Blogging is a rewarding experience. Chatting with your audience, putting your thoughts on paper, and just being heard are all great benefits of owning and writing on a blog.
That’s all well and good, but have you ever stopped and asked yourself:
What’s the point?
Why are you doing this?
What’s the end game?
Are you blogging just to blog, or do you have aspirations?
Even if you don’t know what you want your blog to do just yet, you’ll still need a blogging strategy (also referred as a content marketing strategy).
Sooner or later that ambition will kick in.
That hunger for success and that desire to take your blog to the next level.
It will happen, and when it does you need to be ready with a plan that brings order to the chaos.
The Four Pillars of a Successful Blog
I was over at Blog Tyrant the other day reading Ramsay’s post on building a blogging strategy that works in any niche, and it got my thinking about this subject in a big way.
I realized that everything I do supports a common purpose, an end goal if you will. When I’m speaking with new bloggers who just started a blog, they always seem like fish out of water.
They don’t know where to go next or what to write about.
That’s when it dawned on me: every blog in every niche cannot survive without a strategy. If you write just to write, you’re literally wasting your time (and your reader’s time).
Sure, we like to think that providing value is enough, and that’s a good start, but your posts should be steps on a path to something greater, not stand-alone works that exist in a vacuum.
“Your posts should act as steps on the path to something greater”
Before you can even begin developing a strategy, though, you need to first understand what makes a blog successful. You need a foundation to build upon.
Four Pillars of Blogging Success
- Established short and long term goals
- A rock-solid strategy
- The willingness to invest into the blog
- A strong brand image
1. Long and Short Term Goals
When I used to work in retail before I became a blogger, the regional manager of the company I worked for would always told us to set B.H.A.G’s which stands for:
It wasn’t enough to simply shoot for the stars, you had to push the stars out of the way and go beyond. The sky wasn’t the limit, it was the first step. I mention this because your long term goals should be the same way.
Don’t be afraid to say I’m going to have 10,000 email subscribers or I will make $5,000 a month from my blog.
Those are big goals, and they are completely doable, that’s the best part! Once you’ve set these big ideas in place, then you move down to your short term goals. Think of these like small steps towards the long term.
According to Hubspot, more important than just establishing your own goals is cementing a foundation of what your reader’s goals are.
Remember, every short term goal should support one of your long term goals. They need to work together, otherwise the whole strategy falls apart. From here you can break it down further into daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.
2. A Rock-Solid Blogging Strategy
We’ll be covering this more in detail very soon, but I want this idea to be firmly planted in your head throughout this article.
Nicholas Tart wrote an awesome piece here of a rock-solid and advanced blogging strategy.
After setting your goals, you need to ensure that everything, and I mean everything that you do leads towards your ultimate end game.
Before you sit down to write a post, in fact, before you even begin to think about writing a post, ask yourself how does this benefit my audience while still fitting into my long term blog strategy?
Figure out how it fits into the greater puzzle and define its purpose before you start writing.
3. Invest in Your Blog
I can see you nodding along with me.
“Yes, I know Matt, I need to invest time and energy into the blog to make it successful.”
First of all, stop stealing the words out of my mouth. Second of all, while that’s true, you also need to spend money to make money.
“But Matt, I don’t care about making money, I just want a ton of followers!”
Sure, that’s fine, but how are you going to reach them? Utilizing social media is a start, but what about advertising? What about pay-per-click campaigns? These things have huge potential to get your name out there.
See where I’m heading with this? Any business has to invest before they can see a return. Become comfortable with this idea and be prepared to invest in your future.
Be sure to check out this list of the top apps for writers.
4. Create a Strong Brand Image
Brands are everywhere, and the best ones will instantly make you feel something just by looking at them. Do you enjoy Coke? I’ll bet seeing that classic logo makes you crave an ice cold soda, doesn’t it?
In terms of blogging, building a strong brand image is crucial if you want to stand out from the crowd. You know that feeling you get when you arrive on your favorite blog and you see their smiling face? That feeling is the result of the brand identity that the blogger has built.
Now, when you see a handsome face like mine, you feel comfortable, you feel safe, but most of all you feel like you can trust me. That last part is huge. A strong brand identity builds loyalty, trust, and ultimately brings in conversions for you.
Building Your Content Marketing Strategy by Blogging With a Purpose
Now that we’ve established what you need for a successful blog, it’s time to tie it all together into a cohesive blogging strategy. Keep in mind that this layout works for everyone.
Come one, come all! Let’s start by breaking this down. Imagine these elements as steps on a road, except all the directions, eventually, lead to the same place.
The Structure of Your Blog Strategy
- Part One: Posts on your blog, Guest Posts, and advertising/social media
- Part Two: Your Landing Page
- Part Three: A free offer, mailing list, or affiliate link
- Part Four: Your end goal
In Ramsay’s post that I mentioned earlier, he recommended that bloggers start at the end and work backward. As usual, I agree! So let’s flip this on its head and build it up from the end, shall we?
Part Four: Your End Goal
The end goal is ultimately what you want your readers to do. It usually involves either a paid conversion or something that doesn’t involve money at all. Let’s take a look at each of these:
1. Paid Conversions
This type of end goal usually involves your reader’s purchasing something. It can be a product that you created or one that you promote via an affiliate link. The nice thing about making money with your blog is there are a lot of ways to do it.
You can also sell your e-book or an online course as well. Get creative with it and choose something that represents your ultimate goal. Bonus points if you’re selling a subscription that brings in passive income each month.
2. Non-Paid Conversions
This category is even bigger than the previous one. Perhaps you decided that you want your blog to promote something you’re passionate about?
If that’s the case, then you would want your end goal to be your readers donating to the cause or volunteering to assist it.
These types of goals are unique to you as a blogger, but remember that even if you’re end game is not to simply make money from the blog, you’ll still need a strategy to get your readers here so they can help you achieve your long-term goals.
Part Three: Your Free Offer, Mailing List, or an Affiliate Link
Now we’re taking a step back from the end game. We’re on the part just before it all goes down. This crucial step comes in multiple forms so let’s take a look at each and how they could potentially play into your strategy.
1. A Free Offer
Once you’re readers reach this point in the process, they just need a little nudge and some direction to take that final step. One way to grab their attention is with a free offer. Say you’re ultimate goal is to sell them a subscription.
Why not offer them a free 30-day trial? Everybody loves to get something for free, so this is a great part of a strategy that captures your readers and leads them into the final step.
2. A Mailing List
Email lists may seem like an old-fashioned way of contacting someone, but they continue to be one of the most profitable and successful means of marketing. Creating an email list is simple, but building it requires effort.
You can use a variety of WordPress plugins to create email capture boxes, but the next step is going to be sending your subscribers content that is specifically targeted to them and their needs.
Using the food blog example, you could create an email series entitled How to Start a Cooking Routine That Doesn’t Break the Bank.
Each email would offer new insight into the subject, ultimately asking them to complete the final step which in this case could be buying your e-book of recipes.
3. Affiliate Links
Affiliate links are a great way to generate income by endorsing a product or service that you think your readers will enjoy. You get a commission from each purchase, and your readers discover a great new product. If your goal is sales, this is an express route from your blog straight to your end goal.
Part Two: Your Landing Page
Your landing page is the place where your blog strategy goes from idle to overdrive. After you’ve attracted readers and earned their time, they’ll find your way to your landing page. Here you’ll outline the next steps for them to reach the end goal.
The Four Key Aspects of a Landing Page
- Outline the Benefits – Tell your readers what they are getting out of this. What problems will this solve for them or how will it improve their lives?
- Explain Everything – Don’t leave out any details on how the process works. Confusion is your worst enemy, so make sure you double check the details.
- Provide Social Proof – Be sure to include some endorsements or testimonials here so readers know that you’re being honest with them. If you don’t have any, absolutely do not fake them! Instead, see if you have a comment on one of your articles or ask a reader to write one for you.
- Make it Easy to Find – Reaching your landing page should not be difficult for your readers. Consider using scroll boxes or graphics at various place on your blog. Every reader should reach the landing page either through a graphic or via a call to action in one of your posts.
Part One: Blog/Guest Posts, Advertising, and Social Media
Now we reach the beginning. This is where everything starts. This part of your strategy involves grabbing readers through various channels. Unlike the other elements of your strategy, this one doesn’t require you to choose any single option, it’s actually best to use all of them.
Unlike the other elements of your strategy, this one doesn’t require you to choose any single option, it’s actually best to use all of them.
It’s important to understand how these play into the rest of the strategy:
- Blog posts -> call-to-action -> landing page -> end goal
- Guest Posts -> bring readers to your blog -> landing page -> end goal
- Advertising -> landing page -> free offer or affiliate link -> end goal
- Social media -> readers find your blog -> read posts -> call to action -> landing page -> end goal
As you can see, each one plays a role in bringing people through your blog strategy, so don’t leave any of them out or you may miss out on potential readers and conversions.
Ryan Robinson, a content marketing consultant who works with high-growth tech startups, uses guest posting as his main approach to building his lists. He achieves conversion rates of over 40% on the landing pages that he links to from within his guest posts.
He credits most of that success to creating a seamless experience from click through, to download or signup.
If his guest post talks about writing freelance proposals, he’ll link over to a free download on his site, where readers can grab a free copy of his proposal template.
Over to You
Now that you understand what makes up a successful blog and how to structure your blogging strategy, it’s time to take this knowledge and start blogging with a purpose in mind.
Looking ahead at the future of content, interactive content in particular will continue to see a sharp rise in usage .
Be sure to share your thoughts and your own strategies in the comments! I’m looking forward to hearing your success stories.