How to Create Foundation Posts for Your Blog

by Joel Friedlander on December 10, 2012 · 26 comments

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You’ve just signed up at a blogging site or, if you’re entrepreneurial, you’ve set up a hosting account with a service provider and purchased a domain name for your blog.

You then clicked the insanely simple “One Click WordPress Install” button.

Either way, you’re now the proud owner of a blog. Congratulations!

One problem, though: you have no articles or other content, do you?

This can either:

  1. paralyze you into inaction as you try to figure out what the heck to do next, or
  2. inspire you to start turning out articles, news updates, reviews, or whatever it is you imagined would be the magnetic content that’s going to draw hordes of readers to your site.

If that sounds familiar, here’s my advice: Stop now.

Stop tweaking the colors of your sidebars.
Stop experimenting with all those cool free themes.
Stop frantically creating different header graphics.
Just stop.

You have something much more important to do first, before you tackle all those things.

You need some Foundation Posts.

What Are Foundation Posts and Why Do You Need Them?

What’s a Foundation Post? Good question. Sometimes these are called “evergreen content,” “cornerstone content,” or “pillar posts,” but the idea is the same.

These are articles that are so basic that newcomers to your site will need them now, or a couple of years from now.

Think of something you would want to bookmark so you can come back to it again and again—that’s likely to be good foundation content.

This may put some pressure on you as a new blogger. In order to create 5 to 10 foundation posts, you have to clearly know what your blog is about and who your readers are.

If you don’t know those things yet, you may not be able to come up with foundation posts right away. After all, they provide the “foundation” for what you’ll build there. If you don’t have a plan yet, it’s hard to put in the foundations.

“A cornerstone is something that is basic, essential, indispensable, and the chief foundation upon which something is constructed or developed. It’s what people need to know to make use of your website and do business with you.”—Brain Clark, Copyblogger

Characteristics of Foundation Posts

While it’s not always easy to say exactly which posts will become foundation content, there are some common characteristics to this type of post:

  • Answer basic questions—Posts that explain basic concepts or processes are a must.
  • Not time-dependent—The article will be just as useful 1, 2 or 5 years from now.
  • Real value to readers—Teaches readers how to understand a basic concept, perform a basic operation, or points to long-term resources.

Keep in mind that the biggest group of people in any interest group is the beginners, newbies avid to find out what you know and eager to make some progress in your field.

Although you might want to dive right in and start offering your opinion on the latest scandal or take a side in an argument that’s about to go viral, your foundation content has nothing to do with that.

These posts address the most basic information needs of newcomers to your field of expertise.

And they will be some of the first posts that start to draw search engine traffic, especially if you do a good job answering basic questions.

Those questions are the key to creating a knowledge base of articles that will be visited again and again by people looking for answers.

In fact, your ability to satisfy this most basic part of creating an information resource that’s actually helpful to other people is what will determine a lot of your long-term viability as a target for search engine traffic.

And we’ve already determined that blog traffic is your first existential need as new blogger, haven’t we? Without it, sooner or later, your blog will die.

With it, you will thrive. So let’s look at the kind of articles you might write to create this foundation for your future blogging success.

“This style of article has long term appeal, stays current (it isn’t news or time dependent) and offers real value and insight. The more pillars you have on your blog the better.”—Yaro Starak, Entrepreneurs-Journey.com

The Varieties of the Foundation Post Experience

What creates a good foundation in your specific category, niche, or genre will vary. See how these general definitions of foundation posts apply to you.

  1. FAQ—In a sense, this is the essence of foundation posts. If you know the frequently asked questions in your field, your foundation articles are the ones that supply comprehensive, useful answers to those questions.
  2. Glossary of terms—A great example of a foundation post, you will link to this yourself often over time.
  3. Trade practices—If there are specific—and unexpected—common trade practices in your category, they make a great topic for a foundation post.
  4. Your trade biography—A great way to also build authority and trust with your audience to explain your history in the specific field about which you are blogging.
  5. Big picture overview—Taking the “10,000-foot” view of your industry can help newcomers understand key relationships.
  6. Directory of annual events—Although you may need to keep a post up to date, it’s the kind of article that many others will link to.
  7. Basic process explanations—One of the best types of foundation posts is a tutorial or how-to article about how to tackle a basic task in your field.
  8. Resource or vendor lists—Another foundation that will need occasional updating, but which is very useful for readers new to your field.
  9. Whitepaper or position statement—Explaining your basic orientation, or a position that’s at odds with others in your field can be powerful foundation content.

What to Do with Your Foundation Posts

Gather them together on a “start here” or “basics” landing page. But that’s a subject for another day.

For now, populating your new blog with foundation content is the best way to get started. These posts may well turn into some of your most-visited articles, and will continue to draw readers for years to come.

If you have questions about what foundation posts might be for your category, subject or niche, leave a question in the comments and we’ll collectively try to help out.

Photo by bigstockphoto.com

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    { 19 comments… read them below or add one }

    Kristine I. Spencer-Lachut July 24, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Hi
    I need assistance starting my blog. I am writing a memoir. Foundation Posts, Corner Posts, help, please. Does everyone use WordPress for their blogs? Why or Why not?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 24, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Kristine, check out this post: Why I Love WordPress then click the Author Blogging 101 Topic from the sidebar for a whole lot of help in getting started.

    Reply

    Angelo Marcos September 30, 2013 at 4:44 am

    This is a really brilliant, helpful post.

    And it also perfectly illustrates what a foundation post should be…!

    Thanks for this Joel!

    Reply

    Kate Tilton May 9, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Joel,

    This is such a good post. I agree that having a foundation will make your blog strive. But I know some authors who don’t offer up these types of posts but they still do well (probably because their blog is just a fun thing for them, not so much something they use to get more readers?)

    I would love to know your thoughts on foundation posts for book bloggers. Although I may start writing some about my experiences marketing and as an assistant I still want to keep my focus on books, which tends to be more book reviews, events, and features then foundation content.

    Thanks,
    Kate

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 9, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Kate, that’s a great question. Foundation posts are incredibly useful for almost any kind of blog, for all the reasons in the post. For book review blogs, you might want to have a post about

    • which genres you review and why;
    • how you came to be a book blogger to begin with;
    • how literature and your preferred genres have influenced you over the years;
    • your “top 10″ books in the genres you deal with

    … and so on. Review and submission requirements are also “foundational”.
    Every one of these topics—and I’m sure you can think of lots, too—keeps the focus on books. What do you think?

    Reply

    Kate Tilton May 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Hi Joel!

    You are absolutely right! I guess for me I assume most blogs will have a review policy and an about me section. My blog has those but I don’t consider them as posts as they are separate pages so I didn’t even think of it when I read this post.

    I believe all websites should have some basic pages (Bio, Contact, ect). It just makes sense :)

    -Kate

    Reply

    Eric March 27, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    I love all these pictures! Oh my godnoess!!! I heart you very much! I want a mimosa now. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE that Keep the Faith heart! And have you been to Lakeridge Winery? Ive been wanting to go for forever but never have anyone to go with! Interested??

    Reply

    Donna Kridelbaugh January 5, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I am a novice blogger with a focused content area, and I began the blogging process with foundation posts as you mentioned. However, I am struggling with the decision of how to land readers on a page that directs them to these posts. Originally, I set up the blog to land on a static page with a “table of contents” to direct readers to these foundation posts. A science writer that I know was very critical of this set up and suggested that I change the landing page back to a typical blog page with an endless page of blog entries. Thus, I modified the blog and just added a “table of contents” link in the side bar. I don’t like the set up because I think a typical blog page does not explain the blog’s objective. Do you have any advice on how to direct readers to the foundation posts? Thanks in advance for your insight!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 9, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Donna, I think you need to be careful about taking “feedback” too seriously. Making the change to a static front page that directs people to various features or landing pages on your blog is becoming more and more popular, and if I was to make that switch I would want to give it at least 90 days to evaluate. For what you’re trying to accomplish, a well thought-out and useful landing page for the “front” of your blog is probably the best approach.

    Reply

    Shirley Ford December 17, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Hi Joel,

    I always look forward to reading your comments. They are always helpful and informative. I am in the situation you describe – have just started a blog and don’t know what to write!

    Reply

    Blondie December 12, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Hello Joel,

    I’m in the process of lauching an anonymous blog about my life and all of the wild experiences of my past, present, and future. I’m not an expert writer by any means but I have some intriguing stories to share. Your website has certainly given me insight on how to get things started and I appreciate your user friendly attitude.

    What “foundation posts” would you recommend for a blog like mine? It’s a bit edgy, a bit sexy, and totally honest. More than anything it’s a story about the life of a person.

    I appreciate any insight you are comfortable sharing!

    Thank you!

    Reply

    Melissa E Beckwith December 11, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Hello Joel!
    Thanks so much for such an informative site! I am a fantasy writer. I hope to have my first novel out sometime next year. I don’t have a website/blog yet. What kind of information can I put on my blog that would interest lovers of fantasy? Is it important for fiction writers to have a blog at all? I’m new to all this so thank you in advance for suffering through these “newbie” questions.
    Melissa

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 12, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Hi Melissa,

    Thanks for your mail. Fiction authors who are just starting out face a harder struggle than nonfiction authors, in my experience. A blog might be helpful, but there are likely other things that will help more until you build up a readership. The problem is that you don’t want to end up with a blog that’s written for other writers, so think about content that would be of interest to the people you want to attract as readers who, of course, will eventually become buyers.

    Reply

    Chase Night December 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Hi Joel,

    I’m a newcomer to your website – as in last twenty-four hours new – but I’ve already found so much awesome content here. I’ve been devouring the Author Blog category, as I’m preparing to move away from a lifestyle blog toward a storytelling blog by the end of the year. This post was particularly helpful and inspired me to make a list of the Foundation Posts I need to focus on as I prepare for re-launch. Thanks!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 12, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Chase, that’s great and I’m glad you’re getting something from these posts. I’m developing more resources for authors who are trying to get their blogs going, and if you’re interested in that I’d suggest you get on my mailing list so you get that information.

    Reply

    Alison Strachan (@Writingmytruth) December 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Joel you are top notch. I don’t know why I haven’s subscribed to your posts sooner. I started out blogging about 10 months ago and I must admit I’m still finding my feet. The best thing about it has been that is has kept me accountable to my writing but I want my blog to be so much more. This was the first post to appear in my inbox and I must say – it is one I will definitely come back to. Thanks you!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    That’s great Alison, thanks. Foundation posts are a great way to orient your blog and let readers know exactly where you’re coming from and where you intend to go, so I hope this post will guide you when it comes time to put them together. And good luck!

    Reply

    Rosanne Dingli December 10, 2012 at 4:48 am

    Joel – I subscribe to your posts and I must say I find each one informative and important. I especially like your book design advice. Thanks to you, I now know much more about typesetting and book interiors, and my covers have improved outa sight!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 10, 2012 at 8:55 am

    That’s fantastic, Rosanne, exactly the kind of help I’m trying to provide to authors here. Thanks for reading.

    Reply

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