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Welcome to Podcast 223, which is the 6th installment of our How to Start an Online Business series. I’m glad you’ve made it this far. If you’re just jumping in, we have covered picking a topic, getting a domain, and setting up a WordPress site in recent weeks. Today, we will be covering your content strategy.

If you are starting your own blog, you may be wondering how on earth you’ll decide what to publish, and when. Last week, we covered what sort of content you’ll be posting – will it be articles, photos, YouTube videos, podcasts, or something else? Well, once you have an idea of the medium, it’s time to decide what you’re actually going to talk about.

When I started Dough Roller in 2007, I didn’t have a content strategy. I would get up in the morning, sit at my computer, and ask myself,”What do I feel like writing today?” I knew it would be about personal finance, but I didn’t have specific topics laid out. I would probably be a bit more systematic about it now if starting all over again, but my casual approach worked back then.

My recommendation for those of you starting a new blog, though, would be to take a bit more time to strategize. Lay out a plan for your content, and maybe even a path or storyline that you’d like to follow. I’m going to give you a better idea of how I would do this now, with a website that doesn’t actually exist (but I’ve talked about). Hopefully, this will jump-start your own plans for how you’d like to manage your own site.

My Infamous Chess Blog

If you’ve been following this podcast series, you’ve heard me mention my hypothetical chess blog. I don’t have one and don’t really want one, but it’s a blog I could see myself starting. It also offers up a great range of content and would make for an excellent website (for us chess guys, at least). So, I’m going to use it as an example.

The very first thing I would do is brainstorm. Whether it’s a topic you’re familiar with (and know a lot about) or one in which you’ll need to do some research, the starting point remains. You need to sit down and think about how you’d like to form your site. You can cover a number of facets of your chosen topic, which will help you create a fluid, comprehensive blog that others can turn to for information.

Create a Story

In my chess blog, the first thing I would plan to write about would probably be my own games. Why? I believe, in most cases, that it’s important for blogs to have a story. It provides something for the readers to follow and form an interest in.

While my chess story might not seem all that compelling to me (at least, not yet), it may be compelling to someone else. Or, at the very least, it’s something that they could relate to. So, I would probably cover the games I’d played, and analyze them. I’d cover the mistakes I made, things I got right, things my opponent did wrong or right, etc. Overall, though, I would gear it all toward telling my story as I strive for the level of Master.

This method worked quite well for Pete over at Mr. Money Mustache, who I interviewed in DR 007. It may seem like he didn’t have much of a content strategy when he started out but, in my opinion, he had a very good one: he told his story. It simply followed his timeline and provided his readers with a compelling narrative. And it was a success.

Now that he has told his story, his blog has morphed a bit. He now covers what’s going on his current life, talks about his readers’ stories, answers questions, does reviews on credit cards and investment tools, and the like. But clearly, the sweet spot lies in communicating and educating about personal finance through a story. So, while you should have a general plan, just know that you don’t necessarily need a spreadsheet of categories to make a successful blog.

Look to the Experts

Next up, I would analyze the games of Grandmasters. They obviously know more than I do; if I’m learning from them, so could my readers. I could talk about patterns that they tend to follow in their play and where their strengths seem to be. I could cover how long some of them have been playing and what sets them apart from the lower ranked players.

Depending on your niche, you could also analyze experts within your field. You could try to conduct interviews with them. You could cover their accomplishments or repost their tips and tricks. Or, better yet, you could just become the expert resource yourself.

Take a website that I came across called Blender Dude. I found him after searching for a new Vitamix, after an unfortunate incident in my own kitchen. Spinning blades, protein shakes, and metal spoons are a lethal combination, and, well, a replacement blender was in order. Anyway, I came across his YouTube page, which is full of blender comparisons. He has lengthy videos with demonstrations and reviews. His website includes testimonials, recipes, and all sorts of articles. It’s quite comprehensive.

I doubt this guy was a blender expert by trade. He probably just started comparing how they performed and found out that people were really interested in his results. He’s then added content, provided readers with all sorts of resources, and is monetizing the heck out of his site. Between YouTube and Vitamix affiliate links, I would imagine he’s making a killing. And all by playing with blenders all day.

Cover the Details

Chess is all about little moves and small details. If you’re not paying attention, you’re not going to win. So, I would spend some time in my blog covering the little elements.

We could talk about specific positions and themes in chess, which is important to improving your game. It’s important to know how to play different pawn structures, so this could be very beneficial for my readers.

I’d also analyze openings. We could cover the first 10-15 moves of a game, which are often memorized. But we could analyze them and maybe even improve upon them.

Outside Resources

There are plenty of people out there who know more about chess than me. Or maybe they have certain strengths and areas of expertise. There are a ton of books out there about chess and improving your game, so I could do book reviews. Then, I could link those reviews to Amazon, where my readers could buy the book. That helps me monetize my site, as well.

Another outside resource could be software hacks, which can be a bit complicated. I could talk about tips and tricks for using the software that’s out there, and how it could help improve your game. There are also chess databases, playing programs, and online playing sites. I could do reviews for my readers, covering the various types of software out there. This could be another way for me to make a little bit of money for the site.

Related Equipment

Depending on your blog topic, there may be actual equipment or hardware that could be pertinent to your blog. In the case of my chess site, I would do reviews of the types of equipment that’s out there. I’d cover chess clocks, chess pieces, chess boards, etc., and would link back to Amazon or other sites. I’d be providing insight for my readers and also (potentially) making some affiliate income in the process.

Current Events

Lastly, I would cover chess news. There’s a lot of news out there in the chess world for those who follow along, so I could cover all sorts of current events. I could even apply to get into Google News so that my articles would show up when someone searches for chess-related news articles. But it would be a good idea for me to also talk about the things going on in the chess world, so my readers could look to me as a source.

Even though I have no interest in starting a chess blog, this gives you all an idea of how to work through a written content strategy. Space everything out a bit and mix it up – no one wants to read seven articles in a row about the same topic. Have an idea of the informational spread you’d like to cover, and then change it up with each post.

Gather Ideas from Competitors

There will always be someone out there who knows more about a topic than you. They are great for learning new things exploring different viewpoints. These are also the people you should be looking to for ideas.

In one of the last podcasts, I mentioned a website called Semrush. For my chess blog, I would go there and input other popular chess sites that I had found. For instance, the first one I came across was Chess.com, so I put that into the search on Semrush.

What Semrush does is tell you what keywords a site ranks for in Google and Bing. You can then see the kinds of articles they have written, and what draws in the traffic. I use these results as a way of seeing what the competition is writing about, and what people want to read.

As I went through the chess.com results on Semrush, I found quite a few tangents that I may not have thought up originally. For instance, the rules of chess. Why would chess players want to read about the rules of a sport they already play? Well, turns out there are a number of unique and unusual rules out there, particularly for tournament play. So, I could add articles on the rules of chess to my blog list.

I also saw that chess.com had a number of articles about playing chess online. All of these sites are a little bit different from one another, so I could easily turn that into a number of blog topics. I could compare sites to one another, list the pros and cons of each, etc. That gives me quite a few posts right there.

If you don’t want to go through Semrush, you can simply visit each of the sites and go through their posts. See what they’re talking about, what topics they revisit, and what seems to do well. The goal isn’t to copy what others are doing. Rather, you just want to get an idea of categories that you may want to cover in your own blog.

Give People a Reason to Come Back

While traffic to one good article is great, the goal is to have recurring traffic from regular visitors. Those folks can then, ideally, share your blog with others, either via word of mouth, Facebook posts, or even email. You want people to want to come back to your site.

Good content will ultimately draw in traffic, and that’s the way it should be. But you can also boost that a bit with some creativity.

On my chess blog, for example, I could host a daily or weekly chess puzzle. Chess players love solving combinations or puzzles, so that could easily be a fun way to keep people coming back. I could post it on the website or even on my site’s Facebook page.

You could also keep your readers in the loop by posting seasonal articles. On Dough Roller, this is especially important around tax time. Toward the end of the year, we start posting about maxing out your IRA contributions or taking advantage of any deductions before the new year. For January through March, we post about filing taxes and what to do if you get audited. These are the things on people’s minds and the things that they may have forgotten about.

If you have a shopping blog, you’re going to be busy around Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the holidays, etc., so keep that in mind as you plan out your content. No matter your niche, you can probably find one or two things that come up throughout the year, that your readers would want (or need) to hear about. Be their reminder, be their resource. It will keep visitors coming back for more.

No matter your blog topic or niche, your priority should be finding the content strategy groove that works best for you and your readers. Find out what they like to learn about and what keeps them going back for more. Ask for feedback and take any that you receive into consideration. Have a general plan for the path you’d like to follow with your blog, but be open to new ideas. And, try to create something that your visitors can relate to — a story of some kind is an excellent place to start, and personalizes your blog.

Thanks for reading, and hope you’ll join us next week. We will be covering your blog’s traffic. See you then!

What are some things you think your new website should cover? Do you have a structured or casual plan for your content?

Author Bio

Total Articles: 1083
Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Article comments

Paul Andrews says:

Hi Rob, great post! It’s so important to have a content strategy, and it’s pretty hard to come up with one when you’re taking your first swing at things. There seems to be a dichotomy in blogging content: one side saying you should write about what you know/love, and the other saying you should write what people want and fill in the blanks with solid research. I tend to lean towards to former, so you don’t run out of steam/content ideas.

I love your “Chess Blog” idea; makes it very easy for readers to understand your thought process. Thanks for sharing!

Jessica says:

Great post. I’m in the process of starting a lifestyle blog and your tips and pointers were awesome. Especially, for me since I’m new to blogging.This has ease some stress and anxiety with starting my blog. Thanks!!!

Stephanie Colestock says:

I’m glad it’s helpful to you, Jessica! We have a few more posts planned in this series (including a new one that we published on Monday, for guiding traffic to your site), so be sure to check back. And let us know if you have any questions that we don’t cover!