In August of 2016, I stumbled across Episode 227 of Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast: “15 Entrepreneurs Answer: ‘What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Own Business.’”
I typically listen to podcasts while I run, and this practice is a double-edged sword: good because I can give the content my undivided attention; bad because I have to stop running to take notes.
This particular episode inspired me to reach out to successful bloggers. (By “successful” I mean that they have already attained notoriety or Internet celebrity in their niches.)
I asked them all the same question about how to become a blogger.
My first “guest” is my friend Brennan Dunn, the brain behind DoubleYourFreelancing.com. Brennan is brilliant. Both his education (the Great Books Program at St. John’s College) and his background in software developer become apparent in the way he writes and talks about freelancing and consulting is deeply methodical, almost scientific.
Brennan has a gift for breaking down complex processes into their various parts and finding ways to optimize or automate each one. That’s why I knew he would have excellent advice to share on how to become a blogger.
I had the pleasure of speaking at DYFConf Norfolk, and during lunch one day, I grabbed Brennan and asked my question…
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you got started blogging?
Here is the interview…
Brennan: I think the big thing is, I didn’t really get how to write content—like what I should write. I would just think, “Maybe I should write about subject X or subject Y.”
Austin: Whatever came to mind.
Brennan: Yes. The biggest thing that I think helped me engage readers better and get more comments, more search hits and people coming from Google, and everything else, was really when I started doing two things: asking people when I sent out an email to announce a new blog post to respond and tell me something. Something like a problem they were facing or how the post had helped them in some way.
Austin: So you’d email people the link and basically say, “How did this help you?”
Brennan: Yes. Well, I’d ask for feedback about how this is helping them in some way, and I would also start doing keyword research where I’d look at what conversations people were having with Google and intercept them. Instead of just writing in a vacuum, I would see what things people are “asking” Google about. I would then write a blog post about that, and that’s how my posts started ranking.
Austin: It’s kind of like what Kai Davis has said about getting in front of “the train.”
Brennan: Yes, exactly.
Austin: Being a lot more strategic in the topics that you chose to write about.
Brennan: Instead of just randomly writing actually having a plan.
Austin: You’re describing me.
Brennan: Yes, okay.
Austin: I’m just like, “I’m thinking about invoicing right now. Maybe I’m going to go write about that.”
Brennan: I have this spreadsheet with all of my keyword research, sorted by the ones that have the most monthly searches, and then I also have in that spreadsheet articles I’ve already written. I can see my “coverage,” so to speak. Consulting is a big space right now… the pricing, the proposals, etc.
Austin: I have been blogging at least once a week for a year now, and I’ve already encountered this challenge. I will realize I actually wrote on a topic last October and then will forget about that post until I’m halfway through with a new one on the same topic. But if you actually have more of a map to even see where you’ve come from, you could be more strategic about filling in the gaps. Especially if you’re creating an info-product one post at a time.
Brennan: One of the best practices in terms of SEO is to reference other articles you’ve written, and now that I have this spreadsheet that maps out what I have already written about, I don’t need to rack my brain trying to remember related topics that I can work into a new blog post.
Austin: The links are even there in the spreadsheet to simplify and expedite that cross-linking process?
Brennan: Right. Exactly. That’s exactly it, yes. The spreadsheet has all of the topics and links that I’ve already written about.
Austin: That’s perfect. Thank you so much.
Brennan: Yes, no worries, man.
Brennan’s 5 Tips on Starting a Blog
- When you send out an email newsletter with a link to a new blog post, ask your subscribers to send a reply or leave a comment about how the post helped them.
- Use keyword research to help you identify topics that are already trending. Get in front of “the train” by writing articles on those popular topics.
- To that end, develop a content roadmap or plan that can keep you on the rails.
- Create a spreadsheet containing all of your keyword research, organized by search volume. That way, you can focus on the topics that can potentially bring in the most organic traffic.
- Use the same spreadsheet to keep track of your existing blog posts so that you can easily cross-link to those old posts in each new one.
That’s all for now folks. I hope you enjoyed the interview with Brennan Dunn. Be sure to reach out on Twitter and thank him for sharing these tips on starting a blog.
Do you want to build a profitable business you love?
Duh. Pony up that email address, and you can learn from my failures. You can laugh at my mistakes. You can envy my success at croquet, slow running, and modest bank accounts. Let’s make good money and leave the world better than we found it.
No-nonsense business advice for content writers and freelancers. Served warm with a side of dad jokes.