Blogs benefit immensely from being constantly updated, and yet it’s also one of the more difficult things to do with a fair amount of consistency.
If you are working on your own personal blog as a means of creative expression or just chronicling your own experiences, you’ll find yourself blogging on and off — depending on the ebbs and tides of your life. That is perfectly fine and understandable because it is virtually impossible to have a life where things are happening all the time and still be able to write 35o words about it.
But if you are blogging professionally, clients will appreciate a fair amount of regularity and coherence within a framework of targeted results that lead to the achievement of a goal or goals. Clients will appreciate a well thought out plan and the accomplishment of work that is consistent with the plan.
Sure, it sounds like work and it IS work, but having a plan and working according to plan can actually minimize the time you spend working and maximize productive offline time — which is, really, everything that happens outside the frame of your computer screen. Moreover, working according to a plan can enable you to have more fun while doing work.
There are bloggers who pride themselves for writing a number of blog posts that become massively popular within a few minutes or hours of posting. And, to most people, that blogger can seem like he or she has some special talent that enables him or her to do that.
In reality, the blogger most probably spent a fair amount of time laying down the groundwork that enables him or her to do that. That groundwork, just like the bass line or drumbeat of a good song that keeps people listening, allows the blogger to maintain a following that primes up their blog for that post that spikes up their traffic.
For a blogger, that bass line or drumbeat is created by the regularity with which one posts and that regularity (whether it is one or several posts a day or a week) can only happen with adequate research, planning, and scanning.
There are five things that a professional blogger does that enables him or her to create or maintain a blog that achieves their client’s goals for social media.
A “Client Bible”
The Client Bible should contain all the information about the client and it should be organized for easy referencing. It should contain the client’s:
- Complete corporate profile
- Contact details for key officials
- Complete information about their products or services
- Corporate calendars and plans
- List of authorities and experts whose opinions are valued within the client’s industry
- Information about the client’s competitors and the industry they are competing in
- Laws and industry standards relevant to the client
- Contracts, job orders, and correspondences should also form part of the bible
- News clippings about the client (only key items from the most crucial media outlets)
- Reports submitted to the client, annotated with their remarks
What is really important about creating a “client bible” is not the creation of a thick binder with colorful tabs. It is the process of learning everything you can about the client, the business they are in, and how they interact with their milieu or environment.
If you do not have a client and are into professional blogging for yourself, it also pays to create a “bible” for your niche.
Beyond helping you master information about your client or niche, a bible should make it easier to generate articles based on the information you’ve already gathered.
Whenever you are blogging for a client or a niche, you can count on certain information being used consistently and there may be information in the background that may need to be called forth when it becomes relevant.
Having a bible of all client or niche information in a binder may be helpful, but what would really be good is if you can render it in a form that is searchable and that can be copy-pasted. The simplest way to do this is to make a word document with key text that has been hyper-linked, cross referenced, and book marked for easy finding.
Build a road map
In building a road map, it first helps to have a clear sense of what your major goals are within a defined period of time.
Once you’ve pegged your major goal, it is easier to break it down and identifying key steps and key activities. Key steps can refer to directions crucial to achieving your major goal and key activities can refer to the action necessary to flesh out those key steps.
If the key step is to become the most comprehensive source of articles on how-to-blog, one of the key activities will be to research and build up a store of articles on how-t0-blog. If the key step is to identify and network with as many people who are new to blogging, then one key activity would be to scan Twitter, Facebook groups, and Forums for such people and develop effective ways to initiate contact.
In defining what a key step is, it is also important to peg a specific performance goal for the key step. While performance goals can be made based just on the resources at hand, the better tact would be to create performance goals that relate to competition and possible opportunities.
Another element in building a road map is setting a time frame for the execution of these key steps and key activities. Together with performance goals, you’ll get a better sense of how much work you’ll have to do within a given period of time. This will keep you from overestimating or underestimating the number of hours you’ll actually have to spend achieving a goal.
In setting time frames, it will really help also if your client provides you with their calendar of activities. This can add valuable input for scheduling steps and activities to coincide with the client’s major activities. Planned events in the client’s calendar can actually be the starting point for articles that can be written in advance.
If, for example, you know months in advance that the client is planning for a major product launch or will make a new facility operational, seeding the internet with articles relevant to this future event can be a key step with all manner of activities fleshing it out.
Moreover, this makes it easier to design cycles for activities such as content generation, article promotion, or sponsored meet ups.
One trick that really helps is to render your road map into a GANTT Chart. It doesn’t have to be a very complicated one, but what is important is that it gives you a sense of what to do, when to do it, and why.
Create article templates or formulas
There are templates and formulas for every conceivable manner writing. There are templates or formulas for news articles, essays, reviews, and stream of thought articles (well, not so much a template but a technique for producing stream of thought articles).
By mastering the form (news articles, essarys, etcetera are forms), you actually save time mucking about and trying to organize your thoughts in a way that people can easily understand.
If one form or another doesn’t seem to fit for the article you are writing, the fastest way to organize your thoughts into an article is to write down the major points you’d like to make and organize the details around them.
Even developing news can be anticipated and news articles can be written in advance (inserting key quotes or details later before publishing), as long as you are steeped in the milieu of what you are reporting and have a thorough grasp of how a news event will progress.
Keep an eye on the conversations in your niche
If sometimes blogging reads like someone started in the middle of a conversation, it probably is. Blogs either begin a conversation or contribute to the complexity of an ongoing conversation. In a sense, blogging is actually like contributing to a massive novel where there are millions of characters interacting across the globe.
As part of creating the client or niche bible for your blog, one of the things you have to do is to get a sense of what everybody is talking about and how you can participate (in a major way) in that conversation.
More often than not, the best tip offs that something is going to be huge topic that everybody will be interested in comes from scanning conversations online (not just Twitter, Facebook, Forums, etcetera). You have to take them all together to spot an emerging opportunity to put out a blog post that is angled in a way that people will find relevant and worthy of sharing with others.
By doing skillful scanning and creating blog posts tuned for a conversation, you can actually create long, sustained spikes in your traffic.
At the end of every key step and activity, you need to evaluate the results and see how they relate to the major goal.
Unlike other forms of media, blogging actually enables you to see immediately see the results created by a blog post. There are tools that allow you to see your site’s traffic in real time and how people are finding your post. This can indicate that you may need to make minor adjustments on how to pitch an article and who to pitch the article to.
Sharing statistics also come into play, the sharing statistics only matter in the sense of knowing who is sharing your blog post and why. You can have a hundreds of shares and visits (which I guess can be produced), but if you are taking care of a reputation it can mean nothing if doesn’t indicate that you are reaching the people you want to reach.
Other traffic tracking measures are either already built in Word Press blogs or need to be subscribed to. Generally, these tracking tools will give you a broader picture of where your traffic is coming from as well as how each blog post is performing. It can also give you a sense (based on the key words used to get to your blog) of how people might regard your blog.
Getting comments on your blog provides further indication of whether you are moving closer or further from your major goal. Again, the number of comments matters less than the quality of engagement it represents.
A thousand back links from a thousand junk blogs is worthless. Back links are endorsements and you have to scrutinize whether the anchor text as well as the rest of article does anything for your blog. It would be all right if the anchor text is a plain “here”, the worst that you can possible get is an anchor text that has nothing to do with your blog post.
The best back links, bar none, still come from government and education websites. This can be a mark that your blog has been given stature as an authority on a subject matter and is therefore kosher. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it improves PageRank too.
Paul Farol is a Filipino writer and blogger currently based in Manila. He is currently a media practitioner and is involved in community development projects in Northern and Southern Luzon, Philippines.