Has 2020 left you at your wits end?
If you answered yes, you are on the same boat with people around the world. Well, that doesn’t stop you from creating a better tomorrow. Be it blogging or learning a new language, there has never been a better time to learn and do things that you wished but never had the time.
Go through this blogging guide created for 2021. It covers everything starting from the fundamentals to advanced tips – all that you need to successfully create a blog and master the art of blogging in 2021.
Blog, Blogging, and The Blogger
So, before getting to everything else, let’s take a minute to understand what constitutes a blog, what is blogging, and who is a blogger.
Blogging started as early as 1994. Back then, a blog was more like a personal diary where people could share their thoughts, emotions and feelings. It has evolved over time and the word ‘blog’ came into existence in 1997. Blogs became mainstream in the 2000s and since then, they have been a vehicle of expression for businesses and individuals.
Interesting Facts About Blogging
A blog is an informational website that contains niche-specific information relevant and useful to the readers. Today, businesses use blogs to rank on search engine results while keeping the audience updated on the latest trends. Whether you want to establish authority, increase engagement, or make money, blogging can help you to achieve it all. The next section is all about what you need to get started.
Getting Started with Blogging: The Technical Aspects to Tackle
Starting your blog can be overwhelming if it is your first time. Before you begin unleashing the ideas, you need to find a topic that you are genuinely passionate about or is your area of expertise. Once you know the broad scope of your blog, it’s time to get started with the technical aspects of blogging. Here a few things that you need to take care of before writing the first blog.
Phase One: Setting Up Your Blog
A domain functions as the permanent address of your blog on the internet. Having a relevant and brandable domain name is crucial for blogging success. Despite the rise of popular domain extensions, experts recommend that it’s best to go for a .com domain name. The tricky part of choosing a domain name is that only one domain can be owned by a person at a time. So, how do you get started?
The easiest way to find domain name availability is to search it on Google Domains. If your preferred domain name is available, you will get to see the cost along with other details, as given in the image below.
If the domain is already registered, Google domains will show you the list of available domain extensions.
You can also use Lean Domain Search to find available domain names based on topics of your choice.
The next thing you need is web hosting which is crucial for running your blog. It is more like purchasing a space to run your website. Hosting is like what an engine is to a car. There are several web hosting providers such as Microsoft Azure, GoDaddy, DigitalPacific and NetRegistry where you can buy hosting services at affordable prices.
While purchasing hosting service, consider aspects such as:
– Customer support availability
– Pre-installed WordPress
– Ensures fast-loading website
Once you purchase the domain name, hosting service, and build your website, it’s time to check the site speed.
Site speed is the amount of time that a website takes to load and enable user interaction.
There are plenty of online tools available like GTMetrix that provide insights into the site speed details.
- HTTP Requests Minimisation: The loading time of your blog depends on the time taken to download different images, scripts, and stylesheets used on your site. Each of these elements makes an HTTP request for the page to render. This means that the loading time depends on the number of on-page components. You can find the number of requests from the Google Chrome Developer tools. Reducing unnecessary requests helps you to save time and therefore reduce site loading time.
- Minifying Files: MInifying and combining files is an excellent way to minimise the number of HTTP requests. You might be using a website builder to build your blog, but this may create a messy code. In such cases, minifying files can do wonders. Minifying includes removal of unnecessary code, whitespace, and formatting. If you have used WordPress to build your blog, use WP Rocket to minify and combine files.
Even if you are not making financial transactions on your blog, you must keep it secure. The first step is to buy and install a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate.
Popularly known as TLS (Transport Layer Security), SSL enables your website to have HTTPS. Not only does it verify server identity but also encrypts internet traffic. Having an SSL certificate means that any device trying to communicate with the server will have to obtain the public key to access the data.
In addition to the SSL certificate, you can also use anti-malware software and uncrackable passwords to keep your blog safe.
A theme determines the overall look and feel of your blog. This is mostly applicable if you are using WordPress as a platform to build the blog. WordPress has both free and premium themes that allow you to design and customise the blog and its features.
The best place to find a theme is the official WordPress theme directory which contains 7,900+ themes. If you are on a tight budget, you can get started with one of the free themes.
The official WordPress site comes with more than 58,000 plugins. Plugins add numerous functionalities ranging from improving SEO to creating a contact form and landing page to pretty much anything to help improve the look, feel and features of the blog.
So, what kind of plugins should you use?
Most of the blogs use at least one or more plugins for backup, page building, security, social media sharing, SEO, analytics, advertising management, and performance.
By now, you have the basic version of your blog ready. The next step is to set up a Google Webmaster Tools account.
All you have to do is to visit the Google Search Console and verify the ownership of your domain. At this point, you must submit a sitemap which tells Google along with other search engines more about the way your blog content is organised.
You can also use a website like xml-sitemap.com to generate the sitemap of the blog.
Your sitemap is a file where you tell Google and other search engines how you have organised the content of your website. Although search engines can generally examine your site without this file, they can do so more intelligently with the sitemap in place. If you want people to find your site via searches, a good idea is to help Google do its job.
Setting up Google Analytics is the next step.
Created by Google, this free web analytics tool helps you to measure traffic and ROI. Whether you want to find more about the audience or measure the bounce rate, there is no better tool than Google Analytics.
To create an account, you need to visit the Google Analytics site and set up your property by filling the property such as domain details.
Phase Two: Content Planning and Research
The first phase of creating a blog is about setting up the blog functionalities and the website.
Once you complete the first step, you need to research and plan your content accordingly. If you are planning to monetise your blog later, this step is crucial. In this section, you will get to know more about choosing a niche, researching keywords, and figuring out different types of content.
Content planning helps you to understand the broad area of topic that your audience is interested in knowing. It allows you to come up with topics that cater to the interest of your readers and create a content calendar.
You might have already thought of a broad topic for your blog. But are there enough people interested in the same topic? If not, there won’t be enough people who will want to read your blog. Also, are you writing on a topic that you are knowledgeable about or have expertise? If that’s not the case, you will lack enough interest to write a blog six months down the line. Consider these questions while choosing a niche.
Here are a few tips that can help in finding your niche.
1) Find Your Passion: What do you enjoy writing? It can be real estate, marketing, or pretty much anything that you can’t stop talking about or know to write consistently. While setting up a blog is fun, you should take time to find where your real passion lies. Want to do a quick exercise? Select three broad niches and come up with ten blog topics for each of them. The one you have the most blog post ideas on is the one you should go ahead. If you know what you want to talk about, you will never run out of ideas to write blogs.
2) Market Research: Once you have chosen a niche, now it’s time to validate whether or not it is worth creating a blog on the topic. For example, let’s say you want to create a blog on ‘cycling’.
Go to Google Trends and enter the topic of your choice which is cycling in this case. You will get to see a graph which tells you whether the interest in this topic has been stable or not. It’s best to avoid topics that have a declining interest because the blog won’t have enough audience and traffic. To start a blog, find a topic with the audience interest continuing to rise.
3) Gauge Competition: It is crucial to gauge the competition and the kind of competitors who surround you. The best way to do this is to do a simple search on Google. You’ll probably find a bunch of commercial and informational sites that have been on the internet for a long time. Come down to the bottom of the search page, and you will see a few terms related to your topic.
Now head to AdWords Keyword Planner where you can simply enter the phrase of your choice and see the search volume along with the competition.
Once you have this list, you need to spend time finding the phrases that have low competition and high search volumes. And, you can also target these phrases as keywords.
Once you have decided your niche, it’s time to do keyword research. This helps you to understand whether people are interested in the topic you have chosen and the number of potential audiences you can reach through your blog. Tools such as Ahrefs and even Google Ads Keyword Planner can help you mine this data.
We used the free keyword tool by WordStream to find the search volume. This tool is free, and you get to have several keywords that are worth including in a blog post. You should ideally repeat this process while searching for blog topic ideas.
A tool like People Also Ask enables you to understand the questions that people ask online on your topic. This helps you to know if enough people are willing to find information on the niche of your choice.
It may seem repetitive, but the success of a blog depends on whether you have enough audience who are interested in the topic of choice or not. The best way to find if people are passionate about the topic or not is by looking into:
– Facebook groups
– Communities with similar interests
– Forums where people share valuable information
– LinkedIn groups
The final step of content planning and research is to determine the brand voice and the type of contents you want to write for your blog. Both of these elements are so crucial that they can either make or break your blog.
Brand voice conveys your value proposition and is essential for building trust among your audience. Creating an authentic brand voice requires communicating a set of values through your blog. What matters is whether your blogs are consistent, memorable, and permanent. You also need to explore what kind of content format your audience prefers consuming. It could range from infographics, checklist downloads, blogs to videos. The tone of writing should be consistent throughout the content format. Offer value so that people are willing to read your blog.
Phase Three: Content Optimisation to Reach the Target Audience
You can’t expect your first blog to be read by thousands of people. It doesn’t happen overnight because people are not aware of your blog. That’s where content optimisation comes into the picture. Content optimisation enables you to write in a specific manner so that it has the potential to reach a broad audience. Blog optimisation ensures that your content has keywords, meta tags, title tags, and relevant links. In this section, you’ll get to know more about what you can do to optimise your blog posts.
- Title Tag, URL, and Meta Description
A title tag is one of the most crucial elements of content optimisation techniques. It tells the search engine more about the contents of the page.
Effective title tags should be descriptive and tell the audience more about what they can expect to know about from the page. Adding keywords to your title tag makes it easier for your blog pages to rank. Ideally, this shouldn’t exceed 60 characters.
URL or Uniform Resource Locator is a unique address for every resource on the web. It provides the search engine with information related to what’s inside the content. There are usually five parts in a URL including scheme (https://), subdomain (blog.xyz.com), second-level domain (blog.xyz.com), top-level domain (blog.xyz.com), and the subdirectory (blog.xyz.com/marketing).
A meta description provides the reader with more information about the blog. It appears on the search page results. It’s best to include applicable keywords in your meta description. This way, you can rank for the relevant search query.
You already know how to find the most relevant keywords for your blog. Now the question is, how do you incorporate them in your blog?
The first step is to target a single search intent and find relevant keywords around it. Once you have a few keywords, segregate them into primary and secondary keywords. Primary keywords are the ones with higher search volume and less competition. It’s best to focus on one primary keyword which you must include in the title and the first paragraph. You can try to have the secondary keywords in the body or subtitles, wherever applicable.
Images break the monotony of text and play a key role in SEO at the same time. That’s why SEO experts consider image optimisation as one of the most crucial elements of on-page SEO.
Here are a few things that you can follow to benefit from image optimisation:
– Image name contains an actual word instead of a random number
– Upload scaled images that are compressed and don’t take much space
– Use alt text to describe what the image is all about
– Add structured image data and increase chances of appearing on search results
– Try to serve images via a CDN such as Imageki or Sirv
Email is one of the most potent ways when it comes to reaching your audience. For example, one of the readers loved reading your blog and may want to get notified when the next blog comes out. And, there’s no better way than email marketing to do this.
Building an email list means building a follower base who are interested in staying updated about your next blog.
Here are some practical tips to build an email list from scratch:
– Include a personalised CTA for each blog post
– Create a relevant and contextual pop-up for each blog
– Promote your email newsletter across social media channels
– Create value-add content and promote it on different communities
– Create discounts and promotions exclusively for those who subscribe to your newsletter
Including social media sharing in your content strategy is essential because of the strong correlation between SEO and social media. Sharing your blogs on social media helps you to effectively distribute content across channels and improve the visibility of your blog at the same time. Some of the popular social media channels that you should be sharing your content on include Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, Quora, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Instagram, and so on.
Some of the best practices of social media marketing for SEO include:
– Create share-worthy blog posts
– Make it easier for your readers to share your blogs
– Optimise images for social media
– Create compelling captions for your social media posts
– Continue to create conversations on social media channels
If you are looking for inspiration, HubSpot’s social media covers a range of engaging content, including videos, text, illustrations and links to blog posts.
Phase Four: Blog Promotion
After starting with on-page SEO and content optimisation, the next step is to distribute the blog posts. Your readers won’t find the blog unless you promote it across social media channels, communities, and spaces.
Here are the tried and tested blog promotion strategies:
– Write a guest post for a relevant publication to build authority and drive traffic to your blog
– Experiment and find out the best time to publish a blog post
– Repurpose content for posting on social media channels such as Medium, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and the platforms where your audience is active online
– Share the blog post in the form of a newsletter for your email subscribers
– Run paid ads and retargeting ads
In this section, you’ll get to see how you can run different campaigns, including email marketing, social media marketing, content curation, and content repurposing as well to promote your blog content.
By now, you have subscribers who signed up for your newsletter. Now it’s time to create email marketing campaigns to keep them updated with new blogs, announcements and promotions. There are plenty of free email marketing tools available online that you can use to promote your blog during the initial phase.
Here are the different types of emails that you can send to your readers:
1) Welcome Email: Welcome emails usually have an open rate of 91.4%. That said, welcome emails are an excellent way to introduce yourself and tell the readers what you do. It paves the path to build a relationship and extend a warm welcome at the same time.
2) Trigger Email: Trigger emails are automatically sent when your readers perform a specific task. For example, you can create a unique email sequence for readers who haven’t opened your newsletter in the last 60 days.
3) Promotional Email: If you are planning to sell merchandise, you can improve sales by creating a promotional email sequence with a strong CTA.
4) Newsletters: Newsletters are emails that you can send to your readers at a regular interval. It helps to show that you are actively coming up with new posts that your audience might be interested in reading.
You can also promote your latest blog through your email signature, just like the image above.
Social media marketing is an absolute necessity when it comes to promoting your blogs. Popular social media networks enable you to engage with people and create conversations around your posts. Social media marketing works well when you don’t only post a blog but also like and share others’ posts.
Content curation and content repurposing are two critical pillars of blog promotion.
While content curation allows you to curate content into collections and lists, content repurposing focuses on converting your blog into another content format.
Content repurposing helps you to increase the shelf life of your content. Some of the popular ways of repurposing content include:
– SlideShare presentation
– Email Series
– Free Course
Phase Five: Relationship Marketing - Don’t Do Everything on Your Own
Running a blog is not an easy job. If you are doing everything from writing a blog to promoting it to setting up emails – there is already a lot on your plate. And, that’s where relationship marketing helps you to connect with people who can promote your blog. Building relationships lies at the heart of content marketing which ultimately makes it easier to reach a wider relevant audience.
Relationship marketing isn’t difficult when you adopt the right strategy. Interviewing influencers or asking them for comment is an excellent way for your blog to be unique and deliver value at the same time. If these bloggers shared the published article with their followers, you would be reaching new followers who might become your subscribers and potential customers.
Guest blogging brings in an excellent opportunity for you to appear in front of readers interested in a similar niche. It is a perfect opportunity to be perceived as a thought leader.
Search ‘write for us’ + your niche to find relevant sites that accept guest posts.
The first step is to identify the publications in your industry which accept guest posts and have a considerable amount of traffic. Don’t forget to include a link to your landing page in the author bio and link to relevant blog posts in the guest post article. If the article delivers value to the readers, they will certainly check out your website.
Promoting blog content becomes easier with blogger outreach. It is different from influencer marketing. You are simply not asking influencers about promoting your product. Instead you build relationships with influencers with the purpose of a backlink or content partnership.
Paid Marketing for Boosting Visibility and Blog Traffic
So far, you have read a great deal of techniques that help you to promote your website organically. But, adopting a paid promotion strategy can be equally rewarding. Here are some of the top paid marketing strategies that are worth trying.
Before you promote your content on social media channels, you need to find out the networks your readers usually refer to. Be it Facebook or Instagram – the next step is to find out the cost and the format of the advertisement.
For example, a B2B business will see a more significant ROI from LinkedIn marketing ads than Instagram sponsored posts. So, you need to be careful in choosing the platform that works the best for you.
Search advertising works on a PPC (pay per click) model meaning you will have to pay every time someone clicks on your ad.
PPC marketing ad campaigns usually appear towards the beginning or end of the search results page.
If you are sure that your blog delivers value to the readers, you can think of running PPC ad campaigns.
This content promotion technique enables you to publish content across sites. They appear in such a manner that it seems that they are originally from the publisher itself. Articles promoted through these platforms may come under categories like ‘recommended for you’ or ‘you may like’.
Phase Six: Measuring the Impact
After implementing organic and paid promotion strategies, it is crucial to measure impact. Unless you measure the impact, you won’t be able to understand what worked and what didn’t. Two ways to measure the impact of a blog include:
Remember the first section where we mentioned about setting up Google Analytics? Now that will come handy. Once you are inside Google Analytics, you can track and analyse data which will help you to understand the performance of your blog.
Some of the data metrics are:
– Organic Search: People who have discovered your website by searching a phrase on search engines
– Referral Traffic: Visitors who landed on your website from a different website
– Paid Search: Details about visitors who visited your website through an ad campaign
– Social Traffic: Number of people who came to your website from a social media website like Facebook
Monitoring brand mention across social media channels helps you to know more about the reaction of your audience, paves the path for social listening and monitors your competitor’s social media. There are different tools that you can use for social media listening such as SEMrush, Awario, Brand24 and Mention.
10 Blogging Tips to Remember and Mistakes to Avoid
By now, you know the importance of blogs in driving traffic to your website, converting that traffic to leads, establishing your expertise and authority in your industry and ultimately growing your business. Organisations who prioritise blogging are 13 times more likely to see a positive ROI as compared to their counterparts.
The majority of a blog’s traffic is organic. This means people will search for something on a search engine such as Google. They will click on your blog if it matches their search query. The downside is that numerous brands are competing for your audience’s attention. To stand out, avoid the common blog post mistakes and consider the following blogging tips.
#1. Write blog posts that serve your company goal.
Mistake – Creating blogs on ideas that only interest you.
The solution is to align your blog posts with the company growth goals. Ensure that you position your content around the points the audience wants to discover.
#2. Identify what resonates with your audience and compels them to take action.
Mistake – Forgetting about your audience persona.
Understand your audience’s pain points and bridge the gap with your content. Speak about their challenges, goals, and they will be more likely to stay on your page and convert on your offer.
#3. Write like you talk.
Mistake – Writing in a stiff tone.
It is okay to be conversational in your writing. Throw out the jargon. After all, real people read your blogs and not robots.
#4. Start with a specific working title.
Mistake – Your topics are far too broad.
Clear and concise topics attract a smaller and targeted audience which are high-quality and more likely to convert leads into customers.
#5. Start with a specific post type, outline and use headers.
Mistake – Your writing is a brain-dump, lacking structure.
Structure your blog post using a template, outline and section headers (H1, H2, H3 and so on).
#6. Give your audience points to walk away with.
Mistake – Your writing is conceptual and lacks actionable steps.
People want to learn how to do a particular thing after reading the theory. When writing a blog, ask yourself how the reader can implement this idea. What steps will help them achieve success.
#7. Use data and research to back your claims.
Mistake – Your content lacks evidence.
Use data to introduce your main argument, establish proof in the form of examples and end with takeaways for the readers. Illustrate ideas with visual aid.
#8. Blog consistently using an editorial calendar.
Mistake – You don’t blog consistently.
Create an editorial calendar to schedule and publish blogs consistently.
#9. Focus on organic traffic to reap long-term benefits.
Mistake – Concentrating your analytics on immediate traffic.
Remember, the ROI of your blog is an aggregating of the organic traffic built over time. Focus on creating evergreen content assets and update them frequently.
#10. Add a CTA to every blog post. It could be as simple as subscribing to your newsletter or taking them to a page where they can make the purchase.
Mistake – You aren’t focusing on growing your subscribers.
Place CTA’s at the bottom of the blog post or even as slide-ins. You can also create a dedicated landing page for subscribers and visitors from the paid PPC and social media campaigns.
The benefits of a healthy business blog are worth the time and effort it takes to optimise your blog.
Frequently Asked Blogging Questions Answered
Some of the best places to start a blog for free of cost are Wix, WordPress, Medium, Weebly and Ghost.
A blog contains relevant and useful information that delivers value to readers. Blogs usually publish new content at a regular interval which makes them dynamic. On the contrary, websites are used to sell a service or product and are comparatively static.
Bloggers often fail because they are not able to create engaging and high-quality content consistently for their users.
Some of the most popular types of blogs in 2020 are the ones that cover travel, fitness, automobile, sports, politics and wellness.
At least 33% of blogs make money from Google AdSense, according to the 2019 study conducted by GrowthBadger.
If you have 1000 highly engaged followers, that should be sufficient for your blog to start making money.
The best topic for a blog is the combination of what you are passionate about and whether enough people are looking for information on the same topic or not.
It is wise to wait till you have at least 100 visitors every day. It might take up to 6 months for you to be able to monetise a blog.
While there are plenty of free websites that allow you to create a blog, it’s best to use WordPress for blogging.
Blogging isn’t anywhere close to dead in 2020. A large number of businesses still rely on blogs to gain visibility on SERP, boost organic traffic, and develop better customer relationships.
Grow Your Business with an Effective Blogging Strategy
An excellent way to nurture potential customers is by growing an authoritative blog in your industry. Creating regular content that solves the reader’s pain points and fulfils their curiosities enables you to build trust and advocacy. Start with an objective and unpack the individual levers that will contribute to the performance through the steps and strategies reviewed above. Blogging in 2021 requires a smarter approach, SEO knowledge and consistency.