Plan Your Content
Now that you have the backbone of your blog in place, it’s time to plan your content. Remember, without a plan, you won’t have a money-making blog. I can’t stress the importance of content planning enough. To help you implement the steps in this chapter, I’ve created an additional resource. It’s a step-by-step guide on how to create your content calendar. You can download the worksheet from the bonus area: sallyannmiller.com/bloggingbook
How often do you plan to post new content to your blog? No matter what you choose as the perfect posting schedule for you and your readers, you must be consistent.
It’s better to post twice a month, every month, than to post three times a week one month and then nothing for a couple of months.
The more consistent you are, the more likely it is that your readers will return. So, pick a schedule that’s realistic. If life is crazy, and you’re busy taking care of the kids and running the house, you won’t have time to post every single day.
Don’t set yourself up for failure.
What number comes to mind when you first think about your posting frequency? Now, cut it in half. Then, stick to that number. At least at first. If you have extra time, you can write posts in advance and schedule them. We’ll discuss this in the upcoming chapters.
You can always increase your posting schedule later if you want.
Can you break your niche down into a couple of topics? This is how you think of categories for your blog. For instance, on my site, I write about:
> Working from home with kids
> Building a freelance business
> Growing a blog as a busy mom
> Time management
Those topics are the main categories on my blog. When I’m brainstorming content, I try to get at least a couple of post ideas from each category. This helps me keep my blog well rounded, without becoming super heavy in any one area.
Try to think of three or four categories you can cover on your blog. Make sure they all make sense and fall within your niche. And keep it simple. You should use categories your readers easily understand instead of cute names.
Brainstorming Post Topics
Once your categories are written down, you can start brainstorming. This is one of my favorite parts of the blogging process because it’s so creative.
Get out a piece of paper and set a timer for ten minutes. Write down anything you can think of related to each of your categories, and your niche in general.
Don’t evaluate ideas right now, just write them all down. Your goal is to come up with as many ideas as possible. Once your time is up, read all the ideas aloud. This step helps you better evaluate what you have.
Look for patterns. Are there any ideas that you could turn into a series? Could you combine some ideas into a longer post? Will any of the suggestions not work? Go ahead and cross them out. Which four or five ideas sound most interesting to you? Circle those.
On another piece of paper, write down the ideas you circled. Then, write down any of your other ideas that you think will be a good fit for your blog. You now have your first twenty or more post ideas.
Before you get too far into your content planning, you need to know a little about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and keywords. An SEO strategy helps you connect with the people who need what you have to offer. It gets the right traffic to your site.
Keywords play an important part in SEO. Keywords help people find your blog. They tell Google (and other search engines) what your post is about. Keywords are simply what people type into search engines while looking for information. They can be short:
> Blogging tips
> Pumpkin recipes
> How do you housetrain a puppy?
> Blogging tips for beginning bloggers
> Gluten-free pumpkin recipes
The longer keyword phrases are more specific. These are long-tail keywords. As a beginning blogger, you should focus on long-tail keywords. There are many blogs out there. And with all the information available, you will want to deliver exactly what people are looking for.
Your blog may get buried on page 1,036 when someone searches for just a short keyword. People frankly aren’t going to see it on the search results. But, if you optimize a post with a long-tail keyword, your post is much more likely to come up on top.
For instance, here are three long-tail keywords that have brought me to the first page of Google:
> Freelancing with kids
> Freelancing with a baby
> Family writing time
These are all topics I cover extensively on my blog. Because I have used a long-tail keyword strategy with SEO, Google is helping those who want to learn more about these topics find my blog.
Keyword Research With Pinterest
Finding keywords used to feel like a mystery to me. I didn’t want to pay for access to keyword researchers. And I didn’t think I had time to spend researching keywords, anyway.
But I was wrong. I discovered a streamlined, free way to research keywords for my blog. I learned to find keywords using Pinterest.
Pinterest is not just another social media platform. It is a search engine, like Google. It’s just a visual one.
When someone searches for a topic on Pinterest, they are using keywords. They’re asking the search engine to send back information related to that topic. Then Pinterest scours its data. It looks for the keywords in the pin descriptions and titles. When it gets a hit, it sends it back to the user in the results.
Since it works like Google, you can use Pinterest to research keywords for your blog posts. To do this, you need to use Pinterest’s search bar.
When you start, make sure you have your list of blog post ideas from earlier in this chapter on hand. Pick a topic and type it into the search bar on Pinterest. As you type, Pinterest suggests keyword phrases based on what you enter. These are all potential long-tail keywords you can plan your post around. Let’s look at an example.
If you want to write about time management, type “time management” into Pinterest’s search bar. These potential keywords might appear:
> Time management tips
> Time management for moms
> Time management printables
> Time management quotes
Do any of those long-tail keywords identify what you want to write about? If so, pick one and use that to form the SEO backbone of your post. This simply means that you incorporate the keyword into your blog post. At a minimum, you want to include the keyword in your post title, the opening paragraph, and at least one section header. I talk more about how to use keywords for SEO later in this chapter.
If you need to, try searching again with slightly different words. You want to use words that your ideal reader from chapter one would search for.
Once you have your long-tail keyword for this topic, pick another one. Keep going until you have keywords selected for each of your post ideas.
Keyword Research with KWFinder
What happens if your audience isn’t on Pinterest? You can use another tool to research keywords. Sally uses and recommends KWFinder.
You can type a search term into KWFinder and it displays data for that term. It also suggests other related keywords. One useful feature is the difficulty score. This tells you whether it’s easy or difficult to appear on Google’s first page for the search term. Of course, you need to target “easy” keywords.
When you sign up for a free account with KWFinder, you can do five keyword searches per day. If you do this every day for a week you can find the keywords that work best for your readers.
Find Your Angle
A list of keywords is nice, but it’s not everything you need to craft a great blog post. You must look at each keyword and decide which angle you will use to cover the topic.
There are several angles for every topic. Some topics work well as a how-to guide. Others are more of a step-by-step tutorial, or a roundup of several ideas. For example, if you want to write a blog post about time management tips, here are six angles you could try:
1. Write a round-up of ten different time management tips your audience can use.
2. Write an in-depth tutorial of each tip.
3. Provide a review of tools you use to help with time management.
4. Compare and contrast two different time management tools.
5. Write a case study showing how you gained a certain amount of time by implementing three different time management tips.
6. Write about what your readers can do with their newfound time.
Read over your blog post ideas again. Write down an angle to use for each one. Remember you can always change it later if it turns out to be a bad fit. Each post you write should meet your reader’s needs. Ask yourself why your readers want to read the post you are planning.
I will dive deeper into content creation in chapter five.
Write Your Headline
Once you have the keyword and angle for your posts, you can write your headline. Headlines are important. People see your headline and make a judgment call. Are they intrigued enough to click through, or should they keep scrolling and skip it?
Your headline must be good, or you’ll lose your readers.
It took me a long time to learn about the importance of headlines. I used to create cute headlines for my posts, throwing in an extra dash of alliteration just because I could.
As I look back through some of my early blog posts, I cringe at the headlines I used. No wonder no one was reading my blog. They had no incentive to click through.
The Anatomy of a Good Headline
What makes a good headline? Your headline must do these seven things:
1. Intrigue the reader.
2. Explain what the reader will learn.
3. Be between 8 to 14 words.
4. Be around 70 characters in length including space (so the headline will show in its entirety on Google and other search engines).
5. The headline should not lie to or mislead readers about the actual content of the post (stay away from clickbait).
6. Provide a clue to the type of post it’ll be.
7. Encourage sharing.
Even though my headline-writing skills have improved since my alliteration days, I’m still not a pro at writing great headlines. Thankfully, there’s a tool to help. You can sign up for a free account with Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule and enter a draft of your headline. Then, it scores your headline for you. A score of 70 or higher is a headline worth keeping. Any lower than that, and you should keep tweaking.
If you scroll down after entering your headline, you will find plenty of suggestions to help you improve. Keep trying new combinations of words, or different phrases.
Here’s a peek at six titles I tried for a recent blog post, with the score each received. The final idea is the one I went with.
1. How to Find Great Blog Post Ideas (67)
2. 10 Different Ways to Find Blog Post Ideas (60)
3. 10 Quick Strategies to Brainstorm Blog Post Ideas (62)
4. How to Quickly Find Blog Post Ideas as a Busy Mom (68)
5. How to Easily Find Great Blog Post Ideas (70)
6. How to Quickly Find Great Blog Post Ideas (72)
It took me a while to come up with a winning headline. However, it’s worth the effort. Good headlines get more shares and page views.
Take some time and use the Headline Analyzer to create working headlines for each of your blog post ideas. This step helps you create your posts more quickly.
Ten Headline Formulas
To give you a head start planning your headline, here are ten fill-in-the-blank formulas that are proven to work. See if you can tweak any of these to work for what you want to write about.
Notice there is one key ingredient in each of these headlines. They each need to focus on something your reader cares about. Because if they don’t, it doesn’t matter what your headline says; your readers won’t be interested.
1. How to [do something your reader cares about]
2. [Number] Hacks to [something your reader cares about]
3. [Number] Reasons You’re Not [outcome readers care about]
4. The Number One Trick to [achieving an outcome your readers care about]
5. Little Known Ways to [do something your readers care about]
6. [Ask a question to peek the curiosity of your reader]
7. How I [achieved something specific your reader cares about] in [period of time]
8. The [strong adjective] Guide to [something your reader cares about]
9. Why I Don’t [something others in your niche do, and probably some of your readers]
10. [Number] [strong adjective] Things You Need to [something your reader cares about]
Are these the only headlines you can use? Of course not! But they’re a good starting point. The more you write, the more you will discover what appeals to your readers.
Plan Your Content Calendar
If you are following along, you now have several headlines for future posts. Now it’s time to put these on your content calendar.
A content calendar helps you keep track of the posts you plan to publish on your blog. It’s an important tool to help you stay organized.
Having a plan for your content improves your blogging consistency and quality. When you don’t have to spend time thinking about what to write, you have more energy to put into the actual writing.
Content calendars also allow you to plan more strategically. You can prepare for upcoming holidays and events and take advantage of important keywords during those times.
How far in advance you plan your content is up to you. I typically prepare a month-long content calendar, though I have tried a quarter-long one. Experiment and see what works for you.
A content calendar doesn’t need to be fancy. You can use an actual calendar, a piece of paper, an app, or a plug-in for your WordPress site. What it looks like isn’t important. Finding a method that works for you is.
There’s no point in creating a fancy content calendar if you won’t use it. Here’s how to get started planning your content calendar:
1. Decide when you want to publish blog posts in the next month. Then, write down each date in your content calendar.
2. Next, look at your headlines. Read them aloud so they are fresh in your mind. Are any of them seasonal? Do any relate to upcoming holidays? Do any posts go together in a series? Which one needs to be published first?
3. Use your best judgment and assign one headline to each of the dates you plan to publish.
Fantastic! You’ve now planned your blog content for the next month (or longer). It’s time to write your first blog post.
Your First Blog Post
Many would-be bloggers get stuck on their first post. Here’s my advice to you:
Just write something and hit publish. I promise it gets easier the more you do it.
Your first post should be written with your ideal reader in mind. Most bloggers stick with one of these two methods for the first post:
1. Write an introduction post letting your readers know what to expect.
2. Jump into your regular content and pick one to be first.
Either is fine. Just choose one and go. Don’t spend too much time thinking about it. On one of my blogs, I started with an introduction post. On the other, I jumped into regular content, but weaved a little bit of an introduction into it.
In chapter five, I will talk about how to write a compelling blog post. For now, focus on writing something. Anything. You can always go back and change or delete a post if you decide it doesn’t work for you, but you can’t get back the time you wasted trying to decide what to post.
1. Follow the directions in this chapter to create a content calendar for the first month of your blog. To help you do this, you can download a step-by-step guide to creating a content calendar from the bonus area: sallyannmiller.com/bloggingbook
2. Pick the style you want to use for your first post.
Now you know what you’re going to write about for the next month. Great work! In the next chapter, I will show you how to get your blog ready for readers. There’s a little bit of prep work you will need to do before you start sharing your blog with the world.