The Basics of a Blog Strategy
The Blog has become the writer’s digital best friend over the last decade. Short for “weblog”, the blog provides writers an opportunity to exercise their writing skills and share their short works with others. The result is often a feedback cycle for the writer that proves invaluable for the writing process along with personal recognition for the writer. However, while many writers focus solely on a theme for the blog, this is only one component of an overall writing strategy necessary for your blog’s success.
“Strategy” is probably the most overused word in the English language and it is also the most ill-defined. Experts can, and have, penned books arguing over the definition and whether strategy is an art or science or both. Despite their passionate differences, most will settle on an “ends-ways-means” approach to defining strategy, even if it pains them to do so. In this approach, “Ends” defines some desired future state while “means” are the resources you put towards achieving it, and “ways” are how you utilize those resources. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll assume your “means” is the blog itself and focus on defining your “ends” and “ways”.
Refining Your “Ends”
For writers, defining the “ends” or desired future state of your blog is either ignored altogether or an incomplete first step in developing a blog strategy. The obvious “ends” for any blog is for it to be read and for it to drive digital traffic somewhere, if not only to the blog itself. While I can hear the arguments arising at this point, such as “I write a blog to practice writing”, that is probably not why you chose the blog as a medium to write. Anyone can practice writing with paper and pen, or even dirt and a stick. The decision to use the blog includes the uniquely desired “ends” of access to readers and digital traffic.
Many bloggers will accept this desired end state, attach it to a theme to unknowingly define the “ways”, and call their blog strategy complete. This may read like, “My blog strategy is to get a bunch of readers who love my writing on science fiction.” While finding a theme is important to providing continuity for the reader, it is an underserving and incomplete strategy for success.
For completeness, regardless of the theme of your blog, you must target your audience to completely define the “ends” of your strategy. Specifically, who is reading your blog and what is the digital traffic you seek to drive in a specific direction. For writers, the audience is typically identified as genre readers, fellow writers, industry professionals, field experts, and many others. Additionally, each of these can be further truncated by adding adjectives like new, developing, established, unorthodox, etc. The more you can target a specific audience or niche, the more successful (increased readers and digital traffic) your blog will be. By targeting a defined audience for your “ends”, your strategy now has the specificity needed to define the “ways” of your writing strategy for your blog.
Building Your “Ways”
With the “ends” in hand - high digital traffic conducted by a specified audience - we can now define our “ways”. We’ve already mentioned the thematic or genre portion of “ways”, i.e. science fiction, horror, lifestyle, life coaching, sports teams, etc. Another critical element for your “ways” is search engine optimization, or “SEO”. Now there is an endless list of blogs out there that do a great job of teaching SEO, but few connect them to how they fit in your blog strategy. With your “ends” defined, particularly your audience, you can successfully find the SEO words and phrases critical to your blog’s success. Your SEO search should combine your targeted audience and theme. By using SEO, the blogger will have a handful of keywords and phrases to further refine their “ways” while simultaneously enabling their “ends” of driving digital traffic.
At this point you may ask, “But how do I WRITE or COMMUNICATE my blog strategy to others?” The annoying answer is it depends. If you are coordinating across a large group of bloggers who are generating unique content, you will have to define all of the elements of your strategy and walk through your “ends-ways-means” approach. If you are working alone, simply reminding yourself of SEO keywords and phrases can ensure success. For me, my SEO keywords and phrases, defined by my audience, sit right next to my computer. Nearly all of my blogs focus on and include the elements defined by those phrases (it also defines my desire for guest blog entries – how I communicate the relevant portions of my strategy to others). When I do stray away, it is with full knowledge that I am intentionally stepping outside of my blog strategy, and I get to decide if it is worth the effort and impact.
So how does this come together to define a blog strategy? I’ll use the blog strategy for Cook Publishing as an example. Defining our ends focused on our target audience – new writers, often unpublished. Our company’s mission is defined by developing new writers and artists, so we needed a blog that serves that mission by targeting that audience. Our blog theme was simple – helping writers. We decided early on that we would tackle that in two ways - helping writers refine their actual work and helping them understand how to share their work through the multiple forms of publishing. These two elements were brought together with an SEO strategy that focused on, unsurprisingly, “new writers”, “writing”, and “how to write”. But it also provided us with new SEO terms we had not thought of like “writing strategies”. Now we largely define our blog as “helping new writers write and publish by providing writing strategies for success.” Each word in that sentence has a level of meaning much deeper than exists on the surface, thanks to the underlying blog strategy. With each new blog idea we first ask – does it fit in our strategy?
Any good strategy will provide a prioritization of resources towards meeting an “ends”. The blog strategy defined above takes your most precious of resources, time, and focuses it by being specific towards an “ends” defined by audience and a “means” defined by theme and SEO driven keywords. This is only the beginning. Your blog strategy can continue to increase in depth, particularly in your “ways”, by encompassing elements like optimized guest blogs, use of digital media, and calendar planning around relevant cultural and social events to name a few. Although increased depth is valuable for future refinement, the foundation of your blog writing strategy must be built on the elements outlined above to ensure the specificity required for blog success.