You need a blog.
I’ve heard it over and over. I’ve even said those words to fellow business owners, but it took almost a decade in business before I finally found a way to make it happen.
I’ve always struggled with writing content for my business. I have beautiful, eloquently formed ideas swirling around in my head…until I sit down to write. Then, my mind goes blank, just like the screen I not-so-lovingly call the “White Screen of Panic.”
Blog anxiety is real, but I’ve figured out a way to overcome. Like most things in my life, a methodical approach has been my ticket to success.
With a documented process and the right tools, I’ve managed to find my blogging stride. Today I’m going to share it all with you, in hopes that you can also find your mojo.
Start with a Sprint
Whenever I thought about starting a blog a few questions popped into my head.
What should my first post be!?
What if I don’t keep up with it?
What if it’s just really bad?
To alleviate this pressure I decided I needed to start hard and fast – with a sprint. For three weeks I wrote a blog post every weekday.
Instead of feeling like I had one first blog post, I had several (of varying topics)! I scheduled the posts to be published the week after I wrote them so that I’d have a buffer in case something came up that kept me from writing one day.
As for the quality of those first posts? Not my best work, but the beautiful thing about blog posts is I can go back and improve the shabby ones (which I’m currently doing).
After writing every day for three weeks I took a step back and started writing three blog posts every Monday. Now, I’m writing one blog post per week so I can focus on marketing as well.
Trello for Blog Process Management
I manage my blog process, from idea to completion, in Trello.
My first list is the dumping ground for all of my ideas. I color code them based on topic (or blog category) to make sure I have a good mix.
Beside the Ideas list I have one called Up Next. I move cards from the Ideas list to here when I’m feeling inspired by the topic. (I have a lot of ideas so it can get pretty overwhelming.)
Cards in the Ideas and Up Next lists will often have preliminary outlines (checklists), notes, links to resources, etc. to help expedite the blog writing process when it’s time.
As I go through the writing, pre-publishing, and publishing process I move the cards through the different lists (Outlines, Drafts, Graphics and Scheduling, Promoting, Done) to keep track of where I am with each post. Often I’m only working on one or two at a time so it’s pretty easy to manage, but I like the visual reward of moving the post across to the various lists.
Posts in the Done column include due dates (the date the blog post was scheduled for publishing) and images (to quickly see what I’ve posted recently.
Google Docs for Blog Outlining and Writing
Remember that “White Screen of Panic” I mentioned at the beginning? Well, this is where overcoming that reaction comes in.
To make sure I never start with a plain white screen I’ve created a blog template that I use for every post.
At the top of the post, I include a list of all of the SEO and marketing data I will need. This includes:
- A keyword
- Page description
- Text for the featured image
- Alt text for the image (also used as the default Pinterest description)
- Content upgrade to be used
- Copy for social media posts
Having all of the SEO and marketing data figured out makes pre-publishing a breeze. (Need a little help understanding the SEO terms above? Check out this post on simplified SEO.)
I also include a simple checklist of things I’d like to include in each blog post:
- Click-to-tweet quote
- Formatting (bold, italic, etc.)
- Link(s) to internal page(s)
- Link(s) to external page(s)
When I first started writing blog posts I would just “wing it” and write the whole thing at once. Now I create outlines first because I’ve discovered it makes the actual writing process go so much smoother and results in much more cohesive posts.
In my blog template, I include a starter outline. It reminds me to include an introduction (hook the reader), a body with 3-5 main points, and a conclusion with a call-to-action.
Typically I write my outline a day or more before writing the post because I like to marinate on the topic. Despite best practices, I only write one draft, editing and formatting as I go. (I don’t recommend this…but, you know.)
Migrate Blog Posts with Ease
So, maybe I’m late to the game, but I just discovered that there is an amazing Google Docs add-on that moves blog posts to WordPress WITH FORMATTING.
Do you realize how huge this is? Before I would apply formatting in Google Docs then migrate and either clean up the messy HTML or paste as plain text and reformat. Now it’s one click and I’m set!
To use the add-on you have to install Jetpack on your website and install a Chrome extension. (Note: I know that Jetpack isn’t the most loved plugin by WordPress developers, but I haven’t had any negative effects since I started using it.)
Don’t use Chrome or don’t want to use Jetpack? There is at least one other plugin that allows you to do it easily, but I haven’t tried it.
Final Blog Prep in WordPress
Once my blog post has been migrated to WordPress it’s time for final pre-publishing preparations.
First, I set the date for when I’d like the post to be published. If I don’t do this first I will inevitably end up publishing the post immediately instead of scheduling it. Next, I select a category for the post, specify tags, and upload a featured image.
Moving back to the post itself I insert the post image and set the alt text. I use the Grammarly extension for Chrome to check for any grammar and spelling mistakes that Google Docs missed and set up my click-to-tweet phrases with the Better Click to Tweet plugin.
Moving my attention to SEO, I insert my keyword and description using the Yoast SEO plugin. Yoast then lets me know how SEO friendly my post is and I make any edits that I deem necessary.
[bctt tweet=”A lot goes on behind-the-scenes of every blog post.” username=”jess_creates”]
My process has changed significantly since I started, and I’m sure I will continue to refine my process and template.
Following these steps has allowed me to focus more on social media and SEO than I was able to previously.