SEO Blogging 101: How to Set Up a Blog and What to Write
Almost 100% of the time, when clients mention to me that they’re interested in setting up blogs, it’s for SEO reasons — they want to drive traffic to their web sites. Indeed, blogging is among the better ways to accomplish this. Traffic increases, brand awareness increases, and hopefully conversions increase as well.
That said, there are a two main considerations involved:
- How should you set up the blog to begin with?
- What should you write?
✒️ Blog Platform Considerations
Most people, by default, consider their web site as the natural option for their blog’s home. You already have XYZ.com, so it seems natural to make XYZ.com/blog your blog, right?
On the other hand, here I am, as a professional web developer, doing a blog article on Medium.com instead of ArrayWebDevelopment.com. That may seem a little odd to some. Let’s look at some pros and cons of these two main approaches (using your own site vs. another platform):
Using your own site:
- Pros: You have full control of the template and design, and arguably better integration opportunities with your existing site. The URLs will include your domain name and blog article key words (e.g., xyz.com/blog/your-article-title).
- Cons: You have to design the blog area and pages yourself, and/or at least customize a template (and/or pay someone to do that for you). You’ll have to be able to use a CMS, which is generally a bit more involved vs. a platform like Medium.com. Your site’s exposure will likely be lower than a platform’s (meaning fewer people will likely see your blog posts). Future redesigns might be more complicated because you’ll need to deal with retaining inbound links.
Using a platform like Medium.com:
- Pros: The interface is a snap to use — literally just type and publish. The audience is almost always easier to reach (via proper tagging, for example). The platform’s SEO is generally much higher than an independent business site (thus more eyeballs on your articles). The design is set, and it’ll be attractive and fast on all devices right out of the gate. Platforms like Medium.com are so large and so often-shared that associating your article with this domain may lend it some credibility (deserved or not), thus garnering more clicks compared with links to your private domain.
- Cons: You have to accept whatever the design is, and/or have fewer customization options, which some people don’t like. The URLs don’t include your domain name.
I’m sure there are many other pros and cons of each approach, as well. And, in the end, it needn’t be an either/or choice, really, as you could also elect to do both (publish yourself, and then re-publish on a platform) — although then you’d have to be more disciplined about making sure you always do that for each article, and you’d also have to decide which link (your original or the platform one) you’ll use for sharing on social media.
For me, I like the Medium.com option (obviously). Simply put, here are the things I like about it:
- The interface is simply amazing — no back end to login to. Just click New Story and start typing. You can even search for and insert a photo for free — no uploading and linking to it. It’s just easy and done. These qualities make publishing here super fast, which suits my personal preference and style: Write it and click publish! (That’s not to say you shouldn’t write quality, well-thought-out articles, of course.)
- The design, to me, is very nice and professional. I know a lot of people get hung up on this; they want the ability to control every little thing — the color of the headlines, the ability to have more layers of subheads. I get that. So yes, you have to let go of that and trust that the platform employs talented designers and almost certainly does testing to see not only what readers like, but also what converts better.
- I like the Medium.com authority. As someone with 3,000+ friends on Facebook, for example, I get to see what a wide selection of people tend to share. And, the number of people who share Medium.com articles seems impressive to me. I don’t know why, but people simply seem to feel more comfortable sharing something with a medium.com URL than something with a private business URL. (Probably because the medium.com URLs seems more objective in nature.) That’s my opinion, but I do keep seeing that, and believe it.
- I think of Medium.com as a place to give free advice, but I also consider it a marketing vehicle. At the end of each piece, whether it’s for this web design publication, for my other personal areas here, and/or for other publications I’ve written for here, I always include an author bio at the bottom so that anyone interested can contact me.
Anyway, among my client base, more business owners probably use their own site as the platform. So, what do I know? I guess it comes down to preference in the long run. My goal is just to bring initial awareness to platform consideration as a starting point for your own blogging planning.
✍️ What to Write
Once you’ve decided on a platform (and have it designed/integrated into your site, if needed), the next big thing people wonder is: What should I write about?
About 10 years ago, I took a number of intensive SEO, internet marketing, and blogging courses. To this day, all of the advice on this topic from those courses seems to stand. Yes trends come and go, but the main aspects of SEO are time-honored best practices at this point. And Google will back that up, as their mantra is: Just produce quality, on-point content. (I would add to that: consistently.)
In any case, when you’re first getting started with a blog, you should consider that your site (and or just your overall presence) needs to become connected / associated with the primary keywords and key phrases of your business niche. And, really, the best way I’ve seen to get started doing that is to approach your site and/or business from a very basic level — explaining each and every nuance in a dedicated article.
In those courses I mentioned, I think the handiest method for doing this is to think of a frequently asked questions (FAQ) list for your business. Make a list of, ideally, 10 or more of these questions. Even if people aren’t actually asking you questions, try to imagine the questions that customers will ask. (Remember, to start, you only need to write up a list of questions — not the answers!)
From there, consider other questions that customers should be asking you — perhaps larger or more broad in scope than your FAQs. Try to think up another 10 or more.
In the end, you’ll have at least 20 questions, and these will become the basis of your initial blogging efforts. You can then approach them one at a time, or you can write the answers to them all at once and then dole them out as blog articles one at a time when you’re finished.
What I recommend, if you’ve got the time and resources for this is to approach this with video as well as text. So, here’s what you’ll do:
Once or twice per week to start (and/or more, if you’ve got enough content ideas), take one of those questions and:
- make a video of yourself answering the question
- do your production on the video, and also have the video transcribed
- upload the video to Youtube, and include a link to your web site in the description, as well as all of the key words involved
- embed the Youtube video in a new blog post, and paste your transcribed text there
- share the URL for your blog post everywhere (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
- include Call-to-Action (CTA) links on each blog post (at a minimum a link back to your site, but also any other CTAs that make sense)
- repeat, consistently, for a long time.
Once you’ve got your initial 20 posts made, that should put you two or three months out with your initial online marketing effort, and will give you the perspective needed to plan ahead. You’ll have learned which ones performed best, what readers found more engaging, etc. You’ll also undoubtedly have a sense of direction for how to continue. But best of all, you’ve now created some initial associations between (1) your key words and key phrases and (2) your web site. That’ll be critical for initial SEO, and will provide a solid SEO foundation to build on going forward.
Sadly, most of the people I explain this to won’t follow through with it. I’m not saying this to discourage anyone, though. It’s just a fact. Marketing is a lot of work, and many simply aren’t committed enough to do it, and/or they would prefer to farm out this work but might not have a budget for it.
It also requires patience — especially if you’re going for organic SEO results (versus simply paying for advertising, which is another consideration). Google wants and needs your content, but it also needs time to establish your site as a valid authority on your topic area — not to mention that, for many people, SEO is already competitive as it is. Even if you put out a ton of great content, you may well have competitors who also have done this and/or are already established as the top presences. So, again, patience!
Some other writings of mine that may help:
People ask me all the time: “How can I drive traffic to my site?” Well, there are many, many ways. Here are a dozen…medium.com
The acronym “SEO” stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a field that is nearly as old as the Internet, dating…medium.com
This article happens to be the most popular article in Web Designer / Web Developer Magazine, even if it’s aged a bit…medium.com
This is a companion post to my previous post on video marketing. Below are my essential 11 best practices for video…medium.com
Finally, my business web site contains some additional info on various SEO-related work we do, both on-site in terms of site infrastructure and also off-site optimizations. I’m happy to answer questions about any of those items.
Bestof luck!! 😺