Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Creating and maintaining a blog

Let’s delve into the common steps people take to manage a successful blog.

1.    Create a vision for your blog

Before you start a blog (and at regular intervals after the start), you need to find answers to several questions.

  • What do you want to blog about?
  • What do your clients and prospects want to read about?
  • Who else would read your posts?
  • Why?
  • Do others in your company agree with your blog idea?
  • Would a blog support your company’s communication strategy?
  • Who would moderate comments? (presuming you want the interaction comments help you generate)

Answers to questions like these serve as the foundation for a blog, a foundation you can use to decide on everything else involved in starting and maintaining a blog.

2.    Brainstorm blog post ideas

Once you know what your blog is meant to be, come up with ideas for posts. That should make it easy to conceive ideas that fit your blog as well as ways to frame other ideas so that they will fit your blog.

Ideally, you’ll come up with 20 or more ideas in your first brainstorming session. You can modify or drop post ideas at later stages in the process, and more ideas will come to you after you create your first list.

And don’t worry – if you have a clear vision for your blog, you’ll never run out of ideas. In fact, that vision will help you…

3.    Continually look for more blog post ideas

Since a blog is a living document, always stay alert for ideas that may lead to future posts. New ideas spring from many sources, like:

  • People you know, or know of
  • Blogs you follow
  • Other social media
  • News media
  • Networking
  • Web searches
  • And many other places

4.    Plan your blog content

After you create a substantial list of ideas, set up an editorial calendar with some of those ideas. Your calendar can be as simple as two columns: one for publication dates, the other for topics to be published.

Decide how often you want to publish and keep to that schedule. Once people regularly read your blog, they’ll expect posts on a regular basis and be disappointed if that isn’t what they find.

So keep your editorial pipeline primed. Never run down to less than a month’s worth of posts and you’ll avoid scrambling to catch up.

Note: You can publish one-off, unplanned posts if you like, as responses to current events, for instance. Responses to current events can even supplant planned posts that aren’t time-sensitive.

5.    Set up your blog platform

Check out the biggies like WordPress, TypePad and Blogger, since they tend to let you either do what you need “out of the box” or using plug-ins from third parties.

This is a technology and design step, not a content step, so enlist the help of a competent blog designer if you need to. I recommend the WordPress developer who created this web site. (The whole site is one blog – such is the power of WordPress. And while I chose a minimalist theme for my blog, Jennifer had delivered other designs. Check out her portfolio.)

6.    Write your posts

Once you’ve chosen blog topics, write a first draft for each topic.

Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Include any relevant images, audio or video clips.
  • Keep posts brief and jargon-free so they’re easier to read.
  • Write conversationally. The terms people use when they talk are the terms they use when they search.
  • Use headings and lists so they’re easier for busy readers to scan.
  • Include keywords that your audience would search for. If you stick to writing about your business or industry, keywords should naturally appear in your posts.
  • Add links to things you refer to (if they lead off your blog, make them open in a new window or tab)
  • Consider using bold or italics for words you want to highlight. Don’t go overboard with colours and different fonts – keep it subtle to keep it readable and not jarring to the eye.

At the risk of sounding heretical, blogging is not all about search. Blogs must serve readers content of interest. Provide value and people will mention your blog, link to it and do other things that help build your blog’s audience and lead to better SEO. Provide value first. SEO will come.

7.    Title your posts

Write short titles that clearly convey the subject of your post. (Short titles are easier to pass along using Twitter.) Also use the keywords that matter to your target audiences.

While there’s nothing wrong with a clear title that’s also catchy, be careful when using link bait.

8.    Review and revise your posts

Nobody gets it right on the first draft. Reread each post before you publish it to make sure you wrote what you wanted to write.

Make the following tasks part of your review checklist:

  • Check spelling and grammar (yes, in spite of the spread of texting, that stuff still matters).
  • If possible, ask a trusted second set of eyes to look over your post.
  • Read your post back to yourself – out loud. Your ears may catch things your eyes miss.

9.    Tag your posts

Think of tags as topics. Putting the right tags on a blog post helps people quickly find posts that match the topics they search for.

Stay honest and don’t overtag your posts. Weighing down your posts with unrelated tags won’t attract more visitors. Five to ten tags should do – fifteen at the most – presuming you stay with your blog’s vision.

10. Publish your posts on time

Stick to your editorial calendar, even if you’re the only person who knows about it. Your blog is a living document, a conversation, and if your blog “falls asleep” too often, people will stop following the blog.

Should current events merit an “out-of-calendar” post, write and publish that too. More content is better than less.

11. Promote your blog

Once you’ve published a post, promote it on the web.

  • Use software like Tweetdeck to send announcements for each post to Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook simultaneously.
  • Try to “enroll” in blogrolls that your audience would notice. Solicit links from reputable websites only, and don’t buy the services of link farms. Search engines value one link from the New York Times more highly than a thousand links from sites nobody ever visits.
  • Do you know of other blogs that your target audience reads? Scan those blogs to learn more about them. If you sincerely believe your post ideas fit their vision and your blog could benefit from a “donation,” pitch some of those ideas at the blogger.
  • If a well-regarded expert can speak on your blog’s topic, try to invoke the “halo effect” by inviting that expert to contribute a post (or three) to your blog.
  • Don’t forget the basics. Include your blog url in your email signature, on your stationery, on any items you might send to clients and prospective clients.

12. Keep track of blog feedback

Tools like Google Analytics let you know how your audience interacts with your blog, and blog comments provide valuable insights too. Use these insights to continuously fine-tune your blog.

You can even ask for discussions and feedback right in a post by posing specific questions.

Other tips

  • Link to other pages on your site or blog.
  • When you link to pages outside your site or blog, make the link open in a new window or tab so that your site doesn’t get “replaced.”

Yes, there’s lots to do when you choose to run a blog. Looking for help? A professional writer can help you  reduce your blogging workload.