start a blog, Freelance blogger If you’re thinking of starting a blog, congratulations, you’ve made an excellent decision.

By now you should be well aware of the benefits of blogging, and how it can grow your business.

If you’re still unsure, here are some quick stats to ponder…

According to a Hubspot study, business blogging leads to 55% more website visitors. What’s more, statistics reveal businesses who blog consistently acquire 126% more leads than those who do not.

A quick Google search will reveal a plethora of arguments for starting a blog.

I’ve written this post not to sway your decision to blog or not – savvy marketers already know how powerful it can be. This post exists to reveal best practices, so you can use blogging to bring success for you and your business.

There is a right and a wrong way, so let’s get you started on the right path.


Plan your blogging strategy

Blogging requires more than pushing out any old content whenever you feel like it.

Before typing a word, think carefully about your audience – what kind of content they want to read, how they like to consume it, how often you’ll post and where you’ll promote it.

This is where a concise content calendar comes in handy. You can input your topic ideas, your dates for publishing, the different formats, and even track the results.

Planning is crucial for success.

Otherwise, you’re just shooting in the wind hoping someone stumbles by. Blogging requires consistency, quality and drip-feeding golden nuggets that make your audience look forward to your next post.

Success only happens if you plan, strategise and constantly improve.


Self-hosted or free?

I’m always amazed when businesses decide to start a blog on a free site, rather than on their existing website.

So I’m going to cut to the chase: you want to build a self-hosted blog with your own domain name – preferably one that sits on your current business website.

Blogger, Tumblr, Weebly and WordPress all offer free hosting, but you’ll be hugely limited in terms of customisation.

For businesses, setting up a free blog on an external website is completely illogical from a search engine ranking point of view. We’ll go into this in more detail a little later.

Having a blog on your own website gives you the freedom to add your branding. You’ll ooze professionalism and be taken seriously by your readers. You won’t be stuck with Blogger or WordPress in your Urls and you’ll have full control over what’s visible.

If your website is already set up in WordPress with your own hosting and domain name, all the better. Depending on your selected theme, WordPress makes it easy to add a blog page. Simply follow these steps.


Long-form content still rocks

We’ve always been led to believe shorter is better. We have miniscule attention spans and busy lives; no-one is going to read a post over 2000 words, right?

Wrong! And here’s why…

As more people scour the web for specific answers to specific problems, we’re looking at a new wave of readers who crave comprehensive posts that can intricately solve their pain points.

More web surfers are using long-tail keywords to find highly relevant information. This means as a business, you can leverage these keywords in your blog posts to attract visitors and create immense value for your readers.

In fact, long-form posts not only perform better in terms of search rankings, they further establish your knowledge and authority, leading to higher conversion rates.

Everyone’s creating topic tickling posts at 500 words, but they fail to explore the level of depth your readers want. It simply pushes people to other sites so they can grasp the topic further.

By creating longer posts, you stand out from the sea of blogs that merely touch upon the root of your reader’s problems.

If you go beyond surface level, you’ll give readers a compelling reason to stay, and consequently generate more leads.

Longer content also attracts backlinks – other sites linking back to your blog.

As you build backlinks, Google recognises people see value in your content, which in turn boosts your organic traffic.


Focus on building your email list

Having a quality email list can be a huge asset to your business. One of the best ways to build that list is through blogging. There are many reasons why you should build a targeted email list, and these include:

  • Direct access to the inboxes of thousands of fans
  • Dramatically increases traffic to your blog
  • Attracts targeted visitors who want to hear from you
  • Increases sales for your products or services

With Google’s algorithms and social media changing all the time, an email list is your only guaranteed source of traffic.

If you offer readers something of value and they see you as someone they can trust, more people are likely to share their details so they can hear more of your wisdom.

They want your knowledge and see you as a valuable resource.

You won’t get people to sign up if you don’t offer something they want. Focus on giving actionable tips visitors can act on now, or content that’s out of the ordinary.

You could create a “sign up to receive your latest posts” box in your side bar, as I have on the right, or create an additional optin for further reading where an email is required.

There’s a huge range of plugins and services you can use to collect and track your email signups.  From pop ups and landing page forms to sign up boxes – choose one that works for your email building needs.


Promotion is key

There’s little point in writing great content if no-one can find it. Stick to the 80-20 rule when it comes to creating and promoting.

20% of your time should lend to creating, and 80% on promoting.

Again, ensure your time spent writing offers something truly valuable for your readers. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.

If you can only do one quality post a month, that’s far better than doing lots of below par posts. Refine your posts so they’re the best they can be. Then when it comes to promoting, you’ll have an easier job generating life-long followers.

As mentioned earlier, use a content calendar to help you define when and where you’ll promote your content. This is crucial if you want to stay on track and get the most out of your blogging.

Consider paid advertising to build your readership. There’s so much clutter online it’s difficult to push through. Paying to promote your content to a targeted audience allows you to side step the noise and sail above your competitors.

Set aside a daily budget and A/B test your campaigns. Measure your results and make changes to find what works.


SEO best practises

If you’re using WordPress, there’s a great plugin called Yoast you can use to cover the basics of on-page SEO. However, there are other factors to consider here…

The best ranking blogs use freshness and quality content to satisfy Google. That’s because Google strives to give its users the most relevant information to answer searches.

Google also rewards websites with backlinks. Therefore, the more authoritative websites that link back to your posts, the better your ranking will be.

Black hat techniques these days involve paying for backlinks, but Google will penalise you if you take this approach. At worst, taking your website down altogether. Don’t do it!

You need to build back links organically, and that only happens when you have quality content worth linking to.

Focus on creating outstanding content consistently, and your organic SEO will happen automatically.

It does pay to research the keywords your audience is using in Google to help this along. You should include these key phrases in your titles, subheads, images and body copy for an added organic boost.

Use Google’s Keyword Planner. Pay attention to the alternative phrases offered and opt for the ones that have the highest searches with the lowest competition.


Build rapport with influencers

You can go it alone, but we all know building quality connections is a good way to propel us forwards. Influencers in your industry have enormous followings – so what if you could tap into that targeted fan base. Their fans become your fans…

Start by reaching out on social networks – strike a conversation, share their content and be helpful.

Don’t be a taker, be a giver. You want to build friendships, and friendships aren’t built on a one way street.

Engage with the authority figures in your niche. Write a post about, for example, 10 blogs you should follow in… (your niche), and tag the blog owners on social media with a link to the post.

Funnily enough, this very topic will be my next post!

They’ll appreciate the mention and will likely retweet or share to their followers. It’s a nice way to introduce yourself and build a beneficial relationship.


Use visuals

Not everyone likes to consume content in big blocks of text. Mixing your content formats with imagery, video, infographics or even Slideshare presentations keeps your content fresh and digestible.

Visual content is taking off. In fact, a third of all online activity is spent watching video.

Your blog posts needn’t be exclusively text, filtering supporting photos or graphs where appropriate can help better communicate your message and break up intimidating blocks.

Social media sites like Google+ and Facebook continue to favour images and videos over text. You should consider this discovery when creating and promoting your content.

Always be aware of copyright issues when sourcing images. It’s not always easy to find high quality images but check out iStock, Pixabay or the like.

Better yet, take the photos yourself. You’ll not only get around any copyright boundaries – you’ll set yourself apart.


Always offer exceptional value

I touched upon this point in the long-form content section above, but it’s so important it deserves a subhead of its own.

Offering value means giving advice that precisely solves your readers’ problems.

It means giving away your expert knowledge for free and sparking off those ‘ah ha’ moments.

These are the moments where you’ve helped ease a person’s pain, and they’re so happy for that guidance they can’t help but share it with their friends.

That’s what valuable content is all about, and that’s what you need to strive for.

Of course, this requires knowing what your customers’ pain points are. What are their fears and aspirations? Who are they? How old are they? Are they male or female? What do they crave to make their lives better?

It’s all in the research.

Find out what makes your audience tick and write exceptional content to satisfy their needs.


Build your personal brand

We’ve heard it before – people like to do business with people. Consumers like to feel there’s someone behind the words and they’re not just dealing with a faceless corporation.

Furthermore, Google likes to see individuals being a helpful participant to its search engine. That means Google encourages the need to focus on creating a personal brand of you, the author.

Writing a blog is a great way to build your personal brand.

It gives you more freedom to express your personality while putting a face and name behind your business. This not only builds a stronger connection between author and reader, it creates a greater sense of trust and integrity.

It’s not a detached brand they’re reading, it’s an individual your visitors bond with and become attached to.

You are the person your readers see as the authority figure in your niche. Your business branding is an extension of your personality and wisdom.

Get your face out there and show people who you are and what you can do. In the end, it’s all about what you as a person can offer, not what your logo can.

Now that’s a powerful strategy.

Blogging is a commitment, but its power knows no bounds if you do it right.

Have you just started a blog? Or maybe you’re struggling to get any traction. Comment below if you have any blogging questions.

Over to you…

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