How to Become a Power Blogger – Part 1: Content Planning

Websites like the Huffington Post, TechCrunch and Money Saving Expert all sold for millions, but started life as blogs written by individuals. I know of dozens of bloggers, who might not have made their million through blogging, but have nice supplementary income or get loads of free stuff through their hobby. Then there’s those people who have become “celebrity bloggers” demonstrating their expertise, many of them getting book deals and loads of peer group kudos. They get there by becoming “power bloggers” in their field.

So, how do you become a power blogger?

For me blogging is a hobby. I don’t invest enough time and effort (or perhaps have enough talent) to position myself as a tier one blogger, but over the years I’ve noticed a few things that have helped successful blogs move up the rankings. A couple of weeks ago a chap called Adam asked me for advice, as he was hoping to set up his own reviews blog. So, rather than send him a long email, I thought I’d create a short series of blog posts to share with everyone.

The three main areas to consider are content, set up and promotion. These are all big topics in their own right, so I’m going to start with content planning. And for this you need to ask yourself a few questions…

1. Why are you blogging?

The first and most important question you need to ask yourself is, why blog? Once you answer it, it’ll dictate your strategy and effort you put in. For me, my blog is my sandpit to play in – but you might have bigger aspirations.

There are many motivations for blogging. You might be looking to make a name for yourself as an industry expert, or make money from advertising or affiliate deals, or be trying to create a online publication that can be sold on. This will dictate all sorts of things, from your editorial style to design and layout.

Picture courtesy of GapingVoid.com

2. What type of blog is it?

Once you know what’s in it for you, you’ll want to think about what kind of blog it’s going to be. Here’s a few examples to illustrate the point. You can see how the content and writing style varies between different types of blog.

  • Expert blog – Demonstrate your knowledge about a particular subject. It’ll have lots of guides and opinion pieces. You can get away with more long form posts, but don’t get to keep it varied with video, images and other rich media.
  • Reviews blog – Pretty self explanatory. Review products and services. Consistency is key and following your own editorial policy to ensure accuracy and balance. Also think about using rich media to bring the reviews to life. Important to blog often.
  • Personal blog – It’s all about you and needs bags of personality. Think a lot about tone of voice, having strong opinions, perhaps humour, and not being afraid of criticism.
  • Media blog – Using a blog platform to create an online magazine or newspaper. Likely to be a mix of news, features, reviews and opinion, and probably written by a team of people.
  • Project blog – A blog that usually has a shelf life. Posts are about a particular project or campaign. Can also include charity-based blogs.
  • Business blog – It still amazes me there aren’t more business blogs. It provides an opportunity for your company’s people to demonstrate their expertise, communicate directly to customers and tell your side of the story (particularly for crisis comms). Just don’t make your business blog all about your company’s products and services.

2. What’s the subject?

I always think blogs are better when they cover one particular theme or area. You can always combine two to create your own niche (like Geekmummy has done: parenting + geekery), but switching around too much will confuse your audience. I used to have a separate running blog to record training for my first half marathon and triathlon. It would have been annoying and confusing for readers to blog about that here.

The most important thing is to pick a subject that you’re passionate about. If it’s not, you’ll either soon give up or the passion won’t come across in the copy and you won’t get many readers.

Picture courtesy of GapingVoid.com

3. Who is your audience and where do they live?

Another fundamental question that lots of people don’t ask themselves (not just for blogging, but PR and marketing too) is about the target audience. I’ve not always set the best example here, trying to appeal to different audiences over the years, but have settled on the audience “people like me” – so people who live in the UK and probably work in a marketing field and have an interest in technology and/or social media. If you’re in doubt “people like me” is the easiest audience of all. But if you have ambitions to sell your blog on at some point, you’ll need to be a bit more scientific.

One part of audience profiling I’ve noticed that people often ignore is geographic location. This can be quite important from a search and readership perspective. For example, if you’re reviewing running shoes, you’ll want to make sure they are products that are available in your country and that your affiliate deals are with retailers based there too.

4. How often?

One of the most common questions I get is, “how often should I blog?” There’s no formula or magic number, but if you want to become a power blogger, it does need to be regular and as a rule of thumb, the more posts you write, the more hits you’ll get. The likes of Seth Godin and Mitch Joel blog every single day, which takes some discipline.

The main reason blogs fail is that they stop. I recently cleared out my blog roll because I noticed that lots of top bloggers that I respected had stopped posting new content. Stop blogging and you’ll lose your audience. Simple really.

5. What’s your blog called?

Don’t rush in to naming your blog. Once you’ve named it, it’s not a good idea to switch as it’ll confuse your audience and screw up your SEO. A clever name can really make a blog. Three examples that I love are my wife’s blog, I Run Because I Love Food, burger review blog Burger Me and Muireann Carey-Campbell’s Spikes And Heels.

Or you can go for the Ronseal approach and give it a name that’s relevant to the subject, like Pro Blogger or The Movie Blog.

6. What’s your writing style?

This is the one I really struggle with, mainly because I think my posts can be a bit waffly – it’s the disadvantage of not having an editor! Personally, I don’t subscribe to the view that all blog posts should be short because people are time-poor. That’s rubbish. If you want to write in short form, that’s what Twitter and Google+ is for. A blog is the perfect place to go into detail about a particular subject and if it means sometimes writing 1,000+ words, why not?

The main thing to remember is that your copy flows and sticks to the point (don’t use my blog as an example of best practice!)

The best piece of advice I heard about blog writing style is”write how you speak”. If you follow this you’ll find that your blog posts immediately get more personality. More of you. Even when you’ve got multiple authors, this is usually a good thing.

7. What do you cover? (news, features, reviews etc.)

My blog is features and opinion led. I don’t cover news. Yet I still get dozens of press releases sent to me from PRs offering for me to write about their clients (often for nothing to do with my subject area). I’ve experimented a bit with interviews and reviews, but only because I’m exploring the medium. If you’re setting your stall out to become a power blogger it’s best to consider what kind of content you’ll cover and commit to it. For example, if you’re covering news, you’ll need to make sure you’re able to be on top of developments and post quickly as they arise. There’s no point in blogging about old news!

These are the key elements of a blog. Decide which ones you want to include. And remember they don’t all have to be text based – they can be supplemented with video, audio and visual communications.

  • News – What’s happening in your world? You might want to get on some press release lists (more on that in the next post in this series). You need to be able to write quickly and turn a blog post around when things happen.
  • Features – Posts around particular subject areas, usually in long form. Think about publishing a features calendar, or at the very least plan your features in advance.
  • Opinion – What you think about stuff. The easiest type of blog post to write. Great bloggers include content or ideas (correctly sourced) from third parties. Other bloggers or industry experts will often be delighted to submit comment for your opinion pieces.
  • Guides – Top tips and help guides are extremely popular content. They’re link bait for good reason – the good ones are useful. Be generous with your advice and don’t be afraid to include advice from third parties.
  • Reviews – Self explanatory. The PR community can help you get kit for review (more on this in the next post). And don’t forget to make it easy for companies to get in touch with you (also include Rules of Engagement). Reviews don’t just need to be products and services either, but can be experiences too – for example, reviewing or writing up an event you attended (see my write up of a recent London Bloggers Meetup)
  • Guest posts – There’s nothing wrong with taking posts from third parties that you’ve sought out or identified, but you’ll soon get approached by companies to take posts from “copywriters”. These are usually SEO companies who’ll provide you with “free” content for your site…. peppered with links to their clients. Personally, I think this devalues your blog.

8. Is anyone else in your space?

It’s unlikely that unless you’re looking at a real niche, that your blog will be an original idea. It doesn’t matter. For example, if you want to review places to get breakfast in London, don’t hold back because other people are already doing it if it’s something you’re passionate about. But if the space is particularly crowded you do have to think about how you’re going to get people’s attention over and above the competition. It might be that you get your blog a slightly different twist (for example, where to get vegetarian breakfasts in London), but you might not want to make your blog too niche (especially if you have plans to monetise it later). Think back to the audience question.

In short, you just need to make sure your blog is the best in your space. This means regular, well-written posts that engage the reader. And then there’s the promotion of your blog, but that’s a topic for another day…

Picture courtesy of GapingVoid.com

What next?

The next Power Blogger’s guide will feature tips on setting up and optimising your blog, covering areas such as hosting, domain names, blogging platforms and advertising. The third post will cover off search engine optimisation and promotion.

Thanks for reading my personal content tips. There are lots more on a blog dedicated to the business of blogging: Pro Blogger.

If you’re looking to set up a blog to sell, then I can recommend reading the post - “The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Blog”.

And if you are looking for content ideas, then this post nails it – “2014 Reboot: Find Motivation and Inspiration to Blog Better This Year“.

Finally, all cartoons in this blog are courtesy of Gapingvoid.com. Head on over to buy his book and lovely artwork.

 

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