Warning! This isn’t yet another “you need to set blog goals” -rant. This is more. Way more. First, the facts: blogs that set goals, measure, and stick to good goals, are way more effective than blogs with no goals, or blogs with ineffective goals. This post will tell you all about the specifics of that, explain how to set effective blog goals, and then how to make sure you stick to them.
The actual act of blogging isn’t an easy one. Whether you’re setting up a new blog, or developing an existing one, sitting down and telling yourself, “right, time to blog!” is about as helpful as sitting in front of a blank canvas and telling yourself “right, time to paint a picture!”
Sure, for a very select number of people, such creative freedom might be both liberating and inspiring.
But, for the majority of us, this kind of directionless impulse can be overwhelming, and self-defeating. This is not a good place to be in, but this post can guide you from confusion to blogging success.
What separates great blogs from the rest isn’t necessarily the absolute quality of their ideas or writing, but rather the authors’ ability to visualize, direct, and develop them into a coherent vision, with long term aims and strategies. In other words, effective blog goals.
Humans are bad at thinking in terms of compound growth; we prefer to think linearly. This means we overestimate what we can achieve in the short term but underestimate the long term. Proper goal-setting allows you to tie in your grand ambitions with your day-to-day tactics, so you never get in over your head – but crucially, never sell yourself short, either.
In this post we’ll look at the methods you can employ today to take your blogging to the next level. We’ll examine the core components of workable goals, and techniques for forming and developing them. We’ll also look at implementation strategies: putting those goals into practice, sticking to them, and tracking your achievements. Finally we’ll cover some common roadblocks and how to overcome them.
Let’s start with the basics, and ask some tough questions about why you’re doing this.
How to form effective goals: start with why
The first question you need to ask yourself is also the hardest: why are you running this blog? What do you hope to achieve with it? Ask 5 different bloggers and you’ll get 5 different answers:
I want a platform to express our brand identity and distinguish ourselves from the competition
I want to give a behind-the-scenes look into our company
I want to build credibility
I want to connect personally with my fans
I want to build an email list through great content
You could generate any number of specific, targeted goals for your own blog just from this list. But while these all sound like perfectly reasonable ideas, they actually don’t go far enough. That is, they don’t actually address the strategic aims that lie behind a successful blog.
What is the point of building an email list? What advantage will “building credibility” give you in your industry? How will giving insider insight actually help the development of your business? Before you go any further make sure you’ve got a concrete idea of what your blog is for and, if appropriate, how it will help your business.
But wait! It’s also important to bear in mind that simply setting blog goals for the sake of it won’t be rewarding. Don’t just rely on the “prevailing wisdom” in business. Where do you want your blog to be in a month? In a year? Five years? Envisage your ideal “success state” and think about how you might have got there, trying to work out short term goals that lead to your long term goals.
Although they seem initially compelling, there is no intrinsic value in any of the examples above unless they’re tied into your long-term vision for your blog. Blindly picking and choosing a goal will make it much harder for you to find the personal drive to be able to achieve it.
Take a few minutes. Grab a pen and paper. Jot down some ideas and outlines as to what you think the purpose of your blog is, and where you see it taking your business.
This image shows this exercise undertaken for one of my clients. Do take a couple of minutes to actually do this, and keep at it after you’ve covered off the obvious points. Once you’re done, we can proceed to look at how to turn those ideas into concrete, achievable goals.
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Blog SMART for effective goals
With the whys and wherefores out of the way, let’s look at how to set manageable, effective goals for your blog. These will ensure you’re targeting specific, improvable areas, and setting yourself up for sustainable, long-term growth in key metrics.
The SMART framework is the golden standard when it comes to goal setting. You may have heard it all before, but it’s such a clear system that it really bears repeating here. SMART is a five-step checklist to make sure you reach your targets in the most efficient manner possible. SMART goals are:
Generalizations are notoriously unhelpful. “Improve my blog” is an essentially meaningless target with no definable parameters or endpoints. Narrowing down your plans to specific targets is the first step to success – otherwise you won’t know what it is you’re succeeding at!
This is based on the idea that you need to be able to measure your goals in order for them to be effective. “Become a better writer” isn’t a measurable goal (how do you measure goodness?) – “write a post that gets 100 shares” is.
Sure, one day you might want 100,000 people reading your blog. It may well happen, eventually. But that’s not going to happen in the first month. To get that you need 10,000, and before that, 1000, and so on. Focus on what’s possible, otherwise you’ll just end up disappointed.
This comes back to our first point: make sure you’re setting goals that are relevant to the reason you’re running your blog in the first place. Accumulating email subscribers just for the sake of it gives you the satisfying feeling of numbers ticking up, but doesn’t really help. Instead, try setting a goal such as “increase click-through rate to product page by 30%”, directly linked to your long-term revenue generation targets.
A sure-fire way to ignore something is to put no time constraint on it. The simple goal “write 10 blogs” has a markedly different impulse to “write 10 blogs by November”. Put hard limits on your time to ensure that you have a reason to get things done today.
So when you put all this together, what do SMART blogging goals look like? We can broadly split them up into three different types of goals:
Creation goals: these are about setting targets for your creative output:
- “Write 500 words a day this week”.
- “Create 3 new different blog concepts for your niche this quarter”.
- “Publish in a new medium (video, podcast, etc) this month to reach a different key audience”.
Performance goals: these relate to how well your blog is doing:
- “Increase blog traffic by 10% in four weeks”.
- “Publish four more blogs this quarter than last quarter” .
- “Increase email sign-up rate by 15% this quarter”.
Optimization goals: these relate to your own understanding of the goal process:
- “Read and make notes on 4 key articles in the next two weeks”.
- “Set up Google Analytics on the blog and check numbers once a week, updating the results in a spreadsheet”.
Go back to that list you made earlier. Hopefully by now you’re beginning to get a sense of how can you take those vague ideas and turn them into workable, SMART goals. Take each one of the ideas you initially wrote down, and try developing five concrete goals out of them.
It’s really worth spending the time on this: just like anything, setting goals for your blog gets easier with practice. When you’re done, come back here and we’ll look at how you can implement those goals.
How to stick to blog goals: ensuring you follow through on your blog
You should now have a feel for the kind of format you should be using to structure your goals in order to make them more effective, as well as picking up some ideas for your own blog. But what about the processes behind making and sticking to blog goals? What methods can you employ to actually achieve your long-term blog goals?
First, a couple of obvious points:
I. Don’t take on too many goals at once. It’s better to achieve a couple of blog goals than fail at ten. Aim to build on your successes and prioritize what’s workable, rather than trying to succeed at everything at the same time.
II. Writing your goals down somewhere prominent will keep them at the forefront of your mind. Your noticeboard; your notebook you always have handy; the good old post-it-note-stuck-to-your-screen; whatever works for you. Simply being constantly reminded of them will help you commit to your goals.
III. Work out what you’re not going to prioritize. Make clear boundaries that you’re not going to worry about while working on a specific set of goals. Focusing on building your overall site traffic? Don’t pay attention to the number of comments on each of your posts. Setting boundaries will remove “interference” that could otherwise lend a demoralizing sense of failure that you’re not achieving all the things at once.
IV. Make specific goal “triggers”. So, rather than telling yourself “write every week”, try setting the goal of “write every Tuesday after lunch” or similar. This comes back to the “time-bound” aspect of the SMART framework, and will help establish routine and concrete times for working on your blog goals.
Let’s look at one successful blogger’s strategies and break them down for a clear, simple, but powerful goal-setting structure that can take your blog to the next level.
Three level goal-setting / review process
One of the most effective ways I’ve come across of visualizing long term goals in the context of short term is a three level review process developed by Tiago Forte (Tiago is excellent on this topic, but this links to his paid-only Medium blog; a version of the same thing can be found here). In the review process, you pick and keep track of your most important daily / weekly / quarterly goals. This helps you set your smaller goals easily into the context of your overall blog goals, enabling you to work effectively on little tasks with the confidence that they’re all in service of your long-term vision.
The huge benefit of this system is it avoids the trap of responding to what’s urgent at any given time, instead of what’s important. I use this to help my clients prioritize their blog content, and even for my own task management day-to-day. It’s incredibly effective, and practical too – often these things are totally unrealistic in the amount of time they demand from you, but this process strikes a nice balance between time working on where you’re going, and time doing the work. So how does the three-step process, tweaked to fit blog goals, work?
- At the level of quarterly goal setting you should be working out 3 primary blog goals for next 13 weeks. Review your last quarter (through weekly reviews): your accomplishments, achievements, and failures. Try and visualize your ideal “success state”; do your long-term goals need adjusting / changing / throwing out? Come up with as many goals for the next quarter as you can. Then, narrow down that set. What would be the most exciting, most memorable goal for you to achieve? What would you do with your blog given unlimited time or resources? Keep working at it until you have three, clear, SMART blog goals for the next quarter.
- Weekly goal setting is broadly similar. Break your quarterly blog goals down into shorter periods (weeks 1-5, 6-10, etc), and work out goals on an increasingly micro level. This should take you a couple of minutes each week. I like to do this on a Monday morning, but Friday afternoons work better for some people. Each week, go through your quarterly goals, make sure they still make sense to you; review what you achieved on your blog in the last week, and then pick a new set of goals for the next week, tied to your quarterly goals.
- You’re probably not going to be working on your blog frequently enough to justify setting daily goals, but use the same principle whenever you are working during the week: tie the work you’re prioritizing to your weekly goals, rather than what’s urgent. Generating, for example, three to-dos when you sit down to work on your blog, based on your weekly goals, is a really effective way of forcing you to focus on what’s important. I find it helpful to also record in a document what I have done, so it’s easy to review at the end of the week.
In practice, if one of your goals is to increase traffic in order to increase lead generation for your product, you might find yourself spending more time doing promotion for your posts than you would have otherwise. This is good! A common problem with blogs that I see is that people spending ages writing them, but no time telling anyone about the content they’ve published! The little bit of validation from doing the extra promotion which brings in the extra visitors will also give you that extra motivation boost you need to keep working on your blog.
Tracking your blogging achievements: effective self-evaluation and accountability
Keeping track of all these goals, and your achievements, is super important. We’re not very good at holding lots of different streams of thought in our brains at once, but that’s okay; that’s why we invented writing! Making sure you’ve got your blog goals written down somewhere is not only hugely useful for organizational reasons, but also for your own personal motivation.
There’s nothing more satisfying than flicking through page after page of successfully completed tasks for a reminder that your goals are ultimately achievable.
Good old pen and paper is the simplest way; a simple spreadsheet can be effective, or there’s a wealth of productivity apps out there that were made with this in mind. Don’t be afraid to spend some time with a bunch of different ones to see what works for you.
Tracking your achievements is just one form of accountability – in this case, just to yourself. But one of the best ways of ensuring you stick to your goals is external accountability. Nothing is so motivational as the knowledge that someone else is going to check up on you and see how you’re doing!
There’s a number of ways you can try to make your blog goals externally accountable:
- Discuss your goals with a friend or colleague once a week. Double points if you’re helping them towards their goals as well. I do this once a month with a friend who works in a totally different industry. The outside perspective is extremely helpful.
- If you want to up personal stakes a little bit, you could try a service such as Beeminder or StickK. These are services that use the “nudge” theory of motivation to get you to stick to your promises. You put a certain amount of your own money on the line set against quantifiable goals. If you don’t achieve your targets (a certain amount of time spent writing, say) your money is donated to charity!
- To be accountable to even more people you could commit to posting regular updates on your social media feeds about the state of progress towards your blog goals. WPShout, for example, has published a long article every Tuesday for the last four years. Readers expect to see new posts published to that timetable. That creates a huge accountability pressure, and the sheer quantity of the publishing streak is a major reason it hasn’t been broken in literally years.
You can make your own twist on any of the above. At CodeinWP we’ve long believed in the value of regular transparency reports (you can find all of ours here). These are a twist on two of the above points. We’ve found that they’re one of the best ways of visualizing, sticking to, and achieving our goals, as well as sharing with our readers the benefits of doing so. We write ours monthly, and they act as a focal point for assessing our monthly successes, failures, and room for improvement. They also give us a more personal space in which we can drop our “professional” facade for a bit and talk about our honest opinions about the current direction CodeinWP is going.
This is the part of reaching effective blog goals that’s easy to skip, as it takes time! This time, however, working on your blog, rather than in your blog, is a really important part of making progress. We’ll drive home the points on sticking to your blog goals in the next section, by looking at some comment roadblocks.
Common roadblocks that get in the way of people meeting their blog goals
“That’s all very well”, I hear you say, “but every time I try to set goals they always go awry! It’s always made to sound so easy when it just isn’t!” Well I’ve got some good news for you: you’ve made it this far down the article! You’re clearly keen on improving your blog-goal-game, and have overcome by far the biggest hurdle: not giving up.
It’s very easy to get into the mindset that as you tried to be good at setting goals once, and it didn’t work, it’ll never work again. Let’s look at three common roadblocks people encounter when setting blog goals, and how to avoid them:
The first – and I can’t stress this enough – is setting too many goals at once. There are hundreds of goals you could be setting yourself to improve. Heck, there are hundreds of ways just to get traffic. If you try and do all of them at once you’ll overwhelm yourself and find none of them are achievable. Three is a good number.
The second is setting unfocused goals – It’s all very well starting a new blog, and thinking to yourself, “I want to start a conversation”. But what does that mean? Do you want to encourage a lively discussion in the comments on your blogs? Do you want your ideas written about and discussed on other sites? Do you want to write guest posts on other sites and feature guests on your site? And why do you want to do those things? Focus.
The third is setting unrealistic goals. As we’ve seen above, telling yourself you’re going to reach 100,000 views in your first month is simply not achievable unless you’re already a fantastically well-known writer on other sites. Beating yourself up because you’re only getting 100 views a month when well-established blogs pull in tens of thousands isn’t going to help you.
Hopefully, however, what we’ve learned so far should help you know what’s wrong with the above problems, and how to solve them. I can’t stress enough the importance of setting a few, focused, achievable goals, and sticking to them. If this just sounds like common sense, well, that’s because it kind of is. We’ve just been conditioned to “dream big” and sometimes our first impulse is to ignore the realities of achieving those big dreams.
Above all: don’t give up. Remember, you’re focusing on slow, compound growth. Tie in those daily, weekly, quarterly goals into your long-term blog goals and you really will see results over time.
You’re now ready to focus, and get on with the work
This post has been your introductory guide to setting, measuring, and reaching effective blog goals. We’ve looked at:
- The importance of understanding why you’re blogging.
- The SMART goal-setting framework.
- Tips for sticking to your goals.
- A case study of an effective goal-setting structure.
- Common roadblocks that can get in the way of effective goal-setting.
The next step, then, is to take this framework, and apply to your blog. Don’t think of this as a set of mandatory instructions, but as a set of guidelines which you can customize to suit your situation. It may well be that you only need part of this to work much more effectively. If so, fantastic! Try this out, see what works best for you, and don’t both with the bits you don’t need.
The goal with this (no pun intended) is to help you focus and make progress, not generate meta-work which takes you away from the task in hand, so customize until you get a setup which suits you.
Blogging is never easy. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Goal-setting frameworks are ultimately about clarity of vision. Removing layers of complexity by setting clear and effective goals will free up head-space allowing you to spend less time vaguely worry about your blog’s direction, and more time creating great content.
And ultimately, that’s what makes for a great blog.
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