“Blogging allows you to teach people based on your experience. And it gives you the opportunity to learn from your readers as well.” – Scott Chow, The BlogStarter.com
Welcome to Episode 27: How To “Untangle” Your Blog
Okay, so let's be honest here … Blogging is kind of terrifying. Trust me, I know ... I felt the same way when I first pondered on the idea. You're fearful of not "making it" with all the great ideas you have rolling around in your head. And to top it off, you're most fearful of being judged by others reading your work.
But don't fret, today I'm here to help you get past all those mixed feelings and find your blogging way ...!
Here's what we will be untangling in this episode ...
Plus, a pre-publishing checklist and a short brief on next steps!
Are you ready?
Pop in your awesome earbuds and let's dive in!
Last week's “untangling” episode was to give you the ins and outs between choosing to become a blogger or a podcaster. Or perhaps both. Then I got to thinking, it’s probably a good idea to dive into both a little bit deeper separately on how to “untangle” each digital adventure to help you along with your choice.
So, let’s not waste any precious time and just dive right on into the land of “untangling” when it comes to blogging …
Okay, so let's be honest here … Blogging is kind of terrifying. Trust me, I know ... I felt the same way when I first pondered on the idea. You're fearful of not "making it" with all the great ideas you have rolling around in your head. And to top it off, you're most fearful of being judged by others reading your work. But don't fret, today I'm here to help you get past all those mixed feelings and find your blogging way ...!
To build a following for your blog, you need to commit a certain amount of time for follow-up activities (which I shared with you on last week’s episode) and to figure out your WHY … if you are blogging for the purpose of building your business.
To start your new blog, I am going to trust that you have selected your niche based on what kind of business you have (or want to have). And all the information you’re about to hear is all geared toward business bloggers -- who are using their blog both as a marketing tool and a way to create a community around the kind of business they have.
And yet again, my favourite way to dive into a new topic, with a quote. This one from none other than Scott Chow from TheBlogStarter.com …
"Blogging allows you to teach people based on your experience. And it gives you the opportunity to learn from your readers as well."
Most of you probably already know a lot about Virtually Untangled based upon what I’ve shared with you on this newfound digital podcast adventure, if you’ve read any of our 300 blog posts, or perhaps are on our email list or follow us on social.
But in case you are new to our level of “digital glue” … I own a service-based virtual business working as a graphic and web designer, and as an insanely organized n’ tech-heavy virtual assistant. When I was blogging, I chose to write about those as my areas of expertise, but I do not stop there! I also dove deep into some posts about what it is like to be an entrepreneur as well as a few side twists of miniseries interviewing other business owners around the globe who are also doing amazing things. And that’s why I brought this up as it slides right on into the very first step …
#1. DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT.
To select topics you will write about first, you must define your audience. To whom will you be speaking when you write?
You can speak to more than one group; you are not limited to just one. And to use myself as an example, I speak to the following group types:
Having several target audiences has given me a whack of things to write about. And I never EVER get bored as there are so many topics and avenues to slide into!
Now, before I dive in any further, I just want to let you know you might wanna take some notes as I am going to give you some tasks to do. And by the time we are finished here today, you will be well on your way to completing your very first blog post.
Task #1: Complete this sentence (and actually write it down) …
Task #2: Who is your target audience for your business? And for your blog? Write this down, too. It will help you clarify all the brain-bouncing thoughts that might be swirling around in your head. The best way to harness these thoughts -- any thoughts I might add! -- and create order is to write them down.
Okay, now it’s time to talk specifics …
What will you write about?
Even knowing your broad topic areas and target audiences does not always mean you will know specifically what you want to write about, but it is a great start! The truth is you want to have a lot of things to write about. No matter how often you plan to publish new blog posts, you will need a specific and focused topic each time. Twice a week, once a week, once a month, etc., you will need a topic.
And think of it this way (thanks to Sonia Simone of Copy Blogger) …
“If it's not good enough to link to, bookmark, retweet, and email friends about, it's not good enough."
And she couldn’t be more right. If it’s not going to reign people in right off the get-go and keep them reading … it’s not worth writing about!
Okay, next up …
Think about WHERE will you get ideas for your first blog post … and the next one, and the next one?
I offer quite a few suggestions in a handful of “Blog Post Ideas” posts. And as you read through them, you’ll notice, I have used many of those ideas myself! I wouldn’t ever share information with someone if I wasn’t willing to do it or try it out myself first. Here at VU, we pride ourselves in truthfully acting on the “tried-tested-and-true”. And if you choose to use some of those same ideas then GREAT! They may be topic similar, but they will be just as fresh for you.
And you could even use many of my suggestions more than once.
For example, take the suggestion to "Profile Readers and/or Customers/Clients" … If you profile six people, you will be able to use this idea six times. Thus, you now have 6 blog posts!
… Or perhaps you want to talk about hot topics in your field.
… Or dive into an AMAfeed or Quora to see what questions people in your field are asking (or are being asked).
… Or compare two things.
… Or if you’re faced with a sticky business-related decision, you can even solicit suggestions for how to handle it. This one is a great way to get people talking about your topic. And you will help others who face the same decision.
No matter what topics you choose, just ensure you challenge yourself and hold yourself accountable. Then you can dive off from there and write subsequent posts about your progress in meeting this challenge.
Okay, couple more tasks pertaining to what I just shared …
Got your notebook ready?
Task #3: Write down your first (potential) 10 topics. You can change your mind later; no one will hold you to them. This will get your juices flowing.
Task #4: For each of the 10 topics you just listed, write down five variations or offshoots. For example, say one of your 10 topics is "my favourite dog breed and why" (perhaps your business is dog grooming or pet sitting). To arrive at five variations, you might think of five people to interview and then write about how each of those people answered that question.
Now, you have 50 topics.
Pick one for today, for your first blog post.
Okay, now let’s slide into the next super important step in creative writing …
#2: OVERCOMING FEAR THROUGH BRAINSTORMING.
Are you worried your blog post won’t be good enough, authoritative enough, or interesting enough?
At this point, it might not be, and that thought can be paralyzing. PARALYZING!!!
But as you get into the writing of it, your thoughts start flowing, and the good, authoritative, and interesting elements of your post will featherweight float to the top. Just start writing down your ideas. All you are trying to do right now is open the floodgates.
If you are familiar with the concept of brainstorming -- usually conducted in a group setting -- you know the saying, "There are no bad ideas". And it’s true! During the brainstorming phase, everything is acceptable. Every idea will get you closer to the actual idea -- and words -- you will use in your blog post. You may need to sift through some not-so-great ideas to get to the great ones. It’s a natural part of the process.
Have you by any chance heard of a word cloud?
You may have seen them as info-type graphics -- but never used them beyond your thought process …
A word cloud is a way of brainstorming by yourself, for yourself. Think about your topic and write down the first word that comes to mind on a blank sheet of paper, preferably one without lines. Circle the word. What word popped into your head next? Write it down and circle it. Thus, creating clusters of related words as you jot down whatever comes to mind next and circle each word as you go.
Are you starting to see a theme emerging?
Allow these words to coalesce in your mind until you have a strong sense of what you want to say in your blog post.
And it doesn’t have to be a paper and pen method -- unless you prefer. There are many sites online that replicate this process digitally.
Which brings me to your next task …
Task #5: Create a word cloud related to the topic of your blog post.
And from here, now that we got your hamster wheel turning, it’s time for the next step …
#3: CONDUCTING SOLID RESEARCH.
As you continue to blog, you will find that some blog posts flow from your brain onto the page almost fully formed. But other times, you will think you have a good idea only to find you only have the bare bones of said idea. Occasionally you will need to conduct research for reasons such as these:
Keep in mind that research can eat up your time. So, you need to limit the amount of time you spend researching. Otherwise, you’ll spend oodles of hours on research which could be spent actually writing.
This brings me to your next mini homework task …
Task #6: Select a phrase that describes your topic and enter that phrase into the search bar in your web browser. Look at the many, many results that come up, known as search engine results pages, or SERPs. If you need to conduct research, this is how you would start. And as I just mentioned, be cautious as this is also commonly known as a "time suck," so consider yourself warned!
And now that you’re prepped with your ideas, your keywords and your research, it’s YES! actually writing time. Which brings me right on into the very next step -- and a highly important one on so many virtual levels …
#4: CREATING THE "PERFECT" TITLE FOR YOUR BLOG POST.
While it is not necessary for your blog to have a title, each blog post does need one. Think of it as a headline for a news story. And by now, you’re probably wondering … What makes one title the “perfect title” -- while others sink with a thud?
Well, for starters, the title of your blog post needs to provide enough information that people have a good idea of what you are writing about. That may sound simplistic, but you would be amazed at some I have seen like "Just Watch it Go!" where I literally had no idea what it was about or whether I even wanted to read it. And for me personally, that made me just pass on by …
So, to help you through and have that not be you, here’s a short list of some truly important characteristics of exceptionally great blog titles …
I saved sharing that last one until the end because it tends to raise many questions.
If you are familiar with search engine optimization (also commonly known as SEO) then you will not have any trouble with keywords.
If you are not familiar with this concept, then I recommend you do some research to learn about it. It is a big topic (in terms of volume as well as significance), so be prepared!
Bloggers who write as part of their marketing strategy do so partly so search engines will "find" them and "lead" people to their website. Each blog post, while serving other purposes -- such as building community -- can also work toward your marketing goals. That is as much as I will say about keywords because it could fill up several podcast episodes and blog posts all on its very own. (LOL!)
And just like your cloud of ideas, some bloggers will find that a better title comes to them as they finish writing and editing the post. And that’s okay. You can change the title at any point. This brings us to another mini homework task …
Task #7: Spend a few minutes creating three possible titles for your first blog post using at least 1 or 2 of the characteristics I just shared. And if you need to refer back to that spoken list, it’s in the transcription of this episode 😉
Okay, now it’s time to let your creative juices flow …
#5. PREPARING AN OUTLINE FOR YOUR POST.
Many people want to skip this step. And you can … I guess! … but you shouldn’t. Not until blogging becomes an "old hat" for you. I highly recommend preparing an outline to create a structure for your post and help you stay focused because if you ramble or meander, you will lose the reader.
And with that being said, here are the elements your outline should include:
And now it’s task homework time again …
These will take longer and some quiet solo thought time, so set them aside and dive on in when you’re ready to actually write your blog post.
Task #8: Write the outline for your blog post.
Task #9: Write your first blog post following your outline.
(Notice how I snuck this in here.)
Task #10: Write your call-to-action.
Task #11: Find or create APPROPRIATE high-resolution images to go with your blog post. These can be embedded to break up the copy and/or as a featured image to go along with your catchy title. Keep in mind all the copyright laws out there … You may need to purchase stock images or use images that are free as long as you give proper credit.
YIPPEE! It’s almost publishing time! Which brings me to one of the most IMPORTANT pre-publish steps for anything you’re going to put out into the virtual world with copy …
#6. EDITING AND PROOFREADING WITH A FINE-TOOTH COMB.
Editing and proofreading are not the same functions. Ways to edit your work include making your phrasing more concise, trimming extra content, and smoothing out awkward transitions. While proofreading is all about checking spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Perhaps even consider reading the material out loud to make sure you didn’t leave out any words or accidentally type words in the wrong order. (It happens!)
This step is also the next two tasks to add to your to-do list …
Task #12: Edit your blog post.
Task #13: Proofread your blog post.
Now it’s OFFICIALLY publishing time …
#7. CHECKING OFF YOUR PRE-PUBLISHING CHECKLIST.
Once you check, re-check and check everything off that pre-publishing checklist it’s time for your next two EVER-EXCITING tasks …
Task #14: Preview your blog post.
Task #15: Publish your blog post.
And there you have it … YOUR FIRST BLOG POST!
YOU DID IT!
You are now officially a blogger.
You thought we were finished, didn't you?
Getting there but not quite … Now is the time where you do all the follow-up actions we discussed in last week’s episode.
And then after that, this is where I happily say … "rinse and repeat." That’s right! Go back to STEP 1 of this episode and begin again for your next blog post. The difference is now you have a list of 49 topics to blog about by taking the second topic from the list you created and work your way through the steps and tasks again:
And there you have it … now you REALLY ARE an official blogger!
If all of this seems like too much work for you, it's possible blogging is not for you. And that may make you think that podcasting is your digital avenue instead.
You may need to write a few posts before you decide. In that case, follow the steps I shared with you today and “hold” each post in a draft state until you decide for sure. You don't want to launch a blog only to walk away from it if it’s tied to your business. That doesn’t look good for your brand … And the internet is already littered with them.
So, my final advice to you … To be successful as a blogger there is really just one requirement: a passion for your topic.
Don’t forget to stay tuned for next week’s episode where I dive into how to “untangle” your podcast … Just in case you’re not sure which digital path you want to be on yet -- or if you’ve decided on both!
See you next week! 😊