Your blogging strategy
A long time ago (well just before Christmas actually) I sent out a mailshot promising to write a blog about blogging strategy. But I don’t like the word strategy very much so I sat on the idea for a while.
But with the recent changes to Facebook and Instagram and lots of questions about how this will affect blog promotion, I can ignore it no longer. Facebook changes are not the end of the world. There is so much else you can do to promote your blog. And a good strategy is vital. Almost as important, if not more so, than the blogs themselves.
So here it is. My guide to developing an effective blogging strategy.
1. You and them: personas, brands and style
I hope it goes without saying, that before you start blogging you have a clear idea of your target audience and your own business personality. You should have detailed customer personas and a very clear idea of how you can make your personas’ lives better as well as where they hang out, what makes them tick etc. etc. These will be working documents which will develop, evolve and improve as you learn more about your target audience but make them personal and real. The more information about who these people are and what they do, say, hear, feel and think, the better!
You should also be very clear on your business values, what makes you different and what kind of personality your business has – and no, “fun but professional” is not good enough. What’s the story behind your business, what do you pride yourself on, what sort of language do you use? Again, if there’s more than one of you blogging, this sort of information will save you a lot of time and help give your blog a unified feel. That doesn’t mean you can’t have different voices within the brand – they just need to all sing from the same hymn sheet (Did you see what I did there?! Quite pleased with that!).
2. Blogging objectives (another word I hate)
So you’re blogging as part of your business. Or you’re about to start (or think you ought to start). And that means the first question you have to ask yourself is why and what do you want to achieve?
Again, blogging because you think you ought to is not good enough.
As with all good objectives they need to be specific (and measurable). Do you want to improve awareness of your brand? If so, what is the current level of awareness (work out how you’re going to measure this) and what do you want it to be?
This may just be a case of visits to your website, your position in search engine results, your number of social media fans and followers or the number of people you have in your database. Whatever it is, get some figures and write them down.
And as you set your objectives, be realistic (don’t decide that your objective is to be number one in the world over and above the likes of Google and Microsoft). But equally, push some boundaries. Make those targets tough and exciting. And write them down too.
3. The ‘how’ of your blogging strategy – audits and updates
The next stage is two-pronged.
First, you need to think about how you’re going to achieve your objectives:
- How often will you need to blog?
- What should you blog about to achieve those objectives?
- What keywords should you use? You’ll probably need some keyword tools to help research this but start with Google and the suggested search terms and take it from there. There’s lots of help available so don’t feel daunted by this. As you evolve, you may need a keyword strategy but one step at a time.
- When are you going to blog? Weekly, fortnightly, monthly? On Mondays, Tuesdays etc? At lunch, at tea?
- How should you promote your blog?
Your promotion options include (but are not limited to):
- Social media and other blogging platforms and feeds – I’ve included some ideas below
- Mailing your database with a roundup of your blogs
- SEO and organic search results
- Paid promotions and advertising
- Approaching local magazines and papers and getting some of your blogs in print
- Public speaking
- Guest blogging
Then you need to perform an audit and update
What platforms and promotion methods are you currently using and how is that working out? Don’t guess. Take a look at your stats. What other platforms or promotion methods are available and are they more suitable? Have a look below for some ideas.
When deciding how often to blog, you do also have to think carefully about how often you’ll repost and promote. Again, it’s worth including this in a schedule. Are you going to post 2 or 3 teasers in advance of the blog itself and then post a link to the actual post? Perhaps you’ll need to post the actual blog itself several times to find the best time to reach your readers. And perhaps you will always re-post 6 weeks after the original post and another 3 months after that. What may be right for you will depend. But track what you do so that you can make more informed decisions going forward.
Whatever you do, don’t just post your blog once, forget about it and move on!
And if you’re in a panic about the recent changes to Facebook (and up and coming changes to Instagram), here are some ideas:
- Don’t forget about LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and all the many other social media channels.
- Have a look around at some of these publishing and sharing platforms:
SlideShare, Medium, Ghost, Quora, Blokube, Reddit, Scibd and Tumblr.
These platforms have lots of potential and whilst I haven’t used them all, I’ve used some and it is well worth dedicating some time to researching the best one for you and if necessary setting up a full account. There are lots of others available if none of these suit you. And if you’re really hung up on Facebook? Why not use Facebook Live to talk about your blog and raise awareness that way! Facebook seems to be loving Live.
But do check the position with duplicate content. For example, you can import your blog post into the Medium site and it doesn’t offend the rules of duplicate content because they give proper credit to the original source of the post. I know, because I checked with them. But the rules on duplicate content are not always straightforward, so if in doubt, check!
Posting on some of these sites can really boost your exposure and traction, just be a little methodical about it.
Don’t forget to audit any existing blogs too
Re-read old blogs and check they are still accurate, reflective of your business, well written, performing well, with good SEO. Weed out any duds or improve where necessary.
4. Your content plan
If you’ve worked your way through the above, the next bit should be easy. You already know how often you want or need to blog to achieve your objectives, and you should have at least some idea of what your target wants to read about.
Now start making a list of topic ideas. I’d suggest 12 ideas to start (roughly one blog a week for a 3 month period) but it will depend on your business. This list is not set in stone, you will add to it, improve it, expand it all the time. Keep it by your bed, carry it with you. Add ideas as soon as they occur and before you forget them again. That’s not just me right?
As you prepare your list, take into account what’s going on in the world around you:
- Your other marketing activities (oh, I’m giving a speech about x that week, I could double up my efforts by writing a blog on subject x and then extracting bullet points for my short presentation),
- World events
- Local events
- Trending news.
Research, write and edit
You’ve got two options here. You’ve either got to create a habit and make your blog writing a regular, immovable event in your diary or you outsource. It’s that simple.
Blogging takes time and I recommend you write 2 to 4 blogs in one sitting. Only in rough and ready draft form but sit down and do a block of research and then write. This makes you more efficient and gives your blogs more fluency between posts. This is going to take you a few hours (probably 4 at least)! And don’t forget you need to be thinking about:
- The message /objective or aim of each post. What is the overall message you want to convey, what do you want readers to do at the end and what do you want to achieve? Have the answers very clear in your mind before you start writing.
- Including keywords naturally throughout.
- Including links where appropriate to other pages or posts on your website and or to external sources where appropriate.
Think about formatting
Also, remember to write for skimmers…that’s more or less everybody by the way, eg people who skim read. Lots of sub headings, short sentences, bullet points and short paragraphs. Keep your language simple. Include some relevant images – unique to you if you can. Don’t edit and proofread straight away, leave your blog to simmer for a while and then come back to it and it will be all the better for it.
And finally don’t forget your metadata – probably a post for another day but if you’re not thinking about this, you should probably get in touch with me.
Oh and finally, finally – don’t forget, blogs aren’t the only content in the world. You can mix things up with podcasts, video, infographics, etc.
5. Analyse and review
And this is crucial; As much as I hate the word strategy, I hate spreadsheets even more but they do come in handy. Monitor and track every single post. How does it perform…how many likes, shares, comments? How many clicks through to your websites, sign ups, calls etc etc.?
And contrast and compare. If one blog flew and one bombed, try and work out why. Was it the headline? The subject matter? The timing? Had you used emotion and a strong call to action? Take everything you learn and tweak and amend, improve and grow and keep going.
Blogging success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes creativity, commitment and some science….and yes, a good blogging strategy. But it can be hugely effective. It can position you as an authority, help with your search engine results and your social media and win you new clients. Enjoy the journey …or alternatively…