This is a detailed How-To article, guaranteed to get your Blog started!
Many of my clients seem to be coming to me lately with an interest in starting a blog on their website. I’ve been spending a lot of time explaining what I’m about to explain in this article, (which will be posted to my OWN Blog), so that’s why I decided to sit and write it down. I mean why explain over and over when I can simply direct those interested parties to the same article for one and all to learn all about it at one place?
And that’s what blogs are – a way for a website owner to impart important information, share their creativity, or drip scheduled information to the masses. Sometimes, a cute, funny, whimsical, or even personal article is posted, as a way to not be so serious all the time with the audience. It’s good to break things up occasionally.
Origins - What Exactly is a Blog?
“Blogs” started in the early 90s as “threads” – snippets of information shared to a common forum (amidst the dot-com rush and gains in the World Wide Web). These threads were eventually renamed to weblog, and in 1997 were truncated from weblog to “blog”.
WordPress came along in 2003, an open-source software designed for the writer-centered author looking for a place to post their work. Posts are typically displayed in reverse chronological order so that the most recent post appears first, at the top of the web page. Over time, blogs evolved to the point where the blog page was not the center of the website, but simply an additional page. People who blog regularly are known as bloggers. The website, Blogger, which is now owned by Google, was launched in 1999 (beating out WordPress) but due to its many limitations lost favor to WordPress (these 'Blogger' users now use the subdomain, blogspot.com).
Websites don't have to include a blog, but can add a page dedicated to blog posts at any time - it's super easy to do on WordPress (all of my clients’ websites are built on WordPress). You can name the blog page anything you like; from Blog, to News, Media or even Sam’s Corner. In essence, you could call it anything you want. Many people choose the name Blog because it is so well known as the place within a website to go for information written in an article format.
A somewhat recent development is using short videos, rather than written articles within one's blog. These are sometimes called "Vlogs" (V for Video), and videos can be from 2 to about 45 minutes long. Video blog posts are especially good for when a demonstration of the topic could be useful, or when the website owner feels they are not a good writer, but are comfortable in front of the camera. Cell phone filming is generally fine, though the phone should be held horizontally, not vertically. Your videos should be stored within your channel at either YouTube or Vimeo; both have free accounts for this. I've always liked blogs with a combination of written and video posts. Plus this is good for SEO because some of your viewers will have a preference over one or the other. Be sure to include a written transcription of the full video post for those with hearing disabilities.
Things to think about ahead of time
The rules differ slightly depending on the target industry. For example, writing an article for a medical journal may look drastically different than for a pet groomer. The article for the medical journal would probably be MUCH longer, and the one for a pet groomer may contain way more images. Following is some general information that should apply to most of you.
Where will you get your topics/ideas to write about? For some people, this comes naturally. They may be doing a task related to their website, and think to themselves, hey, I should post about this so everybody knows. Voila! For others, you should know that there is free help here, just google ‘free online blog idea generator’ to get started.
You may want to start a ‘blog calendar’ to keep track of what you’ve already posted (including the image used), and have somewhere to place future ideas. This can be as simple as a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet. You can find specialized templates by googling ‘free downloadable blog post calendar template’.
Blog Post Protocol
The content of the post should be original and authentic to the author. Do not copy or plagiarize from others. “Good content” attracts readers; useful, helpful, educational content keeps your visitors coming back (or subscribing) to your website. The post should clearly be marked as to whom the content is written by (the author). There is a (fairly new) algorithm Google uses that looks for something called E-E-A-T, which stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. The post’s author should write with expertise and authority, citing their own experiences with the subject matter. Being Trusted will come with time. Being good at E-E-A-T is good SEO.
The word count per blog post depends on the subject. I would say the minimum is 350 words for even the quickest, most whimsical posts and should get longer, as the topic gets more serious or more educational, easily up to 1,500-2,000 words. Don't be afraid to use more words, as long as you are providing good (quality) content. To give you an idea, this blog post that you are reading right now contains just over 2,600 words.
All posts should be heavily framed with good subheadings. This is done to break up large blocks of information, but also because most people are “skimmers” to a certain degree; they like to flit around to all the subheadings to get a feel for what the article is about and read the sections that interest them most, first.
Every blog post should have a unique, attention-grabbing title. There are free online generators for this as well. A catchy title can make all the difference in getting someone to click and read your article.
Blogs use something called Categories. Blog categories organize your site and allow readers to find the information they want, sort of like a Table of Contents - a quick glance so your visitors can see what you write about. Some examples of categories might be: Educational, News, Featured Service, Personal Stories, or one of your named products or a service you offer.
Just like all the content on your website, use care when choosing fonts; fonts should match what your website already uses. It should be easily readable, in color, size, and contrast. Don’t use excessive bolding or lots of colors; as this usually turns out to be distracting or even infringe on accessibility compliance within your website.
Every blog post should have at least one image, sometimes more, of something relevant or pertaining to the topic; for visual interest at the very least. Good sources for pertinent images are canva.com or istockphoto.com. The best formats for images are jpg and png. Don’t forget to include the alt-text (describes what the image is). Alternative text (Alt-text) is important for two reasons; one is so screen readers can tell visually-disabled visitors what is there, but also because images are searchable, and therefore open to being optimized (SEO).
Include at least one outbound link (also known as external links), though more is better (2-5 links, or more depending on the subject and length of the article). Outbound links are links within the blog post that link externally to another post, web page, or resource that backs up what you are saying or provides additional information. Be sure that your outbound links open in a new tab/window; you don't want your visitors to leave your website! To give you an idea, this blog post that you are reading right now contains 7 outbound links.
Include internal links to your own website if you mention something on one of the pages (This blog post you are reading right now contains 2 internal links, of which one is my CTA).
Be sure to follow correct grammar and punctuation rules. You don’t want to write a great article and then have poor grammar shoot you in the foot. MS Word has a built-in spell-checker, but Grammarly is a free app you can add to your devices (and browsers) to check much more than just spelling.
Also Consider These Important Practices
Be consistent – Set a pace you can handle. Blog often if you can, but monthly at the least, and bi-monthly is better. Some bloggers post weekly (or even more). But be consistent at whatever pace you've set for yourself. This tells your visitors that you are committed to offering great content to their community. And a blog with nothing recent on it just looks stale and forgotten.
Be very careful with guest posts; only accept articles for placement on your website from someone you know and can vet.
Remember to cross-post. Don’t do all this work and not get the full bang for your (time) investment. A well-written post can take several hours or more to put together. Share your article to your social media accounts, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Alignable, etc., where it makes sense. But do not post the whole article; give a tease, maybe the first 150-300 words or so (depends on the length of the article). Have your post end with “Read more” or “Read the full article” as a link back to the article on your website. Blog posting is about getting a visitor who found your article to GO to your website (increasing traffic), and hopefully DOING something. See the next paragraph.
An ideal post will include a CTA (Call-to-Action). A CTA asks your visitor to do something – add themselves to your email list, download a free report (to get them on your email list), to complete a form for more information about your product or service, to buy a product or service, maybe at a promotional discount. There are many types of CTAs; use what works for the article and/or what you’d ultimately like this prospect to become to you (new customer, new subscriber, etc.). My CTA in this article is to offer you help in setting up your blog (all the way at the bottom in the dot-borderline box).
If you collect email addresses (or any other personally identifiable information) on your website, like in a contact form or newsletter signup, be sure you have an SSL certificate on your website (the https) as security to protect your visitors’ information. (Heck, whether you collect information or not, your website should have an SSL). If they fill out a form, but you intend to also add them to your Email List, you must state this; you can’t send emails to them without their permission (making their permission part of the terms of completing the CTA is fine). Also state that you will not sell or share their email (and don't sell or share!).
Going Further ......with SEO
Another great feature of well-written blog posts is for the post to be optimized for SEO (include meta information; description, title tag and key phrase). Optimizing each blog post gets more mileage out of what you’ve created. I can't stress enough that a consistently done, cross-posted, optimized, quality-content blog is one of the single-most easiest ways to affect your ranking in search engines.
Basic Technical Setup for a Blog Page
- Create your blog categories. Set the default post category in Settings > Writing.
- Create a WordPress web PAGE and title it whatever you like.
- Go into your Admin Dashboard, and in Settings > Reading, set your Blog page. (special note, if your site uses a special editor, like Beaver Builder, and you don’t like the default layout, skip this step, but another step to modify the blog page will be required)
- From your Admin Dashboard, go into Menu, and add the new blog page to the navigational menu(s).
Prewrite at least 3 articles before the new Blog page is published so the page doesn’t look bare and strange; plus you’ll be able to see how the individual posts will be laid out (masonry style, 3-across grid in rows, 1-across, etc). There are many ways to set up the layout – to a large extent this will depend on your theme, but there are ways around this if you don’t like the look of the default layout. Your website professional can help with this. 🙂
Use MS Word (or similar) to write your article. I don't recommend writing the original article within the website's Post function. This is because writing posts can be time-consuming and you'll want to save your work, and come back to it over and over until the post is finished. Be sure to run the spell-checker, and Grammarly check if you have that. Include on the Word document's page the attention-grabbing title, the external and internal links, and the image(s) you intend to use. Check your word count (in the Review tab). Note on the document where you'll cross-post this article. Add this to your blog post calendar, if you've started one.
Log into your website using your credentials. From the Admin Dashboard, click on New POST. You may need to click on an additional link if you want to use a specific Editor. There are too many variables for me to attempt a true workflow of how to create an actual post. The first time you do this will take some time but will get easier and faster the more posts you create.
Set the category. The author's username should be adjusted to an author-only level (for security). Hit Publish!
Established KMS Clients with a Care Plan in place - You can use your
monthly Update Minutes towards the task of getting your
Microsoft-Word-supplied posts (with image) added to your website.
If anyone tells you blogging is outdated, don’t listen to them. It may look different now than a couple of decades ago, but people will always read great content. The only difference is that Blog posts or articles have shifted from writer-centered to reader-centered. And what do repeat visitors equate to? If visitors are returning to your site to read your content, this tells Google that people find your content important and engaging, and your website's ranking may increase.
Post Script: Don’t get me started on using AI for writing blog posts. That’s a post for another day!