March 26, 2008
A strategy is the plan for achieving a defined goal. A tactic is the “doing” part of the strategy. Tactics can be put together in a plan to form a strategy.
Time line is also an important differentiator between a tactic and a strategy. A blog can be up and running in a very short time frame (hours or days). A Strategy usually takes much longer to achieve (months or years depending on how lofty your goals are).
This is the second in a 5 part series looking at Blog Strategy with a focus on Clients. In this post, I’m going to look at how to develop a Blog Strategy for your Client. What makes it a ‘Strategy’ versus just building your client a Blog?
Starting a new Blog is a tactical move. You select the platform, customize a template, add a few plug ins and you’re done. Maybe it will be a success, maybe it won’t.
What transforms a Blog from a tactical move to a Strategy are:
- Setting Goals and Objective(s)
- Developing an outlined plan of all the steps necessary to get there from here
- Having some idea of how you will know whether you’ve achieved your goals (metrics).
These principles apply to any Strategy, in this post I am going to take the above steps and apply it to a Blog.
1. Goals and Objectives
There are many good reasons for starting a Blog.
Having a good understanding of what you want to achieve will assist in setting the tone for your writing; determining what topics you’re going to write about; and making decisions about how often to Blog and whether you wish to have multiple authors.
It will also influence social networking decisions such as if you’re going to show and allow comments, if you’re going to employ social media tactics.
2. Outlined Plan
Getting the right level of detail in a plan is very important. I’m a visual person, so I like to start planning with a diagram
Here is where I currently am -> -> -> -> and this is where I want to get to.
Then I break this plan down into the high level steps that must happen to get me from A to B. Personally, I like to plan three levels deep. Steps A, B, C, then A1, A2, A3. then A1i, A1ii, etc.
By planning three levels deep, you can take big steps and break them down into bite sized, doable pieces. Unless you’re working on a 18 month IT project with 60 project members, I don’t recommend planning in much more detail than this.
Although detail is awesome, sometimes you can get caught spending too much time planning and not enough time doing (also known as Paralysis by Analysis).
It’s important to make sure that your metrics are tied to your objectives. If your goal is to increase traffic then one of your metrics should be to measure increase in traffic.
Make sure that you set an actual number. Setting SMART objectives is very important. Jeff defined these principles really well in his post about setting goals for social media Profile Development.
It could be a percentage increase in overall site traffic or could be a 12 month goal. If you blow away your 12 month target by month 3, you can always adjust this goal later.
Here is a Blog Strategy for a Typical Client which employs all of the above:
Client Objective: My ultimate goal is to increase sales and I’d like to attract new customers to my website.
Agency Objective: We can use your blog to help bring new visitors to your website. If the ultimate goal is sales, then we will go after targeted traffic. Quality first, quantity if possible. (this is different than if your client is on a CPM model who strictly is going after eyeballs).
Outlined Plan (3 levels deep)
In this case I would optimize the site to help rank for many more broader keyword phrases than we’ve targeted in the past. Further social strategies will encourage referral traffic from like minded sites. Finally, niche tier II social media will expose your site to potential customers.
Here is the plan one level deep:
SEO –> Content –> Social Strategies –> Blog Promotion using niche social media
Taking it two more level deep it might look something like this:
Select an SEO friendly blog platform (like wordpress) and customize it so that it has the look and feel of the clients site. Add plug ins that will make it easier to do your job.
2) Content – Develop editorial schedule for next 3 months.
- This will involve coming up with at least 15 to 60 Blog Post ideas that will appeal to your clients target market. I’ll be discussing how to come up with post ideas for Challenging Industries in Part III of this series, next week.
- Decide who is going to be responsible for the writing. I really like it when the client does the writing. Not only does this keep the budget down but it starts the conversation between your client and their clients. Plus, they are the expert in their field. They know what matters to their clients.
- Ideally you will be able to assign topics to various experts on the client side. Not only does this split up the work effort but it gives your client’s blog more variation in voices and content.
- If the client is going to be doing the writing then some Blog Writing coaching is probably required. Writing a blog post is different than writing an article which is different than writing a business email.
2) Determine what Social Strategies you are going to employ.
- The most common Social Strategy is to allow commenting on your site. I personally really like comments because take a one sided conversation and turn it into a dialog. Plus it can give your blog more of a community feel.
- RSS Feeds are another social strategy. Your client’s readers may not be very technically savvy so it’s very important to make it easy to subscribe and to give the reader the choice of subscribing by email.
- Linking out to other bloggers through your blog roll and in individual blog posts is also a good social strategy. When you link to another blogger you will get their attention. Chances are they will check out who is linking to them and if they like your blog they may subscribe to it. Or even link back to you in the future.
- Further, by linking to authoritative bloggers in your industry, your readers will perceive you to be at their level, defined by the company we keep. It’s very important that these links make sense and that they add something to your ideas. Name dropping industry experts into your posts does not add to the quality of your post and will probably take away from your readers experience.
3) Promote the Blog using Niche Social Media
- Research your clients industry to find social media sites that their potential clients may use. I.e. if your client’s product is helpful to the environment then environmentally conscious posts may appeal to the HUGG crowd.
- Decide which posts would appeal to which social media. There is no point in spamming social media with every blog post your client writes. Only the really good posts that are on topic for that social property should be submitted. If your post is interesting to the social media’s target market then social media can drive quality traffic to your client’s site.
Make sure all the steps i the plan are mapped out into a process and that the process is communicated to everyone involved.
Forget about what all the experts say. Just ask your client “what would make you consider this a success?” You may have to coach your client to keep it reasonable but this is going to open up a very important dialog.
i.e. You want get more traffic to your site and you want some of it to convert. So we have two objectives here.
- Quantity of traffic (this is going to build over time so I would set goals for this for 3months, 6 months, 12 months).
- Quality traffic. Some of my favorite quality indicators include bounce rate, time spent on site, and number of pages visited.
Down the line you will want to start looking at how social measures like the comments your posts are generating and the number of RSS subscribers.
I’ll discuss what realistic measures are for your Clients Blog, in part four of this series.
A Blog without Objectives and a Plan is just a Tactic.
By breaking out the steps and assigning accountabilities & time lines to those steps you can take a tactic and turn it into a successful strategy for your client.
Jennifer Osborne writer and marketer for Search Engine People.