Blogging has helped me learn new skills, sort out my thoughts, make valuable connections, and meet wonderful people. It also takes a lot of time. If you aren’t careful, blogging can take over your life. Today’s post is a blogging guide to help fellow professionals learn how to start a blog as well as how to save time blogging through systems and automation.
1. Know Your Audience
My first piece of advice for how to start a blog is choose your focus before you start your blog. It may seem counter-intuitive, but limiting yourself (a little) will free up your creativity and make it easier to find blog post ideas. Having a few areas of focus also makes your blog more cohesive.
My personal sweet spot has been four topics: travel, productivity, and personal and professional development. With these four topics as general guidelines, I have been able to blog about several subtopics. For example, I have written several posts about learning foreign languages and becoming a better writer. Both of these topics fall under the broader categories of personal and professional development.
2. Use an Editorial Calendar
An editorial calendar is a calendar of posts and social media updates for the upcoming weeks and months. Take a few hours and brainstorm post ideas for your blog. My best method for finding post ideas is to focus on the content that you want to read. If you read a great blog post on travel to your hometown but wish that the author had written more on the food scene, why not write about it yourself?
For Not So Lost In Translation, my blog content planning process is integrated into my monthly and weekly reviews. As part of my monthly review, I plan my posts for the upcoming month.
My list always includes a few smaller posts that can be written quickly. If my personal schedule becomes hectic or I am feeling sick, I can plug these in to my schedule as needed.
Since social media changes quickly, I plan my social media posts as part of my weekly review. My social media updates consist of 50% sharing content from my followers, 25% content from other sites related to the post of the week, and 25% content from Not So Lost In Translation including promoting older posts.
I use Trello for my editorial calendar. Another popular option is CoSchedule. For a comparison of the two apps, check out this article from WP Curve. Zenkit is a new option for creating online kanban boards which I am currently evaluating.
3. Use WordPress
I started Not So Lost In Translation on Blogger. Blogger is an easy platform to use, but I struggled to attract readers and was limited in how I could customize my blog. Switching to WordPress has made blogging so much easier. Having a self-hosted Wordpress blog means that I have access to thousands of themes and extensions to make my blog more attractive and attract more readers through search engine optimization.
Starting a self-hosted WordPress blog can be intimidating. FirstSiteGuide is a great resource for learning how to setup a personal website. They have written and video tutorials on webhosting, blogging, and and search engine optimization. They also have interviews with top bloggers. Be sure to check out their beginner’s guide to successful blogging.
4. Register a Domain Name
Regardless of which blogging service that you use, you need to purchase your own domain name. Owning your own domain is essential for developing a personal brand. Depending on the service that you use, it’s also pretty cheap to purchase a domain. If you will be blogging under your name rather than a pseudonym, I recommend registering both your name and the name of your website. You can set your website to redirect so that typing either URL will connect readers with your website. I recommend (and use) NameCheap as my registrar service (affiliate link).
While you are registering your domain name, be sure to register any social media accounts with the same name as well.
5. A post template saves writing time
As a writer, I can say that nothing is more terrifying than a blank page. A post template can help save time by providing a starting point to begin your post. I use a modified version of Michael Hyatt’s Evernote template as a starting point for my posts. My post template includes space for the theme and central argument of my post as well as space to outline my post. I also add any links that I find in my research to the template to have them ready to add to my post when I sit down to write. Keeping to a standard format speeds up the writing process.
Micheal Hyatt also has a great podcast episode about how to write a blog post in 70 minutes or less that I highly recommend.
6. Automate Social Media Posts
I use Buffer to schedule my social media posts ahead of time. Buffer allows me to post at multiple times of day without physically being logged in to my Twitter account. Another advantage is that Buffer will track analytics such as post clicks. I want to share valuable content with my followers. By tracking what is shared most often, I can learn what interests my audience.
The Revive Old Post plugin helps with promoting my content on Twitter. Twitter moves so fast that it’s easy to miss content. Like the name of the plugin suggests, this plugin will post a set number of older posts on select social media networks at an interval that you specify.
I use Later to draft Instagram posts. After I finish drafting my blog post, I upload my Buffer posts for the week and add any images that I want on Instagram to Later. I schedule the time that I want the images to appear on Instagram. When it is time for the post to appear, I get a notification from Later. Later automatically opens my Instagram account and has my caption ready to paste into Instagram.
I use Tailwind for Pinterest. Tailwind has a plugin for Chrome which makes it easy to schedule Pinterest posts. You can schedule a pin for multiple boards and set intervals between pins so that you aren’t spamming your followers. Tailwind also monitors repins so that you can monitor which content is useful. If you are interested in trying out Tailwind, you can use my referral link to get a $15 credit on Tailwind Plus (I will also earn a referral fee which goes to support this site).
I don’t like to have to use three different tools for updating my social media, but the time that I save by using the best tool for each platform is worth it.
By batching my social media, I can take advantage of free time to keep my social media accounts updated. I still check my social media during the week, but I try to disconnect an hour before bedtime to make sure that I get proper sleep.
7. Monitor Trends Using Nuzzel
Nuzzel is a social news aggregator. The app connects to your Twitter account and delivers the content that your friends are sharing the most directly to your inbox. Using Nuzzel helps me keep track of what is trending in my community. It’s a great way to connect with your followers and give valuable content.
8. Create Compelling Images Easily
Creating images for my blog, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts can take a huge amount of time. I used to use Gimp to handle all of my image editing. While I love Gimp, it’s too complicated to use to create images quickly. I now use Canva to create all of my images for my social media accounts. Canva comes with preset templates for Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram which makes image creation quick and easy.
For a great roundup post of other image editing options, check out Socially Sorted’s 50 Shortcuts to Create Visual Content for Social Media.
Blogging can be a time investment, but I believe that it is a worthwhile investment. Blogging has made me a better writer and better at organization. Also, I have met many wonderful new connections in the process.
I hope that you have found these tips helpful. Are you interested in starting a blog? Let me know your questions in the comments. Are you a blogging pro? What is your favorite tip to save time?
Susi Doyle is a productivity geek, avid reader, and travel lover. Not So Lost In Translation is her platform where she shares productivity systems and tips for learning foreign languages as well as encouragement for other writers, travelers, and lifelong learners.