We talked recently about whether your business should have a blog. If you have decided that the answer is yes, you want all that sweet, sweet blog traffic, then here is your next step to plan a blog. This post is not a technical guide to set up a blog (that’s coming up!), but instead how to make a smart plan for your blog so you can keep it updated and humming along nicely without too much stress.
Here is how to get started if you’ve decided a blog is an important way to build your business:
Brainstorm post ideas
Brainstorm as many ideas as you can for blog posts and keep track of them somewhere. If you’re stuck on this part, you can check out my huge list of 260 post ideas and brainstorming tips.
I save these ideas in Trello (fun and free project management software), and can easily move them from ideas to posts-in-progress using Trello’s system of lists and cards.
Having a big list will help you keep from feeling “stuck” along the way, and can be a great way to decide how often you want to post and to begin creating an editorial calendar.
Decide how often you’ll post
There are no rules here, and you’ll want to start with a schedule that seems reasonable, even easy. It will be much better to start small and then increase your post frequency than to overdo it at first and find yourself missing days.
Once a week is quite reasonable. If that seems daunting, you could start with a goal of two posts a month and then move to posting more regularly if you see good results and want to increase them. If you’re ready and able to post daily, go to town! But be sure that your posts don’t suffer in quality. It’s much better to have one great post a week than five that seem hurried or incomplete.
I’d recommend choosing certain days of the week that your blog post will be published, so you don’t get off track. Just saying “once a week” may mean that the week will pass you by and you’ll realize you never got to that blog post. “Wednesdays” means you don’t have to wonder if you should be working on a new blog post.
Sketch out an editorial calendar
An editorial calendar is a calendar with an idea for a post mapped out on each day that you want to post. You can use anything from a paper calendar to software designed for this purpose. I use Editorial Calendar for my WordPress blog, and it makes planning ahead easy.
For an ecommerce blog, you can use Shopify’s “future publishing” feature to plan out your posts. This means you can put those blog posts on your site now and set dates for each to automatically publish.
You can plan anything from the first few months to a full year of posts, depending on how organized you’re feeling. Knowing what will be posted on any given day has these advantages:
- Being organized will help you be able to complete research, conduct interviews, photograph products, and prepare graphics in advance.
- Mapping out a schedule allows you to balance your different post types so that there is a good variety of things on your blog.
- Knowing what you’re posting next means you can promote it to your readers ahead of time.
- You’ll know ahead of time if you need to ask someone for an interview, a testimonial, or graphics to share, because you won’t be planning the night before.
- If you’re ever stuck writing a blog post at the last minute, at least you’ll have a topic ready!
Planning ahead like this doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. I shuffle things around on my editorial calendar constantly (and it’s simple to do with the plugin – just drag and drop). Having content on the calendar is the important part.
Write content for future posts before launching
It’s best to have yourself scheduled out many posts in advance, so that if something comes up, you don’t find yourself missing a day. If you can find the time before you launch to write a month or two of blog posts, you’ll be so glad you did! Of course, you’ll want to keep up with them, so that every time you sit down to write a blog post, it’s for a future date on your calendar, and not something you’re scrambling to get up that same day.
For instance, maybe you’ve decided you will post twice a week, and you’re aiming to always have a month of posts ready to go at any time. That means you should have eight posts written and scheduled, and then set aside time regularly to add new posts. Then, if your business gets really busy, you decide to go on vacation, or a family emergency strikes, you’re all set and don’t need to scramble to keep caught up.
Don’t let this tip delay you, though. Having the blog out there and generating traffic is more important than being 100% prepared. At some point, you need to launch that thing, so don’t get too caught up in future post hoarding. It will be nice to get some feedback from readers to help guide your planning.
Have a plan for announcing the new blog to as many people as you can
The way I like to think of my blog is as kind of a side door into my website. Of course you’ll want people to be able to get to your blog from your home page, and even feature it there, but most of your marketing effort for the blog should be spent off of your site, trying to get other people to mention it on their sites and on social media.
You don’t want to interest your current customers in your blog so much as you want to use your blog to find brand new customers, and then interest them in your shop.
Blogging can be a lot of work, and you don’t want to be up all night writing posts, gathering graphics, researching and photographing to keep speaking to just a handful of people. Brainstorm some marketing ideas, such as pitching a story about your blog to other blogs in your niche, collaborating with other businesses, guest posting, advertising, hosting a giveaway, rewarding your customers for sharing the news with their friends, etc.
You could just start a blog, and post when you feel like it about whatever is on your mind. That’s not going to work for most people. In fact, that’s the recipe that creates most of those abandoned-looking blogs you see! If there is never a day that your writing work is due, it’s easy to put it off until tomorrow every single day.
If, instead, you create a schedule and stick to it, you will have a much better chance of keeping your readers engaged and getting all of the marketing benefits that a blog can offer. For more tips on creating a schedule and sticking to it, read 3 Steps for Sticking to Your Blogging Schedule.
What else do you wonder about?
If you’re planning to start a blog, or have recently started a blog, what is giving you the most trouble? I’d love to offer some advice in the comments.