Blogging Beginner to Badass

Last week, we talked about everything that goes into deciding to start a blog. (And yes, that link does take you to a blog post about blogging. #NextLevel!) 

Now that you’ve decided to take on the challenge, let’s talk about what you’ll put in those posts. Use these tips to take yourself from tentative brainstorming to blogging badassery.

Don't you want to be cranking out posts like this guy? Just, you know, preferably on a computer.

Don't you want to be cranking out posts like this guy? Just, you know, preferably on a computer.

Before you start writing that first post, do you know where you’re going to post it? If your company or organization already has its own website, we highly recommend enabling its blog feature (here’s how on Squarespace and Wordpress) instead of starting another website for the blog. After all, you do want to drive traffic back to your website! 

If you don’t have a website yet, check out Squarespace’s templates. We think Squarespace is one of the most intuitive platforms to use, even if you’re new to putting a site together. (Learn the basics here!)

Okay, so now the blank page of your blog is staring back at you waiting to be filled with your brilliance. Before you start typing, you need to know one thing: A blog post is not just any writing piece. In the world of The Internet, people are constantly skimming, maybe retaining just the facts and visuals that stand out to them instead of reading the whole piece. (In fact, people tend to read in a F-shaped pattern while scanning.)

Think about it. 

If our beloved Weekly Slice was written like a long-form essay instead of broken up with headings, links, and a kickass gif, would you be as inclined to read it?

When it comes to your posts:

  • Word it. Don’t worry, this isn’t your high school English class. But you do need to find a sweet spot in terms of your blog post length. At the minimum, your posts need to be above 200 words. While it is kinda impressive if you’re able to write everything you have to say in only those 200 words, Google might not be impressed. In fact, it labels those pages as thin and they will not do well in search results. On the other hand, don’t write a 2,500 word article just because you can. What matters the most in terms of length is that you’re saying everything you want to say in a clear and concise manner so it makes sense to your readers, and to Google’s search results. 
  • Picture it. Assume your reader has the attention span of a goldfish. No matter the amount of time you put into your words, they’re likely not all going to be read. How do you engage your readers? Instead of some fish flakes, try breaking up your text with visuals, sub-headings, bold text, or anything else that will keep your reader interested in what you have to say. Do a test by showing your draft to a friend or colleague and then asking them what you wrote. Did they get it? And throw in an image or two if you like -- just don’t steal an image from someone else.
  • Link it. Hyperlinks are the bibliography of the blogging world. Just as we hyperlink our sources in the Weekly Slice, get into the habit of hyperlinking where your information is coming from. Not only is a good blogging best practice (yay for not plagiarizing!), it can be a great way to shout-out to some of your favorite sources and partners. And links to quality content help tell Google that you’re legit.
  • Optimize it. For each post you write, think about the one or two keywords for the topic you’re writing about and use them in your title, as your tags, and ideally within the first paragraph (if it makes sense for your post!). They don’t have to be complicated. For example, a keyword for this Weekly Slice is “blogging.” We’ve included the keyword in not only the subject, but also the introduction. Follow these tips on where to include keywords in your blog post!

Don’t overcomplicate this. Sure, we could spend the day talking about blogset-up and sidebars and headers and branding and who you are and who you want to become and your dreams and ambitions and fears… But the point of starting a blog is to blog. All of that other stuff will come later.

So, let’s start by writing something and hitting publish, and then writing something else, and hitting publish, and again, and again. Make this a habit that you will stick to, and promise yourself that you’ll never start a blog post with the phrase, “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while!”

Blogging for Beginners 

So you’re thinking about starting a blog. We mean, why not, right? 35% of businesses blog at least once every month.

Blogging isn't new, we know. But it's still can be a useful way to get your expertise and your brand out to your audience, as well as draw users to your website and offerings. It gives you a way to continually update your website and think about your content, while allowing you to tell your story and show off your personality in creative ways.

But before you decide to trade in your pen and type your thoughts, make sure you understand what you’re committing to before your blogging dream turns into blogging dread.

The first question to ask yourself is simple.

Why?

Really think about what niche your blog will fill. After all, there are an estimated estimated 31 million bloggers in the US alone. Use the following questions to guide your answer:

  • What makes you unique? You would be surprised to know the amount of bloggers that cannot clearly answer this question because they started a blog just to have a blog. Take the time to sit down and brainstorm your mission, and the goal of your blog. It's not that your blog has to do something that NO ONE ELSE has done before, but you should be confident that you are blogging for a purpose.
  • Who is already blogging about it? Do a little Googling to see who else is blogging about your chosen topic, and check out how they’re doing it. Are they weaving together personal stories and recipes for healthy meals? Are they calling for political action and highlighting successful movements for others to be inspired by? Are they sharing practical tips and lessons? For example, we recently helped launch The Patient Advocate’s Chronicle, a place for those battling chronic illnesses to find practical information on health care and managing multiple conditions so they can lead fulfilling lives. When it comes to blogging about these topics, blogs are often very emotionally supportive, or informational, but not both. So what niche do you think the Patient Advocate’s Chronicle decided to carve?
  • Can you commit? If you’re blogging for your business, your goal(s) may be to grow your audience, make some money, or both. Just make sure you have realistic expectations! While a blog is a great content marketing tool, it does not follow the “if you build it, they will come” rule. You need (or be ready to build) an established following over time on multiple channels to drive attention and traffic to your blog, whether it's an email list, social media following, a podcast, paid marketing, PR, and/or good old-fashioned networking to get those eyeballs to your blog. Also, just so we’re clear, if it’s money you’re after, get ready to be in it for the long haul. Sponsors and advertisers are most likely to engage with established blogs with large followings. But you can get there!

Starting a blog can take more than you might assume, since the best bloggers make it look effortless. But you can streamline your blogging process; it all boils down to consistency and planning.

  • Plan that work. Be ready to make blogging part of your routine. Write down a few ideas for your blog content; now imagine making a list of 100 blog titles. Challenging, right? But to make your blog successful you’ll have to regularly come up with new topics week after week and month after month! Make sure you schedule time each week to brainstorm topics, write a few posts, and plan out how you will distribute that post to your audience. You could even batch process this part, and win some productivity points!
  • Put your mouse on the post button. Before you post for first time, make sure you’re ready to keep posting, whether it’s every week, every month, or whatever schedule works best for you. There’s nothing more frustrating than a blog that slowly tapers off into blogging oblivion. Be consistent about your posting so your audience knows what to expect and when. And never, ever, EVER start a post with the phrase: "I haven't updated for a while..."
  • Watch your tone. Readers, especially these days, can see straight through you if you're being overly promotional, sales-y, or fake. Bring your real self to the table and speak from the heart. It's not as easy as it sounds! This is why focusing on your mission and your purpose is so important; if you don't plan on being genuine and connecting with real people, blogging might not be for you.

Now that you’re ready to take on the Great Blogging Challenge, we'll follow up with what you need to set up your blog like a pro, craft the perfect post, and start to get noticed by the right people!

The Digital Hustle

Think about the last time you went to a networking event. Did it involve a few drinks, anxiously milling around, and most interactions having a hint of awkward to them?

Now you may be one of those social butterflies who actually has no idea what we’re talking about and if you are that person, we applaud you. But for those of us who are anxious about working the room, going to a networking event can take a lot of courage when that latest episode is waiting on Netflix. 

What if we told you, you could still be networking whether you’re in your pajamas or halfway around the world running your business from afar? (Our Co-Founder Katie may live in Brussels, but that doesn’t stop her from hustling 24/7). Do we have your attention? Good. Because this Weekly Slice is all about the art of digital networking for both you social butterflies and introverts alike.

The first question to ask yourself before you start joining every single digital group you stumble across is what do you want to accomplish? Be strategic about your networking and honest about your goals. Are you an agency looking for some new clients? A new entrepreneur looking for a mentor? A blog trying to get new readers? Try writing down a list of networking goals to carefully guide your group selection. You’ll be a lot happier with 10 carefully selected groups with good contacts than 50 loosely related ones.

Next, start searching around for the right groups for you! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • LinkedIn: This platform is great for B2B marketing and growing your own professional network. Using the search bar at the top of your homepage, try typing in your field of work or even your alma mater to explore professional groups you can join. Keep in mind that some groups are just for networking (exploring articles, asking opinions, starting a convo topic, making connections, etc.) while others are specifically for jobs. 
  • Twitter: Are people replying to your tweets at all? Tweet right back at them and start a conversation, maybe even meet for coffee. (We have a client recently that received a relevant in person meeting from a tweet the person replied to!)  Whose attention do you want to get? Tweet at them (tag their account and/or their company’s account) and see what happens. Just remember to tweet something they would be interested in (think beyond “check out my page!”) for a higher chance of them casually tweeting you back. 
  • Facebook: Facebook groups are gold for any type of networking you may want. One of our clients has a blog on chronic health conditions and joined chronic condition support groups to not only grow her network, but get invaluable feedback on her progress. We’re in groups that provide everything from invaluable career advice (looking at you Being Boss) to possible job leads and amazing connections. 
  • Listservs: Search for possible listservs where you might be able to ask questions or look for gigs. You can start by asking your network which listservs they’re on or simply google some keywords to explore the possibilities. We can’t possibly mention listservs without giving a shoutout to our fav Progressive Communicators of DC listserv where interesting conversations and job leads are sent out almost daily. 
  • Instagram: Are you really loving someone’s Instagram feed that you’re interested in meeting? Try commenting on their photos or starting a conversation in DM. One of our freelancers recently went from a waitress she had commenting on her photo of food to a happy hour where they both discussed their respective marketing gigs. Networking magic does happen. 

So you’ve found your ideal groups but now you’re just staring at that empty text box wondering what to type to make the best possible impression. Keep these digital networking tips in mind to facilitate the best possible connections for you and your business:

  • Don’t just be self-promotional. You may be thinking, but isn’t that the point? By all means if you’re replying to a possible gig, self-promote all you want. In other networking groups that are more conversation-based you  just have to be careful about crafting the message leading others back to your website. Try adding a tip or asking questions so people start to know your name and business in an organic way.
  • Put your best foot forward. Separating personal from self can be tricky when networking on social media. Thankfully Twitter and Instagram allow you to have a business page, but joining groups on Facebook means joining the group as an individual. When you interact in a group people might get curious about who you are and click on your profile. What do they see? Double check your privacy settings to make sure your more personal and fun photos (think you and your friends having some late night drinks) are private and your profile picture makes a good impression. We’re not saying you have to use a professional headshot, but perhaps not that one where you might be a little toooo casual. 
  • Facebook does not replace face time. When it comes to digital networking, make sure you don’t just stay behind your computer screen no matter how tempting that may be. Did you make a digital connection in a similar area? Get out there and go to coffee together. Our Co-Founder Katie may be in Brussels most of the time but that doesn’t stop her from stacking her calendar when she’s back in DC since most of the digital connections she makes are DC based. (We’re just going to brag for a second. One time she even met a connection in an airport while she was flying in and the connection was flying out. That’s networking dedication.) 

Good luck!