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You Need a Blog Strategy

Do you have a Blog Strategy? In this guest post Josh Klein shares some suggestions on how to blog strategically.

I recently started an article series on how to write a blog worth caring about. The first lesson – and the thing too many people skip – is creating a blog strategy. That’s our topic for today.

Gone are the days when launching a blog was enough; the web is too crowded. You’re going to have to work your tail off to be successful – as you know from reading Problogger – so you better have a good reason to be doing something this hard.

In other words, you need a strategy with clear goals.

Thinking tactically – writing a one-off post, promoting yourself, optimizing for search, building links – is all well and good, but won’t matter in the end unless it moves you towards the right goal.

I admit my blog started as an experiment in search engine optimization, so I had no strategy. My plan was to take a site to the #1 result in Google as fast as possible just to see what worked.

I had to sneak past Wikipedia, Boing Boing, TED and 5.3 million others, but I won the #1 spot after 3 months of work and realized, to my horror, that people were actually reading the site. This is when most blogs die, but mine didn’t because I went back to the drawing board and came up with a strategy, a reason to exist.

Here are 6 different strategies for a blog (though there are plenty more). You don’t need to fit yourself into just one bucket (I don’t), but you’ll be more successful the more singular your focus.

1) Spread an idea

There might be one idea you’re passionate about, and you want to reach as many people as possible with that one idea. Maybe you’re into going green, want to get an official elected, or think people need to stop writing making-money-online blogs.

Though ideas are a fine reason to blog, if it’s the only reason, a blog might be the wrong format. If you’re all about the idea, you’re better off spreading it where the people already are – other blogs, magazines, newspapers, and street corners. Building an audience ain’t easy.

2) Learn

It’s hard to talk about ideas in a way that can change people’s minds. By writing a blog about your ideas, you help yourself develop your ideas beyond what could happen in your own head. If you can get readers to give you feedback, you’ll be challenged to defend your ideas.

Blogging makes you smarter.

3) Build a podium

Having any sort of “media channel” – meaning a place where people go to consume ideas – is a powerful asset. A blog gives you the ability to direct attention (of humans and of search engines) to anything that matters to you.

People talk about the power of networking in business – a wide network of peers lets you tap into a variety of skills and opportunities. The golden rule of networking is to not want anything… which means you need to network before you need the network.

Building a podium is the new networking, and you also have to build it before you need it.

Though networking is as powerful as ever, the ability to direct attention to ideas is a whole new layer.

We are in the middle of a gold rush for attention, and though it might feel like you missed the boat when you read Problogger, you should realize that even if 10 people read your blog, you’re ahead of the vast majority of humanity. Since the bubble burst, people have been too bearish on the web. There is massive untapped potential, so build your podium now.

4) Build authority

Your blog doesn’t need to be an income stream to make you money. In Darren’s recent poll, 85% of you said you made less than $1,000 in October (an annualized $12,000). That’d put 85% of you below the U.S. poverty line if you were “pro” bloggers.

I’m convinced that the best use of a blog is to direct attention to the other projects you work on that do make you money. Even if your blog does make money, look at the success Darren has had by cross-promoting TwiTip, Problogger, and Digital Photography School.

TwiTip wouldn’t have 2,500 subscribers today if it weren’t Darren’s web property. You could dismiss this as the power of celebrity, but Darren isn’t exactly the Britney Spears of the web (that would be Kevin Rose). This is niche authority.

But a niche doesn’t have to be subject-based, it can also be location-based or social group-based. Because of my blog, when friends — and friends of friends — have ideas for websites, they talk to me. Strangers use my contact form to ask about consulting. None of that is because I’m a famous blogger; it’s because I’m the only person they know that has an authority blog.

5) A resume

Until the recent sharpest downturn in the economy, I was getting unsolicited job offers multiple times a week because of my blog and social networks like LinkedIn.

Getting the job of your dreams requires being a qualified and compelling candidate. Most people spend all their time worrying about the qualified part without working on the compelling part. Who cares if you graduated summa cum laude if no one actually bothers to read your resume.

Writing a blog on your subject of choice helps to qualify you, but more importantly, it makes you a compelling candidate that stands out from the crowd.

6) A legacy

Follow the advice of Merlin Mann and Gary Vaynerchuk: act as if you’re writing to one person you respect, and think about the message you’re sending to your future grandchildren (who will see everything you leave on the web).

Just because your blog is built around another strategy doesn’t mean you can ignore your legacy. Don’t do anything you aren’t going to be proud of.

Sometimes that means skipping opportunities that look like short cuts. There are no short cuts to greatness.

Why bother?

Everything else you do must come from your strategy. Without a strategy, you won’t have focused content, a powerful layout, metrics to track, or any idea of when you’re succeeding and when you’re failing.

The point of defining your blog’s strategy is so you’re not shooting blind.

Your blog’s strategy informs what you should be doing (and what you should not be doing). Without strategy, you’re just creating another blog that will die off when you lose your passion next month.

If you don’t come up with a reason to care about your blog, no one else will.

Josh Klein advises Fortune 500 companies on their web strategies and writes a blog about making websites that matter to human beings.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I really don’t have a blog strategy, even though I created the blog and I am still blogging because I want to learn. I have never thought about money, and I have never thought about any of the other aspects that you mention.

    Well, I do want to get feedback on some of my ideas. I guess that’s been the only “strategy” I have ever had.

    This post made me think, I should probably get a blog strategy (even though I have been blogging for a few years) :-)

  2. This is some great advice. Having a strategy is a great way to lead yourself in the right direction. Without one, it can be hard to see where you are going and what you hope to get out of it.

    You’ve inspired me to create a new blog strategy for a new blog I am working on.

  3. Jade Craven says:

    I have a somewhat complex strategy for building my main blog over the next 6 months. It involves e-books, guest posts, interviews, article marketing and then…. a 6 month hiatus ;)

    Your post really made me consider what approach I’ll be taking with each of the 4 blogs I’ll be launching over the next 2 years. I certainly intend to use multiple strategies at different stages of a blogs growth. The general idea is to build a podium, than can act as a resume and, over the course of 5 years, create a legacy.

    ;) My current income from non blogging sources places me below the poverty line – making $1000 US would be a significant improvement for me. I’m hoping to reach that by the end of next year.

    Great post – one that was really food for though!

  4. Honestly, I didn’t have any strategy or anything in the beginning. My pure motivation was to let people know about useful info that they might be interested in.

    Of course the motivation has “evolved” since then; so I adapt or re-build new strategies every now and then to tackle the growth of my blog and my readers

  5. Gert Mellak says:

    Another great pillar article! I usually do have some sort of strategy when starting a blog, but then according to user feed back very often a blog finds its own way ;-)

  6. Starting a blog without a strategy is kind of like spraying a deck of cards into the air and expecting them to fall into neat piles according to suit. If you don’t know where you’re going – any road will take you there.

    However, with that said, one of the WONDERFUL things about blogging is you definitely have the ability to “change direction” if and when your strategy changes!

    I love the story that you share here! It’s truly priceless and a prime example of how a blogging strategy can “spin on a dime”!

  7. I agree when i started my blog I always knew from former training that I had to have a goal and some forward thought going into it.

    Alot of drive is needed to be successful.

  8. B. Durant says:

    My first blog was started just because I like to write, but I never found a topic that really suited me so I bounce all over the place.

    My next blog I had the topic and a passion for it. I even went so far as to write 8 or 10 “pillar” articles for it before making it live. I also had a goal of where I wanted to take the site and slowly but surely it is getting there. Until I read this article I didn’t realize it but in fact the purpose of the blog is/was:

    1) Build authority
    2) Learn (both to help others and to learn more myself)
    3) Spread an idea.

    Not so concerned with the other things you mentioned, but those 3 are definitely important to me. Even more so for the new blog I’m launching now that I recognize them as goals.

  9. Thao Ly says:

    Once again another great post by Darren Rowse. As a newbie blogger, I always find posts like these extremely helpful and informative. It’s like you’re leveling out the playing field for the rest of us.

  10. Hmm… is a compulsion to expel opinion a goal? Or must I wrangle my obsessiveness into a focused point of angst? Crap… more checklists to make.

  11. jhay says:

    The last part struck me the most…”building a legacy”.

    I wonder what my friends would think about my blog five to ten years from now? Would they consider it a monument? Or something that should be forgotten immediately. :P

  12. Guillaume says:

    Thanks for all the tips; As a beginner I am always looking for advice. What I find really hard is to have a dedicated moment everyday for my blog. I feel that if i want do something pretty good I need to have at least a comment day. Any opinion on that??

  13. I’ve been blogging for only a couple of months but I feel that it brings out the good things in me. I like the idea of leaving a legacy and the idea of networking which I translate as giving without expecting a return. However, I don’t believe there is such a thing as pure philanthropy because if you do good, good things will come to your life sooner or later.
    Happy blogging everyone.

  14. Parker T says:

    Good post. one need to have a good strategy towards blogging.

    http://www.capitalmarketnigeria.com

  15. Blog Expert says:

    I already have a blogging strategy and it definitely consists of commenting on every blog and has made. Well at least the ones that are in my niche or similar.

  16. Darren Rowse says:

    Thao – just a clarification – this isn’t my post but a guest post by Josh Klein :-)

  17. Yes, it sure does pay to have a plan! I also like to keep a journal of my activities and progress, and it is interesting to see how my goals manifest.

    Thanks for the great advice Josh Klein.

    You sure know how to pick your guests Darren! ;o)

  18. The most fascinating observation I have about the comments section on posts here in PB’er, is that no one interacts with each other, or super rarely do they.

    Indeed. Camaraderie is not a phenom here.

    Does anyone read the comments or just zip on jitter down to the comment section to place a reference to the quality effort being put out at this site.

    Indeed, I ponder. Ponder, indeed.

    I do indeed observe the stuff!

  19. mike says:

    Yeah, it seems if everyone started their blogs in the 1990s we would all be famous here ha. It is way too crowded in many topics now. I just hope I can stand out somehow.

  20. Great post! Standing out as a strategy has its perks.

    All of the great bloggers do something very unique that differs from each other.

    If you can find that unique item to bring to the playing field. That secret weapon. Then you’ve got it!

  21. Andrew Lynch says:

    For me it’s all about number 5. I don’t need to make money from my blog, and my age limits my ability to build any authority. I blog to connect with people, to get myself out there and to start building an online presence, so that if potential employers google me, I can control what they see, and I have genuine evidence of self-improvement, critical reflection and so on.

  22. Rohit says:

    @ mike,
    I think you lost the plot here.
    It doesn’t matter when you enter the blogging world. The only thing that matters is whether you have clear goals and strategies and whether you are taking enough steps to achieve them.
    Darren is this successful because of the hardwork he put into this since ’02. It’s your hardwork and wits that take you anywhere.

  23. Puspanjali says:

    Thanks for a wonderful post.I have just started a blog and having a definite strategy really helps instead of writing 1000 informative articles.I have to keep it in my mind.Thanks for the great tip Josh.

  24. When I started, I was just trying to promote an idea. I’m now realizing that connecting with individual people on the web is far more rewarding than just spouting my ideas.

  25. uwan says:

    thanks for nice strategy…. spread idea like net…..will caught tons people going to our site….thanks

  26. Thomas says:

    Another good post…
    …however correct me if I am wrong but popular bloggers like Darren or Merlin Mann (43folders) started with no strategies, no plan.
    Having a strategy is of course helpful when you reach a threshold of popularity but not very important when you launch a new blog.
    Be passionate and focus on useful content. You will have plenty of time to think about your strategy later ;)

  27. Va-4-Hire says:

    Until I started my business as a Virtual Assistant I would never have even considered starting a blog. I just never thought I had anything to say that was worth sharing. Then I started my business and I realized what relatively little known niche it was. Blogging became a way to educate people about Virtual Assistance. I still haven’t quite found my voice, as I said, I’m new to the whole blogging gig, but practice makes perfect right?

  28. Darren Rowse says:

    Thomas – you’re right – I didn’t have a strategy when I started – but I often wonder where I’d be if I did have! You see I spent the first 18 months stumbling around with my blog. I did learn a lot but if I’d only started out with more focus and knowing a little more of where I was going I think I’d have achieved even more than I have.

    The other thing I’d reflect back to you is that 6 years ago when I started blogging it was a very different and much less crowded space. Blogs numbers were probably in their hundreds of thousands – these days they are in their tens of millions – it takes a lot more work these days to get your start so some strategy might help from early on.

    By no means do I think everyone needs to have thought through every aspect of their blog or have things too much in concrete (you can learn on the job) but a little forethought can go a long way!

  29. dOh!! Da Man is in Da House!

  30. Josh — what a refreshing and timely article to us newbie bloggers who are really struggling to define ourselves and make our mark on the world. I do agree there will be an upcoming “gold rush” — as you say — and now is a good time to lay the groundwork for an authority blog.

    I also appreciate you addressing how diminutive I feel when I do read Problogger (or Copyblogger, JohnChow, etc. for that matter). I feel as if I’m walking in shadows that will always eclipse me. However when I’m working on my blog I start to feel my uniqueness and vision shine through.

    Legacy, strategy, authority, learning and smarts — you touched some very critical issues and I sincerely thank you for sharing your knowledge. I hope I can speak with you some day.

  31. Nikolai says:

    I totally agree with you. I also find that point 4: Building Authority is the most important point. If you can get a reputation as an authority you have very good chances of succeeding.

  32. I am looking for the site or blog post that tells me exactly how to put together a strategy. A post that describes in detail how one ProBlogger Spends their day blogging. Is there a calendar they use or a to-do-list. These are all very good strategies but they are very very broad. However the post was informational and I look forward to reading more

  33. Mr. Klein makes some very good suggestions which I imagine some bloggers have not considered incorporating into their current strategy- including myself.

    Even though some of these pointers are potential results of running a blog, they can be goals to aim for regardless of what stage your blog is at.

    Wesley
    The Geek Entrepreneur

  34. Josh, great post. Your thesis pays my bills.

  35. Millard says:

    Great advice. My strategy and my site are still evolving.

  36. Josh Klein says:

    Wow — I’m completely overwhelmed by these comments. I’m glad so many people enjoyed my post.

    To those asking for more, I’d be happy to oblige, but there is one great place to start:

    Answer WHY?

    Put that at the top of a page. Then write “things I want to get out of my blog” and draw 3 columns:

    - In 6 months
    - In 2 years
    - In 5 years

    This sounds trite, gimmicky, self-helpy … but then you sit down and realize how hard it is to figure this stuff out.

    There are plenty of accidental successes in this world, but luck favors the well-prepared. I’m not saying you can’t have a blog without a strategy … but that’d be like running a marathon without training first.

    The first guy who ran the marathon didn’t train for it… but then again he also passed out dead at the end.

    Darren is a great example of a strategic thinker. Maybe he did putter around for awhile before he took off … but he’s flying straight now. He sees an opportunity in blogging at large — observe b5media — into which ProBlogger fits neatly as a component. Add the ad revenue, the opportunity because of his social network, and more … and you have something that is much bigger than a blog.

    And who knows what other crazy stuff he is working on.

    (Note: that is all speculation :P)

  37. Josh Klein says:

    P.S. If you all want to connect with me and talk about this article, you can chat me up on Twitter @joshklein

  38. Maestro says:

    Great advice, especially #6. Most of it should carry over to your life too and not just blogging.

  39. Takumi86 says:

    You are doing good job Darren, you deserved to have this good result. btw, i like the word “Blogging makes you smarter.” its kinda encouraging me to have more idea about what kind of post should i make the next time i posted

  40. David Risley says:

    Great post, Josh. Yeah, always have a strategy. Doing whatever comes to mind is bad for blogging. :-)

  41. Mike J says:

    Great post thank you for the great insight on getting your blog strategy in line. I don’t think a lot of people do this before they start their blogs. If they do some have a hard time sticking to.

  42. Gerald Weber says:

    These are all great points. I think being passionate about what your blogging about is important but also what your purpose is. If you don’t have that clearly defined then what would be the point?

  43. I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for the insight on the ‘Big Picture’.

    You really do need a big picture if you want to take your Blog to big places.

  44. This is another great post. I’m still very new to this having only launched my first blog a couple of weeks ago but am finding so much useful help and advice at this site :)

    I’m slowly formulating a strategy, but at this stage my primary focus has been to get useful health and wellness information out there so that people can actually help themselves – so I guess in that sense my main strategy is to build credibility and trust with readers and hope they like my stuff!

    I find the idea of this being a legacy very interesting. I’m also an artist and for me it’s the biggest rush when someone buys what you have created. Writing a blog is very similar I guess, if you can get people to improve their life through something you have written.

    How exciting, and plenty of food for thought. Thank you!

  45. Abi says:

    Spreading an idea through your blog is the best way to gain authority of your blog.

  46. commenting strategy works fine for me. It doesn’t only create or make your traffic increase but it also creates new friendship towards others. Thanks for publishing this post.

  47. This is a good post that should help bloggers who don’t understand strategy and its importance to any business.

    I would only add one thing to your great information and that is market segmentation. It is a marketing research method that provides information on target markets.

    It can help bloggers to discover the best appeals for their target markets and then to plan those appeals into their strategy

  48. Ian Pratt says:

    Hey, great blog posting. I have a blog on leadership but had not considered the underlying strategy. From your list I think I need to use it to esablish “authority” or knowledge in my field. And then to promote my other income generating side to my business (Which I have not actually built yet …… but are in the process of building)

    Thanks for helping me to structure my thinking on this topic, I am also working out my Blog SWOT Analysis at the moment. Your Framework will assist me to validate my thinking.

    Thanks
    Ian