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The Goal Post: Why Goals Matter More than Ever

goals.pngImage by Iguana Jo.

Overheard in Vegas at BlogWorld Expo:

“I just started a blog and I’m excited to see where it will lead me.”

Have you ever said something like that? When I started out, it was certainly something I remember telling a friend. Nobody really knew where the medium of blogging would lead—we were all quite happy to let thing evolve and see where we ended up.

There was actually some sense in this approach: blogging was still evolving, and because the space wasn’t overly crowded or competitive, many bloggers were swept almost accidentally into amazing opportunities.

The problem that today’s beginning bloggers face is that the see-where-it-will-lead approach doesn’t always work. There are many millions of blogs, mainstream media is investing serious cash into the space, and some of the everybody-wins style of collaboration that used to go on in the blogosphere has disappeared.

While good things still come when you let your blog evolve, and luck still plays a part, many of the more successful bloggers that I meet today are strategic about what they’re doing.

One of the themes I taught at BlogWorld Expo this year focused on goals.

Knowing what you want to achieve and where you want to end up will make you more likely to end up achieving those things.

Conversely, setting out on a path with no idea of what you want to achieve leaves your destination purely up to chance. It could end up being good—or it could end up quite the opposite.

“If you don’t know where you are going, how can you expect to get there?” – Basil S Walsh

The blogger who didn’t set goals

I told this story at BWE last week.

A number of years ago, a young blogger burst onto the scene in one of the niches I wrote in. They got noticed faster than almost any blogger I’d seen before: within weeks, their blog was getting hundreds of comments and being talked about on many other blogs.

The reason they were noticed so quickly was that almost every post they wrote took a pot-shot at another blogger in their niche. Posts on the blog were critiques, rants, and personal attacks on other key people in the niche (including me). And as a result, the blogger got noticed very, very quickly.

The blog grew over the coming months, largely based upon this snarky philosophy. Other bloggers saw the strategy working and new snarky blogs sprung up. The niche wasn’t a particularly pleasant one to be a part of for a while there.

I always thought it was a pity—the blogger was actually a smart person and when they wanted to, they had good things to say. But the blog always seemed to be seasoned with a toxic edge which detracted from what I thought could have been achieved.

One day, the blog that started it all stopped publishing. The blog went silent.

A few months later, the blog disappeared altogether. All traces of it vanished (although I’m sure it still lives in those Internet archiving sites).

I always wondered what happened to the blogger, until a few months ago, I found myself in a chat room listening to a webinar and recognized their name as one of the other participants.

I managed to get the blogger to jump on Skype with me and asked what had happened. Why had they stopped blogging?

The story the person told me was that they’d started blogging with one very vague goal: to get noticed. Beyond getting noticed, they didn’t really know what they wanted to achieve. It was only after they’d gotten noticed that they realized their ultimate goal was to be an authoritative voice in the niche. The blogger wanted to be someone that people looked to with respect. They wanted to be someone who’d be asked to speak and write books on the topic.

The problem was that the way they’d initially gone about their blogging had actually taken them away from their belatedly identified goals. They’d burned bridges and become known as the snarky blogger, rather than the authority blogger.

“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” – Fitzhugh Dodson

I don’t have goals!?

I’m very aware that many bloggers start blogs without hard and fast goals. They take the I’ll-see-where-it-leads approach. This was my approach, too—and good things did come from it.

However, the reality is that as vague as they were, I did have goals even back when I started eight years back.

They certainly weren’t long-term or far-reaching grand goals about where I’d be today. Rather, they were goals about the next steps—where I’d be in the coming days and weeks.

Over time, I achieved some of what I set out to do. I abandoned other goals and set new ones—some of them for the longer term. The key was to identify a direction to head in, and start moving.

You don’t always need the ultimate destination in mind, but if you can identify some next steps to work towards, at least you’ll be heading somewhere with intention.

“Progress has little to do with speed, but much to do with direction” – Unknown

Do you have goals for your blogging or are you seeing where blogging will lead you?

Further reading

Thanks to @pushingsocial and @kennyhyder for help on Twitter with the title of this post.

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. wilson says:

    I love having goals because they keep me grounded and focused on what’s important now and what do I have to do next.

    They give me direction and I always know there’s something I have to do.

  2. MKR says:

    My main goal is to build a writing portfolio with my blog to help me get writing jobs.

    Second to that is building up traffic and revenue sources on my blog so I won’t need to look for jobs. :)

  3. I don’t recall initially having a goal, other than to “see what happens.” However, I have since noticed that blogging has done some positive things for me. The main positive thing it has done for me was to increase both my search engine rankings and my site traffic (about 50% of which now comes at least indirectly from my blog posts, or my comments on other blogs). The secondary effect was to show me just how easy it was to set up and use WordPress, which has led me to yet another lucrative side-business, namely, setting up websites for small businesses using WP as a CMS.

    So, I managed to get some good out of blogging despite not initially having a clear idea of where it would lead me.

  4. Yes, as Wilson says, goals keep us focused and tell us in which direction we need to push hard. It gives us a sense of commitment, and especially for blogging which is a long term process, goal setting is essential. Thanks for the article, Darren.

  5. LoneWolf says:

    Darren, I’ve fallen into the trap of not having specific goals for my blogs, but the main reason for that is that I didn’t really understand what they were capable of or what there actually is to aim at.

    I’ve been learning a lot in the past few years and I still need to figure out which direction is best for me. The biggest hurdle I have is figuring out which goals are most important for me to pursue as I want to make a business as well as write for pleasure. I haven’t really discovered a way to make those two goals align yet.

  6. Luis Garcia says:

    One problem with setting blogging goals is getting blinded by them. If you get too focused on certain goals, you may lose sight of other opportunities that pop up, or worse, you start viewing blogging as chore. This won’t necessarily happen to everybody, but it is a possibility.

  7. Thanks for this, Darren. I have goals that haven’t been met. Maybe I’m going about them the wrong way, or maybe I just don’t know how to achieve what I want.
    Either way, I have to sit down, buckle down and take stock of where I’m going and why I’m not getting there.

  8. I guess you have to know what image you’d like to project to people when you get started, otherwise it can be tough to change your image later.

    I think I generally know my intended image, just don’t know what kind of audience I will ultimately attract.

  9. Dawn Le says:

    Wow, it seems dangerous not to set your goals. It would be better to have an insight at this issue.
    Thanks for the post and other references links. I’ll check it out.

  10. Mike says:

    I’d like to think that I’ve approached my blog with the right approach.

    I have a tactical plan and strategic goals documented in a word doc. They include high level goals and plans that only make sense once readership reaches certain levels, and content reaches a critical mass, and they include specific plans for topics that need to be covered.

    I’ve found that by laying out plans for posts that I can order them in a more meaningful way (i.e. identify inter-relations between posts, and create a more cohesive ‘story’ that is relevant to the time of year).

    There is still a lot of work to do and many small steps I need to take. My readership is no where near my goal, and I have some ideas as to why – which have been placed into my plan to address.

  11. markco says:

    My goal for my blog: Build credibility through helping people succeed.
    Secondary: Sell an ebook which people buy because of the credibility.

  12. 25,000 Subscribers is my goal… Then I can place buy buttons on the site!…

    :]

  13. Steve says:

    Darren,

    Very good post! I can see whee it would be very easy to go off track without a firm goal in mind. Making sure you have a goal -and that it firmly matches your actual desires- is areal positive bit of advice

  14. oOo. Good story indeed!

    Over the past 13+ years, my goals and changed and varied…I think now I’m well-seasoned enough that I simply want to help others, run my own business and enjoy my time online.

    Very basic I am these days!

  15. Ardorm says:

    Oh, Darren! I wish I could have read this post a couple of years ago…

    I started every of my sites/blogs with no certain goal, except for becoming popular and earning money (well, I was 15 at that time). As a result, it took me 2 years to go through and understand all of the quotes you’ve written above.

    However, now I have a certain goal and I know that it will be hard, extremely hard to achieve it. But with all the failures for 2 long years, I actually understood that hard working will eventually bring me to where I want to.

    P.S. You have a really helpful blog, both in mental and techniques trends. I am glad I was able to find it :-)

  16. Hi Darren,
    I am a great believer in goal setting and I have achieved many things in my life including learning a second language (something I thought at first was impossible) because I set goals.

    But I need to mention it is more than writing goals that helps you achieve them. More needs to be done as I wrote about here
    http://thewondertechnique.com/writing-down-goals-does-not-work/

    I hope you don’t mind this link to a posting I wrote I believe will be very helpful to fellow bloggers in need of guidance. No worries if you want to cut it out.

    Thanks for reminding everyone of the importance of goal setting.

    Cheers,
    David

  17. affiliatesea says:

    Really inspiring article.Setting the right goal is the first step of success.

  18. Eddie Gear says:

    Very well said. A person without a Goal or an aim is like a show without a rudder.

  19. Eddie Gear says:

    Very well said. A person without a Goal or an aim is like a ship without a rudder.

  20. This is an interesting post and I am curious to read archives of that blog :-)

    In reality, Blogging is one business where it is nice to competition and helpful to other blogger works the best, in my experience.

  21. Ngozi Nwoke says:

    I started my blog with the main goal of building up traffic for my network marketing business. Surfing through other blogs I added revenue sources on my blog.

    But reading posts on this blog is helping me to understand blogging better and I know I will set new goals for longer term.

    I am happy I was introduced to this blog
    Thanks Darren.

  22. Zahid says:

    I have a goal of reach every engineering student of the nation in coming years. Long way to go but I got my share :)

    Thanks to everything that involve bloging.

  23. ehsan says:

    i dont have goal.. i just enjoy and flow to blog. Goal and target will press and make me stressed

  24. Darren,

    I certainly have goals, at least with my latest blog. Some others were started with the “see-what-happen” strategy. Some did surviv and do well, other are now dead. That being said, I’m always uncertain when it comes to explicit what my goals are.

    Some of my goals are not compatible with each other, and they naturally evolve over time. What I also want to avoid is to have clearly, strictly defined goals and miss opportunities because of these.

    Goals must be adjusted and sometimes evolve because of what happens in our environment. It’s may be not your goal to write a book, but if a publisher asks you, would you say no?

    Once again, flexibility and finding the way in the middle is the key…

  25. IWrite says:

    Great photo illustration! Excellent story illustration!

    I am typically a very goal-oriented person. However, as a person who has been exploring many things in this milieu at the same time for the past 2 months – learning social media, learning to create a WP site and start a blog, learning about marketing, affiliate programs, SEO, and a range of other things – I find it difficult to set clear long-range goals.

    I feel I need to “play in the sandbox” for a while longer just as a young child would do. They just play hard and love it without deciding their long-term future. As I play, I begin to see short-term goals emerge and expect long-range goals will follow.

    Any one experiencing this type of thing? Or am I playing all alone?

  26. Every blogger needs to set goals because it gives them something to work towards. For example if you had a short-term goal of getting a few comments, you’d be able to tailor your posts and tweets to that effect.

    However if you don’t know why you are bothering to spend hours writing a post, carefully putting it together, you’ll find that it will go downhill very fast. Especially as you’ll never be able to write a call to action post as you won’t know what the ‘Call to Action’ is supposed to be and if you can’t do that, you’re missing out on a lot of reader interaction.

  27. Darren, what is your goal today? Where do you want to be in five years as a blogger?

  28. Dani Kreeft says:

    THIS was so helpful. i actually never thought about looking at proven ways to advance my blog…as dumb as that sounds. it always seemed something that either people were interested or they’re not, but strategy? wow. new to me.

    thanks so much for the tips..i’ve had a blog for almost two years and it’s seen slow growth, but this will help!

    xo.

  29. Lisa says:

    Thanks for a great post – its very timely for me. My blog is about 6 weeks old and I freely admit I am guilty of saying ‘I’m excited to see where it will lead me’.

    When I first read your post I straight away thought – yes, I really must get some goals down on paper. But I have always been a goal orientated person and I started thinking why hadn’t I already worked out what my blog goals were.
    I realised it wasn’t true that I didn’t have already have goals for my blog and I that I was just ‘happy to see where it lead me’. Rather I had been using that line as a way of protecting my dream and goals for the blog. I wasn’t telling people what I wanted to achieved through my blog because I was afraid I would fail (and others would know I had failed). I was worried about people judging my goals because they are very different to my current life. I was so afraid I hadn’t even written my goals down for myself!

    By admitting that fear I can put it aside. In the main my friends and family have been excited about me doing something different and while they have wanted to know why, it hasn’t been asked in a judgmental way – just out of curiosity.

    So before I get to my goals I thought I would first do some dot points on why I started my blog:

    • I had an idea for a business but I didn’t have a clear idea how to start. So I created the blog as my starting point.
    • I wasn’t sure I would still like my idea once I really started to invest some time into it.
    • I needed a creative outlet.

    My goals for my blog:
    • 1000 page views
    • Build up a regular readership to more than 20 readers per blog post or daily gift idea.
    • Have a regular dialogue with my readers via comments
    • Develop a free gift certificate template page (which will be monetised)
    • Develop my travel page which will have festivals, itineraries and travel tips
    • Having someone besides myself tweet about my blog
    • Create a webpage for my business – outside of the box – which will provide gifting and travel services. My blog will be moved off blogger and become one element of the webpage

    Thanks Darren

  30. Mitch says:

    Goodness, this was a great post, and I’m glad it’s still here to read and comment on. I talk about goals all the time, and the example you gave of the guy who trashed everyone, then realized his error, is a good one. There was another guy who had an interesting blog going, video and all, until his offline clients got wind of it and he started losing business, and thus ended up shutting down his blog as well. You just never know when you start off building your publicity in a negative way.