Learning how to blog is no easy task. It takes time and commitment to get your blog off the ground. Maybe you want to blog to make money off of it or maybe you’re just trying to network and spread your influence. Anyway you slice it, if done right, blogging gives you the potential to reach the world.
If you’re serious about learning how to blog then you’ll want to read this incredible guide by some of our fantastic SteamFeed authors (Phil Gerbyshak, Kimberly Reynolds, Sarah Arrow, David Schwartz, Debbie Laskey, Gettysburg Gerry, and Jessica Ann)
Inspiration for Your Small Business Blog
So you’ve decided to blog. Congratulations! As a small business owner, there are a few possible reasons you made this decision:
1 – You have a passion about the market you are in and you want to share it with the world.
2 – You want to improve your written communication skills, and the informal style of a blog is appealing to you.
3 – You understand content marketing is a more effective way to market your product, service or idea to customers and prospects.
4 – You woke up this morning and realized “Holy crap! All my competitors are blogging! I better get blogging too!”
5 – Some combination of numbers one through four are true, plus something else.
Regardless of why you decided to start, write it down and keep your reason close by your computer. You’ll need this mainly when you are getting started, as for the first 30-90 days, nobody but you, and maybe your mom, will be reading your blog. When you feel like giving up, refer back to your reason and re-inspire yourself. The great news is the more you blog, the more natural it will be, and the less likely it will be that you’ll quit. A stat I read a while back says it takes 53 days to start a new habit, so stick with it. You’ll see results soon enough.
Choosing a Blog Platform
One of the most important decisions you will make about your blog is which platform you choose for your blogging to go on. The great news is your content is typically able to be exported from any platform to any other platform, but you will lose time and possibly cost you a few dollars to make the switch to a new platform.
There are two main types of blogging platforms, and then options inside of each one. While it’s not feasible to cover all blogging platforms, I will attempt to include the most widely used ones, and I’ll make my recommendation at the end.
Hosted platforms have come a long way since I started blogging in 2005. I started with Blogger back in 2005 right after Google bought them from Pyra Labs, and I moved my blog to TypePad shortly after that. Both of these hosted platforms are still available, though almost nobody I know uses TypePad anymore for their blog.
A hosted platform has several advantages for the small business owner:
1 – Updates are done automatically by your hosting company, so you don’t have to worry about security holes and the like very much.
2 – There is no installation needed for this, so most of what you need is built into your platform.
3 – No separate hosting plan is required – so you only pay one bill.
4 – Fixed selection of templates you can choose from – and usually you can customize yourself.
Some of the more popular hosted blog platforms include Blogger, WordPress.com, Tumblr.com and SquareSpace.com
The other platform option is a self-hosted plan. This means you can host your blog wherever you want to host it, and you are in nearly complete control of your blog.
A self-hosted platform is what I use, and it has several advantages for the small business owner:
1 – You can create (or pay someone else to create) a completely custom look and feel for your blog.
2 – There are many free themes, low cost themes, and premium themese available that makes designing your blog relatively easy.
3 – You have a nearly unlimited number of plug-ins to choose from to extend the features and look and feel of your blog.
4 – You are not subject to an ever changing terms of service like the hosted blogs are.
5 – You control all the advertising that goes on your blog, so you never have to worry about any of your competitors showing up on your site.
The most popular self-hosted solution is WordPress.org, and it is the one I recommend. All of my clients, and my company and personal sites are all self-hosted with WordPress.org.
Choosing a Name for Your Blog
1 – You name your blog your business name (or your name) and add “blog” to the end of it.
2 – You name your blog something innovative that folks “in the know” will love about your blog.
3 – You name your blog something keyword rich in hopes of attracting more visitors thanks to Google’s ever changing search algorithms.
I recommend blending at least two of the three, and using nearly the full number of characters available to you for the title, and sub-title of your blog. My business blog is at http://milwaukeesocialmedia.com, a very keyword rich URL. Our title is Milwaukee Social Media, and our sub-title is Social Media Training, Social Media Speaking, Social Media Strategy, as that is how we make our money. I am obviously hoping when people in Milwaukee need what we provide that they find us first. The content I write supports this, and while I won’t get into this, I encourage you, after you read the rest of this series of articles, to spend some time thinking about how your content can tie in with your title and sub-title to create super powerful Google juice for your business.
Design your Blog
Once you have decided on your blog’s focus, chosen a platform and picked a name, then the real fun begins!
There are a couple of key concepts to keep in mind when designing your new blog:
Function dictates form. Therefore, knowing your purpose is crucial when designing the front page of your blog. Are you primarily going to be creating new content for informational purposes? Are you creating a blog to highlight an organization? Are you marketing a product or a service? Your blog layout is crucial to helping you achieve your goals, i.e. convert browsers to buyers.
The two most common front page layouts are either a static front page or a traditional blog format with excerpts from your most recent posts.
The benefit of using a primarily static front page is that you can direct the reader to specific areas of interest or a call to action. For instance, if you have a marketing company that offers three distinct services, you can create a front page design with specific content boxes, focusing on each service.
Even if you do choose the static front page option, you can still include a featured post area on the front page.
The second option is a more traditional blogging layout featuring excerpts from your recent posts. If that sounds a little boring or old-school, don’t fret. You are not limited to simply a single column.
You have several different options when it comes to alternative design layouts. One is a magazine-style approach that shows recent content by category, a great format for multi-author sites or sites that frequently updates their content, often several times a day. Another option is a “pinterest” style blog format, such as the one made popular by Mashable.
Another important factor to keep in mind when designing your blog is your audience. If your primary demographic is young adults, then you might want to consider using a platform such as Tumblr for your blog, especially if much of the content is graphic driven, such as photography.
For most content marketers and serious bloggers, WordPress is the platform of choice. There is a huge array of themes available, many for free, as well as plugins to make design almost effortless. One of my favorite sites for themes is Themeforest.net and their sister site, Codecanyon.net for plugins and snippets of code.
The goal of creating an amazing blog is to be read, right? Well, odds are, a significant number of your visitors will being reading your blog on their mobile device. Therefore it is important to make sure your site incorporates a few best practices for mobile design.
A key consideration in mobile-friendly design is having a responsive layout. That basically means that your site will automatically adjust to look great on a variety of screens: desktop to laptop and all the way down to cell phone.
Other factors to keep in mind: Ease of navigation, plenty of white space, generous font sizing, no flash our outdated video plugins.
Another tip: People don’t really read the whole article. They skim…you are probably skimming now! So, show them where to find the important bits by using lists, bullet points, heading tags, bolding words, etc. Also, make generous use of short paragraphs with two to three short sentences, when possible.
An important facet of branding is consistency. You want to keep your logo, graphics, color scheme consistent across all platforms, starting with your blog. Your blog design should reflect existing branding. If you do not have branding, then once you develop it, use it consistently everywhere your brand has a presence.
Branding should not be boring. Find a look that reflect who you are as a brand. Are you playful? Great. Bright colors and whimsical fonts can work to convey your personality. Are you more serious? That is fine also. Try neutral tones with just a splash of color for an accent.
Though a tad controversial, social proof is becoming increasingly important. The term social proof is often equated with your Klout score, but there are actually lots of differnt ways to establish your authority and/or expertise. Have you been published on another blog or in printed media? Great, add a logo with a link to the other source, if appropriate. Have you won an award? Awesome, include a graphic with a link to the awarding entity.
Of course, these are just some of the issues to consider when designing your blog, but they give you an idea of where to begin.
Getting Started On Your Blog [Video]
by Jessica Ann
Would you run a marathon without having a plan? I tried to. And it hurt..until I smartened up.
What To Blog About
By now, you’ve been inundated with answers to your questions in terms of blog title, software or web host, blog advertising, and many others, but what about content? How do you determine subject matter as well as timing for your posts? The answer can be found in what advertising professionals refer to as an editorial calendar.
An editorial calendar can be as simple or as complex as you desire. If you blog twice a week or even daily, you can use an actual calendar. This way, you will be able to see how the titles of your posts evolve and impact each other. If you blog about several topics during a month, you will be able to keep track of which day you share which post. If you revisit the same topics months later, you will be able to search old titles in order to avoid repeating content, unless you intend to provide an update to an earlier post. Also, it’s best to leave some wiggle room in the calendar so that you can move topics around in the event that some news from Facebook or Twitter impacts you.
Consider these questions as you create your editorial calendar:
 How do you define your competitive advantage?
 What are your five key strengths?
 Do you want to provide links to other writers’ posts in your industry?
 Do you want to provide commentary about current events?
 Do you want to repeat previously-posted content or invite guests to return?
 On which social networks should you share your posts?
 Should you use a dashboard app to facilitate sharing your posts?
 When should you share the posts (i.e., time of day, day of week, and how often)?
Here are two examples of how content can be added to an editorial calendar:
 To celebrate last year’s Olympics and some experts I met through my social media channels, I created a special series on my blog. I featured 11 guest bloggers who represented 9 different countries – and asked everyone the same five questions about social media. I knew that I wanted to do something unique on my blog so I blocked out the two months of the Olympics and sent out my invitations. Here’s the first of the Olympics posts on my blog:
 Another recurring item on my blog takes places immediately following the Super Bowl. For the past two years, I have partnered with a fellow brand strategist and featured our discussion of the event’s TV commercials. Here’s the review of the 2013 Super Bowl TV ads on my blog:
There are as many answers to the question of where you will get the most views and comments as there are colors in the Crayola crayon box. So try different days of the week and different times for your posts. The bottom line is this, if your topic hits a nerve, and your post is well-written, people will read it and comment.
Promoting your Posts and your Blog
by Sarah Arrow
So you’ve written your blog post and now you have to promote it. You’ve done all the proofing, the sitting on it for 24 hours and reading it backwards to make sure you’ve picked up on every possible error. Now it’s time to unleash your wisdom on the world and promote your post so you get the maximum possible traffic.
You first stop will be social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. They are the places almost all bloggers are familiar with but they may not get you the traffic that you need. I’m going to be very specific here – you should only promote your posts where your ideal reader / customer hangs out. If the ideal reader for your post is on LinkedIn and loves it so much they have a paid account, you will not reach them on Twitter. It’s a waste of your time and energy.
So the first step of promoting your post is to work out where your target audience is. If you are targeting moms then parenting forums are a good place to market your posts. If you are targeting sports fans; a Facebook group might be the place for your post. If you are targeting recruiters then LinkedIn and LinkedIn groups are going to give you the best return on your marketing time.
As you are reading Steamfeed I’ll assume you are into social media and tech, so where should you market your blog for readers that will love your content?
- Specific Facebook groups that focus on Social Media
- LinkedIn groups that focus on Social Media AND groups that are for beginners new to social media
- Google Plus communities for social media and circles that you’ve filled with people looking for social media advice.
- Twitter using hashtags such as #smm #SocMed #SocialMedia #ContentChat #ContentMarketing
A little research after you’ve published will mean your content gets seen by all the right people. A lot of research beforehand will mean your content will not only be seen by the right people but will be acted upon.
Now I’ve seen it suggested that in order to get lots of traffic you need to have someone influential share your work. That’s erm… stupid. What you need is someone engaged with your ideal audience to share your work. Some examples:
Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella are making waves when it comes to influence marketing. If you are writing about the impact of influence and you are in their circles then the chances are good that your article will get shared. If you are writing about trekking across the Yukon in a mankini you might not get a share from them. It’s not relevant to their audience or their needs.
Mari Smith shared one of my Pinterest posts on Twitter and sent me 200 visitors. Someone shared the post in a Facebook group for pinners and sent me 1500 visitors. Influence is the right people in the right places and not a big name with a trillion followers.
To get the Yukon-Mankini article viewed you will need to find some Mankini groups and some Yukon groups and share there. You’ll also have to start some conversations with Mankini fans on Twitter before you publish the post so you can share it with them.
Never under estimate the power of sharing your post in the right place. There will be people who tell you to post it everywhere, but those same people will tell you all traffic is good traffic and anyone is their ideal customer. They also tend to moan that they don’t get enough business, and now you know why.
So we’ve established where to promote your post we now need to take a look at email marketing.
You can add your blog post feed to your email client and send your post to your subscribers automatically. If your content is evergreen you can add it to your autoresponder and continue to send traffic to that post long after it has gone live.
If you have a particularly good post you can ask other bloggers to link to it and email it to their subscribers. Now some people see this as “stealing traffic” but when someone like Jay Baer sends you a thousand visitors you know it’s because he feels secure in the knowledge that his readers will love that content and it’s exactly what they want to read. And they’ll thank him for emailing them.
Of course that means you can also email your subscribers and let them know about someone else’s truly great post.
So we’ve looked at the most common ways of getting traffic to your post, let’s look at the less talked about options.
Kindle books as drivers – if you are re-purposing your content then links to posts in Kindle books is a great way of doing that. You can even have a list of additional reading in the Kindle books that link out to blog posts that are relevant.
Paid traffic is also laser targeted traffic. From Google Adwords to paid Stumbles. Stumbleupon is looked at as poor for traffic as it can mean high bounce rates. But you can pay Stumbleupon to promote a post to particular niche. When you do this you also increase the likelihood of organic stumbles. For $20 you could have a tonne of relevant traffic back to your blog post.
You also have the option of exploring Facebook sponsored posts to get more of your FB friends eyeballs onto your content. This usually works out at $5 depending on how many friends you have.
If your FB friends are not your ideal reader then you can take a look at Facebook advertising to ensure your ideal reader is exposed to your content. If you are targeting a particular age group, gender or activity this will work much better than a sponsored post.
Tools for sharing your blog posts.
There are two tools that I love to use that extend the life of your blog posts and get more eyeballs on them. One is Post Rocket and the other is Bufferapp.
Post Rocket allows you to post an image from your post onto Facebook and optimises it for better Edge Rank. If you’re fans are all over Facebook then you will love the exposure Post Rocket gives you.
If you are finding that your personal networks are your biggest drivers of traffic then Bufferapp is pretty cool. They reached out to me on Twitter a few years back and asked me to check out the tool and I loved it straight away. You can schedule posts to be delivered at optimum times on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
And finally, your readers are your allies. Invite them to share the post in your call to action. Like I’m inviting you here – if you find any aspect of this post useful to you then please share this post and help us reach other people who will appreciate it too.
Growing Your Blog Community
Creating the actual blog is necessary, but keep in mind the familiar adage “If you build it, they will come” is only true in fairy tales and movies. You need to grow a community of loyal readers. Here are a few concepts to keep in mind when building your readership.
- Consistency is key
- Quality trumps quantity
- Fire and Gasoline
- Create Evangelists Not Fans
- Be a Good Guest
Consistency is Key
Consistency doesn’t just apply to your branding. It is also important in your content. Get on a schedule and blog consistently. There are several very good reasons to set a blogging schedule and stick to it. One compelling argument is Google. Google is a monster and it loves fresh meat. Feed the beast with frequently updated, unique content. Google will reward you by pushing your site up in the SERP (search engine results page).
Another reason is the basic premise that the more you publish, the more people will visit your site. Consistent, high quality content = more traffic. People trust websites that get more traffic. If no one reads your blog, people will assume you offer nothing of value.
The best way to ensure consistency is to decide how frequently you need to create content, a realistic blogging schedule. Then use an editorial calendar to hold yourself accountable. Another trick is to pick a certain time each day that you dedicate to writing.
Quality Trumps Quantity
The quality of your content is far more important than the quantity. Quantity will be achieved with consistent content creation. However, if you are not producing high quality content, no one will return to read your posts anyway.
Quantity doesn’t just equate to the number of posts, it also refers to the length of the post. Again, quality beats quantity. My advice, answer a question. Just one question in a blog post. Take as much or as little space as you need to do so. If your answer gets too lengthy, break it down into several posts and call it a series!
Remember, the average user is going to find your blog because he is searching for an answer to a specific question. If you play your cards right, you will have about 2 minutes to wow the reader. During those two minutes, he is going to skim your content, reading only, on average, 400 words, max. Make those words count.
Fire and Gasoline
Jay Baer says it best, “Content is the fire. Social Media is the gasoline”. Another way of saying this is that social media is an accelerant. It allows you to take your content and get it in front of as many people as possible.
There are several ways of utilizing social media to do this:
- You can join a relevant community on Google+ or Facebook.
- Become a member on a social networking site like Empire Avenue.
- Syndicate your content with Triberr and/or Dlvr.it.
- Make your blog easy to share by using social sharing buttons on each post.
- Give your readers pre-formatted tweets to share with one click using ClickToTweet.com
Create Evangelists Not Fans
Fewer followers that are active participants are far more valuable than a massive following that remains silent. How do you create evangelists? Take the focus off you and focus on your readers.
How do you do this? Easy! Respond to as many comments as possible. Read and comment on other people’s blogs. Make your content so useful that they not only can’t wait to come back for more, but they tell their friends about YOU!
Your brand evangelists are the crucial piece in word of mouth conversion. They are your megaphone to the world. Their value to your blog, your community cannot be overstated respect those “super fans” who can’t wait to sing your praises. Think about what you can do to serve them. Sometimes it as little as simply saying “Thank you”.
Be a Good Guest
Guest posting on other blogs is one of the best ways of building relationships with other bloggers. We are all looking for great content. When you provide that content for other blogs, you will be appreciated and remembered. In that bloggers tend to initiate and extend conversations on social media sites like Google+ and Twitter, they increase your reach as well as your credibility. They also can be highly influential.
Guest posting is also a great opportunity to create a back-link, i.e. a link from the guest post back to your own blog. High quality backlinks from authoritative sites within your field are believed to improve search engine rankings.
Another benefit of guest posting is the ability to forge relationships within complementary sub-communities. For example, you could write a guest post about Instagram for a social media website that endears you to the photography community that uses Instagram to gain exposure for their work.
Monetizing Your Blog
by Sarah Arrow
Okay this is a tough post for me to write. I’m British we don’t brag, self-promote or talk money. But I’m probably one of the most qualified people to write it. You see I have a blog that has zero community, very few comments (one a year) and yet earns well into 6 figures. I dabble in affiliate marketing (only products that I use) and make around $900 a month from that.
I have a blog that is award winning and has 7 million page views a year and it costs me money… now, if you listened to popular bloggers you’d think a blog that gets just 3,000 visitors a month could not possibly make money and the one with 7,000,000 would be making me rich.
It all comes down to one thing – knowing your readers and knowing what they want. And you’ve reached this part of what is an excellent and in-depth post then you know you want to make money with your blogging.
Let me tell you now there is no system other than knowing your readers and knowing whom you serve. If you think you are not serving anyone then you will not make money and if you only serve yourself you’ll never make enough.
And because this is so important and I’m aware that you have only so much time I’m going to make a deal with you.
Go and get a Kindle App. In your Kindle account settings you’ll find a send to email address.
Right click and save this ebook: “Sarah-Arrow-Monetizing-your-blog” to your desktop. Email the book to your Kindle device and read it at your leisure – when you are in a queue waiting, when you are picking up the kids from school, when you can’t sleep at night.
This ebook, 10 days to boost your blog’s income was selected as one of the top 10 ebooks of 2013 by Echelon SEO and will educate you on
- Finding your ideal reader / customer
- Passive selling / active selling
- Affiliate marketing
- Third party sites and advertising
- Conversational writing to sell
- And why you should care there are 48 other countries with the dollar as currency.
The book is broken down into 10 days with each day having a set of tasks. IF you are disciplined enough to go through each day and complete the worksheets then you will be earning decent money from your blog in no time at all.
Disclaimer: If you are a lazy ass, if your momma still does your laundry and cook you dinner you will not like this book. It involves work. There is no magic money fairy and there are no unicorns who’ll knock on your door and unleash your inner goddess. There’s you, this guide and your PC. Get on with it.