This Sunday (12-15-2013) at #Blogchat we’ll be chatting about how to improve your blog in 2014. As prep for that, I wanted to walk you through the process you need to use to talk your blog to the next level in 2014.
First, start with where you are now.
Before you can move forward in 2014, you need to assess where you are now. Let’s start by looking at your blog’s stats.
First, are you tracking your blog’s stats? Hopefully you are, if not, start by adding Google Analytics to your blog today.
Assuming you have access to your blog’s stats, look at your stats for this year. Start broadly by looking at the entire year. Look for trends. How is traffic doing? How is search traffic doing? Pageviews? You want to see if you can find movement up or down and then try to figure out what triggered that movement.
But the main point is, you want to baseline where your blog is at the end of 2013, so you’ll know if you are improving on your efforts in 2014.
What were you blogging goals for 2013? Did you reach them? Look at how successful you were at reaching your goals and then decide if you need to alter anything for 2014.
Creating a Blogging Strategy for 2014
Let’s assume that you either need to create a strategy for your blog for next year, or you need to totally revamp your existing efforts. How do you get started?
First, you need to decide what you want to accomplish with your blog. Here’s some examples:
Increase brand awareness
Establish thought leadership
And those are examples for a business blog, but the same principle applies for a personal blog. Basically ask yourself “What needs to happen in 2014 in order for my blog to be a success?” Answering this question is imperative because it’s the foundation for your blogging strategy.
Defining Your Audience
This is critical. You have to understand who it is you are writing for and what actions you want that audience to take. If you’re trying to use your blog to build brand awareness, then it’s probably not a good idea to post your political rants there!
Here’s an example. My desired audience for this blog is marketers that are interested in either working with me to help them build programs to better connect with their most passionate customers, or who want to hire me to speak or lead a workshop at their event. In order words, my desired audience is primarily marketers at mid-sized and larger companies. A couple of months ago a friend of mine pointed out that my content focus had gotten off center. She helped me realize that a lot of the content I was creating at the time was actually focused on helping small businesses and solopreneurs. maybe even personal bloggers. I went back and checked and she was right! I was focusing so much on creating helpful content that I lost track of the fact that the content wasn’t as helpful to my desired audience. So you need to not only define your audience, but keep who it is you’re writing for in mind at all times, so you can create content that’s useful to them.
What Actions Do You Want Your Audience to Take?
Let’s go back to your goals for your blog:
Increase brand awareness
Establish thought leadership
Once you’ve figured out what your blogging goal is and who your desired audience is, you need to decide what actions you want that audience to take. And those actions should tie back to your goals for your blog.
I’ll use this blog again as an example. I want to connect with companies that can either hire me as a speaker, or that can hire me to help them build smarter marketing programs to connect with their most passionate customers. So keeping this in mind, note what you see at the top of the blog on the nav bar. The options are to learn more about me, to buy my book, to learn about hiring me to speak, and to learn about my consulting. Then look at the top of the sidebars on the right. At the top of the first sidebar is a form to signup for my email newsletter. At the top of the other sidebar is my brand advocacy posts. All of this is set up to give you information on how we can work together, or give you valuable content that can help you improve your marketing, but that also helps establish my expertise. So either way, I am trying to move the reader closer to hiring me to either speak for or work with them.
Keep in mind that your most important real estate on your blog is Above the Fold. This refers to the area you see when you first arrive on a blog without scrolling down. The content at the top of your blog is always seen, so make sure that you use this space wisely. For example if you want to drive email newsletter signups, simply moving your signup form from the bottom of your blog to the top will greatly increase your signup rate.
What’s Your Content Strategy?
Remember earlier when we talked about defining our audience? A big reason why was so we could craft a content strategy to connect with that audience. Essentially, you want to think about how you can create content for your audience that is valuable to them, but that also helps them move closer to engaging in the types of actions you want them to take. Your content needs to ultimately help you reach your larger goals for your blog.
An important distinction to keep in mind is that they type of content that you feel is valuable for your brand might not be valuable to your audience. For example, if your goal is to increase sales, then you want to create content that moves your audience closer to buying from you. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should create content that directly promotes your brand. Often, content that teaches your audience a skill and that empowers them will make it easier for them to buy from you. Sometimes pointing out what your competitors are doing can work because it can help your audience trust you. Keep in mind that blogging is a great way to facilitate selling INdirectly. Create valuable content for your audience, and that makes it easier for them to trust you, and easier for them to trust buying FROM you.
Developing a Posting Schedule
In many ways, your posting schedule will be a function of who you are writing for and what you are trying to accomplish (see how we are building the strategy as we add each layer?). This post goes into creating a posting schedule a bit deeper, but we’ll talk about it here as well. Think about who your audience is and when they are most receptive to your content. In general (and please pay attention to the end of the post), posts seem to do better in the middle of the week. For myself and most bloggers I have talked to since 2005 (whether personal or writing for a company blog), Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the best days for traffic. After that Monday, Friday, then the weekends. So if you can only write one post a week, start running it on Tuesday or Thursday and see how it does.
Also keep in mind that certain goals will be dependent on creating more content. For example, none of your goals for blogging will be easily reached if you can only write 1 post a month. You need to create as much valuable content as possible. Now ‘valuable’ is a very subjective term, but in general a good goal to shoot for is writing a minimum of one new post a week on your blog. If you go below that it really becomes difficult to build readership. A lot of people don’t like to talk about this, but there are several advantages to creating more content. First, it trains you to become a better writer, quicker. Second, search engines love sites that update their content frequently. So new content helps your search rankings, and search traffic. Third, new content helps build readership quicker.
So as a minimum baseline for your posting schedule, shoot for at least one post a week, ideally either on Tuesday or Thursday. Another point to focus on is consistency of posting. If you can only write 1 new post a week, then publish it the same day every week so your readers know when to expect it. Not everyone will subscribe to your blog.
Tracking Your Progress Throughout the Year
Did you take care of your blog stats as we discussed at the start of this post? Good, because you’re going to need to have access to this information throughout the year. Now comes the fun part, where we start tracking if this stuff is actually working.
First, read this post I wrote on blog analytics. It will help you understand what you are looking for. Go back and look at your goals for your goal. What we want to do now is track metrics that relate to those goals. Here’s some examples:
These are metrics you can track to tell you that your content is helping you reach your goal of building brand awareness. These metrics are all signals that your content is resonating with other people, and as such, that content is building a tool to help you or your brand build its reputation and awareness.
So when you start tracking metrics, pick metrics that tie back to your goal. Don’t simply settle on the metrics that are the easiest to track, you want to make sure that you are focused only on tracking what makes sense for your blogging strategy.
Additionally, you will want to drill down and analyze your content to see which posts/topics are generating attention with your readers. It’s a good idea every month or at least every quarter to look at your most popular posts for the last 30/60/90 days. What you’re trying to figure out is which posts were more popular with readers and why were they more popular? For example, if you look at your blogs stats for the last 90 days, you might find that 3 of your 5 most popular posts were posts that included industry news and links to stories within your industry. That’s a key insight, and it could prompt you to start writing a post recapping industry news every Friday on your blog. That one change could result in a 15-25% increase in blog traffic over the rest of the year.
Also, look at the keywords that people are using to find your content. This will also help you learn how to change your content to make it more accessible to search engines. When you look at your keywords, you will probably find that a lot of the phrases used are something like this: ‘How do I….’ or ‘What’s the best way to….’ So if you start writing your post headlines as a question, that can really help your search results because your post’s headline will closely resemble the actual search phrases that people are using. One of my most popular posts here is How To Write Your First Blog Post. A big reason that post is so popular is because the headline closely resembles common search terms such as ‘how do I write my first blog post?’ or ‘how to write my first blog post’. So factor in how people will search for content when you write your posts and especially your post headline.
Finally, Remember This is All a Guide, Not An Absolute
I want to close with a word of caution: None of this is absolute and it shouldn’t be taken as such. The purpose of this post is to get you started. But as you start fleshing out your blog in 2014, you may find that some of the advice I’ve shared with you here doesn’t seem to be working on your blog. That could be because you are doing something wrong, or it could be because your blog is different. For example, it may be that your particular audience wants new content on Saturdays and Sundays, instead of during the middle of the week. If you truly want to build an awesome blog then you need to experiment and be willing to try new things. You need to tinker, and see what works and what does not. I have been blogging now for over 8 years, and I am constantly trying new things. The reason why I do this is because I want to get better. Like you, I will read what others tell me I should be doing. I look for best practices, but I also understand that just because something works for every other blogger doesn’t guarantee that it will work for me.
This post will get you started on your journey to have an amazing blog in 2014. But if you hit a pothole along the way, don’t be afraid to step back, and try something different. It might not work, but even if it doesn’t, you will still learn something in the process. As long as you are constantly learning, you are constantly improving.
And if you need more help, join us this Sunday night (12-15-2013) and we will be discussing how to build a better blog in 2013, starting at 8pm Central. You can follow us here.