How To Start a Blog | Blog Topics, Keyword Tools, Content, SEO

Whether you have a blog you want to make more successful or are looking at how to start a blog, this post is for you.

In 2014, there were 27.4 million reported bloggers who updated their blog at least once per month. In 2020, that number is expected to reach 31.7 million.

What is a Blog?

Blogging is a great way to inform, educate, or entertain your audience. In its basic form, a blog post is a write up of a thought or process.

Don’t like to write? No problem. Speak it into a video or recorder and send it to a website like Rev.com. For $1 per minute, they will transcribe your verbal word to written word.

People often ask, what is the Difference between a Blog and a Website?

Sometimes, not much. And in many cases, they will be on the same platform. Your website would be built around evergreen content. Evergreen content lives on forever. It should be timeless.

Blog posts are generally dated and can contain information that would “expire” because it’s time sensitive.

An example would be a cooking blog.

Your website may be full of recipes and cooking tips that would live on forever.

Your blog posts might be “meals of the season” focused around that time of the year. A blog post might include information about your upcoming cooking class, or be based on something in the news.

OR, maybe your blog contains every one of your articles, evergreen and otherwise and your website contains your reviews, about and contact us page, and your products and services. That’s fine too.

If you are using WordPress, take a bit of time to learn the structure and the relationship between pages and sub pages (parent/child) and posts and categories.

This might help you decide how you want to build your blog.

Why Blog?

Blogging is a great way to draw interest in your brand or service. It allows you to show your specialty knowledge, experience, and interests in the form of written and visual content.

Quite frequently, product pages can be hard to rank for on the search engines. One example of this would be real estate agent websites who all feature the same inventory, which is homes for sale in the MLS. With all content being relatively the same, Google tends to award the top positions to the larger portals like Zillow and Realtor.com.

With blogging, you can create calls to action (offers) within your informative, entertaining, or though provoking posts. This is a great way to generate business and can sometimes result in direct sales.

Where to Blog

You’ll want to find a platform that you feel comfortable using and that your audience can find. You’ll find that WordPress is a favorite and also can serve as a complete blog and website combination. Many can follow along and set up their WordPress quickly. Others say there’s a learning curve.

If you have your own website that already has a blog, use it. See what you can do there first. Pay attention to the how to blog steps and videos in this article to determine if your platform has what you need.

WordPress

WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world powering more than 25% of all websites in the world. According to an article published by Forbes, WordPress is used by nearly 75 million websites, has more than 409 million people viewing an excess of 23.6 billion pages each month. Its bloggers produce 69.5 million new blog posts and comment around 46.8 million times each month.

While WordPress can be free, you want a paid hosting service if you intend to be found online through the search engines. Contact Ballen Brands for more information on WordPress websites and hosting services.

Blogger

Blogger is a popular choice among beginning bloggers primarily because of its simple interface. You don’t have to be a technology genius to understand it. You can sign up for free using your Google account. You have the option of a free domain or your own domain from another host. You don’t own it though. Consider it on “use” which may not be a great strategy for long-term SEO.

LinkedIn

A simple blog platform, LinkedIn’s Pulse is another great option. This platform is free and is a nice area for the business blogger that has no desire to build a large website + blog combination. You can blog on LinkedIn and drive traffic back to your website.

Medium

Similar to LinkedIn’s blogging platform, medium offers a free platform for blogging. Integrating blogging and social, Medium uses stories and a series of stories for your blog posts. Medium offers a premium version as well. Medium is a great platform for thought leaders, yet doesn’t offer the robust content management system you’ll find on WordPress. Here’s how you can get started with medium.

Tumblr

Now owned by Yahoo, Tumblr is growing rapidly as more startup bloggers realize how easy it is to use.  It’s free, and set up is quick and relatively painless. Tumblr is a visual site, part blog, part social network.
Here are a few resources for you when setting up a Tumblr blog.

Who Uses Tumblr? This statistic shows the age distribution of Tumblr users in the United States as of December 2016. As of that month, 23.9 percent of U.S. Facebook users were between 25 and 34 years old. The largest user group were 18 to 24-year-olds with a 25.7 percent share.

Distribution of Tumblr users in the United States as of December 2016, by age group

Lifewire: How to make a Free Blog on Tumblr
and How to find themes for Tumblr.

What to Blog About

The best way to begin a blog is to write about what you know. If you were to write a book about what you know, how would you break that down into Chapters? Those chapters are your blog posts. Inside those chapters, you would have paragraphs on drilled down topics right? Same with a blog post.

Consider a question and answer series based around what your actual clients and customers ask. You can title the blog post as the question is phrased, and simply answer it in a blog post.


Although the video above shows how to find blog topics for real estate, it would apply to any industry. It can sometimes be difficult to find a topic to write about. You want to make sure that your topic is something that people will WANT to read and that other people may not necessarily be writing about.

Here are a few places to help you find a topic to write about:

Girl is wearing a blue dress. She's happy with her thumb up and holding a computer. Thumb points a bit back to words Watch Me Blog on WordPress. A play all button is at the bottom.
WordPress Blogging Tutorial Video Series

Here’s an incredible Youtube Playlist that allows you to watch me blog on WordPress f rom the beginning of idea creation to the SEO Steps of the blog.

Utilizing Google Top Searches

When you visit Google and begin typing something into the search bar, a menu pops up and gives you suggestions based on related searches.

Here is an example when I typed in “Things” into Google:

How to Write a Successful Blog in 8 Simple Steps

You can see that Things to Do in Las Vegas is one of them which is definitely relevant to my local real estate website Ballen Vegas.

This gives me ideas on hyperlocal blog topics that would be good for real estate.

You will also see Things to Do in Santa Monica (not relevant to Ballen Vegas), Things Remembered (a company — not relevant), and Things to Give up for Lent. If they don’t apply, we don’t use them.

Now, starting over and type in “things to do in Las Vegas” in the Google Search Bar, I get more recent searches I could use.

Google showing suggestions of keyword phrases around things to do in las vegas

How to use Keywords

Keywords, in a attempt to tell Google what our content is about, are no longer needed.

As long as your content is good on topic, Google now deduces what it’s about without the keyword stuffing we once needed.

While we still use keyword placement strategically as a best practice (see SEO strategies below), it’s not necessary for Google to determine how or where to rank the blog post.

We absolutely can use keyword research as part of our strategy. List of longtail keywords in Semrush showing position, search volume, keyword difficulty, cost per click etc.

Keyword tools like Semrush can show us ideas on which keywords make sense to cover. They also tell us how many people search that term and what the cost per click might be.

These factors indicate a certain amount of value for that keyword.

Tools like Semrush can also show us the Keyword difficulty score which indicates how hard it might be to rank for that keyword on Google and which keywords might be less competitive.

In addition to the main topic ideas, Keyword tools can show us semantically keywords which Google likes to see. If the top 10 page one article around a topic all include a certain set of words, your blog post might be expected to include them as well.

Example:

We want to write a blog topic on New Years Resolutions.

Heading over to Semrush and typing in New Years Resolutions, we also see these keyword phrases others have used that may be instrumental in our blog.

  • Funny New Years Resolutions
  • Top New Years Resolutions
  • What is a New Years Resolution
  • How to Choose a New Years Resolution
  • Healthy New Years Resolutions
  • Why New Years Resolutions Fail
  • Origin of New Years Resolutions
  • New Years Resolutions for Couples

If you just included those 8 keyword phrases, made them paragraph headings, and wrote 200 words under each, you’d have a 1600 word blog post!!

Makes it digestible right?

How to write your blog

Once you have your blog topic, you’ll want to break it down into sections:

Blog Intro:

You only have a moment to capture their attention. Your blog intro will tell the user if they want to stick around to read the article.

Table of Contents:

For an article with 3 or fewer paragraphs, you may not need a table of contents. If you are going to dive deep and create long-form content, you’ll probably have more than 4 paragraphs with distinct headings. Each of these headings can be used to form a table of contents.

Table of contents with intro saying in this article, we will cover and a hide button to collapse the table
Table of Contents Created with TOC +, a WordPress Plugin

Then, the user can simply click down to the area they want and skip the rest or bounce around. This improves the user experience. In addition, we’ve proven that Google appreciates tables and steps and may use this structured data in it’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page), often return a Featured Rich Snippet.

Learn more about creating a table of contents.

Body:

The body will generally be a few paragraphs long. Each paragraph should be it’s own heading (h2 tag) on topic. If you are writing a blog post on a competitive topic with a goal to have it rank on the search engines, you are probably creating 4+ paragraphs with more than 1000 words.

In between each paragraph, consider using a line break. If you are using WordPress, Shortcodes Ultimate has a divider that is clean, matches your theme, and can take users back to the top. (see example below Conclusion).

Add images, infographics, videos and related articles. Use internal links to improve the user experience.

Conclusion

Your conclusion can simply be a line or two summarizing what you covered in your blog. It’s a recap. You can also include a call to action for products and services.

Finding Images for a Blog

Careful with this one.  You can’t simply head over to Google Images and take an image as your own without credit. You could face copyright infringements.

Young couple is sitting on a swing looking at photos on their cell phone
Sample Copyright Free Image

Instead, you’ll want to take your own images, use a copyright free website, or use images with the appropriate credits and link back to the source.

💡Canva is an amazing tool that will allow you to customize your images. They also have a library of images for free and for as low as $1.00 you can use on your website. This one website could be all you need.

At Ballen Brands, we use Shutterstock. We purchase a subscription that allows us to download all of the photographs we need in various formats. Shutterstock also has a video footage.

Stock photos can be boring. We look for photos that are modern and would be something we might see on a social media feed.

Careful with images. If you download and upload to your blog in high resolution, you could cause your page to load slowly. Generally, you don’t need very high resolution for your blog posts. Fast loading is more important than images. You can compress your images using free software found online or through a WordPress Plugin. 

SEO Your Blog

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the act of following best practices to generate rankings on the search engines such as Google.

There are no absolute rules for how to get ranked on Google, yet there are ranking factors.

To have a blog post indexed on Google means that it is in Google’s database. Where or if you rank on the SERP (search engine results page) is another thing altogether.

Ranking on Google is earned in through trust and authority. You must first have content that Google believes it’s searches are seeking.

Next, you must have a website that provides a quality user experience. How well you rank has a lot to do with your search engine visibility with Google, and how much authority your website has (backlinks) and it’s credibility.

Two bloggers could create equally valuable content and one could go straight to the top and the other could sit many pages back on the SERP.

Here are some of those on page elements that can help you rank on the search engines. Some may appear a bit “old school” and may not carry a lot of weight.

You can rank on Google without any of these factors if other components add up.

Yet most SEO’s will tell you that they are still best practices.

  1. Use your keyword in the title where appropriate. [Read more on optimizing your Title Tag]
  2. Use your keyword in the first 200 words.
  3. Use your keyword in the meta-description. (More for click-through rate than rankings specifically).
  4. Don’t repeat your keyword anywhere else unless it’s natural to do so.
  5. Include a table of contents
  6. Title each paragraph with an H2 heading tag.
  7. Use images and optimize including alt attributes.
  8. Use Video. Video increases the user experience and can increase the visitors time on your website.
  9. Apply an internal linking strategy.
  10. Link out to other credible sources. (Have links open in a new tab or window)
  11. Markup your structured data with Schema.

Make sure your blog site is set up on Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

This will help you monitor for results and receive communication from Google about your website. You can submit a sitemap there and monitor Google’s Crawls.

When you create a new post, you can also simply submit the URL to Google for Indexing.

How Often Should I Blog?

Keeping in mind that everything changes, blogging doesn’t require the same kind of “freshness” signal it once did to rank on Google.

Old school SEO had us blogging every day even if it was junk just to invite Google to crawl our website.

The QDF ranking factor (Query Deserves Freshness) can be trumped by blog post with authority that continuously completes the searchers intent.

Today, while consistency matters, you don’t need to blog every day to stay somewhat visible.

You can use automation tools to keep your blog posts recirculating on social media.

The real question is how often you can commit to creating quality content?

First, start with your cornerstone content. These are going to be your anchor pages or key pages that you refer to often.

These could be blog posts as well.

For example, this website is about generating business through online marketing.

It has anchor pages for SEO, Blogging [This post],  and Pay Per Click Marketing for example.

Any time we refer to those terms, an inbound link is made sending the user to that blog post (when it makes sense to do so).

If you have a considerable amount of traffic earned in from your cornerstone content, you can probably blog less.

If you are in a super competitive niche and competing heavily, you are going to need to up your game and create more quality content. 

If you can create a great piece of unique, quality content every day, great! Do it!

If you can only commit to giving all you got to one piece a week or one piece a month, then do that.

💡It’s better to create fewer pieces that are quality than more pages that are thin content and not going to add value to your website or user.

It also might benefit you to add on or update an older piece of content rather than to create a new one.

An older refreshed blog could do better in the search engines than a new fresh piece.

If you are building a blog designed to earn followers that comment and share your blog posts, then you want to find a time and day that you can consistency publish to.

This gives them something to look forward to and sets you on a schedule for success.

Tracking your Blog

Clicky is a fantastic tool not only for tracking your website but for finding a blog topic, as well! In Clicky, there is a section where you can find “unique searches” for your site. This shows you specific searches that people are typing into search engines and they clicked to your site from their search.

For example, here is a look at searches people actually performed on a search engine.

Long Tail Keywords show exactly how people searched to find a real estate agent blog, red arrows and word blog pointing to each
Google only shows us a portion of how people find our website. Here’s an example over a couple of days showing real-life keywords people used to find pages on our real estate agent website. Arrows reflect blog posts.

Hire a Ghost Writer

How to Write a Blog in 8 Simple StepsGhostwriters are writers that you can find to write your content. There are many ghostwriting tools to utilize. An affordable option is Crowd Content.

You can choose the number of words you want in the blog, the star rating (quality of writing), topic, keywords for them to utilize, and more. You tell them what you want them to write about and if you would like them to do any additional research on the topic.

Once the content is complete, it will be marked as ready to review, in which you have a few days to review the information before it becomes marked as ready and completed. You can request a revision in this time if you would like.

Remembering that you only get your content in text form from many ghostwriters (Including Crowd Content), Ballen Brands offers a custom and unique content writing service that includes images and SEO.

Blogging can be a simple thought on digital paper to a comprehensive step by step guide. It can be a short thought or multiple paragraphs with thousands of words covering a topic in complete detail.

Blogging can be done by the website owner or by ghostwriters and blog writing services. The best blogs include the use of images, video, and links. Blogs can be optimized to rank on the search engines, shared on social, and designed to be received by pay per click advertising.

With an expected 31.7 bloggers by 2020, this is a growing strategy by content marketers and businesses who wish to gain traffic, leads, and sales through their website.

Learn How to Get More Real Estate Leads

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