9 Things to Consider Before Starting a Blog

Recently, I’ve come across a number of brands that started a blog years ago but have all but abandoned it, or never even created one to begin with. Sure, both situations seems shocking in this day, what with all the turnkey blog platforms and abundance of data showing the benefits of having a blog.

But let’s not dwell on their idling (usually due to a lack of resources, which we can all empathize with). Instead, let’s discuss how they can start fresh with a clean slate and a clear strategy. If you’re ready to reignite a neglected blog, or launch your first one, you should consider the following nine things before doing so:

1. What Are Your Objectives?

Are you trying to generate top-of-funnel organic traffic from long-tail keywords? Do you need a hub from which you’ll populate social media channels? Does your brand have a subject matter expert that needs a platform to share their knowledge? Do you want to create a knowledge base for your loyal brand followers?

All of these are valid, but one objective doesn’t fit all. You’ll have to determine which one(s) are primary and secondary for your brand. Once you have identified your main objective(s), determine how you will track performance by selecting the appropriate metrics and benchmarking data prior to launch.

2. What Platform Will You Use?

Myriad content management and blog platforms exist that can make management a cinch. Before you go researching all your options, check to see if the platform used to create your site has an easy blog add on. If not, or if it doesn’t provide the functionality and form you need, WordPress is great choice that provides a great foundation and allows for near endless customization.

3. Where Will the Blog Live?

Host the blog on a subdirectory (e.g., www.examplesite.com/blog) rather than a separate site or subdomain (e.g., http://www.examplesiteblog.com or http://blog.examplesite.com). Search engines treat subdomains as separate domains, and thus your main domain won’t receive the benefits of the blog’s increased traffic, links, and fresh content.

Additionally, you want to keep URLs as short as possible. Don’t add additional directories for categories or blog date for a single blog post (e.g., www.examplesite.com/blog/category1/how-to/how-to-build-a-blog or www.examplesite.com/blog/02-22-15/how-to-build-a-blog). Make sure the URLs are as short and sweet as possible, like this: www.examplesite.com/blog/how-to-build-a-blog.

4. Should You Brand the Blog?

Lots of brands use their blog as an extension of their brand narrative. ModCloth has “Story,” Method has “Soap Dish,” Kia has “Kia Buzz.” And some simply call it their blog, like NASA and Tesla do.

method-soap-dish

I would never want to steer a brand away from being creative and branding their blog with a name that is both fun and relevant, however, you should consider whether the name is memorable enough to stick with users. People do search for brand name + blog, and if you have not optimized for the term “blog,” only the branded term, you may be missing out. ModCloth, Method, and Kia have all optimized for “blog” in addition to using their branded blog name, and I would recommend you do so as well.

5. Who Will Write Your Posts?

If the entire responsibility to populate a blog on a frequent basis falls to one individual, and they have other job responsibilities, it’s likely it will get pushed aside for more seemingly pressing needs. That’s probably the case with so many of those neglected blogs I’ve seen likely. Elect a handful of folks to write for your blog that are enthusiastic and committed subject matter experts. If need be, find copywriters to ghost write for any thought leaders that have the clout just not the time.

6. Will You Accept Guest Posts?

Accepting guest posts can be a great way to reduce resource requirements, and expand your awareness. When a guest author writes for your blog, they’re likely to share the post on their social networks, and if you’ve picked the right guests, this can help to increase awareness and drive traffic.

barrys-bootcamp

Barry’s Bootcamp posts blogs from their trainers, athletes, and other industry professionals.

Make sure you have a strategy for sourcing the right guest authors (e.g., industry experts, large social networks, compatible writing styles) and set guidelines from the start (e.g., 1,000 words max, at least two images per post, no more than two links per post, etc.) Turn to your network of industry contacts to ask for guest blogs, and establish relationships with others you feel are a good fit. And be willing to swap posts if they ask.

7. How Will You Incorporate Social Into the Blog?

Make sure to include sharing buttons at the top of each blog post. Include Facebook, Twitter, Google +1, Pinterest, and email (and LinkedIn if you are a B2B brand), and customize to ensure they pull through the right meta data and tagging.

There’s some debate as to whether you should include share count on the buttons. If you have low sharing numbers, it may discourage others from sharing (they don’t want to be the first). But if you have high share numbers, it may motivate others to share. I recommend starting without the share count, then evaluating performance (making sure to tag buttons appropriately for tracking or use AddThis or ShareThis for their analytics). If sharing is high, you may consider adding the count at a later date.

While comments can increase visibility in organic search and can be a good way to build a conversation around your brand, I find that spam comments far outweigh legitimate ones, creating more headache than they are worth. Therefore, I recommend not including comments directly on the blog, and instead encouraging conversation on your social media channels.

8. How Will You Generate Ideas?

When thinking about the types of blog posts you’d like to write, you should use long-tail keywords and monitor social conversations to understand what your potential customers are search for, talking about and what questions they need answered. Some great sources are:

  • Google Webmaster Tools: Look for long-tail and informational keywords that don’t have a relevant landing page on your site (e.g., “how to…” keywords or those that start with question words). It’s likely these keywords are driving down conversion rates on your product pages anyway, as searchers are still in the early stages of their purchase journey and not yet ready to buy.
  • Pinterest: Search for specific topics or see what users are pinning from your website and what boards they are pinning it on by visiting http://www.pinterest.com/source/www.yoursite.com.
  • Quora, Yahoo Answers, and Other Q&A Sites: Search for relevant keywords about your brand, products/services, or industry and see what types of questions are being asked.
  • Reddit: Look for subreddits that are relevant to your brand and products/services.
  • Sales Staff/Customer Service: These employees field questions from customers all day long and can provide both broad and specific topics that will keep you blogging for years to come.

9. Who Will Manage the Blog and Ensure It Represents Your Brand Well?

It takes a village to build and manage a blog, but you still need to elect a single chief to lead the effort and ensure quality control. This person may handle the bulk of the management efforts – creating the calendar, sourcing authors, assigning topics, editing and proofreading, and publishing all posts. Or they could orchestrate a team of others to complete all these tasks. But without this keystone, your entire blog process will crumble.

It’s not too late to take advantage of the increased visibility, authority, traffic, and sales that blogs can provide. By following these nine tips, you’ll start with a solid foundation from which to build your blog strategy and make ongoing activity more manageable.

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