It’s time to start planning a blog strategy!
You sit down in your comfortable office chair to get down to business. Suddenly, you’re overwhelmed with information and feel frozen on moving forward. Your mind races with questions:
Where can I find blog post ideas?
How many words should a blog post be?
Does blogging help with SEO?
What makes a blog successful?
This is enough to spook almost anyone away from creating a blogging blog calendar at all!
If the thought planning a blog strategy sends chills down your spine, here is how you can make the process a little less spooky.
Arm Yourself With Trusty, Time-Saving Tools
One of the most common things that scare companies away from blogging is that it takes a lot of time to produce quality content.
Luckily, there are several productivity tools that can help you become more efficient with blogging.
These are a few of my personal favorite tools:
To say that I’m obsessed with Google Keep is a bit of an understatement. I discovered it a couple weeks ago and I’m now using it to store all of my notes, including blog topic ideas!
If you’re the type that comes up with blog post topics while you’re on the go, install this mobile app on your smartphone. You can add it to Google Keep and integrate it into Google Docs later. This is a key app for me to help remember all of my blog ideas to keep on file, especially because I can come up with ideas at such random times.
Google Keep is great because it saves time so I’m not scrambling for ideas later. You can also use the desktop version if you prefer.
So I am a big fan of Google productivity apps, but the truth is that they are efficient (especially for being free) and keep you on track when it comes to planning a blog strategy.
When I’m ready to get all of my ideas in one place, I use Google Sheets since it’s cloud-based and accessible from anywhere. This is where I typically organize my blog content calendar and all the details that go along with it.
Image Source: Buzzsumo
An important element of competitor analysis, Buzzsumo can help you track trending content in your industry. This tool can help you unveil new blog topic ideas or angles to improve on the competition’s content.
Keyword research is another aspect of successful content planning that you can’t ignore. I’ve used numerous keyword research tools over the course of my content marketing career and I can attest that SEMRush is one of the most powerful on the market.
Yep, I’m talking a good old fashioned whiteboard like Rand Fishkin uses for Whiteboard Friday. I love visual goal setting and this is yet another area where I will write down random ideas, stats, and other information to future blog posts.
Now that you have these marketing tools in your arsenal, it’s time to put them into action and begin creating an effective blog strategy.
Choose 3 Specific Blogging Goals
Even though you have your trusty tools on hand, you won’t experience much return on investment unless you know how you want your blog to improve your business.
The good news is there are lots of benefits of blogging and therefore many goals it can help achieve. The better news is that you don’t need to expect every blog post to hit every goal, every time. It can simply move you forward on one chosen goal and it’s a win.
But what goals should you choose for your blog? That’s up to you! I recommend starting with 3 so you don’t stretch yourself too thin by trying to hit a wide range of goals.
These are a few ideas of blogging goals to help grow your business:
- Building an email list
- Ranking for new keywords
- Increasing the ranking of existing keywords
- Branding (works with newsjacking, seasonal topics, and trending content)
- Social engagement
- Lead generation
When you pick your blog topics, you’ll want to make sure you can tie at least one of these goals to your post. It’s kind of like deciding to lose 25 pounds — you have an end goal in mind and you have to put out the work (writing high-quality blog posts) to get the results you want.
No matter what goal you choose, you must be consistent with your efforts. It can take months (or even longer) to see results from your content marketing efforts.
Check out my video below to learn more about setting goals for your blog content:
Use Shortcuts for Blog Topic Research
Did you know that you don’t need to scout the entire vast world of Google to find good topics for your blog?
You can breathe a sigh of relief, now.
While you can’t expect to spend 2 minutes on blog topic research, you can certainly use some shortcuts that will make brainstorming a little bit easier.
These are several reliable sources you can turn to when you need to get blog topic ideas for your brand:
Quora is an ideal resource to use for finding blog topic ideas and related topic ideas. In my post SEO for Blog Posts: Your Walk-Through Optimization Guide, I go into detail on how you can use Quora to find blog topics for your business.
In a nutshell, you can use popular keywords for your industry and do a search on the platform. This will lead you to questions being asked by real people who are curious about your products or services. Instant blog topics right at your fingertips!
To explore further, dig into the “related posts” for similar questions.
Answer the Public
Like Quora, you’ll find a potential gold mine of blog topic ideas you can use here. While this isn’t a real Q&A forum like Quora, you can find potentially hundreds of questions on a given topic. The data presented is formatted as keywords you can use in your content, although it does not provide any information in terms of search data or competition.
Your Social Media Profiles
Sometimes blog topic ideas are right under your own nose. Take a look at what customers are saying or asking on social media. This can provide an instant opportunity for blog posts that you can share with your audience, providing extra engagement on social media. A win for everyone.
Blog Topic Generators
While I’m not a big fan of blog topic generators because the topics can come off as a bit generic, they can help in a pinch or if you’re new to blog planning. Some blog topic generators include:
- HubSpot blog topic generator
- Portent’s Content Idea Generator
- LinkBait Generator
- BuzzSumo – Provides a source of inspiration and not exact topics for you to swipe
Take these topics with a grain of salt and tweak them to fit within your blog strategy.
SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool
So what you define as “shortcut” might not necessarily apply with SEMRush because of the learning curve of this program. However, once you know how to use it, it can open up a world of possibilities for new blog topics.
This is especially true with SEMRush’s keyword magic tool which is currently still in beta. What’s unique about the keyword magic tool is that you can request it to list questions containing your specific keyword.
In this example, I used “inbound marketing” as my seed keyword. This brings up a list of questions surrounding your keyword and you can use it to generate blog topics.
Update Old Blog Posts
You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. Instead of spending your energy on creating new blog topics, don’t forget about the old blog content that might need your attention. In fact, keeping content fresh and updated can help improve your Google rankings.
Set a Schedule (and Stick to it) with a Blog Calendar
So, this is one of the most difficult aspects of blog writing. Creating a consistent schedule, not to mention sticking to it, feels like a race that simply never ends. While blog writing certainly can go on indefinitely, you can set your calendar in manageable chunks of time so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Picture this: a built-out blog schedule that makes you feel like as if your strategy is on auto-pilot. It’s a go-to file that provides everything you need to get started on writing topics. This is actually one of the most productive approaches you can make since you know what to write about so it can get published on time.
There are several key components that are included when planning a blog strategy, specifically for your content calendar.
In the video below, I describe these 6 critical components:
- Publishing dates: I prefer to break my blog content calendar down into 30-day increments. From there, I decide how often I can publish per month and assign a day that I plan to schedule the blog post. Mondays are a popular publishing day, although I changed from posting on Mondays and switched to Thursdays. I find that this works better for my schedule. If you are writing the blog posts yourself, you’ll want to consider your personal schedule and how you plan to make time for the blog on the due date.
- Blog topic ideas: This can be a rough idea of what you plan to blog about. Earlier in this post I discussed plenty of sources you can use to come up with blog ideas.
- Keyword list: Assign one keyword to every blog topic. It’s best to include the keyword in the blog topic title. Some may choose to use secondary keywords in their post, but it’s not required.
- Media ideas: To increase engagement and user experience, you’re going to need some media in your blog post, such as videos, slideshows, infographics, etc. If you have ideas early on about the type of media you’d like to include in your post, you can add notes about this on your calendar. Personally, my ideas for media don’t tend to manifest until I am sitting down and writing the content. If this is the case for you and you are collaborating with someone who is designing your media, you can work in a program such as Basecamp or Google Keep to keep everyone on the same page.
- Word count: I always tell my clients to set word count goals that are realistic. If you know that you can’t write 3,000 words for a blog each week, there is no sense in burning yourself out on the first try. You can try to start at 1,000 words and incrementally work your way up. Consider adding an extra 100-200 words per post until you are comfortable writing the word count limit that you want. Not sure how many words to write for your blog? There are direct correlations for long-form content (2,000+ words) when it comes to SEO rankings and social media engagement.
- A call-to-action: Let’s circle back to setting goals for your blog. You don’t want to forget to add a call-to-action to your blog so you can help move your audience to the next step of the funnel, whether it’s downloading a PDF or calling you to inquire about your product or service.
Open up Excel or Google Sheets and make a content calendar that includes these 6 key elements. Fill them in monthly or even quarterly and commit to following this schedule, no matter what!
Jumpstart Your Blog Strategy with These 5 Questions
If you need a springboard for getting your blog strategy off the ground, these 5 key questions can help. The truth is that you can’t really cut corners when it comes to planning a blog strategy—it takes time, research, and analysis to consistently come up with relevant blog topics for your audience.
However, if you commit to doing things the right way from the beginning, you can experience a top return on investment for your blogging efforts!
Get Help with Planning a Blog Strategy
This session will help you get started on aligning your marketing goals along with the needs of your audience, resulting in standout blog content that makes a difference in your business. Click the link above to get started.