Have you ever struggled with creating blog posts? Me too.
For years, I couldn’t build consistency on my blog. I was super excited and enthusiastic for a few weeks, then something came up and my blog was silent for months… If this is familiar to you, you’ll love today’s post. I’m going to show you what’s the one common mistake that all newbie bloggers should avoid when starting their blog.
I really hope that I can save you from some headaches and from a truckload of the “oh, I haven’t posted for ages” guilt. Because there are so much more you can focus your energies on.
THE NUMBER ONE MISTAKE (DRUMROLL) IS...
Lack of planning.
DAH! I know… Sounds super boring. You might even think “this is so far from extraordinary as my morning oatmeal from a silver tray of amuse-bouche in a Michelin star restaurant.”
But stop for a sec and think about this: what will you post about next December? What are you going to write about when Mother's Day is coming and during the summer?
You might have a vague idea like “I’ll post about my favorite books” or “about my newest products”. That’s a good start.
And there’s another question: where did you write these down?
You didn’t write it down? Then you do not have a plan.
But still, blog planning can sound boring and sometimes frightening too. You add your fragile ideas that you caressed so long in your mind to the harsh reality of a calendar. Suddenly the weight of responsibility and the fear of critique drop two tonnes of weight on your shoulders. I know this feeling, every creative entrepreneur has it.
But believe me, no matter how hard is to craft a plan, it’s also an uplifting, empowering tool. In the midst of the hussle, you’ll have a map to follow. You won’t have to be a strategist every single day. You can assign a few days for your editorial calendar and then just follow the steps.
Advantage of blog planning:
You’ll never have to wonder what to write about
You’ll be able to promote your upcoming products
You’ll be able to do research for your blog posts in advance
You’ll be able to tease and fire up your readers about an upcoming topic
But how to make planning effective? I’m going to share with you The 13 Rules Of Effective Blog Planning.
I either learned these rules from top marketers teaching online or discovered some of them on my own. All in all, they helped me tremendously and I hope they will guide your blog planning process too.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
THE 13 RULES OF PLANNING BLOG CONTENT LIKE A PRO
Rule #1 - Know your ICA
You can’t have a successful business without knowing - or at least trying to know more about - your Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA). This is the person who would be a hard core fan of your brand and whose problems and pain points you really want to solve with your products and services.
Sad truth: no matter how much you love to blog about gardening and poetry if your ICA is a city girl whose favorite reads are fiery pulp fictions - you know the ones with sweaty, half naked guys on the cover. No luck there.
You either have to reevaluate who is your ICA or cater to the real needs of the current one.
So always ask:
Is this post going to solve one of my ICA’s problems? OR
Is my ICA interested in this topic?
Not all of you post has to be useful step-by-step tutorials though. You can also entertain or simply inspire her.
Rule #2 - Think about what your sales goals
You run your blog as part of your marketing. So there’s nothing bad about showcasing some of your products or services. In fact, you should always plan your blog post according your sales goals.
I’m not saying that you must sell in your posts. Instead, give advice, teach and share ideas that helps your ICA bring out the best from your products.
Do you provide web design? - Write about your process. Teach your ICA about her role in the website development process. Share your go-to plugins and resources.
Do you sell handmade jewelry? - Create a guide on how to choose the best necklace for different type of clothing. Show how to clean jewelries clean and how to store them in a nice way.
Are you a real estate specialist? - Share tips on how to find a dream home. Create a list of questions your ICA must ask before closing a deal. Share your favorite, trusted moving companies and what moving supplies are must-haves in order to protect expensive furniture.
You see, you don’t have to sound like a salesman all the time. But you must build trust by sharing your expertise. Don’t hide it, be proud of it girl!
Rule #3 - Love the topic
You must love the topic(s) you want to blog about and find the writing / recording process fun and motivating. This isn’t about selfishness. It’s plain simple: no matter how useful is what you write, your true personality won’t come through if you don’t like the process.
For months, I’ve wanted to write a blog post about color modes (CMYK and RGB) and best printing practices. I knew that this info could be useful for my ICA (a.k.a. You). But while I was researching the topic, I realized that no matter how much I wanted to enjoy it (and make it interesting and enjoyable for you), I couldn’t… At one point I almost fall asleep while reading an article about printer technologies and how many variations can you create of RGB vs. CMYK.
So in a nutshell, I decided to ditch the post all together. I might return to it later, if I figure out a way to make it engaging.
Truth is, you work hard on your business, so if you want to stay in it for the long game, you must enjoy it, especially the product, service and content creation part.
Rule #4 - One post = one question
Oh gosh, how many times I ran into this problem… As you can see, I’m the epic post writer type which can be ok in some cases but there’s a limit in how much you can stuff into one post.
Aim for answering one specific question. When you write your draft / key points and notice that it becomes more and more complex, check if there’s more than one question you answer at the same time. You can then decide to make two, three or maybe even more posts out of your original idea.
Good example is this post. I only aim to show you the rules and methods of blog planning. I will create another post about how I write my posts, how I create visuals for them and how my VA and me schedule the social sharing part.
Rule #5 - Action!
Make your posts actionable. This means that at the end you ask your readers to do something - preferably one specific action. For example:
Ask a question and ask them to leave their answer in the comments
Ask them to grab a freebie you created to that post
Ask them to check out a related article
Ask them to check your about page, services, products
The best is when this action helps your reader apply your advice in her own business.
Rule #6 - Leave time for research
Some posts will be easy to write because you have years of expertise in that topic. Others will require much more research work.
I recently started to work on a blog post about IKEA and I realized that I haven’t dig deep enough to make it interesting and useful. So I decided to reschedule the post to a later date and give myself more time on the topic.
When planning your posts consider this research time too and don’t schedule research heavy posts right after each other.
Rule #7 - Don’t stress the order
This one will feel a bit strange. Especially when you think about how structured is the way we learn things in school. History always starts way back in the past and then went chronologically until we’ve got to the present. Mathematics starts with basic formulas like the multiplication table and you’ll learn integration only in university.
This isn’t the case on the web. Sure, you can make blog post series by a logical order but you don’t have to stress it if you feel stuck. And there will be times when you feel stuck.
Maybe you start a really useful blog post series on the process of renovating a house. You already created 3 posts covering the basics, but when you come to the 4th, you lose momentum.
Now do you put your entire blog on hold just because you stuck on that post? Hack no!
You choose another topic and return to the series the next week or month.
Readers don’t read blogs the same way as they read posts. They can jump from post to post in any order they want so you also don’t have to stress the perfect, most logical order.
Rule #8 - Write it down!
As I mentioned at the beginning: if you don’t write it down, it’s not a plan (just daydreaming). Unfortunately, our memory has limits so “keeping blog post plans in just your head” is not an option.
Writing things down have many positive side effects:
You give your brain a break because it doesn’t have to remember all the things in your business
Helps you think in a more analytic way which is great when you plan the key parts of your blog posts
Help you keep more accountable. Research shows that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them than those who don’t
You can decide to go full digital or stay on paper during your planning. I actually like to combine the two and use a bullet journal method and Asana for the task.
Rule #9 - Your calendar must be your best buddie
When it comes to planning your blog posts, you’ll get to the scheduling phase where you assign dates to each posts.
Use a calendar that you are already comfortable in and check regularly. No matter how fancy and cool is a new editorial tool if you don’t check back to see if you are on time with your plans.
In my case, I have CoSchedule - an editorial calendar plugin for WordPress - but I don’t use its calendar features, only its social scheduling tool. All my other projects are in Asana, so it made sense that I put my blog posts in Asana too (and I show you below in a video how I do so).
Rule #10 - Share your plan
Accountability is key in order to stay consistent but we solopreneurs can have a hard time to keep ourselves accountable. Are you familiar with this? I’m certainly my worst enemy when I had to hold myself accountable.
A much better way is if you share your calendar with someone. It can be a friend, and accountability buddie or your husband. Someone who asks you - without nagging - “what’s up with that post you were planning?”
My accountability got a huge kick in the butt - in a good way - when I found my first VA. She’s putting all my posts into WordPress and asks me when the next post is coming. She’s not nagging or judgy at all, but just the thought that there’s someone waiting for me to finish this post makes me take it more seriously. So thanks Nori for being there and helping! 😉
Rule #11 - Create a blog idea log
Have you noticed that all of your greatest blog ideas come at the worst moment: while driving, in the shower, in the line at the grocery cashier, on the treadmill.
But when you sit down to plan your blog, you can’t remember any of these brilliant ideas. You know that they were amazing, life-changing, cool ideas but they flew away for good. And you just sit in front of your laptop with brain cramps as you’re struggling to recall them. Oh I hate those moments…
Other times, you still remember the blog topic idea but you can’t insert it into your calendar. It doesn’t fit between the topics and it’s not relevant enough but you still want to keep it.
Solution: Start a blog idea log!
The best tool for this is your phone because I bet you had times when you had no paper, no pen to jot ideas down. And having one billion sticky notes in your bag, car, office and shower also leads to all kind of problems…
So stay with the phone. I use OneNote, but you can use any note taking app (e.g. Evernote) that you already know and love. Create a new note with “My blog post ideas” title and start collecting them there.
If you can’t instantly write them down - e.g. you are driving - say out loud the idea at least 3 times. That helps memorizing it until you can stop and grab your phone. Or ask Siri to open up the voice recorder app and record the idea there. Later you can transcript your voice recording into your list.
Rule #12 - Batch, batch and batch!
This is life changing! If you don’t want to make every day of the week to feel like it’s “Blogging Day Again” try out batching. Or as Amy Porterfield said in her giga-useful podcast do “Mega Batching”.
What does this mean?
Without batching your blogging looks like this when you create one post per week (meanwhile working on other projects too):
- Day 1: do some SEO research and write the draft,
- Day 2: edit the post,
- Day 3: create blog images,
- Day 4: format in WordPress,
- Day 5: write the newsletter for the post,
- Day 6: schedule Facebook and Pinterest promotion for the post,
- Day 7: oh hell, I’m back to the beginning!
With batching, you batch similar tasks together and you assign a 1-2 week period for creating multiple posts (up to 4-6 is manageable) - and not work on anything else:
Day 1: you write the key points of 4-6 blog posts and do SEO research,
Day 2-3: you write all 4-6 posts
Day 4: you edit all 4-6 posts
Day 5: you create visuals for all 4-6 posts
Day 6: you insert and format all 4-6 posts in WordPress
Day 7: you write and schedule newsletters and social content for all 4-6 posts
Now I don’t say to follow the exact time table. It can be longer or shorter for you and you might have extra steps (for example creating content upgrades). But one thing is sure: with mega batching, you can have 2-4 weeks when you don’t have to stress about your blog content. And that is simply Ahmaaazing!
I’m also newbie to this process. I’ll keep you updated on my Mega Batching Progress when I have more experience.
Rule #13 - Make it fun!
If being strategic is not your thing and sitting over the blank calendar frightens you, then do this: make planning fun!
My dear son is a picky eater, so dinner time isn’t much fun in our household. We decided to change this. We went to a paint your own pottery place to create my son’s plate (with an excavator and garbage truck on it), bought cute utensils, animal shaped sandwich cutters and so on and also invited him into the process… Now we make our green smoothies together every morning and he drinks them, even the green ones. Ok, I must add that I had to organize smoothie drinking competitions to keep him engaged but still, it’s a progress.
There’s always an opportunity to make something difficult feel more fun (and if you know such a way for bookkeeping, let me know!)
So grab your washi tapes, stickers and markers and create! Make your editorial calendar into a piece of art. This way it will be useful and you’ll be looking forward to the next planning phase.
Extra Tip: Use Pomodoro
I really recommend you to use a productivity tool like the Pomodoro Method when it comes to blogging. The Pomodoro Method in particular has the advantage of:
- Tracking the time you spend on the task
- Forcing you to take breaks - and reward yourself with a chocolate chip cookie
- Helps you focus on the work, instead of the difficulty and uncomfort of the task
In the Pomodoro Method, you set 25 minute work phases and 5 minute break phases (or something else that works for you, for me it’s 50 minutes work and 10 minutes breaks). You use a clock or an app like Flat Tomato to track when a phase ends.
I noticed that I finish much more on days when I use this technique than on days when I don’t.
WHICH ONE ARE YOU GOING TO APPLY IN YOUR BLOG PLANNING PROCESS?
If you follow these rules and guidelines, I’m sure you’ll have success and you’ll be able to get content out every week. In addition, I’m going to show you how I use my bullet journal and Asana to plan my blog content in my upcoming posts - stay tuned.
Now, let’s make this post actionable! Tell me which one of these rules you are going to implement into your blog planning process right now. Leave your thoughts in the comment section, I can’t wait to read them.