You want to start a blog. And you want to do everything right from the beginning, am I right? The best thing to do that is to plan out your blog before you start it.
It took me two months to plan out Blogology. You shouldn’t rush this step or skip it altogether.
I believe that a lack of proper planning is what causes most blogs to fail. So in this post, I’ll tell you exactly how to plan your blog before you launch it.
DISCLAIMER: This post includes affiliate links. That means that if you purchase through one of my affiliate links, I’ll receive a commission at no additional cost to you.
I’m not saying you have to create a detailed blog plan. But before you start your blog, you should know who your blog is for and what you’re trying to achieve.
When creating a plan for your blog, apart from your niche, you should consider these aspects:
RECOMMENDED READING: 12 Things You Need to Do Before You Start Building Your New Blog
First things first, before you start your blog, you have to set goals for your blog. Ideally, you should set specific goals you can measure.
You can set specific dates by which you want to achieve your goals, but I understand that since you might be planning your first ever blog, you don’t know when you can expect to reach your goals.
You need to create a long-term vision for your blog. Where do you see your blog in a year? Five years? Think about what the purpose of your blog is. This might take you a few sessions to complete.
Brainstorm ideas, put them down on a paper, let it sit, and come back after a while to review those goals.
Perhaps your ultimate goal is to become the leader in your industry. Maybe you want to build a community around your blog.
Is that it?
Even though you need a long-term vision, these goals are a bit vague.
How are you going to achieve those goals? You need to set smaller goals that will help you achieve those big goals. Think of them as milestones on your journey to achieving your ultimate goals.
Set SMART Goals
Ideally, you should be setting SMART goals.
What are SMART goals?
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
Your goals have to be specific. If you want to just “grow your blog”, how will you know you’ve achieved it?
You need specific numbers. You need your goal to be measurable.
Your goals need to be achievable. Let’s be real, you most likely won’t hit 50,000 pageviews in the first month.
If you want to stick to your goal, it has to be realistic. Don’t set a goal of writing at least 1,000 words daily if you’ve barely written that many in the past month. You’re not trying to run a marathon.
To set a goal the right way, you need a specific date by which you’re going to achieve that goal.
Set performance and creation goals
Creation goals are goals such as writing every day.
Performance goals are goals such as achieving certain numbers by a certain time.
In terms of creation goals, you can set a goal to write every day. I’m not saying publishing a new blog post daily. Just writing every day.
Set short-term goals
Since right now you are setting goals before starting your blog, I suggest you set goals for your first month.
You can set the number of blog posts you’d like to publish in the first month, monthly pageviews, blog post shares, email subscribers, social media follows/subscribers, etc.
By setting short-term goals on your journey to achieving your long-term vision, you’re creating small milestones that set you up for success in the long run.
A great blogger goal to set is to learn something new every day. I have a post all about skills every blogger needs. You can start learning one of these skills.
When setting blog goals, don’t go for too many of them at once. You’ll get overwhelmed and you most likely won’t achieve anything.
TIP: Write your goals down. Research shows you’re more likely to succeed at achieving goals if you write them down.
What is blog branding?
Your branding is how you convey who you are, what your blog stands for, and who it is for.
Why do you need to brand your blog?
By building a brand around your blog, you’re differentiating yourself from your competition. It’s how your readers are going to recognize your content.
How to brand your blog?
Think about the branding of your blog. The branding of your blog should be based on your target audience.
Those are the aspects to consider when deciding on your blog branding:
- Blog design
- Color palette
- Fonts combination
- Mission statement
- Writing voice and style
- Posting schedule
TIP: You can leave some of the graphic branding stuff to graphic designers. You can hire one on sites such as Upwork or Freelancer.
Think about what kind of social media posts are going to look like. I’m not just talking about the imagery. If you’re planning on starting a Facebook profile or Instagram for your blog, you’ll need to be publishing helpful content. What are the captions going to include?
Your goal here should be creating a strong brand identity where your readers will recognize your content without having to see your name.
You need to identify your unique selling point. Your unique selling point is what’s going to differentiate yourself from your competitors. That can be a unique angle on the topic, a paid product no one has offered yet, etc.
Before you start your blog, you need plan your content strategy.
What is a content strategy?
A content strategy includes planning, creation, delivery, and management of your content. The goal of a content strategy is to create helpful good-quality content that’s going to attract your target audience.
How to create a content strategy?
I. Write down content ideas
First things first, you need to decide the type of content you want to be publishing and the type of audience you want to serve.
The last thing you want to happen is starting a blog and not knowing what to blog about.
Think about the audience you want to target and write down all the blog post ideas they’d like to read. What kinds of blog posts are going to be helpful to them?
But how do you know what kind of content you should be creating?
You need to do research first.
II. Do keyword research
First of all, you need to research your competition and your target audience.
Then, you need to research what kind of content to produce. You can use tools such as BuzzSumo to find content in your niche that’s already doing well. You can enter your competitors’ websites and see their most popular content.
You can also go to sites such as Quora or Reddit where people are asking questions. A great place to find content ideas are Facebook groups.
And I have one more for you. If you plan on using Pinterest for promoting your blog, start Pinning now. Create a dedicated business account for your niche and save other bloggers’ Pins to related boards. After a while, you’ll see the best-performing Pins in your analytics. You can create content on the best-performing topics.
Then, go to google and type in the main keyword. Look at the autosuggest results as well as the questions in the rich snippets, and of course the content ranking on the first page.
Read through the articles. Are they lists? Or how-to guides?
Have a look at the comments. Is there something else the readers are asking? What else do they want to know?
Great! Now you know what to blog about.
Is that it?
Of course not!
Now you need to create a content plan.
III. Create a content plan
Here’s where you are going to set your posting schedule.
Be realistic. I’ve heard about a lot of bloggers who blog every single day for the first month. I suggest you create a more attainable posting schedule. Why not posting only once a week, but only your best work?
Think about which content should go up first.
What other content are you going to be producing?
Do you want to be adding videos to your blog posts?
What kind of images are going to be in your articles? Infographics?
When planning your blog content strategy, you should also consider your email list.
What kind of content are you going to be sending your email subscribers?
How often are you going to be sending emails to your email list?
How are you going to attract your visitors to become your email subscribers?
The most effective way to do that is to offer a lead magnet, also called freebie. That’s a free digital product you offer your visitors in exchange for their email address. That can be a checklist, a template, a short ebook, a mini-course, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s helpful to your audience.
I feel like a lot of bloggers are skipping this step, but it’s just as important as the other ones. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a web designer to complete this step.
Before you start planning your website, have a look at other blogs, and get inspired. Look at the different features and decide what you’d like your website to look like.
There are several aspects to consider during the website planning process:
- Hosted or self-hosted
RECCOMENDED READING: How to Choose a Blog Name You Won’t Regret
I. Hosted or self-hosted
First of all, you need to decide if you want to go self-hosted or want to host your website on a blogging platform.
What does it even mean?
Hosted means that you’re starting a blog on a blogging platform. That can be a site such as WordPress.com, Blogger, or Tumblr.
Also, if you’re planning on turning your blog into a business, you’re going to have a hard time monetizing your blog, as a lot of those blogging platforms won’t allow you to put affiliate links or ads on your blog.
Hosting your blog on one of these platforms can be more expensive than self-hosting in the long run.
Self-hosted means that you own your website and you can do unlimited changes to it. No one can take away your blog from you and you can monetize it as you like.
You’ll also have a custom domain from the beginning. For example, with the cheapest plans on WordPress.com, you’ll have the addition wordpress.com right after your domain name.
To self-host your blog, you’ll need web hosting and a content management system.
Web hosting is what allows your blog to be viewed on the internet. It’s where you are managing the back-end of your blog.
A content management system (CMS) is where you are managing the front-end of your website – the visual side of your blog.
There are a lot of web hosts to choose from. I recommend SiteGround. It’s a fast and reliable web hosting and it’s fairly inexpensive as well. Their cheapest plan costs $3.95 per month (billed yearly).
The most popular CMS among bloggers is WordPress.org. (Don’t confuse with WordPress.com.) It’s a beginner-friendly content management system.
What is a website structure?
A website structure is how the website is linked together. The structure of a website is important to web crawlers. If there’s something that’s not linked to another page or post, the web crawlers can’t find it and index it. That’s a problem because it won’t show in the search results.
Neil Patel has a great article on the importance of a good site structure.
How to structure your website?
When structuring your website, you need to keep in mind both the users and the search engines.
Don’t worry, I won’t make you create a detailed plan of all the pages and blog posts on your blog and how they’ll be interlinked.
You should just create a basic structure based on the pages and topics you want to cover on your blog.
Think about the pages you want to have on your blog and want to include a link to them on your homepage.
What are blog pages?
Pages are static pieces of content that usually contain information about your website. But that’s not always the case. You can use pages to publish some of the most important content on your blog.
Most common blog pages are:
- Terms and Conditions
Think about what other pages you want to have on your blog. Maybe you want to create a page with useful tools and resources for your readers. Think into the future and think about the pages that are going to link to your paid products or services.
Then think about how you are going to link those pages together.
This is an example of a basic site structure:
At the very top is your homepage.
From your homepage, you link to the most important pages on your blog.
As you can see, not every page will link to any other page underneath it. Those are pages such as Contact.
Think about the main topics of your niche, write a detailed page on each of those topics, and link to them from the homepage. Those pages are called pillar pages.
Then think about the sub-topics. You’ll create blog posts on those sub-topics and link to them from your pillar pages. Some sub-topics will be more complex than others and will require you to create additional sub-topic blog posts for them.
This is a strategy called the topic clusters strategy and was created by HubSpot. You create the main topic page. On this page (or blog post) you address the topic as a whole. From there you’ll write blog posts dedicated to each of the sub-topics and you link them to the pillar page.
This structure helps the reader find related content on your blog based on the topic. The search engines will be able to crawl your website effectively.
This strategy is very similar to the SEO siloing strategy.
This is a content strategy created for optimal use for the users and search engines.
Backlinko suggests that for ideal user experience and search engine crawlability, you should use a shallow website hierarchy. That means that every single page or blog post should be just three links away from your homepage.
For example, on Blogology, I have four main pages that are on the homepage.
- How to start a blog
- How to write a blog post
- How to promote your blog
- How to monetize your blog
I’ve divided those main topics into sub-topics. What I’m currently working on is creating content around those sub-topics. This particular post belongs to the “Before you start your blog” topic cluster, which is a sub-topic of How to start a blog.
Grab a pen and paper, think about the pages and topics you want to have on your blog, and draw a basic sitemap.
What parts does a blog have?
In most cases, blogs have four parts: header, footer, main content area, and a sidebar.
What is a header in a blog?
The header is at the top of your website and includes your blog’s name, tagline, and a navigation menu with the most important pages on your blog. You can display a header image here – that can be, for example, your logo.
What is a footer in a blog?
Footer is the bottom part of your website and usually includes the legal pages, archives, the sitemap, copyright notice, or a navigation menu. To be honest, you can put pretty much anything to your footer, but keep it simple.
The main content area
The main content area is where all your blog posts are displayed. You can choose whether you want to display featured images for your articles and summaries. Depending on your theme, you’ll also be able to choose whether your content area will be displayed in a column or a grid.
The sidebar is where any additional navigation menus and widgets such as author bio, search box, most popular or latest blog posts, social sharing buttons, categories, etc. are displayed. The sidebar can be on either side. However, according to Problog Design, the best place for blogs is the right side.
When planning the layout of your blog, think about other features you want to have on your blog as well.
Common blog features include:
- Email subscribe opt-in
- Exit pop-up
- Social sharing buttons
- Author bio after every post
When planning your blog layout, consider whether you want a static homepage or whether you want your homepage to display your content area.
A static homepage highlights what your blog is about, what you do, and what your readers can expect from your blog. I’d advise you to opt for the static homepage.
You can set a static homepage on your WordPress blog if you go to Settings > Reading > Your Homepage Displays > from there you can set the static homepage option and select which pages you want to display as a homepage and a posts page.
If you’ll going to be using WordPress to host your blog, you’ll be sorting your content into categories and tags.
Think about the blog post ideas you’ve come up with and sort them into appropriate categories and tags based on the topic.
What are categories in WordPress?
Categories are the main way of grouping content on WordPress. They are used for general topics.
Ideally, you shouldn’t divide your content into more than 10 categories.
If one of your blog posts fits into more than one category, don’t worry about that. You can sort the blog post into more than one category.
If you want to, you can also create sub-categories for each of your categories.
What are tags in WordPress?
Tags in WordPress are a taxonomy used for more specific topics.
Depending on your theme, you can display the tags of a specific blog post at the top or at the bottom of it.
You can also display a widget with your tags in your sidebar.
On Blogology, you can see my tags in the sidebar if you’re on a desktop, or at the bottom of the page if you’re on a mobile device.
You can’t just assume that readers will come to your blog. There are millions of blog posts published daily. Unless you tell your target audience that your blog exists, they won’t come.
For that reason, you need to create a promotional strategy for your blog.
How to create a promotional strategy for a new blog?
When planning a promotional strategy for your blog, you should consider these things:
- How you are going to attract visitors to your blog
- How you will keep those visitors coming back
- How you are going to get your content in front of existing audiences
- How you are going to get backlinks (links from other websites)
When creating a promotional strategy, keep in mind your target audience. Where can you find them? That’s where you want to be promoting your blog.
Think about where your audience spends most of their time online. Which social media channels are most popular among your target audience?
Pick just one social channel and learn as much as you can about it and promote your blog there. Over time, you can expand to other social channels as well. If you try to promote on too many social channels from the beginning, you’ll get overwhelmed and won’t reach anyone.
Search engines can be your best friends when you’re promoting your blog. SEO stands for search engine optimization and it’s a practice of optimizing content so it can appear in the top results of the search engines.
Keep visitors coming back
You should start building your email list from day one. As I’ve already mentioned, you can offer a freebie to your visitors, such as a checklist, template, ebook, etc., in exchange for their email address.
You don’t necessarily have to offer a product, but your email content should be valuable to your audience. No one will subscribe to your newsletter just like that.
Look at Amy Lynn Andrews’ Useletter. She doesn’t offer any freebie. Instead, her newsletter is based on sending weekly valuable information.
You can do a research to see which bloggers in your niche accept guest bloggers. You can then reach out to those who do and offer to write a blog post on a topic that hasn’t been covered on their blog yet. In that blog post, most likely in the author’s bio, you’ll include a link to your blog.
Keep in mind that you’ll most likely have to abide by the guest blogging rules of that particular blogger or publication.
Another great way to get your content in front of existing audiences is to submit your articles to Medium. Anyone can sign up to Medium and contribute. On Medium, you’ll find a publication in your niche and submit your most popular post(s).
Once again, each publication will have its own rules as to what articles they accept.
Guest blogging and submitting your articles to Medium is a great way to earn backlinks.
You can also check out the skyscraper technique. That’s a content marketing strategy based on writing extraordinary content and then reaching out to influencers in your niche and asking them to read the article and if they like it, sharing it with their audiences.
IMPORTANT: None of these tactics will work if you produce mediocre content. First and foremost, focus on creating great content.
To be completely honest with you, I wouldn’t worry too much about backlinks when you’re just starting your blog. Focus on on-page SEO, one social media channel, building your email list, and networking with other bloggers.
What I would suggest is creating a strategy for every three months (quarter), reviewing your results then, and adjusting and expanding your strategy from there.
How are you going to monetize your blog?
At this point, you should have an idea of what your paid product or service is going to be. I don’t believe you should know exactly what it’s going to be, but you should have an idea.
Do some market research and think about a product or service your target audience would find valuable. It has to be something that solves your audience’s problem.
Research if the exact same thing isn’t being sold already. If it is, it’s not necessarily an issue. You can have your own unique twist on it.
In the meantime, you can implement other monetization methods. Beginner bloggers usually start with display ads and affiliate marketing.
You can display CPC ads on your blog. When someone clicks on that ad, you get paid a small commission. The most popular CPC ad provider for new bloggers is Google AdSense.
From there you can search for brands you’d like to collaborate with, and you can reach out to them.
Consider how much you want to invest in your blog at the beginning.
When you’re just starting out, you’ll need to purchase a domain from sites such as Namecheap.
As I said, you’ll need a web hosting service.
You might also need to purchase an email provider, but a lot of them have free plans. I use ConvertKit and they have a free plan for up to 1,000 subscribers.
In the future, you might want to invest in a keyword research tool, a scheduling tool for your social media posts, and perhaps a premium theme. But in the beginning, you’re good to go with the very least.
How much does it cost to start a blog?
Most domains on Namecheap cost less than $10. The cheapest web hosting plan on SiteGround is just below $50 for the whole year. That means that you can start your blog for less than $60.
Creating a plan for your blog is a crucial step a lot of bloggers skip. That’s a mistake. You need to know exactly what to do after you launch your blog.
When planning your blog, you need to do a lot of research. Especially if you want to turn blogging into a career.
What’s your biggest struggle when planning your new blog? Let me know in the comments!