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Strategic Blogging

NB: this is the first in a series of posts on Strategic Blogging. The following posts in the series are – MissionValuesVision and GoalsIssues, Present Reality and Future DirectionStrategyAction Plan

Over the past year I’ve been meeting with a business coach who has been helping me to look at my blogging as a business rather than just a job. One of the things that has become evident to me is that good sustainable businesses don’t usually just happen by accident.

Instead they take planning, strategy and intentionality.

So as part of our 31 days to building a better blog series I thought it would be wise to start by talking about some big picture issues. Whilst these first few posts may not be as practical as some that will follow in the coming weeks – I believe that thinking through the issues that they contain could be the difference between a good and a great blog.

I know that for some this type of talk will be frustrating – words like mission, vision, values and strategy are not where you’re at – but humor me please. You see I believe that if you get these things right you’ll find many of the other tips that I share later in this series to be much more powerful as you’ll be able to use them in much more focused and effective ways.

Over the next few posts I’m going to lead you through a strategic plan process that a friend of mine gave me to think through another (non blogging) project that I’m working on – I think it’s highly relevant for ProBlogging and hope you find it helpful.

In each post I’m going to give us a little homework, a few questions to ask that hopefully will help you to think through the issues at hand. Feel free to answer them in private or to even think out loud in comments after each post.

As I post each post in this mini series within the larger 31 days to a better blog I’ll post links to them here as a central place to see the whole process.

I hope you enjoy.

The posts in this series are:

How To Be A Blogging Idol Instead Of An Idle Blogger

Todd Mintz writes a very worthwhile article at How To Be A Blogging Idol Instead Of An Idle Blogger which I think is a must read for bloggers wanting to start out in ProBlogging.

Whilst I don’t completely agree with everything Todd writes (I’ve never entered into a link exchange program or never bought a text ad for that matter) the article is brimming with useful information that Todd learnt in experimenting with blogs on the topic of American Idol contestants last season of the show. In particular he has had some success with the Bo Bice Blog.

Among Todd’s more useful tips are:

Have a narrow focus: The quickest way to drive traffic to your blog is through excellent search engine rankings. If you blog about lots of unrelated topics, you won’t rank well for any of your key terms….

Press Releases: Online press releases are an excellent way to generate notice for your blog. I created a press release announcing the launch of the blog, and once I decided to “actively” blog Bo, I wrote a release each week recapping the show and featuring highlights from the blog….

Involve Fans: When my blog reached a consistent 500 visitors a day, I decided to actively solicit posts from Bo’s fans. Sure, most blogs give readers the ability to post comments…but I thought that if I ran the comments as actual posts, I could create a “buzz” about the blog and generate large numbers of repeat visits….’

I subscribe to each of these tips and many of the other things Todd writes and think they apply not only to fan sites like the one he runs (keep in mind fan sites are hard to monetize…. I’ve been trying for a while now) but to most blog topics.

Blogging Rhythms 3 – Daily Rhythms

This Blogging Rhythms post should be a little shorter than the others (famous last words) as it’s focused upon a shorter rhythm – one of just 24 hours, the day.

Each of us have our own daily rhythms, times for waking up, eating, bathing, relaxing etc. Blogs often have up and down times during their day also.

For most of my blogs the most active times (in terms of traffic) tends to be while I sleep here in Australia and when Europe and the US are up and about (and surfing the web). This is of course a little different for my blogs on Aussie domains which have a nice busy time during the Aussie morning period when both Australia is awake and the US are having their early evenings.

So the question I’ve heard many bloggers ask is should such daily cycles impact the way they approach their blogging or should they just blog on regardless of who is up and surfing the web when?

My theory is that it’s worth considering when you post – but that it’s not worth getting obsessed by it.

My approach tends to vary from blog to blog. Let me unpack it a little:

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Blogging Rhythms 2 – Seasonal Rhythms

Another Blogging Rhythm that it’s useful to be aware of is the yearly rhythm.

Just last week I had an email from a reader asking me to take a look over their blog which they said was ‘in decline’. Ever since June they’d been gradually losing readers even though their Page Rank in search engines hadn’t changed and they were posting at the same rate as normal.

Northern Hemisphere Summer – After looking over their site I made the diagnosis that their blog was probably suffering from a variety of blogging seasonal depression disorder.

Traditionally traffic on the web (it’s not just a blogging thing) slows when the northern hemisphere hits summer. It’s not rocket science really – people take holidays – they go for walks in the sun – they play and watch sport – they’re not online quite as much and as a result traffic goes down.

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Combatting Blog Content Theft

Marketing Sherpa has a very useful article on Blog Copyright Theft which is full of all kinds of useful tips on how to protect your content.

Reminds me of an article I wrote a while back titled What to do when someone Steals Your Blog’s Content – Blog Blagiarism.

Interested to hear your experience and tips on protecting your content.

Blogging Rhythms – 1

Warning – Tangent Ahead! (I do get onto blogging eventually)

All of my friends are having babies.

It’s a wonderful thing actually – the pitter patter of little feet in our social lives is a really beautiful thing on so many levels. V and I enjoy our time with our friends so much – it seems every second day is cuddle time!

One of the things I’ve noticed about babies and our friends lives though is that they have their own distinct rhythms. Each baby we know has it’s own times for waking up, for feeding, for sleeping, for playing and for – well for making smells. No two babies are quite alike in this way.

I was chatting to a mate last week about this and his advice to me (not that we’re close to parenthood yet) is that it’s essential as a parent to be aware of your baby’s rhythm and to work with it rather than to fight it. Sure there are times when you might want to try and reprogram sleeping times – but to get into the rhythm of the baby’s life is a great starting point and is an essential part of a healthy life (for baby and parent).

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Principles of Choosing a Profitable Blog Topic

B.L Ochman has a post in which she summarizes information gleaned from an interview with Stephan Spencer who gives some solid advice on starting a blog. Here are two of his suggestions:

‘- Pick a very narrow topic. Nowadays even a blog specifically about Google is too broad. There is a blog about Google AdSense – now that’s nice and narrow, he says. “You are more likely to be seen as an expert in a narrow topic area.”

- Make sure you have enough content to be able to keep the blog going.’

Stephan’s approach is very similar to my own.

I was chatting on the phone to a reader wanting to start her first blog today. As we talked I realized that in choosing the right topic for a new commercial blog there are many factors that you want to weigh up and attempt to find some balance in. Some of these factors include:

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Perseverance in Blogging

Duncan has a good post over at Blog Herald about that talks about perseverance in building a blog. He writes:

‘Very few people find fame and fortune through launching a blog overnight, but over time most people can build a reasonable audience, or even more, based on perseverance at blogging, literally going the distance.’

Very true words from Duncan as per usual. Consistent, regular and quality posting over a sustained period are key to building a successful blog. If you’re not in it for the long term you’re unlikely to get far as an entrepreneurial blogging.

Responding to Blogging Criticism

Thanks to Robert for linking up to ProBlogger.net while I slept last night. It’s always nice to get a positive link from a larger blogger who sends an influx of new readers into your blog.

It’s been an interesting week here at ProBlogger for this reason – after the exposure I had in the Aussie Press and a few link ups from bigger bloggers I’ve ridden the roller coaster ride of publicity. With it comes some amazing opportunities but also a few hard knocks.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a few critiques of my blogging style this week – some of which have been quite valid and helpful – others of which have been quite scathing and verging on personal attacks (and of course quite a few of these are anonymous as per usual).

So what is my response to an ‘unfair critique’? Firstly I’d say don’t ignore it – I like to see every critique/threat/attack as an opportunity to better your blog and to win over more readers. How do you do that? Over the past couple of years I’ve developed the following type of process in responding to them:

1. Take a deep breath and give yourself a little space from the criticism – One of the worst things you can do when getting a critical comment or email is to respond in the moment out of the anger, fear, confusion and hurt that you might feel as a result. Go for a walk around the block, have a coffee, ring a friend or just take a few minutes to cool down before responding. At times I’ve even left responding until the next day when I’m thinking clearer.

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