Tutorials, reviews, case studies and other tips to help website owners and website developers master the Joomla content management system.
Kickstart Your Blog this Weekend
Publishing fresh content is an essential ingredient for any website. It’s a great form of communication, it improves your standing as a leader in your market and the more pages your site has, the better your results in the search engines. But starting and maintaining a blog can be a pain, especially if you don’t feel that you’re much of a writer. What should you write about? How often should you publish? How do you keep going? Let me help you break through these barriers with this simple project that you can complete this weekend. In just 2 hours, you’ll have written a blog post and have enough content ideas for an entire year.
Step 1 - Choose six blog categories
Recommended time - 10 minutes
It’s much easier to come up with post topics when you have specific categories in mind. Have a look at other blogs in your industry as well as your favorite blogs. Note the categories that you think will work well for you or you might get creative and come up with your own ideas. Although I already have a blog, I went through this exercise and decided on the following existing or new categories for my next batch of posts:
Tutorials - not surprisingly, this is what drives this site and our business, but we need to mix it up a bit, otherwise the ideas would soon dry up and tutorials tend to be very matter-of-fact. Creating other categories allow us to show-off our personality a bit more.
Weekend Projects - this is a new idea that strictly speaking is still a tutorial, but I’ve given it a different classification because it helps sprout new post ideas.
Glossary - our Joomla Glossary is an existing category, but it could use more content and these posts are good because they are short and easy to produce.
Contests - again this is an existing category, but it is new and as we got good feedback from the first contest, I’d like to run more.
Extension / service reviews - this category is great win/win/win. Readers win because they learn something new about their topic of interest. Assuming you write something positive, the supplier of the product/service wins because they receive free exposure. And you win, because you establish or improve a relationship with someone within your industry who may go on to recommend you.
Website Reviews - this is a new idea. I plan to approach people via our forum and ask them for permission to review their website. This same approach could be used to interview your customers to see how they have used your product or service.
So go ahead and brainstorm to choose six broad categories for your blog. You could create dozens of categories. But one of the goals of this project is to establish a formula that you can easily replicate, so you keep your blog going strong for years to come. You see, once you establish a format for a particular category, you can replicate this formula for subsequent articles to save you time. For example, you might choose to interview some of your customers. Once you’ve written a few interview posts, you’ll discover what works best and you can replicate that to make your job easier in the future.
Looking for more category ideas? Lesson 1 of our Email Marketing series in Joomla Pro provides 20 ideas.
Step 2 - Five by Six
Recommend time - 30 minutes
How often should you publish a blog post? This depends on your goal for your blog and your available time. If you’re writing a blog to build the size of your website and you’re in a competitive market, you might produce 10 posts a day! For most people that’s impractical, although if you have a team, it’s certainly feasible. One a day would be great. But if you’re reading this, there is a good chance that you haven’t ever started a blog, or your current one has stalled. So let’s get practical and suggest - for the moment at least - that one post a fortnight is feasible. A monthly post is inadequate as that means you’re only communicating 12 times a year. A fortnightly schedule helps to raise you above the noise of the millions of messages that your audience receives and so you remain in the front of their minds. That means your goal for 2013 is to publish 26 blog posts.
To do this, add five blog post ideas to each of your six categories. That gives you 30 topics - 26 plus 4 spare. You might need the spare ones just in case something changes and you can’t go ahead with one of the others.
To prove this works, I have listed many of my next 30 posts below. There are some things I can’t reveal at time of writing as it requires agreement with potential new connections, but I will revisit this post and link to the appropriate pages as they appear. I also plan to publish more frequently than every fortnight. As you’ll see, the idea in this step is simply to come up with the topics - not the content. Perhaps these ideas will inspire your own brainstorming session.
- How to setup search results in Google Analytics
- How to force a download instead of the file opening in the browser
- How to create an image map
- How to use jBar
- How to setup an alternative captcha
- Kickstart your blog (that’s this post)
- Fix up your SEO (meta description, 404s)
- Kickstart Your Email Marketing
- Add social media marketing to your Joomla site
- Write an FAQ page (or About page or how to find us page)
Sorry - can’t reveal these yet
- Joomla Security
- CDN for Joomla
Ask five customers for permission to review their website
Step 3 - Write Outline for Two Posts
Recommended time - 20 minutes
The hardest part with any writing is getting started. Avoid procrastinating by choosing the two easiest topics on your list and brainstorming every point that you think might be of interest. If you happen to end up with a lot of ideas, it may make sense to break the article into two or more posts.
Just like the previous step, you’re not too concerned about the detail at this stage. Just list the main points. For example, one of my proposed posts above is a review of an extension called Widgetkit. My outline might be:
- Intro - what is it, why you would use it
- Main features
- Example 1
- Example 2
- My experience - what was good/bad
- Conclusion - final thoughts, rating out of ten
So keep it brief, but if you do think of some more detail and you’re worried you might forget it later, make a note of it in brackets. Still not sure where to start? Blog posts don’t need to be long. A great initial goal is to aim for three facts.
Step 4 - Write First Post
Recommended time - 1 Hour
If you’ve gone through the above steps, this final task will flow naturally. Look at the outlines for the two articles and choose the easiest one. Getting started is the hardest and even seasoned writers often write the introduction last. So if you’re stuck, try this approach:
- Skip the introduction
- Take the first point from your outline and expand it to three sentences
- Repeat step two for each point
- Write the conclusion
- Add one or two images
- Write the introduction
- Add a headline (title)
Blogs should include a comments section. So finish each post by inviting readers to comment.
Yes you really can write a post in one hour. Don’t overthink it. You know more about your topic than your audience so just go ahead and share that knowledge!
You’ve now written your first post and you have an outline for the second one. Hey - you’re on a roll! Why not go ahead and write the next one now? And then write the third one in a fortnight. That way you’re always two weeks ahead of schedule.
Don’t leave it another year to start your blog! It’s easy, effective and many find it addictive. You don’t have to be a brilliant writer (I’m not!), but ask a friend to check your spelling and grammar if that’s a weakness.
Ask your questions or share your blogging experience below in the comments.
Want to know how to create an awesome blog with Joomla? It’s all revealed in our Joomla Pro course.