Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Want to Start a Blog? 6 Basic Steps

Setting up a blog can be a fairly simple process, depending on your level of tech-savvy.  For starters, it is a good idea to review your favorite blogs or keep a list of features you like on the blogs you frequent.  Equally important is to determine WHY you want to start a blog.  For small business owners, blogging can be an excellent tool to establish yourself as an industry expert, reach out to new and existing customers, drive people to your website and showcase your products.

Part of blogging is not only writing, but reading and researching the topic you are writing about, and hopefully passionate about.  I try to learn as much as I can about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), blogging tips and best practices.  Blogging and websites are a changing landscape.  Once you think you have it figured out, the equation changes. 

What is a blog?  The version of Web Log has evolved into Blog.  It used to be like having an online journal or written thoughts/comments/advice, but that has evolved as well.  It can be whatever you determine - keep friends and family up to date, share pictures, sell product, save costs of developing a website, or just use it as a place to put thoughts in writing.  

I recently attended a free workshop at Tincan (great local resource!) and picked up a few new tips, in addition to reinforcing what I already use.  Ready or not, here are five steps to get you blogging.

1.  Determine your audience.

Who is your target audience?  What is the purpose of the blog - drive customers to the website?  Education?  Sales?

What are your key message points?  How does a blog integrate with your overall marketing strategy?

Developing a strategy of why you want to blog will help you plan your resources to optimize your time and money.  Who will be responsible for writing content and updating regularly?

2.  Choose a platform, name and template.

In this case, platform is not referring to shoes, but the type of blogging program you intend to use.  I have been blogging for over six years and have used both WordPress and Blogger.  They are both free and each has some nice features and are equally user friendly.  Personally, I would give a slight advantage to Blogger regarding uploading pictures and copying and pasting content and links.

In choosing your platform, consider your choice of name and check availability on each.  If you are setting up a new website or domain, it's a good idea to Another thing to consider is what you want your site to look like (#4) and scope out templates in advance.

3.  Create content.

This goes back to who your audience is, what the purpose of the blog is and what your key messages are.  I recommend using an editorial calendar to track your 'time budget' and message points.  For example, if you are going to post one article a week, I would suggest lining out a year. You do not have to have exact ideas, but it will help in guiding your writing.  The whole point is to establish yourself as THE expert in your field.  You want to provide content that provides value, not just advertise your latest special.

For example, you are a massage therapist.  Your key message points (your brand) are  1) Improving overall personal health 2) Relaxation and 3) Insurance Approved. You can incorporate articles about those three topics in your blog posts.

4.  Go live!

Before your blog is 'live', it is a good idea to populate it with more than just one 'welcome to my blog' post.  Your blogging platform should give you the capability to keep things in draft format and then you can save some 'in the can' so they are ready to go when you have a few written.

5.  Keep it fresh, relevant and informative.

Blogs can help drive traffic to your website.  Keep your blogs relevant, informative and post regularly. Some web visitors will evaluate your website (i.e., business) on how current your blog is.  If you visit a "Company Blog" page and see that there are three posts from 2011, it can give the unfavorable impression that the company is not staying with the times.  Blogging is a great way to let your customers know about industry trends, upcoming special events and of course, your products and services.  

Three blog content tips:

  1. Include pictures.  See the picture on reading patterns, people skim!
  2. Use small paragraphs, two to three sentences.
  3. SEO likes bulleted and numbered lists.  

6.  Most important tip to successful blogging:

You have to stick with it.  A blog or website is a work in progress - it is never done.  See my post for more tips to use your blog to drive traffic to your website.