Blog Starting Point: You MUST Have One
Remember that very first blog post you wrote way back when? Well, it’s buried in your archives now. New visitors who find your blog today aren’t going to see that original “How-To for Beginners” post, they’re going to see the more advanced content you’re writing now. But nobody likes to come in in the middle of the show – they need to know what happened at the beginning. Give your readers a starting point so they don’t miss a thing.
Why You Need A Starting Point
Chances are, over time, you’ve increased your own knowledge and skills. In the beginning you might have blogged about simple cookie recipes because that’s all you knew how to bake. But now you’re turning out buttery croissants, and rich pastries. If you’ve been blogging every step of the way then your posts reflect this growth.
Readers who’ve been with you from the very beginning have been following your advice, and they’re growing, too. But you have to remember that new visitors come to your blog every day. Bloggers who never saw those original how-to posts, bloggers who haven’t had the benefit of you advice for beginners.
These new visitors land all over your blog. They come through the search engines and through links shared by their friends. If someone who’s never baked before lands on your recipe for croissants before they see you “How To Bake Flakier Pastry” post, they’re going to be very intimidated and probably just click away. But if you let them know that you offer help and advice for beginners that will teach them the whole baking process, they’re likely to stick around, explore, and learn from you.
How To Designate A Starting Point
Links in your sidebars are nice, but to get past that “ad blindness” thing, make sure you make them big and bold. Better yet, use images to let your readers know where your starting points are. Especially if you have more than one.
Your Blog May Need Several Starting Points
Which leads us to how many different starting points you need. Each blog is different, but at the very least you’ll need at least one. Your starting point doesn’t have to be your very first blog post ever. In fact, that may be one of the last posts you’ll ever want to highlight – especially if you didn’t know what you were doing at the time.
Here are three steps to help you set up a starting point and designate the path your readers should follow:
Clearly Define Categories
Even if your blog is about “How To Blog” you probably have more than one category. Pay attention to your category labels and the content you place in each. If you have a “Miscellaneous” category that’s filled with content then you’re doing it wrong. If it helps give you more direction with your writing, decide which category you’re going to place you post in before you even write it. After you’ve cleaned up your categories it’s easy to see that each one has a starting point.
Create A Pillar Post
Create a pillar post for each category that acts as its starting point. This is the post you’ll link to from your sidebar. In the post describe for your readers what they’re going to learn and then provide links to relevant content.
Use Internal Linking To Point The Way
Don’t just tell your readers to go to the Big Red X and get started. They’ll need to know where to go next. From your pillar posts, link to the next article they need to read, and from there, keep linking in succession.
When you’re writing a post that you know only your most advanced readers will appreciate, include a link back to the starting point for those who still need a little help.
Don’t feel that you need to start at one of your categories, build a pillar post, and link to every single post on your blog. Not all posts are instructional or informative. Some are opinion pieces or test cases. Use your starting points to help beginners start at the beginning and learn everything they need to know to catch up with you and the rest of your readers.
Don’t Neglect Your New Visitors
These new visitors are extremely important, especially if they’re beginners. If you start them off of the right foot and they learn from you, they’ll be loyal for life. Don’t forget to reply to their comments and invite them to join discussions. Make them feel like one of the family right away and help keep them on the right path.