It’s never a good idea to start a blog without taking some time to think it through first. Many of us think we’d like to become a blogger, but we don’t sit down and think about what exactly that means. “What am I going to blog about?” “Who is going to read my blog?” “What are my goals with this blog?” “How much time am I willing to put in?”
Without asking yourself these questions first, you may find yourself blogging away and realizing that you might have bit off more than you can chew. Or you may be taking the wrong approach. That is why, before starting any blog, you should always first create a content strategy. A well thought out content strategy can provide you with guidance for your blog, and really help to take your blog where you want it to go.
In order to run a successful blog, you must have a content strategy.
So what is a content strategy, and why do we all need one so badly?
A blog’s content strategy is more than just the overall purpose or concept behind a blog. It is an official, in depth content strategy can have such a powerful effect on a blog. It can affect the blog’s success and readership, as well as the blogger’s fulfillment in writing that blog.
As I was contemplating my first blog’s official Content Strategy, I came across the book Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson. It’s a great, in depth look into content strategy, I definitely recommend reading it if you’d like to dive more into the subject.
Between the things I learned in that book, paired with my own experience and opinions, I came up with a list of Content Strategy Questions. I ask myself these 12 questions before starting any blog. I use these 12 questions to analyze and create a Content Strategy for every new blog I start or assist in starting.
The answers to these questions always provide me with a clear direction, purpose, and plan for my blog. I never allow myself to skip any of the questions. They are all vital to defining and implementing a blog’s Content Strategy.
12 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting Any Blog:
Answer each of these questions. Really think these through.
1. What are my primary and secondary messages?
Here’s where all the fun starts. All blogs begin with this question: “what am I going to write about?” What is the primary message of my blog going to be?
Blogs that lack message lack punch. You must decide what your blog’s main message(s) is going to be first thing!
Your readers need to know what they are going to be reading about when they go to your blog. Master your blog’s message. Answer this question: “At the end of the day it all comes down to (blank).”
2. What am I trying to achieve with my content?
What is the overall goal or objective of my blog? What is the purpose behind my writing? When all is said and done, what would I like to have accomplished with my blog?
3. Who exactly am I targeting?
Once I know what my blog is about, and what I am trying to do with my blog, then I need to figure out who will be interested in what I am offering. Who are the current or potential readers of my blog? This isn’t time to get arrogant here. No blog is going to appeal to absolutely everyone. So don’t make the mistake of thinking yours will. Really try to figure out who will be reading your blog. Figure out as much as you can about your blog readers’ demographics.
4. What do my readers want and need from my content?
What do my readers want and need from me? Are they coming to my blog to learn, or be entertained? What exactly is it that they are coming to my blog to learn or hear about? Again, it’s important to know who your readers are. Then you can better understand their needs and wants, and how they are expecting you to help them with that. As often as possible, try to get into their heads. Don’t write what you want to write for them. Write what they want. Understand that sometimes those are the same things, and sometimes they’re not.
5. What is the voice and tone of my blog?
What is the voice and tone going to be? This will depend on two things: your personality and writing style. It’s important to determine what the overall tone and voice of your blog is going to be. Are you serious and intelligent? Are you witty and sarcastic? Do you stick to the subject matter, but throw in a joke here and there? You of course can change things up a bit here and there, but overall it is important to be consistent. Your readers want to know what to expect. In order to follow you, they first want to know that your blog’s style matches the style that they enjoy reading.
But again, it’s not just about what you want here… you have to give your readers what they want. But you also can’t completely go completely against your nature and personality. You also don’t want to go against your desires for your blog. Moving forward with a blog tone that you don’t like just because you think that’s what your readers want is the same as moving forward with a subject you don’t enjoy just because you think it’ll be popular. Either one of those will end up with you not enjoying your blogging, and probably throwing in the towel. So go with what suits you best. Just make sure to keep both in mind.
6. What is my content schedule?
How often am I going to be writing in my blog? It is good to specify from the beginning how often you will be writing. Will you be posting every day? A couple times a week? Only you can decide what is best and realistic for you. Whatever you decide try to be consistent. Readers enjoy consistency.
7. What assumptions am I making?
We all make assumptions. Even (or especially) bloggers. Be honest with yourself. What assumptions are you making about your blog? Identify and address the assumptions you are making. Some of them might be accurate. Those are fine, as long as you’re honestly able to identify them as fact.
The ones that aren’t based on fact though… get them out of your mind as quickly as possible. As much as you can, only work with facts. Anything that isn’t based on fact, treat it as an assumption. Anything that is an assumption, throw it away. Don’t let assumptions get in your way of work and success.
8. What are my business goals?
I define business goals for every blog I start. If you think that sounds weird, just be honest with yourself. Blogging is a business. Yes, it can be fun and enjoyable, but if you didn’t think of your blog as a business then you wouldn’t be putting this type of effort into analyzing it. So if your blog is a business then what are its business goals?
9. How will I measure the success of my content?
One of the biggest reasons why blogs fail is because their creators fail to define what its successes are. What steps will help my blog achieve its business goals? What exactly is a “win” in my book for this blog? Is it a lead? An item purchased from my shopping cart? Building my reputation as an expert in my industry? Know what a success is for your blog, and plan a way to track those successes.
10. What is my budget?
From experience I’ve learned that at one point or another, my blog is going to need more than just my time… it’s going to need my money. It by no means needs to be a large amount. But it will need something. Things like guest posts, PPC, infographics, new designs, business cards, etc are all things that can help my blog grow. And they are all things that cost money. The sooner I have the ability and/or commitment level to invest funds into my blog, the sooner I will be able to see extra growth.
11. Who are my legitimate competitors?
I always want to start off knowing who my competitors are. I want to know who I am competing with in my niche. Keep in mind I’m talking about legitimate competitors here. ESPN is not my competitor. I can go to them for ideas and inspiration, but there is no need for me to compare myself to them, and no reason to try to beat them, because it won’t happen. But I do need to know exactly who my legitimate competitors are, and what they are doing. That way I know what I need to do to beat them.
12. What risks am I taking?
With each blog I start, I take a minute to identify what risks I might be taking in starting this blog. Sometimes it is just my time. When writing this blog, I am “risking” time that I could be spending on other things. This could be other projects that could make me more money (opportunity cost), or time spent with my family (quality time).
Sometimes it’s more than just my time. Sometimes it’s my entire reputation. If I am setting myself up as an expert in an industry and I don’t deliver, that will definitely affect my reputation. Sometimes it’s money. If I am creating a product and blogging about it, and I have to put money into the creation of that product, that is something that I need to think about ahead of time. Before starting any blog, identify what risks you are taking. And make sure you are willing to take those risks.
A well thought out content strategy can give you the guidance and plan you need for a successful blog. I have found great success in using these questions to set up a Content Strategy for my blogs. The next time you are starting a new blog, try these questions out. Take a minute to answer each of them thoughtfully. Be honest. Using this content strategy can really help to create a foundation for your blog that you will need and appreciate.
First site Guide offers another comprehensive guide on starting a blog that covers everything from definition of a blog to the very end on how to grow your blog and make it successful. It includes a separate chapter on content strategy as well so make sure to check it out.
This article was written by Chase Sagum. For more articles like this you can check out his blog on Organic Internet Marketing at ChaseSagum.com.