Dr. Manvendra Sharma, our family doctor, asked my father (using my pet name), “Kya kar raha hai?” (What is he doing these days?). My father replied, “Kuch khaas nahi.” (Nothing special.)
It was during summer holidays. I must have been 5-6 years old that time.
Then he told my father to buy Alice in Wonderland for me and asked me to read it.
Dr. Sharma not only asked me to read, he told me the backstory about the book. He told me that Lewis Carroll was author’s pen name (His actual name was Charles Dodgson) and other interesting facts about the book.
Initially, it was tough for me to comprehend what was written in the novel. I worked on it and words started to make sense.
I fell in love with words, reading and eventually writing.
As many of us do, I used pen and paper to write and then as I grew up I started exploring other platforms to write. This search led me to Geocities by Yahoo (now only available in Japan) which was a precursor to blogging. There you had to write basic HTML to add content to a page.
Around 2003 I heard about blogs and blogging. After lurking from sidelines I started testing and soon after that I started my first blog on blogspot. That’s where most of the bloggers start.
Blogging started as a medium for self expression, and later some bloggers started to use it for knowledge sharing. Some of these bloggers figured out that by participating in a program called Google Adsense (which Google launched in 2003) – they can make money. The bloggers who decided to participate in the Adsense program – allowed Google to publish ads on their blogs. When visitors to that blog clicked on the ads – the advertiser paid Google and Google shared some to these earnings with the website owner where the ad was showcased.
That’s how the some of early bloggers made money.
Before we dig deeper into this. Let’s understand what a blog is.
What is a blog?
The word “blog” has come from “weblog”. In the early days of blogging, bloggers used to add logs or posts to a blogging software hosted on the web. These logs on the web were known as a weblog or blog. In a blog – typically the most recent post appears first.
Blogs were usually written by a single person. In 2009, blogs started getting mainstream and when companies started adding corporate blogs to their website.
Later the online marketers figured out that with blogs one can easily add fresh content on a regular basis to their site which helped in SEO (search engine optimization) because search engines love fresh content and tend to rank such content higher in SERPs (search engine results page).
In 2009, marketing automation software maker Hubspot came up with findings that business blogging leads to 55% more website visitors.
This motivated companies to blog more.
Blogging continued to evolve. The focus moved from quantity to quality and then to quality + quantity.
Earlier companies that believed that blogging will bring more traffic to them – started to blog a lot without focus on quality. It worked for a while. Once it stopped working, companies pushed for quality. Because of this quantity (number of blog posts) suffered so companies started investing more resources in creating good quality content on a regular basis. With this – the demand for content writers, bloggers and content marketers increased and continue to grow as more and more companies become serious about this.
Blogging works if you know how to use it.
Here is how blogging helps.
- It makes you a better communicator.
Blogging has been a game changer for me. It has made me a better writer. It gave me courage to reach out to people across the world. It gave me connections and opportunities. One such connection resulted in me writing my first book.
- It helps you build your personal brand.
When you publish a blog post – you let people see how you think.
It is scary and powerful at the same time. You may not blog thinking what others will think. The fact is there will always be people who will start after you and you can share what you know with them. This helps you build your tribe and personal brand.
If you do not publish what you write – your knowledge stays in your head. When you press publish – you share it with the world. If what is inside your head is good then people appreciate it, and they trust you for your knowledge. With trust people get courage to reach out for their wallets and give your money – in form on new opportunities and new business.
Even if you are not selling something directly – the power of connections is immense.
Amitabh Bachchan is one example that comes to mind. He is busy yet he has been blogging daily for past 7 years (2800+days).
Why he does it? There may be many reasons but connection with his fans is one of those reasons for sure.
Does he need to do this? May be not. But he takes time to connect with his fans and share ongoings in his life – and that wins him new fans. Stardom thrives on people liking him. By sharing bites from his life – he gives people enough to connect with him.
- Blogging helps in SEO.
When you invest time to write blog posts and write as if you care – the readers see the value. They then share it with others over social media. It does not stop here. You promote it using email marketing (sending email to your subscribers). This way a lot of people read it as soon as you publish your blog post.
Search engines see fresh content, social sharing and people reading what you have written – as a signal to rank your blog post.
If you optimize your blog posts the way I shared in this SEO Guide then you make it easy for search engines to find you. The idea is to write a blog post with keywords in the first 100 words. Then use related words in rest of the page, add one picture and keep it at 1800 words or more.
When you write a new blog post – you add a new page to your website. When you have more pages on your website – you give search engines more options to choose from your website.
Now you know how blogging helps in SEO. If you care for appearing on top in search engines then take time to write SEO optimized blog posts.
- Blogging helps in connecting with your prospects and customers.
If your writing is persuasive – you can build connections with your readers through your writing. You can then connect with them, learn more about them and take their feedback about your product or communication in order to improve it.
Blogs are a great medium to talk about your products. For example, if you are about to launch a new product you can offer a preview and share features, price range, and testimonials from beta users. Once the product is launched – you can post demos about how one can use your products.
- Blogging helps in establishing thought leadership
If you are the CEO or leader of a company, you can use your blog to establish thought leadership about your brand. We are living in times, where billionaire CEOs like Richard Branson and Bill Gates blog so there is no reason why you cannot.
What you blog about will change depending on what stage of business building you are at. When you are starting out then you’ll have less time to blog and it is fine because your attention is needed on the business. Once your business grows it makes sense to take time to write and publish your thoughts. In initial days you can write about your startup struggles and success and later about bigger problems that your startup is trying to tackle. You can check out Avlesh Singh’s blog for inspiration. He runs WebEngage, a fast growing SaaS company and still finds time to blog.
One can argue CEOs can blog because they have large teams to run their ventures but those who have been in a leadership position know that it takes a lot of time to go after new opportunities and to meet key people (1-on-1 and in group meetings) even when you have teams supporting you.
- Blogging helps in making sales.
Blogs are a great way to announce new products and share special offers. In fact, one of the goals of having an email list to be able to share about new products with your subscribers. If what you are making is good then you’ll be doing a disservice to your subscribers by not sharing about new products and launches with them. Don’t shy away from this. Your subscribers are like your extended family. Like you share about important events with your family – you ought to share it with your subscribers.
- Blogging helps you stand out as a job seeker.
If you are looking for a job or new career then you should use a blog to showcase your learning. You do not need to write tons of blog posts. 10-20 are enough. Start with posting once a fortnight. If you know your subject well – it will not take much effort because it is all in your head and you just need to dump it in a doc, edit and publish.
This will work as your extended resume and help you stand apart from other applicants.
- Blogging works helps you share your Body of Work with the world.
Body of work is a showcase of what you know, what you have done and what you have made. To create a body of work – you work on interesting problems and projects one after another. You finish one and move to another. You may have to drop some also.
Write a blog post about each of these projects or add them under projects section on your blog.
How does it help?
First it serves you – because you can see your growth and look back how you have fared. By doing it you also make it easy for others to find more about you.
One of these projects may become your life’s project – like Facebook for Mark Zuckerberg. You continue working on interesting problems until that happens.
- Your blog can act as a surrogate brain.
A blog serves as a good archive of how you have grown over the years. You can just dump your thoughts and come back later to see how you were thinking at that time.
By writing on your blog you can look back and see what you have done to reach where you are now. If you look at old blog posts on MohitPawar.com – you will find them all over the place. Technology, gadgets, new innovations, observations, philosophical thoughts. Later after doing it for a while – I got into groove, found the sweet spot and started writing more about entrepreneurship and personal growth.
Now you know that blogging is powerful and can help you in multiple ways. Let’s see how you can get started.
How to get started with blogging?
Start with blog post ideas
For someone who is new to blogging – a big challenge is to decide what to write about.
A simple starting point will be to publish reply to common customer (prospect) questions via your blog.
What’s the logic?
People (You and I) enter search queries in Google (or another search engine) trying to find answers to different questions. If you can reply to probable customer queries. Marcus Sheridan used this strategy to pull his fiberglass pool company from financial crisis.
How do you know what questions your customers want the answers for?
Simple, you ask them – in person or over phone.
If you do not have customers still – then try to anticipate customer questions and publish reply to those. You can search on online forums, go through books (on your industry / topic) on Amazon and read the reviews.
Also get help from your email subscribers and send them an email asking about their biggest challenges and questions they have. If you have a lot of subscribers then you can send them a survey using Google doc or Typeform. Once you know these questions then write the answers to these questions in your blog post.
In the context of business growth – you start with keyword research as shared in the lesson on SEO. When you start with right keywords – you fast track your growth.
Once you have a list of topics ready – you start with writing the blog post.
Here is how you do go about it.
- Write the headline
- Create outline of the blogpost
- Write first draft
Write the headline
Your headline is the first thing your readers notice in your blog post. Invest a good deal of time in crafting it. Make it good so that readers will be enticed to read it. The simplest headline that works is the How to headline.
An outline gives you a basic structure to write your blog post. With an outline you can cut your writing time into half or less. An outline is nothing more than a list of what you are going to cover in your blog post. Once you write your outline – you move the points up or down to give your blog post a logical flow.
For example if you are writing a blog post around a keyword – “how to launch a startup”. Then your outline will be on the lines of,
- Idea generation
- Idea selection
- Idea validation
- Identifying team members or co-founder/s
- Building a prototype
- Product pricing
- Launching to beta users
- Incorporating feedback to the product
- Marketing site setup, landing pages payment gateway
- Launch to wider audience
- Generate new leads
- Acquire customers
- Retain customers
- Brand building
- Hiring resources
- Learning growth
- Get the launch communication ready
- Get the partners onboards
For really short blog posts avoid using an outline. Just free write.
If you think you are a good writer then you can start writing without an outline. Still to make sure that your writing has a logical flow you can use what is called a reverse outlining.
In reverse outline you write the key thought for each section and then see if each section flows in a logical order. If not then you move the section – rewrite them and delete duplicate information if something is repeated.
Write first draft
To write your first draft – start adding content to the outline. Chances are – more ideas will emerge when you start filling content in your outline.
One rule you should follow – never edit when you write. While writing your first draft your goal should be to dump your thoughts into a paper or a doc. You can make it pretty later. If you want to go faster and be more efficient – work with a timer. You can use something like e.ggtimer. Write for 25 minutes and take a 5 minutes break before you start writing again.
Once you’ve written the first draft – sleep over it. Next day work on editing. If you are in a job or role where you need to write and edit a lot of blogs – go for a walk or take a break after writing and come back to editing after the break.
Depending on your first draft – you may have to rewrite parts of what you have written. During edits try to make sentences shorter and replace complex words with simple words that have the same meaning.
During this edit – you also get rid of typos, repeated sentences and words.
Make sure that the length of your paragraphs is different and also of your sentences. If all your sentences are 6-7 words long, it will be boring for the reader.
Once you have done first round of edit – read it aloud. By reading it aloud – you will find out areas that you can improve. This will further improve your readability.
At this stage, you should also add a strong opening and closing. This is important because if the first sentences and paragraphs are engaging then you reader will be enticed to read more. Closing needs to be strong and should offer key takeaways because a lot of readers first go to the end of a blog post before deciding to read the rest of the blog post.
Once this is all done. Time to publish your blog post.
Where you publish will depend on the blogging software you are using. I recommend that you use WordPress. Why? Because of it’s ease of use and availability of a huge community around it.
Here is how you publish a blog post using WordPress.
Your job does not end with publishing the blog post.
Smart digital marketers invest 30% time for writing and publishing the blog post – and keep 70% time for promoting it – if it is a major blog post. For regular blog posts – you should divide time 50:50 for writing and promotion.
Why? Because it does not make sense to invest 2 or 10 hours to invest in writing a blog post and not promoting it. No point writing if no one reads it.
Let’s see how you can promote a blog post.
Steps to Promote a Blog Post
- Send an email to your subscribers
This should be the first step after you publish a blog post. There are many benefits of having an email list. Getting people to read what you write instantly is one of those benefits. With an email list you get targeted website traffic.
Write a small intro and then add the link to the new blog post that you have written and mail all your subscribers. This will give you the instant visibility and traffic for your blog posts.
- Post on social media
Publish an update on social media with your new blog post link and also schedule it to be published at three different times in next 7 days using an app like Buffer or Hootsuite. In case of an epic blog post – you can also run paid campaigns (promoted posts) on Facebook.
- Advanced (Make your blogpost worthy of sharing)
Quote or mention major apps or influencers in your post. Once your blogspot is published you can reach out to these influencers (via email or over Twitter) and share with them that you have featured them in your blog post. You can then request them to share it. At times even without you asking they’ll share it on their Twitter handle. This way you’ll get some additional targeted views. Notice how I have mentioned several influencers in this email.
In the landing page lesson I had mentioned Instapage – one of the major landing page apps. It prompted the Instapage community manager to comment there.
To keep your blogs interesting you need to vary the type of blog posts. There are different types of blog posts that you can use. I am sharing some of them here.
Type of blog posts
The How-To Post – This is a tutorial post.
[example: How to learn programming or something similar?]
What it does / Purpose: It educates and establishes the writer / brand as an authority.
The List-Based Post (also known as listicle) – This is the kind of posts you see on ScoopWhoop and Buzzfeed.
What it does / Purpose: It usually entertains. List posts are also shared more than regular posts. Don’t over do these posts. Every 5th or 10th post on your blog can be a list post.
The Curated Post – This is also known as expert roundup post. In this kind of blog post, the blogger usually asks 10-20 or more experts a question and then publishes it.
[example: Digital Marketing Predictions for 2016: Here is what 20 leading digital marketers have to say]
What it does / Purpose: It helps you connect with a lot of influencers in your industry. Once published the influencers tend to share this kind of post because they are featured in it. So, you get more reach and traffic.
The Newsjacking Post – This kind of blog post is time based. In this blog post you cover a current news which has a lot of interest. You should do these kind of posts only when you put out a lot of content and want some additional traffic (people who are searching for that news item during a particular time period.)
[example: if you are blogging for a Sports App – that is related to Cricket – then you may blog about IPL.]
What it does / Purpose: Gets you traffic from curious searchers. It is a good strategy for content driven businesses.
If you run (or work for) a business that does not use content to earn direct revenues then you should focus on evergreen content. Both “the how-to post: and “the list post” can be on evergreen topics.
(Evergreen content = that is relevant today and will be relevant 1 year from now. This is the kind of content that scales. You write it today and continue to get qualified visitors for years after you have written it.)
Do not lose sight of your blogging objective
It is waste of time to blog without any objective.
Decide first why you are blogging. If you are blogging to build a personal brand then it makes sense to post opinion and thought leadership kind of blog posts.
If you are building a blog for a brand – then be sure to blog based on the keywords that are important for your business. Make it well rounded by adding customer success stories and new product previews. If you are blogging for a SaaS (Software as a Service) product then you can add comparison with your competing software. You can even have such comparisons as well designed pages on your website like Mumbai based SaaS company Brigtpod does it. You can also check out their blog for ideas on how to run your blog.
If you are blogging to get a new job then write more tutorial like posts. This will help showcase your expertise. While applying to a new job you’ll add your blog’s URL in the cover letter. Also repost your blog post on your LinkedIn to give it better reach. Check out how Lindsey Kirchoff did it.
If you are blogging to make money then reviews of products that you have used offer a quick pathway to do it.
If you are starting with a new blog then instead on your own blog your should blog on other established blogs. [Do this after adding 4-5 detailed blog posts on your own blog]. This practice of blogging on other established blogs is known as guest blogging. Here is how to do it.
Guest Blogging – Create a Fast Growth Blog Quickly
It is important for you to understand that mindless blogging (blogging without a plan) will not take you anywhere.
Guest blogging is the first thing you should plan (in addition to building an audience / an email list – in case your brand’s blog is not established.
What is guest blogging? It is blogging (publishing articles) on other other established (non-competing) websites related to your brand – in order to increase visibility for your brand. If you run a food based app or website then you should be guest blogging on established food blogs.
What’s the logic? During initial days of blogging – there is hardly anyone reading what you publish on your brand’s blog. You need to find your first set of visitors. Guest blogging helps you find these readers. When you post on other established websites – you invite their large numbers of reader to visit your blog / website and also to subscribe to your email list.
During initial days for blogging – blog on other websites – more than on your own website.
How to find these other websites?
Find these websites by searching your main keywords (3-4) and associated keywords and write on the website that come up in first 100 results.
- First you make a list of these websites.
- Then you identify websites where there are either a lot of comments or social shares or both.
- Next reach out to the owners of these websites to let you write on their website.
- Some will agree, many will decline.
- It makes sense to start with a list of 25 blogs first. From this list you should get your first 5 guest blogs published and also find your first 100 readers.
- Rinse and repeat – until you reach 1000 readers.
Perfect blog post structure
It is not much different from the structure of an seo optimized page. See below.
Now you know everything that you need to know to get started with your blog.
Time to get started. Just do.
If you already do not have a blog – I suggest you add one to your website. Get a developer (hire from Upwork.com or your own) to add a WordPress.org blog to your domain.
If you are doing this for personal branding or for better career prospects then I suggest you start one. Get a self hosted blog means one with your domain name like I have at MohitPawar.com. If you want to test first then create a blog on WordPress.com.
What is the differenece between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?
WordPress.org installation lives on your domain (and server). So if You have a domain like myperfectdomain.com then your blog can be at myperfectdomain.com, myperfectdomain.com/blog or blog.myperfectdomain.com
In case of WordPress.com – you will create a blog like mybrandname.wordpress.com. For this you do not need to invest money.
I’ll leave you with some fun facts about blogging success of different people and companies. A lot of newbie bloggers care for and get inspired by such numbers so here goes.
- Amit Agarwal, one of the earliest professional bloggers in India, who runs Labnol.org – based on one of his interviews, makes few crores every year through adsense ads on his blog. Here is Amit’s post about our meeting during one of the blog camps. His blog used to be on blogspot then.
- Visual Website Optimizer is a successful software product based out of New Delhi that used blogging to get the initial traction and now gets new customers via conversion optimization blogs.
- Manish Chauhan of JagoInvestor, runs a high trafficked blog based on financial planning and has ventured into writing books, consulting and online training.
- MissMalini.com that Malini Agarwal started as a hobby blog is now turned into a full-flegded startup that is now doing TV shows.
- Rati Tehri Singh is another blogger turned entrepreneur who runs very successful Makeup And Beauty Blog.
- Yourstory Media that started as with one blog (Yourstory) in 2008, has recently raised 20 crores in Series A funding.
- VCCircle that started as a blog by Sahad PV was acquired last year by NewsCorp.
- My friend James Altucher turned his blog into a $10 million business.
- Maria Popova makes half a million dollars by posting mostly book reviews on her blog BrainPickings.
- Matthew Inman who runs TheOatmeal and posts his comics online makes Approx. $500,000 annually.
- In 2011, AOL acquired The Huffington Post for US$315 million. The The Huffington Post was started by Arianna Huffington in 2005 as a multi-author blog.
These are not the only bloggers out there who are succeeding with blogging. There are many who are succeeding big time and there are an even larger number of bloggers who are starting to taste success.
Does it mean that you should leave whatever you are doing and become a professional blogger? No. I don’t suggest that.
Because it is not easy. All these successes that you see listed above have come after years of hard work and passion for their chosen themes and industry.
I’ll suggest that you do cool things in your business, jobs and startups and leverage blogging to get the word out to a wider audience, get better visibility and make more profits.
Be sure that you have an audience (your email subscriber list) ready to read what you write on your blog.
Two approaches to blogging
You can continue to blog and see no traffic. To make it work you need one of the followings.
- SEO focused approached – write less, promote more.
- Write a lot without caring for SEO. Post all these posts on social media. The posts that tend to do well organically invest money to promote them on social media.
First approach is what I recommend. To make a killings with the content you create – you can combine both. Write SEO focused content and promote it to both your email list and also through paid promotions. Depends on the resources you have.
Blogging is powerful and it can do wonders if you do it right. You got to start with it first.
Assignment: Use the ideas shared above to write a blog post, mention some of the influencers in your space, publish it and promote it.
Doesn’t matter if you already have a blog or you are starting today. What matters is that you take time to write good quality blog posts – preferably focused around a relevant keywords – and you take time to promote it.
Do not put undue pressure on yourself – if you can write 2 blog posts a month – it is fine. If you are running a startup then get a professional blogger to do it for you.
Make sure that you do it because the next lesson (on content marketing) is linked to how well you can blog. Content Marketing is really important and you do not want to miss out on this opportunity to use content marketing to grow your brand.
Also, comment below – with your other blogging related questions, share if you are just starting with blogging or have you already been doing it.
It’ll be fascinating to see everyone’s responses! So comment and participate.
Mohit – A Digital Marketer who is thankful for the bloggers who share what they know
P.S. Stay tuned for the next lesson. It’s on content marketing. A really important one. You’ll learn how to do content marketing even when you do not have a big budget. You don’t want to miss it.
P.P.S. Remember to comment with your answer below. By commenting you show that you are committed for your growth. So write your answer below now.