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How to Create a Blogging Plan and Actually Reach Your Goals This Year

This post is part of the series (by Hendry Lee) about how to survive the blogging evolution in 2009. If you haven’t done so, you want to read the previous article about my take on niche blogging trends. It was based on analysis rather than predictions. That is important because if you ask me, I’d choose to base my business decision on sound strategies than pure speculations that may or may not work at all.

The future of niche blogging, as it always has been so, is about gradual growth. Bloggers who have found that out and focus their efforts on long term strategies will reap the benefits and those who tried to hit a home run may end up wasting a lot of time, effort and perhaps also a small fortune.

For this reason, whether you are just planning to get started in 2009 or you already have a blog, I present you with a comprehensive list of steps, tips and strategies that if carried out correctly, will propel your blog to a big success this year and beyond.

I’m the first to admit that very few of the strategies below are entirely new, but I’ve done my best to emphasize on current and upcoming trends in order to maximize results. Bloggers are already swamped with things to do and failure to prioritize can make a difference between taking your blog to the next level or let it fade into oblivion.

Getting Your Plan in Order

As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Despite what others have said about blogging, it is still a complete strategy that needs planning. It is my intention to get this time of the year to help you get your house in order and create strategies to go forward.

New year for many people is a great way to get a brand new start, but there’s nothing more common than broken new year resolution in the first week of January. Although the majority of people abandon their resolutions within days of making them, that doesn’t mean it is not worth the effort.

A plan, when accomplished, lets you feel good about yourself. It also puts you in a position to set and achieve higher goals.

What I learned throughout the years is that, resolutions don’t have to be declared during a special occasion. So, even if you are late, every day is still the best day to make a decision about the direction you want to take your business.

Just that no matter what you do, plan ahead!

The Art of Setting Realistic Goals

To help you gain perspective about planning, allow me to be upfront about it. Just recently I read in an Internet marketing forum a post from a newbie about his plan for 2009. He was quite knowledgeable about the latest buzz words like social media, Twitter, and so on, of which I saluted him for his broad range of knowledge about Internet marketing. However, when the post came to the part about goals…

Here’s a partial list of what he included as the goals for 2009:

  1. Start writing a novel and finish it.
  2. Be completely debt free.
  3. Earn $300,000 online by launching 3 more products.
  4. Start a blog and grow traffic to 3,000 visitors a day.
  5. Fulfill a dream of owning a boat.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t try to discourage by saying those goals are too good to be true. In fact, many individuals are able to set higher goals and get them all.

I’m also not oppose to goal setting at all, but at the same time I don’t think that new year resolution is made to be broken.

One particularly important factor of goal setting is to be realistic. Your goals need to put yourself outside of your comfort zone, but not too much that you feel unrealistic about them. For instance, without staffs or at least virtual assistants that help you with various tasks, creating and marketing products will consume a large portion of your time already, let alone launching three products, maintaining a blog and writing a novel in the same year.

To quote Jim Rohn, “Most people overestimate what they can do in their first year, and greatly underestimate what they can do in five years.”

The point is, by all means set a longer term goals but refrain yourself from aiming too high a goal at first.

Starting a blog with the intention to making money blogging is still possible but it takes more dedication than ever.

An extreme example may be a blog called Bankaholic by Johns Wu. BankRate acquired his blog for up to $15 million in October 2008. At that time, he had only been blogging for that blog for a bit more than two years.

As a solo blogger, this is a huge amount of money but I bet he didn’t make $7.5 million in his first year of operation. Traffic and revenue grew gradually and when the right time comes, the blog bloomed.

I hope I got the point across well about setting realistic goals. Each time I talk about this, some people defend their goals aggressively as if I am going to take their dreams away. Deep down inside every one of us, we still want to believe that overnight success is still possible online. No wonder, everyone seems to fall victim of one type of scam or another.

But I digress…

So, How’s a Blogging Plan Looks Like?

It doesn’t have to be tens of pages. After all, this is not a formal business plan. When it comes to starting a blog, most people don’t start out by hiring people to blog. By keeping the operational team small (or most likely a solo player) this type of business doesn’t need venture capital to finance.

My personal business plan adapts the popular one-page business plan format.

The plan consists of five major parts, namely:

  1. Vision. Your vision should answer the questions of who is your target audience and what you will offer.
  2. Mission. Be concise and clear instead of clever. Use this part to clearly convey your unique value proposition.
  3. Objectives. What are you trying to accomplish with your blog? How do you know if you’ve accomplished your goals? Objectives are your milestones. They may not be the end-goal. As you reach your objectives, you may have higher-level objectives.
  4. Strategies. What are your strategies to accomplish the objectives above? Being strategic means working on your blog based on certain principles and values. That also helps you focus on reaching your vision and mission.
  5. Actions. This part outlines your actions that support the vision, mission, objective and strategies.

Personally, I prefer to create a one- to two-year plan. Beyond that, it is hard to predict the right strategies because of the rate of changes happening online. Ask any blogger if she still follows her plan two years ago when she got started. I bet the answer is no. A plan needs to be flexible to new strategies but nevertheless you need it to stay focus so that every day you do something to move yourself closer to the objectives.

A plan should allow you to quickly glimpse through it, perhaps on a daily or weekly basis. For me it is a reminder about where I want to go and avoid spending time on whichever activities that don’t benefit my blogging business on the long run.

Note: Darren has written a blog planning post and his steps are very similar to mine. Seems like we adapt the same concise system for planning.

Focus on Your Blogging Business Model

If you see it from the publisher’s standpoint, a blog is nothing more than a publishing tool. It helps you get content online. In other words, instead of focusing on the intricacies of getting a piece of content online, you can concentrate on content production and promotion.

Based on that, there really is more than one way to create a blogging business. I’ve written about 8 blogging business models in the past. If you are confused about which way to go, that post certainly can help.

The fact that you can combine one or more of those into your blog means there are really many ways to create a business based on a blog.

Before you go ahead and get your first message out, it is necessary that you pick the right business model and focus on it.

For instance, if the affiliate model suits you best, your strategies should revolve around content creation, relationship building with both merchants and your audience, trend spotting, etc.

I won’t get into much detail in this post, but those by themselves already demand much of your precious time. By working closely with a merchant, for example, you will be able to spot new products and help them test new ad creatives.

And if this is how you strategically separate yourself from your competitors — by building closer relationship with merchants, get new updates of products before anyone else, able to request for higher commissions, etc. — you should be prepared to help those select merchants.

Just so this is clear, testing and tracking new ad creatives and at the same time work on your content creation and promotion may already overwhelm most affiliates.

Remember that with more samples, testing will be scientifically more accurate. Perhaps you also want to help the merchant test email offers. For that, you’d better have built quite a significant amount of prospects or customers and send e-newsletter regularly.

If you are not prepared strategically, most likely you will not be able to take this route by doing it yourself, especially if you still have to struggle through technical stuff to get things done.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to scare you off but just because publishing with a blog is easy doesn’t mean that you are able to throw a few content pages and ads out and immediately earn money that way.

More and more it will be about optimizing your sites to get more traffic and then convert those visitors into paying customers. That separates the winners from the average and if you start doing it right now, you will be on the right track to dominate at least a segment of a larger niche.

When it comes to link development, a fellow blogger I know of spend eight hours per week to create highly linkable content. If you think you can do this in 10-20 niches, you are stretching yourself too thin.

Think outsourcing is the answer? Think again. Outsourcing is another buzzword nowadays. It can be a very solid strategy if done right. However, it also requires that you are good at managing resources as a project manager, not to mention that most people don’t have enough fund to hire others at the beginning.

Just as an example, if you seek for a professional help to create a linkbait plan — consulting, not actually creating the linkbait — expect to pay between $750 to $2,000.

So, that depends on your plan and strategy and I hope I drive the point home that planning has to come first if you are going to get significant result this year. Competing is still possible if you pick the right field to play and take massive actions.

I hope by now you agree that hiring $5 article writer is not the only thing you’ll need to get tons of links and traffic. You need much more than that.

And that’s what you should expect if you are to build a business.

Review

Many bloggers avoid planning because it is boring. However, by approaching it from the correct angle, this can in fact turn into one of the most exciting part of your business.

When you are just about to launch a blog, usually the excitement fills in the atmosphere. Planning is the stage when you can see your dreams and goals come into fruition, at least in your mind. With strategically created plan, the only gap that separates you from achieving your goals is action.

For you who are a bit desperate right now because of the hard truths that I revealed above, don’t give up! It is still possible to grow a blogging business, just that the model may be much different from what’s in your mind. But still, working from home or from any of your favorite place, doing what you enjoy and making money from it is still an attainable goal if you finally direct your efforts on the right track.

Plus, I’ve just saved you time and money buying e-books and jumping from one thing to another every two weeks. By starting now and focus your effort on one thing, you will be way ahead others by the end of this year.

In the next few posts, I’ll go into more specifics about activities related to blogging, including content production, optimization and promotion. If you are still unsure about the strategies and actions to go to where you want to be, those articles will be of help.

Hendry Lee helps bloggers overcome strategic and technological challenges in starting and growing their blogs. He also writes about make money blogging on his blog Blog Tips for a Better Blog – Blog Building University. While you are there, download your free eBook and subscribe to his blogging e-course where he reveals his secret about blogging and content writing!

Follow Hendry on Twitter (@hendrylee).

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. Great article.

    I’ve never written a business plan out on paper. I have a working one in my head, but it’ll probably be a better idea to write it.

    What I’ve found that helps even more, is to write a daily plan of action, and focus on your blog one day at a time, always keeping the long-term goals in mind.

  2. Writer Dad says:

    FANTASTIC! So much of the stuff on starting a blog for business online is somewhat nebulous. It’s paramount that we draft our plans with precision and practicality. If we don’t we WILL fall by the wayside. If we do, success will surely find us.

  3. Ruben Ricart says:

    As usual! On the money…thanks for sharing Darren..

  4. I am a massive fan of goals, and ascribe to the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting strategy. Goals definately have to realistic but they also have to be big enough to inspire us!

  5. Derek says:

    Great article hendry. My first blogs failed because I didn’t have action plans. As soon as I created a great action plan I was able to grow my audience from 100 ppl a day to over 5000 a day in around 3 months. Additionally with my recent blog launch I was able to get 200 subscribers and around 500 uniques per day by creating a blog series that lasted a month long and it’s not even over

  6. Very Evolved says:

    Thorough post Hendry.

    I adopted a similar approach when building and launching my site only last week, and it’s obviously to early to see results yet.

    But the one thing I would add to your advice is that making a business plan will not only help keep you focused, but it will help keep you motivated.

    For example: It helps put things into perspective when you have a year ling plan – no need to get depressed when traffic falls by 50 visitors from yesterday to today – it’s the long haul we should be watching.

    Patrick
    veryevolved.com The hidden biology underneath everything you do.

  7. Rikin says:

    The quote you mentioned by Jim Rohn is really helpful.

    “Most people overestimate what they can do in their first year, and greatly underestimate what they can do in five years.”

    For a new blog and blogger who can commit about 2 hours a day to his/her site, what metrics would you see as reasonable? 10k visits per month before 2010?

  8. Yep. This is a great article.

    I believe in setting my blogging goals a bit higher than “realistic so as to make me work harder when I have reached my “realistic goal.

    Confusing ? What I meant was that I will always create 2 goals – one realistic and the other higher than the “realistic”.

    When I have reached my realistic goal, I will work harder towards the unrealistic one :)

  9. Awesome article! I’ve always loved that Rohn quote because it’s both encouraging and realistic. I think the problem with one-year goals is that people tend to see them more as three-month goals and when they don’t see any real progress towards the big ones, they give up and figure they weren’t on the right track. For me, at least, taking a three-year view has always helped me accomplish big stuff in a year in a way that setting those same goals for a year never quite did.

  10. David Risley says:

    Great post. I think bloggers who don’t make much or any money need to look at those who do and realize that what is in this post is really the difference. Bloggers who treat it like a business do a lot better than those who blog like a feather in a stiff breeze.

  11. Vic says:

    Thanks, Hendry – brilliant and very timely post.

  12. Very well said… definitely something I need to work on.

  13. SIneload says:

    Some very important points here. Must read it again.

  14. Starwrite says:

    Yeah now iam was doing your tips…thanks a lot

  15. Isaac Yassar says:

    Well, since everybody seems to be saying “Sir Yes Sir!” to this article, I would like to stand up and say NO! There’s another technique to reach success in the jungle of blogosphere, called INSTINCT. In this online entrepreneurship jungle, you want to hunt success, and the best hunter do not use plan, but instinct, since the environment are always changing. However this is much harder to obtain rather than goals, which only requires you to read one or two articles. But for those who can successfully develop their instinct, the fruit is much sweeter. They are the true entrepreneur.

  16. Ben N says:

    Awesome post! I started a blog last year and while I did alright — about 1-2k views a day within a month, wasn’t happy. I wasn’t focused.

    I’ve been thinking about relaunching in a very small niche space (MMO gaming) and found your blog to be a very invaluable resource. I even bought your book… !!!

    My biggest problem now is just doing all of the research on branding, launch strategy, editorial guidelines, focus, content… there’s so many moving parts :)

    But, I enjoy reading what you post — thought I should “delurk” myself, and say thanks — this is a great post!

  17. Eve says:

    Great article! I believe everyone should have a business plan-even for the most simple goals. A plan not only gives us direction, but can also keep us inspired.
    Any wise man knows enough to know that he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does. It is so essential to continue to grow by absorbing knowledge every day. I am a baby blogger, and sometimes reluctant to share my blog with others because I am not anywher near reaching my preparation goals. However, like you said, plans and goals change all the time. So I now share my blog in an effort to re-evaluate myself and keep track of how much I have changed. I have learned to embrace my unfinished work-in-progress because it helps keep me motivated.
    My love of writing is not necessarily enough to make me a successful blogger. But my humility and determination will keep me afloat. I give thanks for opportunities to learn from professionals like you who are willing to share their experiences.
    Everyonea journey in life is very different. We all have different priorities and goals. We have to learn to take what we can from the experts and tweak it to fit our own personal situation.

  18. Jean Ghalo says:

    Going over the full post, made me come directly after to the comment box. Well I have a blog that was for a while online but wasn’t updated regularly, no planing and nothing, so far by end of 2008 and as business slowing down, decided to come back to online business and blogging.

    One of the decisions I took for 2009 is to blog at least with 1 post daily, and till now I did succeed, the blog is back active with new posts, new visitors but I am facing a problem which is the comments I barely get a comment, while I blog about different topics, targeting more than one segment of ppl but still not being able to gain comments, I did discuss the same same Today on Chris blog post “A Crash Course in Comment” but still I am not able to find the problem.

    While on the other hand I did a nice plan and that was the first time i do such a plan for a blog, and have realistic targets by the end of the year… but what about the comments thing?

    Cheers!
    Jean

  19. I love this post! I’m a huge believer in writing things down and being concise. Goals need to be measurable. The example you gave above about the guy who says he is going to write a novel AND finish it is so unrealistic for a one year goal. Now if he said he was going to write one chapter per month for a total of 12 chapters at the end of the year, that would be different. You can’t be vague when setting goals! I wrote a post called “The Secret Power of Writing a Mission Statement” and how what I wrote down last January came to fruition. I’m in the process of doing it again for this year, and this post will help me lay out my plan in expert fashion!

  20. Great post again.

    I have always found that writing things down helps. It gets them out of my head so that I can see them. Writing helps me pick out what is important and what is not.

    When it comes to being realistic I look at what I am willing to do. Am I willing to take the time, learn, and push my self through?

    Your list of what it takes to be a successful blogger is an honest look at what it takes.

    Thank You
    Sheila

  21. I never looked at it this way!

  22. This is the perfect time for this. Right about now too many people are giving up on all their goals for the year.

    Thanks for the awesome post

  23. Korikkar says:

    well, nice post! I don’t have a proper goals n business plan too. May be I should do before I say I don’t get anything out of my blog!

  24. SEO Tips says:

    Excellent article. Love the tips thank you :)

  25. Awesome post! Having a plan is very important when it comes to reaching goals. Without one, you’re basically shooting in the dark and have no idea where you are going.

  26. Rob says:

    One of the goals mentioned is “Start a blog and grow traffic to 3,000 visitors a day”. What’s the significance of 3000? Is it a milestone where experience shows that the blog is a success?

  27. Very good article, constructive and focused on results. Made me to think very seriously.
    I have a plans for my blogs, but after that article I think to change my objectives and will add more numerical values, something like markers on the road

  28. Awesome. It seems David Allen’s GTD idea is very popular in the bloggersphere. I should make a plan right now.

  29. Luca says:

    great, thanks for sharing your view!

  30. Will Lowrey says:

    There is always value in writing out a plan. I have heard that the most successful people have plans that go out no less than 5 years.

    I find that starting with my 5 year plan, then working back to 3 yr, 1yr, 6mon, 3mon, and finally my 1 month plan works well. It keeps the big picture in mind and makes sure that the activities today are in line with the long-term goal. If not – then why do them!

  31. Thank you for this excellent post. I am going to work on my plan today!

  32. Hendry Lee says:

    @Jensen: I didn’t mention about GTD but you guess it right. I’m a GTD fan.

  33. My blog started a few days before 2009, so I didn’t have much time to set any realistic goals for the new year. But they’re all set now, and I am working on getting them knocked out.

  34. If it isn’t written down it’s not going to happen

  35. Thanks for the Blogging Model link. It was just what I needed today to ponder my blogging doldrums :-)

  36. Matthew says:

    I have had a plan written down since before I launched my blog. I know where I want to be, how I will determine when I reach those goals, and steps required to get there.

    Unfortunately, my plan does not extend as far out as I would like. I need to sit down and push it further.

  37. Gennaro says:

    A blogging plan should be similar to a offline business plan. The most successful blogs will have a similar pattern starting with the vision and mission mentioned in the post. When it comes to making money, planning is also needed. Understanding your niche and audience is the key.

  38. Raph says:

    Excellent advice. I would also add in a sixth part which would be target audience. This will help you focus your blogging.

  39. josephgelb says:

    thankyou for the inspiring tips. my goals are not along the problogger mach 5 type of level but after reading this i am putting together some new goals

  40. Hendry Lee says:

    @Matthew, the latter articles will cover a lot about business and marketing strategies of blogging. But for now, besides the lack of strategy and direction, time constraint is what many bloggers fail to take into account during the planning stage.

  41. Dan says:

    If you’d like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

    http://www.Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

  42. zoram says:

    I never thought about a blogging plan before…can start thinking a bout it. BTW, the email option on ShareThis is too limited. You can try Tell-a-Friend http://ad.vu/hvkf

  43. BLOGBOOZE says:

    This is a real booster for my future plannings. Thanks Hendry for the nice post. looking forward for more guest posts by you on problogger.

  44. Great Post,

    I loved the quote How people overestimate themselves…. 5 years.

    Proper planing is essential in almost every sphere of life, not just blogging. As you quoted, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. If we don’t have a vision of what we are doing – we might end up doing really nothing.

    Once again, I loved what you wrote.

    Cheers,
    Swastik

  45. Very well written. I think a lot of people jump into trying to make money on the internet but do not actually treat it as a business. It is fine to boot strap to get started, but you must make a plan and work the plan. I have learned the hard way that long term growth is much more solid than short term gains.

  46. These are some really great tips! I have been trying to follow your tips as I am new to the blogging business and it has really been helpful. Thanks and I look forward to more great info!

  47. I’m always a big proponent of writing your plan, then working your plan. If you don’t have a plan you follow, you’re slacking! Nice outline of a basic plan, here, Henry.

    I think it is important to know if you want to write frequent short posts or more infrequent but longer posts as your strategy. I’m kind of on the middle with both frequency and article length.

  48. Fantastic tips there. I think one should maintain a calender and chalk out the blogging plan accordingly.

  49. T Edwards says:

    My thoughts exactly on setting realistic goals. So many New Years resolutions go unfulfilled because they are simply set too high. I have planned out my blog similar to the way that you’ve prescribed and I feel that this has definitely given me an advantage; not so much in getting 3000 visitors per day but in sticking with the blog and maintaining the vision even when my blog is only getting 3 visitors per day.

    Talk to you soon,

    T

  50. Anastasia says:

    don’t know what is so different about your post, I’ve read it all before – but something was different and this time I’ve written the plan down!

    So, thanks a lot from this end of the world!:-)