Have you ever been frozen in front of your blank screen, not knowing what to write?
You could have a well of ideas that’s bone dry, or have so many of them flood your mind that stopping to pick one is all but impossible.
Setting up a blog content planner right at the beginning of your blogging journey will stop this overwhelm dead in its tracks.
Once you understand how to plan a blog, you will have the tools you need to crank out quality content for twelve months or more without stopping for breath.
For a Successful Blog, Plan Your Blogging Time
You want a consistent schedule you know you can keep (even when life throws lemons at you.) You also need to know your goals before you start writing your first word.
Let’s go through both of these aspects in detail.
Create a (realistic) blogging schedule.
You might be gung ho when you start and are ready to crank out five blog posts a week.
Don’t do that.
Posting content too fast will cause the quality of your content to suffer. You still need to research your topics, which can sometimes take days or even weeks, depending on the subject. Take your time to get your posts right.
A good rule of thumb is:
Publish content once a week, on the same day.
Posting on a specific day will let your readers know when to look forward to seeing your content, like how people expect to watch a good TV drama at the same time every week.
You can post once every two weeks if you add other types of content in the mix, such as social media posts or videos.
If you feel that you can raise that number after 3-4 months, after you’re used to the blogging process, do it.
Know your objective.
What do you want to do with your blog right now, based on where you are in your blogging journey?
The most common blogging goals are:
- Drive traffic to your content
- Build your brand
- Drive traffic to your physical or digital store
- Make more affiliate sales
- Get more email subscribers
Let’s go through each of these goals one by one, and how to get started with each one.
Drive traffic to your content
Traffic is the lifeblood of any online business. If no one shows up at your site, you don’t get links, traffic, or sales.
There are multiple ways to get (or boost) traffic to your blog, like:
- Advertising on Facebook or Google (pricey; don’t do this)
- Ranking on the search engines (this takes a while)
- Sharing your content on social media
- Repurposing your content to share on other platforms (like YouTube or Quora)
Be mindful of what kinds of content you’re writing; different types of content thrive on different platforms.
List posts tend to get more shares and comments on social media as they are social-oriented content.
The one exception to this rule would be a top ten list post for higher-ticket items that someone wants to buy, like phones or laptops. This specific type of list post also does well on search engines as people are researching a product they want to buy.
“How-to” guides tend to get more search traffic since people are actively searching for how to solve a problem. The more people you can help, and the more questions you can answer with your content, the more you’ll be seen as an authority in your niche.
Build Your Brand
Building brand recognition is the definition of a long-game strategy and doesn’t just involve your blog. Here are some tips to build your brand.
Put yourself out there for reasons that don’t always include making a direct sale with a customer. Some examples are:
- Post on social media about topics unrelated to your products or services
- Interact with your audience, especially those that comment on your posts
- Share or retweet content you like
Getting in front of your audience (and other influencers) early and often is a great way to boost your brand recognition.
Be a phenomenal storyteller
Stories humanize your brand and give it depth
Weaving authentic stories into your posts and other marketing efforts will inherently promote your brand alongside your products or services.
Create a narrative that emotionally gets people behind your brand.
Discuss trending topics.
Stay up to date on trends going on that affect your niche.
For example, at the time of writing this post, the entire world is on lockdown and stuck at home. Write content in your niche that addresses this situation.
If you are building a fitness blog, talk about full-body exercises they can do at home without the need for expensive equipment. Share healthy recipes people can make on a budget.
If you’re an introvert, it can be scary to put yourself out there. However, you can only succeed if you put yourself in front of as many people as possible. If you want your blog to stand the test of time, you must work to build your brand.
Drive traffic to your physical or digital store
Especially with what’s going on right now, e-commerce is exploding. About half the population preferred shopping online already, which is excellent news for online retailers.
However, you need to find a way to stand out from all the choices already available to consumers.
Here are some ways you can implement right now to get more traffic through your online store without blowing a hole in your budget:
- Create demo videos
- Optimize for your site for SEO
- Start a referral/affiliate program
- Create a loyalty program for repeat buyers
- Send promotional and abandoned cart emails
Use a few of these low-cost methods to spike traffic to your e-commerce store.
Make more affiliate sales
After your first three months of working on your blog, you may want to put two or three monetization strategies in place.
In this case, you can write more affiliate posts. You could write tutorial posts promoting individual companies and products for whom you are an affiliate.
For example: If you run a blog for digital nomads, you can publish posts on topics such as:
- How to find the best deals for international flights (and feature Skyscanner, which has an affiliate program)
- The best gear to bring for long term travel (clothes, tech, backpack, phone apps)
- Hotel reviews
You can also write how-to posts that soft-sell your affiliate products toward the end. If you give value upfront, people will be more receptive to purchasing your product if it helps solve their problem faster than they could have without it.
Get more email subscribers
When starting your blog, building an email list needs to be priority number one.
According to Oberlo, for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42.
Even in the age of aggressive spam filters and overflowing inboxes, email marketing will easily be your most significant source of revenue.
Here are some ways to build an email list full of subscribers that hang on your every word:
Craft a Compelling Offer
Most people guard access to their primary email address like their lives depend on it, and they will not give you access for free.
You need to have a compelling offer that they want, not necessarily something they need.
For example, if you’re a nutritionist, you know that fad diets aren’t the best ways to KEEP fat off, but they’re quick ways to quickly shed those pounds.
You can send them a simple “fad diet” meal plan that’s easy to follow and will shed those pounds quickly.
At the end of that short document or in a follow-up email, you can lead them to what you know they will need later.
If your free document delivers on the results you promised, it becomes much easier to turn your subscribers into buyers.
The moral of the story: People want a quick win.
If you can promise them that quick win they’re looking for, they’ll sign up.
If you can deliver on that promise, you have a loyal subscriber for life.
Place opt-in forms at strategic locations.
The more opt-in forms you can place in your site, the more chances you’ll have to convert your visitors into subscribers.
Prime opt-in form locations include:
- Below your single posts
- At your site footer
- On your “About Me” page
- Within your content
Have enough opt-in forms to get signups, but don’t go overboard. Include no more than three opt-in forms on any one page. Any more will look desperate and spammy.
Simplify the process of giving their email to you as much as possible.
If you only have people enter their email address, you will boost the number of signups you get.
Usually, simple = good.
However, you may want to ask for their first name for a couple of reasons:
- Having their first name will let you auto-personalize your emails (this spikes email open rates by a whopping 50%.)
- People willing to jump through a couple of extra hoops to sign up will be more receptive to your messages.
Remove the first name field to get more subscribers.
Add the first name field to get higher-quality subscribers.
Set your email service to require a “double opt-in.”
I know this tip flies in the face of the previous point of keeping the process simple, but you also want to maintain the quality of your list.
People will give fake email addresses to get your offer and disappear, which leaves you with a nonexistent “subscriber” that doesn’t open your emails. Having thousands of fake subscribers will kill your email deliverability rate.
If enough subscribers don’t open your emails, your email service will reduce the number of people that receive them because they will think you’re sending spam to your list.
Double opt-ins stop this scenario before it has a chance of becoming an issue.
Have your welcome email include a link to the offer for which they just signed up. If the subscriber doesn’t click on the link, they stay off your list and can’t hurt your deliverability in the long run.
Your biggest fans will reside in your email list. They are more than dollar signs; they’re real people, with real problems, looking for practical solutions from someone they trust. Keep that trust, and your business will always be in good shape.
Keep an eye on the needs of your blog and adjust your plan whenever the need arises.
Don’t do everything on this list right from the start. Focus on 2-3 objectives at a time.
Some objectives will depend on your meeting others. You can’t build your brand and authority if you can’t get traffic to your content (whether it be on your site, social media, or another website.)
Once you understand what your objectives are for the next 3 or 4 months, you can also plan out what kind of posts you’ll write to help you reach those objectives.
Now we understand our goals and have set up our initial blogging schedule. Now we dive into understanding our audience.
Research to Reach Your Audience
You want to understand a few things about your audience:
- Who are they?
- What problems do they have?
- How are they searching for solutions to their problems?
Let’s dive in and figure out who your audience is and how to reach them.
Understand your target audience and what problems they want you to solve.
You can create a blogging schedule and do all the things that meet your objectives on paper, but if you promote to the wrong crowd, you will make no sales.
You need to know your audience inside and out. Follow the steps below to help you figure out how to give your audience what they want, how they want it.
How to research your target audience
The more you define your target audience, the more effective your message will be to that audience.
Some questions to figure out your audience are:
- What demographics make up your ideal customers?
- What are their goals and pain points?
- How can your products or services alleviate that pain?
- How would someone search for a product or service in your niche? What search terms would they use to find your products or services?
- Whom is an authority people listen to concerning your niche?
Figuring out your target audience from the start will help you develop better marketing strategies right out of the gate.
As time goes on and you grow your blog with the answers to these questions in mind, use Google Analytics and other metrics tools to figure out which posts are the most popular and most commented. This data will give you a clue as to what your audience prefers to read.
You can also survey your audience to see what issues they have that are unanswered from reading and applying what they read in your content.
When you know your audience, creating and promoting products to them becomes much more straightforward. You’re selling products your audience already wants because they told you what they want.
Find Keywords to Build Your Content Around
Once you’ve figured out your target audience, take a look at the keywords your audience will use to find your site.
Pick a few main keywords you want to be synonymous with your blog.
You want your blog to be one of the best in your niche, so you need to make every post you write related to your keywords.
However, you also need to find keywords where the competition won’t eat you alive. If you’re starting a brand new site, you need to go after the fruit that is as low-hanging as possible.
Here’s how to find low-competition keywords:
Go to UberSuggest. Type in your primary topic as the keyword in the search box and click “Search.”
On the left-hand side, click on “Keyword Ideas” to pull up related keywords.
Click on “Filters”
Go to “SEO Difficulty.” SEO Difficulty suggests how much work needs to go into ranking for a keyword. Enter a maximum of 30 and click “Apply.”
Click on a keyword that interests you, then look to the right-hand side of the page for pages that rank for that keyword term. The numbers you want to look at for each page are “Links” (the number of sites linking to a page) and “DS” (Domain Score, or the authority of a page ranked from 0-100)
On the entire list of the top 10 ranking sites, look for a domain score of 30 or less.
If none of the sites on the list are this low, move on to the next keyword.
If you find a keyword below that DR 30 threshold, look at how many links it has. The fewer links the site has, the better. Ideally, you want to see link numbers in the single digits.
If the site in question has a somewhat high link number (meaning higher than single digits, no more than 20), click on the link number to see which (and how many) domains are linking to that page. If there aren’t many domains linking to that page (again, think single digits) you just found your target keyword.
Enter that keyword in your list and repeat until you have at least ten keywords.
Make a list of at least ten long-tail keywords that you’ll be using for the next three months.
Stay focused on your primary topic.
The more high-quality posts you write about your niche, the more attention you get from Google. If you’re aiming to rank for a specific niche, don’t write about anything else.
A blog that has 100 posts on food will always outrank a blog that has ten posts on food, ten posts on fashion, and ten posts on travel. The first blog has a focus on one specific topic, so Google knows which topics your blog covers.
With that said, writing about one topic alone is exhausting. However, if you dive deep enough, you’ll find many subtopics within your one central theme. Look for all the subtopics you can find to mix up your content, but also focus your content under the umbrella of one main topic.
Writing continuously about one topic will gain you a lot of blog traffic for two main reasons:
- You’ll look like an expert in your niche, which results in more followers and better brand awareness.
- Search engines will understand you are blogging about that one topic; therefore, you are knowledgeable in that one topic. Google likes this and will rank your posts as a result.
Now that you understand who your audience is and how to find the best keywords to write your content around, it’s time to build out your content creation plan.
Flesh Out Your Content Creation Plan
We are now on the final leg of building out your blog content planner.
In this section, we’ll be gathering ideas for blog posts so you’ll never have to stare at a blank screen again.
Next, we’ll build out a content writing and distribution calendar so you can have a visual checklist of actions to take each day.
List your blog post ideas.
Now you have defined your target audience, researched your niche, and completed your keyword research. Now is the time to come up with your blog post ideas.
Join some Facebook groups for bloggers.
Look for trending topics in these groups.
Are people in these groups talking about similar things? Are they having the same problems pop up over and over again?
Take notes of the most common issues and create content that helps people solve these issues.
Look at your competition.
Look at blog posts on their sites that note the ones that get the most social interaction (like shares, comments.)
Look at why these particular blogs do well and study the same topic. Implement what you learned from their blog posts and integrate what they did into your content.
Reuse and recycle already published content.
Update one old post per month to keep your already published content fresh.
As a bonus, you save a ton of time you would otherwise need to research and write out brand new content.
Be sure to make the changes small. If you go overboard and you’re ranking on Google, you could fall off that ranking as Google now sees your content is now completely different from the post that initially earned its seal of approval.
Repurpose your content.
You can change your written content to fit on other platforms to reach more people.
Some examples are:
- Shoot a video based on your articles and post that video on YouTube.
- Take some of your content and use it to answer a question on Quora.
- Use testimonials to write a case study post.
You can also go in the other direction. For example, you can repurpose a YouTube video and make it a blog post.
Create a Blog Content Calendar
You can use specialized tools such as Trello or WordPress Calendar. If you don’t want to pay for a calendar tool, use the humble Google Calendar, and write a content calendar from scratch.
Use your content calendar to schedule each aspect of your blogging schedule, such as:
- Blog post series or other projects
Regardless of the tool you use, place your schedule somewhere you can see. Keep yourself accountable and stick with it.
Streamline Your Process
If time is your enemy, batch similar tasks together.
- Come up with titles for the next four blog posts in one day
- Create post outlines the next day
- Create 5-10 different social media images on another day
Arrange tasks to create a schedule that works for you.
If you find that Tuesdays are the best days for you to publish, push your publishing day to Tuesday. If sending newsletters work best for you on Fridays, send them on Fridays.
Adjust as you go to ensure you can comfortably get things done within the time you allot to these tasks. Figure out what works best for you and your life.
Start Writing Quality Content.
Now that you’ve put your content plan together, it’s time to get writing.
A good blog post should have:
- A compelling headline
- An attention-grabbing introduction
- Structured and properly formatted subheaders throughout the post
- Engaging visuals to break up the text and keep your post easy on the eyes
- A compelling call to action
Don’t worry about writing perfect blog posts initially; as you keep writing, you’ll eventually find your style.
Once you start posting a lot, mix up your content types every once in a while to keep your content fresh. If you have a lot of “how-to” posts, be sure to include some of the other post types into the mix.
Some examples to get you started are:
- List posts
- Case studies
- Personal and light-hearted posts
- An interview of someone in your niche
Take This Blog Planning Guide and Build Out Your Next Successful Blog.
Never again will you be forced to stare at a blank screen, desperately scrambling for ideas in your mind.
Now you have a blueprint that you can follow today to ensure your blog’s best chances of success.
Now you have a way forward to share your passion, your knowledge, your voice with people from all over the globe who want to hear from you.
Follow these steps, build out your calendar, and write captivating content for your audience to read and share with the world.