Several years ago when Technorati was still the rage, I used this trick to discover interesting new bloggers. I would do a search by authority (which at the time was the number of links a blog had), and then sort in ascending order, so that the blogs with 0 authority would be shown first. Normally, these were the bloggers that had just started blogging, and this method really helped me discover bloggers before the they became popular.
One day I found a blog that had really low authority, and it had about 2 months worth of posts. I noticed for the first couple of weeks, there was a new post almost every day. All very thoughtful, well-written (and lengthy!) posts. But I noticed that none of them had comments. For the next two week’s worth of posts, there was about 2-3 posts a week, then after that the frequency gradually fell to once a week, then once every couple of weeks. All posts were well-written, interesting and thoughful reads. And none of them had the first comment.
Then I noticed the newest post on the blog, which was over a month old. In contrast to the other posts, this one was only one sentence long. It read “Why doesn’t anyone comment on this blog?!?”
I realized that I had just seen this blog die.
When it comes to having a successful blog, realistic goals are so important. Because your blog will only grow if you can commit to it, and you probably won’t be able to meet that commitment unless you can see that you are making headway. And that starts with setting realistic goals that you have a chance of achieving.
If you are considering launching a blog, here’s some tips to make sure you are setting realistic goals for your blog:
1 – Underestimate how much content you can create. For example, if you *think* you/your team can write 3 new posts a week, start out with 1 or 2 a week, and see if you can work up to 3. It’s FAR easier to work up than it is to go back down.
2 – Underestimate how much time you can spend with blogging activities. If you *think* you can spend 2 hours a day, then half that to only spend an hour a day. And half that again to devote 30 mins a day to activities on the blog (such as writing posts, responding to comments) and 30 mins a day to reading other blogs and commenting on other blogs. Maybe you can up that commitment over time, but it’s better to start low and go high, than to start out too high and have to back down.
3 – Think months, not weeks when you are timelining your blogging strategy. Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to remember that a lot of the ‘pro bloggers’ that have very successful and vibrant blogs are NOT in the same situation you are. For many of these people, their blog represents the majority of their sales and promotional efforts. As such, they can afford to devote the several hours a day that it usually takes to create an extremely popular and productive blog. You probably cannot, so you shouldn’t compare yourself to these bloggers and look for similar results. If you can only invest 30 mins a day to your blogging efforts that’s fine, just understand that it will take longer to see that blog gain traction if that’s the case.
Those are some quick tips to get you started setting your blogging goals, for those of you that blog for your company, what has worked for you?
Great post Mack. In the first incarnation of my blog I was like that dude. And my blog has died before … or at least been dormant. I think realistic goals are critical. You helped me realize that at the Digital Mixer in Chicago a couple years back. Now I’m on one post a week (maybe I can scale up soon – MAYBE) and I have a clear goal in mind on comments and views. Again, great post.
@nickwestergaard Thanks Nick, you’re right, it’s all a learning process. Hell I haven’t left a new post on The Viral Garden in months. Because I learned that my focus was changing and that it made more sense to blog here everyday instead.
We all make mistakes and learn, the key is to keep trying to improve.
You are so right Mack. So many times, we over commit and then are disappointed with ourselves when we can’t accomplish everything that we committed to. And for bloggers, this unfortunately leads many to quit.
@SoloBizCoach right, and if you lose the passion for blogging your blog can quickly die. I love blogging and there are a lot of days where I all but have to force myself to get up a new post. It really does take a big commitment, and that commitment is easier to match if you aren’t setting the bar too high for yourself.
@MackCollier You are so right about the commitment. Unless you love it, it is hard to keep the motivation.
Thanks so much for this post, Mack. I recently started a B2B blog to support my expertise as a copywriter. As a self-employed writer, my days are consumed with projects for clients, in addition to marketing and administrative responsibilities. Therefore, even with my best intentions, the blog ends up not being the top priority (not that it’s not important to me). My next step is to create an editorial calendar. I am hopeful that will help get me and keep me on track with consistency!! Any tips on how frequently a business blog should be updated? Thanks!
“Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint”
This applies to so much in life and I love this thought. I just started and am startled at how much ‘mind space’ I give to this little blog of mine. Often I think that I don’t want to write something ‘just for the sake of filling space’ or living up to some expectation I’ve set for myself. (Hate to overpromise and underdeliver! 😉
And this is fun for me – although it does fuel my confidence to do other things and is an excellent exercise. I’m quite sure it will help me when I start blogging for my companies.
Your equation is really helpful – reverse exponents … excellent!
When I started blogging in February, I wrote down my 5 objectives: 1. Connect with people; 2. Learn new things; 3. Share what I know; 4. Sharpen my writing skills; and 5. Create a “living” and growing writing sample. I started on WP.com and committed myself to writing 5 posts a week to build up a decent archive of content, and then scale back to 3-4 posts a week. Part of my initial plan was to find out if I liked blogging before I moved off WP.com. I think it’s been almost a month since I made the move and I feel like I’m doing well with my objectives.
But I definitely would not have made such progress if I didn’t have clear goals from the beginning. Your advice is spot-on Mack!
Great objectives, Marianne. So succinct. @marianne.worley
True. Blogging would be a success in the long run only if you truly enjoy doing it. You may write series of posts initially. However, keeping the numbers sustainable over a period of time is possible only when you set the priorities right and don’t lose the focus of the goals you have set for yourself.
I love the suggestions about working up rather than going back down. I started with 3 posts a week myself and then toned down to two, not much harm done but I wished I did think of that number from start. Same goes for daily activity.The real problem is once again about not having a strategy planned when most people start a blog. However, one shouldn’t fall in the trap of over-planning, because that way you’ll simply never start.
@feliciahudson I think in your case your blog should be updated a bit more often since you are self-employed, and your blog is a tool to help get your name out there. I would shoot for a minimum of once a week, with 2-3 posts a week being better. I don’t think you need to shoot for more than 3 posts a week unless you have the time and the writing comes easily.
@PlacesFirst Thank you Tobey, I’m glad you are having fun with your blog, and you are off to a great start! If nothing else, it will make you a better writer, which is a skill that always helps when part of your job entails creating online content!
@marianne.worley Great advice, it really helps to know WHY you are blogging as that keeps your goals in mind and gives you an incentive to stick with it.
@maidoesimple Good point on overplanning, starting a blog really is a learning experience and there is SO much you’ll change along the way. You need to give yourself some flexibility to make changes as you go along.
Great post . . . wow, can I relate to the blogger whose blog “died.” However, I just keep trudging along, hoping that eventually it will pay off!
Richie Escovedo says
Mack, this is great advice for people starting out and/or those that have been discouraged by blogging process. I really like what Marianne did with her five objectives. Keeping those types of things in mind are what can propel you as a writer because it keeps the focus. I know too many people (and organizations) that blog just because they think they are *supposed* to (peer pressure) without ever really considering why (objectives/outcomes). Thanks for sharing.
Another idea — how would you analyze success of your blog without including measurable objectives? A blog is no good if it’s not tied to a goal, includes structured, measurable objectives and is part of strategies.
@MackCollier Thanks for the advice Mack! Next week is a fresh start. I’ll work on the editorial calendar this weekend with the goal of posting at the very least twice per week.
@feliciahudson good luck! Also remember if you are really strapped for post ideas, you could do an occasional case study of work you’ve done with a client. Or maybe every Friday give a list of some posts with a B2B copywriting focus for weekend reading for your readers? The ‘Weekend Roundup’ posts are a great idea because it gives you a relatively easy post to write, but it’s still valuable to your readers as you are giving them great links to read.
Mack, Another solid post. I’ve ridden that roller coaster too many times and been guilty of overcommitting so I think all of your points are very salient for anyone who is, or is considering, blogging.
One of the ways I’ve been working on keeping on track is to break up my content types. So 1 – 2 blog posts a week is a realistic goal for me but I also am releasing 1 video a week for my Relentless Business podcast. Doing the video as opposed to just always writing helps me keep it fresh and interesting for me without feeling like I’m forcing myself to constantly write. I enjoy writing but there are times it’s not clicking. You readers could consider doing a video or even just an audio for a post a week. Granted, with out the transcript/notes … you might loose some SEO keyword opportunity but I think it’s easy to overestimate the importance of that over being present and consistent.
I can definitely relate to the blogger whose blog died. In fact it may very well be me!
@V.ScottEllis Scott, fabulous idea! This is what I was suggesting to feliciahudson to think about posts as buckets. Like you said, every Tuesday you have a video post, every Friday an industry news post. Like that. And I think this also increases readership since people know when to expect that type of post.
@mattrhysdavies you can always get a do-over with a new blog 😉
@MackCollier Mack, I love these ideas–especially the Weekend Roundup! Thanks so much for sharing your insight and suggestions.
@marianne.worley Great strategy, Marianne. Thanks for sharing!
Re: “for those of you that blog for your company, what has worked for you?”
I started with Customer Service. What (pressing) questions do our clients have that I can help provide answers to right away? So I try and write and least 2-3 “How To” posts per week. Not just about our products, but about WordPress in general.
So, for example, I’ve written about:
– How to Use Categories Effectively
– Understanding Meta Descriptions
– Understanding Google XML Sitemaps
Those aren’t exactly product related posts. But we do have a WordPress IDX plugin that we sell to clients and so many of our clients use WordPress and have WordPress related questions. The more How To and helpful I am, the more interaction we have which is what I’m looking for.
Rule of Thumb (for me at least): Seek to be helpful, first. Selling comes second. When it comes to the blog anyway.
We use Zendesk so there’s literally dozens upon dozens of How To posts and tutorials that we can write about. I create this Help Desk (on WordPress) for example: http://helpdesk.diversesolutions.com – People can read and print product specific tutorials. Although those have been written, I still try and blog selected topics on our main blog.
So far, I’m up to 4-5 posts per week.
Thanks for the tips 🙂