Your blog needs a content strategy. Really.

Most of us have the urge to get things done. We want to dive right in and feel like we’re making progress. Usually that’s a good thing, but with a blog it can be disastrous.

If you read my post from yesterday, you know that a blog is a big endeavor. If you decided that a blog really is a good idea for your organization, then you need to build a strategy for long-term success before you start writing. That’s where content strategy comes in.

These 4 questions will start you down the right path.

Question 1: What am I trying to accomplish anyways?

Content must have a purpose. The reasons are two-fold:

– Content without a clearly defined purpose will quickly bore your readers.

– Without clear goals, it’s hard to follow through with quality content long-term.

The key here is to spend some time brainstorming about goals. Think through what you’re trying to accomplish as an organization, then identify goals for your blog that will complement your overall organizational goals.

Here’s a little secret: if you can’t think of any relevant goals, maybe you should rethink blogging altogether. Remember, blogging is a tactic; you should only use it if it fits your overall organizational goals.

Goals give you an instant filter when you’re considering what content to create. It empowers you to throw out any ideas that don’t help you accomplish your goals. This will help you make sure you’re always focused on the messages you want to communicate.

Question 2: Who are my readers and what are they looking for?

Content is only important if someone’s reading it. A couple weeks ago, I talked to Erin Kissane (Content Strategist at Brain Traffic, check her out on Twitter @kissane) via Twitter and she said the same thing.

Wondering how to get started? Pull the analytics on the last year of blog posts and see which posts have been the most popular. Do you see any trends? Are there topics or formats that are more popular? If so, think about using them as a foundation for your posts for the coming month, quarter or year.

The other option is to just ask. Poll your readers and ask them to comment on what they’d like to read about.

Question 3: How will I know if I’m successful?

Once you’ve had a chance to think through both your audience and your overall goals, it’s essential to put some real numbers on paper. Setting a benchmark will help you measure whether you’re accomplishing what you set out to do.

Metrics will vary based on your goal, but some common ones are:

– Subscribers to your blog

– Page views

– Comments

Question 4: What am I going to write about?

Now that you have an understanding of both what you want to accomplish and how your users are willing to interact with you, it’s time to commit to some topics.

To start, you should probably plan to post content about the topics that were most popular in the previous year — like we talked about earlier.

The second part is a little harder. Here are some questions you can use to ferret out additional topics:

– What did users tell you they wanted to read?

– What topics are essential for your readers to understand and identify with your mission?

– What time-sensitive events/issues/crises/problems do you know will come up in the next few months?

You can also read over suggestions from others about brainstorming blog topics. The Content Marketing Institute just wrote about how they find inspiration for content. It’s definitely worth the read.

Congrats. Once you’ve come up with your list of topics, you’ve done some rudimentary content strategy. Check back tomorrow to read about the next step in the process, editorial planning.

For now, I’d love to have a conversation about content strategy on your blog. Leave a comment here or catch up with me on Twitter @doughj.