If you’re a beginning blogger, you may need a little help getting started. After writing a blogging for 10 years, I know that the best way to stay on track with publishing, and ensure you’re making the most of your work, is to set goals.
Instead of being overly ambitious, let’s simply on just one goal each month. By making your plan attainable, you’re more likely to stick with it, and therefore be successful—and, if you can do more each month, that’s great!
Either way, this will be your guide for the year. On the first of every month, open this blog post, get your monthly goal, and get ready to achieve your blogging goals.
Don’t forget to download the printable checklist!
Jan: Create a Basic 6-Month Content Calendar
Start by setting Up Google Analytics. Follow Google’s guide to get setup Google Analytics. We’ll come back to look at the data at the end of the year.
Next, get your content calendar set up. A basic content calendar is all you need to get started with blogging on the right foot. Your content calendar can be a simple Google Sheet with two rows: Keyword and Blog Post Title. Then simply add a column for each month—in this case, you’ll add columns for January through June to cover the first six months of the year.
As you build your content calendar, there are just two simple requirements:
- You need to include at least one blog post to be written each month
- Each blog post should be based on an SEO keyword
Keywords are simply phrases or strings of words related to your business. For example, keywords for my content marketing business include:
- Content strategy
- Content marketing management
- Content marketing strategy
- How to write a blog post
To find these, you’ll need a tool. There are many paid options, I like to use two free options: Google Keyword Tool and Ubersuggest. If you need a little more help with keywords, download my free keyword guide below.
Feb: Write One 1,100 Word Blog Post
The is an exercise in making sure your content is as thorough as it can be. If the posts you wrote in January were much shorter than this, you may need to consider whether they’re covering the topic completely, or if you’re leaving the reader wondering or looking for more information. Use February’s exercise as a way to practice writing longer posts. If you’re having trouble reaching 1,100 words, use the tips below to get there.
- Read through the post and ask yourself: Why? Why is this true? Why should the reader believe this? Why does this matter? Then, fill in the blanks.
- Find supporting quotes from experts in the field. This adds legitimacy to your content, and gives you a chance to link to related, reputable sites.
- Add data that backs up the points you’re making. If you say, “Everyone is going green these days,” back that up. As a general rule of thumb, you should never make sweeping statements like that without data to prove it.
March: Set Up HelloBar to Start Collecting Subscribers
The goal for this month’s beginning blogger challenge is to set you up for long-term success. Subscribers are your number one fans: they signed up because they love your content and want to hear more from you. If you’re a business owner, your subscriber list will become a valuable tool for selling products, connecting with potential customers, testing ideas and driving traffic to your website.
I love HelloBar, and highly recommend signing up. However, you can’t send emails to your subscribers through HelloBar, so you’ll need to connect it to your email service of choice via Zapier. HelloBar integrates with dozens of email service providers, including MailChimp. Conversely, you can get started with an all-in-one tool like ConvertKit or MailerLite (the latter of which I’m testing right now). Take your time with this, test the look and feel, and check out the resources below for converting visitors to subscribers:
- 7 Ways to Convert Website Visitors Into Subscribers
- 8 Effective Tips to Get More Email Subscribers (love this one!)
Conversely, you can simply add a subscribe form in your sidebar. If you’re using WordPress, check out the plugin, Email Subscribers and Newsletters, which is free and easy to use.
P.S. If you’re already doing this—awesome! You get a pass this month, just focus on writing!
April: Write A Blog Post That Includes Your Product or Service
Every blog post should be able to feature or highlight your service or product naturally—that’s how you know you’re writing about a topic that’s attracting your ideal customer. This month’s challenge is a great way to tease out the bits and pieces of your product and service that you can start including in blog posts from now on.
Choose a topic that’s broad, and focused on a challenge or interest of your ideal customer. The post shouldn’t be titled, “Everything You Need to Know About [Insert Product/Service]. Rather, it should be informative. If you make organic lotions, it might be, “5 Benefits of Choose Organic Lotion.” This makes it easy to incorporate your product and clearly spell out the benefits, while also providing value to the reader who is not yet a customer.
P.S. Kudos if you’ve already done this! If so, keep up the good work and do it again this month!
May: Send Your First Subscriber Newsletter
If you set up your subscriber form back in March, you may have a few people who’ve already signed up. Send your first subscriber newsletter introducing yourself. These people have expressed interest in hearing from you, so say hello and share a few of your recent blog posts.
Make a point of sending newsletters in regular intervals, like once each month. You want to keep your subscribers engaged, and provide value, so when it comes time to ask them for something, like to read a blog post or buy your product, they’re more inclined to do so.
June: Repurpose 2 Blog Posts
Repurposing makes it easy to create more content in less time. The idea is simple: you spin a blog post you’ve already written with a new angle or updated focus. For example, I could spin this article into a 30-day challenge. I have all the main ideas already written out, I just need to write it differently and change the format.
If you want to learn more about repurposing, check out my Skillshare course, 6 Ways to Boost ROI With Repurposing.
For this month’s goal, choose two blog posts, and repurpose them. The key is to avoid duplicate content. Everything must be different, from the title to word choice. Use this as a chance to target a similar keyword, and then use similar ideas to fill out the post with a fresh angle.
July: Update Your Content Calendar
You’ve made it through the first six months of the year, congratulations! Now it’s time to update your calendar to finish out the rest of the year strong. Simply repeat your first challenge of the year, adding to your current calendar with new keywords and blog post ideas.
August: Do a Blog Swap
Blog swaps are another great way to get more content with less effort. The idea is simple: you write for someone else’s blog and they write for yours. In addition to getting a free piece of content, you’ll also be exposed to the other person’s audience—both by writing for their blog and by asking them to share their post that they write for your blog.
To get your first blog swap, start with someone you know, or are already connected with, which will make it easier to get started. Find someone who works within your industry, but is complementary to your business. For example, as a social media marketer, I may do a blog swap with a copywriter. In this case, the copywriter could write about creating effective blog copy and I could write for him or her about the importance of sharing content on social media.
To do the swap, follow these steps:
- Reach out to the person who you want to swap with, ask if they’re interested.
- If so, choose a due date for both posts.
- Edit the post that’s sent to you, and publish.
- They will do the same on their end.
- Share both your blog posts, the one on your site and the one on theirs. Ask them to do the same.
You can learn more about this, also referred to as guest posting, in my blog post: 5 Reasons Guest Posting is the Missing Piece.
September: Write a 2,000-Word Blog Post
The point of this goal is not to see how wordy you can get. This goal challenges you to choose a topic you can talk about extensively. Use the same tactics I shared for your February goal challenge to get to 2,000 words with intention, rather than simply filling space.
October: Do an Interview for a Blog Post
October’s goal is supposed to be fun! If you’ve been writing at least one blog post each month, you’re probably ready to switch it up. Use this as a chance to create content without doing so much work. The key is choosing someone to interview who will truly bring value to your ideal customer. Once you have a person in mind, simply ask if they’re interested in being interviewed. If so, you can send questions via email, do a phone interview, or if possible, meet in person.
Create your blog post—Q&A style will be easiest, publish and share! Ask them to share with their audience too, which is just one more way to get in front of another audience.
November: Set Up Your Reporting Sheet
Now that you’ve been writing for 10 months, it’s time to start taking a look at your data. This month, set up your reporting sheet to include the following KPIs:
- Total traffic to your site (visits and page views*)
- Total traffic to blog
- Total organic** traffic to your site
- Total organic traffic to blog
- Total traffic from social media sites (include all sites where you promote content)
- Total traffic from email marketing (if you do this)
- Total conversions – sales
- Total conversions – leads
- Total conversions – downloads (if you have freebies)
- Total conversions – subscribers
Top Blog Posts
- Top 3 most visited blog posts
- Top 3 highest-converting blog posts (any/all of the conversions above)
- Bounce rate
- Pages per session
Add all of these to your content reporting spreadsheet (I just use Google Sheets). Then, fill in the data points. You can find all of this data in Google Analytics, which you set up in January. A few simple searches on Google will help you find all the tutorials you need to locate these data points. Better yet, take the Google Analytics for Beginners Course (free!) to get started.
December: Write a Roundup Blog Post
A few of the past months have been focused on making it easier to create content with less work because that’s the best way to keep publishing if you have little time to write. This is another one of those months.
By now, you should have at least 10 to 12 blog posts, if not more. Use the end of the year, the perfect time to do a roundup post, to bring all of that content back to life. The idea is simple: choose a topic that much of your content falls under and highlight each blog post in that one blog post. For example, if you’ve been writing about different DIY home upgrades all year, you can do a roundup posts called, “10 Best DIY Home Upgrades From 2019.”
The format for this post looks like this:
#1: Title of Blog Post [Linked]
Para about the blog post
#2: Title of Blog Post [Linked]
Para about the blog post
… all the way through to the last one you want to highlight.
Blogging for Beginners: You’re Done!
Whether you’re just finishing the year, or just prepping to get started, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re taking an important step in the success of your business and website, and that’s worth a round of applause!