Far be it from me to wax academic about the advanced nuances of blogging. Hell, I’ve been online for seven months – still in the freshman hazing phase – and I’m learning new stuff every day.
That initial journey, however, becomes a reference point for all of us. This is a simple sharing of one blogger’s journey in terms of what I understand now, seven months in, that I didn’t understand in the beginning.
When expressed as questions, they focus us on the richest opportunities for growth. Twitter gadgets and the combobulated ins and outs of the software are all quite nice and necessary, but they aren’t really the art of it all.
Maybe that’s the ticket here. If we can grow ourselves as artists as well as technicians, then we will quickly separate ourselves from the hoards who focus on either end of that continuum.
Eventually, that strategy tends to bite one on the ass.
What kind of blog are you writing?
The term blog has evolved alongside the software that brings it to life. What began as the publicizing of one’s personal diary and has become an essential element of branding and online commerce. Today blogging is as diverse as any other form of media.
Which is to say, unless you know the game you’re playing, you will likely be outplayed. If your blog is just for you – some folks write poetry just for themselves… and yet they try like hell to get it published, too – then that is one set of rules.
But if you are intending to reach an audience, and to grow that audience, then the rules are different. They are no longer of your own making.
Don’t be that poet with the contradictory intentions.
What is the goal of your blog?
Some blogs exist simply to entertain. Some exist to explore new ideas and challenge conventions. Others exist, often thinly so, to sell stuff.
The inherent question here is this: who is your blog for? You, or other folks?
When the answer is the latter, it becomes incumbent upon you to define the objectives of your enterprise as succinctly as possible.
From those goals will arise a plan. Without one, you will soon find yourself a lonely diarist instead of the captain of a strategy.
What is the nature of your value-add?
This answer springs from these prior questions. It depends on the nature of your blog and its goals.
A blog designed for entertainment purposes seeks to differentiate itself by being funnier, edgier or more unexpected than others in the same category.
A blog designed for purposes of commerce face a different challenge. Because in blogging the equation is inside-out in comparison to conventional business models: you deliver value first, you get sales second.
With blogging you have to earn the business by giving away the farm first.
What is your U.S.P. (Unique Selling Proposition)?
No matter what your answers thus far, you are not alone. Someone else is out there doing precisely the same thing, very possibly in precisely the same way, in pursuit of the same goals.
So ask yourself, how will your blog be different? Beginning tomorrow? And without compromising your identity, your brand and your goals?
This is the cliché $64,000 question. Answer it well and you may make a helluva lot more.
Even if you don’t think you’re actually selling anything yet. If you have a blog, you absolutely are selling something. If you have to ask what it is, then right there is your entry point of the journey.
By the way, when you can answer this particular question, you’ve just defined your brand. Everything you do to and on your blog from that point forward is done in context to it.
Who is your target reader?
Basic Marketing 101 here. Always remember, your blog isn’t about you (unless it is about you by strategic intention), it’s about the reader. Their needs, their interests, their fears, their dreams, their problems.
Figure this out. Don’t guess. Ask them.
What will make a visitor come back for more?
The aforementioned U.S.P. is an inward-facing element of analysis. Like the décor and menu of a restaurant.
What matters, even more essentially, is what’s in it for the reader.
People don’t come to my website because of my novels, they come because of their own novels.
One word: value. Dress it up with a killer U.S.P. and you’ve got a winner.
Are you evolving your blogger skill-set alongside the evolution of your content?
So much to learn, so little time.
If you come from the technical side of the proposition, begin to study the craft of writing and the art of marketing.
If you’re an old ad agency hack, welcome to the wild and mysterious world of all thing digital here in blogland. Learn to speak that language (you’re on the right website for that, by the way.)
When you can carry both flags, all limitations fall away.
Does your blog have a voice?
This is Writing 101. Three words: practice, practice, practice.
Three more words: read, read, read.
When you combine the two within a proactive intention to improve your writing and arrive at a voice that is both compelling and comfortable, your brand will thank you for it.
Your voice is the personality of your blog. Without one, just like it was back in school, you will have no friends.
What is your plan for keeping it fresh?
It’s easy at first. You have so much to say, so much to cover.
But soon – perhaps sooner than you think – the blank page will mock you.
The solution is to plan the evolution of your blog. View your content as a college curriculum, with each ensuing scholastic year building on the prior.
Toss in the unexpected once in a while. Go against the grain. Import some guest blogs. Become a commentator once in a while instead of a mentor.
Blogging is like marriage. Sometimes you need a little variety to keep the other half from straying too far from home.
Besides you, who cares, and why?
In answering these questions it’s easy to become microcosmic. Step back from the intricacies of your blogging business plan to ask yourself this simple and potentially terrifying question.
Then be honest about the answer. Growth is, by definition, an exercise in self-honesty. It may hurt, but only for a while.
Ten questions, a thousand possible answers.
Food for thought as we launch into the new blogging year. Chew carefully, and relish the taste.
Just make sure that what you swallow will be good for you.