As I mentioned in the initial post in this series, the goal for this week’s articles is to provide a foundation for blogging success. The intent isn’t to give you every answer (no one has them) or a “one-size-fits-all” formula for building a blockbuster blog, but instead to start you down the path of thinking about why you should blog, why you would want to blog, and how you might accomplish it.
This second article in the series focuses on building a blogging plan. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who can rely on luck to bring you success in life, it’s best to start any initiative with a well thought-out plan. Building and maintaining a successful blog is no different. Before you ever choose a platform, write a word, or click that “Tweet” button, you need to think about several critical elements that might shape the words you write, the platform you choose, and who may care about your thoughts.
In my experience, one of the most critical questions you can ask when planning your blog is “Why?”. In addition to “Why?” you can also add “Who?” and “How?” to further develop your plan. By asking these simple questions in a variety of ways, you can identify a variety of answers that will help you formulate a plan. So, as you start thinking about your blog and it’s purpose, ask yourself these three simple questions:
Having a reason to blog is critical. Otherwise, your content will not have a clear direction and you may end up blogging about everything under the sun and nothing that really matters to your audience. Staying on track with the purpose of your blog will help you identify others who may share a passion around the purpose and can contribute content. Additionally, having a direction will help you when it’s time to set goals and measure your effectiveness.
Some good answers to this questions might include:
- To share my knowledge and experience and present myself and my co-workers as a thought leaders in my industry
- To share product information with my customers in an effort to provide proactive customer service and reduce support calls to our call centers
- To engage my customers and prospective customers about our products and services and learn what they like and don’t like
- To exercise my imagination and spark some ideas for new products and services
- To share my corporate activities and vision
Some poor reasons to this question might include:
- To market to my customers (yech!)
- To make more money (although some of the best blogs do drive inbound leads, but this should not be your primary goal)
- To sell my products (that’s what your website is for)
- To gather customer information into a CRM database
- To give me something to do with my spare time
Once you determine why you want to blog, you should be able to think about who might be interested in reading your articles. Because your blog articles should be written to serve the needs of your readers, it’s going to be critical that you let who you are writing for determine what you write. You can write all day, every day and publish a million articles a year, but if no one cares about your blathering, what’s the point in wasting your time?
Some acceptable answers to this question might be:
- My customers
- My potential customers – a.k.a leads
- Anyone interested in my industry
- My competitors (as long as your blog makes them nervous)
- My employees
Some poor reasons might include:
- Anyone (come on…let’s define a targeted audience)
- Everyone (don’t we all wish!)
- The half a billion people on Facebook
- Everyone on Twitter
- The people in my CRM database that I’m going to spam
The idea, here, is to be realistic about who you want to read your blog. Maybe your audience will start small and grow, but thinking about who you’d like to attract to your blog will not only impact what you write, but where you share your articles and what growth expectations you set for yourself.
Speaking of growth expectations, it’s important to understand that blogging is rarely a “build it and they will come” activity. Blogging requires serious dedication and commitment and the Web is littered with abandoned blogs that started with the best intent and ended because the author got lost interest, saw no success, or just didn’t have any plan as to how to measure the results or adjust based on those metrics. So, how will you know if you’re succeeding? What will you measure? What indicators will tell you if your content is good or mind-numbingly boring?
Some acceptable answers might include:
- Number of visitors to my articles
- Number of comments left on my articles
- Number of times my articles are shared across social networks
- Number of domains that refer traffic to my articles
- Number of subscribers to my RSS feed
Notice that each of these metrics indicate whether others find value in your blog.
Some poor answers to this questions might include:
- Number of blog posts (quantity is not a replacement for quality)
- Conversion rates (blogs are more about relationships and awareness than about converting leads or sales)
- Bounce rate, especially when not compared with time on page (in the age of social sharing, most people only read one article and then move on)
- Whether an article “goes viral”
Keep in mind that the answers to these three questions might change over time and, as your answers evolve, so should your blog. Thinking through the answers to these questions, however, should get your started detailing you blog’s purpose, audience, and measurement. Likely, these questions will drive additional “Why?” questions but starting with these three, you should be well on your way to developing an initial plan.
Once your plan is in place, the next step is to begin thinking more closely about your content. Stay tuned for the next article in this series where I’ll discuss content planning, sources, and timing.
Have additional questions that you find valuable in developing a blogging plan? I’d love to hear suggestions or experiences via comments!