybe it’s visual CTAs, maybe it’s pop-ups!
How to handle comments
Most CMSs enable blog commenters on posts. Comments are a great feature since they encourage user-generated content and engagements with your content. That being said, it is vital that you plan on how to best handle comments. Will comments be allowed all the time or just for a short period? Who will be responsible for responding to those comments or questions? Decide on your policy beforehand so your team knows how to handle comments from launch day onward.
Week 8: Decide on an internal editorial strategy
There are two main elements to keep in mind when it comes to website/blogging credibility and authority: search engine authority and the reputation of your blog according to your visitors. Establishing authority with search engines is all about content SEO and link building – we’ll dive deeper into this subject matter in Week 9. Your blog’s reputation, on the other hand, is all about your editorial strategy on both a macro and micro level.
Sit back and think about it for a hot second: if you read an article or blog post that doesn’t cite sources, doesn’t include relevant facts and statistics, and is full of typos, what are the odds that you’ll find it valuable or share it with your peers? Next to zero chance…right? That’s what I thought! One may even go so far as to criticize the author of such poorly written content.
Providing your audience with meaningful content isn’t just about the writing, it’s also about sound editing. Let’s plan for your editorial strategy:
- What are your standards and guidelines?
- Who will you keep your team accountable for said standards?
Now that we’ve focused your attention on how you’ll maintain the reputation of your blog throughout the editing process, it’s time to move onto building authority and a reputation for your blog via search engine optimization (SEO) and promotional strategies.
Here are 3 questions to consider in order to help determine your editorial strategy and voice:
1.) Who writes what when you start a blog?
The initial step is planning who will write the blog content. Make sure you have plenty of resources and time to keep up with the content strategy you’ve developed. If you aim to publish three posts per day but only have one blog post author, odds are that you won’t be able to keep up with that schedule for long. Take the necessary time to plan out your resources, and put your best content writers on the job.
2.) How is your internal editing process handled?
It really doesn’t matter how awesome your writers are – every piece of writing requires adequate editing and review by a qualified editor. Identify an editor (even if it’s one of the many tasks they manage) to ensure that no piece of writing is published without undergoing detailed fact-checking and going through a complete edit for grammar and typos.
3.) What are your editorial standards?
Each and every team that develops content needs an editorial standard or style to reference for guidelines. It doesn’t matter if it’s grammatical concepts, citation rules, or capitalization policies. Make sure you have guidelines in place for your team. The majority of English posts online use the Associated Press Stylebook, which is one of the most respected and reputable style guides out there!
Week 9: How to attract and scale traffic when starting a blog (SEO and promotional guidelines)
Over the long term, blogging can increase your inbound website traffic exponentially. However, it does require some hard work on your part. How will you go about disseminating and promoting your posts and make sure your content is ranking high on search engine results pages? It takes some SEO and promotional effort in order to make this happen.
How to get started with SEO in the short term
How to do keyword research
SEO begins with ranking for keywords that your target audience will likely search for. The best way to rank for targeted keywords is to design your blog posts based on the keywords you’re aiming to rank for. Start with keyword research, and use those keywords to brainstorm and tailor all of your posts.
How to decide what to rank for
While conducting your research, you’ll likely notice that some keywords have higher search volumes that others with your competition. This makes them more difficult for any new publication to rank for right away. Look for long-tailed, niche, keywords with low competition to start. You may not see high search volume right away, but the more niche your keywords are, the better qualified your visitors will be.
Optimize your blog posts for SEO
Once you’ve selected keywords, it’s time to optimize each blog post for SEO. Make sure each post is optimized with a meta description, page title, keywords, URLs, etc. for the keywords you’re aiming to rank for.
Tactics for promoting your blog
Once you’ve launched your blog, promote the launch and blog posts on social media. Make sure to leverage your existing audience to generate traffic to your new blog. Don’t forget to incorporate images, videos, and compelling copy in your posts!
Looking to reach more people not already interacting with your brand? Try using paid campaigns on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote your new blog!
The launch of your blog is a superb time to write a press release and announce the launch to the public. The more backlinks you get to your blog on launch day, the better for your SEO mojo and the more traffic you’ll rake in.
Week 10: Write your first posts
With just a week or so before launch, it’s finally time to start writing your first posts and building a bank of content to publish during the first few weeks that your blog is live. If you focus your energy on writing in advance, you’ll give yourself more time to get ahead of schedule and deal with other items that may come up when launch day arrives.
Remember back in week 2 when you generated a list of evergreen content ideas? Well, this is a great starting point. Choose a few of your top ideas and just start writing! You can always continue to think of new ideas or timely posts down the road.
Once you’ve selected a few initial topics, keep these blog writing tips in mind:
Make it skimmable
Images, bullets, lists and short paragraphs make your blog posts easier to read and easy to skim. Your goal is to encourage your audience to keep reading, not scare them away with large chunks of text!
Plan a promotional strategy for your first post
Once you’ve written your posts, how do you plan to promote your blog launch? Go back to last week’s tips on SEO and social promotion, and create a promotional checklist for launch day. Consider writing an announcement blog post to tell your visitors about your blog and why they should consider following it. Plan out your promo strategy across social channels, email, and paid promotions.
Images are worth a million words
Did you know that color images make readers 80% more likely to keep reading a post? Use images, graphics, or even videos to make your blog posts more appealing to readers. Start with stock photos, or use Canva to make custom graphics.
Link to other resources
Best not forget to use hyperlinks in your posts to connect readers to other resources.
This is an important practice for 2 reasons:
- People want to know where information and facts are coming from, so due diligence and proper citations are critical.
- You can use your blog posts to link to other resources and content from your brand, which also helps keep people on your website.
The goal of blogging is to disseminate information, so make sure to use links that provide additional helpful content to your readers.
Measuring the success of your launch: metrics to analyze
You’ve written your first few blog posts, everything has been planned out, and you’ve spent the past 10 weeks setting your blog up for success. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll measure that success.
In the world of blogging, it’s important to set up and analyze key metrics over a given period of time. First, identify your team’s goals for your blog. What are you trying to accomplish? Likely, the goals will involve gaining subscribers, leads, and then customers by bringing blog visitors through your buyer’s journey to your product and/or service. Once you’ve answered these question, set attainable goals based on the following metrics:
The keay way to measure how much traffic your blog gains is tracking the number of page views each post generates. In other words, how many visitors are coming to and reading your posts?
Click-through rate (CTR)
A key component of building SEO mojo is the click-through rate that each of your posts generates. Are people coming to your blog, then clicking on hyperlinks within the post? The more visitors click through and stay on your site, the better it is for the overall authority of your blog.
Sources of traffic
An important measurement to consider is where your traffic is coming from. Are your promotional efforts paying off? What are the big levers that drive most of your traffic to your blog? Whether it be your social promotion, emails, or paid campaigns, make sure you’re tracking which channels drive the most traffic. This sort of information will help you tailor your content strategy over time.
Leads and customers gained from your blog over time
It’s totally up to you to decide how to track this number. Some companies track leads from their blog on a monthly basis, while others do so each quarter.
So, how do you track this data? Most content management systems enable you to easily track these metrics so that you know how to analyze them within your CMS before launch.
Now that you know what and how to track the right metrics, it’s time to set post-launch goals for your team, both short- and long-term.
HOld a planning meeting with your team to set goals for page views and click-through rates within the first month, six months, and year after launch. If you set realistic goals and hold your team accountable accordingly, you’ll set yourself up for success at the outset of your blogging endeavors.