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How to Make a Blogging Business Plan … Whether or Not it’s a Business Blog

This guest post is by Kelly Watson of onewomanmarketing.com.

Blogging can be a great hobby. But treat it like one, and you may not get the traffic and attention you want. Treat blogging like a business, however, with a detailed plan and scheduled check-ins, and you’ll see results in no time.

I learned this the hard way. When I first started blogging 10 years ago, I dove in without knowing how to sustain regular updates or gauge my progress. Many failed attempts later, I looked back on my early blogging efforts and wished I had created a plan to give my work direction.

As a beginner, I wouldn’t have known what to include in that blogging plan. Today, I do. That’s why I’ve created the blogging business plan: a series of 36 questions to help you flesh out your blog’s theme, its goals and the shortest path to achieving success.

Completing the blogging plan will take time and thought. But in the end, it will save you countless hours of wasted effort. When answering the questions, feel free to skip around – just be sure to answer each one. Some may seem unnecessary or irrelevant, but each one is specifically designed to help you lay the foundation of a thriving blog.

Part one: the big picture

1.     List your three top goals for blogging in order of importance.

2.     How will you measure your success in achieving each goal?

3.     What will be your blog’s focus? Explain. (Examples: Acme Company, medical technology, home pet grooming, beauty product reviews, etc.)

4.     Who is the target audience for your blog? Think of your ideal visitor and list his or her age, gender, income level, profession, hobbies, etc. Be as specific as possible.

5.     What problem(s) will your blog solve for this person?

6.     What action(s) do you want this person to take after visiting your blog? (Examples: sign up for the e-newsletter, call to request a consultation, purchase the featured product, etc.)

7.     How will you encourage visitors to take this action?

8.     What’s the main way people will find your blog? (Examples: through the web site, via search engines, from business card, word of mouth, etc.)

Part two: the competition

9.     Do an Internet search for blogs in your industry or field, and list three.

10.  What features or content do these blogs have that could be included on your blog? List up to six.

11.  What do these blogs do wrong? Where do you see room for improvement?

Part three: the content

12.  What kind of content will your blog have? Choose all that apply:

  • Company news and updates
  • Industry news and updates
  • Instructional/how-to posts
  • Interviews/profiles/Q&As
  • Product reviews
  • Case studies
  • Other: ____________________

13.  How often will you update your blog? Choose one:

  • Several times a day
  • Once a day
  • Several times a week
  • Once a week
  • Every other week

14.  How will you get ideas for new content? List up to four ways. (Examples: company meetings, competitor blogs, SmartBriefs, trade magazines, customer feedback, etc.)

15.  List the titles of your first five blog posts.

16.  How many blog posts will you have “in reserve” upon launch? List their titles.

Part four: the structure

17.  What blogging platform will you use? Circle one:

  • WordPress
  • Blogger
  • Moveable Type
  • TypePad
  • Other: ___________________________

18.  Will your blog be hosted or self-hosted?

19.  If your blog will be self-hosted, who will install the blogging software?

20.  Will you customize your blog’s design? If so, who will do the design work? Who will make the changes to the blogging software?

21.  What will the domain name be?

22.  Where will you purchase the domain?

23.  Where will you purchase the hosting service?

Part five: the budget

24.  If using a self-hosted platform, what will the annual costs be?

  • Domain: _________________________
  • Host: ____________________________
  • Platform Fees: ______________________
  • Installation: _______________________
  • Graphic Design: _____________________
  • Customization/other fees: ____________

25.  How much time can you reasonably spend on your blog per week?

26.  How will you allocate this time? Can you schedule these tasks into your calendar each week?

27.  Are you concerned you won’t have the time or experience needed to handle one or more aspects of blogging (i.e. content creation, proofreading, formatting, design)? If so, list these aspects.

28.  Do you have a budget for hiring outside help? If so, what is it?

29.  Look at the concerns listed in question 12, and brainstorm several options for delegating these tasks that fit within your proposed budget.

30.  If hiring outside help, list the tasks to be completed, where you will find this help, and an estimate of cost.

Part six: success metrics

31.  What link building strategies will you be using to increase your blog’s SEO?

32.  How much time will you spend link-building? Can you schedule a regular time into your calendar each week?

33.  What main keywords and phrases will you use for your blog’s content? List up to 10.

34.  How will you track your blog’s success? Circle the methods you will use and write down a goal for each one circled, if desired.

  • By RSS subscribers ________________________________________
  • By e-mail subscribers _______________________________________
  • Through Google Analytics_____________________________________
  • Through Alexa web stats _____________________________________
  • Through comments and feedback ________________________________

35.  Will you be doing any special promotions during your blog launch? If so, write down the details.

36.  Besides SEO strategies, how will you continue to grow your blog’s audience over time?

You’ve just finished the blogging business plan. Congratulations! To get the most from your work, tack the completed plan to a bulletin board or similar place where you’ll see it often. Then, check back every few months to make sure you’re still on target.

Have you planned your blogging efforts? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Kelly Watson is a freelance copywriter and longtime blogger who writes about marketing for small business owners.

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Comments

  1. Franck says:

    Thanks for the framework.
    It’s very usefull when aproaching clients aiming at launching their first blog. It’s actually very close to a clients’ brief

  2. imani says:

    Thank you so much for this guide. I’m trying to start a blog but I have no concrete direction or plan for it right now. This will help me streamline my ideas and focus on my niche. This article is exactly what I needed. Again, thank you!

  3. Awesome build up to creating a business plan as a blogger. The truth is if all the tips are followed, it’ll give a blogger a very clear vision of what he need to do to become successful.

    When I started my blog, I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve and I got to work although I didn’t allow analysis paralysis, I had a mental image of what my blog will be like and it’s shaping up now…

    Thanks for those awesome tips again. Enjoy your day.
    Tim

  4. I’ll definitely be referencing this article again in the future as I begin to transition from hobby blogging to business blogging. Thanks!

  5. This is awesome! I have started 2 blogs within the past year, and although I have covered a good bit of this, you brought up some things I had not thought of before. Great list of questions to get someone focused. And like you said, even if someone is not running a blog for business, it still helps with focus and purpose!
    I will be sharing this!
    Bernice
    4 ways to be like the energizer bunny

  6. Kelly,

    I could not agree more on the importance of planning your business blog. Once you have that in place moving forward is a lot easier.

    One of the most important factors I have found is research. Taking the time to research your niche is crucial. If you are already in that market it is a lot easier to know the “pain” you need to solve. If you aren’t in that market you need to really spend time learning about it.

    Great post! – Theresa

  7. se7en says:

    Awesome post… I never ever print anything, but I printed this out and I am checking my way through the list – Wonderful motivator thank-you!!! Our blog seems to be growing despite me, and there are so many things I want to tidy… and i am just not getting round to them… A good hard look at everything and a checklist to keep me focused… Fantastic!!! Thank you so much!!!

    • Kelly Watson says:

      Thanks Se7en! I’m always thrilled to hear people have printed out my posts.

      Hope you’ll continue to check back with your plan often … it’s the best way to track your evolution over time.

  8. Kelly, you’ve said it all. New blogger should take this advise and be wise to use it. One funny but sure thing is; investors would also like to see if one has a business plan to be sure the business is guided by a backup plan. Thanks for sharing the format. I also shared some format on my blog. Check here http://www.entrepreneurshipsecret.com/why-do-you-need-a-business-plan

  9. Great Post! I changed around a previous biz plan for my blog, so at least I have one. But these tips will make it much better. It may be easy for some to dismiss needing this business tool, which is typically used for a start-up biz to get funding … but you can’t get where you’re going without directions! Thanks!

  10. Nice Business Plan. But I feel this plan should be brought in only after a certain amount of time in one’s blogging Career.

    • Kelly Watson says:

      Thanks, Mani. I’m curious why you say that. I feel that if I had spelled out these details earlier in my blogging career, I would have been much more successful.

  11. Terrific post! Forcing myself to answer very specific questions will definitely help me. Having them grouped by topic also helps to see where the weak areas are and what areas I clearly haven’t given enough thought to. I definitely going to feel more in control of what I’m doing after I discipline myself to address these questions. Thanks.

  12. Thanks for the framework. I found out about 80% of these as I went along but it is much better to have a frame work from the start so that you don’t get side tracked along the way or loose focus.

  13. Kelly,

    This is brilliant information!

    Thanks so much for sharing. This is quite helpful for seasoned and newbies alike.

    Krizia

  14. Simon Duck says:

    I did a post like this a while back, and it is really interesting to see how different people plan their blogs. I plan on going through this and completing it all to try and increase my productivity, having your own ideas and using others ideas really helps to develop an overall picture.

    As Mani said, sometimes its important to plan after you have been going a little bit, not only are you more aware of where you want to go, but you are much more likely to achieve your goals because you feel more involved in your targets and plan.

  15. This is a great post, even for blogs not just starting up. It is a good reminder to go back over the basics.

  16. Harley Rose says:

    Thanks for the reminders!! I’m transitioning from hobby blog to business and this is a great outline! Thanks Darren and Kelly! Hey Kelly, I’m sure your on twitter, how do we follow you?

  17. Stace says:

    Perfect timing! Thanks.

  18. I knew I needed a business plan, but didn’t know where to start. Thanks for making it easy. Now all I have to do is answer the questions.

  19. Roman says:

    Great list. Probably the biggest hurdle for anyone first starting out is creating content consistently. I would go so far as to add an item to create a 1-year content calendar. Even if you change it regularly, it gets you thinking strategically and seasonally about your blog and how it relates to your business.

  20. Momo says:

    Hi Kelly and Bloggers,

    I’m new in commenting here so i thought introducing myself would be helpful.
    My name is Momo, i’m a 14 Year Old Blogger. I own a blog called iPhoneFuze which i recently finished designing.

    Amazing Post!

    I think everyone who wants to start up a blog should definitely read this.

    If i read this post before i even started my blog, i think my blog would have been far from it is now!

    Very handy article for all Beginner Bloggers and Bloggers who haven’t even started their blog!

    Thanks for this Great Post!

  21. Ian says:

    I have to agree with Stace, This a great and perfectly timed for me. Looking forward to sitting down tonight and tackling this blog business plan! Thank you.

  22. Naijadotcom says:

    This business plan is very useful. To survive in the big league, every blogger has to implement this is plan.

  23. Laura Finger says:

    This is incredibly helpful, thank you for writing this! I’ve fiddled around with a business plan in my head for a while, but you’ve really organized what I need to be thinking about and put it down on paper (well, so to speak).

    I’m totally sharing this with someone who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses in a small town (34K people). I spent most of Saturday night telling him about how blogging is a good option for a writer wanting to start a small business.

    And I’m Tweeting this to all 2 of my followers.

  24. Thank you for sharing this, Kelly! Useful. Valuable. A quality list to help us think things through better and get those thoughts written down, as well.

  25. Blog Traffic says:

    You are so right, when I first started I knew I needed a roadmap if I were ever going to get anywhere. Now a year later, I look back and certain things I’d set out for myself weren’t achievable, others I over achieved by a huge margin. Just because you aren’t sure what exactly success will look like shouldn’t stop you from writing it out and going for it anyway.

    These documents are meant to be fluid in nature anyway, and should change and adapt as you and your business/blog grow.

  26. Ash says:

    It is quite interesting article. I hope to get some traffic by using this methods. Thanks a lot for your information.
    However we are a media website called http://www.icarelive.com
    http://www.icarelive.com
    http://www.icarelive.com/directory/index.php

  27. Simon says:

    Thanks Kelly. This was a good post to read. My blog went live in time for the start of 2011 but it is still going to be useful for me to sit down and answer these questions. I think they will help me learn a lot about my blog.

    I did spend a fair amount of time considering my blog pre-launch. I had no real network to announce it to but am building things now. Your advice will go a long way to helping focus some more in the coming weeks.

    Great advice.

  28. Gazzali says:

    great post..If you do not plan to succeed you’re planning to fail.

  29. Very nice plan! This can be used not only for new blogs but also for existing ones. This gave me an idea and a plan for my future blogs. Thank you very much.

  30. Ian says:

    I have always treated my blog as a business because I do not think you will gain something from making it as a hobby. Blogs are no longer the diary in electronic form. Now, you have the responsibility to please and entertain readers as well as optimize your site to earn at least some money.

  31. Excellent timing.

    I am a little scatter-brained in my writing and blogging right now. This will be an excellent tool for honing my ideas and time. Thanks.

  32. I should have posted this in my previous response, but it helps to read through all the questions before answering the questions.

  33. This will absolutely help me nail down some of the frustrations I’ve been considering. I just started my blog and pretty excited! Thank you!!!

    -Theodore Rhoades

  34. Comprehensive post. Loads of ideas for a new blogger like me. Never knew there could be so many parameters to act for to turn my blog into a biz.

  35. hannah says:

    Great site. Good intentions. Like it. Will be back to read more soon.
    Keep up the good work.

  36. I think you HAVE to have a plan. I launch a new blog with my sister a month ago and we created our own version of this along with a launch list.

    I think one area that’s missing though is competitive analysis. Just a thought :)

    Great list though!

  37. Very informative post. Thanks for sharing the ideas. It is very helpful for newbies like me. :)

  38. Adidasi says:

    Thanks for this post,it really helps for future blogging!

  39. Andrew says:

    Kelly,

    Thanks very much for providing this information. As a blogger in the early stages building my online presence, these steps have come in very useful to help me going forward.

  40. Lea Sadler says:

    Nice post.

    The way I think of the business plan vs no plan it is this: if you don’t know where you’re going, how can you possibly get there? And, I something is important to you, you want to see it succeed–so you need to define what success is. And if something isn’t working, you need to tweak it until it does.

    An important aspect to any plan is to re-evaluate it on a regular (preferably, scheduled) basis to make sure you’re on track–and to see if your goals have changed. Changed goals may mean you need to re-adjust the means by which you approach success.

  41. Lynn Lekander says:

    Thank you so much, this is great insight. I have been mentally developing a blog…some of the items you have mentioned I had thought of, others not. This is a great checklist.

  42. Jose Rivera says:

    Very informative. I am about to launch a new blog and was thinking about posting all the content at once. Looks like I should have something in “reserve”

  43. This is awesome! Planning is key for every thing that we want to do. Now, I really need to print this wonderful article and start building a business with my blog!

  44. KarenMW says:

    You’ve distilled everything that ProBlogger is about in a single post. Great job. I wish I’d had this list when I started my blog more than a year ago, but it’s never too late to get better. Thanks!

  45. Cristina says:

    Amazing post. I just reviewed all the points writing down the answers. My blog is already running but it is quite new, so the exercise has been really helpful to see where I am and where I want to go.

    Thanks,

  46. Dirk says:

    I’m thinking of doing a blog site or two so this advice is awesome!

  47. Viksen Media says:

    Love this plan! Fortunately we have been able to come up with our own 4-year plan and intend to grow even after that. Budget was never a big deal…but you should always concern yourself about providing eye-catching content. Also, one of the biggest reasons we blog is to network — to meet new people, and hopefully help them with their needs, while they help us with ours. Blogging is a very mutual thing.

  48. Thanks for the post. I just started my newest blog and followed your checklist. My older blogs started more organically, but for this one, I tried to be more focused on filling a need.

    Success metrics is something I think most people forget. They focus on adsense and forget the bigger picture of growing and engaging an audience.

  49. Thanks. I printed this out and will fill in the framework. Appreciate the worksheet it is just what I need.

  50. Jack Thiel says:

    Thanks for sharing.
    What is it they say …
    Plan your work and work your plan.

    This is just what I needed.