Goals. If you've read more than a handful of my articles, or come to any of my events, you'll know that if there's one thing I think is important for business blogging, it's the ability to set ambitious, solid, and measurable blogging goals.
Goalsetting isn't slick and isn't sexy, but it's essential - and mostly neglected. Why? Probably because business blogs aren't always taken as seriously as they deserve, and they're often not seen as a legit aspect of business strategy. They're seen as something fluffy and perhaps even creative, and instead of getting rock-solid blogging goals, we get declarations like "We really want the blog to be a good blog, you know, popular and yeah, em, some leads?"
But here's what's being forgotten. Goals aren't (or shouldn't be) random statements or desires - they're tools. Unless you put thought into them, however, they’ll be too vague to use, and if you can't use them in any meaningful way, well, they're not going to help you much as tools, are they?
Blogging goals as a tool
Goals act as tools in two ways - firstly, they provide guidance: something to aim for and a period in which to do so. Secondly, they set limits that you can measure your performance against, and when you can measure something, you're in a position to a. judge efficacy and b. improve in the future.
So, how do we ensure your blog has goals that you can use as a tool?
- Define the purpose of your blog
- Create goals for blog that will ultimately lead (if reached) to achieving stated aim
- Write down goals somewhere accessible
- Decide how and when you will assess them
1. Define purpose
The first step is also the hardest. Maybe that's why it puts people off. You need to define the purpose of your blog. In other words, why do you have a blog in the first place?
I really hope this is something you decided before you started, but in case you didn't (and who am I kidding? You probably didn't if you're reading this article) I'll go over it quickly here. We already took a look at some aspects in Should You Blog for Business? but in summary:
In less abstract terms, they need to scratch your readers' itch or solve their problems. If they don't, no one will read it. Ok, so you've got some problems that you know you can help your readers with - great! What do you want the result of this problem-solving to be? Be specific. Maybe you want:
The aims you see in this image are pretty exhaustive - most blogs aim to do one or more of these things. They're not all equal, remember - some are much, much easier to achieve than others. That's why I've divided them into easy/medium/hard. Pick a maximum of 3, and if one of them is "hard", maybe only 1 or 2.
If you set the bar too high, you'll burn out and often end up achieving none. It's much easier to start modestly and get more ambitious when your blog starts growing, rather than starting ambitious, failing and becoming discouraged.
2. Create goals
So, to illustrate this, I'm going to imagine I have created a blog for my star product, Leitr, a type of probiotic, high-protein creme fraiche (what?!). I want to educate my readers about the benefits, and inspire them with all of the lovely ways they can use my product.
My objectives for the blog are to educate prospective clients and to drive wholesale inquiries (leads). Leads are quite challenging, so I'll leave it at 2 objectives.
Now, if I was to see "proof" of my objectives being achieved, what might they be? Well, for the customer education, people might engage on my posts, or share them to Facebook or other social networks. They might also subscribe to an RSS feed of my blog, so they never miss a post.
If I was getting lots of nice juicy leads, meanwhile it might manifest with increased inquiries from possible suppliers every month via the blog, and perhaps targetted posts leading to lots of inquiries from possible suppliers.
These desirable outcomes are helping us form our goals, but they are not goals in themselves. They're too vague.
Let's try to firm them up a bit.
Objective 1: Increased customer engagement on posts, either via blog comments, or sharing and commenting via social networks. Engagement means people like and appreciate the stuff you're teaching them.
Objective 2: Increased returning visitors to blog. Returning visitors are loyal visitors more likely to become clients or ambassadors.
Objective 3: Increased RSS subscribers. Again, loyal readers are more likely to become clients or ambassadors.
Objective 4: Increased callback requests per month via forms on blog post pages. If a prospective client asks for a callback, they become a lead.
Objective 5: Specific blog posts or guest posts to target wholesale suppliers. The more we get our name in front of prospective suppliers, the better our brand recognition which feeds into the callback funnel. Hopefully.
Ok, these are taking shape nicely. Now lets actually set goals for these objectives (i.e. a specific level to aim for). Sometimes, being honest, you are just going to have to pick these numbers out of the air. Have a look at what you achieved last year or last quarter and increase it, research online, or ask mentors or friends in the business. Since I'm not really a probiotic creme fraiche retailer, the figures that follow are total invention ;)
Goal 1: Increased customer engagement on posts: 25% increase in blog comments, 40% in shares.
Goal 2: Engagement via Facebook up 40% on average and via Twitter up 35% on average - you need to be specific, "social networks" won't cut it for a goal!
Goal 3: Returning versus new visitors to blog at 70/30 overall
Goal 4: RSS subscribers up 25%
Goal 5: An average of 4 callback requests per month via forms on blog post pages
Goal 6: 4 specific blog posts or guest posts to targetted at wholesale suppliers
Now, these goals are not particularly sensible or "good" goals. Goalsetting takes time and effort and I already did mine in December, and don't want to do them again until next December, so take these examples more as suggestions, rather than solid goals to copy, mkay?
3. Thresholds - good for larger, more unwieldy goals
When you're dealing with larger goals, it's hard to know where to draw the line. For example, if I was aiming for 150,000 visits to my blog in 2017 and I get 144,000, is that a fail or a pass? You can apply this to smaller goals too: if I get 3 call-backs from the goals above, where does that leave me? To be honest, however, for smaller goals it's often easier to use your own discretion to judge it a yay or a nay.
If you do decide to use thresholds, a suggested starting place is <75% of goal = fail, 75% - 100% = pass, 100%> = big fat bonus to oneself (er, and maybe the team).
Telling you that you need to document your goals isn't exactly a great discovery, but do it, ok? Just throw them in an Excel or something. It will save time, make goals much clearer and easier to assess and, finally, much easier to hand over, in case there's a change in the team or you delegate the task to someone else.
Like documentation, once you've gone to the trouble of making proper goals, it's unlikely that I'll have to tell you to assess them. They're like catnip to me - I have to prevent myself from poking them weekly. It's probably best to work at achieving them, rather than examining them, but you can (and should) allow yourself quarterly check-ins to make sure everything is moving in the right direction, and make changes if necessary (but only if REALLY necessary. If you have to change the goals, something - possibly your goalsetting - has gone FUBAR.).
Of course, once you set the goals, you need to figure out how you are going to achieve them - and that, figured out, written down and worked towards, is a content marketing strategy, my friends!
To make a blogging strategy, you simply strategize how you might best achieve the goals you've set, then put them into specific steps, and make a plan to carry out these steps. Then set the plan to a calendar, and you're golden!
Best practice for creating a blog or content marketing strategy is a story for another day, however. For the time being, make some goals, and have a think about how you might go about meeting them. Check back soon and I'll have updated this article with a link on creating a strategy around your goals.
Feel free to download or share the image to the left. It's blogging goals in 4 easy steps and any blog, no matter how big or how small, how professional or how personal, can benefit from them.