Ladies and gentlemen, pull out your laptops, pencils, fountain pens, or quills and let’s get our write on. (if you actually pulled out a quill, send me a picture and I’ll post it in this article.)
If you’ve been following along, our first step in starting a blog was to choose a super amazing topic that will generate tons of search interest and has good revenue potential built in. In Step 2 we sat down, got honest, and figured out how much all the things we need to get our blog running are going to cost – we made a budget.
Picking a topic was probably kind of fun, but making a budget was probably kind of boring, so it’s good that we’ve arrived at a step that lets us once again flex our creative muscles and start the mystical search for our blog’s voice.
In this step, we’re going to write our first batch of content. Getting this first batch of content written is the last step before we start getting to things you probably expected to see back in Step 1 – things like hosting, email, and WordPress itself. You didn’t see those things back in Step 1 because, well, that’s not where they belong.
Yeah, I know, lots of other sites have created a strange world where building a blog has to start with domains, hosting, email, and installing WordPress.
The pitch usually goes something like: Get A Host! (affiliate link) Buy This Theme! (affiliate link) Download this Plugin! (affiliate link).
But you don’t need any of that stuff yet.
Soon, but not yet.
Plus, if you actually followed that advice, you’d end up doing twenty things (and spending a ton of money) before you’ve even figured out what you’re going to write about or how to do the actual writing. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Plus, none of those twenty easy things would help you do the hard thing you actually need to do, which is to write some content.
If you’re still getting impatient for that techy setup type stuff, pause for a second, harness your chi, and consider this:
Do you know what you have when you’ve got a host/email/wordpress/plugins but no content? Less money & no blog.
On the other hand, do you know what you have when you’ve got a great topic, a budget, and pre-written content, but no host? Smarts. You’ve got “almost-a-blog” and are just one half step away from totally-a-blog.
That’s way better.
That tech stuff is easy. Click, click, credit card, click. Done. It’s going to take like 10 minutes.
This content stuff is harder, and these first few content pieces are a test. If you hate it, if it takes you three months, or if you lose interest after writing two articles, then you need to stop and rethink what you’re doing. But hey, at least you can do your rethinking with a full wallet.
Your First Blog Post Shouldn’t Be “A First Blog Post”
Depending on what niche you chose, and how familiar you are with that niche, you might need to do some topic research before you start writing articles. I’ll leave that decision up to you – only you know how strong your knowledge base is. But, just between the two of us, if your knowledge base is weak, your readers will know. So do the research if you have to. Don’t try to fake it.
If you chose a topic you know something about, or you’ve already done whatever topic research you decided would help, then your first actual writing job is to brainstorm 20 basic, introductory possibilities for article topics. These should be easily accessible topics, nothing too in depth or technical. They’re just potential topics, so feel free to go fast and loose. If some of them are terrible, they’ll just get tossed out.
At this point, your traitor of a brain will naturally try to create some kind of “I’m just getting started” type of narrative structure in your head. It will then tempt you to use your first blog posts to talk about the fact that you’re just getting started.
If you let your brain convince you that particular narrative structure has value, then you’ll end up feeling like you have to start with some kind of Introduction or Mission Statement or Lead In to your topic, but you don’t. And you shouldn’t. Your first blog post should not be called (or be about) “MY FIRST BLOG POST!! OMG!!1!!” or “Welcome to my Blog” or any such variation of that basic theme.
Seriously, stop it.
Instead, you need to write your very first article with the mindset that you’ve been blogging for ten years, have 700 other articles already posted, and are just continuing along your normal journey by adding a new piece of content.
This advice might feel weird, but it’s going to help you succeed.
If you don’t do it this way – if you give in to the lies your brain tells you – you’re going to spend hours – days – trying to craft a great introduction and a couple of clever welcome articles that nobody will ever search for and which nobody but your actual fans (who won’t show up for a while) will ever care about.
Worse, you won’t be able to promote that content to anyone but your mom and your little brother. You can’t create Pins for it, or Tweets, or submit it to topical Facebook groups, or post witty Reddit comments about it. From a “grow your audience” point of view, it’s dead content.
Instead, what you need is a strategy. Some structure you can use to build an initial batch of articles that are searchable, promotable, and useful.
A Winning Content Strategy for Your First Ten Posts. Also, What the Heck is A Content Strategy?
Content strategies are important. Without a content strategy, you have no plan directing what you write, because you don’t know why you’re writing.
When you write without a big picture plan, things start to feel mysterious. Random. Your blog turns into a series of vaguely connected single posts. This is bad. It sets you up for failure down the road, when you’ll want to do sophisticated things like build funnels and shape your traffic. I don’t expect you to know what those words mean yet, but they’ll be important to you eventually. A solid content strategy will set you up so that you’re in good shape by the time you get a place where those words do mean something.
A content strategy is your life raft. No, wait, on second thought – it’s the cruise ship itself. A content strategy is the plan that tells you what to write based on what goal you’re trying to reach.
If you were trying to sell cars, your content strategy might be to make review articles, photo galleries, and some actual advertisements. Your content strategy would not be to tell everyone your deep inner motivations for opening a car dealership nor to wax philosophic on the Mission Statement behind your desire to sell a late model Buick.
In our case, the goal is to get our blog up and running and to start bringing in some traffic. That means we need content that’s useful, basic, shareable, searchable, and promotable. Promotable is a word, I checked.
I’m sure you already know the only three types of posts new bloggers should write, so here’s what you want to do:
From the twenty ideas you brainstormed on easy, basic things about your niche, I want you to write
- 6 How To articles – These can be about anything. Mix it up a little. For extra points, you could do a little keyword research and figure out the best six how-to articles to write based on search volume and competition level.
- 2 Lists – One of these should be a “Top” list and one should not be a “Top” list. Not every list needs to be “top” or “best.” ProTip: Do not make your top list a top 10. Because it’s such an expected form, it attracts very little attention. Which is sort of interesting, in a psychology kind of way. ProTip number two: Your numbers should be weird and kind of small. Choose 7 items, or 9, but not 27 (too many), 5 (expected), or 10 (too common, as discussed)
- 2 Hubs – These two pieces of content just recombine the How-To and List articles you’ve already written into new and differently-useful combinations. Each item in these articles will be a brief blurb and a link to a piece of content you’ve already written.
This little grouping is going to be your basic blog post template for the first 30 or so articles. It’s easy to follow, easy to promote, widely searched, useful, and good at satisfying user intent. Plus, think about it – you only have to run this formula 3 times to get 30 pieces of quality content.
If you’re new to this blog stuff, I would bet a medium priced lunch that the last three paragraphs just took away a huge amount of the anxiety and uncertainty you may have been feeling about how to actually start writing content. It’s not scary anymore, because you figured out that it’s just a formula. A set of rules and policies to follow.
Later, you can spread your wings and fly to all kinds of new and exotic places, but for now, there’s comfort and utility built in to following a formula.
So, that’s the third ProTip of this article – content strategies work, yo. I gave you this content strategy, but soon you’ll be making your own strategies, to accommodate all kinds of different goals. But they’ll all be just as well defined, clear, and completely unscary.
Writing a successful blog – how to write a blog – is not mysterious or random. It’s just a process of consistently applying good content strategies over and over and over.
The New Blog Content Strategy: An Example
Using the strategy above, let’s walk through an entire cycle for a fictional new blog.
This fictional blog is called Suzy’s Sweets, and it’s about baking.
Step one in our plan is to brainstorm twenty basic article ideas or things about our niche, so here’s what I came up with
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Peanut butter cookies
- Sugar cookies
- Types of vanilla (Did you know this is a thing? If you get bored, Google it)
- Types of flour
- Where to find good ingredients
- Seasonal Ingredients
- Sugar free baking
- Common baking spices
- Cake/Cupcake toppings
- Pumpkin Pie
- Cherry Pie
- Basic Equipment
- Baking Power vs Baking Soda
- Glass vs. Metal Measuring Cups
- Setting up a New Kitchen
Here’s my list of ten articles according to the content strategy we decided to use:
- How to Make Chocolate Chip Cookies (Search Volume 33k/mo, Competition LOW)
- How to Make Vanilla Cupcakes (Search Volume 4.4k/mo, Competition LOW)
- How to Choose & Use Great Seasonal Ingredients (Search Volume 6.6k/mo Competition LOW)
- Baking Measurements (Search Volume 2.4k/mo Competition LOW – plus, there’s a billion highly searched conversions you could put into a table form in this article)
- How to bake sugar free (Search Volume 2.4k/mo Competition HIGH)
- How to Make Pumpkin Pie (Search Volume 14.8k/mo Competition LOW)
- LIST: The Five Most Common Baking Spices
- LIST: Seven Pieces of Equipment Every New Baker Needs
- HUB: The Advantages of Visiting A Good Baking Store (Links to Measurements, Seasonal Ingredients, Baking Spices, Equipment List, Sugar free options)
- HUB: Easy & Delicious Everyday Deserts (Links to Chocolate Chip Cookies, Vanilla Cupcakes, and Pumpkin Pie)
Coming up with the brainstorming list of 20 possible topics was very easy, and took me about two minutes. Planning the article list took a little adjusting, and probably took me 15 minutes. That means I came up with plan for ten solid pieces of content in like 20 minutes. I was just making a simple example about a topic in which I have no background knowledge and in twenty minutes I came up with something that doesn’t look too terrible.
Actually, the math looks pretty good. Just from the six How-to articles, you have a potential search volume of almost 100,000 people every month in an environment that is generally pretty low in competition. Are you going to capture all of those people? Heck no. In the beginning you’ll probably capture only a tiny, tiny fraction. But you know, right from the beginning, that there is a lot of volume there worth going after.
You have now learned everything you need to know in order to get your blog officially rolling. And don’t be fooled, when you’re done with this step, the hardest part of starting a blog will be behind you. From here it’s just about refinement, expansion, and audience. Compared to creating content out of thin air, all that stuff is a breeze.