Your blog posts are living, breathing children. (What? Bear with me for a moment.)
You want the best for them. You want them to be "brought up" as strong, smart, and healthy, independent beings.
Maybe they weren't all "planned" in the traditional sense, but they're all good kids.
They make you proud.
Even the ones that aren't your own flesh and blood (guest posts hosted on your blog, if you didn't catch that one).
So, without getting all controversial with my views on parenting, typically we all want to bring up good, smart, and healthy children, right?
Not just for our children, but for ourselves.
There's a certain pride when someone compliments how good or well-mannered your child is.
Sure, some kids are just good from the start. But others are taught—they're brought up to be good, thoughtful people.
The same thing goes for your blog content.
Some topics are just going to win with people. Some blog post types are just going to work better than others.
The key is to know, acknowledge, and apply your smart strategies to growth. (That works for both the kids example and the point of this post—blogging.)
The key is to have a plan.
Whether you're thinking about starting a blog or you've been blogging with or without a plan for a while, this post will help you to create an effective map for your content.
Because, let's face it. Your content's success is only as good as the plan—the foundation—supporting the action.
Step 1. Solidify Your Goals
Remember the previous post's goal setup steps?
(Where we squeezed 11 "micro" goals out of your 1 year "macro" goal?)
If not, bookmark this and go back to the previous post first.
Or maybe the whole series first...
So, now that your goals are brainstormed, it's officially time to organize them.
Those 11-12 brainstormed goals (walked through in the previous post) can serve as each month's main goal.
Since it's my best planning tool for brand new bloggers, I'm going to reference and show photo examples of my Content Strategy Planner (CSP), to give you an idea of how you can lay out your plan.
Step 2. Nail Down Your Target Audience
Who is your current, target blog reader?
What do they need your help with?
What can you provide as a solution to their problem(s)?
Your target audience is key to your whole operation.
Sure, you can start without a definitive "audience", but your desired results will be sparse or non-existent.
I can say that with 100% certainty—as someone who's done it, and as a coach of entrepreneurs with established blogs yet scattered audiences.
When you speak to ONE reader, you're speaking to your whole ideal audience—being heard loud and clear by the people you want to communicate to.
Simple rule to always remember:
Don't try to write for everyone. Because no one will connect with what you're trying to say.
Instead, nail down one target reader. Give her a name, a life, a home—whatever you need to do to have a clear picture of what she wants and needs from you.
For example, if you sell IT consulting services, yet are leveling with non-tech using cattle ranchers, you've got a real problem there.
So, know your reader.
Know what will fall on deaf ears and what will stir emotion within her.
Take her pain points and help her find a solution.
Step 3. Decide On Your Categories
Because if they don't need it, they won't read it.
With that, think of your categories like players on a sports team.
One category isn't enough to give your reader the big picture. But, together they create the game.
So lay down 3 to 6 categories that'll well define the purpose of your business—the purpose of your blog.
One strategy you can use to pull your categories from what you do is to take the previous post's method and use it here.
The method of deduction—of stripping a topic or business title or anything down into smaller pieces—can work wonders if you choose to take action.
This method is how I do everything.
My schedule, everything.
So, what you can do is write down your blog or business purpose, as briefly as possible, on a clean sheet of paper. Then circle it.
Set a timer for 25 minutes and just start breaking that down.
EXAMPLE: Let's say you create handmade jewelry and want to sell your pieces online. But, you also want to help buyers select the best styles and colors for their skin tones, style, and hair colors.
So, you'd write down "Handmade Jewelry + Buyer Guide", or something to that effect.
Then, you'd set your 25-minute timer and get to brainstorming.
You come up with:
Custom Creations » customers sharing about their custom jewelry experiences (guest posts or self-written)
Jewelry » all new pieces created get a thorough post which winds up here
Color Matching » how to choose the right color pairing for your skin tone
Stone Guide » posts on stones, their history, presumed benefits, and more
See how that works?
Each category serves as a snippet about what you do as a handmade jewelry creator.
So, what categories can you break out of what you do?
Step 4. Focus On The 1x1x3 Method
Once you've laid out your 12th month goal and worked your way down to the first month (covered in the previous post), you can then focus on the 1x1x3 Method.
As complicated as that may seem, it's not complicated at all.
It represents week-by-week (1x), month-to-month (1x), by quarterly (3x) planning.
In a nutshell, it's a way of tentatively detailing your action plan every quarter.
Once you've set a tentative overview of what you need to be doing each quarter to achieve your main goal for the year, you then break that quarterly plan down into a month-to-month action plan.
(That's where you'll get a little more detailed with the steps you set up for yourself.)
Then, you break down each month into an even more detailed week-by-week action plan.
EXAMPLE: Let's say you set a smaller goal that you can accomplish in 3 months.
That goal is to obtain 10 new clients for your coaching business.
You'd write "10 new clients" down on a blank sheet of paper, circle it, and brainstorm all the ways you can obtain 10 new clients within a 3-month time period.
You come up with a list that looks like:
PPC (Pay Per Click) Advertising
Networking in LinkedIn Groups
Writing blog posts that tackle direct issues my target client has
Contacting current clients and asking for referrals
Create a referral reward system for existing clients
Run a giveaway online
And so on.
From that list, you'd pick realistic tasks for your present situation.
Ask yourself questions like:
Can I afford to do this right now?
Do I have enough time for this right now? (Am I able or willing to make time?)
What true benefit will this have for myself, my business, and my audience?
Whatever doesn't pass all 3 questions to your satisfaction needs to be added to your rolling task list that you can get to at one point or another.
The goal is to narrow down your list to 3 main tasks—1 for each month within that 3-month deadline to complete the goal you set up.
They need to be strong, worthwhile tasks to make this system work to it's fullest potential.
From the 3 that made the cutting room floor, you'll want to run the brainstorming exercise again.
For each one.
Then, run those results through the same questioning process and whittle them down to 4 or 5 tasks—1 for each week in the given month.
Each one of the main weekly tasks (or micro goals) work toward accomplishing the main monthly tasks—as the monthly tasks work toward accomplishing the 3-month goal.
Before the beginning of each new quarter (or 3-month period—whichever way you prefer to look at it), you'll do it again.
Although it may seem tedious to some, it's a thorough goal and task -completing method of planning that has helped many of my clients (as well as myself) grow leaps and bounds in our businesses.
Give it a try. You won't regret it.
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Step 5. Lay Out Your Tentative Schedule
Now that you've got all of the above, it's finally time to lay out a content plan.
Take your Content Strategy Planner or #BlogStrategy Planner, or whatever else you're using to map out your content plan with, and start laying down your goals.
I start with the Content Map within my planner.
Using categorically colored sticky notes to assign blog content themes, as well as goals or project focuses for the month.
Once I've got an organized visual of what to expect (again, this is a tentative layout—hence the sticky notes) for the next 12 months, I'll go through the first 3 months (the first quarter) and label them according to their goal or main task.
Then, I'll detail out a plan for the first month, including the week-by-week goals. And go, week-to-week, from there.
But, the key to getting down to the details is to tentatively map out your content plan for at least 12 months.
Confused? Don't be. Check out the intro to the Content Planning Workshop here »
It covers everything in visually aided detail so you can follow along easily.
Step 6. Maintain Your System
It doesn't end at that first week.
Nor at the first month and quarter.
This system only works when you see it through for the entirety of your content plan.
So, having the right tools is a necessity to maintaining everything you've built.
That's why I put together my exact content tools system into a convenient resource sheet.
Start at one.
Without a goal you have no "purpose".
Without an audience, your goal won't build steam and become achievable.
GPS without directions is like a blog without categories—how will you guide your readers?
Without a focus, you have no plan.
Without a schedule, you have no focus.
And without a way to maintain and nurture your plan, you have content that'll unravel at the seams with time.
Start with a goal and put together all the pieces from there.
Because your blog and your business needs a goal just as much as you do in life.
So, what's your content goal?
P.S. Comments, emails, running a business and being a mom of 3 were just too much for me to handle. So, blog comments got the boot. But the lack of a comment box doesn't mean I don't want to hear what you think! Share your thoughts with me via @GoffCreative on Twitter or directly via email.
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