If you’re making the effort to write a blog, you want people to read it. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of competition. Hosting Tribunal says it in a nutshell: “To date, there are more than 500 million blogs out of 1.7 billion websites in the world. Their authors account for over 2 million blog posts daily.”
How can you stand out? Some forethought and planning will help.
- What precisely do you want to gain from blogging? If you’re not sure about this before you start, the whole thing becomes an exercise in frustration.
- Answer your customers’ questions. That means you have to know who your customers are and what they want.
- Put your spin on it. Yes, a lot of people write blogs. And yes, your customers care what you have to say.
Plan For Writing a Blog
Before you start dashing off ideas, take a few minutes to think through your goals, your audience, and your angle. Clarity at this stage makes writing a blog much more rewarding.
Don’t start writing until you can answer the questions below. Or at least recognize that for you, blogging is a hobby, not a way to grow your business. (No judgment from me. I’ve blogged for all sorts of reasons, not all of them related to business.)
Question 1: What Are Your Blogging Goals?
If you’re going to commit to the work of writing, figure out what you want to achieve before you start. It’s OK if you’re going to write because you love it. (I do.) But don’t miss this opportunity to reach a specific goal.
Do you want to:
- Acquire sales leads?
- Attract people to your website?
- Build a following?
- Demonstrate your expertise?
- Expand your network?
Be specific. There’s no wrong answer, and you may have more than one goal. Best to sort that out now.
Question 2: Who Do You Want To Reach With Your Blog?
Determine exactly who your audience is. (Clue: the answer is not “anyone who….”) Be as specific as possible; you’ll do your best job when you write as if you’re addressing a single person.
Marketers will tell you to create a persona, a detailed description of your ideal customer. For most of us, it’s easier to pick a favorite customer: someone you like and someone who you would like to work with again.
Question 3: What Problems Can You Solve For This Person?
What would your favorite/ideal customer want to know? This is not the same question as, “what can you write about?” For example, I write about a lot of things, but my writing solves problems like these for my clients:
- A start-up in the autonomous vehicle space wants a white paper that explains their idea to investors in a simple, non-technical way.
- A digital marketing agency needs updated website content that showcases their recent work in industries they want to penetrate.
- A consultant lacks case studies that highlight her expertise for potential clients.
Question 4: What’s Your Angle?
Your angle is your take on the topic. It’s your position or viewpoint, based on expertise and a deep understanding of your ideal customer’s problems. Your angle helps you stand out from the army of other bloggers writing on the same subject.
Many would-be bloggers tell me they don’t think they have anything new to add, that everything’s already been said by people who know more than they do. That’s probably true.
But it’s equally true that your customers rely on you, not other bloggers. They want to know what you think, what you believe, how you feel. In short, they depend on your expertise.
If you’re having trouble coming up with an angle, answer these fundamental questions to solidify your perspective.
- How do you feel about the topic?
- Why is this worth writing about?
- What do you think your reader should know?
- What’s in it for them, from your perspective?
If you need inspiration, this is an excellent opportunity to agree with or dispute what others say. It can generate more ideas for content and maybe even boost your SEO. (More on SEO in the next blog in this series.)
Question 6: What’s Your Call to Action?
A call to action (CTA) is what you want readers to do when they’ve finished reading. Should they:
- Contact you?
- Download a checklist, white paper, or case study?
- Set up an appointment?
- Visit your website?
- Buy something?
It’s OK not to have a clear call to action. Just make it a conscious decision; don’t let this be a missed opportunity.
My Favorite Planning Tool When I Write a Blog
Yup, you got it—sticky notes. They are my all-time favorite planning tool for anything from updating my herb garden to managing a major systems implementation.
If you want to know why, my friend Shawne Greene says it all in her blog.
Tips for Success
Once you’ve completed this planning exercise, you may not have to do it again. What you learn in this step will probably hold true for a while.
Blogging regularly can seem overwhelming. You do have other things to accomplish. Schedule a time and write several related posts at once. It’s more efficient, and you will be able to catch inconsistencies more easily.
To save your sanity, create a content calendar dedicated to the activities needed to publish a blog. Establish how often you want to post and put that in the calendar. Add milestones to account for the different stages of work, and for any tasks that others need to complete in support.
Keep an idea bank. Jot down anything that comes to mind, no matter how crazy. A list of ideas will is another resource for when you need inspiration.
Other Posts in This Series
This is the second in a series of posts on writing a blog. Here’s the series:
- Get started with my thoughts on whether non-writers can blog (spoiler alert: they can, and should), and the process I use in How To Write a Blog, Part 1.
- SEO may not be for you. Or maybe it is. I talk about why you might not need to care–and when you should in How To Write a Blog, Part 3: Why Care About SEO?
- Establishing credibility is key to building expertise. Learn how to check your facts and bolster your authority in Part 4: How to Research Content for Your Blog.
- Headlines and calls to action are my favorite part of writing. Learn how I hook the reader’s eye and encourage them to take the next step in Part 5: Get Awesome Results with Headlines and Calls to Action.
- Yes, there’s a lot of work involved in publishing a blog, and writing isn’t the toughest part; editing is. Read more about writing, editing, and publishing your blog in Part 6: Writing and Publishing.
Need More Help Writing Your Blog?
Stuck? Want to brainstorm? Don’t know what to do next? Schedule some time to talk with me. I may be able to help you get unstuck and give you ideas on how to make progress.