When I created Bloom Spokane—a grassroots nonprofit organization that empowers pregnant and postpartum women with information, resources, and support—it was 2009 and blogs had starting popping up everywhere. Most blogs at the time were personal endeavors, but I could see they were quickly becoming valuable tools for sharing information online. It wouldn’t be long before businesses and nonprofits jumped on board.
Back then, I didn’t know the first thing about blogging, but that didn’t stop me from diving in. It has been a process of trial and error, learning from mistakes, and being pleasantly surprised at some of our successes along the way. I am lucky to have found a team of co-leaders and volunteers for Bloom Spokane who are passionate about our mission and eagerly embraced blogging. Along with analytics analysis and guidance from my husband, Ed Reese, we have figured out a few things over the years that have contributed to our success.
“Blogging is Harrrrrd!”
When Ed speaks at search conferences with his friends from LocalU, he often uses Bloom Spokane’s website analytics to show how our blogging has progressed over time. As he likes to say, “Blogging is harrrrrd!”
Consistently publishing original, relevant, and desired content is demanding work. It is often fun, but it is still work. We have seen our greatest gains in traffic and conversions during the phases when we’ve had a strategic plan, a publishing schedule, and a solid blogging team in place.
Have a Plan
I didn’t have a plan when I started blogging, but in less than a year I’d learned enough to begin putting one together.
- Goals: Why are you blogging? Most bloggers have 1 of 3 aims: generating revenue, building a following, or hobby writing. Ours was building a following.
- Audience: Who is your target audience? What problems are you solving for them?
- Topics: What will you post about?
- Schedule: How often will you post?
- Call to Action: What action do you want readers to take? Make it desirable and easy for them to take those actions on your blog.
- Competition: Who is your competition? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What niche can you fill that isn’t being touched, or done well, by anyone else?
- Success Metrics: Define the outcomes that will be used to measure success.
Have a Blogging Team
Business blogging is usually too much to take on by yourself, unless you plan to make it your full-time job (which I didn’t!). Additionally, the diverse talents of a dedicated team can take your blog to the next level.
- Blog Manager: The person who will oversee all aspects of the blog, keep the team accountable, and ensure that you’re meeting your goals.
- Copy editor: The person who will review every post before publishing to ensure standards of grammar, voice, clarity, and consistency are met.
- Writers: The team of people who will regularly create content for the blog. Having a variety of people allows for different points of view and areas of expertise to be explored on the blog.
- Guest Writers: Reach out beyond your own team to other industry experts. Ask them to contribute an article and let them know how they will benefit from appearing on your blog.
Write About Controversial Issues… Like Circumcision
Looking at our analytics data, we can see that a few of Bloom’s most popular posts are on the topic of infant circumcision. Whether or not to circumcise a newborn son is a question lots of new parents struggle with and they’re using the internet to gather information and form opinions on the subject. Our 10 most popular blog posts of all-time are listed below (nearly half are controversial in nature). Do you know your best performing blog posts?
In Don’t Run From That Controversial Blog Post, blogger Julie Neidlinger says, “Controversial is not the same as confrontational. Blog posts that are controversial are not unnecessarily argumentative or insulting. Instead, they talk about topics that need to be discussed, but without attacking people. They challenge accepted conclusions and ideas, the reader’s strongly held opinions, or confront something people are generally not willing to talk about.”
Done well, posts about controversial topics benefit readers by allowing them to explore new ideas and challenge status quo thinking. And, of course, these posts benefit your blog by attracting large numbers of visitors and increasing your brand awareness.
Build Relationships to Promote Your Blog
Social Media is a great platform for pushing content out into the world. Particularly with a new blog, you will find it helpful to have seasoned industry allies promoting your posts. They have the followers and can help get more traffic to your content.
Bloom’s post, Birth Advice From Labor & Delivery Nurses, went viral in February 2011 when big names in the birth world started posting about the article on Facebook. Most notably, Jill Arnold of The Unnecessarean, with over 27,000 followers, brought national attention to our blog when this article was given an enthusiastic mention on her Facebook page.
How did The Unnecessarean even know about little ol’ Bloom Spokane? We’d been sharing Jill’s amazing work on Social Media and giving the site link love for a couple of years. I had also been actively commenting on her Facebook page and blog, so my name was likely familiar to her. When we knew we had a great article on our hands, we sent it to her and asked if she would consider sharing it on her page. She did!
Don’t Publish Content You Don’t Own or Have Permission to Use
Despite our best efforts to use only content and images we create or have the rights to use, one of our posts published in 2012 contained a stock image we had neglected to purchase a license for. Whoops!
Just last week, we received an email from the company that owns the image letting us know about the violation and demanding a $119 settlement. We paid the fine and are using this mistake as a reminder to remain vigilant about copyright infringement. Hopefully, you too can learn from us and not make this mistake on your own blog.
Always Be Learning
As with anything in life you want to do well, you will benefit from ongoing education and improvement of your skills. Blogging is no different.
- Become a regular reader of other blogs, especially those in your industry.
- Ask other writers to review your work and offer construstive criticism.
- Sign up for classes that will help you become a better creative thinker, writer, photographer, search engine optimizer, or designer. There are so many online resources for improving your skills, like Skillshare and Udemy.
Use the Right Tools
In addition to finding the right blogging platform for your needs (we love WordPress), there are a few other tools that we’ve found useful.
- Google Analytics is a free tool that provides data and insights about user behavior and traffic on your blog. This is a must if you’re measuring the progress of your blogging efforts to meet business ojectives.
- Google Alerts is another free tool that keeps you informed of web activity concerning keywords that you select. This is super helpful in managing your online reputation and staying involved in conversations that concern you, your blog, and even your competitors.
- Askimet is a service that analyzes the comments on your blog, determining which of those are spam, and saving you the headache of having to deal with them. It is free for non-commercial and personal blogs. Commercial site fees start at $5/month.
- Linkstant notifies you via email every time someone links to your blog. Knowing about these links allows you to keep track of them and participate in the conversation on other sites/blogs, thus potentially driving more traffic to yours.
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