Content marketing grew in popularity among marketers last year, and this year it promises to be one of the top online marketing strategies. As a freelancer, starting a blog to help promote your business is one of the best ways that you can set yourself apart, increase exposure, build relationships and trust, increase page rank, build backlinks, and boost traffic.
Even if your writing skills are slim to none, a blog as an internet marketing tool is so powerful that it's simply one strategy that you really can't avoid as a freelancer. The good news? You don't have to know perfect English nor know how to put together a complete sentence with perfect grammar to establish a popular niche marketing blog.
In fact, you can actually build one of the best marketing blogs in your industry without ever writing a single sentence. You just need to know where to find the right resources and how to best take advantage of these resources to create a killer blog marketing strategy. Of course, your freelance blog won't just grow overnight, but follow the right steps and it will steadly become one of the most valuable online marketing tools you build.
Step 1: Choose the Right Niche Topic
As a freelancer, especially if you have poor writing skills, you have no chance in trying to compete with the big, highly popular blogs. Eventually, this could be a possibility, but only if you set up your blog right in the first place - and this means choosing the right niche.
A niche marketing blog is one that will appeal to your target market either with entertaining content, resources, tips, tutorials, or whatever they may desire or need. However, another key in choosing your niche is to make sure it is related to your freelancing business. If readers can't make a connection between your blog and your products or services, then they are going to be less likely to use you when they need such resources.
Therefore, when choosing your niche in a marketing blog, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is my target market? - Define this group as thoroughly as possible, getting into demographics and other highly detailed market research areas.
- What does my target market want/need? - Do some research on social media to see what your clients are discussing and liking. Directly ask customers what they would be interested in. Search on Google using the Discussions option underneath the More drop down menu (located directly underneath the search bar).
- How many other blogs are in my niche? - Do a search on Google - choose the Blogs option in the More drop down menu. If there seem to be a huge abundance of blogs on your niche topic, then your blog isn't niche enough. Go deeper or switch directions.
- Is there plenty of content to keep my blog going for years? - If you as an expert in the area can only come up with a few topics off the top of your head, then writers may struggle with coming up with quality content too and your niche is too small.
- Does my niche follow tips from Jon Morrow, Copyblogger's associate editor?
Step 2: Choosing the Right Blogging Platform
Obviously, a blog marketing strategy is going to take time, which means you want the best blog platform for ultimate, easy control. If you are a web developer or designer, you could just create a blog on your freelance website. However, keep in mind that blogging platforms come with everything built into it already.
One of the best time-saving features includes individual logins for writers so that writers can upload the article and images, fill in keywords, and submit for review. Then all you have to do is check over it all and schedule it for publication.
Other features for blog platforms include spam filters for comments and other plugins, lots of easy SEO guidance, and that's just the beginning. Here are some of the more popular options; all are great, so you will just have to review each one and ultimately choose the best blogging platform for you:
- WordPress - comes with free and paid options. It's great for using as a combo blog/website option, and comes with thousands of free themes for customization. It even has responsive and mobile-friendly options.
- Joomla - is a lot like WordPress, this one is also good for combo blog/website options. It is open source, and therefore, completely free. While it doesn't come with quite as many bells and whistles as WordPress, it is certainly more than appropriate for a freelance blog and website.
- Drupal - this one is bit more advanced and better suited to web developers, but it ranks up there with WordPress in terms of features and customization options.
- Breezi - if you have absolutely no skills in the web development department and no website as of yet, a website builder with a built-in CMS may be best for you. Breezi is a fairly new one but comes with awesome features such as hosting, an automatic responsive/adaptive design (your blog/website adapts to any device), lots of apps, and tons of customization options.
Step 3: Content Planning
Before you ever type one word of a post or gather even a single writer, you will want to plan out your content. A successful blog marketing strategy includes content planning for at least three months in advance. Now, this can seem quite daunting without breaking it down, but there are actually several ways you can look at this.
The important aspect to keep in mind is to remain consistent, as this is what will keep readers loyal and coming back for more.
In the beginning, you will probably only start out with one, maybe two articles a week. You may even only require this much content for the first couple of months to build up some content and then slow it down to two articles a month. However much you decide you can handle right now is all you can do, and that's okay. You can always decide to increase the frequency of your posts as your blog grows.
The important aspect to keep in mind is to remain consistent, as this is what will keep readers loyal and coming back for more. If you are inconsistent in posting, they will stop relying on you for resources, inspiration, entertainment, or whatever your freelance blog provides.
As the one who has painstakingly chosen your niche, you are the best one right now for deciding what exact content should go on your blog. Therefore, come up with some titles/topics for posts, set publication dates for each, and make sure you have all publication slots filled for the next 3 months at least. Eventually as you gain more writers, you can start setting a theme for the month or simply letting writers pitch topics and you set them in the publication slots as you see fit.
Step 4: Hiring Writers
Do you really need to hire a writer? In all honesty, if you have zero writing skills, then you will probably need to find a consistent writer or two for the beginning. However, you don't have to pay a ton money to find a good writer. And you can use guest writers, but there are some drawbacks to this as we will discuss in Step 4.5.
So hear me out - starting a successful freelance blog is still entirely possible with no writing skills and a small or even no budget at all.
Idea #1 - You can hire a freelance writer who has limited experience but excellent writing skills. Beginning writers are looking for jobs to simply build up their portfolio at first, so are willing to take a smaller payment for more work.
Before you post your job offer, however, do some research to find out what most blogs are paying for your niche of writing. You want to offer reasonable freelance writing rates, otherwise you risk insulting the entire freelance writing community. Of course, you could always just ask for writers to submit their own quote as well.
- Idea #2 - Put an ad up at your local community college or university. Plenty of English majors are looking for work to help build up their portfolio and will often be willing to write for a much smaller fee than a freelance writer who is already online.
- Idea #3 - Exchange services with another freelancer. If your skills are something that a freelance writer may need, then offer to exchange services. For instance, recently I wrote website content for a hair stylist in exchange for her services; you may even get the better end of the deal as she did - after she no longer needed my writing services, I still needed her cut and coloring services!
Step 4.5: Using Guest Bloggers
As mentioned in the previous step, guest bloggers come with just a few drawbacks, but they can also be an excellent way to quickly build up content for free. Guest blogging is often code for writing to gain exposure, not pay. Therefore, it can be a great option for gaining content without the need to pay.
One problem you may run into in the beginning is finding guest bloggers willing to write for your no-name freelance blog. After all, guest bloggers write so that they can have links back to their own blog/website or to a client's website. They write for the exposure as well.
If your blog isn't even ranked yet and has little to no traffic, you may struggle to find quality guest bloggers. Once you have page rank and fairly nice traffic stats, another problem is making sure you find guest blogger who will write the quality content your freelancer blog needs to appeal to your target market.
Guest blogging really can be one of the best and cheapest ways to grow your content, though, which is why I still advise taking advantage of it from the beginning. Fortunately, the problems mentioned above can be easily overcome by following some advice from a seasoned guest blogger herself (that would be me, if you hadn't yet guessed):
- Create an actual guest blogging navigation tab/link on your blog - and be sure to place it in an easy to find location.
- Explain your vision for your blog and your niche content - place this on your guest blogging page and list suitable topics for guest bloggers.
- List also your limitations - you may decide to limit keyword links to the author bio only or you may set a limit of one link per content and one link per author bio.
- List your requirements - if posts require images, give your ideal width in pixels; set your ideal word count; or request a certain formatting, such as HTML, uploading to WordPress, or a Word document.
- Ask for sample writing or live links to previous publications - you don't want to just hire anyone; make sure bloggers you approve actually know how to write well; ask your well-versed friend to help you review for a free dinner on you, if needed.
- Make your method of contact clear - provide an email address and ask bloggers to use a specific subject, such as GUEST BLOGGING REQUEST; or provide a contact form on the guest blogging page with very specific instructions (i.e. rather than labeling a box "Comments", label it "Provide information about yourself along with any live links") and you may also want to provide an option for attaching writing samples to avoid scaring off unpublished bloggers.
Step 5: Promoting Your Freelance Blog
The final step in ensuring your freelancer blog successfully markets your business is to actively promote it. Of course, setting up your blog and posts with keywords are a major part of making sure your blog is seen. But actively promoting your blog means that you put your link out into the online community - a form of inbound marketing. There are a few ways you can do this. One of the most effective ways is with social media.
Don't despair if you have poor or absolutely no writing skills whatsoever.
Make sure that you tweet your posts, put them on Facebook, Pin them on Pinterest, Share them on Google+, or wherever your target market is active. Make sure each post has at least a thumbnail image to help increase interest.
Also use hashtags on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ so that users searching for this specific information will easily find your posts. Don't forget to include social media buttons on your blog, as well as on every page of your content, so that readers can share your post with a simple click of a button.
Another option for promoting your posts is through highly respected link posting sites, such as BizSugar for businesses and marketers. Don't waste your time submitting links to sites that have little to no respect, but ones that have won awards or contests and that have high traffic with an active community will help your links go much farther. Digg.com and StumbleUpon.com are a couple more examples of established link sharing sites, but you may also want to do a search on Google for link sharing sites within your niche.
Don't despair if you have poor or absolutely no writing skills whatsoever. It is still possible for you to build a freelance blog that successfully markets your freelancing business.
Just do your research, follow the steps above, and have a little patience your blog can become one of the next best marketing blogs in your industry, giving you more exposure than you ever expected! At the least, it is sure to give you content to promote so that you can better engage your target audience and increase your visibility.