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Starting A Successful Blog Is Like Planning An Invasion

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This post was written by Alan Skorkin. Alan shares his thoughts about software development, people and teamwork on his blog skorks.com.

Every blogger wants to be successful, it is only natural. We often start out blogging about something that is our passion and we want everyone else to be just as excited about our passion as we are. It is therefore surprising just how many people have no concrete plans regarding what they want to achieve with their blog (let alone how they are going to achieve it) beyond vague dreams of grandeur. I understand that it can be difficult to set yourself concrete goals, you may not really know what you’re capable of and so much is simply beyond your control. But, I have a trick that you can use whenever you’re starting a new blog (or want to kick-start your existing blog) that will help you focus and put everything in perspective.

Think of your blog as a country that is planning an invasion. What does an invasion have to do with the internet, I hear you ask? Well, consider this. What you want to do with your blog is to take over the internet (i.e. be successful), but the internet is a big place and you probably won’t be able to hold the whole thing, so what you’re really trying to do is carve out a little piece of the internet for yourself (being the supreme ruler, god and emperor of it is strictly optional :)) and that is exactly what an invasion is all about – at least in the classical sense. Whenever you’re planning an invasion you don’t just send your troops out to ‘see how they go’ and ‘play it by ear’ the first thing you need is…

A Strategy

Every grand strategy starts with a grand objective. Where do you want to end up and at what point will you pronounce yourself a success? You need to know what you’re working towards, it gives you your general direction. Once you have a direction, you need to map out – in broad strokes – how you will achieve your grand objective. What are the steps on the road to your goal – these are your milestones. Get 1000 subscribers, have at least 100 blog posts published, guest post on 10 of the top 100 blogs, get at least 300 visitors per day from Google, these are all great milestones and can form part of your strategy. And don’t forget to set yourself some deadlines, you’re invading, not going for a leisurely stroll, you don’t want to be at it forever. This is all well and good, I hear you say, but how do I reach each of those milestones? For this you need…

Superior Tactics

A grand strategy is necessary, but invasions are not won with grand plans, it is all about having superior tactics from battle to battle. In the blogging world it comes down to:

  • how targeted your posts are – make sure your posts fit your niche, otherwise you dilute your message. It can make tactical sense to creatively jump out of your niche once in a while, but in general you want to play to your strengths (presumably you chose your niche based on your strengths). You will fight better and last longer (i.e. write better posts) and you will constantly reinforce your message.
  • how timely your posts are – learn to know what’s happening in your niche, find out what’s important, what’s hot and what everyone is talking about. You need to know when and where to strike to achieve maximum impact. People don’t want stale content, that doesn’t mean you always have to break news, but a timely opinion piece on a hot topic can bring a tremendous amount of exposure.
  • how your promote your posts to give them maximum exposure – you can’t just use brute force all the time, sometimes it helps to use terrain to your advantage. In blogging terms that means you need to promote your posts, use the social media terrain and let it do half your work for you.

Even with all these efforts it can still be tough, you’re targeted and you’re timely, but the terrain is vast and there is just so much ground to cover. Plus the more ground you cover, the more you leave your flanks exposed, not a good situation. You will need some help, you have to find yourself some…

Allies

Often you get stuck in a rut, you hit a stalemate, you and the internet are just equally matched. This is where having allies comes in really handy. It sometimes makes sense to band together with another invader, you’re both after the same goal and there is more than enough territory for everyone. You can help promote each others content or provide a fresh voice on each others blogs, and you don’t have to band together with just one, sometimes a coalition is a good idea – everyone benefits. You might even try to get the support of a major power (a top blogger), that can be a real bonus, all you have to do is be creative and persistent in your approach (a little luck doesn’t hurt either). And of course don’t forget the local powers (the social media power users), these can make the outcome of some of your battles a foregone conclusion. A successful invasion can be largely about relationships and the internet is no different. But of course, no amount of allies will help you win your battles if you don’t…

Win The Skirmishes

Skirmishes are the bread and butter of any invasion. They are not glamorous and there are lots of them, but together they combine to let you succeed when you fight your major battles. In blogging the skirmishes are your daily (or at least) regular periods when you produce your content. It is not a glamorous time and it is not very social, but it is the bread and butter of a successful blog. You need to make time to regularly produce content, it doesn’t have to be daily, but you do have to keep doing it. The more skirmishes you fight the more you wear down the enemy, or in the case of blogging the more content you get out there the more chances you have of being noticed. There is one thing though, that will always jeopardize your chances of winning your skirmishes (and battles)…

Getting Distracted By The Scenery

There is always more to learn in the blogging world. There is a lot of info, much of it free and you can keep reading and learning indefinitely. But while you might get knowledge or satisfaction from watching the scenery, it is also how you get ambushed. You look around at the beautiful trees (or helpful blogging info) and before you know it you’re ambushed and have lost the skirmish (not writing content) and ultimately the battle and the war. You have your strategy and you know what tactics to employ, these may or may not be the latest and greatest, but they’re tried and true and they do work – stick to them. And if you really want to give yourself some motivation and kick this invasion up a notch try…

A Blitzkrieg

In a blitzkrieg you hit the enemy fast and you hit them hard, and you keep moving before they get a chance to recover. This means you brainstorm an idea for several successful posts or a series of posts, then you write them all and then you release them in quick succession and go all out promoting each one. I don’t mean release them one minute after each other, but instead release them judiciously. Build some hype around the first one and before it starts dying down, you release the second and build hype and promote that one, and then do the same for the third. Don’t give them a chance to recover. A blitzkrieg series of posts can really allow you to move far in short period of time. The allies you built before will really come in handy here (to protect your flanks as you move forward). Sometimes though, all this is not enough, none of it seems to work because you have forgotten one of the most important things…

The Logistics

Your invasion will only continue to have momentum as long as it is well supplied, ratty equipment and threadbare clothing will come back to bite you eventually (invading Russia in the middle of winter has proven this time and time again :)). For you this means, looking at where your blog lives and maybe sprucing it up a little while you’re at it. Make sure your blog is hosted reliably, a poor host can really cost you. It doesn’t mean you need to pay an ëarm and a leg’, but it does mean you server should be able to handle traffic spikes that you will no doubt supply through your promotional efforts. At the very least you need to make sure you have a caching solution of some sort in place (e.g. WP-Cache plugin for WordPress). It is really embarrassing when your blog falls over after a small traffic spike – almost as embarrassing, as realizing your tanks are not water proof when you need to cross a river. Oh and do invest a little bit into your blog design it will pay off handsomely in the long run. Everyone enjoys a unique and cool-looking design, it may not be the major selling point of your blog, but it does add that little bit extra. Finally, if you remember nothing else, always remember this old maxim…

No Plan Survives Contact With The Enemy

What this means in terms of an invasion is that no matter how good your strategy and tactics are it can all go to hell in a second when you’re in the thick of things. The key is being flexible enough to adjust to these changing conditions, take advantage of the opportunities and minimize the losses you take from circumstances you couldn’t foresee. In blogging terms it means – well, exactly the same thing. You need to have a grand plan, you need to set milestones for yourself and work towards achieving them, you need to know how you will promote your content and your blog and you need to build relationships to help you do so. But above all you need to be flexible enough to adjust to anything. If something is not working for you, scrap it and try something else, figure out a different way to approach that A-List blogger instead of giving up. Find a way to advertise creatively rather than using Adwords like everyone else. Always remember this, you can become as successful as those who have come before you by emulating them, but to surpass them you will need to forge your own path. I wish you a successful invasion!

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. Gin says:

    I agree on the visual you have given. Great way to outline the *battle* strategy that must be taken. Is it time to rest yet? :)

  2. I love the military analogy here! Many would actually plan their campaigns in a strictly ordered sense without actually realising it.

  3. Rajendra says:

    Thanks for sharing that powerful stuff, Darren.
    Man, that’s pretty amazing stuff.
    This really reinforces by belief that you can get to where you want to be, but with a different way of looking at the process.
    I think this was great and informative stuff. We have a lot of fear in our mind and this is what holding a lot us from doing things that we want to do. We have to believe in us that we can do anything that we want to do.

  4. Jacob Stoops says:

    Excellent analogy and great tips too! I’m a WWII buff, so this was right up my alley…

  5. Boy I can really relate to the part about getting stuck in a rut. Sometimes it’s just impossible to move on and just carry out your plan. If you get a little success from something you are doing it’s easy to just keep doing it, thinking more is better.

  6. Way to appeal to the stealthy, shrewd, adrenaline-loving side of us all through your war strategy to blogging!

    The internet can be a black hole of miscommunication and it’s our job to direct our word ammo at the proper target.

    Actually writing about this very topic right now on the blog, only with a blast or two of humor to drive the point home. Thnx!

  7. Tony says:

    Hi,

    The Internet is like a battle field. And it can be overwhelming too.

    Great ideas here and thanks for sharing.

    Win the battle.

  8. Theresa says:

    Interesting analogy. I see your point, however, with the invasion analogy I think you make blogging sound like work more than the enjoyable task that writing should be. We are suppose to love what we do and envisioning an invasion is just not something I love doing.

    Thanks anyways.

  9. BLOGERCISE says:

    It can be much simpler. My biggest start up success involved setting up a blog on a new product that was gaining a lot of interest. I did no preparation, no planning, my content was awful.

    The one thing I got right was “be first”. Easier said than done of course!

  10. stepsins says:

    Bloggers should regard blogging as a long-term business with a definite goal, then they should carry on discipline, in order to obtain the standing and identical of that.

  11. Mr Uku says:

    Sound advice as always.
    As usual, you’ve not really said anything that I didn’t already know. And, as usual, I’ve not been doing any of it. I realise now how little planning I did before jumping in.
    Time to re-group and re-think.

  12. mortyzplace says:

    As a newbie to the blogging world this post was awesome. I am about 2 posts into my new blog and really found this post helpful. I have been using your blog as a reference for the last couple weeks and I will be a lifetime reader.

  13. mobilephones says:

    I can see your point, I had not ever viewed it like that before but can see where you are coming from. You have to be strong, determined and have a good strategy I agree.
    Thanks for the clarification.

  14. Great post

    by following these steps we can become a successfull blogger

  15. Bd says:

    hahaha that is a great way to look at it! I always get distracted by the scenery, wish you hadn’t mentioned it!

  16. Arynze says:

    thanks for sharing
    just thought of starting a blog.
    dealing with distractions during research is really difficult sometimes

  17. Dave Doolin says:

    Yet another post getting printed out to be marked up with red pen!

    2/100

  18. audiokabel says:

    At first, did not put any planning into it at all. I admit it, I was one of those crazy get-rich-quick kind of people. But I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve started over blogging like 10 times (literally). But I feel like I’m finally on track. This time I’ve planned. Content, design, motivation. Got it all worked out.

  19. At first, did not put any planning into it at all.

    I admit it, I was one of those crazy get-rich-quick kind of people. But I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve started over blogging like 10 times (literally). But I feel like I’m finally on track. This time I’ve planned. Content, design, motivation. Got it all worked out.

  20. Marital Help says:

    Absolutely love the way you put up the analogy, Darren.
    Like several other commenters also mentioned, most bloggers would have started off on the wrong foot, and would have realized that once they saw their efforts not paying dividends. Gone are the days of blogging just happening. You’re right – it is like an invasion today :) Great post as usual.