Blogging is a pretty straight-forward job. It’s really about figuring out a topic that you’re passionate about and putting forward your opinion on it.
It can be a simple platform for you to put your thoughts on the web. Then maybe you get a few visitors who have the same interests. Then you’re in charge of a conversation.
And with platforms like Medium, Bloggr, Tumblr and so on, setting one up is ridiculously simple.
But for anyone who wants blogging to be a serious hobby or more, there’s usually some prep-work involved.
Your first few months should be a mix of reading and writing random stuff on the web. This helps you figure out what you might enjoy writing about. And how it should read to a visitor.
But after that, if you’re still serious about the whole thing, there should be a plan to channel your creativity.
I thought it’d be great if I can share the details of my content strategy. Starting from the very first step of fixing a general topic to write about.
Then on to the mildly technical stuff of setting up your own blog. And then finishing up with promotion, which is half the work if you ask me.
Here's what we'll cover
- How to pick a blog topic
- How to pick a blog name and domain
- WordPress Hosting options
- WordPress Page Builder
- WordPress Themes
- Crucial Pages
- Content Strategy
- 30-day Content Plan
- Publishing Schedule
- Blog Promotion
- My recommendation
- Your Takeaway
How to pick a blog topic
The first step, naturally. How specific the topic is, is entirely up to you. Do you want to have general conversations with your audience.
Or you can go into the minutest details of one of your interests. Figuring this out is why I suggested random reading and writing right at the start.
This’ll give you a chance to go through a lot of blogs on a variety of topics. Your initial writing will be rough and tough to follow for readers.
But getting through this phase is essential to figure out a topic and a writing style.
Another thing that goes into picking a topic is viability. Does it make sense to write about this topic? Are there readers looking for this content?
There are tools that help you with this stuff. I use Ahrefs, specifically the content explorer section.
I type in a word or phrase into the search area. And the content explorer returns all content related to that topic. Then I order search results according to organic traffic.
This tells me if the best performing pieces of content on that topic is attracting enough attention organically.
SEMRush does the same thing as Ahrefs and it’s Topic Research does the same job as the content explorer.
It can end up being a compromise. Deciding between what you really wanted to write about, versus what people want to read.
But a couple of months down the line, you’ll be glad you made that compromise.
How to pick a blog name and domain
Once you have the topic down, you’re set to lock down a blog name and the related domain.
The first part is settling on a name that you like and feel will reflect the content. This is a lot of brainstorming.
And from my personal experience, you have to go through serious stinkers before getting to the good names. The stink is strongest before the dawn and similar encouraging advice.
Then there’s the matter of availability. Has the name already been taken? Now here too, there are a couple of considerations.
Settling on and picking a name is a lot easier if you’re writing on platforms like Medium. It takes a lot less thought and head-scratching.
But I suspect you’re a bit serious about the whole blogging thing. Why else would you be on a page asking you to make a 30-day content plan.
So I would definitely suggest getting your own blog. That means buying a domain, cheap but definitely not free, picking a hosting option and spending a lot of time learning how to and then making your blog.
This works in a few ways. First, there’s a sense of ownership. I could’ve started a publication on Medium. It would’ve been a lot less hassle.
I did agonize over whether to buy actionabletools.com and then learning how to use WordPress (more on that later) to design and maintain the blog.
But I’m serious about this. This is my business, which means I want the control over it. So even if it means learning quite a few new things and not having a safe environment like Medium, so be it.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not impossible to make money blogging on Medium. It’s just that having your own blog gives you a lot more options and the sense of ownership I needed.
So if you feel the same way about your blogging plans, go to one of the many Domain search websites. They’re almost always hosting domains that also let you check for and register domains.
WordPress Hosting options
Now I’m gonna just assume you were sold on the whole getting your own blog rather than use blogging platforms argument.
Frankly, if 5-10 lines of an argument doesn’t convince you to get your own blog, I don’t know what will.
Here too, I will pick one option (the most popular one). That’s WordPress hosting. It’s as I said the most popular choice when it comes to hosting your blog.
And because of its popularity, it has an insane number of options when it comes to hosting, themes, plugins, resources and so on.
So it was a no-brainer for me to go with WordPress hosting. It’s the easiest and most powerful blogging and website content management system.
But here too, there are a couple of options.
This system has you hosting your blog/website along with others on the same server.
What this means is you have less storage space and bandwidth to work with. So it becomes a matter of how much traffic your blog is gonna get.
As a rule of thumb I’d say anything up to 100K visits a month can be handled by a shared hosting plan.
Obviously shared hosting is the cheaper option. Which is precisely what you’re looking for when you start out.
So this is how you would start off. It’ll take a while before you’ll start seeing numbers more than that. It’s not a diss, but just how the growth of a blog works.
There are a number of great options for shared WordPress hosting. SiteGround is a great service to pick.
Their plans start at $3.95 a month. It’s a great starting point. It’ll support one website/blog with a storage space of 10Gb. The base plan supports 10K visits a month.
A mark you’ll be hitting quite fast with a 30-day content plan in place. And once you pick your host you always have the option to scale within their system as you get more visitors.
Another great option is BlueHost. Their plans start at $2.95 a month. You’ll have access to 50Gb of storage space. They even throw in a $50 marketing credit for your promotion phase. But that’s for later.
BlueHost also gives you access to a load of WordPress themes for you to choose from. These’ll further cut your costs when it’s time to pick the right theme for your blog.
They even buy your domain name for free for the first year of your hosting. You’ll remember how I mentioned hosting services throw in domain registration to sweeten the pot.
For both these services, you’ll notice how they have options to pay more and get unlimited websites.
This’ll come in handy when you’re expanding and you try to set up more blogs. But that’s for much later. For now, stick to picking the right plan for your first (of many) blog.
Support is a big factor when it comes to your decision. You’ll presumably need help when setting up your blogs or when you face technical issues.
Both BlueHost and SiteGround provide timely service, so that’s something you won’t be worrying about.
This is for more seasoned bloggers. These plans let you host your blogs on your own server. Hence ‘dedicated’.
This means more space and more bandwidth. This translates to more websites and ability to handle more traffic.
But these are for larger entities and not for bloggers. Not even if you have multiple blogs, will you need dedicated hosting.
Managed WordPress Hosting
This is something I came across on BlueHost while going through different hosting options. The WP Pro plans from BlueHost also comes equipped with social media marketing in mind.
Managed WordPress hosting is the best option of the lot. That’s because the dashboard you use will have nothing but WordPress stuff.
This type of web-hosting is specifically designed and optimized for WordPress websites.
It becomes almost necessary when you’re blog has grown past a certain point. The lackluster optimization from shared hosting results in slow server speeds and even downtime.
So at some point in your blog’s life-cycle you will have to move to a plan of this type.
WordPress Page Builder
Once you have your blog topic, domain and hosting option set, it’s time to design the blog. It’s always the content that’ll make or break a visitor’s time on the blog.
But there’s more you can do to make sure your audience have a great time browsing and reading your blog.
And the crucial element in doing this is a Website Builder. Something that allows you to modify the look and feel of a blog without much trouble.
And by trouble, I mean having to get technical. We’re here to write and I find it almost criminal that I be forced to learn computery stuff to set up a blog.
Actually, these website builders are the reason why I jumped on the WordPress wagon. WordPress has some excellent website building options.
These let you modify your blog using a drag-and-drop interface. So no code, no real learning curve.
Just understand what each element does and adding and moving them around. I have a couple of strong recommendations when it comes to website builders.
I used this one and fell in love. There’s nothing wrong with the base WordPress page builder. But a good page builder can take your designing options to another level, like it did for me.
And Elementor is exactly that. An excellent page builder. Once it’s installed you enter a Elementor editor.
Once here, you’ll see your page as it is now. On the left will be a panel with ‘elements’ you can add to your page. These include text boxes, image boxes, embed links, headers, footers, spacers and so on.
Don’t worry if you find these confusing at the beginning. I did too.
But I must’ve spent an hour or so before I figured out what each element meant and what I could do with them. But if you’re still unsure, check out some of the tutorials that talk about this.
The options to modify each element can get a bit overwhelming though. I did need help with these. Stuff like indentation, padding etc..
But these too become allies rather than challenges, a day or two into working with Elementor.
Divi is another excellent page builder. One I used a little while after working with elementor.
So it was a much faster and easier learning experience. So I don’t want it to cloud my verdict on which one’s better.
Suffice to say, they’re both great options with very helpful learning resources to get the best out of them.
The right theme can give the right tone and a smooth experience to a reader. So one cannot just gloss over this part.
If you make the right choice now, you’ll save yourself a lot of pain down the line.
So with that in mind, I thought I’d list a few of my favorites here to make your choice easier.
SukiWP is a collection of professionally designed website designs. You can pick from a set of top-notch designs and simply import them to your page builder.
This cuts down your design time massively. I’d still suggest getting real familiar with the page builder.
Because you still want to be able to mess around with the design to make it unique. You have to assume a lot of others had the same idea.
You don’t wanna end up with the same-y looking blogs. Especially if it talks about the same stuff. Yikes!
Another consideration is that these themes are lightweight. That means they’re fast to load. Blogs are meant to be quick loads.
People should be able to read through your blog on their phones, click a link you’ve put in to another blog post real quick and keep going.
And they should be easy to navigate. On both desktop and phones. You don’t want a visual clutter making it tough to figure out what’s what.
Minimalism is a big thing I feel when it comes to blogs. And definitely say no to more snazzier themes if it means less speed.
And Suki themes are perfect blog themes for these reasons.
Astra is another easy-to-modify option for WordPress blogs.
These are again pre-built themes that you can just import and mess around with. So you have a robust starting-point and plenty of options to go from there.
I haven’t used this one much. But it has more than 100K websites using it, so I thought it might be worth adding on here.
There are a couple of pages other than the home page, you need to get up and running before you launch.
I could probably write an entire blog post on the homepage, and I probably will.
But here, I’ll say this. It’s crucial. Very crucial.
It’s the first impression and goes a long way in deciding if a visitor will be spending time on your blog posts.
They need to be clutter-free, to the point and conversational.
Any visitor should be able to know exactly what the blog is about, a bit about you and what they can look forward to on the blog.
It’s meant to inform and convert. In the world of a blogger, that means it’s expected to get visitor email addresses.
Email ids you will use to convert them to loyal readers. You’d be doing this using free email courses and newsletters.
But the homepage decides if you even get an email list you can work with.
So spend a day or so getting this right. You don’t want to just get through this as quickly as possible.
Great examples of Home Pages
Just to drive the point home, I thought I’d list a few great home pages. They’re usually for big entities who had a large budget to get a firm to make excellent home pages and landing pages.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a few pointers from them.
About Me page
There should be a tiny bit about you on the front page. Just as a quick introduction.
But there should be a page dedicated to the monument that is you. Your journey so far, highs and lows all go into coming up with a page with the answers to all the questions they never asked.
Joking aside, blogging is personal. It’s at its best when it is. So if you’re doing it right, people will want to know more. And it should be visible right at the top for easy access.
Very useful when you want to start building a community around your blog. Which shouldn;t be too far after you launch your blog.
Sticking with how personal a blog is meant to be, people should be able to get in touch.
A comments section at the bottom of the page is great. But you’ll need a wider presence on prominent social media platforms.
The contact me page would keep all those details in one place. Heck, you might even have people wanting to get in touch for work.
If the right person loves your writing, you could get people looking to hire you to write a guest blog or a sponsored post.
Last thing they want to do then, is to jump hoops and ask around for contact details. Have the option to book a call with you set up.
This’ll come in handy once you come up with a few products that you’d like to peddle.
These include email courses, video courses, downloadables etc..
Finally, the point of the entire blog. Well not really, it’s part of a larger point that happened to be the title.
I took my sweet time getting here and I’ll be taking some more.
You might be in charge of a blog. But you will have to do more than writing to make it work.
Naturally. Your bread and butter. This is the centre-piece around which your entire content strategy is built.
Your output should be regular and fresh. That’s precisely why we need a content plan in the first place.
But to make sure you’re work doesn’t go unnoticed, you need to put out video content.
You can use video content everywhere. A YouTube channel should be up in the same month as the blog.
But you can use it in your emails, across all social media platforms and on your blogs.
Short recordings of yourself can do wonders for your conversion rates.
A podcast is a perfect companion for your blog.
You can repurpose the blog of the week into a podcast episode. Quite soon, you’ll be having guests on the podcast.
It’s a great way to expand your reach and influence.
30-day Content Plan
I’ve covered the kind of content that you’ll need to generate for your blog. The social media is also a part of it.
But the first 30 days is about the core. And the core is the blog posts.
With that in mind the 30-day content plan is for blogs and blogs only.
The first week should be all about setting up a foundation.
That means finding the right niche for your blog. This is an important first step.
There may be a few false starts. But there are ways to make sure the process is as fault-free as possible.
- Day 1: Make a draft of topics you’re interested in. These can be broad categories that you’re interested in. This will include stuff you tend to read a lot.
- Day 2: Once you have this list, it’s time to find out the sub-categories that could work for you. So for example if the category was Writing, a sub-category would be screenplay writing.
Do this for each category that you made on Day 1.
- Day 3: Now it’s time to check the viability of these topics. Go to SEMRush, and then the Topic Research section.
Type in each sub-category and order the results according to organic traffic. Set the filter to last 12 months. What you have is a list of articles or blogs that got good attention over the last year.
Organic traffic means people who searched for related keywords and clicked into the page. So these are pages looking for.
Now look at the results and pick out sub-categories that have at least 10 pages of 5K organic traffic. Store these links on Google Docs or Evernote.
- Days 4 & 5: It’s reading time! Go through the links for each sub-category. Sadly any sub-category that did not have the required 10 pages with enough traffic are not in demand.
Even though they’re interesting, there’s just not enough people looking to read about them.
The reading will tell you what kind of writing has worked for that topic. Once this reading is done, you will have a very clear idea of the kind of writing expected.
And with that idea, you can make an informed decision about which niche you’d like. It’ll be the ones you can write in week in week out.
- Days 6 & 7: The day of culling. Now you’ll make a list of a maximum of 3 sub-categories or niches that you can write about.
Then you go deep-diving for each niche. Go through a bunch of blogs and articles. Not only will this tell you about what’s expected but also ideas for later.
If you were able to narrow it down to 1 niche at the start of day 6, great! You get the 7th day off. But if you weren’t, you should be able to pick one by end of day 7.
Here’s hoping you were able to get all the stuff from week 1 done on time. After all, that’s the point of the plan.
It’s designed to keep you focused and accountable. You start deviating, you’re already showing signs of fatigue and disinterest.
For week 2 you have your niche locked and now the focus is on writing style. In terms of the large picture, the stuff you write in the first month will seem like a write-off.
But it’s necessary to remember you don’t have a discernible writing style or system as yet. So week 2 is for that.
- Days 1 & 2: More reading, hurray. You need to be reading a lot at all times. But now you have a specific mission in mind.
The job is to find publications that you enjoy that deal with your niche or even related niches. Though my focus is on tools that help people get their work done, I’m also reading strategies where these tools come in handy.
I don’t want to stick to just tool review. I also want to do stuff about where and how to use them.
Make a list of publications or blogs that you like. Medium is obviously a great source no matter which niche you picked.
- Days 3 & 4: In these two days you’ll form a picture of the types of content that are made in your niche. Are these long-form blogs or short to the point reviews?
There will be interviews, detailed breakdowns, short 500-word updates or news. Make a note of every kind of type you come across. Evernote will come in very handy.
Now you have publications that interest you and the type of content they deal in.
- Days 5 & 6: Now you make skeletons for each type of content. What is the structure of each type? Is there a long introduction or none at all?
Do they just dive in to the topic? That works for blog series. Some of the summarize a month or week, so they will be very conversational.
Make wireframes of sorts for each type of content.
- Day 7: Take a day off. Also, I have nothing more in terms of research for day 7. It’s a bit weird to start writing at the end of a week rather than at the start.
After the first 2 weeks you’ll have a proper foundation to start the actual writing. A niche and wireframes of different types of written content are in your Evernote or Google Docs.
This week we can start off with stuff you can publish on your blog! It will most definitely not be your best work. No one’s first blog posts are.
- Make a selection of 5 different types of content. Examples include long-form, short updates, a personal take on something new, maybe a retro piece that deals with something from the past and a review of a product or piece of content in your niche.
- Get those wireframes ready and start writing. You’re on your way now. There’s no point in scheduling these by day. They will take very different times to complete
The aim is to have five pieces of content of different styles at the end of day 5.
- Days 6 & 7 is for review and edits. Five days to write five pieces of content. And another two to make sure they’re the best with your current expertise.
It’s a repeat of week 3. Five different types of content. Five days to write. And the last two to review.
Now you have ten pieces of content ready for publishing. You’re now the proud owner of a blog with ten pieces of content.
Remember committing to the content schedule is crucial. You don’t want to slack off at any point. It’s a downward spiral once you do.
So now you have a blog, it looks good and you have pieces of content either ready or on the way.
Now comes the task of queuing up your content. This is why the regularity is important and why you needed to build a content plan.
Your audience needs to know that there’ll be a new blog post when they’re on the bus at 10 AM on Monday. And then on Wednesday and Friday.
The actual days are up to you. But it is up to you to build an expectation in your visitors. They need to know every time they check back, there is a fresh piece of content.
This extends to all forms. Blogs, videos and podcasts. And if you’re in the habit of putting out regular content on social media, that needs to have some regularity too.
Days to Post
Like I mentioned earlier, you need to set expectations for your audience.
So you first set up a schedule. You can use Todoist or ClickUp for this too.
Fix 3 days in every week for the blog to be posted for the first time. Then the same for your YouTube videos. And of course a day for a fresh episode for your podcast.
The first month is a bit early for your newsletter. You’ll still be building an email list at this point. But this too needs to be on a schedule.
Days to Re-post
You’ll need to follow up your first posts with re-posts on other channels. For instance, after publishing your blog post, you can wait 2 days and then post it on Medium with the original content marked as the one on your personal blog.
For your videos, it could be on Facebook. Again, you would wait a couple of days after posting it on your YouTube channel.
This extends your reach while at the same time bringing traffic back to your blog.
There are several tools that help you keep up with the content schedule you’ve set yourself.
You can use something like Buffer to schedule, post and analyze your content.
StoryChief is a tool that helps you with the blogging stuff specifically. It does posting on your personal blog and then the delayed posting on platforms like Medium.
I use Tailwind to schedule my Pinterest and Instagram posts.
This, surprising to me at first, is almost as important as your content strategy. It makes perfect sense of course.
No point in making great content if enough people don’t find out about it. I say enough because the first few months are crucial.
You’ll be hunkered down and churning out great content. So there will be a tendency to block out all the promotion stuff.
But the first few months will precisely be the time when your promotion needs to be on overdrive. It’s all about momentum and you need to start building it early.
I did mention it as part of your content strategy. Mainly to announce each new piece of content.
But you’ll at the same time have to engage your audience. It can’t be exactly be scheduled. So you’ll have to set up alerts and respond quickly to any interaction on social media.
You won’t be interacting with influencers early on, but it’s nice to get into the habit. This starts with engaging your audience.
Like I mentioned a few times, this won’t be a big part of your first month. You’ll still be collecting emails from your homepage and blog posts at this time.
But it’ll steadily become a huge part of your blogging efforts. Those who subscribe and stay subscribed will form the backbone of your community.
Newsletters will keep them engaged and social media posts will entertain and start conversations.
Your emails will have links to your blog posts, videos and podcast. These will drive traffic while keeping them informed.
I’ve thrown a lot of stuff at you in this blog post. A lot of choices to make before you even start.
So I’ll add a few recommendations too. Check them out and if they seem like a good fit, sign up.
- Your SEO tool:You could go with Ahrefs or SEMRush.
- Hosting: BlueHost would be my pick. Specifically WP Pro. That’s a managed WordPress plan, which is the best kind. You can also do your domain registration and email hosting here.
- Scheduling: Use Todoist for now. It’s a great scheduling tool. But ClickUp if you’re working in a team.
- Page builder: Elementor would be my suggestion. I’ve loved every second of using the tool. Except the first day. Never liked the learning part, but a day is what it takes at the most.
- WordPress Theme: SukiWP for me. But it’s a pretty personal choice. I can’t tell you why I picked SukiWP more than Astra. Except I liked looking at it more. I dunno, what do you want? They’re both light-weight which is really my biggest worry about themes.
That was certainly a lot longer than I thought this post would be. It was supposed to be a simple bit about the importance of having a content plan.
Then the list of topics that built up to that steadily grew and became more about blogging in general.
What I’d like you to do is to make your own content plan. This would be first deciding the blog topic first.
Then branching out to planning each individual piece of content for the month.
It is slightly tedious work. But future you will thank you for putting the work in early.
Let me know what you thought of the 30-day content plan. I’d love to hear suggestions and feedback.