One of the first things every new blogger learns is that, wow, is blogging a lot of work. Creating original content that packs valuable enough information to earn you readers is no small feat. And doing it repeatedly, on a consistent schedule, is hard.
If you’re struggling, know it’s not just you. Orbit Media’s 2020 blogging survey found that bloggers spend an average of three hours and 55 minutes on each blog post.
And it’s not just an issue of time. Working on a blog post requires mental energy and focus. It’s the kind of work you can burn out on if you try to do too much of it.
So how do so many people and businesses make blogging work? The ones that manage to keep up with it over time and find success usually start with one important thing: a blog content strategy.
5 Reasons Why Your Blog Needs a Content Strategy
If you’re creating a blog because you simply want a place to record your thoughts, you may not need a strategy. But most people start a blog wanting to accomplish something with it. They may want to build a community of like-minded individuals, develop a personal brand, or use it to improve SEO (search engine optimization) and build trust for their business.
Whatever you’re hoping to achieve with the work you put into your blog, creating a content strategy is key to getting there. A content strategy enables you to do a few things:
1. Confirm that you’re writing for the right people.
Who is your blog for? If you’re writing about a topic you’re passionate about and hoping to reach readers that share your interest, your target audience may look a lot like you.
But if your blog is meant to help you build your career or promote a business, you probably have a specific audience you need to appeal to. Understanding who that is and what they care about is an important early step in building a successful blog.
2. Figure out how to get people to actually read what you write.
The internet is full of content. You can’t just start putting up blog posts and assume people will find their way to them. You have far too much competition—and not just other blogs, but also social media sites and established media properties.
People have limited time and attention to give to content online, and they’re not going to spend it going out of their way to find your brand new blog. You have to figure out how to bring it to them.
3. Think through how best to match your blogging efforts to your goals.
A content strategy helps you clarify what you most want to accomplish and thoughtfully work out the best way to do it. A blog for an eCommerce website aimed at selling more products will have different goals than a personal blog meant to help you build your reputation within a particular online community.
4. Be consistent and persistent in your blogging.
Starting a new blog is easy enough. Continuing to generate topic ideas and publish new content for months and years to come is a different story.
The internet is littered with the dead blogs of aspiring writers that got tired of it, burned out, or distracted by other priorities. A content strategy helps you plan and stick to a realistic schedule. That makes it much more likely that you’ll actually keep it up.
5. Ensure all the work you put into blogging actually pays off.
Everything else we’ve mentioned all adds up to this. If you’re going to do the work, you want to make sure it accomplishes what you need it to. A content strategy is an important ingredient in getting actual results from your blogging efforts.
10 Steps to Create a Content Strategy for Your Blog
You can create a strong strategy to guide you in your blogging by following a few main steps.
1. Clarify your goals.
One of the most important reasons to create a content strategy for your blog is that it will help you accomplish your goals.
So it follows that part of developing your strategy will be to figure out what those goals are. You probably have some ideas floating around your head for why you want to start this blog. Actually sit down and write them out.
Putting your goals into writing will help you clarify what blogging success would look like for you, and what your priorities truly are. And it will enable you to figure out what metrics you should track once you get started to determine if your efforts are paying off.
2. Figure out your target audience.
While your impulse may be to go broad and try to reach as many people as possible, most blogs find more success by tapping into a specific subset of the population. A movie blog that’s written for feminist fans of horror movies will likely get more engagement from its audience than one that’s about movies more generally. That specific audience will feel more seen, and more able to relate to the blog’s content.
The same idea holds true across blog types. A business that starts a blog to sell shoes should think carefully about who’s most likely to buy their shoes. Is it committed athletes that need shoes that provide the proper support for running? Or people into fashion with money to spend on shoes that have just the right look?
Knowing which audience you’re writing for is prerequisite to figuring out the types of topics to cover, content formats to include in your blog, and language to use.
3. Do keyword research.
Keyword research will reveal what topics your audience is interested in, and the language they use when talking about them. For any blogger that cares about online visibility, keyword research is a necessary early step in performing SEO on your blog. It’s how you’ll figure out which topics and terms to target in your content and optimize individual blog posts for.
If your blog is in a particularly competitive space though, or if it’s meant to help you make money, then investing in an SEO subscription product may be worth the cost for the added insights you get from it.
4. Create a content calendar.
A content calendar is a valuable tool to organize your blog ideas into a specific action plan—a key step in turning all those ideas churning in your head into reality. A content calendar not only allows you to plan and prioritize the topics you want to cover on your blog, but also helps you maintain some consistency.
A blog that publishes new content on a consistent schedule is more likely to gain regular readers than one that’s unpredictable.
This is also an important step for avoiding burnout. Spreading out your ideas over weeks or months rather than trying to rush them all out at once will help you get into a groove you can maintain. A lot of the abandoned blogs out there are the result of overly ambitious bloggers who didn’t pace themselves properly. Use a content calendar to avoid that fate.
5. Do SERP research for each post.
SERP is the acronym for the search engine results page on Google. If you care about SEO, then for every blog post you write, part of your research process should be to check out what’s on page one now.
This process is simple enough. Once you know the keyword you plan to optimize the piece for, do a Google search for the term.
Pay attention to what the SERP looks like. Is the top spot an answer box? Does it have a local map cluster? Is the page dominated by paid ads? The structure of the SERP can tell you something about what Google thinks search intent is, and may reveal that some keywords aren’t as valuable as they seem at a glance. If the person searching gets the answer they need on the SERP itself, they may not bother clicking any links on the page.
In addition to seeing what kind of results show up on the SERP, look at the pages that rank. Analyzing what’s winning on the SERP now will help ensure your blog posts go as deep and provide as much value as the pieces you want to outrank.
6. Write amazing blog posts.
This one’s mostly self-explanatory. Make sure every post you write is well researched, accurate, and valuable to your target audience.
And always proofread! Skip[ping that simple step is how embarrassing errors make their way into blog posts (see what we did there?)
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7. Optimize each post for search.
Beyond writing really great blog posts, you can take a few strategic steps to increase your chances of ranking for your chosen keyword for each blog post:
- Use your keyword in the URL. For example, if your keyword is “gamer birthday gift ideas” your URL might be www.yourwebsite.com/blog/gamer-birthday-gift-ideas
- Include your primary and secondary keywords in subheadings. Your blog posts should be broken up into sections that make them easier to skim, so people can more easily find the information they’re looking for. That also makes it possible to write subheadings that strategically incorporate your main keyword and other related keywords that signal to search engines what your post is about.
- Include your keyword in image titles and alt text. Optimizing your images for SEO is another way to get your keywords onto the page and reiterate to Google what the post is about.
- Use internal linking. Adding relevant links in your blog posts to other posts and pages on your website is a way to drive more traffic to those pages and increase their SEO value. Aim to use anchor text (those are the words that are linked and usually show up in blue) that matches the target keyword of the page being linked to.
- Write meta descriptions. Meta descriptions are the short descriptions that show up below a link on the SERP. Writing them can help you encourage people to click. And while the description itself doesn’t influence rankings, if more people click on a page on the SERP, it signals to Google that it’s more valuable. And that can influence rankings.
SEO is competitive, so why not take every opportunity you can to increase your chances? Many forms of on-page optimization are relatively easy, especially in comparison to writing amazing content. Take a few minutes to give your blog posts that extra boost.
8. Keep a consistent publishing schedule.
Your content calendar should help with this, but you need to stick with it. If you want to build an audience that keeps coming back, consistency is important. Don’t drop off suddenly. The day you start making excuses to push off one blog post until later is the day you take a big step toward abandoning your blog and strategy completely.
9. Promote your blog!
Good writing is an obvious component in a successful blog. But one that’s just as important—and easier for newbie bloggers to overlook—is promotion. Work to make your blog posts easy for people to find. Share them on your social feeds. Work on building an email list you can alert each time you publish something new. Develop relationships with other bloggers and influencers in your community or industry, in order to increase the odds they’ll find and share your blog posts.
None of the work you put into your blog will matter if you can’t get your posts in front of readers. Promotion is how you do that.
10. Measure and improve.
Use Google Analytics to track how well your blog performs in the areas most related to the goals you established back at the beginning of this process. Is your traffic increasing? Are you starting to rank for relevant keywords? Are you seeing signs of an engaged community, such as comments, social shares, and emails from readers?
If you’re not getting the results you want, revisit your strategy and consider what to try differently. So much of successful blogging is about trial and error. Don’t expect to have a devoted audience and page one rankings overnight. But once you’ve spent a number of weeks or months consistently publishing and promoting, check your progress against your goals. And tweak your strategy as needed.
Strategic Blogging is Better
Writing a blog post on whatever’s on your mind whenever you have a whim is fine if you’re only writing for yourself or a couple of close loved ones.
If you care about reaching more people though, committing time to think through what you want to accomplish and creating a content strategy for your blog is crucial. The time you put into blogging will be much better spent, and you’ll be more likely to stick with it for the long term.
Keep learning! Read our post on blogging best practices to follow.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.