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:
- Start writing a novel and finish it.
- Be completely debt free.
- Earn $300,000 online by launching 3 more products.
- Start a blog and grow traffic to 3,000 visitors a day.
- 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:
- Vision. Your vision should answer the questions of who is your target audience and what you will offer.
- Mission. Be concise and clear instead of clever. Use this part to clearly convey your unique value proposition.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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).