Creating a new blog can be a daunting and intimidating task, particularly if you are not a seasoned writer. But in order to humanize their brand, businesses often turn to blogs. Blogs can not only put a face with a business’s brand, but can also increase the number of Google indexed pages for search engine optimization. Looking to start your own blog? Follow this 15-step plan, and you’ll have one up and running in no time.

1. Set Goals

It's hard to know how much traffic or leads you can expect from a blog, especially if you’re starting from scratch. This Traffic and Leads Calculator from Hubspot can help you determine some of these goals. Even if you don’t have any benchmark data to use in the calculations, start with something and recalculate as needed to keep your eye on the ball.

2. Understand Your Audience/Buyer Personas

Talk with your customers or clients to understand what pain points or challenges your business was able to solve. Ask them why they chose your business over the competition, and have them take you through their buying process that preceded your business relationship. Want to learn more about buyer personas? Check out our articles - Audience Personas: Part 1 and Audience Personas: Part 2.

3. Do Keyword Research

When you look to understand what your buyer personas are searching for in relation to your business, keywords naturally come to light. Keywords are helpful when trying to get your blog found online. Try using some of these free keyword research tools to find out what’s popular in your industry:

4. Develop a Content Strategy

Use the information you learn about your buyer personas and the keywords they are searching for to develop a content strategy for your blog. Develop your content strategy around the pain points and challenges your personas face, focusing your blog content on one pain point at a time. Download Hubspot’s Content Planning Template to guide your content strategy and planning.

5. Have a Content Plan

Document your content strategy in a plan, and create an editorial calendar that maps each topic back to your persona’s pain point. Don’t bite off more than you can chew in the beginning. Start by planning to publish one blog article a week. Once you get the hang of it, you can increase the frequency of postings. Need help generating ideas? Check out Creating Social Content That Users Want: 3 Must-Haves & 5 Ideas.

6. Use Keyword Rich Headlines

Begin competing for those keywords your personas are searching for by using them in your headlines. Not only will this help search engines find your content, but keywords in your blog titles will also appeal to your audience.

7. Use Keywords in Your Blog Copy

Just because you’ve used a keyword or two in your headline doesn’t mean search engines are going to find your content that easily. Continue to use your keywords in the blog copy as well. Don’t overdo it, though. Search engines like Google may penalize you for packing too many keywords into one post. Write for your audience and not search engines, but understand the role of keywords from a search engine’s standpoint.

8. Use Keywords in Your Metadata

Optimize your blog posts with keyword rich metadata on the backend. Write your meta description using your keywords, and tag images with alt text to help your blog compete with the overwhelming amount of content that’s out there. Your blog content could very well have a long shelf life, attracting readers months or even years after it’s been published. So take the time to optimize it when you publish it the first time.

9. Watch Your Grammar

Grammar and spelling mistakes can make your content look sloppy and affect readability, so it's essential to use spell-checking software. It's also important to proofread your content before posting it to your blog. Grammar mistakes are not always picked up by spell-checking software, but you can often spot common errors by reading the content aloud. If the sentence sounds awkward or unnatural, consider making alterations.

10. Pay Attention to Length

Blog posts can be any length, but readers typically prefer shorter posts of less than 800 words. The length of your posts can also have implications on your search engine rankings, as Google tends to put a higher value on blog posts of more than 500 words. Try to keep the length of your sentences and paragraphs relatively short, as this will make it easier for your readers to digest the information.

11. Add Images  

Images make your content more attractive and help to break up large blocks of text. Take care when adding photographs or graphics found on the Internet, as you could be breaking copyright laws. Don’t have time to take your own? Subscribe to a stock image provider like iStock or take advantage of a free content creation tool like Canva that has images available for use.

12. Link to Relevant Content

Linking to a variety of websites, blogs and other online content helps to increase your connectivity and may result in reciprocal links to your blog. However, you should only link to sources and websites that you have personally checked, as one of the quickest ways to lose readers is to post links to spam or scam websites.

13. Share Posts on Social Media

Increase the reach of your content and synchronize your online activities by sharing your posts on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. Recycle posts in your newsfeeds every once in awhile as well if the content is still relevant. Use social media publishing tools like Buffer, Hootsuite or Sprout Social to schedule your posts in advance. In addition, you can add sharing options to each of your blog posts to allow readers to share your content with their family, friends and social media followers.

14. Distribute Strategically

Once you’ve written, proofed and finalized you blog content, it’s time to distribute it. With the information you’ve gathered about your buyer personas, knowing where best to distribute your content should be an easy decision. Align your content distribution strategy with where your buyer persons consume content and avoid random distribution. If your target audience can’t find your content, you are simply writing it for those who aren’t interested.

15. Promote Your Blog with Social Media Ads

Consider promoting your posts with social media ads. The targeting and retargeting capabilities of social ads allow you to concentrate your reach directly to the target audience you’ve identified; adding greatly to your content distribution strategy. When your social media ads are targeted at the right people, your marketing dollars will be better spent on eyes who care about what you have to say; not those who don’t.

Blogs are a wonderful addition to your overall marketing strategy. Although there are plenty of brands who do not have a blog, creating and using a blog to become a source of solution and relevant content for your buyer personas has proven to be a successful way of staying above the competition.