If a blog is in your past or future, there’s nothing like the new year to make you ask: What is my blog strategy?
In this post, I’m going to talk about crafting your own blog plan using Digital Alex as an examples and talk about the 6 key questions to help guide your blog:
- Why should I blog?
- What is the point to this blog?
- What do I want to talk about?
- What kind of readers am I targeting?
- Who do I want to talk with?
- Which of the 8 types of bloggers do I want to be?
Write Your Blog Strategy with 6 key Questions
I’m going to start with a little reminiscing (I promise to keep it brief).
Among the many things he recommended was to start blogging to learn more about interactive marketing. Seeing as how it landed him a job at Google, who was I to argue?
About 5 months and 72 posts later, the experience has proven to be very educational. In thinking about goals for 2008 (because I am a dork like that), I decided to keep the blog going and see if I can make a run of it.
However, anything worth doing is worth doing well. Thus, it was time to write a proper blog strategy for Digital Alex.
While thinking about the best way to maximize the return on my time, I came up with 6 key questions to plan out a blog.
#1 – Why should I blog?
Effort without direction is just wasted energy. Blogging well takes a lot of time and, in some niches, it can be a slow rise to the top. Creating a vision for your blog makes it easier to stay the course.
Everyone’s vision will be different. For some, it’s another channel for business or part of their site’s marketing (SEO, etc.). For others, it’s self-promotion. For still others, it’s about personal expression or a cause.
I think a good vision statement is simple and short (2-3 sentences). It should set direction and lend itself to more specific and measurable goals.
The vision for Digital Alex is that:
My blog will become a well regarded resource for information on marketing optimization and interactive marketing strategy read by interactive marketers at the manager, director and VP level.
Digital Alex will serve as an extension of my personal brand and raise my profile in the interactive marketing community, particularly in NY and SF, in order to establish me as an authority and worthwhile writer and speaker.
I wrote my vision to combine the value I want to deliver, who I want to reach and the return for me. That’s a great goal in general, but what does that mean in numbers?
#2 – What is the point to this blog?
Vision statements are great motivation, but isn’t that a bit too nebulous to measure? One of the best ways to achieve a longer term goal is to break it down into smaller, more achievable milestones and quantify the goal.
Translate your vision into short, mid and long-term goals. Motivating goals have 3 qualities in common:
- They’re specific – Be detailed and break out goals with multiple parts
- They’re measurable – You must be able to gauge your progress
- They have a deadline – A ticking clock helps you prioritize and determine whether you’re generating results fast enough.
My mid-term (2008) goals are:
- Subscribers - 1000+ subscribers by 12/1/08
- Inbound Links – Get 100 new, quality blog links by 12/1/08
- Keywords – Rank in the top 10 for at least 5 targeted keywords
- Non-analytics targets
- Land one major writing gig by Q1 08
- Build relationships with 3 key interactive marketers in 2008
Each of these goals is trackable either with some tool (Google Analytics, Feedburner) or simply as a yes/no as to whether I accomplished it (e.g. writing gig).
Getting to my vision will take a good amount of time. These blog goals give me something more achievable to aim for.
Plus, I can measure how likely I am to reach each target based on my monthly progress. For example, if I only get 2 quality links in January means I probably have to step it up in February and future months.
Of course, I actually have to write something if I want to reach these goals…
#3 – What do I want to talk about?
Your blog is your personal playground. If you want people to read, however, something has to be in it for them. Time is the most finite of resources for many readers–how will you continually earn theirs?
As I mentioned in my first post about starting a blog, you can distinguish yourself in any number of ways, but it usually boils down to 2 things: having something unique to say or having a unique way of saying it.
First you have to first explore the blogosphere to see how people are talking about what interests you.
Do you love food? Maybe a lot of people are writing about TV chefs and creating recipes, but no one is posting about earth friendly family dinners.
Fascinated by Dancing With The Stars? The web is awash in show recaps and commentary, but is anyone detailing the steps to recreate the dances? (I have no idea; I don’t watch TV).
These are simple and silly examples, but the point is that the intersection of personal interest and talent with community/market demand is the best place for you to blog.
I struggled the most with this part of my blog strategy. You can tell when you look back at my blog posts in 2007 that I sort of floated about from topic to topic as they intrigued me. I’m a generalist who is interested in a lot of things–marketing strategy, web analytics, conversion, multivariate testing, user experience and more.
I love to edit and improve in my job and elsewhere. This central focus will let me weave in marketing strategy, web analytics, testing, search marketing and more as appropriate.
There are plenty of very smart people writing on this topic. I’m relying on 2 things to distinguish Digital Alex:
- My plain and approachable style
- Detail oriented posts (hence this one)
I’m hoping that my holistic approach and simple style will prove useful to even more people in 2008 and beyond. Time will tell…
The ultimate judge are the readers, which begs the next question:
#4 – What kind of readers am I targeting?
You should love what you write. If you’re aiming for more specific goal beyond self-expression, your readers also need to love what you write.
Just like picking a blog topic, setting a target set of readers also helps you focus your content. If you’re writing a blog about Earth-friendly family dinners, then you probably won’t write too many articles about foie gras appetizers for 8, right?
Knowing your readers is key to being able to answer the question: How does everything I’m writing help the people I want to reach?
Picking the right set of readers also helps with your goals and promotion. If you say you want 100K readers, but you’re targeting CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, you need to realize the universe of people your could possibly reach isn’t even that big.
Simultaneously, if your goals depend on the right people reading your blog, then you need to make sure you’re speaking to them appropriately and promoting your blog where your target audience is likely to find it.
I broke my target audience into primary and secondary groups based on my vision and goals:
- Interactive marketers at the manager, director and VP level
- Members of the media that serve the interactive marketing audience
- Influential bloggers read by interactive marketers
- Organizers of conferences
- NY/SF bloggers
I still have to do more work to find out more about these people, their interests and good ways to reach them. With a more defined set of target readers, hopefully it’ll be easier and more rewarding then writing and hoping to get noticed.
#5 – Who do I want to talk with?
One of the things I didn’t realize right away is that it’s called social media for a reason. No matter how obscure the niche, there is a community of people talking about what interests you (and your readers). You need to join that community.
Being social works in your favor for a lot of reasons.
First, it’s fun. Blogging friendships lead to sharing and collaboration that let you achieve more than you could by yourself. June and I developed a mutual admiration of each other’s writing naturally and regularly exchange links and sometimes blog on similar topics.
Second, being social helps raise your exposure and extend your online reach. Li invited me to be a staff writer for her blog. Manoj gave me an opportunity through his Facebook group and has extended an open invitation to guest blog (more are coming soon Manoj!)
It’s also important to keep on top of the relevant news and discussions about your topic. Writing about hot trends or expressing your view in a particular debate is likely to be timely to your audience and possibly get you links. You can’t write well if you don’t read other good blogging.
There are tons of people writing on the various components of marketing optimization. I follow a lot of analytics-centric bloggers like Justin, Ian, Gary, Avinash, Eric. I also read bloggers with a broader focus like web strategist Jeremiah, persuasion architect Bryan, SEO Aaron, multi-channel folk like Kevin and general marketers like Seth Godin.
#6 – Which of the 8 types of bloggers do I want to be?
What to write, how often to write, what tone to use–these are all your choices.
As I outlined in my Start a Blog in 5 Steps white paper, jumping into social media isn’t particularly hard. Doing it well, however, is.
Having read 100’s of blog articles, I’ve noticed 8 types of bloggers. Some types you aspire to, others you should avoid.
#1 – The Tour Guide
Smashing Magazine has built an entire presence on this very strategy. Admittedly, I have a weakness for graphic design.
#2 – The Guru
The guru is an expert level author on his or her topic of interest.
People flock to this blog when they’re new to the area, if they have a detailed and tough question or just to keep up on the latest developments in a field.
Avinash and Eric fit the bill in the world of analytics.
#3 – The PR Puppet
Have you ever read a blog where the write-up of a particular product, website or service were just too carefully worded? The PR puppet strikes again!
This kind of blogger feeds the blog content beast by lifting large sections of press releases without adding much analysis.
#4 – The Contender
The contender is a new blogger. She might be just new to the blogosphere or new to her topic in particular.
Unproven but determined, the Contender has to earn her way to the top and keep her eyes on the prize.
The biggest risk to the contender is that she loses focus or gives up before people catch on to what she has to offer.
#5 – The Repeater
The blogosphere is often characterized as an “echo chamber”–a place where little is created and much is just repeated.
The Repeater’s blog has a lot of echos–content or commentary that originated from other blogs, news or hot trends without any synthesis or value added.
#6 – The Anti-Socialite
Some bloggers are just stingy with the links. Others don’t understand that commenting and interacting with the community is enriching and productive.
The Anti-Socialite exists (or pretends to exist) in a silo. She doesn’t care who’s reading or commenting. She’s not appreciative of her place in the blogosphere. She might also have a bad reality show.
#7 – The Reviewer
The Reviewer loves to express his opinion. Whether it’s a new product or website, he loves to pick it apart and weigh in.
He’s also likely to give his opinion about the hot topics of the day in his community. Something controversial? Something innovative? You can be the Reviewer has something to say.
TechCrunch writes a lot of posts in this vein.
#8 – The Navel Gazer
The Navel Gazer is all about one thing: herself. Readers be damned, this is her blog and she’s going to write about whatever is interesting to her.
You’ve stumbled upon a Navel Gazer if you read the blog and you don’t get anything from it. “I”, “me” and “my” are more common than “you” and “your”.
Sometimes Navel Gazers are entertaining, but it’s usually short lived fascination.
Personally, I’m hoping to be a bit of a Tour Guide and a bit of a Contender. I want to produce enough original content and collect enough in one place to be a regularly used resource.
A little thought goes a long way toward focusing your blog and your goals. I personally feel like I have more direction and a clearer sense of what I hope to achieve.
I plan to measure and report along the way as I learn again what works and doesn’t work. Your additions and comments are definitely welcome right on the blog or at alex @ alexlcohen . com.
If you like this post, please consider submitting a review to StumbleUpon or adding it to other social media sites. You might also enjoy my white paper about starting a blog.