If you want your use your blog as a legitimate tool for growth, then you need to take it seriously—and that means planning beyond this week, and even the month.
While it can be tempting to treat your blog as a side project, or a supplementary part of your content marketing strategy, that’s hardly the case. Good content doesn’t always catch on overnight. You have to be aggressive, smart, and strategic. You have to know what’s catching, and get on the trend before it falls away.
And that doesn’t just mean being on top of your writing. A comprehensive strategy includes plans for growth, relationship building, ideation and promotion. You can’t coast on this stuff.
As someone who’s publishing between 25-30 blogs per month, I know what its like to feel stuffed to the brim. Creating a solid long-term strategy has been my lifeboat in being a successful content marketer.
These are 8 tips that I make a point of sticking to as I’ve created and maintained my content marketing strategy—try them out for yourself, and I hope that you’ll find them to be valuable tools for maximizing your potential online.
Create Benchmarks, and Stick To Them
Planning for growth, not hoping, is essential. Growing your blog to 50,000 or even 100,000 monthly visitors isn’t some pipe dream or caused by a stroke of luck. It’s about being able to plan out a rigorous timeline and stick to it. None of my personal growth or the growth of any business I’ve been a part of has been an accident.
Figure out how many current visitors you have on your site, and figure out how many you want one, three and six months from now. Don’t box yourself in with safe estimates, being realistic doesn’t have to mean underestimating yourself.
Once you’ve determined some practical growth goals, you can more naturally create a strategy—albeit an aggressive one—that will help you actually attain those goals.
Find Your Voice and Keep It At All Costs
Especially when I talk to people who are just launching their blogs, I notice a temptation to simply put out as much content as possible in an effort to “build up a base.” That’s not a bad idea, but it’s often coupled with an underlying misconception: my first posts don’t really matter.
The truth is that your first posts are absolutely make or break when you’re building your blog’s brand. If people come to your site and see a lot of bad, generic blogs, they’re going to quickly label your blog as another waste of time content marketing scheme.
Please: never skimp on your brand, and that means always make sure you have top quality posts. Pumping out shitty content doesn’t do you long-term good—it hurts your readership, because building on your brand is about creating a persona that people are attracted to.
If not skimping on your brand means taking more time to write your blogs, so be it. The point is that when you’re building up traffic to your site, it’s going to be because of the great product you put out—not because you’re putting out a lot of vanilla content.
For Moz’s Rand Fishkin, building his personal brand voice can be summed up in these five points from an interview with Buffer:
- Practice, practice, practice
- Establish your values
- Be transparent
- Strive to be empathetic
- Discover Your passions
Get To Know Your Audience and Their Needs
The other side of that personal brand build is creating an audience. While you may not always initially know what that audience is going to look like, you can always develop your site as your audience takes shape.
Using a program like Buffer or Followerwonk for social media analytics will help you understand your own audience better. You can find out what people in your circles are talking about and sharing, and you can plan content around those metrics.
Get into the Habit of Scheduling, Not Publishing
The most obvious part of a long-term content marketing strategy is the planning out of content itself. Often times I will see clients trying to plan out their blogs the week of, or even day of.
I am 39 posts and 7 weeks ahead of myself right now. I’m never publishing content the day or even week of. I make it a habit of scheduling posts—not publishing them.
Check out the helpful tools provided by CoSchedule to create a content schedule of your own. You can be adding ideas every day if you want to.
Planning ahead in this way will help you keep track of your own thoughts, and it gives you more time to adapt as your audience interests change. If a particular post is received well, you may want to post more on subjects that are closely related. Having posts that are scheduled ahead of time gives you the kind of leeway where you can actually do that without becoming a slave to your schedule.
Target Influencers, and Build Content (and Relationships) Around Them
I cannot stress the value of a cold email enough. A major part of good content promotion is outreach, and that means finding people who are genuinely influential in your realm and developing relationships. Cold emails are a huge part of that.
Just because you’re not well known doesn’t mean that you have to avoid talking to certain people—or aren’t worthy of talking to them. I make a point of trying to help anyone that asks me for it. That’s a part of my personal brand. My hope is that it has inspired people to reach out to whomever they can in an effort to build relationships.
If you’re trying to become an influencer in your realm, you’re going to have to make relationships with other influencers first. The easiest way to do that on the ground floor is to mention those influencers, tag them, and email them copies of blog posts where you may feature some of their insights.
Using a tool like Buzzsumo is going to help you find influencers that you can plan content around and ultimately use to create relationships that last beyond your next post.
Inventory Your Content and See What’s Working
Going back through my own site, a quick inventory shows my biggest hits were 2 posts about marketing, two about business and one about productivity. I don’t want to be repeating flops, and I also don’t want to overdo any one topic.
By understanding what works and doesn’t—I can create a better understanding not only of content planning but also promotion.
Some posts don’t work, not because of the content, but because of the timing of publication/promotion. As I’ve mentioned before, I once wrote a post about 17 killer SEO resources. I have to admit, it was not one of the best written posts I’ve published. But I reached out to all 17 people that I mentioned and it garnered 340+ shares and 8,000 views.
Taking the second to learn about what’s working will teach me an infinite amount about how I can continue to publish and promote moving forward.
Check Out What Everybody Else Is Doing
If you’re not immersing yourself in the world of content that you want to engage with, then you’re doing something wrong. The beauty of all the blogs we already have out there is you can see how far along they’ve come in their own trajectories.
Take the time to read content on competitor sites, and understand what they’re doing/why it works. Some of the tools I’ve already mentioned will help you find those blogs, and it’s worth taking the time to examine them and see what has worked.
If you’re always just following your own intuition then you’re going to run into trouble. You don’t always know best, and understanding that will ultimately help you to learn and grow in being a leader in content creation.
Implement Analytics Tools That Will Help You Be Smarter
There are so many good tools out there that can help you to understand your content development, much better than you or your team can do alone. Don’t rely on just reading the numbers well. Invest in tools that can analyze the numbers for you, and give you realistic ways to shape your strategy and goals.
To name a few that I really trust:
Long term planning is about investment as much as it is about development. If you don’t have the tools to help you develop, then you’re kidding yourself about how effective you can really be.
Your content strategy is only as effective as you’re willing to make it. While all of these tips are exceedingly useful, they’re worthless if you aren’t willing to put in the hard work of creating a high quality, valuable blog.
As you begin to shape your long-term strategy, remember that you have no excuse for not being able to grow your blog. It’s about dedicated work, applying the principles you read about, and learning from your mistakes.
It won’t always be easy, but the reward is the amazing experience of creating the successful website and business you really want.